Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Will Bring Them Back

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun, and from the land of the setting sun.  I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.  They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice.  Zechariah 8:7-8
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.  For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”  Luke 9:46-48

Lord, teach me to seek You, and reveal Yourself to me when I seek You.
For I cannot seek You unless You first teach me, nor find You, unless You first reveal Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in longing, and long for You in seeking. Let me find You in love, and love You in finding. Amen.  (Prayer by St. Ambrose)

If part of the prophecy in the Hebrew Bible was that the temple would be destroyed, another equal part was that the temple would be restored.  However, the terms of this Great Restoration is not about architecture or construction.  It is not about political power and glory.  Instead, it is about faithfulness and justice.
Jesus does not take an example of greatness from among the generals of the Roman army.  Jesus does not put the Pharisees on a pedestal.  Just like the Father, Jesus points out that we will be saved by the least powerful and least “great” among us – the children. 
How interesting that this passage is selected on a day when we remember one of the original doctors of the church.  While today there are now nearly three dozen saints with this designation, before the sixth century, there were only four. 
The title “Doctor of the Church” is not an academic course of study that one can seek to attain.  The title is given to individuals who the Church recognizes as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.  In the Western church, four eminent Fathers of the Church attained this honor in the early Middle Ages: Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, and Saint Jerome whom we remember today.
Jerome started out life studying the classics but turned to the Bible -- translating it from the Greek or the Hebrew.  His work is responsible for much of what became the Latin Vulgate Bible -- his most important achievement according to historical sources.  
Even though he also was a noted historian, Jerome helped to bring knowledge of the Bible to the people by translating it from foreign tongues.  Our ability to study Sacred Scripture today is a direct outgrowth of the work of St. Jerome.  In fact, because of his critical commentary and controversies about Rome, he left the city when he was only in his late 30s and lived out his life in Palestine, far from the center of the Church but close to its roots. 
According to Catholic Online, what has made his name so famous was his critical labor on the text of the Scriptures. The Church regards him as the greatest of all the doctors in clarifying the Divine Word. He had the best available aids for such an undertaking, living where the remains of Biblical places, names, and customs all combined to give him a more vivid view than he could have had at a greater distance.

The day of remembrance for this Doctor of the Church comes one day after we heard the Gospel about the rich man and Lazarus.  That rich man was condemned for his sins of omission.  St. Jerome made the most of the opportunity to build the church by using his talents for the good of all -- unlike the rich man who hoarded his wealth for himself. 
Keep St. Jerome in mind today as an inspiration to your piety, study and action.  How will you use your talents today?  

Compete Well for the Faith

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Woe to the complacent in Zion!  Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!  Amos 6:1a, 4

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:11-12

Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’  Luke 16:25-26


Piety is seen in how we take care of the needy of our life.  Do we wait to be asked or do we give before we are asked?  Do we give left overs or the best of what we have?  God loved us so much that he gave his only Son to be one of us.  How we accept the gift of God in our lives is seen by our piety where we have put on the mind and the heart of Christ by following in his footsteps.  Our piety has all it needs in Christ.  There is a resemblance to Christ in the goodness of each of us.  How we appreciate the good others do is seen in the flattery of imitation.  Piety is shown in how we pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness.  This is how we compete for the faith and lay hold of eternal life.  God gives life to all that we do.  The commandments are the road map of eternal life.  They teach us how to live as Christ did.  When “Christ comes in his glory as the King of kings and Lord of lords, the unapproachable light of Christ” will be ours.  All honor and power will be ours.  All the Christ decisions of our lives will make sense to our world.  No sacrifice that we have made will be too much.


The rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day is judged by how he shared what he had.  Generosity is what the patriarchs and the great saints show us.  How we listen to their words and try to follow their example will be how we will be judged.  We study the saints because they show us in their time how Christ would have lived.  Each saint is a reflection of the plan of God for us.  What we most notice and try to imitate is how we will be judged.  God gives us every day the chance to make our lives worthwhile.


Gradually we learn the secret of life well lived is doing all out of love of Christ.  We go to his cross to find the love that is always waiting for us in our crosses of life when we live as Christ would have us live.  There is no bypass of the cross.  How we embrace it in his name is the measure of our souls.  Christ rich in his heavenly existence embraces our life with all its difficulties.  He makes out of our humanness the road to heaven.  How we do all for him is how we honor him and share his eternal power.  The ordinary becomes extraordinary when we do what we are about in the name of Christ.  There is no need to do anything more than the best we can do to allow Christ to live on in who we are.  Christ is the best of all of us.  Our littleness becomes his greatness when we live his love.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pay Attention

Saturday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time 

Many nations will bind themselves to the LORD on that day.  They will be my people and I will dwell in your midst. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.  Zechariah 2:15

“Pay attention to what I am telling you.  The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”  But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.  Luke 9:44-45

Jesus, help me to help rebuilding Your Church and Your World one person at a time.  Hide not your meaning from me.  Amen.

For the city to be rebuilt, means only one thing:  It has to be destroyed first.  This is not a new prophesy.  It is rooted throughout the Hebrew Bible.  

However, when Jesus spoke, the disciples did not know how to translate the scriptures they knew so well from the literal to the figurative.  The prophets from Isaiah forward all talked about the destruction of the temple. 
However, the prophets also taught in human terms of the Messiah coming – another message reaffirmed in today’s reading from the Hebrew Bible.  “I am coming to dwell among you.”   

But the Jewish people thought in human terms.  They were preparing for a King, not the son of a carpenter and peasant girl.  They were expecting vindication and revenge at the hands of a mighty warrior – a warrior who would give them military and political victory, not spiritual victory.  

Now, they have just figured out who this itinerant preacher is – the Messiah dwelling among them!  As soon as they gain this pearl of wisdom, Jesus starts talking about his death.  No wonder the meaning was hidden from them. 

Pope Francis is forcing us as Catholics and others of faith or not to confront the role that religion and spirituality have in our lives.  Some people might not like what this reveals.  Perhaps the meaning is hidden from them.

Just days after his ground-breaking interview with the Jesuit magazine America, the world remains abuzz over its implications.  The popular media are pulling out what they think are ground-breaking terms.  New balance.  House of Cards.   
However, is Francis taking a different direction or just returning the Church to the direction set out by Jesus – the original troublemaker?
Words that jump off the page/screen to me are words like “struggle.”  And “discernment.”  And the image of the Church being the people, not the hierarchy. 

However, just days after this interview hit the newsstands and conscience of the world, another event took place.  Providence College in Rhode Island cancelled a lecture about same-sex marriage. 

Does that sound like people are trying to strike a new balance or just revert to the old, authoritarian ways?  Jesus never cared about being seen with the sinners, or the tax collectors.  Yet some of the leaders of our Church still seem set keeping everything sterile.  did not "endorse" sin when he set down with Matthew.  He endorsed change.  How can we effect any change of heart or mind if we shy away from sitting down and talking with those who disagree with the Church.  

Maybe that's why one of my favorite characters in the Good News is Nicodemus.  Even though Nicodemus went under the cover of darkness to learn from Jesus, he had the encounter nonetheless -- an encounter which led him to try to open the eyes of the Pharisees.  An encounter which also led him to the foot of the cross when the other disciples were in hiding.  

Would the elders of Providence College cancelled that encounter, too?  I doubt Pope Francis would. 

As people start letting the epiphany of Peter sink into our consciousness and the words of the former Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio take root, it also will take time for reform to take place.  Until then, the meanings remain hidden. 

So now is a perfect time for us to consider not the ways of others but the ways of ourselves.  How can we be the Church we want to see in others?  How can we join ourselves to the LORD, to become his servants? 

For to be rebuilt, not only requires the destruction of the temple.  But then, we must work, brick-by-brick, stone-by-stone, person-by-person.   Starting with you.

As in Revelation, we may never see the temple.  Because if we are the Church, we have no need for the literal building.  “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.  The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.”  Revelation 21:22-23

The other striking image of that America interview with Pope Francis is how he reflected on a painting of the call of Matthew that hangs in the Church of St. Louis of France.  Pope Francis says he went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio.

“That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.” Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.” Then the pope whispers in Latin: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”

What is the hidden meaning of that finger when it points to us?  Pay attention to what it is telling us.  Pay attention to what Jesus is telling us. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Who Do You Say I Am?

By Melanie Rigney

For thus says the Lord of hosts: One moment yet, a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will come in, and I will fill this house with glory… (Haggai 2:6-7)

Send forth your light and your fidelity; they shall lead me on and bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place. (Psalms 43:3)

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20)

Lord, You have revealed Yourself to me. I ask for the faith and strength to share this revelation with all I meet and in all I do.

The Gospels move along at a pretty fast clip, focusing on Jesus’s ministry with only the occasional reference to what the apostles might have been thinking or doing when they weren’t with him. A novel I’ve been reading for a while now, Between the Savior and the Sea by Bob Rice of Franciscan University, attempts to fill in what was going on in the background. And sometimes, Rice’s thoughts on those gaps offer up some fascinating opportunities for meditation.

Take, for example, the novel’s run-up to the scene depicted in today’s Gospel reading. The apostles have been debating for some time just who this leader of theirs is. From the sea, Simon has heard the word “Messiah,” but he’s not brave enough to say it. For his part, Jesus is becoming increasingly frustrated with the apostles’ lack of understanding of just about everything, despite all the hints he’s given them. Then when Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” and Simon summons up the courage to say it out loud, it’s beautiful:

Jesus turned and Simon did not know what to expect. He looked as surprised as the others. Then Jesus bowed his head and put his hands together over his mouth as if in prayer. He opened his arms wide and looked radiantly into the sun as if to say: thank you.

There’s something humanizing and inspiring in thinking about the internal relationships of the apostles. There’s something that resonates within our souls to know that even those who walked with Christ didn’t always understand. And there’s something indescribably joyous about Rice’s depiction of thankfulness when finally, finally someone gets it. Perhaps the same thing happens in heaven when we experience our own moments, however fleeting, of enlightenment.

Do something today that Jesus doesn’t expect from you. Be kind to someone you find difficult to love or open yourself up to listening instead of talking during your prayer time. Hear that thank you? It’s meant for both you and the Father.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Consider Your Ways!

Consider your ways!  You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; And whoever earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it.  Haggai 1:5-6

But Herod said, “John I beheaded.  Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”  And he kept trying to see him.  Luke 9:9

When I'm drivin' in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no, oh no, no, no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

I can't get no satisfaction
I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no.  
(Satisfaction” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards)


Herod had a lot in common with the singers/songwriters of Satisfaction.  He couldn’t got none either.  Through the ages, the more we accomplish, the less we feel fulfilled. 

Consider Herod’s ways.  He looked to John the Baptizer for affirmation.  But John would not give it. John criticized Herod for taking his brother’s wife.  Even though initially, Herod only imprisoned John, he was publicly forced by peer pressure and expectations, to execute John at the wishes of his wife.  Because Herod was pursuing his own agenda, he could not – even with the threat of prison and capital punishment, get the Holy Man to bless his evil ways.  And, Herod did not learn this lesson the first time.   He repeated this pattern of behavior when Jesus was finally brought before him on trial.

Today’s Gospel episode occurs right before Luke recounts the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  The contrast in this next scene is compelling.  The King could not get any satisfaction despite being the most powerful man in the region.  However, the peasants who followed an itinerant preacher from Nazareth (what good could come from there, indeed!), would eat from the loaves and fish that he blessed.  (They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.  Luke 9:16-17)

The other contrast in this scene with Herod is with Jesus’ inquiry of Peter.  Jesus asks Peter about His identity.  Peter runs through the same useless, gossipy information that the public (and Herod) have been hearing. 

The phrase at Luke 9:19 (They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’) are eerily similar to the pondering of Herod at Luke 9:7-8 (Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead,” others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”)

Consider Peter's ways. The difference between Peter and Herod is that after all the disciples have witnessed, Peter has a knowledge imbued by faith and strengthened by his daily encounters and close moments with Jesus. Peter knows the true identity of this itinerant preacher that Herod will never know nor understand. After all, the Lord honors the poor (not the powerful) with victory (Psalm 149:4).

Consider your ways.  The conditions of discipleship are not to imitate the rich, powerful and famous.  Their lifestyle, like that of the people of Judah, will not yield true satisfaction because the neglect the mission.

The conditions of discipleship are to deny one’s own desire, pick up your cross daily and build the house of the Lord. Sometimes, as in the story today from the Hebrew Bible, the Lord may ask us to do that literally.  Other times, we build the kingdom one person at a time, depending upon whom the Lord sends into our life each day.

Herod got no satisfaction from his ways because he was tearing down the Kingdom in order to mollify his own desires for power and wealth.

What will you build up today? 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Advice for the Journey

By Colleen O’Sullivan
Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; in all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus sends the Twelve out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  He gives his beloved friends a set of explicit instructions for their first mission on their own.  As I read the Lord’s words, they sound like good advice to all of us on living out our Christian faith. 

First of all, Jesus says, travel light.  Baggage only weighs a person down and slows his or her footsteps.  How true this is.  Think of the things that keep us plodding joylessly from one day to the next and prevent us from proclaiming the Good News full speed ahead – old wounds still festering; lingering resentments; perceived or real injustices experienced; too many ties that bind us to the ways of the world, such as credit card debt, big houses, expensive cars, hunger for human recognition and praise, etc.  Traveling light means letting go of these things, carrying only what is necessary – hearts that are firmly rooted in Christ.  That’s all we need for the journey.

Second, Jesus talks about perseverance and knowing when to let go and when to move on.  You’d think the Lord would never want us to give up, but he was a realist.  He himself met many folks who didn’t want to listen to a thing he had to say.  He performed miracles, he healed the sick, he raised Lazarus from the dead.  None of it touched them.  And Jesus had to leave them behind and keep on going, because there are always other people in other places hungry for the Word.  I learned this firsthand as a pastor.  I had a church member who had had surgery and was also suffering from a couple of chronic illnesses.  When she came home from the hospital, I got a copy of her dietary restrictions from her doctor and organized the women’s group to bring her meals.  I even cooked a few myself.  She was grateful, but, at the same time, she didn’t follow the doctor’s instructions and kept getting worse.  We went to the same doctor, and one day he reminded me of today’s reading from Luke.  He said she knew what she needed to do and I had done my best for her, but he was sure there were many other church members also in need of my care.  So, don’t stop and fixate on one unreceptive person.  Keep on going.  That’s what Jesus did.  There was always another town, another village, more sick people, more sinners in need of forgiveness, another poor soul possessed by demons.  The world needs to hear the Word, so Jesus asks us to keep on sowing the seeds. 


What burden are you carrying around that prevents you from giving the journey your full attention?  When you pray, ask God to help you find a way to set it down.  Also, pray for the wisdom to know when to let go and when to move on in proclaiming the Gospel.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Walk with me, be my Sister, my Brother

By Beth DeCristofaro

They completed this house on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  The children of Israel–priests, Levites, and the other returned exiles–celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. (Ezra 6:15-16)

(Jesus)  said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21)


Dear Jesus, as I call on you today I realize that I often come asking for favours.
Today I'd like just to be in your presence.  Let my heart respond to Your Love.
            ( )


The beginning of the book of Ezra declares:  the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom (Ezra 1:1) … to free the Israelites and allow them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  At a time when the Chosen People must certainly have felt that their world was ending in disaster, the Lord intervened.  That was 1500+ years ago.

We are exiles today as well from the peace and joy which God wishes for us.  But we too have been freed, as Pope Francis reminds us:  Jesus has saved us and we are redeemed even if we still live in Babylon, Homs, Nairobi, Newtown, or relatively-safe and affluent Fairfax.  Just as the exiles of old, under Kings Cyprus, Darius and Artaxerxes, or later in Ephesus and Thessalonica we keep the faith within community.  Jesus told us who our community is - those who hear the word of God and act on it

We welcome our new Cursillista Sisters in Christ to this community, residing simultaneously as exiles and as saved, beloved of the Christ.   We shared an exhuberent Closing to a joy filled weekend.  Now the hard work of the Fourth Day begins.  Jesus knew that to hear His Father he needed to seek silence and solitude.  The voices of Kings, advertisements, sports events, work, shooters, and experts can drum the still steady voice of God from our awareness. 


If Jesus is our Ideal, if we find and heed Jesus at the center of our being, then we will not neglect or deny our mortal brothers, sisters and mothers whether they be kin or not.  How freeing this is!  Yet frightening too.  I cannot fulfill these responsibilities without the presence of Jesus at my side.  And I cannot help but fulfill them with joy when He is!  Where do you find yourself in exile today?  Ask for Jesus’ freedom for yourself and someone you know.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

No Servant Can Serve Two Masters

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!...The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!  Amos 8:4,7

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.  1 Timothy 2:8

If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?  No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and mammon.”  Luke 16:11-13

Piety is the honest statement of who we are before God.  Piety reflects in our life a statement of Humility.  God is the source of all the good we do.  We can watch him work in our lives as he uses our weakness to make his strength and presence felt.  The prudent, worldly-wise man of the Gospel story prepares himself for the time when he does not have a job.  If the worldly prepare for retirement so they can enjoy life here on earth, how much more should we prepare ourselves for heaven? Is it going to be said of us that the children of this world were more prudent than the children of light in dealing with their own generation?

We look at how people cheat to make an extra buck.  They work hard at cheating.  Do we have standards of life that allow us to cheat on our responsibilities? Do I set myself up so that I can get away with doing the least needed? Purity of intention requires of me that I look to see by my study and prayer how I can do the best job possible.  The Hidden Life grace means that we work just as hard at the jobs no one sees us doing as we would work with the whole world watching.  We are all showmen about many things in our lives and it takes prayer, fasting and good works to discover the best way to work in the name of the Lord.  Real pleasure in doing what is right is how God is forever calling us to be ourselves in his name.   Our goodness speaks volumes when we do all for the name of the Lord.

Action speaks louder than words.  Living Christ is better than speaking him.  If we are going to talk about Christ, it is better that we talk to Christ first about what we are going to say.  Our world has more than enough hypocrites.  We need to live the advice of St.  Francis to the young member of his community.   “Preach always and occasionally use words.” We preach by the quality of our lives.  We need to pray for each other.  Paul advises us to lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.  It is our love of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for us that challenges us to give of ourselves even as he has given to us.  If we are to be the Disciples of Christ, we need to carry our crosses of life in his name.  Selfishness gives way to selflessness when we do all in the name of Christ.  When we love even as Christ has loved us we are giving our lives for our neighbors.  Offering our lives for the sake of each other is how we love like Christ loved us.

Learn the Meaning

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge.  Psalm 19:2-3

The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.  Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”  Matthew 9:11-13

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for? Robert Browning, Andrea Del Sarto, line 98


“The heavens declare the glory of God.” 

But humanity yield to the basic instincts and evil nature.  Today, we see examples of both.  Paul, in his letter to the people of Ephesus, encourages them to use their gifts to help to bring people closer to Jesus: “to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith.” 

Yet, while Paul is trying to build up his audience, Matthew shares with us the petty jealousies expressed by the Pharisees when Jesus calls on the tax collector to become a follower and then dines with “sinners.”  Perhaps we should remember that playground taunt when the Pharisees make their derogatory remark?  “It takes one (sinner) to know (another) one (sinner).” 


Instead of giving in to the deadly sins in our nature, we do strive for something better and higher and greater.  We reach for the heavens with our every fiber and a lot of our nation’s money.  Sometimes we do it literally.  As you read this, there are three residents aboard the International Space Station conducting various experiments that will yield knowledge about making life better today and tomorrow.  From their perch 250 miles above us, they are almost like a stop along a train line to the future. 

There are certainly some lame arguments about why we should explore space and reach for the heavens – most notably the point made by Stephen Hawking and others who claim that because we've done such a crappy job of caring for our planet that we really do need to look for another place to live.

The U.S. is spending $17.7 billion on the space program this year.  For comparison, Americans spend $246 billion on beer.  And we spend about the same amount going out to eat.  Some argue that $17 billion would be better put to use right here alleviating poverty and making this world a better place to live.
But the question wrestled with by public policy makers, scientists, and society is whether it is ethical to explore when there is so much that needs to be done on Earth?  Should we not sacrifice the long-term dreams for the short-term gains?

Browning also wrote in the same poem quoted above, about how tied down we are to the demands of everyday life instead of to pursuit of our dreams.   

Love, we are in God’s hand.                            
How strange now looks the life he makes us lead;   
So free we seem, so fettered fast we are! 

We are fettered fast to the cost of tacking human problems here on earth and in our back yard – actions we can take in our jobs and in our volunteer activity.  So why spend this $17 billion with all these other issues to tackle.  Because there is a big part of me which would love for the family service centers and youth programs and soup kitchens to have that extra money. 

There is certainly one school of thought which focuses on exploration for the return on investment.  Another argument looks at the comparative expenditures for other (more frivolous?) products.

After witnessing my first actual rocket launch this week, I have been trying to put such an activity into context.  Next to the sheer awesome light and sound watching the Antares/Cygnus craft blast off from Wallops Island, Va, one of the more compelling images of the week was this one of the flag being flown at half-mast in honor of the 12 victims of the latest act of mass murder at the Washington Navy Yard.

According to one of its own historical papers, NASA’s chief historian acknowledges that “Today there are ample reasons one might give not to continue space exploration. 2001 -- Supposed to be the year of Arthur C. Clarke's "Space Odyssey," will forever be remembered instead for the events of 9/11. We do have to deal with the reality of world events, but surely we should not let terrorism set the agenda. H. G. Wells said many years ago that "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." 

Rather than a race, perhaps it is the tug of war between gravity and weightlessness, between our angelic nature and the leviathan – literally and figuratively.
Let us not surrender to the leviathan but seek to attain the heavenly by the ample reasons to continue to explore.  Certainly we can reap the benefits of new technologies here on earth.  Look around.  That cell phone in your pocket.  The digital camera.  The computer you are reading this on.  All that and more help us as a society and economy and advances in the space program have returned many times the value to the U.S. treasury with patents and royalties.

But, I tend to think of more altruistic reasons why we should continue.  Because this gives us a chance to work together and get over the kinds of petty jealousies that we hear from the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. 

Peaceful cooperation between nations on projects like the International Space Station not only spread the costs out among nations, it also gives us more opportunity to work together on joint ventures – and maybe learn lessons that help all nations play better in the sand box together.  Maybe God gave us the heavens as another place where we can learn to exceed our grasp whether we are spending dollars or euros or rubles or yuans.  That may be why this continue to be a great way that we can continue to take small steps for mankind and giant leaps for cooperation.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Compete Well for the Faith

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and, and Companions, Martyrs

By Melanie Rigney

… Pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
Why should I fear in evil days, with the iniquity of my assailants surrounding me? (Psalms 49:6)
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)

Lord, bless those around the world who proclaim your name fearlessly.

The nineteenth century was a dangerous time to be a Catholic in Korea. It’s estimated that at least eight thousand of the faithful were killed during that century. Today, we remember 103 of those brave souls, who were canonized by Blessed John Paul II in 1984.

Since today’s Gospel reading mentions some of the women who supported Jesus’s ministry—Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Susanna—let’s take a look at some of the women among the Korean martyrs. Their faith is breath-taking:

  • Anna Pak Agi was fifty-six years old, with little formal education. She, her husband, and their oldest son were arrested for being Catholic. The men denied the faith and were released. Anna refused and was tortured, dying three months later in prison. She told the authorities: “I don’t know anything but Jesus and Mary.”
  • Catherine Yi and her adult daughter Magdalene Cho had moved from the country to Seoul to avoid persecution. But they were arrested there. Both stood by their faith despite repeated beatings, and died in prison from illnesses.
  • Authorities told Agatha Yi, who was just seventeen, and her younger brother that her parents had denied their faith (which was a lie). Her response? Whether my parents betrayed or not is their affair. As for us, we cannot betray the Lord of heaven whom we have always served.”
  • Teresa Kwon, her husband, and a widow who lived with them had supported Korean priests and helped the needy. When a judge urged her to give up her faith following torture, Teresa said, “Our Lord is the father of all human beings and the master of all creatures. How can I renounce him?” She was thirty-five when she and her companions were beheaded.

Strong women with strong faith supported Christ during his time here on earth. Strong women with strong faith supported him in nineteenth century Korea. Strong women with strong faith support him today throughout the globe, in safe and unsafe places. This is to take nothing away from the strong men throughout history that have done and are doing the same. But we often hear less about the women. Let’s remember them today as we remember the martyrs of Korea.

Reach out to the strongest woman of faith you know. Let her know how her walk inspires you.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How Great Are the Works of the Lord

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands by the presbyterate.  Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone.  Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.  1 Timothy 4:14-16

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  Luke 7:44


Lord, what is your plan for the sinners around you?  Help us to see those around us no matter how important they are in business or government, in life or in death. May we use the gifts you have given to us to magnify how great are your works for all around us. Amen.


How great are the works of the Lord?
How GREAT ARE the works of the Lord.
With a week that started in such tragedy, it is hard to keep our heads connected to the greatness of the Lord and creation.  What is in God’s plan that causes 12 people who go to work to never go home again?  We may never know.  For us, life goes on.  For those touch by the Navy Yard murders, life also goes on with more emptiness, more questions, more sorrow and more tears.
Jesus asks Simon a critical question:  Do you see this woman?  In the room were Pharisees, apostles, and the Lord himself.  Yet this woman stood behind Jesus, weeping in his presence and showering him with the most precious possession that she owned.  She did not take a place of honor.  She did not command the attention of all in the room by delivering a powerful speech.  No one asked the cause of her tears.  No one asked about her life.  They went straight to criticism.  We don’t even know the nature of her sins.  Nothing is said about that. 
What did she know that the others were taking for granted?  Maybe Jesus also was asking Simon and the Pharisees if they saw the same man in the room that the woman with the perfume and tears saw.  Whatever went on in her life before this encounter matters little if at all.  What is important is what she was doing in the present moment when she realized she was in the presence of Jesus.  She took what was most important and showered it on him. 


What would we do if Jesus asked us if we see the least important people around us.  Do you see this woman pushing the shopping cart across Lafayette Park?  Do you see this family struggling to pay their bills?  Do we see this unemployed worker searching to find a job?  Do we see the world in context? 
Maybe we also should ask ourselves what we would do if we saw the same man that she saw.  If we do see Him, will we neglect the gift we have been given?  Or will we put it to use for the greater good? 

Jesus can encounter us and we can encounter him through anyone around us.  It could be a co-worker in the cafeteria.  How many days do we wait in line surrounded by people we may never know?  It could be others.  Our paths cross so many people at so many times every day.  At the line in Starbucks.  Our paths cross as we rush into the parking lot at the outlet mall.  Who else is in the audience at this media event or that conference?  On the bus or subway?  Our paths cross as we stay in our lane crossing the Bay Bridge or circumnavigating the Beltway.  Yet, do we even see those around us?  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Follow the Music

Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O'Sullivan

Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion, Who was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.
(I Timothy 3:16)

Jesus said to the crowds:  “To what shall I compare the people of this generation?  What are they like?  They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.  We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”  (Luke 7:31-35)

Dance then, wherever you may be.
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you maybe
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(from “Lord of the Dance,” lyrics by Sydney Carter, 1915-2004)


When I was a pastor, as I was making hospital visits one afternoon, I asked a woman if she would like me to pray with her.  Her answer was a decisive no.  She said praying made her nervous.  I wished her well and left thinking how sad it was to see someone so afraid of or dismissive of anything to do withGod.  Yet I’m afraid God sees this in us all the time.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus expresses frustration about how difficult it is to touch our hearts.  His cousin was sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  John the Baptist spent his time preaching in the desert.  He dressed a little oddly and had a rather strange dietary regimen.  He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so many blew him off, saying he was demon-possessed.   And then Jesus himself comes along, a much more sociable person than John.  He spends his time in the towns and villages, talking to people, healing their ills, and going to their homes for meals.  But is he any more accepted?  No, the disinterested label him a glutton and a drunk, and say he hangs out with sinners and outcastslowlifes with whom no oneshould associate.

I can see why some people don’t care to dance to any of the tunes God plays in our lives.  If we doour hearts have to be transformed.  We have to follow the Lord of the dance wherever he leads, and, if we’re honest with ourselves, some days the ways of the world and our lives as they are seem a whole lot more enticing.  When we cover our ears and refuse to sway to the divine melody, however, we miss out on that wondrous mystery, Christ our Savior, about whom Paul so eloquently writes in his letter to Timothy. A person could spend a lifetime fathoming the depths of the mystery of our salvation and never fully comprehend it, but to turn our backs on the song that leads us there is a tragedy.


What divine music have you danced to in your life?  What song is God singing that you are having trouble responding to?