Friday, February 5, 2016

MERCY PRIDE HUMILITY

Sirach 47:2-11; Ps 18 Blessed be God my salvation; Mark 6:14-29


Today in the book of Sirach we get an obituary of the life of David the king.  We are given a summation of his life and legacy.

Beautiful and inspiring words are laid before us to meditate on.  So much to think about. "With his every deed he offered thanks to GodMost High, in words of praise.  With his whole being he loved his maker and daily had his praises sung; "

What a marvelous description!  What a beautiful legacy!

As we read this biographical litany of David's accomplishments including his courage and musical prowess there is one glaring absence:  What about his mistakes?  What about his not so good decisions?  What about his terrific sins?  What about the Adultery, murder, cover up, scandal?

None of this makes the cut, rather we are told simply: "The Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever."

And in keeping with simplicity the acknowledgement of his need for forgiveness is sufficient.  There is no need for the dirty details, unlike in today's society where everyone's dirty laundry is aired out publicly.  No…It is sufficient to celebrate forgiveness for it isn't the sin that makes God's mercy so great but rather the greatness of God that exalts mercy in all conditions it is  bestowed.  Mercy is not greater or less.  It just is simply bestowed when sought.

This is the truth of David.  He was humble enough to seek the mercy of God and there he found true strength.   "The Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever."

The next time we go to confession and celebrate God's mercy and loving tenderness, Let us be reminded that in that moment not only are we forgiven but we are strengthened. God doesn't just restore us with his forgiveness but elevates us and strengthens us and raises us a little higher than before.

I believe it is this experience of mercy and strength that enabled David "with his whole being" to "love his maker and daily had his praises sung."

Imagine this image of today's first reading, "He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year So that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound."

What a beautiful imagine!  When we praise the Holy Name the temple of our body should resound if we we truly appreciate the mercy offered and the mercy given to us daily on our walk.

Just a look at the gospel briefly.

We hear these words in the gospel about King Herod after the girl requested the head of John the Baptist, "the King was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and his guest  he did not wish to break his word to her."

This word "deeply distressed" is the same greek word used to describe Jesus in his agony when he tells his apostles he is "very sorrowful" unto death.   The same emotion and state of mind fills both Jesus and Herod, yet two different responses to this interior reality is embraced and the results are quite telling.

Herod represses it and turns his attention to saving face in front of the crowd and thus love is betrayed by pride. Jesus enters into it, falls to his knees and prays for strength to fulfill the Father's will, and strength is bestowed in his act of humility and love shines through.

Interesting to note how we experience many emotions and a variety of interior states and yet our response to it can bring such drastic and different results.  Humility always ensures that love shines through no matter what.  Pride disfigures love and keeps God's healing embrace from transforming us.

We have a tale of three kings:  David, Herod, Jesus.
Ponder a new and invite humility to shine the way.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

FIRST THINGS

1 kings 2:1-4,10-12; PS 1 Chron 29 Lord, you are exalted over all; MArk 6:7-13

We encounter David's farewell speech to his son and successor Solomon in today's first reading.  David reminds Solomon of the necessity of obedience to God's commands through the Mosaic Covenant.  Part of this farewell exhortation is for Solomon to "take courage and be a man."

What does it mean to be a true man?

The first characteristic is to be God-fearing.  God-fearing is one who seeks whole heartily to follow in the way of the Lord.  That is, we, if are to be truly courageous must put first things first.

CS Lewis stated that if we put first things first then we get second things but if we put second things first then we lose everything, even first things.

God-fearing allows us to tap into all the other qualities of our personality that enables goodness to rise to the front: generous, principled, devoted to service, decisive, humble, patient, strong, persevering, etc..

All qualities that we would recognize in a Good Man flows from our relationship with God.  One's relationship with God is revealed by how we carry ourselves daily.

First things first is a sure recipe for discovering the beauty of who God made us to be man or woman.

As we look to the gospel and we encounter Jesus' words of instruction they too remind us of putting first things first, "take nothing for the journey but a walking stick-no food, no sack, no money in their belts..but wear sandals"

The lack of material possessions serves to underscore complete and total dependence on God, not upon our own human resources or devices.

Even the sandals is pointing to dependence of God as it draws its symbolic meaning from the passover meal and God's instruction to Moses (Exodus 12:11).  Sandals were indicative of the "ready position" eagerly anticipating God's command to move forward.

The sandals underlie a sense of urgency that is meant to free them and from complacency and self-reliance.

They went out to preach repentance.  They drove out many demons,and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Though repentance means to change, to change one's way of thinking, some things never change.  Even today we go forth anointing the sick with oil and experience healing.  We also drive out demons.  And repentance remains a hallmark of the Christian enterprise.   We never tire of changing how we think about God's action in our lives and world, whose love never changes.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

FEAST OF LIGHT

Malachi 3:1-4; PS 24 Who is the king of Glory? It is the Lord!Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

Today we are asked to ponder the presentation of the Lord.  Jesus as a child, 40 days after his birth is brought to the temple.

Imagine the phenomena if you can: The temple is the place where God's presence was made known to Israel and all the world an din this place JEsus the incarnation of God's presence makes his entrance.

It is much to ponder and think about.  So don't rush ahead, sit a while on such an encounter.  Jesus who is sent from Heaven enter into his Father's house on earth.  I imagine the walls singing with jubilation.


Hear Malachi, "The messenger of the covenant whom you desire.  Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?"

Who can endure? Who can stand?   We endure, we stand because of his gracious mercy toward us.

"He is like a refiner's fire…refining them like silver and gold that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD."

Today we bless the candles we use at the liturgy.  The candles give us light and warmth as they born down.  This is a reminder to us as to what a good and worthy sacrifice looks like. A sacrifice that is good and pleasing to God is the which gives us light and warmth as it is consumed in love.

This is the work of the refiner in our life!

We are told that Jesus will be a "sign of contradiction" and a sword shall pierce Mary's heart" by Simeon.

This announcement is like a second annunciation, where in the first an incredible amount of joy issued forth as Jesus Messianic royalty was revealed but in today's announcement something different is embrace.  Jesus' mission will be accomplished but in misunderstanding and sorrow.  This is the work of redemption.  The annunciation brought joy.  The work of redemption requires perseverance.

This too is the virtue held out to us in Christ not his day.

May we persevere in bringing light and warmth as we share in the work of redemption and bring Christ to our world.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

WHERE HE LOVES

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19; Ps 71 I will sing of your salvation; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30


This weekend we kick start Catholic School week.  I have been part of catholic schools for the past ten years as a priest.  But prior to that iIwas educated in a catholic school up until my fifth year of elementary school. I also spent 7 years in higher education under the Catholic school umbrella.

It is a part of my blood and sprit.

What makes Catholics schools so instrumental and valuable especially to a society that is so secular and self-centered?

This is often the discussion raised when catholic schools' week comes around as it does every year this time: what and why catholic education.

I have thought about it much.  It was yesterday in the midst of my pondering that a thought surged to the frontal lobe of my brain, or whatever part of the brain that is engaged in such activity.

The thought was the following:  children learn the best where they are loved the most.  Only in Jesus is love fully realized.  So in Him we both learn to love and love to learn.  This is the reality that is at the heart of Catholic education.  It is not about the best tools or the best tech.  It is not about the latest greatest gadget or teaching enterprise.  It is about love.  And each day at Catholic Schools we get to make visible God's love in  Jesus both verbally and physically by our actions.  And if our catholic schools fail, it is because we have lost sight of His love and have forsaken His love for gadgets and gizmo's of secular society.

No!  A child learns best where He is loved most.  In Him, Jesus, do they learn to love and love to learn.

Now on to our second reading for this weekend

Here is phrase that is a translation of a Latin colloquialism: A man is not where he lives but where he loves.

A man is not where he lives but where he loves.

Where do we love?  Where is our love?  What is the state or quality of  the love we bring to the front daily?

Is it a childish love or have we allowed our love to grow and mature?

A man is not where he lives but where he loves and where he loves he surely lives.

Love precedes life.

At least St Paul thinks so as we encounter the beauty of today's second reading.

He lays down the foundation of what true and authentic love is.

Too often we are lazy in love.  We don't labor sufficiently so that our life can become what it is created to be by our Father.   In case we have lost our way in love and found ourselves lost in life, St Paul gives us an opportunity to revaluate our life in regards to love, which makes our present place known.

"Love is: patient, kind,  it is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice in wrong doing but rejoices in the truth. it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love does not fail."

A man is not where he lives but where he loves.

"When I was a child , I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when i became a man, I put aside childish things."


It is time to put aside our childish ways.  Love is not child's play but it is in loving that we become like children.  It is a strange world we live in.  It is strange spiritual physics.  Loving demands to be mature but in loving maturely we awaken the child within who is unhindered in loving. We then become the child God created us to be and are able to love unhindered and unencumbered as I see daily with my encounter with the little children at school.


A man is not where he lives but where he loves. And where he loves he finds life to its full.

Just a thought for this Sunday




Friday, January 29, 2016

LOVE WITH URGENCY NOT WITH HASTE

2 Samuel 11:1-4, 5-10, 13-17; Ps 51 BE merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned; Mark 4:26-34

"This is how it is with the kingdom of God.."

What is the kingdom of God?  It is God's way of acting; it is his action in human history.  It is also our cooperate stance before that action of God working in and through our lives.


How is it?

"It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear."

he knows not how...

This defines so much of our life.  How we do not know how God is working but we do know that he is working.  This work of God is often a gradual revelation.  God works with urgency but not with haste.

I wonder how our life would be if we were love with urgency but not with haste.

God can not be hurried.  Sometimes the beauty of love needs time for it to be developed and matured.  Sometimes the gradual revelation of love awakens a more generous response than the abrupt version.

Theis reminds me of the song, "Amazed."  The verse is as following, "You dance over me while I am unaware; you sing all around But i never hear the sound; Lord I am amazed by you, how you love me...you paint the morning sky with miracles in mind; my hope will always stand for you hold me in your hand."

Beautiful reality.   Love that is urgent but not hasteful; Love that is prevalent but not hurried.  Love is patient....


MERCIFUL TWEETS

Here is an article from Salt and light media on Pope Francis letter for world day of communication

enjoy!

Pope Francis says a lot of surprising and challenging things.  Often I read something he’s said or written and say to myself, “I can’t believe he said that.”  Still—as with anything else—we can become desensitized to his spontaneity and candour, and we risk glossing over some of his highly consequential statements.
One recent statement that we should not gloss over is his message for World Communications Day 2016 entitled, Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter. In it, he reflects on the urgent need for more charitable and merciful communication between individuals, with a clear focus on the world of social media and communications.  The message prompted atypical news coverage from the digital world: “Apparently Pope Francis Can’t Stand Internet Trolls Either,” read the headline at ThinkProgress. Or, my personal favorite from RawStory, “Pope Francis opens a can of whoop a** on hateful internet trolls—and it’s beautiful.”
With this message Pope Francis did what he so often does; he struck a nerve with a wide audience by using simple, relatable and deeply Christian language. The message applies to all types of communication certainly, but since many people today live “online”, here are 7 direct quotes that should prompt all of us to reflect on how we communicate using social media:
1) “What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all.”
Here the Pope makes an important observation that how we say something is as important as what we say. It’s easy to forget that and it’s often difficult to try to rephrase something we want to say in light of another person, let alone with “compassion, tenderness and forgiveness”.  Perhaps for every tweet, post or comment we should send another one explicitly expressing compassion, tenderness or forgiveness.
2) “Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred.”
Here Pope Francis flips the script on us and reminds us that how we communicate has a deep impact onus too. The purpose of communicating is, as he says, to create “closeness”, which is a reciprocal phenomenon. We can ask ourselves, how do my communications on social media affect my own attitudes toward others and my relationships with them?
3) “The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.”
Pope Francis, the “sinner whom the Lord has looked upon,” never forgets that being Christian starts with conversion of self. No statement condemning vicious and vengeful comments online would be complete without a direct challenge to his fellow Christians, who are often the most viscous and vengeful trolls. But the deeper challenge here is that condemning evil—something the Church does very often—shouldn’t destroy relationships or communication. The logical conclusion here is analogous to that old saying our mothers used, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it.” When there are human beings involved, jumping to condemn all kinds of evil through objective, categorical statements may not be the most merciful method of communication and relationship building.
4) “The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice.”
It’s often said in church circles that the greatest act of mercy is to tell the truth. Therefore, if someone is committing an unjust act, I am being merciful by categorically condemning it. That may or may not be the best approach, depending on the situation. The most important variable, according to Pope Francis, is how Jesus would communicate in a particular situation. This requires a deep familiarity with the Jesus of the Gospels whose “gentle mercy” time and time again overwhelms both sinner and judge alike, to the point that the person committing an unjust act truly encounters God’s forgiveness and the person standing in judgement feels it necessary to get rid of Jesus. The question becomes, not whether or not we’re proclaiming the truth, but whether or not we’re proclaiming the truth as Jesus did.
5) “Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.”
This statement builds on #4 by taking us a step further. Speaking the truth in a harsh and moralistic way is no guarantee that a person will be converted or freed. In fact, it will most likely have the opposite effect and kill any chance of further communication. Just because we may be right about something doesn’t give us the right to communicate it if a person will feel rejected because of it. Pope Francis’ whole pontificate is the preeminent example in our world today of communicating truth without using harsh or moralistic words.
6) “I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.”
Communications technology has turned the world into a global society. We may be more connected, but the online world doesn’t particularly feel like a family. Often we come across comments or tweets that are so negative or competitive and we wonder why someone would say something online that they would never say to a person in real life. Again Pope Francis takes us a step further. When we communicate online, we shouldn’t ask ourselves, “would you say this to the person’s face?” but, “would you say this to your brother’s or sister’s face?” The analogy of the family for society as a whole is a bold one. The key here is unconditional inclusivity. I’m not sure how we can put that into practice, especially because, sadly, even many families fall short of this lofty goal. Pope Francis certainly does swing for the fences, but then again so did Jesus when he proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand.
7) “Listening is much more than simply hearing… Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says.”
Well… then I’m not a very good listener. Imagine… listening to someone entails a desire to be closer to them in respect and understanding. We tend to think that communication is all about what we say, but there are two sides to every coin. How often do we really try to listen to another person’s views and try to understand where they are coming from? There are so many news outlets and blogs that adhere to one particular ideology and exclude any kind of constructive critique or dialogue with differing views. It may be worth putting some time in to read one of those blogs that we typically ignore for ideological reasons, and share something from it on our own social media platforms that is respectful and constructive. In other words, listen, and show it.

On Further ReflectionIn the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

EAVESDROP

2 Samuel 7:18-19,24-29; Psalm 132 The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father; Mark 4:21-25

Today in our first reading we get to eavesdrop on David's personal and prayerful response to God's promise of yesterday.

After the Prophet Nathan had spoken we are told that "David went in  and sat before the LORD and said, "who am I, Lord God and who are the members of my house, that yo have brought me to this point?"


David's first response to God's promise was to to go and be with Him, to be in his presence.

St Thomas, whose feast is today, along with all of the other saints, insist that the task of sanctity, holiness, is to practice the presence of God, that is to be mindful of God's presence that surrounds us constantly and to allow that presence to lead us forth in our daily walk.

David does this.  Do we?

How often do we sit before the LORD?

Secondly, note that David's words are indicative of someone who is in the presence of God, "Who am I?"

The first word is a word of humility.   We we practice the presence of God we become more deeply aware of his greatness and our smallness.  Only then can we truly experience our worth and value.  God in his supreme greatness has chosen freely to love us, it is a gift and for this we are humbled.

Who am I?  This is the beginning for all of us as we journey with God becoming aware of his deep abiding presence and love for each of us.

In the gospel today we are reminded that light is meant for visibility.  Our public witness is essential.
It is not to be hidden but exposed.

 Secondly, God allows us to set the criteria for our own judgment, "the measure you give will be measured out to you."