Tuesday, July 31, 2018

“What is the Kingdom of Heaven Worth to You?” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“What is the Kingdom of Heaven Worth to You?” by Colleen O’Sullivan


Under the weight of your hand, I sat alone because you filled me with indignation.  Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?  You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide!  Thus the LORD answered me: If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence, you shall stand; If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. Then it shall be they who turn to you, and you shall not turn to them, And I will make you toward this people a solid wall of brass.  Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail, For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 15:17b-20)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Piety
And now I had discovered the good pearl. To buy it I had to sell all that I had; and I hesitated.   (St. Augustine, Confessions, 8.1.2)

Study
Our Scripture readings today are about treasure – God’s word in the first and the Kingdom of heaven in the second.  More precisely, the readings focus on what we are willing to give to procure treasure and to what lengths we will go to hold onto it.

The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price seem like no-brainers at first glance.  If the treasure is valuable enough or the pearl lustrous enough, who wouldn’t be willing to give everything to possess one or the other?  I think St. Augustine in his Confessions gets to the heart of the matter when he says he discovered the pearl but hesitated when it came to selling everything.  When we choose to embrace something, we are, at the same moment, choosing to turn our backs on other options.  It isn’t that we don’t see the Kingdom of heaven as the greatest treasure or most valuable pearl imaginable, but it is often so difficult to let go of the things and values of the world.  To me, the Christian life seems as much about what we let go of along the way as about committing to walking in Jesus’ footsteps in the first place.

Jeremiah, in our first reading, had been entrusted with great treasure, God’s word.  At first, that was a beautiful thing for the prophet.  But speaking the truth doesn’t guarantee that others want to hear it or embrace it or the messenger.  Now Jeremiah finds himself utterly bereft.  The brook that refreshed him at one point has dried up, he says. Jeremiah feels abandoned by God and angry about that as well.  He’s about ready to throw in the towel.   He wants to ditch his commitment to preach God’s word to God’s people.   But God never promised Jeremiah or any other prophet that all would be smooth sailing.  So, God tells Jeremiah that if he repents, God will restore him to being able to stand in God’s presence.  God will always be present to him.

Action
Giving up everything else for the sake of the treasure of the Kingdom of God and then holding on to that treasure for the rest of our lives are not easy propositions.   If we understand all the ramifications of giving everything we are and have for the sake of the Kingdom, then we, too, will probably hesitate before plunging in.  Discipleship is not without cost.  Being conformed to the image of Christ is a lifelong process because we are always finding something of the world that we have not left behind.

What worldly baggage do you still need to set down?

A thought for the week ahead:

The world does not say: "blessed are the poor." The world says: "Blessed are the rich. You are worth as much as you have." But Christ says: "Wrong. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, because they do not put their trust in what is so transitory." Blessed are the poor, for they know that their riches are in the One who being rich made himself poor in order to enrich us with his poverty, teaching us the Christian's true wisdom.  (Oscar Romero, 1917-1980, The Violence of Love)

The illustration above is available under a Creative Commons License.

Monday, July 30, 2018

“Whoever Has Ears…” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

By Domenico Fetti - Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum,
Madrid ([1]- Oil on panel, 61 x 44.5 cm)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Whoever Has Ears…” by Melanie Rigney


We recognize, O LORD, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you. For your name's sake spurn us not, disgrace not the throne of your glory; remember your covenant with us, and break it not. (Jeremiah 14:20-21)

For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us. (Psalm 79:9)

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear." (Matthew 13:41-43)

Piety
Lord, turn me away from the false siren song of the evil one and toward Your goodness.

Study
“Whoever has ears ought to hear,” Jesus tells the disciples after explaining, in painstaking detail, the parable of the weeds. Good sower = Jesus; good seed = God’s children; weeds = evil one’s children, and so on.

Check, check, and check. Honestly, it makes you wonder if the disciples could have found their way home without Jesus.

On second thought, there’s no need to wonder. The disciples could not find their way home without Him. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He understood that, and that’s why He was so patient with questions that would have frustrated even Captain Obvious.

While Jesus’s use of parables may be clear to us from the distance of a couple of thousand years and a whole lot of hearing the Word proclaimed and studied, we are in precisely the same place as the sometimes-clueless disciples.

We can’t find our way home without Him either. May we open our ears to His direction.

Action
The Lord is speaking. Are you listening? Spend fifteen minutes doing so today. Don’t ask Him to explain a thing. Just listen.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Full-Grown

Full-Grown


So also, I will allow the pride of Judah to rot, the great pride of Jerusalem. This wicked people who refuse to obey my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods to serve and adore them, shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing. For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man's loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen. Jeremiah 13:9-11

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'" Matthew 13:31-32

Piety
In life, we play many roles.
Carrying our cross
Helping others carry their cross
Mocking those who carry their cross
Standing at the foot of the cross
Dying on the cross
Cursing from the cross
Blessing from the cross 
(From Maryknoll Missioners @MaryknollFrsBrs)

Study
What defines the mustard seed?  Simply being a seed is not enough.  The
farmer must plant the seed. The seed must grow.  It must feed others. It must create more mustard seeds.

What defines the Christian?  Simply walking into a church and dipping your fingers in Holy Water, making the sign of the Cross is not enough.  The Lord plants would-be Christians where the Word will grow in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts.  Then, Christians feed others with a fire in the heart that is ignited by the Gospel.  The Christian must create more Christians.

That is what the Lord was trying to do in the Hebrew Bible.  Don’t let today’s admonition in Jeremiah frighten you away.  Make it jolt you into change.  As we learn in the notes to the NABRE, “in this symbolic action, Jeremiah probably went to the village and spring of Parah, two and a half miles northeast of Anathoth, whose name closely resembled the Hebrew name of the river Euphrates (Perath), in order to dramatize the religious corruption of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians.” However, we hear the covenant expressed positively many times.

Now, if you obey me completely and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, though all the earth is mine. Exodus 19:5

And today the LORD has accepted your agreement: you will be a people specially his own, as he promised you, you will keep all his commandments,19and he will set you high in praise and renown and glory above all nations he has made, and you will be a people holy to the LORD, your God, as he promised. Deuteronomy 28:18-19

Action
Are you ready to be the Lord’s mustard seed?  Are you ready to be a full-grown Christian?

Let’s face facts.  The Trinity (Father, Son or Holy Spirit) could easily do everything needed in the world -- all the soul-saving, all the hungry feeding, all teh naked clothing, all the prisoner visiting. However, that would not build any relationship with us.  Nor would we have to build a relationship with each other. 

Christianity is the challenge of discipleship.  The Word challenges us to do something (three somethings to be precise). Yesterday, in the Sunday Gospel, a little boy with two loaves and five fishes accepted the challenge to act. Is today our turn?

Coincidentally, the Rule of St. Benedict is focused on work and prayer this week.  Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the community members should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading. (RB Chapter 48: The Daily Manual Labor)

Benedictine spirituality exacts something so much harder for our century than rigor. Benedictine spirituality demands balance. Immediately after Benedict talks about the human need to work, to fill our lives with something useful and creative and worthy of our concentration, he talks about Lectio, about holy reading and study. Then, in a world that depended on the rising and the setting of the sun to mark their days rather than on the artificial numbers on the face of a clock, Benedict shifts prayer, work and reading periods from season to season to allow for some of each and not too much of either as the days stretch or diminish from period to period. He wants prayer to be brief, work to be daily and study to be constant. (Sr. John Chittister, Insight for the Ages)

Piety (Prayer).  Study (Lectio).  Action (Work). If we want our mustard seeds to sprout, we need all three mixed in the holy fertilizer. After all, Jesus tells us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for us. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

“They Shall Eat” by Diane Bayne

“They Shall Eat” by Diane Bayne


“For thus says the LORD,
‘ They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
And when they had eaten, there was some left over,
as the Lord had said.  (2 Kings 4:43-44)

“I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
. . . bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-3)

“Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them . . .
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over. . .
So, they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves 
that had been more than they could eat.” (John 6:11-13)
          
Piety
R. The hand of the Lord feeds us;
     he answers all our needs.
    Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
        and let your faithful ones bless you 
    Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom,
        and speak of your might.   Psalm 145:10-11

Study
In today’s readings, we see that the Lord never tires of answering the prayers of His people.  Both tell of a miraculous feeding of hungry people.  In the Old Testament, He uses his servant, Elisha, to multiply the loaves and grain to satisfy the needs of His people and, in the New, He responds to the requests of His son, Jesus in a similar manner. 

Following are some comments concerning the feeding of the five thousand from the Irish Association of Catholic Priests:

“Seeing the hungry crowd and the scarce number of loaves, Jesus was aware of the enormity of the task of feeding them all...We cannot imagine what exactly happened on that day out in the wilderness but it is clear that the small boy with five barley loaves and a couple of fish played a vital role. It was just enough food for a simple meal for a poor family. Yet the boy was willing to part with his barley loaves and his fish. When he handed them over, in some mysterious way, Jesus was able to work with the young boy’s generous gift to feed everyone. One generous boy was the key to feeding the multitude.”

Action
As Paul puts it in the second reading today: as disciples today, we also are called to “. . . live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit.” 

As the Association of Catholic Priests concludes, “The Lord can work powerfully in and through the very little that we possess if we are generous with that little. The Lord does not work in a vacuum; he needs us to create an opening for him to work.” 

Today’s gospel teaches us never to underestimate the significance of even the tiniest efforts we make to be generous with the resources we have at our disposal, whether it is resources of money, or time or some ability or other.

All of the evangelists taught that the way the Lord works in the Eucharist is how he works in us for the rest of our lives. 

Can we help those who celebrate the Eucharist with us this Sunday to see a link between it and the hunger of the world?

Has the parish some project to support a missionary helping in the developing world, or can some local people be enlisted in telling the story of such a project?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

“This Treasure in Earthen Vessels” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“This Treasure in Earthen Vessels” by Colleen O’Sullivan


Brothers and sisters:  We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

But Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)

Piety
We hold a treasure, not made of gold, 
in earthen vessels, wealth untold,
One treasure only: the Lord, the Christ,
in earthen vessels.
Earthen Vessels, John Foley, S.J.

Study
Should you ever travel to Rome, you might notice a hill, Monte Testaccio, on the banks of the Tiber River.  The hill was created by human hands and consists of the fragments of more than 25 million earthen jugs thrown away after having served as the containers for olive oil imported from the south of Spain.  Only the contents were precious to the ancient Romans; they discarded the jugs without a second thought.

Any first-century disciple of Christ immediately would have understood what Paul was saying in his second letter to the Corinthians.  We hold the treasure, which is Jesus Christ, within ourselves.  We, the earthen vessels, are fragile and prone to breakage.  We are very ordinary compared to the beauty we hold within us, and that’s precisely what we have difficulty hearing.

We live in a society where being ordinary isn’t good enough.  We want to live in the biggest, nicest houses.  We want our homes’ interiors to look like something out of a magazine.  We love to own shiny, stylish automobiles.  We want our children to go to the best schools.  We strive to climb career ladders in our workplaces.  In short, we aim for what we call greatness.

But in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says:  hold it right there.  He tells St. James’ mother and all the disciples gathered around him that true greatness has nothing to do with occupying seats of honor or anything of the sort.  It’s not about having the biggest or best.  If you honestly want to be great, our Lord says, then be humble and serve others.

That’s exactly the kind of Messiah God sent us, not a great and mighty warrior come to conquer by force, but someone like you and me, beset by all the frailties human beings experience.  The only difference is that Jesus didn’t share in our sinfulness.  I looked at my infant great-nephew more than once over the last few months and imagined Jesus as a baby.  Mary didn’t have all the child-care conveniences we have today – disposable diapers, infant formula, wipes (and warmers for the wipes), or gliding musical swings.  She had to do her best to keep her baby warm, dry, clean and happy without any of that.  I look at the tens of millions of refugees throughout the world and remember how Joseph and Mary willingly became refugees in Egypt in order to keep their baby safe.  They were truly earthen vessels protecting the very special child God had entrusted to their care.  They held within their tiny family circle a treasure I doubt they could even begin to imagine, one who would bring the hope of forgiveness and salvation to the world.

We are surrounded by people who are the earthen vessels Paul writes about.  We often miss them, however, because, like James and John, we seek the great and grandiose. 

Action
My grandmother was an earthen vessel.  She was orphaned at 4 and widowed at a young age during the Depression years.  She raised my mother by herself and sent her to Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school graduation.  My grandmother went to work once my mother was old enough to stay by herself after school.  I remember she had house dresses, work dresses, and church dresses.  She wore granny shoes.  She also had the best sense of humor and always had a funny story to relate.  But the thing that stood out the most was her faith.  She was the most faith-filled, prayerful person I’ve ever known.  And she didn’t keep it to herself.  She told me the stories of Jesus and taught me to pray.  On the street, she might never have been given a second glance, but I think she must be considered great in the Kingdom of God.

Who has served as an earthen vessel in your life?  Give thanks for them in prayer.

“Who Is There Like You?” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Who Is There Like You?” by Melanie Rigney


Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? (Micah 7:18-19)

Lord, show us your mercy and love. (Psalm 85:8a)

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." (Matthew 12:49-50)

Piety
Lord, I don’t understand how You can continue to love me. Help me to set aside that disbelief and open my arms, my mind, my heart, and my soul to you in faith if not in confidence.

Study
Sometimes, it’s one particular comment or incident. Other times, it’s the accumulation of months or years of bullying, teasing, or other bad behavior. But the breaking point is reached. It’s the end of the marriage, and you know it, regardless of your best efforts in counseling or trying to talk it out. It’s when you force a loved one with an addiction out of your home because it’s no longer safe for others if he or she remains. It’s when you stop interacting with a friend, whether you break up with a sticky note, an email, a difficult phone call or in-person conversation… or by simply disappearing.

However you do it and whenever you do it, it’s done. And often, that’s the healthiest thing for everyone involved.

Fortunately, that is not how the Lord works. We can push and push and push Him away. We can ignore his gentle but persistent nudges. We can complain that a loving God would not allow the world small and large to operate as it does. Doesn’t matter. As long as we’re breathing, He will continue to love us, continue to fling open His arms in hopes of welcoming us back into His fold. And with that compassion and mercy beyond understanding, when we have identified our guilt and offered contrition, He will wipe it away. And He will do this again and again, regardless of how many triggering incidents would drive any man or woman away for good.

As Micah notes in today’s first reading, there is no one like Him. No one. So grab Him and hold on for eternal life.

Action
Ask God to forgive something you have said or done or thought that you find unforgivable.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Do the Right

Do the Right


At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment, the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.” Matthew 12:41-42

Piety

Study
If you want to deal with the Lord on your terms, today’s readings point out how fruitless that endeavor will be. Sometimes, retreats and religious ed teachers and homilists will pose the question: “If you were accused of being Christian, will there be enough evidence to convict you?”

The prophet Micah sets up a kind of moot court to explore this question.  “Arise, plead your case before the mountains!”  However, the prosecution starts with a litany of what the Lord has done for the people. “Hear, O mountains, the LORD’s case.” What has the Lord done for them lately?

“For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, from the place of slavery I released you; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”

So, what have they done in return? The consider Old Testament solutions. Before we get to the resolution with one of the most famous passages in the Hebrew Bible (quoted above), the prophet is trying to see what the best option is to get on the Lord’s “good side.” In essence, what can we do to be convicted?  Mothers taught us not to go anywhere “empty-handed.” Alas.  God who made everything needs nothing. Not our burnt offerings of year old calves.  Not thousands of rams.  Not myriad streams of oil.  Not even (Abraham-like) our first-born child. God wants our lives lived in friendship and service. “Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” As C.S. Lewis called it – “mere” Christianity.

Matthew reinforces the same message. People want a sign from God but they will not get it. They don’t need a “mere sign.” They have the real thing -- living proof in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Something Greater! By Jesus willingly going into the “belly” of the beast for three days, he will atone for us so we do not have to worry about signs, burnt offerings or anything like that.  But in return, we are expected to return the favor to others. Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Action
How will Micah and Matthew test you today? 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

“His Heart Was Moved” by Jim Bayne

“His Heart Was Moved” by Jim Bayne


I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.  
(Jer 23:3)

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.  (Ps. 23:1)

He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 
(Ephesians 2:17-18)

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
(Mark 6:34)
       
Piety

Lord our God, help us to love You with all our hearts
and to love all people as You love them.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.

Study

What consoling readings we have for today!!  At a time when so much of our world seems upended, it is very comforting to know that God is with us at every moment and in every circumstance.

In Jeremiah God tells us that He himself will gather us together.  Paul reminds us that Jesus - God Himself - came and preached peace to us and gathered us together as one in the Father.

In the gospel, we see Jesus and his disciples coming together to reflect on their evangelical activities and then trying to get away for a little rest.  But there is still so much more to do.  No time for rest for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

A commentary on today's readings from the Irish Association of Catholic Priests:
But Jesus did not just give the people His words.  He gave them himself in His way of relating with people.  Jesus was a welcoming person (Mk 6: 34).  He wanted the good of the people.  The goodness and the love which came from His words formed part of the content.  They were His temperament.  A good content without goodness and kindness would be like milk poured on the floor. 

Jesus’ teaching manifested itself in a thousand ways.  Jesus accepts as disciples not only men but also women.  He does not only teach in the synagogue but also in any place where there were people to listen to Him:  in the synagogue, in the house, on the shore, on the mountain, on the plain, in the boat, in the desert.  It was not the relationship of pupil-teacher, but of the disciple to Master.

The professor teaches and the pupil is with him during the time of the class. The Master gives witness and the disciple lives with Him 24 hours a day. It is more difficult to be a Master than a teacher! We are not pupils of Jesus, we are His disciples! The teaching of Jesus was a communication that came from the abundance of His heart in the most varied forms: like a conversation by which He tries to clarify the facts (Mk 9: 9-13), like a comparison or parable that invites people to think and to participate (Mk 4: 33), like an explanation of what He Himself thought and did (Mk 7: 17-23), like a discussion which does not necessarily avoid polemics (Mk 2: 6-12), like a criticism that denounces what is false and mistaken (Mk 12: 38-40). It was always a witness of what He Himself lived, an expression of His love! (Mt 11: 28-30).

Action

What do you do when you want to teach others something about your faith and your religion?  Do you imitate Jesus?

As one of the guys in my Tuesday group puts it, "People would much rather see a sermon than hear one."

Are you a walking, breathing sermon?  Who needs you to be a sermon for them this week?

You Are the Helper

You Are the Helper


Woe to those who plan iniquity and work out evil on their couches;
In the morning light, they accomplish it when it lies within their power.
They covet fields, and seize them; houses and they take them; They cheat an owner of his house, a man of his inheritance. Therefore, thus says the LORD: Behold, I am planning against this race an evil from which you shall not withdraw your necks; Nor shall you walk with head high, for it will be a time of evil.  Micah 2:1-3

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah. Matthew 12:14-15

Piety
You do see, for you behold misery and sorrow,
taking them in your hands.
On you the unfortunate man depends;
of the fatherless you are the helper.
R. Do not forget the poor, O Lord! Psalm 10:14

Study
Sometimes, the connection between the first reading and the Good News is a little harder to discern.  Rather than condemn the Pharisees who are acting more like those warned by the prophet Micah, Jesus takes a subtler approach.

The story related by St. Matthew described the withdrawal, the healings, and the command for silence from Jesus to his disciples, students, and followers. To this, he adds a fulfillment citation from the first Servant Song (Isaiah 42:1-4). 

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased.
Upon him I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry out, nor shout,
nor make his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow dim or be bruised
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

The prophet Isaiah stresses that “He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street.”  After working openly in the temple and in the cities, now Jesus takes the gentle manner of his divine mission away from the plotting Pharisees.  Like others he cured, he warns these not to say anything about his work. Jesus fulfills his role as the helper, the servant.

We have already seen the Pharisees objecting to what Jesus and his disciples were doing. Rather than further arouse them, Jesus keeps working quietly to establish justice on the earth until the time comes for his passion.

Action
Although the Psalmist prayers for the Lord not to forget the poor, it also falls to us to take the poor into our hands and help them. 

What can you do this week to help those “in misery and sorrow?”  You are the helper. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Something Greater

Something Greater


Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: "Go, tell Hezekiah: Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the LORD's temple; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; I will be a shield to this city."  Isaiah 38:4-6

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath…I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Matthew 12:1-2

Piety
Prayers offered during a walk with migrants in south Texas:
“God hears our prayers. We’re gathered here tonight. We may come from different countries. We may come from different faith tradition. We may even come from a different place in a political or ideological spectrum.  But we are here because something very special brings us together and that is Love of God and Love of neighbor.” (Opening remarks of Miguel Santos, an organizer for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville)

"We thank God for this gathering, this moment of prayer. We put our trust in God’s promise as we recognize that God puts us on the road that other people travel so that we might help them. That is the spirit of this walk. That God puts us really today on the road that helps us to be servants of those who walk. We thank God for the grace and the continued hope we have for a better way of life for all people, especially those who are most vulnerable."
(Prayer shared by Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville during the walk)

Study
Sickness and recovery.  Hunger.  Overcoming the physical challenges of everyday life are central to both readings today. 

We discover there are steps within our control as well as within our faith that can both work to overcome the physical obstacles we face.

The prophet Isaiah points out that faith and prayer are critical.  Putting the recovery into God’s hands “will rescue you.”  But also, we can strengthen ourselves for the journey by making sure we work with what is at hand.  In the case of the disciples in the field, they were hungry and there was grain in the field.  Rather than ignore the gift from God that was at hand, the disciples picked it and ate it.

Some Pharisees objected to what they saw in front of them by using the old law.  Matthew shows us again how Jesus turned over the old law and replaced it with a new interpretation. Just like with Job, there is “something greater” here.  Rather than sentencing the disciples to another day of hunger, Jesus preached the Gospel of Mercy again. 

He addressed the Pharisees not just as the humble carpenter’s son from Nazareth.  Rather, he addressed them with the familiarity with the law as one who was the actual author of it. Thus, the lesson of justice and mercy over sacrifice comes through as the new ways overcome the old ways.     

Action
Who do you need to deal with in mercy today? The last thing in Jesus’ mind when dealing with the Pharisees is “zero tolerance.”

Maryknoll Sisters Ann Hayden and Patricia "Pat" Edmiston are on mission in PeƱitas, a small, rural border town in deep south Texas, fourteen miles west of the city of McAllen, home of the largest immigration processing center in the United States where currently thousands of undocumented adults and immigrant children separated from their parents by U.S. Border Patrol are detained. 
They conclude with this:
We hope this act of solidarity (the walk and the pastoral care they offer) demonstrates our support for the migrant community here and for all those who seek refuge and asylum, who are being treated with disdain and disregard for their human rights and dignity.  The suffering is immense.  
Yes, there are those, even in the Rio Grande Valley, who feel we must keep our borders 'safe' no matter the human cost. But we pray that grace may touch the hearts of all those involved to right this wrong and restore the heart of our immigrant nation to compassion and justice for the 'stranger' in need of refuge and welcome in our midst.   
Thank you for all you do to champion the cause of refugees and migrants around the world.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Soul Yearns for You” by Beth DeCristofaro

My Soul Yearns for You” by Beth DeCristofaro


When your judgment dawns upon the earth, the world's inhabitants learn justice. O LORD, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done. Isaiah 26:9, 12)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  (Matthew 11:29-30)

Piety
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you
(Isaiah 26:9)

Study
As a (very, very young!) child of the 60’s, I grew up distrusting authority.  On TV I watched protests against a murderous war, fire hoses turned on peaceful Black civil rights marchers, and the lead up to a President caught lying and obstructing justice. In church, the punishment was meted out more frequently than peace.  I sat in detention because a boy snatched the beanie off my head at Catholic school, throwing it onto a roof; fidgeting too much during Mass would result in Sister whacking heads with a ruler; and hellfire would reign down on any Catholic teen who dared to commit French-kissing (what was that anyway?)  Later, after receiving an MA in Pastoral Ministry, it was difficult to find a parish who knew what that meant or how to invest in a woman professional.  All this led me to have a difficult time with the image of God as supreme being or king – authority.

It has taken much prayer, study, discernment, and acknowledgment of my unbelief to realize how different is God’s authority from the civil.  In the notes on the reading from Isaiah, we learn that God’s authority is justice and adheres fully to the covenant made with Abraham. Times were tough due to foreign dominance over the Chosen people but God’s promise to be their God still held.  “This text is a mixture of praise for the salvation that will take place, a confession of Judah’s inability to achieve deliverance on its own, and earnest prayer that God may quickly bring about the longed-for salvation.”[i]

Jesus’ words are in accord with these and other Scriptures.  As he turned always to God for the source of his nourishment and action, Jesus offers to be that source for any who believe.  This verse comes at the end of a passage dealing with unbelief and the unwillingness of temple leaders to accept Jesus’ authority given by God.  Unlike civil authority which is often sidetracked by personal or national gain/power, God’s authority is the root of all of our successes and our very being.

Action
A yoke allows two oxen to equally share the burden of labor.  Jesus offers to share our labor, our struggle, our failures and, of course, our joys and hopes.  

In what ways do I still resist turning over completely his end of the yoke in order to share in his peace?  Why do I resist freedom?  How do I restrict others from experiencing God’s freedom?