Thursday, October 31, 2013

We Are God’s Children Now

By Melanie Rigney

… I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. (Psalms 24:6)
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. (1 John 3:2)
He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:2-12)

Lord, have mercy on us.
CHRIST, have mercy on us.
LORD, have mercy on us.
CHRIST, hear us.
CHRIST, graciously hear us.
GOD, THE FATHER OF HEAVEN, have mercy on us.
GOD THE HOLY GHOST, have mercy on us.
HOLY TRINITY, ONE GOD, have mercy on us.
HOLY MARY, pray for us.
HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, pray for us.
ST. MICHAEL, pray for us.
ST. GABRIEL, pray for us.
ST. RAPHAEL, pray for us.
(beginning of the Litany of the Saints)

“Mother, how can I become a saint?” the young Clelia Barbieri asked. Her mother’s response is lost to time, but the question was certainly prescient. Clelia was only eleven when she made her First Communion in 1858… and on that same day had her first mystic experience. She was twenty-one when she established a group that would become the Little Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, the youngest founder ever of a Catholic religious community. Clelia was dead two years later, a tuberculosis victim. She was canonized in 1989; the order still has about 350 members and works with children, the sick, and the elderly in Italy, India, Tanzania and Brazil.

It may not sound like a particularly saintly life: no martyrdom. No lengthy life of service. But saintly, she was.

Today, we remember the saints and their heroic virtues. Often, we think of the best known, the Blessed Virgin, John the Baptist, Joseph, the apostles, Mary Magdalene, and the like. But thousands of other lesser known beatified and canonized people led simple, faith-filled lives that can inspire us: people like Clelia Barbieri. People like Charlie Rodriguez Santiago, a Puerto Rican layman who advocated for active lay participation in the Mass before Vatican II. People like Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi, who were married for more than forty years, raised four children, and are the first lay couple to be beatified together.

As we pray with them all today, may we remember the challenge that the Catechism of the Catholic Church throws down to each and every one of us: “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: ‘Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’”


Ask yourself: “How can I become a saint?” Try to do one thing today that answers your call to holiness.

Conquer Overwhelmingly

If God is for us, who can be against us?  He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?  Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?  It is God who acquits us.  Romans 8:31b-33

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!  Luke 13:34

Father, hear thy children’s call.  We know what you ask of us – the same that you asked of Micah and Moses, Peter and Paul.  Jesus, teach us to walk humbly with you despite the temptations to wander off that path.  Holy Spirit, guide our steps on the way of peace so we do not put any other ideal at the center of our lives.  Amen.

In some ways, what the readings say to us today may be hard to understand on a literal and a metaphorical level.  However, when paired with some more familiar readings, the messages today – what they say and why they matter – build on not just what Luke and Paul write elsewhere, but also upon what we have learned about the faith from many sources.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will condemn us?  Paul knows that there are many enemies out there who will physically arrest and condemn Christians.  However, he refuses to let the prisons and punishments meted out by mortals. Shake his optimism. 

Paul also knows, too, what John writes as one of the essential truths of the faith that justifies us:  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:16-17

If the Lord is our shepherd, Paul will not be afraid because he knows that Jesus was not afraid to walk into Jerusalem knowing that arrest awaited him.  However, when Paul writes, “we conquer overwhelmingly thanks to God’s power to save,” there is a certain irony.  Paul writes these lines from Corinth before he departs for Jerusalem.  There, he will be arrested and when he gets to Rome, he will be in chains. 

Are you unwilling?  Probably not.  However, are you conflicted between what the Lord asks and what society expects and what the world entices?  Probably.  I know that I am.

Yesterday, one of the people I follow on Twitter posted (Tweeted) this:  Pope Francis ‏@Pontifex29 OctIf money and material things become the center of our lives, they seize us and make us slaves. 

In his 140-character-teaching-moment, Pope Francis warns not to make money and material things the center of our lives.  Instead, as Paul writes, make God the center and we will conquer the rest overwhelmingly.

One way I have tried to control on the role of money and material items is to live within our financial means.  Our credit union offers a debit card that we use instead of a credit card.  Shifting from using credit cards that rack up debt, to using debit cards which are paid out of what we already have, we can avoid getting further into debt to the banks and credit card companies. 
If we are only spending what we have, then maybe that watch or pair of shoes will seem less important knowing we have to pay for it today and not be tempted to get it now and pay for it with whatever we may have to spend tomorrow.   Does this make money and material things less central?  I hope so.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Spirit Intercedes for Us

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.  And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.  (Romans 8:26-27)

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  (Luke 13:22-24)

Give ear to my words, O Lord; understand my sighing. Attend to the sound of my cry, my king and my God!  For to you I will pray, Lord.  (Psalm 5:2-3)

Prayer is the time when I turn away from the phone, emails, texts, TV, radio –all the noise in my life; the time I spend with Jesus, whispering things I would never tell another soul; the time I spend listening to Jesus telling me things no one else would ever say to me.

St. Paul writes to the Romans of prayer as the expression of the groaning of all creation and the groaning that emanates from deep within each of us.  Prayer involves listening to the sounds uttered by the world around us, the sighs and cries of our brothers and sisters, and to what issues forth from the depths of our own hearts; then giving voice to all of it.  But we are sometimes deaf and often inarticulate.  We don’t always know what to say or how to say it.  The apostle goes on to speak a word of hope to our weakness.  Praying isn’t all up to us.  The Spirit, who dwells within us, is always at work, offering our intentions to the Lord.  And Christ, in turn, offers them to his Father.      

Our Gospel reading for today is a good starting point for prayer.  It is surely the heartfelt desire of each of us to enter through the narrow gate, to be with Christ for all eternity.  Yet, in the depths of my being is the fear that I may never recognize all the baggage I carry that prevents me from fitting through.  I entrust that desire and fear to the Spirit, who will carry it to Christ in words I cannot understand.  I pray I will have ears to hear the response.

What does this Gospel reading about narrow gates and locked doors say to you?  How does it lead you to pray?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We Wait With Endurance

By Beth DeCristofaro

For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that sees for itself is not hope.   For who hopes for what one sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. (Romans 8:24-25)

Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
(“I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe)

There are two beautiful, enormous blue spruce trees in my front yard which are “apartments” for countless birds and through ways for squirrels, chipmunks and other furry creatures.  Not only does the image of the tiny mustard seed sprouting into a large bush speak of the fruitfulness of God’s presence in the world, but my spruce trees show me a glimpse of the bountiful life possible within God’s creation.  Paul speaks of endurance and I hear it, in light of Jesus’ metaphor, as endurance imbued with potential.  God is with us in the endurance, the Spirit animates the manner we endure.

We all know, as does Paul that our endurance does not always result in what we want.  But the fecundity in God is so much greater than our vision.  My two trees are finally succumbing to years of drought.  It is sad to know that it might be years before the birds can return depending on what we plant where the trees have grown.  But the Kingdom of God continues to blossom and grow and I can endure while planting new trees or looking in new spots for the birds.


In Paul’s endurance, we wait and build the Kingdom.  We wait and grow in God.  We wait and look forward to being reunited with our departed loved ones who succumbed to their mortality.  Say an extra prayer for all who face illness, death, and tragedy with endurance.  During this week of All Saints and All Souls, take some time in the everyday moments to remember those who you have loved and those who have touched your life and say a prayer of gratitude for them.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In Prayer

You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.  Ephesians 2:19-20

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.  Luke 6:12

Father, help us to feel at home where you dwell.  Jesus, your holy hospitality in the house with many rooms will make us like family.  Holy Spirit, help us extend the welcoming hand and heart to others as you have to us. Amen.

Jesus sets the standard.  He sends us disciples and apostles; prophets and preachers; sages and rages and ages of teachers.  Through it all, Jesus is the gold standard.  When he prays about a decision, he does not spend an hour in Mass (sometimes arriving late and leaving early).  He really prays.  He puts his heart and soul and blood, sweat and tears into prayer.  Do we even put in one percent of such a prayer-effort before we make a decision?

No wonder that Isaiah said, “I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; whoever puts faith in it will not waver.”  (Isaiah 28:16)  And we learn in Revelation 21:14, “The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”  It all starts with the Lamb and it all comes back to the Lamb. 

Once chosen, the story does not end there.  Not for Simon and Jude and not for you and I.  It took years for that lesson to sink in to the Apostles.  No matter how much they tried to stay in their “comfort zone,” Jesus pushed them out of the boat.  The congregation of one of my friends calls it the “Discomfort Zone.”  Jesus was in an excruciatingly discomfort zone on the cross.  He welcomes us up there to join him on a daily basis.

If we are shy, we are challenged to be outgoing.  If we are soft-spoken, we are challenged to preach with words.  Where is your “discomfort zone?”  How can you be a disciple in action if you never cross into that arena? Talk to Jesus about where the Lord wants you to go next. 

Be Merciful

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.  Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.  The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.  Sirach 35:12-14

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

Piety is reflected in how we pray.  Humility perfects our prayer.  We look at ourselves in comparison to whom we are praying.  Before our loving God who hears our prayers through his son Jesus we are nothing.  We pray with Christ as our reason for being heard.  We pray in his name.  Christ is the perfect expression of God’s love for us.  In his death on the cross, he perfects our prayer by offering himself to make up for all our sinfulness.  Christ is our way and our truth.  He is the perfection of human life lived in conjunction with the plan of God the Father.  We come before God clothed in the love of Christ.  We become what we love and Christ takes us into himself even as we take Christ into ourselves.

We study the tax collector of our Gospel today to see how humility opens the heart of Christ to us.  We are told that we will be exalted if we pray with humility.  How we take the truth of ourselves before God without contaminating our prayer by false comparisons to others is seen in our  realization if we had the graces of another we would do half what they do whereas if they had our graces they would do twice as much.  Humility is the truth of ourselves.  We go before God with the awareness of how completely Christ obeyed the Father.  We can only try to be like Christ by the truth of who we are before him.  Even as we do our best to put on the mind and heart of Christ in our prayer, we are faced by the truth of how we wander before the God who loves us as we are.  Paul gives us a true challenge when he says of himself that he is poured out like a libation.  The crown of righteousness awaits us when we put all our mind and heart into the moment we are living as we try to be all there for the one we are serving.  We know the Lord will rescue us from every evil threat.  We trust the Lord and invite him into our lives to be the initiator and the fulfiller of all we are trying to do in his name.

We go before the God of justice who loves us as we are.  Christ hears the cry of the oppressed.  He was one of us in his humanness when he walked the face of the earth.  He is still one of us in the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the naked and the prisoners of poverty in any form.  He will judge us in terms of all we did for him when we worked for the needy of our lives.  Our petitions reach heaven in our service of God in those who ask or do not ask our help.  We can pierce the clouds in what he ask in all humility of the Lord.  God will not delay to answer us when we ask in the name of his Son.  How we open our hearts to each person who needs us is the way God hears the cry of the poor in our need to serve God in all truth.  Our practice of humility allows us to put on the mind and heart of Christ who emptied himself out of everything that belongs to God to make us by our belonging to Christ one of God’s children.  Our claim to fame in heaven will be the way we honor Christ by finding him in the needs of the people of our world.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bear Fruit in the Future

For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit.  The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.  For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  Romans 8:5-8

“He said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none.  So cut it down.  Why should it exhaust the soil?’  He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”
  Luke 13:7-9

Father, have patience with me.  Just a little longer.  Jesus, leave that ax at the root of the tree while the Holy Spirit works on helping me to change the direction of my life and where I look for happiness.  Amen.

Following another call to change, the parable of the barren fig tree presents a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet given evidence of their repentance.  In other Gospels, Jesus curses the fig tree and calls on it to be barren forever.  In Matthew and Mark’s rendering of the story, no one shall enjoy the fruit of that tree ever.

This story reinforces the warning given just before: “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”  This is ANOTHER wake up call for us.  If we want to enjoy the “life and peace” that comes from living in the spirit not the flesh, change we must.

Why is Luke different?  Why do Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts go directly to cursing the fig tree for all time?  Maybe Luke is trying to be a little gentler with his audience.  His audience is mourning the slaughter in the temple.  Luke’s account stresses that when God has waited for us longingly like the Prodigal Father, we may hope that he will bear with us yet a little longer, but we cannot expect that he will bear always.

Luke knows that Jesus is more concerned with the eternal than the temporal.  Jesus, therefore, does not comment on the political implications of the temple slaughter.  He was not sent to fix personal problems, political disputes or petty bickering.  Jesus was sent to save and he uses every chance he gets to help us to save ourselves by our own actions.

Jesus does not need to remind them of the danger and death that awaits because they have witnessed the death of the Gentiles in the temple.  But the ax lies always at the root of the trees.

“Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  Luke 3:8-9

Friday I met a young Romania couple who are an amazing inspiration and example Christian people who are producing good fruits.  Adrian and Lavinia Dreana are visiting the United States to find ways to get greater support for their Living Hope Center.  They are not bearing fruit in the future...they are bearing fruit today (and in teh future.)

A wonderful Christian friend who now lives near Seattle introduced me to them and set up our meeting. 

Adi and Lavi believe that they have been called by God to serve central Romania -- including serving the poorest of the poor.  They have created the Living Hope Center to provide the spirit of life and peace to their neighbors. 

They have established a series of greenhouses where people can incubate crops for food and then for sale or trade with the surrounding areas.  Maybe they are not producing figs but they are bearing many tomatoes. 

In addition, there is a maternity center where women get clothes and make clothes and a health care clinic.  They combat all kinds if illness including breast cancer, a leading cause of death in Romania.  

Adri and Lavi have 3 daughters: Becky, Seia and Lala who were under the watchful eye of their grandmother and uncle back home in Romania while they traveled here.
As part of the newly educated and emerging middle class, they have elected to stay in their home country rather than take their education and move away.  They are committed to improving life – person by person – in the area known as Targu Jiu.  

In addition to the agricultural mission, they also are working to build a network of doctors and nurses who can serve the people.  Without this network, many times people have to pay bribes just to get medical care.  They are truly bringing “health care reform” to life in a place where it is needed so desperately.  Talk about an affordable care action!

In an era when people question everything (even the Golden Rule), just sitting down with them allows you to see and feel the smiles in their eyes and the light of their laughter.  Through it all comes the commitment to the Gospel that we read today. 

Read more about their ministry here:  You can support the Living Hope Center through their American partner non-profit Mercy Walk.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Settle the Matter on the Way

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney 
Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? (Romans 7:24) 
I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. (Psalms 119:94
Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. (Luke 12:54-59)

Lord, relieve me of my stubbornness and willfulness and fear. Help me to come to you and acknowledge my sins and begin anew.

When we’re sick, we take a pill, use some ointment, or go to the doctor.

When we need directions, we turn on the GPS, consult an online or paper map, or ask a friend.

When we know we’re going to have to face God eventually about something that troubles us and grieves him, we …

How do you fill in the blank?

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus sounds a mite frustrated with the crowds. How can they be smart enough to forecast the weather based on the signs God provides and smart enough to negotiate a settlement rather than go to trial with a losing cause, and yet ignore all the signs that Jesus is fulfilling the Biblical prophecies?

How indeed. Maybe it was some of the same fear of change that makes us keep our distance from God at the times we know we are most in need of his help, that fear that there is no way in the world we could ever be forgiven for our sins. But the thing is, just as the crowds knew about the weather and earthly judgment, we know that seeking forgiveness and resolving to do better with God’s help is attainable. All we have to do is ask for direction.

Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week. All you have to lose is the weight on your soul.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Slaves of God

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.  But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed?   For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:20-23

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  Luke 12:49-51

Father, help us to turn away from our own lawlessness…not following your laws but instead following our own.  Jesus, open our ears to hear your message.  Holy Spirit, guide us toward the life-giving choices in our in our lives.  Amen.

Jesus once again has his brimstone stoked to white hot temperatures in today’s Good News.  What sets him off at the beginning of this chapter is the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  Jesus rejects their teachings and presents an alternative series of lessons.  These examples will not bind His followers with the law but instead free them from the law and bind them to God.

Fire and brimstone are common symbols of the Hebrew Bible used to reveal God’s anger with the actions of the people.  Fire also lead to purification and refinement.  While we are most familiar with the waters of the baptismal font, Jesus speaks today of the Baptism of Fire that he will endure. 

Baptism of Fire also refers to the trials and testing of the disciples – a higher stage of initiation than the cool waters of the font.  In many ways, Jesus is issuing a stern warning to those who will not change.  He is waning that our lawlessness and slavery to sin will lead to our destruction.  Turning toward Jesus will lead to sanctification and eternal life.

Jesus is asking us to love him more than our parents, more than our siblings, more than whatever we put importance on in our life.  If that love were already accomplished, Jesus would be able to avoid what he knows lies ahead – the cross.  As disciples, we too must endure these trials.

If we do not change, then we will suffer the same fate.  “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”  Luke 13:3

What division is Jesus asking us to endure?  What will the fires of baptism purify in us?

On a literal basis, Jesus describes practices which He says will bring divisions in families.  Change is difficult and some will cling to the old ways while others take on new ways.  However, it also means it will bring divisions into our hearts.  We will be pulled between two poles:  Sin and God.  Jesus is asking us to divide our lives from that which attracts us now and instead follow the path that will draw us to Him. 

What does it matter?  If we choose wisely rejecting ego, power and wealth, we will open ourselves to choices which can lead to eternal life instead of the fires that will consume those who failed to love God and to serve others. 

Jesus also tells us it will not be easy – using an unappealing metaphor of being the “slaves of God.”  He is not promising his disciples (or us) that we will live a life of royalty in a heavenly rose garden.  Living as His followers, we will have to share in not only His baptism in the cool, soothing waters of the Jordan, but also in his baptism of fiery pain on the cross.

Rather than awaiting Advent or Lent, what can you give up in life to become a closer follower of Jesus?  Can you commit to a new volunteer project?  Can you support a new charity?  Can you aid a homeless person you might see on the streets this week instead of waiting for the “social agencies” to serve him or her?  Can you share your advice or talents with someone who needs your help?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

“Gotta Serve Somebody”

By Colleen O’Sullivan
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.  Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.  (Romans 6:16-18)
And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  (Luke 12:42-46)
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
(from “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Bob Dylan)

In baptism, God gets hold of us and pulls us from the dirt and filth of sin, whether original and/or our own, and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, washes us clean.  As a symbol of our rising from the water to new life in Christ, we don white garments.  In essence, in our reading today from Paul’s letter to the Romans, the apostle admonishes us to keep our baptismal clothes white and unscathed.  Don’t go stomping in mud puddles or rolling in the dirt of sin again, he says.

Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” puts to music what the apostle more eloquently writes to the Christians in Rome.  Every one of us is going to serve something or someone.  When we’re baptized, we’re freed from slavery to sin.  We are free to choose goodness and love, free to serve the Lord.

The truth is, though, that on some days or during whole portions of our lives, we are slaves to people and things other than the Lord.  We conduct ourselves as though we’ve never felt the refreshing, cleansing waters of baptism.  Hard to imagine what those baptismal garments must look like today.  In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about a servant entrusted with the care of the household in his master’s absence.  This guy quickly demonstrates that he’s more enslaved to his self-interests than to his master’s wishes.  Jesus says he’s totally caught off-guard when the master returns.

It is true that he’s caught red-handed serving himself, but what saddens me equally is that he’s wasting his life.  He’s missing out on the joy, the redemption, the inner peace and the freedom that come only from serving Jesus Christ.

“You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Think back over the last 24 hours.  How have you spent your time?  What has occupied your thoughts?  What or whom have you served?

Blessed Servants

By Beth DeCristofaro

…be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. (Luke 12:36-37)


Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.

I will hold your people in my heart...
(Here I am Lord)


Mahatma Ghandi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Jesus might have smiled when Ghandi said this as I suspect this is part of what Jesus is saying to us and his disciples.  If, in fact, we are vigilant servants then we will experience the promise of eternal life.  It’s not earning the promise but learning, living into the promise.

Reflecting on just how vigilant I am gives me pause.  As I drive the many miles a day my job requires, I do take opportunities to say brief prayers of gratitude for the day or the light traffic or the inspiring people I meet.  But I also at times my lips blurt out less than sacred phrases at awful traffic or other drivers.  It can be difficult to recognize the myriad moments I am afforded to be kind and loving throughout the day depending on my state of distraction – internal or external.  When I react with spinelessness in the face of injustice I must admit that I placed myself at the center of my being rather than God which prompts my response.  In some of these moments I miss the knocking of the Master on my door. 


For me, seeking time with the Lord and inviting the Lord into my attention – not just on Sunday - is so necessary for my vigilance.  What works for you?  A spiritual director might keep you accountable as might your group reunion.  Retreats are soul nourishing as is time in Adoration.  One Lent I prayed the Stations of the Cross as I walked around Burke Lake…preparation for Advent might also warrant a prayer-walk.  Try something different like a labyrinth or Taize.

Be vigilant, the Bridegroom loves you so.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rich in What Matters

Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do.  That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.  But it was not for him alone that it was written that it was credited to him; it was also for us.  Romans 4:20-24a

But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’  Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”  Luke 12:20-21

Prayer does not change God, but it changes the person who prays.  Søren Kierkegaard

Luke serves up stories of the rich and powerful made humble.  His Gospel opens with the Canticle of Mary where we hear the theme set forth so powerfully:
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  Luke 1:51-53

Luke does not relate how Jesus calls the Pharisees and scribes, the Romans and the soldiers.  Instead, he calls the fishermen and the paralytics.  To those who speak the truth of Gospel poverty to the powerful, they find the inside of a prison cell.  To those who do not resist temptation, they find death.  Jesus’ sermons preach woe to the rich.

What matters to God?  His foremost concern is fulfilling His promise, the same promise that the Lord made to Adam, to Abraham, to Joseph and to us.  However, it does not stop there.  Like the father of the Prodigal Son, the Lord also awaits our change and the advent of our faith to fulfill our promise to Him.

There is a popular quote about the life of a child that comes to mind when reading today’s Gospel.  A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”  First published in the October 1950 issue of Scouting magazine, here is the rest of what Forest E. Witcraft wrote about what is within the power of one person.

If we accept the Gospel responsibility of active love – doing unto others – then this idea is not limited to the life of a child but applies to everyone we meet. 

These days, there are many popular options for tracking your bills, loans, investments and bank accounts.  Quicken and Mint as two that might be at the forefront of your mind.  But our daily diary fixation does not stop there with the computing power that’s locked in your pocket or purse.  You also can track the location of a lost cell phone, how many miles you have driven in your car, where you run, where you ride your bike, where a FedEx or UPS package is, and even, yes, where your boyfriend or girlfriend might be.  You can track your Weight Watcher points, your Frequent Flier miles, your hotel reward points, your office time and expenses, and more.

One of the more interesting “apps” for your phone is a way to track your gratitude and happiness.  By tracking your feelings you can see what makes you happy and healthy.  The program tracks when you express thanksgiving, stay in touch with friends, and do acts of kindness.

Maybe I should develop an app that allows us to track when we pray to God[i] (ACTS), when we stay in touch with him through study of the scriptures and other sacred texts, and when we do the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy to carry on His work on earth. 

How would you do if you had to track the little things that bring you close moments with God?

(PS: Any app developers out there want to give me a hand in building the Your Daily Tripod Life Tracker?)

[i] ACTS:  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication