Sunday, June 30, 2019

Wherever You Go

Wherever You Go

“You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as a prophet to succeed you.”  1 Kings 19:16

For you were called for freedom, brothers, and sisters.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.  Galatians 5:13

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”  Luke 9:57-58

“Prayer for Charity and a Preferential Option for the Poor” by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB

Poor Ones,
Please take the bread. It is yours.
The house with running water belongs to you.
A plot of land, a dignified job – all yours.
Forgive me for offering it.
Charity is no substitute for justice but your children are hungry now.
Spirit of Justice, break open our hearts.
Break them wide open
Let anger pour through like strong winds cleaning us of complacency,
Let courage pour through like spring storms flooding out fear.
Let zeal pour through like blazing summer sun, filling us with passion.
Force of Justice, grant me anger at what is, courage to do what must be done, passion to break down the walls of injustice and build a land flowing with milk and honey for God’s beloved, God’s special love, God’s Poor Ones.
Spirit of Justice, break open our hearts.

Piety has its most robust definition in how we follow the Lord. God has a plan for all of us that we must come to know through our Tripod.  Some think that poverty, chastity, and obedience are the makeup of perfect surrender to the Lord.  That may be true, but we may not be among those called to such strict disciplines. Whether or not we are vowed members of a religious community or laypersons, we are called to be freely obedient to God.

Although God created us and calls us, he does not enslave us to his law or to any of the gifts that he has given to us. His gift to us is freedom…including the freedom to choose to be obedient or not. Today we find the conflict between the gift of freedom and the call for obedience at its height.

First is the command, the very expectation for total and immediate obedience, and its rewards. We might consider the perfection of that in modern times reserved for priests and nuns and those espoused to religious life in faith communities of women and men. But, the call for obedience extends to the laity as well (like it or not).

The example of Elisha leaving his family, destroying his earthly possessions and distributing those goods among his people is just one more example of perfect obedience that we learn through sacred readings.

All this prepares us for the severity and unconditional nature of Christian discipleship. Just as God’s love for us has no bounds, our love for God also should not face any limits. Just as resolutely as Jesus sets out for Jerusalem in today’s reading, we should set out for a New Jerusalem. Our journey to the New Jerusalem is a journey of hope. As Henri Nouwen reminds us: “Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter the unknown and fearful territory.”

Just as Elisha freed himself from the twelve oxen, from what comfort zone do you have to free yourself to enter the unknown and fearful territory of hope?

As he sets out for Jerusalem, Jesus knows very well what lies ahead on the journey. Maybe that is why Jesus sounds so strident today. Jesus wants us to look forward, not behind.  Looking forward, Jesus sets his sights set on what he wants each one of us to be and to do. He doesn’t care about the others who don’t take him seriously or who reject him. He is addressing those of us who call ourselves Christian.

Christ’s road to Jerusalem invites all of us.  We too must go up to Jerusalem to die with Christ even as the Apostles eventually did.  That is what Jesus did, and that is what he expects us to do if we are to truly madly and deeply love Him, honor Him and obey Him from this day forward.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

"But Who Do You Say That I Am?"

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, November 2004

"But Who Do You Say That I Am?"

Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, "Get up quickly." The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, "Put on your belt and your sandals." He did so. Then he said to him, "Put on your cloak and follow me." So, he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. Acts 12:7-9

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  Matthew 16:15-18

While Peter and Paul probably did not die on the same day, their deaths came to be celebrated together on June 29. St. Augustine wrote "The passion of the most blessed Apostles Peter and Paul has consecrated this day for us. We are not speaking of some obscure martyrs. Their voice has gone forth into all the earth and their words to the ends of the world. These martyrs had seen what they preached. They followed the Truth, they professed the Truth, and they died for the Truth.... "One day of suffering for the two Apostles. But, they, two, in spirit were one; even if they had suffered on different days, they would still be one." (St. Augustine, Sermon 295).[i]

Veneration of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, has its roots in the very foundations of the Church. They are the solid rock on which the Church is built. They are at the origin of her faith and will forever remain her protectors and her guides. To them Rome owes her true greatness, for it was under God's providential guidance that they were led to make the capital of the Empire, sanctified by their martyrdom, the center of the Christian world whence should radiate the preaching of the Gospel.[ii]

Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome.  St. Paul and St. Peter also are patron saints of the Eternal City. Although St. Paul is the patron of our Cursillo movement, today, let’s immerse ourselves into this chapter in Peter’s life because it is an important key to our piety, study, and action.  To me, it’s a great comfort to know that Peter exhibits his many human weaknesses, even in the presence of Jesus.

We get a glimpse several times in Sacred Scripture of what Peter is wearing.  At the end of John’s Gospel, Peter is lightly clad in the boat and dives into the water to get to Jesus standing on the shore.  Today, the angel tells him to put on his belt, sandals and cloak so that Peter can follow the angel out of prison.

Herod imprisoned Peter and intended to keep him locked up until after Passover, the anniversary of the Jews miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago.

The “meat and potatoes” of the Passover Seder is the telling of the Exodus story.  There are two parallel stories of the Jewish people woven into the Seder.  "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt" and then "God/Yahweh took us out with a Mighty Hand." The larger story is how "In the beginning, the ancestral Jews were idol-worshipers" and then "God/Yahweh through Moses brought us to Him, to His service." [iii]

Passover is all about miracles and Peter knows this very well.  Is it an accident that he experiences a miracle for his “exodus” from prison over the Passover holiday?

Is it any accident that Peter’s miracle took place at the same holiday when the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper (which also was a Passover Seder)? The same week when Christ was arrested and executed?

Freedom remains elusive.  Yet on this Passover, Peter got his freedom just like the Jews got their freedom from Egypt. The stories of faith and freedom go together.  The stories of faith and freedom become a part of our inner reality.

What chains you up?  What binds you?  How can your faith free you from your chains? God is with us on our journey no matter if we are chained up or on the run.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Rejoice with Me

George Desvalli√®res 
Rejoice with Me

I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd examines his flock while he himself is among his scattered sheep, so will I examine my sheep. I will deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds. Ezekiel 34:11-12

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, 'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.'”  Luke 15:4-6

If there is any doubt that Christ-centered faith is not a call to action, we only need to ponder today’s readings.  Across millennia, from the sacred texts of the Hebrew Bible (Ezekiel) through the life of Christ and beyond to our day, faith does not stop with calling on us to ponder and reflect and pray YES PRAY on the icons of our faith. That prayer leads us out into the modern-day pastures to care for the sheep just as the prophets and Jesus showed the way.

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find the courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:7-8

Consider the actions in the first reading: Look. Tend. Rescue. Lead. Gather. Bring. Pasture. Give. Seek. Bind. Heal.

We have to be still and listen to the sound of the beating Heart of Christ.  Be still and know that I am God.

Be still in piety.

Know in our study.

I am God is reflected in our action.

Thump.  Thump.  Thump.  Meditate on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  If we desire to enter into the Sacred Heart we have to cultivate stillness and silence in our lives. But, once joined in union with that heart, we must allow it to fill our life with the action of Christ.

A heart is beating at the center of creation: it is the heart of Christ… To take up this path requires us to be wholly orientated towards the glowing love of God, like the sunflowers which always turn towards the sun, and (fern-like) ever seeking to become humble of heart.[i]

How can you be the hands and feet that continue this mission today?

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

“Build on the Foundation of God’s Love” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Build on the Foundation of God’s Love” by Beth DeCristofaro

Abram told Sarai:  "Your maid is in your power. Do to her whatever you please." Sarai then abused her so much that Hagar ran away from her. … But the LORD's messenger told her: "Go back to your mistress and submit to her abusive treatment. I will make your descendants so numerous," added the LORD's messenger, "that they will be too many to count. Besides," the LORD's messenger said to her: "You are now pregnant and shall bear a son; you shall name him Ishmael, For the LORD has heard you, God has answered you. (Genesis 16:6, 9-11)

Jesus said to his disciples: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. … "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. … And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined." (Matthew 7:21, 24. 26-27)

Grant, O Lord, that we may always revere and love your holy name, for you never deprive of your guidance those you set firm on the foundation of you love.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.  (Collect from the Mass of the Day)

The clich√© “into each life some rain must fall” is a pretty tame description of what many people face.  Sarai faced the humiliation and indeed the devaluation of her identity due to childlessness.  And Hagar was abused for it – forced into a sexual relationship and then mistreated.  Both faced storms what could have crushed them.  Their reactions were so different.  One took her anger out on the other.  Sarai ran away but then trusted – against her lived experience – that the word of God was good and she became “grandmother” to numerous descendants.  God retained the right to disperse judgment and mercy to both women.

We also are asked to live in a way that takes responsibility for our lives in stormy or benign weather.  It is with certainty that we know storms will come.  Do we know for certain that God will be with us in the desert or the flood?  Preparing by each and every day making room for God in our lives – not just mouthing “Lord, Lord” for our own schemes - prepares us to lean on God when needed and stand strong for others when called upon.   Even if asked to stay in the storm, or a situation which seems hopeless, we can rely on God to be with us.

Is there a place in my life in which I am not shouldering the responsibility which the Lord asks of me?  Are there times I am mouthing “Lord, Lord” yet not accepting His will any deeper than my lips?  Spend time in prayer with Him.