Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Meeting Tent

Ex 33:7-11;34:5-9,28; Psalm 103  The Lord is kind and merciful; Mt 13:36-43

We continue our journey with Moses. 

In today's first reading we have an excerpt from chapter 33 and and excerpt from ch 34.  Chapter 33 deals with Moses entering the Tent of Meeting where as 34 deals with Moses on Mt. Sinai. 

There is a disjunct in the reading.  The excerpt from ch 33 ends with the words "Joshua, son of Nun, would not move out of the Tent" and then ch 34 picks up with "Moses stood there with the Lord."

Unfortunately we miss what happens in between.  In verse 33:12-22 is the conversation Moses has in the Tent of Meeting with God.  It is his prayer, his intimate dialogue, his communion with God.  It is a beautiful passage worth meditating on for us to understand prayer in our own lives. 

"Moses said to the Lord, "You, in deed, are telling me to lead this people on; but you  have not let me know whom you will send with me.  Yet, you have said, 'Yo are my intimate friend,' and 'You have found  favor with me.'  Now, If I have found favor with you, do let me know your ways so that in knowing you I may continue to find favor with you."

What a beautiful relationship, what a beautiful prayer on the lips of Moses for the heart of man.

Monday, July 27, 2009

custom made

Ex 32: 15-24, 30-34; Psalm 106 Give thanks to the Lord for HE is good; Mt 13:31-35

We have been reading the beautiful life of Moses the past few weeks.  We have seen him in different spots.  He reluctantly becomes leader of ISraelites upon God' s request.  In becoming a leader he desires Aaron to be the mouth piece.  He is hesitant and unwilling to embrace the gifts he has been given and the roll he is asked to participate.  

But today He steps up to the plate.  The incident with the golden calf seems to be the incident that helps him finally realize his role, not so much as leader but as mediator. 

With the custom made tablets in hand, Moses is transformed.  His fury overwhelms him, and he throws down the tablets and  smashes the golden calf. 

Moses then goes before God and he seeks forgiveness for the people and in doing so he is willing to be struck out of the book of life.  Moses is willing to accept death so that the people might live and be given a second chance.  

He finally embraces his role.  
We too, at times can be reluctant in embracing our role in this world.  We can be hesitant and find excuses.  But there comes a time when we must step up, embrace our identity, and God be praised

Sunday, July 26, 2009

2 kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145 THe hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15

Two things come to mind as I ponder these readings especially the second reading where St. Paul invites us to "live in a manner worthy of the call you have received."

How many of us remember the words of John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address in 1961.
We may not remember everything, but we know bits and pieces, most famously of course, "and so fellow Americans, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

These words have echoed in various places and times over the past 48 years since they were first spoken. 

Prior to this particular passage, John F. Kennedy stated something else, I find more striking.  In the beginning of his speech, after greeting all the dignitaries he states this, "we dare not forget today that we are heirs of the first revolution...and the torch has been passed to a new generation."  

We are heirs of the first revolution!

This is what St. Paul is telling the Christians community in Ephesus.  St. Paul is in prison, bound and chains, and drawing to the end of his life.  He is on his way out.  He is about to be executed; he is about to lose his head because the world had lost its mind. 

These are some of his last words to the Christians.  He is trying to encourage them, untie them, and spur them on.  He wants then to raise the standard of Christ and bear it fruitfully; he is passing on the torch. 

He is saying, "ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God."

Second point. 
Today as I woke from sleep, I spied across my bedroom the crucifix on the wall.  It is the only  thing I have hanging on my wall in the my bedroom, besides a clock that doesn't  work, that perpetually reads 5:50. 

The crucifix is the last thing I see before I go sleep and the first thing I welcome when I awake. 

This morning I was struck by the crucifix, though not literally.  The meaning of the crucifix struck me.  What does it mean, Jesus hanging on the tree.  Immediately we think, salvation and redemption.  I believe most of us believers are pro redemption, pro salvation.  I have never seen a protester, though by our sins we protest.

But for the most part, we are pro salvation. But on another note, the crucifixion is God's answer of yes to a history of no's.  It is God's answer to Adam and Eve's fall; it is God's answer to the devil's rebellion.  The crucifixion is a revolution.  

On the cross, Heaven rebels against hell.  As believers, we are heirs of this revolution.  This is the call we have received, this is the call St. Paul urges us to embrace.

We are called to stand with Christ and fight the good fight.
As we raise the standard of Christ, upon our lips is pressed our battle cry, "on earth as it is  in heaven."

Thus, we live in a manner worthy of the call; let heaven rebel and the earth rejoice with those who choose to stand with the cross.

Lest we forget we are heirs...lest we are forgotten.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

leave no doubt

yesterday we celebrated the memorial of St. Sharbel Mahkluf.  

He was a Lebanese priest and became a hermit.  Wow!

Usually, when we think of hermits, we think of strange and bizarre men and women who abandon the world and enter into deserter places to focus completely on themselves and God. 

And, in deed Hermits are strangely beautiful persons who have a profound message for us. 

By their life choices and actions, in renouncing the world, they are sign for us and against us. They heard the words of Christ, "You, are lacking one thing, go sell all that you have, give to the poor, and come follow me, and you will have treasure in heaven." They hear and obey.

The hermit is the one who leaves no doubt about their association with Christ, because they choose not just to be associated with him but they choose to be committed to him completely.  

Thus, they remind us in our life filled with many things, that perhaps we are still lacking something.  Perhaps, we still have room to grow, and this is necessary for our spiritual awakening and conversion.  The recognition that we are missing something spurs us on to seek the one who seeks us.

The hermit stands against the world and for the world as a sign of contradiction.  They hate the world so much they want to change it; they love the world so much they think it worthy of change.  They make the change possibly by getting us to look again at ourselves. Here in lies the message of the Hermit. 

Is this not the message of Christ himself, who comes to set the world a blaze, hating it to change it, loving it to think it worthy of change.  As He tells us, " I have come to make all things new."  A new heaven and a new earth, the book of revelation points toward in the fulfillment of the kingdom to come.

May we embrace the Hermit and leave no doubt and truly make the change happen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Ex 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20; Psalm Glory and praise forever Dn 3; Mt 13:10-17

We continue today our journey with John Vianney. 

When John was in his early 20's he confided to his mother that he wanted to be a priest.  She was excited but his father, however, did not think it was a good idea. 

They needed John to stay at home and help on the farm.  Things were tight and his father did not think they could afford to lose John's ability and strength and service. 
Also, it was expensive and the Vianney family did not have the money to send their son to school. 

After some insistence on his mother's part John Vianney was allowed to study under the a local pastor. 

When he turned 24, in the midst of his studies, John Vianney was drafted into the army, in 1809.  France went to war with Spain and Napoleon needed young men to help wage his battles. 

John Vianney was devastated to say the least.  Yet, he went.  While there, he was sickened by the vulgarity of the soldiers, so much so that he got sick and was hospitalized for 6 weeks. 

After he was released he was sent to catch up with his unit.  On the way he got turned around and winded up get caught up with a young man who was a deserted. 

This young man convinced John Vianney to join him and numerous other young men who had also deserted the army.  So he hid for the next two years. He was a deserter. 

In this little town, in the middle of the woods, John Vianney made a home and took an alias; he was known as Jerome Vincent. 

He spent some time living in a stable before one of the towns folk took him in. 
He had to always be on alert.  At one point, he was hiding in the barn beneath some hay when the authorities raided the place looking for deserters. 

He nearly suffocated to death and one of the soldiers, as he poked the hay with his sword poked him in the process.  Later, he spoke of the occasion as the worst suffering he ever endured. 

While hiding, he made a vow he would never again complain to God about anything.  And he kept his vow until he died some 50 years later. 

After two years of hiding out, the war was not nearly as fierce and a reprieve was granted to deserters.  John Vianney was reunited with his family.  His younger brother, decided to take John's place in the military.  Thus, John was freed to continue his studies. 

John Vianney's brother, once he took John's place, was never heard of again. 

Shortly after John's return, his mother died at the young age of 58.  
He, however, managed to continue his studies for the priesthood. 

John Vianney reflecting on his experience as a deserter stated that "as a defaulter, he was ever afraid of the authorities.  In a like manner the sinner, because of the reproaches of his conscience, fears at every moment lest he be overtaken by divine justice."

In all, he always looked upon the circumstances of his life as providential, as God's hand leading him through, all the while teaching him new lessons.  He believed that in his life and circumstances, Jesus continued tot each him in parables.  That his entire life became a parable filled with deeper meaning and an ever abiding presence of God. 

 He trusted God's vision not his own.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

just enough

Exodus 16: 1-15; Psalm 78 The Lord gave them bread from heaven; John 20:1-2, 11-18

Today we read the story of the desert wanderings of the Israelites.  They were grumpy.  Talk about hard to please.  They had just witness the greatest act of victory known to man, where Pharaoh's army was thrown into the sea; they had escaped slavery relatively unscathed; they didn't even break a sweat.  All they had to do was watch God unfold his victory before them.

They were led through the desert by a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.  

They had every reason to be in awe, enthusiastic, completely blown away.  They had seen enough amazing things to last a life time; and yet they were grumpy and unsatisfied. 

Go figure!

Instead of focusing on what went right, what beauty they saw before their eyes, what amazing events that took place, all they could see was what was missing.  A 1000 reasons to rejoice and they settle on the one reason to be grumpy. 

Go figure!

And Yet God in His infinite mercy gives them another reason to be blown away, in awe.

He sends the quail by night and the bread by day.   Why?  So that they "might know that I, the Lord, am your God."

He gives them direct evidence of his ever abiding presence, the best evidence.  He passes judgment, gives adjudication on his mercy.

The key to the manna, the bread God sends like rain, was that the Israelites were told that they could only take just enough for the day, only a daily portion.  He gave them just enough, each day. 

This is how God continually gives and proves himself; he gives us just enough.  We may see a 1000 things we do not have, or a 1000 reasons why we need more but what God simply asks us to remember is, "do have just enough?"

Just enough for the day! 

We may not have everything we want, but do we have just enough?

If we were asked to give an affidavit in the court of law, I believe each of us could testify that in deed we do have just enough each day.  This is proof enough to get God off the hook, give Him the acquittal He deserves, for the evidence is in His favor, without a reasonable doubt, He has done what He has promised and provides us with just enough, our daily portion. 

God isn't on trial, we are.  The problem isn't God's provisions but rather our expectations.  

When we become believers, we have to embrace the assumption of risk, that is we know the danger of believing that is God promises to give us just enough for the day, not too much, not too little, but always just enough. 

We just have recognize the manna set before us, and truly our desires shall be satisfied.

Today, we ask, what is it that is just enough.  Truly, we see then the manna from above.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hey porter

Exodus 3:13-20; Psalm 105 The Lord remembers his covenant for ever; Matthew 11:28-30;
Today in the universal church we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  The feast dates all the way back to the 14th century, where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the Brown Scapular.  

The Brown Scapular is a devotion to the Blessed Mother, where the wearer devotes himself to the service of the Blessed Virgin by seeking to imitate her virtues to God, in saying yes to his will. 

It focuses on two aspects: Mary's spiritual maternity of the faithful and her role as mediator of grace.  Mary promises to aid the believer in the grace of final perseverance and happy death.  

Two requirements are necessary for this devotion: one must honor the Blessed Mother and live a faithful Christian life.

St. John Vianney had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.  He states in his little catechism 

"the  Ave Maria is a prayer that is never wearisome.  The devotion to the Holy Virgin is delicious, sweet, nourishing.  When we talk of earthly  subjects we grow weary; but when we talk of the Holy VIrgin, it is always new.  All saints have a great devotion to Our Lady; no grace comes from Heaven without passing through her hands.  we cannot go into the house without speaking to the porter; well, the Holy Virgin is the portress of Heaven."   
St. John Vianney pray for us

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

O Buona Ventura

Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12; Psalm 103 The Lord is kind and merciful; Mt 11:25-27

Moses encounters the burning bush.  And from this bush God addresses him as "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob..."

God reveals himself as a personal God.  In the biblical record, God is seen as a God of a particular place, and there are altars set up all over the place, near trees, or springs, or some mysterious stone.  God was a god of a respective area.  

Pope Benedict directs our attention to the reality that God, when he addresses Moses, is revealing something new, god is not a god of a place, but a god of men. He is not bound to one spot but present and powerful wherever man is.  He is not anywhere in particular; he is always to be found where man is and where man lets himself be found by him. 

As God tells Moses, "I will be with you," it reveals to us that we never go alone.  Thus, as Pope Benedict points out, "faith is an orientation of our existence as a whole...it is a personal act" by which we allow the personal God not only to journey with us but to orient and direct our steps on this journey.  

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bonaventure, a doctor of the church.  His name comes from the expression spoken by St. Francis of Assisi.  Bonaventure, when a child was sick to the point of death.  No one knew what to do, until one day his mother heard that St. Francis was near.   She took the child to St. Francis who prayed over him and was cured.  Upon the miracle, St. Francis responded  O buona ventura that a good fortune/ venture was coming. 

Thus, we have the feast of St. Bonaventure. 

As we look to the first reading, God invites Moses to a buona venture,a good adventure, because God himself goes with him.  A venture centered on faith is in deed a buona ventura, good fortune for God is at the helm.

prayer for the day
"Lord, as daylight fills the sky, fill us with your holy light. May our lives mirror our love for you whose wisdom has brought us into being, and whose care guides us on our way.   We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy SPirit, one god, for ever and ever."  

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Exodus 2:1-15; Psalm 69 Turn  to the Lord in your need, and you will live; Mt 11:20-24

To Jesus reproaches Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum: "Woe to you!"

Jesus reminds them that he performed his mighty deeds in their midst, before their eyes, face to face and yet they failed to allow that reality to change them, "for they had not repented."

There are no records of Jesus deeds in these places.  Which reminds us as John's gospel points out, "Jesus did many other things; were they written, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books they would be written in" (Jn 21:25)

In the gospels we get the barest sketch of Jesus and his actions, enough so that we may believe according to St.  John.

Which means we don't know as much about Jesus as we think.  He seems to always be beyond our grasp.  Also, it reminds us that we are not privy always to God's actions in others.  We don't always have the inside scoop, even as disciples, nor should we presume to know more than we do about his actions in the lives of others.

As Jesus addresses these places with "Woe to you", the word "Woe" doesn't suggest blazing anger but rather sorrowful pity.  Jesus had offered these men the greatest opportunity accompanied by signs and wonders of which many would have died to have seen and yet they refused him.  His heart was broken for them.

In the presence of such a moment, the people chose to be indifferent, spectators, they chose to do nothing.  They just did not care. Apathy and indifference reigned in their hearts.  These are those that John in the book of Revelation warn us about, those who are "lukewarm" will be spit out of his mouth. 

We cannot remain spectators, we have to get into the game any and every moment available.  It is the only way to fight the indifference and apathy that seeks to plague us all.  The pandemic of apathy sweeps the culture we must stand in fight at every chance we get, by believing and living a life of faith.

May the Eucharist be our treasure, prayer our strength, penance our purification, joy our Hallmark, and service our standard by which  we conqueror apathy all the way.

Monday, July 13, 2009

burst in life

Exodus 1:8-14,22; Psalm 124 Our help is in the name of the Lord; Matthew 10:34-11:1

A recent novel that has come across my attention follows one particular character through a series of short tales and life snippets.  In one such snippet the main character for whom the book is named, Olive, is musing about her view on life.  

 In her view the author states that "life depends on what she thinks of as "big bursts" and "little bursts."  "Big bursts are things  like marriage and children, intimacies that keep you afloat,  but these big bursts hold dangerous unseen currents.  Which is why you need the little bursts as well: a friendly clerk at the local store or the waitress at Duncan Donuts who knows how you like your coffee."

It is the little burst that energize you for life's daily routine, these we must be attentive to, the big bursts take care of themselves. 

In the gospel today Jesus reminds us of the necessity of little bursts, ""And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple-amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."

A cup of cold water given doesn't seem like much but it is a little "bursts" that leads us on the way.  These little burst is how we learn to lose our life for His sake.  For if we do not give our life in this manner then we truly have no life to give. 

May we keep an eye peeled for little bursts today, to both receive that cup of cold water and to give as well and enter into the burst of life to its full.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I have been reading a novel lately, a tale of priest and their adventures and misadventures with the people of GOd stumbling through their mission with courage and resolve.  In this tale of priest, I came across a passage that is written on the lips of a Monsignor: 

"People talk to each constantly about the most unimportant things.  The world usually sounds like a babbling jungle with the voices of men.  But seldom do they speak to each other of what is most important.  If they did so there would be much less sorrow in life and less sin and cruelty and misunderstanding."

Is this not why we gather on Sunday to keep the Lord's Day, so that we might learn of those things of most importance and having grown familiar then have the courage to speak of those things in our lives so that there might be less sorrow, less sin, less cruelty, less misunderstanding. 

The Lord's Day, Sunday, is essential to harmony and peace and talk that is not cheap. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Today in the parish I celebrated a Quince anos celebration for a young lady.  It is birthday celebration that is marked by a renewal of faith, a renewal of baptismal promises. 

Not only does the young lady give thanks for her parents yes to life but she also gives thanks to God's yes to her. 

the best way to give thanks to God for the gift of one's life is to renew our faith in Him.  This is this thanks he desires, a humble contrite heart.  A heart filled with gratitude is a heart alive with faith. 

A heart alive with faith is a  life full of gratitude. 

By renewing our faith we say 'yes' to God who first said 'yes' to us. 

Not only do we say yes to God but in renewing our baptismal promises we are saying yes to eternity.  Is this not what we dream of, life and love that is everlasting and eternal, happily ever after, a love without end. 

This is the gift of baptism if we so choose to embrace it and live it. 
In living our faith we truly make the gift of life something beautiful for God.

Then our yes becomes a yes forever which is the only way to mirror God's yes which is always forever.

Friday, July 10, 2009

sheep, wolves, serpents, and doves

Genesis 46: 1-7, 28-30; Psalm 37 The salvation of the just comes from the Lord; Mat 10:16-23

In the gospel, Jesus mentions sheep, wolves, serpents, and doves.  The kingdom sounds like a zoo.  

Let us peer into the gospel today.  There are several passages that are striking and insightful for us as disciples. 

Jesus said to his Apostles, "Behold I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;"

The greek word used for "sheep" denotes any four footed animal that is tame that is accustomed to grazing.  The operative word for us as disciples is tame.  Tame denotes and animal that is docile and attentive to the voice of the master.  The animal knows who the master is and heeds the command of his voice.   Docile and attentive to the master's voice we must be if we are to guard our faith and be true to the mission we are given. 

"so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves."

The greek word for "shrewd" suggest that we are intelligent and prudent.  We keep our sense about us and we keep one eye on our end.  As we journey we must never lose sight of our destination and only then is our intelligence sharped to enable us to bear witness.  The greek word for "simple"  suggest that we are unmixed that is persons of integrity.  We never jeopardize our integrity thus we live who we are called to be.  We are true to our identity in Christ as children of God and all we do points to that integrity. Every circumstance and trial and suffering provides an opportunity for our integrity to shine pure.

"But beware of men"

We often see the signs that warn us, "beware of dogs" and it usually heightens our attention and sharpens our awareness and vision.  Jesus seeks to keep us attentive, on our toes, never letting our guard down.  Awareness and attentiveness are instrumental to spiritual growth and faith life.  Secondly, we should not be surprised when we are betrayed by men.  The witness we give will be a sign against many and this is par for the course. Jesus doesn't want to give us false expectations but rather he keeps it real, that we might rely on him, trusting him and not the princes of the world thus guarding our soul.  For if our soul is not worth guarding, then what is?

"for my sake"

Why do we do this?  Why do we live this life?  It is for His sake we rise each morning and embrace the challenges of a new day bearing within us the joy of being a follower.  Often times, we hear people say the words, "for God's sake" usually as a cry of despair or anger.  But in reality it is a positive sounding note that directs our resolve and empowers us to endure.  We are and should be about "his sake" and then does our life have true meaning and purpose.  

"but, whoever endures to the end will be saved"

Notice that salvation comes in the future.  This statement stares in the face of many who falsely claim, "once saved, always saved."  Salvation is a process, a journey.  Salvation is an event taking place on Good Friday, yet for us individually it is not a one time event, but rather it is a relationship that requires, as Jesus says, "endurance."  Salvation is not something we possess rather it is a relationship in which we stand, thus we become partakers of God's Spirit.  It is this dynamism that makes salvation what it is in Christ an ongoing organic reality that opens us up, transforms us, avails us to respond more fully to the gift of grace offered by God in Christ and thus be strengthen and transformed until Christ is complete in us.  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

thursdays with John Vianney

"This is what purifies the eye of the heart, and enables it to raise itself to true light: contempt of worldly cares, mortification of the body, contrition of heart, abundance of tears...meditation on the admirable essence of God and on his chaste truth, fervent and pure prayer, joy in God, ardent desire for Heaven.  Embrace all this and continue in it.  advance toward the light which offers itself to you as to its sons, and descends of itself into your hearts.  Take your hearts out of your chests, and give them to Him who speaks to you, and He will fill them with deific splendor, and you  will be sons and daughters of light and angels of God."

John Vianney

what we put into our hearts and minds and lives will show itself in the manner of our life.  What we choose to devote our life to, will be written all over our face, illustrated by our lives, seen in the works of our hands and words of our lips.  We are, as St. Paul says, a letter written in recommendation.   By our life choices, people read in our life either the noise of the world or the solemnity and joy of eternity.  John Vianney simply seeks to edit our life with his words so that in the end the edition that stands before God is that which most perfectly reads as a love story between the human soul and God Himself.  What remains in every page written in our blood and flesh and desire and will is a simple "yes" to God.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

no ordinary errand

Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24; Psalm 33 Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you; Matthew 10:1-7

In today's gospel, Jesus gathers the twelve apostles and sends them on mission.  Now, this isn't some ordinary errand he has them perform.  This isn't a trial run.  It is a full blown mission. 

He gives them AUTHORITY over unclean spirits to drive out demons and cure every disease and illness.  He gave them a mission to proclaim that 'The Kingdom of God is at hand.'

No, this is no ordinary errand, or chore, or trial.  This is the real deal. 

Pope Benedict exhorts us to remember that Jesus gathers twelve to show he is different.  A rabbi was known to have, as was customary,  at least five disciples as a sign of his authority and status.  

Jesus chooses twelve so that he could be identified as set apart, different.  He wasn't just like all the rest.  He was starting something new.  It is this newness that travels with the apostles.  Through the apostles, as they live and embrace their mission, their new life, Christ himself reaches through them and touches those they encounter as they are called to faith.

In bearing their faith in Jesus, the apostles allow Jesus to vicariously make himself known through them, thus they can with certainty make the proclamation, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand,' because the person of Jesus, who sends them and walks with them, is the kingdom itself. 

The proclamation of the kingdom requires a personal faith and responsibility.  Thus, the twelve called are not anonymous but they are named, they are real, they each have a face, their personality bears witness to the reality of their encounter with Jesus.   Their face to face encounter with Christ gives their mission credibility.  This personal witness gives credibility to this new reality, the kingdom that is no longer far away but very near for it lives in the heart of the one who professes faith, in the heart of the one who has seen him face to face and is known by name.

In that heart filled with faith, that personal encounter with Jesus, the kingdom is made manifest.  

In our personal faith, following with the apostolic tradition, walking in the footsteps of the named apostles, we too become bearers of the kingdom of God that dwells in our hearts, reaches through us, and touches those around us. 

This is how the kingdom grows. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bethel and Peniel

Yesterday we read of Jacob's encounter with God in a dream.  After the encounter he was pumped, beaming with enthusiasm so much so that he exclaims, "How awesome is this shrine.  This is nothing else but the abode of God and gateway to heaven."

Jacob was in his youthful prime, searching for a bride and just filled with love for life.

Today we read of Jacob having another encounter with God.  This time, he is alone.  This experience is a bit different.  For 7 years he had worked for Laban.  In those seven years he has acquired to wives and two concubines and 11 children, 10 boys and one girl.  He has been busy.  He is exhausted and tired.  He is also filled with fear over his brother Esau who is headed his way.

Jacob leaves his family and possession on one side of the ford and spends the night alone.  In this solitude he encounters God.  But this encounter is different, though it is the same God.  There is no vision of a stairway to heaven like the first.  This encounter is a wrestling match.  Jacob wrestles with God, and it is such a tussle that his hip socket is wrenched. 

What encounter with God!

The story of Jacob points us to the reality that God will come to us in many ways, not just in  great emotion or good feeling, but in all different circumstances.  He will seek us and speak to us in a manner that we need, not as we want. 

Sometimes we will shout with joy, "how awesome is this place"  and think we have found Bethel and sometimes we will be left scratching our heads or even limping, left exclaiming, "Because I have seen God face to face and yet my life has been spared" and know we have found Peniel.  

Both Bethel and Peniel reveal the face of God to us and this is the true spiritual journey. 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Champion of chastity

Genesis 28:10-22; Psalm 91 In you, my God, I place my trust; Matthew 9:18-26 

To we celebrate the memorial of Maria Goretti.  She was born in 1890 and was killed in 1902. 

A young vibrant girl who sought to live a life of love for God and others.  With her family, she moved from her birth town to Rome and then to a farm outside of Rome, where her family was basically tenant farmers. 

Her father became ill with menigitis and malaria and thus they needed to partner up with another family in harvesting the crop.   This father and son tandem  would eventually lead to the death of Maria Goretti. 

The young man, Alessandro Serenelli who was brought on to assist the Goretti family began to take interest in Maria.  He burned with lust and desired to sexually assault her. 

on 1902, his lust and rage overcame him, and he dragged Maria at age 11 to a room and forced himself upon her, he being 18 at the time.  With a knife in one hand, holding her down with the other, he threatened to kill her if she did not give in to sex.  Maria refused to give in for the sake of her chastity, for the sake of her soul and his soul as well. 

In a fit of rage, Alessandro began to attack her with the blade, stabbing her 14 times and leaving her for dead.  

Maria was discovered and taken to the hospital where she lingered suffering for hours.  Mortally wounded, the priest was sent for to give her Viaticum.  Upon arriving the priest asked Maria if she forgave her attacker, she responded, "I, too, pardon him. I, too, wish that he come some day and join me in Heaven."  

The story is tragic on several levels.
Because of poverty and illness the family was forced in a compromising situation where strangers were invited into their family.  

Secondly, while Maria grew up in a devout and faith filled family, Alessandro, the attacker, was not.  Hi mother was put in an asylum and his father abandoned him at the age of 12.  Alone, he was passed around from relative to relative, ending up working in the shipyards, where he was introduced to violent and lewd materials and posters.  

When he met back up with his father some 6 years later, he was well immersed in graphic and pornographic material.  slowly, he began to burn with lust and rage. 

This is what fueled his attack on Maria. 

In reminds us of the importance of good parents to form their children.  It warns us of the damage and destruction that  lewd and violent material has on one's development.  

If you look at today, with the constant flood of sexual graphic movies and books and the like, it is easy to see why we are in the state we are with a moral decline and no respect for sexual purity. 

Eventually, however, Alessandro does have a conversion.  In prison he has a vision of Maria Goretti which begins is conversion.  

In his cell, Nov 10, 1910 he writes on the floor, "I am deeply sorry for what has happened.  I have taken the life of an innocent girl whose one aim was to save her purity, shedding her blood rather than give in to my sinful desires.  I publicly retract the evil I have done  and beg pardon of God and of the stricken family.  One hope encourages me-that I may also one day obtain God's pardon and so may others." 

After his release he sought out Maria's mother and asked for forgiveness.  She responded simply with, "If Maria could forgive you, then so can I."  She led Him to the church where he confessed his sins before the church of Maria's hometown.  He was present at the Beatification of Maria Goretti then he entered a monastery where he spent the remainder of his life as a gardener. 

On his death bed, his last words were,"I am going again to be with Maria in paradise."

The story is a story of grace.  It is a story of how God does not give up, his grace always seeks to bring souls back to him.  Even in tragedy, grace can be found, grace is effective, love is stronger than death.

words of Pope Pius XII at canonization of St.Maria Goretti
"Finally, all of you are intently listening to Our words, know that above the unhealthy marshes and filth of the world, stretches an immense heaven of beauty.  It is the heaven which fascinated little Maria; the heaven to which she longed to ascend by the only road that leads there, which is, religion, the love of Christ, and the heroic observance of His commandments."

St. Maria Goretti, youthful martyr, patroness of purity, champion of chastity, pray for us now and forever until we shall be reunited in paradise.   

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dependence Day

Ezekiel  2:2-5; Psalm 123 Our Eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for mercy; 2 corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6
In the first reading, we encounter the call of the prophet Ezekiel.  

God says to Ezekiel, "whether they heed or resist- they are a rebellious house-they shall know that a prophet has been among them."

They shall know that a prophet is among them.

Each of us is baptized a priest, prophet, and king, which means we no longer live just for ourselves.  Everything we do has bearing on all of us.  We are sent in to the world like the prophet ezekiel to bear witness to the truth and justice of God.  

We do this by the words we speak but also by the life we life.  We are either a true prophet or a false prophet.  Which are we?

In our life do we reveal the face of God or do we reveal our own face? Do we rebuke the nations or do we go along with them and the latest trend?  Do we invite them to renew the promise of the covenant or do we write our own terms?  Do we help restore lasting hope or are we satisfied with temporary hoax?

Do we embrace the teaching of the church or do we pick and choose?  A true prophet stands firm on all not just some of the truth.

In the second reading St. Paul speaks of the thorn in the flesh.  Three times he begged the Lord to take it from him, but God chose for it to remain.  Sometimes, God's answer is no. 

How often have we asked God to remove things in our life that are difficult.  Time and time again we sought it gone, only to have it remain.  We thought God wasn't listening because he failed to heed our request.   Yet, we fail to realize that God is not at our beck and call. We don't carry him around in our back pocket to do as we please

We are at his.  Did we ever stop to think that perhaps, his prompt answer was let it be and stay the course. We discover that God wants us to enter deeper into our weakness, enter deeper into humility.

Here we learn true strength.  
In our weakness we learn compassion, we learn mercy, and we learn dependence. 
When we keep one eye on our own weakness, we have a tendency to no longer judge the other by their weakness but rather our hands reach out to support.  We discover that we can relate, thus compassion builds communities of love.

In our weakness God keeps us on our knees and keeps us looking up, here we truly can begin to serve and grow in holiness.  

In the gospel, Jesus comes home.  There is a homecoming.  Jesus is back at his old stomping grounds.  And the people recognize him. They know his trade, "he is a carpenter"; they know his mother, "son of Mary" and they know his kinfolk.  They know everything about him, yet they don't know him. 

They ate the same food, shopped at the same market, worshiped in the same synagogue, talked with the same accent, and probably hung out at the same places growing up.  Yet all this familiarity caused contempt not rejoicing.

What was to be a home coming turned into a gossip party, "who does he think he is."

They were so close yet they missed the Messiah right beside them because he looked too much like one them.   But this is the good news.

God comes as one of us so that we might finally recognize ourselves as ones loved by God.  

The people failed to recognize the holiness of Jesus because they had not accepted their own call to holiness.  They couldn't honor Jesus' relationship with God because they never fully explored their own relationship with God. 

How often we see people that look like us and we put on airs, put up walls, or make judgments.  Yet if we raise our expectations, carefully peel back our eyelids, we might catch a glimpse of God, in us and in them. 

Until this happens miracles will be scarce as rain.  
We can amaze God with our lack of faith or we let him marvel at our faithfulness, embracing the face of God in those around us. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Genesis 22:1-19; Psalm 115 I will walk in the presence of the Lord; Matthew 9:1-8

"I know now how devoted you are to God..."

This is the response of the angel of the Lord to Abraham in his willingness to do what the Lord commanded, "I know how devoted you are to God..."

As we think about that response and look in our own lives, what do we do that exhibits our devotion to the Lord.

Often times we think about what God is doing or what  we want God to do in our life, but what do we do...

John F Kennedy once posed this statement to the country, "Ask not what your country can to do for you but ask what you can do for your country," and in a similar manner God speaks to us, "ask not what God can do for us but ask what we can do for God."

What in our life reveals our devotion to the good God?

On thursday I plan on reflecting on the life of St. John Vianney for the Year of the Priest. 

Something that John Vianney grew up with was devotions to the Lord.  His family lived their life devout and seeking to please the lord. 

They would pray together every night.  They would bless their meals before they ate.  His mother, was in the habit of praying every time the clock struck a new hour; she would bless the hour with a simple sign of the cross and one "Hail, Mary."  This habit was picked up by the young John Vianney and he would carry it out the rest of his life.

His family was also very active in assisting the poor.  This also was something John Vianney would take upon himself.

It was the habit of devotion seen in his parents, especially his mother, that encouraged John Vianney on the path of holiness in responding to God's call in his life. 

We should never under estimate the power of small acts of devotion.  In them God sees how devoted we are to him and our hearts and our wills slowly become conformed to His. 

In our acts of devotion, we learn to be true to the one who is true to us.

Words to remember
"When the heart is pure, it cannot help loving, because it has found the source of love, which is God himself." John Vianney 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I would walk 500 miles

Genesis 21:5,8-20; Psalm 34 The Lord hears the cry of the poor; Matthew 8:28-34

Today we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Junipero Serra.  At the age of 56, he was sent to settle what is known today as the state of california.  Considered by most to be the pioneer of california, Blessed Junipero Serra, logged more than 24, 000 miles by foot, on horse and mule and over the seas to spread the message of truth. 

When he arrived in California, he was both an asthmatic and he suffered from a chronic foot sore that would remain with him until he died.  Yet, he worked tirelessly.   

Pope John Paul II reminds us that "difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord."

Today, 60 percent of the population of California live along or within the missions that Blessed Junipero Serra established.  

In 71 years from 1713-1784 he lived a life seeking to embrace the missionary task placed before him by his superiors and placed within him by Christ.

In his homily for his beatification in 1988, John Paul II, stated that Blessed Junipero Serra, was "a shinning example of Christian virtue and the missionary spirit...his great goal was to bring the Gospel to the Native people of America, so that they might be consecrated in the truth...he sought to further their authentic human development on the basis of their newfound faith as persons created and redeemed by God." 

Most of us will not be asked to go to foreign lands to proclaim the gospel, but every time we step a foot forward we are missionaries in our own right.  Whether, we are at home or at work or any where around time, the opportunity arises to proclaim the message.

May we follow in Blessed Junipero Serra's footsteps and log countless miles seeking to bear forth the message of faith, "created and redeemed by God" and thus futher the human development.