Friday, December 19, 2014

Overshadow


Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.  Isaiah 7:13-14

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”  Luke 1:30-31

Piety
Come Holy Spirit, you who overshadowed the temple and the Virgin Mary with your glory.  We humbly ask you to overshadow us so that when others encounter us in this holy season they sense being in your presence.  Transform our meager hospitality into heaven’s welcome mat.  Make us kind and good and gentle in ways that point to your presence in our midst.  As other are with us, may they sense a growing measure of being with you.  Come Holy Spirit, Overshadow.  Hear our prayers for nothing is impossible for you.  (Praying the Story:  Learning Prayer from the Psalms by Marie Dunham) 

Study
The action continues to build to the Christmas crescendo as Mary learns more about the part she has been destined since the prophecy of Isaiah to play in this story. 
God’s role in our world has always played out indirectly through signs like the Virgin giving birth.  However, the scholars continue to debate the place of the historical Jesus in the world. Was this child ever even born?
The debate was renewed Friday on the pages of the Washington Post. Don’t click on the link below.  Thomas Merton had it right when he wrote: "The ox and the donkey understood more of the first Christmas than the high priests in Jerusalem. And it is the same today." 


Action
Is there a better place to spend the final days leading up to Christmas than the proverbial shopping mall or reading the newspaper?  Dishing out a meal at S.O.M.E. or the Lamb Center are some possibilities that come to mind.  Visiting friends and family.  Providing hospitality.  Allow the spirit of the Lord to come upon you and overshadow you. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Gift of Silence


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense.  Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John…  Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this?  For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”  And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God.  I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:10-13, 18-20)

Piety
Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Study   
As a child, I remember hearing this Gospel story and thinking that God was someone I wouldn’t want to cross.  One misstep, one false word and you might be zapped.  Unable to speak.  For nine whole months!  For someone whose name was written on the blackboard in elementary school for talking in class, it sounded like a dreadful punishment. 

But now I look at this story a little differently.  Maybe the imposed silence was actually a gift from God.  It could be that Zechariah needed to do some pondering, and God simply carved out the time and space in which he could do just that.  Maybe Zechariah needed to ask himself just how much he trusted in the Lord.  After all, he and Elizabeth had longed for and prayed for a child.  And here was God answering that prayer.  Maybe Zechariah needed to reconsider his doubt-filled response.  Who is he (or who are we) to put limits on what God can do for us?  Maybe none of us have ever had a child in our old age, but if you look back over your life, you can surely identify times when God has blessed you in some totally unexpected manner.

Perhaps Zechariah needed space to think about gratitude.  Here an angel of the Lord tells him his deepest longing is about to be fulfilled, and he never even says thank you.  Instead, he questions God’s ability to bring this about.  A few months of thinking about the ways in which he is blessed might not be such a terrible thing.  It could change his life or our lives forever if we lived out of thankfulness.

Action
In stark contrast to our frenetic secular Christmas preparations, Advent is a relatively quiet time of prayerful anticipation.   Carve out some silence for yourself in the days ahead to ponder the mystery of the loving God who’s coming into our lives we both long for and celebrate during this season of short days and long nights.



Correction to last Friday’s Daily Tripod:  St. Juan Diego was actually 57 years old when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him outside of Mexico City.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We Cannot Wait

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

By Beth DeCristofaro

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved … (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.   For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.   She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” … When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.  (Matthew 1: 20-21, 24)

Piety
O God, may I ever rejoice that the shoot of faith grows in me.  May I grow my faith ever deeper by nurturing those in need you send my way.  May I respond in joy to the cries of those most in want, captivity, pain and grief.

Study
My husband’s great-grandmother opened St. Roch’s Church on Staten Island, each morning before the priest, readying the sanctuary for Mass.  My dear friend baked and decorated Christmas cookies with my daughters for many years because I am chef-challenged.  In Christian churches around the world, parishioners are preparing for the Christmas liturgies by rehearsing hymns, performing run-throughs of the rituals, adorning Nativities with greens and lights.  Parents show children how to toss coins into Salvation Army kettles and volunteers buy gifts and food for the poor.  These worldly, routine holiday actions are as St. Theresa of Avila recognized “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Madeleine L ’Engle’s  poem “First Coming” describes how God’s hands, eyes and feet expressed love in Jesus.  We can read it for clues as to how we can extend God’s hands and eyes and feet today, nurturing the sacred shoot.

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.  …

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Action
The world remains unsteady, the need is great and deep.  What can we do to address fear, hatred and ignorance?   We have so many avenues such as to speak up when racial slurs or jokes are told; attend an interfaith event; advocate for everyone to have access to health insurance; speak out about gun violence.  “He dined with sinners in all their grime” Let us do what is just and right in the land not what is comfortable or “acceptable.” Let us not wait for the perfect time.

He Receives the People

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

“The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.”  Genesis 49:10

Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.  Matthew 1:15B-16

Piety
Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem.  (Receive, Lord, all my liberty.)

The Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley (an Irish nun who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831) is credited with a 'suscipe' prayer in the tradition of the Mass and the Ignatian Exercises. This prayer, also known as the Act of Resignation, is one of many that she wrote but is considered to be her best known prayer.

My God, I am yours for time and eternity. Teach me to cast myself entirely into the arms of your loving Providence with a lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity. Grant, O most merciful Redeemer, that whatever you ordain or permit may be acceptable to me. Take from my heart all painful anxiety; let nothing sadden me but sin, nothing delight me but the hope of coming to the possession of You my God and my all, in your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

Study
Today, our Advent preparations take on a new dimension.  The Gospel readings pivot to begin telling the direct Christmas narrative.  Over the past two and a half weeks, we have been reviewing a variety of lessons in preparation of our minds and hearts.  Now, the story begins to directly address the birth of Christ and the events immediately preceding it.

Over the past few days, the readings have shown us how the spirit of God washed over Isaiah and the spirit of Baptism washed over Jesus (in the Gospel Sunday).  Monday we heard its effects on the false prophet Balaam in his visions.  Although Balaam was not a great prophet in the line of Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel, he was able to overcome his shortcomings when the spirit of God upon him to enable Balaam delivered God’s vision to the people.  The words of Balaam’s vision shall become our own as the vision soon passes into actual seeing at the foot of the manager.

I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.  Number 24:17AB

This is a vision to which Balaam and we must be true.  Balaam could not sell out – he refuses to let even all the gold and silver of his adversary make him stray from the command of the Lord.  “‘Even if Balak gave me his house full of silver and gold, I could not of my own accord do anything, good or evil, contrary to the command of the LORD’? Whatever the LORD says I must say.” (Do you hear echoing down the millennia the call to remember the “reason” for the “season?”)  Rather than hearing from the Great or Minor Prophets, we get ready for the rising action of the Nativity story.

The rejection of the temptation of worldly goods and power that we heard throughout “early” Advent is gone (for now).  No longer will Jesus be trying to turn the tables on the Pharisees as they try to trick him.  Now, God will turn the tables on all of humanity as He gets ready to walk among us first as a baby in the line of David, the son of Abraham.  We hear echoes again of the genealogy of Jesus.  For the remaining days of Advent, we will not hear about episodes from the adult life of Jesus but the build-up to the denouement – the actual birth of a baby to Mary, the descendant-daughter of Ruth (the only other woman mentioned by Matthew in this family tree.

Action
Are we prepared to give up our pursuit of riches, power and knowledge and turn over our lives to the Lord as Mary turned over her life to the Lord and as He turned over His life for us?  

While we won’t remember our own birth, reflect on the vision of children, grandchildren, or others who have come into your life and changed things.  While we have a set of relatives in our time, many people had a hand in the gene pool that sprouted each one of us.  Think back upon those known and unknown members of your family trees whom you never met. 

All of us – known and distant – are touched by this act of love when our Lord came down as a baby and entered the world the same way we did, and our great-great-grandparents and our children’s children’s children will.

Are we prepared to give up our pursuit of riches, power and knowledge and turn over our lives to the Lord as Mary turned over her life to the Lord and as He turned over His life for us?   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Entering the Kingdom of God before You

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

By Melanie Rigney

… I will change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord… (Zephaniah 3:9)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. (Psalms 34:19)
(Jesus told the chief priests and elders:) “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:31-32)

Piety
Lord, help me to recognize, love, and adore You in all the forms in which You will appear in my life today.

Study
Lately, I’ve been writing about the Beatitudes, how women saints lived them, and what we can learn from them. The one that has taken the most pondering to date is Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I get the concept of spiritual poverty—not that I live it anywhere near as well as the four women I’m profiling—but that part about the kingdom of heaven has taken a while. That those who abandon all their emotional and physical baggage get to heaven before the rest of us? That they are finding glimpses of heaven here on earth?

Maybe the answer is in today’s Gospel reading, when Jesus tells the elders and chief priests: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you.” Maybe “before you” shouldn’t conjure up images of a long queue with Peter at the gate a la TSA, carefully checking identifications for most of us, with a privileged few who qualify for TSA PreΓΌ as tax collectors and prostitutes waltzing right on through. Maybe we’re putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Perhaps Jesus is referring to his earthly presence as the kingdom of God, and that it is indeed before them all, there for the taking if only they would recognize it. And maybe, instead of that long line later on, we have the opportunity for early check-in every day when we praise him, adore him, and love others in his name.

Action
Speaking of long lines… why wait until the last minute to tidy up your 2014 giving? Any number of local, national, and international charities would appreciate your yearend support this week, before their staffs take time off for Christmas and New Year’s. If you’re a Cursillista, please consider a donation to Cursillo of the Arlington Diocese to help defray the cost of future Weekends and other expenses. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do Not Quench the Spirit


By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.  Isaiah 61:1-2A

Do not quench the Spirit.  1 Thessalonians 5:19

“Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”  John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”  John 1:25-27

Piety
Piety brings rejoicing into our lives because of the closeness of God’s love to us.  The Resurrection grace is the joy of the Lord coming back to tell us that all his human life was worthwhile because it makes us, in our companionship with Christ, new children to God.  We are God’s children by our relationship with Christ.  Piety brings us closer and closer to Christ even as it makes us God’s children.  We rejoice because the joy of Christ resurrection is in us.  It is the whole life of Christ that has given us salvation.  Any part of it could have been our salvation.  We rejoice that our humanness has a God meaning to it in God loving us so much that he wanted to be one of us.  We look at the beginning of his life and feel the joy of his coming that is a taste of the final coming when our joy will be complete.  Great expectations give form and meaning to our preparations for the birth of Christ.  Our piety is the form our being saved by Christ is expressed.

Study
The prophet Isaiah tells us that the Lord anointed us to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and day of vindication by our God.  This is how the Lord reveals himself to the people.  Our joy flows out of our willingness to do the same for the people around us.  We study how to be the good news of the Lord and how to reveal his presence by our living his love in our day and age just as he did back then.  We rejoice in the Lord because we know how to be his love to our world.  We rejoice that we can follow the Lord more closely and thus love him more dearly.

Action
We can pray without ceasing by living his life in our day and age.  Whether we eat or drink or sleep, we can do all for the Lord.  In all circumstances, we can give thanks to the Lord because each moment of our lives has the fullness of God’s love that we can share by giving out liberty back to the Lord so that we can be used in all we do to be his love to the world.  His grace and his love is enough for us.  John was a voice crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. He could only point out Christ.  To us is given the possibility to be the love of Christ to world since the Sacraments are how the humanness of Christ remains in each one of us so that we can be his life to the Church.

Recognize Him


He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.  So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”  Matthew 17:11-12

Piety
Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.  Psalm 80:4

Study
Did you ever turn on a light in a dark room?  At first, you have to keep your eyes closed to adjust to the newfound brightness.  Eventually, you blink a few times and your pupils dilate enough for you to be able to open your eyes.
Maybe that was what it was like when Jesus came into the dark world.  He turned on the light but those around him had adjust to the Light. 

Sometimes – like at his Baptism and at the Transfiguration – his true self was revealed.  However, the world was not ready for him yet.  So, Jesus gradually introduced himself with preaching and teaching, with healing and signs. 

Today’s Good News comes right after one of those flashes of light in the darkness, right after the Transfiguration.  They were coming down from the mountain and Jesus told Peter, James and John what was to come.  They began to understand.  The light did not make it any easier when the arrest and crucifixion happened.  But they began to understand the light flickering in the distance by at least starting to put the story of John the Baptist into context with “the vision” thing that just happened:  “Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”  (Matthew 17:13)

Action
How is Jesus turning up the light so you can recognize him this season?

Advent is like the dimmer switch to Christmas.  You probably have such a switch in at least one room.  Rather than turning up your lights in full, you can dial back the brightness a little or a lot and slowly bring the lights on to full power.
As each week of Advent passes, we turn up the “dimmer switch” toward Christmas until we see the fullness of the Nativity. 

One purple candle. 

Two purple candles. 

Two purple candles and a pink candle. 

Three purple candles and a pink candle. 

Christmas tree!

How is Jesus turning up the light so you can recognize him this season?



Friday, December 12, 2014

An Affinity the Poor


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord.  (Zechariah 2:14)

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”  (Luke 1:26-33)

Piety
Jesus, I can see your special love of those who are so often invisible in this world.  You sent your mother to give hope to the poor by appearing to Juan Diego.  Open my heart to fill with compassion for those who are hungry and without dignity.  Grant me the ability to live simply and to see you in the faces of those around me.  (from Creighton University's Online Ministries’ Daily Advent Prayer for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Study   
In our Scripture readings for today and in the feast we celebrate, God powerfully demonstrates his affinity for the poor.  In the first reading, God promises through the prophet Zechariah to come and dwell with his people.  By any worldly measure, the people God has chosen to call his own are nobodies.  Israel was no superpower.  In Zechariah’s time, the Israelites were already home from exile, but they were not an autonomous people; they lived under the rule of Darius the Great of Persia.   
When God finally makes good on his promise centuries later, his Son is born into a world where the Jews lived under the heavy thumb of the Romans.  Mary and Joseph were not people of great means.  Jesus was born in a rude shed meant for someone’s livestock.
In the Gospel reading for today, we have the story of the Annunciation.  Of all the women in the world, God selects an unknown peasant girl to be the mother of his Son.  That must have been a lot for a young girl to ponder!  When Mary later sings the Magnificat, she acknowledges that God has come to her in her lowliness.
When our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 outside Mexico City, she didn’t show up in a great cathedral or basilica.  It wasn’t a bishop or well-known person to whom she came.  She appeared to a poor, young Indian boy.  She even spoke in his native tongue. 
Whether it’s the people God chose to call his own, the family to whom God entrusted his Son or the teenager to whom God sent Our Lady of Guadalupe, God shows a strong affinity for the poor in the world.

Action
As we continue our journey through Advent, may we, too, show compassion for the poor in our midst by including them on our Christmas gift lists.  There are many worthwhile ways to reach out to the needy. 

One of my favorites is through the scholarship fund at Loyola Retreat House, a Jesuit retreat house in Faulkner, MD.   Scholarships enable the homeless, the unemployed, and the ill as well as elderly priests and sisters who can’t afford the cost of a retreat to have a time of peace and prayer with the Lord.  If you would like to donate to this scholarship fund, please send your donation, marked Retreat Angel Society to:  Loyola Retreat House, P.O. Box 9, Faulkner, MD 20632-0009.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Seek and Be Quenched


By Beth DeCristofaro

The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain, their tongues are parched with thirst.  I, the LORD, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valleys; I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water. (Isaiah 41:17-18)

Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

Piety
It's when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.  (“On the Mystery of the Incarnation” Denise Levertov)

Study
John the Baptist recognized the presence of the Lord even before his birth. His vocation was to preach the coming of his cousin and he honored Jesus by advising his disciples to follow Jesus.  His words seem to foretell Jesus’ teaching to the crowds when John told his disciples:   He must increase; I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)  Although John had nothing he was not parched with thirst.  Rather he was like a fountain watering the desert as he preached and baptized.

When asked who will be the greatest in heaven, Jesus tells his disciples (Matthew 18) that they must be as humble as a little child, dependent on, trusting in, full of faith in God just as a child is to her parents.   Jesus tells us the greatest are those who thirst for God and who search.  He follows in the path of the prophets who again and again warn the powerful that they have strayed.  Indeed, Isaiah uses terms such as maggot and worm against them.  But God does not reject a people who thirst even when they have strayed from God.  Instead, God blesses profusely.

Action
Take a break from competitive gift-giving, perfectionist decorating and world-class entertaining to consider the shuddering wonderment that God holds us so precious.  How can we gift our neighbor with a love that says:  You are cherished by the Word Incarnate?

You Will Find Rest


[The Lord] gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.  Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31

Jesus said to the crowds: “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

Piety
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.  Amen. 

Study
Are you burning the candle at both ends during this holiday season?  You are in luck. The Lord has two gifts for you:  boundless energy and ample rest. Both are in short supply when we are busiest. 

Actually, there are three gifts promised today in scripture – the final being a sense of humor.  Only a Lord who has a sense of humor can ask us to take up our cross daily to follow Him and call his burden light and easy.

Light and easy is a diet.  Light and easy is a steam mop used for cleaning floors.  Light and easy is a low-calorie yogurt.  Picking up a cross seems like anything BUT light and easy unless you have help.  The Lord does not ask us to do anything that he has not already done.  Just like Simon the Cyrenian came to the assistance of Jesus to ease those final steps, the Lord will be there for us to make our last steps easier.

Rev. James Martin, SJ, is a prolific author of many popular books that help explain our faith and its practices to members of the Church and others who have curiosity about all things Catholic.  Lately, however, he also posted several extended comments to Facebook about his Jesuit brother Rev. T.J. Martinez, SJ, in Houston, Texas.  TJ founded Cristo Rey High School and recently passed away after a battle with cancer – a cross that no one would consider light or easy. 

Fr. Martinez was diagnosed with stomach cancer as he was finishing the last stage of his Jesuit formation in East Africa. He had thought that the stomach pain was perhaps the normal side effects of being in an unfamiliar part of the developing world.  From the students, teachers and parents at the high school he founded to all of his Jesuit brothers and friends, no one wanted to believe the news about his diagnosis. Of all people, Fr. Martinez seemed to be unstoppable: a wellspring of energy to all whom he met from former First Lady Laura Bush and bishops to people in the inner city and the poorest places on earth.

I have never met either Fr. Martin or Fr. Martinez yet the stories by and about both men also reveal the combination of the boundless energy and promised rest that the prophet Isaiah promises us this Advent season.

Pardon me for quoting at length.  If you are on the social media platform Facebook, follow Fr. Martin and you can read the whole of several posts about T.J.  For the quotes today, the full text of comments by Fr. Martin is at this link: https://www.facebook.com/FrJamesMartin/photos/a.139618381495.120357.46899546495/10152409696941496/?type=1

After his diagnosis, Fr. Martin asked him how he was doing. Here he paraphrases what Fr. Martinez said:
“I just finished with my Long Retreat, and I made my offer of myself to Jesus. In the Spiritual Exercises, the final prayer is the “Take, Lord, Receive” prayer, one of total surrender of all that you have to Jesus: “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.”

TJ had just made that prayer at the end of his retreat.

"So this is the perfect time for this to happen to me," he said. "I was ready.” 

When Fr. Martin asked Fr. Martinez last summer if he thinks about death, his brother said he did.  However, he also said that he did not dwell upon it.    
“Well, Jim, I’m a Jesuit, right? And Jesuits are always given a mission. So if my mission from Jesus right now is to be sick, then I accept it. And if my mission is to die, then I accept that mission, too.” 

In the middle of November, Fr. Martin sent a letter saying goodbye.  He knew that he would not be getting any more calls or messages from Fr. Martinez.  Their next meeting would be “God willing, in the fullness of time.”   Here is what the final message was from Fr. Martinez:   “The last six years of my life have been my best assignment ever,” he said.  “But my next one will be even better.”

Action
May you have the energy to conquer the best assignment ever.  Until the next one. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Give Comfort to My People


By Melanie Rigney
Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Sing to the Lord; bless his name; announce his salvation, day after day. (Psalms 96:2)
Jesus said to his disciples: “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14)

Piety
Lord, help me to give comfort and speak tenderly in Your name to all I encounter today.

Study
There’s always a thread among the Daily Readings, honest. It’s just that some days, it’s harder to find that thread than others. Further, as you likely know from having heard some long, convoluted homilies or sermons in your life, it’s sometimes folly to try to link up all the readings into one message. Conventional wisdom is to focus on the relevance of a single reading to the audience’s lives.

This is one of those other days, those joyous days when the harmony of the readings is so apparent one can’t help but talk about them all.

The God of Isaiah 40 is not an angry, vindictive God. He is a loving, tender God who loves His people and who asks us to do the same, to let the people know they are saved and to comfort them.

The God Jesus speaks of in Matthew 18 is much the same, a God who loves his flock and who goes in search of those who go astray (that would be all of us) and rejoices at our return, whether we were away from His grace for three seconds, three days, three months, three years, or three decades.

That is our God. We are His people. How blessed are we indeed? Why should anything keep us from singing His praise and sharing his Good News non-stop, as the psalmist advises?

Now, stop reading and meditating, and go into the world and do it.

Action
Spend some time today with another lost sheep. Give comfort. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

May It Be Done to Me

Patronal Feast day of the United States of America

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”  Genesis 3:9-10

And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Luke 1:28-29

Piety
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her. 

St. Ambrose, the 8th century bishop of Milan, in a commentary on the Gospel of Luke, urges us to: 

“Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God . . . [Our soul] proclaims the greatness of the Lord, just as Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior.”

Study
Sometimes, I look at what is the same in the readings.  However, today, what is striking is how different Adam’s response if from Mary’s. 

Physically, Adam hid himself.  Mary did not even consider hiding from the angel.  The angel came in and they had an exchange.

Emotionally, Adam was afraid.  Mary, while greatly troubled, took the message from Gabriel to heart and was not afraid but sought to come to terms with the message, the meaning and the matter.

Spiritually, Adam was attempting to imitate God.  Spiritually, Mary became the model of the servant leader who accepted her mission from God.  The angel then departed.  Job done.  Mission accomplished.  Mother of God in place.

Part of the answer lies in what was said.  However, the other part lies in what was done.  Rather than accept the Lord’s wishes, Adam went ahead and ate the apple.  Mary, on the other hand, accepted it fully.

This image of a painting by American Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898) is telling.  It is hard to hide from the light.  When the angel appeared with the message from God, Mary did not cower like a bunch of scared disciples in the Upper Room.  She opened her doors just as Elizabeth will open doors to Mary in a short while.

Action
The humility and obedience of Mary stand in stark contrast to the broad-shouldered, muscle-bound image of America.  Yet this humble, poor teenager is the patroness of America.  “How can this be?”  How do we as individuals and as a nation that counts ourselves as second to none become more like this handmaiden to the Lord? 

As we make room for Christmas, we inherently make room for Mary.  Physically, we bring out Nativity scenes and statues of Mary in prayer next to her newborn King.  Her image graces greeting cards.  He name is sung out in praises. 

However, at the end of Christmas, do you also put Mary away – packed up in the boxes and Rubbermaid containers you bought at Target with all the other holiday decorations.  Maybe this Christmas is the season when Mary does not get put away.  Give her a public place to dwell all year long. 

Just like Mary made room for Gabriel, for the message and the mission, what must you move aside to make way for the message the Lord has for you? 

Keep Mary out and visible as a reminder every day of how can this new attitude become manifest in me. “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Prepare


By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Isaiah 40:3

And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me.  I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:7-8

Piety
Our Piety of life is seen in all the ways we have prepared for the coming of our Lord.  ”Prepare the way of the Lord,“ is the cry of our piety.  Our piety levels the mountains and the hills that make our journey difficult.  It fills in the valleys with an easier road to travel as our piety has worn a path that brings us to the wonder of the birth of our Savior.  Because we are going toward the Lord, each day of our journey is worth a thousand years to travel.  The Lord feeds us even as we go toward him as he gathers his flock.  The Lord will carry us to make our journey easier.  The glory of the Lord will be revealed as we draw closer to the Birth of our Savior.  John is the ascetic of the desert that shows us the glory of the Lord.  John is the messenger that shows us how to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord.  John speaks of the one mightier than himself whose sandals he is not worthy to loosen the throngs.  John will recognize his Lord as the baby in the womb of Mary.

Study
The history of the Jewish people is one of preparation for the Messiah.  Their expectations took many forms.  The suffering servant Messiah was the last one expected.  They would gladly have run to a mighty king.  It would be the lowly shepherds who would recognize him in the cave.  But it is Mary who would make his coming possible.  She was destined to be the handmaid of the Lord.  Her “Yes” would bring fulfillment to all that the prophets foretold.  It is her “Yes” that we are echoing in all we do to make ready the coming of the Lord.

Action
Action speaks louder than words.  What we do each day to prepare for the birth of Christ requires prayer to uncover what the plan of God is for us.  Our prayer is an action as we recite our agreement with the will of God for us.  Discernment is prayer where we put before God the words of the Baptist and ask in prayer “What is the best we can do today?”  Preparation is the watchword for these days of Advent.  Opening our hearts to the value each moment and living each moment as the purpose of our lives bring into play love which is the giving of our lives for another.  How we offer ourselves takes us into the surrender of more than what we need.  How we surrender some of the necessities of our lives for others makes a big difference in sacrifice because we are giving of ourselves when it is not merely extras that we offer.  How we reach out to those who will not know the source of their gift is what the Christ friend is all about.