Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday: The Disabling Labeling

A friend told the story of the day when he was traveling through a major airport.  Just ahead of him in the security check line was a young man who "looked" like an Arab -- whatever that means!  But my friend said he had this feeling:  "Thanks be to God they are checking that fellow carefully.  You never know these days."

After my friend had gone through security almost redressing completely putting on his shoes, his belt and his jacket.  He continued on toward his departure gate.  He heard someone saying, "Sir, sir."  Several men turned around to the voice.  There was the young Arab man but pointing his finger at me.  "Sir, you left your computer on the security check table where you were putting on your shoes.

My friend related how he then felt.  What a complicated world we live in.  We suspect anyone that matches a problem in our world.  Yet, most people grow up wanting to do good.  Even most religions in one way or another promote the "golden rule."  Yet, today's world, has so taught us how to label other people especially when we are in challenging situations like airport security or when we are walking down the crowded streets of an unfamiliar congested "downtown."  We so easily allow labeling to disable our own estimation of other people.

My friend mentioned a thought that came to his mind.  Aldus Huxley once was asked what was the most transforming technique he knew toward accomplishing a change in one's life.  He thought for a moment and then replied that it is just a little kindness.  It is that simple because kindness strengthens the heart.  And, if there is a good heart in you, a good life will follow.

In today's Responsorial Psalm we hear the psalmist's words ... thankfulness, thankfulness.  How simple and easy it is to be thankful and to appreciate other people ... especially those we do not know.  In a world where trust is so thin, we quickly tag people with prejudicial thoughts that diminish kindness, that weaken that virtue which gives our lives a purpose.  Think about the most unhappy person you know:  when was the last time that person practiced kindness?  Without kindness life becomes miserable.  The lack of kindness is the foundation of misery.  Put that thought on a post-it at your desk or on your mirror ... just somewhere to remind you each day that you weaken your own power when failing to be kind ... most especially in thought!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tuesday: What God Asks

Why is light given to toilers
and life to the bitter in spirit?
"Why do these painful things happen to me?" and "What did I do to deserve this?"  Are these not sentiments you have heard or even expressed yourself when a tsunami of challenges overcome your life or the lives of others.?

So what can we gather for ourselves form this thought from the Book of Job?  What is the meaning of life and light in this one sentence?  Most scholars see this sentence as a reminder to us that the grace of God is a teacher to us that while we may live a life that has its blessings, it comforts, we should not be unwilling to accept sacrifices that demand we die to some part of our selves and our desires.  Likewise graes are given to us to learn that should we be burdened by heavy challenges, we should be willing to live through these burdens even when death itself might seem easier.

The lives of saint so often are a lived out experience of these words from Job.  They may remind us to be willing to sacrifice some of our abundance (in any form) or to accept willingly the sacrifices hat are so painful.  This is the kind of calling God gives to those who seek to accept suffering as a sharing in the life and light of his son.

Monday: Gutter Clutter?????

Luke 9:50:  "For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest."  Job 1:21-22:  "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!"

We would say that the person who endures such deprivation is truly to be sanctified.  The circumstances that weigh up many today throughout the world are providing them with the same avenues that led Job and many other great saints and blesseds to their greatness, recognized nor not.

Many laymen, laywomen and even children today are living lives of need and misery through no fault of their own.  Hardworking mothers and fathers have great difficulty sleeping because they have had to face painful poverty.  Many careful and precise business owners have had to give many pink slips or completely close their businesses thus terminating incomes to families.  These are truly the modern candidates for sanctity.

The words of Job truly relate to the sacrifices being made by so many.  Nakedness is embarrassing,  Yet it is a genuine sign to other of a person's complete dependence on others.
As we hear or read these words of scripture today, do they have an impacting significance in the thinking, in the prayer and in the actions of those who have the potential of assistance?  In the course of one day, what do we ask of God for the faceless who are suffering so much?  Have these good people just become gutter clutter, interference in society's day-to-day business?

There is a question that each of us needs to answer not just today but every day of our lives.  The question is this:  When I retire each evening, do I say to God "I am grateful for your care for me.  But I do ask your graces, your blessings for those suffering great need.  Is there a way that I could have helped someone today and ignored that urge?"

That "gutter clutter," those "clinging to the sides of buildings in downtown areas," those with the outstretched hand, nailed to the cross of misery and need, did I help them with any kind of love?  These are my sisters and brothers!

The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:45)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

26th Sunday: A Gospel of Warning!

We've heard this gospel story many times.  And, as usual, we know Jesus told the story for not just one but many reasons.  To understand what his purpose might be for us today, we can best reach an understanding if we imagine role-playing for just a few moments.  Let's ask ourselves where we might find ourselves in the Jesus presentation.

Most of us would not see ourselves as Lazarus, the sick man.  Most, we hope, would not  be the Rich Man.  He can be described in a simple sentence.  He just doesn't get it! 
So where are we in the story?  The surprise answer well might become evident if we see ourselves as the Rich Man's brothers.  The Rich Man wants to send warnings to them about how they live their lives.  I suggest this because Jesus is offering warnings to us.  This is the heart of the message.  This parable is delivered to the people of Jesus' time as well as our own to instruct, to teach ... again to warn.

I see Jesus' purpose as this:  hardness of heart when confronted by human misery  --which we can ease or remedy-- "utterly and completely" divides us from our God.  We are warned by the Son of God that we earn separation from the Kingdom of God when we ignore or refuse to reach out to such human pain when we can do something about it.  And it seems that Jesus seems to think that most of us can help relieve such tragic life situations.

This warning tells us, as well, that we have a great need.  And what is that you might ask?  We need Moses and the prophets.  In the Book of Deuteronomy (15:11), Moses said "I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'"  We might say in our neighborhoods or vicinity.  The prophet Micah (6:8) makes clear what God expects of all of us:  "....What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."

The reality is this:  we cannot claim the name of Christ, or even wannabe Christian, if we walk passed the different Lazaruses we encounter.

Again, I say, "Wow, it is not easy being a follower of Jesus if we don't pray to understand the messages God has give us in the written words of the bible.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday: The Big Question

When you read Luke's words today, you might ask why Jesus is so concerned about what other people are saying about him.  Perhaps your understanding of Jesus might be somewhat challenged by the question.  "Who do they (the various people that are following him) say that I am?  When he listens to the disciples' response to the question, Jesus moves on to another form of the same interrogation.  He asks Peter a similar question:  "Who do you say that I am?"  So, if Jesus is not concerned about his poll figures among his followers and disciples, what is the meaning of the questions?  

Let's combine the two answers.  We hear the interpretation of the crowds opinions:  the answers basically were expressions of expectations of the Messiah that was to come to save the people.  The we listen to the response of the "Speaker of the House of Apostles," Peter:  "The Christ of God."   By this he means the Messiah, the savior.  Jesus then instructs them not to share this information with the people or authorities.

He then shares with them the kind of Messiah he truly will be ... a Messiah that will offer his life in suffering for his people.

The gospel stands as yet another moment in our lives when we might do some interior examination.  Imagine if Jesus came before you at this very moment and asked, "Who do you say that I am?"  How would you respond to this question?  It is important for each of us to have an answer to that question because it is the question that we should be ready for at a moment in our lives when Jesus does speak to us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday What is Hope?

As you think about Herod and his place in the life of Jesus, there is, so it seems, deep within this man more than an ounce of hope.  Hope is real in our hearts when we are willing and free to make a Leap of Faith (the name of a movie and a soon to be produced Broadway play).

For hope to be real, for hope to give us new inspiration and direction we have to discover if we have truly opened our hearts to Jesus and the message he brings to us.

How many would have accepted Herod or even been aware from his words that deep within the very unpopular king was seeking acceptance, seeking to end the confusion in his life?  And, to be honest, how many times have we come upon others who are in the same boat?  And, most likely, we, too, have been pulling a oar in the same boat.

Our role as followers of Jesus is to be open -- open to his words to us, open to him present in others especially in those who may not think or speak or act as we would like of them.  Read carefully the words of Jesus about Herod and try to gain his sense of helping a confused and troubled man.

So what, then, is hope?  How do we bring it into our lives and ultimately into the lives of others?  If we do not fully understand it, how can we enjoy the graces it offers us?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wednesday: Turned Tables

For sure many people, perhaps family and/or friends are truly struggling to survive in today's economic misery.  One time McMansion dwellers are mow living with relatives or friends or in dthe least expensive housing available.  There is no other way to describe this current American picture than these words:  "the tables have turned."

St Ignatius of Loyola wrote in letters and general directions to his army of Jesuits and to the many retreatants who have worked (prayed) their way through teh SPiritu Exercises (his format for retreats) heard or read the word moderation.  He called all of these people to practice moderation.  Further he suggested these words be added to "moderation":  in ALL things.

for the Type A personality this surely is a challenge.  For the person who might know laziness this phrase is truly a reality that hurts.  However, for many other the practice of moderation is admired especially in the lives of others!  Even people dubbed "spiritual" by family and friends may have this suggested moderation difficult to follow.

Moderation, as we know in theory, will lead to a simplicity that brings with it a freedom, a genuine peace of mind, particularly for oneself.  God gives us abundance but it isn't in things, possessions or monies.  His abundance comes in graces to lead to simplicity and care for others.

Surely poverty is no piece of pie.  Usually, if not chosen as a way of life, it will burt noly one person but several others who depend upon the person as a soure of life's needs.  On the other hand, having or even hoarding cane be the cause of much discomfort and distraction and worry.

Once again as Fall is approaching and we begin to hear phrases like "Fall house cleaning."  Now is the time to look at our lives and ask ourselves if "moderation" is alive and well in all things of our lives.  Always recall these words"  True moderation is the key to freedom and peace."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tuesday: Know Your Evangelists!!!

This feast day in honor of Matthew, the gospel writer, can be of help to us in developing a deeper awareness of who Jesus was and how he lived out his mission on earth.  Matthew was a man who was changed by his coming to know Jesus.  He is a model for us who ware willing to live our lives "in a manner worthy of the call you have received," as St. Paul writes to the Ephesians in today's first reading.

The Jewish people had a friend in Matthew as he composed his gospel.  He wanted to show that there was no separation between Jesus and his Jewish tradition.  Furthermore, a reading of this evangelist's writings will bring the readers to understand that events that happened to Jesus and that Jesus brought about were far from happenstance.   He will remind his readers that many of these events were spoken of in the scriptures before his gospel.

Likewise, Matthew had a fondness for the Gentile population that was growing during the time of Jesus.  Often Matthew will use a Gentile to strengthen his examples.  And who does not know about the Sermon on the Mount?  Thank you, again, Matthew, for that gift.

The Church has given us the feast days of the apostles as both reminder and example.  Ours is the challenge to make time to read and to come to know what each of the evangelists has written.  These writers, along with the other apostles and early disciples of Jesus were the pillars of the Church.  These are the people that God chose to go forth to different parts of the world to establish or strengthen our Church's beginning days.  A wonderful study for all of us is to take the time to come to know at least one of the gospels well.

Monday: "Proverbial" Wisdom

Today the Church honors St. Andrew Kim.  He was born in Seoul, Korea.  The conversion route brought him to the Catholic way of life in difficult times.  Kim was the son of a martyred father.  Ordained a priest, he was the first native born Korean to stand at the altar.  He, too, was martyred by torturing and beheading in 1846.  He is a reminder to the Korean and the universal Catholic Church that between 1839 and 1867 there were 103 lives added to the heavenly community of martyrs.

The first liturgical reading for today well serve the memory of Andrew Kim and those who died with him.

In the first eight verses of the 3rd chapter of the Book of Proverbs you find a genuine expression of a martyr's life.  As well, these words of wisdom are most apropos for our Church and nation at this moment in their histories.
In days of economic disasters quickly does the "hoarding mentality" take root in life as a signal of the desire to maintain a prior style of existence.  How challenging it is to refuse requested help when indeed there is treasure in one's life.  How real is dislike and even hatred between fellow Americans and sometimes Catholics because of political or religious ideologies that are different.  How real is the distrust in the hearts of many toward those whose prayerful voices speak "Allah be praised"!  How tempting  are the ways of an immoral, unethical and, yes, even illegal activities when great abundance has been painfully reduced, when our silos are far from previous fullness.

We need to examine our lives carefully and honestly when the going gets tough because we can so easily fall into damnable weaknesses.  We need to carefully listen to the words of the reading today:  "To the Lord the perverse on is an abomination; ... The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked; ... When dealing with the arrogant, he is stern.... "With the upright is his friendship; the dwelling of the just he blesses; to the humble he shows kindness."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday: A confusion!

If you read today's gospel, you might find yourself either saying, "I don't understand!", or "Something is missing from this event in Jesus' life."  Why this kind of response?  Because the words of the great healer seem so contrary to his usual messages.  There is much below the surface here that speaks of the generosity and love of Jesus for all God's living creations we call human beings.

Jesus' words are clearly words of praise for a steward for his accounting procedures for his master's financial resources.  Most would consider the stewards actions as nothing other than "fixing the books."  Today we so often read in our newspapers about people who have embezzled or stolen their bosses' founds.  Strange are these words from Jesus:  "For children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of the light."  You might wonder whether Jesus understands that the steward  was "squandering" the bosses' funds.  Such is a behavior most would not recommend then or now.

For Luke the event is much more than questionable activity.  Jesus is taking this shady dealing and the master's reactions and Jesus' reflection on it as a teaching about the kingdom of God!  What?  What is going on?  Jesus is using the story to teach several realities, the value of money being one item.  It calls to mind the master who felt he needed bigger silos to store his grain, the source of his wealth.   He was hoarding the grain for no other purpose than having more money.  There was no concern for the needy, the hungry, the poor.  God gave us treasure not solely for ourselves but for us to share with others.  In the case of this crafty steward Jesus sees what money can become:  an instrument to help others.  A cup of honey draws  more bees than does a cup of vinegar.  Strange, too, is the fact that the master comes to agree with the crafty steward.  He sense a kind of satisfaction in helping those who owed him money while securing a good portion of what was owed to him.  Clearly the master saw how is steward's actions would  be a cause of strengthening his own reputation among others.

Now the real stopper in this story is this: take an accounting of your own sins, your own actions that might bring you to God with the words "forgive me."  Have you ever stopped to consider how many instances are recorded in the new testament where Jesus forgives others.  Like those in the gospel stories who need forgiveness, we stand before our God at times asking that Jesus "fix" our books that record our life's activities.  We do so with the hope that Jesus will continue to "squander" the gift of God's mercy on us.  Each time we confess our sins are we not like debtors in the gospel story, hoping that our record will be fixed to allow us a place in God's kingdom?

You have heard Jesus death on the cross referred to as the "scandal of the cross."  Isn't this "fixing" of things by Jesus' promise of forgiveness the true scandal of the cross?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday: Walking the Walk

St. Luke write just a few words that may stir up the baptismal graces in the heart and soul.  "Jesus journeyed from one town to another preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God."

In baptism and especially in the annual renewal of baptismal promises, there is the reality of  the "call."  It is the summons to walk the walk and talk the talk with Jesus Christ.  The Christian vocation is much more than complacency.  Ours is to be like Jesus --- to preach and to proclaim the gospels.

There is no need to travel to far away towns and places to bring the good news of the gospels to others of different cultures and languages.  There is turf in families, in friendships and in neighborhoods  that is suffering a faith drought.   Imagine this, if every baptized Christian in your city made an effort to bring the gospel message to those who have abandoned their faith, their efforts to be united with Jesus, would a city change, would a neighborhood be better, would a family be restored?  Surely there would be some relief to the drought!

Jesuit Saint Robert Bellarmine, whose feast is celebrated today, was a brilliant priest.  But he never let his brilliance interfere with his desire to teach as many people as he could about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.  His goal: to help others to come to know and experience the joy and satisfaction of in living a life of faith in Jesus Christ.  This is the challenge before us today and it will  be successfully achieved only when we ourselves are committed to knowing the gospels and the teachings of our Church and then sharing our walk with our talk no matter how old we are.

It is rare that I share a photo of a friend and a model.  But in writing about "walking the walk and talking the talk," there is a truly committed Christian who does not allow age nor health issues block her journey that has taken her to so many in need, so many seeking to know Jesus Christ.  Her image here should be a sign, an encouragement to those who view it:  never give up proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday: Understanding and Forgiveness

Sorry for the late entry!  The gospel reading for today's liturgy could happen today were Jesus to be present among us.  Surely there are Pharisaical types among us.  You might ask yourself "to look in the mirror" to be certain you are not such a type.  Are there circumstances when you are more willing to judge others more than yourself?  If you invited Jesus to come for dinner and somehow a non-invited person made it into the event, how would you react, how would you treat the person?  It's that protocol thing again, isn't it?  Who would you feel you had to invite?  But how would you react when you encountered the uninvited guest at the hors d'oeuvers table?  How would you react if the "intruder" was a known criminal, a recognized sinner or an outspoken member of the gay community or the pro-abortion group in your city?  What if the "surprise" was a known prostitute or a recognized embezzler --anyone whose presence at the dinner would tarnish your reputation?  Would you keep that person away from your guests, especially if it were Jesus?  Would you try to make the intruder feel at home?  Will you forgive the sinner in your heart?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday: Mary - model of genuine love.

The scripture readings for today's liturgies focus our attention on Mary''s strongest characteristic.  She stands as a model of genuine love.  She demonstrates for us in so many different moments that true love reveals itself in reaching out to care for others.   Her love is evident in her journey to be with Elizabeth, her cousin.  Likewise she shows her care for her neighbors when there was the embarrassment of no more wine at their wedding celebration.  When we consider Mary standing at the foot of the cross that shouldered her dying son, we are looking at the woman of love.  Her concern was always for others.

Throughout the gospels we see Mary only as a woman who gives of herself for others.  Even at a time when most would have easily have allowed themselves to be in need of comfort and support, Mary accepts the call to take care of her son's disciples after his death.

St. Paul's words give us the best picture of an abstract reality:  "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, endures all things."  Mary is this description of love.  And it is the very picture of anyone caring for another especially a loved one who has to walk the journey of Alzheimer's disease; the walk of parents who are given a child born with sever disabilities; a spouse who struggles with an addiction that incapacitates a partner; or a neighbor who extends a helping hand to the homeless or the helpless.  Mary endured so many difficult moments and,  in so doing, she revealed the "thoughts of many hearts" who teach us true love.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Vigil and 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

Earlier today (Saturday) a very short presentation of another person recalled what I suspect every priest, recently arrived in a parish, realizes after about three or four weeks in the assignment:  where many people chose to sit for the liturgy.  Think about yourself:  don't you tend to take the same place in your local church when attend Mass?  Most probably you do!  And this seems to become "your spot, your place" that is, until one day someone or a family arrive sooner than you do and decide to take up occupancy in "your spot."  "Pew Protocol" has been smashed.  Some folks are quite annoyed not only with the visitors who didn't know that spot was the Madam Queen's resting spot but with those who didn't tell the visitors that they had taken a "no parking zone" place!

In today's gospel, Luke rather quietly and quickly makes reference to a protocol of Jesus' time.  The Pharisees and scribes were annoyed when they saw sinners and tax collectors drawing close to and talking with Jesus.  Why, he even dined with them!  Protocol truly smashed!

Several days ago our nation and the entire world encountered a fractured protocol:  a minister of religion and his very small congregation in Gainesville, Florida.  We all know the story.  We know that tension and the frustration the event caused world-wide.

Were Jesus present today among us and in particular here with us in the USA, there is no doubt in my mind and heart that Jesus would be meeting, perhaps with a few Cardinals or Archbishops, but most assuredly with a family of Muslims.  Jesus always welcomed the marginalized in his society and incorporated love of others in what is called the greatest commandment.  No doubt he would talk to these followers of Islam about the insults and accusations levied against them by so many people who have ignited the Islam Protocol.

You might ask how I can be so sure that Jesus, were he here, right here in Washington, DC, would be gathering with Muslims to celebrate the conclusion of Ramadan.  Why do I believe this?  We are aware of this reality:  God uses us and other people to bring about the his will.  God used the prophets in the Old Testament days; the Father sent his son to reconcile sinners; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta shared with us the fleshing-out of God's love for the destitute, the sick poor.

The pastor, Rev. Jones, had made known through a tweet on Twitter that he and his congregation intended to desecrate the Qumran, the sacred book of Islam.  Reaction came from the top down:  President Obama, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, number church leaders.  After much apparent pressure, the pastor announced he would take another day of prayer to listen for the Lord's voice to him (in the likeness of Moses and the prophets???).  Well, we know the rest of the story.  Apparently God did speak to him as God speaks to us today:  through incidents or representatives.   The planned actions were postponed and then definitely canceled.  I am also certain that many people do believe that God spoke to him.  But I ask this question:  who was the "angel" who carried the message, just like Gabriel to Mary, or Moses to the people or Mother Teresa to the sick-poor?

I suspect the Reverend Jones will be having some challenging moments to accept what I personally believe happened.  Yes, God did speak to him and he spoke to him through a Muslim, the local Gainesville Imam!  God does do the strangest of things to teach us how to live out the commandments.  Our challenge is not to be frozen by protocol but freed by prayer and the discernment of spirits.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Friday: Quo Vadis?

Psalm 84, used in the set of readings for today's liturgy, might bring you to ask yourself this question: "What is it that I seek most of all by following in the footsteps of  Jesus?"  A simple question, no doubt.  How many, however, have honestly taken the time to understand clearly the goal they have set for themselves?  Can you, without too much delay, write a simple sentence like this:  "I do all I can to follow Jesus and his teachings because I want _______________________."  Answers might be:  peace of mind and heart; the fire and enthusiasm for my faith that stirs me to action; happiness in being his disciple.  Most likely you have another, your own, personal expression to complete that sentence.

St. Paul reminds us that securing the goal we set for ourselves can be achieved only when there is discipline in our efforts, when there is determination and training.  Achieving our goal is no different than that of an athlete.  It is our own power that will bring us to our goal.

Our personal prayer today might be:  "Lord, my God, in my heart I know that I am searching and seeking the way and for ____________________>  Open my heart and soul to the graces that help me achieve my personal goals.  That is the hard part and then there is the challenge to live out the means to achieve that goal.  

If we are truly in touch the Jesus through our prayer and reflections, we will come to realize a simple reality:  "Heh, ya know this prayer thing, if you take the time for it, really does pay off.  You really can get in touch the Jesus that seems so distant and so formal if there have not been any conversations with him."

In your prayer today ask Jesus to strengthen your awareness, your sensitivity to the reality of his presence in your life.  He is there because he wants you to achieve what is best for you.

Thursday: Catholic Reaction

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Roman Catholic officials have released a number of statements concerning the planner "Koran Burning Day" at a small church in Gainesville, Florida.  Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Fr. James Massa, Executive Director of the American Bishops' Conference Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs witnessed a statement signed by interfaith leaders meeting in Washington.  ""We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all American.  The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Qu'ran this (coming) Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on September 11.  Cardinal McCarrick, responding to a reporter's question said:  "I fear the story of this animosity will be taken to be the story of the real America.  It's not.  America was not built upon hatred, but on love..  Further he stated that such animosity is "affecting so many good people who have brought Islam to this country.  And from The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue comes these words: "These deplorable acts of violence  [9/11 terrorist attacks] in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community....  We are speaking about the respect to be accorded the dignity of the person who is an adherent of that religious and his/her free choice in religious matters."

Today we are called to pray for the Florida pastor that his heart will be open tto an awareness of the reality of the consequences that more likely than not will come upon American throughout the world where Islamic terrorists may react to such a desecration.

We, as a nation, are proud of our Constitution.  In particular we treasure the power and privilege of the First Amendment.  However, prudence is demanded whenever we invoke the privileges of these rights.  And, while this is a matter of religion, at least on the surface, the consequences of this planned action, demand of both Church and civic leaders to speak clearly in opposition to this action.  Already a number of civic leaders have tried to avoid directly speaking against the planned action, spinning an answer of rights and privileges.  We must pray for all our leaders, Church and State, to be firm and direct when there is so clearly a need.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday: Nativity of Mary, Mother of Jesus

Yesterday we focused on the importance of a name, specifically the names of the Twelve.  Several people indicated that they had forgotten the names of several Apostles and were not aware of the duplication of names:  two Judases, to Jameses.

Today we focus upon a birthday.  How many birthdays are celebrated each year according to the liturgical calendar?  Of course you are aware of today's birthday as well as the birthday of this woman's son, Jesus.  But there is another birthday celebrated by the Church each year:  John the Baptist.

Usually a birthday is celebrated by family members and very close friends.  Like the significance of a person's name, the day of that person's birth is also important.  Why?  Well, it is a sign to others that God has worked another miracle!  Yes, your own conception in your mother's womb and the nine delicate months of your physical formation.  That is a miracle when you really stop and think about it.  I have a friend who celebrates his birthday this month.  It is important that I get a card and mail it to him soon because he is a man who remembers the birthdays of most of his friends ... and we are recipients of a short, meaningful note in a card ... not just randomly selected.  Usually the card relates to something of the person's life or personality.

Obviously we celebrate Mary's birthday throughout the world each year.  She, as the young girl, accepted the invitation to take on a special mission, a special pregnancy that gave us the Son of God.  Is there any reason why we should not remember her birthday.  It is no ordinary birthday.
We, her friends and relatives, we need to celebrate this day as a reminder of the great gift of wisdom that Mary became for the people of the world and for our Church.  Mary was wise enough to trust her God's request with complete giving up of her will to the Father.  When Mary recited "her prayer," the Magnificat, she shared with Elizabeth and all of us the joy that comes to those who trust in the Lord.

Let us remember Mary throughout the day, just as we would remember a friend on his/her birthday.  Let us remember the joy she brought to those who knew her and those who have come to put their confidence in her.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tuesday: Who are these Men Who Followed Jesus?

In today's gospel reading, we witness Jesus' moment of choosing from the group of disciples who followed him a smaller group he would call the Apostles.  He also called them The Twelve.  A little quiz is in order:  who are the twelve original apostles?  (1) Peter, (2) his brother, __________, (3) John, (4) James (5) __________ , (6) Matthew, (7) _____________ (8) Judas Iscariot, (9) __________. son of  Alphaeus, (10) ________, (11) Simon, (12) _________, son of James.

These twelve men, save one, would be at jesus' side through the ups and downs of his ministry.  It is important that we know who these followers are.  In the end, they were martyred for their loyalty, their fidelity to their friend.  Furthermore, these men were instrumental in helping establish our Church.  These were people who, like many after themselves and even to the present time, struggled with the challenge of believing.  We need to know the names of these heroic teachers because in knowing their names, we are able to related to their lives and what sacrifices they made in building our Church.

Today's response to words from Psalm 149 is fitting as we honor the original band of apostles"  "The Lord takes delight in his people."  It is a sentence we can use to speak about those men and women who are Jesus' apostles in our world today.  Surely, the blogger believes, the challenge for apostles today does exceed the expectations placed before The Twelve -- except most modern apostles feel confident that physical martyrdom does not lie ahead.  Indeed the Lord takes delight in us every day, every hour, when we are committed to his ministry, wen we endeavor to be an apostle to others.

The quiz answers:  (2) Andrew, (5) Philip, (7) Bartholomew, (9) James, (10) Thomas and (12) Judas.  Obviously 5,7,10 an be in any order!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Monday: Labor Day 2010


What does Labor Day mean for most people today?  Perhaps the "unofficial" end of the summer season; perhaps the beginning of a new school year.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps ... lost to our times seems to be the notion of work.  Especially at a time when so many have lost their employment, celebrating work might be difficult for the millions who were gainfully employed just two years ago.

What is the meaning of St. Paul's words in the chosen selection of his words to the followers in Thessaloniki.  At first reading what the great apostle is writing may seem confusing.  He commends the people on all that they have been doing to live a good, Christ-like life.  

Especially, he notes, their care "for the brother throughout Macedonia."  Macedonia was a major area between what is now Greece and Serbia.  Thessaloniki was its leading city and there are remains from the early city.  Enough geography.  Back to prayer!

The final part of the last sentence from the reading for today, however could be confusing.  A newer translation may help us understand Paul's exhortation to the Thessalonians:

11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Clearly Paul is telling his followers of the value of work: that it is a sign to others of personal values on the one hand and secondly that one would not need to rely on others for support.

That tranquility we read in the translation linked above, or the quiet life as another translation suggests, point to this:  a tranquil life, a quiet life, affords us the pathway to be more focused upon ourselves and what we do with our time, our talent and our treasure.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

23rd Sunday: Discipleship Expense

Today's readings bring us to consider the personal cost we encounter if we seriously desire to be an active follower of Jesus Christ.  Such a position or relationship is much more demanding than planning to wait until we feel that we are nearing the end of our lives ... although that cannot be considered as profitless.

Jesus describes what it costs to be a part of humanity just as he was:  "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."  As if this were not too much for us, Jesus also calls our attention to even more dramatic and drastic actions.  Being a follower of Jesus might demand of us that we turn away from loved ones and close friends who would directly or indirectly damage our faith.

As noted in many of these postings over the years:  being a follower of Jesus Christ is much more than a fleeting concern.  So what does my relationship with Jesus demand if I am to live as a true follower at the age of 25, 40, 50, 70 or even a perpetual "39"?  Perhaps some of the following might be questions that will, when confronted, tell your heart and soul whether we are faithful follower of "the Man," as a young man recently told me was his favorite way of talking about Jesus! (1) do I give any attention to daily prayer and reflection? (2) do I face up to the weaknesses that diminish my attention to "the Man" who gave his life for me? (3) do I have a clear plan for my life that will help me be what Jesus has hinted all along for me to become?  These are just three questions that can lead to others.

Paul's letter to Philemon is a classic example of the demands of Christianity in the immediate post-Jesus era as well as in our own times.  Onesimus was a slave who escaped from the service to Philemon who was, as it would seem from Paul's writings, a collaborator with Paul.  He "hosted" many people in his home for Eucharistic Liturgies.  Now a slave who flees from his master's service, if caught, would be put to death.  Thus what Paul was asking of Philemon was not an easy request.  Nothing could be more counter-cultural.  Accepting back a run-away slave would be one thing. However, to accept a run-away back as a brother was over the top.  But this is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is about.  If one is sincere in striving to be a genuine follower of Jesus, life will different and challenging for a true disciople.

Paul's actions can be likened to what Jesus would become for all humanity: a reconciler  His crucifixion was his sacrifice to bring about reconciliation with the Father for all sinners.  Jesus was a reconciler for us; Paul was a reconciler between Philemon and Onesimus.  It is the same love that sends each disciple out to make a reality of Jesus' generosity and love.

So, again:  being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ is not just putting away a nickel or dime each day for our salvation.  Discipleship expects the gift of ourselves for the kingdom.  Sometimes Christianity demands of us to stand almost totally alone, outside the protective fences of our feathered nests!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday: Wineskins ... What's the Message?

How many times have you heard the gospel story we read today?  Many would be the answer, no doubt.  But what is the meaning Jesus is trying to convey to the listening scribes and Pharisees who had challenged the eating and drinking style of Jesus' disciples.

We know the parable.  An old wineskin finds it most difficult to have fresh wine added to it after it has been "resting" quietly in the aging process.  The skins easily burst with the wine spilled and ruined.

So, what is it that Jesus is saying?  Well, it is a challenging parable that can be summed up in a few words:  "can you accept change?"  Yes, it is another one of Jesus' parables that teach us about how we are to live.  Of course the wine that has rested in the wineskin for the prescribed time tastes good.  But why do we purchase most of our wine in bottles?  Can you imagine a large wine store "shelving" a supply of wineskins?  Progress became involved in the wine business and we moved from the delicate skins holding aged wines to the present day bottles.  We know, too, that today there is something like the wineskin used in cartons of wine!  Another sign of progress ... although some would withhold an agreement in the latter example.
Again Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and scribes as well as ourselves to examine our own lives and how we accept change.  Recall the days after Vatican II: countless arguments about adding a Saturday evening Mass that "counts" for Sunday; eating meat on Friday; "hearing" the Eucharistic liturgy in a native language for the first time; receiving Holy Communion from the hands of a layman and, "Oh, God help us," from the hands of a laywoman!  Try and change these practices today!  Imagine the reaction.

So, think a little about the issues that disturb your peace of mind and heart today.  Are these issues that are being proposed for our welfare and happiness?  In a few weeks we will begin using some different words in our responses to the liturgy.  There will be the voices of dissatisfaction for sure.

What we will hear now is "the old is good."  The true challenge is to discover why something newer might just be better.  Better for what?  Well, that is a part of the challenge.  Read about what is being changed.  Discover why a change is made.

This process applies not simply to old and newer ways of storing wine.  Indeed we have to look at issues that impact our lives, our families, our communities our religions.  Consider the issues of the current times:  immigration, health care, racism, minority groups, the calls for equality from gay and lesbian men and women organizations, from those supporting the mosque in downtown NYC, the demands from the Tea Party members, and on and on.

Perhaps Jesus was teaching a very difficult point to humankind:  we need to understand the movements of the hearts of all men and women.  We have to attempt an understanding of where individuals are "coming from" when we find their cause a challenge to our lives.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday: Identity with Jesus Christ

Today, all along the Atlantic Coast of the USA, many individuals are making their own identity with The Weather Channel or other similar TV and radio stations.  These same people are making their own identity with Hurricane Earl.  There is more than reading the scrolling words at the bottom of the TV screen.  Everyone wants to know what is this storm going to mean to me!  A short announcement from a reporter or weather reporter is simply not enough.  In some cases a life or personal possession might be at risk if the best information is not provided.

Making identity with someone or something is also important for us when we consider our faith.  No doubt there have been more attempts to identify with God in the last 24 hours!!!  Lord keep us safe.  God protect my beach home.  God keep the storm a good distance from the east coast shore line.  Isn't it easy to at least make an effort to be identified with God this way.

But what about tomorrow or Saturday or Sunday or Monday?  Will there be times for a little prayer with Jesus?  Will there be a true affiliation not a fear driven desire to have some kind of "spiritual insurance" against the crashing waves of a hurricane?

What is my real identity with Jesus?  Is it simply in moments of need?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday: To Other Towns

Follower of Jesus Christ and missionary is my vocation!  Well might this  be a mantra for all who seek to follow Jesus Christ.  Today the number of Christians who go forth to foreign lands to preach the gospel are minimal compared to the total number of Jesus followers.  However, the need that exists to spread the gospel even in our own country, our states, our counties, our cities, our towns, our families is significant.

The missionary vocation is made real in the work of evangelization.  Some might ask "What is this 'stuff' you call evangelization?"  A good question.  In the political sphere in the USA we have experienced the work of a small group of men and women who are on fire with a mission:  the American Tea Party.  It serves solely as an example to us.  A small group of committed individuals can impact a national scene.

What would the national religious scene be if members of the Roman Catholic Church seriously took on the mission of Jesus Christ?  What would our Church become in this generation if we took on a missionary spirit to help those seeking to know who Jesus is and his place in our lives today?  The Tea Party members are on fire with a mission.  Should we not examine our our commitment to our baptismal promises to do what we can as "home missionaries" to bring back to the Church those who have parted company from us?  Even in our own families we might ask "What can I do to bring about another conversion, another return to the faith by our example and determination to make the Church a powerful means of bringing others to Jesus Christ?