Monday, March 31, 2014

Your Son Will Live

Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.  Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight.  Isaiah 65:17-18

Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”  The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”  The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.  John 4:48-50

I will praise you, LORD, for you have rescued me.  You did not let my mundane personal problems consume me.  When I cried out help, you sent your Son to heal me. Now, in the spirit of thanksgiving after the crisis, let me continue to act on this faith for the rest of my days. (Based upon Psalm 30:2-4)

Jesus steps up his game in this second miracle of Galilee.  On his first visit, he attended a now infamous wedding with his mother (although he certainly overshadowed the bride and groom).  There, when the host ran out of wine, the water – in the presence of its Creator’s son – turned into the finest wine.   Not only do miraculous signs unite this scene with today’s miraculous cure of the Roman official’s son, it also holds important lessons that reveal some lessons about “son-ship.”

First, at the early stage of his public ministry, Jesus took the relatively small step of creating a physical sign that did not change the course of anyone’s life or death.  The host might have been embarrassed running out of wine at his daughter’s wedding.  The worst that might have occurred is that the crowd would have disbursed when they party ended.  No one except the wine steward and the workers had to know what was happening.  Mary knew that she could intervene and her son could introduce a solution.  The only way to accomplish that was through listening and acting and believing.  “Do what he tells you.”

In our second miracle, we also see a sign performed based upon listening and believing in Jesus.  This time, the sign was the difference between the sickness and health of the royal official’s son.  It was truly a case of life-or-death.  This new sign serves to continue to bring more people into the circle of believers. 

However, at first Jesus seems to send the royal official home with nothing to show for his outreach.  The people demand a visible sign but the Lord is not there to perform like some carnival sideshow.  When he heard Jesus was back in Cana, the official traveled for a full day or more on primitive trails to trek from the north end of the Sea of Galilee to Cana in central Palestine.  After rushing (most likely on foot) about 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana, the official expected Jesus to come with him to cure the son in person.  What a shocking and disappointing revelation it must have been for this official when he realized that Jesus had no intention to return with the official to Capernaum.

However, when he the official gets back home (another long day’s journey), he finds that his son was healed through the mystery of faith even though there was not any outward physical sign or action.  There was no pasting his body with mud, no ritual washing away of leprosy sores, or any other physical connection. Just by the mere fact that the official went all this way to reach Jesus, listened and obeyed when he was dismissed, that act of faith was enough.   

Just as the sign functions on a higher level, so too do the words Jesus speaks.  Just as the words Jesus spoke may have unsettled the official, the unsettling statement (to me) is when Jesus remarks, “Your son will live.”  This is not only a statement of fact about the current situation.  It stands in stark contrast to two realities that will be revealed.  First, Jesus of Nazareth, the human son of Mary, will not live much longer.  In a short time, he will hang from a cross with nails in his hands and feet until he bleeds to death in agony.  Second, it also reveals that once Jesus endures such death, he too will live.  Addressing the father through the Father, we also learn, “Your Son will live.”

Are we sign-seekers or true believers?  Are we part of the maddening crowd or are we individuals who seek a real relationship with the Lord? 

The point is that the crisis was just a starting point to grow into a mature relationship in faith.  Yes…the son was cured.  However, the real conclusion is that the official and his whole household came to believe and enter into a mature faith experience. When the pressure is on, we might find it easy to turn to the Lord.  However, when the pressure is off, how do we react?  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Into the Heart

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

But the LORD said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The LORD looks into the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Ephesians 5:8-10

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.  We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.  Night is coming when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  John 9:3-5

Piety is how we have been chosen by the Lord to make his Son present in the world.  The God experiences of our life are the annointments that take place in our lives.  The Lord looks into our hearts and rewards us for our intentions to put on Christ by living his word in all we do.  Piety is our awareness of the plan of God for us that we try to live out in what we say and do.  Piety shows the diminishment of the blindness that keeps down our awareness in any given moment of what God is asking of us.  Piety is the living out of what is revealed when our hearts are on fire and we recognize that God is calling us.

Study is how our blindness is taken away.  We watch the good people of our lives to see the right way of doing what is asked of us.  Our attraction to certain Scriptures is also how we find what to study that we might follow Christ more closely.   The closer we are to Christ, the more we see.  Even though we might have walked in a dark valley for many years, when we see the Lord by our study, we recognize the road that we are on that is drawing us closer to the Lord.  Our study makes us children of the light.  Our study keeps us safe from the fruitless works of darkness.  Christ is the light of life that awakes us from the darkness of selfishness to the wonder vision of selflessness.


The true self-interest is what we can do for others.  It is not enough that we pray to be able to see.  We have to put our feet down the road of the footprints of Christ.  He is forever reaching out to us with a love that will never end.  We have to accept that love.  It is important for us to take up our crosses and follow him.  We do that by climbing the Cross of Christ by our frequent prayer and looking at our world through the eyes of Christ from his cross, then, we will truly see.

Convinced Of Their Own Righteousness

“Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!  He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.”  Hosea 6:3

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  Luke 18:9

Let us use our remaining Lenten Journey to research and examine our ways in order to return to the LORD.  When we admit our inside sins, He will heal us and bind our wounds – be they physical, emotional, mental or spiritual – so that we may live in his presence. Amen.

St. Luke gives us a new Beatitude today. “Blessed are those who are convinced of their own righteousness and who despise everyone else.”  That kind of attitude – be it one which expects that we are entitled to some benefit or one that passes judgment upon others – is not a disposition which will get us closer to walking with the Lord. 

Our “study” or people and our environment reveals countless stories of people who put themselves second and others first.  In the sad stories coming out of Oso, Washington, one such story was on the man who admonished his rescuers to leave him alone and to go to save his wife.  Unfortunately, she had already perished in the mudslide.  Think also of the frustrated participants in the massive search in the south Indian Ocean who have been looking in vain for more than three weeks to spot any remnants of MH370.  Every few days, a new radar clue changes the field in which they are searching.  They fly out in the cold dark morning hours, scan the blindly similar ocean waters all day, only to return as frustrated as the disciples in their boat with empty nets.  This morning’s newspaper reveals some promising clues but still nothing definitive.

Maybe some of the attitude about self-righteousness is a clue to the political and ideological divisions which plaque our environment.  Perhaps if we all adopted an attitude that puts the emphasis on Catholic Social Teachings rather than cable-television driven thinking, we could accomplish more together to serve those who truly need help. 

When a disaster like the mudslide or the MH370 flight occur, people respond to the emotion and immediacy of the news.  However, the silent and more pervasive needs in our society (hunger, homelessness, poverty, and unemployment) linger killing multiples of the number of victims of the mudslide and planeloads of passengers.  These muted killers do not get weeks upon weeks of coverage in the agenda-setting media.

How can the remaining two weeks of Lent bring about an attitude adjustment for us to serve those who truly need help? 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Understand These Things

By Melanie Rigney

Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them. (Hosea 14:10)

I am the Lord your God: hear my voice. (Psalm 81:9, 11)
And when Jesus saw that (the scribe who asked about the first of all commandments) answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 12:34)

Lord, I ask for the wisdom to accept Your will and Your words rather than analyze them to death.

It happens often in the Gospels. Jesus says something or does something, and people want to ask questions or press him in some other way, but they don’t. Perhaps it’s because they remember what’s happened in other cases, where he answers a question with another question. Or perhaps there was something about his demeanor that made it less than comfortable to continue the querying.

Or perhaps it’s because we know in our hearts and souls that the Lord has imparted all we need to know in a lesson. Consider today’s Gospel reading, when Jesus has identified the two greatest commandments. What else would one ask? The third greatest commandments? If there are any exceptions to the two greatest commandments? A “what if” scenario—“What if I try to love my neighbor but my neighbor is a jerk?” We already know the answers… or know we don’t need them.

I’ve heard people say God’s going to have some explaining to do when they get to heaven. They want to know why specific things in their lives or those of people they loved didn’t happen. I suspect when we get there, it won’t be so much that we don’t dare to ask those questions but that rather, we will finally grasp the greatness of God and we will realize such questions are irrelevant. Instead, we will focus on thanks and adoration.

Try to leave words like “why” and “explain” out of your prayers today.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

One Stronger

Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people.  Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper.  But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.  They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.  Jeremiah 7:23b-24

“When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.  But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”  Luke 11:21-23

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95)

One stronger.  Power is often attributed to Jesus.  We heard it spoken by John the Baptist in Luke 3:16 when the Lord was called “more powerful than I.”  The dilemma of strength pervades the imagery of the Magnificat, the Beatitudes and picture of abject powerlessness that is evoked in the scene of the Nativity. 

So if Satan is the strong man, the only ones who can bind him up and divide Satan’s house are the Lord (and his disciples). However, the reality of disobedience and selfishness is laid out in the first reading from Jeremiah which only serves to underscore the conclusions today:  “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” 

The way to get stronger is through exercise.  Lent is our gym to practice prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

God’s Law: A Gift of Love

By Colleen O’Sullivan
(Moses said:) “Observe (the statutes and decrees of the Lord) carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’  For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?  (Deuteronomy 4:6-7)
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”  (Matthew 5:17)

O Lord, grant me the grace to live a life filled with love for you and for others, a life emanating from the words you have engraved upon my heart.

Several years ago I went to visit an out-of-state friend.  When Sunday rolled around and I mentioned going to church, she told me in no uncertain terms that she didn’t need anybody telling her what she could or couldn’t do, and she had no intention of sitting in church with a bunch of pompous fools.  I went by myself, thinking all the way about what she said and the vehemence with which she said it.  I asked myself why I was surprised.  After all, we live in an individualistic culture where doing your own thing is highly prized and chafing at any kind of rules or restrictions is commonplace. 

In the Book of Deuteronomy, on the other hand, Moses presents the statutes and decrees of God as a gift to us, one in a series of signs of God’s love.  In Deuteronomy, time and again we see how God is always with us.  He travels with the people of Israel in the Ark of the Covenant.  God is with his children every step of the long journey through the desert as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  And in today’s reading, Moses says that God’s closeness to us in the Law makes us the envy of all other peoples.  God’s Law isn’t meant to make us miserable; it’s designed to help us be close to God and to show us the way to live in loving relationships with our brothers and sisters.

Fast forward to the days of the prophet Jeremiah.  God promises:  “I will plant my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  (Jer. 31:33)  God keeps his word and many generations later sends his Son Jesus into the world.  God is now with us in the flesh.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, and he says we can no longer be satisfied with mere external observance.  He asks us to obey the Law from within, from the hearts upon which it has been written.

As a child, I detested having to memorize the Ten Commandments.  I looked at them as the checklist God used to dole out black marks when we sinned.  As an adult, I see them more as a loving gift.  Some of the commandments are specifically about our relationship with God – don’t make gods of the things of this world and don’t forget to worship the One who called us into being and redeems us from our sins.  They’re meant to draw us ever closer to God.  The rest of them are about our relationships with our brothers and sisters. They’re about loving our neighbors as God loves us.  When we treat each other in a loving manner, many fewer people get hurt, including ourselves.

Spend some time today reflecting on how you view God’s Law.  Is it a gift or a burden?  You may find that your answer is dictated by your image of God.    

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

According to Your Word

By Beth DeCristofaro

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!  But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” (Isaiah 7:10-12)

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. … Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:34-35, 38)

Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

Ahaz, King of God’s Chosen People, prefers to do it his way and rather than put his faith on God relies on the might of another army.   We all know how that goes because how simple it is for us to do the same.  We find a job, mission, a vocation which we feel is in align with God’s will for us.  Then we get diverted with a bid for power.  Or we find ourselves eaten up with jealousy when we are passed over, or we get caught up in workplace drama, gossip and character assassination.  We might find our skills and talents so well used that we neglect to notice that the ethics of our employer or the products and goals of our business are morally questionable.  Most likely even Pharisees and Sadducees started out to do God’s will but were sidetracked with their own station in society.

The Angel told Mary not to be afraid, but how could a young, unmarried woman not be?  Her “Yes” while everlasting was also to be played out again and again throughout her life.  Imagine the dilemma of finding your missing boy in a temple, teaching.  When he says to you Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49), do you box his ears?  Go home leaving him alone in another town?  Scripture says he was obedient and presumably, she knew he still needed her maternal guidance.  Later Mary challenged her Son telling the servants at the wedding to “do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5) knowing his potential.  And she followed on the path to Golgotha perhaps in tears, perhaps wailing but accepting God’s will for herself and her Son.  She was willing witness to her Savior’s eternal “Yes”.

God granted abundant mercy even in the face of Ahaz’s arrogance.  God promised Emmanuel, “God is with us” to a recalcitrant people.

Mary’s beautiful prayer is a speaks not only the depths of God’s love and action for God’s people but can help us realize our own focus, priority.  By saying the prayer slowly and intentionally we can imagine ourselves as “fearing the Lord”, arrogant, dominant, lowly, rich, hungry.  How are we, in any of these ways, relying on other authorities or ourselves alone?  Conversely, how do we accept that it “be done to me according to God’s word”?  Ask for Mary’s help and Jesus’ grace to redirect ourselves as needed.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Something Extraordinary

34th Anniversary of the Assassination and Martyrdom of Oscar Romero

But his servants came up and reasoned with him.  “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it?  All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.”  So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God.  His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.  2 Kings 5:13-14

Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.  Luke 4:24

A Future Not Our Own by Bishop Ken Untener

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.  The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.  We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. 

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.  No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.  No pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the church's mission.  No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.  We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. 

We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.

No prophet is accepted in his own native place.  

How fitting a scripture for a say like today – the 34th anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero.

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917-1980) was a bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador. He became the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador and spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture until March 24, 1980 when he was martyred for his defense of the poor and the powerless.

That day, in the middle of the celebration of Mass, Romero gave his last homily moments before a sharpshooter felled him.  In that sermon, he reflected upon scripture saying that, "One must not love oneself so much, as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those that fend off danger will lose their lives." The homily, however, that sealed his fate took place the day before when he took the terrifying step of publicly confronting the military not unlike Jesus in Luke confronts the powers that be in his day. (See more at:

Days before his murder Archbishop Romero told a reporter, "You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish." 

Not one person or thing – not even the single bullet that poured out his blood on the altar – could silence Bishop Romero.  Just as he implored his people to carry on (even though dozens were killed at his funeral) and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to end military aid to El Salvador, his words and his story continue to speak to us today in companionship with the Good News.

Romero would probably say he was not doing anything extraordinary.  His El Salvador Manifesto on behalf of the poor and the powerless was not unlike the Nazareth Manifesto delivered just before Jesus was run out of town in today’s scripture.  Romero was committed to living advocacy for the message in the Good News.  We are not asked to do anything more extraordinary than Naaman or Romero.

Bishop Romero also said that "If some day they take away the radio station from us . . . if they don't let us speak, if they kill all the priests and the bishop too, and you are left a people without priests, each one of you must become God's microphone, each one of you must become a prophet."

How are you God’s microphone? How do you, like Naaman follow God’s sometimes illogical instructions?  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Never Thirst

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”  This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.  The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”  Exodus 3:6b-7

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:7-8

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”  John 4:13-15

Our piety is how we have heard the voice of our Lord and it is our response.  The growth of our piety is through our drinking deeply of the word of the Lord and how the word of the Lord changes us.  The Woman at the well came for water and went away with the gift of everlasting life.  Piety flows out of our thirst for the Lord.  How we love the Lord more than anything else in our lives is the fullness of piety.  Christ is forever waiting for us at the well of God’s everlasting life.  There is no limit on what he is offering us other than our thirst and how much of God’s love we are willing to partake.  Our piety determines how deeply we drink.

Our study is the curiosity of our souls being satisfied.  We are born with a desire to know.  Wisdom reveals to us what we are really searching.  Our hearts will never rest until they rest in the Lord.  We are created to the image and the likeness of God and until we realize ourselves in Christ we will never know for what it is that are hearts are yearning.  Study allows us to stay with the Lord and thus we come to believe because of our exposure to his love.

The good things we do allow us to hear the Lord.  Putting ourselves close to the Lord is the best action to take. Reading the Scripture is important.  Asking the right questions of those we admire for their relationship with the Lord, helps.  Making visits to the Blessed Sacrament gives the Lord a chance to talk with us.  The best action of our lives will be seen in the space we give the Lord in our lives.  The grumbling of the Israelites was turned into the prayer of Moses for help.  Our actions need to take us to the Lord.  We need to drink as deeply as they did with the knowledge of their thirst.  We have to honor the thirsts of our souls for the Lord by doing something about it.  We need to soften our hearts to the voice of the Lord.  Prayer fasting and good works are what is called for if we open our hearts to hear the voice of the Lord.  It is important to give the Lord a chance to speak to us.  He is waiting and the time we plan to give him is the first step on our road to walk with the Lord.  We need to feed the desire of our hearts for the Lord by the ways we choose to be with him. 

Again Have Compassion on Us

Who is a God like you, who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; who does not persist in anger forever, but instead delights in mercy, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our iniquities?  You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins.  Micah 7:18-19

So he got up and went back to his father.  While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

"Prodigal Son's Prayer" by Dierks Bentley
Father meet me with your arms wide open
The world's done broken your prodigal son
Down the road I traveled
Everything raveled only came undone

Father lead me down to the river
Wash me in the water 'til I'm whiter than snow
I know I'm not worthy
But tell me there's mercy for the wanderin' soul

I lost my way but now I'm on my knees
If it's not too late won't you tell me please
You gotta place for me
A little grace for me

Father meet me in the cool green valley
In all of your glory when my days are done
Name me as one of your chosen
Heaven's unbroken prodigal son

Father meet me with your arms wide open
Lead me down to the river
Meet me in the cool green valley

Name me one of your chosen
Heaven's unbroken prodigal son

This unique story – for it only appears in Luke and not in the other synoptic Gospels – gives us a prime opportunity to reflect on our wastefully extravagant ways.  How do we spend money or resources freely and recklessly?  Because we have three examples of wastefulness or extravagance in this story.  Most would easily say the first son is clearly wasteful.  So is his brother.  Finally, so is the Father extravagant with his love and forgiveness. 
First, the Father gave up one-third of his property right now and gave it to the younger son.  The father gives up what is rightfully his property and allows the son to misuse it.  Why?  Perhaps out of respect for the freedom that he has given us.

Then, despite the son squandering his inheritance, upon return of the lost son, the father commanded his servants to put a new ring on his finger as a sign of unity and the finest robe on his shoulders as a sign of kinship.  He also put on new sandals on his feet – an article of clothing that have held special meaning in Scripture since John the Baptizer told us he was not worthy to tie the sandal on the Lord’s feet.  Yet here is the Father putting sandals on his wayward son.

Finally, the other son was wasteful as well – taking for granted the love and gifts that his father offered. We can only hope that after the banquet, the family began healing together just like the first son.

What is astonishing in this story is NOT the actions of either brother.  But the generosity of the Father to his children shows through at every turn.  So, after the passage in Micah, it just seems to me that the core of this story is in verse 20.  The wayward son turns back expecting to be treated like a servant.  The extravagant father comes running to greet him.  How can it be any other way when we turn from our sins?

How do you picture the parable of the prodigal people playing out in your life?  “Tell me there's mercy for the wanderin' soul.”

Do you waste the precious gifts that you have been given?  Instead, how can you be extravagant with your resources to the benefit of others – like the Father in this story?  Because again and again and again, the Father has compassion on us no matter how wasteful we are. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

A People That Will Produce Its Fruit

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney

When (Joseph’s) brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. (Genesis 37:4) 

Then (the Lord) called down a famine on the land, destroyed the grain that sustained them. He had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, sold as a slave. They shackled his feet with chains; collared his neck in iron, till his prediction came to pass, and the word of the Lord proved him true. The king sent and released him; the ruler of peoples set him free. He made him lord over his household (and) ruler over all his possessions. (Psalm 105:16-21)
(Concluding the parable of the tenants, Jesus told the chief priests and elders of the people:) “Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43) 

Lord, free me from envy and from the desire to justify myself to those who envy me the gifts You have lavished on me.

Other than that “long ornamented tunic,” we don’t see any significant paternal favoritism toward Joseph. It’s not as if Jacob was physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive to his other sons; indeed, the New American Bible notes on this chapter include this observation: “Throughout the story, Jacob is unaware of the impact of his favoritism on his other sons.” But Joseph was the child of Jacob’s old age; Jacob was wiser, perhaps softer, perhaps had more time to get to know Joseph as a person than he had the others as they were growing up.

Sometimes, it feels like God plays favorites too, doesn’t it? One woman gets pregnant and has ease in childbearing; another finds it impossible to conceive. One man can’t not make money and be a professional success; another can’t keep a job and struggles to survive. It’s easy to become jealous and envious, as did Joseph’s brothers and the people in the parable of the tenants, and to exact “revenge” not on the One seen as showing the favoritism but on the one for whom life seems easy and free.

We diminish ourselves when we do this. For truly, finding favor with God is simply a matter of loving Him and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We can do it with God’s help, praising Him for all He has given us, or we can choose to focus on the gifts given others instead, knowing little or nothing of the price they paid or the secret sorrows and challenges they hold in their hearts. One path is the road to redemption… the other is filled with demons happy to commiserate with you. The choice is yours.

Just for today, stop yourself and pray the Lord’s Prayer whenever you find yourself thinking or saying someone else’s life is easier than yours.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Who Can Understand the Human Heart?

More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?  I, the LORD, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.  Jeremiah 17:9-10

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Luke 16:19-20

Prayer for Generosity
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.

This chapter in Luke’s Good News has a wealth of riches in it…riches of the Word.  Money – particularly “dishonest wealth” betrays its owner.  From the parable of the dishonest steward to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we see the obstacle that money can become to living in God’s friendship. 

Of the dishonest steward, we hear that “If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?(Luke 16:11-12).  On the heels of this story, Jesus tells the story of Dives and Lazarus.  In it, Jesus reveals who has true wealth – Lazarus, the one who had nothing to eat in this world takes the express train to heaven and is seated right next to Abraham. 

The rich man goes to the netherworld fulfilling the terms of Luke’s version of the sermon on the plain:  “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.” (Luke 6:24-25a).  Riches on earth rots away.  Fine clothes end up destroyed by moths. 

Lent comes along each calendar and liturgical year as a reminder for us to assess, “What do we do with our wealth?”  Are we like the rich man who puts his trust in the gifts he has been granted and shares little with those around?

We ask the Lord not to reward us on the terms of Jeremiah but rather on terms of his perfect mercy. Let us use the remaining three weeks of Lent to test new ways to use our earthly wealth for the benefit of others.