February 18, 2018 – First Sunday of Lent

 

Saint for the day: Blessed John of Fiesole – 1387 – Feb. 18, 1455

Scripture Readings for today’ Liturgy:

Genesis 9:8-15 – 1 Peter – 3:18-22 – Mark 1:12-15

“Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

“Most revolutionaries end up as dictators!”

Jesus was must assuredly a “revolutionary” but He didn’t end up a dictator. How did he escape this trap that seems to plague nations and countries throughout our world. And not just in our time but all throughout history. What is the difference?  And what kept Jesus (and you and me, too) from going this route?

The move from revolutionary to dictator is a subtle move. I don’t think anyone with revolutionary ideas thinks that they will one day be a dictator.

This is where today’s Gospel can give us some insight into how easy it is for any of us to chose the ‘apparent’ path to success over the – sometimes more difficult path – of honesty and integrity.

Satan uses the most basic means of temptation when he encounters Jesus who is tired and hungry after 40 days alone in the wilderness. And he uses the very things that all of us need and crave: food; power and control.

These are the very things that the poor and downtrodden of our world don’t have. That’s why Jesus tell us, “this is the kind of fast that I desire: to feed the poor when you encounter them; to loose the bonds that tie people powerless and to bring them into the banquet.” (another of my ‘loose’ translations – but I think you get the point.)

Satan doesn’t tempt us in outlandish ways but comes at us in our basic needs. That’s why it’s so easy for us to slip into his trap. Our task during Lent is to realize that the bread that Satan offers us is really just stone. It’s not the “Bread of Life” that Jesus offers. The “power” that Satan offers is the one that will lead us into dictatorship whereas the “power” that Jesus offers is the “power to serve: if you want to be great, become the servant of all.”

The last temptation which is more subtle than the others is the temptation to “fame.” All of us would like to be miracle workers and have control over the elements but this is not where Jesus calls us. Even the magicians in Pharos’s court could do tricks.

Bottom line: “seek ye first the Kingdom of God … and all these things will be added unto you.” Amen!

February 17, 2018 – Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Saints for the day: The 7 founders of the Servite Order

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 58:9b-14 – PS. 86 – Luke 5:27-32

Once more, in these first days of Lent our scripture readings are clearly pointing out that our Lenten Journey needs to be more than just “putting aside superfluous actions.” We need to go back to those “Beatitudes” which we have just recently been reminded about; “removing oppression … feeding the hungry … not following your own ways … not seeking our own interests or speaking with malice. (Isaiah 58:9ff)

How do we do this? The response verse from today’s Psalm might give us the answer: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.”(response verse to Psalm 86)

 Two important thoughts are packed into that line: “teach me” and “walk in your truth.” We have to meet up with the Lord in order to hear what he says to us. And then – we can’t just walk back to whatever we were doing – we have to “walk in his truth.” 

Then we come to this Holy Gospel. I think that I would have chosen something other than the “call of Levi (Matthew)” for this early day in Lent. So, what might the Church want us to hear in this? You might get the answer if you close your eyes for a moment and visualize the scene: Levi is minding is own business when Jesus calls him. He immediately gets up and follows – leaving everything – his livelihood, his ill-gotten gains … and then gives a lavish dinner for a large crowd of tax collectors.

Go back to the opening line of that reading from Isaiah, “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech … then light shall rise for you in the darkness” (Isaiah 58:9)

 My question would have to be: “what were the Pharisees and scribes doing hanging around a tax collector’s house? You can almost imagine them lurking in the shadows and peeking in the windows. They were in no way interested in helping people in any way and only had their strict interpretation of the law which they used in order to condemn people and ostracize them.   Jesus, on the other hand called people to him and fed and cured them.

Laws and regulations are a “means to an end” and not an “end in themselves.” They enable us to see clearly the path that we must walk on and to see the purpose of our journey: the Kingdom!These “themes” need to be taken seriously if we want to hear and know the reality of the last verse of this Isaiah reading: “Then you shall delight in the Lord, and … ride on the heights.” (Isaiah 58:13)

The main reason that Jesus “picks on” the S & P’s is that they were always pointing their fingers at others without a thought about their own actions.

You’ll remember some of the ways that I suggested we might more honestly make this Lenten Journey: not just giving up but more importantly, taking on – in the sense of following those Beatitudes: taking care of the downtrodden, the hungry, and the lame.

That’s why Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees because all they did was pile heavy burdens on the shoulders of the poor and never helped them up. The ending words of today’s Holy Gospel: “I have not come to call the righteous … but sinners.”

 In case you didn’t catch the drift: that’s you and me. Amen.

 

 

February 16, 2018 – Friday after Ash Wednesday

 

“Saint for the day:Gilbert of Sempringham (c,1083-Feb. 4, 1189)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 58:1-9a – Ps. 51 – Matthew 9:14-15

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

 Fasting is a way of stepping back & away from something in order to see more clearly the way we should go. If we stand right up against the giant sequoia we won’t be able to see that there is a way around it and also to see that on one side is a great precipice & on the other is the clear path. The stepping back is not the “end in itself” but only a means to an end – getting around the obstacle & back on the right path.

God doesn’t care one way or another whether or not I eat meat or if I wear a hair shirt. All He cares about is if I am on the right path or “way” that leads to Heaven and if on this “way” I lift up the down trodden, feed the poor and take care of the widow & orphan. If great intellectual battles are fought over the ways & laws of lent then we have really lost the war. “50 years from now isn’t nobody gonna know the difference.” Get down & get on the right path. Check to see if Gal 5:22 ff is your road map: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity. Amen!

February 15, 2018 Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Saint for the day: Claude de la Colombiere (Feb. 2, 1641 – Feb. 15, 1682)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Ps. 1 – Luke 9:22-25

All throughout our lives we must make choices. It all started with Adam and Eve and will not end until we make the final choice to allow God to “take us to the next level.” In Deut. we are told, “I set before you life and death … choose life!” Then Jesus says, “he who loves (his) life will lose it.” I guess it comes down to what kind of life we choose: our own way – or the way of Jesus – which is the way of the Cross.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that all life – our own lives included – are in the process of evolving. There is nothing static about the way all life and all creation cycles through a process of “becoming.” The entire earth didn’t exist once, then came into being and, one day, might not exist! The Dominican Order came into existence at a particular time and might cease to exist one day. After all, where are some of the great monastic orders of yesteryear? Life changes! Everything sooner or later dies! Life & death are placed before us. Choose life … but all still die. So what is the “Life through Death” that Jesus offers? It must be that “which no eye has seen or ear heard.” And while we await “the New Heaven and New Earth” we continue to make choices to go with Jesus’ through life to death to life everlasting. Amen?

Ash Wednesday reflection

February 14, 2017 – Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent

Given the fact that I’m having some problems with my computer (or maybe it’s better to say, “problems with the computer operator) I have chosen to give you the “link” to the web site that I ordinarily use to get the readings and other “links” for the given date. Once there, you can easily get the links to the scripture readings along with a short commentary. Here’s the direct “link” that will give you a good introduction to this Holy Season that we are entering today. Copy the following “link” that will take you to a page which lists the scripture readings – along with a short commentary. “click here for the “link” to Ash Wednesday)

 

I’ll be back on tap for “Ash Thursday,” God willing!

Feb. 13, 2018 – Tues. in the 6th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Giles Mary of St. Joseph (November 16, 1729 – February 7, 1812)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

James 1:12-18 – Psalm 94 – Mark 8:14-21

In the BBC series, “Planet Earth” I watched the segment “Oceans Deep” and was amazed that even the experts haven’t really grasped the vast realms of all the oceans.. I think of this as a simile for Heaven. Space is another side of the same equation: we haven’t even scratched the surface of the vastness of either the oceans or space. Yet we are busy disturbing both with our clumsy footprints. If I were God I think I’d really be ticked! I think I’d just let the people destroy it on their own – we are already well on the way – and then start over again.

If this scenario was to play out, how would God start over or would He just say, “That’s it! I’ve given them too many second chances. Now they’ve really blown it!” God might be angry but Jesus is the key to “pushing ahead.” But He gives us fair warning to be careful to avoid the yeast of the Pharisees – or Herod. Interesting that He puts the Pharisees & Herod in the same sentence: the religious absolutes & the absolute evil man-Herod.

Maybe this is a warning for us to be more honest in our “Religiosity” and to avoid evil deeds. The Pharisees couldn’t “see” Jesus because they were unable to look beyond the words of the Lord and therefore missed the word make flesh. Herod only saw everything as a potential risk to his ill-gotten fame and in the end he was eaten up from the inside by his own greed. The law is a means to an end not the end in itself. Leven in overdose kills rather than being that which subtly changes us into something beautiful for God. Amen!

Feb. 12, 2018 – Mon. in the 6th Week of the Church year.

 

Saint for the day:Apollonia – Died c. 249

Scripture Readings for today’s :Liturgy:

James 1:1-11 – Psalm 119 – Mark 8:11 – 13

“From Glory to Glory He’s changing me

In the opening of his letter, James says, “Consider it a joy when you encounter various trials since your faith is tested in this way.” This reminds me of something St. Theresa said, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”

Trials and hardships are always there so we don’t have to look for them. The bottom line, though, is how we deal with them when they touch our lives in some kind of direct way. If we put the reading from James up against today’s Gospel which is asking for signs we might be able to get some clear understanding how all this fits together.

In this short Gospel they ask Jesus for a sign and we have to ask ourselves, “what are signs for?” When I’m moving around the city I only need signs when I’m not sure of where I’m going. When I know my destination I can almost get there with my eyes closed.

Jesus tells us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” This, coupled with, “I will never leave you…” should be enough for us to stay close. Another quote from St. Theresa was on a bookmark found in her prayer book in which she had written: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you; All things pass: God never changes.  Patience achieves all it strives for. Whoever has God lacks nothing, God alone suffices.”

 If we have this understanding and know where we are headed we should not be fearful about our lives. Jesus tells us that He goes to prepare a place for us and what we are to become has not yet been revealed. But we know, that when it is revealed we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He really is. Remind me to tell you about making pop corn last night and how amazing that transformation is. And I ended up singing, “From Glory to Glory He’s changing me…” Amen!

February 11, 2018 – 6th Sunday of the Church Year

 

Today’s Feast: Our Lady of Lourdes

Scripture Readings for today’s Feast

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46 – Ps 32 – 1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11-1

Mark 1:40 – 45

“What do you want of me, Lord?”

 Today’s Gospel story about the healing of the leper begins with the leper saying to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” The Gospels only give us two instances where lepers are healed: this one and the one about the ten being healed with only one coming back to give thanks. Most of the healings in the Gospels begin with the person seeking the healing making the first move: “If I but touch the tassel of His robe…” Or, “Son of David, have pity on me.” And Jesus does want to make us whole. And this Gospel’s healing points out that Jesus places Himself in a potentially threatening position by reaching out to touch the leper which would have made him ritually impure in the sight of the S & P’s.

So what’s our “bottom line” in this story? If we only do “safe” things in our Christian walk we will be like the person who received the one talent: “I knew you were a clever man so I played it safe: here’s your one talent back. Nothing lost. Nothing gained.” And the guy gets thrown into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth!

Our walk with Jesus can never be just a stroll down “easy-street” as can be attested by the lives and deaths of the Church’s early martyrs. We have to be willing to go the extra mile knowing that Jesus promised to be with us all the way. The quote from GK Chesterton, “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and failed. It’s that it hasn’t really been tried.” Maybe we need to approach Jesus with, “If you wish you can make me a good follower…” and then stay there as He reaches out to touch your life with His healing hand. Amen.

February 10, 2018 – Sat. in the 5th week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Scholastica (c.480 – February 10, 542)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy

1 Kings 12:26 ….34 – Ps 106:6 …22 – Mark 8:1-10

“Lord I believe! Help my unbelief!”

 As so often happens in our liturgies, today, we are given more than enough to contemplate. Even if we skip comment on St. Scholastica we still have the saga of the Israelites struggle to be the “chosen people of God” and this second telling of the “Miracle of the Loves and Fishes.”

In first place we have to understand that in order for God to break into our world He is bound to do that where we’re at. So, as in these OT accounts, God has to come to us – even if it’s in some desert place where we might have gotten caught up in local, pagan practices. Isn’t it encouraging, though, that He doesn’t just throw up His hands and say, “To Hell with you.”

“Lord I believe! Help my unbelief!”

 As so often happens in our liturgies, today, we are given more than enough to contemplate. Even if we skip comment on today’s saint we still have continuing saga of the Israelites struggle to be the “ chosen people of God” and this second telling of the “Miracle of the Loves and Fishes.”

Today’s Gospel of the “Miracle of the Loves” has garnered many interpretations down through the ages. Some would even go so far as to say the “miracle” was simply that Jesus was able to convenience the crowd, who actually had sufficient food hidden away, to share it with the others. I don’t like to take this stance and prefer to see this as a real miracle similar to God providing Manna for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert wasteland.

Miracles happen! Look at all the miracles that have happened at Lourdes. Sure, there are some who would say, “that wasn’t really a miracle the person just changed their inner attitude which brought about a physical healing.” To that I say, “Hey! A healings a healing.

So, when we look at this miracle of the loves and fishes the “miracle” is that the people were fed. How did God do that? I haven’t the slightest idea. But then, I don’t always understand all the ways in which God “acts” (or “miracles”) in my own life. The beauty of “miracles” is in the fact that they can’t always be taken apart.

Thomas, meeting the Risen Jesus, pokes his finger into the wounds of Jesus and simply says, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief.” Let us not get caught in the endless circle of trying to “figure out” how God touches our lives bur, rather, rejoice that He does! Amen!

Friday, February 9, 2018

February 9, 2018 – Friday in the 5th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Jerome Emiliani (1486 – Feb. 8, 1537)

1 Kings 11:4-13 – Ps. 106 – Mark 7:24-30

A note to my faithful readers of Scratchpads

 I’m up against a slight computer problem which I should be able to fix soon. Thanks for you patience while I work out getting back on track.

            As ever Brother Daniel