September 6, 2016 – Tuesday in the 23rd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Eleutheirius (died: 585)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy: “click” on the following Link:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090616.cfm

1 Corinthians 6:1-11    –    Psalm 149    –    Luke 6:12-19

“I chose you from the world, that you may grow and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.” (Today’s Alleluia verse before the Holy Gospel.)

Today, as I continue my retreat I am at a wonderful “House of Prayer” in Southern California. Right now, early in the morning, it is very quiet and my time of prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel draws me into the presence of God. Today’s Holy Gospel, the call of the disciples, is another reminder to me (and also to everyone) that we are always being called to follow the Lord and renew our dedication to strive to be one with Him. This is one of the reasons that we, religious, are responsible to make an annual retreat. All of us need to be reminded that we need to “come away to a quiet place” and seek that wonderful presence of God in our lives. Just think how many times in the Gospels Jesus went away from the crowds to be alone with his father, God. Sometimes the “market places” of our lives catch us up and cause us to be distracted from the very reason that we were called? I wish I was able to paint of picture of the beautiful Blessed Sacrament Chapel here at this retreat house. The tabernacle is suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the room and surrounded by what appear to be “seraph’s wings” of clear glass. There is a narrow stained glass window that rises from the floor to the ceiling in a way that draws you up into the realms of heaven. It’s a gift that I am able to be here – alone with God – and let Him renew me with His forgiving love. I have been coming to this wonderful retreat for many years and really do believe that it’s times like this that give me the ability to let the Lord, Jesus renew my dedication to follow Him on my way to the Kingdom. I also want to remind all the faithful readers of these Scratchpad Reflections that I will pray for all of you during this retreat as you make your journey to the Kingdom. Amen!

 

September 5, 2016 – Monday in the 23rd Week of the Church Year

 

Saint for the day: Teresa of Calcutta (19110-1997)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 5:1-8    –    Psalm 5    –    Luke 6:6-11

The man with the withered right hand was told by Jesus, “stretch out your hand. He did so and his hand was restored (words from today’s Gospel)

I found it interesting to note that Luke’s Gospel makes a point of telling us that this man’s right hand was withered. By being that specific we can presume that this man was totally helpless since no Jew would ever do anything significant with his left hand. Therefore, Jesus’ action was one that allowed that man to be free of a handicap that paralyzed him and kept him banished from any kind of regular life.

From this Gospel account we can understand that Jesus is continually grasping us by the right hand to lift us out of whatever disability or sin we might be trapped in.

St. Paul comes down pretty hard on the Corinthian community for allowing the “yeast of Satin” to tarnish their new life in Christ. He knows how easy it was for one, little slight amount of “bad yeast” to taint the entire community.

This should remind all of us of our call to stretch out our right hand to our God who desires only that we be lifted up and drawn in to his loving forgiveness. We need to hear Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel, “Come up and stand before us.” It is only when we have the courage – and belief – that God desires our wholeness and freedom from whatever it is that paralyzes us. It’s also interesting to note that in this Gospel account the man didn’t initiate the healing. It was Jesus who called him forth. But it is also important for us to note that the man was there in the presence of Jesus. How often are we wandering around on our own – not trying to be close to Jesus – and then wonder why we haven’t been healed.

They tell the story of the man who prayed fervently to God, “Lord! Please let me win the lottery!” Finally, God’s voice boomed from Heaven: “Do me a favor. Meet me halfway. Buy a ticket!”

God wants to heal us. We just have to meet him halfway by staying in His presence. Lord Jesus, call me forth out of my darkness into your wonderful, healing light. Amen!

Note: today, I’m writing this reflection from the San Francisco Airport waiting for my flight to Southern California for my annual retreat. It’s interesting to look at all of these people and wonder where they are going and what they hope to discover when they get to their destination. Hopefully, I will find myself in a good environment where I can renew my ongoing desire to always be in God’s presence. Let us take a moment to always strive to be in God’s presence. Amen.

September 4, 2016 – 23rd Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Rose of Viterbo (1233-1251)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Wisdom 9:13-18 — Psalm 90 — Philemon 9-10, 12-17    –     Luke 14:25-33

Note: It’s always important for us to approach the liturgy in a holistic way rather than just landing on one part or another that might appear to be somewhat harsh. If we just let the words of today Holy Gospel be our focus – without letting the other scripture readings fit into the picture – we’ll go away with a less than complete understanding of what God is trying to tell us.

The words at the beginning of today’s first Holy Scripture from the Book of Wisdom set the scene for today’s Liturgy: “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.”

 The opening words of today’s Holy Gospel can appear harsh if we don’t first understand what it means to be a disciple. Jesus wants to be sure that we know the price of discipleship and that following Him cannot be a casual, semi-committed act.

I can’t help but think about the beginning of my own “Dominican Discipleship” when I was just 18 years old. I had applied to enter the Dominicans as a brother before I graduated from high school. Then, as friends were going off to colleges here and there, I was eagerly waiting to hear if I had been accepted. It was more than a little disconcerting not knowing what was going to happen. Then, on a Monday afternoon I got the call that I had been accepted and could I come that following Wednesday. At first I thought I was going to a “final interview” or something like that and asked what I should bring – thinking in terms of documents or certificates. That’s when the Provincial, Fr. Joseph Fulton said, “My boy, bring everything you need. You’re going to be with us the rest of your life!

My mother’s reaction was rather practical and she said, with a certain amount of trepidation, “But I just put clean sheets on your bed!”

I wasn’t being asked to hate my father and my mother or to disown my brother and sisters. I was just being asked to follow the Lord more closely according to the traditions of the Dominican Friars. Was it just one step from home-life into paradise? Of course not. But it was a beginning and now, from a perspective of 50+ years later I can more easily see how God writes straight with crooked lines and I haven’t loved family less but I have had many opportunities to love many more people more.

We might never know the total cost of discipleship nor all the ways God has worked through us. All we need to know is that God has called us and we say, “yes” … over and over, again and again.

The last stanza of today’s Responsorial Psalm seems to hold the key: “Fill us at daybreak with your kindness… prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands” Amen!

September 3, 2016 – Saturday in the 22nd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Gregory the Great (540? – 604)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 4:6-15    –    Psalm 145    –    Luke 6:1-5

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.” (Today’s response to Psalm 145)

Every once-in-awhile God keeps me humble by giving me scripture readings that don’t have easy connections with which to begin these reflections. Today is one of those days. Maybe the connection I need to make is found in the Psalm response that I highlighted, above. Even when we don’t sense God’s presence in our lives, this psalm reminds us that, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.” It’s like the “Footprints in the sand” story where the person asks the Lord, “How come I could see two sets of footprints in the sand – as you and I, Lord, walked side by side. Then, all of a sudden I could only see one set of prints and I cried out, “Why did you leave me?” We know the answer that the Lord gave: “My child! That’s when I was carrying you through a difficult time.” We need to remember that the Lord promised us, “I will never leave you…” (Hebrews 13:5) But we need to stay with Him – through thick and thin and even stay when He leads us to Calvary’s hill. We have to be careful that we don’t fall into the “Prosperity Gospel Trap” and think that God’s only concern for us is to make us win the lottery! If God gives us anything it would be an ability to see how we can bring His loving presence to someone who is not able to see the Lord’s hand in their life. Whenever we are “graced by God” it’s an opening for us to draw those who sense that there is no purpose to life or that God doesn’t really care for them. That’s where we need to let the “light of Christ” shine in the darkness of their lives. The best and easiest way for us to recognize God’s presence in our own lives is to share that presence with someone who can’t see the light at the end of their tunnel of pain. We don’t have to have all the answers for whatever another person is going through. All we need is for them to see someone who cares about them and wants to share God’s Love for them. You don’t have to have all the answers and sometimes, it’s just better to sincerely promise a person that you will be praying for them that God will meet their need – somewhere or somehow. That’s where the psalm verse that I began today’s reflection with can give just a ray of hope to someone in need: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.” Amen!

September 2, 2016 – Friday in the 22nd Week of the Church Year

Blesseds for the day: John Francis Burte & Companions (died 1792 – 1794)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 4:1-5    –    Psalm 37    –    Luke 5:33-39

“Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”   (1 Corinthians 4:1)

Another variation of that might be, “You are not the light nor the source of the light be a lens which allows that light to shine.”

Both the above quotes remind us that we are the earthen vessels that hold the treasure of God’s presence in our world. We’re not old age Catholics or new age Catholics. We’re called to be – be here now Catholics. This is the only real moment of salvation history that matters. We can’t go back. And we can’t wait for some soon-to-be moment. This is where we are and this is where we’ll be judged.

We’re not called to be the judges of other’s actions and we know when the true light of all lights comes all will be revealed and “we shall see him as he really is!” (1 John 3:1) And He’ll see us as we really are.

Bottom line? Don’t waste your time pinning for some by-gone era. Anyway, most of us have very selective memories of what the old days were really like. As stewards of God’s treasure we are called to bring a present-day reality of God’s love to all we meet. Can we bring the best of the new wine out for all to enjoy? Or are we stuck in some kind of rut that paralyzes us and hinders our ability to be out there on the way … to heaven?

A few random thoughts about today’s scriptures that I hope give you some new insight into the vastness of God’s love and concern for His people. Amen!

September 1, 2016 – Thursday, in the 22nd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Giles (d. 710?)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 3:18-23    –    Psalm 24    –    Luke 5:1-11

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: ‘God catches the wise in their own ruses…” (1 Corinthians 3:20)

Both the scripture readings that are appointed for today’s liturgy are loaded with images that are familiar to us and can, if we let them, give us more of an insight into how we should follow the Lord.

In this reading from 1 Corinthians Paul warns his listeners “God catches the wise in their own ruses.” This is a reminder to all of us that there is nothing in this world that we can do that God isn’t aware of. Once we take this as a given we are then free to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives in ways that we never imagined. But there’s a catch (pardon the pun) to this promise: we have to put out into the deep! How often do we miss the hundred-fold opportunities because we’ve been there; done that; why bother!

Just now I’m getting ready to go away for my annual retreat beginning this coming Sunday. On this theme of going out into the deep I can see that I have to be willing to put that little bit of extra energy into the plans so that I can get the most out of these days away. Over the years, I’ve learned to “let go and let God” give me a good retreat. I remember some time back when I arrived at the retreat house and met with one of the priests that I’ve known for a long time. He asked me what I hoped to gain from these days away. Being the “control freak” that I am I pulled out my notebook and began, “Well, given where I’m coming from I’d like to begin with a careful look at …”

And before I could finish the sentence, he asked if he could see my notes. With that, he very briefly looked at the several pages of notes, and then ripped them out, tore them up, through them away and said, “Now you’re in God’s hands. Let’s see if you can find out what God wants you to get out of these retreat days!” Like Peter in today’s scriptures, I blurted out, “But I’ve put a lot into that which I thought might be a good place to start.” In a sense he was suggesting that I “put out into the deep” to see what might happen. Some times, the best blessings come to us when we move out of our “control zones” and let God be God for us. The best part of a private retreat like I’m going on is the fact that I’ll be in a very beautiful, prayerful place and have nothing that I have to do for seven days! I still need to know how best to let God be God for me in these retreat days. Amen

August 31, 2016 – Wednesday in the 22nd Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus (1st Century)

Scripture readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 3:1-9    –    Psalm 33    –    Luke 4:38-44

“And demons came out from many shouting, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that He was the Christ.” (from today’s Holy Gospel)

In this passage from today’s Gospel Jesus would not allow the demons to speak because “they knew that He was the Christ.” What does that tell us? My first thought was the question that Jesus put to His own disciples. “… but YOU! Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 15:16)

If the demons can know who Jesus is shouldn’t we know at least that much? When people are suffering from serious fever they are often delusional and can appear to be crazy but it is Jesus who silences that kind of reaction and lifts us up into His healing and saving presence. Yet, in the end, we often hear Jesus saying to those who were healed, “Go, and avoid this sin… whatever it is that held you bound. In today’s Gospel passage Simon Peter’s mother in law gets up and waits on them. She is restored to health in order for her to be of service to those around her. Jesus is forever challenging the S & Ps for their focus on the letter of the law while neglecting their call to service. It’s as if Jesus is telling us, “do you think that I need your sacrifices and holocausts” … this is what I desire: to free those bound; to lift the burden off the oppressed and to care for widows and orphans.”

So, in the end we are back to square one: service to those in need. We are reminded of the fact that in John’s Gospel there is no account of the institution of the Eucharist. Instead, John has the “foot washing” where he ends with almost the same words used in the other Gospels in reference to the Eucharist: “… do this in memory of me.” (John 13:14-15)

Today’s saints, Joseph of Aramathia and Nicademous might be called the patron saints of the “Corporal work of mercy; to bury the dead” since they were the ones who buried the body of Jesus with some understanding of the quote, “Life is changed, not ended” which also might be an echo of Hebrews 13:14, “Here we have no lasting city.” A stark reminder to all of us that we can’t get out of this life alive! Amen!

August 30, 2016 – Tuesday in the 22nd Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Jeanne Jugan (1792-1879)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Corinthians 2:10b – 16    –    Psalm 145    –    Luke 4:31-37

“How great is the goodness, Lord, that you keep for those who fear you.” (Today’s Communion Antiphon) 

The above quote from today’s Liturgy might need a touch of explanation since the biblical understanding of the word, “fear” is very different from our lived experience of the same word. When this word is used in the scriptures it has its roots in the old testament where its understanding was rooted in “fear” being a state of “awe” rather than of danger or dread. In today’s Holy Gospel we hear, “They were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is there about his word … he speaks with authority’”

When we speak of being made in the image and likeness of God, what do we mean by that? I think that the one thing that makes us different from all the other creations of God – and makes us in His image – is our ability to speak words. In the prologue of John’s Gospel we hear, “In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God and the WORD was God.” (John 1:1)

Today’s Gospel ends with the words that I quoted at the beginning of this reflection, “… and they were amazed that He spoke with authority.”

The word, “authority” comes from the Latin word, ‘auctor’ (source) from which the word “author” is derived and means they are speaking from themselves and not from somewhere else. Jesus was unlike the Scribes and Pharisees who spent their lives quoting other’s interpretation of the “law.” Jesus was so one with God that he was the source of the source, so to speak.

In the Genesis story of creation we hear the words, “And God SAID let there be …light, life and all living things. And so it was.”   Each one of us is made in that same image and the words that we speak have power to bring to life or to cast into darkens.

In today’s first reading from 1 Corinthians St. Paul says, “… we speak about [God] not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit.”

Today we are challenged to allow those words, “made in the image and likeness of God” to be real for us. Most of us are not there yet but we’re out there – on the way – and we have St. Dominic as a guide who said, “I only wish to either speak TO or about God. We might be surprised if we took those words to heart to see demons coming out of people and the dead risen to new life. Try it! You’ll like it! Amen!

August 29, 2016 – Monday in the 22nd Week of the Church Year

Today’s liturgy: Martyrdom of John the Baptist

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11    –    Psalm 98    –    Mark 6:17-29

On this Memorial of the Beheading of John the Baptist the Church takes the first reading from the “Ordinary Cycle” but reads the Gospel from Mark with the actual account of the beheading. The reading from Thessalonians depicts the “rapture” when all of us believers will be caught up in the clouds at the last resurrection. We missed some parts of the Thessalonians reading due to the Sunday cycle and the feasts of Monica and Augustine so we’ve kind of leap-frog to this “rapture” reading. Still, somewhat appropriate for the martyrdom of John the Baptist.

The Gospel account gives us a more than dramatic image of the death of John. It’s hard for us to imagine a less than party atmosphere to be presented with the head of anyone served on a platter. How could anyone get involved in such atrocities? Yet, right now, in our present-day world, we’re seeing more and more examples of the way worldly leaders – misguided by their own evil desires – can bring about similar tragedies in any number of worldly countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Libya, Afghanistan, Mexico and even in the US by way of the manner in which the US Government dealt with prisoners of war.

Evil exists in our world and we can see how easy it is for us to slip into thinking that we are acting for the good of society when, in fact, we are being led by Satan. In just a matter of moments a birthday party turned into a brutal killing and nobody tried to stop this action. It’s easy for us to look back at this story and shake our finger at “those terrible people” while, at the same time looking the other way at atrocities that are going on right around us in our world today.

Jesus taps gently at the door of our heart with his gift of peace while Satan bangs continually trying to seduce us to let him in. And, even if we just let the door open a crack it’s enough for him to get a hold on our senses and turn us into evil people. It’s just a thin line that separates any of us from following the Lord to letting Satan seduce us with his false promises.

Lord, bring me into the fortress of your love and peace and hold me in the hollow of your hand and never let me be separated from you. Amen!

August 28, 2016 – 22nd Sunday of the Church year

Saint for the day: Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

(Click on the following “link” for today’s scripture readings)

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082816.cfm

Sirach 3:17-18 … 29  – Psalm 68  –  Hebrews 12:19-19, 22-24  –  Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”(today’s Holy Gospel according to St. Luke)

 I tend to favor the Sunday liturgies because the scripture readings are more deliberately selected to compliment the theme of the day. During the week the scripture readings are moving along on two independent cycles and may or may not easily fit together.

But today, the opening words of the first reading from Search; “My child, conduct your affairs with humility…” and the opening line from the Responsorial Psalm; “The just rejoice and exult before God” lead us right into the Holy Gospel where we hear Jesus saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We don’t have to be rocket scientists to get the gist of what the Church is trying to tell us today. We’re back to the basics and to a clear understanding of what it means to be “humble!”

But, before we go any further let’s put aside any notion that “humility” implies some kind of groveling, breast-beating, “poor me” attitude. I know that I’ve said it many times before but here it is again: that word “humility” has its roots in the Latin word “humus” – meaning earth or earthly.

To be truly “humble” means we know something about ourselves and who we are in the eyes of God. (Remember, you are dust and into dust you shall return.) It is our ability to honestly stand before our God, knowing that we are totally dependent on His love and mercy and that all of our “goodness” is rooted in Him. This is what “fear of the Lord” really means: that we can stand before our God in awe of the fact He has invited us into His presence where HE desires to exalt us.

If you come before God in this sense of true humility, you will always be exalted far beyond your means. But you can’t “fake it!” Honestly knowing who we are in the eyes of God and that our goodness and worth originates from HIS goodness in us will enable us to hear Him say, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” Amen!