Friday, March 07, 2014
By Melanie Rigney
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:6-8)
For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. (Psalm 51:18)
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14-15)
Lord, I pledge to fast as You desire… by serving You in all my encounters with Your people.
The “giving up” part of Lent is the easy part, isn’t it? That’s not to say it’s simple to give up smoking or chocolate or wine or computer games or gossiping or losing one’s temper, but it can be done. After all, it’s only six weeks, right? Similarly, for adult Catholics, abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent may take a bit of effort or planning, but with all our seafood and vegetarian options these days, it’s not difficult.
The infinitely harder part is the fasting prescribed by God in today’s first reading from Isaiah: battling injustice and hunger and poverty and isolation. It’s a fasting of the focus on ourselves and our own needs. It’s a fasting from worrying about our own problems… and trusting God will help us with them, just as we serve the least of our brothers and sisters in His name.
Consider this: For some of those who live on society’s margins, here in the DC area and around the world, life may feel as it did for the disciples in that wretched period from Good Friday until the Resurrection, when they were spiritually fasting, bereft of hope. The disciples’ lives were changed forever on Easter, though it took the Holy Spirit to set their souls on fire to share the Good News with all. Many would die horrible deaths in His name. But nothing was worse than that time of fasting when the bridegroom was taken away, seemingly forever. In the same way, a gesture of friendship, a warm bed, or a hot meal may help end the fasting of those we are privileged to serve. Or it may not. We may never know. But we do know we are called to make the offer in His name.
Rethink your Lenten plans. Do they include fasting as described in Isaiah?
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
“Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.” Deuteronomy 30:15-16
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 8:23
Gerard Manley Hopkins:
It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.
Source: Seeking Peace and distributed via Plough Publishing
Today, we resort to all kinds of methods to get people into the pews and involved in the community of a parish. Some churches have free coffee and donuts after Mass. Activities like bingo might involve the whole family. Movie nights appeal to teenagers. However, Jesus did not say pick up your donut and follow me. He did not say pick up your DVD and follow me. He did not say pick up your bingo card and follow me. No. He said to pick up your cross daily and follow me.
The cross was not the gold, silver or bejeweled symbol of jewelers, movie stars and athletes. Instead, it was the symbol of the Roman executioner. To properly carry forward the connotation of Jesus today, perhaps St. Luke should be translated, “Pick up your gas chamber and follow me.” “Pick up your lethal injection and follow me.” “Pick up your electric chair and follow me.” Hardly appealing images, Sparky.
Luke had a special way of further emphasizing his points. When St. Mark recounted the same scene in the life of Jesus, he wrote: [Jesus] summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34
Luke adds the flag “Daily.” In addition to putting this in context of Jesus suffering, now the daily exercise of Christianity also must mirror that suffering. The notes in the New American Bible emphasize this further: Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself.
We cannot commit ourselves to walk in the ways of Jesus if we leave obstacles in the road. Lent is a time to clear the path of whatever has been causing us to detour along the way. The NAB goes on to note: “Life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.”
Finally, this is NOT an option. Jesus does not serve up a menu of ways to be a disciple. There is ONE way. One truth. One light. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” You cannot say that I will do this instead. You cannot barter your way into the discipline of discipleship.
What obstacle will you work on removing today?
By Colleen O’Sullivan
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. (Joel 2:12-13)
A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. (Psalm 51:12)
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20b)
Long have I waited for your coming home to me
And living deeply our new life.
(from Come Back to Me, Gregory Norbet - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Z5pBxtUuk)
Most years I go to Mass in the evening on Ash Wednesday. So I have no idea how, or even if, that ashy cross on my forehead would impact others in my office or anywhere else I might go. But I know what it says to me as I look in the mirror preparing for bed.
I see the ashes and remember the palms they came from, the palms the crowd waved as Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Echoes of the hosannas and other shouts of acclamation ring in my ears. But where were the crowds later that week? No one waved palms, no one even stayed awake as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane about what awaited him. No one waved any palms, no hosannas rang out, and no one even admitted knowing Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. No one waved palms on Good Friday; very few people bothered to make the trek to Golgotha with Jesus.
These palms-become-ashes are a reminder to me of the many ways in my life I have let Jesus down, denied him, or betrayed him. The ashes are an ancient symbol of the need for repentance and atonement. I don’t like to wash them off, even as they bring me to awareness of ways I have distanced myself from the Lord, because, at the same time, I hear God calling: Come back to me. Even now, no matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve strayed, return to me with all your heart. I am gracious and merciful. I look forward to your homecoming with joyful anticipation. I am waiting to embrace you, to kill the fatted calf and celebrate your return.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. We are invited to use the next few weeks to divest ourselves of whatever keeps us from being able to accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, to be with him through his passion and death, and to share with him in the joy of his Resurrection.
There are a multitude of ways to observe Lent – fasting, prayer, and giving to the poor are three that Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel reading. You could give something up to make more room for God in your heart or you could decide to do something extra.
There are also many online retreats you could use in your Lenten prayer. A few suggestions from the Ignatian tradition: The Ignatian Workout for Lent: An Online Retreat - http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/lent/the-ignatian-workout-for-lent-an-online-retreat/; An Ignatian Prayer Adventure - http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/an-ignatian-prayer-adventure/; From Ashes to Glory - http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/from-ashes-to-glory/; Sacred Space Lenten Retreat - http://www.sacredspace.ie/, then click on “Lenten Retreat” in the middle of the page; and Praying Lent 2014: An Online Ministry of Creighton University - http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/.
Monday, March 03, 2014
By Beth DeCristofaro
Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. … be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I am holy”. (1 Peter 1:13, 15-16)
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age … (Mark 10:29-30)
Loving God, let us Fast from anything that leads us away from you and teach us to feast on all that brings us closer to you. Amen http://www.nacc.org/resources/prayer/lent.asp
Peter’s words bring to mind the flight of the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses warned, “gird your loins” in preparation for a long journey. And, of course, take only what you can carry. It is an image that is a good metaphor as Jesus speaks to his disciples. Follow me, he says, on a journey of faith which requires little baggage and a trust in the Shepherd rather than our comfortable accoutrements of life.
A friend of mine spoke of Lent as a time to “put away the Alleluias” until Easter. It strikes me that I resist putting away the Alleluias! I love the sacred music of our church and miss those hymns that we refrain from singing during Lent. Truth be told, however, I also resist girding my loins in order to practice fasting and to some degree alms giving. I don’t like “giving up.” I would have an awfully big knapsack as I went out into the desert because I love my habits, belongings, carefully crafted role in society.
Jesus says that we “receive a hundred times more” when we give up for his sake. In the moments of grace when I am aware of God’s spirit close I do, indeed, receive a hundred times because I am aware that I and others are beloved of God. Truly, what more do I want?
What ingrained habit or pattern might I give up this Lent? Can I give up sin? I can replace it with Jesus by bringing Jesus to mind and asking for His help, each time I am enticed back into the thought or behavior. Take the opportunity to also give alms and spend time in prayer each time there is a tug of that comfortable place which beguiles me from complete trust in God’s will.
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
For a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:21-22
We begin our Lenten Journey in a few days with a mark on our foreheads. This mark will acknowledge what we have in common with the man in today’s Good News. We have many possessions and want more from Safeway or Target, eBay or Amazon, the iTunes store or WalMart. Our imperfection cannot be eliminated by us alone. However, nothing is impossible for God. Jesus reminds us that we also share in the same new birth to a living hope that is symbolized by the joy of Christmas and the suffering of Lent. Let us embrace the ashes we will receive Wednesday. May they help us find room on our journey to grow with God. Rather than a sign of despair and sadness, let these ashes be the fuel that powers our inspiration throughout the Lenten journey ahead. (Based upon CRS Rice Bowl Prayer).
The number of “smartphone” applications which help us to track what we have boggles the mind.
- Stocks is a daily update on the major stock exchanges and can be customized with selected stocks or mutual funds
- Zillow allows us to track the value of our house and at a glance check out how our house value compares with the neighbors.
- Mint and Quicken are two (of many) that consolidate a report on all checking, saving credit card, and loans in one place.
- Personal Capital and FutureAdvisors check up on your investments and make personal suggestions about how to change your investments to lower fees, improve returns, modify risk and more. These try to link all your accounts in one place to see your total net worth.
- Future Money helps not just to know what we have today but what we might have in the future.
- Loan Calculator, Mortgage Marketplace help you track your debt (and may tempt you to accumulate more loans)
- Freedom$ helps people who want to accumulate enough money (defined as ten times your current income minus debt) as a foundation to one day have control over their work-life balance
- Retirement Countdown is an app which will tell you how many days you have until you hope to retire (Maybe by then you will have the amount of assets suggested in Freedom$?)
Think of how sad the man who talked to Jesus would be if he were living today. In the case of every person reading this, no matter what your financial conditions, we all have multiples of property compared to the average person in ancient Roman-occupied Palestine.
All is not lost. What may be impossible for humanity and Silicon Valley is not impossible for God and some enterprising software developers assisting Catholic Relief Services.
With Mardi Gras approaching tomorrow, there are two steps to take. First, enjoy a little King Cake on Tuesday and check out the final parades at www.NOLA.com/paradecam.
Then, download the CRS Rice Bowl application. It will give you prayer ideas for every day of Lent, help you to pledge a certain amount to charity and track your progress toward that, gives your simple meatless recipes to use on Fridays in Lent, and finally shares stories of hope from around the world.
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2014 A
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. Isaiah 49:15
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy…Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2,5
Our piety is how we hold ourselves before God. God’s love for us is how he holds us in existence. His love antedates our existence. Psalm 139 tells us that he loved us before we were born. Our existence is that love of God. He loved us so much that we are free not to love God back. Our love is our freely returning to the example of Christ. Our piety is what we have discovered in loving God back. Our love is the free gift of ourselves back to God. Because we are created in the image and the likeness of Christ, we love by making ourselves over in the likeness of Christ. We give to Christ our hearts and he gives us his Heart. Even as Christ is the perfection of God’s love for us, our following the example of Christ in putting on his mindset and heart takes the form of our becoming a real Christ to each other.
We study how God loves us. He loves us so much that he wants to be one of us. How we want to be like Christ is the call of his love on our hearts. Christ is our way and our truth and our life. The Sacrament of the Present Moment means God does not waste tomorrow’s graces on today. I call that the Principle of Divine Economy. It does not make any sense to worry about the day we do not have any graces for until that day arrives. We learn to live in the present moment because God is the Lord of the Eternal now. Only now touches what God has in store for us in our future. From our “nows,” we learn to trust that God will take care of our future in his good time.
We cannot serve two Masters. We serve Christ when we reach out to the needy person on our road. What we do for the person in need we see is what we do for Christ. He identifies with all our needs. When we get outside of ourselves and do our best for the person we see, we are reaching the Christ of the Mystical Body. We become the Mystical Body of Christ in all our efforts to make a better world.
My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Mark 10:14b-15
Let my prayer be incense before you. Psalm 141:2a
With the new month, despite the forecast for storm Titan rotating toward us as the world turns, spring cannot be far away. As the weather warms, the grill on the deck beckons. My happy cooker is a nice aged kettle grill that still uses charcoal and dried mesquite chips for cooking. No gas tank required.
As those coals heat up and dinner-to-be is set above the burning embers, smoke pours up toward your humble chef. I can move from one side to the other, but I cannot escape the smell of the smoke getting on my clothes, irritating my eyes, and adding fragrance to the still heat on a hot summer night.
Prayer – we hear in today’s readings -- is like that smoky grill. When we send up our thanks, supplication, and offerings, the nostrils of the Most High cannot fail to breathe it in. Maybe that’s why the Hebrew people were so reliant upon burnt offerings. Sacrifice offered another way would not pervade the Lord’s very being. Words might be drowned out by the prayers of others or some heavenly harps. Images alone might be missed if a glance does not come in the right direction. But smoky praise, well, that fills the heavens like the incense which will bless the altar.
Burn some incense or light a candle today as part of your prayer. Smell it. Feel the warmth near the fire. Use it to ignite your spiritual side in these last few days of ordinary time.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates. (James 5:9)
(Jesus told the Pharisees:) “Therefore what God has joined together no human being must separate.” (Mark 10:9)
Lord, help me to love as You love, without restriction.
“Who am I to judge?”
Five words that shook the world last July. It’s what Pope Francis said about gay people in response to a reporter’s question about a “gay lobby” in the Vatican.
“Do not judge so that you may not be judged.”
Ten words that likely shook the crowd when Jesus spoke them, words that so resonated that the missive is restated in James 5 in today’s first reading.
And yet, we continue to try to step in and do the Lord’s job for Him: that provocatively dressed young woman must be promiscuous. That man who cut us off in traffic is a self-centered jerk, or worse. The parents who are oblivious to the ruckus their children are making are irresponsible and inconsiderate.
The thing is, we don’t know and usually never will. The provocatively dressed young woman may be on her way to a shelter. That man who cut us off in traffic may be heading for a hospital to see a dying loved one. The parents who are oblivious to the ruckus their children are making may be mulling a critical relationship decision.
Only God knows what’s in their hearts and souls—and ours. Let’s thank Him for relieving us of any responsibility to sort it all out… and trust.
When you’re in a public setting today, consider the possible back story of those who annoy you by their behavior. Pray for them.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. James 5:4-5
Fear not when a man grows rich, when the wealth of his house becomes great, For when he dies, he shall take none of it; his wealth shall not follow him down. (Psalm 49:17-18)
“Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.” Mark 9:50
You are the salt of the earth
But if that salt has lost its flavor
It ain't got much in its favor
You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth!
But if that salt has lost its flavor
It ain't got much in its favor
You can't have that fault and be the salt of the earth!
(From Godspell by Steven Schwartz)
“Pass the salt.” When you share a meal with others, how many times have you heard or used that expression?
Salt is something we might be tempted to take for granted. It is plain, cheap, common, simple and…well, salty. We pour it on like the little girl under her umbrella – “When it rains, it pours.” Salts over-use in modern society is equated with hypertension and other health problems. However, salt has not always had such a bad reputation.
Before there was refrigeration, salt was essential to preservation of food and fish – and therefore for health and life. In addition, salt added taste. Not only does salt season and preserve, but salt heals. It has antiseptic properties. People used to go to the ocean to bathe in the waters for healing effects. A lot of people go to the beach to sit in the sun. I go to swim in the water. Even today, we might soak our sore feet in warm water and salt.
Salt also irritates. Did you ever get salt in a cut? It burns. In that way it is like fire (another element that has good and bad properties in how it affects life. Finally, salt penetrates. Did you ever add just a pinch of salt to food or drink? A small dash of salt added to a gallon of hot or cold water changes the taste of the entire jar.
The pairing of this simile of salt with the condemnation of the indifferent rich gives us cause for pause. Common salt is set in opposition to the isolating and selfish effects of wealth. Everything that heightens our senses and makes us more aware of our surroundings is good. Everything that isolates us from our neighbor, everything which deadens our awareness of others may lead us away from just solutions. Think Lazarus and the rich man. Throughout sacred scripture, we are reminded over and over that “You shall not exploit your neighbor. You shall not commit robbery. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your laborer.” Ignore these warnings at your own peril because just as we brought nothing into the world, we shall not be able to take anything out.
Are you living a bland, boring life? Are you subjected to the bland leading the bland? What seasons your life? Communities dedicated to social justice are often referred to as “salt and light” because they try to spread a sense of justice to penetrate, activate and change life. They also may irritate the powerful.
Salt is good. But we do not want to become hoarders keeping salt warehouse or its beneficial wealth for ourselves like some rich person in the Bible or on Wall Street. Instead, Jesus wants us to become salt shakers adding spice to the lives of others around us. Imagine if the rich man had shared a little of his salt, his food and his money with Lazarus at his gates. He would have been spared from the irritating and burning fires of hell and would have been the example to save his family before he was condemned.
Never lose your saltiness. Our lives and our communities would become good for nothing. “If salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”
Every sacrifice we offer – and the days of Lenten sacrifice are only a week away – must be salted with salt. The purifying and preservative use of salt in food and the refinement of fire are comparable to the spiritual life of the disciples of Jesus. Our engagement in piety, study and action are meant to add spice to our lives. And our spiritual life is not something that exists separate and apart from the rest of our life.
What will salt your experience today? How will you be made more aware of the plight of the poor surrounding you? How can you be the salt shaker sharing the experience of the Good News with others?
Pass the Salt.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
By Colleen O’Sullivan
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit” – you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
(Suscipe, St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Decades ago, Lord, you, who knew me before you formed me in my mother’s womb, called me into being. For as long as I can remember, you have gone before me, just like the pillar of cloud or of fire, always there, frequently turning around, beckoning me to follow. And what a journey it has been!
Yes, there have been detours on my part, but whenever I’ve strayed, you’ve been there to show me the way again. You’ve taken me places I never dreamed of going and you’ve filled my life with more friends than I could ever have imagined. You’ve laughed and rejoiced with me on many an occasion. You’ve carried me in times of illness and despair. You’ve put an arm around me, held me up and wiped away my tears in times of sorrow. I love you dearly, Lord.
So, how is it that I so often find myself struggling with you for the driver’s seat? Why do I persist in chasing the illusion that I am lord of my life? Forgive me my arrogance, Lord. Not my will but your will be done.
I hope that at some point before I die I can pray the Suscipe prayer and mean what I’m saying. It is so difficult some days to surrender my will to God’s will. I’m a person who loves organization, planning and my datebook, yet God’s plans for me always turn out to be better than anything I could ever think up.
If you have some time for reflection today, look at any 10-year segment of your life. What were your plans at the beginning of those 10 years? Where did God lead you during that time?
Monday, February 24, 2014
By Beth DeCristofaro
Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? … So submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:4, 7-8)
(Jesus said) “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37)
I call upon you, Lord God. Lord, save me. (Psalm 55:17)
Those of us in health care must constantly be vigilant to treat patients with deep respect for their human dignity because there is such a power inequality between those serving and those being served. We must not see people as the “kidney failure down in room 230” or “that difficult old guy who keeps calling me every five minutes for nothing.” Love allows me to know that when my kidney fails I will be just like her. Humility informs me that when I find myself with dementia I too will be calling out for a familiar, safe face. I have human kidneys, a human mind and God gave them to me as well as you.
In a homily, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton[i], said “God only wants us to become the full person that God has made us to be. That is why God wants us to seek out what is good, to seek out how to be a full person, by loving and being loved. That is our relationship with God. Loving God and being loved by God.” Jesus’ choice of a little child is so apt because children eager to love and to be loved just as God wants us to be. Children also delight in being full of potential. They love to soak up newness and enjoy finding out what their bodies, emotions and minds can do. Our relationship with God is likewise full of potential joy, love, and fulfillment. But we can’t grow toward God by focusing solely on the world even though it, too, is a powerfully awesome example of God’s creative love.
What brings out the childlike in you? What might you do to experience not only the giddy fun and awed wonder but the freedom to admit how much you do not know yet long to know, not in guilt and regret but in anticipation? Play some children’s music in the background as you sit with God in silence or pray using children’s prayers.
Take an opportunity to humble yourself by accepting aid, love, nurturing from the next person who offers it. Thank God for loving you through God’s servant.
Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace. James 3:17-18
Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24
Help my unbelief. All around me are example of hypocrisy. Help me to ignore what others may or may not do and just be concerned with what I do and how I make our church a poor church for the poor.
Just last Friday, on these very virtual pages, Melanie Rigney’s “Faith Without Works is Dead” was the last word on the faith v works debate. Or so I thought. Turns out it was the latest. Until today that is when our itinerant carpenter from Nazareth declares, “Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Everything? Possible?
Jesus must not hear the kind of “comfort-the-comfortable” preaching in American pulpits. For example, the Good News says it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Fortunately, the priest or deacon can take that as the cue to say that’s not really what it means literally. The rich man just needs to give to the church to get into heaven. Works prevail. Imagine if Jesus were in the pews. Do you think he would stand up to object and speak in absolutes like he did in today’s reading?
Everything! Possible! Everything is possible to one who has faith. Even to get a camel to pass through the eye of the needle. Even to get a rich man into heaven. Even to cure this boy of the demons who possess him. Possible? Yes. Then Jesus gets up and shows us how work is done by His faith.
We do not have to look too far for examples of how people can get easily distracted from what this debate really means and why it really matters. In one homily last year, Pope Francis told priests to practice what they preach, saying the church's credibility was on the line. Pope Francis said ordinary Catholics need to "see in our actions what they hear from our lips."
Francis has made himself an example of a more humble and frugal church by refusing many of the trappings of the papacy, living in the Vatican hotel rather than the Apostolic Palace and wearing a simple white cassock of the papacy rather than fancy vestments and capes for formal occasions that his predecessors wore.
"Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the church's credibility," he said.
How can we be more consistent in our faith today? Everything is possible if we can.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Seventh Sunday of Ordinary time 2014 A
By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 19:2B,18B
If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. 1 Corinthians 3:18B
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well. Matthew 5:39-40
Piety flows out of our being Temples of the Holy Spirit. We are God’s temples and the goodness of our lives reflects the holiness that flows out of our use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the fruits of the Spirit’s presence in our lives Christ lives on in who we are by the good we do for one another. We inherit the kingdom of god because of our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All of these fruits of the Spirit bespeak how Christ reaches the others of our lives. This is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. God gave us the gift of freedom. The purpose of life is to return our freedom to God by how we live the gift of our lives for others. There is no law about love. Love begins where justice leaves off. The more that we do out of love is the surrender of our freedom to the need of another. This is how we live in the spirit. Selfishness is when we use the gift of life exclusively for ourselves. Selflessness is when we live and do what we can for the need of another. Jesus identifies with our needs and even as we need one another we become Christ for each other. Christ takes what is done for another as done for himself.
We study how to belong to Christ. Christ is willing to give us his heart. He gave his life for us in the death on the cross. We give our lives back to Christ when we give our lives for each other. We can only die once. All of life is made up of many little dying as we give our time and our energy to what another needs done. We study how best to give what we can for each other. Any little thing is worth doing because only the ordinary is extraordinary in the kingdom of God. It is not what we are doing that makes something significant in the kingdom of God. It is with how much love we do what we do that makes the difference. The Spirit of God dwells within us and what we do in the name of Christ unlocks the gates of heaven to our love.
Our actions unleash the spirit of God within us when we do what we do out of love of our neighbor. Wherever there is love, God is there. The extra mile is only an extra mile without love. We are the floodgates of God’s love until we are honestly trying to do more than we are being asked to do. Love is never wasted. I call trying to do more than is being asked of us working on our heavenly portfolio. Nothing that is done in the name of Christ is ever wasted.