February 16, 2017 – Thursday in the 6th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Gilbert of Sempringham (c. 1083 – 1189)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 9:1-13   –   Psalm 102   –   Mark 8:27-33

“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life; you have the words of everlasting life.” (Today’s Alleluia verse before hearing the Holy Gospel.)

In today’s Gospel Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, you Satan …” Indicateing that Peter is speaking like Satan – the Father of Lies. What kind of lies do we try to fix on Jesus? In the Genesis story God has saved Noah & his clan but it won’t be long before they forget the rainbow and begin to accuse God of lying to them, “Why did you bring us out to this deserted place with this wretched bread?” Jesus says, “I am the Bread of life …” But we don’t want that kind of bread. We want our own image of Messiah. We need to start thinking more like God and less according to our finite ways. So often we turn the tables and make our anthem, “God, made in our image.” This forces us back to the original encounter with Satan in which we are promised the lie of lies “… You will become like Gods…” True, we will ‘become like God’ but not by a simple act or bite of this or that passing fancy. But, as Jesus says, “through the cross.” NO! We don’t want that! No! No God of mine, made in my image needs to go through suffering. We all yearn for instantaneous redemption. “Just take a bite…”

How often do I think more like Satan and not like God? Redemption comes through perfect love. The kind that lays down a life in order to gain it. Take a bite you die. Lay down your life and you live forever! Amen!

February 15, 2017 – Wednesday in the 6th Week of the Church Year

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

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22    –    Psalm 116    –    Mark 8:22-26

The Genesis story of the flood is a great story of re-creation. It takes us back to Gen 1: “The earth was a formless void & the spirit hovered over the waters.” Being “at sea” is a common term to depict confusion. The “waters of the deep” are a symbol of the unconscious. God is not only re-shaping the earth, but He is also re-forming man and bringing him to a new sophistication of understanding. Noah is now 601 years old!

In the Gospel, Jesus restores the sight of a blind man – but this miracle is done in stages: first the blind man only sees faintly –“people moving about like walking trees.” Our encounter with God is an ongoing process that gradually unfolds as long as we stay in relationship. It involves some times when we might feel as though we are “at sea” or as a sighted person who is somehow still blind; “I just don’t see what’s the point of going through all this rigmarole. What does it do?”

Ritual is an important part of all our ways of struggling to find the path that leads to Jesus. Sometimes God needs to “wipe out” a part of our lives in order for us to be able to “see” clearly the real path for our future. And all through the ups and downs of our journey to find Jesus the rites and rituals of our Catholic Faith are there to give us the support – from the outside – to help us more clearly see the path that leads to God. Prayer is the key to every aspect of our search for a deep relationship with Jesus. Try it! You’ll like it! Amen!

February 14, 2017 – Tuesday in the 6th Week of the Church Year

Today’s Saints: Cyril & Methodius (Cyril : born c.827 died 869; Methodius (c815-884)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Sirach 2:1-11    –    Psalm 37    –    Mark 9:30-37

“My son, when you come to serve the Lord, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials.”

 These words from the beginning of our Scripture reading from the Book of Sirach – also know as Eccleiastes – are underlined in red in my bible because they are so important for us to know when we decide to follow Jesus. I often use them whenever I’m giving a talk to aspiring Dominicans or any people just beginning their Christian journey.

This Scripture reading is a good one for us to hear as we move toward the start of Lent in a few weeks. Now, we have to get down to the business of seriously following the Lord. It might be good to go back and read this scripture passage again. Go slowly and savor each phrase. Hear how encouraging the Lord is with us. Every word is packed with hope. Don’t let the word, “fear” turn you off. Substitute a better word, “awe” as in “I stand [before you] in absolute wonder…”

 The Responsorial Psalm continues this theme of how we should follow the Lord with the promise that He will always save us as we make our journey. This reminds me of the three falls of Jesus in the Stations of the Cross and also of Peter’s triple denial and the fact that there is no sin that can totally separate us from His forgiveness. These are great concepts that act as a frame that keeps us on the right path.

Then, in today’s Holy Gospel, Jesus gives us the conditions of following Him by warning us, “If anyone wishes to be first, … be the last and servant of all.” Today’s Gospel passage ends with the image of a child. Not that we are to be “childish” but that we are to have those trusting characteristic of a child that is dependent on others and can stand in awe of God’s love. Amen!

February 13, 2017 – Monday 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:

Genesis 4:1-15, 25    –    Psalm 50    –    Mark 8:11-13

“Be my protector, O God, a mighty stronghold to save me, for you are my rock, my stronghold!  Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name.”  (Today’s Entrance Antiphon: Psalm30:3-4)

Signs are for those who don’t now where they are going. If we know where we are going we don’t need signs. If we are on our way to heaven we know that Jesus is “The Way.” How do I make Jesus “The Way” in my life? Do I pine for Jesus like so many of the saints? Do I desire to expend all my strength in order to be close to Jesus? Do I seek to know Jesus more completely in my prayer and my activities?

Or do I seek other more enjoyable, earthly treasures rather than being satisfied to sit at the feet of the lord?

When I made my first vows as I Dominican Brother I printed a commemorative vow card which had Psalm 27, “One thing I ask of the Lord and this I seek; to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life.” But I still need to be reminded of this promise ever now and then. “Thank you Jesus!

 History readily shows us that anyone who seeks earthly treasures or earthly power will never be truly happy. Today’s scripture reading from our on-going trip through the Book of Genesis certainly shows us what happens when we lust after someone else’s success. Just look at some of the leaders in almost any part of the world who have become corrupt in their warped need to stay in power. They all started out to bring some kind of justice and good for all the people and then quickly turned into self-seeking dictators worried that they might lose their ill-gotten wealth and power.

Truly great people can command power or honor – they don’t have to demand it.

So many saints shunned notoriety and were still able to do great things in their lives because they were seeking Jesus and not power of authority. Lots to think about in today’s Liturgy. Amen!

February 12, 2017 – 6th Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Apollonia (died: c.249)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Sirach 15:15-20    –     Psalm 1191   –    Corinthians 2:6-10   –    Matthew 5:17-37

“Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.” (Sirach 15:18)

In these “numbered weeks” (‘Ordinary time’) the Church is focusing on Matthew’s Holy Gospel. We’re pretty much going through it sequentially. It’s the Gospel that the Church wants us to focus on at this time. Once the Gospel is chosen, a first reading (usually from the Old Testament) is found that can support the theme of the Gospel along with a Psalm that – hopefully – compliments the Gospel message. The middle reading – usually from the New Testament – is on its own schedule and may, or may not, seem to fit in. Today, though, it does seem to fit in well.

With the above as a given, I hope we can put together some helpful thoughts that will enhance our following of Jesus. So, we look at this fairly long Gospel which, at first glance, appears to cover almost everything that we might encounter in our day-to-day life. Perhaps the “key” to understanding today’s Holy Gospel comes right at the beginning: “Therefore whoever breaks these commandments … will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever obeys … will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

 Then Matthew puts in a “corker:” “if your righteousness doesn’t surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

 Many Churches will take advantage of opting for the shorter version of this Gospel in order to not be overwhelmed by a whole string of negative statements. That’s why I chose the following verse from the Book of Sirach as our “lead-in” to today’s Reflection:

“Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.” (Sirach 15:18)

Rules, laws and regulations are important for any organization but they must be seen as a means to an end and not an end in themselves. I read the following wise saying from another Dominican who said, “A shallow religion has to compensate for lack of depth by excessive strictness; and it tries in advance to make rules for every possible situation.” (Donagh O’Shea, OP)

 We don’t have to look very far to see what overly-strict religious rules can do to a society that chops off hands that have broken some law. When today’s Gospel says, “… not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law (and here’s the qualifier)until all things have taken place!”   And they have! Jesus was crucified, died, was buried and rose from the dead in order to send the Holy Spirit to re-create the world that was stained and trapped by sin. For all intents and purposes we are living in the end times – one way or another! We don’t go back. And we can’t jump ahead. So there’s only one choice left: today is the only day we really know or have. Go back and find that “Morning Offering” prayer and begin each day as if it were going to be your last. It’s really the only moment that we have. Amen!

February 11, 2017 – Saturday in the 5th Week of the Church Year

Today’s Feast: Our Lady of Lourdes

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 3:9-24    –    Psalm 90    –    Mark 8:1-10

“Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among woman and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

 As so often happens in our liturgies, today, we are given more than enough to contemplate. Even if we skip our journey through Genesis, we still have the wonder of Lourdes up against the 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.”

In the 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!”

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!

February 10, 2017 – Friday in the 5th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Scholastica (c. 380 – February 10, 542)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 3:1-8    –    Psalm 32    –    Mark 7:31-37

“Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your son. (Today’s ‘Gospel Acclamation.’)

Here are the things we need to focus on today: Sin/guilt; fear; being opened; speaking; and not trying to hide from God!

Lots of people grow up with a not-so-subtle push to “succeed.” I don’t recall any of that in my growing up years. I don’t think that my folks ever laid a burden of guilt on me or tried to use coercion to push me in any particular direction. In fact, I credit my parents with giving me the freedom to allow my hidden self to grow strong and my creative and artistic abilities to blossom. When I made known my desire to enter the Dominicans after graduating from high school they supported me even though I’m sure they were thinking of what my older brother had done years earlier when he entered the seminary but only stayed a couple of years. I am blessed to have had loving parents who allowed me to grow in a good, Catholic home and pursue my dreams to follow the Lord as a Dominican Brother.

So what happened to Adam and Eve? I think they wanted to skip the growing up phase and get right into the business of getting out there on their own. I think we know the story well enough: they got out but I don’t think it was really what they were hoping for! They were trying to become like God by disobeying Him rather than by seeking Him. They were under the impression that – rather then enjoying all that God had given them, they could bypass “the law” and skip right to the top and beyond! In some sense, all of us are given a “Garden of Eden” time when we are small children and we have to be patient with that time and let it begin to teach us the ways of life. We have to remember that we’re not in a game of “Monopoly” and we not in a race to see who can amass the most of whatever it is we think we need. The Scripture passage that comes to mind: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all this will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33) The irony of the Creation Story is that Adam and Eve really did have everything that they could possible want but the devil got in there and brought the first case of doubt, envy and greed which was their downfall. God created a wonderful world for them but the devil tempted them with just one little bite from the apple. Our goal should be to “seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6) and not to hide from Him out of fear or shame. The Lord wants to “take us aside” to a quiet place to touch and heal our every weakness. He opens our ears to hear of His love and forgiveness and loosens our tongue to speak of His wonders. We must be able – like Job – ”to stand naked before the Lord” (Job 1:21) in order to know and believe that we are made in His image which is more than enough to last our entire lifetime. Amen!

February 9, 2017 – Thursday in the 5th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Jerome Emiliani (1400 – 1486)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 2:18-25    –    Psalm 128    –    Mark 7:24-30

Today’s “Reflection” is archived from February 13, 2009 and I thought it was good enough for a second run!

“God is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.” (Today’s ‘Benedictus Antiphon’ from Morning Prayer. (Based on Daniel 6:28)

 Early this morning the BBC was airing part of their series on Darwin and his quest to discover “the origin of the species.” And here we are reading from Genesis the Biblical story of creation! The question? How do faith, science & the Bible co-exist and how can we maintain faith & still not close our eyes to the reality of a God who brought all this about. Also, there was news that two satellites collided in space and “blew each other up to smithereens.” How do you think something like that would have been told in the OT Biblical language? “There was a great battle in the Heavens between God and the Evil one (one of the satellites was American and one was Russian!) And they destroyed each other.”

What part does evolution play in our understanding of God & creation? It just goes to show you that we are still a long way from really understanding how this world and the universe is all held together and we have made many mistakes in the way we have “eaten of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Just listen to any news broadcast to see some of the evils we’ve unleashed upon our world. Sorry ‘bout that! But “Amen,” anyway!

February 8, 2017 – Wednesday in the 5th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Josephine Bakhita (c. 1869 – February 8, 1947)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 2:4b – 9, 15-17    –    Psalm 104    –    Mark 7:14-23

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:28)

 Today, we are given more than enough leads so there should be no reason why we can’t find something of worth while to focus on. In the scripture from the Book of Genesis we’re told about the creation of the first human being. Out of the dust of the earth. What does that make you think of? For myself, it makes me think of the beginning of Lent which is just around the corner and the way we are “anointed” with ashes in the figure of the cross and told, “Remember, you are dust. And into dust you shall return.” That phrase is not spoken to make us think that we aren’t much good for anything. Rather, it is said in order to remind us: that no matter how difficult life might seem to be In this world. It’s not the end of our being. And, connected to that thought is the idea that, God breathed a spirit of life into us that gives us kinship with the divine. The beauty of this “Creation Story” is the fact that it didn’t take very long for those first two people – who were given everything they could possibly want or need – to try to get more!

And, all of us to this very day are still motivated by that same urge. Even when we know the reality that it’s not things that can make us happy, but the grace of a loving God who, above all else wants us to ultimately be happy with Him in Paradise. In the end, all that we have thought were marks of success will be of no value as we leave this physical world on our way to our true, Heavenly Home. As I write today’s Reflection I am keenly aware that my memory is starting to fade away and everything that I once thought was easy as a piece of cake is now a real challenge. But I’m coming to a place where I need to focus more on the spiritual dimension of life in order to know what is really important: knowing that I am created by God and given gifts to use as I make my way toward the Kingdom. Those of you who know me well, know that I had many creative talents and abilities. Now, all I have to do is view all that God has given me over my lifetime –so far – has been given in order for me to know that, as great as it’s been; and as clever as I’ve been is just the tip of the iceberg. And all of us are just on our way to something that is way beyond our understanding. And God said: “It is good!” Amen!

February 7, 2017 – Tuesday in the 5th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Colette (January 13,1381 – March 6, 1447)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Genesis 1:20 – 2:4    –    Psalm 8    –    Mark 7:1-13

“Incline my heart, O God, to your decrees; and favor me with your law.” (Today’s “Alleluia Verse.:)

 As we continue our reading in Genesis we hear the completion of the Creation Story. In Mark, Jesus is still confronting the S & Ps as to their “lip service” while their hearts are far from God. The bottom line centers on keeping Holy the Sabbath. To rest in the Lord – which is better than all the laws. For the Laws are pointless if we are not in love with Jesus. The last verse of this Genesis reading: “And God saw that is was very good and He rested.”

In Mark, Jesus chides the S& Ps about cleaning their hands & cups while neglecting their hearts. Jesus tells us to “circumcise our hearts – eg. turn your hearts toward God, “Love God … and then do what you will.”

Jesus comes to dine with us & recline at our table. Do we seek to “rest upon His breast” and be close to Him? Or are we more worried about “other things” – rules and regulations? Can we drop all our busyness and come away to a quite place and rest? We Dominicans spend a great amount of time mulling over things like our lifestyle, the way we pray and the work or ministry that we do.

We have to deal with budgets and matters of material things and it’s hard not to become like the S & Ps and nit pick along lines …”you’re wasting money over here or there why should I have to “tighten my belt” when others seem not to care? God does not judge us by virtue of what others are doing or not doing but on where our hearts are and how close we have striven to be near and to follow Jesus. “God saw that it was very good. And He rested from all the work he had been doing.” Let us hope that we can hear Jesus calling us to listen to him in quiet prayer which gives us the desire to and the ability to see how we should reach out in some kind of ministry. Amen!