Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Lord, save us! We are perishing!"

“A furious storm came up on the lake … “In the original Greek, the word used is seismos, which in our language usually refers to earthquakes. But, if you’ve ever been caught in a late afternoon storm while boating with the thunder rolling, the lightning flashing, and the waves rising like walls around the boat. . .
It reminds me of an afternoon I spent with old John Harrington and his crew out from Tralee, trawling in the North Atlantic. And I recall the prayer of my maternal ancestors from Brittany and Bay of Biscay, plying the same waters: “Bonne Sainte Anne, protégez-nous. La barque est si petite, et la mer est si vaste” [Good Saint Anne protect us : the boat is so small and the sea is so vast. ]

In Mark’s version of this incident, Jesus reproaches the disciples for their lack of faith after the storm subsides (4:35-41). Matthew, on the other hand, in the version we read today, writes that Jesus chided them before the miracle. It is viewpoint consistent with other episodes in Matthew’s gospel. For instance, in the scene with the two blind men (9:27-29), Jesus asks “Do you believe I can do this?” and they answer, “Yes, Lord”. Then, he touches their eyes and says, “According to your faith, it will be done to you”. In fact, Chapter 9 of Matthew’s gospel is replete with incidents in which Jesus heals people because he knows their faith. Have faith that something will happen, and it will happen, not the other way round. There is another side of the story, of course. Believe and pray for a favor you want to obtain, but God knows it’s not what’s best for you, and you can pray forever without your petition being fulfilled. Then there’s Monica, who prayed for three decades before her son Augustine was converted. Some things depend not only on God’s will, but on other people’s will as well.

There are many storms in life, some more violent and threatening than others, but nasty weather all the same. We are tossed about in our relationships in school, at the workplace, in the family. We are concerned about our own health and that of our loved ones. Then there are natural disasters, economic recession, war and terrorism. All of these add to the storms of life. Not to mention the internal struggles that we share with no one, but that test our faith.

When facing these challenges, how strong is your faith? The Apostles’ momentary lapse of faith was reassured and strengthened by Jesus’ personal presence and actions; yet they were amazed that he had power over the elements of nature. You might say, in response, “But Jesus was right there in the boat with them!” as if that would make their situation easier than yours. In fact, the opposite is true. Unlike Peter, Andrew, James and John, who were with Jesus in the boat, we know Jesus to be risen from the dead, that he sits at the right hand of the Father from whom all good things come, and that the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to share with us the graces we need to overcome our fears and fill our hearts with courage, patience, and peace.

How do you respond when suddenly a violent storm comes up in your sea of life and it feels like your boat is being swamped? Is it the disciples’ reaction of fear and doubt? Or is David’s response in today’s Psalm: In the Lord I have trusted; I have not faltered. Test me, Lord, and try me; search my heart and my mind.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Will Give You The Keys Of The Kingdom of Heaven

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.

Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

Then Peter came to himself and said: "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."
Acts 12:1-11

For I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadeswill not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Matthew 16:13-19

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Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Both of these apostles died at Rome during the persecution of the Emperor Nero (AD 64-48). Peter, the first successor of Jesus himself as head of the church, established Rome as the center of church governance, since it was the capital of the Roman Empire. Paul arrived in Rome at the end of his missionary journeys, after being arrested and taken there as a prisoner.

Today’s gospel narrates the choice of Peter by Jesus. Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They respond, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or another of the prophets.” But then he asks the key question: “Who do you say that I am?” It is Simon Peter who answers, with strong affirmation: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. The Greek title, Christ, and the Hebrew title, Messiah, are identical in meaning. Both words literally mean “the anointed one”.

The Messiah is the anointed King who will save the Jews from their oppressors. Before Jesus rose from the dead, this expression was taken to signify that the Messiah would be a king who would expel the Romans from the land given to the Jews by God himself.

For an entire millennium, since the time of King David, the Jewish people had been waiting prayerfully for a savior. But when he came, Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah, because most of the Jews were looking for a warrior king, not a preacher and miracle worker. They wanted to be freed from the yoke of Rome, not from the yoke of sin.

When Simon acknowledged Jesus as the one sent by God, he proclaimed the Jesus was the Messiah. Then Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, which in Greek means “solid rock”. Jesus pledged to establish his kingdom – his Church – on the “rock” (of Peter) and gave him the power to accomplish this feat:: “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom.”

When Simon recognized Jesus as the one sent from God, he proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. At that moment, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, which in Greek means “solid rock”. At the same time, Jesus gave Peter the authority and power to establish the Church on a sure and solid foundation: I give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Today’s readings depict the trials Peter and Paul suffered to bear witness to the Lord. Let us reflect on our own lives, and see that we are also having hard times, and dealing with difficult circumstances. As we celebrate the solemnity of the Church’s greatest Apostles, we need to trust in the Lord’s presence, and hope for the salvation he brings.

One final note: It is important that we recognize our pope as the successor to Saint Peter, who was commissioned by Christ Jesus to lead the Church, “Simon, son of Jonah” was blessed by Jesus because he recognized the divine presence in the teacher and miracle worker from Nazareth.

My we also be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so that we might live an faithful life in union with the successor of Peter and the whole church.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Do Not Be Afraid; Just Have Faith

God did not make death,nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.For he fashioned all things that they might have being,and the creatures of the world are wholesome,and there is not a destructive drug among themnor any domain of the netherworld on earth,for justice is undying.For God formed man to be imperishable;the image of his own nature he made him.But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,and they who belong to his company experience it.
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24


Brothers and sisters:
But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have less.
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15


When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"

"You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, 'Who touched me?' "

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."
While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher anymore?"

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe."
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Mark 5:21-43

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Whenever we read from the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures, we would be well advised to listen carefully and attentively to each word, as we would hearing the recitation of a piece of poetry. The sage who set these musings down in writing pondered many topics. The writing relates our life’s experiences to the purposes of our Creator. Yet there are few direct answers to most of life’s questions. Instead, there are provocative promptings to come personally into closer relationship to this same God.

The question addressed today, from the Book of Wisdom, is about the presence of death and evil in the world God created. It is not easy to find acceptable answers to many of our questions in the mysterious tension between God’s creative love, and the destructive forces of evil.
The opening statement is a strong affirmation that captures our attention, but heightens our tension: “If God is so good, why is there such sorrow, suffering and, above all, why death?” There are several affirmations of God’s positive purpose, but no easy answer to the last statement: “By the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.”

Envy is the work of the devil, and it leads to death for those who taste the bitter fruit of the tree of evil. The theme of this reading rests upon the faith that good is created by God. The evil one is envious of all goodness, and we who live in the universal tension between gratitude to God for what we have and envy of others who have more – or different – gifts, and we are often faced with a choice between the two – seldom between what is clearly good and what is clearly evil, but rather between a “lesser good” and a “greater good”. Everyone in this congregation – and all who read this reflection – and who used to be a child will recall the dialogue: “It’s time for you to go to bed!” followed by “Just let me finish this program (or one more chapter in the book I’m reading).” God respects the freedom of his children to make our own decision for dependence and domination, or for liberty and life.

Today’s gospel has two sections, a story within a story – a familiar literary figure of Mark’s gospel – but both stories form a strong statement about Jesus’ healing power. Last week, we saw that Jesus had the power to calm the winds and waves, and to calm the fears of his apostles. In this week’s reading, two persons in need approach Jesus. Jairus’ daughter is ill, at the point of death. While Jesus is on his way to Jairus’ house, followed by the crowd, a sick woman desperate for a cure reaches out to touch his clothing. “If I can only touch his clothes, I’ll be cured.” Immediately, her hemorrhaging ceased, and she felt in her body that she was healed. It is only then that Jesus turns around and asks, “Who touched me?” The disciples react typically, “You are surrounded by this crowd, and you ask ‘who touched me’”? If this were today, one of them would have said, “Get real!” She approaches Jesus and identifies herself, telling him the whole story. And he says, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace, cured of your affliction.”

Jesus continues on his way to cure Jairus’ daughter, but a report arrives that she has already died. Over the objections of the crowd, and the derisive laughter when he says, “She is not dead, she is simply sleeping”, Jesus enters the little girl’s bedchamber with Peter, James, John and the child’s parents. He takes her by hand and says, in Aramaic, “Talitha, koum!” “Get up, little girl!” And that is just what she does: she gets up immediately and starts walking around. [Excuse me, Mark, but I’d like to remind you that she’s twelve – she didn’t walk, she danced.]
Jesus is accomplishing the mission for which he was sent by the father: to bring real life to the living. Both the woman with the hemorrhage and the young girl’s father come to Jesus with conditions of body and spirit that they both wish were different. She is sick herself, he has a sick child, but both would no doubt rather be observing Jesus as faces in the crowd, watching someone other event of healing, on some other body then mine, or my child’s.

Jesus loves them, just the way he finds them, but he loves them enough not to leave them the way he found them. This is Jesus as he is usually portrayed in Mark’s Gospel: Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth, and all that is in them. Healing human illness is all in a day’s work, until the day comes that the synagogue officials, the Pharisees, the Doctors of the Law, and others too numerous to mention determine that for their evil designs to continue, this one has to be eliminated – and making that decision, bring about precisely what they’re trying to avoid – the Redemption and Salvation of the children of God, His Father and ours.

Jesus did not come to solve such problems as why we should believe in a loving God when God allows bad things to happen. We have the freedom to be dominated by natural desires, ranging from lust and envy to vanity and pride. We have the same freedom to refuse to be dominated by our dependencies, and to allow Jesus to heal us and make us whole.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Is There Anything Impossible For The LORD?

While Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent, enjoying the shade from the great trees of Mamre in the heat of the day, the LORD appeared to him. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He hurried to meet them, bowed, and invited them to stay a while. He ordered water brought so they could wash the dust from their feet, and rest beneath the trees.

Then Abraham turned to Sarah: “Quick, get three measures of fine flour, knead it, and bake some bread.” He ran to the herd, chose a tender calf and gave it to a servant, who prepared it. Then he brought some curds with milk, and the calf that had been prepared, and set the meal before them. While they were eating, he stood with them, under a tree.

“Where is your wife, Sarah?” they asked. “There, in the tent”, he replied.

Then the LORD said, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent. Abraham and Sarah were old, and she was well past the age of childbearing. She thought, “After I am withered, and my husband is old, am I now to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh?” And she laughed at herself.

Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, old as I am?’ Is there anything impossible for the LORD? I shall return to you at the appointed time next year, and by then, Sarah will have a son. Sarah was taken aback, so she lied, and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Oh, yes you did!"
Genesis 18:1-15

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord, my servant lies at home, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will go and heal him.”

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. I am a man subject to authority, and I have soldiers subject to my command. When I say to this one, ‘Go’, he goes; and to that one ‘Come’, he comes. And I say to my servant, ‘Do this’, and he does it.”

Hearing this, Jesus was astounded and said to those following him, “I tell you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places together with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the Kingdom will be driven out into the darkness, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Then he said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done as you believed.” And at that very hour, the servant was healed.

Then Jesus came into Peter’s house, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she rose and began to wait on him.

When evening came, many who were possessed by demons were brought to him, and he drove out the evil spirits with a word, and healed all the sick, in order to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took away our infirmities, and bore our diseases.”
Matthew 8:5-17
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Both of today’s readings tell us about dramatic miracles performed through the intercession of good people. In the case of Abraham and Sarah, they regain their fertility long past the time when it would be biological feasible for them to have a child. In this reading, we know that the LORD God is present, since the text sometimes reads, “The LORD said …” But it is not clear whether Abraham’s guests are the LORD accompanied by two angels, or two men, or even, whether this is a manifestation of all three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For instance, the announcement that Sarah will have a son within the year is made by one of the men; but when she scoffs at the notion, it is the LORD who speaks directly to Abraham.

The relationship between God and human beings is quite a bit clearer in the second reading, where Jesus – who is, of course, fully human and fully divine – is the principal actor. Here too, though, a faith-filled human, the centurion, is his agent in the cure of the servant. We need to be reminded that these stories are not quaint remembrances of times past when people were superstitious and gullible. You and I have the power to intercede with God on behalf of other people in ways which we sometimes doe even understand. There have been times when I have read one of the reflections by other authors on the scriptures of the day, and a bit of light is shed on an aspect of my own relationship with God that made my understanding a bit less murky. In this “post-modern” era, we don’t refer to such things as “miracles” any longer, but we ought to. They are proof that God loves us, and that we can be God’s agents each and every day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

This Is My Covenant With You

Reading I
Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him
and said: "I am God the Almighty.
Walk in my presence and be blameless."

God also said to Abraham:
"On your part, you and your descendants after you
must keep my covenant throughout the ages.
This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you
that you must keep:
every male among you shall be circumcised."

God further said to Abraham:
"As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai;
her name shall be Sarah.

I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her.
Him also will I bless; he shall give rise to nations,
and rulers of peoples shall issue from him."

Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself,
"Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?
Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?"
Then Abraham said to God,
"Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!"

God replied: "Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son,
and you shall call him Isaac.
I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact,
to be his God and the God of his descendants after him.

As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him.
I will make him fertile and will multiply him exceedingly.
He shall become the father of twelve chieftains,
and I will make of him a great nation.

But my covenant I will maintain with Isaac,
whom Sarah shall bear to you by this time next year."

When he had finished speaking with him, God departed from Abraham.

Matthew 8:1-4

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
And then a leper approached, did him homage, and said,
"Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean."
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
"I will do it. Be made clean."
His leprosy was cleansed immediately.

Then Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one,
but go show yourself to the priest,
and offer the gift that Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them."

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There is something missing from Abraham’s life: he longs to be a father. He is already the father of Ishmael, the son of Hagar the maidservant in the family home, but certainly not a legitimate member of the family.

Then, God appears to Abraham, and speaks to him: “You must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you, for all the generations to come. This is the sign of the covenant you are to keep: every male among your people must be circumcised.” God also says to him, “As for your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai, but Sarah. I will bless her and you will be given a son by her. She will be the mother of nations, among her offspring, there will be kings.

Abraham fell facedown laughing. He said to himself. “How can a man who is a hundred years old have a son born to him? Or Sarah, at the age of ninety, bear a child?” Then he spoke to God: “If only Ishmael could have your blessing!”

Then God said, “Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish an everlasting covenant with him and his descendants. As for Ishmael, I have heard your prayer, and I will bless him. I will make him fruitful, and his numbers will increase. He will be the father of rulers, and I will make of him a great nation. But my covenant shall be established with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God rose up from him.

There is something more obviously missing from the life of the man who approaches Jesus in today’s gospel: he has leprosy. “Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Jesus extended his hand, touched him and said, “Of course I want to. Be made clean!” His leprosy vanished immediately.

Then Jesus said to him, “See to it that you tell no one what has happened; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed. That will be proof enough.”

There is emptiness in the life of Abraham, and in the life of the leper, that God, and only God, can touch. God fills the void not just by removing a handicap – in these cases infertility or disease – but by opening himself to an intimate relationship with each of the petitioners.

God’s response to Abraham, and to each of us, is the same as it is to the leper: “Of course I will. Be healed.” As the intimacy of our relationship with the Lord moves closer and closer to the center of our life, we will become more aware of the many moments when God is responding to our personal needs – not necessarily to our personal wishes, wants or desires, mind you, but our needs. You say you don’t have an intimate relationship with God? You did at the moment you were born. And it became even more intimate at the moment you were baptized. If you and God are not as close as you were as an infant, who moved? Does God want to build a close and intimate relationship with you? He answer is the same:
 “Of course I want to!”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not Everyone Who Says, "Lord, Lord" Will Enter The Kingdom Of Heaven

Often, it seems, God chooses people who make wrong choices, and bad consequences follow. The story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar is an example. The facts seem unconventional, to say the least. Sarai, the wife of Abram, has become impatient waiting for God’s promise that she would be the mother of Abram’s child to be fulfilled. So, she devised a plan that involved Abram sleeping with Hagar. For some reason, Abram went along with his wife’s plan, and soon Hagar is with child.

At that point envy enters the story, soon to be followed by anger and bitterness; and the blame game begins. Just as Adam blamed God for the trouble he and Eve had in the garden, Sarai now blames Abram for the fine mess that followed when he cooperated with the plan she had initiated. Making matters worse, Abram does not seem to stand up for what is right, but instead takes the path of least resisting, turning his back when Sarai does as she pleases to Hagar.

It is not difficult to understand why Hagar wanted to escape from the abuse and mistreatment foisted upon her and her son. But God intervened through a messenger, whose words, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her”, is followed by the promise of a reward for her obedience, “Your descendants will be too numerous to count.” The message, surprisingly enough, elicits an affirmative response: her obedience to God’s will. In this, her response echoes that of Mary to the words of the same messenger, the Archangel Gabriel: “I am the Lord’s maidservant; let it be done to me as you say.”

The words of Jesus in today’s segment of Mark’s gospel, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” tale pm new meaning when joined with today’s story from Genesis. Sometimes we may think of ourselves as “the chosen”, entitled to God’s favor by reason of our familiarity with “the things of God”. We behave ourselves (most of the time); we go to church (when it is not too inconvenient); we say our prayers (if we remember, and especially when we need something); we give to charitable causes (and we make sure the IRS and the corresponding state office are made aware of our deductable contributions).

Today’s gospel reminds us that even working wonders in the name of Jesus falls short. It is obedience to the will of the heavenly Father that is required to Jesus’ followers. That means getting to know Jesus, and the Father who sent him.

At many points in our lives, we are not unlike Sarai and Abram in this story. When patience wears thin, trust tends to weaken. Dr. Edward Morse, of the Law Faculty at Creighton University, who is one of my sources, has this to say, “To love someone is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they forget.” We tend to forget the song of love God put into our hearts, but, by his loving mercy, He often sings it back to us.

Lord, open my ears to hear your song; the patience to wait for His voice, and the faith to respond with faith, hope, love and joy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

He Was Not The Light, But Was Sent to Bear Witness To The Light

The story of John the Baptist begins with an unusual event. Mary, newly pregnant with Jesus, left her home in Nazareth in Galilee to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of her own pregnancy. When Mary arrived, Elizabeth’s child “leapt for joy” in his mother’s womb, recognizing and rejoicing at the coming of the Savior. Zachary, Elizabeth’s husband and John’s father, is having a difficult time. He had expressed doubt – if not disbelief – that his wife, well beyond the normal age (and himself even older) was with child, and he was literally “dumbstruck”, unable to understand that “nothing is impossible for God”, and that the child yet to be born would have a unique role to place in God’s plan of salvation.

But when the old fellow witnessed the birth of John, he was filled with faith, regained his power of speech, and chanted a magnificent hymn of joy. “Now, Lord, you can dismiss your servant … for my eyes have seen your salvation”. Zachary put an end to the discussion about the child’s name, since the angel had revealed that his name was John, which means “God is gracious”. As soon as he said that word, he regained his power of speech.

All of us begin our lives in the womb, related, connected, nourished by our mothers. After we leave the womb, we strive to learn how to be an independent individual, and at the same time, to remain connected and related to our parents and to the rest of the world in which we live.

At that stage of life, we are unable to speak, much less to pray. We can’t enter into communion with others. We trust those who are responsible for our care and education, in the unspoken hope that they will clear a straight path that leads us to God. We trust, we believe, and eventually, we are able to attest to the truth that “God is gracious”, and that we can be free from doubt, from fear, from self-centeredness.

At the end of his life, John, imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, sent some of his friends to Jesus with a burning question, “Are you the One who is to come? Or shall we wait for someone else?” John was about to let go of his life in this world; his mission was accomplished. Yet he did not live to see its fulfillment. He had fulfilled his mission, “the rest of the story” was not his to tell. Like his father, John had to trust. Jesus sent John’s friends back to him with a message that must have made his heart leap for joy once more: “Tell John what you see and hear. The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

John was the herald of the Lord, proclaiming hope and freedom for the people. Am I a prophet of joy, leading my neighbor to Jesus the Savior? When I feel that I have toiled in vain or exhausted myself for nothing in my service of the Lord, let me recall God’s presence and strength in my life.

Lord, help me to realize that it is only you who can make my words ‘a two-edged sword’ and my deeds ‘a light to the nations'.  I am not the light of the world,  help me to bear witness to the light.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Enter By The Narrow Gate

Abram and Lot were kinfolk, and they were shepherds. In those times, shepherds were nomads. They moved often from one place to another, looking for fresh grazing for their flocks. They were very successful at their occupation, a very important one at that place and time. Sheep provided wool, which was made into garments; they were also the principal source of animal protein in the nomad’s diet, which is one reason the meal the Hebrews shared before they began their journey to the Promised Land was lamb.

Eventually, Abram and Lot had acquired so much wealth and so many possessions that they started to squeeze each other out. Even their hired help began to quarrel. It became obvious that their partnership was coming to an end, and they would soon go their separate ways.

So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

Lot looked about, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the land of Egypt. So, Lot chose for himself the entire Jordan watershed and set out toward the east, and pitched his tents near Sodom. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) Abram went in the opposite direction, toward the land of Canaan. The land was not as fertile as the Jordan watershed, but the LORD blessed Abram, and his people flourished there, as did his flocks. A central concern of the story of Abram is his eagerness to do God’s will, regardless of the cost. At this point in the story, all he risks losing by giving Lot first choice of land. But, at the end of the day, Abram will be rewarded for his humble and generous gesture, offering Lot the first choice. Lot, on the other hand, would become involved in the sinful behavior of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. But that is, you might say, is another story.

Today’s gospel is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. It includes three maxims of Jesus. The first “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw pearls before swine, lest they be trampled underfoot, and the swine turn and tear you to pieces” reminds us that a follower of Jesus must be discerning. For instance, I believe that a true disciple must witness to the good news by example, rather than by speech. The Pharisees were very adept at preaching the word of the LORD, but they were not very good at following the second of Jesus’ precepts in today’s gospel: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Jesus concludes his lesson to the disciples with another set of instructions: “Enter through the narrow gate, for the road and the gate that are wide lead to destruction.” One way is narrow and steep, and only a few find it. The road sign over the broad gate reads, “This way to happiness, to Paradise, to Sodom”, but that road ends in the bitter waters of the Dead Sea, which now sits where once Sodom and Gomorrah flourished. The sign over the narrow gate says, “Not for the faint of heart” but it leads to eternal joy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Let Me Make You Into A Great Nation

Genesis 12:1-9
The LORD had said to Abram,
"Leave your country,
your people and your father's household
and go to the land I will show you.
"I will make you into a great nation

and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,

and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."

So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring] I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
+++ +++ +++ +++
When I read the story of Abraham’s call from God to leave his father’s house and the land of his ancestors, I remember George Sullivan OD, an optometrist from Holyoke, Massachusetts, who, together with his wife Nikki and their six children left Holyoke, Massachusetts, to find a new vocation as lay missioners in Mora County, New Mexico. George invited a young friend of his, a French teacher in the Holyoke Schools, to come with them. They found a new vocation in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rockies, but it took a few years longer for his friend to find his own calling.

Through Abraham, God established “a people he could call his own”; he settled them in a new land, and blessed them abundantly. Among the descendants of Abraham are David and his successors, the Kings of Israel. Also in Abraham’s line are Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, and his wife Mary, who gave birth to the Son of God, our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.

The tenderness of God in dealing with Abraham, our father in faith, is for us a sign of God’s faithful love. Our God is a good God, who favors and blesses his children, and it is because of God’s goodness to us that we can, in turn, be generous to our sisters and brothers. Just as God is loving and kind to us, so we are called to love others as we are loved. To be cold-hearted and judgmental with others while God is gentle and patient with us is to throw God’s gift back in his face, by living an unchristian life.
+++ +++ +++ +++
Matthew 7:1-5
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
+++ +++ +++ +++

What the sayer of praise is really praising
Is himself, saying implicitly, “My eyes are clear.”
Likewise, whoever criticizes is criticizing himself,
Saying implicitly, “I can’t see very well,
Since my eyes are so inflamed.”
Jelaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273)

In effect, then, all of our judgments, where positive or negative, are reflections of ourselves. The interpreters of dreams say that every element in the dream represents some aspect of one’s own self. This is not hard to accept. But it is rather more difficult to accept when someone wants to apply the same norm to our waking life as well.

Yet, even if it is true sometimes, it may not be true 100% of the time, nor always to the full degree, I should not reject the truth within in. Perhaps it is 50% of the time, or 80% -- perhaps even more! That should be sufficient to make it a useful insight, and a good check on our tendency to judge everything by our own standards, rather than His.

“Do not judge and you will not be judged,” said Jesus. “The measure you give is the measure you get.” This already puts the spotlight on the judge in each of us, suggesting like Rumi that our judging has more to do with ourselves than with the truth of things.

What or whom do you hate? Look again now. This time don’t look at the object or the person you hate, but at the hate itself. What is it about? And what are the things and who are the people you approve of? What are you really approving of? What is it about?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who Is This, That The Winds And The Seas Obey Him?

Job 38: 1, 8-11
Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said
"Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb;
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt'?

2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters;
Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 7Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Mark 4:35-41
That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

+++ +++ +++ +++

Late one afternoon in the summer of 1942 – or maybe 1943 – I was staying overnight at my grandparents’ apartment at the other end of town. It was about 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon when the sky turned totally dark, and there was a deafening clap of thunder, and a bolt of lightning sped from the clouds and touched down in the back yard. I rushed into the house, and hid my face in Memere’s skirts.

She patted me on the back, between my shoulders, sat me down at the kitchen table, and told me a story about the deep sea fishermen from Normandy and Brittany – where her Quebecois ancestors had come from – and what they did as they were leaving port. They prayed to Bonne Sainte Anne: “Good Saint Anne, protect us. The sea is so vast, and our boat is so small! Take care of us and bring us safely home.”

Today’s first reading reminds me of that incident – which was repeated several times until I grew up just a little bit, and understood a little more about the late summer weather – even though I continue to this day to be startled – no longer scared – by the sound of thunder.

For several chapters preceding the one we hear today, Job has been pleading his case to the Lord, arguing, complaining, whining about being treated poorly – or, being unjustly punished by God. His three friends have tried their best to console him, but to no avail. Job had been the owner of a great deal of property. He had a large family of children and grandchildren, and was very devout in his worship of God. The devil suggested to the LORD that if Job were to lose everything – perhaps he would be singing a different tune. Would Job remain faithful, if all his worldly goods were lost, and all his family members killed by disease? God agreed to the testing of Job, and the poor old man experienced sorrows, frustrations , doubts and temptations to despair, everything but deny God.

Today’s first reading is the beginning of God’s side of the story, which is intended to calm Job’s fears and worries, and not leave him either to the power of the devil or allow him to die in defeat.
God’s voice thunders from the midst of a violent rainstorm, a biblical symbol for God’s mighty power. The bottom line of God’s defense is that Job does not know very much about what God has been doing since the creation of the world. Where was Job, when the seas, the mighty waters, were put in their place? Job’s responses are like the waves, which have their power, but eventually find stillness at the sea shore of God’s plan. There is a hint, at the end of the reading, of God’s message: the influence of the Tempter, like the power of the ocean waves, has its limits: thus far and no farther, because this is My creation, and It is intended not for evil, but for good.

Today’s gospel reading follows a series of parables told by Jesus in the book of Mark. Seeds of many kinds fall on the ground; a lamp is lighted and placed not under a basket but on a lamp stand; a tiny mustard seed grows into an enormous bush. These parables are intended to illustrate the “kingdom of God”, for those who are attentive to them, and from them, gain wisdom and strength in living their daily lives.

The gospel pictures a boat with Jesus in the back sleeping and a huge storm’s arising. The disciples, professional fishermen though they are, are scared out of their wits. The awaken Jesus who calms the winds and the waves, and gently but firmly chides them for their lack of confidence in him. “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

The disciples in the boat sigh in relief and in wonder. They express their awe at the power of Jesus, an expression of the first glimmers of their faith that Jesus is the Lord, who has power to make the wind and the wave obey his command. Later, they will see that he has dominion over evil spirits, over the devil and sin itself.

But the people for whom this gospel was written is a much later community of Christians. The author, Saint Mark the evangelist, was a child when these events took place. The community for which he writes is struggling to live according to the teachings, and it is faced with the prospect that the LORD will soon return in glory to judge the living and the dead – and they’d better be ready to greet him when he comes! The waves that rock their boat are not caused by the winds and the tides, but by their efforts to be faithful to what they believe, to live up to the commitment they made when they were baptized into Christ Jesus, into his life, and – for some of them, at least – into death as witnesses to him.

From the beginning, Jesus was making waves. Mary and Joseph had to leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem in Judea for the census, so that the Messiah could be born in the city of David. Because of Him, Mary and Joseph were forced to flee into Egypt and remain there for several years. When he was brought to Jerusalem at the age of twelve, to prepare for his bar-mitzvah, he stayed behind talking with the Temple scholars while they started back to the North Country without him.

Years later, Jesus disturbed the scholars even more by speaking to the people about new and more positive ways of living as a community and relating to God. He bothered the political authorities by confronting Roman power. He constantly urged his listeners to choose one way or another, often putting them in conflict with their own prejudices and with others, including family members.
Jesus was known to say, “I have not come into this world to bring peace, but division”. Although this Gospel passage is focused on the conflict between believers and unbelievers, it is also a picture of our own divisions, and the hard choices we need to make if we accept his invitation “Come, follow me.” Once we invite him into our boat, there are storms within ourselves, as we have seen with Job and with the first four on the Sea of Galilee. Remaining faithful to Jesus is an up-and down, back-and forth undulation like a boat tossed on the waves as the storm arises. Sometimes we find it easy to be charitable, loving, generous, forgiving – even, within certain limits – suffering. But at other times, we escape the oncoming storm by jumping ship and swimming far from the whole problem.

Jesus did not step out of the boat and walk to shore on the crest of the waves, shaking the spray off his feet in disappointment at their lack of faith. Instead, he pretended to be asleep, inattentive to their struggles. When he was awakened he simply asked them what they were afraid of. The simple answer is that they were a small group of real people genuinely fearful of losing everything they owned, their livelihood, and perhaps, their lives. This sort of fear is healthy, because faith does not wipe away our human fears immediately. In fact, prayer does not resolve fears. The storm does not go away simply because the little boy falls to his knees -- or on his bottom.

One of the best things to do, since we are no longer pre-school children, but supposedly grown up, is to look clearly and humbly at our fears. Start by making a list of the one you are aware of, and the ones that remain hidden may begin to show themselves, as well. Our fears, once we are aware of them, are a series of signposts that show us the path between where we are and where God wants us to be at the end of our story. Confidence in ourselves is not faith, but bravado. Genuine faith is the way of truth. “Do not be afraid” doesn’t mean “Pretend not to be afraid”, but “Keep on going, even though you’re trembling in your boots.” Remember, your guide and guardian is right there beside you, showing you the way.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

His Mother Kept All These Things In Her Heart

In the spring and again in the fall of the year, the ecclesiastical calendar includes feasts which celebrate the great love of Jesus for his disciples, and invites us, as members this very human Church, to follow his example. Nearly three weeks after Pentecost, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, a feast that points to Jesus’ constant love for the Father and for the Father’s children, that is, for us. It is no coincidence that this celebration comes close after Pentecost, when we are drawn to contemplate the relationship between the great love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father, and how that mutual love is personified in the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. In autumn, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Cross, which focuses on the love of Jesus for the children of God’s creation, a love which is fulfilled in his Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection, the redemption of the burden of our sins, and promise of eternal life, accomplished by his death on the cross. Once again, it is no mere coincidence that the piercing of the heart of Jesus is the primary focus of the September feast.

It is also no coincidence – there are none, in God’s plan – that the Church sets aside a day, closely following the springtime celebration of Jesus’ love, to honor the heart of Mary, and again, in the autumn, we remember Mary’s great suffering, witnessed principally, but not uniquely, in her fidelity at the foot of the cross, but from the very beginning of the story: The Prophecy of Simeon at his circumcision; the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the Temple, the meeting with Jesus on his way ato the Cross, his Crucifixion, his piercing by the soldier’s lance, and his burial.

If we look closely at these liturgical diptychs, we will see that the Church celebrates Jesus with a Feast, and the Mother of Jesus with a Memorial, placing their contributions to the work of salvation in the correct, albeit imbalanced, perspective. More significantly, though, we should see these twin celebrations as a sort of dance between Christ and the Church. In both memorials of Mary, the Church invites us to observe at the same time the generous response of Mary herself, and an expression of her role as a model for every merely human disciple of Christ. It is in her generous and fully human response that God is most fully honored. Through the centuries, the Church has honored Mary most wisely whenever she is portrayed as fully human, a maiden invited to accept an enormous responsibility; the mother of a newborn in flight for her own life and that of her son; the parent of a teen who is asserting his individuality; the widowed mother of a son who has been condemned to capital punishment on false pretences. Mary’s heart is the heart of the Church at its most authentic, beating with fragile hope and courage that is sufficient for God to accomplish God’s great plan of salvation – if we are open to the voice of the Spirit, and faithful to our commission to allow God’s work to truly be our own.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, which is the epistle of Saturday in the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time, he tells us that he could boast about his mystical experiences, but he would prefer to boast about his weakness and his difficulties, since it is Mary’s very human lack of parental attention understanding, that form the perfect setting for the revelation of God’s power. It is not Paul’s mystical experiences which make him a great apostle – an effective messenger of God’s word. Rather, it is his difficulties, his failures, his “thorn in the flesh” that compel him to turn to God in order to accomplish the mission of apostolic witness. It is not Paul’s work that glorifies God; it is Christ’s work completely through Paul’s limited humanness.

There may well be no other place in human endeavor where boastfulness is not merely tolerated, but mandated, as in the tasks of preacher and teacher. I know whereof I speak when I say that, were I to boast of my weakness, there are students who left my catechism classes with little grasp of the subject, the parishioners who left the church after Mass wondering what I was talking about, and how it related to their own lives – or who didn’t even recognize that they we called to their own vocation as disciples of Jesus and members of God’s people. Looking back on the experiences of nearly forty years, I could boast as loudly of my failures as Paul does of his. But I’m not sure I possess sufficient courage – or humility – to confidently boast that my weakness is His glory.

What a blessing it is, then, to have this memorial of Mary’s success at embracing her failure She went home from a trip to the big city, and left her boy behind for a few days. When she found him, she questioned his behavior and was lectured by her teenage son: Didn’t you know that I have to be about my Father’s business? [He wasn’t talking about carpentry, either!] It is difficult to imagine a parent boasting about such a thing.

But Mary gives us a simple lesson in how to be Church, by listening to her Son, by loving him when he seems unreasonable, by allowing her fallibility to become the state on which God’s glory is proclaimed. It is not in righteous certitude, but in humble faith, that she gives her heart to be the temple of god’s love, where she pondered the mystery of His desire for her. It is possible for us to become the Church that Mary, mother of Jesus, and Paul, preacher to the gentiles, are witnesses. Perhaps, even in our own weakness – just perhaps – God’s glory will be made manifest.

Fr. John L. Sullivan, Springfield Massachusetts

Eileen Burke-Sullivan, Theology Department, Creighton University

Friday, June 19, 2009

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8c-9
Thus says the LORD:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not a man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.

Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19
Brothers and sisters:
To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given,
to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery
hidden from ages past in God who created all things,
so that the manifold wisdom of God
might now be made known through the church
to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.

This was according to the eternal purpose
that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
in whom we have boldness of speech
and confidence of access through faith in him.
For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

John 19:31-37
Since it was preparation day,
in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath,
for the Sabbath day of that week was a solemn one,
the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken
and they be taken down.

So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first
and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his legs,
but one soldier thrust his lance into his side,
and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true;
he knows that he is speaking the truth,
so that you also may come to believe.
For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled:
Not a bone of it will be broken.
And again another passage says:
They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

+++ +++ +++

“When I was a child, I thought as a child”, wrote Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians. The same is true for all of us. If you went to Sisters School, as I did, you probably learned the same thing I did about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: if you go to Mass and receive communion on nine consecutive First Fridays, you would surely go to heaven, because God would grant you the grace of final penitence. If you were like me, and my classmates, you probably saw the devotion of the Nine First Fridays as an insurance policy, to ward off fear of suffering Hellfire for your sins. Not that you and I could exercise sufficient deliberation and consent to commit a mortal sin between the day on which we made our First Communion to the day in June when we got out of grammar school.

Today, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I suggest that we follow through on the next part of what Paul wrote, “now that I am grown up…” and find out what how Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,

Prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I give myself and consecrate to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, my person and my life, my actions, pains, and sufferings, so that I may be unwilling to make use of any part of my being other than to honor, love and glorify the Sacred Heart. This is my unchanging purpose, namely, to be all His, and to do all things for the love of Him, at the same time renouncing with all my heart whatever is displeasing to Him. I therefore take You, O Sacred heart, to be the only object of my love, the guardian of my life, my assurance of salvation, the remedy of my weakness and inconstancy, the atonement for all the faults of my life and my sure refuge at the hour of death.

Be then, O Heart of goodness, my justification before God the Father, and turn away from me the strokes of his righteous anger. O Heart of love, I put all my confidence in You, for I fear everything from my own wickedness and frailty, but I hope for all things from Your goodness and bounty.

Remove from me all that can displease You or resist Your holy will; let your pure love imprint Your image so deeply upon my heart, that I shall never be able to forget You or to be separated from You.

May I obtain from all Your loving kindness the grace of having my name written in Your Heart, for in You I desire to place all my happiness and glory, living and dying in bondage to You.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

If You Forgive Others Their Sins, Your Heavenly Father Will Forgive Yours.

Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
When you pray, 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.

"This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy 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.'

"If you forgive others their sins,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your sins."

It is really a great pity that many Christians equate “praying” with “saying prayers.” When we do this, we ignore what Jesus told his disciples in this gospel:”When you pray, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” The very fact that the disciples had to ask Jesus to teach them to pray tells us that he had never given them any set prayers.

Have you ever noticed that in the Our Father, the prayer which Jesus gave the disciples in answer to their request, there is no mention of Jesus? This suggests that this was his own prayer, composed in words according to the ancient Hebrew tradition. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are not praying to Jesus, but joining with him in praying to the Father, according to all four of the motives of prayer: Adoration, Thanksgiving, Petition, and Contrition. Repeating the words by rote without thinking about what they mean is not praying, but babbling like the pagans do.

Consider carefully the last of the four motives of prayer, as expressed in the Our Father: Contrition. Jesus makes it abundantly clear in his comment on his own prayer: If we ask God to forgive our sins, but we are not willing to forgive those who, by their words or their actions, have offended us, we are, in fact, contradicting ourselves. Why should we expect God to forgive us, if we are not willing to forgive those who have sinned against us? Some commentators – not among my “sources” – consider that the last admonition of Jesus in this gospel “If you don’t forgive others for having offended you, neither will God forgive your offenses against Him – or against them” is “rhetorical exaggeration”. Perhaps it is. On the other hand, if it just might be true – why take the chance?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Do Not Do Acts of Righteousness In Order To Be Seen.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times; having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Matthew 6:1-6; 16-18
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

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You could arrange today’s gospel in two columns: the heading of the column on the left is “IN SECRET”; the heading of the column on the right is “IN PUBLIC”. There can be no doubt that a deep and truthful interior life is necessary to the follower of Jesus. Just as a tree will be blown over by the first storm if its roots haven’t been sunk deep into the soil, so too the disciple will be overcome by trials and temptations unless grounded solidly in faith, hope and love of God and neighbor. We are like trees in that respect. If we identify ourselves with the public part of life “above ground”, we will have no profound resources for spiritual growth, and will not be able to withstand either the storms or the droughts.

The interior life is not an escape from the world. Many people who seem to be “contemplatives” are either introspective individuals, or people trying to escape the trials and tribulations of their everyday existence. True contemplatives recognize the importance of the interior life, but are closely involved in the life of the community that surrounds them. The German mystic Meister Eckhart wrote, “It is not that one should give up, neglect, or reject one’s inner life, but in it, with it, and from it, one should learn to act in such as way as to allow the inward to break into activity, and to draw the activity into inwardness, and in this way, learn to act in freedom. Whether reading, praying, or working, we should be aware of the working of the Spirit within us, and act accordingly. On the other hand, if the outer activity tends to impede the inner, one should follow the inner. It is best when both operate together as one, for then, we are cooperating with God.”
Fr. Donagh O'Shea, S.J.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Want To Test The Sincerity Of Your Love

2 Corinthians 8:1-9
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have for you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Matthew 5:43-48
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

+++ +++ +++ +++

Not long ago, this question was posted on an “Ask a Priest” message board I follow and take part in.

Dear Fathers,

About five years ago, when I was 13, I was sexually molested by a man in my neighborhood. He was a migrant who worked on the farm next to ours. It was late summer, the end of the harvest season, and he went away a few weeks later. I’ve never seen him again, and for a long time, I never even thought about him. I saw a psychologist for a while after that happened, who told me that if I told her the story, I could put it in a part of my memory where I never needed to remember it again.

That worked for a long time, Fathers, but now those memories are coming back again. It’s not so much that I remember what happened to me – I know that was a long time ago, and it can’t hurt me anymore. But now, I wonder about something else: There are two parts to “Forgive and forget”, Fathers, and I don’t know if I can forgive him, and I feel that if I don’t forgive him, I won’t really ever forget, and it will bother me all the rest of my life.

Can you help me?


Almost everybody is familiar with today’s gospel, especially that first part. “You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, ‘Love your enemies, do good for those who do your harm, pray for those who persecute you.’” And a lot of folks think that, while it may be an ideal, it is a hopelessly unrealistic one. That may be true, for some people. But every so often, something happens like Jamie’s plea on that message board. And that gets me to thinking: if Jamie is aware, deep inside, that “forget” is the second part of “forgive and forget” for very good reason, psychologically, that insight comes from the Holy Spirit; and if Father John L is going to help her in this situation, I need to seek insight from the very same source. That, sisters and brothers, is being realistic!

Let’s take a few steps back, not to move away from the question, but to get a better perspective on it. We are often reminded that “Love God with all your heart, mind and might, and your neighbor as yourself” is the Great Commandment. But if you combine that adage with this one: “Love your enemy; do good to those who do you harm; pray for those who persecute you”, then that Great Commandment now appears in a new light: someone who has done me harm is my neighbor. “Father, does that really mean that I’ve got to love them?”

Let me put it this way: If someone is mean, hateful, spiteful, and even abusive to me – in short, my enemy – do I want that person to suffer eternal damnation? That may well be the way I feel, but should it be the way I act? If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we can’t want that! Jesus gives his life on the Cross for that person, just as truly as he does for me. Jesus is counting on me to help my neighbors to open themselves to accept the love God offers each of us. How can my enemy know of God’s forgiveness if my forgiveness is not forthcoming first? Or, in another perspective: How can I hope that God will forgive my offenses, if I don’t forgive those who have offended me?

OK, Father, I can understand the need to forgive our enemies. But love our enemy? At this point Father John L needs to take off his canonist’s biretta (it has blue tassels, not black or red), and put on his language professor’s mortarboard. Greek has several verbs that translate “to love”, and several nouns that match each of those verbs, that mean “love”, in various contexts. The verb Matthew uses in this text doesn’t refer to the love between a man and a woman or the love of one friend for another. This verb is best translated as “to care”, or “to be concerned”, or even more accurately, “to want what is best” for the other person. It’s the attitude both Jesus and Stephen had when they prayed, “Father, forgive them”.

From my own perspective, there is a big difference between me and a terrorist bomber, or between me and a child rapist. But the simple truth is that God’s saving grace is necessary for you, me, the bomber, and the rapist, and it is a gift which he gives freely, as this passage from the gospel of Matthew attests, not in return for our obeying his will, nor even for our loving him, but because he has first loved us.

People who know me, in person or even “on line”, are well aware how often I say, “Don’t try to be perfect; only God is perfect”. It’s a bit off-putting to read the last line of today’s gospel, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The solution to this conundrum is found in the parallel passage of Mark: “Be merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.” God doesn’t forgive us because we are deserving, but because He is merciful. Go now, and do likewise.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Do Not Receive God's Grace In Vain.

2 Corinthians 6
As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, this is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 5:38-42
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you: Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

+++ +++ +++ +++

The gospels of Eastertide are a continuing message of the great mercy that God has shown to us in sending his only-begotten son, Christ, our Lord and our Brother, to take upon his shoulders not merely the cross, but the burden of human sinfulness, from the first couple ever created to the last infant to be born before He comes again in glory. One of my sources, Mary Haynes Kuhlman of the Theology Department at Creighton describes the mystery of redemption as “enormous, overwhelming, and unreasonable”. She is right! From a human perspective, it is unreasonable, but for God, it is not only reasonable but necessary. From the moment God created each of us, He knew that we would be weak and self-centered; we would choose to do things that please us, or bring us profit, or give us power, and we would ignore or deliberately avoid making choices that would please Him. My source concludes “God is really stupid”. She is not the first to express wonderment in those words. Paul of Tarsus, the author of today’s First Reading, in 1 Corinthians, calls the crucifixion and death of Jesus “a stumbling block for the Jews, and folly for the Greeks. As the French philosopher Blaise Pascal phrase dit : « Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas. » (The heart has reasons that reason cannot understand). And that, it seems clear, is as true of the Sacred Heart – after all, His is a human heart! In any case, God loves us, eternally; and as for being saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, who gave up his place at the right hand of the Father and exchange it for a manger and then a cross – well, being saved by Love beyond our understanding, that’s a fairly good bargain.

If today’s reading were put into practice, all war would cease immediately; and not only war but every kind of conflict, even minor domestic squabbles. It is highly improbable, to say the least, that that will ever happen.

François Mauriac, the great French all-round man of letters, wrote that society always remains criminal – even while many saints live within it. “[Society] cannot be excused because in every age there has been a Vincent de Paul or a Francis of Assisi to remind them of it – not so much by their words as by their lives of sacrifice. But the course of history has not been influenced by the saints. They have acted upon hearts and souls; but history has remained criminal.”

It can hardly be right to make such a clear distinction (amounting in this case to a separation) between the individual and society: individuals are part of society. But still there is something in what Mauriac said. Many people absorb every influence around them without question, but others are shaped by their conscious rejection of those same influences. The same conditions produce couch potatoes and prophets.

Society will never be improved by everyone telling everyone else to improve. A wise friend said to me once, “Let’s not waste our energy criticizing what is wrong; let’s just do our own work to the best of our ability. If it’s any good it will displace what is bad.” This must be true not only of work but of everything. The only life we can surely change is our own.

Thus, in this Gospel Jesus is teaching Advanced Ethics -- not about war or law enforcement, but about – yes, LOVE. It may be “street-smart,” it surely is “Christian” to meet evil and hostility with charity and forbearance. I think Jesus teaches me today to recognize that every other human being is a member of our family. “Give to the one who asks you” is about the same as “Love one another as I have Loved you.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This Is My Body; This Is My Blood. Do This In Memory Of Me!

Exodus 24:3-8

When Moses went and told the people all the LORD's words and laws, they responded with one voice, "Everything the LORD has said we will do." Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

Hebrews 9:11-15

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Mark 14:12-16; 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
Jesus sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."

The disciples went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

"This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

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The inauguration of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated first and foremost on Holy Thursday in its natural place the night before Jesus died on the Cross. But because that celebration takes place very much in the context of the sadness of the events of Christ’s passion and death, the Church gives us this second feast in the course of the year to help us to get to explore more fully the Eucharist, the commemoration of the Last Supper.

Two Sundays ago we celebrated Pentecost and last Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Blessed Trinity and now we commemorate the Blessed Eucharist. There is a particular logic in this sequence of celebrations.

Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church and on the Feast of the Blessed Trinity we look at the very nature of God himself. Today in the Feast of Corpus Christi we examine how God continues to make himself present to his Church, how he sustains and nourishes us. And he achieves all this principally through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

On the night before he died Jesus gave his disciples a Last Supper. It was a meal with a difference. It was a meal during which, and through which, he showed them the very depths of his love.

He gave them special instructions both by word and example; the example being the washing of feet. And then, as we know, he took the bread, blessed and broke it and said: this is my body which is given up for you. Do this as a memorial of me. And then he hid the same with the wine.

By these actions Jesus brought into focus, and in a mysterious way actually made present, the events which were to happen on the following three days.

And through our following out of Jesus’ command, and doing this in memory of him, in an extraordinary way those same events are made present here on this altar, and in this Church and in our hearts.

The Last Supper wasn’t an event that was sprung on the apostles out of the blue. And to prove this we only have to look at today’s Gospel reading. Jesus takes the five loaves and the two fish and manages to feed five thousand people.

The incident was clearly meant to be a foreshadowing on the Last Supper since all the essential elements are present: He took the bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to the people. What could be more Eucharistic than that?

And all had their fill! Here in the celebration of the Eucharist—whether it be on a high day with hundreds of people, all the ceremony, altar servers, choirs, bells and smells or quietly and in a very subdued manner with just a few people on what you might call a ‘low day’—we encounter the Lord Most High and he gives us real nourishment for our souls. So much nourishment that it would take a lifetime to begin to appreciate.

“Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the Kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.”

You might think that this first verse of our text today is simply an introductory scene-setting phrase, but it too is loaded with meaning. Jesus was talking to the crowds about the Kingdom of God and curing those who needed healing.

Besides the actual Liturgy of the Eucharist we begin each mass with the equally important Liturgy of the Word in which, just as in that opening sentence, we are made welcome, we share the scriptures and we talk together about the Kingdom of God.

And then there is the aspect of healing; it is in the context of healing the sick that Jesus feeds the Five Thousand. He heals not only their bodies but also their souls.

The very word salvation means healing, but not at any superficial level for the healing that Jesus brings, the healing we find in the Eucharist, is actually a profound experience of salvation. It permeates every part of our being.

We have been speaking about what a profound mystery the mass is and we know that huge books have been written on the theology of the Eucharist, we are aware that there are theologians who have worked on the subject for whole careers and not yet exhausted its depths.

Yet the Church has determined that by the age of seven our young people have the capability to understand what it is that they are receiving.

This is because the basics are simple. Through the intercession of Christ the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood. At the mass we are united with the Last Supper and here on this altar just as there in the Upper Room we receive the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine.

You can go into the metaphysics of it if you like, but it is not necessary. The Lord who commanded the wind and the waves, who made water into wine, who by his word healed the paralytic, this same Lord offers us his body and blood under the form of these simple elements.

Let us praise and thank God for this great gift which enables us to be united with Christ’s work of redemption in a real and most intimate way. And let us celebrate this Eucharist in his memory and come to communion with him as we share his Body and Blood.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Lord Is Kind And Merciful

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ compels us, because we are convinced that since one died for all, therefore, all died. And He died for all, so that those who are alive should live no longer for themselves, but for him, who died for them, and was raised again.

So, from now on, we no longer regard anyone from a worldly viewpoint. Though we once looked at Christ this way, we no longer do so. For this reason, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old has passed away, the new has come!

All this is from God, who has reconciled himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, God as reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their sins against them, and has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are ambassadors of Christ, as if God were making his appeal through us.

We implore you then, on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. For our sake, He made him who had no sin to be a sin offering in our place, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Psalm 103

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.


He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.

R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you: Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

+++ +++ +++ +++

In today’s First Reading, Paul reminds his listeners, the Christians of Corinth, that they are a new creation in Christ. They did not know Jesus when he walked the earth; they were not able to see him or to listen to his preaching; it is by Christ’s death and resurrection that they have been reconciled with God. In this passage, Paul uses this word, in one form or another, five times, and my reflection will center on these questions: What does it mean to be re-created? How are we reconciled to God? How is the world reconciled with God?

One of the occasions when we most long to be re-created is when we have become painfully aware of the imperfection of our created selves. Our self-centeredness causes conflict with a family member; our preoccupation with our pet projects keeps us from nurturing our relationship with a friend. Some may be trapped in addictive behaviors, and feel that healing is beyond hope. Our fears prevent us from being honest with ourselves, and we become lost in a maze of behaviors that once brought us some sort of pleasure or of peace, but now leave us separated from our friends, our family, our selves, and from God. For awhile, we strive to be reconciled through our own efforts, but they eventually come to naught, and, feeling like failure, we stop trying.

Today, Paul reminds us that the great plan of reconciliation for all of creation with the Creator has already been accomplished in Christ! Everything that seems separated and disconnected has been, is being, and continues to be reconciled in Christ now and for all eternity. When we open our mind and our heart to this truth, we open our spirit to the spirit of the Redeemer, the Reconciler who is alive in the world and, although we have lost awareness of his presence, in each of us. We are made whole; harmony and friendship are restored with God, with others, and with ourselves. Then, by the same grace, we are sent forth as “ambassadors for Christ”, living reminders to others of this great gift of grace. Indeed, the Lord is kind and merciful!

In today’s gospel, Jesus gives a concrete teaching to his disciples on this very topic. How many times have we said, or heard others say, “I swear, it’s true!” or “That’s just the way it happened, I swear!” Why do we say this? Because we are aware that people tend not to trust what they hear. But, there’s a deeper question: Why do we not trust what others say? Because we know that we ourselves tend not to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth – not always blatant lies, but slants and shades of the truth, to protect our own self-interest.

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples – and we are his disciples—that all we need do is speak the truth; the truth that arises from our reconciled innermost self, and not from our fearful, divided self, so susceptible to “the evil one” – not always temptation from outside, but from our own self--interest.

What do we need to do, then? There is a message you may have heard in school, or at work, when completing a project: “Let go of the results”. We have some control of what we say and what we do, especially if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of God. But we have no control over the outcome. For some, what they have said and done have won them a place in the ecclesiastical calendar – but for a few of those, their witness won them martyrdom.

You have heard it before, and it is time to say it again: Remember that only God is perfect. Don’t try to be perfect all at once. Try instead to do better tomorrow than you did yesterday. If you don’t do as well today as you did yesterday, then strive to do better tomorrow than today. And, from the rising to the setting of the sun – or from your own rising to your own setting, if you don’t live on a solar schedule: Be reconciled with God!
Diane Jorgenson, Creighton On-Line Ministries

A quotation from the Saint of the Day, Anthony of Lisbon, aka of Padua:

“The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ."