October 4, 2017 – in the 26th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Francis of Assisi (September 26, 1182 – October 3, 1226)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Nehemiah 2:1-8 – Psalm 137 – Luke 9:57-62

Due to the tradition that St. Dominic and St. Francis –both contemporaries – knew other the Franciscans refer to “Our Holy Father, Dominic,” on his feast day and the Dominicans celebrate the Feast of our Holy Father, Francis on his feast day.

 My first thought today, after hearing this reading from Nehemiah and the stern admonition from Jesus about following Him is that there really is ‘nothing new under the sun’ in this world. Things once thought to be the most important in our lives and our history are left in ruins. People’s lives are in turmoil, whether it be economic or spiritual, or trying to live in a world of natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. ‘Following the Lord’ is not anywhere near the most important thing that people think about these days.

Nehemiah is sad and looking back to the way the temple has been left in ruins and seeks to rebuild it to it’s former glory. But we know from history that even the “Temples of the Lord” are passing and what is built up by one generation will be left in ruins by another. We might take this thought and apply it to the situation of the Church today: many think that we have left our “traditions” and gone after “fancies” that are far from the essence of what Jesus intended. When Jesus uses the analogy of “putting your hand to the plow” I think that we have to see that we must always keep going. The world isn’t the same today as it was when I entered the Dominicans almost 60 years ago. Or when the Dominicans first came to California (or wherever you want to place that marker.)

The quote from Ram Das, “Be Here NOW!” is so important for us to focus on. And we must stand in that “here and now place” – albeit aware of where we’ve come from – but always focused on where we are now and where we are (hoping) to be going.

No matter where we find ourselves, right now is the only moment we can really trust. We can’t go back and we can’t run ahead. We’re here, now, and all that we can honestly do is “plow ahead!”

Jesus asks us to follow Him. To leave father, mother, homelands, and receive the “Hundred Fold Reward.”   When He was asked who His father, mother, kin are, His response was “those who hear the word of God and ‘act on it’ are His kin. Can we honestly say we’ve put our ‘hand to the plow’ and not looked back? Think about what that really means. Perhaps it’s not looking at what we’ve failed to do but looking ahead to what we might be able to do.

We might let this prayer of St. Ignatius be in our thoughts today: “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, my entire will. All that I am and all that I possess you have given me. I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace – that’s enough for me.” Amen!

October 3, 2017 – in the 26th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Theodora Guerin (October 2, 1798 – May 14, 1856)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Nehemiah 2:1-8 – Psalm 137 – Luke 9:57-62

My first thought today, after hearing this reading from Nehemiah and the stern admonition from Jesus about following Him is that there really is ‘nothing new under the sun’ in this world. Things once thought to be the most important in our lives and our history are left in ruins. People’s lives are in turmoil, whether it be economic or spiritual, or trying to live in a world of natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. ‘Following the Lord’ is not anywhere near the most important thing that people think about these days.

Nehemiah is sad and looking back to the way the temple has been left in ruins and seeks to rebuild it to it’s former glory. But we know from history that even the “Temples of the Lord” are passing and what is built up by one generation will be left in ruins by another. We might take this thought and apply it to the situation of the Church today: many think that we have left our “traditions” and gone after “fancies” that are far from the essence of what Jesus intended. When Jesus uses the analogy of “putting your hand to the plow” I think that we have to see that we must always keep going. The world isn’t the same today as it was when I entered the Dominicans almost 60 years ago. Or when the Dominicans first came to California (or wherever you want to place that marker.)

The quote from Ram Das, “Be Here NOW!” is so important for us to focus on. And we must stand in that “here and now place” – albeit aware of where we’ve come from – but always focused on where we are now and where we are (hoping) to be going.

No matter where we find ourselves right now is the only moment we can really trust. We can’t go back and we can’t run ahead. We’re here, now, and all that we can honestly do is “plow ahead!”

Jesus asks us to follow Him. To leave father, mother, homelands, and receive the “Hundred Fold Reward.”   When He was asked who His father, mother, kin are, His response was “those who hear the word of God and ‘act on it’ are His kin. Can we honestly say we’ve put our ‘hand to the plow’ and not looked back? Think about what that really means. Perhaps it’s not looking at what we’ve failed to do but looking ahead to what we might be able to do.

We might let this prayer of St. Ignatius be in our thoughts today: “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, my entire will. All that I am and all that I possess you have given me. I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace – that’s enough for me.” Amen!

October 2, 2017 – Tuesday in the 26th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Feast of the Guardian Angels

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Zechariah 8:1-8 – Psalm 102 – 2nd Timothy – Matthew 18:1-5, 10

The quote for today is to see if you can remember – and recite – the “Guardian Angel Prayer”

 People say that the Catholic Church is too rigid in the way the Scriptures for Mass are selected I point them to feasts’ like today. The Church gives us options with a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

 The Scripture readings for today’s liturgy are like “bookends of faith.” The Gospel promises that there are Angels who are in constant presence to us. And especially when we are experiencing hard times like the ones we hear about today in our continuing journey with Job.

One writer said that Angels can make themselves very small and perch on our heads (sometimes hidden in our hair – if you have it) and can guide and direct us from this vantage point. When we don’t know whether to turn right or left the angel can see that the bridge is out on the left and whispers in our ear, “go right!” This is just one of many ways we try to gain deeper understanding of how angels – who are pure spirit – are present to us as guards and protectors.

So, “bottom line” today seems to be: allow God to be God. Try not to box God in to our feeble understanding. And try not to close him out when difficulties beset us. Try to have some image of the many ways in which God can make himself known to us, in the form of angels.

So, here’s the prayer – in case you had forgotten it.

 Angel of God, my guardian dear. To whom God’s love commits thee here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard to rule and guide. Amen.

 

 

 

 

October 1, 2017 – 26th Sunday of the Church Year

 

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

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ezekiel 18:25 – 28 – Psalm 25 – Philippians 2:1-11 – Matthew 21:28-32

The beauty of our Catholic Church and the liturgies that we celebrate is the fact that there is always something that we can grab on to and apply to our own lives. The Gospel today, with the story of the two sons: one who says, “yes I will” but doesn’t and the other who says, “no I won’t” but does is a perfect example of how most of us live out our commitments to follow the Lord. St. Paul says, “the Lord has given me a ‘thorn’ in the flesh” that makes it difficult for me to whole-heartedly follow him. Eg “I will never deny you…” and then, “do you love me X three?”

God has given us incredible gifts that cover the range from our sexuality to spirituality; from questioning to understanding; from wanting to live forever to actually living forever! And each one of these tremendous gifts are usually two-sided: they drive us on while at the same time pulling us down. We say, “yes I will…” but then we don’t. “No I won’t … but then have a change of heart and do. We are reminded of Paul’s admonition, “From glory to glory He’s changing me…” We are in the process of coming to an understanding of what God is calling us to: to bring our entire selves – body and soul, warts and scars, faults and denials, sins and failures asking Him to forgive us seven times seventy! And He does! When Jesus/God says, “Yes I will” He doesn’t turn back on that promise.

Lord, you know how much I want to follow you completely. Look not on my failures but, rather, on my desire to have you be all in all in my life. When I slip and fall off the path you have set for me bring me back with your gentle words, “do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” Yes, you know that I love you. Amen!

September 30, 2017 – Saturday in the 25 Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Jerome (345 – 420)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Zechariah 2:5-9, 14 – 15a – Jeremiah 31:10 – 13 – Luke 9:43b-45

“The Angel spoke … ‘I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst.” (Zechariah 2:9)

 We’ve been hearing readings from the Old Testament in these days which often bombards us with images that are not always clear to us with our 21st Century minds. We’ve heard about a lot of measuring as the people are brought into a place of safety with shepherds to watch over them and take care of them. Today we’re given some examples of how the Lord gathers His people and encircles them with a wall of fire – so that He will be glory in their midst. Fire, in the Old Testament, is usually a clear sign of God’s presence to His people but we know that it is also used as a symbol of purification. That’s the part that most of us turn away from. Even though we know that it is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence we often turn away from anything that is going to change us – especially when we don’t know the full extent of that change. If there’s anything we learn from the Old Testament – and even from saints whose feasts we often celebrate – we know that we can’t expect to wear the crown if we haven’t borne the Cross. This theory shouldn’t surprise us since it’s right there in today’s Holy Gospel: “Jesus says, ‘the Son of Man is to be handed over…’ but they didn’t understand this saying.”(Luke 9:44)

 Go back up to today’s Responsorial Psalm from Jeremiah where we hear, “The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.” As you read through this psalm, put your name in wherever it fits so that you get a present-day sense of The Lord working in your own life. We have to remember that we’re not just reading these scriptures for somebody else to hear. We’re reading them for ourselves, too! That’s why I always encourage folks to grab on to as many words as you can that give you some better insight into how God wants to reveal His presence to His people – US. The bottom line, though, is very often along the lines of our need for refinement or purification which people of all ages have very often bulked at. In some ways, we’re like the disciples, and can’t readily grasp the full meaning of what we hear. Maybe we have to more like the apostle, Thomas, when he encounters the risen Lord and say, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24) Or, maybe like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who used the term, “Were not our hearts burning within as He explained the scriptures to us?”(Luke 24:32) I guess the “bottom line” I’m going for would end up being our request to the Lord, to continue revealing Himself to us even when we don’t totally understand how it all happens. In that sense, we are all “a work in progress” and our song needs to be, “From glory to glory He’s changing me from earthly things to the heavenly.” (2nd Corinthians 3:18)

September 29, 2017 – Friday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Archangels, Michael, Gabriel & Raphael

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 – Revelation 12:7 – 12 –Psalm 138 – John 1:47-51

“Jesus said, ‘you will see greater thing than this … you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” (words from today’s Gospel of John

Being that my Baptismal name is “Michael” I can take this day as my “Feast Day!”

The names of these three archangels come down to us through tradition and by way of what they are sent to do. The suffix, “el” is the Hebrew word for God. Thus Micha-EL is strong for God or God protects. Gabri-EL is God’s messenger and Rapha-EL is God’s healing

In grammar school the nuns always had us leave room on our desk bench for our Guardian Angel? I remember asking another student, “How much room did I have to leave on my desk seat for my Guardian Angel?” Or … how many angels can stand on the head of a pin?” These were the serious questions when I was growing up. With our arms crossed on our chest we recited the Guardian Angel Prayer … “Angel of God, my guardian dear to whom God’s love commits thee here. Ever this day be at my side to light to guard to rule and guide. Amen.

Collectively, the duties of angels tell us something about God. They are announcers of the wonder of God. They bring healing and are with us always protecting us from all evil afflictions. “St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, oh heavenly host, by the divine power, cast into Hell Satan and all his evil spirits who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

I’ve had several encounters with Angles over the years but that’s another story for another time.

September 29, 2017 – Friday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Archangels, Michael, Gabriel & Raphael

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 – Revelation 12:7 – 12 –Psalm 138 – John 1:47-51

“Jesus said, ‘you will see greater thing than this … you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” (words from today’s Gospel of John

Being that my Baptismal name is “Michael” I can take this day as my “Feast Day!”

The names of these three archangels come down to us through tradition and by way of what they are sent to do. The suffix, “el” is the Hebrew word for God. Thus Micha-EL is strong for God or God protects. Gabri-EL is God’s messenger and Rapha-EL is God’s healing.

In grammar school the nuns always had us leave room on our desk bench for our Guardian Angel? I remember asking another student, “How much room did I have to leave on my desk seat for my Guardian Angel?” Or … how many angels can stand on the head of a pin?” These were the serious questions when I was growing up. With our arms crossed on our chest we recited the Guardian Angel Prayer … “Angel of God, my guardian dear to whom God’s love commits thee here. Ever this day be at my side to light to guard to rule and guide. Amen.

Collectively, the duties of angels tell us something about God. They are announcers of the wonder of God. They bring healing and are with us always protecting us from all evil afflictions. “St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, oh heavenly host, by the divine power, cast into Hell Satan and all his evil spirits who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

September 28, 2017 – Thursday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Wenceslaus (c. 907 – 929)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Haggai 1:1-8 – Psalm 149:1 …6…0   Luke 9:7-9

“Pampering ourselves while neglecting the Lord!” – Do we let Jesus come into our lives?

The verse that was on my 1st Vows card from Psalm 27: “One thing I ask of the Lord, and this I seek, to live in the House of the Lord all my days,” fits right in with our first reading.

What does it mean to “build a House for the Lord?” We know that, besides this reference about that subject, that elsewhere God says, “Who do you think you are to build ME a house?” So we can ponder this and see where it takes us.

In the first place it is a matter of where we put our energies. Today’s reading chastises the people for pampering themselves at the expense of neglecting attention to God: “…how can you panel our own houses while the House of the Lord is in ruins. Here we’re talking about making a “House for the Lord” within our own person. We know that we are created in the image and likeness of God and are “temples of the HS.” Therefore, the “House of the Lord” that we are to build is within. Even the words of Jesus, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within make this clear.

In the Gospel, Herod is ‘curious’ about who Jesus is. He wonders if it is St. John B come back to life. Interesting that he considers “resurrection” as a possibility even before the reality of Jesus is known. But the trouble with Herod is that he never goes far enough into the matter to make any difference in his life. This might be a warning to all of us to “seek the Lord while He may be found” and know that “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.” Herod is restless but has not had a conversion experience to move him to the next step. His conscience bothers him but not enough to make a difference. Here, the words of Dominic might be helpful, “I want only to either speak to or about God!” which will build that “House of the Lord” within. Amen!

September 27, 2017 – Wednesday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day Vincent de Paul (1580 – September 27, 1660)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ezra 9:5-9 – Tobit 13:2 … 7-8 – Luke 9:1-6

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me and sent me to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted and clothe the naked.”

 The above verse – today’s entrance antiphon – is the perfect scripture verse for today’s saint who’s name is synonymous with so much of the Gospel of Luke which we are hearing in these day. I even took it a tad further by adding, “and clothe the naked.” Who hasn’t about the Saint Vincent de Paul Society who’s entire ministry is to clothe the poor and needy?

 Jesus said to the disciples, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.”(today’s Gospel)

Most of us are pretty selective about how we “hear” the scripture passages that are presented to us in our daily liturgies. We often land on what we take to be the most outrageous part and forget the context of the passage.

All that being said, my first reaction to today’s Gospel is that this passage is not one of my favorite scriptures because I only hear and land on one part – “… and let no one take a second tunic” – and don’t hear the opening words where Jesus gives his disciples power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases…

 The “second tunic” theme stems from my early days as a Dominican when the Prior, while looking through the rack of clean habits for his – noticed that I had two habits hanging there. Since he knew that I had one habit on he told the Superior of the brothers, “Daniel has too many habits. Make him get rid on at least one!”

So, 50+ years down the road am I still only thinking about that episode and not taking the Gospel as a whole? Every time we hear scripture passages we’ll always hear “flag words” and go off on a tangent thus forgetting the important part of the message: the ending of today’s Gospel: “Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and curing diseases everywhere.”

 When Jesus tells the disciples, “take nothing for the journey…” he’s not only speaking of material things but he wants them to rely on their interior belief that He is the Messiah and savior of the world and it is that convection – not what they are wearing or not wearing – that will give them “power and authority over demons…”

 Bottom line: let nothing – neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, or something like a second tunic – be more important than your awareness of who Jesus is for you and what he is asking of you. The psalm verse that I had printed on my vow card, “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” is a reminder to me of what is most important to me. All those other things – walking stick, sack, food, and especially the second tunic – will pass away but the love that God has for me – and I for Him will endure. Amen!

September 26, 2017 – Tuesday in the 25th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Blessed Pope Paul VI (September 26, 1897 – August 6, 1978)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ezra 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20 – Psalm 123 – Luke 8:19-21

We hear in today’s first ready from Ezra about the “chosen people of God” rebuilding the temple of the Lord. In the Gospel Jesus says, “my mother & brothers are those who hear the Word of God and keep (or follow) it.” What is the “word of God?” Perhaps the “Shema Israel, “To love the Lord with your whole heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” In love God created us & in love gives us freedom to act. He doesn’t say, “I have chosen you & I will beat my word into you…” And thus we are free to hear God’s word and either devour it or spit it out. And when we wander away and chase after words that tickle our fancy, God, like a gentle mother or father takes us back and sooths our ills. How patient is this God of ours. Remember … you are dust and into dust you shall return. But blessed dust.   ( I just wanted to get that in as a corollary of Fr. Richard Rohr’s quote: “We’re called to be God’s … but God’s who have to use the restroom –“ if you get my drift)

All this, not withstanding, should give us the certain hope that if we just listen to the briefest Word of God we shall be brought back “into the depths of His tent and set high upon a rock – safe and secure from all harm” (Psalm 27 one of my favorites should be part of our prayer: “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.” This verse was on my 1st Vows Holy Card in 1961. I hope you can take the time to read through the entire psalm. It’s quite beautiful. Amen!