Thursday, February 27, 2014

Standing Before the Gates

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. (James 5:9)
The Lord is kind and merciful. (Psalm 103:8)
(Jesus told the Pharisees:) “Therefore what God has joined together no human being must separate. (Mark 10:9)

Lord, help me to love as You love, without restriction.

“Who am I to judge?”

Five words that shook the world last July. It’s what Pope Francis said about gay people in response to a reporter’s question about a “gay lobby” in the Vatican.

“Do not judge so that you may not be judged.”

Ten words that likely shook the crowd when Jesus spoke them, words that so resonated that the missive is restated in James 5 in today’s first reading.

And yet, we continue to try to step in and do the Lord’s job for Him: that provocatively dressed young woman must be promiscuous. That man who cut us off in traffic is a self-centered jerk, or worse. The parents who are oblivious to the ruckus their children are making are irresponsible and inconsiderate.

The thing is, we don’t know and usually never will. The provocatively dressed young woman may be on her way to a shelter. That man who cut us off in traffic may be heading for a hospital to see a dying loved one. The parents who are oblivious to the ruckus their children are making may be mulling a critical relationship decision.

Only God knows what’s in their hearts and souls—and ours. Let’s thank Him for relieving us of any responsibility to sort it all out… and trust.

When you’re in a public setting today, consider the possible back story of those who annoy you by their behavior. Pray for them.

Pass the Salt

Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.  James 5:4-5

Fear not when a man grows rich, when the wealth of his house becomes great, For when he dies, he shall take none of it; his wealth shall not follow him down. (Psalm 49:17-18)

“Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”  Mark 9:50

You are the salt of the earth
But if that salt has lost its flavor
It ain't got much in its favor
You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth!
(From Godspell by Steven Schwartz)

“Pass the salt.”  When you share a meal with others, how many times have you heard or used that expression?

Salt is something we might be tempted to take for granted. It is plain, cheap, common, simple and…well, salty.  We pour it on like the little girl under her umbrella – “When it rains, it pours.”  Salts over-use in modern society is equated with hypertension and other health problems.  However, salt has not always had such a bad reputation. 

Before there was refrigeration, salt was essential to preservation of food and fish – and therefore for health and life.  In addition, salt added taste.  Not only does salt season and preserve, but salt heals.  It has antiseptic properties. People used to go to the ocean to bathe in the waters for healing effects.  A lot of people go to the beach to sit in the sun.  I go to swim in the water.  Even today, we might soak our sore feet in warm water and salt. 

Salt also irritates.  Did you ever get salt in a cut?  It burns.  In that way it is like fire (another element that has good and bad properties in how it affects life.  Finally, salt penetrates.  Did you ever add just a pinch of salt to food or drink?  A small dash of salt added to a gallon of hot or cold water changes the taste of the entire jar.

The pairing of this simile of salt with the condemnation of the indifferent rich gives us cause for pause.  Common salt is set in opposition to the isolating and selfish effects of wealth.  Everything that heightens our senses and makes us more aware of our surroundings is good.  Everything that isolates us from our neighbor, everything which deadens our awareness of others may lead us away from just solutions.  Think Lazarus and the rich man.   Throughout sacred scripture, we are reminded over and over that “You shall not exploit your neighbor. You shall not commit robbery. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your laborer.”  Ignore these warnings at your own peril because just as we brought nothing into the world, we shall not be able to take anything out.

Are you living a bland, boring life?  Are you subjected to the bland leading the bland?  What seasons your life?  Communities dedicated to social justice are often referred to as “salt and light” because they try to spread a sense of justice to penetrate, activate and change life. They also may irritate the powerful. 

Salt is good.  But we do not want to become hoarders keeping salt warehouse or its beneficial wealth for ourselves like some rich person in the Bible or on Wall Street.  Instead, Jesus wants us to become salt shakers adding spice to the lives of others around us.  Imagine if the rich man had shared a little of his salt, his food and his money with Lazarus at his gates.  He would have been spared from the irritating and burning fires of hell and would have been the example to save his family before he was condemned. 

Never lose your saltiness.  Our lives and our communities would become good for nothing.  “If salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

Every sacrifice we offer – and the days of Lenten sacrifice are only a week away – must be salted with salt.  The purifying and preservative use of salt in food and the refinement of fire are comparable to the spiritual life of the disciples of Jesus.  Our engagement in piety, study and action are meant to add spice to our lives.  And our spiritual life is not something that exists separate and apart from the rest of our life.  

What will salt your experience today?  How will you be made more aware of the plight of the poor surrounding you? How can you be the salt shaker sharing the experience of the Good News with others?   

Pass the Salt.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh, the Places You’ll Go With God!

By Colleen O’Sullivan
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit” – you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.  Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.”  (James 4:13-15)

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
(Suscipe, St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Decades ago, Lord, you, who knew me before you formed me in my mother’s womb, called me into being.  For as long as I can remember, you have gone before me, just like the pillar of cloud or of fire, always there, frequently turning around, beckoning me to follow.  And what a journey it has been!

Yes, there have been detours on my part, but whenever I’ve strayed, you’ve been there to show me the way again.  You’ve taken me places I never dreamed of going and you’ve filled my life with more friends than I could ever have imagined.  You’ve laughed and rejoiced with me on many an occasion.  You’ve carried me in times of illness and despair.  You’ve put an arm around me, held me up and wiped away my tears in times of sorrow.  I love you dearly, Lord.

So, how is it that I so often find myself struggling with you for the driver’s seat?  Why do I persist in chasing the illusion that I am lord of my life?  Forgive me my arrogance, Lord.  Not my will but your will be done.

I hope that at some point before I die I can pray the Suscipe prayer and mean what I’m saying.  It is so difficult some days to surrender my will to God’s will.  I’m a person who loves organization, planning and my datebook, yet God’s plans for me always turn out to be better than anything I could ever think up.

If you have some time for reflection today, look at any 10-year segment of your life.  What were your plans at the beginning of those 10 years?  Where did God lead you during that time?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Be Childlike before God and World

By Beth DeCristofaro

Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? … So submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  (James 4:4, 7-8)

(Jesus said) “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37)

I call upon you, Lord God.  Lord, save me. (Psalm 55:17)

Those of us in health care must constantly be vigilant to treat patients with deep respect for their human dignity because there is such a power inequality between those serving and those being served.  We must not see people as the “kidney failure down in room 230” or “that difficult old guy who keeps calling me every five minutes for nothing.”   Love allows me to know that when my kidney fails I will be just like her.  Humility informs me that when I find myself with dementia I too will be calling out for a familiar, safe face.  I have human kidneys, a human mind and God gave them to me as well as you.

In a homily, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton[i], said “God only wants us to become the full person that God has made us to be. That is why God wants us to seek out what is good, to seek out how to be a full person, by loving and being loved. That is our relationship with God. Loving God and being loved by God.”   Jesus’ choice of a little child is so apt because children eager to love and to be loved just as God wants us to be.  Children also delight in being full of potential.  They love to soak up newness and enjoy finding out what their bodies, emotions and minds can do.   Our relationship with God is likewise full of potential joy, love, and fulfillment.  But we can’t grow toward God by focusing solely on the world even though it, too, is a powerfully awesome example of God’s creative love. 

What brings out the childlike in you?  What might you do to experience not only the giddy fun and awed wonder but the freedom to admit how much you do not know yet long to know, not in guilt and regret but in anticipation?  Play some children’s music in the background as you sit with God in silence or pray using children’s prayers.

Take an opportunity to humble yourself by accepting aid, love, nurturing from the next person who offers it.  Thank God for loving you through God’s servant.

Help My Unbelief

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.  James 3:17-18

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”  Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”  Mark 9:23-24

Help my unbelief.  All around me are example of hypocrisy.  Help me to ignore what others may or may not do and just be concerned with what I do and how I make our church a poor church for the poor. 

Just last Friday, on these very virtual pages, Melanie Rigney’s “Faith Without Works is Dead” was the last word on the faith v works debate.  Or so I thought.  Turns out it was the latest.  Until today that is when our itinerant carpenter from Nazareth declares, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Everything?  Possible? 

Jesus must not hear the kind of “comfort-the-comfortable” preaching in American pulpits.  For example, the Good News says it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  Fortunately, the priest or deacon can take that as the cue to say that’s not really what it means literally.  The rich man just needs to give to the church to get into heaven.  Works prevail. Imagine if Jesus were in the pews.  Do you think he would stand up to object and speak in absolutes like he did in today’s reading?

Everything!  Possible!  Everything is possible to one who has faith.  Even to get a camel to pass through the eye of the needle.  Even to get a rich man into heaven.  Even to cure this boy of the demons who possess him. Possible?  Yes.  Then Jesus gets up and shows us how work is done by His faith.

We do not have to look too far for examples of how people can get easily distracted from what this debate really means and why it really matters.  In one homily last year, Pope Francis told priests to practice what they preach, saying the church's credibility was on the line.  Pope Francis said ordinary Catholics need to "see in our actions what they hear from our lips."

Francis has made himself an example of a more humble and frugal church by refusing many of the trappings of the papacy, living in the Vatican hotel rather than the Apostolic Palace and wearing a simple white cassock of the papacy rather than fancy vestments and capes for formal occasions that his predecessors wore.

"Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the church's credibility," he said.

How can we be more consistent in our faith today? Everything is possible if we can.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Become a Fool

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary time 2014 A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Leviticus 19:2B,18B

If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise.  1 Corinthians 3:18B

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.  If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well.  Matthew 5:39-40

Piety flows out of our being Temples of the Holy Spirit.  We are God’s temples and the goodness of our lives reflects the holiness that flows out of our use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  In the fruits of the Spirit’s presence in our lives Christ lives on in who we are by the good we do for one another.  We inherit the kingdom of god because of our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  All of these fruits of the Spirit bespeak how Christ reaches the others of our lives.  This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.  God gave us the gift of freedom.  The purpose of life is to return our freedom to God by how we live the gift of our lives for others.  There is no law about love.  Love begins where justice leaves off.  The more that we do out of love is the surrender of our freedom to the need of another.  This is how we live in the spirit.  Selfishness is when we use the gift of life exclusively for ourselves.  Selflessness is when we live and do what we can for the need of another.  Jesus identifies with our needs and even as we need one another we become Christ for each other.  Christ takes what is done for another as done for himself. 

We study how to belong to Christ.  Christ is willing to give us his heart.  He gave his life for us in the death on the cross.  We give our lives back to Christ when we give our lives for each other.  We can only die once.  All of life is made up of many little dying as we give our time and our energy to what another needs done.  We study how best to give what we can for each other.  Any little thing is worth doing because only the ordinary is extraordinary in the kingdom of God.  It is not what we are doing that makes something significant in the kingdom of God.  It is with how much love we do what we do that makes the difference.  The Spirit of God dwells within us and what we do in the name of Christ unlocks the gates of heaven to our love. 

Our actions unleash the spirit of God within us when we do what we do out of love of our neighbor.  Wherever there is love, God is there.  The extra mile is only an extra mile without love.  We are the floodgates of God’s love until we are honestly trying to do more than we are being asked to do.  Love is never wasted.  I call trying to do more than is being asked of us working on our heavenly portfolio.  Nothing that is done in the name of Christ is ever wasted.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tend the Flock

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.  Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.  1 Peter 5:2-3

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  Matthew 16:15-19

The Lord is my pace setter, I shall not rush. 
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals. 
He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity. 
He leads me in ways of efficiency through calmness of mind, and his guidance is peace. 
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here. 
His timelessness, His all-importance will keep me in balance. 
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity, by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility. 
My cup of joyous energy overflows; surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours. 
For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord, and dwell in His house forever.  (Psalm 23 Japanese version quoted by Paul Wagler in 2009 on his blog Abbey Mountain)

When did you get your first key?  What did it open?  What did it offer?

Long before I ever got a key to the house (or a car), I got a key to a bike lock and a school locker.  Being the keeper of the key gave me control.  I could open things others could not.  I could go places on my own without a parent, relative, neighbor or sibling having to drive me.  I could keep some things secure without having to worry about who might take them away. 

Jesus offers all this to Peter and to us.  Jesus gives us the key to life:  free will to choose to open up our relationship with the Lord.  We are in control of saying “Yes” or “No” to the Lord.   We can choose to go places with Jesus or go it alone.  We can secure our lives in trust and humility.

While the figurative keys that Jesus gifts to Peter have come to symbolize the Papacy, those keys also are entrusted to us.  These keys are our keys to choosing a relationship with Jesus.  We can choose to open it or leave it locked away and turn instead to “shameful profit.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Faith Without Works Is Dead

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney
See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:24, 26)
Blessed the man who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands. (Psalm 112:1)
Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

Lord, let me answer Your call, doing Your will to bring souls to the kingdom.

Ah, the old faith vs. works debate. You know the basics: Protestants say we’re saved by faith alone. Catholics say we show our faith by our works. I’m no theologian, but I suspect that chasm isn’t as deep in practice as it sounds in theory. For if we are saved, are we not bursting to share the Good News with others? Do we not want to do all we can to bring souls to the kingdom? Do we have to do that? Does that really matter? Isn’t the important thing that our hearts and souls are on fire for Christ, and that we attempt to live our lives and relationships reflecting that?

We’re all on a mission here, a mission whose outward appearances vary by individual and by time and place. It may be raising a family for some; for others, it may be drawing others to faith by a charism in the arts. It may be a ministry in social justice or with friends, or it may be a ministry of cloistered contemplation and meditation.

Picking up that cross and living a Christ-centered life involves loss—loss of self, loss of demons and doubts, loss of fear and ego. It is through our attempts to live that life that we show our love—for Christ and neighbor, difficult as both may be at times. For me, all this gloriously blurs the line between faith and works, and leaves me indifferent to the great debate. And I suspect this is one of those debates that will matter little in the next world, for we’ll all be too busy singing the Lord’s praises.

What works does your faith result in today? Make a list. Thank God for the gift of your ministries. Resolve to do them joyfully.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Choose Those Who Are Poor

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.  Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he promised to those who love him?  But you dishonored the poor.  Are not the rich oppressing you?  And do they themselves not haul you off to court?  James 2:5-6

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”  Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.  Mark 8:29-30

Lord, we know that you hear the cry of the poor because we do such an inadequate job of hearing their voices over the buzz of our iPod and the distraction of Candy Craze or Farmville.  Help us to realize that most Americans on the bus or subway earn more in a year than 98 percent of the rest of the world.  Help us to be aware and do something about honoring the poor. Amen.

Sometimes, sacred Scriptures sound like a skipping recrecrecrecord…that old-fashioned disk of plastic with a groove cut in for sound to be recorded. Once again, James reminds us to exalt the humble and humble those who think they should be exalted. Why do we come back to this theme over and over and over and over again?

Maybe because we do exactly the opposite. This week, with the Sochi Olympics, we are laser-focused on elite athletes (physically rich).  In the news more than the athletes is Vlad Putin the Russian leader (politically rich).   Also in the headlines is the elevation of Jimmy Fallon into the host chair on late night TV.   Even though the next national election is two years away, some are intent to focus on potential enemies and rivals in order to tear down the reputations of political heavyweights like:

a.   Hillary Clinton
b.   Scott Walker
c.   Elizabeth Warren
d.   Chris Christie
e.   Barack Obama
f.    Rand Paul
g.   All of the Above

Who does not get their right to life in all the competing stories?  A young black teen shot in Florida for playing loud music.  Native American slandered by the names of sports teams. A music teacher shot in the doorway of her own home by a man who just walked up and killed her.

We need reminders because we have not acted like we get the message.  Yet.

Do one thing today to exalt the poor…even if that is just to ignore the media obsession with wealth, beauty, power and celebrity.  After all, if God chose the poor to be rich in faith, don’t you think God would have chosen Ruthann Lodato over Vladimir Putin or Jordan Davis over Jimmy Fallon?


Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror.  He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. (James 1:23-24)
(Jesus) took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?”  Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”  Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.   (Mark 8:23-25)

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.
(from Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1779)

Key to today’s Gospel story is where it’s placed in Mark’s Gospel.  The Pharisees on more than one occasion have proven themselves blind to Jesus’ true identity.  Instead of the Son of God, they see a troublemaker to be silenced.  The disciples, for all the time they spend with their leader, haven’t demonstrated much more clarity of vision than the Pharisees.  They don’t understand the feeding of the 5,000.  They wonder who this man is that can calm a storm.  They don’t comprehend the parables.  Jesus finally asks them in exasperation, “Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?”  After today’s healing story, Jesus will ask the disciples what people are saying about his identity and who the disciples think he is.  This will be coupled with his attempts to warn them that he will be rejected and will suffer and die.

In between, Jesus takes the blind man from Bethsaida off by himself to heal him.  No, Jesus’ healing powers haven’t waned.  This multi-stage healing story is a parable in and of itself about healing and spiritual growth as processes, not one-time events.  And they’re most often not straight line, smooth processes, either.  When I look at my own life, I think I spent many years knowing a lot about Jesus before I ever really came to know him.  As Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, points out in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, it’s paradoxically often our stumblings, our failings, and our losses that are the vehicles for spiritual growth. 

In our first reading, James moves us beyond knowing and loving Jesus to a further step in our spiritual lives.  Once your vision has become relatively clear, he tells us, don’t hurry past the mirror.  Look and see how dearly loved and blessed you are by the Lord.  Notice how much you have to share with others.  Then find the widows and orphans (the most destitute of all people in James’ time), and be doers of God’s word.

Spend a few minutes today reflecting on times when Jesus has lovingly touched the eyes of your heart with healing.  With gratitude for the grace received, reach out to an “orphaned” or “widowed” brother or sister and share out of your abundance.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Celebrate Birth Days

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.  Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.  (James 1:12, 14-15)

Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?   (Mark 8:15-18)

Instruct your servant, O God, in perseverance against temptation.  Open my ears and eyes, soften my heart so that I recognize and resist my own desires.  Each day with your grace might I strive to love you and live to make others love you.

During a Centering Prayer retreat a participant asked, “I find myself thinking of so many other things when I try to sit in silence with God”.  Our retreat leader responded that all those moments of awareness are moments that we can turn consciously back to God.  His perspective was very encouraging to me in my constant struggle with distractions.  I find the same perspective helpful when I consider those moments when I do not persevere against temptation and I clearly “have eyes and not see, ears and not hear.  With God’s grace I can become aware and turn back to God.  Turn again and again to be born again to Christ as my primary focus and path.

Can we see these opportunities as birthdays?  We can stop playing the external game of “my desires” and prioritize God’s desires instead our own.  February 18, 1903, St. Gertrude Comensoli died and thus celebrated her heavenly birthday in eternity.  All during her life she chose Jesus above all others first as a child when she committed herself to the Eucharist and then later as a religious, educator and founder of the Institute of the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament.  Her life was not easy nor is it any easier for you or me to persevere in temptation without God. 

Jesus tells the disciples not to accept the false leaven of the Pharisees.  St. Gertrude’s creed of living, “Jesus, loving You and making others love You,”  illustrates a way to live Jesus’ words.   Read more about St. Gertrude in Sisterhood of Saints.  Perhaps we can also pay attention today to the opportunities to turn back to Jesus when we have not persevered.  See each opportunity as a new birth in our life with Jesus.  Also, if you have the chance tell someone Happy Birthday!  Today, for example, the founder and editor of Our Daily Tripod celebrates his earthly birthday.  Happy Birthday and Many Blessings, Tony.

Monday, February 17, 2014

From the Depths of His Spirit

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in high standing, and the rich one in his lowliness, for he will pass away “like the flower of the field.”  For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes.  So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.  James 1:9-11

He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign?  Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”  Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.  Mark 8:12-13

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His Name. (From the Canticle of Mary)

James and Jesus remind us today that the Lord has always looked with favor upon His lowly servants, scattering the proud, casting down the mighty and sending the rich away empty.    From the depths of his spirit, Jesus looks down upon this request from the Pharisees. 

But wait, we have been given plenty of signs in the six short weeks of this Liturgical Ordinary Time.  From the depths of his spirit, Jesus has never looked down nor refused to heal the sick, cast out demons, nor answer the prayers of the lepers.  In the readings Saturday, we saw the sign of Jesus feeding the 5,000 out of a few loaves and fish.  Last Friday, Jesus made the deaf man hear.  Thursday, Jesus chased the demon from the possessed girl.  In Gennesaret, as many as touched his robe were healed.  So, on the surface, this admonition to the Pharisees seems wrong. 

We seek a sign and the only sign we will get is the sign that says, “Testing Underway.”  Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3).   My bet is that this is not the first time you have encountered this table-turning teaching.  From the Magnificat to the Acts of the Apostles, this is a frequent teaching of the New Testament derived from the words and sufferings of Jesus and sacred traditions dating back to the Hebrew Bible. 

The notes to the New American Bible for the beginning of the Letter of James remind us that the sequence of testing, perseverance, and being perfect and complete indicates the manner of attaining spiritual maturity and full preparedness for the coming of Christ.  These steps require wisdom gained in experience, not the shortcut that the Pharisees seek nor an easily observed “sign.”
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, or 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 5:10-12)

So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. (Acts 5:41)

How will you be tested today?  How will you react to the test?  Like the doubting, skeptical Pharisees or like those seeking healing based upon faith?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

To Fulfill

Sixth Sunday of OrdinaryTime 2014 A

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.  Sirach 15:15-16

We speak God’s wisdom.  1 Corinthians 2:7a

I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Matthew 5:17b

The gradual change of why we do things happens as we grow in age and wisdom.  The law of the Lord begins in our hearts.  It is the wisdom of the ages that allows us to see the difference between good and evil.  Happiness flows out of the doing good.  The commandments of the Lord are the introduction to the plan of God.  We are called into God’s life and the commandments are an expression of what we must do to have his life.  Christ is the human expression of what is the right way to do something.  The commandments are the eternal expression of the right way to live.  By God’s sharing his life with us, he gives us the wherewithal to love each other as he has loved us.

We study the commandments of God because they will save us.  We realize that happiness comes from living the good life with all the people of our life.  We study how to love each other in the realization that the challenge of life is love one another even as Christ has loved us.  We know that we are blessed when we walk in the love of the Lord.  We study how the coming of Christ fulfills the law.  He came that we might have life and have it more fully.

We walk in the footprints of the Lord.  He is the perfect leader because he has gone first and we need but follow.  The Lord sees our hearts and what we intend to do. He judges us by our intentions, not so much our performance.  He reveals to us in the depths of our hearts what we should be doing.  He sends into our lives the challenge of the good people of our lives.  We do as they do to make our world the expression of the God of love by the way we offer our lives for one another.  We know we are called to love the people we see that we can truly say we love the God we do not see.  Like it or not we are called to preach by our actions more than our words.  The law of the Lord is the secret of happiness and if we did not have the revelation of Gods law we would have needed to invent the commandments if we wanted to be happy.