Sunday, July 31, 2011

Come to the Water!

July 31, 2011

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Isaiah 55:1-2

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over -- twelve wicker baskets full. Matthew 14:19-20


The invitation to satisfy our thirst for the Lord is the everlasting covenant that the Lord assured to David. God is forever in his love for us. Piety is the use of our freedom in accepting the love of God. The only limit in God’s love for us is our acceptance. The cry of unworthiness is unacceptable since God is forever waiting for us to come to him in the moment we are living. The invitation goes on and on without our having to pay for what God has ready for those who love his son Christ. The only limit on God’s love for us is our acceptance. We pass up wine and milk of God’s love because we are too satisfied with what we already have. Our spirituality teaches us how to be open to God’s love for us in his son.


Nothing can separate us from the love of the Lord if we are willing to accept forgiveness for our selfishness. It is only the being trapped in selfishness that keeps us from the love of the Lord. We have to be willing to lose our lives for the sake of the Lord if we want to keep our lives. It is what we do for others in our selflessness that fills us with the love of the Lord. We have to learn how to empty ourselves out to find ourselves. What we do not like about ourselves we have to offer to the forgiveness of the embrace of Christ from the cross where he takes to himself in his dying for us whatever we have done wrong. Our transgressions that keep us from the Lord are remade into something special when they are turned over to the dying of Christ for our mistakes. Only our emptiness is big enough for the Lord. Anguish, distress, persecutions, famine, nakedness perils or the sword cannot keep the love of the Lord away. Our love for the cross of Christ opens us up to the fullness of God’s love for us.


The miracle of the loaves and the fishes teaches us how to allow God to do the impossible in our lives. In our weaknesses that we turn over to Christ we find the strength of Christ. We need to rejoice in the grace of our inadequacy that we might reflect the strength of the Lord to our world. Christ leaves leftovers in the offering of more food than the people can eat. We need to embrace our inadequacy so that the strength of the Lord shines out on our world when we are doing in his name more than we could ever do by ourselves. My favorite aspiration is simply this. “Lord, make up the difference. May they put on our grave stones that we left too much to the Lord to do in what we do in his name. May there be constant multiplications of what we do in the presence of the Lord in all we do in his name. Attempting the impossible gives the Lord space to work in our lives. Nothing is impossible to our Lord.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fear and Fairness

July 30, 2011

Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

When the years are many, the price shall be so much the more; when the years are few, the price shall be so much the less. For it is really the number of crops that he sells you. Do not deal unfairly, then; but stand in fear of your God. I, the LORD, am your God. Leviticus 25:16-17

Now Herod had arrested John, bound (him), and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, for John had said to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet. Matthew 14:3-5


Father, may we stand in awesome fear of the gifts you have given us -- the marvels of creation and the commandments to honor you and deal fairly with our neighbors. Give us the courage to follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist and Jesus as well as modern leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Oscar Romero and Dom Helder Camara. Holy Spirit, guide us with your special gifts to cope in fear and fairness. Amen.


How do we relate to our neighbors? How do we relate to our leaders? While one of the seminal document from Vatican II may have been titled the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, I always have a hard time thinking in terms of the big, worldwide Catholic church. It is always easier for me to figure out the micro-church that exists in my own heart and mind.

Today's readings prompt me to ask of myself, "How can I be holy, catholic and apostolic in my relationships in the world today?"

The passage from Leviticus prompts me to ask how I can relate more fairly with my neighbors. The people who live on my street and work in my office seem to enjoy a standard of living that is commensurate. It is when something out of the ordinary strikes us that we should react -- when someone heads to the hospital, when death strikes a loved one, when a fire or storm damages their home. But what about those people coping with insurmountable odds on a daily basis? We must consider how we share the stores of our time, talents and treasure with them. The Hebrew Bible used examples of the harvest and property sales that were current in its day. What transactions are most relevant to you?

Matthew gives us a story that challenges the intersection of our faith and the government. John the Baptist and Jesus were not afraid to speak truth to power about what is the right behavior for the leaders in their day. A primary concern was how the leaders cared for the "anawim" -- the orphaned children, the frail elderly and the poor. Are we prepared to speak truth to power about the issues of the day in which we live?


Although the news media may not pay much attention to the statements from the USCCB, our bishops have been very vocal this week in speaking "truth to power" just as Jesus and John the Baptist modeled.

On Tuesday, they issued a statement saying that Federal budget cuts should NOT rely upon disproportionate reductions in services to poor persons. Rather, we should have "shared sacrifices for all." Deal fairly with our neighbors.

In the July 26 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, called on Congress to remember the human and moral dimensions of the ongoing budget and debt ceiling debate.

The bishops wrote, “A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”

Bishop Blaire and Bishop Hubbard respectively chair the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The bishops wrote that every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects human life and dignity, how it affects “the least of these,” including the hungry and homeless, and how well it reflects the shared responsibility of the government and other institutions to promote the common good of all, especially workers and families struggling in the current economy.

That statement was followed up on Friday with another letter -- this one from the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services regarding the faith-based financial concerns that we have as the wealthiest nation to the poor of the world. It said that cuts under consideration for the foreign humanitarian assistance budget could undermine integral human development, poverty reduction initiatives, and stability in the world’s poorest countries and communities. Such cuts also could weaken our long-term security, since poverty and hopelessness can provide a fertile ground for the growth of instability, conflict and terrorism.

While acknowledging the difficult challenges Congress faces in addressing the national debt and controlling future deficits, Bishop Hubbard and CRS President Ken Hackett added that “our nation must be fiscally responsible in morally responsible ways.”

Bishop Hubbard and Hackett urged Congress instead to put everything on the table, including defense, revenue, agricultural subsidies, and fair and just entitlement reform. If the foreign assistance budget must be cut, they urged that critical poverty-focused development and humanitarian accounts and other programs that assist the poor around the world be spared.

Please write to your representatives in the U.S. Congress and consider the positions taken by our shepherds at the USCCB in the action you urge them to take as the budget negotiations wind down to the August 2 deadline. Let you faith leaders guide you in speaking truth to power with fear and fairness.

Friday, July 29, 2011

There Is Need of Only One Thing

July 29, 2011

Memorial of St. Martha

By Melanie Rigney

“The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD’s feast of Booths, which shall continue for seven days. On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly, and you shall do no sort of work. For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD, and on the eighth day you shall again hold a sacred assembly and offer an oblation to the LORD. On that solemn closing you shall do no sort of work.” (Leviticus 23:34-36)

Sing with joy to God our help. (Psalm 81:2a)

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)


Lord, help me to set aside my anxiety and worry as I serve You. I ask You to show the better part of this journey upon which You have set me.


If you ask me, Martha gets a bad rap for the wrong reason.

Many read today’s Gospel reading as saying Jesus calls us to listen to and learn from him rather than bustling about. Women especially are hard on themselves when it comes to busyness vs. presence; that’s why books like Martha to the Max! and Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World sell so well.

To my mind, however, the problem wasn’t so much that Martha was working in the kitchen; after all, someone had to get the food ready. Rather, Martha’s issue was the judging. She didn’t ask Mary for help directly. Instead, she criticized her sister to Jesus and ordered him to make Mary help her. Jesus, in essence, told her to calm down… and focus on him. I doubt Jesus would have rebuked her if she had gone about her work in the kitchen and presented a meal prepared with loving, joyful hands.

If you’d like to beat yourself up for being caught up in activity, that’s your right. But perhaps it’d be helpful to think about the way you respond to activity. Do you sing with joy to the point that your service is unlike “work”? Or do you use the busyness as a way to elevate yourself above others? Which is the better part?


Where do you feel unfairly burdened? Ask the Lord for help with the situation rather than criticizing those whose load appears much lighter.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We’ll Never Be the Same Again

July 27, 2011

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord. (Exodus 34:29)

Jesus said to his disciples: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)


You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (St. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine)


Sometimes, when we’re not even looking for it, we discover hidden treasure. In the field of life, we inadvertently stumble upon the Kingdom, we enter into a relationship with God, and it turns out to be so wonderful, we are willing to sell or give up everything else to lay claim to it.

As I was thinking about that, I remembered a podcast I listened to a while back. It was a sermon preached by Will Willimon, who serves as bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. Many Sundays, he said, he visits different churches in his jurisdiction. One week he got a call from the pastor of the church where he was planning to worship the next weekend. There was a 12-year old boy planning to be baptized that Sunday. Would Bishop Willimon like to baptize him? Of course, he said, he would be delighted to. So, Sunday rolled around and as the bishop pulled up to the church, he saw the boy and his pastor waiting on the front steps. Introductions were made and the young man wanted to know if they could run through the baptismal rite once. As they were “rehearsing,” he asked the bishop if, at some point, he could say a few words to the congregation. Yes, that would be fine. Give your witness. The appointed moment came and this young boy faced the people gathered for worship. He said, you know I’ve been coming to this church ever since I was really little. When I was 7, when my parents split up, I thought my world had come to an end. But there you all were with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, a basketball team, Sunday School classes. For a long time I just thought you were a bunch of kind folks, but I’ve come to see that it’s really God who put you in my life to care about me… Now there’s someone who, in his realization, came upon hidden treasure! He’ll never be the same again. He’s encountered the Lord.

Other times, Jesus tells us in the parable of the pearl of great price, we actively search for something, propelled by a deep inner yearning or an emptiness in our lives, or because we think there must be something more to life than what we have. When we find what we’re looking for, the God who loves us with an everlasting love, we want to give up everything else for that relationship. You’ll never be the same again! Your life will be forever transformed.

In our reading from the Book of Exodus, Moses has been with God on the summit of Mt. Sinai to receive the commandments for the people. He doesn’t realize that he’s been transfigured by the experience, but the people of Israel see it at once. He comes down from the mountain holding the stone tablets, but what everyone notices is his face; it’s radiant! Moses will never be the same again.

Whether we are summoned by God, stumble upon God inadvertently, or set out on a deliberate search for the Lord, once we truly encounter God, we are forever changed. Our lives are transformed. We’ll never be the same again.

You wouldn’t know it by the weather, but autumn is right around the corner, bringing with it the 133rd Women’s Cursillo Weekend, September 22-25, 2011, and the 123rd Men’s Cursillo Weekend, October 6-9, 2011. (For more details, go to and click on the weekend you’re interested in.) However we came to God, if we’ve been transformed by that relationship, we want to share it with others. It’s not too soon to begin thinking of friends you could sponsor for one or both of these weekends.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

God Sows Good Seed

July 26, 2011

Memorial of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Beth DeCristofaro

Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship. Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O LORD, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” (Exodus 34:8-9)

(Jesus) said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom. The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. (Matthew 13:37-41)


Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in kindness.

God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger,

Has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our deeds deserve. (Psalm 103:8-10)


You should see my “garden”. It is fortunate that I am not dependent on it for my food. My “garden” which I have over the years cultivated, incorporated with good soils and compost, painstakingly planted lovely flowers especially native plants, is covered over with and being smothered by wild and very versatile weeds. It is so overwhelming that I look at it with a heavy heart knowing that the weeds are winning. The bee balm manages to poke through and show off its unruly lilac blooms but I have to hunt through the vines to find my Jacob’s ladder and lungwort. I can understand the servants in Jesus’ parable wanting to get out there and pull up any weeds among the good crops quickly, before they too take over.

Last month our neighbors who lived away and rented out their house for the past several years returned and, overwhelmed with the neglect in their yard, began a major weed and shrub wacking job that indeed, has eliminated most of the invasive vines but also decimated the formerly beautiful azaleas and removed much cover for the many birds. I haven’t seen “my” cardinal family in several weeks. Much good was destroyed with the bad.

Weeds can be enticingly attractive and impressively resistant. Jesus knows that we can’t remove them alone but he promises that they will not overwhelm us in the end. Whether they be weeds of fear, anger, distraction, boredom and sin within our own hearts and minds or weeds of violence, intolerance, ignorance or oppression which multiply in the world, Jesus says take heart and know that the seeds of the Kingdom have been sown and are blooming within the children of the Kingdom. I can act like my bee balm and lungwort which bloom and grow, keeping faith in the presence of God within my life and within the world. Being intentionally aware of God’s presence I can withstand and perhaps even overcome the weeds and take part in the growing Kingdom of God.


Take the opportunity to fertilize good seeds already planted. Insist that your representatives in Congress not lose sight of caring for those most in need during these rancorous and divisive budget debates. From the USCCB website:

WASHINGTON—Religious leaders, including representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), met with President Barack Obama July 20 to urge the President and congressional leaders to protect programs for hungry and poor people in decisions surrounding the deficit and debt. “As the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, we come here not to advance a particular plan, but a fundamental moral principle: put the needs of the poor first in allocating scarce resources,” said Bishop Ramirez. “As religious leaders, our concern is not which party wins the current political battles, but we know, if we don’t speak up, who is likely to lose: the families trying to feed their kids, the jobless looking for work, the children who need health care, the hungry and sick and hopeless around the world.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In His Presence

July 25, 2011

Feast of St. James, apostle

Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26b-28


We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10


Presence. How close can we place ourselves in the presence of the Lord?

In our first reading, St. Paul understands that his "negative" human tendency for sin is always a part of his being. Yet that nature never completely prevails; there is always some experience of rescue, of salvation. In this shared resurrection experience, Paul and we are connected with Christ's suffering, and in Christ's victory over death.

By placing himself in the presence of the Lord, Paul get strength to overcome his weaknesses. James and his brother try to go beyond being in the mere presence of the Lord. They seek (through the request of their mother) to sit next to Jesus in his Kingdom.

Yet, Jesus reminds them that in the Kingdom, the tables of power are overturned. The last shall be first. The great shall be a servant. This then is the way we share in Jesus' life, death and resurrection just as he came to serve and offer his freedom for us.


Presence. How close can we place ourselves in the presence of the Lord?

In order to do this, we must first make ourselves aware of his presence in our lives. During the spring, with flowers blooming and new life coming into being, that is easy to sense. In the middle of a sweltering summer heat wave, we must continually remind ourselves of the gift of life that surrounds us in the light, the warmth, and the ways that we have to cope with the environment. The scorching heat allows us to consider the way of life Jesus endured. Living in the desert, he and his followers could not escape the sun except by planning the activity of their days when the heat was least oppressive.

As you sit in your air-conditioned home, car, school or workplace, imagine that Jesus is sitting in there with you. Consider all those who cannot escape the heat into such comfortable places. How can you offer them hospitality on their desert experience?

An Understanding Heart

July 24, 2011

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?" The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. I Kings 3

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Matthew 13:44-46


Solomon pleased God when he asked for wisdom. Wisdom is a discerning heart. Piety is our share in the wisdom of God. Piety is the wisdom of Christ in us. The grace of discernment is being able to know what God is asking of us in the now of our lives. Christ is the finest and most human expression of the wisdom of God. Christ lived up to his destiny even when it brought him to his death on the cross. The love of God has its most challenging expression in the dying of Christ. Love of God conforms us to Christ’s way of doing things. The inscrutable wisdom of God is revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ. Justice and Peace meet in the cross of Christ. God so loved the world that he gave us his only son that we might know how loved we are in his dying for us. We approach the cross of Christ as the wisdom of God. We know how much we love God in our willingness to carry the crosses of our lives in his name. The perfect response to God’s love for us is our willingness to be totally identified with Christ.


We study how we are called in according to the purpose of God. Our study of Christ reveals in the ways we are like Christ what the justification of Christ is all about. We discover by our study attractions in our heart to Christ’s ways of doing things and we learn to imitate Christ in how we carry the crosses of our lives. Study brings out how we are images of Christ in our lives. It gives us insight as to how we can be better images as we are called by Christ to be his hands and feet in our world. Our claim to fame in heaven will be based on how well we carried the cross of Christ in our own lives. The difficulties of our lives are the crosses that are fitted to our strength and the call of God’s justification in our lives. Christ reveals to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom. We observe the decrees that are the revelation of how to love. Christ says it so simply at the last supper. If you love me you will keep the Commandments.


It is no easy task to put into practice what we learn about Christ. Yet we realize we are created to the image and likeness of God in Christ and our tasks in life are to live his love and to be his presence by what we say and do. Our search for the glory of Christ is a lot like the treasure buried in a field. We buy the whole field of the work of the Lord when we realize that Christ is our happiness and our joy. The tasks of each day are to do what we do just as Christ would do it. We pray that he inspire us and even carry out our tasks for us. We try to give him carte blanche in our lives and ask him to be with us from the start to the finish of each day. We do the Examen of the Consciousness of his presence in our lives so that we may grow in the happiness of knowing the resurrection is at work in our lives. Happiness and Peace belong to the ways we work at making Christ a real part of our lives. Our task pushes us to the point where we can say we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. Christ is our treasure. We live his love that we may be entirely his. Our best response to God’s love for us is our living of our lives in Christ.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grow Together

July 23, 2011

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people, who answered, "All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do." Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his." Exodus 24:7-8

If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn." Matthew 13:29-30


Our God comes and will not be silent! Devouring fire precedes, storming fiercely round about. God summons the heavens above and the earth to the judgment of his people: "Gather my faithful ones before me, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice." The heavens proclaim divine justice, for God alone is the judge. (Psalm 50:3-6)


In the first reading, words speak louder than actions. While the people proclaim that they will "heed and do," we know from Biblical history that they did not. The consequences are revealed in the parable of the weeds in our new testament. In the end, it is not up to us to separate out the weeds from the wheat. It is not up to us to determine what to do with the weeds. It is up to the Lord. As the Psalmist reminds us, God alone is the judge. Our job is to fulfill our end of the bargain -- the covenant -- through faithful sacrifice.


None of us live in this world alone. Some are here and choose to be concerned about selfish things. They care not for what happens around them. There is nothing we can do to change them but "heed and do." Heed the commandments passed down to us and act on them. Perhaps by our example, they will change. If not, it is not up to us to determine what happens to them. That decision is in the hands of a higher authority.

For whom will you be an example today? Grow together.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Have Seen the Lord

July 22, 2011

Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene

By Melanie Rigney

"Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you." (Exodus 20:12)

Lord, you have the words of everlasting life. (John 6:68)

(Mary Magdalene) turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” 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.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her. (John 20:14-18)


Well, I started out a-travelin’ for the Lord many years ago/I had a lot of heartaches, met a lot of grief and woe/but when I would stumble, then I would humble down/and I can say thank the Lord I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now. (“Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ for My Journey Now” as performed by the Happy Goodmans)


When you read this, I’ll be in my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I never much cared for Sioux Falls as a kid; growing up on the poor side of town with a demanding, competitive, alcoholic father who descended into a spiral of ever-increasing paranoia will do that to you.

Sioux Falls also was the place that I shook the dust of the Catholic Church off my sandals back in 1972. I took it as a sign God didn’t care about me one evening when I couldn’t get into St. Joseph’s Cathedral, my home parish, to pray about a failed teenage romance. My parents weren’t church-goers, and no one ever asked me why I quit going to Mass. Fast-forward eighteen years, and perhaps you can appreciate my surprise that when my mother died, the cathedral community put on a nice luncheon after her funeral, even though she hadn’t been to church for decades. A few dozen people beyond our family even turned out for the Mass to pray for her. I read the Twenty-third Psalm at the funeral, palms sweaty at being on the other side of the altar for the first time in my life.

It took a lot of God—and, let’s be honest, losing some battles with Satan and some bad things too—over the ensuing fifteen years for me to be brave enough to call myself a Catholic again. It took a lot of love and faith and reconciliation to understand that God’s wherever I need Him on this journey we call life.

This week, that journey takes me back to Sioux Falls. The cathedral is reopening next Monday after two painstaking years of renovations. I’ve provided some guidance with publications to commemorate the event and the dedication of the altar. It’ll be the first time since Mom’s funeral in 1990 that I’ve attended a Mass at St. Joseph’s. And, as the Happy Goodmans sang, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.


Where have you seen the Lord in the past week? Go deep at your group reunion or other faith-sharing gathering this week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meet God

July 21, 2011

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

When the LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai, he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up to him. Exodus 19:20

"But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." Matthew 13:16-17


Father, excuse us for our grumbling. Hear our prayers despite the static that we transmit with these complaints. Brother Jesus, allow us to continually approach you with our questions, comments and concerns because we know you will hear and understand us. Holy Spirit, give us the strength to rise above our human and physical problems to allow you to work wonders in our lives.


We have such an approachable God who goes to great lengths to meet us where we are. To deepen our relationship with the Lord, we must try to relish the present moment and recognize the presence of God in that experience.

In our first reading from the Hebrew Bible, we see the Lord come to meet us where we are. As the Israelites grumbled their way through the desert, the Lord knew that their faith was weak and would be shaken even more. Therefore, God came down and spoke to Moses. This move was intended to bring the people closer to the Lord and to help bolster the leadership exerted by Moses.

The easy approachability of the Lord continued in the Good News reading from Matthew. When the disciples asked about why the Lord taught in parables, they got a clear explanation grounded in the readings from Isaiah that they knew so well.


We do not need to be at the base of a mountain or have our heads in a cloud to experience this divine presence.

Why will the Lord come to meet you today? About what (or whom) are you grumbling? Are your frustrated with people in your family? Are you impatient with your political leaders? Has the hierarchy of the church let you down? Or are frustrated personally by your own physical health issues or the illness of someone you love?

Whatever the cause of your grumbling and groaning, know that the Lord hears you and will meet you on your own turf.

When you clear the obstacles and sense the presence of the Lord in your life, what do question do you have to pose when you approach him?

An Encouraging Word

July 20, 2011

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The children of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!...The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the grumbling of the children of Israel. Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread, so that you may know that I, the Lord, am your God.” (Exodus 16:2-3, 11-12)

And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)


Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

(St. Patrick, c. 460)


Reading today’s story of the Israelites in the desert is a bit like looking in the mirror. We see so much of ourselves reflected in their words and actions. When adversity sets in, how quickly we forget the blessings God has already bestowed on us. We become discouraged and long for the “good old days,” which, if we’re honest with ourselves, had their ups and downs as well. We complain, sometimes bitterly. Instead of calling us ingrates, the Lord assures us that he will feed us and sustain us with bread from heaven. He will be with us every step of the way on our journey. God counters our discouragement with his encouraging words.

We see this in the parable of the sower, too. Many of Jesus’ followers were becoming discouraged. They couldn’t see anything happening that resembled their notion of the coming of the Kingdom of God. So, Jesus tells them this story of a farmer sowing seed in his field. When we hear the familiar words, we often get hung up on figuring out who the rocky soil represents, who’s got thorns or weeds in their field, etc. But I think Jesus was telling this parable with the emphasis more on the ending. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Just do your part in spreading the Word. God will prevail in the end and the harvest will be great!

On Sunday I visited another parish and was struck by the words to one of the songs their choir sang:

You are the comforter so comfort me

You’re the sustainer so be enough for me

You are my Father and Your love for me

Is where I’ll find my rest.

(from “As Long As It Takes” by Meredith Andrews)

If you are discouraged about something, share it with the Lord when you are praying today.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

God Is Gloriously Triumphant

July 19, 2011

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day from the power of the Egyptians. When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore and beheld the great power that the LORD had shown against the Egyptians, they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD: I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea. (Exodus 14:30-31, 15:1)

(Jesus said) “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mathew 12:50)


Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

worship the LORD with cries of gladness; come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are,

God's well-tended flock.

Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving.

Give thanks to God, bless his name; good indeed is the LORD,

Whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age. (Psalm 100)


In 1979, a TV documentary entitled “Scared Straight” featured a group of juvenile repeat offenders spending time in Rahway (NJ) State prison being shouted at, intimated by and “advised” by a group of hard core offenders serving life sentences. The theory behind this exercise was to “scare” the youth into changing their lives in order to not end up behind bars. I remember watching this show and it sure scared me! The documentary won an academy award and it was repeated in jails across the country although not without controversy and serious questions about its efficacy.

The passage from Exodus made me think of this program. I can just imagine being among the multitude of slow-moving, fleeing Israelites, glancing over my shoulder to see the approaching menace of Pharaoh’s army out to kill or enslave me and my brothers and sisters. Then even as we try to hurry up we are told to set out upon the sandy or muddy trail of what was sea, with water surrounding us. I can imagine being terrified to consider my own and my family’s imminent deaths. And I can visualize the elation, the lifting of terror, the hope returned as I watch the waters swallow and destroy Pharaoh’s warriors. I can imagine dancing with Miriam, singing the lesson learned that God always saves his people. And I can imagine saying with heartfelt commitment, I will serve my God.

Well, there is argument over the recidivism rates of programs like “Scared Straight.” And we know the recidivism rate of the Israelites who shortly down the desert road were whining to Moses and proclaiming that they would be better off back in Egypt. And I know my own recidivism as I make choices out of misplaced priorities or because things are not going my way or even worse, because I am so complacent that God has been left behind somewhere out of my sight.

I must make the choice for God again and again as my very human nature and desires take over. The choice must be renewed each and every day. As a younger person I often thought that were I to meet Jesus face to face as his disciples did, or if I saw a miracle such as the crossing of the red sea then I would be much more faithful than those misunderstanding followers or unreliable Israelites. Now in all honesty I must say that I would not. In Baptism I was welcomed into Jesus’ family. But it is in doing God’s will that I remain Jesus’ sister. The miracle is that each and every day we have the possibility of seeing and saying “yes” to God again.


There is distraction everywhere around us with our electronic gadgets, zooming traffic, global careers. Sometimes making the right choices can feel obscured. We can take the opportunity to see how, in this human-created cacophony, to peek through to God’s presence even using technologies. I was amazed and dumbfounded to see that Catholics (particularly young people who might understand better such tools) are invited to “attend” World Youth Day in Spain right from their own computers using a virtual link. See the explanation and check it out at

Ain’t God wonderful?

Monday, July 18, 2011

No Sign Will Be Given

July 18, 2011

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea, split the sea in two, that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land. But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate that they will go in after them. Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots and charioteers. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers." Exodus 14:15-18

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." He said to them in reply, "An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Matthew 12:38-39


Father, help us to set aside our obstinacy. Jesus, grant us the happiness of Jonah with whatever life experiences into which you lead us. Holy Spirit, grant unto us the gifts which will help us to flourish in this life and the next. Amen.


Another trait that we share with the people described in the Bible is our skepticism. We want to have faith just as the Israelites did as they fled into the desert from slavery in Egypt. We want to have faith just as Moses did when he asked the Lord for help while the Pharaoh's soldiers and chariots were in hot pursuit. We want to have faith just as the Pharisees did when they asked Jesus for a sign.

What we have in common is a Lord who tells us not to be afraid. No special sign is needed. No special intercession is coming. We are to hold fast to the life we are leading in piety, study and action. That is its own reward. In it, we will have a closer walk with God than all others.


About what do you cry out to the Lord? Do you share your complaints about secular political leaders? Do you share your complaints about the actions of Church leaders?

Do you cry out about your own illness and weakness? Do you cry out about the conditions in society and the world in which people suffer from poverty, disease, loneliness and destitution?

Today, we are asked to put aside the obstinacy that we share with the Egyptians lest we suffer the same fate as they do. Instead, we are asked to take on the spirit of service and the humility of Christ as we live out our days in this work and prepare for our live in the next. Let us be contented with the simple gifts that have been graced to us in this world. Thy Kingdom Come.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shine Like The Sun

July 17, 2011

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity. But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; And you gave your sons good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins. wisdom 12:16-19

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will. Romans 8:26-27

Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear. Matthew 13:40-43


The perfect answer to the problem of evil is the parable of the weeds and the wheat. The Lord allows evil to coexist with evil so that the good do not get hurt in the punishment of the bad. We are caught up all too oft en with the smallness of our work. We rarely see the outcome of our little beginning s. The parable of the mustard see answers the question of how little we are by making our littleness insignificant before the power of God that allows the little things we do to grow into something significant. It is a truism of the kingdom that only the insignificant is significant in the kingdom of God. The Lord is able to make something significant of the littlest thing we do in his name.


We study how the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. When our hearts are groaning, our very groans are the voice of the Spirit within interceding for us to the Father. The inexpressible groaning have the intentions of the spirit as their meaning. The little ones have revealed to them the mysteries of the kingdom. Their simplicity of heart expresses the love of God in the voice of the Spirit. No cry for help goes unheeded. We learn from the little ones how to call out to God. God has the care of all.


We try to be kind that all may have grounds for hope. We try to judge with clemency so that leniency governs us. We want to be judged as we judge. We try to let our deeds show the perfection of the power of God. We give God’s greatness the chance to be expressed in the way we show love to one another. We commit ourselves to kindness so that people might be governed by the deeds of God’s love.