Thursday, July 31, 2014

“Is He Not the Carpenter’s Son?”

Feast of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

By Melanie Rigney

Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the house of the Lord and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord; whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing. Perhaps they will listen and turn back, each from his evil way, so that I may repent of the evil I have planned to inflict upon them for their evil deeds. (Jeremiah 26:2-3)

Those outnumber the hairs on my head who hate me without cause. Too many for my strength are they who wrongfully are my enemies. Must I restore what I did not steal? (Psalms 69:5)

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” and they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:54-58)

Holy Spirit, Divine Consoler, I adore You as my true God, with God the Father and God the Son. I adore You and united myself to the adoration you receive from the angels and saints. I give You my heart and I offer my ardent thanksgiving for all the grace which You never cease to bestow on me. (Opening of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Prayer for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates nearly 12 percent of Americans move every year.  Whether that move is across the country or across town, it’s an opportunity to start fresh. We can arrange the furniture and the cupboards as we like, find new friends, discover new restaurants, restart our faith lives as members of a different congregation, and perhaps leave behind some bad habits and behaviors. In some ways, it’s like receiving the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation—we start anew, clean and fresh.

Except, of course, that the people who know us remember us and our space as they were. Like the people of Jesus’ hometown, they can be a bit cynical. They saw us yell at our children. They heard us gossip about the neighbors. They have a bit of insight into just how messy our homes, our yards, and our lives were.  They aren’t accepting of the possibility that we might have changed or that we always had something to offer them and the world and that it just took a while for it to show.

When Jesus was in this situation, he didn’t call people out beyond a mild rebuke. But he didn’t perform the mighty deeds he might have otherwise. It’s a good lesson in how to deal with those who knew us when… and a reminder to us to be open to the possibility of change in others. If we’re not, we will be diminished.


Have a conversation with someone you find difficult to love. Turn off the internal filters that tempt you to anticipate what the person is going to say based on the history. Listen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do You Understand

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.  Then the word of the LORD came to me: “Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?” says the LORD.  Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.  Jeremiah 18:4-6

“Do you understand all these things?”  Matthew 13:51a

“Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me. Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.” (

Ever have one of those nasty verbal jousts with your [fill-in-the-blank].  (parent/teenager/spouse/etc.)?  Probably no reader of Your Daily Tripod falls into this category but you may have seen one on TV.  One party in the spat decides s/he has had enough and starts to walk away.    

Think back to that famous scene in “The Sound of Music” when the Captain returns from a trip and finds his children have been traipsing around Salzburg wearing clothes that were fashioned out of old draperies.  Pardon me for the long quote but it is a fun scene and you will see afterward how I think this relates to the image of the potter.  You can skip over the quoted movie dialogue and watch the classic movie spat here starting at minute 44:00. 

Let’s pick up with Maria defending the children at play:

Maria: Children can't do all the things they're supposed to if they have to worry about spoiling their precious clothes.
Captain von Trapp: They haven't complained yet.
Maria: Well, they wouldn't dare! They love you too much. They *fear* you too much!
Captain von Trapp: I don't wish you to discuss my children in this manner.
Maria: Well, you've got to hear from someone! You're never home long enough to know them.
Captain von Trapp: I said I don't want to hear any more from you about my children!
Maria: I know you don't, but you've got to! Now, take Liesl.
Captain von Trapp: [hesitatingly] You will not say one word about Liesl, Fraulein.
Maria: She's not a child anymore, and one of these days, you're going to wake up and find that she's a woman. You won't even know her. And Friedrich, he's a boy, but he wants to be a man and there's no one to show him how.
Captain von Trapp: Don't you dare tell me about my son.
Maria: Brigitta could tell you about him if you let her get close to you. She notices everything.
Captain von Trapp: Fraulein...
Maria: And Kurt pretends he's tough not to show how hurt he is when you brush him aside,
Captain von Trapp: That will do!
Maria: the way you do all of them. Louisa I don't even know about yet,
Captain von Trapp: I said that will do!
Maria: but somebody has to find out about her, and the little ones just want to be loved. Oh, please, Captain, love them! Love them all!
Captain von Trapp: I don't care to hear anything further from you about my children.
Maria: I am not finished yet, Captain!
Captain von Trapp: Oh, yes, you are, Captain!  [pauses, then corrects himself] Fraulein!

Of course, if you have seen the movie 93 times like me, you remember that the relationship blooming between Maria and the Captain is far from mature at this point.  The relationship between Maria and the convent changes…between Maria and the children…between the Captain and the Baroness. 

Fittingly, we consider the image of the potter and an unfinished masterpiece on the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, priest and founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  Ignatius certainly did not set out to start a religious order any more than St. Francis or St. Benedict did.  In fact, Ignatius was on his way to a stellar military career when his leg was shattered by canon fire.  While recuperating, he picked up a copy of the Lives of the Saints and a study of the life of Jesus.  Thus began a reshaping of the clay of his life into one devoted to Christ.  During a pilgrimage inspired by a vision of Mary, he also began to write down the now-classic Spiritual Exercises and started working “for the greater glory of God” and not for the greater glory of the king and queen of Spain or the head if its army. 

“How do you make God laugh?”  A:  “Tell the Lord your plans.” 

Our story line is not complete and the outcome is not solely left to our own devices, either.  As we understand the work of the potter at the wheel, she is not done with her clay until…well, until she is done with her clay and puts it in the oven to bake and set hard.  As long as the potter is working at the wheel, if she does not like how it is turning out, the potter can reshape her clay at any point for a different end result.  Everything is a work-in-progress -- a masterpiece waiting to emerge from the clay.

Our relationships with the Lord and with each other are not over yet either.  Just like the potter does not give up on her clay, the Lord does not give up on shaping our lives. 

Think back to the many twists and turns your story has taken.  Opportunity.  Threat.  Tragedy. Comedy.  Strength.  Weakness.  Where will it go from here?  As you consider how many times your path has changed, contemplate how many more changes you will face today, tomorrow and into the distant future.

We are the clay.  He is the Potter-Father-Abba. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Am With You

By Melanie Rigney

… I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the Lord. I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent. (Jeremiah 15:20-21)

Rescue me from my enemies, O my God; from my adversaries defend me. (Psalms 59:1)

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

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(Closing lines of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost)

It isn’t easy to be a Christian. It’s not easy for those who recently left Iraq. It’s not easy for those in North Korea. And it’s not always easy in the United States today. Enemies are always there, whether they come in the form of people with weapons or in the form of temptations that challenge our weak spots such as our vanity or pride.

Sometimes, we get bogged down in the challenges and the persecutions. We wonder why God lets all this happen and why we have to slog through it alone. But we forget that we are never alone, in good times and bad. The presence of Christ makes the horrors a little less horrible, and the joys a little more joyful. We know what waits at the end of the trail.

It isn’t easy to be a Christian. It never has been. But little worthwhile is. We’ve been handed, to quote from Matthew, “a pearl of great price.” All we had to pay for it was devotion, and the sincere effort to love the Lord, our neighbors, and ourselves. It’s a steal of a deal.

Thank God today in your prayer time. Don’t ask for a single thing.

We Look To You Alone, Lord

By Beth DeCristofaro

Is it not you alone, O LORD, our God, to whom we look?  You alone have done all these things. (Jeremiah 14:22)

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  (Martha)  said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11:25-27)

Lord, I am coming to you, soon.  Show me the way.  Help me to show others the way to you, too.

Last week we watched Mary Magdalene’s grief turn to evangelizing as she spoke with and was “commissioned” by the risen Jesus to tell the apostles that she had seen him.  Today Martha, before she witnessed Jesus bringing Lazarus back from death, acclaimed her understanding and acceptance of Jesus’ divinity.  These two remarkable women were in many ways very unremarkable women of their times.  What burned in them was the recognition that God was present, that each had a relationship with Jesus and they were willing to speak their faith aloud.

I knew a funny, big-hearted man who, as he told me, was once a “mean drunk.”  Before he got sober some 30 years before, he described himself as bar hopping to drink and pick fights.  He lost his job, his family and much of his health due to alcoholism.  What brought him back to a more normal life with self-esteem restored was the stunning understanding that he could not beat his addiction alone.  His recovery came when he asked Jesus to help him and he faithfully followed the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous with lots of help from friends who held him accountable.  When I knew Brad (name made up) he was happily remarried and retired from his job of many years because of deteriorating health.

Brad was an unabashed witness to the power of grace in his life.  Ever in pain because of his health, Brad told me that he prayed every morning thanking Jesus for saving him.  He told me that Jesus would ask him “Brad, are you ready to come home today?”  Brad’s answer just made me laugh and cry.  “No, Lord, not today, I’m not ready.  But I’m coming soon!”  I will often pray Brad’s prayer and it never fails to lift me up as he was lifted up.

What does my witness look like each day?  Do I greet the day with gratitude and ask for Jesus’s direction?  Look for the opportunity to witness to your belief in the resurrected Christ.  Say a prayer also for the 141st Women’s Team which is now in formation, preparing to witness to a new group of Cursillistas.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dwell in Its Branches

This wicked people who refuse to obey my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods to serve and adore them, shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.  For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.  But they did not listen.  Jeremiah 13:10-11

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”  Matthew 13:31-32

Father, help us to devote time to better understanding the message in your parables. Help us to be your people and dwell in the branches of your Kingdom.  Amen.

The readings have been overdosing on similes and metaphors over the past few days.  The Kingdom of God is like:
  • A peal of great price.
  • A net thrown into the sea.
  • A loincloth.
  • A blossoming mustard seed/large bush
  • Yeast.
  • A man who sowed good seed.
  • A house with many rooms.
  • All of the above and more.

The question posed yesterday in the Sunday Gospel continues to apply today:  “Do you understand all these things?”  Our study is intended to help us to understand these and more that is revealed to us in studying scripture.  Sometimes we are helped by the homily when we attend Mass.  But on weekdays, most of us are on our own.

The parables used by Jesus are stories and allegories that illustrate and compare Christian truths and events of everyday life.  The notes to the NAB explain that, “Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples’ understanding and the crowd’s obtuseness are attributed to God. The question of human responsibility for the obtuseness is not dealt with.” 

Our work is to think about these stories and understand all of the various meanings.  The fact that Jesus uses many different stories means that heaven is not one-dimensional.  In fact, the Kingdom of God has many dimensions and each parable illustrates a different attribute of life.  Our understanding is enhanced as we add each allusion to our understanding of life.

Some of the parables continue to hold meaning today.  A pearl of great price in ancient Palestine is understood the same way today because we still value a string of pearls or pearl earrings.  However, we mostly buy our bread in grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants so some might not understand the relevance of yeast.  We also get our mustard in a condiment jar, spice bottle or little yellow packet.  Rarely do we grow it in Northern Virginia.   

Cursillo uses lots of other images:  rainbows vested across the blue sky; fields of flowers dressed for spring; and witnessing the sunrise on clear and bright mornings.  

How do you view the Kingdom of God?  What is your modern parable for the Kingdom of God?  What is your favorite image or parable?  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Pearl of Great Price

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.  For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”  1 Kings 3:9

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

Piety is the Wisdom of God that has given our souls the control over what are the good we do. Piety is the openness of our hearts to God’s way of doing things. It gives us the reason for doing what should be done that our minds might not always understand. Our hearts have reasons that the mind does not always understand. Love is the connection we have with God.

We reflect on why God was pleased with Solomon’s choice of Wisdom. For the Christian, wisdom is doing things God’s way. We pick up wisdom by learning from the mistakes we have make. We delve into wisdom to discover what is possible to God’s love within our hearts. Love makes it possible to live with each other without being crushed by the onslaughts of Materialism, Secularism and Individualism.

The pearl of great price is God’s love. We do what we can to live our lives with Christ as our model. The words and example of Christ offer us the best way to be close to God.

We do our best to share God’s love in Christ. Christ is worth giving up everything worthwhile that is earth bound. We learn to live for our place in heaven.  Christ puts the victory of the Resurrection on our hearts. Being cast into the dark is not an option of wisdom. We do what is right by keeping our lives alert to the simple things by living our lives for one another. The pearls of great price challenge us to put the real price on being a good person. No good deed is ever wasted for God.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reform Your Ways

Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place, in the land I gave your fathers long ago and forever.  (Jeremiah 7:5-7)

“His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”  (Matthew 13:28B-30)

Parents of Mary, pray for parents everywhere – especially those in Central American and in our country – that they may be able to provide the same kind of safe, loving home and faithful teaching that you provided your daughter.  Help us to reform our ways so that we, too, may support those in this quest.  Amen.

The notes in the New American Bible shed some light on the meaning of the parable in today’s reading from Matthew:

The refusal of the householder to allow his slaves to separate the wheat from the weeds while they are still growing is a warning to the disciples not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God by a definitive exclusion of sinners from the kingdom. In its present stage it is composed of the good and the bad. The judgment of God alone will eliminate the sinful. Until then there must be patience and the preaching of repentance.

If our work is not to pass judgment on others, what then are we to do?  Jeremiah provides a sense of that answer in the first reading.  We are to hold up our end of the covenant while on this planet and God will hold up God’s end. We can start by reforming our ways and deeds.
  • Deal justly with our neighbor;
  • Support the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow;
  • Stop sacrificing in the temple and choose mercy instead; and
  • Follow strange influences to our own harm.

The “alien/stranger/outsider” was a specially protected within Israelite society.  References to these responsibilities abound in the Hebrew Bible. 
  • You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)
  • “If an alien who lives among you would celebrate the LORD’s Passover, it shall be celebrated according to the statutes and regulations for the Passover. You shall have the same law for the resident alien as for the native of the land.”  (Numbers 9:14)
  • The resident aliens among you will rise above you higher and higher, while you sink lower and lower.  (Deuteronomy 28:43)

How do we stack up to these covenant duties today?  Consider the border crisis with the children fleeing Central America. 

A letter to Secretary of State John Kerry from Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, followed the bishops’ recent travels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  Bishop Pates wrote:  “The United States cannot separate the humanitarian crisis of many thousands of unaccompanied minors journeying to the U.S. border from root causes in Latin America, many generated by U.S. policies.” 

Pates also is the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“The crisis on our borders will not be minimally resolved until drugs and arms flows, harmful trade provisions, and other critical economic policies that contribute to violence are addressed and rectified,” Bishop Pates wrote. He noted that Church leaders and U.S. diplomats in each country agreed that long term resolutions would only come from investment in education and jobs.

You can help by asking your senators and congressmen to support the kinds of actions called for by the bishops.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Given Up to Death for the Sake of Jesus

By Melanie Rigney

For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11)

When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing. (Psalms 126:1-2)

“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. (Matthew 20:26-27)

Lord, make us thirsty for Your wisdom.

It was on this day in 1968 that Humanae Vitae was released, the papal encyclical that affirmed traditional Catholic teachings on human sexuality, including the prohibition of artificial birth control. Some left the Church. Others stayed with a variety of reactions: they cheered, or they did their best to be obedient, whether that obedience meant using natural family planning (NFP) or after discernment (or, in some cases, not), ignoring the prohibition.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual National NFP Awareness Week wraps up tomorrow.  Last November, a USCCB secretariat issued a report that found diocesan NFP programs are hampered by lack of funding; about two-thirds operate on less than $10,000 annually, and only a third provide an annual report about their activities to their bishop. While most dioceses include NFP in their marriage preparation guidelines, there’s a big gap: while nearly 164,000 Catholic marriages were celebrated, fewer than 17,000 people took part in an NFP course or received instruction. The report concluded:

… When evaluating any diocesan NFP program, the most important pastoral leadership question can be summed up with a simple “yes” or “no”: Can couples who wish to be faithful to Church teaching on conjugal love and responsible parenthood readily get the NFP support they need? The answer to this question will determine how best to plan and support local diocesan NFP ministry.

I found myself chewing over that paragraph over and over again, thinking how it could apply to so much that is misunderstood about the Church I love. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but when I returned to Catholicism after more than three decades away, there were a number of potential dealbreakers for me: Limbo. The presence or lack thereof of non-Catholics in heaven. Divorce. Abortion. Contraception. I wasn’t coming back if I couldn’t sign on completely. And the more time I spent with the Catechism and other Church publications, the more I learned that the teachings were all based on love and respect and human dignity and that what was in my heart was not that different from Catholicism’s core beliefs.
My point today is not to try to change your mind on NFP or immigration reform or gay marriage or abortion or anything else. It’s just to say that dioceses and parishes across our country are pulled in a million directions today. They always have been. They always will be. We are unlikely to always get all the support we might need on any Church teaching. At some level, we’re each responsible for asking for help and reaching out for resources before we make snap judgments. When we do that, when we open our questions to the light and look for help in understanding, we may find that some of our positions need to be laid on the altar.

Spend some time in conversation with a learned member of the ordained or laity about a Church teaching you find difficult to accept, or ask this person for reading material on the topic.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Granted to You

Be amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the LORD.  Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.  Jeremiah 2:12-13

The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”  He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  Matthew 13:10-12

Father, open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to your Word and help us to put love into action. Use our hands to work your healing touch on an injured and battered world.

Today’s Good News is NOT about money and wealth.  Rather it is about understanding the mysteries that were revealed.  The prophecy fulfilled in today’s reading is a negative prophecy – a prophecy which talks about “hearing but not understanding, looking but never seeing.”
Isaiah preached that the heart of the nation would grow coarse and gross, just as Jeremiah did in today’s first reading.  The solution is to open our ears, open our eyes and open our hearts.  Thus opened, the Lord has room to work his healing touch. 

If we spend too much time listening to the public media, we might be tempted to think that as the Dow Index, or the S&P 500, or the NASDAQ creep up to record levels, that success in the world would equate with how much a share of the money we get.
If we spend too much time reading the pages (printed or electronic) of news stories, our hearts might also grow coarse to the plight of the least powerful people in the world. 
That is not what this faith is all about.  This faith is not about the things we get but rather the knowledge that is given to us and what we do once we learn.  Faith in God.  Faith in each other.  Faith in ourselves.  These call on us to open up and respond to the needs around us, not to close up and focus only upon ourselves.
Recently, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that his state would provide shelter to some of the unaccompanied minor children who have recently come to the US from Honduras, Guatemala and other Central American nations.  The temporary shelter will last until the courts decide what the outcome of their undocumented entry into the US will mean for the future.  In addition to his patriotic reasons for taking this step to welcome the strangers among us, Governor Patrick also said:
“The other reason I have offered our help is more personal, less about patriotism and more about faith.  I believe that we will one day have to answer for our actions -- and our inactions.  My faith teaches that "if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him," but rather "love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."  (Lev. 19:33-34).  We are admonished to take in the stranger, for "inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these," Christ tells us, "you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:43, 45).  Every major faith tradition on earth charges its followers to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated. 

He added, “I don’t know what good there is in faith if we can’t and won’t turn to it in moments of human need.  And I thank Cardinal O’Malley, Bishop Borders and the many other faith and lay leaders I've spoken with for reminding me of that.”

Speak of the Mighty Works

By Pequitte Schwerin

“Have no fear before the, because I am with you to deliver says the Lord.  See I place my words in your mouth!  This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.”  Jeremiah 1:8-9

“My mouth shall proclaim your just deeds, day after day your acts of deliverance, though I cannot number them all.  I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord; O God, I will tell of your singular justice.” Psalm 71:15-16

“Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Mt 13:1-9

While you were busy trying to prove God stands behind you, God was before me lighting the trail, so he could lead us both.” ― Shannon L. Alder

God formed us and knows for what particular services and purposes he intended us. Unless we are sanctified us by the Holy Spirit, we can't serve on earth, nor partake of happiness in heaven. We can't think too highly of ourselves, nor venture beyond our powers. Even though we have a humble sense of our own weaknesses and insufficiencies, we should not draw back when God calls us.

Jeremiah was frightened that he would not be able to persuade the people to change from their evil ways.  Jeremiah supported King Josiah and his pious ways, but when the king died old idolatries returned.  Jeremiah suffered arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace trying to lead the people into repentance for over 40 years to no avail.  For all his work as a prophet he was exiled and martyred.  

Remember God's covenant with Moses, helping him speak the words to lead the Israelites out of bondage.  Brother Aaron ended up doing the talking.  And then there was Jonah tasked with delivering the ultimatum to the Ninevites to repent or suffer the consequences.  He spent three days in the belly of a fish for his reluctance to carry out God's commands.

How many of us are eager to be public speakers?  I know I  get butterflies in my  stomach and feel my  heart racing when I  stand before a podium; even when I'm a lector and have prepared all week.  Kevin James was the superintendent fire Marshall during the 9/11 attack in New York.  He had struggled with his deficiency of public speaking and called this struggle his personal “jihad” (which in Islam really means struggle or effort, not the holy war most of us think it means).  He was in a position with the authority to make a difference.  Mr. James overcame this deficit with the help of God, and he wrote and spoke extensively about fire hazards, especially the dangers of fires caused by smoking.  Doubtless he saved many lives!

When our fears get the best of us, we forget that God will always be with us and has placed his laws within us and written it on our hearts. 

Why do we always fear we are not enough, can't speak well enough to convince, afraid to trust that God will be with us?  Call on the Lord when you find yourself in a challenging position outside your comfort zone.  He will always be there.  Where will you sow the words and speak the Good News?

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Have Seen the Lord

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Mary) turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?”  She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.  (John 20:14-18)

Jesus, you made Mary Magdalen the first witness to your Resurrection.  May we learn to love as she did and always give you first place in our hearts.  Let our encounters with you change us into faith-filled witnesses so we can proclaim with Mary, “I have seen the Lord.”  (Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia)  )

So how could Mary possibly not recognize Jesus with whom, tradition has it, with whom she traveled and served during his ministry?  Perhaps in rising He was so transformed so that he was unrecognizable.  Maybe it was the dark of the early morning that hid his face.  Could her weeping have blocked her vision?  Or that her preconceived notions of death, loss and permanence obscured the new reality and Truth from her.

Actually, in all of those possibilities I see myself and how I have not always been able to perceive God’s presence in my life.  Not recognizing the resurrection in someone who has hurt me or who acted “wrongly,” I have continued to judge or give a cold-shoulder treatment.  There have been many periods of my life in which I experienced darkness, acted on my own impatience and made questionable choices.  In times of sorrow I have cried “Why me?”  Both prejudice and an attitude of complete righteousness about things have led me to be less loving that I might have been.

But Mary’s eyes were opened and her joy returned when she heard her name on Jesus’ divine lips.  She did not let her moment of impaired vision slow her down to witness and proclaim that Jesus was risen.  Mary gives me the hope that I too can proceed forward from my sightless moments and stand again with Jesus, knowing he is always present.

A Baptist Minister, a friend of mine, says “If only people would read the Bible everyone would get along.”  I believe that if everyone would look for God in themselves and others we would all get along.  Say a prayer for those who cannot acknowledge God is loving and present so they act out of their own blindness and self-interest.  Say a prayer for God’s peace to be revealed and confessed for those caught in and those causing conflict in the world.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Good Ground for Hope

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.  And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.  Wisdom 12:18-19

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.  Romans:8:26

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Matthew 13:43

Fear of the Lord is one of the gifts of the Spirit.  The parables about the kingdom reveal that the good will be rewarded and the bad will be punished.  We live in the world of instant gratification.  It is logical that rewards encourage and punishment discourages one from doing what they are doing.  Sometimes it seems that children can only be guided by fear of punishment.  How sad the lot of children who never grow up to discover the joy of doing something because it is right to do!  We learn to be responsible for our own decisions by the ways we learn from the negatives of a bad decision.  It is certain a parent would have shown us why something was a bad decision from the get-go.  But lessons learned by having to live with a bad personal decision gives a value and a appreciation for the advice of elders.  Finally, it all makes sense following the advice of God in the example of Christ.  Our piety is the doing of the right things because it puts us in sync with Christ.

We study the mysteries of our faith with the spiritual guidance of Christ and his ministers.  Many a good teacher touches our lives by sermons and the best sermon of all is a holy life.  We learn from the example of others what God is asking of us in our efforts to form and nurture small Christian communities.  Our study deepens our understanding of the teachings of the Church and we come to appreciate our growing closeness to the mystical body of Christ, which is the church.

Our work is to eradicate our sin.  We glorify the name of God by our good lives, as Christians, when we live up to what it means to be Christian by our trying to be just like Christ in all we do and say.  We glorify the name of God by our good actions.  God is good and forgiving when we are doing our best to live up to what Christ wants of us.  The Spirit comes to our weakness and makes up the difference between what we do and what we should have done when we invite the Spirit to do his thing in our lives.  When the harvest comes, the weeds of our imperfections will be left behind.  What we do is the best we can do when we give the Spirit reign in our hearts.  The mustard like seed of our efforts will grow up to be great support for everyone when it reaches its maturity.  The ordinary of our life will become the extraordinary when we give the spirit control of our hearts.  Our job is to spread the good news of the Kingdom.