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.