Friday, May 31, 2013

Mary's song makes God sing

Zephaniah 3:14-18; Ps Among you is the great and holy one of Israel; Luke 1:39-56

Here is a song for today: lifesong 

Today in the church we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation.  The gospel relates how Mary sets out in haste to the hill country, to Judah to be with her cousin Elizabeth who is heavy with child of her own.

IT is important to recall the unfolding events prior to this encounter between Mary and ELizabeth.

We all know the events, but just for the sake of revisitation.

The angel Gabriel is sent to Mary, a virgin, to invite her to be the Mother of Jesus, "you shall conceive and give birth to the Son of the Most High..."

Mary's response to the greeting and invitation of the Angel was a question, "how can this be."

We all experience moments like that where an encounter in our life results in questions from us such as how can this be, why has this happen, how will I cope and so on and so forth.

Normal, this reaction is, though the beauty of grace is that the moment Mary accepts the invitation, the moment she surrenders, she is done with the questions, she moves on and moves forward with haste to get on with her life.

Eventually this acceptance and surrender turns to praise, "and Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoice in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant..."

We too like Mary cannot get bogged down in the questioning.  We too must be done with the questions and choose to move forward in acceptance and allowing the surrender to give way to praise and thanksgiving.  Thus, we can enter into Mary's song, Mary's magnificent, and as Christ formed in her brings joy and rejoicing to Elizabeth and baby John in the womb, so too our life, Christ being formed in us through our encounters and experiences, will bring joy and rejoicing to those we encounter.

Just as Mary's song makes God sing, so to the song of our life will do the same.

"Fear not Zion, be not discouraged!  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as  one sings at festivals."

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Joan of Arc, Pope Francis, and church as family of God

Sirach 42:15-25; Ps 33 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; Mark 10:46-52

Today we celebrate the feast and remembrance of Joan of Arc.  She is known as the hot tempered teen who led the french army against the English.  She cut off her hair and dressed up as man as she led men into battle.  At the age of twelve she began having locutions and visions with st.  Michael, St Catherine and others.

IT was from these visions and locutions she was inspired to help France with back its land from the British.

Eventually she was betrayed and tried as a heretic only to be burned at the stake.  500 years later, she was recognized as a saint.  Being a saint isn't all fairy tales and sugar and spice.  Often times saints are misunderstood and even not recognized until much later.

From her trial here is a transcript when asked about being in God's grace she responded, "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me."  This is certainly not a bad prayer.


Here is a bit from the first reading for today.  "God plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart; their inner most being he understands.  The most high possesses all knowledge, and sees from of old the things that are to come; he makes known the past and the future, and reveals the deepest secrets.  No understanding does he lack; no single thing escapes him..."

Now read that verse in light of ourselves, our own personal struggles.  Even though we can't always understand our self and why we do what we do, it is comforting to know that God understands it.

The gospel passage come from the story of the blind man Bartimaeus, the one who refused to be silent as scriptures points out, "and many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.  But he kept calling out all the more."

There is something valiant n the blind man's refusal to be silent.  There is a depth of courage and urgency that is often lacking in our society, in our faith, that is revealed in the blind man.
I love Bartimaeus' resonse when called.  Scripture relates how he "sprang up" and went to Jesus.

What a beautiful passage that details the effect of grace in our life.  Grace enable us to keep calling our and to spring forth with urgency as we go to Jesus.

After receiving his sight what does BArtimaeus do, he follows JEsus on his way.   Here we encounter the completion of grace bestowed.  IT enables us to call out, to spring forth, to approach Jesus and then to follow him on the way.

Words from Pope Francis yesterday at Audience
The very word “Church”, from the Greek ekklesia, means ‘convocation’,” Pope Francis said. “God calls us, urges us to escape from individualism, [from] the tendency to withdraw into ourselves, and calls us – convokes us – to be a part of His family. This convocation has its origin in creation itself. God created us in order that we might live in a relationship of deep friendship with Him, and even when sin had broken this relationship with God, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us.”

“Even today, some say, “Christ yes, the Church no,” like those who say, “I believe in God, but in priests, no.” They say, “Christ: yes. Church: no.” Nevertheless, it is the Church that brings us Christ and that brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God's children.”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lord make haste to help us

Sirach 36:1-17; Psalm 79 Show u, O Lord, the light of your kindness; Mark 10:32-45

The Church has asked us priest and religious to pray what we call the divine office or the liturgy of the hours.  It is a set of prayers, usually psalms with reading excerpts from various books of the bible coupled with intercessions and the "Lord's Prayer" that we are asked to recite daily, in fact several times a day.

It is our way of praying for the people of God a well as sanctifying the entire day, keeping us close to the Lord.  The truth be told, if one is going to to do the Lord's work then one must be with the Lord continually.

Each time I pray, I remind myself that I am praying the very same prayers that priest and religious are praying throughout the world.  It is pretty neat and down right awesome.

Each time we begin the prayer we do so with this phrase, "God come to my assistance, Lord, make haste to help me."

This is the very sentiment our first reading for today begins with "Come to our aid, O God of the universe, look upon us, show us the light of your mercies..."

Sometimes when I pray the office, I sit with the opening phrase a bit longer.

I am grateful for that opening, for that beginning of the prayer ritual.  Some how it consoles me to know that even in prayer, I need the strength of God, the God of the universe to assist me if I will do Him honor by my weak attempt.

God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me.

Like the disciples in the gospel, we are both amazed and afraid for we know that prayer is meant to make us like Christ, a servant of the many, to give our life.

With out God's assistance this too would be mockery.

The fact of the matter is, I believe, the church asks us to start each prayer with that opening, "God come to my assistance, Lord, make haste to help us" in order to keep it all in proper perspective, to keep us small.

IT reminds us that all we do is rooted in the gift God has bestowed.  Being small helps us recognize the wonder and awe of the God of the universe.  This is good place to be.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Sirach 35:1-12; PS 50 To the upright I will show the saving power of God; Mark 10:28-31

"Ina  generous spirit pay homage to the LORD, be not sparing of freewill gifts.  With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, pay your tithes in a spirit of Joy.  Give to the most high as he has given to you, generously, according to your means."

Think about people you consider to be generous.

Why do we classify them as being generous?

Think about people who give a lot of money and yet we don't classify them as generous?

Why do we not?

Generosity is more than the ability to give, it also revolves around having an attitude of a giver, one that is joyful and filled with cheer.

Someone can give and still be stingy of heart. But those that give and remain joyful in letting go and giving to another, these are the ones that true show forth the face of God.

Generous person gives more than is necessary; a generous person never says, I have done enough. A generous person just simply seeks to return the favor of having been given life in the first place.

As the first reading reminds us, we are called to be this way, "be not sparing of freewill gifts."

Be not sparing, in other words, don't hold back.

Where in our life do we hold back?  Where can we be more giving?

We like generous people, we can tell them by the smile on their face and the joy in their eyes.

Not sparingly, cheerful, joy: these are the words used to describe a generous soul.  It is time to take inventory in our life?

Are we generous?  Do we give?  Do we hold back?  Do we emulate the Father who gives from all eternity?

OR are we like the Apostles who in the gospel who have been keeping "Score" so to speak in listing all that have done, "Lord, we have given everything and followed you."  I sense a little bit of hardness the words of the apostles, a little bit of entitlement in their response to JEsus.

THis is why JEsus says many who are first will be last and the last will be first.  Giving up everything isn't the same as giving over everything.  The generous soul is the one who does the latter not the former.  May we learn to give it over as well.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

product testing

Proverbs 8:22-31; Ps 8 O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

What is the most essential tenet of our faith? What is the principle and foundation form which our faith rises or falls?  What is the central claim of our faith?

(Pause for thought...)

Hopefully you paused and actually thought about the questions posed.  Think about some of the beautiful things we hold because of faith: Jesus is true God and true Man, Mary is immaculately conceived, Jesus founded the church on Peter, the rock, the blood of jesus redeems us, the bread and wine become real presence of Christ at the Mass, we are all part of the mystical body of CHrist, our sins are forgiven each time a new we celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, the Trinity (one God and three persons).

All of this an more is part of the beauty awaken by faith.  But it flows from somewhere.

The central reality of faith is the fact that God has spoken.  As the psalmist puts it, our God comes, he keeps silence no longer.  God speaks to us.  He wants to be heard.  The God of eternity has broken the silence and has addressed himself to us feeble, weak, mortal women and men.

This is why the psalmist in today's readings states, "what is man that you think of him."

God has spoken.  Because of this reality, our life of faith takes off.  We believe what we believe because God has shown himself to us, he has pulled back the veil between time and eternity and we have caught a glimpse of who he is.

The Most Holy Trinity has made himself known.
He is a communion of love.  The three persons of the blessed Trinity are distinct yet the they remain a unity, they are different  but the same in love.  They rejoice in the goodness of the other, seeking to glory one another and giving themselves to one another.


Now shift your focus for a moment. Think about product testing.

Every product that is produced has to be tested and approved.  Consumer testing is important to ensure that the product fulfills the claims the manufacturer makes on its behalf.

Every product must go through the test: toilets, blenders, shoes, refrigerators, medication...and the list goes on and on.

I recently read an article illustrating the reality of product testing.  Brian Chesky, the founder of AIRBNB, online travel lodge place, as taken it upon himself to test his product.  Through airbnb someone looking for lodging can rent an apartment, house, tipi, igloo, european castle.

Brian in order to test his product has chosen to live by booking places through his own business on a weekly basis.  He said the best way to take the pulse of the product is to use the product.  Since 2010, for the last three years he has been relocating every week through his own company website.

This gives new meaning to product testing.

Product testing isn't just for the inanimate objects.  IT is also for us.

St. Paul tells us in today's second reading that we are justified by faith thus we have gain access to grace so that we can boast in our afflictions because afflictions, afflictions produce endurance, endurance proven character, proven character hope that does not disappoint.

Through the grace of God, we are being testing.  God wants to make sure that we live up to his claims for us that we are made in his image and likeness.  The Trinity, this communion of love is the root of our existence; it is also the fulfillment of our existence.

All that happens in life is meant to put us back on tract.

As we celebrate the feast of the Trinity, we recognize not just who God is but who we are called to be as those justified.

God wants to conform us to be like himself a communion of love that creates space for the other, a communion of live that rejoices in the goodness of the other, a communion of love that seeks to magnify and glorify the other.

The afflictions we encounter are those things that are meant to stretch us, re shift our focus, to put us back in rhythm of theTrinity we both profess and adore.

By our life we give honor to this revelation we have received.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

in honor of Cat lovers

For a Dying Tomcat Who's Relinquished His Former Hissing and Predatory Nature

I remember the long orange carp you once scooped
from the neighbor's pond, bounding beyond
her swung broom, across summer lawns

to lay the fish on my stoop. Thanks
for that. I'm not one to whom offerings
often get made. You let me feel

how Christ might when I kneel,
weeping in the dark
over the usual maladies: love and its lack.

Only in tears do I speak
directly to him and with such
conviction. And only once you grew frail

did you finally slacken into me,
dozing against my ribs like a child.
You gave up the predatory flinch

that snapped the necks of so many
birds and slow-moving rodents.
Now your once powerful jaw

is malformed by black malignancies.
It hurts to eat. So you surrender in the way
I pray for: Lord, before my own death,

let me learn from this animal's deep release
into my arms. Let me cease to fear
the embrace that seeks to still me.
The above is a simple poem about a cat and its human friend. 
But I find it so true.  As one who has a cat.  It is always striking how the cat's predatory reflex is constantly at play, always jerking and clawing, with every sound and every movement.  There are moments when the cat lets it's guard down and allows it self to be calmed and still by the hand of another. 

We do this in our relationship with God.  We jump and jerk and get jittery.  There are moments when we must allow His hand to still us. 

Friday, May 24, 2013


Sirach 6:5-17; Ps 119 Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands; Mark 10:1-12

Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.

Here is a recipe that is often neglected in our society.

Friendship is fallen to the wayside.  IT is tragic, for friendship is the one relationship that last into eternity.

We will not be married or marry in heaven, so says JEsus.  But he calls us friends on that faith filled night when he bends low and washes the feet of the disciples in the upper room then he goes out to love us to the end as portrayed in Calvary.

Making a friend, being a friend, bringing a friend to Christ is what it means to follow Christ, the one ultimate friend maker.

"a faithful friend is a life saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself."

Jesus and friend can be synonymous according to the last definition.  And if we are to follow Christ then we too must be in the business of making friends, being friends, and bringing friends to Him who we follow.

"a faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he who finds one finds a treasure.  a faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth."

Who are your friends?  Who are you friends with?
Are they and are we a sturdy shelter, life giving remedy?

Interesting that the gospel is about divorce and the first reading is about friendship.

It often stated that demise of marriage as little to do with the lack of love but more with the loss of friendship.

When we look at friendship in our life, we should start with our spouse.  Make a friend, be a friend is a recipe for success in the gift of married love.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Mark 9:38-40

Yesterday's reading for the mass began with these words, "John said to Jesus, "teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow us."

Driving out demons.  Is this really a situation we might encounter in life or is it a biblical myth or fable that has no bearing on our life, our love, our journey here and now?

This is what the church states,

"behind the disobedient  choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy...The church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God...they become evil by their own doing...scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the beginning," who would even try to divert Jesus from his mission received from his father...the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."

It goes on to teach that the "power of Satan is nonetheless not infinite,  He is only a creature, powerful because he is pure spirit, but still a  creature.  He cannot prevent the build up God's reign.  Although he may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, although his actions may cause grave injuries-spiritual and even of physical nature, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history.  It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, "but we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."

So the answer is does have bearing on our life.  THere is a seductive voice opposed to God that seeks to lead us astray.  We should be attentive.  We should exorcise the demons daily in our life.  We know them because they are opposite the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Where the opposite reigns there the demon seeks to seduce.

Secondly, we should note the tragedy of John's statement.  He stated, "we tried to stop them because they do not follow us."  Here the shift in emphasis is so important.  Already the devil is at work even in the disciples for they have lost sight in the fact that the focus should be on Christ and his name and not os much on them.

The one who was trying to cast out a demon in the name of Jesus was in deed choosing to be a disciple himself.  He was seeking to belong to Christ and it is in belonging to Christ that we belong to the "us" that is spoken of by John.

Jesus' response rings true for all of us: Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name that can speak ill of me.  For whoever is not against us is for us."

Yet, we find that in our society Christians are opposed to one another.  Christians, those who seek to follow Christ seem to be antagonistic to one another.  We fight one another.  We try to one up one another.  We too like John lose sight of the importance of belonging to Christ first, then we belong to the each other.

It is exactly this division and antagonism that feeds the demons and enhances the diabolically work in the world.

It is unity Jesus entrust to us.  It is unity that Jesus prays for.  It is unity that his death and resurrection seeks to make a reality.  We are one body of Christ.  It is this unity in Christ that is the ultimate weapon against the attacks of the devil.

He who seeks to divide cannot abide where unity is strong.

We should pray for unity.  we should work for unity.  We should let truth in love unify. Then we exorcise demons in our world.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

not so ordinary

Sirach 2:1-11; Ps 37 Commit your life to the Lord, he will help you; Mark 9:30-37

Commit your Life to the Lord and he will help you.

What will he help you with?

He will help yo become like a child, "Whoever receives one child, such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me."

What else will he help you with?

listen to our first reading for today from the book of Sirach,

 "my son when you come to serve the Lord, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials...Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity.  Wait for God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not.  Thus will you be wise.  Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold and silver is tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.  Trust God and he will help you; trust God and he will direct your ways; keep his fear  and grow old therein..."

This is no ordinary invitation.  God in deed will help, but his help is meant to transform us, try us, make us like himself.

This is his goal for us.  He will not make the way easy but he will make the way for us to be transformed in holiness and virtue.

Commit your life to the lord and he will help you.  Be ready.  Be firm.  Be still. Be transformed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

100 days

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of Pentecost.  It marked about 100 days since we began the Lenten journey.

When the new president comes into office, there is a big deal made about the first 100 days.  Apparently the first 100 days will determine and direct the remainder of the presidency.

I want you think about these last hundred days , the last hundred days of your life.

Remember the beginning of Lent.  How we all gathered as a people of faith and we journeyed down the center aisle with heads bowed low and hands in prayer.

We approached the minister to receive the mark upon our foreheads and as the ashes were smeared we heard those words, "remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return, repent and believe in the gospel."

That days was going to mark the beginning of something new and different in our life.  We were going to pray a little harder, fast a little more, give until hurt, in order to be transformed.

Or perhaps we were praying, fasting, giving, not for ourselves but for loved ones, co workers, or friends who were struggling.

Then the journey began.  So much has happened since then.  We have new Pope.  The former Pope resigned.  New conflicts have arisen around the globe and old conflicts flared up again. We have had massacres and bombs exploding and fertilizer plants exploding.

We have also journeyed with Christ through his passion, death, and resurrection.  We celebrated no meat fridays and Holy Thursday and Good Friday.  We heard the passion narratives, we experienced the light conqueror the darkness at the Easter vigil.  We all gathered on Easter to hear the trumpet sound of victory as the Alleluia's filled the air and Christ is risen echoed through the churches around the world.

Then we walked with Jesus and the apostles through the various resurrection narratives: road to Emmaus, the upper room with wounds exposed, the Sea of Galilee with breakfast by the fire and butt load of fish to boot.  We experienced the Ascension and the great commission.  Finally, the promise of Christ never to leave us was realized as something of heaven descended upon us and the Spirit of God filled the world.

Through it all, are we different?  Are we better?  Have we made strides?
Change is no longer just a pipe dream but it is realized in the outpouring of the Spirit.  We are no longer "just" human, but the SPirit of God has chosen to unite himself with our SPirit.

Ponder that today.  Let Pentecost happen daily in our life.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Christians unchained

Acts 25:13-21; PS 103 The Lord has established his throne in heaven; John 21:15-19

First things first.

Today in the first reading in Acts, we encounter some intriguing figures.

King Agrippa and Bernice arrive to visit Festus.

King Agrippa was the great grandson of Herod the Great, the one who tried to kill the infant Jesus and who killed many children,  thus the feast of the Holy Innocents in December following Christmas.  He was a ruthless man, tyrant of longed for power, prestige, wealth, control and the list goes on.

His son Agrippa the I was the one who beheaded the apostle James and put Peter in Prison.
Again, not a very kind and caring person.

Wich brings us to King Agrippa II of today's readings, who was in an incestuous relationship with his sister Bernice.  HE sold out the Jews for the sake of being known as a friendly to the Roman Empire.

Festus was the governor of the region of Judea and eventually got Paul's case to be heard in Rome, since Paul was a Roman citizen.

These are the elites of the society; they are gathered to make a judgment on St. Paul and his religious convictions.

IT sounds familiar.  This reality is unfolding even today.   The Elite of our Society are trying to make a judgment on the religious convictions of the church, especially in light of the HHS mandate.

Religious liberty is never what it seems.  It sounds good on paper but in reality there is always some one who wants to hinder or stymie the reality of liberty, giving it conditions and or restrictions.

This is why the church is asking us to pray for our government.

What does Paul do in the face of the elite that have come to make their presence known.  If you keep reading Acts then you will discover that paul simply remains true to himself and to his convictions and lets them have it full throttle.

Paul tells his story of faith and his encounter with the Risen Lord and how he is sent to proclaim the message of faith no matter what.

Toward the end, Paul wraps up his comments with these words, "...this was not done in a corner...I would pray to God that sooner or later not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am except for these chains."

"This was not done in a corner."  In other words the faith cannot be lived only behind closed doors.  It must be broadcast wide and far.

Paul did not let the status of his onlookers or spectators to interfere with the message.  He gives it clear and full as it was meant to be, without changing or alteration.

May we too be like him unchained, free to express and to deliver the message.


The new golden calf

From Pope Francis

"Ladies and Gentlemen, our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications.

At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis.

In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Asylums, writers, and St Isidore the farmer

acts 20:28-38; Ps 68 Sing to God, O kingdom of the earth; John 17:11-19

"If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I'm going. I know what my goal is. And how I get there is God's grace" so wrote Katherine Ann Porter .

We know the ending.  We know the story.  We know where it leads regardless if we know or not know the details of the journey completely, the end is always on our mind. 

We can pretend we don't know and there are those who do this and thus they justify their selfish existence. 
We can let ourselves forget and go through life with self impose amnesia, but in the end our soon willour memory be jarred.

We can try t avoid the end; we can zig and zag and get caught up in that hide & seek reality; but in the end, the lights will be turned on there will be no escape, no hiding.

Or we can embrace the end, keep it in mind, and let it determine the story of our lives, day by day, moment by moment. 

"And I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated."  These are the words of st. Paul in today's first reading as he bids farewell to the presbyters of Ephesus, perhaps on his way to Rome where eventually he will give his life. 

Then as to bring home to point he quotes Jesus himself, "keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said,'It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Of all the words of Jesus, it is worth pausing to think as to why Paul chose these words as he departed.

These are the words that help reframe the journey so that we can keep the end in mind.  It is more blessed to give than to receive because because heaven is for those who give, only then do we receive. 

Today in the US history is the day in which first Asylum was opened. It was on this day in 1817 that the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason was founded in Philadelphia. It was the first private mental health hospital in the United States.

Asylum for the relief of persons deprived of the use of their reason, what a interesting way of describing mental illness.  IT changes things a bit if the reality of mental illness is seen in this light. 
Lastly, today we honor St. Isidore, patron of farmers. 
He is known not just for his ability to turn over fields with a plow but more importantly turning ordinary days  into special joyful times.

St Isidore was canonized at the same time as St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa Avila, St. Philip Neri.  Not bad company to keep.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Acts 1:15,20-26; Ps 113 The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people; John 15:9-17

Today is the feast of St. Matthais, the one chosen to take the place of Judas.

It is often said that it is hard to follow in the footsteps of a good man;  one who follows a good man, has big shoes to fill.

But what is it like to walk in the footsteps of a Judas the betrayer?

Many of us can answer that question for ourselves.

Why did Judas turn?  Peter states it clearly in today's first reading, "Judas turned away to go his own way."

To go his own way.  How often have we done it our way?  How often have we chosen to go our own way rather than let Christ own the way we were going?

It is a temptation all of us must face.  Unlike Sinatra, doing it our way is the way back to the father.

Jesus says "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

Here are a few words from Pope Benedict concerning Matthais and Judas: "While there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil done by them with our clear witness to Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

on the ascension: what will happen next

Acts 1:1-11; PS 47 God mounts his throne to shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for the Lord; Luke 24:46-53

"A man's way through life has been well accomplished, not if he has been successful, become famous, or made a lot of money, but only if he had not failed to reach his eternal goal."  Cardinal Schonborn

The Feast of the ascension points us to the way home.  JEsus returns to the Father.  JEsu sis both sign post and path.  St. Augustine mentions that Jesus Ascension isn our way home, "he does not hide himself behind the clouds but he has installed heaven in the hearts of his friends.

We now know what is our aim.


A story:

Recently I was listening to a couple tell the story of their child.  They struggled to get pregnant.  In fact they tried many means in order to be pregnant.  Nothing seemed to work.  Until eventually after countless doctor appointments they conceived.

Half way through the pregnancy, something began to happen.   Bleeding began to occur and labor began to happen.  The mother was taken to the hospital, where her life as well as the life of the child was threatened.

after a few days of drugs, trying to postpone the premature delivery, the doctors could do nothing more.

They informed the couple, they there was a 53% chance the baby would die no matter what they did.  They were asking a couple to make a decision on what to do when the child was delivered: when did they want to stop trying.

The reality was that at 23 weeks the viability of the child was not very stable.  Full term is 40 weeks.

After discussion with doctors and nurses, the parents decided to let the child decide. If the child came out fighting then they would do what was necessary.

The baby was born and quickly taken to the NICU unit.  The parents described the NICU as something out of a science fiction film with beeping and humming and bright lights and tubes every where.

After a few days the baby was living, then the child blew a hole in its intestine and things began to look grim.  The baby's belly turn black and distended.  There was a tube put in the belly in order to drain the fecal matter and bile from the child.

No one knew whether the baby was going to make it or not.  THe parents were trying to figure out  where should they draw the line, at one point was enough enough.

The parents feeling absolutely powerless and helpless decided to read to the child.  The Dad began to read Harry Potter: the boy who lived.  What dad and mom noticed was that when they would read to the child, instantly the baby's SAT level would increase (oxygen level in the blood, high the level, better for the child); when they would stop reading the SAT would drop.  As they kept reading, dad would get into the the parts and change his voice, as he changed his voice, the baby's SAT would react to the change.

He was astonished.  It seemed to him that the baby was following, engaged in the story.  At this point he came to the recognition what it meant to want to live.  They baby's response suggested she wanted to see what would happen next.  She was intrigued by the story and her SAT would change with each chapter.

He realized that this was what it meant to want to be alive: to what to see what would happen next.

The baby pulled thorough and is 2 years old.

But i want you to focus on that statement:  This is what it means to want to live: to want to see what would happen next.

This is what the Ascension offers us: it empowers us to get busy telling the story so that every one can encounter what will happen next.  As JEsus tells the apostles, "you will receive power from on high and be my witnesses."

Each of us will be empowered to tell the story, the story of salvation, how we experience it and how God works in and through us.

We are not simply to look upward but rather get busy with letting the story of salvation be told through our lives, "why are you standing there looking up at the sky?"

Indeed, we can;t just sit around, we need get busy telling the story so that others may see what happens next and then desire to live.


Acts 18:23-28; PS 47 God is king of all the earth; John 16:23-28

Yesterday at the morning mass, Pope Francis made the comment that "sourpuss" christians who do not communicate the joy of being loved by God do harm to the witness of the church.

Sourpuss christians....

We find St. Paul doing just the opposite today, "After staying in Antioch some time, Paul left and traveled in orderly sequence through the Galatian country and Phrygia, bringing strenght to all the disciples."

He traveled bringing strength to all the disciples.

What about us?  What do we bring?  What witness do we offer?

JEsus tells us in the gospel, "ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete."

Jesus comes to bring strength to us by giving us his joy and making our joy complete; it is this joy that offers true strength to those we encounter.

We must check the "sour puss" look at home and bear the radiance of Christ.

Friday, May 10, 2013

follow the tracks of the flock

Acts 18:9-18; Ps 47 God is king of all the earth; John 16:20-23

Today we pause to remember Blessed Damien, a belgium priest, who decided he was called to minister to people isolated on a small island in the pacific called Molokai, a leper colony.

He spent  a majority of his life being their shepherd.  Here are few excerpts form letters he had written back to his homeland while ministering to the people of Molokai.

First letter:
"Here I am in the midst of my dear lepers. They are so frightful to see, it is true, but they have souls redeemed at the price of the precious blood of our Divine Savior. He also in his divine charity consoled lepers. If I can not cure them as he did, at least I can console them and by the holy ministry which in his goodnees he has entrusted to me, I hope that many among them, purified from the leprosy of the soul, will present themselves before his tribunal prepared to enter the communion of the blessed."

They are so frightful to see but they have souls redeemed at the price of the precious blood of our Divine Savior...If I cannot cure them at least i can console them...i hope them many of them, purified from leprosy of the soul, will present themselves before his tribunal prepared to enter the communion of the blessed.

How often we run from those who are not attractive?  How often we put distance between ourselves and those who repulse us for whatever reason:social status, hygiene, physical looks, emotional instability?  Yet, here Blessed Damien becomes like Christ who reaches out to those who are hideous on the outside yet his eyes penetrate to the interior and his loving gaze focuses on the state of the soul of each he embraces.  

BLEssed Damien shows us another way; the way of Christ whose gaze always penetrates the surface of things and goes deeper.

Second letter:
"As you know, it has been already quite a while that Divine Providence chose me to become a victim of this repugnant disease of ours. I hope to remain eternally grateful for this grace. It seems to me that this disease will shorten and narrow the way that will lead me to our dear homeland. In that hope accepted this disease as my particular cross; I try to bear it as did Simon of Cyrene, following in the footsteps of our Divine Master. Please assist me with your good prayers, so as to obtain for me the strength of perseverance, until I reach the summit of Calvary."

it seems to me that this disease will shorten and narrow the way that will lead me to our dear homeland.  In that hope I accepted this disease as my particular cross; i try to bear it as did Simon of Cyrene, following the footsteps of our Divine Master.

How often we gripe about sufferings or trials?  How often we complain about this injury or that sickness?  How many times have we refused to embrace the particular cross God has chosen for us on our journey home?  

Rather than carry it, we throw it down and have ourselves a tantrum and begin to pity ourselves. 

Blessed Damien sees in his affliction, his suffering and trial, his disease that will disfigure him, an opportunity to embrace the short and narrow path back home: "this disease will shorten and narrow the way."

What a beautiful perspective!

Yet, all he ask for are prayers for strength and perseverance that he may reach the summit. 

He doesn't look for a way out.  He embraces his cross and merely implores that with assistance of prayer, good prayers, that he might travel on the narrow path laid before him.

Godo prayers are requested.
How often are our prayers superficial and pretty lame?  He wants prayers that matter, prayers that do not seek to eliminate the cross but give strength and encouragement while carrying it.

Good prayers that are not self centered, but always turned toward the will of God and our journey home.

Blessed Damien teaches us much.  MAy we pray for the strength to follow in his footsteps and thus follow in the steps of Christ.  

As The Song of Songs in the OLd Testament remind us, "follow the tracks of the flock" they will lead us to the shepherd.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

LA Fabra prayer for pilgrims

Although I may have travelled all the roads,
crossed mountains and valleys from East to West, 
if I have not discovered the freedom to be myself,
I have arrived nowhere.
Although I may have shared all of my possessions
with people of other languages and cultures;
made friends with Pilgrims of a thousand paths,
or shared albergue with saints and princes,
if I am not capable of forgiving my neighbour tomorrow,
I have arrived nowhere. 
Although I may have carried my pack from beginning to end
and waited for every Pilgrim in need of encouragement, 
or given my bed to one who arrived later than I,
given my bottle of water in exchange for nothing;
if upon returning to my home and work, 
I am not able to create brotherhood
or to make happiness, peace and unity,
I have arrived nowhere.
Although I may have had food and water each day,
and enjoyed a roof and shower every night;
or may have had my injuries well attended,
if I have not discovered in all that the love of God,
I have arrived nowhere.
Although I may have seen all the monuments
and contemplated the best sunsets;
although I may have learned a greeting in every language;
or tried the clean water from every fountain;
if I have not discovered who is the author
of so much free beauty and so much peace,
I have arrived nowhere.
If from today I do not continue walking on your path,
searching for and living according to what I have learned;
if from today I do not see in every person, friend or foe
a companion on the Camino;
if from today I cannot recognize God,
the God of Jesus of Nazareth
as the one God of my life,
I have arrived nowhere

Pope Francis on women and mothers

"God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women.
This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart; if we are open to Him; if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love."

official take off delayed

Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47 God mounts his throne to shouts of joy;a  blare of trumpets for the Lord; Ephesians 1:17-23Mark 16:15-20

Again we find ourselves here at the point in the liturgical year where we actually know for certain a given day on which a particular feast is to be celebrated and yet we postpone the celebration.

We have arrived at 40 days after the resurrection, that time when JEsus takes his disciples to the edge of the word and ascends upward.

Today is the Feast of the Ascension, though liturgically we celebrate it this weekend at all the masses.

Think about Jesus taking the disciples to the edge of the world and ascends.

It kind of makes me think of Buzz Light Year: to infinity and beyond!

Not really!  But I think we all get the point.

JEsus ascends and the disciples get sent.  Jesus fulfills his mission the disciples are empowered to get moving on their mission:  "Go into  the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature."

There it is: plain and simple.  Nothing fancy about this commissioning.

Proclaim to every creature.  Does this mean we talk to animals and trees and rocks?  I would love to evangelize my Cat, it need all the help it can get, in fact there are moments I think it is possessed, demon kitty as it chases its shadows up and down the walls.  I blame it on its orange fur.

Proclaim to every creature.

We are not sent to make christians out of cats and dogs and whales and dolphins, but every creature should experience a change in us because we follow Christ.  Our loyalty to Christ should effect how we deal with animals, plants, and the created world.

We proclaim it by the lifestyle we embrace and living that proceeds from it.

The most meaningful line for me on this day is the last line of the gospel: "they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them..."

There is the meaning of the Ascension.  We do not go alone.  He has ascended so that he is no longer bound by the physicality of his presence.  He is closer to them then he ever was.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Ps 148 Heaven and earth are full of your glory; John 16:12-15

Commotion after commotion followed in the footsteps of St. Paul.  Everywhere he went to preach the gospel message, he encountered opposition.

In each city through the chapter of 17, men stir up trouble to get St. Paul out of town. This is why we encounter Paul with escorts at the beginning of today's reading.  

Paul has found himself in Europe preaching the gospel message.  He has covered a lot of ground.

Now he arrived near mount Olympus, where the great names of ancient greece were held with reverence and their gods were honored.

So many gods, so little time, could easily describe the greeks.  They wanted to make sure they had all of their bases covered, so not only did they have shrines to named and known gods but also to unknown, unnamed gods, just in case they left one out.

As st. Paul states plainly, "You Athenians, I see that in ever respect you are very religious.  For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, "to an Unknown God."

Paul seizing such a golden opportunity, continues, "what therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything.  Rather it is He who gives to everyone life and breath and everything...In him we live, move, and have our being..."

Paul give a beautiful homily on the greatness of God just when he held their attention in the palm of his hands, he blows it.

That's right he blew it.  He blew it because he mentioned the truth.  He mentioned the dreaded word: resurrection, "by raising him from the dead."

Who would have thought the resurrection would be such a deal breaker.

Even today there is opposition.  I encounter people all the time who insist that this world is as good as it gets.  They may romantically think about life beyond the grave , but nothing i their lifestyle suggest it to be a real part of their existence.

There are some who think the resurrection of the dead is far fetched.  It is a made up story or concoction to control people.

There are others who love the idea of an unknown god, unknown gods are a safe bet, no string attached.

But if the resurrection is true, then all of a sudden God becomes  not only known but alive.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.

That is why the greeks were hesitant.  It was one thing to honor gods with shrines and please them with sacrifices and offerings; it is another ballgame to have to listen and be led and please a living God with one's life.

The unknown god is a safe bet; the god os the resurrection isn't so safe.  Things have to change if God has power over death.  Change isn't so comfortable.

What about us?  Do we treat God has if he were alive?  Do we trust in the power of the resurrection?  Does our life reflect the reality of the resurrection?

Does it cause commotion in our life, a God that is a live and God that brings forth resurrection?  It should!

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Acts 15:1-2,22-29; Ps 67 O God, let all the nations praise you!; Revelation 21:10-14,22-23; John 14:23-29

Do not ruin the Surprise!  How often have I heard these words growing up!  My mother would line us children up and tell us, "don't ruin the surprise," when there was a party or gift for someone who was unsuspecting.

The thought was that the suspense and mystery was essential in magnifying the experience of the surprise.

We were told not to ruin the surprise.

How many times have i been told not to ruin the a movie or a book by spilling the beans about how it ends!  We do this all the time.  We don't want the movie or book to be spoiled.  Some how we want the experience of discover not to be trampled upon.

We tell people who watch the movie first or read the book first to keep their lips sealed until after we have had the opportunity to let the story unfold be for us.

The thought is that somehow knowing the end ruins the story, ruins our experience, takes something away, lessing the moment.

Is this true.  Does knowing the end ruin or lessen the experience?

I think not.  In fact, how often have we reread novels or re-watched movies without it ruining the experience.

Many times this revisiting of movies or novels have actually enhanced and enriched my experience.

The plot is more meaningful; the characters take on a new depth of meaning and importance.

Knowing the end keeps everything flowing and puts everything in proper perspective.

This is the same in our spiritual journey.

Knowing the end makes all the difference.

Today we read from the last chapter of the last book of the bible.  John catches a glimpse of heaven and shares it with us.

spoiler alert  indeed!

What we first see as we encounter John's experience is that the holy city comes down from heaven to earth.  Think about that for a moment.

How often when we think of heaven do we think of going up; we imagine ourselves being lifted to some extra terrestrial [;ace where God dwells.  This is not what John reveals.

Heaven comes down to earth.

The fulfillment of our desire is realized in this downward movement of heaven.

How does heaven come to earth?

Look at the gospel for today.  JEsus tells us, "If you love me you will keep my words; if you keep my words my Father and I will come and make our dwelling in you."

God in Christ wants heaven to come down daily in our lives.  This is a gradual and gentle reality that unfolds step by step.   As often as we keep the command of Christ and put is words in to action in our lives, heaven is made realized here and now.

As often as we turn the other cheek, forgive 7 times 70, love our enemies, do good to those who hurt us, bless those who curse us, heaven is made present in our lives.

God does not just dwell upward, out of sight and out of mind, but he dwells in us.  This indwelling of God is what brings heaven to earth in and through our lives.

Knowing the end doesn't ruin the surprise but helps us put all things in proper perspective.  We bring the surprise with us as heed the words of Christ and live out our discipleship daily in what we think, say, and do.

Jesus words put into act in our lives brings about the downward movement of heaven to earth which is our fulfillment.

Knowing the end, keeping the end in mind enhances and enriches our experience of life and love.

Where you are going determines how you will get there.  John does us a great favor.  May we return the favor and allow heaven to come daily in our lives.

Friday, May 3, 2013


1 corinthians 15:1-8; PS 19 their message goes out through all the earth; John 14:6-14

Reminders.  Think about that crazy yet powerful word.  How often have we been reminded of something or someone and in that moment a change took place in us and in our lives.

With our memory newly jogged and brought to a deeper awareness, life takes on new meaning, a new dimension opens wide before us that was previously hidden and out of sight.

Often times, when I look at my calendar in the middle a busy day and see an appt. that is approaching or that is upon me, i am quickly reminded to either wrap things up so that i may  be ready or it reminds me to say no the present offer since I have a previous commitment.

Many times these reminders get me out of bind.

Or sometimes, I get a call and all the other end of the line, I am told they are calling to remind me of something out of courtesy.  THese courtesy calls can be invigorating especially if it s something i am looking forward to be involved in.

Many times I get  invitations or reminders to upcoming engagements, fabricated from some magnetic piece that can be easily placed upon the refrigerator, a posted note to remind me.

My engine light comes on to remind me i need a oil change.

My alarm clock rings to remind me to rise and shine.  The bless on the church ring to remind me about mass or to stop and pray the Angelus.

Where would be without constant reminders?

St. Paul begins the reading for today with these words, "I am reminding you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you stand.  Through it your are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached, unless you believed in vain..."

And what is this gospel: Jesus died for us, for our sins; Jesus was buried; JEsus was raised on the third day; Jesus appeared to Peter and then to the other Apostles and then to Paul himself.

In other words: Jesus is alive and we are alive in Christ.

Here is a reminder we should not forget.  HE is risen and we rise with him daily.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Joseph the worker

Genesis 1:26-2:3; PS 90 Lord, give success to the work of our hands; Matthew 13:54-58

"God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons."   Blessed John Henry Newman 

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in order to Christianize the concept of labor and give to all workmen a model and a protector. By the daily labor in his shop, offered to God with patience and joy, St. Joseph provided for the necessities of his holy spouse and of the Incarnate Son of God, and thus became an example to all laborers. "Workmen and all those laboring in conditions of poverty will have reasons to rejoice rather than grieve, since they have in common with the Holy Family daily preoccupations and cares"(Leo XIII).

Today's reading are striking.  Think about the words of Genesis for a moment.

"God created man in his image; in his divine image he created him; male and female he created them."

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?  It is important to remember that the first commandment of God to Moses and the nation of Israel: "I am the Lord your shall have no other gods beside shall not make for yourself an idol or likeness of anything in the heavens above or earth below or water beneath..."  In other words don't make images of god.  Why?

In short, man himself is already the image of God in his capacity to think, to choose, to be free, to use his intellect, to be creative and such. 

Think about that today. 

Now part of being in the image of God is doing what God does.  According to our first reading God rested on the sabbath from all his work.  "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation."

God rested from all his work.  

All this day of the Feast of Joseph the Worker, it is important to remember not only the necessity of rest but the command to rest, keep holy the sabbath. 

What does out work mean if we never rest?

Especially in today's fast pace reality, rest is essential to life, to a good life.  

We are told to keep the seventh holy.  It is kept holy by imitating God, doing what God does.  He rest.  If the eternal being that is all powerful and all present chooses to rest after his labor of creation, how much more should we enter int o that productive stand still we call rest. 

Jesus rest often in the gospel.  He probably learned from St. Joseph himself.  

As we ponder the work of Joseph's hands at his trade as a carpenter, should we not stop to contemplate his rest, his reprieve from work to better appreciate the holiness of his life.

Here are the words of Pope Francis on this wednesday audience:

"This calls to mind for us the dignity and importance of work. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman by entrusting to them the task of populating the Earth and subjugating it, which does not mean to exploit it, but to cultivate and guard it, to care for it with their own labour (cf. Gen 1:28; 2:15). The work is part of the plan of God's love; we are called to cultivate and safeguard all the goods of creation and in this way we participate in the work of creation! The work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, "anoints" us with dignity, it fills us with dignity; it makes us similar to God, who has worked and works still, He is always acting (cf. Jn 5:17); it gives the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, to contribute to the growth of one's nation...."

The Pope continues...

"in the silence of his daily activity, St. Joseph shared with Mary a single, common focal point of attention: Jesus. They accompany and guard, with dedication and tenderness, the growth of the Son of God made man for us, reflecting on everything that happens. In the Gospels, Luke points out twice the attitude of Mary, which is also that of St. Joseph: "She treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (2:19.51).

To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, to perceive His constant presence in our lives; we have to stop and talk to Him, give Him space with prayer. Every one of us, even you adolescent boys and girls, and young people, so numuerous here this morning, should ask yourselves: how much space do I give the Lord? Do I stop to dialogue with Him? Ever since we were little, our parents have accustomed us to begin and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that the friendship and the love of God accompany us. Let us remember the Lord more often in our days!

And in this month of May, I would like to recall the importance and the beauty of the prayer of the Holy Rosary. Reciting the Hail Mary, we are led to contemplate the mysteries of Jesus, to reflect, that is, on the central moments of his life, so that, as for Mary and for St. Joseph, He may be the center of our thoughts, our attention and our actions. It would be nice if, especially in this month of May, you would pray together as a family, with your friends, in the parish, the Holy Rosary or some prayer to Jesus and the Virgin Mary! Praying together is a precious moment for making family life and friendship even more stable! Let us learn to pray more in the family and as a family!"