Friday, June 24, 2016

June 26, 2016 - The Challenging Jesus

  The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Year C

                                                        Reading I: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21
                                                 Responsorial Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
                                                         Reading II: Galatians 5:1, 13-18
                                                                  Gospel: Luke 9:51-62

Looking at the men Jesus is inviting to follow him, I see questioning, hesitation, uncertainty.  
Jesus, rather than trying to persuade them, challenges them: “Foxes have dens and birds 
of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” One says that he 
wants first go bury his father. The other asks to first go home to say farewell to his family.
Jesus wants them to leave all immediately to go to proclaim the kingdom of God. I am struck
by the intensity of Jesus as he calls them.

As I reflect on the Gospel for this Sunday, a quote from Soren Kierkegaard that what Jesus
wants is “followers not admirers” strikes me deeply. It is so, so easy to admire Jesus.  To follow
Him requires much sacrifice. I find that one of my favorite prayers is “Lord, help me to love 
you as you deserve to be loved.” As I ask myself if I am an admirer or a follower of Jesus, 
sometimes I am not sure.  

Yes, I do attempt to imitate Jesus when I ask myself: What would Jesus do in this situation?
What is the truly loving thing to do? Sometimes there is a feeling of happiness and fulfillment
when we extend ourselves in loving God and our brothers and sisters. However, there are
other times when we only feel sacrifice in putting away our own desires in the context
of self-forgetful love. 

Married couples must learn to compromise and give up some of their own ways for the sake
of a good marriage. Caring parents learn sacrifice when they put aside their own desires for the benefit of their children. I learned sacrifice when I chose to visit my father who had Alzheimer's disease, even after I had realized that he didn't even know who I was. There is sometimes no sense of personal comfort in sacrifices. My experience has helped me understand what is often involved in dedication: the surrender of one's own comfort and/or desires for the good of others.

Jesus certainly put aside his own comfort and humbled himself to take on our humanity and live as a human being with us. This endears him to us. Certainly, he made many, many sacrifices in his lifetime and ended it with the supreme sacrifice at Calvary. The pain of others weighed heavily on his compassionate heart. He was especially aware of the heartbroken state of his mother who
shared so profoundly in his sufferings.

If we are to follow Jesus, rather than simply admire him, sacrifice must be a significant part of our lives. As humans, we usually do not like to sacrifice. Even Jesus struggled in the Garden of Olives before his Passion saying: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

It is only with the strength of the Lord that we, humans, can follow and imitate the Jesus. We need to pray to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to help us when being a faithful follower of Jesus seems to be beyond our natural ability.

Friday, June 17, 2016

June 19, 2016 - The Merciful Jesus


 The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
        Original Painting by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski 
               following Sr. Faustina's instructions

The picture above was painted by the gifted artist, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski. This artist was hired to paint the picture of  the merciful Jesus as was seen in a vision by St. Faustina. Jesus had commissioned her to disseminate the devotion to Divine Mercy.
In the painting, we can see rays representing the blood and water pouring forth from the heart of Jesus. This fountain of mercy's purifying u
s was foretold by the prophet Zechariah and recorded for us in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Periodically, the Lord must remind us of his total unconditional love. Since we, limited creatures, often show love with conditions, it is difficult for us to even conceive of the breadth and depth of our God's love. Centuries ago, Jesus reminded us of  the immense love of God when He appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, showing her his heart burning with love. That picture of Jesus with loving heart exposed has comforted many

Today, the Divine Mercy Picture gives us the same message. In a time when hatred is

so prevalent in our world, Jesus reassures us of his great love. He also gave to St. Faustina a beautiful chaplet to pray. It is a simple prayer and can be prayed on a
regular rosary:
1. Make The Sign of the cross, the Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Apostle's Creed. 
2. Say on the Our Father bead at the beginning of each decade the following prayer: Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your
dearly beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

3. On the ten small beads of each decade say the following prayer: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

4. End with the following prayer and the sign of the cross. 

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.           

In the Gospel of Luke 9:18-24, Jesus asks his disciples who they personally believed he is. Peter professes his belief that Jesus is "the Christ". Like a diamond or crystal, depending on the angle one views it, various colors shine forth. Each reflects a part of the whole. Pope Francis this year is asking us to focus on the Mercy of  God. His response to that question might be "You are the Merciful One." If Jesus were to ask you today who he is, what would be your response?

Perhaps, we could take some time to contemplate the Divine Mercy Painting and allow the fountain of mercy pour over us to cleanse and heal us. Let us give humble thanks for our awesome God and our priceless gift of faith.

Friday, June 10, 2016

June 12, 2016 - The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Forgiving Jesus

Year C:  Reflections on the Gospel of Luke 7:36-50

I have always been touched by the sinful woman's courage.  Propelled by intense love of for Jesus, she ignores the comments and disdainful glances of the Pharisees at Simon's banquet.  She humbly kneels at the feet of her Lord, washes them with her tears, dries them with her hair, gently kisses them, and lovingly anoints them.

Jesus, with great compassion, simply sits there allowing this despised woman to minister to him.  He graciously accepts her demonstration of sorrow and love.  He bends over to place his healing hand on her to reassure her of his love and forgiveness.  He does this  despite the ridicule of the bystanders.  What joy the sinful woman must have felt!  What peace! How she must have cherished this moment for the rest of her life.

How grateful the woman must have felt as he responded to the belittling remarks of the men.  He actually defended her and expressed his appreciation for her great love!  God is grateful for the imperfect love of his creature!!!  How can this be?  He must be absolutely crazy about us weak and sinful humans.That is something we need to pause over, savor, and ponder within our hearts.


For many years, I and others associated this happening with Mary Magdalene.  However, recent Biblical scholarship does not support this.  The association might have happened because the passage following this story mentions Mary Magdalene as being among the women following and supporting Jesus out of their own resources.  The mention of demons being driven out of her could well mean an illness.  At the time, illnesses were often viewed as possession by demons.  Jesus attempted to correct that notion in relation to the man born blind. When the question was asked whether it was his sins or the sins of his parents that caused the blindness, Jesus responded that it was neither. Jesus explained that he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

St. Katharine Drexel, in her journals, reminds herself  [and us] to believe in Him and the power of His words,"Woman thou art healed and in that same instant she is healed."

Friday, June 3, 2016

June 5, 2016 - The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year C :  Reflections on the Gospel of Luke 7:11-17

Luke 7:11–16, Christ raises a young man from the deadIn today's Gospel, we see a compassionate Jesus. He observes the dead young son of a widow being carried on a bier, along a dirt road, leading to the grave. He is her only child. Not only does she grieve his passing, but he is her only source of support in a time when women depended on male family members to care for them. Jesus' heart goes out to her in her great loss.

Jesus could well be also envisioning the day when his own mother would be heartbroken over the cruel death of her only son. He is touched to a degree that he chooses to raise the son from the dead. What great joy the mother is experiencing, as depicted in the picture above! What happiness Jesus must feel to be able to return the beloved child to his mother!  

Maybe Mary was there that day.  Did she understand that Jesus was trying to reassure her that even though she would see him die at the hands of sinful men,  he would also rise from the dead?  Did she have a sense of the joy that would be hers on that blessed day, as she watched the widow tenderly cup her son's face in her hands?  Were some of the disciples present to observe this miracle?  Were they able to trust that Jesus would come back to them also?

We can observe how Jesus sensed the heartbreak of the widow and how he responded to her great sorrow and need.   However, the witnesses seem puzzled.  Who is this Jesus, the son of a carpenter, who can raise a person from the dead?  Were some resentful of all the attention Jesus'  kindness and power brought to him?  Are they feeling jealous that people are following him?  He seems so very ordinary, yet he does extraordinary things?  Where does he get his power?    Do they feel drawn to follow Him and imitate his compassion in their own lives?  We can only speculate about all these things.  However, allowing ourselves to contemplate the scene,  can deepen our appreciation of the Lord and His followers.

Today we observe the compassionate Jesus who told us that he is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Are we willing to live His Way? Do we make the necessary sacrifices to extend compassion to our brothers and sisters in need?  With the Lord at our sides giving us strength, we can let go of our self-centered ways and embrace His Way.

Among St. Katharine Drexel's writings we find the following: "I firmly believe that we don't realize the power that is ours in the Companionship which is ours." Who needs our compassion at this time?