Thursday, July 24, 2014

Given Up to Death for the Sake of Jesus

By Melanie Rigney

For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11)

When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing. (Psalms 126:1-2)

“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. (Matthew 20:26-27)

Lord, make us thirsty for Your wisdom.

It was on this day in 1968 that Humanae Vitae was released, the papal encyclical that affirmed traditional Catholic teachings on human sexuality, including the prohibition of artificial birth control. Some left the Church. Others stayed with a variety of reactions: they cheered, or they did their best to be obedient, whether that obedience meant using natural family planning (NFP) or after discernment (or, in some cases, not), ignoring the prohibition.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual National NFP Awareness Week wraps up tomorrow.  Last November, a USCCB secretariat issued a report that found diocesan NFP programs are hampered by lack of funding; about two-thirds operate on less than $10,000 annually, and only a third provide an annual report about their activities to their bishop. While most dioceses include NFP in their marriage preparation guidelines, there’s a big gap: while nearly 164,000 Catholic marriages were celebrated, fewer than 17,000 people took part in an NFP course or received instruction. The report concluded:

… When evaluating any diocesan NFP program, the most important pastoral leadership question can be summed up with a simple “yes” or “no”: Can couples who wish to be faithful to Church teaching on conjugal love and responsible parenthood readily get the NFP support they need? The answer to this question will determine how best to plan and support local diocesan NFP ministry.

I found myself chewing over that paragraph over and over again, thinking how it could apply to so much that is misunderstood about the Church I love. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but when I returned to Catholicism after more than three decades away, there were a number of potential dealbreakers for me: Limbo. The presence or lack thereof of non-Catholics in heaven. Divorce. Abortion. Contraception. I wasn’t coming back if I couldn’t sign on completely. And the more time I spent with the Catechism and other Church publications, the more I learned that the teachings were all based on love and respect and human dignity and that what was in my heart was not that different from Catholicism’s core beliefs.
My point today is not to try to change your mind on NFP or immigration reform or gay marriage or abortion or anything else. It’s just to say that dioceses and parishes across our country are pulled in a million directions today. They always have been. They always will be. We are unlikely to always get all the support we might need on any Church teaching. At some level, we’re each responsible for asking for help and reaching out for resources before we make snap judgments. When we do that, when we open our questions to the light and look for help in understanding, we may find that some of our positions need to be laid on the altar.

Spend some time in conversation with a learned member of the ordained or laity about a Church teaching you find difficult to accept, or ask this person for reading material on the topic.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Granted to You

Be amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the LORD.  Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.  Jeremiah 2:12-13

The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”  He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  Matthew 13:10-12

Father, open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to your Word and help us to put love into action. Use our hands to work your healing touch on an injured and battered world.

Today’s Good News is NOT about money and wealth.  Rather it is about understanding the mysteries that were revealed.  The prophecy fulfilled in today’s reading is a negative prophecy – a prophecy which talks about “hearing but not understanding, looking but never seeing.”
Isaiah preached that the heart of the nation would grow coarse and gross, just as Jeremiah did in today’s first reading.  The solution is to open our ears, open our eyes and open our hearts.  Thus opened, the Lord has room to work his healing touch. 

If we spend too much time listening to the public media, we might be tempted to think that as the Dow Index, or the S&P 500, or the NASDAQ creep up to record levels, that success in the world would equate with how much a share of the money we get.
If we spend too much time reading the pages (printed or electronic) of news stories, our hearts might also grow coarse to the plight of the least powerful people in the world. 
That is not what this faith is all about.  This faith is not about the things we get but rather the knowledge that is given to us and what we do once we learn.  Faith in God.  Faith in each other.  Faith in ourselves.  These call on us to open up and respond to the needs around us, not to close up and focus only upon ourselves.
Recently, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that his state would provide shelter to some of the unaccompanied minor children who have recently come to the US from Honduras, Guatemala and other Central American nations.  The temporary shelter will last until the courts decide what the outcome of their undocumented entry into the US will mean for the future.  In addition to his patriotic reasons for taking this step to welcome the strangers among us, Governor Patrick also said:
“The other reason I have offered our help is more personal, less about patriotism and more about faith.  I believe that we will one day have to answer for our actions -- and our inactions.  My faith teaches that "if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him," but rather "love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."  (Lev. 19:33-34).  We are admonished to take in the stranger, for "inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these," Christ tells us, "you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:43, 45).  Every major faith tradition on earth charges its followers to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated. 

He added, “I don’t know what good there is in faith if we can’t and won’t turn to it in moments of human need.  And I thank Cardinal O’Malley, Bishop Borders and the many other faith and lay leaders I've spoken with for reminding me of that.”

Speak of the Mighty Works

By Pequitte Schwerin

“Have no fear before the, because I am with you to deliver says the Lord.  See I place my words in your mouth!  This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.”  Jeremiah 1:8-9

“My mouth shall proclaim your just deeds, day after day your acts of deliverance, though I cannot number them all.  I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord; O God, I will tell of your singular justice.” Psalm 71:15-16

“Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Mt 13:1-9

While you were busy trying to prove God stands behind you, God was before me lighting the trail, so he could lead us both.” ― Shannon L. Alder

God formed us and knows for what particular services and purposes he intended us. Unless we are sanctified us by the Holy Spirit, we can't serve on earth, nor partake of happiness in heaven. We can't think too highly of ourselves, nor venture beyond our powers. Even though we have a humble sense of our own weaknesses and insufficiencies, we should not draw back when God calls us.

Jeremiah was frightened that he would not be able to persuade the people to change from their evil ways.  Jeremiah supported King Josiah and his pious ways, but when the king died old idolatries returned.  Jeremiah suffered arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace trying to lead the people into repentance for over 40 years to no avail.  For all his work as a prophet he was exiled and martyred.  

Remember God's covenant with Moses, helping him speak the words to lead the Israelites out of bondage.  Brother Aaron ended up doing the talking.  And then there was Jonah tasked with delivering the ultimatum to the Ninevites to repent or suffer the consequences.  He spent three days in the belly of a fish for his reluctance to carry out God's commands.

How many of us are eager to be public speakers?  I know I  get butterflies in my  stomach and feel my  heart racing when I  stand before a podium; even when I'm a lector and have prepared all week.  Kevin James was the superintendent fire Marshall during the 9/11 attack in New York.  He had struggled with his deficiency of public speaking and called this struggle his personal “jihad” (which in Islam really means struggle or effort, not the holy war most of us think it means).  He was in a position with the authority to make a difference.  Mr. James overcame this deficit with the help of God, and he wrote and spoke extensively about fire hazards, especially the dangers of fires caused by smoking.  Doubtless he saved many lives!

When our fears get the best of us, we forget that God will always be with us and has placed his laws within us and written it on our hearts. 

Why do we always fear we are not enough, can't speak well enough to convince, afraid to trust that God will be with us?  Call on the Lord when you find yourself in a challenging position outside your comfort zone.  He will always be there.  Where will you sow the words and speak the Good News?

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Have Seen the Lord

By Beth DeCristofaro

(Mary) turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?”  She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.  (John 20:14-18)

Jesus, you made Mary Magdalen the first witness to your Resurrection.  May we learn to love as she did and always give you first place in our hearts.  Let our encounters with you change us into faith-filled witnesses so we can proclaim with Mary, “I have seen the Lord.”  (Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia)  )

So how could Mary possibly not recognize Jesus with whom, tradition has it, with whom she traveled and served during his ministry?  Perhaps in rising He was so transformed so that he was unrecognizable.  Maybe it was the dark of the early morning that hid his face.  Could her weeping have blocked her vision?  Or that her preconceived notions of death, loss and permanence obscured the new reality and Truth from her.

Actually, in all of those possibilities I see myself and how I have not always been able to perceive God’s presence in my life.  Not recognizing the resurrection in someone who has hurt me or who acted “wrongly,” I have continued to judge or give a cold-shoulder treatment.  There have been many periods of my life in which I experienced darkness, acted on my own impatience and made questionable choices.  In times of sorrow I have cried “Why me?”  Both prejudice and an attitude of complete righteousness about things have led me to be less loving that I might have been.

But Mary’s eyes were opened and her joy returned when she heard her name on Jesus’ divine lips.  She did not let her moment of impaired vision slow her down to witness and proclaim that Jesus was risen.  Mary gives me the hope that I too can proceed forward from my sightless moments and stand again with Jesus, knowing he is always present.

A Baptist Minister, a friend of mine, says “If only people would read the Bible everyone would get along.”  I believe that if everyone would look for God in themselves and others we would all get along.  Say a prayer for those who cannot acknowledge God is loving and present so they act out of their own blindness and self-interest.  Say a prayer for God’s peace to be revealed and confessed for those caught in and those causing conflict in the world.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Good Ground for Hope

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.  And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.  Wisdom 12:18-19

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.  Romans:8:26

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Matthew 13:43

Fear of the Lord is one of the gifts of the Spirit.  The parables about the kingdom reveal that the good will be rewarded and the bad will be punished.  We live in the world of instant gratification.  It is logical that rewards encourage and punishment discourages one from doing what they are doing.  Sometimes it seems that children can only be guided by fear of punishment.  How sad the lot of children who never grow up to discover the joy of doing something because it is right to do!  We learn to be responsible for our own decisions by the ways we learn from the negatives of a bad decision.  It is certain a parent would have shown us why something was a bad decision from the get-go.  But lessons learned by having to live with a bad personal decision gives a value and a appreciation for the advice of elders.  Finally, it all makes sense following the advice of God in the example of Christ.  Our piety is the doing of the right things because it puts us in sync with Christ.

We study the mysteries of our faith with the spiritual guidance of Christ and his ministers.  Many a good teacher touches our lives by sermons and the best sermon of all is a holy life.  We learn from the example of others what God is asking of us in our efforts to form and nurture small Christian communities.  Our study deepens our understanding of the teachings of the Church and we come to appreciate our growing closeness to the mystical body of Christ, which is the church.

Our work is to eradicate our sin.  We glorify the name of God by our good lives, as Christians, when we live up to what it means to be Christian by our trying to be just like Christ in all we do and say.  We glorify the name of God by our good actions.  God is good and forgiving when we are doing our best to live up to what Christ wants of us.  The Spirit comes to our weakness and makes up the difference between what we do and what we should have done when we invite the Spirit to do his thing in our lives.  When the harvest comes, the weeds of our imperfections will be left behind.  What we do is the best we can do when we give the Spirit reign in our hearts.  The mustard like seed of our efforts will grow up to be great support for everyone when it reaches its maturity.  The ordinary of our life will become the extraordinary when we give the spirit control of our hearts.  Our job is to spread the good news of the Kingdom.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Learn from Me

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.  But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.  For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.  Isaiah 26:18b-19

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope. (Isaiah 42:1-4)

Our soul yearns for justice as much today as did the people living with the prophet Isaiah.  However, it is not to be.  We labor, day and night, trying to get ahead.  We are burdened by the responsibilities to our families, our church, our selves, our neighbors and our church.

What is justice?  What is truth?  We tend to define these concepts from our vantage point rather than from the Lord’s – who defines it from the vantage point of the disadvantaged – the poor whom he looks up to from the manager and the oppressed he looks upon from the cross. 

If we plan inequity, we face the wrath of the Lord.  However, if we take the perspective of the Lord, we risk the outrage and condemnation of the “Pharisees.”  We must learn from Jesus, not popular culture because Jesus is the person in which the old times and the future times merge to fulfillment. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus.  When we take up his commands, that spirit will be with us as well because there can be no neutrality where Jesus is concerned.

Around us are all signs of war and evil.  Jets are getting blown out of the sky.  Innocent youth kidnapped and murdered leading nations to the brink of war.  The poor get poorer while the rich get richer.  We are driven apart by issues when we look through our own lens.  Gay marriage.  Abortion.  Healthcare.  Capital Punishment.  Gun laws.  Taxes.  Environmental laws.  We are all recruiting Jesus into our partisan camps rather than changing ourselves and moving into His camp. Jesus did not come to see us scatter us to different camps.  He is the shepherd who is here to bring us together into one flock.

As Christian Piatt, a feature writer for Sojourners, points out, “Jesus is always throwing us curveballs.”  He writes that our behavior reminds him of an old saying.  “God created us in God’s image, and ever since then, we’ve gone to great lengths to return that favor.”

The solution:  look inward for how we must change to the outside world in order to meet Jesus where he is – on the cross.  “While it would be comforting to validate ourselves by claiming Jesus as a Baptist, Disciple, Catholic, or something else, what we’re effectively trying to do is keep from changing ourselves. We want to rest in the certainty that we’re all right how we already are, with no real need to grow or do things differently.”

How can you change one part of your perspective this weekend?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Something Greater Than the Temple

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

(Isaiah came to Hezekiah and said:) “Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go, tell Hezekiah: Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the LORD’s temple; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; I will be a shield to this city.” (Isaiah 38: 1-6)

You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die. (Isaiah 38:17)

(When the Pharisees chastised Jesus because his disciples picked heads of grain and ate them on the sabbath, Jesus replied:) “I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.” (Matthew 12:6-8)

Lord, I am in awe of the mercy You show this humble servant as I strive and so often fail to do Your will.

Oh, how quick we are to play God—when someone else is involved.

There I was at Mass last Sunday, smiling and chuckling when the earnest young transitional deacon referred to Little Shop of Horrors and said, “Now, that might be before your time for some of you. In fact, it’s before my time.” There was something so sweet, so tender, so vulnerable about it.

My smile turned to a frown when the celebrant said the Breaking of the Bread/Agnus Dei in Latin. Some folks joined in; people my age and younger either mumbled through it or stood quietly. Now that’s before my time, I thought, thinking nothing sweet, tender, or vulnerable about it. Why was he choosing an option that so obviously excluded so many of us? Should he even be mixing Latin and English at a Mass? Is that even allowed?

In short, I had become a Pharisee, focusing more on the particulars instead of letting God be God through the celebrant. How different my reaction to these two men, neither of whom know me by name, both of whom are called to a special vocation. After all, the Mass is a remembrance and celebration of Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection, His winning of eternal life for us. I know the response in English, and saying it that way regardless of the language the celebrant used fills me with awe. Something greater than the temple or the celebrant is here—if we get our pettiness out of the way.

Offer a rosary or other prayers for someone ordained or called to the consecrated life.

Put Your House in Order

“Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.”  Isaiah 38:1b

I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.  If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”  Matthew 12:8

What the Catholic Worker Believes by Peter Maurin
1. The Catholic Worker believes in the gentle personalism of traditional Catholicism.
2. The Catholic Worker believes in the personal obligation of looking after the needs of our brother.
3. The Catholic Worker believes in the daily practice of the Works of Mercy.
4. The Catholic Worker believes in Houses of Hospitality for the immediate relief of those who are in need.
5. The Catholic Worker believes in the establishment of Farming Communes where each one works according to his ability and gets according to his need.
6. The Catholic Worker believes in creating a new society      within the shell of the old with the philosophy of the new, which is not a new philosophy but a very old philosophy, a philosophy so old that it looks like new.

The section of the prophecy of Isaiah in today’s reading is about healing and recovery.  In essence, when Jesus admonishes the Pharisees, he also is telling them to heal their relationship with the Son of Man on his terms, not on theirs. 

On the surface, the Pharisees interpret the actions of Jesus and his disciples as ignoring the rules that apply to everyone else.  But, when Jesus came on the scene, he brought a whole new relationship to the old rules and tried to impart that outlook to those around him.  In the Nazareth Temple, after reading from Isaiah, he declared these scriptures are fulfilled as people listened to the words Jesus read.  Now, Jesus also is pointing out to the Pharisees, that the prophecies of Isaiah to put your house in order – in a new order – are fulfilled. 

In addition to new relationships according to new rules, Jesus also wants us to shift our perspective from sacrifice to mercy.  This also calls for us to change the focus of our action.   As we put our house in order, we need to continue to focus on the actions that we are spurred from our apostolic commissioning. 

From apps like “I Can G Without” to “Charity Miles,” mobile technology is actually acting as a catalyst for more charitable donations.  Disaster relief giving has been spurred by text-massage-based giving. 

Explore these or other apps and try one out to support a new cause or a long-time favorite.   

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

To the Childlike

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time 

For he says: “By my own power I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am shrewd. I have moved the boundaries of peoples, their treasures I have pillaged, and, like a giant, I have put down the enthroned. My hand has seized like a nest the riches of nations; As one takes eggs left alone, so I took in all the earth; No one fluttered a wing, or opened a mouth, or chirped!” Isaiah 10:13-14 

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” Matthew 11:25 

He has mercy on those who fear Him In every generation. 
He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit. 
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, And has lifted up the lowly. 
 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. 
(From the Canticle of Mary) 

Inequality between those with power and property and those who have less or none is an ongoing concern voiced by the prophet Isaiah. The “good news” proclaimed by St. Matthew echoes a similar theme about revealing knowledge to those who are not learned. 

 Jesus did not spend his time on earth amassing a large fortune, a powerful army, an academic degree nor a great estate. All he had when he was born was all he had the day he died. Yet he left behind a legacy of much love for the poor, the orphaned, the sick, and the powerless. He counted himself among those. 

At a time when our minds turn to vacation, it helps to always recall those who have no time for vacation.  In solidarity for their needs, today, let's spare a thought and a prayer for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, many of whose lives have been affected by Typhoon Glenda. 

Work through your preferred international relief and development organization such as CRS or World Vision to speed help to those affected.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Unless Your Faith is Firm

Memorial of St. Bonaventure

By Beth DeCristofaro

Thus says the LORD:  This shall not stand, it shall not be!  ….  But within sixty years and five, Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation.  Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! (Isaiah 7: 7,9)

(Jesus said) But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. …  For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,  it would have remained until this day.  But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on thday of judgment than for you.  (Matthew 11:22,23-24)

Blessed is that servant, whom his lord finds awake when he comes and knocks at the gate. (Communion Antiphon for the Mass of the day)

Raised in the D.C. area, I lived in a rather safe neighborhood, certainly not with enemy armies marching toward my community   We were taught to anticipate then avoid dangerous situations and what behaviors might be chancy.  I walked often to my favoritelibrary to lay reading in the stacks for hours but always left before dark usually walking with a friend or at least boldly striding as if I had a friend with me.  My parents and teachers also emphasized that God’s protection was a reality.  To my simple understanding, my guardian angel and God were there for the immediate rescue if need be while Isaiah asserts the Lord’s time is within sixty years.

Woe to you! proclaims both the prophet and Jesus to those who strike out on their own making deals with the enemy rather than relying on God.  I wonder if Jesus would say the same to the USA which has chosen guns for self-protection and individual rights over the safety of our children.  Arguments include “Bad guys have guns so should we for oursecurity”.  Jesus admonished those who might harm children that they would be punished.  Might I have been hurt during my childhood?  Yes.  Might any one of usindividually or as a nation face hurt, tragedy, failure?  Yes.  May we defend ourselves?  Yes.  However, Jesus tells us to do everything with love.   

Seize the day and look closely at how you might be complicit in the gun violence racking our country.  Do you vote for leaders who prioritize the right to gun ownership over the need to keep our children and neighbors safe from gun violence?  Does self-protection trump faith in the Lord who will keep us from all ultimate harm?  Is there a letter you can write to a politician or a group you might join today to speak out about the need to cease violence before we too, like the “house of DavidChorizior Bethsaida hear God’s voice saying “Woe to you!”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Make Justice Your Aim

​Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin  

Wash yourselves clean!  Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;  cease doing evil; learn to do good.  Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,  hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.  Isaiah 1:16-17  

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  Matthew 10:37-39 

Come, let us set things right. 

Establishing "right relations" with the Lord and with each other is the aim of Jesus' preaching and teaching especially this difficult passage from Matthew. Jesus wants to be first on our dance card, our hit parade and in our proverbial black book. Ahead of our mothers and fathers. Ahead of our brothers and sisters. ahead of our sons and daughters. In addition, Jesus wants to take that new relationship to a higher level. It is not about the kind of relationship we have had with Him in the past full of sacrifices and giving things up for Lent. Jesus wants us to take things up for Him. Starting with the cross and then moving on to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Then to the precepts and the Catechism. Maybe then even finding way for piety, study and action. 

Seize the moment. How will you start to set things right with The Lord this week?  A little more prayer and contemplation, renewing your study or doing some new volunteer work or charitable giving?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Rich Soil

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.  Isaiah 55:10-11

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 18:22-23

“But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Matthew 13:8-9

Our piety makes it possible for the seed of God’s word to fall on rich soil.  Piety gives us ears to hear God’s word.  The eyes of our soul make it possible to see the presence of Christ in another and recognize Christ in each other.  Piety also makes it possible to preach always even when we are using few words.  Our piety is recognized in all the ways Christ calls us to be his presence in our world today.  Our piety is what the Word has accomplished in us because we have the good soil of our piety.  Piety is also the history of all the ways we have been nourished by the word of God.  Piety is how we have grown into Christ in our living out the word and absorbing Christ as our body and blood made rich by his Body and Blood.

Our study reveals the presence of God in our lives.  Study is how we prepare the soil of our souls for the coming of the word.  Study includes all the ways we take the wax out of the ears of our soul.  Attractions can be soul stoppers in their addictive potential.  The examination of our consciousness of the Lord’s presences in our lives is one of the most profitable studies of our own life.  We study how well God uses us. We learn from the discovery of ways he has been active in our lives how to build a life style that keeps active our awareness of how to be closer to God is in our lives.  We study how to continue to do what we have learned from the Lord touching our lives with good spiritual books.  That is how we better recognize the actions of the Lord in others and ourselves.

The Corporeal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are what we are trying to increase in the actions of our lives.  What we do for the hungry, thirsty, naked, prisoners and the sick is enriched by how the Spiritual Works of Mercy elevate our lives to a higher plane.  Therein lies the work of the Lord in our lives.  What we try to do for the last, lowest and least one of our companions is what Christ sees us doing for him.  We try to be more than his companion imitating his life.  We try to be saints who are in their time and circumstance updates of the Christ we are serving.  We too try to be a real Christ by the way we accept his word into our lives and live it.

Send Me!

He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”  “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”  Isaiah 6:7-8

Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.  What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.  Matthew 10:26-27

I place my words in your mouth!  Jeremiah 1:9b

What do we cultivate in this world?  Today’s sacred scriptures remind us to have courage and to persevere in our mission no matter what face of danger we encounter.  When we have the courage to proclaim the word in the world, then the Lord will advocate for us.  Proclamation equals intervention.

Just like in Isaiah, through grace (God’s friendship), we are forgiven for our sins.  In return, the Lord places His words (concealed and secret) in our mouth and asks us to carry them into the world and make them known to the world.  The concealed and secret coming of the kingdom is to be proclaimed by all of us and no fear must be allowed to deter us from making such a proclamation.  This is not something we should whisper in secret in the dark of night.  It is something to make known for all to see. 

The reward when we carry this out is great.  Basically, Jesus Himself will be there to intervene on our behalf.  No one less than the Son of Man himself will acknowledge us if we have acknowledged Jesus.  Surely there are saints to pray to for assistance.  And Mary.  They can put in a good word for us with the Lord.  However, when we carry out the great commission and speak it in the light, Jesus (the Son of Man) will then acknowledge or deny us before his heavenly Father and speak it in the light.

“Our mission as Church is to defend the rights of the migrant, no matter what the political situation or polls may dictate,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.  “We must continue to push our lawmakers on both sides to act on this important national issue, as our fellow human beings continue to suffer under this broken system.”

It may not be very popular in this political climate to make such a remark, but the Church has consistently spoken out for just reforms of our immigration laws.  In light of the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, we cannot keep this secret and concealed.

“As advocates for the most vulnerable, we are committed to shining the light of the Gospel on these migration issues and being the voice of the voiceless,” Bishop Elizondo said. “This is a crucial time for us to remind our lawmakers of their responsibilities to the common good, especially when it concerns the strangers among us.”

A few years ago, my daughter spent a year working at an orphanage near San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  As I hear the stories of children escaping the crisis there, I wonder if any of the boys that were in the care of Amigos de Jesus are among those who have make the trek to our southern border.

All of us (or our grandparents or great-grandparents) came from somewhere else.  We benefitted from the ability to have the accident of our birth in the USA.  How can we deny that to others if the courts rule that they are escaping unjust conditions? 

Where were your ancestors born?  When did they come here?  Why did they come here?  How can you put a human face on the immigration crisis?