March 28, 2017 – Tuesday in the 4th Week of Lent

Saint for the day: Catharine of Bologna (1413 – 1463)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

Ezra 47:1-9, 12    –    Psalm 46    –    John 5:1-16

“What do you want?”

 If we could hear God/Jesus asking us this question, what would our answer be? Think about it.

One of the perks that we have in the season of Lent is that the Church picks the Scripture readings along the lines of “themes” rather than going sequentially through different books of the Bible.

So, today we hear the Gospel of the paralytic who has been waiting for a miraculous cure from the stirred waters for 38 years. To support this Gospel – and to tie it into the Old Testament – our first Scripture reading from Ezekiel gives us a picture of the “healing waters” that flow out of the Temple – in all directions, and causing healing and health to all that it touches.

Yet, even with this picture so clearly painted for us Jesus still asks us the question, “Do you want to be healed?” Our answer might be a curt, “Of course! Why do you think I’m here?” This man in this story is like us in so many ways and he has gotten used to being carried – every day – to this same place. And he has let his infirmity become his ticket to a life of begging. He is like so many of the people who stand every day on busy corner of an intersection begging. Once, I tried to help an old man who wandered up and down the highway with a story of his need to get to a Veterans Hospital to get his teeth fixed. I let him stay in the Church Hall overnight and brought him a little breakfast in the morning. When I handed the food to him I said, “There is someone here in the parish who works with the Veterans Administration who can get the help you need.” Even before I finished he refused the food that I was offering and said, “That’s OK. I’ll just be on my way.”

We have to want to be healed and we have to be willing to let go of those things that we have become used to having as our “crutches.”

There is healing water flowing out from the Temple (hear we should read: from the resurrected body of Jesus) and we need to come to that water.

The man is this Gospel obviously had friends who carried him to the edge of the water and then left him there. Why didn’t they stay around until the “waters got stirred?”

I think the answer is obvious: friends can bring us to Jesus but I have to want to be healed. Jesus is still asking that question: “Do you want to be healed?”

March 27, 2017 – Monday in the 4th Week of Lent

Saint for the day: Lazarus (birth and death dates un-known)

Scriptures for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 65:17 – 21    –    Psalm 30    –    John 4:43 – 54

“Thus says the Lord: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17-18)

The opening words of the above scripture reading from Isaiah seems to connect today’s liturgy with yesterday’s. It’s like God wants to be sure we can all see the fullness of His love and concern for each of us.

Then, as if we haven’t gotten the point, the opening verse of the responsorial psalm hits us with it again: “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”

 The overriding point of this Lenten Journey has to be our coming to awareness that we’ve gotten ourselves into some messes but God still calls us back. And the ending words of the responsorial psalm keep yesterday’s Gospel alive for us: “You changed my mourning into dancing: O Lord, my God, for ever will I give you thanks.

Everything has already been given to us. Everything about God is already available to us. The royal official doesn’t give up when Jesus says, “you people are always looking for signs…” and says in reply, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

 The Scripture readings for both yesterday and today (like most of the time) involve some movement on our part. It seems that we have to move from where we are – either actually or philosophically – to be able to experience the action of God.

The blind man in yesterday’s Gospel was healed and, in a way, was given a new life since he was, re-formed when Jesus made mud with His own spit – almost like the way Adam and Eve were formed out of the soil around them. And he had to make a journey – a kind of pilgrimage to Siloam to wash in those waters. It’s another reminder that all of us have to make some kind of move from where we are to a better place in order for our healings to be sealed.

Bottom line? I need to know that I must always be on the way. All of us need to leave what we think of as our place in order to know that we are walking in a new way with a God who saved us from … whatever it was keeping a distance from the fullness of God’s love and forgiveness. As you make your “journey” from your place in church – to the altar to receive Holy Communion let those words that you say become real for you: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed!” Amen!

March 26, 2017 – 4th Sunday of Lent

Saint for the day:  Catherine of Genoa (1447 – September 15, 1510)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Samuel 16:1b, 6 – 7, 10 -13a   –   Psalm 23   –   Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41

In today’s Holy Gospel, the man who had received his sight told the Pharisees, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ … and I am able to see.” (John 9:12)

In today’s Holy Gospel, the man who had received his sight told the Pharisees, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ … and I am able to see.” (John 9:12)

 In St. John’s characteristic style we “see” another of his dramatic stories presented to us as a multi-acts drama with lots of walk-on parts and involving many sub plots. Even when we use the familiar phrase, “Now I see!” we only scratch the surface of what this Gospel is all about.

The analogy that I come up with right at the start is: to a person born blind there is only a vague concept of what things look like. I can look at a painting done by Picasso and try to explain what it’s all about to someone born blind but they will only be able to “see it” on a limited level since they have no experience of knowing what seeing really is. One way for sighted people to try to understand what blindness is all about would be for us to try to tell another person what Heaven looks like. We don’t live in the realm of Haven so we will always have a difficult time getting clear concepts across.

There are a couple of things that popped out at me with this Gospel that harkens to a creation image: Jesus made mud with his spit to heal the blind man. Just as Adam was formed out of the mud of the earth Jesus was re-creating the blind man into a new person and then sending him off for a kind of baptism ritual at the pool of Siloam. It’s only after this that he gets his sight.

I’ll have to go back and see what I said about this 4th Sunday of Lent reading in previous years because I think this is the first time I’ve come up with some of these thoughts.

One thing that I’m pretty sure of: many people – when they look at their Missalettes and see how long this Gospel is – will automatically close their ears and not really hear the fullness of this marvelous story. They’ll say that they heard it before, but they’ll end up being blind and deaf! Maybe the one reading this Gospel should end it with, “Let him who has ears to hear see!”

 Stop for a moment and think about all the “things” we’ll be “seeing” when we move into Holy Week with all the rituals and symbols of this unique week that we call Holy. Palm branches waving; feet washed;

then the Eucharist highlighted and adored – perhaps at an all night vigil. Then the Cross: a symbol of torture becoming a sign of our redemption. Death. Burial and Resurrection.

With all of this packed in to a few days we are bombarded with images that are meant to help us see … with eyes of faith … the love that God has for us in sending His only begotten Son to redeem us. OH! Now I see! Amen.

March 25, 2017 – Saturday in the 3rd week of Lent

Today’s Feast: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Scripture Readings for today’s Solemnity:

Isaiah 7:10 – 14; 8:10   –   Psalm 40   –   Hebrews 10:4-10   –   Luke 1:26-38

“Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will.”

 Christian art down through the ages has probably done a disservice to Mary by portraying her as some “fairy-tale-like creature” who just sat around waiting for something important to happen in her life. Yet we know that life in her time was hard work and living in an unforgiving land of dust and dirt mere existence occupied a substantial part of ones daily life. When the scriptures tell us that “Jesus was like us in all things but sin” it also means that Mary was more like us than an angel.

Yet, despite living in a harsh land, she was still able to be attentive to God’s presence in her life.

I’ve often said, “God is smart enough to figure out anyway He wants to break into our world. But He does it in as natural a way as possible given the time and place of His Incarnation. When the Angel comes to Mary and tells her this “good news” she, very much like us, asks the question, “How can this happen…” but then makes the most important response ever, “be it done to me according to your word.”

Somebody once said, “God created us with two eyes, two ears and one mouth. He must have meant for us to listen and see, four times as much as speaking!”

At first Mary questions. And we all have questions about how God becomes a part of our lives. But then she quickly responds by saying, “Let it be!” “Fiat.” “Amen!” This is where most of us break stride with “the holy” and fall back on our human intuition by trying to reason with God about what’s happening in our life. We become more like Abraham in his dialog with the Angel of God about to destroy Sodom and Gomoriah, “… begging your pardon, Lord. But what if there are less than 50 just people…”

Listen, listen, listen. Don’t speak! Today’s Feast is about “Letting Go and letting God.” That’s the title of a little poem that might be good for us to hear: “As children bring their broken toys to us for us to mend. I brought my broken dreams to God because He was my friend. But then instead of leaving Him to work on them alone, I hung around and bothered Him with ideas of my own. And then I snatched them back and said, “How could you be so slow?” What could I do, my child, He said, “You never did let go.” Amen.

“Let go and let God!”

Friday, March 24, 2017 – Friday in the 3rd Week of Lent

Today’s “Blessed:” Oscar Arnulfo Romero – (August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hosea 14:2-10    –    Psalm 81    –    Mark 12:28-34

“I am the Lord, your God. There is no other!”

This dialogue between Jesus and the Scribe might surprise us in that Jesus doesn’t mince His words when asked “what is the first of all the commandments? but cuts right to the quick with His quote from the “Shema Israel:”If there was one quote from “the Law” that every Jew knew by heart it is the “Shema Israel!”

So, what begins as a test of Jesus’ credibility turns out to have a wonderful ending, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

In the olden days when there were strict laws concerning fasts during Lent, it wasn’t uncommon for people to ask, “How much can I eat before I totally break the law? And this was a mind-set that permeated a great deal of our relationship with God: how far can I stretch the tie between me and God before it breaks completely? Rather than being, “how close can I get to God?” it was just the other way around. The Scribe answers correctly: You must love the Lord, your God with everything you have and your neighbor as yourself.

This commandment takes us away from the notion of “me and God” and places it in the larger picture of the “people of God” – and all those who are struggling to find and follow God. “If we love God but despise our neighbor, what good is that?”

To put this into context I have often said, “forget about trying to save the world. Just try to be nice to that jerk right next to you!” The words from the parable – ‘who is my neighbor?’ – ring true: “when did I see you naked and not clothe you; hungry, and not feed you; etc., etc.,”  God has been gracious to us and never gives up on His efforts to “woo” us back to His love when we have wandered away. Who are we to turn our backs on the person right next to us who is in need. Maybe we just need to smile as we make our way in whatever we’re doing so that people who feel alienated might sense God’s closeness better. If we start at this basic level we just might hear Him saying, “You are not far from the Kingdom.” Amen

March 23, 2017 – Thursday in the 3rd week of Lent

Saint for the day: Turibius of Mongrovejo (1538 – 1505)

Scripture Readings for today”s Liturgy:

Jeremiah 7:23-28    –    Psalm 95    –    Luke 11:14-23

“In the beginning was the Word”

Whenever the Scriptures remind us that we are not listening to “God’s Word” I can’t help but go back to the very beginning. In Genesis we read: “In the beginning all was formless void and the Spirit hovered over the chaos and brought it all into order.” And God said, “Let there be… and it was. And it was good.” Yet, from that point on it seems like God had to struggle with us to get us to trust Him and His gift of creation. He gave us free will and time and time again, we make the wrong choices. “You will be my people and I will be your God.” Yet it doesn’t seem as if that was a good enough promise and one bite of the apple proved that it was a bad choice!

From then on, God has had to labor intensely to convince us that He is a God With Us: Emmanuel. We can look back at the history of Israel and say, “but that was then. This is now” but it’s almost all in the same moment. We perceive God’s presence in our lives and all the blessings that He grants to us. Then in a flash we turn our backs on His love and decide to take the pleasure of the moment over his promise to “be with us till the end of time.”

When Jesus is accused by the S & P’s of using the power of the devil to cast out devils He retorts with that familiar phrase, “any Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” So, here we are. Halfway through Lent and we need to be reminded that God has brought us out of darkness into His wonderful light in order that we might be His people and know the oneness of God that is promised us … over and over again!

Lucifer – the name means “light bearer” – promises us his light which is all “razzel-dazzel” a flash in the pan light that doesn’t last. I’m reminded of that simple song, “This little of mine. I’m gonna let it shine…” St. Paul tells us, “fan that spark of life that God has given you into a living flame. St. Dominic’s symbol is a “hound” carrying a

flaming torch in his mouth lighting up “fires of faith” throughout the world. Can we not forget all the wonders God has poured into our lives and even though it might seem as if the spark is about to go out let us gently fan it back into a flame of faith.

In the beginning God said, “let there be light” and so it was. He brought us out of darkness – time and time again. Can we still trust Him? “I will be your God and you shall be my people!”   Amen!

March 22, 2017 – Wednesday in the 3rd week of Lent

Saint for the day: Nicholas Owen (? – 1606)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9    –    Psalm 147    –    Matthew 5:17-19

“Not one jot or title shall be removed from the Law until it is accomplished.”

 For the Jews at the time of Jesus “the Law” was all there was. And the S & P’s expended all of their energy making sure that the above passage was not overlooked. Yet Jesus says, “… until it is accomplished.”   Laws and regulations are not bad ideas. They keep a certain order to our lives and many of the Old Testament laws were very practical: all the things about dietary regulations and health issues were important to the Jews as they wandered on their way to the promised land. When Jesus was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners he told them, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are sick.” All throughout His public life Jesus broke the laws that the Jews held as absolute. He, himself said, “until all is accomplished!”

Any laws are enacted in order to free people to live a more productive and alive life. As soon as Jesus began His public ministry He began to show that He was “the Way.” He is “the truth.” He is “the Life.” He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. From the Cross Jesus announced the completion of His life when he said, “It is all accomplished!” All 613 laws – intended to guide us to the awareness that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him might not die but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

So, “all is accomplished!” Does that mean that we no longer have to follow any laws? Certainly not. But we do have to remember that just following laws for the sake of following them will never get us to the Kingdom. Laws and regulations are a means to an end. Not an end in themselves. Jesus is the means and the end, all wrapped together. If we try to separate that we will lose what Jesus was offering us: “Come to me (yes, come to the Cross) and I will give you rest.” But so many of us say, “take me, Jesus, but let’s bypass the Cross and go straight into the Kingdom.” No way! Sorry. All the law and the prophets is summed up at the Cross where we encounter Jesus who gave His life for our salvation. “… it is accomplished!” Amen!

March 21, 2017 – Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Lent

Saint for the day: Blessed John of Parma (1209 – 1289)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Daniel 3:25, 34-43    –    Psalm 25    –    Matthew 18:21-35

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with our whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.” (Joel 2:12 …)

Today, this Old Testament reading from Daniel – about the three young men in the fiery furnace, – seems to strike a chord with me. Here we are, halfway through Lent and still feeling as if we haven’t gotten the message. And the “message” is forgiveness. Not just forgiveness for those who might have done us wrong but also, forgiveness for ourselves in that we have not allowed the love of God to fan the flames of the fire and bring us to that cooling point. All of us get stuck in a furnace of our own shortcomings. We are more willing to say, “woe is me” than to say, “Lord, show me what I need to do to get out of this place of slavery and bask in your loving presence. Yet we often slap God in the face – almost saying, “I could never be forgiven for … whatever.

There is a two-sided key to this problem: in the story of the three young men in the furnace their answer seems to be “praise,” Here they are in a furnace seven times hotter than normal and they are able to sing God’s praises to the extent that a cooling breeze keeps them safe. In the Gospel it seems to be the granting of forgiveness – unconditionally – that allows the flames of hatred and sin to be squelched. “Forgive us as we have forgiven … not just once but seventy times seven. And that forgiveness needs to go in both directions. As we forgive others we also need to allow forgiveness to be given to ourselves. Yet so many of us hold on to our faults thinking that God could never forgive us. Yet, if we don’t allow that forgiveness to come to us, we will never be able to forgive others. We need to explore this matter at greater depth. Perhaps during the remaining days of Lent we will finally get to that point where we can say, “now I understand the forgiveness that God is talking about. Amen!

March 20, 2017 – Monday in the 3rd Week of Lent

Saint for the day: (Yesterday’s Solemnity is celebrated today)

Scripture Readings for today’s Solemnity:

2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a – 16    –    Psalm 89    –    Romans 4:13, 16 – 18, 22

Matthew 1:16, 18

“This is how the birth of Jesus came about.”

 I can remember, as a child, asking the question, “Doesn’t anybody else see the parallels in the life of the Old and New Testaments Joseph’s? The Old Testament Joseph, beloved of his father; a dreamer who becomes a savior of his family by being taken to Egypt where he is able to provide for them.

Our New Testament Joseph is also a dreamer of sorts as he is informed in a dream of his need to protect – first Mary from any social shame and then both Mary and Jesus from the wicked designs of Herod. And they all go to Egypt and sojourn there until the evil Herod is dead.

Even as a youngster I wondered if a lot of these events were conjecture on the part of some early Church theologians to make sense out the Holy Family’s lack of historical evidence.

And so, years later we are still celebrating this feast of “Joseph, Husband of Mary” as a solemnity and have to ask ourselves, “what, exactly, are we celebrating?”

In yesterday’s Gospel we heard the story of the Samaritan woman at the well where Jesus tells her that he is a source of living water even though he doesn’t even have his own bucket. Jesus will always try to break into our lives using our most important physical needs that ultimately open the door to salvation. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that all who believed in Him might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) What does this mean and how does God authentically break into our world and our lives? We know that Jesus was “like us in all ways but sin.” He was born like us – a babe who needed care and nurturing. He didn’t just float down from Heaven as some kind of “religious ET.”

Enter Joseph into the picture: he is espoused to Mary and “a just man not willing to expose her to shame” and he knows this through a dream of an angel. He takes her into his home – no questions asked – and even rescues Mary and Jesus from certain death by taking them into Egypt. And when Jesus gets “lost in the temple” he searches him out to bring him back to the family.

If we take all of this as only ‘conjecture’ we will have lost something that is important about how God becomes real in our lives. We all re-write our histories to make sense out of what we eventually do with our lives. And this is how God enters into our own, personal story.

So, on this feast, we’re asked to put aside our childish ways of thinking and latch on to the reality that God still writes straight with crooked lines and that it is most important that He entered our world in real, human ways. It is not so important for me to know exactly how he did this but that He did it! St. Joseph pray for us that we might have the faith that you showed in following God’s plan for your life. Amen!

March 19, 2017 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

Saint for the day: Joseph, husband of Mary the mother of Jesus

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

Exodus 17:3-7    –    Psalm 95    –    Romans 5:1-2, 5-8    –    John 4:5-42

“Jesus said, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:14)

 The Church gives us this Gospel almost every year and it’s a long one and there’s always the tendency to be time-consciousness and choose the abbreviated text. But, doing that takes away the heart of this story which is filled with multiply levels of dialogue that are important for us to grasp.

The Gospel writers – like they often do in John – have given us a wonderful “word picture” that could be seen as a kind of “Oberammergau Passion Play” done on a huge stage with different characters coming and going so that we a given a wide view of what’s going on.

St. John has a wonderful way of giving us all the information that we need in order to know the entire scope of the story. Most of this is done in what I would call, “1st Person Narrative” so we get all the information we need about what’s going on through the dialogues between the characters as they come and go. It’s the kind of drama that any one of us could easily fit into and that’s the point that St. John wants us to get.

Jesus will always reach out to foreigners, women and others considered outsiders – even as he is totally aware of all the circumstances of their lives. The woman in this story is the sub-narrator as she herself explains what’s going on: “Sir, why are you speaking to a women? You want a drink but don’t have a bucket! … I can see you are a prophet… give me this living water so I don’t have to come here anymore.”

 There are always lots of comings and goings in John’s Gospel and this should give us the ability to see Jesus as the stable, rock of ages for us to trust. As characters come and go: Jesus stays put and is just there for them to come and see and come to understand what he is offering: living water and food that you don’t even know about.

The important fact for us to get from this story is that Jesus is always there. He never moves from the cistern signifying that he truly is the source of living water and the one that offers it to all who ask – even as he knows exactly who we are and what we’ve done. The message of today’s Holy Gospel could have been stated in a few, concise sentences; short and to the point but the wisdom of the writers have given us a story that few will forget.

In the end: the woman leaves her bucket signifying that she has understood that Jesus is the living water, welling up from within. She also becomes a kind of “missionary” in that many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

If this Holy Gospel were done as a stage play Jesus would never have moved from the edge of the well and we would understand, too, that he is the “Rock of Ages from which flow life-giving waters of Eternal life!” Amen!