Wednesday, October 31, 2018

“Teach Us, Lord, How to Be Blessed” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Teach Us, Lord, How to Be Blessed” by Beth DeCristofaro 

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (John 3:2)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  He began to teach them, saying:  "Blessed are...” (Matthew 5:1)

Help me Lord to rejoice and be glad, as I seek you first before even I draw breath.  Help me recognize and accept how to be poor in spirit. Show me how to mourn estrangement from You and with my neighbor in her grief. Free me from pride to be meek.  Fill me with the courage to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Open me to be merciful.  Guide me in being clean of heart. Grant me the courage to peace make and lead me to forgive when persecuted for the sake of righteousness that comes from conforming to your will.  And, my God, keep me in the palm of your hand that I never despair when insulted or persecuted falsely because of you.

We are family!  Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection made him like us and as a human brother, he invites us to be like the Divine. Breathtaking in copious love, this gift is also daunting in practice.  Many of those we designate as saints wrestled with this in their lives.  John rightly says we don’t quite know what that means for us because Jesus’ fullness has not been revealed.  But Jesus gives us the beatitudes as a model, the beautiful roadmap to be him. 

Spiritual writer Elisabeth Leseur penned “Whoever searches for the truth will find God…Let us develop in ourselves the ‘divine’ compassion for all men and women; only then can it be truly ‘human.’ All that we do to transform and improved ourselves serves the divine cause.  When our inner selves expand, only God can fill them.  Let us develop our wills even more: let us try harder to train all our faculties to accept responsibility freely and to fulfill it joyfully; and let us become more gentle toward others, more patient and interiorly serene.  The gratuitous search for beauty, the passionate concern for justice, the love of truth are so many paths that lead to God.  Sometimes we make many detours; we even get lost a little.  And yet we always reach the goal toward which we walk without recognizing it” [i] 

The Beatitudes are signposts pointing the way.  Which Beatitude speaks most to you today?  What is the Holy Spirit putting in your heart, what is the signpost pointing you toward?

[i] From “Selected Writings”, Elisabeth Leseur, as quoted in “Give Us This Day: Daily Reflections for Today’s Catholic, Liturgical Press, March 16.

illustration:  “Salvation’s Family”, Steve Voita, St Timothy Catholic Church, Mesa, AZ

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

“Be Faithful to Who You Are” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Be Faithful to Who You Are” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother.  This is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?"  He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. (Luke 13:22-24)

Great is your faithfulness to us, O Lord.  Grant us the grace, we pray, to be faithful to you in return, wherever you have placed us in life.

Both of today’s Scripture readings are about being faithful to who we are, in our families as well as in our relationship to God. 

Paul continues yesterday’s theme of relationships within families.  He’s had his say on husbands and wives and Christian marriage.  Now he turns to children and parents.   He begins by reminding children that they are to honor their parents and obey them, and then quickly follows that up with an admonishment to fathers not to act in such a way that anger is enkindled in their children.  The apostle also reminds parents to bring their children up in the ways of our faith.

Parents are the key here.  Children can’t be obedient if they don’t know what the expectations or parameters for acceptable behavior are.  So, moms and dads are to provide the example for good behavior and spell it out to their kids.  Parents need to be consistent.  They need to be attentive to their role as parents.  We live in such a busy, fast-paced society that we easily get caught up in our jobs and our self-interests and become laissez-faire parents.  A seven-year-old once said to me, “Mommy lets the kids do anything, I mean anything.”  That seemed like a child crying out for parental guidance and supervision.  Parents need to be patient because it’s all too easy to be short with or yell at your children.    

Paul tells children to do what their parents tell them to do, to honor their fathers and mothers.  For a child, that’s being faithful to who they are.  Parents are tasked with bringing their children up in a kind and loving manner so that their children don’t have cause to become angry or resentful.  Paul also reminds moms and dads that instruction in the Christian faith begins at home with them.  Parents who do these things are being faithful to who they are as moms and dads.  This advice is just as sound and needed today as it was in the first century.

Jesus talks about being faithful to who we are in a totally different way.  Someone asks him if salvation will be offered to only a few people, and Jesus responds by telling him to try to enter through the narrow gate.  When I was a child, I used to worry about this narrow gate or about how salvation would be more difficult to attain than a camel passing through the eye of a needle.   There is no magic to slipping through the narrow gate Jesus refers to.  Follow in our Lord’s footsteps.  Know Jesus.  Be friends with the Lord.  Accept the crosses that come our way.  There is no other way to eternal life except by way of the Cross.  If that’s the road we’re on, we’re faithfully following the spiritual GPS directions that will take us through the narrow gate.  We’re being faithful to our calling as Christians.

Spend a few minutes reflecting on this:  Whatever roles are yours in life – parent, grandparent, child, teacher, a disciple of Christ, or other – how faithful are you to the person God has called you to be?  

Monday, October 29, 2018

“Yeast” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Yeast” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.  (Ephesians 5:32-33)

Blessed are those who fear the Lord.  (Psalm 128:1a)

“To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened." (Luke 13:20-21)

Jesus, mix me where You will to bring souls to the Kingdom.

Yeast. It’s a single-celled fungus. Alone, it doesn’t do much, good or bad. But we wouldn’t have wine or beer without it. When it comes to bread, yeast serves as a leaven, making the difference between flatbreads and light, airy loaves. We don’t need yeast the way we do oxygen or water, but it sure makes life richer and fuller.

In the same way, God doesn’t need us to do His thing. He touches hearts and souls and works miracles in the lives of others all the time without our little bit of help. And indeed, when our lives are a mess, we ourselves may not feel able to embrace God fully, and when our lives are tooling along just fine, we may not see a need for Him. And millions of people believe they get through earthly life just fine without Him.

But when we allow even a bit of Him into our lives, they become immeasurably richer and fuller. And when we allow even a bit of ourselves to be used to evangelize to others, the result can be something greater than we could ever accomplish on our own. We can be His yeast.

Yeast. Maybe there’s a reason the word yes can be found within it.

There’s nothing wrong with flatbread, but there is definitely something missing when we accept a flat spiritual life. Look for a way today to be leaven… or to be leavened.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

With the Blind and the Lame in Their Midst

With the Blind and the Lame in Their Midst

Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born. Jeremiah 31:8-9

But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus
From BCM website
stopped and said, "Call him." So, they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10:48B-52

For God is love
Amidst the doldrums of fear,
And God is a comfort
Drying the aching flow of tears,
And God is who I saw that night
Shining brightly in your eyes so clear.

In the story of the poor man Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the gospel gives us an archetypal portrait of the healing journey from denial to discipleship.

According to the notes in the New American Bible (Revised Edition), “the cure of the blind men is probably symbolic of what will happen to the disciples, now blind to the meaning of Jesus’ passion and to the necessity of their sharing his suffering. As the men are given sight, so, after the resurrection, will the disciples come to see that to which they are now blind.”[i]

As promised by the prophet Jeremiah, God will gather us with the blind and the lame and bring us back just as He brought back Bartimaeus’ sight.

Do you believe that followers of Jesus should stand for compassion and equity, and against all forms of oppression and violence?

To do this we must face our personal and political blindness to the realities of suffering, as well as to God’s horizons of justice. Jesus gives us eyes to see and courage to follow in the Way of faith, service, and solidarity.

That statement is from the mission of the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) as it looks at how the Word and the world intersect.   BCM was founded in 1998 as an ecumenical experiment in capacity-building for communities of faith, incubating collaborative work around liberation, nonviolence, and mutual aid. The organization is a “circle where persons called to radical discipleship can find support and mentoring.  We are a non-profit organizational vehicle for promoting practices of church renewal, Restorative Justice, Sabbath Economics, bioregional sustainability, and social transformation.”

Take a look at the website:

Where is the Lord guiding you today?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Fill All Things

Fill All Things

Brothers and sisters: Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says: He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men. What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.  Ephesians 4:7-10

“[The gardener] said to [the master] in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:9

Chapter 19: The Discipline of Psalmody
We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and "that in every place the eyes of God are watching the good and the wicked (Proverb 15:3)." But beyond the least doubt, we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office. (Rule of St. Benedict for October 26, 2018)

How appropriate this passage from the Rule of St. Benedict is for the daily
reading on Friday.  As the monks in Snowmass, Colorado, and Spenser, Massachusetts know, contemplating the “divine presence” was a hallmark of the ministry and mission of Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating.  Abbott Keating was a global figure in both interreligious dialogue and Christian contemplative prayer when he died yesterday at the age of 95.

St. Paul describes gifts from God to the Ephesians this way: And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God.

Those students who have read and attempted to practice Fr. Thomas’ prayer method know that he was one such teacher-pastor-gift from God. Fr. Thomas died at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer where he had been abbot from 1961 to 1981, and where he began his role as one of the chief architects of what is now known as centering prayer. Fr. Thomas passed along his method for entering into the divine presence of the Lord through the practice of centering prayer. Speaking in a video documentary, Keating provides an insight into his overall sense of the divine.

"The gift of God is absolutely gratuitous," he said. "It's not something you earn. It's something that's there. It's something you just have to accept. This is the gift that has been given. There's no place to go to get it. There's no place you can go to avoid it. It just is. It's part of our very existence. And so, the purpose of all the great religions is to bring us into this relationship with reality that is so intimate that no words can possibly describe it."

According to Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, “If indeed we walk in the womb of God, the reflection on the meaning of every action and the end of every road is the constant to which we are called. There must be no such thing as the idle decision, the thoughtless act. Every part of our lives must be taken to prayer and the scrutiny of scripture must be brought to every part of our lives because we believe ‘beyond the least doubt’ that the God we seek is there seeking us.

Prayer in the Benedictine tradition, then, is not an exercise done for the sake of quantity or penance or the garnering of spiritual merit. Benedictine prayer is not an excursion into a prayer wheel spirituality where more is better and recitation is more important than meaning. Prayer, in the spirit of these chapters, if we "sing praise wisely," or well, or truly, becomes a furnace in which every act of our lives is submitted to the heat and purifying process of the smelter's fire so that our minds and our hearts, our ideas and our lives, come to be in sync, so that we are what we say we are, so that the prayers that pass our lips change our lives, so that God's presence becomes palpable to us. Prayer brings us to burn off the dross of what clings to our souls like mildew and sets us free for deeper, richer, truer lives in which we become what we seek.[i]

Once, when I was going through a particularly stressful time at work, I would get to the parking garage early in the morning and play a recording of Fr. Thomas and do some centering prayer before heading upstairs to discover what fresh chaos the world might have in store for me that day.  Those 15 minutes in the divine presence gave me a strength to tackle whatever the world threw in my general direction. Thomas Merton described his practice of Centering Prayer this way: “You rest in [God] and He hears you with His secret wisdom.”[ii]

Following on the call to repentance in Luke 13:1–5, the parable of the barren fig tree from today’s Good News presents a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet given evidence of their repentance.  Let God cultivate the ground around your life and fertilize it through the daily practice of Centering Prayer.  From it, we may bear fruit in the future if we will rest in God’s “presence in the present” and he fills all things needed in our lives.

Maybe today would be a good day to try 15 minutes of Centering Prayer.  Keating and his partners define it as: “Centering prayer is a remarkably simple method that opens one to God’s gift of contemplative prayer. Its practice expands one’s receptivity to the presence and activity of God in one’s life. It is a distillation of the practice of monastic spirituality into two relatively short periods of prayer each day.”[iii]

Fr. Thomas (Keating, not Merton) suggests only four simple guidelines for practicing centering prayer:

Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

Sitting comfortably with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently and introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.

When you become aware of thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.

At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.[iv]

Today, the sacred word I chose is “presence” because the divine presence is everywhere.

Live in a Manner Worthy of the Call

Live in a Manner Worthy of the Call

I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  Ephesians 4:1-6

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?  Luke 12:54-57

The first reading helps illuminate the second. Jesus asks us to live according to the higher calling rather than according to our more primal instincts. He presents us with the dilemma: You know what is right.  Live that way.

Rather than going before a judge with a complaint, he encourages us to settle our differences with each other personally.  Not just the legal disputes…all disputes.

I heard of a survey this week that had an amazing finding.  It found that more than 80 percent of Americans agree on one issue.  Unfortunately, that issue is that we are divided.  (Frankly, I would like to find the 19 percent who disagree with the finding. I want some of what they have.)

We do indeed know what is required.  We do not need a public opinion poll.  Micah told us.  Isiah told us.  Luke told us.  To be a Christian means that we must obey Christ's teachings. Not some of them.  Not only the ones that are convenient for us at the moment. 

Welcome the stranger.

Treat others as you would be treated.

Feed the hungry.

Give alms.

Shelter the homeless.

Clothe the poor.

Ask yourself: How can I better become the embodiment of Christ's teachings?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

His Power is at Work Within Us by Beth DeCristofaro

His Power is at Work Within Us by Beth DeCristofaro

Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:49-51)

Lord Jesus, it is difficult for me to embrace both the trials and joys of life.  I struggle with “deserving” either.  Open my heart to recognize that you are in all life, that you accepted life and preceded me, that you sanctified suffering with your sacrifice and resurrection, that you are with me in all.  May I, through my life, share the glory of God to the suffering world, that same world so full of your goodness.  In your name, Lord Jesus, be all glory and honor.

In Matthew 16:22, Peter protests Jesus’ explanation that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21) in an attempt at comfort, loyalty, protection he dismisses Jesus’ reality just as we do when we hear of a friend’s misery but does not realize that he rejects Jesus himself when he does this. 

The notes in the NAB state “Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom is a refining and purifying fire.” Later Paul attempts to clue us in on the seismic upheaval which is the offer from Christ which is for the entire world.  It is so easy for us, in our limited humanity, to underestimate the immense and all-encompassing redemptive power of Jesus’ love.  While he does not wish suffering on us, Jesus’ acceptance of his baptism through anguish sanctifies the suffering we face as humans.

Suffering is part of the human nature not a hammer stroke from a vengeful God and our place, as heirs to Jesus’ redemptive gift is to stand with, ameliorate, acknowledge the suffering of our fellows not to make nice or explain away.  The grace of tears, stated Pope Francis, opens our hearts to the other.[i]

Is my heart open to be stung with my humanity, beloved of God as are each and every one of my brothers and sisters?  Can I accept the trials and joys of my life and that of others?  How am I a vessel for the power of His work?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

“If Only I Had Known” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“If Only I Had Known” by Colleen O’Sullivan

God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid.  My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior.  With joy, you will draw water at the fountain of salvation. (Isaiah 12:2-3)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this:  if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  (Luke 12:39-40)

… Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

I wonder how many times and in how many homes on September 11th and the days following the phrase “if only I had known” was heard, how many sighs of regret breathed out and how many tears of sadness shed.  The terrorist attacks that day on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon are for me the modern-day, real-life version of the example Jesus uses when talking to the disciples.

September 11th was such a gorgeous day here and in New York City.  Not a day when many of us were thinking about terrorist attacks, end times or meeting Jesus face to face. Just the usual get-to-work on time rush.  When the passengers boarded their ill-fated planes that morning, I wonder if any of them thought this would be their final day on earth or that they would never reach their intended destinations.

On subsequent days, how many people left behind grieved doubly hard because they didn’t tell their family member they loved them as they went out the door that ill-fated morning.  Or, worse, their final memory was an argument or exchange of harsh words before the door slammed shut.  No further chance to make up or take back what was said in anger.

Jesus knows that we easily fall into complacency.   We lose sight of the big picture and get caught up in the details of everyday living.  The Lord is reminding us today not to live as though this world is our final destination or as though we’ll be here forever.  Whether Jesus summons us today or we happen to be here still when he returns as King in Glory, the earth is not our forever home.

September 11th changed me.  Every day is a gift from God.  I don’t want to come to the end of my days saying, “If only I had known.”  Jesus’ illustration is a reminder to live in such a way that there will be no regrets whether he calls us to be with him tomorrow or not for decades.

If you knew this were your last day on earth, is there anything you regret or would like to change?  If the answer is yes, there is no time like the present for setting things to rights. 

“You Were at That Time Without Christ” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“You Were at That Time Without Christ” by Melanie Rigney

You were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have become near by the Blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)

The Lord speaks of peace to his people.  (Psalm 85:9)

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” (Luke 12:37)

Jesus, thank You for welcoming me back… again and again and again.

Writing devotions and reflections is seldom as easy as it looks. (Yeah, I know, cue the tiny violin.) I always start with a short prayer before I open up the readings, asking the Lord to provide the message He wants me to share. And many times, whether it’s for Your Daily Tripod or other publications and sites for which I write, when I look at the readings, I pray a second or third or fourth time: Really? There’s something in this for me to share, someone who’s basically self-taught through the Holy Spirit and a whole lot of reading and study? Then eventually, words come. It’s like any other ministry; sometimes my best effort seems satisfactory to me, sometimes it doesn’t, but I take comfort in the fact that I have tried to do what He desires.

Today, however, was not one of those days. I knew as soon as I looked at the readings what I was supposed to say. Spend some time today with the first lectionary reading, Ephesians 2:12-22. It opens with these beautiful words: “You were at that time without Christ.” The letter’s author, be it Paul or one of his admirers, knows what it is like to be without Christ, to be adrift morally, spiritually, emotionally.  The tone is tender, not accusatory. The passage goes on to include phrases such as “For he is our peace;” “you are no longer strangers and sojourners;” and “through Him, the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord.”

As I write this, the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment is in its last week. Catholics around the world are reeling from recent disclosures about sexual abuse and alleged cover-ups. Social media is aflame with this bishop or that priest or this Catholic news organization accusing the other of lies and sensationalism.

But rising above all that earthly buzzing and despair for me is the memory of when I was without Christ, not just in the thirty-three years I was away from the Church, but yesterday when I was less than Christlike to that person whose request at work on top of everything else I had to do drew a sharp response or the day before when the woman at the bank was rude to me so I was even ruder back to her. Without Him, I am alienated not only from the body of Christ but also from Him and the Father. With Him, I have hope. And that is what matters most, not the buzzing and despair.

The 137th Arlington Men’s Cursillo Weekend begins Thursday night at Priest Field. It may be too late for you to get Palanca to them, and it may not work for you to join in morning prayer or the closing. That’s all right. You can still offer prayers that the Weekend and their Fourth Days bring the men closer to Christ.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Holy “Suffering Succotash” by Sam Miller

Holy “Suffering Succotash” by Sam Miller

The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity… Because of his affliction, he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. (Isaiah 53:10a &11)

Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you. R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. (Psalm 33:20, 22)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to him, "We can." Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized… whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:38b-39, 44-45)

May your kindness, O LORD, be upon me who have put my hope in you. May I be ever mindful of Your total understanding and empathy for all my weaknesses!

The image that instantly came to mind when I first read today’s Scripture passages was the cartoon character, Sylvester the Cat slobbering “Sufferin’ Succotash.” The accompanying thought: “This could get messy!”

I thank the Good Lord for refocusing me!! Instead of the suffering, it’s about the Suffering and Triumph of the Servant of the Lord (“…the sinless Servant, who by His voluntary suffering atones for the sins of His people, and saves them from just punishment at the hands of God. Only in Jesus Christ is the prophesy perfectly fulfilled.”[i]

Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten and Beloved Son of God, obediently paid my ransom. It’s not about me, it’s about God! Jesus lived life as a human, except for sin; said “Yes” to doing His Father’s will even when He asked that it could be different; and suffered more pain than I can ever, in this lifetime, imagine, to give His all! NOT to make me worthy but, through my Lord, that I may petition the Author of grace to receive His mercy, kindness, and grace for my life.

Dear Lord, help me to be a good and faithful servant. When I dare to complain, cause me to remember how totally You understand and are always leading the way through every difficulty and darkness in my life.

[i] Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, NAB, The Catholic Bible, Personal Study Edition 

May the Eyes of Your Hearts Be Enlightened

May the Eyes of Your Hearts Be Enlightened

Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. "Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  Luke 12:8-10

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and  dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21

The beauty and meaning of the Thanksgiving Prayer that Paul offers to the Ephesians help put the Good News into context. 

As we learn from the notes in the New American Bible and the text of the prayer itself, the devotion moves from God and Christ to the Ephesians and the church. Paul asks that the blessing imparted by God the Father to the Ephesians will be strengthened in them through the message of the gospel.  Then he delivers the key points: Those blessings are seen in the context of God’s might in establishing the sovereignty of Christ over all other creatures and in appointing him head of the church.

u8iPeople who have faith in that Church which Christ leads as the head get these blessings. Pretty powerful stuff.

While we think that all sins are forgive-able, there is one sin, sin against the Holy Spirit, that is not. What exactly is such an unforgivable act?

Blasphemy against the Spirit is the sin of attributing to Satan what is the work of the Spirit of God.  Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit commits an everlasting sin because it attributes to Satan, who is the power of evil, what is actually the work of the Holy Spirit, namely, victory over the demons as the head of the Church.

It is one thing to lack faith.  People can change.  However, if they give in to the power of Satan and deny the Spirit of God, there is no turning back.

Luke joins together sayings contrasting those whose focus and trust in life is on material possessions, (symbolized by the Parable of the Rich Fool) with those who recognize their complete dependence on God.  Radical detachment from material possessions in this world symbolizes their heavenly treasure. 

Our newest saint, St. Oscar Romero, is a prime role model for someone who
Illustration from The Atlantic article cited below.
turned his back on the powers of the world and trusted in God.

Romero did not start out as a reformer. Paul Elie writes in the Atlantic,[i] that when first appointed as a bishop, Romero "shifted the content of the weekly archdiocesan newspaper from calls for social justice to calls for personal improvement, honing in on drug use, promiscuity, and alcoholism." He criticized Jesuit priests in the region for promoting "political theology."

However, after his friend and former seminarian colleague, Fr. Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit, was killed for organizing sugarcane workers, Romero had a transformation. He more forcefully challenged unjust political structures and used the archdiocese's radio station to take on the regime. This new stance made conservative bishops in El Salvador and Vatican officials, including Pope John Paul II, nervous. His canonization process moved along at a painfully sluggish pace over the past three decades. Some church leaders worried that Romero's assassination made him a political martyr, rather than a martyr of the faith, a flawed argument given the archbishop was killed for applying the Gospel in light of the social realities around him as the Second Vatican Council instructed, and was literally gunned down in the most sacred of spaces.[ii]

“I implore you, I beg you, I order you, in the name of God: stop the repression!” He preached that on March 23, 1980.  The next day, Bishop-to-be Saint Romero was assassinated.

When the archbishop denounced the military government for its campaign of violence against its opponents—and called on soldiers carrying out the violence to disobey orders—some men in the military decided that it was time to kill him.

As John Gehring writes in NCR:
[St. Oscar] Romero's legacy challenges Christian leaders today to consider the costs of a transactional faith. If winning elections and holding on to power at all costs becomes the new orthodoxy, Christians trade away our most precious treasures at a cheap price. "A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a Gospel that does not unsettle, or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of society, what kind of Gospel is that?" Romero once asked. It's an uncomfortable question more pastors need to be asking from their pulpits.  

How can the eyes of our hearts be enlightened like St. Oscar? How can we be faithful to the call of Jesus as the head of the Church and not seduced by the false prophets of power, wealth and the other sinful temptations of the world?