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.”