Monday, January 31, 2011
Memorial of Saint John Bosco, priest
Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised. God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed. Mark 5:18-20
Alone with none but thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear when thou art near,
Oh king of night and day?
More safe am I within thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand.
Today's story in Mark's gospel shows us, Jesus gives them another example of his power over unclean spirits and the natural world -- just ike he showed when he calmed the seas.
As the disciples get to know Jesus, they realize that the expected savior has not come among them with great political or military power to free the Jews from oppresion under the rule of Rome. However, they realize that Jesus has something no political or military leader has. Jesus has power over the natural and the unnatural world.
The disciples do not yet know what to make of this. They need to continue to witness before they can be sent out to pread teh Good News. However, the man who was cured of the demons which possessed him understands full well what Jesus can do...that is why he turned to Jesus for help. That is why he does not want Jesus to leave his side. And that is why Jesus makes him among the first commanded to spread this Good News to all the world.
Many times, after performing a miracle, Jesus told the person cured not to say anthing to anyone. However, this story differs. Jesus was not only there to protect this man and save him. In turn, he asked him to share the good news with his family and friends.
The man cured in today's Gospel holds many lessons for us...he teaches us to turn to Jesus in our hour of need. He teaches us about the bond of love with Jesus that is so strong he never wants to part from Jesus. Finally, he teaches us that we too must go out into the world and preach about the ways that we have witnessed the Good News.
How will you put these lessons to work in your life this week?
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; Seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the LORD'S anger. Zephaniah 2:3
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Matthew 5:12a
Piety brings closeness to Christ in our own lives. Christ calls the little people of the world. The Beatitudes express their littleness of his disciples. They also express the very personhood of Christ. He opens the scroll of Isaiah to chapter 61 when he comes back to his home town and claims its meaning for himself. He has chosen the Messianic vision of the Suffering Servant as the truth of himself. The happiness from suffering in one’s life belongs to the realization of how close it brings one to Christ. Christ calls the little people of our world to be his disciples. The Disciples of Christ radiate a peacefulness t hat speaks volumes about closeness of Christ in one’s life. God sent his only son into our world that by his suffering for us God would have the reason to love us because our piety allows us to claim the suffering of Christ for our own forgiveness. Our piety brings us to a genuine love of the Christ of the Cross. Our hearts love for Christ hears the call of discipleship as the call to take up our crosses of life and to follow Christ.
Paul says it as it is. We are neither wise by human standards, nor powerful nor of noble birth. God chose the weak of the world to confound the strong. We learn not to boast on what we have done. We boast in the Lord who gives us his life as the forgiveness for what we have failed in by our weaknesses. We study Christ because Christ is the Wisdom of God. We learn how Christ is our righteousness by looking at how his life influences our lives. Christ is what makes our lives special in the closeness we have to him. We study how we can become more like him. We believe in the reward waiting for us in heaven which makes our crosses the victory of Christ in our time and age. We study how to be just like Christ.
We shall not let the fear of poverty make us fear because we know in our poverty of Spirit that the kingdom of heaven belongs to us. We do not protect ourselves from the sorrows of those who suffer around us because we know we can be their comfort in the “worthwhileness” of what they suffer. We make friends of the meek because they will inherit the land. We search out what we can do for those that hunger and thirst for righteousness so that we can be satisfied with them. We show mercy to all that we might have mercy, What we put up with for the sake of Christ will be our claim to fame in heaven and we can rejoice and be glad at what might seem a dumb choice to others because we know that what we do for the sake of Christ will be rewarded in heaven by our closeness to Christ in this life. We might be a people humble and without great comfort in the eyes of the world, but we know by the beatitudes that the hundredfold from following Christ in all was just a beginning of happiness when we see what is waiting for us in heaven. The Lord sets us free in the peace that goes with the beatitudes as we follow Christ to his Cross.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" Mark 4:37-40
O Lord my God,
Teach my heart this day where and how to see you,
Where and how to find you.
You have made me and remade me,
And you have bestowed on me
All the good things I possess,
And still I do not know you.
I have not yet done that
For which I was made.
Teach me to seek you,
For I cannot seek you
Unless you teach me,
Or find you
Unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire,
Let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you,
Let me love you when I find you.
What exactly is faith? People have been asking that question for thousands of years.
St. Paul explains to the Hebrews and us that faith is firm and unyielding in the face of any obstacles that confront it. He goes on to use Old Testament stories to explain that. However, the notes to the New American Bible teach us that “Christians have even greater reason to remain firm in faith since they, unlike the Old Testament men and women of faith, have perceived the beginning of God's fulfillment of his messianic promises.”
The scene in the boat being tossed among the waters of the Sea of Galilee ex just one example of Jesus at work fulfilling those promises in real time.
What happens in the boat? The disciples get evidence of things unseen. The storm is certainly seen and experienced. Jesus, a fellow traveler in the boat, is certainly seen and experienced. However, when Jesus calms the storm right before their eyes and their fears, the disciples are beginning to realize exactly who they are following. With just a word, Jesus intervenes in the natural environment to protect those whom He loves.
What has been your boat experience? When have you been in a rocky situation and things were resolved? Why were you terrified? If the wind and the sea can obey Jesus, shall we – with our gift of free will – do anything less?
Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church
By Melanie Rigney
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 8:6)
Commit to the Lord your way; trust in him, and he will act. (Psalms 37:5)
(With parables such as that of the mustard seed), he spoke the word to (the crowd) as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private. (Mark 4:33-34)
Lord, help me to listen when You explain in private the way You’re working in my life.
Endurance, according to an entry in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, is “the ability of a person or thing to continue to perform especially under adverse conditions.” The examples given are a cross-country hike or endurance swimming, both of which can be lonely pursuits.
Endurance is a good word to describe what we need to follow God. It’s a lifelong, grueling marathon of a journey. And while training in community—alongside our families, friends, parishes, group reunions, ultreyas, and others—we spend much of the journey on our own. Because no matter how close we may be to another human being, we don’t always share everything—our worst nightmares, our hopes others would call silly, our dreams even our dearest friends would call unobtainable.
And that’s the beauty of God. He speaks to us in public places in ways we can all understand. We hear His Word at Mass and in conversation with others. We share experiences in small groups and large ones. We carry out His commandments in our ministries and other actions. But at the end of the day, it’s those explanations He provides in private—even when His guidance isn’t to our liking—that give us the strength and faith to keep putting one foot in front of each other.
Ask God for His explanation to a situation that’s been troubling you, one that you haven’t been comfortable taking to anyone, including Him.
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25
Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lamp stand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Mark 4:21-22
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
Christ shield me today
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.
Jesus did not go it alone until the very end as he hung on the cross. He needed his Holy Family to protect and nurture him. Then, Jesus needed the apostles and disciples to learn and carry on His work. Even near the very end of his life, Jesus needed Simon the Cyrene to help carry his cross, Joseph of Aramithea and Nicodemus to bury him, and the women and men visiting his tomb to announce that he is risen.
St. Paul understands that need for community and support. His message to the Hebrews makes sure people are active participants in the church. When we get lazy, he encourages us to rouse one another to participate.
When our family joined St. Mary of Sorrows, there was a banner hanging in the back which read: “Christianity is not a spectator sport.”
When we are called and the message is revealed to us, we are required to share that message.
How will you spread today’s Gospel in how you live out this challenging mission to help Jesus carry his cross in the modern world?
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Memorial of Saint Timothy and Saint Titus, bishops
By Colleen O’Sullivan
Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition of religious truth, in the hope of eternal life that God, who does not lie, promised before time began, who indeed at the proper time revealed his word in the proclamation with which I was entrusted by the command of God our savior, to Titus, my true child in our common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior. For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you. (Titus 1:1-5)
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” (Mark 4:1-9)
Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations. (Psalm 96:3)
When I was younger and listened to this parable of the sower, I heard in it a question about what kind of person I am. Am I like the soil that doesn’t absorb the seed, leaving the seed vulnerable to birds or other predators? Am I so hard of heart or close-minded that God’s word can’t penetrate my innermost being? Am I like the rocky ground with a shallow layer of topsoil, where the seed sprouts but soon dies, because there isn’t depth for roots? Am I initially responsive to God’s word, but then prove unable or unwilling to follow him all the way? Am I like the soil that’s full of thorns and weeds, leaving no room for the seed to mature? Is my soul so choked with the ways of the world or sin, that there’s no room for God? Or am I like the fertile soil, where the seed grows and produces a great yield? Do I let God into my life and then live a life that reflects God’s work in me? When I was younger, I thought that every individual could be characterized as one of these types.
Nowadays, I don’t see it as so much an “either/or” scenario. I am not any one of these types, exclusive of the others. Depending on the hour and the circumstance, in one day I can be all of them. Sometimes I just don’t listen when God is speaking to me. Other times I am very receptive to opportunities God puts in my path, but somewhere along the line my enthusiasm peters out and I don’t follow through on my commitment. Sometimes I realize that I have turned my back on God and walked in another direction. And, thankfully, sometimes I am open to the Spirit working in me and that is reflected in my actions and relationships. Of course, I would like to be faithful all the time, but because we human beings are sinners, it just doesn’t work out like that!
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to see that this isn’t just a story about how receptive I am to God’s word or the Spirit’s work in me. It’s also a story about being a sower myself. When I am the rich, receptive soil Jesus talks about in the parable, I am expected to yield a great harvest. I take the seeds of love and redemption given to me in Christ and sow them in the lives of others. Being a sower can be challenging, tedious and sometimes unrewarding work. I may plant a seed and never know in my lifetime whether or not it germinates and grows. It may take a very long time to reap what I sow. Of course, in our culture we like instant results, so this can be frustrating. I may plant seeds and discover that they have fallen on hard, shallow or weed-choked soil and so come to naught. Some people are just not going to respond the way I would hope no matter how faithfully I sow God’s word. The amazing thing about Jesus, however, is that in spite of the many challenges to sowing, he never stops planting the seeds of love and forgiveness in our lives. As his followers, we are called to steadfastly do the same for others. How they respond is beyond our control. All we are asked to do is scatter the seed wherever we go.
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, both close friends of St. Paul and instrumental in the formation of the early Christian Church. I’m sure they would both have stories to tell about their experiences as sowers and reapers. They planted the seeds of faith in Christ and nurtured the growth of communities of believers in places such as Corinth and Crete. They knew all about the challenges and frustrations of sowing but remained faithful to the task throughout their lives.
In Cursillo, we are acting as sowers when we make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ. When was the last time you intentionally set out to do that? If it’s been a while, think about the many opportunities you have each week to sow the seeds of faith in this way, pick one, and act on it.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, the apostle
By Beth DeCristofaro
Paul addressed the people in these words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. (Acts 22:3-4)
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, AAnanias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. … and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:10-16)
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
Open my eyes today, Lord Jesus, to the beauty of life. Open my ears, Lord, that I might hear your voice. Open my heart, Lord, that I might place you always at its center. Open my lips, Lord, that I might speak my words for your glory not my own.
The lectionary offers two choices for a first reading today and I chose a passage from both. I was struck with the experiences of the two men Paul and Ananias. Both were strong believers in their faith. They were both chosen by God in startling and unpleasant ways. There was resistance – by Paul before his conversion and by Ananias when he heard God’s voice – to the new reality, the new community and covenantal relationship which God had forged with his people through Jesus the Christ. Both, in the end, said “yes” and experienced conversion which changed not only their own lives but the course of humanity’s spiritual awareness and journey to God.
This story is awe inspiring as we see how God’s view of community was so incredibly different than the zealous Jew and the apprehensive Christian could imagine. God had a bigger plan for the world and a bigger plan for each of them. Each man was an important tool for God, each man had his place, and God’s plan at this moment in history depended on a “yes” from reluctant participants. No doubt if Ananias or Paul had not agreed, God would have found other instruments. But their story shows us how marvelous and surprising is the movement of God when we partake.
It makes me wonder if my idea of being a Christian and being in community is large enough or flexible enough to be open to the unexpected call from God. Or do my definitions of the way things are (or should be) and the very important tasks of my day and my life distract me from God’s requests to me. Does God need to knock me off my horse to get my attention or am I listening?
Cursillo offers us a chance to be a better friend to Christ without falling off a horse. Have you partaken in formation through School of Leaders or served on a team? Have you given time and energy palanca to a weekend lately? Have you brought a friend to a weekend?
School of Leaders will be held on February 12. Check out the Cursillo website for details and for other resources for your piety and study.
And there are two teams in formation. Is your group reunion able to help Thursday of the weekend with handling luggage or providing a meal for the team? Help at Closing? Will you attend Manunita? Cook a meal ? Check out the website. Sign up or ask the Angel or Rector/Rectora what is currently needed.
If time is not available to you, place each team and the candidates who will attend in your prayer.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church
For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Hebrews 9:24-26
And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Mark 3:25-27
Father, may our prayers today remember the significance of your sacrifice – sending your only Son to be with us, dwell with us and die for us – once for all – to take away the sins of the world. Brother Jesus, you are the Lamb whose very blood ransomed for us eternal life. May we live today in thanks for your sacrifice. Holy Spirit, be with us wherever we go today and protect us from the strong man who would lead us back into temptation. Amen.
Think of all the things we do every year. New Year’s Resolutions. March for Life at the Supreme Court. Birthday celebrations. Spring cleaning. Summer vacation. Back to school. Fall Festival.
Think of all the things we do every week. Grocery shopping. Fill up the car with gas. Go out to dinner or maybe head to the movies. Borrow books from the library. Volunteer for your favorite cause.
Think of all the things we do every day. Eat. Drink. Breathe. Work. Play. Check e-mail. Watch television. Read Your Daily Tripod.
All of these – and more – are important routines. Yet the enormity and importance of Christ’s sacrifice is that it was so important that it was done once. Once. ONCE. Once for all.
Today’s reading from Hebrews reminds us why we celebrate Mass every day – to mark that supreme ultimate sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world.
How can you live your life today in a way that honors the sacrifice that Christ made? What can you do when you meet Christ in your family, friends, neighbors and strangers to make the day brighter?
Think of the next person you see as the first time Christ comes into your life today. What will you say to Jesus through that person?
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time A
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, As they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils. Isaiah 9:1-2
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. 1 Corinthians 1:17
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17
How easy it is to be misled by appearances. Flash in the pan people can capture a moment of attention and with the first bit of darkness they are gone. We judge people by appearances and miss the depth that exists in genuinely good people. Shallow souls do not run deep. Places of birth and wealth do not of themselves make a good person. Goodness is the light of Christ that shines in deep souls that are there for us in our darkest times. The land of gloom gives way to the love of Christ. His light reaches the ends of the earth. We are called to wait for the Lord with courage. We must be stouthearted if we want the message of the Lord to take root in our hearts.
The Lord is our light and our salvation. We dwell in the house of the Lord when we let our love guide us to the temple of the Lord. Wherever there is love, the Lord is there. The love of God exceeds the furthest expression of our human longing. The limits of our faults and weaknesses do not have to keep us from the peace and the joy the vision of the glory of the Lord brings us. The love of the cross of Christ, the tree of glory, can free us to the vision of the glory that will be ours by virtue of our share in the cross of Christ. The splinters of life, the little pains can form the throne of the glory waiting for us when we meet Christ who smashes the rod of the taskmasters of our lives. The one thing we must seek is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives.
We must resolve to live in unity with one another with no divisions among us. We are called to work for the harmony of the house of the Lord. We are called to treat each other better than ourselves. We do not have our dignity from anyone other than Christ. We are one with each other in our love for Christ. We operate with the graces Christ gives us. We are his disciples and it is the cross of Christ which is our salvation. Avila would say “If I had your graces I would do half of what you do. If you had my graces, you would do twice as much.” We will never really know who the great saints of our lives are. We need to treat each person as better than ourselves. It is Christ that we serve in one another. It is Christ that calls us to follow him in the tasks of life. Christ proclaims the gospel of the Kingdom. It is the love of God we proclaim. The following of Christ is always in what we are doing now. We are not saving up our energy for some tremendous event. The kingdom is now as we do the ordinary of our lives with the love of Christ which makes everything we do the extraordinary of the Kingdom of God.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. Hebrews 9:11-14
He came home. Again (the) crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." Mark 3:20-21
We need Houses of Hospitality to give to the rich the opportunity to serve the poor.
We need Houses of Hospitality to bring the scholars to the workers or the workers to the scholars.
We need Houses of Hospitality to bring back to institutions the technique to institutions.
We need Houses of Hospitality to show what idealism looks like when it is practiced.
-- Peter Maurin, co-founder of The Catholic Worker Movement
The notes in the New American Bible tell us that there were those even – among the relatives of Jesus who must have been closer to Him than most – who disbelieved what he had to say. Even among his closest relatives, there were those who regarded Jesus as out of his mind. So early in his ministry, how had people already come to think Jesus was so far off the mark of conventional wisdom?
Jesus was at home. Rather than meeting up with expected hospitality, Jesus encountered hostility and rejection. He was at that same home in which people – strangers – had gone to the roof to lower down their paralytic friend for healing. Yet some of his relatives thought he was out of his mind while distant neighbors had faith and turned to Jesus for healing. Jesus did not just grant healing to those who sought it. He forgave sins. He took healing to a new level beyond the merely physical and went to the spiritual. People had a hard time understanding this.
The Letter to the Hebrews notes that if the blood offerings of dead goats, bulls and cows could sanctify those who had sinned, then how much more could the blood of the Lamb of God cleanse our inner conscience – our very minds, hearts and souls? But this is hard to comprehend today let alone in ancient Palestine. If it could not be comprehended, it was dismissed by those who could not understand what Jesus was doing or why Jesus was doing it this way.
When Jesus had come home again, rather than finding a supportive audience, he still had to overcome the skepticism rather than meet with faith.
The Catholic Worker Movement has a special tradition in which people gather to hear talks and reflections which are called “Clarification of Thought.” This is an age old tradition which stretches back to what happened at the Sermon on the Mount. These talks and discussions build discipleship through dialog. The members of the community come together just like they did at Jesus’ home to learn about issues pertinent to following Jesus.
Learning is the process of a lifetime. If we close our minds based upon what we already know, then we cease to keep learning. Jesus challenges us to keep our minds open and to continue to be open to encountering him in all that we meet.
Such talks also are a feature of our Cursillo movement. The talks on a weekend prompt us to discussions at tables and in walks about how our lives are challenged by this itinerant preacher and carpenter from Galilee.
Whether in a Catholic Worker community, a Cursillo weekend or in a parish listening to a homily or a religious education program, people of all persuasions must enter into dialogue, to explore the causes for the present “disorder” and to find a way from where we are to where we ought to be. This opening to God and to ideas which challenge our existing perceptions and the status quo remind us that these qualities need to be a part of our lives and our response to the Gospel.
What issues challenge you in the Gospel? How can you seek clarification and understanding? What takes you out of your comfort zone? Where is Jesus leading you today? How will his sacrifice cleanse your conscience and move you closer to putting your love into action?
Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr
By Melanie Rigney
Now our high priest has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)
Show us, Lord, your love; grant us your salvation. (Psalms 85:8)
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. (Mark 13:3)
Jesus, sometimes I am overwhelmed that I am among those You want. Thank You. Thank You.
Do you or did you ever despair of finding “the one,” the man or woman who would love you forever? Maybe you found that person at an early age and are celebrating your first, fifth, twenty-fifth, or fiftieth wedding anniversary. Or maybe you thought you found that person, only to have the relationship change, the love and commitment fade. Or maybe you’re wishing and hoping, planning and praying, even today, that he or she will appear in the next three weeks, because Valentine’s Day is a difficult day not to be romantically involved.
A slew of legends have grown up around Saint Agnes, whose feast day we celebrate today. All we really know about her is that she was young—twelve or so—when she was killed. Whether she actually was sent to a house of prostitution or protected her body with her beautiful long hair is lost to the mists of time. A slew of myths/rituals/superstitions also have grown up around her. Some believe that a young woman will see her future husband in a dream if on St. Agnes Eve she goes to bed without supper and sleeps with her hands under the pillow. Are the superstitions ever borne out? It depends on who you ask.
When it comes to searching out human love, we work on putting our best foot forward, at least in the beginning. When we’re trying to impress someone on a first date or before, we wear clothing we believe flatters us. We take special care with our grooming. We’re careful about what we say, keeping positive, at least attempting to take an interest in what the target of our affection is saying. The longer we’re with our beloved, however, the more our true selves come out. And, we hope, they’ll somehow still love us.
Agape—God’s love for us—is different. He wants us. We don’t have to wear red because it’s our color, or dye our hair. He’s out there, summoning us, offering salvation. What will your answer be? Will you come?
The Arlington Cursillo Communications Committee tomorrow will be working on a statement of work for a redesign of www.arlingtoncursillo.org. We ask for your prayers for thoughtful discernment… and your thoughts about how the site might better serve you. We will ask the community to complete a survey on this subject in the coming months, but any comments in the meantime may be directed to me at editorforyou(at)earthlink.net.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. Hebrews 7:25-26
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God." He warned them sternly not to make him known. Mark 3:10-12
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! Isaiah 58:6-9
Fifty years ago today, on January 20, 1961, the first (and only) American Catholic President was inaugurated on the snowy, cold steps of the Capitol building. Rather than retreat from his faith, the speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy moments after being sworn in to office, was rich in imagery of faith, allusions to critical Biblical passages, and put into action the words of Christians in terms which all people could identify.
President Kennedy began by acknowledging that “…[T]he rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” With those rights, he intoned certain responsibilities. As we read about Jesus today in the Good News from Mark, He walked and preached and cured because it was the right thing to do. JFK inspired those who heard his message also to be moved to action.
“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
As a nation, we continue to recoil from gun violence which claimed his life less than three years later. Such civility also would have gone a long way two thousand years earlier as people rejected Jesus and His teachings. President Kennedy’s call for “civility” with each other continues to ring in our ears and on the pages of our history books.
The JFK Inaugural Address was not merely a political speech. His speech was a call to action echoing passages from Isaiah and Paul’s letter to the Romans (“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13).
As we contemplate our Christian action, recall the closing words from this historic address that January day in 1961:
So let us begin anew…My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
How are you making God’s work on earth today truly your own?
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O’Sullivan
Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death. (Mark 3:1-6)
Lord, sometimes I feel you tugging at me, stretching me in my faith. Forgive me for resisting. Sometimes I feel you trying to open my eyes to the errors of my ways. Forgive me for preferring blindness to new insights. Even though I am stubborn, I love you, Lord, and I beg you never to stop pulling me toward you in love.
Imagine that it’s next Sunday and you are praying. You are seeking healing, perhaps for yourself or maybe for a friend. There’s something in your life or that of your friend which needs God’s healing touch. Suddenly, you hear God speaking to you, but you can hardly believe what you’re hearing! God tells you, “Sorry, but don’t you know what day it is? It’s the Sabbath. I’m resting. No healing today.” How ludicrous that sounds to our ears! We’ve been taught that God hears and answers our prayers any time of day or night, every day of the year. God would never respond to us in that manner.
But the Pharisees would. They zealously uphold every detail of the Law, including prohibiting healing on the Lord’s Day. I feel sorry for them, because obviously the image of God they hold in their hearts isn’t a very compassionate or loving one.
Sabbath or not, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus goes ahead and touches the withered hand of the man in the spotlight. Immediately, his hand is made whole again. Jesus asks the Pharisees if it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to save a life, but they don’t respond. Jesus wants them to open their hearts, to recognize how much God loves the people he calls his own, and to see that God’s laws should bring us closer to this loving God, not alienate us.
There are those wicked Pharisees up to no good again, we say to ourselves. But hold on a minute. I don’t know that I want to be so quick to vilify them, because, on closer inspection, I see something of myself reflected in them. The Pharisees are frightened people. They have their own little kingdom all set up, where they run the show, know the rules and zealously uphold them. They don’t want anyone or anything disturbing their peace or dragging them out of their comfort zone, which is exactly what Jesus is trying to do. Their minds are closed. They are their own gods and anyone or anything getting in the way of that has to be destroyed. Too bad the Pharisees let their fear turn to hatred. They leave the synagogue seeking the death of the only One who could save them.
How many times does Jesus ask me to grow in my faith or my living out of my faith and I respond just like the Pharisees? I dig in my heels. I kick and scream, because I feel safe with the status quo. I make fun of or belittle whatever frightens me. I like being master of my little universe, so I don’t enjoy being asked to relinquish control to God. Above all, I ask you to forgive me, Lord, when I turn my back on you and shut you out in this manner.
When you have a few moments, take another look at the Pharisees. Do you see yourself reflected in them in any way? Mirrors seldom lie.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
The Lord will remember his covenant for ever. (Psalm 111:5)
(Jesus) said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2: 25-28)
Gracious and generous God, thank you for creating in me a desire for your will. Help me each day to be open to the movement of your Spirit within me. Jesus, as your words and actions showed the great love which your Father holds for you and for me, may my words and actions show your presence to the world. Amen.
People who know everything (or think they do) irritate me. Of course, I think that is because I too often get into the “expert” mode. Many of us speak out of a certainty that is really not based in fact. We “heard” something or believe something which causes us to want to correct others or teach others who, just perhaps, have similar or more complete knowledge than we do.
Scholars, religious leaders and everyday people once believed that people of color were not people and that the earth was flat.
Or take these Pharisees. They think they know what God wants. But Jesus does not take their bait. Rather, he raises the issue to a much higher level – humanity is made by God for God not for following inane rules made by others. Even more importantly, God made a covenant with humans that He honors with constancy beyond the memories, the schemes or the comprehension of humans.
My challenge is that while I am awed and grateful that God loves me so much, truly listening for God’s will means that I might not hear what I have decided is right for me. God wants me to trust what He provides is also my secret heart’s desire. I can’t be the expert if I really give God my trust.
Spend some time during your prayer in the wheat field with Jesus, plucking the grains and nourishing yourself in his presence. Listen for the Word of God’s covenant and love for you.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Memorial of Saint Anthony, abbott
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:8-10
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to him and objected, "Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. Mark 2:18-20
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
Excerpts from the “I Have a Dream” speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Complete text is located here: http://www.mlkonline.net/dream.html
We continue to confront the news out of Tucson – in the aftermath of the assassination of a Federal judge, the killing of five others, the attempted murder of a member of Congress, and the injury to others. A debate about new civility has also broken out in the nation.
Today, the nation pauses to mark the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was the “high priest” of the American civil rights movement. He was one of the principal organizers of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
In our Good News today, Jesus tries to calmly blunt the criticism from the Pharisees about his disciples not keeping the Sabbath fast. In that same manner, Dr. King tried to quell the emotional demand for violence in order to attain civil rights legislation. He led a non-violent movement molded in the spirit of the peace of Christ.
Dr. King was only a young, 34-year-old preacher when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to deliver this powerful, historic message that rings through the ages and holds special meaning for us today as we contemplate recent events and consider the need for greater civility and respect for each other. Dr. King said that sweltering afternoon:
“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
However much he wanted people to rely upon peaceful means to gain civil rights, before his 40th birthday, Dr. King was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet fired in hate just like those shots that rang out and shattered the peaceful events and lives on the morning of January 8, 2011 in the shopping center parking lot.
The national Martin Luther King Day of Service was started by former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act. The federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The federal legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 23, 1994.
Are you marking this day with any volunteer service? Instead of just sitting at home, start a new personal tradition by getting involved in some service or outreach program to magnify your “soul force.”
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time A
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:5-6
I waited, waited for the LORD; who bent down and heard my cry, And put a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God. Many shall look on in awe and they shall trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:2,4
John testified further, saying, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God." John 1:32-34
God loved us in our mother’s womb. He called us before we ever knew the meaning of his love for us. He gives us our vocation to be the presence of his son in all that we do. He gives us freedom to respond to Jesus and thus Jesus has become our strength. John the Baptist is servant of God from his womb. We have the love of God on our hearts from the day of our Baptism. We are able to recognize the Christ of the hearts of our friends by their love. We are called to look beyond our friends and to love our enemies just as much. It is a wonderful moment of our piety when we are able to say to a friend; “The Christ of my heart recognizes the Christ of your heart. Our piety makes us a light of Christ to the nations. How wonderful it is to get beyond appearances by recognizing the Christ in the love of our enemies. The salvation of Christ reaches to the ends of the earth through our responding to our calls to be Christ for one another. What I do for the least ones of my life is a good measure of how much love for Christ is in the love I have for my friends. Christ takes what we do for the least ones of our life as what we do for him.
Our piety teaches us how to be responsive to the commands of Christ. Our love for Christ calls us to be obedient to his commands. Our calling on the name of the Lord sanctifies us and opens us to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace comes to us through Christ from God the Father. Our study opens us up to God’s way of doing things. We are children of God by our study of the ways of Christ. The more contact we have with Christ in our prayer, the more we strive to be like him in all that we do. Prayer awakens us to our need to love even as Christ has loved us. We study how to give ourselves to the problems of our world. It is not enough that we be local in our outreach. We must reach to the ends of the world with the love of Christ in our hearts.
John pointed out Christ to the world. The baby John jumped in the womb of his mother at the presence of the baby Christ in Mary. What he did in the womb would be his vocation from God. John saw the Spirit come down on Jesus and recognized Christ for who he was. We have been given Christ by our baptisms. Christ lives in our hearts and Christ is freed to the world when we love one another. We are greater than John because Christ lives in our love for one another. John testified to Christ by pointing him out to his disciples. We testify about Christ by the goodness of our lives. The love we have for one another opens us up to the love of Christ in our world. We empower each other to do the best we can when we compliment the good each is doing. We become part of the work of Christ in others when our encouragement makes it possible for another to go beyond the limits of common sense to make Christ present in our world. When we see the Lord in another we can testify to how the Son of God is alive and well in the other. We live Christ by making Christ the meaning of our lives and by strengthening the work of Christ in others.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Saturday of the First Week In Ordinary Time
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. Hebrews 4:12-13
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus heard this and said to them (that), "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." Mark 2:16-17
Lord Jesus, you came to serve, not to be served, form within us your generous spirit; Fill us with your love, that we may love the Father as your love him. Fill us with your compassion, that we may see our brothers and sisters as you see them. Fill us with your courage, that we may give our lives in service to the Church as you gave your life for her. Fill us with that Spirit which will make us preachers of your Word, ministers of your Sacrifice, servants of your Bride, friends of the poor, and the voice of the forgotten. Transform us through your Holy Spirit so that we may transform the world into Your Kingdom of justice and faith. Amen.
Fr. Benedict D. O'Cinnsealaigh,
Director of Diaconate Formation
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
Sharper. Penetrating. Even between the soul and spirit.
Paul paints an extremely vivid picture in today’s selection from the Letter to the Hebrews. Because Jesus lived among frail and sinful humans, he is uniquely able to sympathize which the pressures we face in daily life. Because he has been tested in every way from his time in the desert and on earth, he understands the power of the world and human desires upon us.
Jesus shares these temptations with us. The desire for food to fulfill our basic needs. The thirst for power to influence people and events. The quest to overcome death. Yet while he was tempted, he was unlike us in avoiding temptation and was without sin.
Some of us are better able to avoid sin than others. Which is great. Jesus has penetrated into their soul and spirit more readily than others. Others are attacked by temptation more and need more help. So Jesus puts the priority of his time on working with those who need help the most. Being among the tax collectors and sinners gives Jesus even more opportunity to penetrate into their marrow, to get inside their spirit and soul.
Today, the Church might call this priority a “preferential option for the poor.” But in ancient Palestine, the Pharisees and scribes did not know what to make of this teacher who spent time with sinners instead of in the temple with those who were already acting out their public piety and holiness.
Today in Arlington, Bishop Paul Loverde will preside over the first ordination to the permanent diaconate in more than 20 years. Sixteen men have been in formation over the past five years studying, praying and working to get to this special day.
Bishop Loverde noted in a recent column in the diocese website that “These men fulfill a unique role in our Church by mirroring the image of Jesus as the Divine Servant, Who came not to be served but to serve others.” Please pray for them at the time of their ordination at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More and continue to support them by your ongoing prayer and encouragement!
Friday, January 14, 2011
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
By Melanie Rigney
For we who believed enter into that rest, just as he has said: As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest,” and yet his works were accomplished at the foundation of the world. For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this manner, and God rested on the seventh day from all his works; and again, in the previously mentioned place, “They shall not enter into my rest.” Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:3-5, 11)
Do not forget the works of the Lord! (Psalms 78:7)
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?” (Mark 2:9)
Lord, let me honor Your amazing grace by entering into Your rest.
What does the Sabbath rest mean to us, as Christians, as Catholics, as human beings? All too often, we become as the scribes, squabbling over whether keeping the third commandment means we can’t work, can’t engage in activities such as shopping that result in work for others, can’t use electronic devices. The list of prohibitions and restrictions varies by belief, and for some, it’s long and specific.
“The Sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition advises. “It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.” The poor in particular, the Catechism says, are to “be refreshed” on that day, following God’s example of rest.
As the Catechism notes, we see several instances of Jesus being accused of breaking the Sabbath by healing or other actions, and his response is that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around. “With compassion, Christ declares the Sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing,” we’re taught. “The Sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.”
Rest is important—for our bodies, our minds, and our souls. It can be difficult not to treat Sunday after or before Mass as just another day, doing the laundry, catching up on the office BlackBerry or e-mail, doing the grocery shopping. But when instead we rest in contemplation or in community, we honor the Lord, and draw the strength to better reflect His Son’s image the rest of the week.
How will you approach the upcoming Sabbath to enter into rest with the Lord?
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Encourage yourselves daily while it is still "today," so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end, for it is said: "Oh, that today you would hear his voice: 'Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.'" Hebrews 3:13-15
A leper came to him (and kneeling down) begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Mark 1:40-42
Listen carefully to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to one from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for Jesus, the Christ.
First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to God most earnestly to bring it to perfection. In God's goodness, we are already counted as God's own, and therefore we should never grieve God by our evil actions. With the good gifts which are in us, we must obey God at all times that God may never become the angry parent who disinherits us, nor the dreaded one, enraged by our sins, who punishes us forever as worthless servants for refusing to follow the way to glory. Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue
What is a partner?
If we were talking in a legal sense, the concept would include two or more parties which each have responsibilities to do something in order to achieve a common end. This can be individuals, not-for-profit organizations, for-profit companies, and more. Partnership goes beyond “mere collaboration” and imposes certain agreed upon responsibilities. It goes beyond being a funder of an organization. Rather than just sending money, both parties must roll up their proverbial sleeves and get involved for the common good.
After St. Paul imposes upon us the rights and responsibilities of partnership, Jesus gives us a great example about how he holds up his end of the “contract.” The leper comes to Jesus in faith and asks to be made clean. As St. Paul tells the Hebrews and us in his letter, Jesus responds: Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Now, Jesus imposes some responsibilities upon the now clean former leper. See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed. Unfortunately, the man did not seem to fulfill those conditions requested by his partner. So happy was he to be cured, he could not keep from singing. We can only hope he at least went to the priest and offered himself for cleansing.
The context of Paul’s message to the Hebrews is a section of the letter concentrating on the faithfulness and mercy Jesus exhibits toward us. The leper certainly has a partnership stake in faithfulness to come out from his place of exile and approach Jesus in this way. In that way he is a good partner. Does he make himself a bad partner by not following Jesus and keeping quiet? Or does he take his partnership to a new higher level by spreading the Good News even further?
How are we doing in holding up our partnership agreement sealed in the covenant of our baptism and confirmation?
This week is the anniversary of the terrible earthquake which devastated Port au Prince, Haiti. One of the organizations working extensively on that island is called Partners in Health. They have provided a special report on the progress made and the work ahead and posted it to http://www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti/one-year/stand-with-haiti-one-year-report.
Take time this week to read the report. Then, as they ask, remember, reflect and respond to what you learn in this report. Attend to it with the ear of your heart.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O’Sullivan
Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:17-18)
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee. (Mark 1:35-39)
Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord! Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly. (Psalm 105: 3-4)
My friends and family who live outside this metropolitan area never cease to be amazed at the busyness of life around the Beltway. They find it hard to believe that when my alarm goes off at 5:20 a.m. and I listen to the traffic and weather on WTOP, there are often already accidents and traffic jams being reported. They think I’m nuts to get up early on Saturday morning and meet with my Cursillo group at 7:30. How many people show up at that early hour, they want to know, as if I must be one of the few people in the world out and about at that time. They’d be surprised if they could see how busy the McDonalds is where we meet and how many people are already out and on the road, starting their weekend errands.
Even I sometimes find all the activity overwhelming and I don’t even have kids! My friends with children are forever busy making sure homework gets done, helping with school projects, taking their kids to Girl/Boy Scouts, swimming lessons, CCD, sports practices and games, birthday parties…
In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with being busy. Jesus himself was a very busy person. In the readings from Mark’s Gospel for yesterday and today, we are presented with a picture of a day in his life. Yesterday, we read about his preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sabbath. He not only preached with authority, astounding the congregation, he even stopped in the middle of what he was saying to command an unclean spirit to leave a tormented man in the congregation.
In today’s reading, once the synagogue service is over, Jesus goes with Simon and Andrew to their house, accompanied by James and John. Here Jesus is told that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. Jesus takes her hand and helps her up. She is healed. The fever leaves her and she is able to serve her guests.
That already sounds like a fairly full day to me, but after the sun goes down and the Sabbath officially ends, all the townspeople show up at Simon and Andrew’s house, bringing the sick and possessed of the village for Jesus’ healing touch!
Jesus still isn’t done. After a day of preaching and healing, he gets a little sleep, but is back up again before dawn. He goes off by himself to pray. And here we discover who determines the agenda for his activity. Jesus spends his prayer time listening to what God wants him to do. And, as all of us know, God’s plans aren’t always our plans. Before long, Simon and others find the Lord. They think he should come back to Capernaum immediately, because everyone there is looking for Jesus. He’s the latest sensation! But Jesus has just spent this time in solitude with his Father. He’s got his agenda straight from God. He doesn’t argue with the disciples, but he knows this isn’t what God wants him to do. So, instead, he says, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”
There’s nothing wrong with being busy as long as we’re busy with the right things, following God’s agenda and not our own or somebody else’s. But we’ll never know if we’re on the right path as we squeeze onto the Metro or sit in traffic, hurrying to the day’s activities, unless we find that quiet time with the Lord. Not just a time when we talk to God, but a time when we listen for his direction for our lives.
Who sets your agenda? Think back over the past few days. Were you just rushing from one activity to the next, exhausting yourself, or were you busy fulfilling God’s plan for your day? Tomorrow morning, after your alarm goes off, spend a few minutes with the Lord, asking him what it is he has for you to do this day and then listen for his answer or, if you’re not a morning person, do it before you go to sleep.
This past summer I heard a homily about going in for a check-up of your spiritual life. The priest talked about how we go to the doctor every year for a physical. He suggested that we do the same for our spiritual lives, find a spiritual director to talk with to see if we’re spiritually fit. That’s also a good way to see who sets your agenda.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Tuesday of the First Week In Ordinary Time
By Beth DeCristofaro
In “subjecting” all things to him, he left nothing not “subject to him.” Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death, he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:8-9)
Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. (Mark 1:21-27)
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding, and my entire will.
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I return it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
St. Ignatius (from the end of the Spiritual Exercises)
There are several instances in the Gospels where unclean spirits recognize and call out to Jesus. In each instance, Jesus dispels the spirit from the person held captive by it. In ancient wisdom and folk lore, knowing someone’s true name gives a person power over that one. Not so for Jesus. The spirit knows Jesus’ true identity, recognizes him for what he was, but cannot command him. As Paul says in Hebrews: In “subjecting” all things to him, he left nothing not “subject to him.”
I wonder sometimes if I in my haste or distraction I tend to treat Jesus the same way as the spirit did. My prayer being more of a “here’s what I want from you now, God” than a real attempt to sit, listen and be with God for what God wants from me. After all, I love to have control over most things in my life.
It seems to me that if I would be more open to the astonishment which the people felt in the synagogue when Jesus preached. Somehow I think that having the control would be less important if I rather sought for the moments of God in my everyday life and the awareness of the holy. Rather to be ready to see God moments would put me in touch with the true authority of my life. Often, I live each day much the same way as I drive: fast, impatiently and focused on the destination rather than the present moment. God wants me now, not later.
It is only the now in which we find God. Stop, right now. Recall that you are in the presence of God. Give thanks. As wise teachers have said: be astonished.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
For to which of the angels did God ever say: "You are my son; this day I have begotten you"? Or again: "I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me"? And again, when he leads the first-born into the world, he says: "Let all the angels of God worship him." Hebrews 1:5-6
"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. Mark 1:15-18
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.
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
As Jesus begins his public ministry along the shores of Galilee, one thing he knows for certain. He can not do this work alone. He already knows that his days are numbered. So he needs to select some workers to carry on with him and after him.
Mark’s description of the recruitment of the apostles is amazingly efficient. Simon, Andrew, James and John are simply asked to come with Jesus. They simply follow.
There are no display ads in The Washington Post or on www.MonsterJobs.com. There is no headhunter, job fair, engraved invitation, or offer letter. Just a request. “Follow me.” And just a simple response. They abandoned their nets and followed him.
These men stepped out of their proverbial comfort zone and careers and followed this 30-year-old itinerant preacher around the region. Even after the resurrection when Jesus reunites with these same men on the shores of this same lake, his request remains simple. If you love me, then feed my sheep.
Jesus has not changed his approach with us either. He has a simple request for us as well. Follow me. Feed my lambs. Our response is what sets us apart from public charity and social work. We say “Yes” because Jesus asks us.
Who is he asking you to serve? The homeless in the county hypothermia shelter? Those without coats? Youth? The sick and injured? Those in prison? Those with mental illness? How can you support Jesus and these least among us?
Please pray especially for the victims of violent crimes, including those killed and seriously injured in Arizona last weekend.
Saturday, January 08, 2011
First Sunday of Ordinary Time A
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. Isaiah 42:6-7
You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:36-38
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?" Jesus said to him in reply, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed him. Matthew 3:13-15
There is a moment in human affairs when time stands still. Christ walks into the water to be baptized by John. The mission begins. The Spirit of the Lord is in him. The world has been waiting for his teaching. The thirty years of the hidden life is over. God is revealed to the world. Christ hears the voice. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” God is putting his seal of approval on the thirty years when Christ was doing the ordinary in a way that made the ordinary extraordinary. Piety makes a prayer out of all the simple things that one does. Christ, the Father and the Spirit are together in the moment of time when God is revealed as Trinity. Our baptisms change the quality of human life into divine life. We are created in the image and the likeness of Christ. God’s life is truly our life. Indwelling converts our humanness into the expression of the life of Jesus in our world today. Baptism creates out of the many the Mystical Body of Christ as the people of God become the Church of Christ.
Peter says in the house of Cornelius that God shows no partiality. It is written on our hearts to fear God and to act rightly. Jesus goes forth from his baptism anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. God is with Christ. We let our hearts teach us how to proclaim the good news of salvation. Jesus is the Lord of all. He goes forth from his baptism with the Holy Spirit and power healing all those oppressed by the Devil. It is true to say that God is with him. God has called Christ for the victory of justice. Christ becomes the clarion call of our hearts to do good. It is written on our hearts to love one another even as Christ has loved us. Christ grasps our hands and leads us to be a light to all that know us. We give our weakness to Christ that his strength might be seen in all the good we do. He allows us to be his presence to the world we serve.
Christ is the human expression of the love of God. We become the love of God to our world when we live our lives under the inspirations of his spirit. Christ passes on to us his Spirit. We live his life in our day and age by our love for one another. How we can be faithful to our calling is taught to us by our prayer. We grow up into being the presence of Christ in our world. We can claim that we no longer live because it is Christ who lives in us. Our goodness opens the eyes of those who are blind to Christ. We are to be the light of the world. Our faithfulness to our calling gives light to the blind. Because Christ shared our humanity, the good we do allows us to share his divinity. Baptism converts us into the ongoing presence of Christ in our world. We can overcome the darkness of our world by being through our baptisms the life of Christ in our world.
January 8, 2011
Saturday after Epiphany
And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. 1 John 5:14-15
“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.” John 3:29-30
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.
We end the extraordinary seasons of Advent and Christmas and move into ordinary time this weekend. John the Baptists and the prophets (like Isaiah) who have had key roles in the daily readings over the past two months now give way to the public ministry of Jesus and one of the two periods of our year which the church dubs "ordinary time."
“Ordinary.” The story today in John’s Gospel about the dispute between his followers and a Jew once again foreshadows the kinds of ordinary arguments, petty rivalries, and conflicts that will mark the experience of Jesus in his ministry. We know those ordinary stories. Stories of apostles bickering with each other about who will sit next to Jesus in heaven. Stories of Pharisees and scribes being upstaged in public debates to the point at which they will betray a member of their own faith and turn him over to belligerent, occupying rulers from Rome. Stories of denial, betrayal, and abandonment.
How different our lives and our traditions would be if we would only follow John’s advice. “He must increase; I must decrease.”
How can you increase the influence of Jesus in your daily life? Our first reading offers a key. Turn over your personal goals to God rather than putting yourself at the center. “[I]f we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
Use the Cursillo Leaders Prayer to help you move away from us the tiny rivalries, sensitivities, discourtesies, pride, everything which distracts from a right relationship with Jesus. Be on your guard about stroking your own ego and self-interest and put others first.
Friday, January 07, 2011
Friday after Epiphany
By Melanie Rigney
And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)
Praise the Lord, Jerusalem. (Psalms 147:12)
Jesus stretched out his hand, touched (the leper), and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately. Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” (Luke 5:13-14)
Lord, my anxieties and doubts sometimes make me feel like an outcast, despairing of a closer walk with You. Help me to learn from the miracle of the leper that there is no divide You cannot bridge, no matter how arduous the prescribed procedures for healing appear to be.
“Offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them,” Jesus advises the leper he has just cured with a touch.
The New American Bible note on this verse cites Leviticus 14 and its instructions for purifying someone with leprosy. The instructions take fifty-seven verses totaling about 1,500 words.
Yet in today’s Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus simply stretches out his hand, touches the leper and says seven words: “I do will it. Be made clean.”
It’s maddening, sometimes, how easy Jesus made it look to work miracles during his ministry. It’s even more maddening, sometimes, how difficult we make it for him to do work miracles in our lives. We put conditions on forgiveness. We try to keep joy within requirements we can articulate. We aim to make grace measurable and quantifiable.
As we near the end of the Christmas season, may we all resolve to focus less on defining God’s presence by limits and rules, and more on celebrating the countless ways in which He says to each of us every day: “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Are there people in your life you’ve been treating like lepers, holding them at arms’ length over a petty squabble or even over a serious disagreement? Make a list of the conditions you have set for a full reconciliation. Then tear the list up, and begin reaching out to them, praying that both they and you may be made clean.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Thursday after Epiphany
In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. 1 John 5:2-4
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:18-21
Father, you ask so much of us. Many of us are comfortable just serving others in one ministry. Maybe we fear going into jails to serve. Maybe we are lost for words when we stand at the side of the hospital bed of a person who lays dying. Jesus, inspire us to follow your Nazareth manifesto for faith-based initiatives. Holy Spirit, guide us in ways that overcome our personal fears and reservations so that we can love in the spirit of the Lord – without limits. Amen.
One of the first major debates in college theology class was the classic about faith and works. Is faith alone enough to attain heaven or must we have both faith and a portfolio of good works to our credit. The combination of today’s readings would have helped me then. The
Even in the early church, the apostles were working to combat false ideas. John the apostle clarified these in his letter. He explicitly states that the “victory that conquers the world is our faith.” However, John tells us that our responsibility to that faith does not end there. If we love God, we must keep his commandments and one of those is to love one another.
Jesus reading in the temple also juxtaposes the faith in the sacred scriptures with the actions that those scriptures call on us to accomplish… to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
So it seems as if those espousing faith and good works must be correct. But many people do serve others without faith. So how do we reconcile that with the earlier dichotomy? Perhaps this: Maybe the debate is framed incorrectly. Perhaps we should look at the solution as faith THEN works. IF we have faith and do not love, what good is our faith? If we love without works, then what good is our action? However, if faith establishes the foundation, the cornerstone, then action frames the rest of the building of God’s kingdom.
How will you proclaim this a year of jubilee for the Lord?
Here is a message and possible suggestion for this New Year from Fr. Gerry Creedon of the Arlington Diocese Peace and Justice Commission. Perhaps you can find time in your schedule to attend this event as we near the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the upcoming celebration of Black History Month:
“Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully completed.”
These are Pope Benedict's words from his new year's message. He speaks of religious liberty as the path to peace. Instead of religion being a source of violence, Benedict wants our faith to be a bedrock of peace making. This means respecting the culture and religious expression of all God's people without discrimination.
We are also called to be a family of faith that shows our society how to live together while honoring our different cultural gifts. At the 5 p.m. Mass on January the 8, Holy Family parish will welcome Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago as the celebrant to mark the 20th Anniversary Celebration of “Black History and Heritage Outreach.” The theme is “We've come this far by faith.” I encourage ALL to join our African-American parishioners at this liturgy and the reception afterwards to express our solidarity.
May we be a sign and instrument of the unity of the human family.
Memorial of Saint John Neumann, bishop
By Colleen O’Sullivan
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us…. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (I John 4:11-12, 16b-18)
After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:45-52)
If God is for us, who can be against us? What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31b, 35, 38-39)
Fear. Anxiety. How well I can identify with the disciples! There they are, alone in a boat on a storm-tossed sea. They are scared in the dark, because everything always seems more frightening at night. Maybe they’re wondering if they will drown, the waves are that high. They are so filled with anxiety, they don’t even recognize Jesus coming toward them. They think he’s some kind of ghost and so they become even more terrified. Fear feeding on itself and spiraling out of control.
I myself don’t even have to be in a boat in a storm in the night to be scared and start worrying. I am very talented at manufacturing my own anxieties right in the middle of a sun-filled day. What if I don’t have what it takes over the long haul to care for my elderly parents, who live two hours away? What if I wake up from my hip replacement surgery in the spring and my legs aren’t the same length? What if one of my parents becomes ill while I’m recovering from surgery and not permitted to drive? Who will go and take care of them? What if I forget to train someone at work in how to do some task while I’m gone that I’m usually responsible for? What if I get totally bored and depressed by having to stay home for at least two months? What if, what if, what if…..?
I’d better re-read the rest of the Gospel account, because Mark tells us that as soon as the disciples are with Jesus, the wind and their anxieties die away. They are relatively new to discipleship and don’t understand everything that they are experiencing with the Lord, but once they let Jesus into the boat with them, their fears are calmed. They are in the presence of Love.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is always present, maybe even especially present, in the center of whatever boatful of anxieties we create for ourselves. It’s not a matter of ever going it alone in life; it’s more that we need to open our eyes to see God and open our hearts to feel God’s love for us. As John wrote in yesterday’s reading from his first letter, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us…” In today’s reading, he goes on to say that “There is no fear in love.” Fear and love don’t go together. God doesn’t impart fears; he simply loves us. We manufacture a lot of our own anxieties, worries that God never intended us to have.
One of my favorite Henri Nouwen books is With Open Hands. I like the image of surrendering that last little thing we are holding onto in our clenched fists and approaching the Lord with open hands. Take a few minutes today to reflect on any fears or anxieties you are holding onto tightly. Open your eyes and your heart to God’s love for you and then prayerfully open your hands and relinquish to God whatever is weighing you down.