Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Footsteps of the Poor

December 1, 2011

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock. He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust. It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor. Isaiah 26:4-6

Jesus said to his disciples: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock." Matthew 7:21, 24-25


Father, help us to listen and act on your Word. Through the example of your Son, Jesus, may we always find ways to put your plan, not ours, into action. When we want to focus on our agenda, send forth your Spirit to guide us in your ways through this dark Advent of preparation and into the light of your life in this world. Amen.


As we move through the early stillness of Advent, we are reminded that it is His will, not ours, that we are to put into place with our words and our deeds. Our piety helps us to put on the proper mindframe and our study shows us the way. Yet, two legs alone does not a tripod make unless we "act on them."

In the next few days, we will celebrate two special feast days within the Advent calendar. On December 8, next Thursday, we will mark the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Then on December 12, we mark the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In those days, we will once again hear the lesson of Mary's life, a life lived not for her own purposes but to fulfill the will of God. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38). In fact, this passage will be a part of the readings for Advent no less than four times. (The final occurrences will be on December 18 and December 20.)


Reflect on how the attitude of Mary (portrayed to beautifully in the Canticle recited on her visit to Elizabeth) can guide you through this Advent season. It can remind us to resist the lure of advertising and excessive spending to "redefine" Advent as it was intended -- the time to prepare for the coming of our special guest. This prayer also reminds us of the theme in the reading from Isaiah in which the lowly will rise above the most powerful.

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."
Luke 1:46-55

Spread the Good News

November 30, 2011

Feast of Saint Andrew, apostle

By Colleen O'Sullivan

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news! (Romans 10:13-15)

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)


Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

(St. Teresa of Avila, 1515–1582)


As I read today’s Scripture readings, I couldn’t help but reflect on my religious education as a child. I am old enough to have been brought up on the Baltimore Catechism. Everything as presented to us was very precise, very clearly delineated. God’s expectations of us were that we would go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, we would not tell lies, we would not steal, we would not kill anyone, we wouldn’t wish for other people’s possessions, and we would not eat meat on Fridays. I don’t remember ever being told as a child that all that is just the beginning of living a faith-filled life; that Jesus would, at some point, call us to set aside what we’re doing, follow him and bring the Good News of the Gospel to others throughout the world.

Yet that is the theme of our Scripture readings for today - proclaiming the Good News. Jesus sees Andrew and his brother, Peter, at work. He calls them to leave their fishing nets and follow him. He says he will make them “fishers of men” if they do. He doesn’t promise them anything other than that he will turn them into evangelists for the Kingdom of God.

Jesus calls you and me, too. He asks us to reorder our priorities and follow him, not just for our own sakes but for the sake of proclaiming the Word and making new disciples. As St. Teresa of Avila reminds us in her prayer, Christ has no body, no hands, no feet on earth but ours. Ours are the feet with which Christ now walks to do good. So, if anyone is going to tell the world today about God and God’s Kingdom, it will have to be us.

St. Paul underlines the urgency of the task. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will receive the gift of salvation, he writes. But think of all the people who’ve never heard the Word or experienced the love of God. Think what they’re missing! We are truly called to be the messengers of the Good News today.


Make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ. As you reflect on the events of your day, can you recall any moments when you shared the Good News with someone else? As you look to tomorrow, what action could you incorporate into your day to do that?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Bud Will Blossom

November 29, 2011

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

By Beth DeCristofaro

On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-3)

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. (Luke 10:21)


In this, your Season Lord, may I seek peace. May I be open to inner peace which calls me to silence my own internal tapes allowing me to hear your voice. May I strive for formidable peace, standing up for justice without judging. May I choose peace in my interactions with others and even myself, that gentle peace of love, forgiveness and mercy which you extend to me. May I hope for the vibrant peace of the greening bud that is your presence in the world.


On store shelves you can find bulbs this time of year, dry brownish lumps which we plant, water and “force” to flower into beautiful amaryllis, narcissus and other flowers. The beauty is inside. It just takes some care and attention to allow it to flourish.

The images from Isaiah are like those flowers in beauty and potential but oh, so out of sight. Can we really imagine that the “lion shall eat hay like the ox”, and “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb” ? Many days, I cannot. Some days I feel just like the amaryllis bulb, or perhaps more accurately, a bulb of garlic. Not much lovely scent, no flowers, just a witheredness of spirit. Perhaps I read too many headlines or it has been a challenging day at work or I realize how many duties and promises I have left unfulfilled.

Somehow, the images of Isaiah speak to me. I have hope of being a vegetarian lion rather than the ruthless hunter. Or I can revitalize by being guest, fed and nurtured rather than fierce and individual. God grants me the shoot within my dried up stump, the blossom within the withered roots. The hope is there, and this Advent season gives me time to water and attend to it even if those optimistic images never come to fruition in my life.


The Christmas season SCREAMS in the US of A, not always in a very good way. What if you put “peace” at the top of your Christmas list? How can you give it to yourself and others?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Only Say the Word

November 28, 2011

Monday of the First Week of Advent

They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD! Isaiah 2:4b-5

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully." He said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. Matthew 8:5-8


…The wait's begun again,

The long wait for the angel,

For that rare, random descent.

(Concluding lines from "Black Rook in Rainy Weather" by Sylvia Plath. Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas by Plough Publishing Company. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008. P 15.)


That Roman centurion was probably sporting a decent sword tucked into a sheath on his belt as he approached the Lord. But Jesus saw beyond the garb of the an officer of the occupying belligerent force which enforced foreign rule over his homeland. The Roman centurion also did not let his position of power in the military impeded him from approaching the Lord with humility. Despite his occupation, the centurion was certainly walking in the light of the Lord.

Our study of these readings invite us into Advent. We are invited to walk in the light of the Lord like the centurion. We are invited to relinquish our swords. We are invited to fellowship with Jesus -- whether or not we are Roman or Gentile, American or immigrant, 99 percent or 1 percent. However, like the Roman centurion, we must recognize what we have in common with Jesus. Even though we are dirty rotten sinners, can we approach Jesus in our sinful state and ask him to include us in his feast of forgiveness, reconciliation and, ultimately, resurrection?


What symbolic swords do we need to beat into plowshares and pruning hooks? What do we need to overcome during this Advent of preparation and waiting? Of all the implements that the sword is being replaced with, the prophet Isaiah uses the image of a pruning hook. What will that pruning hook chop off of us? Like it severed the pride and rank of the centurion, what do we need pruned from our vines?

Are we hiding behind something? Can we set it aside so that we are ready for the coming of the Lord when He will enter under our roof in just five short weeks?

Saturday, November 26, 2011


November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent B

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands. Isaiah 64:7

"Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'" Mark 13:35-37


Piety is the alertness of our readiness for the Lord. Looking for the Lord in each now moment of our lives makes us ready for his coming. We do not want to be asleep when the Lord comes for us. Watchfulness is the work of our hearts. Christ enriches us in every way. We are the clay and the Lord is the potter. We are the work of the hands of our Lord. Our piety is the alertness of our hearts to the coming of the Lord.


We carefully look over what the Lord has done for us. For those who wait for the Lord, his coming is assured. In Christ we are enriched in every way with all the words of the heart of Jesus passed down to us through the scriptures and the good people of our lives. The sky is the limit. There is no way we can put a limit on what the Lord has waiting for us. Eye has not seen. Ear has not heard all the wonders the Lord does for us. We are surrounded by a thousand examples of the Lord’s love for us that pass us by without our noticing because we have not studied the Lord’s way of doing things. The ordinary is extraordinary in the kingdom of God.


Disciples are watchful and alert waiting for the coming of the Lord. Advent is the time of waiting. It is an active waiting seen in how we prepare for his coming. The list is made of who love us and expect our love. Four weeks of preparation for the most important coming into our lives. Our work of Advent is revealed in how we give notice to our friends and family of how much we love them. Christmas is best celebrated in community. There we can go beyond the expected in our reach out to those who have no one. We celebrate our best gifting with those who have nothing other than what we give. Our Advent gives us the chance to determine who most needs the gifts we can give. We try to give without counting the cost. We try to feed the Christ we find in the needs of others. We wake up to ourselves and move closer to the Christ of our hearts.

Above All Forever

November 26, 2011

Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

"Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, Whose Kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him." Daniel 7:26-27

Jesus said to his disciples: "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:34-36


Cursillo Leaders' Prayer

Lord, grant that we may understand the necessity for depth in our movement, rather than surface glory. Convince us of the truth that colorful programs do not constitute success.

My God, give us a spirit of self sacrifice so that we may offer everything for your cause: our time, our abilities, our health and even our lives if necessary.

Instill in us courage in our initiatives, good judgment in our choice of the right means, and that determination which in spite of failures assures victory.

Move away from us the tiny rivalries, sensitivities, discourtesies, pride, everything which distracts from You, everything which divides or discourages.

Help us to maintain at a high level a meaningful supernatural and mutual charity among ourselves, so that each one will seek by preference the most humble tasks and will rejoice at the good performed by others so that all our spirits united in a common purpose will have one single sprit, Yours Jesus, and that this spirit may let us see Your attractive goodness marked in all our faces, Your warm accents in all our words, and in our lives something superior to the world, something that proclaims Your Living Presence among us. Amen

St. Paul, Patron of Cursillo - Pray for us.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas - Pray for us.


Awaiting the sunrise on this last day of the (liturgical) year, the first reading seems like a very depressing way to start the day. Four kingdoms. Four beasts devouring earth. Ouch. But then, rising above all of those earthly powers is the Hope of eternity. Our challenge is how will we react to the anxieties of life and prepare for the day to come when we all have the chance to stand before the Lord?

What anxieties trouble you? Social? Political? Economic? Cultural? Spiritual? Jesus says to set them aside so that these anxieties do not become a distraction on our Fourth Day. No matter how bad life may seem, a) it could be worse if we were not lucky to have been born in this time in this country and b) it will get better.

Beth and I began this year with a well-timed trip to Egypt just before the uprisings began in Cairo that have spread throughout the Middle East. We saw people living in horrible conditions, trapped in poverty that they could not escape. One afternoon, we toured the homes in an especially poor section of the city and met numerous orphans and widows under the care of our Coptic Christian sisters and brothers. Walking from house to house, we stepped over mud, through trash just thrown in the middle of the street, around stray dogs, over dead chickens and more. When our afternoon visits were over, it was time to head back to our hotel. It was about 5 p.m. and we tried to get a taxi. It took almost one hour before we found a cab driver who was willing to take this relatively affluent party out of this poor neighborhood and into a pretty well-heeled suburb. As impatient as I got trying to escape after being there for just a few hours, I had to think about the young people we had just me. They will be there for a lifetime. They cannot just wave their hand and drive away in the back seat of a taxi.

Jesus is warning us to be vigilant. We have to be aware of the beasts of poverty, disease, war and selfishness that have the power to devour our lives. We cannot just close our eyes and turn on the boob tube. We cannot just get in a cab and ride away pretending like these conditions do not exist. Our trip to Imbabah could have taken place in Port-au-Prince. Our trip to Imbabah could have taken place in the Sudan. Our trip to Imbabah could have taken place in West Virginia. Our trip to Imbabah could have taken place in Southeast DC.

No matter how bad our life in deep suburbia might seem, with mortgages and elections and consumerism and Hollywood trampling on our state of mind, we do not live in these poorest sections of the world. How we live and how we respond to the challenge of fellowship with Jesus today will help determine how confident we will be to stand before the Lord in the scene described in today's Good News. Life is about more than the price of a gallon of gas, the fluctuations of the S&P 500 and Billboard Top Hits. We must remain vigilant to opportunities to share in the fellowship of Jesus when situations like this are put before our eyes.


The pull of Black Friday might be cause for pause in our Fourth Day. Instead, it might be time to renew our mission of piety, study and action. If the reminders in the daily readings are not enough, sometimes, the media does help to deliver a complementary message.

Tomorrow's issue of the Parade magazine ( tries to shake us awake, too. Instead of making the weekend after Thanksgiving all about shopping, the editors there have taken the lead from the Allentown (PA) Morning Call and are trying to start a new tradition to make this weekend about Giving Sunday and not about Black Friday.

The needs of the world or the charities featured in this magazine article will not end when we simply turn the page of a new calendar be it liturgical or Julian or Gregorian or Mayan. Yet we can each do our part to ease the way that the forces of the world assault our sisters and brothers around the corner, around the nation and around the world.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Words Will Not Pass Away

November 25, 2011

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14)

Give glory and eternal praise to him! (Daniel 3:75)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Luke 21:33)


Lord, change is difficult, whether I’m trying to effect it or embrace it or challenge it. I pray for Your guidance so that I might be mindful of Your will at all times.


These are times that try Catholics’ souls.

This weekend, we begin using a new missal, which will be disruptive whether or not you like the changes.

Last Sunday, a walk and prayer vigil was held near the Diocese of Arlington offices in support of girl altar servers. By one estimate, 53 percent of the diocese’s parishes have opted to limit this service to boys. People on both sides of this issue get pretty passionate on the topic.

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a professor at Fordham University, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continue to trade volleys over the theology in her 2007 book titled, of all things, Quest for the Living God.

But then, there have always been times that try Catholics’ souls—the sex abuse scandals. Vatican II, or what some see as a rollback from Vatican II. The Society of Pope Pius X. The Inquisition. The Reformation. Joan of Arc.

We can be a rowdy, disagreeable bunch, we Catholics, whether we’re “conservative” or “liberal.” We lose track of the big-picture things on which we agree, and agree passionately: the resurrection. The Holy Trinity. The awesome power of sacraments. The even more awesome power of God’s love and that nothing we can do can destroy Him or His dominion.

Some of our internal battles will be resolved and pass away during our lifetimes. Others will not. One thing is for certain—His Word will not.


Spend some time with an acquaintance with whom you disagree about the Church’s stand on immigration, female ordination, or another hot-button issue. But spend the time talking about Sacred Tradition and Scripture you both love. Find your common ground.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Other Nine

November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor 1:4-9

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? " Luke 17:15-19


And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth; Who fosters people's growth from their mother's womb, and fashions them according to his will! May he grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you; May his goodness toward us endure in Israel to deliver us in our days. Sirach 50:22-24


The Good News for our Thanksgiving Day Mass holds special sway with me as it also was the reading on the Sunday Mass at the closing of my Cursillo weekend experience. As Deacon Jack Ligon preached about it, he looked up and realized that there were ten candidates before him.

That weekend, like the other 258 weekends in the Diocese of Arlington, began a good work and that team and those candidates picked up the legacy of every weekend before, since and to come. Will we be the leper who returns thankful or the others who go about their busy-ness preparing more for Black Friday than for the First Sunday of Advent?

Paul of Tarsus reminds us that all of us have in our toolbox the instrument of testimony. In the life-examples of the Samaritan leper and St. Paul, we are confronted with the issue of what to do with this Good News that has been shared with us. This is a movement that sprouts from those 258 weekends. It is a movement about growing more Christians. Paul provided to us an example of how to do that through the way he interacted with others: sharing his story, teaching, writing, and living. We may not end up canonized but all of us can pick up that work.

We know that Jesus was here. We know that the Spirit is the living presence in this world. We know that our Savior will come back to us. So what shall we do while we are waiting? Certainly one option is to sit in our personal "Upper Room" and wait with the door locked and the curtains closed. However, we are reminded in today's readings that we share in the fellowship of Christ. That fellowship calls us out of those dark rooms into the light of the world to share his mission in our piety, study and action.


As you celebrate this holiday in moderation, did you know that one in every five children are at risk to live in hunger? In cities near and far, they and the adults around them exist in food deserts where good nutrition at an affordable price is hard to find. Check out this story from CNN and consider how you can share from your Table of Plenty on this day when we give thanks for family and friends, health and happiness, freedom and security.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Will We Always Be There for God?

November 23, 2011

Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

But the God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify. By him were the wrist and hand sent, and the writing set down. “This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, TEKEL, and PERES. These words mean: MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” (Daniel 5:23c-28)

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:12-19)


My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. (Psalm 62:2)


God will always be there for us, but will we always be there for God?

Daniel, in our first reading today, in speaking to King Belshazzar, a successor of Nebuchadnezzar, says, “… the God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify.” You partied, eating and drinking from the sacred vessels plundered from the Temple. You worshipped false gods. So, the writing which appeared on the wall during this drunken, debauched banquet is God’s message to you. God has taken your measure and found you wanting. You should have learned from the experiences of your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, that God is the ruler of all. Instead, your faithlessness will lead to the collapse of your kingdom. Clearly, Belshazzar is not there for God.

God will always be there for us, but will we always be there for God?

Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading are addressed to his contemporaries. They lived in a time and place where they would be severely persecuted for their belief in Christ. Many would be martyred. Some would see even their families turn against them. Jesus promises to give them the words to say in the face of their enemies. Even though they might suffer and die for their faith, Jesus says their lives will be secured. We can read in the Acts of the Apostles about some of the early Christians who were there for God and who gave up their lives for their faith.

God will always be there for us, but will we always be there for God?

Most of us reading this live in Northern Virginia, where there is no active persecution of Christians. But the question is still relevant, perhaps even more so than if we lived in a time or place where our faith practices would put us in danger. Persecution puts one’s faith to the test. Either we’re going to be there for God or we’re not. There’s no in-between.

But everything gets a little more wishy-washy in a secularized culture like ours. No one is going to persecute you for your beliefs, because no one cares what you believe about God or whether or not you even believe in God. We live in a 24/7 society. No matter what the hour or day, there’s always something to do – shop, manage your investments, watch TV, go out to eat – little of it of great importance in the eternal scheme of things. The pressure to get caught up in this whirlwind of activity is insidious. Our faith priorities can erode little by little. So, maybe it’s even more important for us to remind ourselves that God is always there for each of us and ask ourselves if we’re always there for God.


There are many places in the world today where Christians are persecuted for their faith – Iraq, other Islamic nations, the People’s Republic of China - just to mention a few. Pray today for perseverance for our brothers and sisters around the globe who suffer for their beliefs.

Pray, too, for those of us living in today’s secularized society, that we will be there for the God whose love for us and faithfulness to us are without measure.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

God’s Kingdom to Stand Forever

November 22, 2011

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr

By Beth DeCristofaro

"This was the dream; the interpretation we shall also give in the king's presence. You, O king, are the king of kings; to you the God of heaven has given dominion and strength, power and glory ... In the lifetime of those (other) kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, (Daniel 2:36-37, 44-45)

Jesus said, "All that you see here? the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." (Luke 21:6)


Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise God all creatures here below. Praise God above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


There are many stories in Scripture of kings whose awesome dominion, strength, power and glory prove to be less and more ephemeral than expected. Daniel’s explanation to Nebuchadnezzar illuminates that God’s Kingdom is eternal not the mightiest of mortal’s.

Thomas Merton in A Book of Hours (p.45-46) has a beautiful passage about the breaking of dawn during which he imagines birds, in “a moment of awe and inexpressible innocence when the Father in perfect silence opens their eyes. They speak to Him, not in perfect song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn state… Their condition asks if it is time to ‘be’. He answers ‘Yes.’ Then one by one they wake up and become birds. … Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to ‘be’ once again as it did on the first morning that ever was.” Merton goes on to contrast human waking: “Man’s wisdom does not succeed for we have fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone. We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose. We know the time and we dictate the terms. We know what time it is.”

Having undaunted purpose and knowing the time are not, in themselves, bad things. Humans every day do good and love well. Do we always remember that these actions need to show God’s glory rather than our accomplishments? Can we imagine our own careers, identities and good work, like the statue in the king’s dream, disintegrating into nothing yet know that God’s work was accomplished in those limited moments and will go on in someone else’s efforts? Can we, in the moments of waking and silence ask permission to “be” from the one to whom all life and blessings flow?


There is a freedom in ceasing to hold up those statues we have built in our lives. We let go and then are able to hold our empty hands up in supplication, thanksgiving, petition, lament, prayer. As we enter this holiday season, in the abundance of love given to us, what can we build for someone else and then let go? An unlooked for kindness? Standing up in civil protest for the good of someone else? Giving time in a food bank? Craft a gift with a child.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Test Your Servants

November 21, 2011

Memorial of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Please test your servants for ten days. Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men who eat from the royal table, and treat your servants according to what you see." He acceded to this request, and tested them for ten days; after ten days they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table. So the steward continued to take away the food and wine they were to receive, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and science, and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:12-17

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." Luke 21:1-4


Suscipe (by St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me. Amen.


Daniel and his companions face the "food test" in today's first reading. We face the food test on Thursday -- Thanksgiving Day -- and for the next five weeks of holiday parties, celebrations, and feasting. Beth tells me she heard a report that people consume on average 500 calories per day more than they need during the holiday season.

Meals and food are almost synonymous with celebration in American culture as well as in other societies around the world. New Year's Eve is alcoholic beverages and parties until after midnight. Halloween is candy. Fourth of July is barbecue. Thanksgiving is turkey and "all the fixin's." None of these on their merits is wrong or bad. However, often these holidays become times for overconsumption. ("Bring out the second turkey!" "No pie for Uncle Harry. Only Cool Whip!")

Yet we do not "need" all this food. Nutritionists tell us that we only need to multiply our body weight by a factor of ten to determine how many calories our body needs to maintain that weight. Create a deficit and you should lose weight.

When Daniel and his companions refused to eat the feast fit for a king and his court, they created a caloric deficit and did not meet their basic needs. That is probably why they started to look wan. However, they had the wisdom to know that they could fulfill the need for proper nutrition with only vegetables. When the chamberlain took away the king's food and wine and replaced it, the four young men thrived. Although they gave up some material comfort, they were rewarded for their sacrifice with knowledge and wisdom.


What would you be willing to have taken away from you? What can you sacrifice for a greater good? Food? Alcohol? Money? Time?

Such a practice is not unusual. In Egypt, our Coptic Christian sisters and brothers fast for the 40 days of Advent in addition to the fasting that they share with us during Lent. The Nativity Fast (Advent or Winter Lent) is the 40 days preceding Christmas (which remember falls on January 7 in their calendar). These 40 days correspond to the 40 days that the Prophet Moses fasted on the mountain, before receiving the Ten Commandments from God, which were at that time considered the word of God to his people. Thus, with Christ being the Word of God, these Coptic Christians fast those 40 days in preparation of receiving the Word of God in flesh.

Instead of making this the "December to Remember" because of some material indulgence, prepare ye the way of the Lord in the coming Advent season by offering something up as a personal sacrifice.

As retailers crank up their commercialization of Thanksgiving and so-called "Black (Ink) Friday," why not reconnect with people in your life by joining in with the Buy Nothing Day movement. ( After all, to adjust a famous phrase, there is a picture on this website with a sign that reads, "What would Jesus buy?"