Saturday, August 29, 2015

RELGION

Dt 4:1-2,6-8; Ps 15 The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord; James 1:17-18,21-22,27; Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23



We encounter the word "Religion" in today's reading.

St James speaks about religion in today's second reading. The greek term is threskeia, which generally denotes religious acts of worship, which includes rituals and the like. However, James is reminding the people that the rituals and religious acts of worship are meant to change us and transform us.  What we do in worship is meant to affect how we choose to live.

We cannot give proper worship to God unless we are willing to be led by God and be transformed by the worship we participate.

For James that transformation means that we are concerned with the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. We are obligated to seek them out and be attentive to their needs.  For James this group included the widows and the orphans.  As we worship God and God comes to fill our life then we are being empowered to reach out to those in need.

Thus our worship is no longer just something we do in the temple or church building but becomes a part of our daily life.  In thus manner we are able to pray always without ceasing because our life has become that prayer to God as we serve and offer ourselves.

James also tells us that "if anyone thinks he is religious, an does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is in vain."

Not only are we ask to let our actions show our true devotion to God.  But also our words must reveal a devoted heart as well.  St Paul tells us that we should day only the good things men need to hear so that it may impart grace to those who hear it (Ephesians 4:29).


True worship  must be seen  both in the words we speak and the actions we live daily.

The external ritual of worship should transform us internally so that externally we reveal to the world the God of love.

How we live our religion is evidence to the world that God is alive as Moses points out in today's first reading.  We can't free lance what we believe but rather hold firm to what God has revealed.

Why do so few people believe in Jesus and God our father?  Perhaps it is because we has christians do not live as we should.

It is not God who is lacking in revealing himself but rather us who are lacking in giving evidence of what we believe.


Just as we are started to find life where we least expect it so people should be startle to discover that God is alive by the choices we make and the life we live.


Friday, August 28, 2015

JUST IN CASE

1 thessalonians 4:1-8; Ps 97 Rejoice in the Lord, you just; Matt 25:1-13

Today we celebrate the memorial of St Augustine, doctor of the church.

We hear the exhortation of St Paul in today's first reading, "This is the will of God, you holiness..."

What does it look like to be holy?

In the gospel we have the parable of the ten virgins awaiting the return of the bridegroom.  Five brought extra oil just in case and the other five did not.  Five were foolish and were left out of the banquet standing in the dark with no party to be had while the other five danced the night away.


First the gospel.  God arrives in unexpected moments and in unexpected times and ways.  Just when we think no one was watching, here he comes.  Just when think we its too late here he arrives.

As christians we need the mentality of Just in case.  That is we should be prepared and always attentive to our surroundings and to the people we meet along the way.  Just in case God makes an appearance or showing.  We need to be ready for the unexpected.  Be prepared and alert.

This isn't so much about external preparations as it is about internal preparations.  We need to be always anticipating the arrival of God who comes as guest.  We need to be inwardly prepared.

St Paul invites us to be holy this is exactly what he is saying.  Holiness is the obedience that puts us at God's disposal whenever he calls.

Holiness is about being the best version of ourselves as we were created to be not as secular society would invite us to be.

We can't understand holiness by watching TV sitcoms or looking toward hollywood.  We can only be truly our best version by going to the source of life itself.  We look to the bible and the teachings of the Church.  They remain very relevant if we are going to be th best version of ourselves daily that is holiness.

Here are a few words form St Augustine, doctor of the church.

"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."

"Since we can not do good to all, all at once; then we need to pay attention to the the one that represents the all that is nearest us at any given moment."

If we love one then we love all.  If we neglect one then we neglect all. At least this is my take on these words.

"Pride changed angels into devils; humility makes men as angels."

"Since love grows with in you, so beauty grows.  For love is the beauty of the soul."

"There is not one who does not love something, but the question is, what to love.  We must choose the object of our love.  But how can we choose unless we are first chosen?  We cannot love unless someone has loved us first.  We love Him, because he has first loved us.  The source of Man's love for God can only be found in the fact that God loved him first."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

SPIRITUAL AUDIT

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13; Ps 90 Fill us with your love O LOrd, and we will sing for joy; Matt 24:42-51

St Paul is inviting us to take on a  spiritual audit in our life as we read his letter to the community of Thessalonians.

"Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith."

My experience is most people think they are just fine in the area of faith and faithfulness.  We all think we are beyond reproach in this aspect of our life and we are all mistaken.

There is deficiencies in our life of faith.  Do we know where they are?  Have we investigated?  Do we take a spiritual inventory of our life, an accounting of sorts to better know where we are lacking?

Unless we are aware of our deficiencies then we will be hard pressed to find the remedies.

Then St Paul acknowledges two areas of deficiencies that is common in all of our lives as disciples.

First, "may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…"

Love can never be static.  True charity either grows and deepens or it diminishes.  We must spiritually mature daily and the first place or measure of that maturity is the love we offer for one another and for all.

Secondly, the coming of Christ will be the final measure of all human activity.  Jesus will return as judge.  The early christians community in the 1st century was losing their sense of urgency.  They had lost sight of Jesus' return.

Even now centuries later, the coming of Jesus seems increasingly remote yet we must sustain a sense of urgency in this regard.  The urgency of Christ' return must become a vital element of healthy spirituality of the disciple.

We must be alert.  As Jesus tells us in the gospel, "stay awake."  Vigilance and alertness should build a sense of Urgency that keeps the fire burning and keeps us moving forward in a dynamic away in regards to faith and love.

This urgency should help us be attentive to Jesus' presence daily in the quiet ways he comes in to our life.   This urgency as pointed out in the gospel is meant to encourage us to share our time and talent in such way that we nourish other members of our community.

"Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so."  We all have received gifts.  We must distribute those gifts for the benefit of others.

Do a spiritual audit today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

DAILY EXAMEN



1 Thessalonains 2:9-13; Ps 139 You have searched me and you know me, Lord; Matthew 23:27-32

"Woe to you scribes and pharisees, you hypocrites..."

Hypocrisy is everywhere.  We live it, breathe it, and build lives upon it. 

Hypocrisy is when we say one thing and knowingly do something else in an attempt to deceive ourselves, our loved ones, our coworkers, our friends. 

There must be a degree of knowledge if hypocrisy is what it is. 

We all deal with on a small scale.  Every time we profess our faith in Christ and yet find ourselves giving in to temptation or vice we find ourselves in the deep stuff.  We find ourselves being hypocritical to some degree but that is only if we refuse to do something about it.  

If we seek to make a change. If we seek repentance and God's mercy.  IF we seek to make amends and hold ourselves accountable then we aren't being hypocritical rather weak and wounded men who know we are in need of Christ strength as we journey back to the Father. 

Hypocrites are different. They know they are doing wrong and they refuse to hold themselves accountable or change.  This latter version is what Jesus is referring us to be on the look out in our life. 

How do we do that?  How do we keep a finger on the pulse of that hypocrisy that he recognizes in the scribes and pharisees that could easily flare up in us?


This is where St Ignatius of Loyola daily examen comes in to play in our life.


The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. 

 It consists of five steps:

1.  Place yourself in God's presence. Give thanks for God's great love for you.  
2.Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life. 
3.Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time. 
4.Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to God, or further away? 
5. Look toward tomorrow — think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God's plan. Be specific, and conclude with the "Our Father."

We can keep our hypocritical nature in check as we allow God's grace to perfect us each step of the way. 


Saturday, August 22, 2015

HARD SAYING

Joshua 24:1-2,15-17,18; Ps 34 Taste and see the goodness of the Lord; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

"Many disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it."

What is the saying that is so hard?  Jesus said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just a the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me."

This is a hard saying; who can accept it.

"Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you?  What f you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life."

"as a result of this many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him."

Notice it is the disciples that walk away.  These are folks who have been intimate with Jesus. They have followed him.  They have witnessed the signs and the miracles. They have eaten with him and journeyed with him. These are not strangers.  These are companions.  Yet, they walk away.

From the beginning the Eucharist has been divisive.  The Eucharist is the line in the sand.  It has become that teaching that separates who we want God to be and how we want God to act from who God reveals himself to be and how he chooses to act.

These murmurs have run down from generation to generation down the centuries.
The bottom line is do we receive Jesus on his terms or do we keep wanting God to meet us on our terms!

The fact that many left Jesus reveals one of the saddest realities of all history.  We want God to be great and far away; we want him to manifest himself according to our desires and our wishes.  We do not want him so near as food.  We do not want him small and humbling himself as he chooses to come to us in the Eucharist.


"Jesus then said to the twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

Notice Jesus doesn't run after the disciples and say, hold on I think you misunderstood me.  He didn't say that he was only speaking figuratively or metaphorically or symbolically as some would suggest.  Jesus never softens his words but rather he intensifies them, "Do you also want to leave?"

At some point we have to accept that somethings we do not fully understand yet we hold onto them because Jesus is the one who gives them to us.  As simon Peter points out below.

"Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  W have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Jesus' words are transformative because his word is the divine word spoken to us.  How often do we see the word of God in action through Jesus transforming reality!

He speaks to the little girl who has died and she rises.  He speaks to Lazarus from the grave and the dead man walks out.  He speaks to the lame and they walk, the blind and they see.  He speaks to the hemorrhaging woman and her sickness is dried up.  He speaks over the five loaves and two fish and 5000 are fed. With a word he calms the storm and the sea.

Jesus' word has transformative power.  He speaks over bread and wine at the last supper and they become his real presence to us on our journey: his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink.

What is going on here.  Two words come to mind: Tran-substantiation and Tran-signification

Tran-signification: is that in which something takes on a change in meaning or a change in use.  For example a piece of cloth  becomes a national flag.  IT is a symbol of a nation.  Because of its new meaning and use it affects a change in the people: we talk our hat off and we salute it and cover our hand over your hearts when it is raised.  It will be put in a museum and it will carry with it all the history of that period and time.  It remains a cloth though its meaning is changed because people agree to its change and significance.  The power and significance depends on the agreement of the people and the governing body.  It is the people's acceptance that give it meaning.  We give cloth as flag meaning because of our yes to it.  If we no longer give acceptance to its meaning then it goes back to being a cloth.

Tran-substantiation-This is different than the above. Transubstantiation is what we use to describe the reality of the Eucharist, the bread and wine be transformed in to the real presence of Jesus in our midst.  The Lord takes possession of the bread and wine; He lifts them up out of their normal existence into a new order that is profoundly different; Where the lord lays his hand something new comes about; transformation is real and total.  This is not a mere change in use or change in meaning but a change in reality itself.  The cloth that becomes a flag depends on functionality.  The Eucharist is not a function.  It does not depend on convention or agreement by the people in which we choose to accept or reject it.  Our acceptance of it does not change its reality.

The Eucharist is because of God's yes regardless of our yes or no to what he gives.
This is the Eucharist Jesus lays out for us in John chapter 6.

Does this shock Us?  Do we also want to leave?  Jesus has drawn the line in the sand.  Belief must bow to him. Belief is always directed toward what is most real.  We may not understand it fully.  But we have an obligation to receive it because of him who gives it.

The Eucharist is the tipping point for all believers.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

BARGAIN SHOPPERS BEWARE

Matt 22:1-14; PS 40 Here I am Lord, I come to do your will; Judges 11:29-39

Toda is the feast day of St Bernard of Clairvaux

Here are a few words of insight from this doctor of the church

"There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity.
There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity.
There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love."

"What we love we shall grow to resemble."

Just a few thoughts about our readings for today.

Our first reading is tragic.  There is no way around it.  We have a Father who makes an oath to the Lord that ultimately cost him his daughter's life. 

It points to two realities in life.  God can be served generously and badly.  If it is badly then it should not be done at all.  Morally bad promises are never pleasing to God. 

Secondly, bargaining with God is unhealthy.  It is not part of the healthy and vibrant relationship God wants to have with us.  Many times these bargains, like the one in the story for today, is made out of pride.  Pride is never a place from which we should seek answers to life's problems.  Humility is the ground of all virtue.   

The reading should be appalling. It should strike a chord in us. 
Does God demand that we fulfill every promise?  God demands that every promise we make should be tempered by humility and true charity.  It is charity that covers a multitude of sins not pride. 

Secondly we get to the gospel and what we discover is a truth about the human heart.  There are fifty ways to say "no" to God.  The human heart is skilled in finding ways to avoid the demands that force us to change in regards to our comfort and lifestyle. 

Avoidance we are really good at. 

What of the guest with out the proper garment?  Many fathers of the church point to the fact it wasn't so much his outer garments but rather his inner garment of gratitude that was missing.  Gratitude shows itself externally.  

Others bible scholars suggest that the guest would have been given a garment to wear at the front door.  The king wold have provided garments for every one, almost like those restaurants that demand a coat to be worn but provide them if a guest is without.  It would have been the same in the first century.  If someone invited you to a party then they would had provided the proper attire as well. 

Thus, the guest's refusal to put on what was provided points to a certain stubbornness and pride of life that eventually got him kicked out of the celebration and bound and thrown into darkness.

But needless to say ungrateful guest are always on God's radar. Ingratitude always points to resistance to God's grace offered to us daily. 

God gives.  We are invited to cooperate.  Both together equate to fullness of life and joy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

JUST WAGE

Judges 9:6-15; Ps 21 Lord, in your strength the king is glad; Matt 20:1-16

Before we reflect on the readings here are a few words from St John Eudes

"Jesus belongs to you, but more than that, he longs to be in you, living and ruling in you, as the head lives and rules in the body.  He desires that whatever is in him may live and rule in you: his breath, his heart in your heart, all the faculties of his soul in the faculties of your soul, so that these words may be fulfilled in you: Glorify God and bear him in your body, that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in you."

We look at  story told of the tree looking for leader in today's first reading.  It is worth mediating on.  It offers a unique insight into what makes a good leader, in so far as, what is demanded of the leader who is chosen.

In each of the chosen trees, "olive, fig, grapevine" in order for them to be rulers of the other trees they would first have to give up their own identity, renounce themselves so that they might be completely dedicated to the care and concern of all the rest.  None of the trees were willing to do so.  None were willing to denounce themselves for the good of all the rest, but isn't this exactly what we expect in a true leader.  Isn't this what we see in Christ himself!

But ultimate all human leadership is going to have its limitations.  It is in the experience of this limitations that should ultimately direct our attention to our God  that we might beg strength and wisdom from him.

The gospel we are asked to meditate on also illicit a variety of responses.  Some love it and other are deeply bothered by it.  The parable is that of the landowner who goes out hire laborers for his vineyard.  He goes out and grabs workers throughout the day and upon hiring them he agrees to pay them a just wage.  

In the end when it is time to get paid, those who were hired first begin to be angered over the fact that the last to be hired, those who worked only part of the day, get paid the same amount as those who began early in the morning.

Grumbling ensues and entitlement takes over.  This sounds too familiar to our current state of affair.

The bottom line is that God is ultimately the one who determines what true justice is all about.  Can we really legitimately complain about the justice of God?  Who are we to demand our own sense of justice to met by him?  After all, how often does our own sense of entitlement negatively affect our sense of justice as to what is owed to us?

God wants to save us from this false assumption that we know what is best for ourselves.  The truth is we do not know what his best for ourselves.  Original sin has colored our own sense of value and worth.  We might error in this regard.

God cannot error.  Should we not bow to his justice gladly.

"Are you envious because I am generous?"

In deed these are the words that should be ringing in out ears as we meditate on this passage.  Time and time again we let our own sense of generosity lessen the generous nature of God.

Should we not rather pray that we are set free from our own notion of justice and truly surrender to His, a justice that is most perfectly manifested on the cross on calvary.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

O CHAMPION

Judges 6:11-24a; Psalm 85 The Lord speaks of peace to his people; Matthew 19:23-30

We have turned our attention to the book of Judges.  Moses has died.  Joshua has died.  Now the people are tending to themselves, and as we might imagine, this is a dangerous thing.  In the absence of leadership things do not go so well.

There is a pattern in the life of the nation Israel as we encounter it in the book of Judges.  The people turn away from God, then they get in to trouble, then they cry out to God for help as they ask for forgiveness, then  God sends a judge to lead then forth and they are restored.  Then they are faithful for a time.  And soon they turn away from God and the cycle continues.


Today we encounter the calling of Gideon.  This is one of my favorite stories in the bible.
Gideon is approached by the angel of the Lord with these words, "The LORD is with you, O champion."  How is that for a greeting!

God is already recognizing Gideon's worth though Gideon himself does not see it in himself.  This certainly affirms what we know about God how he will equip those he calls.

But I love Gideon's response, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?"

There is a lot of meaning in that line.  How often we find ourselves looking at the mess of life and ask the same question, "Lord, if you are here then why all of this?"  Why does this stuff we do not like keep entering our life?  If you are here Lord, then couldn't you save us from ourselves?

Many time the mess of life can be overwhelming and can leave us a bit discouraged.  Yet the truth of the angel is not lessen because of our experience of life.
God is with us.  He is true to his word.

But sometimes we are not with him.  Sometimes we leave God.  This is certainly the case for the Israelites time and time again.


God gives us freedom and he gives us room to exercise that freedom.  Sometimes we use it selfishly and it causes a mess.

What is God's response to Gideon

"Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian."

Go with what you Got and God is promising to provide what is lacking.  Again, these are encouraging words.  God sees strength in us that we do not see ourselves.  God promises to provide where we are lacking if we just follow his lead and his will.

Is there anything more encouraging for us then this?

Yet, Gideon still hesitates. "My family is the lowest and I am the most insignificant in my father's house."  Lord, why do you keep picking on me, can't you see that I am nothing.  I have no skill.  I am not highly favored.


Our often do we let our own lowly estimation of ourselves interfere with God's high regard for us as he calls us forth.

There is a champion in all of us.  If we use the strength we have God will provide where we are lacking.

God never quits on Gideon.  God is very patient.  The lowest becomes exalted.



Saturday, August 15, 2015

DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE

I write this post with a heavy heart.  I know it must be said.  Some times some things need to be said and said and said again.

Depression effects many people in our society: doctors, lawyers, moms, dads, neighbors, church members and the list is long.  Every one is a possible victim.  Depression effects 1 in 10 people in their lifetime.  Suicide occurs 1 every 13 minutes or approximately 40,000 lives each year.

Depression is a sickness, an illness, a disease.  Those who experience it are often too bruised to touch and wounded in such deep ways we can't comprehend or even begin to offer help that can heal.

It is a drowning on the inside where one's energy is exhausted over time and a deep fog replaces clarity and good judgment.

It is an emotional cancer or emotional stroke for lack of better description that cripples the person, distorts their reality, their memory and changes their personality.  The victim of depression is often trapped inside themselves and we can't reach in and they can't reach out.

Our best efforts and their best efforts often equate to helplessness on both ends.

If they could make themselves feel different or feel better they would.  But they can't.  There are variety of factors that cause depression.  It is still so much we do not know.  It can be biochemical; it can be emotional; it can physical or even spiritual.  It can be one event or an accumulation of many.

It may not necessarily be one moment or one event that triggers a depression.  We are often on the outside looking in as a loved one battles depression.  One writer suggest that depression is like a civil war with in oneself.

Depression can lead to a variety of behaviors: hopelessness, isolation, withdrawal, loss of interest in activities usually embraced, thoughts of suicide or taking one's life and many other things. Again it is important to remember depression is not a matter of just making oneself feel better or pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps.

It is a decease, a sickness, an illness that cripples the normal health functions that we take for granted on a regular basis.  It is a void.  It is an absence sometimes of any feelings whatsoever.

When Depression leads to suicide it is devastating. It leaves us with more questions than answers.  The family is often second guessing themselves and their actions.  We are left with questions as to where did we fail? Why did it happen?  Couldn't I have done more?  Where was God?

There is guilt, confusion, anger and even anxiety of faith that accompanies the loved ones who are left behind.

Just as depression cheats the victim of their memories of life and love shared so too it wants to cheat the surviving family members of their memories of life and loved shared with the loved one as well.  We can not let the actions of depression whether it be suicide or other actions, distort the truth of who the person was and who we were with them.

We have to continually redeem the memory of our loved one.

When it comes to suicide and depression, it is often hushed and not talked about.  It is the ultimate taboo.  But the Christian response is not so.

First we should not treat with horror or fear especially in regards to the victims eternal salvation.  If we, in our finite minds can begin to grasp in small ways Depression and its effects, how much more can God who is infinite in his understanding reach into the darkness and intuit the deepest motivations of the heart.  God sent Jesus who came for the sick.  Depression is a sickness.  God's redeeming love is far greater than we can ever fully comprehend.

The victim of depression and suicide is inside God's embrace.  They are enjoying a freedom that was stolen from them because of the sickness, a freedom they wrestled with throughout the sickness.  The victims are being healed by a touch they could not, for whatever reason, experience in the here and now.

On easter Saturday, we commemorate the death of Jesus who as we recite in the Apostles creed, descends into hell.  There is no place Jesus' love and mercy cannot penetrate.  He comes for the lost and the forsaken.

If our hopes in christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitable of men, as St Paul tells us.  Even in depression and suicide, hope remains for Christ remains steadfast to his word of promise.

Where we are helpless and where the victim is helpless, God is not.  Just as Jesus walks through the locked door in the upper room and breathes his peace to the apostles who are scared and filled with anxiety so Jesus breathes his healing peace to the tortured and crippled souls of those victimized by depression and suicide.

Secondly, we should not speculate as to what caused the depression.  Too often in small communities especially but in all communities, after a tragic event such a suicide, community members whisper behind the backs of families and speculate as to the cause of the depression and suicide.  The truth is we do not know what causes it completely.  There are too many factors to try to comprehend.  Speculation and whispering is not healthy for the community, to the families dealing with the depression or the suicide, to ourselves as well.  Our judgments are all to often wrong and miscalculated.

We should pray for them.  We should pray for their healing and their strength as they process the events that have entered their life like an avalanche.  We should talk about these things openly and grow in our own understanding of depression as a sickness and how to recognize the signs. We should be advocates for change and hope and never just gossip.  Gossip never helps anyone.

We should express our sorrows but never think we fully understand what the family is going through. We should practice the art of love: patience and kindness and compassion.  We love them.  We pray for them.  We are compassionate with them, as StPaul says we weep with those who weep. We find ways to help bear the burden until healing is realized.

Together hand in hand we go through this fog of confusion and hurt and pain.  Each day we beg Him who said He is the light of the world to shed some light for us.




Friday, August 14, 2015

WHAT"S THAT YOU SAY

Joshua 24:1-13; Ps 136 His mercy endures forever; Matt 19:3-12


First things first.  Today is the feast of St Kolbe, a priest who died in a Auschwitz when he chose to take the place of a prisoner who asked for mercy and to be spared for the sake of his wife and children.

Hear are a few quotes by St Kolbe for meditation on this friday on the eve of the Feast of The Assumption of the Blessed Mother into Heaven.

Kolbe was canonized as saint by Pope John Paul II in 1982. Below are ten of his quotes.
1. No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hetacombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?
2. [Jesus] remains among us until the end of the world. He dwells on so many altars, though so often offended and profaned.
3. The most deadly poison of our time is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise him to the greatest extent of our powers.
4. A single act of love makes the soul return to life.
5. The Cross is the school of love.
6. Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving...Without sacrifice there is no love.
7. For a book from which to learn how to grow in the love of God, there is no better book than Jesus Christ crucified.
8. If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.
9. Courage, my sons. Don't you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. [Said when he was first arrested.]
10. For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.
Now for today's readings. 

Joshua in the first reading is giving his farewell.  Soon the leadership of the nation of Israel will be handed over to "judges" whom God will sent to continually redirect the people on the right path.  But until then, Joshua wants to remind the people of Israel what actually happened in their past, in their history. 

The the main theme through out the history of Israel is one simple thing, "Thus says the LORD, I brought you…"  This is the common theme throughout this passage and through out the life of Israel.  God is personally active in the unfolding of their lives.  In fact the entire history of Israel is a gift as God clearly points out through Joshua, "I gave you…"
St Paul will reiterate this same sentiment in one of his letters when he states, "name one thing you do not have that is not a gift."  Life is a gift.  History unfolds with God being actively involved.  We may not always like how it unfolds.  God does restrain himself at times since he gives us freedom.  There is much pain and hurt that is caused not by him directly but our own undoing, yet he remains with us to guide us and see us through. 
Even God's permissive will is a gift for us that we might be fully engaged in all freedom to move ourselves along his path of righteousness. 

In the Gospel, we encounter that familiar teaching on marriage, which makes many cringe with guilt and others glad with jubilation. 

First, it is clear that marriage as Jesus sees it is meant to between a man and a woman, "Have you not read from the beginning he created them, male and female and said for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one? So they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate."

"Whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."
In our society where we want marriage to be whatever we desire it to be it is good to go back to the beginning and look again at God's purpose and plan for marriage between a man and a wife.  The original context that Jesus directs us to is the garden of Eden, a time before original sin entered the world.  This then becomes the paradigm for understanding the purpose of marriage even here and now admist the effects of original sin and the distortion that has accompanied that sin which we see on a regular basis, particularly on the desire to redefine marriage, as our supreme court mistakenly thought it had the authority to do so.  
From the beginning is where we must begin, not from our current misunderstandings and perverse views.
Secondly, Jesus quotes Genesis in the fact that "what God has joined let no man separate."
This can be looked at in several ways.  First, God is the one who has joined male and female together in the bond of marriage and thus it is to him we look for a deeper insight about marriage not supreme court judges and senators and congressman or even presidents.  
The other way is that not all marriages between man and woman is ordained by God.  There are many who get married for all the wrong reasons.  It is not binding because of these flawed reasons and motivations that drove them to marriage in the first place, as we hear Jesus say, "unless the marriage is unlawful." 
This unlawful marriage could be considered so for several reasons.  This is where the law of the Church in regards to annulments comes in.  There is a process to investigate the intent and motivation of a couple in getting marriage so that justice could ultimately be served.  Marriage is serious business.  The church is cautious in pronouncing annulments, nonetheless, it does recognize the fact that sometimes men and women get married for the wrong reasons and their attempt at marriage is an invalid one because of these reasons or impediments. 
The process of Annulment is meant to be a healing process.  It is meant to give the man or wife or both an opportunity to look back to see more clearly what marriage means and how to move forward.  
It is also important to remember it takes two to get married. Sometimes, one party is completely involved in the marriage with good intentions while the other is not.  
It can be a hairy business at time.  Having journeyed with couples seeking annulments, having journeyed with couples trying to stay married and not get divorced, it is not often as clear as the written word makes it.  Much grace is required for the unfolding of God's plan and purpose for individual couples to be made manifest.
None the less, we continually hold firm to our foundation as Jesus presents it.  The marriage is considered valid until proven otherwise.  Sometime it is obviously wrong.  Sometimes not so obvious.  Yet, we do make mistakes.  God is merciful.  God forgives and heals that we might have life and have it to its full and joy abundant in this life as we continue to walk with him. 






Thursday, August 13, 2015

LIMITS

Joshua 3:7-17; PS 114 Alleluia; Matt 18:21-19:1


Several things to reflect on front his mornings readings.

The title given to God by Joshua in our first reading is striking, "The LORD of the whole earth."

Think about that title as yo drive around today.  As you go from place to place as your eyes scan the horizon or stand in awe of the beauty that unfolds before you repeat that phrase that stands as the title of God for Joshua and the Israelites, "The LORD of the whole earth."

All that we see and all that we experience in life is under the providential care of God. It should change how we receive the gift of this planet and how we mange it and embrace it.  St Francis understood this more than anyone.

Pope Francis brings this to mind in his Encyclical when he states the following, "the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God's creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet."

He goes on to state,"If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.  By contras, if we feel intimately united with all that exist, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously…"

Nature is a magnificent book in which god speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.  The Lord of the whole earth, in deed.

Secondly, our psalm refrain of this morning is "Alleluia."  It represents the essence of communal life which is communal praise to God.  Alleluia simply means, "praise God."  As we look around and behold the world and all that it contains, we have been given plenty to initiate praise in our hearts for God.  Alleluia should be continually pressed upon our lips and more importantly set the tone for how we live with and for one another.

Lastly, as we turn toward the gospel for today. Peter, once again the spokesman for the twelve, wants to explore the limits of patience, charity and forgiveness.  Like all of us, we wonder when can we say enough is enough.

Jesus reminds us that our life must mirror the life and action of God who shows us unlimited forgiveness, patience and love.  Yet, for love to be genuine it can never enable bad behavior.  God continually desires our conversion.  His love and forgiveness unlimitedly offered is always for the purpose of helping us become the best version of our selves.

Enabling is never part of the equation.

The one verse in todays gospel that is always striking to me is the following, "Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair."

The fellow servants, the other members of the community, observing misbehavior did not stand idly by and turn a blind eye and just let it happened.  No!  They immediately did something about it.  They went to the proper authority to make sure bad behavior was dealt with so as to ensure peace and harmony for the whole.  Too often we turn a blind eye and do nothing.   This is never what God ask of us in Christ.  We too must be willingly to speak up against harmful actions and hurtful realities.

Forgiveness and patience and charity never just let evil happen.  It involves the courage to recognize in order to bring about the possibility of conversion for the betterment of the whole.

Pax et Bonum

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

CHILDREN AS LEADERS

Dt 31:1-8; Ps Dt 32:3-4,7-9,12; Mt 18:1-5,10,12-14

We continue to follow the book of Deuteronomy as Moses prepares the people to enter into the Promised Land, their inheritance and heritage.

Moses is winding down his career.  He is letting go of control.  He is allowing another to take his place.

This in itself is a necessary quality of a good leader; someone who is willing and ready to let another take over.  This attitude of Moses is the same characteristic attitude he invites both the Israelites and Joshua to embrace as they move forward, "be brave and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you."

This is quite the gift that Moses is leaving with the people.  He is the brave and steadfast one who entrust everything to God's providential leadership.

Too often in society, we have men and women alike who hang on to leadership roles too long.  They refuse to recognize the good leadership qualities in others and turn over the reins.  This usually leads to disgruntle followers and leaders alike.

Moses identifies that is was his time to take a step back in order for god to continue to move his people forward.

We should all pray for that gift.

In the gospel we hear these familiar words, 'unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me."

Children seem to be the one common teaching tool through out Jesus' ministry.  Of all the examples and analogies and symbols that he incorporates in his teaching pedagogy, it is the use of children that reverberates with all of us.  We are all aware of children.  We see them.  We interact with them.  We are around them.  How often is  God speaking to us through them on a regularly basis, if only we listen attentively.

"I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."  What a beautiful image to ponder.  What a beautiful reality to embrace.  Each child has an angel looking upon the face of the Father in heaven as their way of watching out for them.  God is always in tuned with the child.  They are forever in his sight, beneath his loving gaze.

We too are children.  We too are little ones.  We too live beneath the loving gaze of the Father who is attentive to us and our needs.

What makes a child unique to be classified as the greatest in the Kingdom?  Several things come to mind:dependence, curiosity, open to learning, and among other things an absence of false pretense.

This last one is important for us who are adults.  With children what you see is what you get.  Oh how i wish it were so with adults.  Too many false pretenses cloud our ability to love and be loved.

Lastly, Jesus reminds us that our duty is to always be on the look out for those who have gone astray.  We should seek out those who have left the values of the kingdom and gone astray.  Not that we are judgmental but always inviting and offering them to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Friday, August 7, 2015

OBVIOUS HINDSIGHT

Deuteronomy 4:32-40; Ps 77 I remember the deeds of the Lord; Matt 16:24-28


Moses in today's passage from the book of Deuteronomy asks the people to look backwards in order to appreciate the unique actions of God on their behalf.

They say, we say hindsight is fifty fifty.  This simply means that which should have been obvious all along isn't fully realized until after the fact.

The obvious reality is often overlooked by us.  We live life forward but understand it backwards.

This is often the truth in our relationship with God.  He reveals himself in obvious ways and yet we overlook them.  We need, like the Israelites, to look backwards in order to understand what he was doing in our life and how he was leading us forward.

Ps 77 says it best "through the sea was your way; your path, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen."

Though your footsteps were unseen.  Sometimes when it comes to catching a glimpse of God working in our life, we need to do a double take.

We need to look again in order to appreciate his unique actions in our life.

Every prayer should include a look backward and a litany of gratitude as we spy the unseen footprints of God leading us forth, like he led the Israelites from Egypt into the wilderness into the promised land.

Lastly, we hear once again this words from Jesus, For whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…"

So often in our life we focus on losing our life but we forget the other half of the equation, "finding it."

It is in giving our life for Christ, for his sake, that we discover who we are, our worth, our value, our purpose, the beauty he has created us for.

In losing our life for Christ sake we will never be diminished but rather magnified.  This is how we now it is true and authentic and what God wants from us in life.  Joy should abut where lose is embraced for his sake and true discover awaits.



Thursday, August 6, 2015

TRANSFIGURE

Daniel 7:9-10,13-14; Ps 97 The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth;  2 Peter 1:16-19; Mark 9:2-10

It has been said that the destiny of every Christian is written between two mountains: from Calvary to the mountain of the Transfiguration. 

In fact , it is the reality of Calvary that is the foundation of the unfolding events of Tabor.  Jesus charges the disciples not to relate what they had seen except when the son of man rises from the dead.  Calvary first then Tabor.  Passion and death and resurrection then transfiguration.  

The Transfiguration is a celebration of the presence of Christ which takes charge of everything in us and transfigures even that which disturbs us about ourselves. 

What disturbs us about ourselves?  What do we try to hide and keep buried?  What do we not let exposed to the light?

God penetrates those hardened, incredulous, even disquieting regions within us, about which we really do not know what to do. God penetrates them with the life of the Spirit and acts upon those regions and gives them his own face.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

CHANNEL YOUR INNER CALEB

Numbers 13:1-2,25-14:1,26-29,34-35; Psalm 106 Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people; Matt 15:21-28

"Caleb, however, to quiet the people toward Moses, said, "we ought to go up and seize the land, for we can certainly do so."

Backdrop to the above story line.  The LORD asked Moses to send men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan, which he was giving the children of Israel."

They were sent to examine and explore the gift God was laying at their feet.  This was the promise being fulfilled.  The people have seen God act time and time again in their favor.  They had no reason to doubt.  They have had countless moments of victory with God leading the way.

They had journeyed through the wilderness and had been fed for forty years with Mana.  God had been true to his word.

Now on the verge of receiving the gift and entering into the promise, they bulk and hesitate.  They let the discouraging reports spread by a few to dismay them.

Caleb was the only voice of reason.  Caleb was the one voice of faithfulness a midst cries of doubt and discouragement.  The people refused to heed the cry of hope and gave in to the talk and gossip of discontent and doubt.

How often is this us in our life?  How often do we overlook the voice of reason and hope and let the cries of discontent and doubt take over our life?

How often do we refuse to be the voice of reason and faith and hope in the lives of others?  How often do we choose the settle down with doubt leading the way?

How often do we let the "reels" in our head play the song of doubt and discontent?  How often do we let the darkness choose the rhythm by which our life unfolds rather than heed the song of hope that is been set forth by the LORD himself?

We need to channel our inner Caleb in our life!

How often do we forget, like the psalm reminds us, forget the "God who had saved them, who had done great deeds..."

Faith is often connected to our ability to remember and to call on the reserve of our memory to light the path forward.  This is why Jesus asked us at the Last supper, to "do this in remembrance of" him.

It is the one good memory that is meant to fuel our faith and hope a midst lives doubt and confusion.  It is meant to help us heed the call of hope in our life and to be the voice of reason and hope for others.  We too often live as if we have no memory of God's action and the mass brings to real life that experience of God's saving action.

This is why it is so important to celebrate the Mass; for on the altar we are reminded time and time of again that hope is the very foundation of our life and love.

We ought to be a voice of hope and faith because we can certainly do so, not because of our own talents but because we remember what God has done, what he will do, what he continually does daily.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ST 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."
St. 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.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Has not God in fact won for himself a claim on all our love? 

This a question posed by St Alphonsus whose feast is today.  I thought it a good question to ponder.