Friday, November 30, 2018

Come After Me

Come After Me

Brothers and sisters: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame.  Romans 10:9-11

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20


What Does It Say:

According to the notes in the NABRE, to confess Jesus as Lord was frequently quite hazardous in the first century.  "For a Jew, it could mean disruption of normal familial and other social relationships, including great economic sacrifice. In the face of penalties imposed by the secular world, Christians are assured that no one who believes in Jesus will be put to shame."  

Think about that the next ad you see that promises you to look younger, get richer, or become loved by all.  Christ did not offer a great marketing proposition.  Is it any wonder why G.K. Chesterton posited his famous line: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”[i] 

Despite the ominous warning, the gospel has been and continues to be proclaimed to Israel and to the Church in the Modern World.  Israel has adequately understood God’s plan for the messianic age, which would see the gospel brought to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Even today, preaching the Good News can be hazardous to your health.  As often in the past, neither Israel nor the modern world accepts the prophetic message.

What Does it Mean:

The call of the first disciples promises them a share in Jesus’ work and entails the abandonment of family and former way of life. Three of the four, Simon, James, and John, are distinguished among the disciples by a closer relationship with Jesus (which is a great thing).  They accompany Jesus to the heights of his ministry, to the Transfiguration, but also to the lowest points – his betrayal, trial, and execution.

What Does It Matter:

There is no payoff…no positive quid pro quo.  The share they get for their friendship and following and evangelism is a share in the suffering of Jesus. First, they share his suffering and death.  Then, they share the rejection of the community. 

But it is worth repeating, and repeating, and repeating, and repeating the protagonist of the Christian life and the Bible is God - not you or me.  This is not really about our call nor our obedience. Don’t think today’s feast is merely about how we can be like Andrew.

According to a reflection in “Be the Change” by Jason Valendy, he puts forth an alternative viewpoint.  Valendy notes that when we hear Jesus calling the disciples we notice how obedient the disciples are or how quickly they abandon their tasks to follow Jesus. That might lead us to think that the Good News is about how we need to abandon our lives and immediately follow Jesus. That would not be a bad conclusion.  Perhaps we do that more.  However, he points out, that is not the Good News. Jesus is the Good News. And if we preach the Good News then we need to preach Jesus. [ii]

In a world that is set up to encourage the students to seek out the teachers Jesus inverts that and as the teacher he seeks out the students. The Good News is, in part, the fact that God in Jesus Christ seeks, finds and calls us. We get to respond. And as the one who is doing the main action, God is the protagonist in our lives.[iii]

How is God the protagonist in your life?  If Jesus showed up at your house or your job, what would he teach you? How would you respond?

[i] The line comes from Chesterton’s must-read book, What’s Wrong with the World, which we never get tired of saying, seems like it was written ten minutes ago, rather than 88 years ago. The line comes from Part I, Chapter 5, “The Unfinished Temple.”
[iii] Ibid. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Stand Erect and Raise Your Hands for the Lord By Beth DeCristofaro

Stand Erect and Raise Your Hands for the Lord By Beth DeCristofaro 

I, John, saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth became illumined by his splendor. He cried out in a mighty voice:  "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a haunt for demons. … Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb."  (Revelations 18:1-2, 19:9)

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand." (Luke 21:25-28)

“Dear Jesus may I always be aware of your presence, your power, and your Love, all the days of my life.”  May I spend each day living convinced and trusting in your coming as here, as now, as your Kingdom is building.   
  (from )

What does living in anticipation mean?  During pregnancy, it is a very present, tugging desire to prepare a room for the baby before those pangs of labor begin.  When being dropped off at college for freshman year there is a nervous, interior desire to have “things” ready but also to fit in, to be suitable with roommate, teachers, and find future friends.  At end-of-life, there is the exhausting realization that any day, any minute, the culmination of suffering yet also potential will happen.  And unlike other anticipations, this one is greeted with dread.

We can’t sustain such level of attentive suspense for very long.  It is not only psychically draining but we are so very distracted, whether objects, events or people whether they be sparkly or frightening.  Also, living for what will come causes us to miss being open to God coming to us today.

The notes to the NAB tell us that these words from Revelation are: “A stirring dirge over the fall of Babylon-Rome. The perspective is prophetic as if the fall of Rome had already taken place. The imagery here, as elsewhere in this book, is not to be taken literally. The vindictiveness of some of the language, borrowed from the scathing Old Testament prophecies against Babylon, Tyre, and Nineveh, is meant to portray the inexorable demands of God’s holiness and justice symbolically. The section concludes with a joyous canticle on the future glory of heaven.”[i]   

Revelation’s imagery is prescient in the wars of today, tear gas being hurled at unarmed refugees, cloying poverty in the nation, invectives hurled at political rivals.  We can see the imagery of a fallen Babylon.  Can we turn again to the Lamb as invited friends?  Our time of anticipation is now.   What within me is Babylon?  What within me is called to the wedding feast of the Lamb? 

Even with “signs” Jesus’ promise of the Kingdom is also present.  He gives us the hope to stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.  How are we answering the invitation of the Lamb and living the hope of redemption, keeping anticipation present?

Illustration:  “Golden Rule”, Norman Rockwell,

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

“You Alone Are Holy” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“You Alone Are Holy” by Colleen O’Sullivan

"Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations.  Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name?   For you alone are holy.  All the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:3b-4)

“By your perseverance, you will secure your lives."   (Luke 21:19)

   Michael W. Smith
Holy are You, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb

Our liturgical year is drawing to a close and we find ourselves once again reading material written to earlier Christians who were subjected to fierce persecution.  I know more than one person who finds these end-of-the-year readings frightening.  Yet there are words of great hope to be found in both of today’s Scripture passages.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t mince words.  Being a follower won’t be easy. There will always be those who despise the name of Jesus, who will be more than willing to turn us in or do us in.  The Lord tells us not to be surprised if we discover betrayers within our own circles of friends or even family.   In the last century, during the Nazi era, we saw neighbors handing over neighbors and children informing on their own parents.  People today turn in immigrants and refugees without papers, unable to see them as God’s children with needs.  Wherever hatred or prejudice reign, whether in the first century, the last century or today, in the church or in society as a whole, we can expect such behavior.  Jesus’ last word today, however, is a word of solace.  If we keep the faith, our lives will be secured forevermore.  Not our lives here on earth, but our lives for all eternity with Christ.

In today’s portion of John’s amazing vision of the scene in heaven before the throne of God, the faithful and the martyrs sing the songs of Moses and the Lamb, extolling the great works of the Lord and the holiness of God’s very Being.  I can easily imagine Michael W. Smith’s Agnus Dei being sung over and over by God’s people before that throne.  As much as I love my life on earth, John, today shares a vision of life in heaven that far surpasses anything we know here.

“For you alone are holy” is the line that stands out for me in today’s readings.  According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to be holy is to be “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.”  As I look around, it would appear we worship at the altars of a number of deities other than our God – the pursuit of the “right” college, the perfect career moves, the “in” fashions, our financial portfolios, our happiness, the latest video games, the “right” friends.  The truth is, God alone is holy and worthy of our complete devotion; the rest is going to disappear when we depart this earth.  The faith we have in God is the one thing that stays with us all of our days.  Why not spend some time today listening to Jesus tell us personally how to conform our lives to the truth that God alone is holy?

Monday, November 26, 2018

“Do Not Follow Them!” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Do Not Follow Them!” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

Another angel came out of the temple, crying out in a loud voice to the one sitting on the cloud, "Use your sickle and reap the harvest, for the time to reap has come, because the earth's harvest is fully ripe." So the one who was sitting on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. (Rev. 14:15-16)

The Lord comes to judge the earth. (Psalm 96:13b)

“… (F)or many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Luke 21:8)

Jesus, I trust in you. (St. Faustina)

There is a little asterisk in the New American Bible edition of Luke 21:8 right after the word “come.” It reads: In Luke, the proclamation of the imminent end of the age has itself become a false teaching.”

It may seem a bit contradictory since the first readings as we end the liturgical year are from the Book of Revelation, full of vivid images and symbols and language about the coming apocalypse, an apocalypse some at the time believed must be imminent, given that Jesus had promised to come back.

But the way we define imminent is obviously different from the way the Lord does. For us, Advent is imminent. Christmas shopping and travel is imminent. Maybe retirement or the birth of a child or grandchild or surgery is imminent. These are all things for which we can point to something tangible, whether it’s a date on the calendar or something we can physically touch. These are all things we’ve been through in the past or have a pretty good reference point for how it’s going to look.

The end of the age is something else again. As Christians, we believe it will come. What will it look like? What will happen? While we may think we know or at least have some clues, we don’t know much at all.

And so, perhaps this is a good opportunity to stop worrying about the apocalypse, Armageddon, or however we choose to frame it. How the end will begin is something we have little control over. We do, however, have a lot of control over how our life story will be viewed by the Lord: Did we love Him with all our mind, heart, and soul? Did we care for His people, including ourselves, as He does? If the answer to those questions is yes, we have much hope for salvation. If not… start moving toward yes right now, not late today, not tomorrow, not in 2019. Don’t wring your hands about the world coming to an end. Conduct yourself as if it is.

Stop putting it off—whether “it” is going to confession, upping your parish monetary commitment, or becoming active in a service ministry. Move forward today.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Whole Livelihood

Whole Livelihood

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

We thank Thee, Lord, for sunshine, dew, and rain,
Broadcast from heaven by Thine almighty hand –
Source of all life, unnumbered as the sand –
Bird, beast, and fish, herb, fruit, and golden grain.

Thou, Lord, dost rule the raging of the sea,
When loud the storm and furious is the gale:
Strong is Thine arm; our little “barques”[i] are frail:
Send us Thy help; remember Galilee.

O Bread of Life, Thou in Thy Word hast said:
Who feeds in faith on Me shall never die.
In mercy hear Thy hungry children’s cry:
Father, give us this day our daily bread.

Repetitive repetition and lessons about what to do with our wealth continue to be repeated. This is hardly a new song.  However, as we emerge from “Thanksgiving” weekend, what new song can we sing?

We heard Mark’s version of the story about the widow’s two coins two weeks ago. Now, the Good News serves up Luke’s version for further consideration.  Her simple offering of two mites provides a “mitey” contrast to the pretentiousness of the scribes who gave out of their surplus. 

The problem of uneven wealth and dishonest wealth is not a new one for the Good News nor for the daily news.  Poverty – according to some – is intractable.   It does not mean that poverty is impossible to cure.  But rather poverty is not easily controlled or manageable.  Poverty is stubborn.  The causes are hard to treat, relieve, or cure.  Even Jesus said, “The poor will be with you always.”  (Matthew 26:11) The New Testament takes up the question of poverty elsewhere as well.

In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.  Such people, we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food. But you, brothers, do not be remiss in doing good. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13

Is the New Testament might be throwing up the collective arms of the evangelists and St. Paul and admitting defeat in the face of poverty?  Hardly!  Remember, earlier, Luke related the opening lines of the Sermon on the Plain: “And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20)

Some preachers and politicians, in turn, misuse these passages to blame people who are poor for their poverty.  They use them to justify cutting food stamps and welfare programs.  Liz Theoharis is the author of Always With Us? What Jesus Really Said About the Poor.  In an article she wrote for “Sojourners” magazine, Ms. Theoharis points out how some misuse these passages as critiques of the poor, when in actuality, the New Testament writers were pointing an accusatory finger at “the rich who have stolen wages, poisoned the water, and enriched and engorged themselves by denying people healthcare.[ii]

The vast majority of the earliest Christians were poor, but by the time of the writing of 2 Thessalonians, some people with wealth were joining the movement. When Paul castigates some for not working but benefiting from the work of others, it is not an instruction against caring for the poor or organizing society around the needs of the poor. It is a judgment against rich people exploiting the poor. This resonates with another New Testament text from James 5: “The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.”

As Ms. Theoharis in Sojourners points out: “Poverty is not inevitable. It is a systemic sin, and all Christians have a responsibility to partner with the poor to end poverty once and for all.”

She goes on to quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech Beyond Vietnam, delivered to the congregation at Riverside Baptist Church.  Like Dorothy Day, he was in search of a revolution of the heart:  

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.[iii]

This lesson precedes one of the busiest days for philanthropy – Giving Tuesday.  How will use #GivingTuesday to make a difference in the lives of the poor? In thanks for our daily bread, how can we be inspired to assure others have their daily bread, clothing, shelter, and furniture as well? Can we make P-O-V-E-R-T-Y OVER as the charity A Wider Circle asks (    

Belong to the Truth by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

Belong to the Truth by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

(Preached at Our Lady of the Desert, Mattawa, WA)

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, " says the Lord God, "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8)

Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this, I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." (John 18:36-37)

#ChristTheKingOfTheUniverse means he rules over all that is.
s he rules over all that is.
“Come, Lord Jesus, take away scandals from your Kingdom, which is my soul, and reign there.  You who alone have the right.
For greediness comes to claim a throne within me; haughtiness and self-assertion would rule over me; pride would be my king; lust says "I will reign"; ambition, detraction, envy, and anger struggle within me for the mastery.
I resist as far as I am able; I struggle according as help is given me; I call on my Lord, Jesus; for His sake, I defend myself, since I acknowledge myself as wholly His possession. He is my God, Him I proclaim my Lord; I have no other king than my Lord Jesus Christ. Come then, O Lord, and disperse these enemies by Your power, and You shall reign in me, for You are my king and my God. Amen. (St. Bernard)[i]
Regarding Christ the King, there’s a famous remark from a Modernist priest named Alfred Loisy.  Perhaps Loisy’s most famous observation was that “Jesus came preaching the Kingdom, and what arrived was the Church” (“Jésus annonçait le Royaume et c’est l’Église qui est venue”).[ii]

Maybe his remark was a little like those T-shirts that say something like, “My parents went to the Grand Canyon and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”
Loisy would have been pleased with today’s focus, however, which is The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  Although Pilate questions him about his royal status, Jesus does not speak of himself, but about the Kingdom.  Never in the biblical writings does Jesus ever refer to himself as “king.”

In today’s gospel reading, although he talks about “my kingdom,” Jesus also explicitly distances himself from the title itself, responding to Pilate: “You say that I am a king.”

But Jesus was always preaching about the truth of the kingdom of God, and how it was emerging into our world through his life and anyone who would follow him.

Today on the feast of Christ the King, we recall that the essential character of kingship means personal allegiance to one person. To say Christ is King implies that we are subjects.  He "reigns in the minds of men," in the wills of men, and He is King of our hearts.

As that prayer brings out, not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire.

An example of what happens when Jesus is not the King of our hearts is seen in the Berlin Art Gallery where there is a painting by the famous artist Mengel that is only partially finished. It is supposed to be a painting of King Frederick of Germany talking to his generals. Mengel painstakingly painted the generals first, placing them around the outside of the painting as a background and leaving a bare patch in the middle of the painting for the King. But Mengel died before he could finish the painting. So, there is a painting full of generals, but no king.
Each one of us is painting the story of our lives with the simple words and deeds of everyday life.

Many times, we allow our life story to become full of lesser authorities. But, as Christians, the painting of our lives is never complete until we place at its center Christ the King.

When is Christ is King of our hearts, there is peace.

PAX Christi in Regnum Christi: The peace of Christ in the Reign of Christ.

THE VOICE- Hear it's truth.   Lies warp the structure of being.

Which road did truth-seeking young Jordan Peterson take that made all the difference in his life? He tells us in “Rule 8: Tell the Truth—Or, at Least, Don’t Lie.”  (This story is from the best seller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.)[iii]

“I had a strange set of experiences a few years before embarking upon my clinical training. I found myself subject to some rather violent compulsions (none acted upon), and developed the conviction, in consequence, that I really knew rather little about who I was and what I was up to. So, I began paying much closer attention to what I was doing—and saying. The experience was disconcerting, to say the least. I soon divided myself into two parts; one that spoke, and one, more detached, that paid attention and judged. I soon came to realize that almost everything I said was untrue. I had motives for saying these things: I wanted to win arguments and gain status and impress people and get what I wanted. I was using language to bend and twist the world into delivering what I thought was necessary. But I was a fake. Realizing this, I started to practice only saying things that the internal voice would not object to. I started to practice telling the truth—or, at least, not lying. I soon learned that such a skill came in very handy when I didn’t know what to do. What should you do when you don’t know what to do? Tell the truth.”

Jordan Peterson continues, “If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself. That does not only mean that you suppress who you are, although it also means that. It means that so much of what you could be will never be forced by necessity to come forward. This is a biological truth, as well as a conceptual truth. When you explore boldly, when you voluntarily confront the unknown, you gather information and build your renewed self out of that information. That is the conceptual element. However, researchers have recently discovered that new genes in the central nervous system turn themselves on when an organism is placed (or places itself) in a new situation. These genes code for new proteins. These proteins are the building blocks for new structures in the brain. This means that a lot of you is still nascent, in the most physical of senses, and will not be called forth by stasis. You have to say something, go somewhere and do things to have these turned on. And, if not…you remain incomplete, and life is too hard for anyone incomplete.”

If you say no to your boss, or your spouse, or your mother, when it needs to be said, then you transform yourself into someone who can say no when it needs to be said. If you say yes when no needs to be said, however, you transform yourself into someone who can only say yes, even when it is very clearly time to say no. If you ever wonder how perfectly ordinary, decent people could find themselves doing the terrible things the gulag camp guards did, you now have your answer.

If you betray yourself, if you say untrue things, if you act out a lie, you weaken your character. If you have a weak character, then adversity will mow you down when it appears, as it will, inevitably.

If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth. If you cling desperately to an ideology or wallow in nihilism, try telling the truth. If you feel weak and rejected, and desperate, and confused, try telling the truth. In Paradise, everyone speaks the truth. That is what makes it Paradise. Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.

“Viva Cristo Rey!”

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (@melanierigney)

An Everlasting Dominion by Melanie Rigney

His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14)

The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.  (Psalm 93:1a)

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, whom has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.  (Revelation 1:5-6)

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this, I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." (John 18:33B-37)

Jesus, may I emulate Your faithful witness in my own life.

And so it ends… and begins again, alpha and omega, birth and death.

It is altogether fitting that as we close in on the end of the liturgical year, today’s Gospel reading takes us back to Pilate’s verbal toying with Jesus: are you a king, or are you not? Not in a way you could understand, because you don’t know the truth, Jesus in essence responds. 

Truth is hard. Love is hard. Jesus shows us the definition of both. He showed us how to live for the Father and how to die for others—with truth and love, not faltering or whining or complaining. The hope of eternal life He purchased for us by His sacrifice inspires us to pick up our personal crosses when we fail, and follow anew.

Soon, our liturgical year will begin anew, with the prelude of the birth of a seemingly helpless baby in a crude box. On December 21, we will see the end of our six-month march to shorter days. Our calendar year will begin anew not long after. Beginnings and endings, endings and beginnings. As long as we listen to His voice, we need not fear either.

Where are you emulating Pilate and asking the Lord for definitions rather than offering gratitude?

Image Credit: Anonymous/Unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Where Indeed Their Lord Was Crucified

Where Indeed Their Lord Was Crucified

When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them. Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city, which has the symbolic names “Sodom” and “Egypt,” where indeed their Lord was crucified. Those from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation will gaze on their corpses for three and a half days, and they will not allow their corpses to be buried. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and be glad and exchange gifts because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth. But after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them. Revelation 11:7-11A

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, if someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother…. Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” And they no longer dared to ask him anything.  Luke 20:27-28,39-40

Father, open our ears so that we may hear the lessons you have for us this beautiful day. From these lessons, give us an open mind and an open heart to put ourselves in your presence, accept your mission and do your will. Amen.

If we treat today’s divine reading literally, then you might think this is a lesson in marriage and divorce.  However, the real “legal” question was about the resurrection.  And the symbolic question was more about crucifixion. 

As revealed in the notes to the NABRE, “The Sadducees’ question, based on the law of levirate marriage recorded in Dt 25:5–10, ridicules the idea of the resurrection. Jesus rejects their naive understanding of the resurrection (Lk 20:35–36) and then argues on behalf of the resurrection of the dead on the basis of the written law (Lk 20:37–38) that the Sadducees accept.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees did not like having their power in the temple challenged by this itinerant preacher from Nazareth. So, they tried to trap Jesus with some tough questions. Now that Jesus has rid the temple of the money-changer and merchants, he can back down to the business of conversion and preaching there. Jesus answered the temple challenge with a strong defense of the truth that it ended his “inquisition” by the temple authorities. “Teacher, you have answered well.”  Some are satisfied with his answer and they who were satisfied no longer challenged Jesus. 

These teachers join the group who realize through experience what Peter, John, and James learned on the top of the mountain when the voice of God proclaimed, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him."

This episode is one in a series of controversies between the religious leadership of Jerusalem and Jesus reveals Jesus as the authoritative teacher whose words are to be listened to (see Lk 9:35). However, the real questioning does not stop there. What was really happening today is the beginning of the end. 

Where indeed was the Lord crucified?

He is crucified wherever we deny God’s law and mission for us. It does not have to be a physical space like Calvary or Golgotha.  The Pharisees crucified Jesus by challenging him publicly on the temple steps and privately in the corners of their minds.

Today, we can crucify Jesus in the shopping mall, the Beltway, the Pentagon, the border with Mexico, the voting booth, the courthouse, the statehouse, the White House, or the church.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Take it and Swallow It

Take it and Swallow It

"Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land." So, I went up to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. He said to me, "Take and swallow it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth, it will taste as sweet as honey." Revelation 10:8-9

And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:47-48

Tradition or Catholic Action by Peter Maurin
The central act of devotional life in the Catholic Church is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Sacrifice of the Mass is the unbloody repetition of the Sacrifice of the Cross.
On the Cross of Calvary Christ gave His life to redeem the world.
The life of Christ was a life of sacrifice.
The life of a Christian must be a life of sacrifice.
We cannot imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to get all we can. We can only imitate the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary by trying to give all we can.

Perhaps everything in Revelation is not so mysterious and symbolic.  After all, the roots of today’s first reading were planted by Ezekiel 600 years earlier:

He said to me: Son of man, eat what you find here: eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel. So, I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. a Son of man, he said to me, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving you. I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey* in my mouth. Then he said to me, Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them. (Ezekiel 3:1-4)

Perhaps the small scroll was sweet because it predicted the final victory of God’s people. Perhaps it was sour because it also announced their sufferings. Perhaps it was sweet because it teaches what God demands of us.  Perhaps it is sour because it teaches us what God demands of us.

Indeed, the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

Those demands are for faith and action as expressed by our love of God, our neighbors and ourselves.

This faith does not demand entrance to some secret society.  Sorry, Faithful Brother Knights of Columbus or Knights of Malta.  The rules are cast right out in the open for all to know and for all to choose whether or not to follow.

They are as open as Jesus was preaching in the temple every day.

Discovery is the purpose of monastic life, Christian life, and your vocation. We all must discover that the “possession of God” was far sweeter and satisfying than anything we could receive from family or friends or society.  This frees us from the consumerism that dominates this weekend’s shopping orgy.  If we totally consume the Good News (“eat the scroll and make it a part of us), then we can be enriched far beyond anything offered by Wall Street, K Street, Madison Avenue, or Hollywood and Vine.

We live in a culture that sees having things as the measure of our success. We strive for a life that sees eliminating things as the measure of internal wealth. “Enoughness” is a value long dead in Western society. Dependence on God is a value long lost. Yet, “enoughness” and dependence on God may be what is lacking in a society where consumerism and accumulation have become the root diseases of a world in which everything is not enough and nothing satisfies. (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB)

The people following Ezekiel or Amos or Jesus out into the desert lived a subsistent life in ancient Palestine.  They were farmers.  They were sheepherders.  They were fishermen.  They were contented with what they had and the gifts they got. They were totally dependent upon Jesus. Whether Jesus was handing out loaves and fishes, the wisdom of the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, or his very body and blood, he gave them (and us) what we do not even seek.  Take it and swallow it.  It will taste sweet.

On this latest edition of “Black Friday,” can we be like these desert people, contented with what we have and turn our backs on what Walmart, General Motors, Apple or are selling us?

Eat what you find here.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

“Returned to Give Thanks” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

“Returned to Give Thanks” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)

(To be preached at Our Lady of the Desert, Mattawa, WA)

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

I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him, you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." (Luke 17:15-19)

Our company gives out Thanksgiving turkeys to retired employees. All they have to do is stop by the plant to pick them up. A few days before the holiday, a retiree called to ask, “What time do the turkeys get in?”  The receptionist, without thinking, responded, “Everyone starts at eight.”  (Submitted to The Reader’s Digest by Ed Robinson, Warminster, Pennsylvania, November 2018)

Each Eucharist can become a thank-you note to our Heavenly Father who has done us a great service.

Over the past two decades, much of the research on happiness can be boiled down to one main prescription: give thanks. It increases positive emotions, reduces the risk of depression, heightens relationships, and increases resilience.

The Leper said, “Thank you, Jesus.” The return of this leper to give thanks at the feet of Jesus implies his conversion. His eternal salvation is equated with his thanks to Jesus. 

And notice that when he discovered that he was cured, he turns back, praising God in a loud voice. He did not yet carry out the command to show himself to the priests. He spontaneously went right back to Jesus to give thanks.

Welling up in our consciousness and experience are two spontaneities -- one good and one bad.

So often the quick-witted, loose-tongued person who can be so entertaining and at the center of attention has to sift through these spontaneous urges to see if their spontaneity tends towards God and is thus from the good spirit, or is the spontaneity not congruent with holiness and Christ-like behavior and thus speaks to us our need for a deeper conversion.

By looking at our interior moods, feelings, and urges, which are the “spirits” that must be sifted through, we can tell which ones come from the good spirit or bad spirit.  For example, St. Ignatius of Loyola was able to find God whenever he wished, at what whatever hour, though a test for congruence of his interior impulses, moods or feelings to see if it came from his true self. If it did, then he knew God’s word to him at that instant.

And if Ignatius could not find his congruent self in Christ, then he recognized the interior impulse as an “evil spirit” and he experienced God helping him go against that impulse. What comes from our true self in Christ leads to feeling peace, joy, and love. What is from the bad spirit leads to desolation.
When we pray to God for Spirit-guided insight into our life we get this growing, appreciative insight into the mystery of who we are in Christ, and to see ourselves how God sees us, and we start to see each day all the gifts and graces that God gives us. We begin to see how spiritually poor we are, in a good way, and how gifted we are in our uniqueness. By this practice called the Examen, life itself becomes a humble, joyful thanksgiving.  

We also must give thanks for the bad too.  St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the people in Thessalonika: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

St. Bernadette of Lourdes also knew the value of giving thanks for everything, especially the sufferings and humiliations, as she shows us in her testament of gratitude. In her words:

For the poverty in which my mother and father lived, for the failure of the mill, all the hard times, for the awful sheep, for constant tiredness, thank you, my God!

Thank you, my God, for the prosecutor and the police commissioner, for the policemen, and for the harsh words of Father Peyramale!

For the days in which you came, Mary, for the ones in which you did not come, I will never be able to thank you…only in Paradise.

For the slap in the face, for the ridicule, the insults, and for those who suspected me for wanting to gain something from it, thank you, my Lady.

For my spelling, which I never learned, for the memory that I never had, for my ignorance and for my stupidity, thank you.

For the fact that my mother died so far away, for the pain, I felt when my father instead of hugging his little Bernadette called me, “Sister Marie-Bernard”, I thank you, Jesus.

For the fact that Mother Josephine proclaimed that I was good for nothing, thank you. For the sarcasm of the Mother Superior: her harsh voice, her injustices, her irony and for the bread of humiliation, thank you.

Thank you that I was the privileged one when it came to be reprimanded, so that my sisters said, “How lucky it is not to be Bernadette.”

Thank you for the fact that it is me, who was the Bernadette threatened with imprisonment because she had seen you, Holy Virgin; regarded by people as a rare animal; that Bernadette so wretched, that upon seeing her, it was said, “Is that it?”

For this miserable body which you gave me, for this burning and suffocating illness, for my decaying tissues, for my de-calcified bones, for my sweats, for my fever, for my dullness, and for my acute pains, thank you, my God.

And for this soul which you have given me, for the desert of inner dryness, for your night and the lightning, for your silences and your thunders, for everything.

For you—when you were present and when you were not—thank you, Jesus.

In addition to teaching us lessons, these trials are also sent to us as heavenly jewels we can use to purchase souls, or for some other divine purpose. I love this quote from Fr. J.P. de Caussade, from Abandonment to Divine Providence:

“All these monsters only come into the world to exercise the courage of the children of God, and if these are well trained, God gives them the pleasure of slaying the monsters, and sends fresh athletes into the arena.

“And this life is a spectacle to angels, causing continual joy in Heaven, work for saints on earth, and confusion to the devils in hell. So, all that is opposed to the order of God renders it only the more to be adored. All workers of iniquity are slaves of justice, and the divine action builds the heavenly Jerusalem on the ruins of Babylon.”

May we fully realize what St. Faustina came to know: “that in our thankfulness, true earthly joy resides that in Your love for us, Jesus, we find the heavenly harvest that strengthens our souls, until we reside in You, Jesus, forever.”