Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Go on Your Way

But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. 2 Timothy 4:17B

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Luke 10:2-3

The Prayer of Mary 
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.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.  (Lk 1:46-55)

Sunday, we were invited to come to the feast.  Today, we celebrate an actual liturgical feast – the Feast of Saint Luke.  Luke's Gospel is, above all, the Gospel of the Merciful Heart of Jesus. Michael Card refers to it as the “Gospel of Amazement.”  Luke focuses on the big reversal where the rich will have nothing and the poor will be rich.  He emphasizes the fact that Christ is the salvation of all men, especially of the repentant sinner and of the lowly. The theme is perfectly captured in the Magnificat (The Prayer of Mary).

Our Good News today comes from one of the high, positive emotional points in Luke’s narrative – before Jesus and his followers entered Jerusalem. Today, we see the second commissioning of the missionaries – a mission which success will result in bringing great to the Master.

Some of the instructions in this mission go beyond the commission of the Twelve: “…Greet no one along the way.” 

Jesus tells the seventy-two not to get involved in small talk. The mission is too serious.  The notes in the NAB explain that because of the urgency of the mission and the single-mindedness required of missionaries, attachment to material possessions should be avoided and even customary greetings should not distract from the fulfillment of the task.

Another instruction not already given to the Twelve is: “Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.” 

In this way, the disciples were told to imitate Jesus. Back in the Christmas story, upon the birth of Jesus, the angels appeared singing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Jesus always greeted people with Peace – even when he re-visited the locked Upper Room to bring the Holy Spirit upon Christ. At the end of Luke’ narrative, Jesus appeared among them while they were hearing the report about the Journey to Emmaus.  Although shocking the disciples, the greeting was the same: [Jesus] stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36B)

St. Luke was a very active and creative member of the early Church.  In addition to being a doctor, he was an artist and writer.  He left behind some of the most beautiful prayers and iconic images that became the cornerstones of prayer life and spirituality for many.

To celebrate his feast, read some parts out of the Acts of the Apostles. As you do, you will realize that St. Luke accompanied St. Paul on some of the latter’s missionary journeys.  Can his spiritually accompany you on your mission?  Can you accompany him with your prayers? 

Go on your way!

Besides being a writer and physician, 
legend has that St. Luke was an artist. 
There are multiple images of Our Lady which
bear the claim to St. Luke's hand. 
The three most famous include the 
Black Madonna of Czestochowa 
found in the Jasna Gora Monastery in 
Czestochowa, Poland.

Monday, October 16, 2017

“I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, then Greek. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.” (Romans 1:16-17)

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. (Psalm 19:2a)

“Oh, you Pharisees! Although you clean the outside of the cup and dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?”(Luke 11:39-40)

Lord, I beg for the strength, faith, and wisdom to live the Gospel constantly.

I recently happened upon the story of Blessed Mercedes Prat i Prat, who was
killed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War because she was a nun. You can find out more about her life in general at a Carmelite site; for me, it was the story I found elsewhere of her final hours that resonated with and convicted me.

The sister who was with Mercedes when they both were arrested survived to share the tale. They were both questioned for hours, then in the evening, taken out to face a firing squad. Mercedes cried out “Jesus, Joseph, Mary” and the Apostles’ Creed as the shots hit her. The final words the other sister recognized from her were, “Forgive us… as we forgive.” Mercedes survived through the night, moaning in pain. It wasn’t until dawn the following morning that the fatal shots were fired.

I thought about Mercedes as I read Paul’s words from Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” We all like to think that if we were in Mercedes’ situation, in imminent danger of death for our faith, that we would react as she did, confident in our faith and what lies beyond this world. But how about in our daily lives? Are we ashamed of the Gospel when we don’t engage in evangelization opportunities? Are we ashamed of the Gospel when we ignore instances to offer service and support? Are we ashamed of the Gospel when we choose to let hurts and anxieties fester, rather than taking them to the Lord in prayer?

May we take the actions of our brave martyrs like Mercedes Prat i Prat to heart… and let the parts of us that resist the Gospel be put to death.

Defend the Gospel today in your actions, words, and thoughts.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Called to Be Holy

Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:5-7

"This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
Luke 11:29-30

[L]ive 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)

Christians are called to holiness.  That is – after all – the first leg of the Tripod.  That means that we are called to make our lives conform to the gifts and promises that we have already received. Just as we are forgiven before we even know the graciousness of God’s mercy, we also are “For-gifted” with the promise of redemption before we even repent and change our lives.  

This same theme united Christians in other communities Paul addressed in his letters including Corinth and Thessalonika.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. (1 COR 1:1-2)

For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. (1 Thes 4:7)

However, despite the witness of Jonah and Solomon, people ignored the prophets.  The covenant between God and Israel was portrayed as a marriage bond and unfaithfulness to the covenant as adultery. The bond was broken with regularity and with impunity. 

Jesus also rebukes the generation he encounters as an evil generation – called to change but unwilling to change. The notes to the New American Bible explain: The “sign of Jonah” in Luke is the preaching of the need for repentance by a prophet who comes from afar. Throughout the Synoptic Gospels, the “sign of Jonah” is interpreted by Jesus as his death and resurrection. 

Americans have a Bill of Rights.  However, we do not have a corresponding Bill of Responsibilities.  Some of the duties of faithful citizenship are fairly explicit – but none are required.  We are asked to vote. We are asked to obey laws. We are asked to serve in the military.  However, to these and more, if we do not do them, there is no police force which will take us away.

Christians have a two-fold commandment to follow in response to God’s love expressed to us by the gift of His Son.  God did not wait for us to change before sending his son.  He sent his son in hopes that we would change. 

Often, we focus major changes in our spiritual life around Advent and Lent.  Now that we are slogging through the final month of ordinary time, what kinds of Lenten sacrifices can you for-gift to God for the gifts he will offer to us at Christmas and Easter? 

Invite to the Feast by Jim Bayne

On this mountain, the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.   Reading 1 IS 25:6

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Responsible Psalm PS 23:5

I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.  I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Reading 2 PHIL 4:12-13

Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.'  Gospel MT 22:8-9

Gracious God, in love You open wide the doors and welcome us into
Your presence—saints and sinners alike.
You spread a table before us, filled with the richest fare—
a feast of love and mercy for the body and soul.

We come with joy to meet You here, to eat and drink at Your table,
to taste and see Your goodness, to celebrate Your grace and mercy in our lives.

May Your Spirit inspire our praise and thanksgiving, our prayers and petitions as we worship together in Your presence.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our host and Lord,
-        from website re:Worship

The readings today speak of a great feast to whom some special people were invited.  If this wedding were like most, the invited were relatives and close friends of the bride and groom and the parents thereof.  All of the invited had a connection with the families of the bride and groom.  Despite their connections, they all failed to show up.  Imagine the embarrassment of the wedding party!!

I couldn’t help but make the connection between this story and the Road to Emmaus story. Although the two travelers knew about Jesus they didn’t really know him and so didn’t recognize Jesus as they walked along even though “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way.”

Had the travelers not invited Jesus to come in and dine with them, they would never have recognized him.  By not coming to the wedding celebration, the invited guests never got to know the king and were instead subject to destruction.

The ones who finally came were the unwashed, those who knew nothing about the wedding host but accepted the invitation to come and celebrate.  Like the travelers to Emmaus, the uninvited who accepted the invitation came to recognize the king in the breaking of the bread.  They got the opportunity to participate in the celebration.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend an AA meeting during which the group would be celebrating 17 years of sobriety by one of its members.  This was a group of people who, while they were drinking, were not likely to be invited to any wedding feast. But now, having feasted at the banquet of sobriety, with the support of their AA group and their “higher power,” they are ready to celebrate the day by day victory of their fellow alcoholic.

An AA group serves up a tremendous feast of love and support for each member – not just the featured guest – and they do it every day.  Each member’s higher power and the love they have for each other is what ultimately keeps them fed and gives them something to celebrate.  Having thus been supported, they are able to go out into the highways and byways and invite others to the feast.

Our higher power, Jesus of Nazareth, invites us on a daily basis to come to the feast. 

Resurrected life and risen vision appear as offered shelter and shared meal. Resurrection is not enough. You still need scripture and Eucharist, tradition and table, community and justice; otherwise, divine presence remains unrecognized and human eyes remain unopened.  – from The Birth of Christianity by John Dominic Crossan

You’re invited!! Don’t miss the party!!  Invite a friend:  Make a Friend, Be a Friend, Bring the Friend to Christ. 

We still have lots of openings on the Men’s 135th, Oct 26-29 at San Domiano.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Observe It

Then shall you know that I, the LORD, am your God, dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain; Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall pass through her no more. And then, on that day, the mountains shall drip new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk; And the channels of Judah shall flow with water: A fountain shall issue from the house of the LORD, to water the Valley of Shittim.  Joel 4:17-18

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed." He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."  Luke 11:27-28


Knowledge is revealed to the Lord’s followers if they pay attention. 
We hear about that in the reading from the Hebrew Bible.  The prophet Joel explains that the Judahites will learn that the Lord is present in their economic prosperity and political autonomy, even though they did not associate God’s presence with their crop failure.

The blessings of prosperity will continue to shower down upon these people.  Images of agricultural abundance illustrate the harmony and order that Joel expects the Lord to establish in Judah as a contrast to the deprivation and drought of chapter one.  Such blessings come to the people only because the Lord upholds his covenant with them.  (Then shall you know that I, the LORD, am your God, dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain; Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall pass through her no more.)

The blessing cup of obedience and fidelity extends into the Good News as Jesus welcomes all into his family if they but adhere to two conditions:  First, hear the Word of God.  Second, observe it.

This passage falls right after Jesus has driven out a demon which prevented a mute person from speaking.  He then delivered a powerful lesson explaining how he performs his great works: “But if it is by the finger of God that [I] drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:20).  That same finger of God motif helped to write the commandments on the tablet for Moses.  The same finger of God image was attributed as the source of the plaque in Egypt.  This image is one which the Pharisees would fully understand. 
Although the Pharisees might challenge the authority of Jesus, a woman yells out a blessing to Jesus from the crowd.  To her – and the Pharisees – Jesus then delivers the message of the Gospel that we must hear and observe the commandments.

Observe it is a much more active phrase than the translators might think.  People who hear – and follow – the word of God are, as blessed as is Jesus.  Observation does not just mean watching.  In this context, it means hearing and acting upon what we hear.

We hear warnings in life every day.  Some are deadly – like the messages on cigarette packages.  Yet the pleasure that smokers get from their habit is sometimes enough to create cognitive dissonance between what you know and what you would ignore. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

“Neutral Isn’t a Valid Choice” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.   (Joel 2:1)

The prince of this world will now be cast out, and when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.  (John 12:31b-32, Gospel Acclamation for today)

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23)

Lord, you gave your very life for us.  Help us to be your committed followers all the days of our lives.
In today’s first reading, the prophet Joel issues a call to repentance.  The day of the Lord is approaching, he says.  Everyone, from the greatest to the least is called to forsake sin and return to God.  We would do well to take Joel’s words to heart.
As I look around, this is definitely not the world I grew up in.  I remember being at a party a few years ago where someone declared himself a pagan in the course of a conversation.  I thought to myself, “Are you bragging or complaining?”  But he seemed to find nothing wrong at all with labeling himself as such.  Even among our friends and within our families, more and more individuals are turning their backs on God and faith, and not hesitating to say so.  Using the imagery of driving, these people’s vehicles are in Reverse, backing away from God’s Kingdom at a breakneck pace.

Then there are all those who are uncommitted and refer to themselves as “Nones.”  Maybe they believe God exists.  Maybe they even believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  But they don’t see how any of that relates to them.  They’ve got other business to attend to.  They think their cars are in Neutral.

There are also committed Christians, whose vehicles are in Drive, who are striving to follow the path where Jesus leads.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus steps up and says we’ve got it all wrong.  There are only two ways to go.  Either you’re for me, the Lord says, or you’re against me.  You’re either in Drive or Reverse.  Neutral doesn’t exist in the Kingdom.  When all we are willing to do is give intellectual assent to the idea that there’s a God and then go our merry ways, we show our indifference to Jesus, which is hardly the behavior of a true friend.  The Lord considers indifferent men and women to be in the same category as people heading away from him and the Kingdom.

Jesus’ words provide food for thought because it’s so easy to slip out of Drive into Neutral and indifference.   For example, most of us say grace when we have guests or on holidays, but are we truly grateful for what we have every day?  When there’s no one around, do we remember to give thanks?

In moments of desperation, we cry out to the Lord or ask someone to pray for us, but do we turn to God only when we want or need something?  Do we pray on a regular basis, offering thanks for the many blessings that come our way, lifting up the needs of others, asking for forgiveness for our transgressions?

If you need a spiritual tune-up and if your gears have been slipping and you find yourself idling in Neutral more than following the Lord, seek out a close friend in the faith or a spiritual director and get yourself back on the right track.  All of us find ourselves in this position at one time or another, and being willing to ask a trusted person for help can be a good thing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“You Will Be Given More” by Beth DeCristofaro

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. (Malachi 3:19-20)

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. … If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"  (Luke 11:9. 13)

I believe, Lord.  I believe you hear my knocks.  I believe your healing justice. I believe in your awesome power to know what is my lot and to carry me through it. I believe you will give more than I deserve out of your great goodness.  And I believe I can carry you to others through my life.  I praise you and I adore you with knocks, laughs, tears, touches, holy ritual and, yes, words.

Years ago, I did not show up for a meeting at which I was to help a non-profit agency plan an important volunteer-driven project.  The fact that I was ill did not mitigate the loss of trust and bond between me and my colleagues – in hindsight, I should have encouraged my own workmates to triple check my schedule and alert the clients.  Instead, this agency and my friends with whom I had worked never quite called on me in the same way nor expected that I would be as supportive ever again.  That was a hurtful and humbling experience.

Is it thus with our relationship with our Friend, Jesus?  God’s message, delivered through Malachi, is chilling.  He warns of the arrogant and those who turn from God being punished.  This is a description of the isolation and dread we feel when we let our loved ones down, is it not?  When we place ourselves and our own wants at the center of our being rather than placing God, the source of Life and Joy we experience incompleteness, futility, barrenness.  We don’t really need God’s thunderbolts to punish us if we close ourselves off from God’s compassionate presence.  It is as if we choose the lightning which strikes too closely.

 And who has not experienced those moments that our prayer is not answered with the answer we wish for.  If, however, we are sincerely ready to accept what Jesus’ hands have for us as he opens the door upon our entreaty, in our vulnerability we will be showered with His compassion and understanding.  He supplies answers beyond our expectations.  We will be bathed in the healing rays of God’s sun of justice even if our knocking comes from desperation, fear, uncertainty, isolation, or even anger at our circumstances. 

“Prayer is the raising of the mind to God. We must always remember this. The actual words matter less.”  And “The secret of everything is to let oneself be carried by God and so to carry Him to others” - Pope John XXIII 

How are your prayer knuckles?  Are you receptive to what the door reveals to you?  To whom do you carry the fear of the Lord?

Forgive Us

Then the LORD said, "You are concerned over the plant which cost you no labor and which you did not raise; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. And should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left, not to mention the many cattle?"  Jonah 4:9-11

“Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test." Luke 11:2-4

The notes from the New American Bible help us to put into context the anger that Jonah feels over the loss of his shady gourd plant.

A selfish Jonah bemoans his personal loss of a gourd plant for shade without any concern over the threat of loss of life to the Ninevites through the destruction of their city. If a solicitous God provided the plant for a prophet without the latter’s effort or merit, how much more is God disposed to show love and mercy toward all people, Jew and Gentile, when they repent of their sins and implore divine pardon. God’s care goes beyond human beings to all creation.

Your kingdom come.  Your will be done.

We, too, must go beyond our own narrow concerns and open up to the love, mercy, and graciousness of the Father.  THAT is exactly what the Lord’s prayer helps us to do. In it, we surrender to the Father, ask for only what we need and pledge reciprocity to those around us so that everyone is deserving of the same gifts.

Recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Recite the Lord’s Prayer a second time at half the speed you did the first time. 

Recite the Lord’s Prayer a third time at half the speed you did the second time.

Monday, October 09, 2017

“The Better Part” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

When God saw by (the people of Nineveh’s) actions how they turned away from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.  (Jonah 3:10)

If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand? (Psalm 130:3)

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed
Mary and Martha
him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
(Luke 10:38-42)

Lord, winnow out the whiner and the worrier in me. Help me to trust in You.

We “Marthas” don’t spend all our time in kitchens. And we’re not always women.

You’ll find us serving on the campaign trail, in boardrooms, in corner offices, in cubicles, in family rooms, in war rooms, in parish halls, and in community centers. Because you see, Marthas don’t always stay in the background, away from public attention. Some of us thrive on it.

Marthas get frustrated by people who we don’t believe are doing their fair share on the new-product launch, in the book club, in the sacristy, with the division of labor at home or at work. And so we complain—to God, to our colleagues, to our friends. It is significant that in today’s Gospel reading, Martha didn’t call Mary into the kitchen and say, “I’m feeling way overburdened. Can you please put together the appetizer tray or unload the dishwasher?” She didn’t give Mary a chance to say yes… or no, for that matter. Instead, Martha went to the guest to publicly shame her sister. That is what Marthas do. Direct conflict scares us.

The Lord has given us all many gifts. He desires that we use them for His glory. May we learn from these sisters that sometimes, doing that means dropping everything for Him. Sometimes, it means asking others for help and accepting that they can’t or won’t provide it. But it is never pleasing to Him when we judge the worth of others.

Ask for help.

Image credit:  Vincent Adriaenssen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Treated Him with Mercy

"Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; their wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish away from the LORD. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went aboard to journey with them to Tarshish, away from the LORD. Jonah 1:1-2

Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He
This stained glass window
illustrating the parable
shows the priest and the
Levite in the
(Church of St. Eutrope,
answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
  Luke 10:37

I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you. John 13:34

"And who is my neighbor?"

The story in today’s Good News is prompted by this question posed by – of all professions – a lawyer (who is learned and probably should know the answer). Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The very expression would be an oxymoron in ancient Palestine because Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other.

Despite this cultural contradiction, the man from Samaria helps the injured man of the story. The hated Samaritan is portrayed as more Christ-like than the rabbi who ran away in fear or the Levite who also passed by on the opposite side of the street. We are drawn to the same conclusion.

In ancient Palestine, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously dangerous and difficult.  It was known as the "Way of Blood" because "of the blood which is often shed there by robbers." Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, on the day before his death, described the road as follows:

As soon as we got on that road I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road ... In the days of Jesus, it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking, and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so, the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?"[i]

The parables of Luke usually revolve around one critical action: the kingdom of God is all about seeking out the lost.[ii] You know:  lost sheep, lost son (prodigal), and the lost coin. 

In this story, the injured man was “lost” until help arrived. With his injuries, he was probably on the verge of losing his life if a “first responder” did not stop to render aid. The Samaritan also was lost to the love of the Jewish community.  However, thankfully, the two ended up in the same orbit – so help was on the way for both of these men. Fr. Ronald Witherup, noted: “There is a call to repentance embedded in these parables, for sure, but more striking is the insistence that God actually operates a lost-and-found department, in which the lost can be assured they will be sought out and found.”

The beauty of parables is that they have virtually limitless possibilities for interpretation precisely because they are not simplistic moral lessons. We can suggest, however, that in the context of a society where many people call for vengeance, for strict punishment, and even for the death penalty in some cases, the message of God reaching out and seeking the lost is not an easy one to accept.[iii]

Luke's favorable treatment of Samaritans is in line with Luke's favorable treatment of the weak and of outcasts, generally.

Who is your injured robber?  Who is your Good Samaritan? Who is your fleeing Levite and rabbi?

Speaking of reaching out to the lost sons and daughters, Jesuit Fr. James Martin recently published a book, approved by his Jesuit superiors, about opening a dialogue about how to reconcile with Catholics who are LGBT. However, to avoid distraction and controversy from a minority of voices, several Catholic institutions have decided to retract invitations already made to Fr. Martin to talk at their school or organization.  Fr. Martin has recently written a book

The leaders of these groups felt that avoiding controversy was the best course of action.  However, in doing so, they have given credence to voices which seem to reject the truth of Gospel love and mercy that the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches. These people seem to be on Jonah’s agenda – escaping the Gospel of love by moving away from the core message, rather than toward it, and instead pursuing a personal agenda.

What seems to be missing in these dis-invitations, is an understanding that the Gospel is simply about our capacity to respond to God’s love by simply loving each other. Person-to-person.

The cornerstone grace with which Fr. James has reacted is striking.  He exhibits the love of the Good News despite being rejected by some organizations.  

Who is your injured robber?  Who is your Samaritan?

Saturday, October 07, 2017

His Vineyard by Phil Russell

“Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard. My 
friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of its stones, and planted the choicest vines.” Isaiah 5:1-2B

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Philippians 4:6

“Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Matthew 21:33-43

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
So, a modern-day application.

I had applied for a job in the Vineyard, not only was I “rejected by the builders” but I was also told to “go away.”  A brutal experience. I had thought about leaving the Vineyard, but it just didn’t fit me. A friend suggested that I see a friend of hers, a laborer in the Vineyard.  I took her sage advice and went off to see her friend.

I told the man my story. He asked me who was the person. I told him. He reached out with both his hands and said: “May I ask your forgiveness on what my confrere has done to you.”

With my hands in his, the tears began to flow. Healing and Peace were beginning. He then said to me: “Take this to JESUS, the stone rejected by the builders. He knows what you have undergone.”

I did. I stayed in the Vineyard. I knew that “whatever is true, or honorable, or just or pure” that was where I had to place myself aligned with this one CORNERSTONE.

Piety was restored in that Sacrament that day. The pain did not diminish. I Studied the Environment. I took Action. In understanding. In forgiving.  In continuing to “labor in the Vineyard.”

I spaded the hillside. I cleared stones. I worked at planting.

“Then the God of Peace was with me.”

You see: “HE is THE VINE, I was a branch. It was about “abiding.” It was about “with-ness.”

The Parable was really about the “excessive” Compassion and Mercy of a GOD, so much bigger than any circumstance.

And there is a “communion” in COMMUNITY! 

My “friend” was singing a song concerning, his Vineyard.  

(Image credit: A vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains by the author.) 

Turn Now…Ten Times the More to Seek Him

Memoria de Nuestra SeƱora del Rosario
“Fear not, my children; call out to God! He who brought this upon you will remember you. As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek him; For he who has brought disaster upon you will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.” Baruch 4:27-29

"I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."  Luke 8:21-22

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: O God, whose Only Begotten Son,
by his life, Death, and Resurrection,
has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that while meditating on these mysteries
of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may imitate what they contain
and obtain what they promise,
through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

What is the name of the river that runs through Jerusalem? Don’t let the question fool you.  The hints are all over the Bible starting in Isaiah 33:21.
Indeed, the LORD in majesty will be there for us a place of rivers and wide streams on which no galley may go, where no majestic ship may pass.

To Psalm 46:5
Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High.

To Ezekiel 47:1
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and there! I saw water flowing out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east. The water flowed out toward the right side of the temple to the south of the altar.

To Zechariah 14:8
On that day, fresh water will flow from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea, and half to the western sea. This will be so in summer and in winter.

All the way to Revelation 22:1-2
Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.

What, then, is the name of the river that runs through Jerusalem?  If you guessed the Jordan River, you lose 10 points.  You have been singing “Go Tell It on the Mountain” too much. 

The Jordan River is indeed the place where Jesus was baptized by John.  That river is believed to be in Jordan, on the east bank of a large loop in the river opposite Jericho.  This site, guidebooks to the Holy Land, tell us is the area known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan. This is where John lived and baptized, and where Jesus fled for safety after being threatened with stoning in Jerusalem. However, the Jordan River is NOT in Jerusalem.

Last chance…what is the name of the river that runs through Jerusalem? If you guessed the Sea of Galilee, you lose another 10 points.

Fed mainly by the Jordan River and drained by it, this sea-lake serves as Israel’s chief water reservoir. Its other names include the Sea of Tiberias or the Lake of Gennesaret.  However, it is not a running river. The Sea of Galilee also is NOT the river of scripture fame.

The answer to the mystery is that Jerusalem is not situated on any river. These descriptions in the Sacred Scriptures derive from the allegorical descriptions of the divine abode and symbolizes the divine presence as the source of all life (“the river of life”).

How do we get to know the divine mysteries of our faith?  One way is through factual study for the head. I got the descriptions of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee from the website www.Seetheholyland.net.   

There is also contemplation if you want to listen with the ear of your heart for the answers to the mysteries revealed. Today, on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, we are invited to contemplate the 20 most significant mysteries of our faith.  Rest assured that from the Annunciation through the Crucifixion, from the Resurrection through the Ascension, there are no trick questions in the rosary, just profound mysteries to ponder. 

The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.
On the Most Holy Rosary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae)

The answers will be revealed to us just as they were revealed to the disciples.  Yet, we must spend some time in prayer and study to plumb these depths. The answers are for anyone who is childlike enough to approach building a relationship with Jesus.  Yet the Son will only reveal those secrets to those with whom he has a relationship.

Pray your least favorite decade of the Rosary or the decade you know the least or the five mysteries which give you the most trouble in faith and knowledge. 

“Turn now.”  Change the direction of your life.  “Ten times the more to seek him.” Ask Our Lady of the Rosary to be your guide. She will turn here eyes of mercy upon you when you seek the help of Our Most Gracious Advocate.