Friday, October 31, 2014

Unable to Answer

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

How great are the works of the Lord! (Psalms 111:2)

(After Jesus cured a man of dropsy on the sabbath, he said to the scholars and Pharisees:) “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” But they were unable to answer his question. (Luke 14:5-6)

Lord, open my eyes and my heart and my soul so that I do what is pleasing to You at all times, rather than parsing intent.

Oh, those silly learned people of Jesus’s time.

A man is suffering, possibly due to swelling in his legs and feet that could be a sign of congestive heart failure. But it’s the Sabbath, and you know what that means: as far as the scholars and Pharisees are concerned, he’ll just have to wait. Healing just isn’t done on the Sabbath, you know. That would go against the law.

Jesus, a dinner guest at the home of a leading Pharisee, goes ahead and heals the man anyway. Then he asks if they wouldn’t have saved their own son or even a beast of burden who met with an accident on the Sabbath. The answer? Nothing.

Today, our world, our country, our states, our local governments are suffering. Next week, people around the nation will vote for U.S. senators, representatives, governors, and other offices. There are important questions to ask the candidates. You’ll find one list, with questions on issues such as changes in the Affordable Care Act, comprehensive immigration reform, same-sex marriage, the federal minimum wage, and the environment at the Virginia Catholic Conference Web site. Why not pose the questions to representatives for the candidates in your area? Do they nimbly stick to talking points, never directly answering out of concern for losing a vote? Or do they share the candidate’s position clearly and thoughtfully?

Oh, those silly learned people of our time.


Give careful, prayerful consideration to who on the ballot you will cast would best be able to help heal our suffering world.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Squeeze Through the Narrow Gate

By Colleen O’Sullivan
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)

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.  May your body and blood be my food and drink.  May your passion and death be my strength and life.  Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given.  May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.  Let me not run from the love which you offer, But hold me safe from the forces of evil.  On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.  Keep calling to me until that day comes, when, with your saints, I may praise you forever.  Amen.
(Contemporary paraphrase of Anima Christi by David L. Fleming, SJ, from Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits)

If I had had a chance to meet Jesus in person, I don’t think I would have asked him the question that is posed in today’s Gospel reading.  Asking if only a few people will be saved just seems too theoretical.  I think I would have been more like the rich young ruler in Luke 18, who asks Jesus what else he needs to do to inherit eternal life.  Because when you get right down to it, no matter how many people are involved in the answer, what we really want to know is where we stand and what we need to do to be with Jesus forever.

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about who will be sitting at the table in the Kingdom of God.  He says it will be his true friends, the people he knows, the people who know him.  We can learn about Jesus through the Scriptures, but it’s through our prayer lives that we come to be close friends with him.  In our prayer lives, we try to keep our focus on who Jesus is and what he’s done for all of us.  We try to live the way he lived and died – for others.

And that’s a lot harder than it sounds.  We human beings tend to be somewhat self-centered and our focus sometimes slips from Jesus to ourselves.  Or we find that when we look at Jesus long enough and hard enough, we come face to face with aspects of ourselves we’d rather not see.  If we gaze at Jesus on the Cross, eventually we think about the sins we’ve committed for which he died.  If we allow ourselves to experience the compassion and forgiveness Jesus offers, eventually we have to wonder how well we extend that to others.  Are we like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, forgiving and embracing with open arms those who’ve wronged us?  Are we like Jesus in reaching out to the lepers of our day?  Would we, like Pope Francis, lovingly put our arms around a painfully disfigured person?

I can see why Jesus talks about a narrow gate.  To love him more than we love ourselves and to follow in his footsteps, extending mercy and forgiveness to others, means shedding a great deal of self-absorption in order to squeeze through.

Spend a few minutes with Jesus today, praying either the contemporary paraphrase of the Anima Christi prayer above or use the words of the traditional version.  

God's Invitation

By Beth DeCristofaro

Brothers and sisters: 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. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord (Ephesians 2:19-21)

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself (Luke 6:12)

Lord Jesus, help me to see that all that I experience is a call to live life more deeply with you, to help grow your sacred temple in the love of neighbor, and to commit myself more fully as a member of your Father’s household, a fellow citizen with your Holy Ones.

Fr. Jacques Phillippe writes powerfully of our challenge and struggle to free ourselves from the real prison of our own expectations, predispositions, fears, and unexamined aspiration of “freedoms” which hold us back from fully accepting God’s love and being a disciple (Interior Freedom, Scepter Publishers, 2002).  As an example he refers to the writings of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew who learned about and then began to live by Christian, Gospel values.  Under German occupation, Etty wrote:  “But above the one narrow path still left to us stretches the sky, intact.  They (the Nazis) can’t do anything to us, they really can’t. … I believe in God and I believe in man and I say so without embarrassment.  Life is hard but that’s no bad thing.” (pg 23)  Etty believed that we must not be complicit in evil and that love brings true peace.  One year after this passage, young Etty died in Auschwitz.

God invites us in so many ways to be fellow citizens among the holy ones.  Jesus asked twelve men to follow him in his journey; he called Mary and Martha and they served him in Bethany.  Our latest Men’s team and our new Cursillistas heard the call of the Spirit and a weekend of celebration and pilgrimage was held.  We speak of life vocations – for me as a chaplain, for my husband as a fund raiser and writer.  My mother says once a nurse, always a nurse.  With Jesus as capstone we are disciples with our own unique voices and abilities raising a temple sacred in the Lord.

Jesus, like us, found that he could hear God more clearly through prayer.  Etty found the divine speaking to her while riding her bike.  Where is my mountain on which to commune with God?  Ask God to help you find the interior freedom to be always cognizant of being the beloved, standing in God’s presence.  Keep the new Cursillistas and all Cursillistas prayer.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

You Are Light

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light.   Ephesians 5:8

“Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?  This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?”  Luke 13:15-16

Piety and study are the fuel that lights our lamp so we can spread love in action. 

Light cannot exist in darkness.  If you put a flashlight in a dark closet, it is not a dark closet any longer.  Once we become the light of the Lord, we have a duty, an obligation to bring light where we go.  Love is not an option.  It is the only choice.  If we live, then we shall love.  We shall love God.  We shall love each other.

When Jesus was confronted in the temple on the Sabbath with the woman who was crippled, he had an obligation to love her.  In this instance, love required Jesus to heal her.  It was his very God-man nature to do so.  He had no other choice.  Then, when he was confronted by the hypocritical leader of the synagogue, Jesus set him straight.  Maybe too stridently. 

According to Roger Karban writing in the National Catholic Reporter, “Just because a teaching or practice is new to some doesn't mean it's really new. It simply might have been outside our field of vision -- for centuries.”  Healing on the sabbath seemed new to those who were used to being told not to do anything on the Sabbath. 

Jesus’ words, Luke reports, went one giant step beyond just healing.  The case Jesus made that the woman deserved healing even if it was the Sabbath humiliated the leader in front of his congregation.  Despite numerous examples in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life when the Lord was speaking truth-to-power, the Sabbath healings are when Jesus sealed his fate.  There were plenty of other confrontations.  However, Jesus extracted total victory and humiliated his adversary this time and in his series of sabbath healings in order to set the wheels in motion for what was necessary.

Then he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.”  But they understood nothing of this; the word remained hidden from them and they failed to comprehend what he said. Luke 18:31-34

What new action might you take that will break with your regular pattern of behavior?  Is there a new ministry in your parish that interests you?  Is there a neighbor you want to visit? Is there a new person you want to invite to your Group Reunion?  Is there a new parish where you would like to worship?  Your Fourth Day is the time to try out these new challenges.

In Mr. Karban’s commentary (linked above) he writes of a workshop assignment.  “I remember a workshop exercise in which we were asked to list 10 things we considered priorities in our lives. Then, on the other side of the paper, we were to write the date of the last time we actually did one of those things. It was a revelation. Thinking about something isn't close to doing something about it. Rarely do we live our priorities.”

What would your list of priorities and the dates look like?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

You Shall Love

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

"You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.  You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.  If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry.”   Exodus 22:20-22

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"  He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  Matthew 22:36-37

Piety is the expression of our love of God with our entire mind, heart, feelings, strength and whatever else we have.  Piety is making a gift of us to God. It is not just making us beautiful for God; it is also opening up our hearts to all the people, places and things of our lives for his love to become our love for one another.  Piety is the language of the heart that overflows in the good actions of our lives for one another.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  We study the good people in our lives to see what makes them great lovers.  We quickly discover that it is the way they give themselves without counting the cost.  It is seen in how they labor without seeking rest.  How hard they fight for what is right, just and good is a serious part of the equation of what makes life beautiful to anyone.  We discover by our study how it is possible to love without seeking a reward for what one does.  We quickly learn that it is better to give than to get; to share the essentials of life with those who have nothing.  How precious it is to love without seeing thanks for what we are doing. God created us to have someone to love.  We love and discover God in loving as he does.  Wherever there is love, God is there.

Our godlikeness is reflected in how we love.  Our love of God, self and neighbor is a result of doing all we do out of love.  Love is the ultimate gift of life.  We are invited to love even as Christ has loved us.  The measure of our love will be in the giving of our lives for others.  How our life becomes a reflection of Christ is in all the ways we bring life to others.  Love is what makes our world go round and love is the source of our happiness.  We have God’s life in us when we keep the commandments because the commandments are the putting words on the inner life of God.  Our love becomes God’s love when we are living our lives for others.

Grow in Every Way

Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole Body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.  Ephesians 4:15-16

“But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”  Luke 13:5


God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Sometimes, I am tempted to change the Tripod to Piety-Study-Change.  After all, Jesus does not want us just to keep moving along the same path we are on today. No, he does not want action just for the sake of busy action.  Like the barren fig tree, he will be patient with us while we change.  He will be patient with us until we produce the kind of fruit he wants us to produce.  He wants us to grow toward him, into him.  

St. Paul knows first-hand the value of changing behavior.  Maybe getting knocked off his horse is one reason why he prays that the people of Ephesus will grow in every way until they live the truth in love. 

The natural state of our lives seems rooted in discord and disunity.  Yesterday, the media blared another school shooting on the heels of the shooting in Canada’s parliament and the latest Ebola victims.  Maybe that is why using the organic image of a body helps St. Paul get across the idea and the plea for unity in the church.   If he can teach that Christians have been fashioned through the Spirit into a single harmonious religious community (one body) belonging to a single Lord (in contrast to the many gods of the pagan world), maybe he can affect individual and group behaviors. 

Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief.  Lots of other peoples in history have held to a common belief.  This Christian ideal must be made – we do that by using Christ’s gifts to serve the broader community in order for it to become more “Christ-like” as well. 

St. Paul goes on to describe the “temple” (not just the individual) as a growing organism.  As one and as a whole, we are here to grow toward Christ and to become Christ.  Maybe that is why our current state is paralleled to the barren fig tree, a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet given evidence of their change.  The gardener (the Holy Spirit?) will continue to work on us in order to make our lives fruitful. 

In his preaching and teaching, @Pontifex wants us to change as well.  Since ascending to the chair of St. Peter, Pope Francis has embarked on a remarkable journey very quickly.  He has risen three of his predecessors to sainthood (John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II).  He has issued two letters:  The apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel’) and the encyclical Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”). He has travelled to Brazil, Israel, Jordan, Palestine and South Korea.  He will head out to the Philippines in January.   

What kind of change has he been advocating?  Lately, he has been speaking and writing extensively about income inequality.  “Inequality is the root of social evil.”  This also was a theme in the Joy of the Gospel: 

“The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed.... As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems, or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.”

According to the article in America magazine linked above:  Pope Francis identifies this inequality as the foundation of a process of exclusion that cuts immense segments of society off from meaningful participation in social, political and economic life. It gives rise to a financial system that rules rather than serves humanity and a capitalism that literally kills those who have no utility as consumers. Inevitably, such exclusion destroys the possibility for peace and security within societies and globally. The cry of the poor captured in “The Joy of the Gospel” is a challenge to the “individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality” so prevalent in the cultures of the world; it is a call to confront the evil of economic exclusion and begin a process of structural reform that will lead to inclusion rather than marginalization.

What are your attitudes about money:  making it, keeping it, using it and giving it away?  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bearing With One Another Through Love

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. (Psalms 24:6)

“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?” (Luke 12:56)

Lord, help us all to remember we are one in the Spirit and to reflect that accordingly.

Contention. It surrounds us. Whether it’s the upcoming elections or who should be quarterbacking our favorite football team or how the ebola situation is being handled, everyone’s got an opinion. Then, of course, there’s the recent Church extraordinary synod on the family. In all these instances, it sometimes seems the louder and more stridently we express our position, the more knowledgeable we feel. And so the volume gets turned higher and higher.

It takes confidence, you see, to listen instead of talk over someone else. It takes maturity. It takes humility and gentleness and patience. It takes faith. It’s not that you have to compromise your belief or give it up. But the more you listen to your “opponents” and let them talk out their position, the more likely they are to find the holes in their logic. Or maybe it will show you some blind spots of your own.

Hearing them out, whether the dispute is about quarterbacks or policy or elections, takes a lot more energy and self-control and love than does yelling or arguing or shunning or most other reactive instincts. But it’s what we’re called to do, in particular with those who may differ with us on the understanding of our Church’s teachings on controversial issues. We don’t have to compromise our own beliefs or deny our sacred traditions and dogma and doctrine. We do have to listen and talk and love. As Pope Francis said in his recent closing synod speech: “The Church … is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

Spend time with someone who disagrees with you on a Church stand such as abortion, contraception, or same-sex marriage. Your listening and loving response may spark a conversion moment.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rooted and Grounded in Love

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19

“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

“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.”  Fyodor Dostoevsky

There was a song back in the 1970’s: “Everything is Beautiful.”  Some of the loyal “Your Daily Tripod” readers may recall the Ray Stevens rendition which started with a few lines of a different song that you might have learned at vacation Bible school. 
Jesus loved the little children.
All the little children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.
Jesus loved the little children of the world.

This is NOT the Jesus whom St. Luke presents to us.  The notes in the New American Bible point out: “Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom is a refining and purifying fire. His message that meets with acceptance or rejection will be a source of conflict and dissension even within families.”

From the outset of his narrative, we encounter the opposite of “Everything is Beautiful.”  Elizabeth is barren.  Zechariah is struck blind for his lack of faith.  The teenager Mary finds herself pregnant.  Her fianc√© considers dumping her.  This is more “As the World Turns” script material than it is the suddenly colorful life over the rainbow in “The Wizard of Oz.”   

Into this harsh reality, two babies emerge “because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79).

However, the emergence of John the Baptist and Jesus do not change the harsh reality of life.  John meets his untimely death at the hands of Herod and Jesus is chased from the temple as he delivers his very first lesson.  Today’s Good News (if you can call it that) is a wake-up call to complacent Christians.  Jesus wants to wake us up, to set us ablaze from the sleepwalking we do in our culture, our families and our churches.  He will separate hose who are awake from those who wish to remain asleep. 

In Ephesians, St. Paul tells us of what we will get when we wake up to the Jesus alarm ringing on our nightstand.  We will get “rooted and grounded in love.”  We will get “power through his Spirit in the inner self.”  We will get “strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth.”  We will get “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” 

What have you come to accept?  How can you shake things up? 
Pope Francis did some “shaking up” last week with the ideas he asked the Synod on the Family to consider.  What ideas are you clinging to which get in the way of putting your love into action?  Is there one you can work on changing this week?
·         Saving more for retirement than you are giving to charity?
·         Spending more time in front of the TV than you are volunteering?
·         Reading more web pages than pages in the Bible or other sacred texts?
·         Sleeping too late to get in some Morning Prayer time?
·         Heading to bed without a good dose of the Examen?

Changing any one thing will get you even more rooted and grounded in love.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stewards of God's Grace

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly earlier…  To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.    (Ephesians 3:2-3, 8-10)

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Be sure of this:  if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  (Luke 12:39-40)

Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.  
(Isaiah 12:5)

Lord, just as you made the Apostle Paul a steward of your grace, so you have done for each of us.  Out of your unfathomable love, you have called us into being and breathed your Spirit into us.  As we have sinned and failed you along life’s way, you have picked us up, forgiven us and welcomed us back with open arms.  Through your Son’s death and resurrection, you have given us hope of eternal life with you.  Before all time, you knew your plans for how we each would share your gracious gifts with our brothers and sisters.

Many are the routes we take to awareness of your presence and grace in our lives, for the most part not as dramatic as the way in which Paul was stopped on the road to Damascus.  A grandparent’s stories about Jesus, a teacher’s lessons, a pastor’s preaching, the guidance of a spiritual director, our prayer lives – all open our eyes to your working in us.

Awareness leads to gratitude.  Once we’ve recognized that you are working in our lives, O Lord, our hearts are thankful.  We realize how abundantly blessed we are.  Truly our cups overflow, as the psalmist reminds us.

Lord, we are so richly blessed; there is nothing to do but share what you have given us with our brothers and sisters.  Paul was led to share the Gospel with the Gentiles.  We are called to be generous in accord with the unique gifts and graces you have bestowed upon us.  

If we are living that paradigm of awareness gratitude sharing, the Gospel reading for today should hold no threat or fear for us, as many people say it does.  It’s not so much a story about end times as a story about how to live today.  When we’re truly grateful, I can’t imagine anyone saying to himself or herself, I’ll wait a while to give thanks or to share out of my abundance.  We just naturally want to do it in the present moment.  Spend a few minutes today considering what graces God has entrusted to you.

If you’re in a sharing mood, please consider making a donation to Catholic Relief Services to aid them as they partner with other church organizations to offer assistance to Ebola-stricken areas in West Africa.

Be Vigilant, Our Lord Comes

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then 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 1:17-20)

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Gird your loins and light your lamps and 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: 35-37)

Grant us, Lord, we pray,
A sincere respect for your gifts,
That, through the purifying action of your grace,
We may be cleansed by the very mysteries we serve.
Through Christ our Lord.
        (Prayer over the Offerings from the Mass for the Day)

A dear friend of mine says that among the reasons that she loves being Catholic are two important ones.  First is the Truth of Christ’s actual presence in the Eucharist which is such an awesome, undeserved gift.  The second is that at any time or place that she would like to attend a Mass she can find one (within reason!) where she always feels at home even if the liturgy is in another language or the hymns are not known to her.  She feels that as Catholics we have a unique opportunity to share this marvelous celebration of God’s word and presence.  Around the globe at any time of the day or night there is liturgy being said which, my friend counts as an essential need for our broken, complicated world and for her in navigating it day to day.

The liturgy, sacraments, our private prayer practices are ways in which we “gird our loins” and become aware.  Amid our culture which recommends upgrading, doing what feels convenient, and valuing “my” journey over the adherence to an institution, our religious practices can be the lights which guide us. 

As a “replenishing” of the oil in your lamp, attend liturgy at a time and place that are new for you or try a new prayer form.  Pray also for the Bishops who leave the Synod in Rome and return to their home dioceses where the world is moving fast and their flocks are in need of accessible, loving, vigilant Shepherds.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Matters to God

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.  For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

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

"From generations of soldiers and government officials on my father's side I inherited a belief that no life was more satisfactory than one of selfless service to your country - or humanity. This service required a sacrifice of all personal interests, but likewise the courage to stand up unflinchingly for your convictions. From scholars and clergymen on my mother's side, I inherited a belief that, in the very radical sense of the Gospels, all men were equals as children of God, and should be met and treated by us as our masters in God."  (Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, second Secretary-General, United Nations).

What matters to God? 

Luke contrasts people whose focus and trust is on material possessions (depicted by the rich fool of the parable) with those who recognize their complete dependence on God (depicted by the reference to those whose radical detachment from material possessions symbolizes their heavenly treasure).
What matters?  That goes without saying.  When it comes to treasure and possessions, Jesus has only one answer about what matters: 

“Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12:33–34).    

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  Are we too worried about growing bigger barns to hold our bigger IRA/ROTH/401K accounts?  Are we too worried about building bigger houses to store our furniture, electronics, food, and possessions?  Are we too worried about building bigger garages to store our SUVs and Mini Coopers, our Toyotas and our Fords, our motorcycles and our boats?

The more we have, the more we want to protect it.  Is it any wonder that a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that during the last recession, those will less helped more?  Research shows that the rich pitched in less.

Vox reported on the empathy gap research:  “Even during the downturn and recovery, the poorest Americans upped their charitable giving. Meanwhile, the highest-income people gave less and less.  The rich also give to charity differently than the poor: compared to lower-income Americans, the rich's charitable giving places a far lower emphasis on helping their disadvantaged peers. When the poor and rich are (figuratively and literally) moving farther apart, an empathy gap naturally opens up between the upper and lower classes — after all, if I can't see you, I'm less likely to help you.”

Now, we also are worried about things which – comparatively speaking – may not affect many of us.  Some have pointed out that we are more likely to get sick from influenza rather than Ebola/hemorrhagic fever.  However, our worry may have also clouded our propensity to act. 

That worry does not have to remain the status quo.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has a list of 58 organizations working on the West Africa Ebola Virus.
The government agency notes: “As relief and recovery efforts evolve, these organizations tailor their work to meet the changing needs of people and communities. Monetary donations enable responding organizations to react with speed and specificity in critical sectors now and as communities recover. Even a small donation can have great impact. Monetary donations save lives and money.”

Now you can do more than just worry. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Belongs to God

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me.  It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me.  Isaiah 45:5-6B

At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."  Matthew 22:21

“Render to God the things of God and to Caesar the things of Caesar” is a wonderful saying of Christ that gives clarity to the destination of piety.  Piety is the road less travelled to heaven.  A straight and narrow path is what we are looking at in our piety.  Some roads take us around the mulberry bush and others take us right to where we are going. Piety is our road to heaven.  The Contemplative in Action has a wide road because such a one has all of the nitty-gritty of life as part of the road.  The road to heaven is paved with good intentions that were worked at with heart and soul.  Success is not as important as intention and effort.  The spiritual giants of life are always telling us that the ordinary is extraordinary in the road to heaven.  What we are doing is never more significant than why we are doing it.  It is how much of ourselves we put into what we do in love that determines the quality of what we have accomplished.

We look closely at what is behind the questions of life that are put to us.  Trick questions come from the evil spirit.  The evil spirit can use the form of the angel of life.  There are times we fall short of what God would do with us and through us.  It is study that allows us to go beyond our comfort zone in what we would do for the Lord.  The Examen is a spiritual tool that allows us to study what we are doing with all the whys looked into and covered with the mantel of good intentions.  Our study allows us to see where the Lord is leading us.  What more we can do to give the Lord greater visibility in our lives comes from our study.

Our piety and our study drive us down the road of sanctity.  Our good habits of life are always the gentle voice of the Spirit pushing us too reach out to the needs of those around us.  If we only do what we have to do we are offering justice perhaps.  However, if we give of our substance in time and effort we can help the Lord to change the world.  When we give our life for the sake of our neighbors, we love even as Christ has loved us.  Thus, we render to God what belongs to God.