Thursday, March 05, 2015

Beware the Green-Eyed Monster


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic.  When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.  (Genesis 37:3-4)

Piety
Lord, may we have hearts filled with gratitude and overflowing with thanksgiving.  May there be no room for the seed of jealousy to sprout and take hold.

Study   
Over the course of human history, jealousy has split up many a couple, alienated siblings one from another, and caused needless rifts in families.  Jealousy, like kudzu, is very unattractive and leaves room for little else.  Whatever common sense, gratitude or kindness once resided in our hearts is overpowered and extinguished.

Once jealousy takes root, it mutates and grows like a cancer.  As we see in this snippet from Joseph’s story in the Book of Genesis, the fruit of jealousy’s twisted vines may end up being hatred or murderous rage.

Ironically, the storyteller never says Israel loved only Joseph.  Presumably, he cherished each and every one of his children.  Maybe he did dote on this youngest son, the child he never dreamed of having at his advanced age, but that didn’t mean he didn’t also feel great affection for his older boys.  Sadly, Joseph’s siblings never stopped to count their blessings or to realize that they had everything they needed, most especially a loving father.  Jealousy’s poisonous tentacles had wrapped themselves too tightly around their hearts.

They conspired to murder their younger brother but ended up “only” selling him into slavery.  Their actions, rooted in jealousy, caused Joseph years of needless separation from his family and brought deep grief upon their father.  They also sentenced themselves to lifetimes weighed down by sin and guilt.

What was the point?  What did they gain?  Nothing, as far as I can see.  Jealous people are seldom satisfied or happy, because there’s always that suspicion that someone else has what rightfully should be theirs.  Jealous people are not grateful.  They seldom thank God for their blessings.  They can never trust that what they have been given is sufficient for their needs.

Action
During Lent we examine our hearts.  If what we find there is jealousy, maybe our gaze is fixed in the wrong direction.  Instead of focusing on those around us and what they have that we imagine should be ours, try looking to God and taking inventory of all the gifts you have received from God.  You might find yourself overwhelmed if you start making a list of all God has given you.  A good way to do this is to review your day with the Lord each night.  Recount all the blessings of the day and give thanks.  Do this daily for long enough and your life will become a life lived out of gratitude. You’ll forget all about checking to see if the grass looks greener on any other side.

Truly, a grateful heart cannot at the same time be a jealous heart.

Bear Fruit


By Beth DeCristofaro

Thus says the LORD:  Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD.  He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.  Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream:  It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ …  Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16: 27-28, 31)

Piety
O Lord, Help me that I, with your Church, not neglect the service of charity any more than I neglect the sacraments and the Word. (From Pope Benedict as quoted in “Lent 2015: A Scriptural Way of the Cross”)[i]  

Study
The incredibly vivid images of a barren bush in a lava waste adds a new perspective to the person of the rich man, covetously arrayed in purple and gold.  His culture would have seen him as successful, powerful.  God sees him as desolate, spiritually infertile and, in fact, destructive of life as a lava flow would be in a garden.  The Lord did not have to enact any curse.  The rich man chose his curse when he opted for greed, status and considered himself superior to Lazarus.

It’s not hard to find such a lava waste as we read the news.  Individuals who not only refuse table scraps to others but keep them from prohibitively expensive health care or restrict boundaries because those people were not born on the correct side of them.  Or persons who persecute people with darker complexions or a different religion, speak another language, smell differently.  During this season of Lent can we honestly say where we are rooted – on a barren plain or beside living waters?

Action
Pray the Scriptural Way of the Cross (link below).  Walk with Christ on his way to the Cross.  In what way am I burdening others with a cross?  In what ways do I relieve others, carrying their cross with them?  http://usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=168807



[i]    Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible   may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Illustrations were created by young artists as part of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Multimedia Youth Contest

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Must Good Be Repaid with Evil?


Heed me, O LORD, and listen to what my adversaries say.  Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life?  Jeremiah 18:19-20A

“Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:26B-28

Piety
Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)  Please light our way out of competition and confusion so that we will hear your word and act on it.  

Study
The New American Bible points out that “The request of the sons of Zebedee, made through their mother, for the highest places of honor in the kingdom, and the indignation of the other ten disciples at this request, show that neither the two brothers nor the others have understood that what makes for greatness in the kingdom is not lordly power but humble service. Jesus gives the example, and his ministry of service will reach its highest point when he gives his life for the deliverance of the human race from sin.”

Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God? 

The way Jesus explains that answer is further proof that the Lord operates in a fashion that is the opposite of how power is judged in the world.  Matthew uses the analogy of a slave.  Anyone who was expected a messiah to ride in on a powerful horse and lead an army against the invading Romans would be sorely disappointed.  The slave analogy is parallel to the analogy Jesus uses in Mark’s Gospel when as the example of power, Jesus points to a child.  Not a soldier.  Not a King.  Not a Pharisee. 

Beyond the illustration, Jesus takes this one step further – and asks us to do as he does in service to others, not in demanding to be served by others. Everything that comes after this is the fulfillment of these words.  However, the disciples are still unaware of what the fulfillment of these words really mean.  Even as they witness the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus, they will remain confused over what this means until they finally have the realization – the epiphany – that comes with the Resurrection.

Action
Being close to Jesus is not something to fight over or for which we can compete as James and John (the sons of Zebedee) learn.  Being close to Jesus requires actions, not words.  

In the very long treatment that The New Yorker magazine gives to the anti-nuclear movement, one of the striking images to me in the story is the demeanor of Sr. Megan Rice and her “one-ness” with nature.  She feels close to Jesus because she accepts his word and acts on it including by living (once sentenced for a Plowshares action) among the powerless in Africa and then in prison and advocating for their needs above her own.  She will not be asking to sit at Jesus’ right or left hand.  When we get to heaven, that place is probably where we will find her when she is not loving and living among the poor.  

Monday, March 02, 2015

Let Us Set Things Right

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney

Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord; though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 1:18-20)

To the upright I will show the saving power of God. (Psalms 50:23b)

“Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 1:8-12)

Piety
Lord, how can You see me, an ever-failing sinner, as someone worthy of Your love and redemption? I am in awe of Your saving power.

Study
Ah, redemption.

There are plenty of people in the world who try to be good because it’s the right thing to do. They perform charitable works, do random acts of kindness, treat others with gentleness and kindness we should all attempt to emulate. You don’t have to be a Christian to be good.

There are plenty of faith traditions that believe we can be forgiven and saved from our exile from the Lord: Judaism, obviously; Islam; Eastern religions. You don’t have to be a Christian to believe in forgiveness.

But as Christians, we believe in the redemption purchased for us by Christ’s suffering and death. We can’t buy redemption ourselves; being good people isn’t how we get there. It’s through our belief in Christ and what He did for us, imperfect as we may be. It’s through our belief that through Him, the Lord’s promise in today’s reading from Isaiah of cleaning our sins, will be realized. It’s through humbling ourselves as His servants as Jesus humbled himself and submitted to the Father, that we too will be redeemed.

The words are easy. The way is hard. But the path is well lit, and the travel guide experienced.

Action
Be a servant today in Christ’s name to someone who shows no sign of appreciating your sacrifice.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Stop Judging

Monday of the Second Week in Lent

Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day: the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the lands to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you.  Daniel 9:7

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  Luke 6:37

Piety
Open our eyes, Lord.  Take out the wooden beam so we can see more justly in all we do. https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=55lOdJz7_WI

Study
Another reminder comes our way today that correlated between our conduct toward others and God’s conduct toward us.  We must always remove the wooden beam from our own eye first, so we can see clearly to remove the splinter from someone else’s eye.  Mercy triumphs over judgment of others.

Therefore to give us a lesson you punish our enemies with measured deliberation so that we may think earnestly of your goodness when we judge, and, when being judged, we may look for mercy. Wisdom 12:22

Note also that the passage is not only about restraint on our part but also about the lack of restraint on God’s part.  We will get our reward poured into our laps over flowingly.  “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.   

Action
God never meets us halfway.  All we have to do is get started and the Lord will rush out to meet us along the way.   Who are we to let a small ocean stand in our way?  Being fair to all we do business with is one way to increase justice in the world.

Fairtrade Fortnight from February 23 through March 8 brings together consumers, retailers, licensees, businesses, producers and campaigners nationwide to promote awareness and sales of Fairtrade products and campaign on issues of trade justice.  It is a publicity drive in the United Kingdom – but there is no need to let that stop us from participating.

You can make your purchases matter to small farmers in developing countries when you purchase some products from Fair Trade merchants here such as those linked at http://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners.  Each time you purchase a fair trade product you help support families and causes all over the world.  Frequently, major retailers like Target and Sam’s Club carry Fair Trade certified products. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?


By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

God put Abraham to the test.  He called to him, “Abraham!”  “Here I am!” he replied.  Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”  Genesis 22:1-2

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”  Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.  Mark 9:7

Piety
Piety is our share of the transfiguration of Christ.  Closeness of Christ brings transfiguration.  Every retreat of the spiritual exercises of any form drops us into the ocean of God’s love.  Every exposure to Christ brings change, which can be called piety.  Prayer is our love affair with God.  The more we speak with the Lord, the more changed we become.  Every Eucharist we share brings us more life in Christ.   The greater closeness to the Community we share with our Christ life makes us into Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.

Study
Abraham is the example of how much we are capable of loving God.  Abraham would surrender whom he most loved for the sake of his obedience of God.  God would make a covenant with Abraham because Abraham did not hold back the grandest love of his life.  It is not just that Lent tunes us into the voice of what the Lord wants from us; it is even more that Lent makes us one with Christ in how we follow his example of prayer, fasting and good works.  Making sacrifices for the sake of the Mystical Body builds community in our lives as we identify more and more with those we serve by selflessness.

Action
What we do for Lent is how we walk in the land of the living.  The Psalmist tells us that precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.  All our little “dying-s” for the sake of Christ builds up our strength.  Our love makes it easy to put up with a little dying that is the taste of the death that brings us to the love of Lord.  We have to lose our life for his sake if we are going to save our lives.  We gradually arrive at the point of seeing the aches and the pains of our lives as the kisses and the embraces of the Lord who is calling us to share in his eternal love for us.  Thus, our sacrifices become thanksgiving as we call on the Lord to use our sacrifices to fill up what is wanting to the sufferings of his body, the Church. 

Making This Agreement

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Today you are making this agreement with the LORD: he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to his voice.  Deuteronomy 26:17

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  Matthew 5:44-45

Piety
Lord, make me peculiarly your own. 

Study
Scales of justice precariously balance two measures until there is some equilibrium between the two sides – as having equal weight.  Obey God and God will provide to you.  Love your friends and love your enemies.  Are these two equations equal?  Is not one side harder than the other? 

Deuteronomy has us consider what we must do and what God will do.  Newtonian laws of physics explain that one action will have an equal and opposite reaction.  If we love God, God will love us back.  True enough.  But if God loves us, will we love God back?  Maybe not always so true.  If we love our friends, they will love us back.  True enough.  But if we love our enemies, will our enemies love us back?  Maybe not always true. 

Sometimes, the scales of justice tip in our favor.  Sometimes, they might not.  However, the situations still call for our reactions to be based upon the perfect love we learn from God, not our own imperfection.

Action
Yoda was right.  There is no try.  There is do or do not.  Jesus did not say that walking in His ways or following his statues would be easy.  He just said to do it.  Our doing so is our imitation of Christ’s perfection.  We may never get to be perfect, but that does not mean that we should stop doing what is asked of us. 

In a Lenten reflection, Fr. James Martin, SJ, makes the point that our pursuit of perfection means giving up anything that keeps us from God.  We must keep his statues and statutes ever on our mind.  Fr. Martin writes about the role that prayer before a statue had for his order’s founder and for his own growth in faith.

In 1522, in a Benedictine monastery in a mountainous region in Spain, Iñigo de Loyola did something dramatic. Before a famous statue of Mary at the Abbey of Montserrat, he laid down his dagger and sword. For Iñigo, a man who had dedicated himself to achieving heroic deeds to win worldly honors, this would be a life-changing gesture. From this point forward, he would do heroic deeds not for himself, but for God.

When [Fr. Martin] was studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, as part of [his] Jesuit training, there was a simple wooden statue of this moment in the chapel of the main Jesuit residence on campus. There was Ignatius, gazing into the distance, holding his sword in outstretched hands. (Fr. Martin loved that the statue’s sword was a separate piece of wood, which you could take from the saint’s hands and hold in your own.) [He] had come to Chicago after making [his] first vows as a Jesuit, and still grappling with the idea of giving things up for God. When [he] struggled with [his] vocation, [he] would pray before that statue.

God doesn’t ask us simply to give up a few things — a sword, a dagger, even an occupation — but, as the man who would become St. Ignatius Loyola understood even then, anything that prevents us from moving closer to God.

Does that sound harsh? It’s not. For in giving things over to God we are freed from whatever keeps us enslaved. In fact, God asks for even more. God asks for ourselves. What Ignatius was really offering that day was nothing less than himself. This is what God asks of us. Hold back, and we are not truly free. Give all to God and, well, you won’t believe what comes next.

Friday, February 27, 2015

In Sync Inside and Out


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus said to his disciples:  “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, you shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.  But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…(I)f you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother.”  (Matthew 5:21-22a, 23-24)

Piety
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
For with the Lord is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
(Psalm 130:1-2, 7b-8)

Study   
A couple of weeks ago, I reread Glittering Images by Susan Howatch, the first in a series of six novels she wrote about the Church of England from the 1930’s to the 1960’s which I had enjoyed about 20 years ago.  The first one is told from the point of view of Charles Ashworth, an Anglican clergyman whose career in the Church seemingly has been quite successful.  But as the story unfolds, he runs headlong into a spiritual crisis when his glittering image of success can no longer shield him from the unresolved pain of past hurts or the self-deceptions that are leading him down the wrong path.

I thought about Ashworth’s story as I read today’s Gospel passage.  We all have images, glittering or not, that we like to project to the world.  Most of us hope others see us as having it all together, and Jesus knows that.  He knows that many of us would go to the altar, whether to present a gift or to receive the Eucharist, looking the picture of piety, while inside our hearts might seethe with anger or resentment toward someone.  We can fool others.  Sometimes we even successfully deceive ourselves.  But God cannot be tricked.  God sees clearly how things really are with us.

Lent is a time for examining our hearts.  If our hearts and our actions are not in sync, simply admit it.  Heed the words of the psalmist: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!”  The worst thing we can do is ignore any dissonance between our hearts and our actions.  What we hide in the dark only festers and spreads. 

Action
Sit with Jesus today and show him what is in your heart.  Ask for his help in dealing with any anger, hurts, or grudges that reside within.  “For with the Lord is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption.”  Jesus will not condemn you; he will seek to heal and forgive you that from your loving heart genuinely loving actions may flow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ask, Knock, Do

Thursday of the First Week of Lent

By Beth DeCristofaro

“Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.”  (Esther 12:25)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  … Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 7: 7, 12)

Piety
Oh, God, Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.  (Psalm 51:14)

Study
If one did not know that Queen Esther is pleading for the lives of all the Jews in the kingdom, and her own life, one might read her imploring as the words of the psalmist or even a heartfelt Lenten prayer.  During Lent we mourn our failings which close doors, walling ourselves away from life with Christ.  During Lent we seek to become aware of our brokenness in order to call upon God to grace us with healing and draw us closer. 

Jesus answers Esther and He answers us:  “Ask.”  “Knock,” Jesus says.  God’s extravagant love is there for our taking if we but Ask, Knock, putting ourselves into a willing receptivity of God’s grace, dependent on Him to open the door.  Once we do, it becomes only natural that our mourning be turned to gladness and our self-centeredness be transformed into selflessness because we deepen our awareness of God within.  Esther’s anguished petition came from her knowledge that time was short and lives depended on her.  Lent gives us a timetable, something quite useful for those of us who become complacent knowing God is always present and that I can keep working to “succeed” in my Lenten promises.  Ask, Knock today.

Action  
Sometimes what holds us back is a sincere, willing spirit.  Time is short and precious measured in our human days.  Don’t wait to ask with a sincere and willing spirit.  Then put the grace given to you to work in doing to others what you would have them do to you.  God does not wait for us to be perfect.  Don’t expect and wait for the perfect time or the willingness of another to do so.  Be willing and ready to be joyful.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

They Turned

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.  Jonah 3:10

While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”  Luke 11:29

Piety
Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.  Amen.

Study
Lent is Life to us.  You may think this season is forty days of preparation for the paschal mystery of Easter.  But when you really consider the themes of Lent, they are really no different than the themes of Advent.  Or Christmas. Or ordinary time. Or Easter.

Life is Lent to us.  The price we are asked to pay is not in coinage.  It is not in shares of stock.  It is not in material possessions.  The price we are asked to pay is the experience of change.  “Man…must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands.”  (Jonah 3:8)

Society tells us where it WANTS us to look for happiness.  Just as the people of Ninevah looked in all the wrong places, we do, too.  The price we must pay for the rental is change.  Just as the Jonah pleaded with the people of Ninevah to change, so does Jesus please with the people of Galilee to change.  And that same message comes down through the ages to help each one of us.

Action
What are some of the changes you have the courage to make?
        How you spend your time?
        How you spend your treasure?
        Where you put your talents to work?

Life is Lent to us for only a short period of time.  This week, I was called on to do one of the spiritual works of mercy – to help bury the dead.  In this case, the person who was deceased was my brother Joseph whose body was weakened by diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.  Joe lived a life marked by great humor, a caring heart that helped others in his profession and in his personal life, and tremendous hospitality.  You can read more about his life here.

Before You Ask Him

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

By Melanie Rigney
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; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
From all their distress God rescues the just. (Psalms 34:18b)
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)

Piety

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Study

A couple of years ago, I gave a two-day retreat on prayer. The retreat covered a lot of ground: the history of prayer; formed prayer vs. spontaneous prayer; prayer traditions; the origins of the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet and more; the lives and practices of those like Teresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola who in essence defined prayer styles; journaling; time for communal and individual prayer. Centering prayer, lectio divina, quotes about prayer from Catholics and other faith traditions… the retreat offered a little taste of a lot of ideas and practices.

Overall, the reviews were positive. I was most struck, however, not by the kind words people provided on the forms, but by the man about my age, late fifties, who came up to me at the very end. “I signed up for this retreat because I was really concerned about my prayer life,” he said. “And no offense, but I think the biggest thing I learned this weekend is that I actually have a pretty good prayer life. I don’t have anything to worry about, really.”

Isn’t that true for all of us, at least some of the time? We fret about whether we’re saying the right words, finding the right style, using the right venue, consulting the right guide. We babble like pagans, we flounder about thinking there’s one best way to make contact with the Lord. We think more is more when it comes to the number of words we use and the number of items we need to have on our prayer list. We forget that while exploring other prayer styles certainly has merit, we’ll never do better than the one Jesus sets forth for us in today’s Gospel. It’s one of the first prayers we learn, and it’s the one we may remember long after all the others have fled our brain. You can say it on auto pilot, you can break it into your own adoration/contrition/thanksgiving/supplication, or you can contemplate over each word. But it doesn’t get any better than the Lord’s Prayer when you’re looking for a way to connect with the Divine.

Action
Say the Lord’s Prayer out loud. Then select five words from it to contemplate for ten minutes. Say the prayer out loud again. Did anything change in your heart and soul?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Inherit the Kingdom

Monday of the First Week of Lent
 
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.  Leviticus 19:18
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’  Matthew 25:34-36
Piety
Lord, holy God, loving Father,
you give us the task to love one another
because you are holy
and you have loved us before we could love you.
Give us the ability to recognize your Son
in our brothers and sisters far and near.
Make us witnesses that love exists and is alive
and that you, the God of love,
exist and are alive now forever. (From the
Carmelites web site)
Study
Ours faith, our King and our savior call us to action.  Consider the action words in our readings today.  Love.  Inherit.  Gave.  Welcomed.  Clothed.  Cared.  Visited.  This is a spirituality that calls us to faith.  Then that faith calls us to action.
 
Growing up, you could walk into church and see people at Mass not really paying attention to what was happening up on the altar or the words being read or spoken from the predella.  In their fingers, they clutched rosary beads in private prayer. There was at the time a disconnection between the celebration of Mass and the celebration of daily life.
 
The spiritual practices were not as connected to the good works as they are today. The private expression of faith was not as strongly connected to the public expression of faith as it is called to be today.
 
Vatican II ushered in a new era of spirituality that connected the sanctuary to the streets. Reading and hearing Matthew 25 is reading one of the cornerstones of the social gospels.
 
Action
The Good News is only good when it is tried and tested.  Jesus was tested at every turn.  His humble birth.  His confrontations with the Pharisees.  His walk in the desert.  His sorrow at losing John the Baptist and almost losing Lazarus. 
 
Jesus provided us an example to try the Good News out in our lives.  How can you put the spiritual works of mercy to work in conjunction with the corporal works of mercy? The Lectio Divina site from the Carmelites posed this interesting question.  Stop and think: if the Last Judgment would take place today, would you be on the side of the sheep or on the side of the goats?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

At Hand

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

God said: This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between me and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come:  I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being.  Genesis 9:12-15

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  Mark 1:14-15

Piety
Our ministry takes many forms as we put on the mind and the heart of Christ.  Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.  Christ goes into the desert for forty days and nights.   We know he fasted and at the end of forty days was tempted by the Spirit.  We have our Lent of forty days and we try to fast as best we can.  Lent is our time to get ready for our share in the passion of Christ.  What we decide to do for Lent prepares us for the Resurrection.  Prayer and fasting are the major weapons of the spiritual life.

Study
We reflect on what we have done in past Lents.  We talk to our spiritual director and our spiritual friends and make a plan on how we are going to deepen our spiritual life.  Christ died for sinners.  Sacrifices for others make our fasting and good works into something positive for the Lord.  Selfishness is how I use the gift of life for myself.  Selflessness makes Lent into something positive for the Lord. Even as God has given us the fit of life, he has challenged us by the example of his Son to do good for others.  Doing something positive for others in their needs make something positive out of the sacrifices we can do for each other.

Action
For each complaint about another and how our world is going to hell, I will try to change what I might have said that would have been poor mouthing the efforts of another.  I will try to encourage rather than discourage.  I will try to be a helping hand even when it delays me and what I need to do.  I will say something positive about the others and my world.  I will try to build up my world by positive actions and encouragement.  I will go without something that is a luxury in my life for the sake of all those who cannot find the essentials for life.  Each day I will pass up rather than pass down my stomach the desserts that pleasure my life.  For the sake of bringing pleasure to the people I serve, I will try to feel hunger at one of the meals of each day.  I will try to leave the meal still hungry for all those who do not have the possibility of eating what they need to survive.  In short, I will work to make my Lent something positive I do for others for the sake of Christ and a better world.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Light Shall Rise for You in the Darkness


“If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land.”  Isaiah 58:9b-11

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.  He said to him, “Follow me.”  And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.  Luke 5:27-28

Piety
The Firefighter’s Prayer
When I'm called to duty God
wherever flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life
whatever be its age.
Help me to embrace a little child
before it is too late
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert
to hear the weakest shout
and quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property.
And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.  Amen.

Study
Returning to Eden in the early days of Lent?  The ticket is how we treat others as we learn in the first reading from Isaiah.  If we do this, then the wilderness of Lent will turn back into the lush Garden of Eden.  
  
Yes, the LORD shall comfort Zion, shall comfort all her ruins; Her wilderness he shall make like Eden, her wasteland like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness shall be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of song.  Isaiah 51:3

Who gets back into Eden?  Who may go up the mountain of the LORD? Who can stand in his holy place?  “The clean of hand and pure of heart, who has not given his soul to useless things, what is vain.”  (Psalm 24:3-4)  Or stated in even more simple and direct terms, if we but follow Jesus, he will lead us – like Levi – back to Eden. 

Action
Tonight is not the coldest night of the year…it is the coldest night in more than a hundred years.  Let’s pray that no firefighters have to respond tonight to save life and property. 

If ever there was a night “to bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted,” this is it.  The waiting is OVER!

The night also coincides with a great fund-raising and life-giving opportunity to support a special charity in the lives of so many – A Wider Circle.  In honor of the 52nd birthday of its founder, Dr. Mark Bergel, they are seeking 52 new donors.  Will you step up and include A Wider Circle in your circle of giving?  

Check out what they do on www.awidercircle.org.  Do you have what it takes to join their giving circle? 

PS: How many birthday parties can you attend where there are no-calorie cakes?  https://awidercircle.givecorps.com/projects/3202-a-wider-circle-happy-birthday-mark?fb_ref=Default