Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Still More Excellent Way

By Beth DeCristofaro

The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you … They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.  (Jeremiah 1:4, 19)

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:1)

(Jesus said) Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away. (Luke 4:27-30)

Grant us, Lord our God that we may honor you with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. (Collect of the Mass of the Day)

Jesus’ fellow citizens did not appreciate his message but the Word is stronger than human perception, prejudice or shortsightedness.  Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu, appreciated the message.  He said “Living Christ means a living Cross; without it life is a living death.” His life demonstrated the message of living love, emulating Jesus’ redemptive suffering.  As an activist against oppressive British rule in India, “he approached each campaign (of nonviolent resistance) as an ‘experiment in truth,’ an effort to realize God’s will on earth” In Gandhi God worked through a Gentile to model Christ’s “still more excellent” way.[i]

We live in such a violent culture.  Do we not hear as Jesus’ neighbors did not hear?  Are we prone to go with the crowd rather than persist and search the still more excellent way of love?  Read Church positions on violence in order to preach with action Jesus’ way of love, Jesus’ “still more excellent way” in your community.

[i] Give Us this Day: Daily Prayer for Today’s Catholic, Liturgical Press, January 2016, p. 308.

Saturday, January 30, 2016


David grew very angry with that man and said to him: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this merits death! He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold because he has done this and has had no pity.” 2 Samuel 5-6

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?”  Mark 4:38-40


Be still.
Be still and know.
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Actions have consequences.  David learns the hard way when Nathan presents a test case. In the test, a powerful man takes advantage of his poor, helpless neighbor. Hearing the story, David is outraged and denounces the rich man—thus unwittingly pronouncing judgment on himself. “You are the [rich] man,” Nathan reveals.  Perhaps David should have learned from the wind and the stormy seas in today’s Good News.  Perhaps he should have been more humble and not passed judgement on his neighbor.  But he did and he fell right into Nathan’s rhetorical trap.

Just like David sentences the hypothetical rich man to pay restitution four times over for what he has done (“He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold”), David will pay for his wanton adultery with the deaths of four of his sons.  The notes in the New American Bible teach us (remind us) what happens:  David’s judgment foreshadows the deaths of four of his own sons: the child born of his adulterous union with Bathsheba; Amnon (13:2829); Absalom (18:1519:1); and Adonijah (1 Kgs 2:2425).[i]

The disciples also learn that actions have consequences.  When they fear for their lives in the storm, Jesus commands the wind and the waves to be quiet.  Jesus not only rebukes nature, but he also rebukes his companions for expressing their lack of faith. Yet who among the loyal readers of Your Daily Tripod would not be afraid if we were in that boat, too?    

Jesus also sees how his actions have consequences.  The combination of silencing the demons in Mark 1 and calming the seas and storms here, are signs of Jesus’ power and presence.  It begins to reveal the Epiphany to his followers:  Who is this itinerant preacher?  For even though Jesus commands the people he heals to tell no one about his actions, they cannot keep from singing Jesus all the way to Good Friday. Yet it was the path he was on from the Annunciation. Indeed from when Adam took a bite at the apple.

If the winds and the seas and the demons obey Jesus, who are we to disobey?  Obedience and humility are the preferred actions and dispositions.

The Benedictine Sisters of Erie website presents a reflection by Sr. Joan Chittister on today’s second step of humility passage from the Rule of St. Benedict: 
The question, of course, is how do we recognize the Will of God? How do we tell the will of God from our own? How do we know when to resist the tide and confront the opposition and when to embrace the pain and accept the bitterness because "God wills it for us." The answer lies in the fact that the Jesus who said "I have come not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent me" is also the Jesus who prayed in Gethsemane, "Let this chalice pass from me:" The will of God for us is what remains of a situation after we try without stint and pray without ceasing to change it.[ii]

How do we know when to resist the tide of human opinion and act according to the will of God?  How do we know when to have faith that will get us through any storm?  How do we know God?  Maybe we have to get in the boat with him when the storms approach.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Don’t Live in a Glass House

By Colleen O’Sullivan

From the roof he saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.  David had inquiries made about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and wife of Joab’s armor bearer Uriah the Hittite.”  Then David sent messengers and took her.  When she came to him, he had relations with her… (Later she) sent the information to David, “I am with child.”  (David made two unsuccessful attempts to get Uriah to have relations with his wife and then directed Joab):  “Place Uriah up front where the fighting is fierce.  Then pull back and leave him to be struck down dead.”   (2 Samuel 11:2b-4b, 5b, 15b)

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. (Psalm 51:3-4)

O Lord, when we sin, grace us with the humility to turn to you, to ask for forgiveness and, to the extent possible, to right what we have done wrong.

Breaking News Alert!!  Wealthy, admired world leader caught with his pants down!  Oh, I can just see how a story such as this one would play out on today’s news.  King forces himself upon wife of respected military man.  Out of wedlock pregnancy results.  Husband refuses to cooperate in cover-up.  King orders “accidental” death of wronged man. 

Adultery.  A child on the way.  Attempted entrapment.  Murder.   People would be eating it up, hungry for all the sordid details.  Earthquakes, wars, terrorist attacks, homeless refugees, starving millions – all would take a back seat, so intrigued are we with sordid stories such as King David’s.

But there are huge problems with our insatiable interest in the public downfall of the rich and famous.  In this instance, we totally ignore King David’s foil, Uriah the Hittite.  For sure, Nancy Grace would never do a show featuring Uriah, but he’s the one we ought to be showcasing.  He’s the “good guy.”  Like millions of other people we never hear about, he’s living a life of faith, loyalty, and integrity.  He knows that as long as his comrades are on the battlefield, he can’t allow himself the comforts of his own bed and his wife.  That’s just not done.  The viewing public might never tune in to hear his story, but Uriah’s the person trying to live the way God wants each of us to live, true to our faith, beliefs and values.

Second, we’re like people who live in glass houses.  We’re avidly following each episode of David’s downfall, inwardly agreeing that he should lose his crown, his honorary degrees and be stripped of any awards received.  It’s almost as though we’re enjoying saying, “Crucify him, crucify him!” But stop and think for a moment.  Is that how you and I want to be treated?  Of course, King David had access to power and the trappings of wealth that none of us will ever have.  But stripped to the basics, how different are his actions from ours?  We know what is right, but we find ourselves giving in to temptation time and again.  (Remember Paul lamenting doing the evil he had no intention of participating in?)  Many of us then try to cover up the situation with lies and more wrongdoing.  It’s what we humans have been doing since we were created, sinning, trying to fix it ourselves, making a worse mess of things, all without turning to the only one who can forgive us – our God.

The only remedy for those who have sinned and those of us cold-heartedly enjoying the sinners’ discomfort is to pray the words of the psalmist, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness.”  I have sinned.  Have compassion on me, and make me clean again, O Loving God.

If there is anything in your life that needs God’s forgiveness, just turn to the Lord.  As Pope Francis reminds us every day, our God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.”  (Psalm 145:8)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Who Am I? I am Your Child

By Beth DeCristofaro

After Nathan had spoken to King David, the king went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, Lord GOD, and who are the members of my house that you have brought me to this point? Yet even this you see as too little, Lord GOD; you have also spoken of the house of your servant for a long time to come:  this too you have shown to man, Lord GOD!  (2 Samuel: 18-19)

The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you. To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Mark 4:24-25)

A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

King David’s humble prayer after he is told by Nathan not to build a temple because God intends to build a temple of David’s lineage reminds me of the beautiful words in Psalm 8:

What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet (Psalm 8:5-7)

God’s love is so boundless that we can’t really grasp it.  “Me, Lord?”  “Yes, you, my Child” God says.  Jesus’ declaration reverberates in our souls.  However Jesus’ words make me wonder just what I give away or fail to see.  Absolutely I have been given much in “measurement” and gifts.  God doesn’t tease by removing them from me.  But without humility, confidence and expectation in God’s generosity I can’t grasp God’s grace freely offered that allows me to accept and make use of them.  I can’t be the light on the lampstand without allowing God to light my wick as He sees fit and to burn brightly according to His will.  Pretty awesome promise God makes to me as he made to David.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve read anything at all by St. Thomas Aquinas.  A very long time!  Consider spending some time with this light to our path (as he said in the intro to the Summa Theologica: “we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners.” (Thomistic Philosophy Page.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On Rich Soil

I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you: when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. 2 Samuel 7:11B-14A

And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” Mark 4:8-9

But I will not take my mercy from him, nor will I betray my bond of faithfulness.  I will not violate my covenant; the promise of my lips I will not alter.

What has the Lord done for David?  What message is being delivered today? 

According to the notes in the New American Bible: 
The message Nathan delivers to David, called the Dynastic Oracle, is prompted by David’s intention to build a house (i.e., a temple) for the Lord, like David’s own house (i.e., palace) of cedar. David is told, in effect, not to bother building a house for the Lord; rather, the Lord will make a house for him—a dynasty, the House of David. Not only will he have descendants who will sit upon the throne of Israel, their rule will last forever; and even if they transgress the Lord’s commands, the line of David will never be removed from kingship as Saul was. The oracle establishes the Davidic king as standing in relationship to the Lord as a son to a father.[i]

David went from the pasture where he was watching over the sheep to become ruler of all the people of Israel.    Not only had the Lord raised up his station in life, but also that Moreover, the LORD “declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you” not the other way around. 

Previously, the idea was that the promise of the throne would be dependent upon faithfulness:  “If your sons observe my covenant, and my decrees I shall teach them, their sons, in turn, shall sit forever on your throne.”  (Psalm 132:12)  However, the Lord provides an unconditional promise to provide for David no matter what.  This unconditional love is reflected in Psalm 88: 34-35: But I will not take my mercy from him, nor will I betray my bond of faithfulness.  I will not violate my covenant; the promise of my lips I will not alter.

Down through European history, the Divine Right of the King was contingent upon having a blessing from God.  However, this concept gave way to the consent of the governed, the basis for modern governments like ours, which derive power from the people.  Such a blessing is not reserved for the King alone.  Jesus brought about a church founded upon the notion that every one of us are baptized priest, prophet and king in the line David.  As siblings of Christ, we are the inheritors of this unconditional promise of love. 

The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
(Mark 4:14-19)

The image has shifted from the shepherd in the Hebrew Bible to the farmer in the Good News.  Neither are particularly royal.  What elevates the simple people to royalty is hearing and acting upon the gift of the Word.  “But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20)

Blessed so abundantly, what are we to do?  How will we react?

What are you doing with the abundant, unconditional blessing you get from the Lord?  That blessing may appear as the children in the neighborhood who help shovel your snow or as riches of time and talents and treasure that we are given that we pay to charities to share with those who really need help. If we get love unconditional, we must give love unconditional.  That, I think, is one of the lessons Pope Francis is trying to drive home in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. The mystery is revealed to us through the parables and through the gift of faith.

The seed is the Word of God.  Christ is the sower.  The fruit of our lives is the action that grows up from our hearing the Word.  Will we react as see that falls on rich soil?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Whoever Does the Will of God

By William Hole [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons 

By Melanie Rigney

I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you. (2 Timothy 1:4-5)

Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations. (Psalm 96:3)

A crowd seated around (Jesus) told him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:32-35)

Lord, I thank You for my brothers and sisters, every single one of them.

Ah, family.

How blessed Timothy was to have the faith-filled examples of his grandmother and mother, examples that also inspired Paul.

How blessed we all are for Mary’s fiat, her yes when called upon to offer up her body as the dwelling place for the Lord’s only Son.

Today’s Gospel reading from Mark 3 sounds a bit cold at first read. Jesus seems to deny Mary and his own extended family. But on further reflection, this may be among the most comforting readings in the New Testament. It doesn’t matter where you come from, Jesus in essence says, whether your parents were saints or sinners, faithful followers of the Lord or atheists, pillars of the community or scum. What matters is your obedience and love.

It helps immensely to be guided and bolstered by the support and example of faith-filled family and community. But truly, even those of us from the smallest, vilest, least impressive beginnings have a place at the banquet table. The invitation is offered to all. It’s up to us to have the courage and faith to accept it.

Are you judging someone based on his or her family background, education, national origin, faith background, or socioeconomic status? Pray for that person tonight with the same love and intensity that you do for the dearest members of your family.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Shall I Do, Sir?

“I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’”  Acts 22:10

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.  Mark 16:15-17

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gift which we are about to receive from your bounty to our table through Christ, our Lord (and Chef Laval).

Our faith is contingent upon two equal forces: listening and acting.  The readings this week drive home that point.  Just yesterday, Jesus in the Synagogue told his neighbors that the scripture was fulfilled in their hearing.  Once we hear, we are sent out of the synagogue to begin the work and deliver the Good News.

Go. Proclaim.  Believe.  Baptize. Drive.  Save.  Speak.

Delivery of the “glad tiding to the poor,” is not something we can do in words alone. It takes “work” combined with “words” to fulfill the promise of the Kingdom.  Just like Jesus was present to the disciples and to the poor, we have to be present as well.

Today, I got an e-mail message from Fr. John Adams at SOME.  During the Jonas Blizzard of 2016, the weather forecast was not glad tidings for the poor.  The cold and snow invaded their open-air bedrooms.  The poor sought shelter inside at places like the SOME dining room.  While the power brokers in the city closed down the government to make way for the snow and the plows, the workers and volunteers who fuel the work of SOME and Matha’s Table and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House and other programs could not sleep in. The doors had to be opened.  The meals had to be prepared.  The breakfast and lunch had to be served. 

I will let Fr. John’s Epistle to the Virginians pick up the story…

Before 5 am, SOME’s Dining Room Chef, Laval, opened his front door and was greeted with a wall of snow. 

After a few stumbles and some digging, he was in a borrowed 4WD vehicle on his way to open the Dining Room. 

In other parts of the city, fellow staff members and volunteers were braving the storm, on foot and in trucks, to make it in to SOME. 

Chef Laval and his team started whipping up eggs, sausage, grits, hot chocolate and coffee.

To serve to hungry guests waiting in the Dining Room and making their way down O Street outside.

Thanks to Laval, Mike, Ray, Kristi, Lynette, Terrance, Yvette, Carthell and the other SOME staff members and volunteers whose dedication embodies our mission.

After all, their spirit embodies and inspires our mission as well, no? 

What Shall I Do, Sir?  Get up and go into Fairfax, and Arlington and Alexandria and Washington, and Manassas and Falls Church. Drive out the demon of hunger or homelessness or loneliness.  This is not just Jesus’ mission and Laval’s mission. It is everyone’s mission.  This is your mission. To whom will you appear today?  Who will you be feeding today?

(If you are snowed in, you can always support SOME with a gift made via their website).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fulfilled in Your Hearing

“Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep”— for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!” Nehemiah 8:9B-10

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27

He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Luke 4:16C-21

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”  (Teresa of Ávila)

All this prophesying but not a word about the future.  Each reading today is in the present tense. 

Nehemiah is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. He was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia.  That places his life in the five hundred years before Christ was born. Yet he is not preaching about a heaven in some far off distant time and space.  He is preaching in the present moment to his congregation.  “Today is holy to the LORD your God.”  Sharing with the poor is central to celebrating the strength that they get from the Lord.

Jesus, too, was not taking a futuristic approach to the Kingdom.  Although he reached back to the prophet Isaiah, seven centuries earlier.  Yet, in conclusion, Jesus preaches fulfillment in the here and now when people hear the words now. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

However, the people did not accept the words Jesus preached.  In fact, this very preaching in his hometown directly led to his rejection.  This is the last we see of Jesus in Nazareth.  Yet the manifesto he delivered perfectly outlined his mission and public ministry.  However, that ministry would be marked by a relationship with the poor to whom he preached Good News. 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  Tidings is an old-fashioned word for good news. If someone says "I bring you good tidings!" it means they have information to share that you'll probably like. Glad tidings is “good news to the poor.”  The relationship Jesus had with the rich and powerful was, for the most part, bad news.  Just ask Divas, the rich man who ignored Lazarus at the gate and was left begging for water for eternity.

This first sermon in the temple gives people the assurance that they would be healed, that their sins would be forgiven, that their debts would be cancelled in a Jubilee Year.  Jesus offers a new beginning, a new life, to those who would listen and act upon his word. Yet most preferred to act upon their own words, not the words of the Lord.

The people in the temple who heard this Nazareth Manifesto certainly acted – just not upon it.  They acted against it.  They rejected it outright and attempted to through Jesus off a cliff.  They tried to fulfill the Buddhist maxim, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” They cannot because the spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus.  It is only when Jesus commands his spirit to return to the Father that his life ends – of his own choice.  As long as the spirit of the Lord is upon him, no one can kill him.

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)

What leads to the rejection?  A comparison of Luke 4 to Isaiah 61 gives us a hint.  In Isaiah 61 2B, we can clearly see that Jesus left out a line.  He skipped the part about revenge: “a day of vindication by our God.”  The people in the temple were waiting for a powerful King who would rise up and expel the belligerent Romans from their land.  But that is not the new Jesus delivered.  He delivered everything else they expected from Isaiah – except Jesus drew the line at vindication.  With that, he changed everything.

If we are part of Christ’s body, perhaps the two most important parts are…our ears.  Because unless and until we actually hear the word here, we cannot be Christian.  That is not to minimize our hearts and minds, nor our arms and legs.  We can use all of those for the wrong reason.  We can all answer the “What am I to do?” question differently.  However, Jesus gets pretty specific. 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon YOU because the Lord has anointed YOU to bring the good news to the poor. The Lord sends YOU to free those captives of sin and to open the eyes of people who are blind to the plight of the poor around them.  The Lord commands you to help those who are addicted to any sin and open their eyes to a life free from what controls and oppresses them, reach out to the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected and to proclaim a Jubilee year of mercy and forgiveness acceptable to the Lord.

While our ears are the most important part for the first step on the journey, our hands and hearts and minds quickly overtake the ears – once the ears do their job. Because the rest of your body has to take over.  You are all that is left to bring that good news to the world.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Out of His Mind

Jesus came with his disciples into the house.  Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”  Mark 3:20-21

Tradition or Catholic Action by Peter Maurin
The central act of devotional life
in the Catholic Church
is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Sacrifice of the Mass
is the unbloody repetition
of the Sacrifice of the Cross.
On the Cross of Calvary
Christ gave His life to redeem the world.
The life of Christ was a life of sacrifice.
The life of a Christian must be
a life of sacrifice.
We cannot imitate the sacrifice of Christ
on Calvary
by trying to get all we can.
We can only imitate the sacrifice of Christ
on Calvary
by trying to give all we can.

In one of the most deliciously short yet cryptic daily Gospel readings in any liturgical cycle, what are we to make of today’s brief passage?

What does it say?  Just as we have heard of others who were close to Jesus turning on him recently, today, we see another group join the ranks of the anti-Jesus crowd.  First, it was the Pharisees.  Then, the disciples of John the Baptist questioned why Jesus and his followers did not fast.  Now his own relatives think Jesus is “out of his mind.” Where will it end? It seems Mark’s Gospel is marked more by documenting the non-followers and disbelievers rather than the followers and believers.

What does it mean?  Jesus does not have to go to a far-off land to work his mission.  “He came home.” He gets to work on his own home “turf.”  However, even among friends and relatives, people turn on him.  Ched Myers, writing in his book “Who Will Roll Away the Stone?” notes that things are not looking too good for this little rebel movement.  “Everywhere they have gone there has been conflict, and if it is not bad enough that Jesus has broken with his natural family, now he is under investigation by the authorities from the capital city.”

What does it matter?  Why should this movement have any more acceptance than any of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible?  Myers also points out that as soon as Isaiah had volunteered his services as Yahweh’s emissary than he was informed that his message would be rejected.  The point of the movement is to persist until we can get over people’s blindness and deafness.  Jesus knows his job – and ours – is to begin the outreach and to begin the healing.

In reality, Jesus is NOT out of his mind.  He is out of his family’s mind and totally committed to the mindset he shares with the Father.   

We hear a lot of talk today about “mainstream.”  What is mainstream to one person or group is rebellious to another.  Jesus was hardly mainstream. 

Mainstream is consumerism.  Christianity is a cultural contradiction calling on us to leave behind the stuff so our journey is not weighed down. Mainstream is best-seller lists, Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys, and the Billboard Top 100.  However, the small, niche label goes unnoticed until it is too late. Pope Francis call us out of the mainstream to be as counter-cultural as Jesus. Perhaps the family was right.  Jesus was operating outside of their definition of a sound mind.  Yet perhaps he was acting crazy…like a fox. How else could Christianity become the world’s largest religion?  "As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world's largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31 percent) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth," according to a recent Pew report.[i] 

Mainstream also is getting all we can.  Why else would the news be so
Artist Robert Preston
depicted the JP Morgan CEO
as the epitome of greed in
his seven deadly sins series.
dominated by the historic drop in the value of the stock market at the start of this year?  Not to pick on the CEO of JP Morgan, but his salary really speaks to the excess.  According to USA Today’s Kaja Whitehouse:

“Even as Wall Street braces for more cuts to jobs and bonuses, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was paid $27 million in 2015, up from $20 million the year before, the company said Thursday.

The pay raise comes after JPMorgan announced record annual profits last week, thanks to cost-cutting that helped to offset stagnating revenue growth.

In one year?!  27 million?!  Does he really need a 35 percent increase in pay from that base level?  What board or compensation committee can justify such lofty benefits?  Is he is the latest poster child for ‘Greed?’

Pope Francis calls for the opposite.  "I want a Church which is poor and for the poor." So wrote Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium).

January is Poverty Awareness Month. Get out of the mainstream and into the poor-stream. Learn, pray, and take action with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Sign up here to receive a daily email from CRS with facts, tips, and ways you can take action from the Poverty Awareness Month Calendar to end poverty in your community!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Live God’s Dream for You

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Saul then said to David:  “You are in the right rather than I; you have treated me generously while I have done you harm.  Great is the generosity you showed me today when the Lord delivered me into your grasp and you did not kill me.  (I Samuel 24:18-19)

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.  He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles; that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  (Mark 3:13-15)

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb…   I was  being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.   (Psalm 139:13, 15b-16) 

Do you ever stop to wonder what God was thinking as the Creator’s hands lovingly fashioned you in the darkness of your mother’s womb?  What were/are the plans God had in mind for you and you alone?

I see new mothers scurrying around trying to get their infant’s name on the waiting list for the right daycare, that will, in a few years, funnel them into the right preschool.  I hear mothers of middle schoolers agonizing over whether or not their child will get into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  A few years later, whether or not their offspring attended “TJ,” parents are consumed with getting their sons or daughters into the best college, so that they can then land a good job a few years later.  Plans on top of plans.

I don’t so often hear people considering what God’s plan is for them or their children, what it is God would like them to do or be.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.  (Jeremiah 1:5)

God has something in mind for each one of us.  He knew Jeremiah would be his prophet to the nations.  In today’s first reading, David knew God intended him to be king.  He and his men were hiding in a cave when Saul wandered in, completely unaware how many of his enemies were hiding in the shadows.  But David took seriously God’s plan for him, and it didn’t include killing his predecessor so he could claim the kingly title.  He let things unfold in God’s good time.  In the Gospel reading, Jesus picks twelve of his disciples to form his inner circle, to be his Apostles, the ones he would send out to preach and cast out evil in his name.  The Lord made it clear to all of them what his hopes and intentions were for them.
God has a plan for each of us, something known to God before you and I ever took our first breaths.

Some people are fairly certain what it is God has in mind for them, and they are daily living God’s dream for them.  But what if we don’t know what God envisions for us?  How can we find out?  Or maybe we’ve come to a crossroads in our life and we’re not sure which path to follow.  Which direction is the one God intends us to take?

One way to begin discerning the answer is to look at our deepest desires.  Often, what we desire is also what God desires for us.  A spiritual director could be of assistance in this process.

An excellent book I read when I making the 30-Day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius was Healing the Purpose of Your Life by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn.  It’s very readable and guides you through the process of discovering what special purpose God has for your life.

David knew he was to serve as the king or leader of God’s people.  Each Apostle knew he was set apart to take what he had learned at Jesus’ feet and carry it out into the world.  Take some time to reflect on God’s dream for you and how you are living that dream.

When you are praying today, remember the unborn children.  God has a plan for each of them just as surely as God has one for you and me.  

He Cures

Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

By Beth DeCristofaro

Illustration of Luke 9:2
Terri Scott[i]
When David and Saul approached (on David’s return after slaying the Philistine),…The women played and sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought: “They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.” And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David. (1 Samuel 18:6, 7-8)

He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. (Mark 3:10)

For all who are tempted to sin against life,
that they might turn from darkness
and embrace the infinite love and light of God;
We pray to the Lord
And that we might have the courage and conviction
To embrace the infinite love and light of God
In a world full of distracting and misleading choices.
We pray to the Lord.
(Adapted from Intercessory Prayers for Life, USCCB)

One of the most difficult tasks that I had to undertake as a manager was laying off a dedicated and skilled employee due to budget cuts.  In advocating for her as decisions were being deliberated, my own supervisor gave me a bit of advice which has stayed with me.  She said that the organization and the programs we provided had to be prioritized above any one person if the service to be rendered is at risk of ending.  It did not make it any easier or comforting but it put things into perspective for me. Relationships between boss and employee, between company and worker can be awkward.  Even if relationships are good, the balance of power is never even.

Saul, as King, was anointed by God to lead the people but he got lost in that balance of power.  His jealousy of David’s feats and popularity were fueled by his sense of privilege.  His reaction became deadly and swung the story toward an ending which would be tragic for his legacy.  God anointed Saul who was a very human person and another would replace Saul.  Today, leaders are often themselves motivated by inner compasses which lose their bearing toward the good of their peoples.

Yet God still loved Saul, David and us today.  Jesus’ inner compass never wavered from pointing at the source of Life and Love.  In yesterday’s Gospel he cured a man in defiance of the leaders’ rigid rules.  He continued to heal, not looking to lead but to serve, to reconcile, to bring hope, to point the way to eternal union with God.  He touches even those most lost and despairing today through us who point the way to God by our good works and faith.

Tonight is the Prayer Vigil for Life on the eve of the March for Life.  Spend some time in prayer for an end to abortion, human trafficking, oppression by dictators, abuse, racism, war, torture, the death penalty, and religious persecution.  The USCCB invites us to join pilgrims who petition for “a greater respect for all human life.”