Monday, September 16, 2019

Sept. 22, 2019 Choose your Master

September 22, 2019   Choose Your Master    Year C
Reading I: 
Amos 8:4-7

Psalm: 113

Reading II:  1 Timothy: 2:1-8

Luke 16:1-13
or 10-13

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

Jesus does not say that money is bad in itself. It is needed for life and survival. However, one needs to know what is enough and not focus on amassing a large fortune.

If we consciously choose our Master, we have a clear path by following the example and teachings of Jesus. While we make use of money for the good of our families and ourselves, we should also refrain from hoarding it or spending it on unnecessary, expensive items. In addition, we should be aware of and generous to, others who do not have enough.

Our Master taught us to love God, our neighbors and ourselves. What we share is not limited to our money and possessions. We also have the gifts of time and talents to share.  

The are many lonely people who do not have enough human interaction because of age, health, or incarceration. Taking some free time to spend with an elder who has lost most of his or her family and friends, can cheer them up. Also, helping with shopping or something he or she can no longer do is a real blessing.

Visiting the sick or taking the time to send a card or a helpful item, can lift a person’s spirit. This is especially true when a person is young and facing many years of missing out on the things that young people typically enjoy doing.

Visiting the imprisoned is an affirmation of their humanity. When I had the experience of teaching English to some women in prison, I was struck by the fact that the women had made scrapbooks with the poetry they had received. Before this experience, I had never met anyone who had been in prison. Through this experience, I learned to see the prisoners as people with feelings and needs like my own.

Besides the gift of time, there is also the sharing of talents with others. While teaching at Aquinas College, I had a drama club which put on a humorous play. After the performance, The mother of one of the students came to me to tell me that she had, had a difficult year. She shared that enjoying the play with her son performing was a great blessing.

Hairdressers, who go out of their way to share that talent with those who are homeless or shut-ins, are examples of sharing one’s talents. Listening to their customers sharing their joys and problems is also a gift they have to offer.

People with computer expertise who take the time to help those who are still learning are also sharing both their time and talent. Sometimes, it also requires the gift of patience.

Let us persevere in our choice to live with open hearts and hands, like our Master Jesus. In that way, we will avoid the temptations to make money our master.
 Reflection Question:  Ask the Lord, your Master, how he would like you to share this week.

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...
Elige tu Maestro

En el Evangelio de hoy, Jesús les dice a sus discípulos:  Ningún siervo puede servir a dos señores. Odiará a uno y amará al otro, o se dedicará a uno y despreciará al otro. No se puede servir a Dios y a Mammón”. (Luke 16:13)

Jesús no dice que el dinero es malo en sí mismo. Es necesario para la vida y la supervivencia. Sin embargo, uno necesita saber qué es suficiente y no centrarse en acumular una gran fortuna.

Si elegimos conscientemente a nuestro Maestro, tenemos un camino claro al seguir el ejemplo y las enseñanzas de Jesús. Si bien utilizamos el dinero para el bien de nuestras familias y de nosotros mismos, también debemos abstenernos de acumularlo o gastarlo en artículos innecesarios y caros. Además, debemos ser conscientes y generosos con otros que no tienen suficiente.

Nuestro Maestro nos enseñó a amar a Dios, a nuestro prójimo y a nosotros mismos. Lo que compartimos no se limita a nuestro dinero y posesiones. También tenemos los dones de tiempo y talentos para compartir.  

Hay muchas personas solitarias que no tienen suficiente interacción humana debido a la edad, la salud o el encarcelamiento. Tomar tiempo libre para pasar con un anciano que ha perdido a la mayoría de su familia y amigos puede animarlos. Además, ayudar con las compras o algo que ya no puede hacer es una verdadera bendición.

Visitar a los enfermos o tomarse el tiempo para enviar una tarjeta o un artículo útil puede elevar el espíritu de una persona. Esto es especialmente cierto cuando una persona es joven y enfrenta muchos años de perderse las cosas que a los jóvenes generalmente les gusta hacer.

Visitar a los presos es una afirmación de su humanidad. Cuando tuve la experiencia de enseñar inglés a algunas mujeres en prisión, me sorprendió el hecho de que las mujeres habían hecho álbumes de recortes con la poesía que habían recibido. Antes de esta experiencia, nunca había conocido a nadie que hubiera estado en prisión. A través de esta experiencia, aprendí a ver a los prisioneros como personas con sentimientos y necesidades como la mía.

Además del don del tiempo, también se comparten talentos con otros. Mientras enseñaba en el Aquinas College, tenía un club de teatro que hacía una obra de humor. Después de la presentación, la madre de uno de los estudiantes vino a decirme que había tenido un año difícil. Ella compartió que disfrutar de la obra con su hijo fue una gran bendición.

Los peluqueros, que se esfuerzan por compartir ese talento con aquellos que no tienen hogar o están encerrados, son ejemplos de compartir los talentos de uno. Escuchar a sus clientes compartiendo sus alegrías y problemas también es un regalo que tienen para ofrecer.

Las personas con experiencia en informática que se toman el tiempo para ayudar a quienes todavía están aprendiendo también comparten su tiempo y talento. A veces, también requiere el don de la paciencia.

Perseveremos en nuestra elección de vivir con los corazones y las manos abiertas, como nuestro Maestro Jesús. De esa manera, evitaremos las tentaciones de hacer del dinero nuestro maestro.
 Pregunta de Reflexíon:   Pregúntale al Señor, tu Maestro, cómo le gustaría que compartas esta semana.

Stephanie Morris, Ph. D, Historian, Certified Archivist, emerita

We can be open to any opportunity that God sends us to share our God-given talents with others. Mother Katharine noted that “There is nothing little in what is done for God.” A smile, a phone call, a meal, a drive or mailing a card may seem little but could bring great joy to the recipient. We can always pray for someone; a few minutes’ meditation or plea to God could be a great source of grace.

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS

After a long day of working in the apartment, mom, her neighbor, Dave, and I were looking forward to sitting down for dinner in the main dining room to just relax and enjoy a meal. We were seated at a table that accommodates four people and we were happy to have the extra space that the empty seat provided. As we began to order, a server tapped me on the shoulder and asked if it would be okay if she sat a resident at the empty place. My response was, “of course,” in spite of the desire to remain a threesome.

We welcomed Sara, a stylishly dressed woman, who was probably in her mid to late eighties. After introductions, we began chatting and it quickly became apparent that Sara had some level of dementia. After turning down the server’s offer of a piece of bread, she questioned why the attendant did not give her bread like the rest of us. Ordering from the menu was a challenge for her but the kind server guided Sara through the selections. Sara was unable to remember any conversation, asking the same questions repeatedly only moments apart. She shared with us a story of how, just a few days ago, she woke up and could not find her husband. She looked all through her apartment and up and down the hallways. Finally she found a staff member and expressed her concern for her missing spouse. Her husband had died seven years ago. She said she felt embarrassed but that it felt so real. We assured her that her reaction was probably natural given the long decades that she was married. We genuinely enjoyed our meal and our company and so did Sara.

We chuckled a bit about the repetitive questions and I teased Dave about how Sara was flirting with him, but there existed an unspoken sense that each of us received a gift to dwell on. I believe that the Lord intended for Sara to join us that evening to give us the opportunity to extend friendship and encouragement to her and for us to individually receive a unique lesson through her innocent presence.

I gained a broader insight into Jesus’ instruction to release our attachments to things. Status and possessions lose their significance in the “autumn season” of life, yet we spend so much of our life seeking recognition and accumulating material items. I also realized that, in spite of confusion and forgetfulness, one’s life continues to bear fruit. Life is precious at any stage, any age. Acceptance, patience, and humor are valuable virtues to cultivate to sustain human connections.  Most importantly, open hearts and gentle hugs can love away one’s feeling of diminished worth, while reinforcing one’s value. 

Considering the amount of time I will be spending at the retirement community where my mother will soon move, I believe that the Lord is grooming me to share His Love and compassion with the residents whom I’ll have the opportunity to converse with.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Sept. 15, 2019 Our Merciful Lord

Reading I:  
Exodus 12: 7-11,11, 13-14

Psalm:  51

Reading II:  1 Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 15:1-32

In today’s Gospel we hear three parables about God’s great mercy.  They illustrate three special characteristics of that mercy in each of the parables. God’s love is personal, constant, and emotional.

First, we become aware that God’s merciful love is extended to each person as if he or she were the only person in the world. His relationship with each of us is unique. He would have given His life and suffering for the salvation of each of us even if the individual were the only person in need of redemption.

In each parable we find an intense search happening. In each of these instances, the love of the one being sought remains constant. In the “Parable of the Lost Sheep,” we see the shepherd leaving the 99 behind and searching through difficult and dangerous places until he finds the lost sheep. 

In the “Parable of the Lost Coin,” the woman forgets about everything else and devotes herself to searching for the lost coin. It must have been very important and valuable to her. It could have been all she had left on which to live.

In the “Parable of the Prodigal Son,” the loving father watches constantly for the return of his son.  As soon as he gets a glimpse of him from far off, he runs to embrace him and welcome him home.

Finally, there is joy expressed in the shepherd carrying the sheep home to rejoin the rest of the flock.  We often see the illustration of the shepherd with the sheep on his shoulders. He doesn’t make the sheep walk through the bushes or climb the rocky mountain slopes. He carries him home, although he might be exhausted himself.

The father of the prodigal son is so happy that he prepares a great feast to celebrate the son’s return. There is no mention of the hurt that the father experienced in the way he was treated by the son. There is only rejoicing that he has returned.

Similar themes are found in a poem by Francis Thompson:

The Hound of Heaven 

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 midst of tears

I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasmed fears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after But with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
All things betray thee who betrayest me.
I pleaded, outlaw--wise by many a hearted casement, curtained red, trellised with inter-twining charities, For though I knew His love who followed,
Yet was I sore adread, lest having Him,

I should have nought beside.
But if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of his approach would clash it to. Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.

This is just a taste of the poem. You might like to read the whole poem sometime.

 Reflection Question:   What is one aspect of God’s love which touches you deeply?

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...
Nuestro Misericordioso Señor

En el Evangelio de hoy escuchamos tres parábolas sobre La gran misericordia de Dios. Ilustran tres características especiales de esa misericordia en cada una de las parábolas. El amor de Dios es personal, constante y emocional.  

Primero, nos damos cuenta de que el amor misericordioso de Dios se extiende a cada persona como si fuera la única persona en el mundo. Su relación con cada uno de nosotros es única. Hubiera dado su vida y sufrimiento por la salvación de cada uno de nosotros, incluso si el individuo fuera la única persona en necesidad de redención.

En cada parábola encontramos una búsqueda intensa sucediendo. En cada uno de estos casos, el amor del que se busca permanece constante. En la “Parábola de las Ovejas Perdidas,” vemos al pastor dejando atrás al 99 y buscando en lugares difíciles y peligrosos hasta que encuentra la oveja perdida.

En la “Parábola de la Moneda Perdida,” la mujer se olvida de todo lo demás y se dedica a buscar la moneda perdida. Debe haber sido muy importante y valioso para ella. Podría haber sido todo lo que le quedaba para vivir.

En la “Parábola del Hijo Pródigo,” el padre amoroso observa constantemente el regreso de su hijo. Tan pronto como lo ve desde lejos, corre a abrazarlo y darle la bienvenida a casa.

Finalmente, hay alegría expresada en el pastor que lleva a las ovejas a casa para reunirse con el resto del rebaño. A menudo vemos la ilustración del pastor con las ovejas sobre sus hombros. No hace que las ovejas caminen a través de los arbustos o escalen las laderas de las montañas rocosas. Lo lleva a casa, aunque él mismo podría estar exhausto.

El padre del hijo pródigo está tan feliz que prepara una gran fiesta para celebrar el regreso del hijo. No se menciona el dolor que experimentó el padre en la forma en que fue tratado por el hijo. Solo hay regocijo de que haya regresado.

Temas similares se encuentran en un poema de Francisco Thompson:

El Sabueso del Cielo

Lo huí por las noches y los días, lo huí por los arcos de los años.
Lo huí por los caminos laberínticos
De mi propia mente, y en medio de las lágrimas.
Me escondí de él y bajo la risa.
Hasta las esperanzas vistas que aceleré y disparé precipitada
Adopta las tinieblas titánicas de los miedos abatidos
De esos pies fuertes que siguieron, siguieron después Pero con persecución sin prisas y ritmo imperturbable, velocidad deliberada, instancia majestuosa,
Golpearon, y un latido de voz,
Más instantáneo que los pies:
Todas las cosas te traicionan, quien me traiciona.
Supliqué, fuera de la ley, sabio por parte de muchas personas de corazón, con cortinas rojas, enredadas con obras de caridad entrelazadas, porque aunque conocía su amor que lo seguía,
Sin embargo, ¿estaba adolorido por temor a tenerlo?
No debería haber hecho nada al lado.
Pero si una pequeña ventana se abriera por completo,

La ráfaga de su enfoque lo enfrentaría. El miedo no debe evadirse como el amor persigue.

Esto es solo una muestra del poema. Puede que quieras leer el poema completo alguna vez.

  Pregunta de Refelexíon:    ¿Cuál es un aspecto del amor de Dios que te conmueve profundamente?

Stephanie Morris, Ph. D, Historian, Certified Archivist, emerita

Mother Katharine urged the Sisters to: “Let your heart delight in the love God has for you, personally, individually.” God loves us whether we are like the wayward younger sibling or the dutiful but resentful older sibling. He knows our foibles, our strengths, our hesitations and our hopes. God loves us during our good days and our other days. He hopes that we will come to Him, to try to be the gifted person He created us to be.

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
A couple of weeks ago, a 16-year-old boy was shot on my block. He collapsed within a few feet of his home, which is a few doors down from me. An investigation revealed that prior to the shooting, this boy robbed three individual people at gun-point two blocks up the street. His third victim had a gun and chased the boy until he was within shooting range. The teen is in critical condition. You can imagine the stories, opinions and judgments that neighbors expressed, as this is yet another incidence of increasing violence in the neighborhood. Yet, I cannot help but think that this boy must have been terribly confused or desperate to make such a poor decision. I feel compassion rather than anger because his behavior may have been a cry for love. What really engages me is the fact that in spite of his criminal behavior he was running toward home. In response to your question about God’s love, I am touched most deeply by the constancy of God’s love. When I think back over all the mistakes I made and all the complex motives which I used to justify them I cringe. I sinned many times with intention. While I didn’t bear arms, I certainly wounded my relationship with God and held myself victim to fear and thoughts of rejection. Once I realized the shallowness of my decisions I humbly headed “Home” where I experienced the mercy and unconditional love of God. The ”Welcome Home” experience touched my heart so deeply that I began to understand the grace that comes from repentance. My soul encountered the immense love of God and I found myself transformed into a witness of this love. I pray that my young neighbor recovers from his injury and that he will receive the love and support he will need to confess, repent and experience the mercy of God that will forever change his life.

Monday, September 2, 2019

September 8, 2019 Challenge to Total Dedication

September 8, 2019  Challenge to Total Dedication

Reading I: 
Wisdom 9:13-18 b

Psalm:  90

Reading II:  Philemon
9-10, 12-17


In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges His followers to total dedication to God and His mission.  However, the terminology He uses can be confusing unless put into context. 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.” Jesus couldn’t mean that literally because his whole message was to love.

Sometimes in Jesus’ time, as well as our own, we exaggerate in certain circumstances to emphasize a point.  Most likely you or one of your teenage friends expressed his or her concerns, by saying something like: If my mother or father catch me smoking, they would kill me! Although the teen might be strongly disciplined, it is very unlikely that he or she would be killed.

As I reflect on the cost of discipleship on the anniversary of my own entrance into the convent many years ago, I have a more comprehensive understanding of the sacrifices involved. Whether it be a vocation to the priesthood, consecrated life, marriage or single life, the sacrifices involved in each person’s calling, impact not only the individuals, but also their families and friends. Sometimes, those sacrifices are more costly to other people.

On a personal note, my parents were to have very limited contact with me.  Also, being an only child, any prospect of having grandchildren was gone. I can still remember my mother’s generous words: “I don’t think you would be happy anywhere else.” I was deeply aware of the sacrifice she was making at that time.

The families and friends of those in other lifestyles are also called to accept changes and adjust to the new circumstances to which the individual feels called. Once, I had a religious brother come to speak to my high school class on vocations. He shared the struggle he experienced when he proposed the idea of his joining the brotherhood. His father objected strongly because he wanted grandchildren from this son even though he had other children to provide them for him.

Friends can also have to make sacrifices of less contact whether it is because of distance or responsibilities of marriage or for other reasons. Basically, we all need to be respectful and open to the call to discipleship of our family and friends. Our willingness to let go and adjust to the new
circumstances is our sacrifice. 

Let us acknowledge that we are all God’s children and the call of each individual is special. Whatever our lifestyle we all have a vocation to love God, our neighbors, and ourselves. A friend of mine prioritized and lived it in the following way:
J esus first
O thers second
Y ourself last

 Reflection Question:  How can remembering to put God first enable us to let go of our loved ones when he gives them a special calling or when he finally calls them home?

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...
Challenge to Total Dedication

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges His followers to total dedication to God and His mission.  However, the terminology He uses can be confusing unless put into context. 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.” Jesus couldn’t mean that literally because his whole message was to love.

A veces, tanto en el tiempo de Jesús como en el nuestro, exageramos en ciertas circunstancias para enfatizar un punto. Lo más probable es que usted o uno de sus amigos adolescentes hayan expresado sus preocupaciones diciendo algo como: Si mi madre o mi padre me pillaran fumando, ¡me matarían! Aunque el adolescente podría ser muy disciplinado, es muy poco probable que lo maten.

Al reflexionar sobre el costo del discipulado en el aniversario de mi propia entrada al convento hace muchos años, tengo una comprensión más completa de los sacrificios involucrados. Ya sea una vocación al sacerdocio, la vida consagrada, el matrimonio o la vida de soltero, los sacrificios involucrados en el llamado de cada persona impactan no solo a las personas, sino también a sus familias y amigos. A veces, esos sacrificios son más costosos para otras personas.

En una nota personal, mis padres debían tener un contacto muy limitado conmigo. Además, al ser hijo único, desapareció cualquier posibilidad de tener nietos. Todavía recuerdo las palabras generosas de mi madre: “No creo que seas feliz en ningún otro lado”. Estaba profundamente consciente del sacrificio que estaba haciendo en ese momento.

Las familias y amigos de aquellos en otros estilos de vida también están llamados a aceptar cambios y adaptarse a las nuevas circunstancias a las que el individuo se siente llamado. Una vez, tuve un hermano religioso que vino a hablar con mi clase de secundaria sobre las vocaciones. Compartió la lucha que experimentó cuando propuso la idea de unirse a la hermandad. Su padre se opuso enérgicamente porque quería nietos de este hijo a pesar de que tenía otros hijos para dárselos.

Los amigos también pueden tener que hacer sacrificios de menos contacto ya sea por la distancia o las responsabilidades del matrimonio o por otras razones. Básicamente, todos debemos ser respetuosos y abiertos al llamado al discipulado de nuestra familia y amigos. Nuestra voluntad de dejar ir y adaptarnos a lo nuevo las circunstancias son nuestro sacrificio.

Reconozcamos que todos somos hijos de Dios y que el llamado de cada individuo es especial. Cualquiera que sea nuestro estilo de vida, todos tenemos una vocación de amar a Dios, a nuestro prójimo y a nosotros mismos. Un amigo mío priorizó y lo vivió de la siguiente manera:

J esús primero
O tros segundos
Y ourself last - Ustedes mismos duran

 Pregunta de Reflexíon:  ¿De qué manera el recordar poner a Dios primero nos permite dejar a nuestros seres queridos cuando él les hace un llamado especial o cuando finalmente los llama a casa?

Stephanie Morris, Ph. D, Historian, Certified Archivist, emerita
Mother Katharine told the Sisters that the spirit of the congregation was the “spirit of the Eucharist – the total gift of self.” We give ourselves when we let the Holy Spirit work through us to do what God wants to be done. We don’t have to work hard to change our lifestyles; we just have to open our hearts to the spirit of God speaking to us.

Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
This blog took me back to a treasured time past when, as a first-time young mother, my sweet infant son enraptured me. So pure and innocent, I felt as though I was seeing the face of God when I gazed at this precious being. Nurturing my baby satisfied my needs to the depths of my soul. Then, what seemed like overnight, my little angel started with the “no” word and life changed. 
It doesn’t take long to realize that a child has his or her own path to pursue. My role quickly shifted from caregiving to policing as I tried to keep his environment safe for him to discover and explore. Somewhere in this transition, my desire to control set in. At about that time, a song by Barbara Streisand, entitled “If I Could,” became popular. The words to that song helped me to strip myself of the illusion of ownership and gain a broader awareness of authentic parenting.
Barbara Streisand sings of wanting to protect her son from sadness, to give him “courage in a world of compromise,” to teach him “all the things she never learned,” help him “cross the bridges that she burned,” and “shield his innocence from time.” The words that really touched my heart were, “But the part of life I gave you isn’t mine…I’ve watched you grow so I could let you go.”
The letting go, for me, was difficult. However, the years went by and my baby made it through the terrible twos, the know-it-all teens, and achieved manhood. Today he is a devoted dad to his own children. My mantra now is, “Let go and Let God.” It is a good one, too, because my youngest son is still trying to find his way and I have learned that his journey is uniquely his. As the song continues, “My yesterday won’t have to be your way.”
Each of my sons has his own identity. It is interesting observing their choices and listening to their reasoning. I may not agree with them, but I respect their process. I am at peace knowing that we do share the same “true” identity as beloved of God, created by God for God. My role as mom at this stage is to remind them to be faithful to that identity and to encourage them to hold as sacred their relationship with God.  My ultimate dream is that when they are called Home, they will return to the Love that breathed them into existence.