Saturday, March 31, 2012


April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. Isaiah 50:4-6

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" Mark 15:38-39


Piety makes a Palm Sunday out of the moment we are in. By our piety we salute the Christ of the Sacrament of the Present Moment. The joy of our hearts welcomes the Christ who lives forever in the heart that belongs to him. The joy of our hearts makes Christ present in the love we have for each other. Christ comes to every moment we truly love one another. The Christian fully alive is caught up in the joy of finding Christ in the moment. Spirituality goes from putting on the mind and the heart of Christ to living the presence of Christ by our love for one another. Our piety is the response of our hearts to Christ always present by indwelling in our souls. Joy is the expression of the presence that we call piety. The happy Christian by joy lives piety each moment of happiness and the expression of overflowing joy makes piety real to others.


We study how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Piety gives birth to a well-trained tongue that knows how to rouse up the discouraged. We learn how to open our eyes to the love of God that possesses each moment of life. Our study of the word of the Lord allows us to lift the burdens of the unhappy. The joy of the word of God in our hearts gives birth to the realization that following Christ will not bring shame. We look at Jesus who emptied himself of his equality with God taking the form of a slave, coming into our lives in human likeness, becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. He has given us an example of love, dying for us to remove the stain of sin if we would accept his embrace from the cross of our mistakes. We learn from him how to be forgiving of one another.


We enter into Holy Week renewed by our Lenten fasts and good works. We look at the passion of Christ and try to carry our crosses of life with the same dignity as Christ. There is opportunity to pray the passion by what we suffer in life as we allow ourselves to fill up what is wanting to the suffering of Christ in his Mystical Body. Our best actions of Holy week are in the ways we enter into the suffering of Christ and accept in gazing at his incredible love for us the call to put up with and to make up for our own sinfulness and the sinfulness of our family. We can try to reach out to the lonely people of our lives. We can do hard tasks without being asked and without complaints. The actions of Holy Week are best the actions of making our lives holy in the name of Christ. We can try to be especially generous of our time and money for those who do not have what we have. The best waving of palms for this Sunday will be the actions of generosity that relive the love of Christ in what we do for one another. Let us welcome Christ into the Jerusalem of our hearts! Let us be Christ for one another.

What Are We Going to Do?

March 31, 2012

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever. Ezekiel 37:26-28

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? John 11:45-47b


Father, you promised us peace. By our actions, we have broken that covenant with you and with each other. Help us to choose your path as we decide what we are going to do.


What was it about the miracle at Bethany when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead that prompted some of the people to go to the Sanhedrin where the death plot began to unfold? Clearly, some in the crowd on that resurrection miracle felt that if Jesus had come sooner, Lazarus could have been saved from death.

The other signs Jesus performed did not spark such violence. Up until this point, people were believing in Jesus because of the signs. While Jesus prayed often, we do not always get the words of his prayers…until now. On the day Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, St. John shares the prayer Jesus recited: 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." John 11:41-42

Jesus had taught this lesson to his closest disciples and even to Nicodemus in that first lesson in that private lesson one night. But now, his connection to the Father is a subject about which he is preaching openly. On their own merit, the miracles of healing and others signs satisfy various needs of people who are ill, hungry, thirsty or distressed. But now, with this prayer, the signs take on an added dimension -- the people think that the work threatens their power and security.


What are we going to do?

I realize that there is the popular phrase WWJD -- What would Jesus do if he were in our situation. But that is the easy part. Jesus acted consistently out of the perfect love he passed on from the Father. The Lord promised us a relationship of peace. That peace is not broken by God. That peace is broken by us.

Maybe I will craft a little plastic bracelet with these letters: WWWD? What will we do? With five weeks of Lent behind us, ahead of us we have Holy Week. We still have time to decide if we will crucify Jesus with our words and deeds. We still have time to decide if we will deny him with our actions and run into hiding to protect our own skins.

But we also have time to decide if we will be there with Simon to help carry the cross. We still have time to decide if we will be there with Veronica wiping the sweat and blood from his face and eyes. We still have time to decide if we will be there with our mother Mary at the foot of the cross.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Like a Mighty Champion

March 30, 2012

Friday of the Fifth Week in Lent

By Melanie Rigney

The 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)

“If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if 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 10:37-38)


Lord, help me to turn it all over to You—my need for retribution and revenge, my distresses, and my need to recognition when I do good that I claim is in Your name.


Gary Gutting, a philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame, recently wrote a New York Times opinion piece titled “Does It Matter Whether God Exists?” He makes some interesting points, especially on our desire, perhaps need, to believe that God will always do the best for us:

Once we appeal to the gap between our limited knowledge and God’s omniscience, we cannot move from what we think God will do to what he will in fact do. So the fact that we think an all-good God would ensure our salvation does not support the conclusion that, all things considered, he will in fact do so. It follows, then, that even a decisive proof that there is an all-good, all-powerful God cannot assure us that we are ultimately safe. … There is no reason to think that we are good judges of what God is likely to permit. God may have to allow us to be deceived to prevent even greater evils.

So what if we’re not assured of salvation, even if we go to church and pray and do good works? What’s the point? What if God’s plan is something entirely different? What if those we regard as “the bad guys” win?

So what? Really, so what are we supposed to do here on earth if it turns out God isn’t all-good the way we define “all-good”?

All we need to do is look to Jesus’s spiritual indifference in today’s Gospel reading. Believe me or don’t believe me, he says, but believe in God’s works through me. That philosophy served him well during his time on this earth. May it do the same for us. May we do what we believe God desires… and have faith in Him to sort it out on the other side.


Do one thing today not because it’s on your “Catholic card” or because you think it’s the price of admission to heaven. Do it because you believe He desires it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Before Abraham

March 29, 2012

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

Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?" 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 8:56-59


Father, take away of stones of obstacles that keep us from following your Word. Jesus, help us to come out of our comfortable lives and keep your word. Holy Spirit, unbind us from our selfishness so that we can be worthy of the promises of eternal life.


Sometimes in direct encounters, when Jesus is confronting the people with difficult concepts, they understand him and other times they do not.

Take the woman at the well earlier in John's Gospel. Jesus makes her a promise that is almost as hard to believe as eternal life. He offers, "Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst." Standing in the scorching mid-day sun (the only time the Samaritan women could use the well), she readily would want to avoid thirst and asks Jesus to give her this endless relief from the heat. The encounter ends not only with her conversion but also with her bringing people to Jesus.

Today's crowd is much harder to reach. Jesus offers to them no miracles or signs but only the hard-to-understand promise that "Whoever keeps my word will never see death." They are not convinced.

When Abraham is invoked, the combined effect is not only a statement they don't understand, but also a physical reality that they do not see as possible. How could this Galilean who is barely thirty years old have seen Abraham? How could Abraham who dies despite this promise have seen Jesus?

Several times in the Gospel the people turn to physical violence when they do not understand the message Jesus gives. Usually this happens when he is preaching without offering a miraculous sign. They pick up stones again in John 10:31. They tried to thrown him off a cliff but he escaped. The last straw comes when the death plot is hatched following the miracle of Lazarus at Bethany.

In his words and deeds, Jesus threatens their power, security and place in society. As he rocks the core of their existence healing the sick and raising people from the dead, they see physical evidence of his divine nature. But to those who do not see and do not hear, they want to protect the life they lead and rid themselves of this challenging carpenter's son from Nazareth and the message of eternal life without death.


We construct comfort zones for our own reality in our culture of death. Then Lent comes along and asks us to move out of our comfort zone with prayer, fasting and alms-giving. We sacrifice but probably are not approaching the giving level exhibited by the widow's mite. In these last few days of Lent, what final steps can you take to bring yourself closer to Jesus as he readies himself for the triumphant walk into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the physical violence of the torture and painful walk to the execution on the cross?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Make My Word Your Home

March 28, 2012

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent

By Colleen O'Sullivan

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 3:95)

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.” (John 8:31-32)


“The Father uttered one Word; that Word is His Son, and He utters Him forever in everlasting silence: and in silence the soul has to hear it.”

(St. John of the Cross)


In the New Jerusalem Bible, Jesus’ words today to the Jews are: “If you make my word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.” When I read that translation, the old saying “home is where the heart is” popped into my mind. The Lord yearns for our hearts to rest in his word. There is nothing he longs for more than for us to be his disciples.

Although we are approaching the end of Lent, there is still time to examine our hearts. Where do our hearts feel most at home? I’m sure we’d all like to say we live in God’s word, but the truth is that there are many temptations to make our homes elsewhere. If only they were all as blatantly obvious as that in today’s reading from the Book of Daniel.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are three young Jews working as administrators under the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar commissions an idol, a golden calf. He then demands that all government officials bow down before the idol and worship it at its dedication service. The three Jews refuse to worship any god other than their God and are then thrown into a superheated furnace as punishment. Their faith saves them when God sends an angel to rescue them from the flames. This amazes the Babylonian king and causes him to call God blessed and to exclaim at the unwavering loyalty of these three civil servants. They would die before denying their God and bowing down before any other.

A glittering, golden statue of a calf is hard to miss. Should we be faced with one, I think we would all know to run in the other direction. The evil spirit knows that, too, and so works to tempt us in much subtler fashion, just as he tempted Jesus during his 40 days in the desert. The evil one takes the messages of our culture and uses them to lure us away from our home in God’s word. The American dream, for example, is that through hard work we will become successful and prosperous and be rewarded with upward social mobility. We have only to look around the many government and private sector offices in the Washington, DC, area to see people spending 8, 10, 12 hours a day trying to make that dream come true. What’s wrong with hard work? Nothing, as long as you’re “practicing the presence of God,” as Brother Lawrence urged, or doing it for the greater glory of God. However, the evil one messes with our heads until we find ourselves working for the greater glory of ourselves instead. And if the evil spirit works diligently enough within us, pretty soon we’re also looking down on those who aren’t as materially successful or prosperous. When we’ve gotten to that point, we’ve successfully been seduced, and our hearts are residing far from their home in God’s word.

The evil spirit uses other cultural messages as well to lure us away from the Lord. Look on any bookstore website, watch any talk show in the afternoon, and you’ll see and hear lots of messages about how we can improve our lives, how we can be in control. I guarantee you from experience that the minute we think we’ve got everything under control and our lives are going just how we want them to, something will happen to remind us how far our hearts really are from the Lord. The faithful people in the Gospels, the ones Jesus heals and whose sins he forgives, aren’t masters of self-control or self-importance. They’re the ones who throw themselves on the Lord’s mercy and rely on his words for direction.


Make some time today to examine your heart. Where does your heart reside? If the answer is anywhere other than the word of the Lord, ask the Holy Spirit to use these last days of Lent to guide you home to the only place where you really belong.