Saturday, October 31, 2015


For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29

“Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:10-11

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

Israel long held the honored place at the banquet of the Lord. However, they were not living up to that privilege.  Therefore, the notes from the New American Bible tell us, “In God’s design, Israel’s unbelief is being used to grant the light of faith to the Gentiles. Meanwhile, Israel remains dear to God, still the object of special providence, the mystery of which will one day be revealed.”[i]

Even though they went to a lower position, they remained favored by God.  “Although Israel has been unfaithful to the prophetic message of the gospel, God remains faithful to Israel. Proof of the divine fidelity lies in the existence of Jewish Christians like Paul himself. The unbelieving Jews, says Paul, have been blinded by the Christian teaching concerning the Messiah.”[ii]

Faith is what determines the place we have at the banquet of the Lord.  Despite whatever our actions might be that betray that faith or take it for granted, the Lord never turns away from us.  The greater our faith, the easier it might be to take the humble position at the foot of the table.  For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable no matter where we are seated.

In the recent Synod of the Family, there was a lot of media attention paid to discussions of divorced and remarried Catholics – specifically, would there be a path for them to return to Communion.  The participants wrestled with ways to achieve fuller participation of the divorced and remarried in Catholic life.
According to Christine Shenk writing in the National Catholic Reporter, “Of course, Pope Francis has the final word, but as anyone who has been paying attention realizes, his heart is set on the mercy of God rather than judgment.”[iii]

In his concluding synod speech, Pope Francis had harsh words for those "letter-of-the-law" types who "frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families." Rather, said Pope Francis, true defenders of church doctrine, "are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness."[iv]

Pope Francis went on to say that the Synod “was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners.”

Divorced and remarried Catholics have been seated at the “lowest place” for years.  Maybe the comments of Pope Francis will give them hope of being asked to move up to the table “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” even if divorced or remarried.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Compassion and Mercy

By Colleen O’Sullivan

“… I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:2-3)

Then he said to (the Pharisees and scholars of the law) “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5-6)

You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy;
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
In order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error;
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.  (From Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee)

Another set-up by the Pharisees.  Jesus is invited to dinner at one of their homes.  All the invited guests know it’s a trap, so they watch intently to see what will happen.  Luke tells us they place a man suffering from dropsy right in front of Jesus.  It is, of course, the Sabbath.  Hopefully, Jesus will break the law and they can snare him.

Unless we read books written many years ago, dropsy isn’t a word we are familiar with.  Substitute edema or retention of fluid and you’ve got the picture.  The cause could be anything from kidney problems to heart disease.  Whatever the cause, it’s not a condition anyone wants to have.  Swollen hands, legs, ankles, or feet – people tend to stare.  The person with the condition is likely to be very uncomfortable.  Joints don’t bend easily and getting around can be difficult.  If heart problems are the cause, breathing could be difficult.  How despicable the Pharisees are, taking a suffering person and trying to use him as their pawn in an entrapment scheme. 

Jesus heals the man and turns on the host and his fellow scholars.  He points out that if it was something valuable to them that was endangered, they wouldn’t hesitate to save their child or their work animal no matter what the day.  So, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?”  Don’t compassion and mercy in the face of human need outweigh the bazillion man-made laws zealously enforced by the Pharisees about exactly how much energy anyone could expend on the Sabbath before they broke the rules.  And there were lots of rules in Jesus’ day, down to the permissible weight of a lamp that could be moved from one side of a room to the other on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees don’t realize that Jesus is the human face of God.  They don’t stop to consider how often throughout the history of their people God has been kind and compassionate to them.  But that’s exactly what Paul is reflecting on in our first reading.  God gave my people everything, he muses – life, love, the Law, prophets to call them back when they strayed, forgiveness.  Even the longed-for Messiah was one of us.  Yet many of my people have turned their backs on what God has wrought in our midst. 

This lament of the apostle Paul is only a very small part of a larger section encompassing chapters 9-11 of his letter to the Romans.  The overall emphasis is more on the faithfulness of God than the faithlessness of some of his people.  If there is a bright light in any of this, it is that the unbelief of some of the Jews has allowed the Gospel to spread to all the world through the Gentiles.  Paul ends these chapters saying that God has not rejected Israel; they are the people God chose.  God will patiently wait for them to respond.  At the end of chapter 11, Paul asserts that whatever God is doing and however God is doing it, God ultimately wants to show mercy to all (11:32).

Mercy and compassion – the threads running through both our Scripture readings today.  Mercy and compassion – the threads running through the discussions at the Synod on the Family these past few weeks in Rome.  Mercy – the theme for the upcoming extraordinary jubilee year proclaimed by Pope Francis.

Mercy and compassion – the gifts God wants us to extend to others.  How well do we do that?  

God is For Us

By Beth DeCristofaro

Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31, 38-39)

‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose. (Luke 13:32)

“I praise you and I bless you, Lord, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world”…and I…and all those I love.  I praise you, I bless you and I thank you.

Many funerals use Paul’s letter to the Romans and, although it is a powerful and beautiful reading, I must admit that on occasion I’ve wondered if Paul is expressing some wishful thinking that crosses all our minds from time to time.  Attending the funeral of a baby or someone who has died of random violence might make us question what God had in mind for her/him and family.  Yet even when distracted by sadness or pain it is not hard to remember that not death, powers, current events, nature, betrayers or distracters could turn away Jesus from his purpose.  And on the third day he accomplished that purpose.

Jesus, God and Man, chose annihilation, passing through a life of human limitations to savage murder to resurrection.  And He did this in order to save you and me and establish a Kingdom of God to which we are all heirs.  So Paul’s words make me want to gasp and grin with the wonder of it.  It makes me want to listen and hear the silence of God’s presence today before I also go through the annihilation of death in order to find myself surrounded by His glory. 

I am invited, you are invited.  It’s a tough road to get there but we will be with Jesus each step of the way, even if that step is, for example, confined by a hospital bed or interrupted through trauma.  How are we preparing to arrive?  Pray for those who died in recent natural disasters yet were not quite ready that they are now immersed in God’s peace and glory.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

He Chose Twelve

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

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.  Luke 6:12-13


Every heart needs to be set free
From possessions
That hold it so tight
Cause freedom's not found in the things that we own
It's the power
To do what is right
Jesus, our only possession
Giving becomes our delight
We can't imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind

We show a love for the world in our lives
By worshipping goods we possess
Jesus has laid all our treasures aside
"love God above all the rest"

Cause when we say 'no'
To the things of the world
We open our hearts
To the love of the Lord and
Its hard to imagine
The freedom we find
From the things we leave behind.

Luke regularly presents Jesus at prayer at important points in his ministry: at his baptism; here at the choice of the Twelve; before Peter’s confession; at the transfiguration; when he teaches his disciples to pray; at the Last Supper; on the Mount of Olives; and on the cross.[i]

Jesus chose twelve.  Not eleven, not thirteen.  Twelve.  One for each of the
Dali's Last Supper
tribes of Israel.  These twelve became the foundation of the Church with Christ as the capstone.  Through Jesus, the whole structure of the early Christian community and the eventual Church is held together and grows into a singular temple sacred in the Lord.  When the foundation was disrupted with the betrayal of Judas, the community had to be rebuilt before it could go back out into the world and build upon the foundation.

For such a small group, there were several names repeated…two named Simon (one was changed to Peter), two named James (each known by the family name) and two named Judas (one called Iscariot).  With all that time spent in prayer before selecting these, Jesus already knew that Iscariot would be his betrayer when he was selected.  Maybe that is why he had to pray so much stronger and longer for the courage to choose his own traitor.

In Jesus, we are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit just like the Apostles were built.  They did not achieve perfection quickly and we are not expect to either.  But we are expected to try.  Like living stones, we must let ourselves be built into a spiritual house.  Thus we would be part of the holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

What is the hardest part of being formed into an Apostle for you?  What are you asked to leave behind like Peter left his boats and Matthew left his tax rolls? 

Cause when we say 'no'
To the things of the world
We open our hearts
To the love of the Lord and
Its hard to imagine
The freedom we find
From the things we leave behind.

For What We Do Not See

By Melanie Rigney

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

The Lord has done marvels for us.  (Psalm 126:3a)

Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” (Luke 13:20-21)

Lord, I give You thanks and praise for Your presence in my life.

Maybe it starts in childhood.

We hope for a pony. We get a tricycle.

Kazimierz Wojniakowski [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons.
We hope for a particular doll or bat or tablet or game subscription. The one we get is fine… but it’s not exactly the one we had our heart set on. And so we become more specific, more defined in what we want in gifts or people. We set up our wish list on Amazon and our non-negotiables on CatholicMatch or elsewhere because we think in the tangible, the specific. We hope for what we have seen, what we know will make us happy. We pray for that too: Give me that promotion. Provide the money for that new house. Bring me a spouse. Often, we had these things once, and they were lost along the way. Other times, we pray for them because we’ve seen how happy they make others, and surely they will do the same for us. We waste time and hope pining for the things we know or once knew, things that everyone else except us seems to have. After all, we know best what we need.

Paul advises us today to develop the faith to have hope, for one necessarily follows the other for Christians. Our greatest hope, that of eternal life, comes through our belief in the Resurrection and the promise that it is available to us as well. What does heaven look like? Our brains cannot begin to imagine, most likely. And so we hope to be worthy of it, as we work and wait, confident of the Lord’s presence here and His constant love for us.

Put aside those childhood disappointments of hope unrealized. The Lord will not disappoint.

There’s a definite place for intentional prayer. But just for today, consider focusing your time with the Lord on adoration instead.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Set Free

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16-17

The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! 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

Rembrandt's The Prodigal
“As I look at my own aging hands, I know that they have been given to me to stretch out to all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come, and to offer the blessing that emerges from the immensity of God’s love.” (Henri Nouwen, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” Epilogue.)

Christians, by reason of the Spirit’s presence within them, enjoy not only new life but also a new relationship to God, that of adopted children and heirs through Christ, whose sufferings and glory they share.  Jesus puts that new relationship on display as he heals the crippled woman on the Sabbath. 

This new relationship as heirs to his same suffering destiny may not be what we have in mind when we think about an inheritance.  To us, inheritance is (usually) something good.  Money.  Property.  Family jewelry.  Heirlooms.  Inheritance has an almost universally positive meaning. 

We would not typically equate suffering with inheritance.  However, we do inherit a genetic makeup from our birth parents.  Sometimes that passes on to us negative factors and a propensity for disease like heart problems, cancer or more.  In addition, an inheritance also might create for us a tax obligation based upon the value of the estate that we receive.  We have to take the good with the bad.

The same is true of our inheritance with Christ.  We have to accept the good (Glory) with the need for the bad (Suffering).  We cannot have one without the other.

In addition, inheritance also means we might be gaining something but we have lost out on a relationship which was close to us.  In the case of Jesus, we inherit his estate yet we have not lost him. 

Jesus accepts the good and the bad of his inheritance.  Today, the good is his healing of the crippled woman.  The bad is the betrayal that is brewing among the leaders of the temple after he humiliates them publicly. 

As you look at your aging hands, what will be your non-monetary estate?  What have you inherited that cannot be counted on a balance sheet of assets and liabilities?

One hundred years from now
It won't matter
What kind of car I drove
What kind of house I lived in
How much money I had in the bank
Nor what my cloths looked like
The world may be a little better
Because, I was important
In the life of a child.
 Excerpt from "Within My Power" by Forest Witcraft

A Journey Towards Mercy

By Lisa Helene Bacalski

They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. --Jeremiah 31:9a

Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
--Psalm 126:6

In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest,
but rather the one who said to him: You are my son: this day I have begotten you. --Hebrews 5:5

Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. --Mark 10:51-52

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.

This week’s readings reveal the dynamic nature of God’s mercy. It is not a static gift in a box, but a journey and a transformation. God’s people are on the road in Jeremiah and today’s Psalm, leaving with tears but returning with great joy and carrying the graces of their challenging journey. Jesus traveled from heaven to become Emmanuel, God-With-Us, to be glorified by God and to offer his priestly sacrifice on the cross.

And finally, the blind man “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus” who gave him the gift of sight. How daring and terrifying it must have been to walk in total darkness through a crowd of strangers. What if it was a trick? What if he was actually being led away from that preacher he’d heard so much about? Yet he followed the call. Like the blind man, we seek the face of Jesus with faith and hope, and like him, our faith will be rewarded in a transformative way through the mercy of God’s love.

As the universal church prepares to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy, schedule time each week for your journey towards mercy. Whether you choose more frequent confession, corporal works of mercy, spiritual works of mercy, or simply spend time with challenging people in your life, seek opportunities within your parish and diocese to see the face of Jesus. Don’t just make a date - take a journey!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bear Fruit in the Future

If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.  Romans 8:11

“He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:8-9

Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me. For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes so that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment. (Psalm 51:3-6)

We are pulled in two directions…one way leads to life and peace while the other leads to hostility and death. How perfect life could be if we made decisions 100 percent of the time toward life and peace.   However, it is not that easy because we are constantly called to holiness via repentance (change) AND called to the pleasures of the flesh.  Our loving God awaits our decision and action daily.

Fortunately, through the redemptive work of Christ, Christians have been liberated from the terrible forces of sin and death. Holiness was impossible so long as the flesh (or our “old self”), that is, self-interested hostility toward God, frustrated the divine objectives expressed in the law. The same Spirit who enlivens Christians for holiness will also resurrect their bodies at the last day. [i]

The parable of the barren fig tree presents a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet given evidence of their repentance from the sins of the flesh to the righteousness of the spirit. 

“If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

In a recent homily, Pope Francis acknowledged that because of weakness, original sin and the devil, the temptation to fall back into old habits is constant. The path to conversion, he said, is made "a little bit each day" even when there are difficulties. Like an athlete, he said that Christians must train in sanctity in order to win the "great victory of heaven."

“Let us ask this grace from the Lord: to be strong, to be strong in this training of life toward the encounter, that we might receive the gift of justification, the gift of grace, the gift of the Spirit in Christ Jesus," the pope said.[ii]  In this way, we may bear the fruits of the spirit in the future.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Do the Good I Want

By Colleen O’Sullivan

For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want…  Miserable one that I am!  Who will deliver me from this mortal body?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 7:19, 24-25a)

“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)

Hear, Lord, the prayers we offer from contrite hearts.
Have pity on us as we acknowledge our sins.
Lead us back to the way of holiness.
Protect us now and always from the wounds of sin.
May we ever keep safe in all its fullness
the gift your love one gave us
and your mercy now restores.
Enough blue in the sky to patch a sailor’s pants – a sure sign, according to my grandmother, that the clouds would give way to a sunny day. 

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.  Red sky at morning, sailors take warning – a saying I’ve heard all my life that often pans out.  If the sunrise is deep red gorgeous, it will likely rain at some point during the day.  A beautiful sunset with lots of red is almost a guarantee of nice weather the next day.

Jesus is right.  Even without the benefit of the National Weather Service or Doppler radar, people have always been fairly capable of predicting the weather by observing the signs around them.  But then Jesus goes on to wonder why those same people, who are so observant about the next day’s forecast, can’t discern the presence of the Kingdom of God in their midst. 

Here we see Jesus talking to the crowds, not just his disciples.  By now, he hopes that at least a few of the disciples have some clue to his identity and his purpose for being on earth.  He is painfully aware, however, that the majority of the people he’s addressing in this gathering have no idea who he is or why he’s journeying from village to village, healing, teaching and preaching, nor do they really care.  They’re there to be entertained.  The Kingdom of God is all around them and they don’t see it or feel it!

If you are reading this, I’m assuming you’re not among the clueless crowd Jesus is talking to.  We know who Jesus is.  We know what he’s done for us.  We see and feel his presence in our lives. 

Then we come to Paul’s words to the Romans.  And we have to admit that even though we are able to discern Christ’s presence in our midst and know how Jesus wants us to live our lives, there’s always that huge stumbling block – SIN.  We truly want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, but something keeps pulling us off the path, luring us on detours to places we never meant to go.

“Help!” we call.  “We’re lost.  We can’t find the way.  We’re sorry we left the marked route.  Can anyone lead us back?”  And along comes Jesus, who picks us up, dusts us off, takes us by the hand, and leads us back to where we got off-track.  And does it time and again when we do the evil we do not want.  “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

What is it that derails you on your journey with Christ?  For many of us, if we’re honest with God and ourselves, it’s often the very thing we least wanted to do.  When you are praying today, ask for Jesus’ forgiveness and for his deliverance from whatever it is that conspires to separate you from him.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Set the Earth on Fire

By Beth DeCristofaro

But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! (Luke 12:49)

Spirit of God,
give us the openness, deep within us to recognize, daily, all people as made in your image and likeness.
Help us to learn from one another the ways of being fully alive, at peace with ourselves and with those around us.
Give us the courage to transform those parts of ourselves and our world
that separate and create enmity.
Help us to take steps to stop the cycle of violence in our homes, in our workplaces,
in our neighborhoods, in our country, in our world.
May we be open to our deepest yearning for a world alive with your justice and truth, to dream of a society where all are treated with respect, and, with the power of your Spirit, to take steps to bring it about.
  Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

Day after day we receive tragic news that causes us to shake our heads or clench hands tight in anguish. Many times these accounts are followed up by stories of individuals and communities reaching out to those who were hurt, displaced, lost, or attacked.  Although it is appalling that so many atrocities occur, it is hopeful that people continue to step forward to respond.

In a reflection from “Give Us this Day”, Kate Ritger describes what it means to be “rich toward God”.  Ritger says “If I am rich toward my sister, I make visiting her a priority, I listen carefully when we talk on the phone, I appreciate who she is and I share important parts of my life with her.  Being ‘rich toward God’ asks us to extend that generosity, intentionality and vulnerability to the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable around us.”[i]

Imagine if we were to make visiting the homeless a priority.  What would happen if we listened carefully to someone who has been incarcerated or is tormented by mental illness?  What if we appreciated a person with whom we have significant differences or shared our lives and even our homes with someone who has had to flee their own home?  The world would blaze with a love inspired by Christ even as the world is divided against itself, suspicious of such a love. 

Christ asks us to love, one at a time, a neighbor, a person, a living sister or brother not an abstract.  Who might I stretch myself to meet?  Tiny fires unite into magnificent blazes in Christ.

[i] “Rich in What Matters”, Kate Ritger, from Give Us this Day: Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, Liturgical Press, October 2015, p. 196.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Weapons for Righteousness

Brothers and sisters: Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness.   Romans 6:12-13

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”  Luke 12:48

Let us arise, then, at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, "Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep of sin." Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue

The Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared.”  Maybe they got inspired to make it such by the Good News according to Saint Luke for he writes that “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Luke emphasizes for his readers the importance of being faithful to the instructions of Jesus.  He also cautions his readers against counting on an unknown delay in when Jesus will return.  If we count on the delay and act irresponsibly, we may be caught unprepared for the final judgement.

While Luke is writing about the unknown future, he cautions that we should handle it like the present.  St. Paul, in Romans, issues a similar warning but is more focused on how we present ourselves in the present time.  He cautions not to give in to sin but to save ourselves to stay in a right relationship with God.

The bottom line:  we must renounce own will by taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience to do battle against sin for Christ.

Was this also yesterday’s message?  Certainly.  Will this also be tomorrow’s message?   You bet.  Jesus is consistent in his life affirming teachings to his disciples in his day and to us today and to our children after us. “So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is a sin.” (James 4:17)

What weapons will you have to use when the thief comes in the night? Will those weapons of righteousness be ready to use?  Are you practicing with them daily or are you falling into bad habits thinking that you have more time before they will be put to use?

As you sharpen the sword of your piety, study and action, you will be preparing for the battle of life. Christ is, after all, counting on you. Are you counting on Christ?

Monday, October 19, 2015

When He Comes and Knocks

By Melanie Rigney
Just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)

Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.  (Psalm 40:8a and 9a)

“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)

Lord, help me to be ever-present and responsive to your call.

A dear friend likes to tell a story about a chart, designed to open up dialogue with others or private recollections about pivotal points in your life. It breaks the journey into seven-year segments and aligns them with months of the year. A member of her family was shocked to find while he was in April, she was in November. It didn’t bother her; it worried him.

Another friend once commented that she wouldn’t be around when some of the grand kids graduated from college. I immediately contradicted her; it would only be twenty-one years, of course she’d still be around. Then I realized that would put her in her mid-nineties, and the odds were she’d be right.

It feels like we all and our loved ones have oceans of time on the planet until those little moments bring us up short, oceans of time to get our act together, to start loving instead of hating, to accept instead of judge, to help rather than criticize. But we don’t have oceans of time, not when we are toddlers, not when we are teenagers, not when we are in our thirties and not when we are in our sixties and beyond. We have this moment to prepare for the Lord’s arrival. There’s no need to wring our hands about the way we wasted yesterday, nor do our grandiose plans for how we’ll serve Him “someday” matter much. What we have is today. May we make the most of it in the way we serve and love so that we may be ready no matter when He knocks.

Identify a place in your life where the Lord would find you less than vigilant. Ask for His help in changing that.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What Matters

Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do.  Romans 4:20-21

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  Luke 12:15

…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…
(From a prayer by Bishop Ken Untener)

What matters to God? 

Let’s look to the first reading for a clue.  Any doubts Abraham might have had about what God asked of him were resolved in his commitment to God’s promise.  Abraham and Sarah are marked for our study to emulate their faith.  Rather than react as would be expected to Sarah’s infertility until a very advanced age or the command to sacrifice their long-awaited son, they trusted in what God wanted, not what they wanted nor what society said that they should do or say.

Our second clue comes as Jesus explains his comments about the parable of the rich fool.  Building barns in which to store his harvest would not seem foolish to his neighbors.  Yet amassing great wealth when you will not live to use it for the good of society is what is foolish.  “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12:21)

What matters to God is not what matters to us unless we – like Abraham and Sarah – place our trust in God.  Such guidance builds upon the lessons of the Sunday Good News when James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ left and right side in heaven.  Jesus stressed that all he could give them was the cup and baptism, not power or status. 

On any given Sunday, many red-blooded American men are spending the afternoon watching the local professional football team play on the gridiron…or having a tailgate party before the game…or having friends over to watch those games on TV (the bigger the screen the better).  But for the Men of the 131st Cursillo that concluded at San Damiano Retreat House yesterday, it was spent getting to know themselves better, getting to know Jesus better and getting to know what to do in the community.

Today is the start of the first and only Fourth Day of the rest of their lives.  Welcome these new Cursillistas back into your parish, into your group reunion, and into the ways you dedicate your life to piety, study and action. Help them to keep on doing what they learned on this weekend and throughout life.