Saturday, September 30, 2017

Join Themselves

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people and he will dwell among you.
Zechariah 2:14-15A

While they were all amazed at his every deed,
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men."
But they did not understand this saying;
its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it,
and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
  Luke 9:43b-45


Song of a Man Who Has Come Through

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!

A fine wind is blowing the new direction of time.

If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!

If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!

If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed

By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world

Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;

If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge

Driven by invisible blows.

The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides. (D. H. Lawrence)


Once we have a relationship with Jesus, we have to give it away.  Zechariah reminds us in today’s first reading that the unique relationship of the Lord with the people of Jerusalem was going to be passed along to “many nations.”

Interesting choices in scripture for today which is the memorial to St Jerome.  Jerome was famous for translating the bible from Hebrew to Old Latin thus making it accessible to even more people. Saint Jerome is particularly important for having made a translation of the Bible which came to be called the Vulgate.  Jerome is the patron saint of archaeologists, Biblical scholars, librarians, students and translators.

Once we have a relationship with Jesus, we also have to be aware that it will be taken away from us. Today’s Good News includes the second prediction of the passion and death of Jesus. Even today, while we academically know the history of the Passion and Resurrection and Ascension, we may not always realize that our relationship to Jesus is something that comes and goes…getting closer at times and further distanced at other times.


Recently, Pope Francis took steps to bring Jesus even closer to people through language.  Although there was a new translation of the Mass finalized recently, the Pope has returned authority for local vernacular to the bishops’ councils, and moved it away from the Roman Curia.

How can you bring Jesus closer to others?  None of us are likely to be cut out to become Biblical scholars or translators.  However, we can all do our part to bring Jesus to “many nations.”

I often think about the late Rev. Jerome Dollard, O.S.B.  He was my theology professor in my freshman year at Belmont Abbey.  In addition to bringing his classes a fresh perspective on Christianity, culture and politics, Fr. Jerome did amazing work with the Ecumenical Institute in a state where Catholics were in the minority to other faith traditions.

Fr. Jerome chose some very eclectic books for the mild minds he was melding.  The Little Red Book by Chairman Mao.  The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  A Harsh and Dreadful Love: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement by William D. Miller.  Christ and Culture by H. Richard Niebuhr.  And American Civil Religion.

Although he died at a tragically young age on the day after Christmas in 1985, Fr. Jerome’s spirit always reminds me to pass along faith to others so that they can join themselves to Jesus. Allow the Holy Spirit to blow through you and spread to others.

Friday, September 29, 2017

“In Heaven and on Earth” by Colleen O’Sullivan

As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.  (Daniel 7:13-14)
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel.  There is no duplicity in him.”  Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”    (John 1:47-48)

A Blessing

we will need grace.
we will need courage.
we will need
some strength.
We will need
to die a little
to what we have
always thought,
what we have allowed
ourselves to see
of ourselves,
what we have built
our beliefs upon.
We will need this
and more.
we will need
to let it all go
to leave room enough
for the astonishment
that will come
should we be given     
a glimpse
of what the Holy One sees
in seeing us,
in knowing us,
and unhidden
no part of us
no piece of us
fashioned from other
than love

beheld entirely
all our days.

(Known, Jan Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook, © Jan Richardson.

Some days it feels like we live in the midst of chaos.  Hurricane Harvey.  Towns destroyed.  Homes swept away by floodwaters or rendered uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.  Then Hurricane Irma.  Perhaps not as bad as first predicted but nevertheless devastating in its power to knock out electricity to millions and cause damage to homes over an entire state.  After that, Hurricane Maria.  The island nation of Dominica brought to its knees.  Puerto Rico with no power on the entire island and an infrastructure left in tatters.  Year of rebuilding ahead.
If your attention should wander from The Weather Channel, other news is equally disturbing.  Threats of nuclear war and annihilation bandied about by world leaders.  The things each of us have going on closer to home that disturb our inner peace.
But chaos isn’t anything new.  Daniel wrote in the context of a world where foreign empires didn’t think twice about wreaking havoc on and destroying the lives of God’s people.  Be they Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians or Greeks, it seemed like there was always some empire wanting to stir things up and swallow the Hebrew people whole in their pursuit of expanded domination and power.
Daniel’s vision, described in our first reading, brought hope to people.  Yes, God, the Ancient One, is enthroned in heaven.  But God never leaves us to drown in our troubles in this world.  In one of Daniel’s visions, we see someone like a son of man arriving on the clouds of heaven.  He is adored and glorified.  He is served by peoples from every place on the globe.  His kingdom will have no end.
And in today’s Gospel reading, we see how personal God’s involvement is in our lives.  There is nothing like being known through and through the way Jesus knew Nathanael.  As Jan Richardson writes in her blessing, to be known by God is to be seen as fashioned solely out of love, to be very much wanted and desired by God and to be “beheld entirely all our days.”
Offer to God whatever has your head spinning or your heart in turmoil.  Take advantage of that peaceful moment to gratefully bask in the knowledge that you are known, loved, and desired by the One who created you and brought you into the world.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

“Build My House” by Beth DeCristofaro

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Thus says the Lord of hosts:  Consider your ways!  Go up into the hill country; bring timber and build the house that I may take pleasure in it and receive my glory, says the Lord. (Haggai 1:7-8)
Herod said, “John I beheaded.  Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see (Jesus). (Luke 9:9)
Help me Lord to reflect on you and my own experience.  Help me to see the ways in which I share your glory with the world and help me spend my time and energy there.  Help me also see when I “try” without heart and bring me back to your path of life.
People who “keep trying to see you” but only when it is convenient for them are frustrating.  Someone who “keeps trying to see you” then never follows through or cancels plans causes hurt. People who “keep trying to see you” when they need something such as a job reference or a networking lunch can drain you.  And those, like Pilot “who kept trying to see” Jesus but never actually tried and wondered only where he fit into the picture are hypocrites.  None of these people are friends.  Nicodemus, Peter, Matthew, Mary Magdalen, and others all saw him.  They didn’t just “keep trying.” 
As they followed him, Jesus’ friends built within and among themselves a house to show his glory.  This takes as great an effort as going to the hills, felling trees and planning timber then carrying it back to construct a temple.  Building a place for God’s glory calls for perseverance.  We might be tempted to blow with the winds of the easiest path like the seeds which the sower dropped on the rocky ground.  Or we find ourselves choked out like the other seeds at the first challenge to our Christian identity.  When Herod finally met Jesus, he neither saw nor heard him.  He heard only the winds of power and threat.  He acted for himself not for God’s, certainly not Jesus’ glory.  
As St. Paul tells us, we are Temples of the Holy Spirit, “purchased at a price” and we belong to God.  Do we exult God within our own bodies, giving human face and deeds to God’s glory?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Take Nothing for the Journey

"And now, but a short time ago, mercy came to us from the LORD, our God, who left us a remnant and gave us a stake in his holy place; thus our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief in our servitude.  Ezra 9:8

He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them." Luke 9:3-5


(And now, for some true “liturgical” music on today’s theme)

Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy
Don't worry, be happy now

(Ooh, ooh ooh ooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh) don't worry

(By Bobby McFerrin)


“Take nothing for the journey.”

Jesus was being literal and direct, just like the prophet Ezra.  Think about the context of the first reading before you think in historical and personal context about the Gospel.

According to the notes in the New American Bible Introduction to the Book of Ezra, the prophet “is sometimes accused of having been a legalist who gave excessive attention to the letter of the law.”

His work, however, should be seen and judged within a specific historical context. He gave to his people a cohesion and spiritual unity which helped to prevent the disintegration of the small Jewish community settled in the province of Judah. Had it not been for the intransigence of Ezra and of those who adopted his ideal, it is doubtful that Judaism would have so effectively resisted Hellenism in later centuries. Ezra set the tone of the postexilic community, and it was characterized by fidelity to the Torah, Judaism’s authentic way of life. It is in this light that we can judge most fairly the work of Ezra during the Restoration.[i]

Think about the spiritual unity among the apostle when they took nothing for the journey.  They would rely upon God, each other and the community to provide everything. Those who adopt this “ideal” of Jesus, remove many of the material obstacles to God’s friendship.  Jesus sets the tone for the life he knows will confront the community when he is gone.

Jesus obviously was not talking to workaholic, shopaholic, obsessive-compulsive Americans.  Think about the last time you left the house for work or school or any short trip.  Did you remember your car keys before walking out the door?  Did you pack a lunch?  Did you bring something to read on the bus or the train?  Commuters need a Metro or VRE card, too.  Did you carry gas money or parking money or Starbucks “bucks” or Apple Pay (or a phone or app to do that)?  Did you remember your work ID, CAC, PIV or other card? Did you pack your homework or overnight assignment into a backpack, briefcase, purse or other carry-all that was packed with the standard items you carry every day (pens, paper, charging cords, a book or two? 

Today’s passage tells us of the absolute detachment from material possessions that is required of the disciple.  Such material poverty leads to leads a true disciple to Fully Rey On God as explained further in Luke 12:22-31 which begins: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.”

Don’t worry.

Be happy in God’s hands.


You get the idea.  Imagine being sent on a longer mission like the disciples.  Consider what you pack when you move (you take everything for the journey) or when you go on vacation (You take everything to make you feel like home away from home). 

How many iPads/tablets did your family take on its last vacation – two, three, four, more?  How about phones? One (or more) per person – after all you have to keep the work and home call we separate.

Go out today (if you dare) by taking nothing for the journey.

PS: Did you shut off the irony?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

“Those Who Hear the Word of God and Act on It” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

The exiles kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Levites, every one of whom had purified himself for the occasion, sacrificed the Passover for the rest of the exiles, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. (1 Timothy 3:1)

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. (Psalm 122:1)

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you." He said to them in reply, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it." (Luke 8:19-21)

Lord, may Your grace feed me.


Back in April or so, I signed up for the bell choir at my parish. I’ve never played
Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army,
Photographer Joyce Costello
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
bells, and I have no formal training in music, but it sounded like fun and like a challenge. I intended to do it, really I did. But the summer came and went and I made a lot of commitments for the fall and winter. By the time I got the email about weekly bell choir practice beginning in October, I decided it just wasn’t among my priorities right now, and bowed out. Maybe next year, I told myself.

It’s easy to be that way about our faith too. Hearing the word of God is kind of like signing up for the bell choir. When we hear the readings or study our spiritual resources, it seems like a good idea to spread the Good News to those who have little interest in hearing it, to reflect Christ to the homeless, the sick, the people in our family or neighborhood or workplace we find challenging. So we pass up one opportunity, then another each day. Maybe next time, we tell ourselves.

It’s an important verse, Luke 8:21. Essays and probably books have been written about the earlier parts of the passage: Who were Jesus’s brothers? Was the reaction of Mary to the statement? Are we truly to disregard those we love in the way we put God first? Fine questions, all. Great discussion topics. But when we focus on them, we lose track of the challenge Jesus throws down to those who hear the Word: Act on it. Make it a priority right now.

Undertake a corporal or spiritual act of mercy today that makes you uncomfortable. Don’t wait for next time.

Monday, September 25, 2017

On a Lampstand

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites –
everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so – prepared to go up to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. All their neighbors gave them help in every way, with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides all their free-will offerings.
  Ezra 1:5-6

Jesus said to the crowd: "No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away."
Luke 18:16-18

What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees are budding.
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming.
That's how it is with God's love.
Once you've experienced it. You want to sing; it's fresh like spring.
You want to pass it on. 

Are you in danger of misinterpreting Luke 18:18 as a part of the Prosperity Gospel?  Do some people assume that Jesus and Luke are talking about capitalism when in fact they refer to something else?  What do Jesus and Luke and the translators mean by “more?”

To explore what “more” refers to, look at what Jesus said right before that sentence.  Just a few verses before is the parable of the sower.  That concludes with this interjection: “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you; but to the rest, they are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.’” (Luke 8:10)

After that comes the parable of the lamp which starts with the line “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel.”  Throughout this chapter, Jesus talks about people who understand the word of God and what they do about that understanding.

To anyone who has ears to hear, more understanding will be given.

To anyone who has an understanding of the meaning of the parable, more understanding will be provided.

Think about this passage not in material terms but in terms of knowledge of the Kingdom. In the first reading from the Hebrew Bible, Cyrus leads the effort to build a temple brick-by-brick because he understands what Jeremiah preached. According to the decree of Cyrus, the Lord – through the understanding of the words of the prophet Jeremiah -- charged him to build a temple in Jerusalem.  A physical house – a temple – out in the open – where everyone can see it and take part in building it with their gold, silver, goods, livestock and voluntary offerings. 

When you understand what the Lord asks of you, you do it publicly just like Micah explained. “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (6:8)

Sr. Joan explains how to separate those who view Luke 18:18 in terms of prosperity and those who view it as humbling. This comes within her comments about Humility (Chapter 7 in the Rule of St. Benedict):

Just as false, though, is the idea that "getting ahead" and "being on top" are marks of real human achievement. Benedict says that in the spiritual life up is down and down is up, "we descend by exaltation and we ascend by humility." The goals and values of the spiritual life, in other words, are just plain different than the goals and values we've been taught by the world around us. Winning, owning, having, consuming, and controlling are not the high posts of the spiritual life. And this is the basis for a social revolution in the modern world.

Cyrus is the spark to get the temple built.  Jesus told the disciples that they – by example – can shine a light on the way to live for others. 

What can you give away to the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and the earthquake relief in Mexico?  What will you gain by subtraction?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

“Laboring in Joy for Our Daily Wage” by Beth DeCristofaro

2016 floods in Johannesburg, South Africa
…turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:7-9)

'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:10-16)

Oh, My most Holy Lord.  Help me to conduct myself in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. (from Philippians 1:27A)

Houston and Rockport, TX, Barbuda and Puerto Rico, Naples, Fl, Chiapas, Puebla and Oaxaca, Mexico, Southern India.  We have no few examples this month alone of the need for more laborers than the work calls for.  No doubt that rescue workers who took two days after a disaster to arrive or even a week later were as appreciated by victims as those on the ground in the immediate aftermath.  God’s grace prompted the call, trust in the ability to help whether by profession or will (or the handy huge-tired vehicle sitting lonely in a garage!) answered the call. 

Trust, Jesus says, in God’s generosity which is beyond understanding.  Rather than focus on what is earned by our efforts Jesus suggests we hope for God’s immense open-handedness, God who calls us to the labor in His Vineyard. We will never be stiffed or shirked but rather paid out beyond what we imagine our own worth, efforts or birth warrant us to deserve.  One might imagine Him saying am I not free to do as I wish with my own creation?  Do you wish to limit my generosity?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."

What prompts envy in me rather than generous labor?  Spends some quiet time with Christ to hear his call to the vineyard.  Labor with joy amidst others knowing my daily wage will be given to me.


Serve the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful song.  Psalm 100:2

And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold." After saying this, he called out, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear."  Luke 8:8

Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
(Responsorial Psalm for the say based upon Psalm 100:2)

When we come with joy into the presence of the Lord, we put ourselves into a situation when we can truly listen to what he has to say to us.  No TV.  No smartphone.  No distractions. 

The disciples today had the advantage of dialogue to overcome their lack of understanding.  When they didn’t “get it,” they asked Jesus for clarification.

We don’t have the benefit of such an exchange unless the Holy Spirit intervenes with clarity.  That’s why we have to be able to cut out the clutter and the clatter.  That is why we need to engage in piety and assume practices that allow us to hear the Lord despite the cacophony around us. 

True piety demands that we engage in certain actions to bring us into a closer
La Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti
relationship with Jesus. Our pious practices allow us to experience quiet moments conducive to listening – like that final moment Mary has with Jesus after the execution and before the Resurrection.  When we make time for Jesus, we put ourselves in a position to use our ears. 

One of my favorite spiritual books is the Rule of St. Benedict – especially the version in which Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, comments upon each section.  The very first word of the Rule is a marker for today’s Good News: LISTEN!

Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to God from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus wants that quality time with you while you and He can still enjoy it.  He wants to talk to you. Walk with you. "You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." Walk humbly with your God.  A walk in the Garden.  A walk down a city street.  When you walk with a friend, you talk.  To each other.  And you listen when the other talks.  True Piety is a relationship with God, founded upon listening to his message and then directing your life -- your whole life -- to God. 

Take a new look at La Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti all over again.  Listen to what Jesus has to say to you are you spend some time with him and his mother. 

Pray for the men of the 135th Cursillo who are in talk day today. Pray that they may listen to the message Jesus has for them to deliver and that they hear the constructive critiques offered by their teammates. 

Pray also for the participants in the Retreat for those who are Seriously Ill this weekend at San Damiano. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

“You Can’t Take It with You” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.  If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.  Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains. 
(1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Fear not when a man grows rich,
when the wealth of his house becomes great,
For when he dies, he shall take none of it;
his wealth shall not follow him down.
Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed,
“They will praise you for doing well for yourself,”
He shall join the circle of his forebears
who shall never more see light.    (Psalm 49:17-20)

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

I am seldom ever rendered totally speechless.  However, during one visit to my father in the final months of his life, I found myself unable to utter a single word.  Here was someone who was nearing the end of his life, and what comes out of his mouth?  Not “hello,” but “I’ve got to do something to make my money earn more.”  I thought to myself, Why? You have enough to take care of your needs.  You can’t take it with you.

That’s exactly what the psalmist says in today’s reading.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person on earth; you’re still going to die like everyone else.  You’ll be buried with the family who’ve gone before you.  You will neither see the light of day on earth again nor the bottom line of your bank statement.

If you channel surf on any Sunday morning, you can find preachers telling you that God wants you to prosper, God wants you to be rich.  Well, yes, God does desire those things for us, but not in the way the prosperity gospel preachers would have us believe.   God desires that we be rich in faith, the only kind of wealth that follows us everywhere, even after death.  God hopes that we will be content with and grateful for having the things we need – food, clothing, and shelter -  and that we will turn that grateful satisfaction into faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Invest for the long-term in God’s Kingdom. 

Money and the things money buys are neither good nor bad in and of themselves.  It’s when we love our wealth and our belongings more than we love God that we get off-track just as surely as if we built a golden calf and bowed down to it.  Certainly, there are many wealthy people who use their money for God’s purposes – helping the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the victims of natural disasters, etc.  As Paul says, it’s the love of money, not money itself, that can be the root of all evil.

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, under the section on the call and cost of discipleship, there is a meditation on the Three Classes of Persons.  It’s a meditation that asks us to consider the attachments in our lives that keep us from being fully able to say yes to God’s call to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  In today’s first reading, Paul writes to Timothy specifically about the love of money as one of those attachments, but there may be other loves in our lives that are equally problematic when it comes to being a disciple of Christ.

It’s worth taking the time to prayerfully do this meditation.  Imagine that you desire to be a disciple.  You are trying to follow the Lord.  At the same time, you have acquired something that also means a great deal to you.  In line with today’s Scripture readings, it could be a large sum of money.  As you consider each of these three classes of people, think about your attraction to that wealth and how you might deal with it so it doesn’t get in the way of your faith journey. 

The first person procrastinates.  He or she can see that this money (or whatever else you are attached to) is getting in the way, making it difficult to be totally free for Jesus.  Plans are made for dealing with this, but as time passes, lots of other things happen.  Life goes by and there’s always something else to do.  In the end, this disordered attraction to the money is still there.

The second person compromises.  He or she would like to be free for the Lord, but the pull away from Christ and toward that money is very strong.  Just like many of us do in our prayers, this person attempts to bargain or negotiate with God.  He or she wants to be free of what gets in the way of being fully available to Jesus, but the love of the money or other object is just so strong.  In the end, nothing changes.  The attraction to that thing other than God remains.

The third person is the one who is totally free and available for whatever Jesus calls him or her to do.  As St. Ignatius puts it:  The person typical of the third class desires to get rid of the attachment, but in such a way that there remains no inclination either to keep the acquired money or to dispose of it.  Instead, such a one desires to keep it or reject it solely according to what God our Lord will move one’s will to choose… (Spiritual Exercises 155)

Consider the things to which you are attached in this life.  Do they keep you from being fully free for Christ?  What choices have you made with regard to these attachments?  Can you see yourself in any of the three types of persons St. Ignatius describes? 

Whatever the result of your meditation, take time to share it in prayer with the Lord.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

“We Sinners are Called” by Beth DeCristofaro

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

The Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio
Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-4)

(Jesus said) "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13)

Sharing in that saving joy, O Lord, with which St. Matthew welcomed the Savior as a guest in his home, we pray: Grant that we may always be renewed by the food we receive from Christ, who came to call not the just, but sinners to salvation. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.
        (Prayer after Communion from the Mass for the Day)

A bit of mystery shrouds the man called Matthew but consensus has it that he was, indeed, a disrespected character whose “yes” and fidelity to Jesus led him to become the first of the evangelists and a saint. Of course, the leaders of the temple were scandalized and Matthew’s call to discipleship puts me in mind of Pope Francis’ recent words in Columbia. He pointed out “that true freedom is found in letting go of the superficial things we cling to for security, embracing instead a discipleship which has the courage to follow Jesus in living in the fullness of the law. ‘For the Lord, as also for the first community, it is of the greatest importance that we who call ourselves disciples not cling to a certain style or to particular practices that cause us to be more like some Pharisees than like Jesus’.”[i]

According to the footnotes to the NAB, Paul’s description of Christian community explains “Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief. It is manifested in the exalted Christ’s gifts to individuals to serve so as to make the community more Christlike” [ii] It’s just too easy to scapegoat those not like us even if wrapped in a true desire to remain “authentic” or adhering to an imagined tradition. It’s also easy to write off the Matthews who might, indeed, be cheating, lying, hurting others. Christ asks us to reach out and serve – not condone sin - and make the community more Christlike not just “me” more Christlike.

Caravaggio’s beautiful painting shows us St. Matthew probably saying in disbelief, “Who Me?” How powerful can be our humility, gentleness, patience, and desire for unity in the spirit in the world today? Take a moment to lovingly listen to someone from the LGTB community, or who has had an abortion, who voted for an elected official you detest, who worships in a manner or with a faith you find suspect, or other. Build a bridge. God calls! God does not want “do not enter signs” within our own hearts.

Monday, September 18, 2017

“Arise!” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

Matthias Gerung [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Beloved, this saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1)

I will walk with blameless heart. (Psalm 101:2)

As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep." He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, "Young man, I tell you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. (Luke 7:12-15)

Jesus, be with me as the parts of my life that are displeasing to you are put to death.

Jesus was in midst of his public ministry when the scene from Luke 7 unfolds. He’s fresh from Capernaum, where he healed the centurion’s slave without touching or seeing him, and a large crowd has accompanied him to Nain. It’s easy to imagine a joyful, somewhat festive atmosphere.

And then, they encounter another crowd. A widow’s only son has died, and is being carried out. We are told Jesus is moved with pity, touches the coffin, and instructs the son to arise. And. He. Does.

It will be less than three years before a large crowd accompanies Jesus into another city, a city where the only son of a widow will die. This time, the crowd that is with the widow as the son is being carried out to his tomb will be not be large by anyone’s estimation. But what happens to him just a few days later will change the world forever. It will start a revolution—and give the world hope.

Pray with or for your parents, or those who have been like parents to you.