Wednesday, May 30, 2018

“Filled with the Spirit” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Filled with the Spirit” by Beth DeCristofaro

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. (Luke 1:41-42)

"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 has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever." 
    (Luke 1:46-55)

This beautiful Gospel from Luke is proclaimed between very different stories.  In this week’s Gospels, we have been traveling with Jesus on the way to Jerusalem as he instructs the disciples on his upcoming passion.  And the temple leaders are plotting to kill him.  Suddenly we turn to the beginning of Jesus’ story.  We witness daily, commonplace life – pregnant cousins greeting each other – infused with the mystery:  the infant leaped in her womb.  It’s the same story which Jesus had been trying to translate for the disciples in the other readings:  God is here!  God is with you!

Although Jesus has yet to send the Paraclete, the Spirit is at Elizabeth’s home (of course!) in the joyous connection between the women, in the recognition between the unborn and was at work already in Nazareth granting Joseph the courage to marry Mary in spite of social customs.  Brother Mickey McGrath’s “Windsock Annunciation” shows us the dynamic breath of the Spirit with the billowing red windsock.  Mystery blowing through the everyday. 

Grace blows through, coming ever towards us, propelling us to holiness and encircling us in holiness.  Even before Jesus’ birth, God’s ultimate triumph of love and redemption had succeeded.  Jesus’ story is through the Cross which he accepted and asks that we accept.  A birth leads to a death, leads to everlasting life which belongs to us by grace and gracious invitation.  A mystery within the every day, bigger and more universal than the universe itself. 

St John Chrysostom said the cross was the will of the Father, the glory of the Son and the joy of the Holy Spirit.  Read slowly the words of the Magnificat.  What is cross for you?  Where do you find the joy of Spirit blowing through despite or perhaps because of the cross you bear?  Ask for the Spirit to fill you, as did Elizabeth and Mary, to bear your cross and find God more clearly.

“How Can I Serve You, Lord?” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“How Can I Serve You, Lord?” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Beloved:  Realize that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious Blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished Lamb. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."  He replied, "What do you wish me to do for you?"  They answered him, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left." Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking.  Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  They said to him, "We can."  (Mark 10:35-39a)

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, Angelina)

I’ve read today’s Gospel passage many times and what has always stood out is James’ and John’s request to sit on either side of Jesus in heaven.  This time, however, I found myself amazed by what they said before that:   Whatever we ask for, we want you to make it happen!  Before we gasp and point fingers, though, maybe this is the futile sort of conduct Peter refers to in his letter.  And maybe that futile conduct isn’t just a thing of antiquity but is alive and well in us today.

How many of us in our morning prayer echo the songwriter Angelina’s question, “What do you want of me, Lord?” and how many of us sound more like James and John with a self-serving wish list for Jesus?  Being a Christian disciple isn’t so much about what Jesus can do for us today as it’s about living in the context of what Jesus has already done for us by dying for us on the Cross.  What the Lord desires of you and me is that we live the way he died – for others.

That’s about the most counter-cultural request I can imagine.  We are immersed in a society that worships the acquisition of power, wealth and prestige.  Even as far back as first grade, I can remember wanting to be the person selected to lead the line of students out the door and down the hall to recess.  As the years go by, prestige (at least for girls) lies in what clothes you wear to school.  Then it’s all about getting into the best schools.  It’s all about the biggest, the best, etc.  I don’t remember ever being taught that being humble, being last in line, or caring about those who are the least among us are far more important in the long run.  As Peter points out in today’s first reading, our lives on earth are as ephemeral as those of the flowers and grass around us.  They’re colorful today and gone tomorrow.  Better to be concerned with how we are doing as Jesus’ disciples than caught up in the things that will disappear when our lives come to an end.

When you pray today, ask God how and where you can best serve God and all our brothers and sisters.

Monday, May 28, 2018

“We Have Given Up Everything” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“We Have Given Up Everything” by Melanie Rigney

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

The Lord has made known his salvation. (Psalm 98:2)
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions],
via Wikimedia Commons

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

Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee (attributed to St. Catherine of Siena).

Everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

That’s what Peter told Jesus the disciples had given up. And he probably believed it too: time with their wives and children and non-believing friends and neighbors. For some, successful businesses or a steady income. For some, perhaps standing and respect in their congregations.

It must have seemed like a lot. It was a lot.

Consider Jesus’s response. It’s not exasperation at Peter’s literalism or frustration that he hasn’t seemed to have understood the hints Jesus has already given about the future. He lays out the promise that yes, those who have given up much will receive much more. But you have to believe.

In today’s first reading, we see Peter again, after the resurrection, after Pentecost. He’s no longer concerned about what he’s given up. Rather, he advises the faithful to be obedient and to hope for nothing but grace. His days of expecting any more tangible are done. He understands all that passes, and that grace was all that ever mattered anyway.

We can be like the Peter in the Gospel: But we’ve done so much! Don’t ask for more! Except, of course, the Lord wants it all. Everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-in-g., no “look at all I’ve done; can’t I hold on to a little pride, a little envy, a little arrogance, a little comfort?”

May we have the trust and faith to sacrifice everything so that we may be worthy of more than we can ever imagine.

Pray for holy indifference to what the world throws your way. St. Catherine of Siena’s advice above may help, or read more about the Ignatian view of holy indifference.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

All Things Are Possible for God

All Things Are Possible for God

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9

"You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:21

Lord help us to implement what Peter Maurin calls the “shock maxims of the Gospel.” 
Love your enemy.
Go the extra mile.
Turn the other cheek.
Lend, expecting nothing back.
You cannot serve God and mammon.
Give to those who ask of you and if someone takes what is yours, do not demand it back. 
Remember the lilies of the field.
Don’t build bigger barns to hold all your worldly goods.
Don’t judge that you may not be judged. You must lose your life in order to gain it.
“Come, you blessed of my Father, to the Kingdom prepared for you from all eternity, for when I was hungry, you gave me to eat, when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink, when I was a stranger, you took me in.”
And then, of course, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

The Gospel calls us to some very hard tasks.  Today we hear about one of them – voluntary poverty. 

The encouraging news is that while our possessions might get in the way of our encounter with Jesus, God can overcome any obstacles that we put in the way.

Louise Zwick, co-founder of the Houston Catholic Worker, recognizes the challenges.

It often seems challenging or almost impossible to live out the Sermon on the Mount. Implementing it even in small ways often involves creative thinking outside of the usual patterns of thought as well as discernment about what is happening in our world.[1]

But how to have conversations about what really matters (the Gospel), when people’s concerns and all the professions are centered on having and possessing (as Peter said, on greed instead of creed), nations compete with each other on how to stockpile lethal weapons and wage war, whether through traditional methods or cyberwar, without regard for casualties?

The emphasis on having, financial security, and the will to power – in glaring contrast with the Gospel – almost drowns out the voices for peace, for the common good, and a just economy.  But not quite.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is one way those voices will not be drowned out.  Fifty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King led the original campaign, many of the conditions still exist in our society.

The PPC is bringing together people from across the country who are organizing to build a broad and deep national moral movement – led by the poor, impacted, clergy and moral agents.  The movement reflects the great moral teachings to unite our country from the bottom up. 

Beginning in May, the campaign launched 40 days of moral action from May 13th until June 21, in 39 states and Washington, DC.

The next event (the third week in this campaign) will take place Tuesday, May 29, beginning with a 2 pm rally at the U.S. Capitol.  The focus of this non-partisan event is on the War Economy and Gun Violence.  

Themes of the campaign include:
Week 2 (May 20-26): Linking Systemic Racism and Poverty
Week 3 (May 27-Jun 2): The War Economy
Week 4 (Jun 3-9): The Right to Health and a Healthy Planet
Week 5 (Jun 10-16): Everybody’s Got the Right to Live
Week 6 (Jun 17-22): A New and Unsettling Force
Week 7 (Jun 23): Global Day of Solidarity, Mass Rally in Washington DC
For more info about this effort and these themes, go to or contact DMV Poor People’s Campaign (

One, Two, Three – GO! By Wayne Miller

One, Two, Three – GO! By Wayne Miller

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

This is why you must now know and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. Deuteronomy 4:39

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:16-17

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always. Matthew 28:19-20

Abba Father, thank you for coming into the very center of my being, the divine unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Triune God, living in me, moving through me, blessing me and all your children.  Thank you for the gift of your acceptance of me with all my failings and missteps and evildoing.  Thank you for the wisdom and perspective of all your faithful throughout the millennia.  Thank you for the opportunity to GO forth filled with your Spirit – day after day after day.

When I began reflecting on today’s Scriptures, I was disappointed and confused.  I expected text after text to be brimming with the power and joy and exhilaration of the Holy Spirit – tongues of fire – miraculous healing – triumphant loving communities.  But instead, we have three very personal reflections on who our Triune God is, in each of His Personas.

Moses: living his mission – his GO command from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob transmitted through a burning bush and a burning lifetime of repeated encounters with the face of Yahweh and the faces of a recalcitrant, beloved nation that longed for leisure and security in the midst of a mighty desert quest.  Moses exhorting his children with the only gospel he knew: “…the LORD is God … there is no other!”  Throughout all of history, this is our bedrock, the foundation upon which our lives must be built to joyfully live as His Children. 
God gave me Moses to teach me about God, the Father!

Paul: The fire-breathing Pharisee who wanted nothing more than to eradicate all heresy from his land – until Jesus and new brothers shared the Gift of the Holy Spirit.  Paul accepted his GO command to move his beloved Chosen People beyond the centuries of the distant God of Moses to experience the Joy and Freedom only possible through total immersion in the personal Love of God’s Holy Spirit. He knew the intimate power of living in the midst of the Love between God the Father and God the Son, and he had the courage and wisdom to accept a wider GO command when told that His Chosen People were more than the core Hebrew elect. 

God gave me Paul to teach me about God, the Holy Spirit!

Matthew: the only narrator in today’s trilogy who actually lived a visceral relationship with the man who was God Among Us: Jesus. Matthew accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him, gave up a lucrative (if despicable) life, observed and chronicled Jesus’ miracle-filled, joyful, urgent, tragic, and triumphant life; and yet, in his very last encounter with God on Earth, he “doubted”.  Even then, God the Son entrusted to them the simplest and greatest and most terrifying GO command: give all nations the experience and knowledge of the Perfect Triune God and KNOW that I AM ALWAYS WITH YOU! “I” who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, forever united, forever preciously unique and perfect for our every relationship need, and forever with us in every circumstance of our lives.
God gave me Matthew to teach me about God, the Son!

Liturgy: we are so utterly blessed with the activity of the Holy Spirit throughout the living Tradition of our Catholic Faith.  We are blessed with the wisdom of centuries of God’s acting through his community to deliver to us these three images of Himself.  And then, we get the unspeakable privilege of acknowledging His Presence in a tiny wafer, taking Him literally within ourselves, and GO-ing out into our world to be His messenger. How can such a tiny wafer contain the grandeur and power and love and joy of the God of the Universe? I don’t know and I don’t care.  I just know that I am never alone. 

God gave me our beloved, wise, holy Church to nurture and teach me about the Kingdom of Heaven, here and now!

Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for surrounding me with the Love and the Touch and the Voice of our Beloved Trinity.  We each have our GO commands and the precious gifts given by the Triune God with which to accomplish them.

Let’s GO!

De Colores!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Let the Children Come to Me

Let the Children Come to Me

Beloved: Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing a song of praise.  Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the Church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. Elijah was a man like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land. Then Elijah prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:13-18

When Jesus saw this, he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Then he embraced the children and blessed them, placing his hands on them. Mark 10:14-16

“Fathers and mothers of families should bring up their Children virtuously, looking at them rather as God’s children.” St. Philip Neri

Never get between anyone and their prayers to God be that the suffering, the sick, the healthy, or the child.  In less than five verses of the first reading, the word “pray” or “prayer” is used eight times.

Children did not have as favored a place in ancient Palestine as they do in modern culture.  The child was not just representing themselves.  The child represents someone who has total reliance on others. They do not work.  They have no money.  They have no power in society.  When they approach Jesus, they symbolize people who are in total dependence upon and obedience to the gospel.

“Today, we celebrate St. Philip Neri who is honored for his deep spirituality, as well as his good humor/joyful personality. He attracted people from every level of society because he was pleasant to be around. That is a good “saintly” quality for us as well—be happy in the Lord.” (Most Reverend Paul J Bradley, Bishop of Kalamazoo)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Let Your "Yes" Mean "Yes"

The Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM Lifetime Mission Award was presented by Fr. Joe to Fr. George Corrigan, OFM for his steadfast commitment to both international and local mission, his service in Kenya as an FMS missioner, his work at his parish in Downtown Tampa, FL, and his consistent support of FMS.  This was at the Franciscan Mission Service annual dinner in 2010.
Let Your "Yes" Mean "Yes"

But above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your "Yes" mean "Yes" and your "No" mean "No," that you may not incur condemnation. James 5:12

But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." Mark 10:6-9

Oh, promises, their kind of promises, can just destroy a life
Oh, promises, those kinds of promises, take all the joy from life
Oh, promises, promises, my kind of promises
Can lead to joy and hope and love
Yes, love!!

(Writers: Hal David, Burt Bacharach; Performed by Dione Warwick)

Promises. Promises.

We are reminded over and over that the Lord is kind and merciful.  In the covenant with humanity, whether in the Hebrew Bible or in the New Testament, these promises come across over and over again.  God keeps his promises to us.

Today’s readings focus on how we do – or do not – keep our promises with each other.  Mark’s Good News focuses and a very special promise – the vows made in matrimony.  Even though Moses allowed divorce, Jesus explains that this was only because of “the hardness of your hearts.”

Despite that compromise, God wants us to keep our promises.  To God.  To Ourselves.  To Each Other.  Let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No.”  God’s kind of promises can lead to joy and hope and love!

Too often, the expression “Talk is cheap” is on the spot.  Probably the “cheapest” talk is New Year’s Resolutions.  Do you make it to February with those resolutions still in place?

Oftentimes, those resolutions are just with ourselves.  Even more important are what we promise to others.  We tend to think of two adult sacraments – marriage and We want people to do as we say, not as we do.  That is why actions must support our words.

Perhaps we can be inspired by the example of Franciscan Fr. Joe Nangle.  Fr. Joe is celebrating his 60th anniversary of ordination this year. He was ordained when I was barely out of the crib.

Now he serves as head of Latino ministry at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Arlington.

Fr. Joe Nangle with Sr. Marie Dennis at the Pax Christi Dinner,
November 15, 2009, at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, VA.
Fr. Joe entered the Order of Friars Minor Aug. 11, 1951, at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J. He made his final profession of vows Aug. 16, 1955, at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, N.Y., and was ordained to the priesthood April 25, 1958, at Mount St. Sepulchre Friary in Washington.

Fr. Joe served as chief of staff for the international office of the Department of Social Analysis and World Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (1977-80). He went on to serve in a variety of outreach and social justice ministries, including as a staff member for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (1982-90), and associate director of Sojourners magazine in Washington (1990-94).  Fr. Joe also served as executive director of the Franciscan Mission Service in Washington (1994-2005).

He began assisting with the Hispanic ministry on weekends at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington in 1990. Since 2017, Fr. Joe also has served as the regional vocation director for the Holy Name Province.

Happy Anniversary, Fr. Joe.  “Yes” means “Yes!”  That kind of promise leads to joy and hope and love!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

“Give To Each Other In His Name” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Give To Each Other In His Name” by Beth DeCristofaro

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire…Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another. (Mark 9:41-43, 50)

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, always pondering spiritual things, we may carry out in both word and deed that which is pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. (Collect from the Mass for the Day)

Imagine what Jesus’ tone might have been as he instructed the disciples. Frustrated? Angry? Exasperated? Deflated? After all, not ten verses before this reading, he had again told them of his impending passion (Mark 9:31) but they did not understand. Then they tried to close ranks around their unique status as his chosen followers, arguing who was greatest and interdicting someone, not of the 12 who had expelled a demon in Jesus’ name. They were still not grasping the immense import of Jesus’ mission and the reason for being. They were focused on insignificant definitions and worldly status. I imagine Jesus sighed deeply with sadness that his message was misread yet he also had confident hope that they would eventually get it as they became salted with the fire of the Spirit which would inflame their spiritual lives.

It’s hard to stay “salted.” We humans can deflect and deny so quickly, moving away from the spicy challenge of life based on Jesus. We experience a setback and maneuver to point blame rather than discern what meaning our life’s direction has taken. A change is proposed in liturgy or parish leadership, and we leave in a huff rather than be open to new avenues for the Holy Spirit to enfold us. And, truth be told, sometimes, I still find myself at the back of the crowd whispering “who will sit on his right side?”  The “salty” intrusion of the Spirit feels too much to handle but if we allow it can break our hearts wide to let in God’s overabundant love.

Talk with and more importantly listen to someone else who has a radically different perspective than you do but who you must admit is an excellent (perhaps even admirable) person. Accept the presence of Jesus within her/him and receiver her/his gifts she/he gives to you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

“If the Lord Wills It” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“If the Lord Wills It” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Beloved: Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit"– you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead, you should say, "If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

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

When I first began to consider retiring, I didn’t have any definite plan for what I was going to do. I pictured myself never setting the alarm clock again. I imagined I would have the long-awaited opportunity to read all the books that had lured me into buying them, only to end up sitting on a bookshelf waiting “till I had the time.”  But God had a different plan for me. In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think that a year later I would be working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life or that I would find myself with less time to read for pleasure than ever before. Nor did I think I would hop out of bed at 6:00 am five days a week. But God’s plan has turned out better than anything I could have dreamed up. God gave me the gift of a wonderful infant great-nephew and the time to be his full-time caregiver for the first year of his life. I never knew you could have so much love in your heart for a child. It’s been truly awesome watching this tiny human being grow and develop. My niece thinks I’ve helped her out, but she has no idea what a wonderful gift to me this year has been. There’s nothing like starting out your day with the big grin my little great-nephew puts on his face when his mom brings him in through my front door each morning. Yes, God’s plan was much better than my few scattered ideas about what to do with my time.

The last year has been a happy surprise for me, but sometimes God’s plan leads us down paths we would rather not go. That is apparent when we see Jesus pray in the garden of Gethsemane. He struggled with what was looking like God’s plan for him, but he when he rose to his feet, Jesus had set aside his own desires and accepted his Father’s will, not an easy thing to do at all.

We can make all the plans we want without consulting God in prayer. We can ignore the voice in our hearts calling us to go a different way from what we envisioned. We can kick and fight in an attempt to have it our way, but ultimately God is running the show. God has a plan for each of us that fits into the overall plan God has for all of creation.

The apostle James doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take our heart’s desires seriously, because our deepest desires are often what God wants for us. He also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make plans. I think James is saying, don’t be arrogant. Don’t act like you’re the god of your own little universe. Consult with God in prayer before starting out on a new path, because we all want our lives to be in accord with God’s will. Trust that God’s plans are for our welfare as stated in the Book of the prophet Jeremiah.

Try looking back at the time when you finished school or pick any 5- or 10-year period of your life. What were your plans? Where did God actually lead you, if you ending up taking a path different from what you envisioned? 

It takes a great deal of trust in God to be open to God’s desires for us. If you have time, listen to Trust in You sung by Lauren Daigle and co-written by Daigle, Paul Mabury, and Michael Farren.

Monday, May 21, 2018

“Whoever Receives One Child” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Whoever Receives One Child” by Melanie Rigney

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)

Throw your cares on the Lord, and he will support you. (Psalm 55:23)

Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me." (Mark 9:36-37)

The Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name, I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of His cross (from the Catholic baptism rite).

By NancyHeise [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
I went to a baptism the other day (not the one pictured here) and was struck anew by the Lord’s amazing grace.

My friends and four other couples were there, babies in godparents’ arms, gathered around the baptismal font. Everyone was dressed up for Jesus, positively beaming. I think the babies felt it too; there wasn’t a single cry during the ceremony, not even when water was poured over their heads.

The deacon welcomed everyone, Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, and non-believer, and explained the significance of each part of the rite. He noted that while we are instructed to put away our childish ways, the Lord always desires us to come to him as children: trusting, open, and loving. While the deacon likely handles baptisms on a regular basis, his explanatory words, tone, and face showed how much he loves this part of his ministry. Indeed, a man I don’t know, standing by himself, turned to me three times and made comments along the lines of “This guy is great! He really means it.

In the end, the deacon thanked all relatives and friends for coming and said all of us, regardless of our faith or lack thereof, are always welcome at the parish. As I left, I noticed the man who had been standing next to me was several feet ahead, still alone. I hope he comes back.

Next time you attend a baptism, First Communion, wedding, or other sacramental events besides reconciliation or Mass, welcome the stranger. Receive the child.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Behold, Your Mother

Behold, Your Mother

The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living. Genesis 3:20

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27

And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

Usually, today would be Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time. However, last year, Pope Francis inserted the ancient devotion of the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, into the Roman Calendar on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday.

St. Augustine says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church. St. Leo the Great says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church.

The connection between Christmas, Easter, yesterday’s “birth” day of the Church (Pentecost) and Mary’s maternal care is evident. Mary became the mother of Jesus on Christmas morning. Acts 1:12-14 and Genesis 3:9-15,20, if read in the light of the “New Eve,” show that Mary became the ‘Mother of All the Living” at the foot of the Cross when Jesus commanded us to “Behold your mother.” She remained with the disciples praying in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers.

Mary had been waiting in the Upper Room with the Apostles, her Son’s closest friends. As any good natural mother, she would have loved them because he loved them. She would have wanted the best for them and likely had high hopes for them because of their closeness to him. She would have loved them despite their failure to stand by Jesus when things turned terrible and he was arrested, tortured and crucified. They, on their part, would have loved and honored her because she was the mother of their best friend.[1]

One might ask, are there not enough memorials and days honoring Mary? We certainly had quite a few already before today’s memorial was put back into the calendar. Throughout the liturgical year, the Church honors our Blessed Mother with at least fifteen special events of her participation in the mystery of salvation.[2] These are:

The Immaculate Conception of The Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8) S
Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) F
The Nativity of The Lord (Christmas) December 25 S
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary And Joseph (December 31) F
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (January 1) S
The Presentation of the Lord (February 2) F
Saint Joseph, Spouse of The Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19) S
Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church (May 21) S
The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (May 31) F
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (June 9) S
Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (July 26) M
The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15) S
The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 22) M
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8) F
Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15) M
The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (November 21) M
Our “study” of Mary’s place in the life of Jesus and the life of the Church from the Immaculate Conception and Annunciation through Pentecost and the Assumption would not be complete by skipping over any of these. This comes full circle with the Mysteries of the Rosary.

What place does Mary have in the Church of Your Life?

Mary has come to me as a teacher and as a guide – the first among women and the first among the saints. While the Synoptic Gospels all contain a Nativity narrative of some kind, John skips the history lesson and gets right to the heart of the message. Mary is there at the first miracle Jesus performs – turning water into wine at the wedding reception in the village of Cana. Her words at that event are her first verbal lesson: His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:3)

From there forward the “Marian-ology” that emerges from the rosary and the string of solemnities, memorials and feast days carve out Mary’s role pulling me along more with the power of her deeds than her sparse words now and (hopefully) also at the hour of my death.

What does your soul proclaim?

[2] Not to split hairs, but solemnities are the celebrations of greatest importance indicated with an “S” on the list above. Each Solemnity begins on the prior evening with first Vespers (evening prayer) and several of the solemnities have their own Vigil Mass. Feasts indicated with an “F” are of secondary importance in our liturgical calendar and are celebrated on a particular day. These feasts do not have a first vespers or Vigil Mass the prior evening. Next in line are memorials, which are classified as either obligatory or optional. Memorials (“M”) commemorate a saint or saints. Obligatory memorials must be observed whereas optional memorials do not have to be observed. If reading this sequence seems a bit confusing, perhaps that is why the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes an annual Ordo which outlines the proper celebrations and their particulars throughout the liturgical year.