Thursday, November 30, 2017

“Getting the Calendar Straight” 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 told his disciples a parable. “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees. When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.”  (Luke 21:29-31)

Lord, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, help us to remember there wouldn’t be any reason to celebrate if not for your presence in our midst.
Here we are with only one more day left in the liturgical year. On Sunday Advent begins. The readings at the end of the year are frequent warnings – be ready, read the signs, etc. My mother used to say that she didn’t like the Scripture readings at this time of year. They were frightening and full of doom and gloom.

Today’s readings, however, sound hopeful notes to me. At a first glance, the reading from the Book of Daniel might seem unintelligible, with elaborately descriptive visions of strange beasts. In the commentary on this passage in Living Space (published by the Irish Jesuits in conjunction with Sacred Space), the beasts are said to represent the various powers of the ancient Near East which had risen up at one time or another to rule over God’s people – the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks.

The visions don’t end there. Daniel goes on to see the “Ancient One,” or God. At the end of today’s verses, we read that one like a son of man comes on the clouds of heaven and is presented before God. This son of man receives dominion, power, and glory. His dominion is said to be forever. Nothing shall destroy his reign as King. Daniel had no idea who this son of man was, but you and I know he is Jesus Christ. The hope comes from knowing that nothing that troubles us in this world, whether ancient conquerors or other present-day sufferings, lasts forever. God alone is forever. That’s the truth to hold onto as the year draws to a close.

After the earlier parts of chapter 21 in Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, alludes to all the calamities that will come to pass before he returns in glory, and promises that his followers will be persecuted for their faith, we have this quiet mention of a budding fig tree. When we see the buds opening and the blooms beginning to show, Jesus says we know it is a sign of summer’s approach. There’s nothing earth-shattering about this image. Trees quietly put forth buds and blooms every year. No fanfare. And maybe that’s the way we should approach Advent, quietly doing what we should always be doing – praying and showing mercy and compassion toward others as we wait in hope for the joy of the fullness of time.


Here at the end of the church year, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves which calendar guides the rhythm of our days – the liturgical calendar or the secular calendar. I can imagine a number of people reading these Scripture passages or this Daily Tripod and wondering who has time for this. There are fewer than 30 shopping days left before Christmas!  There are trees to be trimmed, cookies to be baked, gifts to be wrapped!  But put it all in perspective. All that will be over in a few weeks. Jesus, however, will still be our Savior on December 26 and forever beyond that. Maybe the liturgical calendar is worth another look.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

“Come After Me” by Beth DeCristofaro

But not everyone has heeded the good news; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us? Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. But I ask, did they not hear? Certainly, they did; for “Their voice has gone forth to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world.”  (Romans 10:16-18)

(Jesus) said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20)

Brother of Simon Peter, you heard John the Baptist say: "Behold the Lamb of God," and you chose to follow Jesus. Leaving your nets, you became a successful fisher of souls. Lover of the Crucified Christ, you too were crucified like him. Teach us to live and suffer for Him and to win many souls for Christ. Amen.
  (54 Days of Prayers with Saint Andrew, By Lev Bar Freyadan, p. 22)[i]

Over the centuries many charismatic leaders have risen, some of them - Jim Jones, Pol Pot - proved lethal to those who fell under their spell.  Others were positive and life-giving such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and of course Jesus, who saw their lives shortened as they threatened powerful enemies.  Andrew and Peter responded immediately to the deeply spiritual nature – the good news - Jesus radiated. Matthew’s account says they did not even ask any questions or go pick up lunch for the way.  They followed.

How does Jesus call us today?  His good news echoes in a myriad of tones throughout the centuries. 

Come, follow me is heard in the falling leaves still glowing with golden splashes and the soft air of Autumn.  Glory! O Creator for such a cosmos! 
Come, follow me Jesus asks when we take on the day’s duties with one’s family and employers.  Our Father, I am grateful for their safety and my many life gifts.  

Come, follow me He sighs as a woman comes to terms with a devastating illness.  Merciful Lamb of God, Heal and protect me. 

Come, follow me Jesus proposes to one prone to violence, engorged with power or diverted by idols.  Good and Holy Shepherd, forgive my sin and guide me from the dark valley.

Jesus offers.  He always offers. 

This Gospel and the reading from Paul places the duty on us to be “the voice” to those who cannot or chose not to hear.  How can we help - be Good News - so that the Good News will reveal itself into the hearts which need most to hear?  Jesus says to follow him in love. Good News works through our humble submission.  Humility allows us to hear the Good News ourselves.  We too must leave our nets and follow in order to be Good News.  What “news” are you hearing?  What is the “news” which causes you not to hear the Good News of Love?  Ask His help to hear!  Then, today, put down that net and follow.

Wisdom In Speaking

Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance, you will secure your lives." Luke 21:14-19

Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside (3 times)
Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Ain't gonna study war no more.
I ain't gonna study war no more,
I ain't gonna study war no more,
Study war no more.

“I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”

Jesus seems to be advising his disciples to engage in non-violent resistance.  In his trial, Jesus himself will be a model of this behavior.  In modern events, the most famous modern leaders of such civil disobedience may have been Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil right movement in the 1960, the Polish Trade Union Solidarity and the Indian independence movement from the British led by Mahatma Gandhi who remarked: "There are many causes that I am prepared to die for, but no causes that I am prepared to kill for."

A study published by Foreign Affairs[i] magazine concluded that nonviolent movements were twice as likely to succeed as were violent movements, and that nonviolent movements often significantly increased the chances of a more peaceful and democratic government emerging in the aftermath.

Pictures of huge demonstrations in public squares have become a staple of
international news broadcasts, and Time magazine named “the protester” as its Person of the Year for 2011 according to Drop Your Weapons: When and Why Civil Resistance Works by By Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan

Two thousand years after Jesus encouraged his followers toward civil disobedience, maybe the world is getting the message?

The superior success rate of nonviolent movements is even more impressive when you consider that such movements were pretty rare prior to the 20th century. If you want to learn to use violence well, there are books, treatises, military academies, martial arts schools, etc.  We have the military/service academies like West Point and Annapolis but do we have a Peace Academy?  Where do we provide the opportunity to learn nonviolent methods of resistance to evil acts? They are few and far between if you want to beat your swords into plowshares.

What if we took a fraction of the resources we use to study violence, and used them instead to find ways to stop people from doing evil peacefully? When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sounded a similar theme: "Therefore, I venture to suggest to all of you and all who hear and may eventually read these words, that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict."

Servant of God Dorothy Day, Obl. S.B., was co-founder of a community of
activists who published a newspaper while feeding, sheltering and living with the poor of New York City.  She was a modern-day model of the non-violent protest and civil disobedience Jesus advocated.  The group and its paper, both called The Catholic Worker, set forth a radical Christian vision of a world made more humane and more "just" through active love, sacrifice, personal freedom, pacifism and resistance of what they saw as the dehumanizing features of capitalism and nationalism.

Day converted to Catholicism as a 30-year-old unwed mother. In 1933, she and an eccentric French thinker and vagabond, Peter Maurin, formed the Worker movement.  During the hunger strikes in Washington, D.C. in December 1932, she noted that she was filled with pride watching the marchers, but she couldn't do much with her conversion. In her autobiography, she wrote: "I could write, I could protest, to arouse the conscience, but where was the Catholic leadership in the gathering of bands of men and women together, for the actual works of mercy that the comrades had always made part of their technique in reaching the workers?" Later, she visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast D.C. to offer a prayer to find a way to use her gifts and talents to help her fellow workers and the poor. You can read more about that in her autobiography The Long Loneliness.

She found that way in the Gospels and her piety and study sustained her action throughout her life.  
Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers. Speaking for many of our conscientious objectors, we will not participate in armed warfare or in making munitions, or by buying government bonds to prosecute the war, or in urging others to these efforts.
But neither will we be carping in our criticism. We love our country and we love our President. We have been the only country in the world where men of all nations have taken refuge from oppression. We recognize that while in the order of intention we have tried to stand for peace, for love of our brother, in the order of execution we have failed as Americans in living up to our principles.
Dorothy Day died on this date in 1980 and her sainthood cause remains active today. She was jailed often in her life and was one of the most famous non-violent protestors in America.  Her life was portrayed in the movie Entertaining Angels and starred Moira Kelly and Martin Sheen.

Today, as you reflect on this Gospel, offer a prayer to find a way to use your gifts and talents to help your fellow workers and the poor. ”By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”

Monday, November 27, 2017

“See That You Not Be Deceived” by Melanie Rigney

(After interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel said:) “The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure.” (Daniel 2:45)

Give glory and eternal praise to him. (Daniel 3:59b)

"See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying,I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end." Then he said to (the people), "Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky." (Luke 21:8-11)
Image credit: Thomas Cole
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lord, show me how to keep my eyes, heart, and soul focused on You.

We don’t know what we don’t know, and sometimes, we don’t know what we do know.

Regardless of your political bent, it’s tempting to feel despondent about the world. Some of us felt that way on September 11, 2001; others, when nuclear weapons were dropped in Japan in August 1945.  And when we feel helpless, we look for easy fixes and answers.

Doubtless, people felt that way in the fourteenth century when the plague wiped out a third of the world’s population from Iceland to India in just three years.  While today the generally accepted theory is that rat fleas carried the disease, the people of the time didn’t know that. What they knew was something bad, very bad was happening and came up with innumerable causes. They blamed lepers and Jews and killed them. They feared the Lord was punishing them or that the end of the world was at hand, and took on all sorts of self-inflicted penance to prepare.

And yet, here we are, nearly six hundred years later, seeing what we think are signs that the end times are near. Maybe they are. Maybe they’re not. But as Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading, when wars and plagues happen, we are not to be terrified. Nor are we to turn to those who claim to have all the answers. We already know the One who has all the answers. Our job, regardless of tempted we are to drown in anxiety, is to believe, love, and spread His news.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that at the Last Judgment, “in the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life.”

It’s pretty simple, simpler than we’d like to acknowledge. We can wring our hands over earthly divisions, and look to politicians, celebrities, pundits, and even addictions to get us through what we regard as unbearable times. Or we can, in our own way, whether it be through prayer and contemplation, through direct aid and activism, through loving conversations, or through some other practice, build our own faith and help others grow in the belief that God has this covered and always has. That is the one thing we know for sure about the future, and it is all we need.

Spend an hour unplugged from devices and people today or sometime this week. Lay your terrors and fears at the altar. Repeat.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Whole Livelihood

When the king had spoken with all of them, none was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; and so they entered the king's service. In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.  Daniel 1:18-20

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." Luke 21:1-4

“St.” Oscar C. Burnett, Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict (1926-2017)

LISTEN! Honor is flashed off exploit, so says the news according to WBTV or the Gastonia Gazette;       

Hands raised for Army Air Force oath-taking, penciled and passed the Georgia Bar, practiced letters and laws.

The bar was crossed when lifted by the spirit of the Lord, he went to work at a school for God’s service, the seventh servant of the servants of Belmont, resting on the ordinary cathedral floor before battle.

Unseen by the media and even parents, his heroic Crescat and his Adolphus walked upon hand-made bricks, ora et labora, labora et ora.

Now, he has crossed the bar, his tongue and laughter time now silenced. Resting on the basilica floor, battle-won.

While heads talk and press meet, his glorious sun has set. Tabernacle locked, pall and corporal forever rest upon his chalice.  

Unlocked the winning secrets to overcome our personal within wars, leavening us with the brand unleavened: the sand dollar, the autumn leaves, the water-turned-wine, the Appalachian trial, the red-clay kudzued path to Chi Rho, the brown school bus…who could forget that school bus?

Earth hears no hurtle then from the confessional of His prodigal mercy.
Yet God (that hews the hot springs and ocean isles,  
Campus, all, out; who, with tickling laughter uncontrollable
Doubles over and makes more laugh and laugh more)      
Could crowd career with conquest while there went  
Those years and years by of world without event     
That in Belmont, Oscar watched your sons and daughters with stability, obedience and conversatio morum.

Who, now, will roll away the stone?  We must trumpet now that Clarion, till now the field sowed, beat into plowshares the swords set down.

Models.  In today’s environment of moral relativism, political relativism and economic relativism, we search for True Magnetic North. We want something that is as constant as the rising sun. Jesus wants us to have that as well so he holds up models for us, never who or what we suspect.
The Roman centurion for his faith. The Prodigal Son for his conversion. The Good Samaritan for his service. The poor widow, not for her generosity, but for her absolute dependence upon God.
What do they have in common? None are who you might expect to be singled out. They are not Jewish. They are not “from here.” They have no power of position in the church, government or military. Anyone else would likely pass them by on the street without notice. Not Jesus.
Who are your models? Daniel?  The poor widow?

The obituaries don’t tell the real story of heroes and role models -- like Rev. Oscar Burnett, OSB.  His story is now history. The obituary writers sprinkle around some facts and dates to telling us about honors and exploits. But they do not tell the rest of the story. 

September 17, 1926 in Savannah, Georgia.  How did being a child of the Great Depression and the changing South melt him and mold him to the man who melted and molded others?

July 11, 1958. As humanity was rocketing into a space-race, why did he retreat from the courtroom to the monastery courtyard, trading cravats for crescats?

December 22, 1962. On this ordinary day, Mary Help of Christians got an early Christmas gift from the Burnett family.  

December 21, 1991. Leaders were changing all around. A trade unionist was now president of Poland and the iron curtain rusted and collapsed.  A laughing lawyer was now abbot.  After nearly three decades in the vineyard, he was elected to follow in the shoes of the abbas: Leo, Vincent, Walter, Edmund, Jude, and Peter.

No obituary re-told the stories of his great homilies -- like the one about the agony of the mother who had to endure the trial of her surviving son who accidentally killed his brother.

No obituary told the stories of how he brought young college students to Christ. Make a friend. Be a friend. When they might have preferred to sleep in on a Saturday morning, he piled students into a rickety pick-up truck and created a “Christmas in April” type service projects to renovate the homes of the widows of former campus workers long before service days became popular.

No obituary told how he combined vacation and ministry on beach retreats or mountaintop retreats to overcome the Catholic guilt we grew up experiencing.  Making faith fun was his whole livelihood!

Oscar C. Burnett, Presente!

Inherit the Kingdom

I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—oracle of the Lord GOD. The lost I will search out, the strays I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, and the sick I will heal; but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd them in judgment. Ezekiel 34:15-16

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. 1 Corinthians 15:20-21

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Matthew 25:34-36

What do you want of me, Lord? Where do you want me to serve you? Where can I sing your praises? I am your song. (Servant Song by Donna Marie McGargill, OSM)

As we bring Thanksgiving weekend to a close, the pastoral image of the “firstfruits” seems appropriate. To a farmer, the first fruits represented the portion of the harvest offered in thanksgiving. The offering is hoped to lead to the bountiful harvest still to come. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are not the end of the story. They are firstfruits.  Salvation History must continue onward until it reaches the final chapter -- our resurrection.

That final chapter is the setting for Matthew’s most famous Gospel passage prescribing how we should behave: The Mount of Olives Manifesto.
Two contrasts are striking in today’s readings. Although this is the Solemnity of the King of the Universe, the first image we have is that of a humble shepherd, not a king leading his army into battle triumphant. This is not just any shepherd. This is the King of the Universe promising to come and do the shepherding himself.

Second, the Perfect God-Man also is contrasted with the flawed “first man.”  Christ’s story and our own are both directly connected to Adam. The Hebrew word ’ādām in Genesis is both a common noun for mankind and a proper noun for the first man. In today’s second reading, St. Paul presents Adam as at least a literary archetype of Christ. His sin condemned all of us just as Christ’s sacrifice redeemed all of us. [i]

God expects us to be where he would be…serving the most vulnerable. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Christ says as much when he visits the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:10). Our shepherd comes to save not the sheep inside the gate but the sheep who are lost and wandering.

Do today’s readings afflict the comfortable in you?  Maybe that is intentional. At the end of time, the Lord does not expect to find us at Nordstrom’s or Macy’s. God prefers that we are serving breakfast at So Others Might Eat, or lunch at D. C. Central Kitchen or in Lafayette/Peace Park feeding a hot dinner to the homeless, unemployed and underemployed with the Catholic Workers.

As Pastor Bob Cilinski wrote in his Nativity Parish (Burke, VA) parish bulletin this weekend, “[The words of Matthew 25] are words that are both comforting and disturbing because they teach us that the real proof of how much we love the Lord, is found in how we treat others around us. It might be hard to see Christ in others. Then if we can't see Christ in others, we can be Christ to others. And so, we ask, ‘Are we Christ to others?’”  

If we answer that question with an affirmative, where does Christ want us to serve him today?  “I was wounded by a terrorist bomber and you comforted me. I was killed by a terrorist bomb and you served my family.” My bet is that Sinai would be at the top of the list. Jesus would be there comforting those wounded and the families of those killed by the terrorists.

"Terrorist acts can never be justified in the name of God or any political ideology, and the fact this attack took place at a Mosque, a place of worship, is especially offensive to God," according to a statement by the USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. “The Catholic Church in the United States mourns with the people of Egypt at this time of tragedy and assures them of our prayerful solidarity. We join with all those of good will in prayer that these acts of terror and mass killings – these acts of grave evil – will end and will be replaced with genuine and mutual respect for the dignity of each and every person. "

[i] According to the notes in the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE). 

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Ones Who Will Rise

Jesus said to them, "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  Luke 20:34-36

Father, thank you for what you have revealed to us. Jesus, teach us to understand everything we need to know.  Holy Spirit, help us to listen and put into practice these lessons in our daily lives.

Somehow, the Sadducees and Pharisees did not get the message from the baptism of Jesus or the Transfiguration.  While God directly handed Moses Ten Commandments in the Hebrew Bible, God only issues one overriding commandment in the New Testament: “Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him.’” (Luke 9:35)[i]

Yet…time after time, the Pharisees and Sadducees pose trick questions to Jesus.
  • “Tell us, by whose authority are you doing these things?”
  • “Is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?”
  • “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”
  • “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus was never stumped. According to the notes in the NABRE, by its very nature, the Sadducees’ question today about marriage and the afterlife denies the idea of the resurrection. In turn, Jesus rejects their naive understanding and then argues on behalf of the resurrection of the dead on the basis of the written law that the Sadducees accept.[ii] 

Perhaps to show his impatience (and perhaps to silence his critics once and for all), Jesus turns the tables and asks them a question. However, their inability to respond implies that they have forfeited their position and authority as the religious leaders of the people because they do not understand the scriptures. This series of controversies between the religious leadership of Jerusalem and Jesus reveals Jesus as the authoritative teacher whose words are to be listened to. Jesus attains his end and Luke tells us that – for at least some of the temple leaders, Jesus had the last word:

Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” And they no longer dared to ask him anything.

No matter the question, Christ’s mission was a mission of mercy, not judgment.  Yet, for all the Sermons on the Mount, Sermons on the Plains, Beatitudes, parables, cures, and more, this did not sink into the doubters.

This was not simply a theological or academic exercise. In life situations, Jesus always opted for mercy. Time-after-time, Jesus saw through their trickery and responded in a way people – especially the Pharisees -- didn’t expect.  When Jesus confronted to woman caught in adultery, he also turned the tables.  If Jesus told them to carry out the law and stone her, he would not be merciful. If he showed mercy, he would be construed as disobeying the law God handed down in the Hebrew Bible.  Whichever action he chose, in the Pharisees' minds, would enable them to accuse him of doing wrong.  But, whenever confronted with a choice, Jesus always chooses mercy over judgment. 

How can we better embody listening to Jesus in our lives and getting past our human judgments that we inflict upon each other?

The answer lies not in emulating the Pharisees but rather in the next scene.  As Jesus stands on the steps of the temple after rebuking the questioning Pharisees and telling people to ignore these hypocrites, they see a widow approach and drop two tiny coins into the Temple treasury. 

Jesus wants us to put in all our livelihood into following him with our piety, study, and action. Are you ready to do so? 

[i] God speaks as one through Jesus. At significant times before Jesus was born and after the Crucifixion, God uses angels as intermediaries. However, there are two direct references to God speaking in the New Testament: the first when he presents Jesus after his baptism and then at the Transfiguration (quoted here).

Thursday, November 23, 2017

“Restoration and Renovation” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Judas and his brothers said, “Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.”  So, the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion…. On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals.  All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success.   (1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 54-55)

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  And every day he was teaching in the temple area.  (Luke 19:45-46)

Lord, help me to examine my interior life and to restore and renovate it to holiness where needed.
The story in today’s first reading is only one of many similar stories dotting the history of God’s people.  Israel was but a tiny, tiny piece of the world of the ancient Near East, no match for greater powers.  Today’s reading recounts events about 150 years after Alexander the Great had conquered Judea.  Alexander the Great’s empire had been divided and Judea had come under the control of the Seleucid Empire.  A ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, came to power, who hated the Jewish people and tried to forbid any practice of Jewish law.  He captured the city of Jerusalem and plundered the Temple.  He killed numbers of the Jews.  Then, in 168 BC, he allowed pagan sacrificial rites to take place in the Temple of the Lord.  He outlawed Jewish observance of the Sabbath.  He tried to force the Jewish leaders to sacrifice to pagan gods.

Under Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, the Jews staged a revolt against all these abominations.  In today’s reading, we see that, against great odds, they have succeeded!  And now it is time to clean up the damage and make the house of the Lord holy once again.  The eight days of celebrating that took place were the origin of the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah, which is celebrated every year to this day.

In the Gospel reading for today, fast forward and we are again in the Temple and it is again in need of cleaning out.  This time the desecration comes not from pagans but from livestock purveyors and money changers.  The problem isn’t the fact that there were money changers or people selling animals.  They were needed because people came to Jerusalem from other places, carrying Greek or Roman coins that were not acceptable in the Temple.  So, someone needed to serve as a money exchange and provide Jewish coins.  And people had to buy animals to sacrifice.  But the poor were being gouged and the scene was anything but holy.  Jesus wasn’t about to stand for such desecration.  So, he drives them all out.

So, what does all this cleaning out and starting over have to do with you and me?  In more than one place in his writings, the apostle Paul tells us that we are now temples of God.  Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)   For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: “I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. (2 Cor 6:16)

What do we do in places of worship?  We pray and worship together.  We are reminded of and strengthened in our unity in the Body of Christ through the Eucharist.  We are sent forth to love and serve our brothers and sisters. 

When we examine the state of our inner temple, these might be places to start.  How is my prayer life?  Have I neglected it lately or is it blooming?  Do I see myself as a part of the Body of Christ?  If so, do I go to church and worship with the rest of the Body or have I been negligent about that?  Does my faith lead me to care for God’s other children, especially those in need?

If the answers have you realizing that some renovation and renewal is in order, there is no time like the present!   Advent is right around the corner and it would be good to start the new liturgical year with a spruced up interior life.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

“Loudly, Tirelessly Glorifying God” by Beth DeCristofaro

James Tissot - The Healing of Ten Lepers
(Guérison de dix lépreux) - 
Brooklyn Museum
… ten persons with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"  (Luke 17:12-17)

And now, bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people's growth from their mother's womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel (and Arlington Cursillo Communities) to deliver us in our days. 
(Sirach 50:22-24)
(Mass for the Day)

Recently a family member was at a local grocery store ordering deli ham.  The clerk asked him what he was doing for Thanksgiving.  When he answered that he would be traveling to South America so would not have Thanksgiving this year she was very confused.  He explained that “Thanksgiving Day” is a holiday unique to the United States and that other countries did not celebrate it as such.  Of course, other countries have their days for giving thanks.  She seemed very sad at that information and very surprised that she did not realize the feasting of Turkey Day is a USofA phenomenon.

It strikes me that her confusion speaks to the small view we take of God’s grand world at times and the small view we take of our relationship with God.  How often we are wrapped up in our own lives without realizing that our own lives have such potential in them.  However, this view, with Me at the center, can cause us to look at others who are different – Samaritans or lepers or those-who-don’t-celebrate-Thanksgiving with a judgmental eye.  The leper in the story looked out of his own misery to recognize the wondrous gift just bestowed and the deeply spiritual need of his soul to give thanks.  How often do I take the opportunity to do the same even if it is to give thanks for others’ differentness?  How glorious a God who creates in His own, diverse image. 

St. Francis de Sales said, “Strive to See God in All Things Without Exception.” And “Nothing is small in the Service of God.”  Even our small lives have God-value.  Do we celebrate that?  Do we recognize that our small life is part of grand All Things which God created?  Celebrate the wonder of God and the blessings of Divinity who walked among us and took notice of pariahs, those who are the most ill among us.

James Tissot - The Healing of Ten Lepers

Give You Back Both Breath and Life

“And to those standing by, he said, 'Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.' But they said to him, 'Sir, he has ten gold coins.' He replied, 'I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Luke 19:24-26

"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man's beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law." 2 Maccabees 7:22-23

If you did not read the Sunday Tripod for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, I will not repeat any of those themes…just look here from last Sunday.  (Come Share Your Master’s Joy).  Today, we get Luke’s parallel reading about the conduct of faithful and productive servants who use their natural talents to build the work of the “kingdom” combined with the story of the rejected king.

The rejected king in the story may have referred in some ways to a historical event.  The notes to the NABRE explain that after the death of Herod the Great, his son Archelaus traveled to Rome to receive the title of king. A delegation of Jews appeared in Rome before Caesar Augustus to oppose (reject?) the request of Archelaus. Although not given the title of king, Archelaus was made ruler over Judea and Samaria.

In addition to that literal interpretation, this is the final parable before Jesus enters Jerusalem where he will meet his execution.  We know that Jesus is not on his way to Jerusalem to receive the kingly power; for that, he must go away and only after returning from the distant country (a reference to the Parousia) will reward and judgment take place.[i] Jerusalem will be where he becomes the rejected king.

November 22, 1963.  Anyone in my generation knows exactly where they were after lunch on that date 54 years ago when shots rang out in Dealey Plaza in Dallas and Camelot came to a crashing end. Our president was “rejected” with a bullet from the end of a gun fired by Lee Harvey Oswald into the back of his head.

On May 29 of this year, we marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the United States' 35th President, John F. Kennedy. In his Inaugural Address, President Kennedy inspired a generation to use our talents for good:
Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself…The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.[ii] 

President Kennedy asked us all to marry our actions as servant-citizens as well as people of faith. 

“With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.” 

As we approach the table of Thanksgiving this Thursday, think about the blessings and help that you have enjoyed.  Devote your piety, study and action toward making God’s work our own mission. Everyone who has become good and faithful servants, more blessings will be given in thanks for building up the Kingdom of God.