October 22, 2017 – 29th Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: John Paul II (May 18, 1920 – April 2, 2005)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6 – Psalm 96 – Thessalonians 1:2-5-b – Matthew 22:15-21

“Shine like lights in the world as you hold on to the word of life.” (Today’s ‘Alleluia verse leading us to hearing today’s Holy Gospel)

“God has called me even though I wasn’t aware of His presence.” In the Gospel Jesus is being set up by the S & Ps over the Temple Tax: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s!”

By virtue of our Baptism we are citizens of Heaven, our true home, and marked and named by God. Therefore we owe all our allegiance to this God who formed us and named us as His own. “Before you came into being I knew you through and through. I have carved you on the palm of my hand.”

With all these references we are hard pressed to fail to realize what is our purpose in life. As St. Augustine says, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” So, we take the bottom line: we belong to God and God belongs to us. Therefore, we are citizens of another era/world. Yet, while we pass through this time, we keep in mind where we are going. Given all the clues to what life/death is all about for the believer, we should find it easy to stay on the path that leads us to our true home, heaven. Yet, it is no secret that we wander in and out of favor with this God who has marked us and named us as His own. Still, we know that God will always call us back. We just have to have the courage and faith to accept this call to forgiveness. We are citizens of Heaven, our true home, and we need to live our lives here on earth with that in mind. How stupid it would be for us, who know so much about the “promises,” to not accept God’s forgiveness?

Let this be our prayer for today: “Lord, I know you love me and call me to yourself even though you know me through and through. Help me to see your gentle hand lifting me up from the mud of my life and into your wonderful hands. Amen!

October 21, 2017 – Saturday in the 28th Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Hilarion (c. 291 – 371)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Romans 4:13, 16-18 – Psalm105 – Luke 12:8-12

All three of the Scripture readings So, be sure to read over these Scriptures with the thought that we are given an insight into our following of Jesus. And, in the end, the Gospel gives us a warning that “everything we might do can be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”

 So what do we make of this warning? In the first place the Holy Spirit is the creative force of God.

In the very first words of our Bible: Genesis 1:1-2 we read: In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep and God’s Spirit hovered over the waters…” and brought them into order. “And it was good!”

For the ancients, the ocean or the sea was a symbol of evil. It was the home of Leviathan, the evil monster. It was the work of the Holy Spirit that brought that into order but didn’t totally bind it up. The danger is always there and the choice is one that we can make at any time in our lives. We need to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who creates – and sometimes uses fire as the tool.   But that’s a fire that purifies – “as gold in the furnace.”

 The traditional “Prayer of the Holy Spirit” is a good way for us to grasp what the Spirit is all about:

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. V/ Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. R/And you shall renew the face of the earth.” Amen!

 A note to all of my faithful readers: I’m having just a touch of “Computer Illness” and having quite a time trying to keep it all in the proper order. I hope to get some help before I have to do this again tomorrow. Keep me in your prayers. I have great hope in all of you.

 Brother Daniel

October 20, 2017 – Friday in the 28th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Paul of the Cross (January 3, 1694 – October 18, 1775)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Romans 4:1-8 – Psalm 32 – Luke 12:1-7

“I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”(today’s responsorial verse to Psalm 32)

 I’m sure you noticed that I usually begin these reflections with some quote or something from the life of the day’s saint. I do that to give us some starting point based on that saints life which might be able to give us some hope in our own journey of faith. Sometimes we sit here in our 21st C world and think, “what a mess everything is. Our world – and Church – are going to Hell in a hand basket!” Yet all we have to do is look at history to see that there have always been problems and Holy Mother Church has not always resolved them in a “gospel sort of way.”

I say that should give us hope in that in spite of our failure to act according to the Gospels God is still able to restore us and bring us back into union with that for which we seek. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.“ A light that darkness could not overpower. Everything done in darkness will be revealed in light! Scary? Sure. But we should come to it with the realization that Jesus is more concerned to save us than to damn us.

Today’s saint, Paul of the Cross most assuredly had some hard time keeping his foundation of a new religious orders going on the straight and narrow road to the Kingdom.

And the same can be said of those who think that “the Church” is falling apart because of extremes in orthodoxy and/or liberation. This is not the first time that there have been ‘scuffles’ over one thing or another and it certainly won’t be the last. Bottom line: WE are the Church and that Church can be no better or worse than we, it’s members, make it. God has gifted us with His Holy Spirit – a “spirit” of creativity – to do our best to keep it going according to the Gospels and the words and teachings of Jesus.   It’s not “us against ‘them” but it is us for us that will keep the Church on the right track. No room here for us to say, “It’s not working! Let’s jump ship, divide the spoils and … (you fill in the rest!) The Church is not going to be “good” because of “them” but because of you and me. Amen!

October 19, 2017 – Thursday in the 28th Week of the Church Year

 

Saints for the day: Isaac Jogues, Jean de Brebeuf & Companions (died: 1642 – 1649)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Romans 3:21-30 – Psalm130 – Luke 11:47 – 54

Today’s reading from Romans gives us the basis of the Reformation argument: are we justified by faith or works? And our answer is not “either or” but “both and.” In the Gospel Jesus continues his “hit” on the S & Ps for their hypocrisy in that they build tombs for the very prophets that they, themselves killed!

Once again, we have to be careful about just dismissing them and not seeing that there is always that tendency for any of us to fall into the same traps. “There, but for the Grace of God, go I” is a reminder that we are not called to judge another but to always remember that God pours His free gift of Grace into our lives and is always calling us back into His friendship. “With the Lord there is plenteous redemption” and forgiveness. God’s Grace is freely given and always as gift. Never as the result of what we have done. Now this is a thin line to stand on: on the one hand we can’t just sit like blobs and expect God to gently push us on nor can we get out there and “do, do, do, for God” and expect Him to reward us for our efforts. Bottom line: we need to be aware that all that we have and all that we seem to be are gifts from God. These gifts enable us to push forward and – hopefully – act in ways that bring about the Kingdom to those around us. In this respect, it is best if we aren’t really aware of the effects of our living and following Jesus until after the fact. That way, we are kept clear of any sense of “doing for Jesus” in order to win his favor. It’s tricky but that’s the way the saints of old gained their holiness. Amen!

Never as the result of what we have done. Now this is a thin line to stand on: on the one hand we can’t just sit like blobs and expect God to gently push us on nor can we get out there and “do, do, do, for God” and expect Him to reward us for our efforts. Bottom line: we need to be aware that all that we have and all that we seem to be are gifts from God. These gifts enable us to push forward and – hopefully – act in ways that bring about the Kingdom to those around us. In this respect, it is best if we aren’t really aware of the effects of our living and following Jesus until after the fact. That way, we are kept clear of any sense of “doing for Jesus” in order to win his favor. It’s tricky but that’s the way the saints of old gained their holiness. Amen!

October 18, 2017 – Wednesday in the 28th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: The Apostle Luke (died c. 84)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Timothy 4:10-17b – Psalm 145 – Luke 10:1-9

“Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” (the last verses of today’s Gospel according to Luke)

The above encouraging quote is just half of what our following of Jesus is all about. The first scripture reading from 2 Timothy is the “other bookend” of our Xtian life: yes, there will be disappointments and hardships but we have been promised that “the Lord will never leave us.” Trusted people might turn on us and leave us, but the verse quoted above from the ending of today’s Gospel assures us that “the Kingdom of God is at hand…”

Most of us, when confronted with some hardship or trial, (our own personal ‘Agony in the Garden’) run away naked instead of praying, “… not my will but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42) We forget that the Gospels were at first the preached story of Jesus which began with the account of his resurrection and then, gradually worked backwards – filling in the blanks. This is significant for us: it’s the Resurrection of Jesus that is key and gives us the hope that “…those who follow me will never die … but live forever.” (John 11:25)

 There is one more significant factor to consider: Luke was not a Jew and therefore didn’t have that connection that the other evangelists had with following all the Jewish laws. The middle of the quote at the beginning of this reflection: “…eat what is set before you and cure the sick” is key to our following Jesus. It seems that we are warned not to think that “the Law” will give us freedom. Just look at what “laws” have done to us all throughout our world. Jesus sets us free. Laws (often) tie our hands. Jesus promises that he will never leave us. Laws push us further and further away from the possibility of realizing that the ”Kingdom of God is within.”(Mark 1:15)

October 17, 2017 – Tuesday in the 28th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Ignatius of Antioch (died c. 107)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Romans 1:16-25 – Psalm 19 – Luke 11:37-41

Having just read the scriptures appointed for today’s Liturgy – especially Luke’s Holy Gospel which has Jesus dining at a Pharisees house I can’t help but repeat that oft mentioned quote of St. Francis: “I want that the friars should preach in every circumstance – and sometimes they will have to use words!”

In this Gospel, Jesus sits down at table without first performing the ritual washing. Did he just forget? Or did he do that deliberately? Whatever, he certainly knew that it would be a moment of discovery for the Pharisees.

St. Paul’s reading from Romans begins with his saying, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel that I live. It has the power to save.” With this in mind, we have to take in the fact that when St. Francis talks about “Preaching” he is not ashamed but he is also not self-righteous. In a sense he is integrating both the inside and the outside of his life. The problem with the Pharisees that Jesus continually landed on was the fact that they were two-faced. You cannot do the kind of preaching that Francis speaks of and that Paul was not ashamed of without having it firmly rooted deep within your life. The first step toward holiness begins with the self awareness that we are needy. We are not self-contained persons who “ain’t never asked nothing from nobody” (Bl. Jedidiah) we are sinners in need of redemption. If we say we have no sin we make God a liar since “all have fallen short of the Glory of God.”

When we look at the lives of almost any of our saints we can see that their following of Christ began with a basic step that allowed them to almost leap into ministries that most of us would find difficult or less than successful. They often appear to have no thought or fear about doing ministries for which they have scant awareness of what is important. Many of our saints began ministries with little or no basic training and often put their own lives at risk. What gave him that courage? It had to be an awareness that they were called to a ministry and that God would provide the means – even if that meant they would eventually get sick and die. Can we have that kind of faith and trust in God to know that we seek Him alone and all the rest will be given us besides? Amen! After all, we, too, will die one day and what will be left of us then. If we have lived our life in Christ then we just might have left some lasting memory of the good that we have done in Christ Jesus. Amen – again!

October 16, 2017 – Monday in the 28th week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Margaaret Mary Alacoque (July 22, 1647 – October 17, 1690

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Romans 1:1-7 – Psalm 98 – Luke 11:29-32

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” (today’s Alleluia

 In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “this evil generation seeks a sign and no other sign will be given but the sign of Jonah.” We could substitute the word, “sign” and in it’s place say, “agreement” or “contract.” We want to know for sure and don’t want to put all our money on the “wrong horse!”

Yet Jesus tells us that we’ve always had signs all throughout Biblical History and we’ve not paid attention to them. “Have you been with me all this time and still don’t ‘see’ that I Am – the God, the savior, the redeemer – that you are waiting/looking for. The marvelous story of Johan is the foreshadowing of Jesus’ mission but we don’t want to accept that. We’re like the disciples and say, “God forbid that you should go to Jerusalem just to die…” The difference, however, is that in the Jonah story the Nivivites do repent and the city is saved. In the Gospels Jesus death and resurrection don’t always have the same effect: “You mean we have to die in order to live?” The disciples on the road to Emmaus unknowingly meet Jesus and their hearts ‘burn within’ as he explains the scriptures to them.

The challenge for us today – or in any generation – is for us to meet Jesus on the road and listen to his words the essence of which boil down to, “follow me!” It’s so obvious that many miss it while looking for some other spectacular “sign.” “This generation looks for signs and I tell you … you have been given the sign and you are walking with me. Are not your hearts burning within?” Amen!

October 15, 2017 – The 28th Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Therese of Lisieux (January 2, 1873 – September 30, 1897)

Scripture readings for today’s liturgy:

Isaiah 25:6-10a – Psalm 23 – Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 – Matthew 22:1-14

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” (Matthew 22:2)

 Once again our Liturgy gives us another parable of Jesus that – like most of them – is presented on multiple levels, which we don’t always understand. We like to think that God is like the King who wants to share the joy of his son’s wedding with all his friends but he gets enraged when they don’t respond. In the end the king invites anyone that the servants can find in the highways and hedgerows of the world. So far, so good. We like the fact that God goes to great means to fill the banquet hall no matter how he does it. Then comes the crunch! Someone got in without a proper “wedding garment.” Our first reaction to this might be one of sympathy for one of the poor who maybe couldn’t afford any special clothes. But that’s where we’re missing an important fact: it was the custom for the host to provide wedding garments for anyone who came unprepared and so the hidden message is that this man refused to comply with the local customs and therefore incurred the wrath of the host. It’s also a symbol of our willingness to conform our lives and show that we have taken the invitation to the wedding feast seriously and will do all in our power to honor the host who invited us. The “wedding garment” might be compared to our notion of the religious habit worn by monks and nuns, which was intended to put everybody on the same level and not let people get into a fashion-show-mode of who had the finer clothes. So the ending of this parable shows that this man refused to change anything in his life – even at the expense of being thrown out. The parable clearly points out the king’s desire to have his banquet hall filled and the only thing that he asked of his guests was that they all be dressed appropriately so that there would be no options of thinking “I’m so much better dressed than those people!”  In the end, we’re all going to be like Job who said, “Naked came I from my mother’s womb and naked shall I go back. The Lord gives and the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) We have all been invited to the banquet and we’ll all be welcomed. But there are some things that we must comply with in order to enjoy the gift that God is giving us. Amen!

October 14, 2017 – Saturday in the 27th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Callistus ! (died 223)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Joel 4:12-21 – Psalms 97 – Luke 11:27-29

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Today, we hear from the Book of Joel God’s desire to restore – in some sense – what was lost in Paradise. The reading echoes parts of Isaiah with images of the lush banquet that we’ll enjoy on “God’s Holy Mountain.” For a people who knew only oppression, these were hopeful words.

Then our Gospel takes us to the next level: who are God’s ‘chosen ones?’ “Those who hear the Word of God and observe it.” Some translations would use the word, “… and keep it.”

Both words might allow us to miss the point. For we could easily “observe” what it means to follow XT without actually entering into a real “following” of XT. Even the use of “keep” might place us in the parable of the talents: you can “keep” something by burying it which does nothing for drawing us into the life of XT.

One way around this ambiguity might be to take Paul’s words, “Now it is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me.” If the “Word” of God doesn’t transform us on some level then we haven’t really “heard” it.

In the Annunciation – “the ‘word’ became flesh and dwelt among us.” In John’s prologue we hear, “In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God and the WORD was God.” If we believe that we have been created in the image and likeness of God then we are already halfway there. We have a “God likeness” already and all we have to do is nurture that and not let it drift away. How do we hold on to that which has been given to us? We need to nurture and cultivate the Word and cherish it or it will fade away. Then we are “blessed” indeed. Amen!

October 13, 2017 – Friday in the 27th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher (October 6, 1911 – October 6, 1849)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2 – Psalm 9 – Luke 11:15-26

I’m often asked, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Sometimes my response is via the familiar phrase, “What goes around comes around”

Today we begin reading from the Book of Joel and I find myself being caught up in a kind of “Lenten theme” of impending woe and disaster. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain!” But there’s a verse from the Responsorial Psalm that tempers God’s anger: “The nations are sunk in the pit they have made; in the snare they set, their foot is caught!”

 That one little verse reminded me that it’s not God who is going around destroying things in His anger but that we are the ones who get caught in our own traps.

In today’s Holy Gospel Jesus reminds the people that Satan is always around with his evil disguised as good. Remember we’re not drawn to evil because it is evil but, rather, because we are fooled into thinking that it is a “good!” In that sense, Satan doesn’t have to work very hard to lure us into his trap. It’s the old “pie-in-the-sky” theme that reminds me of the story of King Midas who asks for the ability to turn stones into gold. He’s given his wish but it backfires on him when he touches his wife who then turns into gold!

“The nations are sunk in the pit they have made; in the snare they set, their foot is caught.”

 So, what’s our answer to my first question?   I thnk part of it has to be what we just heard a few days ago when we read the “Martha, Martha” story and Jesus’ response was, “Mary has chosen the better part – to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words – and it shall not be taken from her.”

 So the catch is: listen to Jesus! And the only way to “hear Him” is to get close to Him (like Mary, Martha’s sister did) and be in His presence. The “catch” to this, however, is one that many of us miss. Rather than sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus we bore Him to death with our wordy, wordy, wordies”

I’ve found that the early morning hours – before most people are up and about – are the best time for me to come before the Lord. And the first thing that I do is read His Holy Word and then take some time to let it sink in. If we do that we’ll find out that there isn’t much room left for Satan to get a hold on us. Amen!