Saturday, November 22, 2014

For the Least

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—oracle of the Lord GOD.  The lost I will search out, the strays I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, and the sick I will heal; but the sleek and the strong I will destroy.  I will shepherd them in judgment.  Ezekiel 34:15-16

When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.  1 Corinthians 15:28

Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:37-40

Piety is our response to the Lord who rules from the Tree of Life.  The Cross of Christ is his throne.  His call is on our hearts from what he does on the cross in giving his life for ours.  Our piety challenges us to be the good news of God’s love for us in Christ.  We die with Christ to rise with him.  We are his presence in completing with all we do the good news of salvation.

How special is Christ to those who love him.  Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  We see him as the love of our life.  We watch how he does things in the gospels and want to do the same.  Christ opens the scriptures up by his willingness to be our life.  He feeds us with his life and we are blood brothers and sisters by the Eucharist of his body and blood that we share.  The world was created through him and for him. He is the King of our universe.  The most significant person of life pales in his presence.  He gives us all of his life.  When we let him die for us we are born again in his person.  We have been baptized into being his life for our world.  We give all of ourselves back to him.

Because he has died for us, he lives again by the victory of his Resurrection in all of us.  Whatever we do for the least one of our brothers and sisters, he considers done for himself.  The Victory of the Cross and his Resurrection live in all of us because he is the ultimate meaning of the love we have for one another.  Christ rules our hearts.  The victory of the cross lives in us as the Resurrection grace.  His love is the love of our hearts, which we have for each other.  He rules the world in the victory of the Resurrection.  He is part and parcel of all the good we do. Christ is the king of life and the ruler of heaven.  His dominion is forever.

All Are Alive

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

But after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God entered them.  When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them.  Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here.”  So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.  Revelation 11:11-12

Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  Luke 20:34-38

Joyful Gospel Acclamation
Bless the lips of those proclaiming God’s Good News – proclaiming God’s Good News today
Bless the ears that by our listening we may hear – we may hear the words they say.
Bless the minds with understanding, so we hear the message clear
Bless the eyes that in our looking we may see – may see the Lord!

These last days and weeks of the liturgical year have many readings which help us to commemorate the mysterious, joyful, sorrowful and glorious events which unfolded throughout the year and daily.  While Revelation opens new doors, behind these doors echo the voices of the whole year.

Fear.  A young girl in Palestine finds herself with child.  He fiancĂ© contemplates leaving her. 

A breath of life. Nativity. In the Upper Room, receive the Holy Spirit.
Up to Heaven in a Cloud.  Ascension.

Voice of God. Baptism.  Transfiguration.

Enemies looked on.  Temptation in the desert. Pharisees in the temple.

All Are Alive. The resurrection stories that pave the way for the Resurrection and move forward.


On Twitter today, Scott Simon of National Public Radio share the message above.  How true.  November 22 is never just a date.  Last year, the news media was overly focused on the events in Dallas as they had occurred 50 years ago.  
However, the 51st anniversary has less significance for cultural news coverage even though the events remain a critical example for the continuity of our way of life through tragedy.

Those who were alive on November 22, 1963 remember where they were when they heard about the shots that rang out in Dealey Plaza.  Today’s column by Colbert King reminds us of the continuity and the interruption that happened that day.

Daily we also are reminded of what happened on the hillside in Jerusalem 2014 years ago. Three nails.  A sword.  A crown of thorns. A cross from which hangs the lifeless body of an itinerant preacher from Nazareth who riled up the powers that be.   As his body died that day, he interrupted the pattern of the sins of our past and ushered in redemption for all who came before and all who would follow afterward.

Unlike other anniversaries, the dates for Good Friday and Easter on our calendars change from year to year.  Although the Nativity if fixed on December 25, the most holy days on our calendar shift.  Maybe that is good so that we can remember these events every day.  Maybe that is good so we do not forget the meaning of the daily celebration of the Mass.  All are alive thanks to that itinerant preacher who walked among us and left behind his Holy Spirit and our eternal mission.  All are commissioned to carry out his ministry and pay his act of love forward. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Take the Scroll

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Melanie Rigney

I, John, heard a voice from heaven speak to me. Then the voice spoke to me and said: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went up to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. He said to me, “Take and swallow it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.” I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand and swallowed it. In my mouth it was like sweet honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then someone said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” (Revelation 10:8-11)

How sweet to my taste is your promise! (Psalms 119:103a)

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Luke 19:45-46)

Lord, grant me the faith to be obedient to you, in suffering and in joy.

Today, I finish up a Marian consecration exercise, courtesy of Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. The readings have been short, couple of pages most days, with wisdom from Sts. Louis de Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe, and John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. While you can start the “retreat” any time you like, Father Gaitley recommends beginning so that you conclude on one of seventeen Marian feast days. I went with this one because a friend gave me the book in late September. Coincidentally, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the days I knew the least about.

Mary and I have become closer in the past two or three years, and I’ve grown to greatly admire her “yes” to God; her Magnificat; her presence on her son’s walk to Calvary; and all that pondering in her heart of all that was going on. But I’d never really considered her as a child. That facet of her life doesn’t appear in the New Testament. Legend and tradition tell us she was born to the aged, childless Joachim and Anne, and that she was taken to the temple when she was three or so, perhaps remaining to study until she was twelve. There are reports that both her parents died while she was there.

Today’s first reading from Revelation tells us of a small scroll that tastes sweet in the narrator’s mouth, then sour in his stomach, sweet because it told of God’s people’s victories, sour because it also told of the people’s sufferings. In some ways, Mary’s life was a series of sweet and sour: her intelligence and opportunity to learn at the temple at the same time she might have been mourning her parents’ deaths. Her yes to being the Mother of God while sitting with Joseph’s initial concerns. Hearing Simeon’s words that her son was the Christ but that both would suffer greatly. Her message to the servants at Cana of obedience, and then demonstrating that same obedience by being present as Jesus carried his cross.

How to take in the profundity of Mary? How to consecrate ourselves to her, and through her, to the Lord? I find wisdom in a passage from Maximilian Kolbe in 33 Days:

I don’t know anything, either in theory and still less in practice, about how one can serve the Immaculata … She alone must instruct each one of us at every moment, (and) lead us…

Spend some time with Mary today talking about a slice of her life that resonates with you as we prepare for Advent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saw the City and Wept

“Worthy are you to receive the scroll and break open its seals, for you were slain and with your Blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation.  You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.”  Revelation 5:9-10

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.  For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.”  Luke 19:41-43

Be Not Afraid – Bob Dufford, St. Louis Jesuits
You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me, and
I will give you rest.

The short and fast but long and slow journey which began in the temple of Nazareth starts to draw to a close in the temple of Jerusalem.  At the quiet beginning, Jesus picked up a scroll and began to read from it and all were amazed.  That Nazareth manifesto shocked some people – not for what was said but for what was left unsaid.  Those waiting for vengeance were sorely disappointed.

Today, in the penultimate week of the liturgical year, our readings from Revelation remind us of that innocent lamb reading from the prophet Isaiah.  This warning delivered in Luke 19 recalls the actual way that the good-for-nothing crowds turned on Jesus after his powerful preaching in chapter 4.  For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. 

Those days are already here.  In the beginning of the Gospel from Luke, Jesus escapes from those who wish to do harm to him. 

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.  But he passed through the midst of them and went away.  Luke 4:28-30

As his journey moves into Jerusalem, a similar escape will not be so easy. The cup will not pass from his holy hands this time.  In little more than a month, we will celebrate the birth of a baby – the innocent lamb who will be led to the slaughter on the cross by a crowd of disbelievers.  

Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: “You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.” (Matthew 13:14)

Knowledge is fleeting.  Jesus reminds us how little we know.  However, it is not too late to open our minds to understanding, open our eyes to what the Lord would have us see.

If we stay where we are happy and contented, we will not stretch our minds and eyes and hearts to the world.  It is only when we venture across the barren desert, go where we do not know the path, or attempt to speak in foreign places that we can begin to understand everything from Isaiah to Revelation.

Where will you stretch today?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Work of a Lifetime

Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan
While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately.  So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.  He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’… (W)hen he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.  The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’  He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!  You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’  Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’  And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’  Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’  He said to him, ’With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant.  You knew I was a demanding man, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank?  Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’”  (Luke 19:11-13, 15-23)

O Lord, guide me throughout my days as I seek to shed what is not of you and to be conformed to the image of your Son.

Sometimes where a story is placed in the Gospels tells us almost as much as the content of the story itself.  Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem for the final time.  In the verses immediately preceding today’s Gospel reading, Jesus encounters the tax collector Zacchaeus.  He tells him to come down out of the tree.  Jesus says he needs to spend the night at his house. Zacchaeus’ encounter with the Lord is life-changing.   He is so transformed that he promises to give half of all he owns to the poor and to pay back 400 percent of any money he’s extorted from taxpayers along the way!

It’s for Zacchaeus’ benefit and ours, as well, that Jesus then goes on to tell the combined stories of the king who doesn’t return quickly from his journey and the parable of the 10 gold coins.  It’s wonderful that the tax collector so desires to follow Jesus and to extricate himself from the things of the world, but saying he’s going to and doing so are two different things.  Giving up the ways of this world to follow the Way of the Lord is the work of a lifetime.

We live awaiting the return of our King.  Just as the servants in the story are entrusted with gold coins and asked to do something with them while their master is gone, so God commissions each of us to grow spiritually, to be in relationship with God in prayer, to shed whatever ties us to the world and keeps us from wholeheartedly embracing the life of discipleship, to become more Christ-like in our dealings with others, and to sow the seeds of the Gospel wherever we go.

However, some of us are like the servant who hides his gold coin.  Where Zacchaeus begins is where we stop - with all kinds of good intentions.  Somehow we never get around to daily prayer and we remain fairly attached to the things and values of this world.

As Jesus tells the story, the “level” of spiritual growth we attain doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as the seeking and striving to grow in our faith and our dealings with all God’s people.  The King in the parable rewards any gain or growth. 

Looking back over your Fourth Day as a Cursillista, how have you grown spiritually?  How has Cursillo aided you in your spiritual journey?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Open Your Door to God

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

By Beth DeCristofaro

“‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.  I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne.  “‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:20-22)

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

O Lord, I humbly implore that what your Son commanded me to do in memory of him may bring me growth in charity.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen. (from today’s Liturgy, Prayer after Communion)

As we prepare to end the Liturgical Year, and the calendar year, and as Revelation talks of the end times it is as yet hard to visualize real ending.  After all, as the Liturgical Year ends Advent initiates a new one.  2015 will follow 2014.  Revelation speaks in symbols of the end of an age with a new age, the age of the Christ dawning.  In science cosmologists talk about what is outside the boundaries of our known universe.  A cartoon once circulating on the internet proclaimed:  “The End!” of the internet until you clicked away from it.

While Revelation speaks through imagery and allegory and calendars are human constructs, all of us do experience endings.  Loved ones die, plans go awry, dreams are obstructed, health is compromised, freedom is constrained, mountains bleed mud on unsuspecting villages, even our very persons face devastation through rape, trafficking, execution.  Human suffering is both chilling and evil but it is not the end.  God’s love and presence with and for us supersedes it and is immutable.  Our desire (knocking on the door) and transforming ourselves by the grace of God’s forgiveness through doing good in God’s name in order to help overcome evil and build the kingdom will show us in each ending where the new beginning is.  Christ invites us all to His Messianic feast.  May we look for opportunities to share that hope each day.

Zacchaeus, my ancestor in faith, was short in stature although probably very tall in riches and power in Jericho.  Where are my “short–comings?”  Do I take for granted my riches?  I can use my deficiencies as starting points to display God’s glory to the world with good works.  If I devote too much time to my career,  I take time for persons unemployed.  If I am overly concerned with my financial portfolio, I can help those in poverty by lobbying for just government policy.  If I spend too much time on clothes and appearance, volunteer with or advocate for the rights of abused children.  When I find myself too comfortable in my comfort zone, I can climb up out of it with someone in whom I never expected to find the face of Jesus.

Do the Works

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.  Revelation 2:5

The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  Luke 18:39

Prayer to Serve God Well
Father of Mercy, forgive my failings, keep me in Your Grace, and lead me in the way of salvation. Give me strength in serving You as a follower of Christ.  May the Eucharist bring me Your Forgiveness and give me freedom to serve You all my life.  May it help me to remain faithful and give me the grace I need in Your service.  May it teach me the way to eternal life.Top of Form Amen.

The blind man can see what the sighted cannot.  He "sees" and recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah by alluding to a title we first heard in the Canticle of Zechariah at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel.  (“He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant.”  Luke 1:69)  Not only does the blind man exhibit his faith, but also he admits to his sins and asks for Jesus to have pity on him for his frailties.

The sighted crowd does not get it.  Crowds do not fare too well in sacred history.  This one is no different.  Maybe that is because Jesus comes into the world to establish relationships one-on-one.  He comes to relate to Mary and Joseph.  His cousin John the Baptist.  The disciples whom he calls one-by-one.  The Roman centurion.  The woman at the well.  The blind beggar.  The leper.  The woman whose daughter is hemorrhaging.  The list goes on and on – but it is mostly individuals who have a personal account with Jesus and are changed. 

That does not ignore the crowds who are there listening to the Sermon on the Mount or the Sermon on the Plain.  However, there are not individual conversion stories that arise from those episodes.  Mostly we see Jesus working to get the personal relationship right while the crowds try to turn away the blind beggar, the children and those who would try to save Jesus from the executioner’s hammer and nails and sword.

Repent and do the works you did at first. 

Good works reminds me of some news stories and columns that advocate for national service.  Recently, there has been significant coverage of a movement for compulsory national service – either in the military or in civilian programs like AmeriCorps.  The arguments of those in favor of national service are compelling.  After college, I spent time in a service year helping to relocate Indo-Chinese boat people who came to America after the Vietnam War.  However, although I support the concept and the reality of a year of service, I stop short of making voluntarism compulsory. 

People should do the works that they can do.  However, with the free will with which we have all been graced, let's do it from our hearts, not from some compulsory law.

We all know the first line of the Declaration of Independence.  Here is the last sentence -- an idea we often forget: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.”

Rather than using this line to require national service, let's use it to inspire all to mutually pledge to do voluntary national and personal service.  Do the works. 

The Franklin Project

Stan McChrystal

Saturday, November 15, 2014


By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Acclaim her for the work of her hands, and let her deeds praise her at the city gates.  Proverbs 31:30-31

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  Matthew 25:29

How we use our talents for the sake of the Lord is a good measure of our piety.  In our gospel, if you did not know better, the talent appears a small sum of money.  In reality it was a great deal of money.  What is rewarded is not how much money was made but rather how well we use our talents.  Our talents in the gospel story are a responsibility.  The one who buried his talent because it seemed so little in comparison to the ones who had gotten more captures in a powerful way what happens in life.  Piety teaches us that there is no need to be jealous because we are judged not on how many talents we have, but rather on how well we use our talents.  Our piety shows itself in how we live our lives in imitation of what attracts us to Christ.  Christ emptied himself out of his use of his Godness so that he could be just like us.  How we try to be like him is our piety.

How we come to love and appreciate the talents God has given us is how we discover our identity before God.  How we study the possibilities around us as to what we can do is how we claim an identity before God.  Our study of the past reveals to us what we did not think ourselves capable of doing.  We learn by our study the need of trusting God.  We know that we will not be tempted beyond our talents.  We learn to let go and let God work in our lives.

Our talents are uncovered by our attempting to do what needs doing around us.  We put our talents to work in meeting the needs of our world.  We live up to our job responsibility and discover we have so much more to give.  Gradually we discover it is not what we are doing that matters so much as the love with which we do what we can.  There is a God meaning in all we do out of love because God is where there is love.  We offer our work as extensions of the ministry of Christ.  Our life gradually becomes the statement of how much God loves our world, as we are a part of God’s love.  The more we try to do in his name, the more he gives us to work with and to grow.  We enter into the joy of our God by growing in his work and sharing the Good News of Salvation.  

Co-Workers in the Truth

Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters, especially for strangers; they have testified to your love before the Church…For they have set out for the sake of the Name and are accepting nothing from the pagans.  Therefore, we ought to support such persons, so that we may be co-workers in the truth.  3 John 5-6, 8

The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?  Will he be slow to answer them?  I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:6-8

Blessed the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commands.  His descendants shall be mighty in the land, a generation of the upright will be blessed.  Wealth and riches shall be in his house; his righteousness shall endure forever.  Light shines through the darkness for the upright; gracious, compassionate, and righteous.  It is good for the man gracious in lending, who conducts his affairs with justice.  For he shall never be shaken; the righteous shall be remembered forever.  (Psalm 112:1-6)

If the dishonest judge will grant the wish of the persistent widow, Jesus suggests that God will not only do so as well to all who call on him consistently, but God will go ultra et supra -- above and beyond that example.  Putting these readings side by side with each other and with the headlines of the week are like a wake-up call on our duties to each other as humans.  

Last summer, our media were filled with the tragic stories about unaccompanied children crossing our borders.  These children are like the strangers referred to in the third letter of John.  While a debate is raging among politicians about what action the President will take or what action Congress will take, an article on Religion News Service explains that the nation’s Catholic bishops are jumping into the increasingly contentious battle over immigration reform by backing President Obama’s pledge to act on his own to fix what one bishop called “this broken and immoral system.”

Last Tuesday at the annual meeting, Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the USCCB would continue to work with both parties to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  However, Bishop Elizondo said, given the urgency of the immigration crisis, “it would be derelict not to support administrative actions … which would provide immigrants and their families’ legal protection.”

“We are not guided by the latest headlines but by the human tragedies that we see every day in our parishes and programs, where families are torn apart by enforcement actions especially,” he said.

How are our political and religious leaders like the judge in today’s story?  How are the poorest and voice-less like the poor widow?

We have all heard about charities that help to grant children with serious illnesses their wish.  Did you know that one third of those wishes are to visit specific resorts in central Florida?   Think mouse ears.  Such wishes are as persistent and numerous as the petition of the poor widow.  With thousands of such trips planned each year, where do all these families stay?

Enter the Give Kids the World Village.  Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.

Over 132,000 children have had their dream come true at Give Kids The World. No child in need has ever been turned away – and no child ever will. Give Kids The World is a place where families find joy, laughter, serenity, and a lifetime of memories. Through the tireless support of our volunteers, employees and generous partners, we dedicate each and every day to these special families.

As the holidays approach, we are often asking children what they want for Christmas.  Consider supporting the organization that supports all the organizations that grant wishes for children. Even better, when you take a vacation to see any of those central Florida attractions, spend half a day volunteering at Give Kids the World.  They always need a little maintenance, gardening and sprucing up to get ready for the next guest.  

Check out there How to Help page and while making your travel plans, also fill in their volunteer application.    

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What We Worked For

Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist. Look to yourselves that we do not lose what we worked for but receive a full recompense. (2 John 1:7-8)

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord! (Psalms 119:1)

(Jesus reminded the disciples of the destruction in the days of Noah and Lot, and said:) “So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, someone who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise one in the field must not return to what was left behind.” (Luke 17:30-31)

Lord, open my eyes to the temptations, people, and perceived obligations that would lead me away from You.

Ah, the memories.

Who doesn’t like to talk about Snowmageddon, the 2010 series of winter storms during which Washington ground to a halt, or the June 2012 derecho that left millions without power and was responsible for twenty-two deaths?

Or maybe you’ve got a story about where you were when the towers fell or when John or Bobby Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated or when the Berlin Wall fell.

And who could forget your wedding day, birth of your first child, or the death of your parents?

These are some of the memories by which we mark our lives, the big, eventful type of stuff.

Perhaps we’re less likely to remember the smaller events that threaten to eat away at our spiritual life: Just what it was that that new pastor said that was so awful we chose to skip Mass or go elsewhere rather than address it with him. Just what it was that annoyed us so much about that person who ran the ministry at the homeless shelter that we stopped volunteering. Just what pressing to-do on our list got us out of the habit of doing the daily readings or other spiritual study. Do you remember? Probably not. But your behavior changed as a result, and not for the better.

May we all be more vigilant when those events threaten what we have worked for: a nurturing relationship with the Lord and his people.

Make plans to revisit a spiritual practice or volunteer effort that you’ve gradually abandoned for reasons you barely remember.

Welcome Him as You Would Me

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.  So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.  Philemon 15-17

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’  For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”  Luke 17:20-21

God our Father, who called Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini from Italy to serve the immigrants of America, by her example, teach us to have concern for the stranger, the sick, and all those in need, and by her prayers help us to see Christ in all the men and women we meet. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  (Prayer to St. Frances Cabrini)

How do you relate to God?  Is God something or someone who is “out there?”  Is God external to your being – but a part of your world nonetheless?  Or is God a part of you?  Is God internal to your being – inside you?  Or is your answer both choices?
The translator had a choice when bringing this Gospel into English.  The Kingdom of God is within you.  The Kingdom of God is among you.  Within?  Among?  In our case, the translator chose “among.”  There will not be any trumpet sounding come the judgment day.  The Lord will not be riding into the New Jerusalem on a donkey.  The Lord has already arrived and is among us and within us in thought, word and deed.  Jesus is the Lord of the Present Moment, not of some future time still to come. And not of some distant point of time in the past two thousand years. He endures.  He is.  He always will be.
The relationship of Paul to Onesimus and Philemon also is depicted on multiple levels of time and space.  Paul wants Onesimus to remain with him “imprisoned by the Gospel.”  However, he lets go of that possessive attitude and sends him to Philemon.   He was away and now he is back. He is back a changed man.  As Paul has grown in his relationship with the Lord, his relations with those around him also have changed. 

When we were young, God was an external presence.  The man up in the clouds pointing his finger to Adam. The disembodied voice in the sky or the desert.  The picture or icon hanging on the wall at home or at church.  The presence in the Eucharist up there on the altar that other “older” people could consume. 
Then, with Eucharist, that is where it all begins to change.  At some point in our lives, God stopped being ONLY out there and God invited himself inside.  All we had to do was open our mouths and say Amen.  Or say “Amen!” and then open our mouths.  
How has your relationship with the Lord changed over time?  Welcome the Lord within. 
How has your relationship with others changed as you welcome them as Christ?  Welcome the Lord among you in the person of the stranger as did St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron of immigrants.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

There is Nothing I Shall Want

By Colleen O’Sullivan
But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  (Psalm 23:1b)

(The lepers) stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!”  And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going they were cleansed.  And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.  (Luke 17:12b-16)

Lord, may I ever be thankful for your healing grace and mercy.

As I was reflecting on today’s Gospel, I thought of all the recent news stories about the Ebola virus.  Anyone infected with the disease, their family members, their friends, and anyone who has come into even the remotest contact with them all become instant lepers.  No one wants to come within a mile of them, so frightening is the disease.  What an isolating experience for those affected.  Even in this country, with all our sophisticated medical expertise, if you’ve got the virus, you’ve got to be wondering if you’re going to die.  Your caregivers, of necessity, come to help you wrapped in layers of protective garb.  No one can come visit you.  It has to be extremely lonely.

That loneliness and isolation are what the lepers of Jesus’ day experienced, too.  No one wanted to be infected, so lepers were banned from towns and villages, from contact with family or friends.  They literally lived on the margins of society.  So, how wonderful it must have been for the ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for healing and had their plea answered.  No longer would they be shunned.  They could return to their homes, their occupations, their families.  They could live again.

So, why did only one of the ten, and a Samaritan at that, turn back to thank Jesus?  Probably the other nine were like most of us.  We don’t generally walk around full of gratitude.  We all have much for which to be thankful.  (Just ponder the words in the first Scripture reading.  Out of love and mercy, our God has redeemed us and offers us the gift of eternal life.)  But we don’t wake up in the morning full of thanksgiving for another day, for the gift of life, for the blessing of redemption.  We take it for granted.  Or we are disgruntled with God because not every item on our prayer wish list has been granted.     

Spend some time today praying through Psalm 23.  Think about how God has led you to green pastures.  What restful waters has God used to refresh your soul?  When has God taken you by the hand and led you in the right direction?   When have you walked through a dark valley without giving in to fear or despair because you felt the presence of the Lord?  When you pray through the entire psalm in this way, you should be able to gratefully echo the psalmist in saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”