Saturday, April 30, 2011

According to Each One’s Need

May 1, 2011

Second Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Acts 2:44-45

Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." John 20:26-29

Love is what God is all about. We are surrounded by the love of God. There are more ways than we can ever take into account of God’s love for us sparkling around us in the ordinary of life that we take for granted and rarely appreciate as much as the rose we might slow down enough to smell. Love is God’s gift to us of life and all the ways we are loved by the supports of life we can all too easily take for granted. Friends tell us the truth of God’s special love for us and the Thomas in all of us wants to put our finger into the pie of God’s love to see how it tastes. All too often we have to find proof that our friends love us; we need to see for ourselves how God loves us that we might believe. The words of Christ to Thomas are an incredible challenge. “Blessed are those who have not seen and believe.” Love cannot be earned. It is there waiting for us to accept it in the case of God. His love is perfect because he does not force it on us. We have to accept it in order to have it. Justice is what we deserve. Love is what God offers us without our deserving it. God is love and when we live in God’s love we are completing God’s love.

We look at the early Christian community and see that they share everything. They have it all in common. How we share the richness of God’s love for us is seen in all the ways we put ourselves out for the sake of others without measuring what it is worth to us or what we are getting back for our services. Love is the gift freely given. God loves us so much that he gives us his Son to redeem us from our sinfulness. Christ is the challenge of love. He brings the reality of every sacrifice to fruition in the hope of the resurrection. He takes our love and gives it a divine meaning in the service we offer to one another. The embrace of the cross is for the good and the bad alike. He takes to himself all our imperfections of love that our love might be his love. We live a likeness to God when others do not have to deserve our love. Jesus challenges us to love one another as he loved us. He tells us there is no greater love than to give our lives for the sake of each other.

The resurrection belongs to love. Joy is the visibility of the resurrection in our lives. If we are happy about God’s so great love for us in Christ we need to notify our faces. A good smile is and brings an overflow of the resurrection. Sadness suggests we are fleeing from the resurrection in our own lives. The hurts that come our way for our goodness and love are the claim to fame we will have in heaven. There is no love given in our efforts for the needs of each other that will not redound to our glory in heaven. There is no price too great to be paid to make our love real in the lives of those we care about and help. All that we do out of love works to strengthen the hopes of a better world. The value of the Resurrection is more than fire tried gold. It is the richness of hope that gives life to the resurrection waiting for each of us. The love of God calls us to share the resurrection even before we get there in the truth that wherever there is love, God is there. Christ is our foothold in heaven. Our hands and our feet carry the resurrection wherever they go. When we touch the wounds of love in each other, we are living like Thomas. Christ invites us to live our lives in the hopes of what our love can do to make the resurrection joy part of environment of our world. We must live as an expression of Divine Mercy.

Impossible for Us Not to Speak

April 30, 2011
Saturday in the Octave of Easter

Peter and John, however, said to them in reply, "Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:19-20

(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:14-15

Take from me, Father, all that keeps me from you.
Give to me Jesus, all that leads me to you.
Set me free, Holy Spirit, that I might live my life for you.

We encounter a very different Peter today than we met in the Passion. Then, Peter denied Christ three times. The first Pope was absent from the foot of the cross. The first Pope was not around when Jesus was taken down and buried by Joseph of Aramethea and Nicodemus the Pharisee. The first Pope was not there with Mary Magdalene to be the first to see the Risen Christ.

Now, we see a bold disciple engaged in civil disobedience in order to be obedient to the higher law of God. Despite his sentence, Peter tells the judges that it is impossible “not to speak” about what he has seen and heard.

Peter has changed. This we can tell. The denier has become the leader. The fisherman has become the fisher of men. The sinner has become the healer. Can we be so bold?

How do we take the Gospel message from the sanctuary to the streets? That is the whole point of Jesus’ final message to his followers: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Friday, April 29, 2011

In His Name

April 29, 2011
Friday in the Octave of Easter

By Melanie Rigney

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:8-10)

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. (Psalms 118:26)

So (some of the apostles) went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.”(John 21:3-5)

Lord, help me to act in Your name, not for my selfish purposes.

Don’t you just want to gather the apostles in your arms and say, “Don’t worry! It’s all going to turn out all right? The Holy Spirit is going to come in a few weeks, and you’re going to be able to do all sorts of things you can’t do right now”?

But in the meantime, these people, including at least one professional fisherman, can’t catch a fish to save their souls. Initially, they’re so full of themselves and their situation that they can’t even recognize the trusted friend they’ve been following for three years.

It’s the same for us today. Oh, we know in our hearts and souls that Jesus is always with us. But our heads get in the way. We worry about what our kids are or aren’t doing. We fret over whether we’re going to get that promotion. We concern ourselves with the noise and busyness of our days, things over which we have almost no control.

No matter how rich or how powerful or how centered we are, we can’t do it on our own, because we don’t have control over much. How much simpler—and how much more challenging at the same time—it is when we instead slow down enough to allow ourselves to be fed in prayer and community and to in turn feed others in His name.

Do something today for someone else—a family member, friend, co-worker, or complete stranger—in His name, expecting nothing in return.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


April 28, 2011
Thursday within the Octave of Easter

Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. Acts 3:19-21

“Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. Luke 24:39-43

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Sometimes when we talk about our personal encounters with the living God, we talk in metaphysical terms. It seems so abstract to sense the overwhelming beauty of God’s creation as we gaze upon the stars in the clear night sky, smell the lilacs, honeysuckle or cut grass after a spring rain, or taste the goodness of a fine wine.

The Resurrection experience is not just some abstract theological concept or intangible idea. The Resurrection is as much a flesh and bones experience as was the Incarnation and the Crucifixion. Today’s encounter related by St. Luke drives home that point. There is a very sentient presence when Christ comes into the midst of the disciples. They hear him. They see him. They touch him. They eat with him.

When we are distracted by the cares of the world, we might miss the encounters with the Living God. We can be like Thomas, absent from the room when Jesus comes along. If we are to change our ways, then we must be sure we are open to the awareness of how God works in our lives and in those around us.

In our reading from Acts, we hear Peter using the same word that marked the beginning of the mission of John the Baptist and Jesus. Repent. Change.

We all have aspects of our lives that we want to change. Sometimes we know we need to change yet are unable to do so alone. We turn to drugs, self-help books, doctors, gym memberships, support groups and more to help make that happen.

Jesus was and is the ultimate self-help support group and companion. Peter recognizes that it is Jesus who is there to cure the crippled man. And just like that man who was crippled physically remained healthy in his faith, Peter uses the miracle as a sign for others to change. Even then, Peter knew that change alone would be a hard thing for each of us to do.

“You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, 'In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.” Acts 3:25-26

Peter tried to encourage those around him that they had the help they needed to turn from their old habits because of the Resurrection experience. God raised up his Son and sent him to bless us and change us.

What can the Resurrected Jesus help you to change in your life today?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

See Him in the Breaking of the Bread

April 27, 2011
Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

By Colleen O’Sullivan

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35)

Give thanks to the Lord, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
(Psalm 105:1-2)

Every one of us knows what it’s like to have great hopes and expectations. We also all know how disappointed or, in some circumstances, even devastated we feel when things don’t turn out as we envision they might. That’s the case with the two disciples we encounter in today’s Gospel reading. They are so dispirited. It’s Easter, but they’ve turned their backs on Jerusalem and the other disciples and are on the way to the village of Emmaus. Yes, they were followers of Jesus, but the whole Jesus thing seems to have been a big bust. They were hoping he would be a great earthly ruler, the redeemer of the nation of Israel. Instead, he’s been tried, found guilty and executed. They’re going home. Oh, a few of their women friends went to Jesus’ tomb that morning and were told by angels that Jesus is alive, but when others followed up on this report, they didn’t see Jesus anywhere. There’s nothing left to stick around for, so they’re going home to Emmaus.

If I were asked to pick my single most favorite story from the Gospels, this would be it. As those disciples are walking along, they are joined by a fellow traveler, a stranger who falls in step with them. He listens to their story. Then he counters it with his own version, using the Scriptures to show them that all along they have held false beliefs about what sort of Messiah God would send to save the world. The anonymous traveler is their friend and Savior Jesus, but, for some reason, they don’t recognize him at all.

A few months ago, Fr. Stefan Starzynski gave a homily at St. Mary of Sorrows parish in Fairfax on depression. He said that when things look the bleakest, when we are feeling the deepest despair, it is at that moment that God is actually closest to us. We just don’t recognize it. That would certainly seem true for these two disciples. They staked their lives on Jesus, but their hopes all seem to have fizzled out on the cross. They are talking to the Risen Lord, but in their disappointment and despair all they see is a stranger who knows the Hebrew Scriptures.

It’s not until they invite him to supper and he breaks the bread, says the blessing and gives it to them that the scales fall from their eyes and they recognize him as the resurrected Jesus. In my own life, I’m sure there have been many occasions when God was right there beside me and I just couldn’t see it. But even when I can’t see Christ anywhere else, I can always see and feel his presence in the Eucharist. The first time I ever went to a holy hour, I had no idea what to expect. But as I sat there contemplating the Body of Christ, I was overwhelmed by the love Christ has for us, the fact that he died for us, and that he continues to give himself to us every time we receive the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. When I receive Communion, I am united to Christ and to all my brothers and sisters who make up the Mystical Body of Christ.

Find some quiet time today to reflect on an instance where you’ve encountered the Risen Lord in an unexpected situation or person and give thanks that your eyes were open to his presence.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Christ Serving Christ

April 26, 2011
Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

By Beth DeCristofaro

Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:16-17)

Lord God, the earth is full of your goodness. May I see your presence within myself and within others. May I be Christ serving Christ to them. May I be Christ served by Christ through them.

Easter Vigil Mass is one of my favorite liturgies. Each year, the darkness descends and we hear the stories of our sacred history. We contemplate an inconceivable creation in which I and my fellow congregants were formed in God’s image. I “remember” in my own life and the inheritance of my forbearers our propensity to choose other than God and thus choose exile. I imagine the confusion and relief at God’s saving actions which called my spiritual ancestors to God again and again, renewing my hope for myself and my world. And I can’t help but be moved to tears as the lights come up and we sing the Gloria in recognition of the blazing light of Christ’s salvific life, death and resurrection.

Today we read again the story of the empty tomb and the urging of the risen Lord to Mary, a mere woman, to spread the Word that he lives! As the priest during his homily at the Vigil reminded us, “What happens at St. Mary’s doesn’t stay at St. Mary’s!” We are all enjoined to share the Good News. In my recent study I have been reading Madeleine Delbrel, activist, mystic, laywoman who experienced a conversion from atheism to Catholism. She asserts that for the ordinary lay person in the world the means to leave one’s own will behind and follow God is found in being immersed in the solitude of God where we are and what we do each ordinary day.

“We, the ordinary people of the streets, do not see solitude as the absence of the world but as the presence of God. Encountering him in all places is what creates our solitude…In the street, crushed by the crowd, we make our souls into so many caves of silence wherein the Word of God can dwell and resound…The solitude of God in fraternal charity; it is Christ serving Christ, Christ in the one who is serving and Christ in the one being served… (Our obedience in the world stems from God’s gift of:) the daily routine, one chore that leads to another, some job we wouldn't have chosen. It's the weather and its changes - which is exquisite precisely because it is completely untainted by human doing. It's being cold, or being hot; it's the headache or the toothache. It's the people we meet and the conversations they choose to start. It's the rude man who nearly knocks us off the sidewalk. It's the people who need to kill some time, and so they corner us. …For us, the ordinary people of the streets, obedience means bending to the ways of our times whenever they are not harmful... It is the doorbell ringing? Quick, open the door! It’s God coming to love us. Is someone asking us to do something? Here you are!...It’s God coming to love us. Is it time to sit down for lunch? Let’s go – it’s God coming to love us. Let’s let him. “

Neither Mary nor the other disciples recognized Jesus after the resurrection until he revealed himself. God gives me so many opportunities to see Him, revealing to me Divine presence if I open space and awareness within myself to recognize Him. Who have I not recognized as Jesus on the street because I avoid meeting her/him? Do I let my own likes and dislikes, my political leanings, my own needs, my short sightedness, my prejudices and assumptions conceal the presence of Jesus right in front of me? Do I deliberately refuse to see Jesus in some people?

Through God’s grace and prayer, study and being open to God’s will over my own preferences. I can reunite myself with Jesus each day and thus move forward with him out of my own darkness into the light of recognition and joy. Let’s let Christ love us!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday: Solemnity of the Resurrection of The Lord
The Mass of Easter Day

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

“This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10: 40-43

Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. John 20:6-8

Piety is the reality of how much Christ we live in our lives. The Resurrection is the “end all” and the “be all” of piety. The Christ of the Resurrection in his humanness is safely ensconced in heaven. Yet the Resurrection lives on in the Mystical Body of Christ. We live the Resurrection in the joy of life. Our happiness is conditioned by the resurrectional graces of our lives. How we love and how we share our lives roots the Resurrection in each moment of our lives with the deeper meaning of even the insignificant things we do. All of God’s love has its final expression in our lives when death gives way to everlasting life. The crosses of our lives and the little “dyings” of every day look to the fullness of God’s love waiting for us in heaven. Piety means the resurrection is not something I am waiting for after I die. The love of our lives makes resurrection and everyday part of who we are in God’s love. The deepest meaning of life is found in the rising of Jesus. Our joining ourselves to his dying makes his rising part of who we are. Our salvation is the reality of a death and resurrection equation that brings us salvation. We look beyond the empty tomb to see what is waiting for us.

The witnesses of the Resurrection are important to us but we do not live in the time of the Apostles. We look to the saints of our daily life to see the proof of the resurrection in how Christ lives on in our brothers and sisters. Our faith in the resurrection seeks greater faith. The mystery of God and what is waiting for us in heaven is always mystery. He has so much more waiting for us that we could never have enough hope. To take the mystery that surrounds God out of God would be like taking God out of God. We accept in faith what God has revealed to us through Christ. By being the hands and feet of Christ we give resurrection reality in our world today. The crucifixion is the greatest trauma of life. How could the greatest person that would ever live in the history of the human race be put to death in such an ignominious way? The resurrection of Christ makes of the dying on the cross the ultimate statement of God’s love for us. The trauma of Christ’s dying is an ice block on the hearts of many. The Resurrection is the something beautiful on the other side of pain that melts the ice of indifference and gives meaning to involvement with the pain that racks the all too human frame of the human race. Col. 1, 24 describes the joy possible to one who makes up in their suffering what is wanting to the suffering of Christ’s body, the Church. (“Knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.”) Christ’s resurrection is the foothold in heaven of all who suffer in his name. If we die with Christ, how could we not be raised with him?

Action gives Christ flesh and blood in the love of our life for the good things of the Lord. The Resurrection lives on in the nobility and the generosity of good people. God sees his resurrected son in us as we reach out to the needy. Each extra step we take when we are too tired to go on draws us closer to the resurrection of Christ. I am no longer fleeing from the resurrection when I face up to the sacrifices love asks of us when all seems lost. The Resurrection lives on in all the “impossibles” that become possible in our willingness to be Christ to each other. The Resurrection is where the human is held together by the divine. The Resurrection makes us the people of God. When we find Christ in each other, Christ is risen. Christ comes again and again in all the good we do for one another. Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Achieving the End

April 23, 2011
The Resurrection of the Lord
Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. Romans 6:5-6

Then the angel said to the women in reply, "Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.' Behold, I have told you." Matthew 28:5-7

Father, we thank you for helping us prepare for the new dawn. We thank you for the gifts of creation old and new. We thank you for your forgiving spirit that conquers our selfish nature. Jesus, without you, we would still be living in darkness. We ask you to send forth your Spirit so that we may be re-created anew this morning to imitate only the best in you and those around you and thus, become worthy of the promises you made and the redemption you secured. Amen.

Lent is a term which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for the season of spring. As the light of the resurrection is blessed on this holy night, we now have a chance to spring from the penitent season of Lent into the joy of the Easter Resurrection.

Our path to this is marked by a summary of salvation history that we hear in the series of readings, psalms and sacraments that make up this sacred occasion. From the first sounds of Genesis, God wants us to share in everything that creation has to offer from the light to the air to the water to the Word. Despite all those good gifts, we strayed far from the presence and obedience that guided Abraham through his trials.

Even though we strayed, we continued to cry out to the Lord to help us find our way and the Lord encouraged us to go forward and not turn back to our sinful past and distractions in the present. No matter what our reaction, throughout Lent, the Lord reminds us that He will always take us back.

If we had only believed in the first place, then we would already be dwelling in a place of enduring peace. Instead, we live, like the disciples, lives of doubt and denial, certain in only one thing – we will sin again and He will take us back again and again and again to this very day and night.

The new creation that emerges from the darkness of tonight will grant us “a new heart and place a new spirit” to replace those hearts and spirits which have been hardened in selfishness and disobedience.

So despite the flaws and failures and betrayals and denials of the disciples, at the foot of the cross, we see the women who have served Jesus standing steadfast. And that vigil continues with Mary at the entrance to the cave, continuing to seek Jesus despite death while the disciples remain scattered and hiding.

If Lent has been our springboard to Easter, then perhaps our path to imitating Christ can start by imitating the certainty of the women who supported Jesus while others fled. They set aside their self, their wants and their fears in order to encounter the Christ and tell His story to others. May we do the same as we pursue a Joyous and Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

He Learned Obedience from What He Suffered

April 22, 2011
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

By Melanie Rigney

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity. If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. (Isaiah 53:7-10)

In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 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. (Hebrews 5:7-9)

(A)ware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (John 19:28-30)

For all my foes I am an object of reproach, a laughingstock to my neighbors, and a dread to my friends; they who see me abroad flee from me. I am forgotten like the unremembered dead; I am like a dish that is broken. (Psalms 31:12-13)

Today is the solemnest of all days for Christians, the day we remember Christ’s willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for us, a ragtag band of sinners, and the grace with which he did it.

A friend earlier this week sent me this paragraph attributed to Henri Nouwen:

Even though he was full of divine power, Jesus believed that changing stones into bread, seeking popularity, and being counted among the great ones of the earth were temptations. Again and again Jesus opts for what is small and hidden and poor, and accordingly declines to wield influence. His miracles always serve to express his profound compassion with suffering humanity. Never are they attempts to call attention to himself… It becomes plain to us that God has willed to show love for the world by descending more and more deeply into human frailty. The more conscious Jesus becomes of the mission entrusted to him, the more he realizes that that mission will make him poorer and poorer. And finally he hangs on a cross, crying out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Only then do we know how far God has gone to show us his love. For it is then that Jesus not only reached his utmost poverty, but also showed us God’s utmost love.

Why did Jesus do it, remain in community with a bunch of people who often didn’t have the faintest idea what he was saying, some of whom betrayed and denied him; play verbal volleyball with the Pharisees and Sadducees, go through public humiliation, scourging, and crucifixion?

Because he loved his Father enough to be obedient and to allow the Lord’s will to be done through him. And because, silly and troubled and irksome though we may be, he loved us enough to willingly offer himself up for us.

We know the fruits of his obedience to God. What will be the fruits of the sacrifice he made for you?

In what part of your human frailty has God met you? Spend some time in contemplation on the answer this afternoon.

Do You Realize What I Have Done For You?

April 21, 2011
Holy Thursday
Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD. Exodus 12:11

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. John 13:1

Jesus, you humbled yourself to join us as humans. And then, in one of your final personal encounters before being arrested, convicted, tortured and executed by the state, you washed the feet of your friends. This act truly shows the kind of behavior we must imitate. May the Holy Spirit guide us through this example with the inspiration to put aside our tiny rivalries, sensitivities, discourtesies, pride, everything which distracts from You, everything which divides or discourages so that we may be united as imitators of Christ. Amen.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Master, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later." John 13:6-7

Washing of the disciples' feet is an act we do not understand. The notes in the New American Bible explain that this episode occurs in John at the place of the narration of the institution of the Eucharist in the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. It also may be an apt dramatization of Luke 22:27--"I am your servant." The washing of the feet is presented as a "model" ("pattern") of the crucifixion. It symbolizes cleansing from sin by sacrificial death. It also has an interesting parallel with the scene when Jesus has his feet bathed with fine oils and perfumes and reminds us that He will not always be physically present in our lives after those blessed feet climb the rocky path and are nailed to the cross Friday afternoon.

You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. John 13:13-15

Whose feet are you challenged to wash? How will you model this act of Christ? Do this in memory of Him.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From Friend to Betrayer

April 20, 2011
Wednesday of Holy Week

By Colleen O’Sullivan
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25)

O Lord, when we contemplate the betrayal of Judas, we are led to gaze upon the darkness in our own souls. We call ourselves believers and disciples, but how quickly we, too, leave your side, turn our backs on you or deny you. Forgive us, we pray, and strengthen us for the journey.

About eight or nine years ago, I was in Florida during Holy Week. The church I went to with my friends had an arrangement off to the side that made an indelible impression on me. There was a rough cross made from thick tree limbs coming up out of an array of palms. Intertwined throughout the palms and around the cross were the thirty pieces of silver. They were strung on wire so fine that from a distance they appeared to be suspended in mid-air. The triumph of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the bitterness of betrayal and the agony and death on the Cross all tied together just as they are during Holy Week.

Today, Wednesday of Holy Week, we focus on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. If I could talk with Judas, I would have a lot of questions. Why did you do it? I don’t know how much thirty pieces of silver were worth in the first century, but did you do it for the money? Did you need the money or were you just greedy? If you despised Jesus that much, why did you travel with him and the other disciples for three years? You could have just gone home if you didn’t want to be with them. Did they treat you differently because you were the only non-Galilean in the bunch? Were you just tired of being the outsider? At the Last Supper, how could you dip your hand into the same dish with Jesus, a sign of friendship, and protest that surely you were not the betrayer he was talking about? Nowhere in the Gospels does it ever say that Jesus was unkind or uncaring toward his ragtag bunch of disciples. Why did you do it?

The problem with all these questions is that they’re the same kind of questions the Lord asks you and me every time we deny or betray him. Why did you do it? Haven’t I loved you enough? You say you are my friends and disciples, yet you turn your backs on me. Why? What more could I do for you than love you, die for you, give myself to you every day in the Eucharist? Why do you turn your backs on me, deny me or betray me?

It’s significant that when Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me,” every one of the disciples wonders if he’s talking about them. We know ourselves so well. We may not be selling Jesus for silver coins, but we betray him every time we sin. Take a few minutes today to ask his forgiveness for the many times we have denied him or turned our backs on him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Lord Called Me from Birth

By Beth DeCristofaro

Hear me, O islands, listen, O distant peoples. The Lord called me from birth; from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. (Isaiah 49:1)

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” … When (Judas) had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. (John 13:21, 31-32)

My God, help me this day to follow your will. May your glory be seen in what I do and say today.

Isaiah 49 is the second of the Servant of the Lord oracles according to the footnotes to the NAB. These verses point to and foreshadow the birth of Jesus. But in these words I also hear foreshadowing of my, and your, call to be servants and children of God, called at the time of our Baptism. In Isaiah, Jesus’ “naming” refers to a special office or renown. Our names, acknowledged at Baptism, identifies us into a community of believers in which I and you have an active role. A community of believers called together by God out of great and abounding love.

The human story we are reading this week in Scripture is a sad, infuriating and unjust one. Betrayal, fear, cruelty, abandonment, annihilation. In Matthew’s Gospel from Sunday, we see Judas bringing the guards and turning Jesus over to them. Unfortunately we continue to see this scenario played out even to our own day. But Jesus, so very rooted and confident in the surety of his loving Father responds differently than most of us are able and removes the tale from being a mere tragedy. How utterly awful and yet always loving the words Jesus spoke to Judas: “Friend, do what you have come for.” (Matthew 27:50). And as he struggled with his own horror of what he was to face: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 27:39) Jesus believed wholeheartedly that God is glorified when He and today we) submit to the will of God. Redemption and salvation are the result not tragedy.

Can we believe that God calls us all? That God called His own Son whose perfect response gives me hope that my imperfect ones, much like Judas’ or Peter’s or Thomas’ imperfect responses will be accepted? And that I will still be loved without merit but through the grace and mercy of the God who called me before my birth?

Is there someone that has betrayed or abandoned you? Can you find it in you to say “Friend” and offer forgiveness? Is there someone whom you have betrayed or abandoned? Look into Jesus’ eyes and hear him say “Friend” to you. Ask forgiveness. This week of Christ’s passion is an opportunity for us to enter into the sufferings of Jesus who knows suffering intimately, and to seek healing and resurrection within our own souls so that we might answer more fully “yes” to God’s call.

My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:45-46

April 17, 2011
Palm Sunday A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, S.J.

Piety is how we welcome Christ into our lives. Pious is a bad work for many because they are thinking of a pious Joe who says one thing and does another. Piety is the richness of one who lives Christ in all that they are. How we welcome Christ into our lives is seen by the actions of our lives. Piety is the lived experience of Christ alive in us in our world today. How much of our demeanor resounds with the joy of the Resurrection. We live a Christ who has risen and made the sufferings of our lives something we can rejoice about even as we reach beyond ourselves to the needs of another. Piety is our willingness to belong fully to Christ in the humanness of our lives. It holds back nothing of self in the willingness to welcome Christ into all that we are doing.

It is easy to imagine the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem. The joy of the people welcoming the Messiah into his city is what we look at becoming a part. People our waving their palms with song in their hearts. The joy of the coming of the king is not to be denied. When someone is trying to block the excitement of the people, Christ says if it were not so even the stones would cry out. How do I forget myself to join in with the joy of the people welcoming Christ? All the prayer, fasting and good works of Lent now find expression in the joy of our hearts when we realize Christ is coming for us. No preparation is too much if it allows us to welcome Christ with all our heart.

The joy of our hearts for the coming of Christ finds expression in our plans for celebrating the Holy Week. The Sacred Triduum allows us to enter into the suffering of Christ in the special ways of our identifying ourselves with Christ. Each day of the Triduum has an expression in the liturgy of the Church that demands the expression of our hearts in what we are doing to pray the Holy Week. There is joy built into the realization that Christ would be dying for us even if we were the only sinners in the world. Action speaks louder than words. Going to as many of the events of the Triduum puts us before the Christ who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We capture the reality of his incredible love by being present to each even as witnesses of God’s love being expressed as the greatest act of love the world will ever see. All the ways we make this Triduum into a meaning of our love for God captures our willingness to be the presence of Christ to our world. Palm Sunday gives us the chance to flaunt our love for Christ. The reverence with which we listen to the accounting of the Passion gives us the official beginning of what we hope can be the joy of the rest of our lives as we allow the joy of the resurrection to permeate our lives in our part of the sufferings of Christ.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Lord Is With Me

April 15, 2011
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney

…(T)he Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. (Jeremiah 20:11)

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice. (Psalms 18:7)

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods’”? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:31-42)

God, help me, for I am weak and, at times, a persecutor—of myself and others.

I went to lunch last week with a friend. We talked about a million things, as we always do, and she mentioned she’d seen “Soul Surfer,” the movie about Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who lost an arm to a shark attack. “It was so beautiful,” my friend said. “At the end of the movie the real-life Bethany comes on and talks about her faith and how it sustains her.”

When I got home, someone on the radio was reviewing the same movie. “There’s this problem,” the reviewer in essence said. “When you get churches making movies, they put all this God stuff in. ‘Soul Surfer’s’ a good movie if you can get beyond that.”

Now, I haven’t seen “Soul Surfer,” so I don’t know whether I think it’s a worthwhile way to spend an hour and a half or so. But I do know that no matter what we do in life in God’s name, there are going to be people who think it’s beautiful—and people who think it’s good if you get beyond the God stuff. And I also know that at the end of the day, what other people think doesn’t matter a whit. At the beginning, middle, and end of the day, it’s about God.

In his book No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton put it like this:

The man who loves God more than himself is also able to love persons and things for the good that they possess in God. That is the same as saying he loves the glory they give to God: for that glory is the reflection of God in the goodness He has given to His creatures. Such a man is indifferent to the impact of things in his own life. He considers things only in relation to God’s glory and God’s will. As far as his own temporal advantage and satisfaction go, he is detached and unconcerned. But he is no more indifferent to the value of things in themselves than he is indifferent to God. He loves them in the same act with which he loves God. That is: he loves them in the act by which he has renounced them. And in that love by renouncing them he has regained them on a higher level.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Jeremiah, just scourged and released from the stocks, is telling Pashhur what is coming for the priest and his friends and his household. Was there a human desire for revenge in that prophecy? Possibly. Jeremiah specifically asks that the Lord let him witness the vengeance to come.

In Psalm 18, David describes the dangers he faced, in battle and metaphorically, and gives thanks for both. Later verses in the psalm reflect a certain joy and satisfaction in the enemy’s destruction.

The Gospel reading takes a different tack. In the face of a stoning, Jesus shows the indifference that Merton’s reading reflects. If I’m not doing God’s work, don’t believe me, he says, and even I’m doing God’s work, you don’t have to believe me… just believe the work.

It’s the same for us today. It’s not about whether people like the movies we make or the essays we write or the music we make… it’s about the guy upstairs and doing what He calls us to do.

Next week is Holy Week. Journal about your Lenten journey so far. Have you been doing what God called you to do?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Throughout the Ages

April 14, 2011
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God." God also said to Abraham: "On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages. Genesis 17:8-9

Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM." So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area. John 8:58-59

Father, help us to get over ourselves and our limited understanding of time to better understand the power you have in our world and our lives. Jesus, help us to understand the significance of your sacrifice and how it is the daily fulfillment of all time throughout the ages. Holy Spirit, through your presence, give us the peace that reconciles our concept of time to the eternal. Amen.

The Jews keep trying to learn who Jesus is when they have a personal encounter with him. From the woman at the well to those assembled in the temple to hear today’s preaching, they continue to seek context in which to understand who this man really is.

As they seek this understanding, Jesus confuses them with references to how he has seen Abraham and how Abraham has seen Jesus.

Jesus attempts to clarify his meaning and the words he uses here remind us of the opening words of John’s Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

The lesson for today is, “Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” We recall the words of the prologue: “All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be.” If we came to be through Jesus, how will we never see death? Phrases like that in these days before the Resurrection are hard for the people to understand. When Jesus says these things, they think he is mad.

The people also try to reconcile their concept of time with that of Jesus who said, “…before Abraham came to be, I AM.” Even though he is barely over the age of 30, they do not understand how this can possible happen. As people are often tempted to do, they want to rid their minds of anything that upsets their concept of reality. So they once again attempt to get rid of Jesus. Yet again, it is not yet time for that to occur so the Lord passes from them unharmed.

How are you getting a better understanding of Jesus during these days of Lent? We need to balance the extraordinary metaphysical understanding of Jesus as Lord with the ordinary physical narrative of the man from Nazareth who will die on the cross in eight days and rise again for us all on Easter Sunday, in the daily Eucharist and in our community.

What are you reading or observing in your environment to enrich your relationship with God? What are you doing to understand better the gift of God? How do others share Christ with you? How do you share Christ with others?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Slave or Free?

April 13, 2011
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” “Assuredly, O King,” they answered. “But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.” Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him; they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” (Daniel 3:91-92, 95)

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free?’” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. (John 8:31-36)

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
(Daniel 3:52)

Often in the Gospels we find Jesus talking to people who don’t seem to have a clue about what he’s telling them. Sometimes it’s the disciples. Other times it’s the Pharisees. Today it’s a group of Jews who supposedly believe in Jesus. Our Lord makes them the most wonderful promise – “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Do they jump for joy? No. Instead, they protest that they have never been enslaved to anyone. How ironic that God in Christ is standing directly in their midst, but they are so tightly shackled to their rigid, false beliefs that they can’t see him for who he is or see themselves as they truly are – sinners in need of a Savior!

I’m not sure that much has changed over the centuries. Jesus makes the same offer to you and me today. If we are faithful to him, we, too, can know the truth and be set free. Just as those Jews in the Gospel reading couldn’t see themselves as they really were, we, too, are often deluded about who we are. We say we are believers, but at the same time we are enslaved to gods other than the Christ - to the opinions of others, to our desires for fashionable clothes, nice homes, expensive entertainment, and wealth, among other things.

It would be wonderful to have the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that they worship a golden statue which he had commissioned. These three young Jews knew who their God was and where their loyalties lay. Even at the cost of their lives, they refused to worship any other god. Because of their unwavering trust in God, God sent an angel to rescue them from the flames of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. They knew the truth and they were literally set free.

Take some quiet time today to reflect on what some of the false gods in your life might be. There’s still time in Lent to give them up and fill in the gaps with faith in the Lord.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Lord Releases Those Doomed To Die

April 12 2011
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

By Beth DeCristofaro
From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road, to bypass the land of Edom. But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” (Numbers 21:4-5)

(Jesus) said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” … So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” (John 8: 23-23, 28-30)

O LORD, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; in the day when I call, answer me speedily. Let this be written for the generation to come, and let his future creatures praise the LORD. “The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth,To hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.” (from Psalm 102:2-3, 19-21)

The Egyptian Desert is a pretty intimidating place. There is stark, ravished dryness stretching out seemingly infinitely. But there also are achingly beautiful spots. However, most of what I have seen of it is from the air or from a boat. If I was in the middle of it without a reliable jeep and several full water bottles, however, I could begin to see why the Israelites were at times so very wretched. Survival in the desert is chancy. Survival takes all one’s focus. Survival is not grand or glorious. And in their case, their narrow focus was one of blame.

Jesus’ words to the Pharisees could apply to the Israelites. The Israelites chose to focus only on the arid desert and their own limited vision. The Pharisees clung to their arid beliefs and their rigid definition of faith rather than chose to “do what is pleasing to God.” In contrast, the psalmist sings a song that acknowledges pain, frailty and mortality without censure or despair but rather sung in a trusting hope in the mercy of God.

St. Francis de Sales said “We should live in this world as though our spirits were already in heaven.” Perhaps this is what Jesus is trying to get the stiff-necked Pharisees to understand. We do not reject the world but we reject the world as all-there-is because God is all and God is for us through the sacrifice and redemption of Jesus.

It is perhaps too simplistic to say that the desert of life can be seen as a place of beauty or a place of despair. Life can be pretty daunting. But God’s graces can help us the live at the oases of faith, hope and love. We can experience forgiveness, joy, gratitude and generosity even in the dry spells. We can do that only by acknowledging that not only is the world not all-there-is but that I, myself, is not-all-that-is. God did not leave Jesus alone. God does not leave us alone.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Restore My Strength

April 11, 2011
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

But Susanna cried aloud: "O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me." The Lord heard her prayer. Daniel 13:42-44

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. John 8:7-8

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me;
you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.
Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.
You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. (Psalm 23)

In the readings today, we encounter two women who encounter the Lord. In one case, an innocent woman falsely accused of adultery was spared. In the other, a woman who might have been guilty also was spared by the perfect mercy of Jesus.

While the “heroine” in both stories earns our sympathy, perhaps we should consider who like the accusers we might be. The two elderly men in the first reading knew what was right. Yet they decided to forget all that they had learned. We hear from the prophet Daniel that these men “suppressed their consciences; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments.” They elected to choose the path of sin that day and the temporary victory of sin led ultimately to their death.

The accusers in the other story were following their conscience and the law as passed down from Moses. They were justified in condemning sin. However, Jesus, who is the source of life, challenged them and Mosaic Law. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Thus challenged, each accuser examined his own conscience (I assume they were all men). One by one, they departed until no one was left to condemn her.

Who would you be in this Gospel story? The accused or the accuser?

Twice in the Gospel reading today, Jesus bends down and writes in the sand. John never reveals about what Jesus writes nor what was going through his mind. I imagine that Jesus bent down in meditation and prayer about the accusations pending against Him. Maybe he was praying that innocent blood could always be spared.

Jesus certainly did not have to think about what he was doing. However, he used the silent pause to allow those around him – the accused and the accusers – to think about their actions not just once but twice. If Jesus was going to succeed in having people repent, he could only do so if some of that repentance sprung from their own hearts, minds and souls. Being told to do something – such as drink responsibly, drive safely, stop smoking, wear your seat belt, turn from sin – may help us become aware of a message. However, unless we hear the message and put it in our hearts, it does not translate into behavior.

Take two silent moments today – one in the morning and the other in the afternoon or evening perhaps – and spend some quiet time in prayer and meditation about something in your life which you would like to change. Maybe others have asked you to change something.

What steps can you take to rid yourself of something you need to change? How can you take the first step to become the changed person you want to be?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bring You Back

April 10, 2011
Fifth Sunday of Lent
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37:12

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. Romans 8:10-11

And Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me." And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, "Untie him and let him go." John 11:41-44

We are born to die. Life is a preparation for dying well. We come from God by Creation and we return to God by our death. We stall our dying by doctors and all the medicines we take to prolong the exile from God. It is Christ bring born into our world that gives us the dignity of life in Christ. We have to die to ourselves that we may be born again in Christ. We are created in the image and likeness of God by our birth. It is in Christ that we find our dignity and our fulfillment. Christ teaches us how to live and how to die. He is the ultimate statement on the part of God as to what it really means to live. Our piety brings out our connection to Christ. He shines forth in our lives as the meaning of life. We look at Christ through our prayer and we grow in Christ by the gifts of his life in the Sacraments. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. His love for Lazarus is his love for us. His bringing back Lazarus from his death is preview of what he waits to do for us. Christ rising from the dead gives us the fullness of our destiny. We have to die to rise with Christ. Christ will be calling us from our own tombs. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead gives life to our mortal bodies. We live by the Spirit of Life dwelling within us which gives us our destiny in Christ.

We study the reaction of the Apostles to Christ going to the side of Lazarus. They knew the danger for Christ in his going to be with Lazarus. Thomas puts words on the danger. “Let us also go to die with him.” These were not idle worlds. They were aware of the danger to Christ in his going up to where his life was being plotted against. Do we love Christ so much that we would be willing to die with him? Lent is not just a joyous season because of the Resurrection. It is also our time to do penance for the ways we have fallen short in our friendship with Christ. Christ is willing to die for us. As we pray over what Christ did for us by being present to his passion and death we have an advantage over Christ. He had to die not knowing humanly speaking of the Resurrection because the human experience of the Resurrection had not yet happened. We are blessed with the realization that the victory over sin has been won by Christ. We do not see the suffering of Christ without the Resurrection being part of our vision. The (x+ y) equation of Salvation, Christ’s death and resurrection, we study so that our hearts may see the victory already won by Christ by our sufferings in his name. We live the equation of salvation by our prayer and reflection on the victory of Christ over sin. We join ourselves to his dying so that we may be part of his rising.

We offer during Lent our prayer, fasting and good works so that our hearts may be on fire with what we can do as the Mystical Body of Christ. The arrival of Christ in heaven gives rest to his human body even as it passes on to us the job of proclaiming the good news. Christ has not simply died and risen. He has also passed on to us the responsibility of filling up what is wanting to his suffering in his Church. We are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Our sufferings are the suffering of Christ as he unites us to himself. We are his hands and his feet in how we take the extra steps to reach out in the name of Christ to the needs of our fellow members of the human race. Our prayer, fasting and good works are the way we become the love of Christ for the people of God. Our dying to ourselves is how we give life to the Mystical Body of Christ that is united to all the hungry, thirst, prisoners, sick and homeless of our world. What we do for the least one is how we reach Christ and become his saving love to our world.

Friday, April 08, 2011

He Sent Me

April 8, 2011
Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “…For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him." These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls' reward. (Wisdom 2:1, 18-22)

The Lord redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him. (Psalms 34:23)

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." (John 7:25-29)

Almighty and Everlasting God, You have given the human race Jesus Christ our Savior as a model of humility. He fulfilled Your Will by becoming Man and giving His life on the Cross. Help us to bear witness to You by following His example of suffering and make us worthy to share in His Resurrection. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen. (Lenten prayer of renewal; author unknown)

Have you ever known someone who seemed to know exactly what they were doing in life, exactly why God sent them? I’m not talking about someone who’s an ego maniac or who’s driven to evangelize the world, but someone who has peace and confidence in the way his or her faith informs everyday life. Maybe it’s a family member or your Cursillo sponsor, or maybe it’s a close friend or someone you know slightly. Generally, they have a broad circle of people in their lives, because we instinctively recognize that peace and we like to be near it. It was the same thing 2,000 years ago; the Gospels depict Jesus as someone we’d like to hang out with.

But maybe you’re prickly, quick to anger. Or maybe you’re quiet and shy and your smile doesn’t light up a room. Maybe you’re not good at singing or dancing or writing or building Web sites or cooking or, it seems to you, much of anything else. Maybe people put you down, or appear to put you down, based on the way you talk or your gender or the color of your skin or your age. It was the same thing 2,000 years ago; today’s Gospel reading shows some residents of Jerusalem discounting Jesus because they know where he’s from, and to their mind, the Messiah is going to come out of nowhere to save them.

Jesus’s response is beautiful—all that matters is that God sent me. And it’s the same thing 2,000 years later. Our purpose may not always be clear to us, much less to the rest of the world. But if we trust the One who sent us, we’ll find that what the critics think doesn’t matter… and we’ll feel that inner peace and confidence begin to take hold and be reflected in those around us.

Listen to “Three Wooden Crosses,” the 2003 Country Music Association Song of the Year. Contemplate the two final lines of the chorus: “It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you/It’s what you leave behind you when you go.”

Thursday, April 07, 2011

How Will You Believe

April 7, 2011
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, "Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth'? Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people. Exodus 32:11-12

[John] was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. John 5:35-36

Father, if we do not want to change, please create in us the change you desire and the desire to accept the change that you require.

We are a pretty stiff-necked people just like the Jews that Moses was defending. One part of that definition is that we “refuse to be led.”

According to the Biblical Encyclopedia, the derivation of the idea was entirely familiar to the Jews, with whom the ox was the most useful and common of domestic animals. It was especially used for such agricultural purposes as harrowing and plowing. The definition continues: The plow was usually drawn by two oxen. As the plowman required but one hand to guide the plow, he carried in the other an "ox-goad." This was a light pole, shod with an iron spike. With this he would prick the oxen upon the hind legs to increase their speed, and upon the neck to turn, or to keep a straight course when deviating. If an ox was hard to control or stubborn, it was "hard of neck," or stiff-necked. Hence, the figure was used in the Scriptures to express the stubborn, intractable spirit of a people not responsive to the guiding of their God. (

Today, that word has come to mean stubborn and arrogant. Those who are described as such also probably refuse to be led even if they had their necks whipped with an iron spike.

Jesus seems pretty exasperated in today’s Gospel as he describes the people who refused to accept him and even though for a while they accepted the prophecy of John the Baptist who testified on his behalf. He stops short in John’s Gospel of using the same “stiff-necked” term that the Lord used with Moses. Yet with all the prophets, with all the signs Jesus performs for the people, and with the words of God which we have heard at Jesus Baptism and the Transfiguration, they were still pretty intractable.

How can we loosen up our necks and change our attitude?

Perhaps one way is to be less focused on our selves and more focused on how God wants us to be. Easier said than done…but methods to achieve this abound. Many are described in Sister Mary Margaret Funk’s great little book Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life.

The steps are described by Fr. Thomas Keating in this short video ( but are summarized as follows:

1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

3. When engaged with your thoughts or distracted, return ever-so gently to the sacred word.

4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

If you add a few minutes of Centering Prayer to your daily routine, maybe you can be less stiff necked and more relaxed and able to be led where God wants you to be.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Be Amazed

April 6, 2011
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

By Jack Finnerty

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. Isaiah 49:8-15

The LORD is just in all his ways and holy in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. Psalm 145:17-18

Jesus answered the Jews: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”…. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. Matthew 5:17-30

“God loves each one of us far more than we can ever imagine. When times are going well or when things are going bad, His love never changes. There is so much comfort in that. Your whole life will light up when you know in every fiber of your being that God is head-over-heels in love with you. He feels your every pain and heartache. He loves and He cares - He's not just watching - He's actively doing something about it, you may be sure.” Sr. Francelle Clark (

As a kid, I remember my mother and father telling me that God loved me, and he loved me just as I was. I was amazed at that, the wonder of it all, but I could understand it and I accepted it. Then, as I got older, I was told that God loved everybody like he loved me. How could that be – I mentally had an image of God dividing his love equally among everybody on earth, each getting his or her own piece of that love. There was only so much of God’s love and if everybody got a piece, then no piece could be very big. I could somewhat understand that and accept it – not too happy that I was only getting a little piece of his love, but willing to take what I could get.

As an adult, I realized that the Lord’s love is not finite as I thought as a child, but indeed infinite, and each one of us receives all of his love. All of the facets of that immense, unconditional, and everlasting love are almost beyond comprehension, but may be simply expressed by the following:

God loves us:
--always has
--always will

There is nothing that we can do to make God love us:

The father’s love is given to Jesus:
--Jesus gives that love to us
--and we give that love to others.

I don’t fully understand exactly how all of those could be true, but I believe every one of them.

As we draw ever closer to the end of this Lenten season, how do we share to others the love that Jesus has given us? In what ways do we show our love for those around us, our families, our neighbors, our parish family, and our coworkers?

Do you want to be well?

April 5, 2010
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

By Beth DeCristofaro

He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. (Ezekiel 47:6-9, 12)

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. (John 5:6-9)

O let all who thirst
Let them come to the water
And let all who have nothing
Let them come to the Lord
Without money, without price
Why should you pay the price
Except for the Lord?

And let all who seek
Let them come to the water
And let all who have nothing
Let them come to the Lord
Without money, without strife
Why should you spend your life
Except for the Lord?
(Lyrics “Come to the Water” by Matt Maher)

Ezekiel’s flowing streams come from his visions. These visions were of a rebuilt temple and a utopian future with which he renewed the hopes of Israelites in exile. The pool of Bethsaida was real enough – archeologists have found remnants of a pool with five porticos northeast of the temple in Jerusalem. But the story told throughout Jerusalem, that an angel who stirred the waters of the pool would bring healing to the first person to call in, was about magic not God. Much like Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10) Jesus offered the ill man more than magic. Jesus, the living water, offered him wellness, wholeness and the chance for a better life.

Here we are, midway in Lent, with an oasis of readings full of the lush, vibrant luxuriance of God’s creative and healing promise. In the desert there is life. In our own journeys Jesus walks up to us and asks: “Do you want to be well?” He wants us also to take up our mats and walk, accomplished by drinking the living water not the life-giving but limited “waters” around us which we mistakenly believe will make us whole. Can we see beyond the stirrings, the outward appearances which can be deceptive? Can we look within ourselves and others to find Jesus’ life giving waters and leap wholeheartedly into them? It means moving off the steps of the well where we await mythical angels and turning back to the itinerant preacher, Jesus the Christ.

In what ways do you need healing? Are you able to answer Jesus’ question: “Do you want to be well?” Are you ready to pick up the mat which you have lain on and carry it out of your comfort zone?

Look around and see who else might need healing – especially those whom you think need healing because they annoy or discomfit you or whose ideas you find suspect. Pray for them. Pray for yourself for deeper sight.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

You Have Rescued Me

April 4, 2011
Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. Isaiah 65:17-18

Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe." The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. John 4:46-50

I praise you, LORD, for you raised me up and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, my God, I cried out to you and you healed me.
LORD, you brought me up from Sheol; you kept me from going down to the pit.
Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful; give thanks to God's holy name.
For divine anger lasts but a moment; divine favor lasts a lifetime. At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing. Psalm 30:2-6

Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock.

There was a music official who saw that children in Harlem and Brooklyn and the Bronx were threatened with the violent society that surrounded them. Their parents had deserted them. Their brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and others were dying violent deaths of drive-by shootings, drugs overdoses and more.

The music official turned to Jesus and taught these children to sing gospel music in praise of the Lord. The praise has helped these teenagers rise above the societal illnesses that surround them and live.

Yes…when you believe in the Lord your son and daughter will live. To hear testimony about this program, check out How "Gospel for Teens" is saving the music. (

In 2006, legendary writer and producer Vy Higginsen and gospel legend Dr. Emily "Cissy" Houston joined forces to teach aspiring teenagers about the importance of gospel music as an art form.

Gospel for Teens Program is a program of The Mama Foundation for the Arts and Vy's Higginsen's School of Gospel, Jazz and R&B Arts that has grown to be a highly respected and influential program for youth between the ages of 13 and 19.

You can learn more about this program at the Mama Foundation for the Arts ( Follow them on social networking sites, donate if you are inclined, or purchase some of their inspiring music. But whatever you do, make sure you watch Lesley Stahl’s moving segment about how music saved these teens on the 60 Minutes website…Tick tock tick tock tick tock.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Live as Children of Light

April 3, 2011
Fourth Sunday of Lent A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is here before him." But the LORD said to Samuel: "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." 1 Samuel 6:6-7

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name. Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage. You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. Psalm 23

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Ephesians 5:8-9

They answered and said to him, "You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?" Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, "Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him. John 9:34-38

The light that shines in our world is a faint reflection of the light of Christ. When Christ comes in all his power and glory, there will be no need of the moon that gives light to the night or the sun that gives the brighter light to the day. Christ will be the light of the world. His brightness will make all reflect his glory. He will give light to our souls. We will understand in the light of Christ all the questions we had no answer to in our lives. He will give the deeper meaning of life in him to all the questions of our heart. He will be the light of God’s love claiming our hearts in the once and forever of God’s love that we now only see as a sparkle of our prayer or in the reflection of the light within that is seen in a good person. Christ will take away our blindness. We will see our world as it is meant to be in the plan of God. We will be able to see beyond appearances. All the wonders of creation will reveal to us the light in God’s love for us. When Christ tells us that he is t he light of the world, he gives us the definition of God’s love that has come into the world in his very person. When he takes away our blindness we will see Christ as the fullness of God’s love in his very humanness. The Cross of Christ is not only his throne in our world that claims our hearts. It is also the fullness of what is possible to love. When we come to love the crosses in our lives it will be simply because they will be our claim to fame in heaven. Piety is the light of Christ in our lives.

Samuel in his quest to anoint the next king of the Israelites looks at the sons of Jesse with the light of the choice of the Lord. There is a plan for each of us in the design of God and Samuel is able with the light of God’s plan to choose David over all the others sons of Jesse. The light of God‘s love touches our hearts. The heart has reasons the mind will never understand. We study the ways of God so that our hearts will reveal to us the light of God’s love for us in Christ. The Lord is our shepherd and he guides us in the right paths by his love even when we are walking the dark valley. It is the footsteps of Christ that the light of the Lord makes clear to us as we follow God’s plan in our lives. We find the path we should walk when our prayer reveals our path in the light of Christ. Discernment is what the light of Christ offers us. We learn by looking at Christ to discern the right path that leads us to our destiny in Christ.

Each moment of our life is surrounded by the love of God. God creates us in his love and offers his love to us at each moment now of our lives. The light of Christ sets the path we would follow if we want to remain in the house of the Lord for the years to come. Our hearts reveal to us the footsteps of the Lord we are meant to follow. We awaken from our darkness to the light of the Lord. The story of the blind man becomes our story as we recognize what is asked of us by what we see to be done in our world by looking through the eyes of Christ from the cross to see why he is being put to death. The love of Christ challenges us to love one another even as he has loved us. Our love for the Christ of the Cross gives us the light to see where we can best give ourselves to keep the light of the Lord shining in the darkness of the sin of the world. Christ is the Light of the World. We are called to be his light to our world.

Spring Rain Waters the Earth

April 2, 2011
Saturday of the Third Week in Lent

In their affliction, they shall look for me: "Come, let us return to the LORD, For it is he who has rent, but he will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence. Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth." (Hosea 6:1-6)

“But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:13-14

Be merciful, oh Lord, for we have sinner, too.

After a week of spring rain (and snow!), we get the picture of what the prophet refers in the first reading. God’s mercy will pour out to us constantly, persistently, whether we want it or not.

Contrast that abundant goodness with the context of harvest a few verses later in that reading. Usually, harvest imagery also relates to the bountiful grace which God will pour out upon us. However, in the First Reading today, Hosea tells us that a harvest has been appointed when we will reap the consequences of our actions just like the humble and repentant tax collector or the proud and boastful Pharisee in the Gospel.

How providential that yesterday, Mel Rigney’s Tripod Reflection was on the phrase “Hear My Voice.” Last night, I had the opportunity to listen to a talk by a Palestinian Christian who opened my ears to some history lessons which have been glossed over by the depiction of conflicts in Israel, Gaza (where he was born) and the West Bank.

He reminded the audience that Jews and Arabs co-existed in partnership for thousands of years. Usually, it was the invading Europeans who expelled the Jews. He asked us to consider supporting the efforts of groups in civil society who will promote friendship, truth and reconciliation.

Groups like Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA) and Jewish Voice for Peace urge actions like asking retirement companies to divest from companies which are profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian territories as outlined by the United Nations. Also, you can support their efforts by purchasing fair trade goods made in these areas and marketed by groups like Canaan Fair Trade USA (

Friday, April 01, 2011

Hear My Voice

April 1, 2011
Friday of the Third Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney

Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them. (Hosea 14:10)

I am the Lord your God: hear my voice. (Psalms 81:11)

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:32-34)

Lord, please help me grow in faith so that I may ask You less and trust You more.

The scribes and the Pharisees, it seems, were always trying to push Jesus’s buttons, always trying to get him to say something blasphemous or otherwise contrary to the law.

Imagine, then, the surprise of all in attendance when a scribe praises Jesus for his answer to the scribe’s question about the greatest commandment. Is it any wonder the questions ceased?

It’s part of human nature to ask why—or why not. Curiosity drives medical miracles and technological breakthroughs. But putting questions to God can leave us more frustrated and perplexed: Why did my child die? How could You let the mess in the Middle East fester? What was the point of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan? When are You going to help my spouse get clean and sober?

God often doesn’t answer those questions on our timetable. In fact, sometimes He doesn’t appear to answer them at all. Painful and incomprehensible as that is, that’s where faith and trust come in, the belief, no, the knowledge, that God always provides for us, just as He offers in today’s first reading, where Israel is almost begged to return so that God may heal the people’s defection and love them freely. Like Israel, all we have to do is accept the offer, and walk in the straight path.

Just for today, don’t ask God for a single explanation or favor. Instead, offer prayers of gratitude for what you’ve been given.