Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 11, 2016 - The blind will be able to see.....

The Third Sunday of Advent - Year A

Reading I:  IS 35:1-6A, 10
Response:  Psalm 146
Reading: II  JAS 5:7-10
Gospel:  MATT 11:2-11

This Sunday is sometimes called Gaudete Sunday, meaning “rejoice.” It marks the half-way point between the beginning of Advent to Christmas Day. For those of us who might be impatient waiting for the coming of Jesus, it is meant to be a source of comfort.

The Church is aware that waiting can be a challenging time for us humans, although there is great value in it. Therefore, she chose the words of Isaiah to encourage the faithful. In the first reading, we hear the words: “the desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.”  There will be an end to the waiting time.

This became so real to me when on a retreat in the Holy Land as our guide pointed to a tall brown hill. He then assured us that when the rains would come, the hill would be completely blanketed with beautiful flowers. That helped me to understand the psalmist when he said that “the mountains would shout for joy.” When the waiting time of Advent is over and we can celebrate the birth of our Savior, the earth will be filled with music, lights, giving, love, and joy.

In today’s Gospel, we find John the Baptist in prison and in a confused state. He had seen the coming of the Messiah as a time of retribution against injustice and corruption. Nevertheless, he is hearing that Jesus is going around healing people like the blind man and showing compassion to people. John began to question whether he was mistaken to think of Jesus as the Messiah.

John then sent messengers to Jesus to ask Him if He was the true Messiah. Understanding John’s confusion, Jesus told them to go back and tell John that the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear...and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Thus,
by his actions Jesus is fulfilling the prophesies of Isaiah.

The miracles performed by Jesus were not only to confirm that he was indeed the Messiah, but they were also expression of his compassion and his love. He showed us by his actions that the kingdom of God IS a kingdom of love.

Jesus is the “God who sees” (understands). Hagar was the first to call God by that name
when He assured her of His help in her desperate situation. (Gen.16:13)  He is our Healer (the physician of our souls) and our Redeemer (the One who gave Himself as our ransom).  He just asks that we spread love and compassion to the people in our times. How blessed we are to have such a Savior!!!



Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...

El ciego podrá ver


Este domingo se llama a veces el domingo de Gaudete, que significa “regocija”. Marca el punto medio entre el comienzo del Adviento y el día de Navidad. Para aquellos de nosotros que podrían estar impacientes esperando la venida de Jesús, está destinado a ser una fuente de consuelo.

La Iglesia es consciente de que la espera puede ser un momento difícil para nosotros los seres humanos, aunque hay un gran valor en ella. Por lo tanto, escogió las palabras de Isaías para alentar a los fieles. En la primera lectura, escuchamos las palabras: “El desierto y la tierra seca se alegrarán; La estepa se regocijará y florecerá”. Habrá un fin al tiempo de espera.

Esto se hizo tan real para mí cuando en un retiro en Tierra Santa como nuestro guía señaló a una alta colina marrón. Entonces nos aseguró que cuando llegaran las lluvias, la colina estaría completamente cubierto con hermosas flores. Eso me ayudó a entender al salmista cuando dijo que “las montañas gritarían de alegría”. Cuando el tiempo de espera del Adviento haya terminado y podamos celebrar el nacimiento de nuestro Salvador, la tierra estará llena de música, luces, Amor y alegría.

En el Evangelio de hoy, encontramos a Juan el Bautista en la cárcel y en un estado confuso. Había visto la venida del Mesías como un tiempo de retribución contra la injusticia y la corrupción. Sin embargo, él está escuchando que Jesús está dando vueltas para curar a la gente como el ciego y mostrar compasión a la gente. Juan comenzó a preguntarse si se equivocaba al pensar en Jesús como el Mesías.

Entonces Juan envió mensajeros a Jesús para preguntarle si era el verdadero Mesías. Comprendiendo la confusión de Juan, Jesús les dijo que volvieran y dijeran a Juan que los ciegos ven otra vez, los cojos caminan, los leprosos son limpiados, los sordos oyen ... y las buenas nuevas son proclamadas a los pobres. Así, por sus acciones Jesús está cumpliendo las profecías de Isaías.

Los milagros realizados por Jesús no fueron sólo para confirmar que él era de hecho el Mesías, sino que también eran la expresión de su compasión y su amor. Él nos mostró por sus acciones que el reino de Dios ES un reino de amor.

Jesús es el “Dios que ve” (entiende). Agar fue la primera en llamar a Dios por ese nombre cuando Él le aseguró su ayuda en su desesperada situación. Es nuestro Sanador (el médico de nuestras almas) y nuestro Redentor (Aquel que se dio a sí mismo como nuestro rescate). Simplemente nos pide que difundamos amor y compasión a la gente en nuestros tiempos. ¡Qué bienaventurados somos de tener tal Salvador!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

December 4, 2016 - Prepare for the Second Coming of Christ


The Second Sunday of Advent - Year A


Reading I: Isaiah 11:1-10
Response: Psalm 72
Reading II: Romans 15: 4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12


Last week, we focused on the coming of Jesus as a Emmanuel, God with us.  This week we focus on the second coming of Jesus, as it was predicted by Isaiah who said:            
          
      Justice shall be the band around his waist,
      and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
      Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
      and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
      The calf and the young lion shall browse
      together,
 with a little child to guide them.  
     (Isaiah 11:5-6)

When Jesus returns, he comes as a merciful judge.  However, he calls us to justice which is the only way we can have peace. John O’Malley, S.J. said, “Pope Francis is continually pushing us beyond the comforts of our religious boundaries to encounter the one human family.” 

Sometimes, I have felt discouraged about bringing about the Kingdom of God. I say to myself, “What can I do?” Then, I realize that I can make God’s kingdom come in my own heart. That is how it has to happen. It is one person at a time bringing justice and peace to his or her own environment.

However, I am still disturbed that I cannot do more when I see the Native American protesters being put down by the government. They are simply asking that the pipeline carrying oil not go through their land. Signing the petition on their behalf and joining others who oppose the action, does not seem to have helped. Then, I see so many innocent African Americans, even children, being shot practically every day. Concern for the immigrants is also weighing on my heart, not to mention all the atrocities in other countries.

Although I often feel overwhelmed by the situations in our world, I remind myself that God can bring good out of evil. I always appreciate the positive things that newscasters present after sharing the tragic stories. The good done by ordinary people, even little children, gives me hope.

How important this is today! We must continue to reach out in love and care for all our brothers and sisters, the beloved children of our heavenly Father. Jesus came and will come for us all. Jesus is the Lord of All, our Merciful Judge, and our Prince of Peace.


Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...


Prepararse para la Segunda Venida de Cristo


La semana pasada, nos enfocamos en la venida de Jesús como Emmanuel, Dios con nosotros. Esta semana nos centramos en la segunda venida de Jesús, como fue predicho por Isaías quien dijo:
          
      La justicia será la banda alrededor de su cintura,
      Y la fidelidad un cinturón en sus caderas.
      Entonces el lobo será un huésped del cordero,
      Y el leopardo se acostará con el niño;
      El becerro y el león joven
      Juntos, con un niño pequeño para guiarlos.
     (Isaías 11: 5-6)

Cuando Jesús regresa, viene como un juez misericordioso. Sin embargo, él nos llama a la justicia, que es la única manera en que podemos tener paz. John O'Malley, S.J. Dijo: “El Papa Francisco nos empuja continuamente más allá de las comodidades de nuestras fronteras religiosas para encontrarnos con la única familia humana.”

A veces, me he sentido desalentado acerca de la realización del Reino de Dios. Me digo a mí mismo, “¿Qué puedo hacer?” Entonces, me doy cuenta de que puedo hacer que el reino de Dios venga en mi propio corazón. Así es como tiene que suceder. Es una persona a la vez que trae justicia y paz a su propio ambiente.

Sin embargo, todavía estoy preocupado de que no puedo hacer más cuando veo a los manifestantes nativos americanos que son puestos por el gobierno. Simplemente están pidiendo que la tubería que transporta petróleo no pase por sus tierras. Firmar la petición en su nombre y unirse a otros que se oponen a la acción, no parece haber ayudado. Entonces, veo a tantos afroamericanos inocentes, incluso a niños, siendo asesinados casi todos los días. La preocupación por los inmigrantes también está pesando en mi corazón, por no hablar de todas las atrocidades en otros países.

Aunque a menudo me siento abrumado por las situaciones en nuestro mundo, me recuerdo a mí mismo que Dios puede sacar lo bueno del mal. Siempre aprecio las cosas positivas que presentan los periodistas tras compartir las trágicas historias. El bien hecho por la gente común, incluso los niños pequeños, me da esperanza.

¡Qué importante es esto hoy! Debemos seguir amando y cuidando a todos nuestros hermanos y hermanas, los hijos amados de nuestro Padre celestial. Jesús vino y vendrá por todos nosotros. Jesús es el Señor de todos, nuestro Misericordioso Juez, y nuestro Príncipe de Paz.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 27, 2016 - Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord


First Sunday of Advent - Year A

Reading 1: Isaiah 2: 1-5
Response:  Psalm 122
Reading 2: Rom.13:11-14
Gospel: Matt. 24:37-44


“Advent” means “coming.”  For that reason we call the time before Christmas the Season of Advent. The emphasis on beautiful lighting during the Christmas season reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the World. His coming made the world a better place because of the love He gave and that He asks His followers to share.


How can we  prepare for the coming of Jesus?

There are many ways Christians choose to prepare His way. In spite of the commercialism which has sometimes distracted us from the real meaning of Christmas, we still see some aspects of the spirit of Christ in the outreach to those in need and taking time to be with family and friends, and the effort to go to Church on the holy day.

St. John the Baptist’s admonition to prepare the way of the Lord makes me question whether there is something more to be done as we await the coming of the Lord. Is there a deeper way of preparing for his coming in the midst of the busyness of this time?

Do we need to be reminded that Christ comes to us daily in the form of brothers and sisters who need our love? Besides the material needs, there are so many who are lonely, who are grieving, who are not understood, who need forgiveness, who need faith, who need encouragement, who need purpose, who need to know of God’s love and presence. How can we attempt to fulfill those needs? Let us ask the Lord to open our eyes and hearts to recognize the coming of Jesus in these people.

Another way I find helpful to keep Christ in Christmas is to focus on one of the Names of Jesus during the day. In the official prayers of the Church, we find this practice in the O Antiphons from December 20-25.  However, there are many more names of Jesus besides those seven: Wisdom, Lord, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring, King of nations, Emmanuel, God with Us. 
Some names which might keep us focused earlier in Advent are the following: Everlasting Light,  Redeemer, Glory of  Israel, Anointed One, Beloved Son, Gift of God, etc. All these and many more can be found in the Bible.

Let us keep our eyes on the Lord by simply recalling one of his names as we go about our busy days.

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...

Prepara el Camino del Señor


“Adviento” significa “venir”. Por eso llamamos la época antes de Navidad la Temporada de Adviento. El énfasis en la iluminación hermosa durante la estación de la Navidad nos recuerda que Jesús es la luz del mundo. Su venida hizo al mundo un lugar mejor debido al amor que Él dio y que Él pide a Sus seguidores compartir.

¿Cómo podemos prepararnos para la venida de Jesús?

Hay muchas maneras en que los cristianos eligen preparar Su camino. A pesar del mercantilismo que a veces nos ha distraído del verdadero significado de la Navidad, todavía podemos ver algunos aspectos del espíritu de Cristo en el acercamiento a los necesitados y tomar tiempo para estar con la familia y los amigos y el esfuerzo de ir a la Iglesia en el día santo.

La advertencia de San Juan Bautista para preparar el camino del Señor me hace cuestionar si hay algo más que hacer mientras esperamos la venida del Señor. ¿Existe una manera más profunda de prepararse para su venida en medio de la ocupación de este tiempo?

¿Necesitamos recordar que Cristo viene a nosotros diariamente en forma de hermanos y hermanas que necesitan nuestro amor? Además de las necesidades materiales, hay tantos que están solos, que están afligidos, que no son entendidos, que necesitan perdón, que necesitan fe, que necesitan aliento, que necesitan propósito, que necesitan conocer el amor y la presencia de Dios. ¿Cómo podemos intentar satisfacer esas necesidades? Pidamos al Señor que abra nuestros ojos y corazones para reconocer la venida de Jesús en estas personas.

Otra manera que encuentro útil para mantener a Cristo en Navidad es centrarse en uno de los Nombres de Jesús durante el día. En las oraciones oficiales de la Iglesia, encontramos esta práctica en las O Antífonas del 20 al 25 de diciembre. Sin embargo, hay muchos más nombres de Jesús además de los siete: Sabiduría, Señor, Raíz de Isaí, Llave de David, Princesa, Rey de las naciones, Emmanuel, Dios con Nosotros. Algunos nombres que nos podrían mantener enfocados antes en Adviento son los siguientes: Luz eterna, Redentor, Gloria de Israel, Ungido, Hijo Amado, Regalo de Dios, etc. Todos estos y muchos más se pueden encontrar en la Biblia.

Mantengamos nuestros ojos en el Señor simplemente recordando uno de sus nombres a medida que avanzamos en nuestros días ocupados.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 20, 2016 - Feast of Christ the King

Thirty-third Sunday in
 Ordinary 
 Time - C

Reading I:  2 Samuel 5:1-3
Response:  Ps.122
Reading II: Colossians1:12-20
Gospel: Luke 23: 35-43

In this week’s Gospel, we hear the beautiful words of the “good thief,”...“Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” We also rejoice in Jesus’ touching response: “I promise you that today you will be with me in paradise.” Somehow, the thief was able to recognize the holiness of Jesus and to trust in his mercy. This had to be a very special grace. He was granted this gift out of the pure abundance of God’s mercy. What peace and joy must have filled his heart!

Yes, we are also blessed to have such a loving and generous Savior. As we contemplate the image of Christ the King, we see him gesturing peace. In the Scriptures, we often hear him offering us peace. However, like the good thief, we must trust in his goodness and surrender ourselves to Him as our King if we are to have that peace. We need to follow his ways acknowledging that his way of love is the only way we can have peace in our families, our country, and in our world.

This is so important these days as our country, torn apart politically, must strive to come together in the aftermath of a very deeply divisive election. Let us remember that the important thing is to
maintain good relationships not only with those who agree with us, but also with those who see things differently.

This can start with praying especially for them, and respecting them although we may not agree with them. We need to move on, despite our own concerns and fears. Jesus is still King.

In the image above, we see that he holds the world in his hands. Presently, things seem to be out of control, but, as the song goes... “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” In spite of our mistakes and sinfulness, “the Lord can write straight with crooked lines.”

Sometimes, we need to go through difficult times to remind ourselves that we need God. Tragedy can bring us to our knees. However, we read in Holy Scripture that “for those who love God, all things work together unto good.” (Romans 8:28)


See our new blog Spanish Translation below:

En el Evangelio de esta semana, escuchamos las hermosas palabras de el “buena ladrón,”
“Acuérdate de mí cuando vengas en tu reino.” Nosotros también regocijo en respuesta tocar a Jesús: “Te prometo que hoy estará conmigo en el paraíso.” De alguna manera, el ladrón fue capaz de reconocer la santidad de Jesús y confiar en su misericordia. Esto tenía que ser una gracia muy especial. Se le concedió este regalo fuera de la pura abundancia de la misericordia de Dios. Lo que la paz y la alegría debe de haber llenado su corazón!

Sí, también la suerte de tener un Salvador tan amoroso y generoso. Al contemplar la imagen de Cristo Rey, lo vemos haciendo un gesto de paz. En las Escrituras, que a menudo le oímos nos ofrece la paz. Sin embargo, como el buen ladrón hay que confiar en su bondad y entrega a Él como nuestro Rey, si queremos tener esa paz. Necesitamos seguir sus caminos reconociendo que su forma de amor es la única manera que podemos tener paz en nuestras familias, nuestro país y en nuestro mundo.

Esto es tan importante en estos días como nuestro país, desgarrado políticamente, deben esforzarse para reunirse como consecuencia de una elección muy profundas divisiones. Recordemos que lo importante es mantener buenas relaciones no sólo con los que están de acuerdo con nosotros, pero también para aquellos que lo ve cosas de manera diferente.

Esto puede comenzar con la oración especialmente para ellos, y respetarlos aunque no estemos de acuerdo con ellos. Tenemos que seguir adelante a pesar de nuestras propias preocupaciones y temores. Jesús sigue siendo el rey.

En la imagen de arriba vemos que sostiene el mundo en sus manos. En este momento, las cosas parecen estar fuera de control, pero, como dice la canción: “Él tiene el mundo entero en sus manos.” A pesar de nuestros errores y pecaminoso, “el Señor puede escribe derecho con líneas torcidas.”

A veces, tenemos que pasar por momentos difíciles de recordar que necesitamos a Dios. Tragedia nos puede poner de rodillas. Sin embargo, leemos en la Santa Escritura que “para aquellos que aman a Dios, todas las cosas les ayudan a bien.” (Romanos 8:28)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 13, 2016 - the Destruction of the Temple



The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary
Time - Year C

Reading I: Malachi 3: 19-20a
Psalm: 98
Reading II: 2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19

In the first reading we hear of death and destruction, and it seems that God is angry and punishing people. However, when we see the face of God in Jesus, we see a loving and merciful God. How can we explain some of the violence that is attributed to God and seemingly encouraged by him? I used to question the use of some
of the Psalms which seem to be asking God’s vengeance on our enemies.
       
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, writes: “God is non-violent. God does not prescribe violence. Violence should never be rationalized in God’s name.” That is clear in Christian revelation. To support this, Fr. Ron tells us to keep two things in mind: First, that when the Scripture speaks about God as if he is angry, etc., it is speaking “anthropomorphically.” That simply means that we are projecting our own human thoughts and feelings into God. When Scripture says that we will experience God’s wrath it doesn’t mean that God is angry and will punish us. There is a natural result of sin which serves to punish people. Sometimes, dealing with the results of sin can be devastating. Relationships can be destroyed, physical pain can result, and difficult and painful circumstances can be experienced.

Another caution when studying the Scriptures, is to remember that it can be deceiving to interpret some things written in the Bible literally. Words have meanings which change over time. For example, teenagers do a good job of confusing us when they say something is “bad” when they actually mean “good” or “cool” or even “great.”  However, we can usually interpret the spoken word correctly. The challenge is when we have a written word that was used long before we were born, or when it is in a language which we do not know.

Father Ron talks about the example of archetypical stories to teach lessons, but which were not intended to be taken literally. An archetypical story is a universal symbol or representation. One example might be “mother earth” because it nourishes, sustains, gives comfort like a mother. A journey can also represent life with its up’s and down’s. Many archetypical stories represent good vs. evil.  A scapegoat represents a person who is blamed for everything that goes wrong even when he/she is not responsible.

Fr. Ron cites God’s command to the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan when they enter the Promised Land. That is simply a metaphor (an implied comparison) to do away with all things which might tempt them to wander from the path of holiness.  This reminds me of the advice given at Weight Watchers meetings. A recommendation is to remove items which are trigger foods from your living situation. In that way, you will not be tempted so much.

What is to be concluded with all of this? Let us remember the human face of the merciful Jesus, the God-man. Fr. Ron quotes Walter Brueggermann as saying: “God is in recovery from all the violence that has been attributed to him and done in his name.” Let us hold in our hearts the words: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8).

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

November 6, 2016 - The Resurrection of the Dead


The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time  -  Year C

Reading I:   2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
Response :  Psalm 17
Reading II:  2 Thessalonians 2:6-3:5
Gospel:  Luke 20:27-28


In today’s Gospel, we find the Sadducees attempting to discredit Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in bodily resurrection. Humans survived as ghosts in a place called Sheol, a shadowy underworld. On the other hand, the Pharisees believed that the afterlife was an extension of this life into eternity. The Sadducees considered this foolish.

The Hebrew Scriptures had preserved the brave words of one of the seven brothers who refused to disobey the law by eating pork. His response to the threat of death was the following: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.”

Some Sadducees decided to try to trap Jesus by posing a situation in which a woman had been married seven times. According to the law, if a man died childless, his brother was to marry the wife and raise children on behalf of his deceased sibling. The story proposed that there would be seven brothers who could claim the wife. Jesus was asked which one she would belong to at the resurrection.

Jesus response was that the risen life will be a new experience in which we will share in the life and love of God. Limited earthly experiences will be replaced by more profound ones which will provide for unity with God and one another on a new level. Jesus said that we cannot even imagine what God has prepared for those who love him.

We have all heard of near-death experiences of people who are reluctant to return to earth because of the peace and joy they had, as a taste of heaven. This can be a source of comfort to us as our loved ones are called home to God.

As Catholics, we believe in the Communion of Saints, a unity with those who have gone before us and those of us still here on earth. Again, we do not know exactly what form our reunion in heaven will take. Our God is a God of love and surprises. We can look forward to the best surprise of all!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 30, 2016 - Jesus visits Zacchaeus' Home

The Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time   Year C



Reading I:
Wisdom 11:22-12:2
Reading II: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Gospel:  Luke 19: 1-10

In our first reading today, we read words of mercy again: “You  are all powerful enough to do anything, but you are merciful to everyone; you overlook our sins and give us time to repent.” (Wisdom 11:23) “O Lord, because it is yours, you love all living things.” (Wisdom 11:26) “Your immortal spirit is in every one of them, and so you gently correct those who sin against you.” (Wisdom 12:1-2)Jesus provides for us the human face of God. His interactions with Zacchaeus reflect the sentiments attributed to God in the Book of Wisdom. He reads the heart of the tax-collector who has climbed a tree to see him. He reaches out to him by saying that he wants to stay at his house. How proud Zacchaeus must have felt to think that this popular man selected his home to visit! Being a man of wealth, he probably provided a delicious meal and was thrilled to have Jesus as his guest.

Of course, there were those who were jealous and complained that Jesus was again eating with sinners. Nonetheless, a deep connection was made between Jesus and Zacchaeus so that he had a conversion of heart. How startled the guests must have been when the tax collector stood up and said to Jesus: “Listen, sir! I will give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Jesus must have truly rejoiced over Zacchaeus’ words. His response was, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man, also, is a descendant of Abraham. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus gives us examples of how to reach out to the lost. There are so many ways people today are “lost.” First, we must pray that they will have open hearts. Then, it is important to enter into their world and see through their eyes in order to make a connection. This demands sacrifice and perseverance. It also, requires that we allow them to find their own way while being there for support and continuing to love them whatever choices they make.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 23, 2016 - The Publican and the Sinner

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Reading I:  Sirach 35:12-18
Response: Psalm 34
Reading II: 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18
Gospel: Luke 18: 9-14

In today’s Gospel we are reminded of the correct attitude when we pray. Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican to teach us.

As one views that picture above, one can note the attitude of the Pharisee by his posture, as well as his words. He stands looking toward heaven as he reminds God of all his virtues. His prayer is one of boasting rather than of humble truth. He doesn’t recognize his own sinfulness. Also, he sees himself as superior to others.

On the other hand, we have the publican in a posture of humble acknowledgement of his human weaknesses. He pleads, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” In the first reading from Sirach, we hear: “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.”

Jesus emphasizes the fact that the publican’s prayer will be heard by the Father. The Pharisee’s “so called” prayer was simply a litany of praise to himself.

Often we recognize faults in others, but fail to recognize our own shortcomings. Sometimes, the things that bother us in another are qualities we have ourselves. Let us extend mercy to our brothers and sisters as the Lord lavishes his mercy on us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October 16, 2016 - Persistence in Prayer


The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time  -  Year C

Reading 1:  Exodus 17:8-13
Psalm 121: 1-8
Reading II: 2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:2
Gospel: Luke 18: 1-8

A lesson from Exodus about persistence in prayer stands out as Moses kept up his hands raised in prayer while the conflict with the Amalekites was going on. As long as he persisted in prayer, Israel was winning. However, Moses could not continue that pose long without the help of Aaron and Hur who held up his arms when they began to droop. That was necessary until the evening so that the Israelites could win the battle.

That is how the Christian Community functions. Some are working diligently to spread the Gospel while others are supporting their efforts through prayer and sacrifice. In Monasteries and Houses of Prayer, that can be the main ministry. On the other hand, active Religious and other Christians offer their prayer and work for the good of all, especially for those who request their prayers.

Just as Moses appreciated the support of Aaron and Hur, we are grateful for those who help us in our challenging situations. It requires persistence and faith that the Lord is hearing us when there seems to be no solution to our problems. We need to trust that the Lord knows when and how to respond to our requests. We also need the comfort of those who provide kindnesses and support when things are difficult.

Each morning we, as Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, pray for our families, friends, the Pope, world leaders, etc. We also pray especially for the intentions of those who pray through the intercession of St. Katharine Drexel here at the Shrine or elsewhere.

Lord, help us to be steadfast in our prayer no matter how long we must persevere, trusting that you know best how and when to respond.



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October 9, 2016 - The Ten Lepers



Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Reading I:
2 Kings 5:14-17
Reading II: Timothy 2: 8-13
Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19

An attitude of gratitude is one of the signs of a happy person. Jesus knows this. In the picture above, one sees Jesus blessing the one leper who returned to give thanks. However, we also see Jesus looking pensively at the other nine who are rejoicing over their cure, but are oblivious of the one who made it possible. Obviously, they are centered on themselves.

In his human nature, Jesus probably felt hurt that only one returned expressed his gratitude. However, he may also have felt sorry that they did not have the attitude of gratitude which would make them happier people.

We all have ups and downs in our lives. However, one of the best ways of pulling oneself out of the doldrums is to list all the things for which we should be grateful. Some people keep gratitude journals. They write 3 things a day for which they are grateful. Then, they try to not repeat.  As time goes on, they begin to notice the smaller blessings, e.g. the beauty of a flower, the breeze on a hot summer’s day, the smile of a friend.

When I was working in campus ministry at Xavier University in New Orleans, many of our students came from poor and difficult circumstances. However, they had a joyous manner. It blew my mind when, during prayer, they thanked the Lord for getting them up in the morning. Not being a morning person myself, I had never even thought of thanking the Lord for getting me up. Sometimes, students can become teachers for their instructors.

One day Sr. Ivan and I visited Church Point in rural Louisiana. I was taken to visit an elderly couple who lived in a small shabby house. However, they were such joyous people as every other word out of their mouths was praising and thanking the Lord. I could see why the Lord has such love for the poor.

Just as any good parent wants his/her children to be happy, so does our Heavenly Father and Jesus want this for us. Let us strive to develop a strong attitude of gratitude even on those days when everything seems to be going wrong.

Lord, you have blessed us in so many ways, we thank you for all that was, that is, and that will be.



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

October 2, 2016 - The Good Servant

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Reading I:  Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4
Response: Psalm 95
Reading II: 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel: Luke: 17: 5-10

These days when I hear the news with all the violence and controversy, I turn to the Lord and tell him that he is the only one who can solve our problems today. We hear in the first reading a similar plea from Habakkuk. Fr. John Foley, S.J. summarizes the Lord’s response, thus: God is saying, “I understand your sorrow and I will make things better.” However, in today’s world we are used to instant solutions. God asks us to wait and he will makes things better. Father Foley suggests that God may be delaying in order for us to deepen our faith.

In the Gospel, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. His response is “If you had the faith the size of a mustard seed, you could do whatever it is that you want.” It seems that he is inviting them to work with him to make a better world. However, they need greater faith in Him and faith in themselves to do this. That is what the Lord is also asking of us today.

I recall vividly a visit with a young friend of mine and her family. While we were chatting on the patio, we could see her husband preparing a portion of their backyard to be a vegetable garden. He was busily raking up the soil. Beside him was their son who was about three years old. He was imitating the father with his own toy rake. It was such a touching scene!

Although the boy probably got in the way sometimes and was able to do little to really help, his dad let him attempt his little part. Of course, the little boy was happy to be working alongside his dad and very proud that he could “help” his father.

This scene reminds me of how our Father allows us to do our little part in making our world better for ourselves and others. In fact, he wants us to do our part. He doesn’t expect perfection from us. However, he knows it will make us happy.

We see this regularly when we hear the reactions of youth who volunteer to help others in special projects. We hear the sense of fulfillment expressed by older people who give of themselves to help others. We hear of the healing after loss which is brought about by those who choose to improve the life of others. Yes, the Lord knows what is best for us, even when we do not understand.

Lord, help us to place our trust in you.  Help us to give over our concerns to you.  Give us your peace!  Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 25, 2016 - The Rich Man and Lazarus

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Image result for the parable of the rich man and lazarus

Reading I: Amos 6: 1a, 4-7
Response: Psalm 146
Reading II:  1 Timothy 6: 11- 16
Gospel: Luke 16: 19-31


Is there anything wrong with being rich?  Jesus seems to focus on the dangers of being rich. He says that it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Of course, the “needle” is not a sewing needle.  However, even though he is referring to a narrow passageway in the mountains through which shepherds and herders needed to lead their animals, we wonder why he stresses this.   

It seems obvious that we need to share with those who are needy. But, there seems to be more to it. Eleanor Stump, professor of philosophy at St. Louis University, sheds some light on this when she points out the words used in the Gospel. When the rich man is in hell, he asks the Lord to send Lazarus, who is resting in the bosom of the Lord, to get him some water to quench his thirst.  When the Lord refuses, the rich man asks God to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them about the folly of riches. The Lord refuses again. Why? Perhaps the Lord is reacting to the rich man’s basic attitude of seeing Lazarus as only useful to him. He doesn’t consider him a brother, as an equal. Rather he chooses only to use him for his own purposes. Even the dogs lick the wounds of Lazarus as they do for themselves and one another. They have compassion and try to heal him. 

The rich who are poor in spirit reach out and share with the poor. The poor recognize those who have a superior attitude and those who see them as brothers and sisters. At the 125th jubilee celebration for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Bishop Curtis J Guillory, SVD, of the Beaumont, Texas Diocese, shared his experiences with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. He made a comment which touched me. He said that the Sisters “engaged” with the people. In other words, they became a part of the people with whom they ministered. They realized that they were enriched themselves by the poor they served.

Another view is expressed by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI. He reminds us that for our own physical,
psychological and spiritual health, we need to share. Our Native American brothers and sisters have retained that generosity of spirit by some of their customs. For example, when I young man has success hunting a deer, the family has a “deer supper.” I was invited to one by one of our Pueblo Sisters from Laguna, New Mexico. Before the meal the skull of the deer was placed on a side table. The mother of the young hunter blessed her son and thanked the deer for giving its life to feed the people. Then, everyone in the village and friends were invited to partake in the meal. They took turns eating in silence and moved on so others could have a place at the table. While waiting for a turn at the table, people were watching a ballgame on TV and chatting. It was like two worlds in one house.

Another custom is that on birthdays, the one being celebrated is the giver of gifts. Of course, in today’s world they probably receive gifts also. However, the custom reminds them that they are
here to share with others also. On special holy days, they have “throws.” Items like candy, blankets, etc. are thrown from flat adobe rooftops for anyone to take.  

A real challenge comes when a relative is in financial need, e.g. because of alcohol or drug problems. The expectation is that the relative with some resources will provide for the needy one. Therefore, it is difficult for them to save for future needs of their own family. Nevertheless, they do have the sense that accumulating too much is unhealthy.

It is healthy to share because it prevents one from becoming too self-centered. One of the first things that many mothers teach their small children is to share treats that they receive and to share their toys. That can be a difficult lesson, but an important one. Young people who are encouraged to do some type of service to help others experience a sense of pride and joy. It feels good and is a wonderful experience for them and those they help. That is good for people of all ages. God our Father and Jesus know what we need for a healthy and happy life. It is not to hold tightly onto wealth. Rather it is to share our time, talent, and treasures with our brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September 18, 2016 - God's Call to Share His Gifts


The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Image result for parable of the unjust steward

Reading 1: Amos 8: 4-7
Response: Psalm 113
Reading II:  1  Timothy 2: 1-8
Gospel: Luke 16: 1-13 or 10-13


In the “Parable of the Unjust Steward,” Jesus notes the mercy of God toward the Steward. The steward was one who managed the property of the Master (owner) and collected produce or money from the renters. He was allowed a commission or fee for each transaction. However, according to the Mishnah (a post-biblical tradition in Judaic literature), there is no evidence that the steward would be given a commission as high as 50%. In this story, not only had he failed in the management of the master’s property, he had also tried to cover up his errors
by cheating.

As humans we are prone to making mistakes and are usually readily excused. However, being deceitful leads to distrust with more serious consequences.


In the Gospel, it is noted that one “cannot serve both God and mammon [wealth].” This does not mean that being wealthy means one does not serve God. There are some wealthy people who are aware that their wealth has been accumulated, not only by hard work, but also due to God’s gifts of health, education, and favorable circumstances, for which they are indebted to the Lord. They see themselves as stewards for God, their Master. They use their gifts in a variety of ways by volunteering time and talent, as well by the the opportunity to help others financially. 

At a time when the Indian peoples were being driven off their lands and a prime source of survival was being destroyed by the ruthless killing of the buffalo, The Drexel family was noted for their philanthropy and their generosity to the Indian Missions. They even traveled by stagecoach to see the plight of these people and bring them assistance.

Closer to home, in Philadelphia, they were aware of the plight of African-Americans who had recently been released from slavery, but had no education and means of providing for themselves and their families. Some even chose to go back to work for their former owners in order to survive. The Drexels became aware of the need for a good education for these people so that they could develop their skills for profitable employment.

Several times a week, Mrs. Emma Bouvier Drexel together with her three young daughters, would open their doors to the poor and provide them with food, clothing, rent money, etc. Involvement in this charity allowed the young ladies
to become engaged with the poor so that they related to them on a very
personal level.  


Even as Francis Drexel made out his will, after assuring that his daughters would be well cared for, he included many charities. Not aware that Katharine would be founding a Community to help the poor among the Black and Native American peoples, much of his money was distributed to those charities on
his death.


While most of us do not have very large resources to reach out monetarily to help others, wealth comes in many other forms. It can be love, expressed by a smile, a listening ear, or a helping hand. These and many other ways of reaching out can make a person feel as if he/she had been given a
million dollars.


One of my favorite poems by Nikki Giovanni, a famous African-American poetess, attests to this:

Nikki-Rosa

Related Poem Content Details

childhood remembrances are always a drag   
if you’re Black 
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn   
with no inside toilet 
and if you become famous or something 
they never talk about how happy you were to have   
your mother 
all to yourself and 
how good the water felt when you got your bath   
from one of those 
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in   
and somehow when you talk about home   
it never gets across how much you 
understood their feelings 
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale 
and even though you remember 
your biographers never understand 
your father’s pain as he sells his stock   
and another dream goes 
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that 
concerns you 
and though they fought a lot 
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference   
but only that everybody is together and you 
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good   
Christmases 
and I really hope no white person ever has cause   
to write about me 
because they never understand 
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll 
probably talk about my hard childhood 
and never understand that 
all the while I was quite happy

Let us be good stewards of the Master. Let us share his unique gifts to us, whatever they may be.  The more we share, the more we are enriched. That is how we can delight the heart of our Heavenly Father!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

September 11, 2016 - The Prodigal Son

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Image result for the prodigal son

Reading I: Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14
Response: Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-13, 17,19
Reading II: Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15: 1-32


This Sunday’s readings are again about mercy. Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar in his book, Light of the Word, uses the expression that mercy is the “innermost attitude” of God. He quotes Timothy’s Epistle: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
(2 Tim 2:13)

God does not just give mercy when we come to Him. He goes after us. We see this in the parable of the lost sheep when the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes in search of one lost sheep. Then, we see the woman looking for the lost coin. The father of the prodigal son watches for the return of his son and runs to greet him, embraces him, kisses him and orders his servants to prepare for a celebration of his son's return.

Francis Thompson wrote a beautiful poem in which he describes God as “The Hound of Heaven.” I can still remember Bishop Sheen reciting the poem on his television show.

Even without the dramatic voice of Bishop Sheen, it is a powerful poem which brings out the 
extravagance of God's Love. The whole poem is beautiful, but very long. Therefore, I am quoting only the beginning.  
The Hound of Heaven
By Francis Thompson  (1859–1907)
  
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him....


To view the entire poem, click the title link.

What an awesome God we have! His goodness is beyond our understanding. He could well be called the “prodigal father” for He is lavish, unsparing, and bounteous in His love.

How blessed we are!!! Let us praise the Lord and bless his holy name! He only asks of us to imitate Him by extending love and mercy to our brothers, sisters, and ourselves.

Gerald Darring, of St. Louis University, challenges us to mercy for our brothers and sisters in prison. Today, we are seeing people released from death's row now that DNA tests can more accurately determine whether a person has committed murder. In the spirit of mercy, Gerald Darring reminds us of the “Statement on Capital Punishment” announced by the U.S. Bishops
in 1980:

                         Abolition of capital punishment is a manifestation of our belief
                         in the unique worth and dignity of each person from the moment
                         of conception, a creature made in the image and likeness of God.
                         It is particularly important in the context of our times that this
                         belief be affirmed with regard to those who have failed or whose
                        lives have been distorted by suffering or hatred, even in the case
                        of those who by their actions have failed to respect the dignity and
                        rights of others.

Mercy would require attempts at rehabilitating prisoners. In addition, when a prisoner is released, we need to provide some assistance in finding a job and housing. Even those who might be considered unsafe to release can be treated humanely as they remain in prison.

How can we, who have received mercy from the Lord, extend mercy to his beloved children?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 4 - Take up your cross and follow me.


The 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C



First Reading: Wisdom 9: 13-18b     Response: Psalm 90
Second Reading: Philemon 9-10, 12-17     Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

When we hear today’s Gospel, sometimes we are taken aback when Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Didn’t Jesus tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Fr. John Foley, SJ, notes that the word “hate” was probably an oratorical way to say “love them in proportion.” We sometimes forget that the first great commandment is to “love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole soul and with all your strength.” Often a person, an animal, or a thing can become a God for us. It can even be something like money, or success, or reputation, which engages all our interest and time. We need to prioritize.

A powerful example of this is seen in the life of St. Thomas More. A husband, father, and favorite of King Henry VIII, he was the Chancellor in the King’s court. King Henry, disappointed that his wife had borne him no male child, asked the Pope for an annulment of his marriage. When he was denied, he declared himself the head of the Church in England. He required that his subjects sign a declaration that he was now the head of the Church.

Thomas More refused to sign and was punished in many ways which affected not only himself, but also his family. How difficult it must have been when he was in prison and unable to support or be with his wife and children. When even that did not persuade him to go against his conscience, he was beheaded.

You can see, beside his picture above, his famous words just before he was executed when he was dying: “the King’s good servant - but God’s first.” What anguish, what courage, what integrity he displayed!!!  It would have be so easy to give in and please his family who were dependent on him! However, he gave example of “love in proportion” for them and for all the world.

Only God’s special grace could enable him to love as he did. When I wonder if I would be able to withstand the suffering he bore, I just pray that the Lord would give me the strength. I know that I would be too weak to do it on my own. However, the Lord has promised to remain with us.

Another challenge Jesus gives us is the following: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” In James Martin’s book,  Jesus, A Pilgrimage, he suggests that by taking up our cross daily, we can find a deeper life.

There have been many instances when I have seen this in my own life and in the lives of others. Tragedies, losses, and hardships can cause us to turn to the Lord for help. In the midst of these circumstances people often develop a closer relationship with the Lord. Also, many times they become more aware and sensitive to the crosses that others bear. Often, they reach out to help others when they may have just looked the other way before.

I can recall my own mother telling me what to do if I were feeling sorry for myself. She said to look around and see that there were others worse off than I was. Then, she encouraged me to help them in some way.

Also,  I met a woman who had just been through a divorce. Her mother-in-law, who was a good friend to her, encouraged her to volunteer in a hospital. By doing that she was able to put her own situation in perspective, while helping others.

I have seen parents who have lost children through illness, drugs, and other tragedies reach out to help other parents going through similar circumstances.

If flowers are to grow, they must have sunshine and rain. Each of us is a unique, special flower in the Lord’s garden. He knows what each of us needs. Let us trust that he is with us so we do not have to carry our crosses alone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 28, 2016 - I Am Meek and Humble of Heart


The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C    



 Reading I: Sirach 3 17-18, 20,28-29          Response: Psalm 68
 Reading II:  Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24a   Gospel: Luke 14: 1, 7-14

In our first reading from Sirach, we hear the advice: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the guest who has been invited to a wedding banquet. The guest chooses a place of honor and has to be told to move when a more distinguished person arrives.

In the introduction to the Gospel, we hear: “Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” [A yoke is a device used to enable two animals to share the weight of a burden they are pulling and to do it in unison.]  Jesus does not ask us to do anything by ourselves, but rather to walk side by side, in unison with him as we journey
through life.

I have heard it said that our pride dies 10 minutes after we die. Sometimes we are tempted to act humble, but it is just another way of camouflaging our pride. We find true humility very difficult. Eleanor Stump, a professor of philosophy at Saint Luis University, notes four types of pride:

  • There is the childish kind of pride, of course, where you brag about your accomplishments while everybody else tries to be polite enough not to roll their eyes while you are talking.
      
  • And then there is also the grown-up version of that childish pride.  A multi-millionaire who explains that he is a self- made man has this kind of pride.  He has failed to notice all the gifts he has been given that have helped him to get where he is. He thinks he himself is responsible for the good he has.

  • A more complicated kind of pride can be found in a person who knows that all his good comes from the grace of God. But he is sure that God has given him such grace and not his neighbors, because God knew that he, unlike his stupid worldly neighbors, would make good use of God’s gifts.

  • Finally, the worst and most sophisticated kind of pride is found in the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other men, especially not like that sinner, the publican. The Pharisee knew that every good in him was a gift from God. But he was glad that he had God's gifts and that the publican didn’t. 

The Pharisee liked looking down on the publican.Humility is simple truth. We acknowledge that all our virtue and talents come from God and that they are meant to be used for the good of others. We also acknowledge that God has gifted others and we appreciate and rejoice over those gifts.

For  twelve years I taught in Aquinas Junior College where most of the students were preparing to be secretaries, medical assistants, or early childhood educators. Some had poor self images when they came. We used to emphasize with them that God must have a special love for the ordinary people because he made so many of us. The world only needs a few opera singers, violinists, scientists, professional athletes, artists, mechanics, or other specially talented people. However,  it needs many, many people with the ordinary gifts of caring, kindness, helpfulness, and generosity.

I had a friend with serious eye problems. Her doctor was a genius who was often consulted by other doctors because of his expertise. However, he did not have a great personality. Nevertheless, he was smart enough to recognize that he needed the gifts a warm-hearted secretary to make his practice successful. The secretary he hired was a real people-person. She knew everyone's name and asked about their families. She would greet each patient as if he or she were the important person in the world. Yes, the doctor's gifts were important. but the secretary's gifts were no less important.

In our Early Childhood Education Department, we had some students who had found school difficult. However,  they had the personalities and patience needed to relate well to young children during their most  impressionable years. What comfort it brought to parents when they recognized those special gifts in the teachers of their precious children.

Each one of us is unique and gifted by God in a special way. We need to be grateful and share our gifts with others. It is pure foolishness for us to attribute our virtues or accomplishments only to ourselves. We need to keep our eyes on the humble Jesus who asks us to “learn to of him to be "meek and humble of heart.”

As a human and a devout Jew, Jesus was well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures [Old Testament]. He followed well the instructions of the prophet Micah: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  He asks us to do the same.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 21, 2016 - God Is Love

The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Reading I:  Isaiah 66:18-21
Response:  Psalm 117:12
Reading II:  Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13
Gospel:  Luke 13: 22-30    

While Jesus was teaching, someone asked him “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  His answer was, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate.’ [This refers to a narrow passageway in the mountains range through which the shepherds must drive their sheep. These ways can be dangerous and some sheep do not make it through.] Then, Jesus tells a parable which may surprise us!!!

The parable in today’s Gospel seems like a contradiction to the one on the 17th Sunday in which a man wanting to borrow bread is knocking on the door of his friend at midnight. Because of the man’s persistence, the friend senses that this is probably an emergency. Also, because of his friendship he is willing to possibly awaken the whole family in order to respond to the man’s needs. [It could well be that they lived in a one-room home and slept on sheepskins like our Southwestern Navajos did. Even today, some live in the octagon-shaped hogans with only a fireplace in the center.]

On the other hand, in today’s parable — a story to teach a lesson,  Jesus says that the one knocking on the door will call out, ‘Lord open the door for us.’  Since there has been no prior relationship, the master of the house will say in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ The response will be, ‘We ate and drank in your company, and you taught on our streets.’ The master will repeat ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me you evildoers!’ Jesus compares this with the situation when we knock on the door to heaven. If we have not developed a friendship with the Lord and lived a life of love for his children, we will not experience heaven. There will be ‘wailing and grinding of teeth’ when we see others in the Kingdom of God and we ourselves are outside.

This brings up a question about God’s goodness...How can a merciful and loving God send someone to hell for all eternity? 

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, addresses the question in the following way:
God, Jesus tells us, doesn’t judge anyone. We judge ourselves. God doesn’t create hell and God doesn’t send anyone to hell. But that does not mean that hell doesn’t exist and that it isn’t a possibility for us. Here, in essence, is how Jesus explains this:

God sends his life [love] into the world and we can choose that life or reject it We judge
ourselves in making that choice. If we choose life, we are ultimately choosing heaven. If we reject life we live outside of life and that is ultimately hell. But we make that choice, God doesn’t send us anywhere. Moreover, hell is not a positive punishment created by God to make us suffer. Hell is the absence of something, namely, living inside of the life [love] that’s offered to us.

Fr. Rolheiser goes on to say, “Hell is real, but it isn’t a positive punishment created by God to deal out justice or vengeance....Hell is the absence of life, of love, of forgiveness, of community.  We can end up there, outside of love and community, but that’s a choice we make if we, culpably, reject these as they are offered to us during our lifetime.”

The reason I have chosen the above picture to represent the entrance into heaven is based on the fact that people who have had an near-death experience often refer to being drawn by a beautiful white light.  Each of us tend to visualize Jesus according to our own race and nationality, so it is not possible to illustrate a universal Christ.

The human Jesus must have resembled the people of  his native land. In 1982, when I made a retreat in the Holy Land, I took pictures of  some children playing. I figured that, that was how the boy Jesus must have looked. Also, we were shown the type adobe homes in which the people lived. We even saw the caves which were used to shelter the animals.  It was likely that Jesus was born in such a cave.

I had never been in the Southwest before I went to teach at St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1984. To my surprise I noted that the climate and land were similar to the Holy Land. The Native people had the tan skin and dark hair that I had seen there also. When I visited the Pueblo villages, I saw homes similar to the one’s in the Israel.

Later, when teaching at St. Michael Indian School and Dine College on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, I was thrilled to see real shepherds. One of our Associates in Ganado was still caring for her sheep with great affection even into her old age. I was always attracted to the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. However, my experiences in the Southwest greatly strengthened my love for Jesus, our Loving Shepherd.

Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Let us follow his way of love, and then we will not need to be concerned about eternity.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

August 14, 2016 - I Am the Good Shepherd


   The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C  

  Reading 1: Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10
Response: Psalm 40
Reading 2: Hebrews 12:1-4
Gospel: Luke 12: 49-53


Painting by Del Parson

In today’s readings, we have two images presented: the image of a blazing fire and that of baptism. However, the well-loved picture of the Good Shepherd serves to illustrate both.

The fire Jesus wants to spread over the earth is the light of true knowledge of God.  Before the time of Jesus, people could deduce from nature the existence of an all-powerful creator. 

However, it took Jesus' coming in a human form to reveal that our God is a loving and forgiving God. Jesus said: He who sees me sees the Father. Jesus wants that understanding shared with all people. 

Fire also creates warmth which we associate with love. Jesus also wants us to share love with all people. That can be challenging at times, especially if one has been hurt by the person. However, “love” means wanting the good for others and helping them to attain it when we can. It doesn't mean that we have to “like” the person. “Love is a choice.”


The baptism which Jesus referred to was his death and resurrection. As the time to sacrifice His life for the salvation of souls was coming closer, He said: “...how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.” I hear both His desire to bring about salvation and also His human dread of the suffering He will experience. How heartbreaking it must have been to realize that not all will choose to benefit from His great sacrifice!


As we contemplate the image of the Good Shepherd, we see his love and protection of the sheep. He carries a club to ward off dangerous animals who might try to harm or kill the sheep. The shepherd also carries a staff whose hook enables him to rescue a sheep who has fallen into a crevice, a hole, a stream or has become stuck in mud or bushes. Day and night, the Shepherd watches over the sheep as they search for water and grasses over treacherous mountains and through dangerous valleys. 


In the picture above, the way this shepherd is carrying the stray, wounded sheep on his shoulders reminds us of Jesus’ carrying the cross for our salvation. He looks weary and is in pain, but he chooses to sacrifice his own comfort for the sake of the sheep.


The sheep and lambs themselves are wonderful animals. During their lifetimes, they provide wool to warm and protect against the elements. When food is needed, they allow themselves to be slaughtered so that others can live. It is so appropriate for us to also refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.


The next time we hear the priest at Mass pray: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” let us respond with ever grateful hearts: “Have mercy on us” and “Grant us peace”.


Good Shepherd, may we listen to your voice and follow you wherever you lead, knowing that you remain with and watch over us always. Amen.