July 22, 2017 – Saturday in the 15th Week of the Church Year

Feast & Saint for the day: Mary Magdalene (died c. 63)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Song of Songs 3:1-4b or 2 Cor 5:14-17; Psalm 63; John 20:1-2, 11-18

“Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.” (Today’s Responsorial verse.)

 For Moses the “Glory of the Lord” was perceived in the burning bush and, later by the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” by night as the Israelites were on their journey to the Promised Land. For St. Mary Magdalene it was “Resurrection Glory” that so covered Jesus making it difficult for her to recognize Him. Two very different kinds of “Glory” that can make it difficult for some of us to see and recognize Jesus – or the presence of God – when He’s right in front of us. For Mary Magdalene the turning point was when she was called by name. That was the thing that pulled her out of her sorrow and loss and prompted her to grab on to Jesus in order to keep His presence near. There’s an old “Gospel Hymn” floating through my mind right now: I heard the Lord, call my name listen close, you’ll hear the same.” If we listen closely – like Mary Magdalene – we’ll find out that the calling of our name is what sends us out as Apostles. Remember, the word, “Apostle” means “One who is sent [out].” Mary Magdalene is given the honor of being the “Apostle to the Apostles” – the first “preacher” of the Resurrection. That’s why she is the patroness of the Dominican Order – the “Order of Preachers.” How did she acquire this title? From her “perfect love” that casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18) But it wasn’t the kind of love that you hold on to – just for yourself – but, rather, a kind of love that you run with as you go out to share the joy that you have discovered. Jesus tells her, “Don’t cling to me … but go and tell…” By virtue of our baptism we are anointed as “priest, prophet and king and our lips and ears – and all our senses – are opened in order that we can proclaim the Lord’s goodness to all whom we encounter on our journey to the Kingdom.

St. Mary Magdalene pray for us that we will recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives and hear Him calling us by name. Amen!

July 21, 2017 – Friday in the 15th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Lawrence of Brindisi (July 22, 1559 – July 22, 1619

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Exodus 11:10-12:14 – Psalm 116 – Matthew 12:1-8

In the first place we can only know and love God from where we are and this puts us back to yesterday’s Exodus reading of Moses and the Burning Bush: “I Am” is my name. Not, “I Was” or “I Will Be” but “I Am” I am your God right here and now. Right here in this moment whether that’s a moment of frustration or jubilation. We are once again forced to perceive God’s action in our lives as taking place in this one moment of salvation.

And today’s Gospel supports this notion when Jesus says, “It’s not the keeping of laws that make you acceptable in my sight but, rather, the example of mercy – which you need to both give and receive.” God never directly promises us that in following him we will forever live on “Easy Street” but rather we will need to embrace a cross – of some sort or other – all along the way and Jesus promises that he will be with us. Yoked beside us in a fashion that is easy and sweet and pulls more than his share of the load.

I know that I need to hear these words of Jesus especially in these days when I am coming closer to the reality of being 76 years old with all the accompanying signs of old age – which I won’t go into in detail. I need to be able to hear Jesus saying, “I AM” right here with you and I know your worries and questions. Let me gently put my yoke upon your shoulders and let us move on together.”

The funny thing is that we usually ask God to be near us in our moment of pain or need and then we walk away and do not allow him to yoke us to himself. And we then shake our fist and say, “Where were you when I was in need?” And, of course, we know the answer: “I was carrying you all along the way.” Why is it that we pray to God for guidance and then walk away from the very source of our prayer? Think about the “I AMness” of God and ask if we are more controlled by laws and sacrifice rather than by mercy. “Give Mercy and Mercy shall be given to you. Heaped up and overflowing into the folds of your tunic.”

So, the bottom line: “Be Here Now.” I am the God who is “I AM” not “I Was or I Will Be” and let me place my gentle yoke upon your shoulders and together we will plow our way to where we should be. But always in the “Now Moment of Salvation.” Amen!

July 20, 2017 – Thursday in the 15th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: APOLLINARIA (d. c. 79)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Exodus 3:13-20 – Psalm 105 – Matthew 11:28-30

”The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.” (Psalm 105)

Today we continue with these parallel scriptures: the continuing story of Moses with his coming into touch with the actual name of God. Then, in the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Now, with those two thoughts in mind we could easily stop there likening these two thoughts as bookends: Old Testament God with the New Testament Jesus.

But we know the rest of the story. We know that Moses didn’t have an easy job leading the Israelites out of Egypt and, in the end, didn’t even get to enter the “Promised Land!” And the “Yoke of Jesus” ended in the Crucifixion. Or, if we went a little further: the trials of the Apostles and of the early Church.

When the voice of God tells Moses, “tell them ‘I Am’ sent you” This brings us into the ever present moment: now is the time of salvation. This is the only moment that really counts. God says, “I AM’” which means, when I am faced with some difficulty I am not alone. “I Am’ is here in this present moment of struggle or joy.

If we get frustrated and think back – even to the tough life in Egypt or wherever – then we are making God, “I Was” and he is not there. In the same way, if we start to say, “I wish I was over there or doing this or that” then we make God’s name into “I will be.” So we are always called back to this now moment of salvation.

So, we are once again left with the choice: stay on the path or go back to slavery in Egypt! “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” God tailor makes his yoke to fit us and no two yokes are the same. And his yoke is made to fit me and Jesus as we plow through life. Even looking at the image of two oxen plowing the field we have to be able to see that they must keep going. They can’t just stop and stand there looking stupid. And they can’t back up or they’ll plow themselves under. So, yoked with Jesus we press ahead and keep at a steady pace and eventually get to the Kingdom. There you have it: right back to our friend, St. Catherine. You know what that is. Amen.

July 19, 2017 – Wednesday in the 15th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Mary MacKillop (January 15, 1842 – August 8, 1909)

Scripture Readings for today’ Liturgy:

Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12 – Psalm 103 – Matthew 11:25-27

This story of Moses and the burning bush gives us a graphic picture of who God is. I must say that the first thing that comes to mind for me is the similarity of this event and the image portrayed to Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

In reality, though, we might be able to gain a deeper insight into what this Gospel is trying to tell us if we focus on Dorothy just a little bit: Dorothy has no fear to approach the immensity of this ‘God-like figure’ while the Lion – who should be the toughest, most fearless creature – cowers in the presence of this ‘wizard.’

For a moment we’ll skip comment on the Scarecrow and the Tin man but I’m sure you can see where we could go with that tract.

Today’s Gospel tells us that we have to put aside our ‘mind games’ of trying to figure out how and who God is and just approach him like Dorothy does: “Why are you making things so tough for us and why can’t we get the things we need:(a heart for the Tin man – a brain for the Scarecrow) without you making our life so hard?”

When it comes to our approach to God, how many of us spend too much time trying to figure it out when all we really need to do is stand there before this God who is author and creator of the universe and all that is and say, like Dorothy, “I’m here, now, and not going to leave until you make things right!”

Moses, on the other hand, says, “I must go and see this incredible site” and, like Dorothy, he approaches the Burning Bush to see and understand what it’s all about. Then he is told what his task will be – even though he protests that he’s not what you would call a “front man” and is slow at speech.

All these images give us deeper insight into our relationship with God and how we are to act as disciples. Not relying on “this world’s idea” (just counting on our ‘lion-like strength’ or our tinny heart or straw brain.) In the end – as will happen with us – it all comes about because Dorothy has that fearless guile of a child, “I don’t know what you’re all about but you better be nice to these guys … or else!”

Today, like everyday, we’re challenged to approach God “to see what he’s all about” and stand there on holy ground believing that He will show us the way to the “path” (the Yellow Brick Road?) that leads to the Kingdom. And there we are, back to our friend, St. Catherine of Siena: “It’s heaven all the way to heaven.” Amen!

 

July 18, 2017 – Tuesday in the 15th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Camillus -de-lellis (1550 – July 14, 1614)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Exodus 2:1-15a   –   Psalm 69   –   Matthew 11:20-24

In today’s Holy Gospel we hear Jesus say, “If the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Matthew 11:23)

 The first principle for us to understand is the fact that God is able to see everything in one glance. He can see where we’ve come from; what we are doing in the present moment and what is in the future of our journey. The amazing part of this theory is that in all that He knows about us, He doesn’t give up. He stays with us through thick and thin. In our Exodus Scripture reading we are given a capitalized picture of the origins of Moses: his secret birth; his being saved by passing through the water; his evil act of murder; his coming out of Egypt to be the great leader of the People of Israel. In the end, it’s to Moses that God reveals His presence and gives the promise of salvation. Yet, we know in the end, that Moses, himself, never made it to the Promised Land. He died before crossing the Jordan River.

With all of this in mind, the beginning of the reading from the Holy Gospel of Matthew begins with Jesus’ “… reproaching the towns where most of His mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented”. St. Paul says, “We have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God…”(Romans 3:23) But God always hopes for the best and over and over, calls us back into his loving forgiveness. But we have to remember: we can’t just say, “I’ll do this dastardly thing and then ask for forgiveness” since part of the “forgiveness package” requires us to – in the words of the old, “Baltimore Catechism” to –“have a firm purpose of amendment.” What makes this so difficult is the fact that sinning never really looks like a bad thing. St. Thomas Aquinas says that we can’t choose “evil” because it is “evil” but, rather because we don’t really see it as evil.

Most of us won’t be up against “big sins” but the “little ones” begin to pile up and push us further and further away from God’s love. One way around this dilemma is to start doing good acts to counter-act the evil. St. Therese says, “stooping down to pick up a pin on the floor could bring a soul out of purgatory.” I have my own corollary to this, “If you toss a scrap of paper into the waste basket – and miss – and don’t go over to pick it up – you’ll never become a saint!”

 Little acts of goodness can counter-act the evil that is always nearby. Try it. It can’t hurt. Amen!

July 17, 2017 – Monday in the 15th of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Francis Solano (March 10, 1549 – July 17, 1610)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Exodus 1:8 – 14, 22  –  Psalm 124  –  Matthew 10:34 – 11:1

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Alleluia, alleluia.” (Today’s Gospel Acclamation)

The readings for the Liturgy today continue with the Genesis story of the Israelites getting taken into slavery in Egypt. In the Gospel we continue to hear Jesus’ words to his disciples about what it means to follow him. These two themes we can put together on this feast of St. Francis of Solano and, perhaps, find some strain of consolation along the way.

The very use of the term, “along the way,” should give us insight into what it means to follow the Lord, whether it is in a time of difficulty (the Israelites working in hard labor) or a time of peace. I once heard a preacher say, “if you’re not living in some kind of tension you better check out what’s going on in your life.” That’s why the TVangelists are so disturbing since they tend to preach a “Gospel of Prosperity” without mentioning the cross in any sense. Jesus’ words, “come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden light” are so important for us to hear and live. We just hear this phrase often enough in our daily Masses so we should know what Jesus means when he gives us his “yoke.” That means that we are never alone in our journey – even if we are momentarily side-tracked or under some difficult situation. His ‘yoke’ is tailor-made to fit us snugly so that – teamed up with Him – we are never overburdened.

This can easily be applied to those of us in ‘Religious Life’ or for any of us on the journey to the kingdom. If we go back to the Israelites story in Egypt we must remember that, even though they were freed from slavery it wasn’t enough for them to just leave Egypt. They also had to enter the Promised Land. Our journey is never finished until we cross over and pass through the Pearly Gates. As St. Catherine says, “It’s heaven all the way to Heaven.” Amen.

July 16, 2017 – 15th Sunday in the Church Year

 

Today’s Liturgical Celebration: Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 55:10-11  –  Psalm 6   –  Romans 8:18-2  –  Matthew 13:1-23

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seek fell on the path, and some fell on rocky ground. Some got choked by weeds and died. Some fell on good ground and produced good fruit. (From today’s Holy Gospel: Matthew 13)

God provides everything for seed to grow and flourish. We must actively do our part to receive it and nurture it. It has always been a perplexing question to ask why one seems to have faith and grow easily – in good soil -while another struggles and never seems to get rooted in the rocky ground. We can ask, “why are some people born in Arctic Regions while others end up on the deserts. Why was I born into a white, middle class American family while another was born into a poor, black, out-back country? Who are god’s “chosen people? Or does God have favorites? Or better yet … does God care?

And let’s not even go into the question of why there is evil in the world in the first place. So how do we make sense of today’s scriptures? Each of us – whether rich or poor, black or white – has been born into a time and place – just like Jesus. And we can’t always take Jesus out of His time and plop Him into our world anymore than I could go back to live in Jesus’ time.   “Be Here Now” and be the person you are. Do I receive God’s nurturing love and let it blossom in my life? I can’t make myself black, poor or ignorant but I can use God’s love to bring us all together. God provides everything for seed to grow and flourish. We must actively do our part to receive it and nurture it. It has always been a perplexing question to ask why one seems to have faith and grow easily – in good soil -while another struggles and never seems to get rooted in the rocky ground. We can ask, “why are some people born in Arctic Regions while others end up on the deserts. Why was I born into a white, middle class American family while another was born into a poor, black, out-back country? Who are god’s “chosen people? Or does God have favorites? Or better yet … does God care?

And let’s not even go into the question of why there is evil in the world in the first place. So how do we make sense of today’s scriptures? Each of us – whether rich or poor, black or white – has been born into a time and place – just like Jesus. And we can’t always take Jesus out of His time and plop Him into our world anymore than I could go back to live in Jesus’ time.   “Be Here Now” and be the person you are. Do I receive God’s nurturing love and let it blossom in my life? I can’t make myself black, poor or ignorant but I can use God’s love to bring us all together in the family of Jesus. Amen!

July 15, 2017 – Saturday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Bonaventure (1221 – July 15, 1274)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 49:29-32; 50:15-26 – Psalm 105 – Matthew 10:24-33

“Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad! Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord! Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly.” (Today’s Responsorial Psalm 105)

 Today we finish with the “Story of Joseph” from the Book of Genesis and on Monday we’ll be hearing from the Book of Exodus. There are two thoughts that come to mind as we end this “Joseph Saga:” “God writes straight with crooked lines” up against the age-old thought, “An eye for an eye.”

Yet, our Old Testament Joseph – very much like the “New Testament Joseph” – is not at all vindictive. By our standards he probably had every right to “get back” at his brothers for what they did to him. But he doesn’t! This is a good lesson for all of us: of all the things that God calls us to: judging and punishing others is not in the plan.

It’s interesting that today’s Gospel – which is on its own tract – really is a fitting end to our “Joseph Story” with its admonition, “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” (Matthew’s Gospel) We are called to walk in the “Light of Christ” and always let what we have received from God’s goodness be a beacon to those who are around us and part of our lives. The comparison of the Old Testament Joseph with the New Testament Joseph is a good place for us to rest today: our “Gospel Joseph” doesn’t have very many “lines” but his silent presence is what gave him his glory. There’s a lesson for us to think about in this comparison. Can we rejoice in the goodness we see all around us rather than feeling sorry for ourselves? Here’s what Dr. Seuss says: “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is your than you. Shout loud, ‘I’m glad that I am what I am. And not just a clam. Or a ham. Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!” Can you believe that? I think it deserves our “Amen!”

July 14, 2017 – Friday in the 14 Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Kateri Tekakwitha (1656 – April 17, 1680)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19   –   Psalm 102   –   Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are burdened and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy, my burden light.”

These few words, taken from today’s Gospel, are jam-packed with imagery – even for us city-dwellers who have little actual experience with working the land.   It takes a certain amount of true humility to allow us to be “yoked” to another – even to be yoked to Jesus. But this is where the imagery is most beautiful: to be “humble” really means being “well-grounded.” The word comes from the Latin word, “humus” meaning ground or earth. No room here for important CEO’s sitting in plush offices pushing buttons of dispatch.

Come, come unto me, and let us work together to make the ground fertile for accomplishing the 100 fold that I promise. My yoke is “easy” – really meaning, “well-fitting” or “tailor-made.” God knows us through and through. He “formed us and knit us together in our mother’s wombs” and He will not put us in any situation that is beyond our ability to stay yoked with Jesus as we make the journey along the way.

We know what happens when we decide that we can “make it on our own,” I can’t help but think back to the 1960’s when the “hippy era” was all the rage in the US. The cry was “freedom from all forms of oppression” and the sky was the limit. No rules. No order to anything.

If we apply this notion to the images in today’s Gospel we can see what the “fruit” will be: no straight, easy-to-tend-rows; seeds planted in zigzag fashion with most of the effort landing on rocky soil where the sun burns them to a crisp. How easy this fits to the term that was common at the end of the “hippy era:” They are a people who are burned out!

When we are “yoked with Jesus” we can experience what I call, the “Footprints in the sand” and we see that Jesus carries us along and takes most of the burden on His own shoulders.

“Lord, Jesus, give me the grace to allow you to fit that yoke to me which really means you will carry most of the load.” Amen! How sweet it is!

7/13/17

July 13, 2017 – Thursday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Henry (May 6, 972 – July 13, 1024)

 

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 10:5-7, 13b-16

Psalm 94

Matthew 11:25-27

 

“Unless you become like little children you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”(Matt. 18:3)

 

Psychologists tell us that when someone is speaking to us we are talking to ourselves at a rate that is ten times faster than the person speaking. So we have to ask ourselves, how often do we really listen.   The thing that got Jesus must upset was the S & P’s constant nit-picking on the Law. Even while He was telling the wonders of God’s love and mercy, they were working to formulate their re-brutal. You might be interested to know that our word “infant” comes from the Latin ‘in-fans’: meaning non-speaking.

How can we really listen to what God/Jesus is saying to us if we’re always trying to figure out what He really means? When we speak of the wonder of children we often use the term, “with eyes wide open” to describe the beauty of being like little children. Sometimes we just have to shut up and listen to what God is saying to us. How else will we hear Him say, “Come unto me and I will give you rest?”

Here’s a little “test” that might help you: try to articulate what you would really like to hear Jesus saying to you. Take some time. Don’t rush. But you might be surprised at what words pop into your mind. A good meditation for today and maybe, even something for you to work on. Amen?