Saturday, April 3, 2010
The focus of the first and second readings is not the amazement of Jesus' resurrection, it is the reality that we must be people of action. It says in Acts of the Apostles, we must “testify that He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” We must say that Jesus is the one that the prophets speak of and “that everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through His name.”
Mary Magdalene was the first person spurned to action by the risen Lord. She saw His body was missing from the tomb and ran to tell the others. Mary Magdalene is very important to the Order of Preachers (aka Dominicans) because she was the first who preached the gospel of the risen Lord. In pictures she is often painted with a rainbow. The rainbow is the symbol of the covenant between God and Noah. It signifies that God would no longer destroy the earth, but protect it and the people who followed Him.
The cross is also a symbol of God's protection. While the cross was a symbol of death to the people of Israel, to us it is a symbol of life. Without the cross, there could be no resurrection. Without His death and resurrection, Jesus would be an extraordinary man, but not the Son of God. Who can die and rise from the dead? No human person can do that of their own will, but the Son of God can. Jesus is the one that the prophets spoke about. He came to create a new Kingdom, not here on earth, but in heaven above. We should take comfort in the cross and resurrection. We should also take to heart our new responsibility. The Psalm lays it out so clearly for us when it proclaims, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Sins have a way of making one weary and could easily become a trap of doubt and despair. Every week at mass, we are reminded that we have a Savior who loves us and who wants us to return to Him. When Jesus died on the cross, it wasn’t just for all of the people alive at that time; it was for you - today. It was for us - now. He died on the cross to free us from sin by offering us forgiveness. Like the thieves who hung beside Him, we have two paths to take. We can refuse His sacrifice and deny what He offers us. Or we can realize who He is, what He has done for us and ask for forgiveness.
Asking for forgiveness is difficult for many people; however our Church has designed a way to help us. This way has three common names in English: confession, penance, and reconciliation. It is called confession because we confess the things that shame us, and to how we have hurt God, our neighbor and ourselves. It is also called penance which is a deep desire to be forgiven. Don’t we all desire to be forgiven and reunited with the ones we love? It is also called reconciliation because that is what we want most, to be reconciled to God, our neighbor, and ourselves.
In our church Jesus hangs on the cross above the altar. His arms are open. His arms are waiting to embrace us. Jesus was and is always willing to forgive us. Will His gift go unopened? Aren’t we tired of carrying around our sin? Jesus had words for the weary. Will we hear them? He has given us such a marvelous gift by his death and resurrection. Will we be like the bad thief on the cross and deny this gift or will we be like the good thief and open it?
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, today's second reading, tells us what that love is able to do for us. God's love has the power to heal and transform. He has reconciled us to Him. He does not want us to be lost and wandering in the desert like the Israelites in last week's readings. He does not want us to squander our lives, and live apart from Him, like this week's prodigal son. He, like the father in the gospel, stands at the gate, day after day, waiting for us.
The power of God's love is transformative. He makes all things new. St. Paul tells us, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” When we seek God, not only do we we seek a new way of life, we are able to find it. Like the father in the gospel, God is always there waiting for us. When He sees us on the horizon, He runs to us, and embraces us. He desires to have us as His own, to bring us into His love, and to change our lives. Like the son in the gospel, we sometimes feel we must grovel our way back. It is much simpler to remember that God is love, and He waits for our return.
Friday, March 5, 2010
The Israelites, held captive in Egypt, had pleaded with God for salvation and freedom. When Moses meets God on the mountain, God announces that He has come to their rescue. We know the story from here, the Israelites are freed after a series of plagues and travel across the red sea, and the desert to the promised land. Along their journey they complain about many things from the quality of food, to the fact that they miss being slaves. God tries to help them along the way by giving them mana and then quail in the desert. He also gives them the commandments.
The Gospel tells us that God did not like their grumbling, and many people died because they did not trust God in the journey across the desert. Do we trust God?
God promised Moses that he would lead his people out of slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey. God has promised us that if we come to Him with our burdens, He will take them from us. He is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in love. Do we trust that?
Lent is a time to examine our relationship with God. Do you really trust God? When times get hard, do you bring them to God? Do you place your life in God's hands? Do you go where God is leading you? Do you see where God is leading you and try to go somewhere else? While waiting instruction from God, do you create a false god? Do you really trust God? He wants to help us. He has witnessed our affliction, heard our cries, and knows of our suffering. He has come to rescue us and lead us to a promised land. Our savior is His son, Jesus, he freed us from our sin and suffering. He said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Trust Him.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Too often we think of God as someone who acted a long time ago in a far away place, but we need to remember that he acts today in our own time. This Lent, the challenge is to seek God so that we may see him in our own time and in our own homes. In this way, we will grow closer to Him and be renewed.
God loves us and desires for each of us to belong to Him and join Him in heaven. He has made a covenant with each of us. A covenant is an oath, in Latin an oath is, “sacramentum” or sacrament. The sacraments were designed by God to renew our covenant to belong to God. St. Paul tells us what that means in his letter to the Philippians, “he will change our lowly body to conform to his heavenly one.”
God and the Church have made it easy for us to seek and conform to God. We only need participate in events that are designed to bring us closer to God. Our Baptism, Confirmation, reception of the Eucharist, Marriages, Holy Orders, our Reconciliation and our Anointings bind us again and again to God. Participation in the sacraments are ways that God renews His covenant with us. Like Abram in today's first reading, we enter into a covenant with God. Our covenant is that we belong to Him. He shall be our God, and we shall be His people. Like St. Paul says in our second reading, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”
Along with the covenant of God's love is transformation. When Abram enters into a covenant with God, his name is changed to Abraham. He grows in faithfulness and holiness and his descents eventually do number the stars, especially when we consider that we are counted among them. Peter, James and John come onto the mountain with Jesus. During the Transfiguration, their hearts become fully awake to the reality that Jesus is God's beloved son and their lives are transformed.
God has something in store for each and every person. He has a time and place prepared for each of us, where He has planed on revealing himself to us. The sacraments are special times set aside to seek God and ask for his revelation. It is during these times, we should sing along with the Psalmist, “Your presence O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me.”
Friday, February 19, 2010
Here is where you can find the readings for today.
Jesus speaks three lines in the Gospel this first Sunday of Lent. He is spending 40 days in the desert and he is tempted by the devil. His responses to the devil's temptation should be our guide in holiness this Lent.
Jesus' first response is, “It is written 'One does not live on bread alone.'” and so we cannot. Our life is made of the things our body does, and the things our spirit does. Many times they come together in beautiful harmony, and sometimes they do not. Our body is fed by food. Our spirit, however, is fed by God. If we do not bring our spirit before God on a regular basis for a refill, then our spirit grows weak, famished, hungry and dumb. Jesus tells us we cannot live on bread alone, and we cannot.
Jesus' second response is, “It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve'” and so we must. Our hungry spirits are fed by worship of our Lord God. Our spirit is fed by serving Him. In Lent, we are often encouraged to give something up, this is to make us recognize our physical hunger, and then spark us to recognize our spiritual hunger. Another way to awaken awareness of spiritual hunger is to serve others. When we share our love with others through labor, donations, or direct service to those in need, God's love is returned to us, strengthening our spirit.
Finally, Jesus says, “It also says, “You shall not put the Lord, your God to the test'” and we mustn't. Lent isn't a time to give up chocolate secretly hoping that weight will be lost, but many approach it this way. Lent is a time to give up chocolate and reflect. Reflect upon the poor of the world, many of whom have never tasted chocolate, who cannot afford chocolate, who cannot even afford water or rice to eat, who go to bed hungry, wake up hungry and live and work hungry.
Our Lenten sacrifices are meant for the poor. The poor who hunger in body, and the poor who hunger in spirit. While we in the USA hardly hunger in the body, we often hunger in the spirit. Our Lenten sacrifices are meant to direct our spirits towards God in humble sacrifice. Our Lenten sacrifices of body should become our Spiritual Thanksgiving of fullness. What we sacrifice in food or extras, that money saved should go to those who hunger in the body. The money saved from our chocolate sacrifice does not have to be large to make a great impact. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said, “ If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” I pray that we may be full this Lent in spirit and find our bodily sacrifices feed at least one.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
The scripture readings today tell us three stories of meeting God face-to-face. Isaiah, the apostle Paul and Simon Peter, James, and John all saw God, repented, and were given a mission. These readings are a reminder for us as we approach Lent, the great season of repentance and turning towards God.
When we meet God face-to-face, the experience should make us realize we want to be good, pure, and perfect in God's eyes. I'm sure in many of our lives we have hurt someone so much that we think we would rather die than live without their forgiveness. We desire more than anything to remove the wrong and restore the love, friendship and communication we once had. In scripture and in our lives, meeting God face-to-face evokes a similar response.
Many people go through their lives never having met God or forgetting that they did. A person could spend a lifetime in the pew and still wondering when God will reveal Himself. God is constantly revealing Himself to humanity. You should look back on your personal history and look for times that God was reaching out to you. Look for patterns, events, or threads that have composed your religious story, brought you to an awareness of God, formed your spirituality, and led you to faith. In those moments, God was revealing Himself. Another scenario to consider is a time when you may have felt great repentance and desire to be reunited with God. Whatever led to that moment was God's revelation.
If these prompts seem weak, and you cannot find a moment in your life where you actually experienced God, or this moment was so long ago, I encourage deep reflection prior to and during the Lenten season. An excellent workbook to use would be Discovering My Experience of God: Awareness and Witness by Frank Desiano and Kenneth Boyack. It provides a step by step spiritual exercise to help you realize where God has met you face-to-face in your life. It is a tool to help you realize your own story of conversion.
Realization that you have met God is the first step in life-long conversion. Meeting God again and again, renewal of self through repentance and a life of mission is the goal of life-long conversion. It is the goal of Jesus Christ and his work on Earth. We may not be Isiah with an angelic vision. We may not be Paul with his conversion on the road to Damascus. We may not be fishermen who witness a miracle of abundance in an empty lake. We are God's children though, and He is revealing Himself to us. We should pray for eyes to see Him.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Today's second reading from the First book of Corinthians tells me that If I do not have love, “I am a resounding gong or a crashing cymbal.” I admit, week after week, it is difficult to write a reflection that can be both challenging to you, my reader, yet not hypocritical. Who am I to point out the splinter in your eye, when I have a plank in my own? I am not perfect, but I write because I love each person in the church and I love the Church herself. I write as a duty to love,to challenge you, and myself as well.
Last week, we heard that we are each a part of the body. One is the ear, one is the nose, and another the hand. We are each a part of the body of Christ. We cannot belabor that we are called to donate money to a cause, while another has the time to pray in front of an abortion clinic, while another can counsel broken mothers. We all have our strengths and our weakness, and we each have our purpose. Ultimately, this purpose is to love.
I write today, to challenge you to look at the life you participate in on a daily basis, the ministries you are involved in, and the things you are passionate about. The pro-life march this past week was a testament to the numbers of people who are passionate about life. It is important to remember, though, the woman who carries the unborn. It is important to remember that she must be loved. A woman who teeters on the edge of an abortion needs compassion and love, she needs strength and hope. A woman there needs the support of a loving community to pull her back and give her the strength to bear the child within. She cannot do it without love.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that Love is patient, love is kind. It does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it rejoices in the truth and bears all things. Your life is a gift to this broken world, but only if you have love. Otherwise, the sound of your cry is cacophony among the shouts of many others. It is a clashing cymbal, a resounding gong. We should follow the call that God gives to us. Following the call will help us to work and serve Him in the situations where we are best able to love.
If we have love, we see the individual, we see the need for healing, patience, kindness. Only if we have love can we bear, believe, hope and endure with others. I pray that you may follow God's call to love. I additionally ask your prayers that I won't just be noise in the world, but a loving voice, bearing, believing, hoping and enduring alongside the Body of Christ, calling each person to love others as God created them.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The first reading from the book of Nehemiah details the Jewish tradition of reading from the sacred scripture. Upon hearing the sacred word of God, the people fall to the ground worshiping God and weeping. Ezra tells them to rejoice, to eat and drink and give to the poor. He tells them to celebrate the Holy Sabbath day and go forward with the Lord as their strength.
The Gospel parallels the event in the book of Nehemiah because Jesus returns to Galilee and reads from the sacred scripture. Jesus was inspired and led by the Spirit of God to proclaim from the prophet Isaiah. His authority is given by the Spirit and proclaimed to the assembly. He informs the synagogue that He is the one chosen by God, whom God's spirit is upon. He has come to proclaim liberty (to us), give sight to the blind (us), and free the captives (us again!).He takes hold of His position as the Messiah and informs the authorities that the time is now!
Next Sunday, when we gather to listen to the sacred scripture, as faithful people have done throughout time, we will hear what happens after Jesus' announcement. The people will scoff, refusing to believe that Joseph's son is the Son of God. They will drive Jesus out of the city, causing Jesus to say “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
If we were hearing the story of Jesus for the first time, we would again be on the edge of our seats. After this speech, Jesus cannot go back to his mother's house and work as a carpenter in obscurity anymore. He had even been driven out of his own home town. The Son of God, the Messiah, who comes to set the captives free, give sight to the blind and proclaim liberty has begun His work. Last week's passive Jesus at the wedding has stepped up to the plate. There is no turning back for Jesus now. Jesus has arrived!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
“Brothers and Sisters … To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” We are each called to God's work. We may not know what it is, but God certainly does. To determine what our call is, it is helpful to look at our strengths, abilities, talents and skills and pray about how they may be used to the benefit of God's holy church.
One person may be good at organizing and office work. Our parish almost always needs help in those areas. One may be good at planning parties and having fun. We have many events that need to be planned including fundraisers, youth events, and ministries to the poor during the holidays. Another may only be good at accounting, the church needs that skill too! Then we have talents such as speaking, writing, singing, and playing musical instruments. The Church needs people to lead music at worship, lector (especially at Saturday 5pm and Sunday at 11:30am), and write for the bulletin. The needs of our parish, and the Church at large are tremendous and each of us are called to serve our Mother Church and the Body of Christ. We are all a part of the one body of Christ and each part has its essential function.
Jesus Christ was called to specific work in His lifetime and when he was about 30 years old, His mother gave him a push that resulted in His first scriptural miracle. At the wedding feast, Mary turned to Jesus knowing He had a special skill that could help the situation at hand. Jesus tells his mother that he isn't ready. Mary pushes him to action, as a good mother would. Sometimes we need someone to push us to action, especially when it comes to serving others and God. Sometimes we need someone to believe in us and encourage us in the good works we do. We need encouragers and enablers in our lives to push us into action.
We need to be encouragers and enablers to our friends, family and to strangers we meet. When we see someone with a skill or ability the church needs, our job is to give them a nudge in God's direction. Every one of us has a part to play in the story of our faith, from the priest, to the lector, to the people who stuff the bulletins, to the ministers for the children, youth, sick, and prisoner, to the infant who plays baby Jesus in the Nativity play. As the hymn says, “We are many parts, we are all one body, and the gifts we have, we are given to share. May the Spirit of Love make us one indeed... Working for the Father's Son, working that His will be done, let us lay our gifts before the Lord.” Indeed, let us lay our gifts before the Lord.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Today we celebrate Jesus's baptism and the beginning of His public life. If we were hearing the story of Jesus for the first time, we might wonder what that child of God would do with his life. We heard of his miraculous birth, visitation by three kings, escape into Egypt, an ordinary life of pilgrimage as a teen, getting “lost” in the temple. When we listen to the story, he grows older and older. Today, we would be on the edge of our seats with anticipation wondering, “When will he act? He's a grown up already! What will come of his life?”.
When Jesus meets with his cousin John at the river, we've already heard about John, too. We know John was born to woman who was supposedly barren after an appearance of an angel, his father went mute during the gestation, John jumped in the womb when he was in the presence of Mary, pregnant with Jesus. As an adult, John preached far and wide, lived as a wild man in the desert living off of locust and honey. Both men were born under stupendous circumstances and amazing blessings.
When they meet at the river, we know something miraculous is going to happen. John had been baptizing people and saying that one mightier than him would come. Jesus arrives, is baptized and begins praying. The heavens open up and and the Holy Spirit gently descends upon him and a voice is heard, proclaiming that Jesus is God's son and has pleased God.
At this point, we should be on the edge of our seats! It is time for Jesus to begin doing whatever it is that he will do! If this is our first time hearing this story, we wonder, what will he do? The first reading, from the book of Isaiah, gives us our answer. In this reading, God names his servant, with whom he is pleased, just like we heard at the river after Jesus' baptism! Then, we hear what Jesus will do, why he has come to this earth. God says that he will peacefully bring justice to the nations. He is sent to bring light, open the eyes of the blind and free the captive. He is sent as a covenant to the people. Jesus is a promise of peace between God and man.
Fortunately this isn't the first time we have heard this story. We know the covenant between God and man is played out daily at Mass in the sacrifice of Jesus' life on the altar. His life and blood are poured out so that we might live in peace with ourselves and others, freed from sin. We are the captive who needs to be freed. We are the blind who need to see. We are in darkness and should look to Him for the light.