Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christian Endurance

February 1, 2013

In these closing words of Chapter 10 Paul concludes with a reminder to his hearers -- you and me and the Christian community -- of a time after one's baptism when there was "a great contest of suffering" which they endured.  But, Paul says, "knowing you had a better and lasting possession .  . do not throw away your confidence."  Paul writes this because he does not want that Christians should abandon "the will of God and receiving what he has promised."

Has not every Christian stood in the same circumstances?  Have we not endured at least "one" great contest of of suffering?  We know that suffering comes in many different experiences.  Today it may be the feared pink slip; it may be whether or not to have an abortion; leaving one's birth religion for another religion.  Perhaps it is living with infidelity to one's vows to God or a marriage partner,; perhaps it is the failure of a marriage and the enumeration of more might fill another page.  Regardless of its nature, Paul encourages us not to be "among those who drawback ... but among those who have faith (a strong personal relationship with God) and will possess God."

For me working through Chapter 10 was a blessing and a tool of the Holy Spirit used to bring to mind the simple reminder that we are truly gifted, magnificently blessed because all our sins have been forgiven.  A remarkable gift is that Jesus willing died for us. 

The Sanctuary Calling

Yes, we continue to use the "sermon" to the Hebrews from St. Paul for our reflection today.  It is the feast of St. John Bosco.  But this reflection will focus on Paul's thinking and spirituality.  There are a few scriptural understandings that may help your prayer as they have helped mine over the years.  Before addressing them we should read this section of Chapter 10 reflectively and peacefully.  There is much we can gain from these six verses.   They are a call to remain faithful in our daily struggles to be faithful followers of Jesus even whn our society produces strong challenges to the contrary.  Can each of us list these challenges?  It is one way to come face-to-fac with who each of us really is?  What are the issues that seem to drop trees across our faith journey?  What "things" and/or "people" block us from being able to enjoy the loving embrace of God?

"We have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary."  Yes, we do!  And repeat that sentence with much confiidece yoruself, dear reader.  However, do you know what Paul means by using the word "sanctuary"?  This is what he meant:  being in God's presence.  Sanctuaries in sacred buildings almost always have signified a space where God is present.  And yes, regardless of my or your past personal sins, we can live confident we can be with God in this life and the life to come.  How so?  Through what Paul has been saying throughout this chapter: through the self-sacrifice of Jesus.  Also we must know that Jesus is the "veil: tdhrough which we enter the presence of God.  The OT High Priest was privileged once each year to walk through the veil (curtains) that separated the Holy of Holies" from those who came into the temple.

Today, however, it is no longer the High Priest (!) who is allowed to enter into GOd's presence.  Today the Church teaches that it is all the baptized who can pass through that separating curtain over and over again.  We do this each time we enter a church where the Blessed Sacrament is present not just for the baptized but for all people who come into the presence of Jesus -- hopefully more than once each year.

Paul calls us to "approach  with a sincere heart and in absolut trust."  Absolute trust!  This is a thought for a future reflection ... hopefully during the upcoming season of Lent.  Paul concludes this section with a few practical suggestions.  Read carefully and, if you have time,  (another writing assignment!!) list the several pracitces he enumerates  as ways we can make real our love for God -- then come to a deeper awareness of how much God loves us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Ultimate Blessing

January 30, 2013

Would we not be greatly blessed were we able to know, to read, the words of Jesus to Paul on the occasion of Paul's RCIA classes taught to him by Jesus.  Imagine the conversation that must have taken place between the two.  Each time I read a part of a letter offered by Paul, I try to put myself in front of Paul with the awareness that these words come from a man who had private lessons with my Lord and Savior.

In yesterday's first reading Paul expressed a reality we should never forget:  Jesus' once and only once sacrifice far exceeded the countless sacrifices offered to Yahweh during Old Testament times.  In those days it was the practice of the priest to offer sacrifices each day, petitioning Yahweh to forgive sins.  These offerings were made with a hope that Yahweh would forgive the sins but there was no guarantee that the evils done were forgiven.  This is the difference with the self-sacrifice of himself in his passion and death that Jesus received the Father's assurance that sins once and for all were forgiven.  No longer OT sacrifices:  Jesus had won salvation for us.

Paul writes that all of us have been made perfect.  How do we know this is true, you might ask of Paul?  He answers by quoting words from Jeremiah where Yahweh makes clear for us that he is making a covenant with us.  He "puts his laws in our minds and writes them in our hearts."  Furthermore Paul recalls words of prophesy written by Jeremiah again, "Their sins and their evil doing I will remember no more."  And so Paul reminds his listeners:  where there is God's forgiveness of past sins because of the supreme sacrifice of his own life for us by Jesus, there is "no longer offering for sin" as in the past.

So what are we to make of this?  Ours is the duty to take the time in prayer and reflection to ponder this saving grace.  Hopefully, then, with our prayer and discovery of Jesus' extraordinary gift, we may come to fully understand the Father's will for us.  Then, with this grace, we can live our lives free from sin and in the peace Jesus earned for us.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sacrifices vs Obedience

Yesterday's first reading brought our focus upon sin itself.  Paul mentions sin often throughout the Hebrews letter (or sermon as some scholars describe the material.  Today's text draws from the tenth chapter of the same letter/sermon.  In this part of his teaching, Paul addresses God's gift of salvation and how it has a much greater impact upon our lives than does the OT practice of making animal and other sacrifices.

There were people from Italy (scholars have different speculations location in Italy where there sermon was delivered) gathered to listen to the convert, Paul.  Old Testament traditions and customs, Paul taught, did seemingly little to remove sin since the people gathered together each year and offered sacrifice to Yahweh to forgive their sins.  Rather than continue the same practices, Paul preached that true and real salvation has been given to us not because of the sacrifices of animals and the offering of grain but, rather, because Jesus Christ suffered and died to once and for all bring about the forgiveness the sins of humankind.

In these verses from the Hebrew sermon, Paul stresses that God prefers obedience to sacrifice.  For God it is the self-offering of Jesus, his Son, that brings about our salvation.

Before Lent begins, we might quietly and peacefully bring to our prayer that Jesus, our brother, throughout his life was an example to us of obedience to the Father's will.  The life of Jesus, all that he did, was a fulfillment of the Father's will for him to culminate in the self-sacrifice of the body God had prepared for him through the collaboration of a young woman of Nazareth.  It might be interesting and helpful for us to not forget what Jesus' purpose was in all that he did:  to teach us the Father's will and thereby sacrifice his body, shedding his blood, to atone for our sins.

Remember not the former things, nor consider things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, 
do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Aquinas And Sinful Habit

These readings bring to mind the reality that there are very few if any who have not sinned nor who will never sin again except the dead.  Today's readings do bring to mind serious consideration of the reality of sin in our lives.  And without any stress intended, this reflection will look at a reality that I sense most priests encounter in the confessions of penitents.  On this memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, allow me to attempt a presentation about the reality of sin in individuals' lives.

There are moments in each day for everyone when we find ourselves walking away from goodness, love, honesty, hard work, moral and ethical uprightness.  As mature adults, why do we opt for walking with sin at least on certain occasions?  In answering that question, I have turned to Aquinas' "Willful Malice and Sin."

We should ask ourselves about our sins?  And what sins?  A honest penitent said, "Father, it has been a year since my last confession.  My only sins are that I have missed several Sunday Masses."  And in all honesty I have replied with a remark such as "Do you know you might be a candidate for almost immediate canonization?"

Because of our Original Sin all of us have a tendency toward sin.  However, we have been or should have been taught at some time about "habitual sin" and  what we might call its opposite.  A good conscience should be able to ask about any sinful action whether it is a sin derived either from a habit that has been formed or from resolute malice.

A sinner who rejoices in sinfulness, in particular actions contrary to the Ten Commandments and other Commandments of the Church is acting with resolute malice.  Those who develop a sinful habit such as using foul language do not act sinfully "purposefully and resolutely."  Therefore, it is our obligation to examine our sinfulness so as to understand fully the seriousness of our actions, our failings before the eyes of God.

The man we memorialize today does offer us some matter for consideration ... not for fear and trepidation about our sinfulness.  Rather he offers for our consideration a distinction to help us in our efforts to live our lives as God has called us to live them.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Announcing Evangelist Luke

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
Reading - Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Today's readings seem to be making us ready for Lent not simply by their length but by the introduction of Jesus in public ministry as well as the Evangelist's own words of introduction of himself. While the first reading draws attention to the early Church and the problems that existed before and after the destruction of the Jewish sacred city, Jerusalem, the gospel reading truly is a gem for our reflection and prayer.  Indeed this reading in its own way is laying the  foundation for us to come to realize perhaps as never before how Jesus lived prior to the days of his passion and death.

Luke's presentation of himself in the first four verses and the presentation of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee.  There he will  teach/introduce the meaning of the  Kingdom of God.  There are a number of people who are attracted to the presentations by this Evangelist.  They are people, some of significant wealth, and others ordinary people who find themselves concerned about about where there faith is going and what has happened to the promises of Yahweh and some of the "isms" challenging the Jesus teachings.  The technical name for this stance is theodicy.  My built-in computer dictionary defines theodicy as follows:  "the branch of theology that defends God's goodness in the face of the existence of evil."  It exists, I suggest, even in our world today.  Many have asked themselves and others "How can a good God allow that 20 six year old children be slaughtered along with teachers and administrators?"  The people listening to Luke were asking about the future and the seeming failure of Yahweh to keep his promises to their ancestors who suffered the destruction of Jerusalem.

Beginning his ministry Jesus returns to the temple where he was known.  He will inaugurate his teaching about the meaning of the Kingdom.  It is important to take note of these words in the gospel: Jesus says "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me."  He is affirming to those present that he is no ordinary teacher.  He speaks with the power of the Holy Spirit.  We must remember that Luke always likes to present Jesus as the teacher, a respected position in the Jewish communities.  Luke uses this position to strengthen Jesus' fulfilling God's promises.  

Likewise it is also important to take note of Jesus' final words.  "Today," he say, "this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."  The word "today" is to be understood as a each day in the future.  It is not just the one day that Jesus is in the temple, reading from the sacred writings.

As you read these gospel verses from St. Luke, understand them as words inviting you and me to always be mindful of what Jesus' mission is meant to be.  He will speak to us with the power of the Holy Spirit; he is the teacher who comes to present us with the fact that God is always faithful to his promises.  Each day we live in the reality of the Father's kingdom.  We live embraced by his love for us.  We are the top of his concerns-for- today list.

As we begin the countdown to Lent, this Lucan text is truly an invitation to come to know this Son of God, this man Jesus, perhaps as never before -- truly the invitation to a more powerful Lent in our lives.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013

Jesus versus the Pharisees.  This is what we witness today.  For what?  As we know Jewish law was very demanding of the individual believer and practice near of Jewish law.  There were more than 600 laws the people had to observe every day of their lives.  As we consider some of their "person vs law" moments, our modern thinking shrugs the shoulders in amazement and disbelief.  Rules for the Sabbath day were and continue to be quite stringent for Orthodox Jews in particular.

Jesus knows what the Pharisees are ready to do if Jesus heals the infirm man.  That would be considered work on a Sabbath.  Today, for example if a person wants to light a stove on the Sabbath, that is considered a violation of the laws!

Underlying the event in this part of St. Mark's gospel is a teaching about the difference between the law and the spirit of the law.  In the times of Jesus, he is teaching that the spirit of the law should be given more understanding.  In our modern times perhaps we should consider how our focus might be better aimed at the law itself.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013, Tuesday

Throughout the presentation of the Inaugural Address, President Obama made many remarks that made me consider whether the Holy Spirit truly was with the man as he prepared his speech.  Throughout the day, as I listened to the various TV news personalities make their observations about the Address, I heard the same thought being expressed.  Yet, to me the TV folks seemed reluctant to use the word biblical or spiritual to describe some of the remarks.

Perhaps, because the subject is one that opens up challenges to politicians, neither the President nor the TV anchors seemed willing to mention the Pro Life stance that is so much a concern for people in the USA today.

At this time of each year, thousands arrive in DC for something other than an Inauguration of the recently elected President.  These supporters come to give their support to the care of unborn children.

On this day, let us make time to pray for the unborn children.  Furthermore, let us pray for the women, especially the young girls who are contemplating going not for help but for the removal of the problem through an abortion.

As happens on occasion, the visitors who come to speak out against abortion through their presence in our city are confronted with snow, sleet or bitter cold.  Nevertheless these committed individuals do not stand back from the winds and chills of the march to the Supreme Court to express their opposition to abortion.  Let us pray for them and their committment to the voice of the Holy Spirit they recognize in their hearts.

Each of us can ask ourselves:  "Where do I stand in this matter?  What value do I give to the life of the unborn child that is living peacefully within its mother's womb? "

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2nd Sunday of Ordinary TIme

Here we are at the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ... still at the beginning of this new year.  Christmas seems to me to be as far away as the most recent July 4th celebrations.  The readings for this particular Sunday remind us that if we take the time to look around, we can come upon very clear instances that call forth from us the need, yes, the need to rejoice in the Lord.  We hear that command often but I ask, "Is it a reality your life, my life?   Do we daily stop and 'rejoice in the Lord.'"

Folks, Isaiah puts before us his conviction that the Lord will restore Jerusalem.  From 'forsaken' the holy city "shall be a glorious crown in the hands of the Lord.  Isaiah feels that the relationship between God and Jerusalem can be likened to the delight, the joy, the confidence a bridegroom has in and for his bride.  Furthermore, God will rejoice in Jerusalem with the same expectations.  How often do parents have the joy and honor to rejoice in the successes of a child?  Just visit a campus on graduation day:  you will see the reality of rejoicing in another person.  Earlier this morning, it was so evident in the family of Vice President Biden as he was sworn in as the Vice President for a second time.  They were rejoicing in my husband, Dad, Grandpop, uncle etc.  This is the message of today's readings, I say  again, "rejoice in the Lord."

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians as well as all humankind that God has entrusted to us, to each and every person, the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Please give your undivided attention to the following words.  "... (God) who produces all of them (the gifts) in everyone."  This, too, is a reason for joy, for rejoicing in the Lord.  And note in the text of Paul's letter that these gifts are given to each of us not as gifts for our own closet but as gift to "benefit" others.  Now read with care and attention the gifts that the Apostle lists for the Corinthians.  These are the Spirit's gifts to YOU.  And consider this today:  which of these gifts is the strongest in your character?  Don't be afraid to consider your greatness.  This is what the Spirit wants of each of us so that we know well what we can do to follow the directions expressed by the great King David in the 96th Psalm.  This is what it means to "rejoice in the Lord:

Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

A keen insight from a 3rd year med student at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska:  If you ever feel uncertain about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that God wishes you to use to the fullest of your capabilities, consider what happened at the Cana wedding feast.  Near embarrassment, the bridegroom was almost out of wine and reception was hardly underway.  What to do?  Oh, Mary, the mother of Jesus is here with her son. Ask her help in getting her son to do something.  And what were those words of direction from the mother of the Son of God?  Five simple words should never be forgotten by us: "Do whatever he tells you."  Words so clear and to the point:  if we have doubts, turn to the Lord and Jesus will give a road map to the Holy Spirit.  In bringing your needs to Jesus in prayer, you will find over time that the answer you seek will be given to you.  I honestly believe it will not take much time if you spend some time with Jesus in prayer because God want us to fulfill our mission that is clearly typed in blue above:  Announce his salvation.  If you and I make known, make evident to others  our ability to rejoice in the Lord, only God knows what successes we can have in spreading the Kingdom.

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18, 2013, Friday

Psalm 78: 3-4

What we have heard and know,
and what our fathers have declared to us,
we will declare to the generation to come
The glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength.

These words express the heartfelt hopes and pledges of parents as well as all who see that they have a role in the future for their children or for the world.  They express as well the hope that their lives were blessed by their ancestors.

As you read those words or heard someone speaks them, did they mean anything to you?  Again these words can be so easily passed over either because they are not new to you or because you were not particularly moved by them.

You might ask this question: "Do I see myself as having a purpose in this life for myself and/or my world?"  Furthermore you might ask yourself "Do I sense an obligation to the future: for myself, my Church, my nation or my community, especially my family?

It is a weekend of new beginnings for a national government.  Sure "legacy" is on the minds of our leaders.  Perhaps it is also a time for each of us to consider what each of us would like future generations to think about us and what good we might have done with our lives for others.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15, 2013, Tuesday

Today's gospel has a description of Jesus which actually calls upon us to examine in further prayer and study how he surprised those gathered in the Temple at Capernaum on the Sabbath.  As Mark recalls, the people were astonished by Jesus' teaching.  They learned "actions speak louder than words."  A man possessed screamed out while Jesus was speaking.  He said "I know who you are -- the Holy One of God."  The man went into convulsions and Jesus said to the Evil One "Come out of him."  One last scream and the Evil One left the man.  Obviously those present were overwhelmed.  Here was a teacher with a new kind of authority not witnessed before.

Let's place ourselves in our world today with several questions meant to help us in our understanding of  the man Jesus.  There are so many situations which challenge our relationship with Jesus every hour of every day. -- events which we might pass over to readily.

Here is one question: "Do you think or believe that Jesus has authority?"  Another question:  "How do you react to his authority as your think or believe it to be?  Does it have as much strength as the radar trap that we know exits and to which we immediately slow down our cars?  Is his authority the kind you honestly feel to be enabling or is his authority too overpowering?  Does our Church help or hinder your personal understanding of Jesus' authority?

Imagine you are walking in downtown DC, on Capitol Hill, which has an abundance authority symbols.  If your were to go to the Lincoln Memorial and Jesus walks out from behind President Lincoln's seated memorial, what would you think if Jesus asked you what you thought of the words carded in the wall behind the 16th President?  Can you say anything similar about Jesus and his mission were you charged with inscribing words behind a shrine or monument to Jesus?  This may well reflect how you view Jesus' authority in your life.  By the way, the words are not the Gettysburg Address!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 14, 2013, Monday

Last evening just before beginning this reflection on the selection from Mark's gospel, I spent some time speaking with someone who is retiring after a lifetime in the same work -- close to fifty happy years.  Now a long time ago beginning is ending but a new beginning is about to unfold ... and it is frightening.

Imagine the feelings of the apostles who were called by Jesus to join his group.  Giving up their professions to work  with a man they did know.  Perhaps they had heard some talk about this man.  Most likely then had also heard that John the baptizer had been incarcerated.  Might these future apostles have some reservations because of John's connection with Jesus.

You may not feel God tugging you away from your current vocational works.  However, at this beginning time of new ways of living your life each of us must feel at the outset of a new year, you must have some strange feelings.  Are you absolutely sure God wants you to repeat last year's way of life?  None of us is a saint.  Again our challenge is to ascertain through prayer and reflection what God wants of me for this year.  I suspect all of us know that there have been encounters with sin in the last year.

So today can you peacefully write what you believe it is that God is asking you to change for this new year?  Truly a challenge!!!

Baptism of Jesus

January 13, 2013, Sunday

Is 42:1-4, 6-7
Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Acts 10"34-38
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

For the last several evenings I have be rereading one of the many treasures produced by the late Father Henri Nouwen.  His insights have been most helpful to me and my personal spiritual journey in the middle and later years of my priesthood.  Today's feast of the Baptism of Jesus I am linking to the Nouwen book, Home Tonight.  Why?  In this feast day it is again one of the moments of beginnings and the reflection on the return of the Prodigal Son spurred into reality by Fr. Nouwen's sitting before Rembrandt's painting The Return of the Prodigal Son housed at the Hermitage Art Gallery in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In today's readings we do focus on the baptism but presented to us as a sign of God's love for the Son as well as ourselves.  While it is the baptism of Jesus it is an event that relates to all God's children.  The  reflection from Father Nouwen reminds us of God's love for us despite our errant ways.

As we know our entry into the Christian community comes about through the pouring of water in the ritual of the Sacrament of Baptism.  The experience of the prodigal son is a reminder that our God always welcomes us back into the community of believers whenever we have distanced ourselves from the love of God.  It is a reminder that God never closes the door to the community to the sinner who returns, seeking the forgiveness of the Father.

In the ritual of the sacrament of Baptism we receive a white garment.  The painting recounting the father's moment of welcome to the atoning son pictures a beaten down young man with worn and tattered clothing.  In painting the young man in this way, Rembrandt knowingly or not, the damages done by sin to the white garment of our baptism.  In that sacrament the Father welcomes us into the power of his forgiveness.  In the absolution from our sins God the Father embraces us just as the father embraced the errant son.  In baptism he welcomed us just as he recognized Jesus and proclaimed him to be "my beloved Son."

Let us recall our own baptism moment and its meaning for us, seeing it a a beginning to our journey in our Church community.  Let us give the Lord God thanks for this gift of this sacrament and his reassurance that despite our sinfulness we are always welcomed anew when we turn to the Father seeking his forgiveness.

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11, 2013, Friday

Today's gospel:  Jesus' healing touch curing the leprosy that afflicted a man.  We are truly blessed by our Church's liturgists who at some time in the past selected the readings for the days of the Christmas season even through the days after Epiphany.  These stories, these event are a reminder in very human experiences of the wondrous gift our God has given us in the person of his Son.

What is the gift Jesus gives the leper?  Perhaps we might ask what are the giftS Jesus gives?  Put yourself in the picture.  What would be your reaction?  Would there be a sense of gratitude?  Would you think about Jesus' action.  He touched a leper!  In those days that would mean Jesus would be subject to the law for touching such an outcast.

As you read this event, it is important to recognize your reaction to what happened.  Would you go over to the cured man and give a hug of celebration or would you do nothing until a doctor gave the man an all clear note?

It is a cause for pause:  Jesus healed so many by his touching.  In doing so he also touched the community:  is there not a moment of gratitude when we learn someone has overcome cancer?  How important is the simple human touch in our various experiences?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10, 2023, Thursday

The sands of 2013 have almost put two weeks of time in the hour glass of this new year.  Yet we when we look at this spent time in another way, we have only used 3% of the year.  Now might be  time to evaluate those resolutions made in the days of Christmas celebration.  Perhaps at this time we might realize that we may have been shooting for the moon or that we have not honestly looked at what we should be doing to better our lives.

Today's readings continue to lay before us positive issues where each of us can think "This is where I should focus my attention."  Why do I focus your attention on this?  I personally feel this new year is a time when God is offering you, my readers and me, fertile soil for planting the seeds of good works that will make this a good year for us.  I know this:  if I seriously consider where God wants me to till the soil of the earth, his people, I know that I do not need waiting until the dark cold days of December to evaluate whether or not this has been a good year for me.  If I get about doing what God is asking of me for this year, I will feel the success of my resolutions within a few weeks or months.

Reread the first reading.  Focus not so much on the issue of the love we must have for our sisters and brothers.  Rather, read 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9,2013 - Wednesday


After yesterday's thoughts about how I look at the powerful presence of self-giving, today today we might look at a consequence of a hardened heart.  When true self-giving is absent in my life, I do open myself, my heart and mind, to the pains brought on by fear.  When love is a stranger in my heart, fears easily take up residence.  The story Mark presents is explained by the final sentence of this selection.  Fear built up in the hearts of the sea-tossed disciples.  They had just experienced Jesus' love for the folks who wanted to learn about God.  They were also physically hungry.  Jesus knew that and fed them.  Yet, once in a boat and fighting a storm, his disciples seemed to forget the lesson of that feed of more than 5000 men with minimal supplies.  Apparently Jesus' self-giving did not sink in.  The power of the sea-storm, however, did open the disciples' heart to great fear. Where was their trust in Jesus, the friend, their teacher?

When fear takes over in my heart, shouldn't I consider if I am forgetting the self-giving of Jesus?  Do I trust only when all is going well?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The first four verses of the first reading are dangerous!  They contain one word that can be easily misunderstood because it is so frequently used or misused. It is a word whose meaning, as used by the Evangelist St. John, if fully understood, could change my life radically.  If I could grasp its fullness, my life would be very different -- so teach the theologians, philosophers, psychologists and spiritual directors.  The word is a small word packed with great treasure.  It is "love."  Now, if you would, reread the four verses but change the word "love" to "self-giving."  Listen to yourself as you read it aloud, if you can.  Perhaps you have never thought of love this way.

What does it mean to answer the question "Do you love God?" with a response such as "Of course I do.  Yes, I love God."  What does it mean that I love God?  Practically speaking, what does it mean for your day-to-day living.  After trying this, try the same exercise with "Does God love me?"  Do get beyond the trite and well-worn answer, "Yes, God loves me."  I may think or say this without giving serious thought to such a quick response.  Remember the parable about the seeds falling onto the different types of soil, in particular the soil that is hardened, compacted by so much walking on the soil. The seed has little chance of getting its rooting system working on such soil.

I should give thanks to the Evangelist for his words of understand the depths and breadth of the self-giving God.  I should let my heart speak to my mind about how much I really understand about this word love as it relates to my God and my God's love relates to me. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Historians teach that John the Baptist was arrested by Herod around the year 29AD.  At about the same time or a little after, Jesus said the words above. What can we take from these words?  It is important for us to have as clear an understanding of the meaning of this sentence as possible.  "Why?", you might ask.  Well, some may believe that we are working our way to the kingdom of God. If that is the case, what, then, does Jesus mean that the kingdom is at hand?   Does it mean that what some believe (the kingdom is something later, after our death) is different from this kingdom Jesus is talking about.

Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio #15 tried to assist us learn something about a challenging topic:

In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God's plan of salvation in all its fullness.

It is about salvation. To explain it fully is impossible in a short space.  Let me offer several points.

1.  This kingdom is one where God has supremacy.
2.  This the seed for this kingdom can found in the Church as established by Jesus to bring his message and the Father's will to those in the Church.
3.  This kingdom is to be found in heaven from whence Jesus has come as King and Founder.
4.  There will be a time of conflict in the kingdom of God on earth before the final victory of this kingdom of heaven.

so we can understand that the kingdom of God has two parts prior to the final ending on earth.

So, a little heavy theology to distract those suffering the Redskins' Wild Card loss on Sunday!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Throughout most of the Christian world, January 6th is the annual celebration of the arrival or coming of the Three Wise Men.  It is a fitting conclusion to Christmas Day and the many feast in the season.  The arrival of the Magi marks a seeking and finding, a beginning and end, an arrival and a sending forth.  It has been the insights of Jesuit Larry Gillich (Creighton University Daily Reflections) that make this day different from all the previous markings of this particular and perhaps peculiar feast day I have celebrated.

Just twelve days ago believers and non-believers arose perhaps earlier than on most holidays, especially if here are non-believers snuggled between parents or blankets.  All of us are responding to a built in "seek and you will find" mentality toward the colorful boxes beneath or around the Christmas tree.  Surely after a few days what was discovered lose their attraction for many, especially those who received perhaps too many gifts.

In the Christmas manger scenes, the three kings, men who had studied the stars with the singular hope that they could discover the promised ruler, the longed-for Messiah, came upon the place where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were.  As you look upon or imagine a creche, you might ask this question:  "What are Jesus and the Magi teaching?  What is the their true impact?" Their message might be stated simply this way:  what we humans discover or come upon will, at a future time, become a cause of dissatisfaction that leads to fresh startings.  This insight about the Magi and Jesus is new to  me, I must admit.

So all our comings may result in more than we initially expected but, but, but there will be a moment when that excitement or satisfaction diminishes.  

Throughout the Scriptures did you ever notice that those who were able to be with Jesus found themselves with him only for a relatively short time.  Think of the shepherds, the Magi, the multitudes Jesus fed and even those who ran to the Easter Sunday opened grave site.   Jesus knew it was better, more good-life producing not to encourage hanging on to them.  He, not the seeking individuals, is the true finder. Jesus would have us move apart because "human-heart" searchings need to encounter a number of different discovery moments.  This is truly an enriching way for humankind to make discoveries that provide lasting impacts on the heart and soul.

Larry Gillick, SJ, mentioned earlier, wrote this:  "Jesus is not the reward for those who can figure him out by deep thinking."  There is so much to Jesus that our human minds and hearts cannot fully comprehend.  Why is it that most cabdrivers and barbers never grow tired of their profession? Certainly it cannot be the income!  Every time the barber's bib is put around our necks, it happens  that the barber is setting out on a new venture with his next client. Each customer is a discovery of a new experience in life.  A cabdriver is no different.  Each has become somewhat different after the customer goes his/her way.  There are 6 barbers where I have my hair cut.  Imagine the conversations about their customers and the insights among the barbers as the "CLOSED" sign is lighted and the men finish the long day.  With a cabbie you only have to be the next customer to know what your "chauffeur" is thinking! 

The shepherds and Magi came, praised God in the Child Jesus and then departed, enriched by the finding, successful in their seeking and then moving on to share their discovery.  Perhaps when we hear said or ourselves say "Jesus is the answer." we might be mistaken because more often than not Jesus is the question! There is a real chance we might find ourselves learning more about ourselves and others in meeting Jesus.  Thinking "finding Jesus" is not an end in itself.  It is just another beginning we discover in our prayer and in our wonderings.  As Gillick noted, "There is no ... limit to our surrendering the total control of the wealth of our minds, imaginations and ego."  This might recall Ignatius Loyola:  "Take all my mind, my memory, my will; all that I own.

The real discovery of Epiphany is that in that moment of discovery we actually notice that we are allowing God to discover us.  We have to realize that Jesus has come to us purposefully to be with us in spirit and not simply to satisfy our seeking. Like the Magi, we seek to find this Child even in our lives today and to discover we are the ones who are found and missioned to other towns and places to seek, to find, to start again.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Feast of
St. John Neumann

Once upon a time but not a long time ago, a short man in a black coat was walking towards his home, the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul located in the City of Brotherly Love.  The man was John Neumann.  He was returning from a mission of mercy an love.  He had just taken the Blessed Sacrament to a sick person.  Before reaching the steps leading to his residence, he collapsed and died on the steps of a Philadelphia row house.  He was and continues to be a model for us.

Blogger:  When did we first receive this message about loving one another?
St. John:  Well, as far back as Cain and Abel we saw what we should not do.  The murder of Abel buy his brother shattered the notion we need to show love to each other.

Blogger:  What brought Cain to kill Abel, St. John?
St. John:  Because Cain was a man of evil doings.  He could not endure Abel's righteousness.  No different in your times, is it?
Blogger:  No, it is not.  But what should we gather from this senseless killing of a brother by a brother?
St. John:  This is a reminder to you event in your times that your good moral and ethical lives do create jealousy and/or anger.  I want to remind you that not loving is remain in death or darkness.
Blogger:  Wow!  You surely take this loving one another quite seriously.

St. John:  Not just me but Yahweh spokle about love and respect of one another through the words of the prophets and Jesus spoke about this challenge on behalf of his Father.  Think of those who sacrificed their lives because they tried to make the commandment of love a reality in their life times.

Blogger:  Why is this love commandment so important?
St. John:  Because Jesus taught us the importance of love not just in his words.  He laid down his life because he loved us so much.  So, is there any reason we who have been given new life and redemption should not love our brothers and sisters?

Blogger:  Can you suggest one way people of our times can show their true love for others.
St. John:  Sure, let me do that.  If there is anyone who has been gifted with earthly means, there should be no walking away from a sister or brother who is in need.
Blogger:  Wow!  There you go again.  You like to put burdens on us, don't you?

St. John:  Well, throughout his life, Jesus told everyone that love cannot work just in words and speech.   It has to be put to the test in actions, in deeds and in truth.
Blogger:  Well, St. John, you have taught me a few insights so easily overlooked in our busy world.  There are really many people just in my community who are in need in a variety of ways.  I know that if I take some time each day reading one or both readings used in the daily celebration of the Eucharist, I will come to a deeper realization of the extraordinary value you personally saw and practiced in this love commandment.  Perhaps you can help me by interceding for me with Jesus, the Father or the Holy Spirit for the graces I need to make certain I do not overlook the opportunities to demonstrate my love to others.  I have the example of Jesus for sure.  But there is a man whose life we recall today who can be a model for all of us in how we practice our love for one another.  I am sure you have encountered him in heaven!


A light-hearted reflection for a rather serious way of living one's life.
Fine for a Saturday morning.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

January 4, 2012

Today's gospel offers an interesting opportunity to consider how what happened to the men who were called to follow Jesus was not and is not a singular event.  Even in our times there are moments when God uses others to be his assistant in bringing others to know him and even others who have known but left his company to return to his company.

The saint we honor today is an example, at least in my viewpoint, of someone who took the opportunity to listen to the voice of God speaking to her through people not known as proclaimed saints.  Elizabeth Seton was not a born Catholic.  Most of your young life was spent in the Episcopalian Church.  Her life had so many different and unexpected turns.  Her mother died when Elizabeth was very young.  Her father later left the stepmother and the children.  This stepmother was very active in the Episcopalian Church, frequently taking Elizabeth with her to bring food and other needs to the less fortunate.  Elizabeth married William Seton when she was but 19 years old.  Their marriage brought 5 children into the world.  Elizabeth's husband had business and health issues that brought him to Italy for a time a recuperation.  However, while there he died.  Elizabeth remained with her husband's Italian business partner's family.  In that living situation Elizabeth was introduced to the Roman Catholic Church.

Returning to the USA, Elizabeth turned to teaching and eventually accepted an invitation from and the support of the Sulpician Fathers to begin a school for poor children.  Quickly Elizabeth founded what was to be the first free Catholic school in the USA.  Then she founded a religious community of women for teaching poor children, the Sisters of Charity, the first religious community of women in the USA.  Two firsts for the lady!

A lengthy story.  Yet recall how open Elizabeth was to the will of God for her in so many different circumstances.  Each major event in her life actually being a formative part of the great woman that she was and the extraordinary work she did in Emmitsburg especially.  Each one of the difficult moments as well as the good moments were an invitation from God to answer his call to her.

None of us is free from such experiences.  What we need to recognize is God's call comes to individuals in many ways ... not always the way we would expect.  Clearly Elizabeth learned to listen to each event as an expression of God's call to her.

When trying to discern God's will, it does not hurt to request from this outstanding woman.  Let her help you clear you heart and ears to know God's will. 

Elizabeth was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1975 and, alas, was added to the Calendar of Saints for the Episcopalian Church in 2009. (Dual citizenship!!!)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thursday before Epiphany

January 3, 2013

The first clause of the first sentence of today's first reading captured my mind.  What does the phrase "righteous God mean to me especially in a biblical and/or theological context?  Don't we pass over such words rather easily?  The Hebrew bible uses the phrase "righteous" God more than 500 times.  In Nehemiah 9:7-8 the frequent use of the phrase refers to Yahweh's fidelity to the covenant.  In the New Testament the phrase is used more than 200 times to signify the consequence of upright moral action in accord with some kind of divine plan.  St. Paul sees and teaches that righteousness comes by faith.

We live in a time of the world's history when "righteousness"  is a strange, rarely used word.  Furthermore our times are marked by an infrequent use of this word.  Yet, it might be a strange sounding sentence to say there might be a genuine need for some people to call others to treat others with righteousness!

Perhaps our bumping into what some might consider a word from the too distant past during this first week of the new calendar year may be a signal.  Maybe God is calling some of us to establish more clearly and strongly in our lives an effort to bring "righteousness" awareness back to our communities.  Such an action might well surprise some folks.  I believe our Baptism and Confirmation challenge us to make righteousness a reality in our lives and to call it for what it is.   Just using the word in conversation could be a thought stopper that brings an awareness of moral and ethical practices.

See what using a rarely used phrase can bring about! 

Wednesday before Epiphany

As mentioned in recent postings, in these beginning days of the year, we might find ourselves confronting an ages-old question:  "Really, am I?" (Those who have seen the new movie production of  Les Miserables may recall a song by that name.)  It is a natural question if there have been moments seeking to learn what resolutions for change are suitable and needed at the outset of a new year for this life of mine?"

Read carefully the words of the gospel.  Look at John the preacher, teacher and baptizer.  Listen to his words.  He seems to be in possession of a serene understanding of who he is and what his mission is in his life.  He does not get excited by the authorities who are questioning his activities, his preaching.  He conveys calm even later as he approached his death.

For us today how do we handle ourselves especially in moments that challenge our personal faith (my personal relationship with Jesus Christ)?  There are more of these moments than we realize at first glance.  The hot button issues of our times raise many questions and/or difficult social moments put before us by friends, family or colleagues.  The underlying question is truly this:  "And what is it in fact that you honestly believe?"  What issues?  Issues like birth control, abortion, premarital sex, abuse of a sponsor or children, accepting Church teachings that contradict accepted social mores.  These are the foundations of many issues that define the intensity of our/my relationship with God.  Indeed these are the realities that have created martyrs in days past.

As the new year begins, we can ask "Can I live a life of faith that God puts before me?"