Tuesday, February 26, 2019
+ Our readings today remind us of a very important fact: Christianity was never meant to be a walk in the park! Trials and tribulations, pain and distress are to be a part a parcel of the Jesus way of life: just as in the gospel passage today he foretells his being handed over to torture and death, but the subsequent resurrection would occur. The disciples did not understand any of this, especially the resurrection part.
The disciples and the Jewish people at large, were expecting a political and military victory over their enemies when their promised Messiah came: but it was always intended to be a spiritual and moral victory, and a supernatural one as well, when his Death on the Cross would bring about a total transformation and restoration of absolutely everything: not all at the same time, but promised in time.
The passage from Ecclesiasticus of the first reading is one of my favorites: “my son if you want to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for a bumpy ride. Just be sincere of heart and steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes – and it will come – cling to him and do not leave him. Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation. Trust him and he will uphold you, follow a straight path and hope in him.”
Wow! This is sage and sound advice and it is meant for the disciples, and all those who call themselves Christians.
And so – if we commit our lives to the Lord, and trust in him, he will act – he will surely act – and all will be well in the end, all will be well!
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
+ The readings today are quite timely: and they ought not be glossed over or changed in intent to suit ourselves and our need to tread calm and peaceful waters. Sometimes the waters are rough, and the sea shows itself an angry master – and not for nothing. In the first reading God is so fed up with the wickedness pouring forth from the hearts and actions of God’s newly formed creations that he appears very angry and is plotting to wipe out from the face of the earth all these vile creatures who have turned away from him.
But a few were found favorable to him and he contrived a way to save them, and the animals he created for his pleasure and so Noah was to build an ark and load it with a remnant of a civilization. And sure enough the waters of the great flood came upon the earth, and all were destroyed except for those who were in the boat!
We must not kid ourselves: God permits evil to thrive for so long – as a rather dramatic test of obedience, loyalty and trust: but then he is free to do what he would do to correct the situation. Looking into the signs of the times, it is very clear that evil and evil intent in the hearts of men, and what is worth, those who idly stand by and watch it happen and do nothing, permeates all levels of society, sadly enough, the very hierarchical structure of the Church itself: threatening to be the cause of another catastrophe of epic proportions to mete out God’s justice.
All we have to hang onto is “the boat” “the ark” “the bark of Peter” – even though it may appear to be fraught with both good and evils of all kinds: we must remember that Jesus told us that the wheat and the weeds must grow together until the Last Day: that appears to be more and more a Day when God is very upset, and those who reject him and his will and his ways will be dismissed from eternal happiness, but those who hang in there sitting in the lifeboats on deck will be pampered, loved and transported safely to the shores of heaven to begin a completely fantastic kind of existence that can’t even be dreamed of accurately and properly now.
In the gospel passage Jesus is upset with his disciples in the boat who are so slow to grasp what he is trying to teach them: sometimes you have to read between the lines to get the real message: he is telling them that the “12” left over baskets of food after the multiplication of loaves, and the “7” – means something: the 12 represent they themselves the apostles and their successors who would be given the awesome responsibility of feeding the whole world of the Body and Blood and Spirit of the Lord Jesus: feeding the Lambs and the Sheep; the 7 represents the 7 Sacraments by which they would distribute the superabundance of God’s own graces and blessings: so that:
the flock will have all it needs to stay in the boat, and not be swept away in the raging river of the world, that will pass into a regrettable end.
The Lord will bless his people with peace, and joy and love – but only those who know about it, want it, and ask for it!
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
+ Our readings today get right to the heart of the matter: evil began to exist on earth when the newly created man, formed out of the oozing and steaming clay of the earth, having the breath of life blown into his nostrils by God looked at the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil and didn’t even realize at this point the all decisive and critical test that was placed before him: will he eat from it or will he not – more about that saga in the coming days in the first reading for mass.
Suffice it to stay here that tests will be sent, many of them critical to our eternal salvation, because we were formed in the image and likeness of God, thus possessing personhood and the ability to use the ultimate gift of free will in the manner intended by God: to do his holy and totally reliable and trustworthy will. Therefore, when you need to make decisions today that you sense have a moral implication: then we are free to make the right choice: the one that most corresponds to the will of God for us, and those whose lives ours will touch this day.
In the gospel passage, Jesus makes foods that were heretofore considered taboo and sinful to eat, clean, by saying that what goes into a man does not make him unclean as far as religious observance goes, but what comes out of his heart, what is the fruit of free-will run riot, free-will misused: evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly: these evils come from within and they most definitely do defile and render a man unclean and a menace to society!
The choice then is ours today, moment by moment, is this activity, this thought, this deed coming from the goodness in my heart, or from having succumbed to temptation, eating from the forbidden fruit, and thus rendering myself unfit for healthy relationships with my brothers and sisters journeying with me to eternal placement!
Lord, when you breathe on us, you send forth your spirit, and we are created, and you renew the face of the earth. May it be so this day in our lives! Amen.
Monday, February 11, 2019
+ Today is World Day of Prayer for the Sick (as proclaimed by Pope John Paul II) because of the close connection of healing and the site of Our Lady’s apparitions at Massabielle, France to Bernadette Soubrious in 1858. It was to this poor French girl that Mary appeared proclaiming herself as the “Immaculate Conception” – and this, a few years before the doctrine was ever made known publicly. The only way uneducated and illiterate Bernadette could have used those two words would have been by divine prompting. At the site, then, she began to dig, and a stream of water began to flow forming into a pool, which is still flowing and present to this day. It is in this pool that the sick and the lame from all over the world come and many are granted physical healing, as well as spiritual.
The first reading today prophesys the restoration of Jerusalem after it is plundered by its enemies – this is very much a healing, an act which only God could have brought about. At the wedding feast of Cana, Jesus performs his first miracle of changing water into wine to save the bride and groom of embarrassment of running out of wine. Because of this, the disciples who were there with him, and many others, began to believe in Jesus because he was beginning to give glimpses of his glory: and everyone is attracted to “shiny objects.”
Now Mary said something very important at that wedding feast: “Do whatever he tells you.” These are her last recorded words – but she need not to have spoken any more – for this says it all: Just as she lived these words, so she asks us to – in order to see his glory – in order to have our infirmities completely removed – in order for us to live in God forever.
Doing what he tells us is rarely easy, rarely without great cost, rarely without great moral and spiritual effort – but for those who hold out to the end: unimagined reward awaits. May we be eager and willing to see our Christian lives to the end, so to be with Mary and all the saints forever in the kingdom prepared for us!
Mary, you are the highest honor of our race!
Sunday, February 10, 2019
+ Today we consider the “simple radicalness” involved in true discipleship to Jesus. Jesus invites us to be an “all-or-nothing” kind of person where it matters most – our eternal salvation! And if you really stop to think about it what else deserves more intense consideration than where we will spend forever? And we will spend forever somewhere! Peter realized – when confronted with the majestic, powerful and gentle person of Jesus – that he, Simon of Bethsaida, just did not measure up! I can hear him say: “How can I possibly even consider spending forever with Jesus, who is so awe-inspiring and powerful, yet caring and compassionate! I am a sinful man!”
But Jesus told him to stand up, dust himself off and to get ready, for soon he would be catching not fish, but men. Jesus would take care of the “sinful” part – with Peter’s cooperation. And then he would be inviting Peter to spend a lifetime here and hereafter with himself as Lord, Messiah, Redeemer and Friend. Simon Peter could not have imagined that morning when he woke up that he would be an all or nothing follower of an itinerant rabbi that afternoon. But he was – and he was glad about it!
The Prophet Isaiah in the first reading today foretold, at least partly, Simon Peter’s willingness to become an uncompromising disciple of Jesus. The reading tells of a vision that Isaiah saw where he was in the lofty throne of God – where he heard everyone crying out: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts”. He himself saw his own unworthiness in comparison and said: “Woe is me, I am doomed! I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!” How can I possibly do him justice with my words. Then an angel took a burning coal with tongs and touched his mouth with it and said: “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,” Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”” Here I am,” I said; send me!”
I wonder what Isaiah thought when he heard those words coming from his own mouth? I wonder what went through Simon’s mind when he left boat and business and went to follow Jesus forever?
Actually, perhaps it was the same that went through the mind of St. Paul when he was chosen by the same Lord Jesus to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles – born out of normal course: becoming an apostle not by being handpicked by Jesus to follow him around for three years for a special type of “seminary” training but by means of a special attention getting event – including a persuasive blinding display of light. Paul already had a different kind of education – and Jesus chose him for his tenacity and his enthusiasm and his stick-to-itiveness – and his love for his Jewish roots. Isaiah handed on what he got from God; Peter handed on what he learned from Jesus; Paul handed on what he received from the other apostles and the early members of the Church: that Jesus is the Messiah, and that he died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and on the third day he was raised, in accordance with the scriptures. Then he appeared to the apostles and to many who hand on the story one person to another. So the preaching occurs and so believing can be a response!
When we hear of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus preached to us – what is our “for real” belief quotient? Is it slight, moderate, heavy, extreme? For good or bad, where we will spend forever depends on our response! May we like Isaiah, Peter, Paul and so many others – receive the word of God that is preached, let it take root deep in our hearts, let it say exactly what it has in mind to say (rather than what we might want to hear), and let it have an effect in our lives that will give God glory and will upbuild the lives of others around us, upbuild the Kingdom – then we can be assured of being in the right place at the right time – when forever begins!
In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord!
Thursday, February 7, 2019
+ Today our readings are about the goal and the key! The goal of course is as the first reading puts is “Mt Zion and the City of the Living God” – and the key is absolute trust and confidence in the giver of the goal and the availability of the key for those who choose it and want it.
And the City of the Living God is none other than the Heavenly Realm which is our true home, our true happiness, our true love, and our true family life with each other – that will last forever – that is actually one complete, overabundant, rich and vibrant MOMENT that will just not end!
The key to getting there is two-fold – trust in the giver and being inspired and having a sneak peak anytime we want it – any time at all, and for as long as we might want it.
This is why Jesus tells the disciples who are to act in his name to take absolutely nothing more than the clothes on their back in going to the towns and villages assigned them by him, I WILL PROVIDE ALL YOU NEED – you will see, your circumstances and challenges will unfold and be met like a flower blooming in the morning. All you need do is TRUST and ACCEPT all the help when it comes to you.
The sneak preview has to do with a mindfulness kind of meditation period – when you STOP what you are doing – and in effect “die in this moment” – be here, now, with me – your Triune Loving God – and all will be well for you – here – now – and you will experience my peace, my joy, my love – and then you can face the next assignment I give you in the following moments with a clarity and depth you never thought possible.
Yes, heaven is here on earth when we simply “access it” – “be with it” and then let it move us forward – and forward it will lead us – to the moment when body and soul will separate and the BEING OF NOW AND HERE will be all there is – and it will be beyond our wildest imaginings!
O God we ponder your love within your temple!
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
+ We have little reliable information about the martyr Agatha, other than that she was young, beautiful and rich. We also know that she lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced edicts against Christians in the late second century, a local magistrate tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity by attempting to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. And so, she was handed over to a brothel but refused to accept customers. She was eventually tortured to death in 225, but not before the magistrate who tried to use her was crushed by an earthquake. Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania,Sicily, in procession, has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.
The gospel passage today tells us that we must be relentless in professing the faith of the Church in the face of any opposition, so that the Father in heaven will be relentless in showing us mercy, compassion and love!
St. Agatha is the patron saint of those with breast cancer, fire prevention, nurses, rape and sexual assault victims, and against natural disasters and volcanic eruptions. She is patron of those with breast cancer due to the manner in which she was tortured, having her breasts cut off.
In all of her trials St. Agatha prayed over and over again: O Jesus Christ, all that I am is Yours; preserve me against the tyrant! May this be our prayer today, and every day, because we likewise mean it and live it!
Finally, it is most fitting that it was on this date, one year ago today, at about 4:15pm, at a hospital in Richmond, VA, that Richard William Steinberg, RN, also known affectionately as Br. Paul Andre (of the Joyful Servants of the Cross) breathed his last earthly breath and was instantaneously born into the purer dimension of eternal life (temporarily without the body) until such a time, that only God our Father knows, when Jesus will return, wrap up human history to that point, so that it can begin anew to exist as God intended in the first place – our bodies, now in risen state – the form that Jesus own heavenly body now his – will be restored to us, and we will enter the grand consummation of the Wedding of the Lamb of God – Jesus – to his Bride, the Church, all of humanity that wants to participate!
Into your hands, Lord, we commend our spirits, our minds and our bodies – because we trust you and we love you! Amen.
Sunday, February 3, 2019
+ If you recall, this is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel passage: Jesus has just selected a very cogent passage from Isaiah as his first scriptural proclamation, a passage about the One sent by God, to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives: now this is meant to be very glad tidings to the very spiritually poor, and liberty to the hopelessly enslaved!
And then he looks around and says: right here, right now, by my very reading of this passage, it is fulfilled by me in your hearing it! And then everything reverberates! First some praise! Ah! He speaks well! Some were amazed at what they heard; but then most get to the bottom line: hey, isn’t this [just] the son of Joe Jacobson (Joseph our neighbor), who lives not far from here?? Hey, Jesus, do here what we hear you have been doing all around the countryside – all those signs and apparent wonders! You are not going to make fools of us! Prove yourself for us now!
But then Jesus rather calmly makes what has become the classic statement: no prophet is accepted in his own native place, even if great signs and wonders are done or left undone! Then, the formerly adoring crowd rose up, drove him out of town and led him to the top of a cliff from which they intended to hurl him: for being an outrageously controversial figure! But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away. It was not his time to lay all his cards out on the table, so he simply walked away unnoticed!
When something entirely new begins to happen, even if it has been foretold, it’s just not the same as the foretelling – and people, in their fear and their insecurity, react in defensive, irrational and illogical ways! And so it happened at Jesus’ “home parish!” No wonder the call to ministry ought to be rightly billed as a sometimes dangerous and hazardous profession!
Young Jeremiah of the first reading today knows about such a call and such accompanying danger. He stands as a prophet in his own right telling the people of God to repent, repent or they will be destroyed (again). They do not repent, and Jerusalem is destroyed. But Jeremiah is true to his vocation, true to his mission and he is rewarded by God who praises his stick-to-it-iv-ness!
Jeremiah also stands as a figure for Jesus – who would warn God’s people once again to repent – but would himself do something about their rejection, their disobedience, their sin, by dying in order to reconcile it! And he stands for us too, each in our own states of life – who are called to be instruments of grace in the lives of others, so that they hear the warning before it is too late! The warning is simply this: LOVE while you still can; love because you have been loved by God; love because God’s love has saved you; love because it is the only key to heaven! And you will be victorious, just as Jesus himself was victorious, just as Jeremiah was victorious, and just as the very last Apostle on earth will be victorious in announcing the GOOD NEWS of salvation that is simply there for the belief in it!
O God, you are our hope from our mother’s womb – you are our strength – you are our joy!
Saturday, February 2, 2019
+ Our feast today, of the Presentation of the Lord and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was introduced into the Eastern Empire by Emperor Justinian I, and is mentioned in the Western Church in the Gelasian Sacramentary of the 7th century.
It commemorates the purifying of the Blessed Virgin according to the Mosaic Law, 40 days after the birth of Christ; and the presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple. It is also known as Candlemas Day, as candles are blessed in commemoration of the words of Holy Simeon, who received the Child and his Mother, and declared this Christ Child to be “a light for revelation for the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” In this regard, candles, for use in church for a year, are blessed, and at the principal Mass in a church, there is a procession with lighted candles to represent the entry of Christ, the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem.
Our readings today tell us to seek the Lord of Light in two places: in the Temple of our churches and chapels (it is recommended that we make regular and frequent visits to be with him there); and also, in the eyes of those we help in God’s name. If he is not to be found in one place, he won’t be found in the other for us. And finally, may we live our days in peace because like Simeon we have received the Lord into the temples of our hearts, may we honor him there, pray to him there, and ask his help to act like him always, and in every place.
You Lord are a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel, and us! May we together shine that light wherever we go this day, and every day! Amen.
Friday, February 1, 2019
+ Our gospel passage today has to do with the expansiveness of faith: the fact that life in God, once begun, has indeed a life of its own, and just needs daily watering with “acts of trust, belief, self-sacrificial love,” for these are the things that makes faith work and grow.
And then once it is implanted and grows within us, it can spill over and radiate out to others who are, with us, invited to an eternal experience of bliss and happiness beyond our ability to imagine with our limited minds and frames of reference.
The mustard seed parable, then, is a good analogy and likeness of what the dynamic of true Christian life can be: once the tiny seed is planted and takes root it can grow into a huge tree – so that it can provide a variety of services for all those whose lives are dependent on trees, i.e. bird, squirrels, owls! It can become a true and viable habitat.
But let us not forget to apply the analogy so we can see our own fruitful and vegetative faith-tree-ness as a home and shelter to all kinds of critters who need the shade, who need comfort, who need rest and peace. These critters would include family, friends, co-workers, teammates and the like.
The first reading speaks of the suffering all must endure as a part of living, so that the deposit of faith / trust in God who can save us from any distress we may ever suffer and face, including our own deaths, The “tree of faith” then is the perfect analogy for why it is so important, in our sufferings, distresses and trials, to constantly turn to God, who is constantly and more intimately than we can imagine with us, in us, and can act through us to bring us to brighter days, and happy outcomes.
This is the dynamic of love! This is our destiny! This is our refuge! This is our home!
Those who trust in God, though they stumble, they will never fall!
+ St John Chrysostom was born in 347 in Antioch, Asia Minor. His father died when he was young and he was raised by a very pious mother. ...
+ St. Clare of Assisi became a friend of St. Francis of the same town after hearing him preach. Her father was a count and her mother a coun...
+ We celebrate the Feast today of the Cure of Ars. John Mary Vianney was born to a farm family in Lyons, France in 1786. In his youth he tau...