Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

The readings for today can be found here.

Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Certainly this family wasn't the one that Mary and Joseph had each imagined in their youth. Joseph must have imagined that his wife would bear his children, and many of them. Mary must have though the same thing. This feast day demonstrates to us, that no matter how we imagine life at its ideal, God has something much, much greater planned.

Mary, young and faithful to the Lord, would have been a casualty in the society she lived in had Joseph not married her. She would have been stoned as an adulterer. Joseph could have married her and divorced her quietly as he had planned. However, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him the truth of God's plan for him. He was to take Mary and protect her, and protect the child Jesus that came from God. By Joseph's obedience to God, he enabled Mary to do God's will.

Joseph again protected Mary and Jesus when he led them out of Bethlehem and into Egypt. The scriptures do not tell what happened, but I'm sure many can imagine. Mary had just had a child, Jesus was a small infant. Joseph had to protect their identity lest they be killed along the way. He had to plan the trip, provide for them, and bring them food and water. Joseph's protection permitted Jesus to grow into a young boy, and then grow into the man who became our savior.

There are many feast days of Mary, and daily we celebrate Jesus. On this feast of the Holy Family, let us celebrate Joseph, the head of the Holy Family. Let us celebrate his acceptance of God's plan, his openness to change, his quick thinking, his bravery, and his desire to serve God no matter what others thought. Every family needs a leader. Joseph served in this roll, under God's command. Today let us pray with St. Joseph's intercession for the head of our family, and the head of all families. Let us pray that men may trust in God's plan for them and their families and that they may be brave in the face of challenges. Let us pray that they may love and serve their family as Christ loved and served the Church.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today's readings can be found here.

The tale of Mary visiting her sister Elizabeth is probably one that rings true for so many women who are pregnant, or who have a friend who is pregnant. The intimacy of that time is an amazing treasure. The miracle of life, the pulse of creation flows around a pregnancy. I imagine that the gestating Jesus Christ's energy was amazing. It was so powerful that Elizabeth felt the Spirit move within her and tell her that Mary was pregnant and with God's child, the Messiah. How wonderful it must have been for Mary to have heard this. Elizabeth's greeting confirmed what the angel had told her at the Annunciation.

The longing of a pregnant woman is intense. The head of a pregnant woman is full of questions, wonders, fears, hopes, and anticipation. It is amazing that a pregnant woman can do anything but think about the baby! The anticipation of the child is intensely overwhelming. It is with this intensity that we should be awaiting the second coming of Christ.

Unfortunately, the typical Advent longing is for things, food, or parties. The energy of the season is often inappropriately funneled into things that do not last, and things that do not satisfy. The platters will be put away, the ribbons and paper in the trash, the ornaments in the attic. Even worse, on December 26th, people say, “Christmas is over.” Christmas begins on the 25th and ends with the Epiphany 12 days later.

We have five days between today, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and Christmas. Today's reading features the second joyful mystery, the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Perhaps the better way to prepare for Christmas, better than shopping, cooking, or addressing envelopes, would be to pray.

Pick up the rosary. Meditate and pray over the Joyful Mysteries. The Annunciation announces Christ's conception in Mary's womb, the Visitation brings us to the union of Elizabeth and Mary, but also Jesus and John the Baptist, the Nativity celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas, the Presentation commemorates Jesus' Jewish origins and the fulfillment of a vision for Simeon who had been anticipating the Lord's coming, finally the fifth mystery reminds us of the time that Joseph and Mary thought Jesus was lost and found Him in the temple. I pray that these mysteries remind us of the true reason for anticipation this time of year, and give us the same spirit of longing and anticipation as Simeon, Elizabeth and Mary had for the coming Messiah.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent

Today's readings can be found here.

We have so many things to celebrate. God has been so good to all of us. He has provided us with the very lives we live, and provided us with food, shelter, and a place to lay our heads right up until this very night. Times may not have always been easy, but all along God was with us. God is with us.

As we celebrate the moment when God sent down his Son to walk among us, we celebrate the promise that God would always be accessible to us. Before Jesus came, to be with God the priest had to enter the temple. But he could only do it once a year, and he had to have a rope tied around him in case he died of shock just by being in God's presence. If he died, they could pull him out by the rope! Before the temple, Moses had to go up onto the mountain just to speak to God. While he was up there, the people grew tired of waiting for God's message and started making a golden calf to worship instead. Jesus' advent on this earth said, “I am here with you.” Jesus did die and leave the earth, but his resurrection said, “I will always be with you.”

Our first reading from the book of Zephaniah is a celebration of God and his love. It says, “Shout for joy... Sing joyfully... Be glad and exult with all your heart!” I believe this is the message of Christmas. The message that people try to convey in gifts wrapped and topped with pretty bows. This is the message that the Christmas Tree tries to invoke: joy and gladness with shiny bulbs and tinsel. Zephaniah isn't writing about a tree and a present though. He proclaims joy because “The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies... You have no further misfortune to fear.... Fear not... be not discouraged! The Lord, your God is in your midst, a mighty savior, he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”

Zephaniah rejoices because God is in the midst of the people. When God is in our midst he removes judgment, foes, fears, discouragement. God brings peace, joy, gladness, and love. The apostles knew this, Paul especially did. He wrote a letter to the Philippians, which we also read today. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again rejoice.” He knew the joy of the Lord. I pray we all do. In this season of Advent, as you bustle about with the tree and the presents, ask yourself, “Am I rejoicing?” You should be. Christ is with us, ever present in the Eucharist and our hearts. This is the advent of our Joy. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, “rejoice”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Week of Advent

Today's readings can be found here.

If anyone ever felt discouraged, it was the Israelites. They were constantly turning away from God and suffering as a result. Their exile from Jerusalem, captivity and slavery in Babylon were all a punishment because they turned away. Our own lives may mirror theirs at times. We may feel far from God, and captive or enslaved by the grind of day to day life. The good news is that today isn't a day for discouragement. It isn't a day for worry and sadness. Today is a day of hope.

We all long to be with someone who understands us, who knows us – deeply, intimately and who does not judge us. We long to be held close when we are suffering, and feel free from fear. In these times, we call upon friends, and family to help us. We should call upon our God. One of the large messages of Advent is “Our salvation is at hand! Our Savior is coming! Our Savior is here!”

God isn't a distant deity. He came to this very earth and walked among us. He was born, played with his childhood friends, was tempted by childhood things, teenager things, and adult things. In Christ Jesus, we have a savior who understands our human weaknesses. He understands how hard it is to be a part of this human race. When he offered Himself on the cross, he gave us a ticket to freedom. He claimed us as His own.

Since we have been claimed by Christ in our baptism, we are a part of God's chosen people. The first reading from the prophet Baruch says, “for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” Promises that apply to Israel, apply to us as well. God wants to lead us in joy. He is giving us His mercy and justice. He promises a smooth path. The mountains will be made low and the valleys will be filled in. We do not have to walk these hard roads alone. In these readings, we are reminded that God is reaching out to help us. He is reaching out to save us. This is the advent of our Savior.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

Today's readings can be found here.

In advent, we remember the first coming of Jesus, (the just shoot from the house of David) and we anticipate the day when He will come again. Jesus came to answer the psalm, “Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me” In His life on Earth, Jesus succeeded in teaching us His paths, and guiding us to the truth. One of His most important teachings we call the Greatest Commandment, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' and to 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matt 22:37,39)

The theme of loving God and neighbor runs throughout the Bible. Our Old Testament heroes often were faced with challenges to their faith be it: following Gods will (Abraham), leading others to follow God (Moses), or not honoring other Gods (Daniel). We consider them our heroes because they chose to love and obey God even thought it meant they might die, lose their families, homeland or security.

The New Testament features this theme as well, but usually as encouragement to a community who was struggling to love God and neighbor. The second reading from the first book of Thessalonians says, “ May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God… you should conduct yourselves to please God” The scripture is a prayer for the community to love others better to please God. Loving others is a way to increase holiness and to honor the Greatest Commandment.

The Gospel, of course, features the theme of loving God and neighbor again and again by Jesus' teachings and actions. In today's readings, however, Jesus speaks of His second coming and what His followers can expect. When the signs happen, people who have obeyed the Greatest Commandment should, “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Even with the world crashing around us, we should be reassured that loving God and loving our neighbor the ultimate thing we can do.

Jesus gives us a little warning, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing ...and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” We need to be prepared at any moment, so we need to be loving in every moment. We do not know when we will take our last breath, so every breath should be for love. We do not know our last word, so every word should be of love. He is coming. One day, near or far, we will meet Him. We have to be aware of opportunities to follow the path that God laid out and Jesus showed us how to walk on. This is the advent of our King.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feast Day of Christ the King!

Today's readings can be found here.

Today we celebrate the ultimate leadership of God and the care He gives to us, the feast day of Christ the King. By the time John wrote his visions into the book of Revelations, Christians realized that the kingdom Jesus spoke about was not a political kingdom, but a spiritual one. John's revelation tells of a time when the King will come and all will know Him. It says that, “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.” When our King is revealed to us we will begin to understand and know Him more than we ever could have imagined.

The next line in John's vision says that “All the peoples of the earth will lament him.” A lament is an expression of grief. Why should all people grieve when they see God? We will grieve because we will finally begin to understand the power of His love and forgiveness. The guilt of life, the pain of life, the sorrows and sins of life will well up within us as we realize that we no longer have to bear these things alone. In fact, we no longer have to bear them at all. Our King has come to take them away. He has come to make us into a kingdom as it says in the first part of this scripture, “him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom” we will learn that we are free, and weep tears of joy, sorrow and repentance.

The beauty of God's revelation to us, is that it isn't meant to happen at the end of time. God's revelation is happening throughout time, even now. This is evident in the different places people are in their faith. Some have already begun to see God. Some are waiting for God to reveal Himself to them. Some have begun to understand the power of His love and forgiveness. Some are waiting to understand forgiveness. Everyone is in a different place in their spiritual journey.

The ultimate blessing of His Kingship is that God is constantly watching over us, whether we recognize that we are in His kingdom or not. He has taken away our burden of sin and suffering. He has given us freedom from these things. We are free to choose to live in His kingdom, or run away from it. Do you live in His Kingdom? Who do you answer to? Who or what is the ruler in your life? The answer to these questions will tell you if you have accepted his offer and Kingship.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

Today's readings might be considered among the “fire and brimstone” variety that Catholics ignore and big tent revivalists revel in. There are many ways to approach these scriptures and I give you just one. Lets look from the point of view of the one who trusts in God.

The first reading, from the book of Daniel, tells us of a time of great distress with war and disaster and where wicked people suffer. In this reading, he tells us that the people who are “written in the book” shall escape. Written in the book refers to people who are chosen by God, or claimed by Him. Anyone who is baptized and confirmed is one of God's chosen. We have been marked by these sacraments as God's people.

The book of Daniel says, “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” Wisdom exists by following God and being open to the work of the Spirit in our lives. The Spirit leads us to share our faith with others. If we do this, it could be said that we are “leading the many to justice”, to the justice of the Lord. If we do, we shall be like the stars forever, shining in the heavens.

In the gospel, Jesus himself confirms the war and disaster that Daniel spoke of. Jesus also mentions the safety the Lord will bestow on those who follow Him. He says, “and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds.” His elect are, again, the people who have been chosen by God and who have chosen God back through a life of faith and the sacraments. They will be gathered for the Son of Man who will come in glory at that time.

These readings could and should be seen as a terrible, horrible time. However, people who know that God has offered them salvation, and have accepted, should trust in God through the hard times. The disaster, war, and suffering foretold in these scriptures is for people who live of this world. If we live as God's chosen people, a people set apart, then while we live in the world, we aren't of this world. If we aren't of this world, then it is easier to survive the hard times when the world seems to be falling apart. We trust in God, and know that He is there protecting us, and waiting to take us home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Food for the journey (Vol 8)

Prayer of the week
A prayer against worry

O God, you are the God of Peace, and I am a worrier.
Take away my worry and give me some of your peace.
Help me not to waste my time worrying about
things that nothing can be done about.
Help me to accept them, and to overcome them.
Lord, grant me a quiet mind and peaceful heart.

From the Saints
The Lord often reveals what is best to the youngest
– St. Benedict (Rule of St. Benedict 3:1-3)

Quote of the week
Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.
- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Scripture of the week
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)

From the Catechism
"Our bread":
The Father who gives us life cannot not but give us the nourishment life requires - all appropriate goods and blessings, both material and spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father's providence. He is not inviting us to idleness, but wants to relieve us from nagging worry and preoccupation. Such is the filial surrender of the children of God:

To those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he has promised to give all else besides. Since everything indeed belongs to God, he who possesses God wants for nothing, if he himself is not found wanting before God.
CCC- 2830

One more thought
If we can believe that the bread, water, and wine, physical things, are being transformed into Jesus' body and blood, why then is it so difficult for us to believe that God can take our own flesh, our own blood, and transform it into Him as well?

We ARE the body of Christ.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

In the first reading, from the first book of Kings, a widow feels crushed by the demands of life. She sees her pantry, knows there is no money, and feels that she is on her last meal and will die soon. Elijah asks her for water, which she can provide. Then, he asks her for food, which she feels she cannot provide – even she and her son will die soon from starvation. He assures her that God will provide for her. She then gives Elijah a little cake made of flour and oil, a cake made from what she had, definitely not her surplus. Then a miracle happens, she and her son eat for a year from her pantry. They do not die.

In today's rough economic times, we may feel a large squeeze when it comes to tithing. We may look at the bills that have to be paid, and see one that is paid out of the kindness of the heart and choose to skip that one. This really isn't the right approach. Our tithe is a gift to the church. It is a sacrifice. It is an offering of love and support. Scriptural tradition of tithing asks giving 10% of everything we have, not just of our surplus, or extra, but 10% of everything. The church asks for 5%, and recommends giving 5% to another charity.

Today's gospel tells us the story of a widow who gave all she had for God by her tithe. Today's first reading tells us the story of a widow who gave her last meal to a man of God. In biblical times, widows did not work and had no hope of earning more income themselves. Their hope was the community that cared for them. Still they gave. Can we model our own lives after these women?

In the first reading, we might ask about the mechanics of the widow and son's survival. Does a miracle occur where the pantry creates its own food? Does Elijah go into her village and tell the priest, “there is a widow dying of starvation, provide for her.”? We cannot know. What we know is that in a hard time, a woman had faith to give what she had to help another person. What we know is that God blessed her for it, and God provided for her. He will bless us and provide for us too if we have that same faith.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Food for the journey (Vol 7)

After a brief hiatus due to travel and visitors, Food for the journey has returned. I pray that just one of these thoughts can touch your heart and awaken it to God's mighty love.

Prayer of the week

I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who died for me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In love and desire.

Pour down upon us from heaven
The rich blessing of Your forgiveness;
Be patient with us.

Grant to us, Saviour of Glory,
The fear of God, the love of God, and His affection,
And the will of God to do on earth at all times
As angels and saints do in heaven;

Each day and night give us Your peace.
Each day and night give us Your peace.
-Scottish prayer translated from Gaelic and the King's English.

From the saints
We can see neither our own dignity nor the defects which spoil the beauty of our soul, unless we look at ourselves in the peaceful sea of God's being in which we are imagined.
- St. Catherine of Sienna

Quote of the week
To hate someone won't change anything, but to love someone will.
-Mother Antonia

Scripture of the week
Beloved, we are God's children now, what we shall be has not yet been revealed. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure as he is pure
-1 John 3:2-3

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself. (2 Cor 5:17-18.)
-CCC 1999

One more thought
The cross is God's way of saying, “I don't hold anything against you.”

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Solemnity of All Saints

After a brief vacation, the reflection returns.

You may find today's readings here.

When Jesus speaks in the gospel, he speaks of the trials that we must face in our lives: times where our faith falters, times when we mourn our losses, times when we chose to turn the other cheek instead of fight back, times when we strive for what is good, times when we show mercy, times when we see the good in situations instead of evil, times when we make peace, times when we suffer because of our goodness, and times when we are insulted or persecuted because of our faith in God, Most High. If we face the trials of life in this way, we are to receive a great reward in heaven. However, we will need strength and a strong identity to overcome these trials.

Our second reading today, tells us who we are and how we got that way. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” We have entered into God's family and become His children. We have done this by our participation in the sacraments and our willful commitment to them, but most of all, because God loves us and wills us to be a part of Him. In our sacramental lives, our baptism brought us into the family; our confirmation marked us with the seal of God in the Holy Spirit.

Our first reading, from Revelations tells us that John “saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel." In our confirmation, we have been sealed. We have been set aside for God's protection.

Our sacramental participation is further noted in the reading when it says, “Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” In our baptism, we receive a white garment. In our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, we allow ourselves to be renewed by the Blood of the Lamb.

The attitude that Jesus asks us to have isn't easy, but the sacraments will give us the strength we need to live this way. The Eucharist and Reconciliation are sacraments designed to renew us throughout our lives. We can receive them every day if we desire. This may look crazy to the world, but the world does not know and does not understand God's goodness in giving us these sacraments. Our second reading tells us, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” God isn't waiting for us to “get perfect” before we become His children. We are His children NOW, as we are NOW. We have been given the sacraments as a way to meet God where we are, and allow Him to lead us where he wants us to go. We do not know the end of this life, but we do know what lays beyond. I pray, for all of us, that we may live in the way of the Beatitudes, strengthened by the sacraments, and that we may celebrate with the Saints when we meet our reward in Heaven.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

You can find today's readings here!

It is quite difficult, in the United States of America, to not want to be the best. We think our country, our sports teams, and our schools are “Number One!” We are taught from a young age that we can “achieve anything we put our minds to”. We are told daily of small town nobodies who turned into superstars overnight (Thank you, reality TV). It is perfectly understandable to most Americans then, that James and John asked to be put in a place of honor because of their association with Jesus. They were trying to climb up Jesus' political ladder and “be all they could be”.

Unfortunately for James and John, but fortunate for all of humanity, Jesus does not have a political ladder, a social ladder or any kind of ladder to rank people. He doesn't even rank himself. He tells the disciples that to be the best, they must serve the least. They must be the servant to others, and serve the children, poor, castout, downtrodden, widow and sick.

For this we must be extremely grateful. Many would consider themselves lucky, well-off, or taken care of, but external things aren't the most important in this situation, internal things are. Even if our external selves have power, wealth or fame, the shape of our souls is often poor, childlike, foolish, sick, cast out, or downtrodden. We don't have a clue what to do in times when we should. We fumble for faith in hard times and let our faith slip in the easy times. But if we look at our “American Dream” we know we can be number one, even in our faith

Last week, Jesus told us, “nothing is impossible with God.” This is because WE are the ones who need to be served. We are served by Christ, who died on the cross for US. We are the ones who are poor in spirit, we are the ones who are the least. We are so blessed and fortunate to have God who is full of mercy and understands our human weakness. In being the least in God's eyes, we become the best in His eyes. By being last, we become the first. We trust that God cares for us. We trust that Jesus' sacrifice was meant for us. We trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us in our lives. Because we trust, we can echo the prayer of the psalmists, and praise God for His mercy on our lowliness when we sing, “Lord, let Your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in You. “

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food for the journey (vol 6)

Check out Conversion Diary, host of seven quick takes!

Prayer of the Week
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress
My sight is blurred because of my tears.
My body and soul are withering away.
I am dying from grief, my years are shortened by sadness.
Misery has drained my strength, I am wasting away from within.

But I am trusting in you, O Lord, saying "You are my God"
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hung me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, save me.
-Psalm 31: 9-10, 14-16

From the Saints
"There is very little unusual about the outward life of the Blessed Virgin, or at least the Gospels do not record it. They show her life as very simple and ordinary. What she did and endured might have been done and endured by anyone in her station of life. She visited her cousin Elizabeth just as her other relatives did. Like all her neighbors, she went to Bethlehem to be registered. Because she was poor, she sheltered in a stable. The persecution of Herod drove her from Nazareth, but she returned and lived there with Jesus and Joseph, who worked to earn their daily bread. But what was the bread that nourished the faith of Mary and Joseph? It was the sacrament of the moment -"
-St. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

From the Catechism
2828 "Give us": The trust of children who look to their Father for everything is beautiful. "He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." He gives to all the living "their food in due season." Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness.

Quote of the Week
Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
-Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

If Christ does not make a difference in your life, you can't make a difference in anyone else's.

Scripture of the Week
Cast your bread upon the waters after a long time you may find it again. Make seven or eight portions, you know not what misfortune may come upon the earth – Ecc 11:1-2

From the Mass

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

In many of the Gospel stories, people who meet Jesus go away giving thanks to God, or proclaiming that he is the messiah. They have been healed, their sins have been forgiven, they are free and so very happy. The man in today's gospel is not. He goes away sad.

From the outside, his life is a testament to following God. He wants to follow God so badly that he even asks Jesus his advice in how to obtain everlasting life. Unfortunately, the answer he hears is not what he wants to hear.

Jesus, first of all, loves us. He sees us as we are. Jesus IS the Word of God. The reading from Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is living and effective, penetrating, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. The gospel says, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said...” (what he did not want to hear). Jesus looked at him, he penetrated his reflections and thoughts. He saw what was holding the young man back. His wealth was important to him, so much so that it was keeping him from fully entering into the life that God wanted for him. This is why the young man went away sad. If there was one thing he did not want to do, it was give away his possessions. Jesus saw this, and knew that the young man needed to hear this word.

The advice he heard was not what he wanted to hear. Maybe he wanted to hear, “You are doing a great job! Keep it up! Nothing more is needed from you!” Don't we all want to hear that our current level of effort in our faith is enough?

God has a challenge planned for each of us. This challenge is designed to see if we are really willing to make the proper sacrifices to “pick up our cross and follow after Christ” For some people, it is loving a completely unlovable person, for some people it is following a part of the Church's teaching that they do not fully agree with or understand. Almost everyone finds a part of the bible or church's teaching that they may not agree with on the surface. They might even think that their opinion, or society's opinion of the teaching is more important than what God has said.

God loves us, and he wants what is best for us. I pray that each of us could open our hearts to respond to God's desire for us. I pray that the word of God would pierce our hearts so we would be able to “take up the cross” and do the hard thing which we resist, the thing that will bring us closer to God and his kingdom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Food for the journey (Vol 5)

Lord Jesus, help me to find a special time and place for you in my daily life. I tend to be so busy and so preoccupied. I neglect to provide the opportunity simply to be with you. Even when I do set aside time for prayer, I tend to become so distracted. The concerns and anxieties that trouble me tend to well up and occupy my attention. Give me the courage to weather the storm of my inner desires, drives and fear so that I can become faithful to quiet time with you. Enable me in this time to experience more clearly the truth about you, about me, about others, about the world, about the devil. Sustain me in a loving embrace of all that is truly real. Amen.
-from Spiritual Masters by Bishop Alfred Hughes.

From the Saints
Perfection exists in being what God wants us to be
–St. Teresa Child of Jesus

We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.
-Blessed Theresa of Calcutta

Give and gifts will be given to you, a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. - Luke 3:8

On Evangelizing
Your faithfulness to Christ will lead more people to Christ than anything else.

On God's mighty power
If I had to depend on my own strength, I would lose all confidence and courage in such an undertaking. But when I think of the help of God, when I consider his promises, when I take into account his power and his goodness, everything within me comes alive again, and I feel strong and powerful enough to work in the vineyard of the Lord. Even if far away from home, I am close to him who has called me to this work.
-Blessed Francis Xavier Selos

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Todays readings can be found here.

“We were given: Two hands to hold. To legs to walk. Two eyes to see. Two ears to listen. But why only one heart? Because the other was given to someone else. For us to find.” (Anon author) In the beginning, man was alone and knew that none of the animals were enough for him. God took part of the man and made a suitable partner for him. What was originally one, is now two separate persons. As it says in the reading from Genesis, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife.”

Weeks ago we were presented with a reading that used marriage as the metaphor to describe the relationship between Christ and our Church. In this marriage, the spouses were to help each other get to heaven. Today we are given readings that describe the union of man and woman through marriage as designed during the creation. Man and woman were once one, but are now two. We were also once one with God, but are now separated from Him.

The fall in the Garden of Eden was like a divorce from God. Our baptism and sacramental life re-unites us. Like divorce, the hardness of mankind's hearts keep some separated from God. Some people say, “I'm spiritual, but not religious.” Well, God made each and every one of us. He is Spirit and life, we are alive and we are spiritual. It is in our very nature, as created by God, to be spiritual.

The religious aspect of our spiritual life is a way that God helps us. He saw that it was not suitable for persons to be alone. He made a partner for man so that he would have a companion in life. In our spiritual life, we are given our religion as a way to unite and connect with others. The union is what we call church. The union we participate in is called the One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church. This Church is created for us, to help us unite ourselves with God. He created us to live together, to be together, to be one body. This body, this Church, was created to help us get to heaven. Marriage and the Church reflect each other, as ways that two parts can become one through sacrifice and obedience to each other; and they both can get us to heaven.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Food for the journey (Vol 4)

Prayer of the Week
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” - The Jesus Prayer

From the Saints
God loves each of us as if there were only one of us – St. Augustine

Quote of the Week
If you want to be happy, try to be holy; if you want to be very happy, try to be very holy. -Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

From an encyclical from John Paul II
For he who loves desire to give himself. - Dives in Misericordia/On the Mercy of God by John Paul II

I have come not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me. - John 6:38

You are where you are, wherever you are, so that Jesus might be there with you right now.

Guardian Angel Prayer

Dear Guardian Angel, in His goodness, God gave you to me to guide, protect and enlighten me, and bring me back to the right way when I go astray.

Encourage me when I am disheartened and instruct me when I err in my judgment.
Help me to become more Christlike and so someday to be accepted into the company of Angels and Saints in heaven. Amen
-Sr. Fedclis Marie.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

You can find today's readings by clicking here!

For those in public positions of preaching, the responsibility can be daunting. That is one reason that some preachers usually settle on one audience. To put into the words of a parable, “the harvest is great, but the laborers are few”. This is one reason Moses said, “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"

Those that have received sacraments in the Church have been gifted with God's spirit. In Baptism and with Confirmation, we are anointed priest, prophet and king. We are called to sanctify, teach, and govern. Our priestly duty of sanctification is to bring holiness into our relationships. We do this by doing good deeds, acting with humility and praying for others. Our prophetic duty of teaching can be done by witnessing our faith and the love of Christ to others. Our kingly duty to govern includes ensuring just governance and ordering society according to Jesus' teachings.

Moses and our pastor try to fulfill these duties on their own. However, they only reach those who sit in the pews. Moses' audience only listened when he was present. Remember what happened when he went up on the mountain to get the Commandments? With Moses gone, the people made a golden bull to worship! The church is full of people who already believe or who are trying to believe. Our pastor preaches to inspire us, give us a message to tell others. They can't do it on their own, they need backup!

We regularly go out into the world: school, work, the Metro and movie theater. In each of these places, we are faced with people who turn away from God. Moses and our pastor can't get to those people as readily as we can. They have their mission and their audience. We have ours.

We are called to full participation in our faith. God has given us His Spirit and strengthened us by Baptism and Confirmation. We are called to lives of action. When Jesus left this world, he gave his apostles what they call, “the Great Commission.” It wasn't the great suggestion. We are called to serve God and our community by acting as priest, prophet and king. We are to act as a gift to our pastor by taking the words we hear today into the world so that all may hear.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Food for the journey (vol 3)

Prayer of the Week

A prayer for our Church

I plead with you for the world.
Power of the eternal Father, help me!
Wisdom of the Son, enlighten my eye of understanding!
Tender clemency of the Holy Spirit inflame my heat and unite it to yourself!
I proclaim, eternal God that your power is powerful and strong enough
to free your church and your people
to snatch us from the devil's hand
to stop the persecution of the Holy Church
and to give me strength
and victory over my own enemies.
I proclaim that the wisdom of your Son who is one with you
can enlighten the eye of my understanding and that of your people
and can relieve the darkness of your secret bride.
And I proclaim, eternal gentle goodness of God,
that the clemency of the Holy Spirit, your blazing charity
wants to inflame my heart and everyone's and unite them with yourself.”
-St. Catherine of Sienna

From the Saints
Nothing is so inconsistent with the life of a Christian as overindulgence
– Rule of St. Benedict Ch 39

Quote of the Week
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
-Romans 8:18

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
-The prayer between the Our Father and the "end" of the Our Father.

From the Catechism
Faith is a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.
-Catechism of the Catholic Church: CCC 179

Final though
Give God the glory.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday's readings can be found here.

The crowd gathered around the foot of the cross shouted, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” “He saved others but cannot save himself.” “He trusts in God, let God rescue him now” (Mat 27:38-44) Those who mocked him were the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, but also the criminals who were crucified with Him. The leaders who mocked Christ should have seen the company that was with them. They were behaving like criminals who had been sent to their deaths.

Sinners are often offended by those who stand up for what is right in God's eyes. People who have prayed in front of abortion clinics, porn shops, and on Bourbon Street in New Orleans can tell you this is true. They have received taunts and insults from passersby and honks from cars with people shouting out of the windows as they drive by. At times it can be disheartening to experience this, but it can also be a boost to the just who pray harder for God's work to be done. Jesus teaches us that the Kingdom of Heaven is worth suffering the taunts of the sinful. He did it, and we should do it too.

The prayer of the psalmist is “O God, by your name save me, and by your might defend my cause.” It is a wonderful prayer to those who are being persecuted. The second reading gives a warning though, to those who would not follow God's plan. When we pray and do not receive it is because we have prayed to satisfy a passion that is not God's passion. We are praying for something that is selfish, conflict-driven, covetous, envious and of a human passion. If what we pray for is just, then the result should be peaceful, gentile, merciful and fruitful, without inconsistency and insincerity. God is passionate about justice. God is consistent and sincere about justice. We must pray to have this same passion and to know our part is in God's plan for justice.

Jesus tells us “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” To receive God we must receive the child, the lowly, the cast aside in our society. Our actions in this world should be for the lowly: the children, the poor, the cast aside. Mother Teresa once said, “each of them is Jesus in disguise.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Food for the journey (Vol 2)

Please visit Conversion Diary, host of Seven Quick Takes.

Prayer of the week
Please take from me my life
when I don't have the strength
to give it away to you, Jesus.

From the Saints
"Life's distortions are removed by God's kind eye, giving us sight of our dignity and seeing the ways our soul glass is smudged." - St. Catherine of Sienna

Quote of the week
"Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them." -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

On the Mass
"We are going to be bored unless we come with a burning desire to hear God's word, to meet him in sacrament and to be changed in the way in which we continue to live our lives.

[We should] bring to the sacred liturgy all that is transpiring within our own lives. We can then bring it directly to God and place it in his hands and offer ourselves in a way that is open and pliable to his loving will. We want to be taught by him. We want to be purified by him. We want to be changed by him. For this to happen .. we have to move beyond wanting to be entertained or made to feel good. Rather we need to be strengthened by a voluntary self-offering in union with Christ that accepts the kind of suffering that purifies and ennobles us.

This kind of engagement in the liturgy is what liturgy ultimately implies. Liturgy is ultimately and involvement that demands courage and a lively faith. It requires the desire of the whole person to be engaged. It includes a willingness to be transformed and led into a new life. "

from Spiritual Masters: Living a life of prayer in the Catholic Tradition by Bishop Alfred Hughes

Jesus will never be arrested for forced entry. We have to open the door to let him in.

Almost the last bite
The Great Commission is what Christ told his followers to DO. It's not the great suggestion.

Scripture of the Week
Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God. - Is 49:4

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here

The question posed in James is "What good is faith without works?" For an individual, faith in God's sanctifying grace is all that is needed to be saved. However, on earth, we are living in community. Community needs each member to contribute in one way or another. Otherwise we are all just living next to each other instead of with each other.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians." Wow. What kind of behavior must we have been displaying for him to say that? We must not be living out the ministry of Christ and the works of our faith to our fullest extent.

Looking at the vast array of religious orders, it is easy to see that there are many different types of works to be done: ministry to the sick, healthy, dying, survivor, poor, wealthy, orphan, child, teen, homosexual, married, single, addict, homeless, jobless, soldier, hungry, and more. There are orders who focus on teaching, healing, health, meditation, contemplation, preaching, politics, social justice, and missionary work. Even within our own church building, opportunities abound for works: extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, lectoring, singing, altar serving, greeting, taking the collection, becoming a Deacon, writing the bulletin, teaching catechism, collecting for the food drive, writing letters to representatives, leading the Mom's group, cleaning the church pews after mass, cleaning the candles and altar before mass, parish council, and so much more.

God asks for our time, talent and treasure to meet the needs of the community. God's gift of grace saves us. Our faith sustains us. Our works help our neighbor and build our community. I pray that each of us can respond to the needs of the community according to the call on our hearts and that one day, a great leader may say, “I like your Christ, and I love your Christians.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Food for the journey

Please click here to view Conversion Diary. Host of Seven Quick Takes Friday.

Prayer of the week
“Lord, teach us to be generous.
To serve as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost
to fight and not to heed the wounds
to toil and not to seek for rest
to labor and not to seek reward
except that of knowing that we do your will. Amen”
-Prayer of St. Ignatius

From the Saints
"Charity is no substitute for justice withheld." -Saint Augustine

Quote of the week
“You can't eat me, because I eat Him!” Fr. Stan Fortuna (pointing at the Eucharist)

God made you the way you are for a reason. He made you perfectly for what he has in store

We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. (EP II)

Scripture of the week
Psalm 18: 30-32
As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him.

For who is God besides the LORD ?
And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.

A little bit more
When your faith is all about you and what you get out of it, or if you focus only on yourself, then its not real faith. If Jesus had said, “Whats in it for me?” We would all be in real trouble.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

You can find today's readings here

God made His kingdom for all people but so many will miss out on it. He made His kingdom for you, me, our neighbors, the relative you haven't spoken to in years, and the guy who cut you off in traffic. He sent us all an invitation to His kingdom. You and I have shown up for the pre-party (church), but have the others? Who is missing today? Why aren't they here? Are their eyes closed to the invitation, did they turn a deaf ear to the call, was their body unable to get them to the car and drive here, would they be embarassed say that they went to church?

The scripture says, "the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared." It also tells us, "the lame will leap" and the "tongue of the mute will sing." Do you know someone spiritually deaf, blind, mute, or lame? We all do. They have this disability because they have ignored God's offer. They might need a reminder about God's love and desire for them.

What does it take for a Christian to speak out to others? It takes courage. God promises to support our efforts if they are efforts of God. Today's first reading tells us, "Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you." He comes to defend us, to support us and give us the help we need on our earthly journey.

This earth is full of spiritually blind, deaf, lame and mute people. If we open our mouths to say to them, "God has something for you". God will support us, He will strengthen us. But we must be brave to speak out. God does not want to act alone in His plan of salvation. You are a part of His plan. "Be strong, fear not."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Find today's readings here

The Lord has called us to be His people. When we accept this calling, we accept something greater than ourselves. We accept a new life, a new self and a new mind.

The gospel tells us about the things that make us unclean, icky, and defiled. These
are: evil thoughts, unchastity (improper use of sexuality), theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness(disregard for rules and morals), envy, blasphemy (irreverence towards things of God), arrogance, and folly.

When we lead a Christian life, we are called to belong to God, to follow Him and obey Him. We are strengthened in our call by God's grace. This grace comes to us to empower us to live as God's people, and enable us to do and be what we were created to do and be.

Catholics don't often speak of being "born again" or the re-birth that occurs when we become God's people. It is mentioned during the sacrament of Baptism, but not really outside of the sacrament. We should speak of it, we should proclaim it. God wills us to be reborn as a new creation, each day, and every time we turn away from Him, every time we sin. He beckons us to return to Him so that he could renew us.

The scriptures today encourage us to turn away from our old selves and the things that defile us from within. They encourage us to be renewed and to be called a "wise and intelligent people."

The second reading tells us that God gave birth to us by the word of His truth. The rebirth of our souls is a constant occurrence. A new baby is so beautiful, so precious, so spotless, so pure. God has the power and desire to return each one of us to this state. He tells us that we are born by the word of truth.

The word of God is Christ Jesus, sacrificed on the cross, His arms stretching out, welcoming us to His embrace. The truth of God is that He is waiting. Waiting for you, waiting for me, waiting for us to return to Him, rejecting the things that make us unclean and asking for the new life that only He can give.

Seven Quick Takes (Vol 2)

Please link over to Conversion Diary to check out her blog. Thanks for hosting Seven Quick Takes!

1. Prayer of the week:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours.
Do with it what You will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace.
That is enough for me.

2. From the Saints:
"God is love" and in this phrase, as a mirror reflects a person's face, and as the sun reflects its light on the earth, so this phrase reflects in my soul that all God's works, whatsoever they are, are love alone." -St. Catherine of Sienna

3. Quote of the week:
"I am a little pencil in the hands of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world." -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

4. Ruth was called by God to join a family. (read the story of Ruth here) After she joined the family, she bore children, who bore children until David was born. David's descendants bore children until Christ was born. Ruth didn't "know" the part she played in the story of our own salvation, but she did it willingly.

What part we have to play, we cannot say. We long to be faithful to God and love Him, learn more about Him and strive for His kingdom. We should pray that generations down can benefit from the work God is doing in us today.

5. Truth
If you give your life to God, He's going to take you at your word.

6. Pay attention in Mass:
Listen for :"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
What does that mean to you?

7. Scripture of the Week:
"Even to the death, fight for the truth, and the Lord your God will battle for you." Sirach 4:28

Seven Quick Takes Friday (vol 1)

Click here to view the blog: Conversion Diary, host of 7 Quick Takes.

1. Prayer of the week:

Lord, let me know clearly
the work which You are calling me
to do in life
and grant me every grace I need
to answer Your call with
courage, love, and lasting
dedication to your will.

(found on the back of a St. Benedict Prayer Card)

2. On the Saints:
Q: Why should we ask the Saints for intercession? How can dead people pray for us?
A. What value is there in our death if we can't pray in heaven? If we are in heaven, won't we constantly be praying? If we can't then what value is there in our death? Why go to heaven if we can't pray and worship God.

3. Quote of the week:
"It is a life and death struggle - not a teaparty. If we only dabble in the divine - we make a mockery of ourselves and our God. Everything is one way or the other - nothing is by halves." -Fr. Tom Zoeller

4. Humility of humanity
Christ humbled himself to share in our humanity. So if we are to be christlike, then we must also humble ourselves to share in humanity. In communion, we do not go in order of age, importance, wealth, nor health. We are all mixed in as we wait in the line to receive communion. We eat and drink from the same cup and plate. This is the same cup that the person before us drank from: the sick, the infirm, the young, the old, the poor, the wealthy, the hero and the unknown. As we grasp that cup, we drink, we humbly share in the humanity of our church.

5. Truth
God wants what is best for you. God's best for you is not the American Dream.

6. Pay attention in Mass:
Part of the Eucharistic Prayer says, "Make us an everlasting gift to You." Can you find it this week? What does that mean to you?

7. Scripture of the Week:
"On a good day, enjoy good things, and on an evil day consider: both the one and the other God has made, so that man cannot find fault with Him in anything." Ecclesiastes 7:14

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

The gospel of this week concludes the Bread of Life Discourse in John Chapter 6. The gospel, when included with the entire chapter of John, affirms that it is difficult for our human minds to believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life, but that we must eat this bread to gain eternal life. Many who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” The gospel also affirms that many people left the discipleship because they could not accept it. The ones who remained knew that even though it was hard to believe, Jesus was right. Which is why they said, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

The first reading, from the book of Joshua, also demonstrates a time when a choice was made between our God and other gods. Joshua, like Jesus' disciples, chooses God,. He says, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The people answer that God has helped them and protected them, and they would serve God too.

Tying these readings with the second reading is an interesting exercise. The reading from Ephesians is often read at weddings. It also often upsets people due to its command to for women to be subordinate to their husbands. I'm sure after that line in the gospel, many people shut down their listening ears and say, “oh no they didn't.” But I encourage all to listen to the heart of this reading.

Husbands are to their wives as Christ is to the Church. Christ died for His Church. He put Himself up on the cross, underwent incredible suffering, humiliation, and pain until death. Husbands are to do the same for their wives. They are to love their wives and hand themselves over to lead their wives to heaven. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies, nourishing and cherishing her.

Maybe this isn't your marriage, nor your parents marriage. Look around, do you see a marriage like this? Have you heard of a marriage like this? This image of marriage does not always present itself in our modern world. This image of marriage is an ideal, and it is a metaphor of Christ's love for us. In a perfect Church, we are the wife, subordinate to God and God's will for us. In turn, Jesus, the spouse, offers himself for us, and for our purification, salvation, and sanctification. He protects us, nourishes us, and cherishes us.

Our duty as the Church, as the wife of Christ, is to be subordinate, believe and trust that God will care for us. The gospel, written to conclude the Bread of Life discourse, tells us that this is hard to accept. But it also tells us that these words are Spirit and life.

Husbands and wives should examine their commitment to their spouse and their responsibilities based on these scriptures. Based on these scriptures, everyone should examine their commitment to God and Church and their responsibilities to both. If we do not believe this, if we do not act and live as the wife, the bride of Christ, how will we live? To whom shall we go?

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

The first reading tells us that wisdom is available to all. The banquet has been set, and we are all invited to partake in the wisdom of God. The second reading tells us turn away from foolish ways: drunkenness, adultery, and ignorance. It tells us to seek God's will and be filled with the wisdom of the Spirit. The wisdom of the Spirit should lead us to make the most of every opportunity (to share the Lord with others), to speak in the words of the Lord and constantly praise and give thanks to Him.

We give Him thanks because He has given us the ultimate gift, his life. His life is given so that we may live forever.

How possible is this to believe? At times, our hears question: could the body of Christ really be present to us on the altar? Fundamentalist Christians and others who take the Bible literally tend to skim over John chapter 6, also know as the “Bread of Life Discourse.” John Chapter 6 contains in it, a constant message from Jesus himself that he IS the bread sent from heaven. Jesus tells us the following. He is the living bread from heaven. Unless we eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood we shall not have life within us. His flesh is true food, blood true drink. The one who feeds on Him will have eternal life. This message combined with the words spoken at the Last Supper confirm that what is offered on the altar is the Body and Blood of Christ.

God has given us the gift of the Spirit and the Spirit's wisdom to help us believe what seems impossible to our human understanding. The banquet has been set, and we are invited to partake in the sacrifice on the altar. Whoever eats this Bread will live forever. Amen.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for today's readings!

The second reading tells us, “Be imitators of God and live in love as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us.” What a challenge. Has anyone ever imitated God? Have we created life? Have we instructed others? Have we helped the poor, the lost, the lonely? Actually... maybe we have. Some of us have children, have taught others and have assisted those in need. Perhaps we have had success in imitating God.

The reading instructs us further to imitate God and live in love as Christ loved us. The challenge grows. Have we loved as Christ loved us? Christ loved us and handed himself over for us. Are we capable of a sacrificial love such as this? Sacrificial love has the good of the other at heart. Sacrificial love asks the most of the giver and often gives nothing in return.

There may be times when we are capable of sacrificial love, but not always. Life has the ability to wear down our desire or drive to love this way. How then, do we nourish ourselves to become more capable of this type of love? “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.” is the advice that the angel of the Lord gives to Elijah. This advice is good for us as well. The Bread of Life, Jesus, is offered for us on the altar today. The sacrifice of this Bread from Heaven is offered for us to feed us spiritually. It is offered to us freely to nourish our spirits to be able to love as Jesus loved. To nourish us to imitate God. This bread was given to us to sustain us on our earthly journey until we reach our heavenly home.

Jesus gave us his life as a sacrificial offering, a sacrificial love. The Eucharist is offered for us. It is offered to sustain us, to encourage us and to help us love sacrificially.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

click here for today's readings

The gospel occurs the day after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Briefly paraphrased it goes like this: “Hey Jesus, why did you leave us?” Jesus replies, “You aren't here for me, you are here for free food. Honestly, you are wasting your time if its just food you are after. You should be coming to me for something better, eternal life.” The people ask, “How do we get that? Show us a sign.” Jesus says, “I am the sign, if you believe in me, you will never worry about food and drink again.”

Do we believe because we received something from God? A job, a car, a family, a fish and some loaves while we sat in the meadow? Or do we believe because Jesus Christ was sent to earth to show us a new way. He sacrificed His body on the cross and died. Then He rose from the dead to conquer death, to destroy death! Would we, like Job, believe if we had nothing? Would we believe if we had lost everything, family, home, wealth, property, our health, and friends?

Paul's letter to the Ephesians urges us to put our old selves away, the selves that show up for free food, who believe because God has blessed us with stuff. He begs us to put away weak faith and to put away our weak and former selves. If we truly believe, we know that we have the gift of Jesus Christ. We no longer belong to this world, but to God's kingdom.

Now that we have the gift of Jesus, we should walk as a child of God. A very small child does not wonder where it is going or what it is doing. A very small child lives in the present moment. In this very moment, God is providing for you. Paul accuses the Gentiles as living in “futility of their minds” - in fear, worry and anxiety. In this moment God is proving for you. Paul says, “be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” Don't worry, don't fear, do not be anxious. God is providing for you right now. Perhaps not for your physical needs - mana isn't raining down from heaven, but He is providing for your spiritual needs. Jesus on the cross has given us the sign we asked for. His life, offered on the cross – for you, for this very moment.

Jesus gives us his body and blood as bread and wine. As we approach the altar, what do we think? Do we think about the substance of the bread and the wine? Do we think about the flavor or the texture in our mouths? Do we think about the people in the line? In the pew? Are we tied to the futility of our minds – the anxiety, worry and stress of the physical things?

Be renewed, brothers and sisters! As you approach the altar, God approaches you. As you lift your hands to make a throne for the host of the body of Christ, God approaches you. The minister proclaims, “the body of Christ.” Your “Amen” proclaims, “I believe this is your body. I come to you so that I may never hunger.”

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for today's readings.

Today's readings are not the first times that God has fed His people with miraculous food. Even the Israelites received mana from heaven. Most of us have heard the story of the loaves and the fishes, but what of the first reading? The first and the gospel both show how God has taken what man can provide and multiplied it to feed HIs people.

Interesting to me, however, is how the second readings fits in. Paul begs us to live the right kind of life. He begs us to be humble, gentile, patient, loving and united in the Spirit. He tells us to bind together with peace. We are urged to do so because we are called to belong to God who is, " over all through all and in all".

Now imagine being in the multitude, gathered in a large meadow listening to Jesus teach. You are surrounded by 3000 men (not counting the women and the children). The heat of midday towers overhead. Jesus is teaching, telling you to love your neighbor. You are hungry. You see the small basket of loaves and fish that Jesus has blessed. Hunger. You are getting a little cranky. You could get up and go find lunch for yourself. You could fight for what is offered, taking more then the person next to you because you are hungrier than them. You don't. You are united in peace with those around you. Patience, humility, gentleness overwhelm you. When Jesus' offering comes to you, you take what you need - no more, no less.

It is in human nature to fight or try to figure out our own solutions to the problems. It is true, but hard to remember that God will always give us what we need. God takes what we have as humans and makes it so much better, larger, more amazing. Unfortunately, God often asks us to wait, in the grass, under the hot sun, while hungry and slightly impatient before he provides for us. Fortunately, we are called to belong to God. God is "over all, through all, and in all." He is the master, he knows where His help is coming from. We do not. The master of the universe will feed us if we let Him. The question is do you let God feed you or do you try to feed yourself?

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's readings can be found here.

Two types of leaders exist: those that bring people together and those that create a divide and separate people. In Ephesians, we are told that Christ Jesus came to “break down the dividing wall” between the Jews and the Gentiles. Many of us would be considered Gentiles by blood and the law. The Old Testament law would have excluded us from God. Thank God that by Christ’s death and resurrection all humans enter into a new covenant where all have access to God.

Our Gospel tells us of Christ’s mercy and selfless leadership. Jesus and his disciples were trying to take a break from their work, he had said "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." But people wouldn’t leave them alone. They were following Him to hear what He would teach them. He tried again to move away from the crowd and recharge, but even more people came to hear Him. Jesus’ heart was moved to teach the people. Following this scene in the Gospel is the story of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes. This gospel dramatically shows the desire of Jesus, as our shepherd and leader, to take care of our physical and spiritual hunger.

The other type of leader is featured in the first reading from Jeremiah and serves as an example of God’s dislike for bad leadership. He says “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock.” In this day and age it is almost easy to be led astray. The internet and Google easily help us find “proof” that supports a point of view that we are trying to justify.

The real authority over all is God the Father, Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This triune God has taught us what we need to know, and given us the authority over all if we only follow the utmost rule, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

God poured out his life for us and has given us leadership in our Church who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. We must love others, love our Church, and pray for our leaders – especially our new pastor. May God grant him the gifts of leadership that he needs to lead St. Raphael’s parish to ripe pastures. May God always lead him to serve our parish and the entire Church with his special gifts. May the Lord give him the leadership to help us multiply our gifts to benefit our Church as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. Amen.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Today's readings can be found here

Today’s readings serve a two-fold purpose. One is to remind us that we are called by God to go out into the world and serve Him. The other purpose is to encourage us in that call.

In the first reading, from the prophet Amos, Amos was not looking to work as a prophet. His original job was shepherding and tending to sycamore trees. He was called by God and he answered that call by proclaiming God’s word to Israel. The Gospel also tells a story of being called. The disciples are sent forth by Jesus to share God’s word with the villages and towns. The instructions they receive are to go forth with what they have and nothing more.

Being called may seem a little bit frightening. It takes some bravado to tell others that they are surrounded by sin, need to repent and ask for forgiveness and that God has told them what they need to live a fuller and better life.

He has given us everything we need in order to do his will. These things are the focus of Paul’s prayer in the second reading, from the book of Ephesians. He writes that God has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. He chose us. We are adopted by Him into His family. He has poured out His love and grace on us. We have been redeemed and forgiven. He tells us His will. He centers us with the examples of Christ (and how we should then live our lives). He encourages us to share the promise of heaven with others. He gives us hope. He seals us with the Holy Spirit and give us the promise of heaven.

God does not call the prepared. Amos was a shepherd who was called forth to proclaim God’s word to Israel. The disciples were fishermen, and a tax collector, political activist and an account. God called them forth to serve him. He calls us as well. God does not call the prepared, he prepares the called. Go. You are sent.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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I understand why my child cries, because life is hard. And it just gets harder as we get older. We scrape our knees, we have to go to bed before we feel like it, we have to get up too early in the morning. Sometimes even worse things meet us. Our parents get divorced or separate. Our parents stay together and fight. We fight with our best friends. People we think are our friends abandon us. We struggle through the angst and humiliation of junior high school. In high school we've got trouble dating and with grades. We wonder, what am I supposed to do when I grow up? College? Travel? Work? Which college? Which career? How will I pay the bills? Where will I live? How will I survive in this world? What? My mother has breast cancer? What? My father had a heart attack? What? My brother is getting deployed to Iraq? What?

St. John of the Cross wrote of a dark night of the soul. The dark night is a time centered on doubts about ones faith, not believing in God or questioning religion. This time is extremely hard and could result in a total loss of faith. St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Paul of the Cross and Mother Teresa of Calcutta all experienced this dark time of faith and they are considered supremely holy people.

We are called to be holy. Sometimes the journey of life and holiness can take us through dark places: death, illness, disease, war, hurt within families, extreme self doubt. Many of us have experienced times when we though we could not go on living, or we thought God had completely abandoned us, or we didn't see the point of religion, or faith, or believing in goodness at all! But during the entire time, God is with us. He is spiritually bringing us along, gently patting us on the back, wiping away our tears. He is whispering encouraging things in our ears and helping us pick up the broken pieces to become whole again. With patience, our dark nights are times of transformation, resulting in a new, more renewed faith when the light shines again.

The poem "Footprints" by Mary Stevenson describes this situation quite perfectly, when it says, “'But I have noticed during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why when I needed you most, have you not been there for me? ' The Lord replied, 'The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you.'”

God carries us through all of the hard times, and through every dark night. It is for this reason that God told Paul," My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." When we can no longer rely on ourselves, we tend to rely fully on God. It is our job to remember God's words in the hard places. We are strong because during our weakness, we allow the Master of the Universe to guide our lives with his love and strength. We should also remember Paul's anthem, "for when I am weak, then I am strong." and make it our own.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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The second reading urges us to go further in our faith then we had before. We may have come to mass today, we may have prayed, worshiped and loved our neighbor. But do we give freely of what God has given to us? We need to take from our abundance and give to others, and when others have more, they shall give to us. Abundance is not always in the form of money or goods, it can come in the form of love and compassion. Even a child knows this rule. When they see someone sad, they have innate ability to feel the sadness and comfort their neighbor out of the abundance of their love.

God made us to be everlasting. In the garden of eden, we were made to live forever. Desire, want, and greed, prompted by the serpent drove mankind to take from the forbidden fruit and death was the punishment. However, if we are born again in Christ, then we are free from death. Should we not also be free from desire, want and greed? If we have much, let us give it to those who are in need. If we have little, let us share what we can when we can. If we always shared what we had, then those without would not need to desire, want nor feel envious of what others have. They would know that if their neighbor has something that they would like, they only need to ask, and that neighbor will share with them.

Last week, we examined God's might and power over all creation, and placing our trust in God's providence. We also had the opportunity to sign letters to our congresspersons regarding policies that would fight worldwide poverty. After the 6 o'clock mass, there was another opportunity to address poverty. A man was standing outside of church with a sign that asked for help for him and his children. He had lost his job and could not pay his rent. His older daughter was at the exit of the parking lot. It is challenging to see people begging, but especially outside of our church, and especially when we had just been asking others to help fight poverty. How did we respond as a community to this man and his family? Did they go home hungry that night? Did they lose their apartment? I don't know. What I do know is that God has showed us the ultimate sign of generosity. God has asked us to respond accordingly. Our abundance must meet the needs of others.

In the Gospel, Jesus performed many miracles, and we are challenged to do the same. Giving of ourselves can help make miracles happen. This week, I leave you with a prayer written by St. Teresa of Avila, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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In Job, God describes his mighty works of bringing forth water to the earth and marking its boundaries. This reading provides an illusion to both the creation story and to the great flood of Noah's time. After the flood, God promised not to destroy the world again with a flood and he marked his promise with the bow in the sky. This was the first covenant that God ever made with mankind.

Water has the ability to bring, renew, and destroy life. By the waters of baptism we die to our fleshly lives and are born again into our spiritual selves. As the second reading tells us, whoever is in Christ is no longer a man or woman or child, but a new creation in God. Our old selves of fear, worry, doubt and shame should have passed away and we should trust in God's providence. The love that Christ has for us should bring us comfort and strength because we know Christ not as an earthly man, but as our Savior who loved us enough to die for us. As a baptized believer in Christ, we are born again into this spirit and should be free of fleshly cares.
However, to trust in God is not always easy. We have to put away our own thoughts and desires so that we can follow God's. We cannot view the world as the world views it – with fear and worry. We must view the world as God sees it – with love and the greater plan in mind. At times, our faith allows us to do this.

In the Gospel of Mark, earlier in the day the disciples had heard many parables from Jesus regarding faith taking root and growing (the parable of the sower, the seed upon rocky ground, and the mustard seed parables). The storm was an opportunity for their seeds to take root and bloom, but the seed did not take root and their faith in Jesus faltered. They weren't able to trust him, they feared their destruction in the storm. Even though they doubted and were afraid, Jesus acts to calm the seas. He shows his authority over nature just as God did in the creation stories, just as God did for Noah's family, and just as God described his power to Job.

Anxiety can keep us from the true peace that Christ offers us. Faith in God's providence can bring calmness into our lives. When we fear the world around us, we remember the words of the apostles, but have faith as we cry out to the Lord, “Do you not care that I am perishing?” Ask and you shall receive. The Lord will provide for your needs. Trust Him.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

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The first reading from Exodus gives us the laws of God and a covenant. Under these laws, mankind still sinned. Jesus's sacrifice opened a new covenant, that we would have God's word written on our hearts and be free from sin. While the first covenant was marked by the blood of bulls and goats, the new covenant is marked by the blood of Christ. The reading from Hebrews asks, “If the blood of goats and bulls .. sanctified those who were defiled... how much more will the blood of Christ... cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God?”

The body of Christ was given as a sacrificial gift to us. We were not deserving of such a gift, yet he gave of himself totally, freely, faithfully, fruitfully and unconditionally. He gave his entire self out of love for us and so we could be free from sin and worship God. He did not give of Himself partially, he gave us Himself fully, and continually. He left us Himself in the Eucharist so He could be with us until He comes again. On the altar, the bread and wine is transformed by God into body and blood to renew the covenant.

Even now, Jesus offers himself fully to us. On altars around the world the sacrifice is offered continually in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a gift that God has given to us so we can always see the redeeming power of Christ's love. We are invited to receive this gift every day, not just on Sundays. As God transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood, he is also transforming each one of us. By receiving the gift of the most holy Eucharist, we open ourselves to God's transformative power. Our hearts, minds and souls are being renewed and changed. Receiving the Body of the Lord is more than a personal act, it leads us love for our neighbor.

The reception of the body and blood of Christ Jesus is complimented by our worship and adoration of his body in the form of Eucharistic Adoration. On this feast day of the Body and Blood of Christ. I encourage you to spend time praying and thinking about the Eucharist and what you receive when you stand in the communion line. The body of Christ is not a symbol, it is our salvation.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

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Today is the feast day of the Most Holy Trinity. We are so fortunate to have a triuune God. God the Father has great things planed. He planed and created the world we live in, each one of us and the life that we are leading. God the Son showed us how to live with his body. Jesus worked with his hands to heal, to bring peace, to forgive, and to comfort. God the Spirit encourages us, excites us to action, makes us listen, and brings us joy, comfort and hope. The three make up the complete God which we love so dear.

Today's readings are so incredible and uplifting. The first reading tells us that we are God's own people, a holy nation, set apart and that we should follow the commandments of God. The psalm proclaims God's goodness exclaiming that the earth is full of his unfailing love. He created the heavens and the earth. He watches over us, keeps us from death and and keeps us alive during hard times. The Psalm proclaims the need for the Lord's saving power. He is our help and our hope is in the Lord. The second reading reminds us that we are God's children. We are beloved by God. His guidance in the form of the greatest commandment, love God and neighbor, was written on our hearts. Therefore we are entrusted to love.

The gospel is so beautiful, it exclaims the beauty of our commission. Even though the apostles doubted, and even though we doubt God, God still trusts in us. He has given us a great commission. He will not leave us. Even though we may leave him, ignore him, turn away from him. He always walks before us, leading us to His will. His will is that we would share the love given to us with all of the earth.

We should not be afraid, our God is our dear father. God has prepared a place for us, a special place in heaven, but also a special work on earth. His spirit gives us protection, love, and encouragement for the journey. In the end we inherit the kingdom, but in the now, we are led by the Spirit as Christ was led. Jesus was not alone in his time on earth, and we are not alone. Just as the Father led his son to show his love for us by suffering on the cross, God leads us to our own expression and love and subsequent suffering. The love and suffering leads to sanctification, and to the glory of God.

As God's children, I encourage you to not doubt what God has done. Keep his commandments and trust him. He is taking care of you. He asks you to love Him and love others. He is your father. The first reading asks, “Did anything so great ever happen before?” No, it never has, and we are truly blessed.

Feast of Pentacost

Speaking in foreign tongues is the first big manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The apostles, so filled with that fire, went out and began speaking in languages they had never learned and never heard. The Spirit was able to work through them to speak to the many visitors who had gathered. How many times in your life have you wanted to share a supportive, loving or kind word with another person, but didn’t know what to say? Sometimes the right words feel awkward or forced. However, if we seek the support of the Holy Spirit, God is able to work through us to speak a word to that person. In Lent, we read “The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them." (Isaiah 50). Well, the Holy Spirit gives us that power!

The Holy Spirit didn’t just come to comfort us, it came to help us in the Missionary and Apostolic work of the Church. We should be praying that God’s word would always be at the tip of our tongue and that we are able to speak in foreign tongues. This doesn’t mean to speak in Chinese, Spanish or French, although it could. This means to be able to speak teenager if you are an adult, to speak angry neighbor if you are a calm one, to speak support and comfort, motivation and healing, guidance and reproach.

We are called to testify what we have seen and heard about God. We are called to speak to others on God’s behalf. Jesus doesn’t walk on this earth anymore, but we do. We walk with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit wants to work through us to reach others. We must testify what we know about God so that others may hear and benefit. The Holy Spirit has the power to speak through us to others, but we must ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and work in this way.

Finally, we shouldn’t feel bad if we don’t testify in the ways we see others testifying. Not everyone can be a priest, not everyone can stand on the corner and read scripture to strangers as they walk by. However, we can share with some of our friends and family a story of how God has loved us, how God has helped us, how God has saved us, taken us back, or brought us into His glory. These are the stories we are meant to share with others.

The psalm proclaims, “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, 
and you renew the face of the earth.” Well, God has sent forth his Spirit. We have been created and blessed by Him. In sharing our stories with others, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can share the love that God has shown to us. In this way, the face of the Earth can be renewed.

The Feast of the Asecension

While Easter is the most important Holy day of our Church's year, the Feast of the Ascension is a very important Holy day for us as well. Today's readings are full of excitement. Not only do they describe the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, but they also describe the responsibilities of all Christians and encourage our work. Without out the readings of today, we may have never heard the word of God. Today's readings remind us of our job as believers and followers of Christ. We must go out and spread the Good News to the ends of the Earth. Without today's readings could have been a branch of Judaism who believed that the Messiah had come, but with today's readings we become followers of Christ strengthened in our journey by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are so many riches in these readings that I will just point out a few. In Ephesians 1, the Paul prays that "the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call." He is praying that we will not be sad and burdened by life, but look towards the hope of eternal life that Christ promised. In another option for today's second reading, Ephesians 4, Paul urges "you to live in a manner worthy of the calling... with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, ... through the bond of peace," Paul is encouraging us to live a life of forgivness and love. (The theme of the Easter season, remember?)

Love and forgiveness are the heart of the life on earth that Christ wanted for us all. God has given us such amazing gifts and abundant grace. We should ask for this grace when we are temped to not love, and to not forgive. He will give us the grace we need to forgive
and love, even for the biggest and hardest things to forgive and the hardest people to love. I promise. Jesus promises.

Finally, the gospel tells us that if we believe and are baptized we are saved. Too many Christians would stop there and say, "I'm baptized, I'm in!" The lines following these tell us that signs will accompany those who believe: driving out demons, speaking new languages, picking up serpents and drinking deadly things but not coming to harm, healing the sick. Wow! Have we done that? Well, have we helped someone drive out the demon of doubt, despair, sadness? Have we helped a friend? Have we been able to give someone encouraging words when we really didn't know what to say? Have we come close to a dangerous topic, person or event only to pray for the strength to make it through it and then made it through it? Then we have seen some of these signs. Perhaps we are saved. The love and forgiveness that we act on as we follow Christ will lead us to these signs and wonders. Pray for the grace to love and forgive and pray for the grace to see these signs.

6th Sunday of Easter

In today's readings we learn that all who hear God's word and obey it are welcome to the salvation offered by God. We are also reminded of the reoccurring theme of the Easter season: obey the commandments and love one another.

Some people might view the 10 commandments as a "do not do" list that God gave to Moses. However, the list of commandments are really guidelines that teach us how to love. The first three commandments show us how to love God and the final seven show us how to love others.

The second reading tells us, "God is love." Therefore, God equals love and love equals God. Did you ever think of that before? Not that God is love, but that love is God.

God is the source of love for the whole world. Just as water cycles around the world in clouds, rain, rivers, oceans and into clouds again, God's love cycles through us and our neighbors. As we love, we are really spreading God and sharing God with others.

Part of God, part of love, is forgiveness. The second reading tells us, "God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him." When we hold a grudge or will not forgive another person, we withhold love from them. When someone is angry with us, or holding something against us, they withhold love from us. In these instances, both parties
are losing the heart of the relationship with each other and they are without the life of the other.

When Jesus died to free us from sin, it was to open us to love and forgiveness, and introduce us to God the Father as pure love. He died for us to show us a better love than the love we often live. In the Gospel, Jesus instructs us to "remain in His love". We must remain with God to be able to love others and be forgiving. In his commandments, God isn't trying to hold us back or squash our zeal for life, he is trying to help us live more fully. Jesus tells us to remain with Him so that our "joy may be complete." He summarizes the one lesson that we need to hear over and over again by saying, "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."