Monday, May 30, 2016

Holy Is His Name

By Melanie Rigney

Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:11-12)

God indeed is my salvation; I am confident and unafraid. (Isaiah 12:2)

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” (Luke 1:46-49)

Lord, may I always give You the glory.

Spend a little time with this beautiful painting by the 19th-century French artist
James Tissot [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
James Tissot.  The work, which hangs in the Brooklyn Museum, provides us with a bit of a different perspective of the Visitation. For starters, Tissot depicts a meeting not just of Elizabeth and Mary, but of Zechariah as well. Elizabeth and Zechariah seem a bit confused, perhaps awestruck, perhaps frightened. Mary, on the other hand, appears to be in or close to a state of ecstasy. Tissot called it a “quiet, reverent, whispered expression of a spirit moved to its very depths.” He created this and other biblical works after experiencing a rebirth of sorts of his Catholic faith in 1885.

Mary’s appearance is in perfect harmony with her words. For Mary, it’s all about God and what He has done. She is grateful, humbled, trusting. She pays homage to this favor of an incomprehensible (to most) pregnancy, unconcerned about where it might take her next, focusing not on her own situation and what the next steps are—but on the Lord’s greatness.

While Mary’s gift was unarguably unique in all the world, God presents us with blessings each and every day. We give birth to children and ideas. We fall in love. We create great works of art or fair to middling devotions or stunning photographs. Our medical knowledge and compassion keep people alive. Blessed are we, to be sure. But about whom do our hearts, souls, and mouths proclaim the greatness?

Make a note—written or mental—of your reaction today when someone thanks you or praises you for something. Is your reaction one of pride or humility? Does it square with the way Mary would respond?

He Had One Other To Send

For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.  Mark 12:6-8

God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully [as it seems]
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion those who have died
serving their countries
in the futility of combat.
There is none of us but must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
We believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
(From a Prayer by Rev. Dick Kozelka, who died in 2010.  He was the retired minister, First Congregational Church of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.)

We see a stark contrast today in the behaviors and qualities which we are encouraged to emulate in the First Letter of Peter.  Set that aside with the critique that Jesus delivers in the parable of the tenants.

The Notes to the New American Bible point out “the climactic gradation of qualities beginning with faith and leading to the fullness of Christian life, which is love.  This series supports a similar series of “virtues,” though the program and sense here are different than in Paul:

Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

The fruit of living according to these virtues is knowledge of Christ.  However, their absence is spiritual blindness.  Spiritual blindness may be an apt charge for the religious leaders of Israel we encounter in today’s Good News.  They do not even take the time to recognize the Son of God in their midst despite their piety and study. 

The vineyard denotes Israel just as it did in the book of the Prophet Isiah:  The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry! (Isiah 5:7).

The notes in the NAB remind us that the tenant farmers are the religious leaders of Israel. God obviously is the owner of the vineyard. His servants are his messengers, the prophets. The beloved son is Jesus – somethings disclosed directly by God no less than six times in the New Testament (Mk 1:11; 9:7; Mt 3:17; 17:5; Lk 3:22; 9:35).

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

The punishment of the tenants refers to the religious leaders, and the transfer of the vineyard to others refers to the people of the new Israel.

The power of God’s promise, when we come to live it out fully, is how we can overcome our spiritual blindness. Such a life is a gift that we are free to accept when we remove the obstacle of our ego from the equation.

Are we ready to accept the revelation that God has made before us?  Just yesterday we celebrated The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  If we are to truly supplement our faith with virtue, it requires action.  This reminder was driven home in a recent talk by Pope Francis. 

To follow the path of Christ means to serve the poor and the downtrodden while not turning Christian virtues simply into ideas and humanitarian endeavors, Pope Francis said.

"In them, you touch and serve the flesh of Christ and grow in union with him, while always keeping watch so that faith does not become an ideology and charity is not reduced to philanthropy so that the church doesn't end up becoming an NGO," the pope told members of the general chapter of the Little Work of Divine Providence May 27.[i]

God offers us what we need.  It is up to us to accept this banquet and be nourished for the work ahead. Jesus and Pope Francis encourage us – once fed -- to go out and bring God's mercy to all without distinction.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

They All Ate and Were Satisfied

By Jan Rombouts (Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, [1]) [Public domain],
 via Wikimedia Commons

By Melanie Rigney

(Melchizedek) blessed Abram with these words: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand.” (Genesis 14:19-20)

You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110:4b)

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, (Jesus) said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. (Luke 9:16-17)

We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess Your resurrection until You come again.

It was the first time I’d ever hosted a home Mass, and there were more people than we expected.

I’d been back at this Catholic thing for about a year and a half, and at the end of an eight-week session for those considering a similar return to the faith, I was privileged to host a home Mass for the dozen or so people who had attended the sessions.

Except we ended up with more like two dozen.

One woman brought her parents and two siblings, who were visiting from out of state. Someone else brought her husband and three children. Others brought friends or significant others. In any event, there were enough chairs and plenty of food. But I had forgotten to tell the celebrant.

He didn’t seem concerned, just looked at the group and said, “Nice crowd.”

I made sure I was first in line when Communion came and crossed my hands over my chest. Since he was also my confessor and I’d received the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation a few days before, he looked at me with a cocked eyebrow.

“I don’t think you’ve got enough,” I said in what I hoped was a whisper.

“We’re fine,” he said in a stage whisper.

“I don’t think so,” I hissed.

He stopped and laughed, and then said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Don’t worry. I’ve done this before.”

What else could I do but take a piece of host and pray he was right?

And of course, he was. There was exactly enough.

I think of that incident and the apostles at the miracle of the loaves and fishes. They could eyeball a crowd. They knew five loaves and two fishes couldn’t feed five thousand men, not to mention the women and children.

Except it did—with food to spare.

The incident taught me never to doubt an experienced priest when it comes to Holy Communion. I pray it also taught me never to doubt the Lord’s ability to satisfy our true needs… with food to spare.

Identify a situation where you’re not quite ready to let the Lord do His thing. Pray for the faith to have confidence that He’s got it covered. Pray for the faith to let go of the control you believe you have.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Build Yourself Up

Build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh. Jude 20-23

"Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine."
-Danny Thomas' prayer to St. Jude Thaddeus


The short Letter of Jude (from which comes the first reading today) is the penultimate book in the Bible.  After it only comes Revelation – a book that has an ethereal, future look to it.  Jude, however, is grounded in preparing the disciples for the day-to-day work of mission here and now.  Passages from it rarely appear in the daily readings.  Today is the only day in Cycles A, B, or C when we encounter the letter.  Yet St. Jude has a rich history in both Church tradition and in modern culture.

We Roman Catholics invoke St. Jude (Thaddeus) when in desperate situations because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances -just as their forefathers had done before them; therefore, he is the patron saint of hope and for overcoming desperate cases.[i]

What way in life does St. Jude tell people to work on at the end of the first century of the Christian era?  Nothing less than our familiar Cursillo tripod!  He addresses Laypersons in the Church by telling them to work on:

  • Piety (pray in the Holy Spirit),
  • Study (Keep yourselves in the love of God…likely by studying what the love of God is) and
  • Action (On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear). 

He also admonishes them (and us by extension) to overcome the obstacles to a life in grace by abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.

Tradition has it that because his name was similar to the traitor Judas Iscariot, few, if any faithful Christians prayed for his intervention, out of the mistaken belief that they would be praying to Judas Iscariot. As a result, St. Jude was little used, and so became eager to assist any who asked him, to the point of intervening in the direst of circumstances. The Church also wanted to encourage veneration of this "forgotten" disciple. Therefore, the Church maintained that St. Jude would intervene in any lost cause to prove his saintliness and zeal for Christ, and thus St. Jude became the patron of lost causes.


One of the nation’s foremost children’s hospitals is named for St. Jude – not its founder the actor Danny Thomas. Unsure of his life’s direction, the young actor, singer and entertainer sought guidance from St. Jude Thaddeus. If the saint would just point to the path he should take, Danny Thomas vowed to build a shrine in his name. Success followed Danny’s plea and soon after, the legendary entertainer set about fulfilling his vow to St. Jude. The result was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.[ii]

At the time of its founding in 1955, the survival rate for childhood cancers was 20%, and for those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) — the most common form of childhood cancer — only 4% of children would live. The founders believed that St. Jude could help these families with nowhere else to turn. St. Jude would become a unique research institution where the world’s best doctors and scientists would work together to cure childhood cancer, sickle cell and other deadly diseases.

And for families with children battling these diseases, the founders of St. Jude’s Children’s research hospital wanted to remove the burden of treatment costs so they were free to focus on their child.

The mission of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is to find cures for children
with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. It is supported primarily by donations raised by ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities).  According to Charity Navigator, ALSAC was founded in 1957 and exists for the sole purpose of raising funds to support the operating and maintenance of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Research efforts are directed at understanding the molecular, genetic and chemical bases of catastrophic diseases in children; identifying cures for such diseases; and promoting their prevention. Research is focused specifically on cancers, some acquired and inherited immunodeficiencies, sickle cell disease, infectious diseases and genetic disorders.[iii]

Now you know how you can mark this single day in the three-year liturgical year when we have readings from the Letter of Jude – by considering a gift to one of the foremost hospitals which helps families who think they are without hope.  You and St. Jude’s can build them up to face the road ahead.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Be Fruitful and Reverent

By Colleen O’Sullivan

As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.  Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  (I Peter 4:10-11)

The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.  Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it.  When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs.  And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!”  And his disciples heard it. They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves… “Is it not written:  ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?  But you have made it a den of thieves.’”  Early (the next) morning, as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.  Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look!  The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”  (Mark 11:12-15, 17b, 20-21)


I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.  (John 15:16)


What on earth got into Jesus in today’s Gospel reading?  Did he totally get up on the wrong side of the bed that day?  Could his foul mood be explained by low blood sugar fueled by extreme hunger?  It makes little sense to me to be furious at a fig tree that had no fruit when it wasn’t even the season for fig picking!  Even after reading several commentaries on this passage in Mark’s Gospel, I found no truly satisfying answer.  One scholar wrote that because the tree was in leaf, Jesus might have thought he would find some early figs.  But fruit trees have green leaves long before the fruit ever visibly begins to grow.

Putting that incongruity aside, maybe the context of these verses will shed a little light on Jesus’ ill humor.  Just the day before, he had entered Jerusalem to the sounds of loud hosannas and much festive waving of palms.  But Jesus knew he was approaching the end of his time here on earth and that the Palm Sunday shouts of acclamation would soon morph into cries of “Crucify him.  Crucify him.”   He had ticked off too many of the Pharisees and scribes to think otherwise. 

He must have felt discouraged in addition to being angry.  Everything we have and everything we are comes from God.  Jesus had walked from village to village for three years, embodying that message. For 36 months he had trudged the roads day after day, pouring himself out for others, so that we might know how loved and gifted we are by God.   Instead of fruitfully using what God gives us to “serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace,” some people are more like barren fruit trees, doing nothing in response to God’s love.  Also, on Palm  Sunday Jesus had gone into the Temple, so he knew good and well what was going on in his Father’s house, pure sacrilege  Many in the Temple were conducting themselves with disdain for all God had given them and as though they, not God, were running the show. 
These Scripture readings might lead us to self-examination.   Seen from God’s perspective, just how fruitful is my life?  Do I feel gratitude for all that God has given me, for the unique gifts God has bestowed on me?  If so, God should be able to see the fruits of those gifts used in service to others.  What is my attitude toward God?  Do I revere, love and serve God or am I like the moneychangers in the Temple, attempting to use God for my own gain? 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

See and Follow

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest
By Beth DeCristofaro
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)
Jesus said to (Bartimaeus) in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 1:51-52)
Ever creative God, your imagination has no limits.
Where I see black or white, you paint a rainbow of options. …
I want you to expand my imagination to see possibilities that at present I just can’t see - possibilities not tried before.
I want you to also open my ears so that should another see a way forward that I do not,
I can be receptive to that voice.
Even if it is spoken by the one I least want to hear right now.
Many years ago, I was conducting reviews for two women who volunteered for my non-profit organization. I will call them Judy and Linda. Each was a long-term volunteer, giving many hours and each had been at the organization longer than I, a paid-staff program manager.  They were committed and loyal although each had been frequently absent for a variety of reasons.  Linda was pleasant and engaging while Judy was brusque, spending time in the office only long enough to accomplish her duties and be on her way; this did not affect her work in any way.  My eyes were abruptly opened when Judy challenged my review of her work:  “You downgraded me on fulfilling my duties because I was gone so often but you did not penalize Linda who missed as many days as I have."
Busted!  She was close to right as to the facts and entirely right in essence.  The differences in attendance were so slight that my “review” was clearly biased toward the volunteer with whom I was more comfortable and who was “family.” While I did not cry out “help me see” as had Bartimaeus, I had always worked to be a good and continually improving volunteer manager.  Only by listening and acknowledging could I “see.”  My faith called me to accept the criticism, make it right, and learn.  Looking back, it was an opportunity to follow the footsteps of Christ.  I became conscious that I must be aware of my prejudices and make use of criticism.  The gift of humility opens me, opens us, to greater faith and builds up our spiritual house.
Pray to be open to see and hear, even if it comes from an unwelcome voice.  The next time you hear critique or advice, consider how God might be building you into His spiritual house.

[i] From Redeeming Conflict: 12 Habits for Christian Leaders, Ann M. Garrido, Ave Maria Press, 2016, p. 208.

Born Anew

You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God, for: “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts; but the word of the Lord remains forever.” This is the word that has been proclaimed to you.  1 Peter 1:23-25

Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:42-45


QUERY:      Shall one then return

To the womb of his mother, reborn? 

JESUS:      As you said.  Earth, old basket-born

                        Hard-beaked hen

                        Wants you for egg.

                        I hereby (he scrawled

                        Inside his shell)

                        Attest to my first

                        Will & Testament.

                        I shall go forth

                        Bare assed as a new moon,

                        Stellar as baby Jesus.

                        Everyone’s sight and scandal.

                        Yes & No &

        The vast milky Perhaps between.  

 "Unless the See Falls: Underground" By Rev. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, from Chapter 10, To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography, p. 241.


The recent passing of Rev. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, the various obituaries inspired me to add his autobiography -- “To Dwell in Peace” -- to my reading list.  The account of his boyhood on the Minnesota Iron Range and in the cold winters of upstate New York introduces us to his parents and five brothers.  His father was a gruff and powerful man in the family although not in civil society.  His mother, though, was the epitome of the humble servant raising her sons in the German and Irish traditions of their ancestors. 

Fr. Dan often remarks how his mother was happy not to be raising a daughter in the harsh conditions of her own life.  Today’s Gospel passage reminds me of the many mothers and grandmothers of that generation who served in silence, passing along a quiet faith to their children. 

My grandmother lived with us, intermittently, for years.  She and my mother had devised a kind of conspiracy of survival.  Busy about some task, they would converse for hours together, always in German, a language that served them, to all intents, as both comfort and cover. 

Against whom?  Against almost everything that, in such times and locales, made up the lives of women…[B]esides bearing large families, [they] washed and ironed clothing by hand, with water drawn from wells or springs or, when we were at the cabin, from a stream nearby.  The water was heated over fires that had to be built and stoked.  And because often as not, the clothing of the men had grit and filth ground into the fabric by their hand labor, the clothing had to be boiled in a copper cauldron, for hours. [i]

No one would mistake the Berrigan childhood for an easy life…add to the fact that the boyhood years were spent living in rustic cabins that were located in northern climates during the hard years of the Great Depression. 

And yet, and yet.  My mother rebelled. She rebelled in her own sweet way and place and time.  Not a leap into the void, but calculated, the results and risks weighed to a farthing. 

It was a slave rebellion.  She created, within the strait limits set by husband and church (she, being a believer, clung to both), a kind of slave culture; within it she breathed free; to its secret place she, on occasion, escaped.[ii]

The prevailing forces of this theological-political power structure forced members of immigrant families into a status quo existence.  Despite this harsh reality, these experiences also formed members of this greatest generation.  It is amazing to consider how and why this environment did not breed more priests, prophets and kings who rebelled in his or her own sweet way like Dan Berrigan and his mother. We certainly could have used more to guide our path on the way to peace.


Who has served in silence in your life? Parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse?  Teachers, coworkers, priests, politicians? 

Who has served in a vocal, prominent leadership role?  Parents, grandparents, siblings, spouse?  Teachers, coworkers, priests, politicians? 

We are not asked to take the seat of honor at the banquet but are asked to be the server like our quiet mothers and grandmothers. When can you next take that role again? 

[i] Berrigan, Daniel L.  To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography.  New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1987.
[ii] Ibid.

Monday, May 23, 2016

We Have Given Up Everything

Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday of the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, Be holy because I am holy.  (1 Peter 1:13:16)

The Lord has made known his salvation. (Psalm 98:2a)

Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mark 10:28-31) 

Lord, I am a coward. Show me what I must give up to follow today… not tomorrow or next month or next year. Hold my hand to guide me. 

“We have given up everything and followed you.”

Peter surely believed that. Of course, he still had his wife, not to mention his mother-in-law. He still had his brother Andrew, and his frenemies, the sons of Zebedee and the others. And yet—he had given up so much. His livelihood. His time.

And yet… Peter would give up so much more. His self-loathing for denying Jesus three times. His literalness. His way of attempting to take charge without being a servant leader as the Master was. His very life.

Consider just a few examples of other saints who thought they had given up plenty… and then were called to give more:
  • Katherine Drexel had considered the religious life in her teens, but then decided she couldn’t part with the luxuries befitting a Drexel, regardless of the philanthropy she and her family had shown. But when she asked the pope to send missionaries to the United States to help Native Americans, he suggested she become a missionary herself. She prayed over it… then followed.
  • Frances Xavier Cabrini, frail though she was, believed she had a vocation to be a missionary to China. The pope, cognizant of the dire physical and spiritual conditions of Italians who had recently moved to the United States, told her she was not to go to the East, but to the West. She prayed over it… then followed.
  • Marie Guyart was widowed with a twelve-year-old son, living with family members when she felt the call to become an Ursuline nun. She prayed over it… then followed, even though her heart must have been heavy as her son shouted outside the convent for his mother’s return.
Sometimes, what God asks of us seems so huge as to be almost unbearable—almost being the critical word, of course, for with Him, the large and the small are possible. We delude ourselves when we get too comfortable in our faith and believe we are ready for whatever life throws at us. Without Him, girding up the loins of our minds is next to impossible. With Him, we can triumph over anything.

Don’t take credit for anything you accomplish today. Give up the praise and sense of accomplishment and pride… and follow.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Jesus, Looking At Him, Loved Him

He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  Mark 10:20-22

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7

Can you handle the truth?  Give up your treasure and you will have treasure. Sounds counter-intuitive.  Jesus almost sounds like a Zen Master delivering a koan to a doting student. Yet Christianity is a faith of seeming contradictions.  

The cross is a symbol of death and of life, of suffering and of joy, of defeat and of victory. It’s the cross that shows us the way.  It will always remain very hard for us to embrace our suffering, trusting that it will lead to new life.” Henri Nouwen

The young man tried to butter up Jesus with flattery.  Oh, Good Teacher!  Jesus rejects the endearing term “good” and gives that attribute only to God.  He follows up those words with words that also repudiate him being good. He provides a stiff prescription for attaining heaven.  However, before the prescription, Jesus looks at the young man and loves him.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Packed into these two sentences are five commandments.

  • Go.  Attaining friendship with Jesus is not something you get by hanging onto Him or by sitting at His feet.  Or by sitting in a pew with your rosary beads.  Or by sitting in a First World school, or office, or your own den or Man-Cave.  We must take our love for Jesus out into the world: From the Seminary to the Sanctuary, from the sanctuary to the streets. 
  • Sell. Get rid of anything that ties you down to your comfortable way of life – especially anything of material value.  You can sell it and give away the proceeds or give it away directly to the poor who need the material goods more than you do. 
  • Give. If you sell your worldly goods, give away the proceeds to serve the poor.  
  • Come. Only when you are not tied down can you be free to come back to Jesus.  Like the old 1960’s poster, if you love something, set it free.  Jesus loves us and sets us free to blaze a trail back to him. 
  • Follow.  Thus freed, you are now at liberty to pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus. 

Following Jesus leads right back to the first command:  “Go!”  To truly follow Jesus, we have to consider carefully the words of St. Ignatius Loyola:  “Go forth and set the world on fire.” You cannot do that sitting at the Master’s feet or in a pew. Just when you get to Park Place and Boardwalk, you have to pass go and, always, begin again. As you go, Jesus, looking at you, loves you, too.