October 21, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 474

Reading 1 eph 2:12-22

Brothers and sisters:
You were at that time without Christ,
alienated from the community of Israel
and strangers to the covenants of promise,
without hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the Blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, he made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh,
abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,
thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile both with God,
in one Body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near,
for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm ps 85:9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

  1. (see 9) The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
    I will hear what God proclaims;
    the LORD–for he proclaims peace.
    Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
    glory dwelling in our land.
    R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
    Kindness and truth shall meet;
    justice and peace shall kiss.
    Truth shall spring out of the earth,
    and justice shall look down from heaven.
    R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
    The LORD himself will give his benefits;
    our land shall yield its increase.
    Justice shall walk before him,
    and salvation, along the way of his steps.
    R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.

Gospel lk 12:35-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.”

Today’s Reflection:

The first reading to the Ephesians calms my heart. I am filled with sadness and a lack of peace today, and I desperately want to find that peace again. I keep thinking of ways to get it back, but I’m coming up empty all around. This letter written so long ago to the Ephesians encourages me again.

“He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near”

I feel far off right now…far from a mindset of tranquility. I feel the loss of loved ones to whom I’ve had to say goodbye, and I’m so troubled in my own mind and spirit. But I think I simply need to weather the storm and ride the waves of grief, because Jesus is speaking peace to me, even when I’m far off from the shore. That encourages me to hold on, to believe that peace will come to me again, maybe in fits and starts, when I’m ready.

Today I will simply sit and listen for the King of all Peace, who is speaking to me no matter where I am.

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October 14, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 468

Reading 1 gal 5:1-6

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
It is I, Paul, who am telling you
that if you have yourselves circumcised,
Christ will be of no benefit to you.
Once again I declare to every man who has himself circumcised
that he is bound to observe the entire law.
You are separated from Christ,
you who are trying to be justified by law;
you have fallen from grace.
For through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness.
For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
but only faith working through love.

Responsorial Psalm ps 119:41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48

  1. (41a) Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
    Let your mercy come to me, O LORD,
    your salvation according to your promise.
    R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
    Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
    for in your ordinances is my hope.
    R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
    And I will keep your law continually,
    forever and ever.
    R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
    And I will walk at liberty,
    because I seek your precepts.
    R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
    And I will delight in your commands,
    which I love.
    R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.
    And I will lift up my hands to your commands
    and meditate on your statutes.
    R. Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.

Gospel lk 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Today’s Reflection:

“Faith working through love”

This phrase jumped out at me today, feeling full of weight and meaning. The exercise of my faith is active – it is work – but it is work that is based in and through love. I cannot separate faith and love because they depend on each other. I edify my own faith, and I give witness to that faith, only as far as I act in and through love. This is what counts, according to Paul. The outside rituals of the law count for nothing in Christ if the heart is not rooted in love. Sounds simple…but as we all know, it’s not. Maybe that’s why we want so badly to have a law to follow – because it’s less messy. If we know we have to do A and B so that we’re “justified” before God, then it’s like following a recipe, right? We’ll get a nice cake out of it in the end. But if the ingredients you’re putting into that recipe are rancid, then the output is ruined as well.

This is what Jesus was trying to tell the Pharisee that night at dinner. But the message is for us too when we cling to the laws but allow our hearts to seethe with all manner of evil and sickness. What good does it do to go through the motions when what we really need is to be cleansed from the inside out? Here’s what I think: Until we’re living our faith from love, and our hearts are clean, we’re going to have to stick to a very black and white law just to try and navigate life, because it’s just too complicated otherwise. But, if we’re operating from a place of wholeness and love, we can set aside rigidity and deal with the gray areas of life (aren’t they all?) with the true heart of the law, which is always mercy. Love allows for the gray areas and knows how to bind their wounds.

Jesus came to give us the freedom to recognize and apply the heart of the law with mercy. Today, I will sit with the tension between the law and mercy, and pray for a heart which can honor them both.

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October 10, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 465

Reading 1 gal 3:7-14

Brothers and sisters:
Realize that it is those who have faith
who are children of Abraham.
Scripture, which saw in advance that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith,
foretold the good news to Abraham, saying,
Through you shall all the nations be blessed.
Consequently, those who have faith are blessed
along with Abraham who had faith.
For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse;
for it is written, Cursed be everyone
who does not persevere in doing all the things
written in the book of the law.
And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear,
for the one who is righteous by faith will live.
But the law does not depend on faith;
rather, the one who does these things will live by them.
Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written, Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,
that the blessing of Abraham might be extended
to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,
so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Responsorial Psalm ps 111:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6

  1. (5) The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
    I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
    in the company and assembly of the just.
    Great are the works of the LORD,
    exquisite in all their delights.
    R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
    Majesty and glory are his work,
    and his justice endures forever.
    He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
    gracious and merciful is the LORD.
    R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
    He has given food to those who fear him;
    he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
    He has made known to his people the power of his works,
    giving them the inheritance of the nations.
    R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.

Gospel lk 11:15-26

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said:
“By the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebub that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebub,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone,
it roams through arid regions searching for rest
but, finding none, it says,
‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’
But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.
Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits
more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there,
and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Today’s Reflection:

Living by the letter of the law sounds good. We think this is the way to become justified before God, but Scripture tells us repeatedly that it is by the Spirit that we have faith and are saved. What is the state of our spirit? If our outward deeds are “good” but don’t match what’s inside our hearts, then we are, as Jesus said, a house divided against itself, which cannot stand. Our good works are good only if they are the fruits of a good spirit. If they are only good works for the sake of justification, then they are empty indeed.

Jesus warns us about evil spirits and how they can multiply if the house they come back to is “swept clean.” When we rid ourselves (or so we think) or bad or sinful habits, we think that we are justified before God and that we’ve put that sin behind us. The problem is that we cannot allow a vacuum to exist within us; it is into such an empty space that ten habits worse than the first one will settle in, because of our pride in our accomplishment of “cleaning house.” We need to fill that empty space with something good; we need to nourish the spirit within us in order to fill it up, so that there is no room for the evil to return. This is true spirit work, and it is how our spirit, being clean and whole, will manifest itself with outer good works. Then we become a house united, where our spirit and our actions are of one mind and one pursuit – the Kingdom of God.

Today, I will see what in my own spirit needs purging, and what good and holy thing I can replace it with.

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October 9, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 464

Reading 1 gal 3:1-5

O stupid Galatians!
Who has bewitched you,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
I want to learn only this from you:
did you receive the Spirit from works of the law,
or from faith in what you heard?
Are you so stupid?
After beginning with the Spirit,
are you now ending with the flesh?
Did you experience so many things in vain?–
if indeed it was in vain.
Does, then, the one who supplies the Spirit to you
and works mighty deeds among you
do so from works of the law
or from faith in what you heard?

Responsorial Psalm lk 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75

  1. (68) Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
    He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
    born of the house of his servant David.
    R. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
    Through his holy prophets he promised of old
    that he would save us from our enemies,
    from the hands of all who hate us.
    R. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
    He promised to show mercy to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant.
    R. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people.
    This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
    to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
    free to worship him without fear,
    holy and righteous in his sight
    all the days of our life.
    R. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; He has come to his people.

Gospel lk 11:5-13

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?”

Today’s Reflection:

During my youth, much emphasis was placed on God the Father and in Jesus, but I can’t say the Holy Spirit played much of a role in my spiritual formation. And maybe, in a way, this is something we need as children and something we can relate to: A Father and a brother – Jesus – who came in the flesh and walked the earth. We need that “concreteness”, that identification with something with which we are already familiar in our own lives. But the Holy Spirit? Hmmm…not something I really paid much attention to as a 16 year old. But how things have changed in the past 30 years.

Paul tells us in Galatians that the Spirit is supplied to us, that it is given to us as a gift. Do we recognize the presence of the Spirit amidst the daily flow of our lives? And Jesus, after telling us to ask, seek and knock, assures us that we will be heard and answered. At first, he seems to imply that we will receive anything we pray for: “For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” But a few verses down, Jesus further clarifies by assuring us that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” In essence, then, my coming to God in prayer – for anything – is encouraged. But while our prayers may not be answered in the way we would like, we will always be given the Holy Spirit to endure the answer that comes. The Spirit, then, is THE gift and THE answer to all prayer.

The Holy Spirit manifests him/herself in so many ways now throughout my life; He is constantly with me. When I sense an internal nudge to speak (or keep silent), when I know in my conscience something is right or wrong, when I feel compelled to respond to a given situation, I know this is the prompting of this Spirit. I have come to recognize the gentle yet insistent voice which, I pray, guides my every move. It is different from other thoughts which I know are not from God, which are my own mental tapes replaying themselves in my mind. No, the Spirit’s voice is a persistent pull toward the Good, and I have learned, more and more, not only to act from that place but to recognize it much earlier. 

Today, I will sit with the knowledge – the assurance – that God the Father surrounds and suffuses me with his Spirit.

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October 7, 2014

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary
Lectionary: 462

Reading 1 gal 1:13-24

Brothers and sisters:
You heard of my former way of life in Judaism,
how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure
and tried to destroy it,
and progressed in Judaism
beyond many of my contemporaries among my race,
since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions.
But when he, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart
and called me through his grace,
was pleased to reveal his Son to me,
so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
I did not immediately consult flesh and blood,
nor did I go up to Jerusalem
to those who were Apostles before me;
rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas
and remained with him for fifteen days.
But I did not see any other of the Apostles,
only James the brother of the Lord.
(As to what I am writing to you, behold,
before God, I am not lying.)
Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea
that are in Christ;
they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us
is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
So they glorified God because of me.

Responsorial Psalm ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

  1. (24b) Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
    O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
    you know when I sit and when I stand;
    you understand my thoughts from afar.
    My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
    with all my ways you are familiar.
    R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
    Truly you have formed my inmost being;
    you knit me in my mother’s womb.
    I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
    wonderful are your works.
    R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
    My soul also you knew full well;
    nor was my frame unknown to you
    When I was made in secret,
    when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
    R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

Gospel lk 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

Today’s Reflection:

Paul writes to the Galatians that he was a “zealot” in his practice of Judaism and that he had “progressed” beyond many of his contemporaries in the study of his faith tradition. He obsessively hunted down Christians and witnessed the stoning of St. Stephen, and for this reason, after his conversion, the Christian communities were understandably pretty skeptical of his motives and sincerity.

Martha, too, could have been considered a zealot in her home . I don’t say this critically because I can serve up a big helping of Martha myself when I’m running around trying to do too many things at once, all in the “service of the Lord.” While she certainly isn’t trying to hurt anyone, she’s nevertheless grumbling about how she’s serving Jesus while her sister sits at his feet. We don’t realize how often a steady dose of complaining eats away at the peace of the entire household – but it does, I can tell you.

These readings speak to me in two ways today. First, I have to ask myself how often I act like a zealot – about anything – and how counterproductive this is to my own mental peace and to the process of open communication with others. Do I speak when I should be listening? Am I pushing an agenda while forgetting that I’m steamrolling a person in the process? Do I serve with humility and dignity, or with self-aggrandizement and false-pride? Can I be zealous about my cause without being a turn-off to others? This, I think, was what attracted so many people to Jesus. While he had a single, divine purpose, he lived out this mission with gentleness and humility and love. Nowhere do we see Jesus pushing himself on anyone; he allowed others the freedom to choose to come and follow him.

I also think the message, especially from Jesus to Martha, is that it’s good to serve others, but we should do so with singleness of heart and without complaint. It may have been Martha’s time to clean and serve while Mary rested at the feet of Jesus. But later, the roles may have been reversed. The “better part” of which Jesus spoke is less a value judgment on the individual actions of the women than it was a reminder that whatever they were doing, they should do it with singleness of purpose and with joy. Service performed in any other way misses the whole point. Jesus called Martha to the same sense of peace which Mary already possessed and which would not be taken away from her.

Today, I will strive to remember to seek, like Mary, that “better part.”

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October 6, 2014

Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 461

Reading 1 gal 1:6-12

Brothers and sisters:
I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking
the one who called you by the grace of Christ
for a different gospel (not that there is another).
But there are some who are disturbing you
and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach to you a gospel
other than the one that we preached to you,
let that one be accursed!
As we have said before, and now I say again,
if anyone preaches to you a gospel
other than the one that you received,
let that one be accursed!
Am I now currying favor with human beings or God?
Or am I seeking to please people?
If I were still trying to please people,
I would not be a slave of Christ.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm ps 111:1b-2, 7-8, 9 and 10c

  1. (5) The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
    or:
    R. Alleluia.
    I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
    in the company and assembly of the just.
    Great are the works of the LORD,
    exquisite in all their delights.
    R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
    or:
    R. Alleluia.
    The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    sure are all his precepts,
    Reliable forever and ever,
    wrought in truth and equity.
    R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
    or:
    R. Alleluia.
    He has sent deliverance to his people;
    he has ratified his covenant forever;
    holy and awesome is his name.
    His praise endures forever.
    R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
    or:
    R. Alleluia.

Gospel lk 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied,
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

Today’s Reflection:

We like to be the Good Samaritan portrayed in this reading. Being charitable to others, especially to those whom we would not ordinarily consider our neighbor, makes us feel good. We can say we’re doing what Jesus commanded us to do, and we feel satisfied or justified. But I wonder…

Sometimes it’s easier to be kind to a stranger than it is to a family member who drives you crazy, and who has done so for many, many years. Our tempers grow short much more quickly and we allow familiarity to breed contempt. I can think of someone in my own family who just makes thing difficult by their moodiness and their critical nature. Sometimes it is very, very difficult to be around them. It would be easier to “pass by” on the other side of the road and avoid the interaction altogether. But I can’t for one reason or another. These day to day encounters can be the most difficult sometimes because there is no anonymity which allows us to do a good deed and move along on our way. When its family, we’re entrenched in the daily struggle together. Oftentimes, it is much more difficult to be the Good Samaritan with the other Samaritans in our own household.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus doesn’t tell us that the man who fell victim to robbers was a Jew. He doesn’t tell us anything about him, only about the ones who passed by and the one who stayed. The victim could have been a Samaritan himself – it could have been the brother of the man who stopped to help. We don’t know. But what I do know is that whether it is a person on the other side of the world, or the person I eat dinner with every night, I am called to share the compassion of Christ in every circumstance.

“Go and do likewise” Jesus says. And yes, it is sometimes very, very hard.

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October 3, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 459

Reading 1 jb 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5

The LORD addressed Job out of the storm and said:
Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning
and shown the dawn its place
For taking hold of the ends of the earth,
till the wicked are shaken from its surface?
The earth is changed as is clay by the seal,
and dyed as though it were a garment;
But from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm of pride is shattered.
Have you entered into the sources of the sea,
or walked about in the depths of the abyss?
Have the gates of death been shown to you,
or have you seen the gates of darkness?
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all:
Which is the way to the dwelling place of light,
and where is the abode of darkness,
That you may take them to their boundaries
and set them on their homeward paths?
You know, because you were born before them,
and the number of your years is great!
Then Job answered the LORD and said:
Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again;
though twice, I will do so no more.

Responsorial Psalm ps 139:1-3, 7-8, 9-10, 13-14ab

  1. (24b) Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
    O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
    you know when I sit and when I stand;
    you understand my thoughts from afar.
    My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
    with all my ways you are familiar.
    R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
    Where can I go from your spirit?
    From your presence where can I flee?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.
    R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
    If I take the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
    Even there your hand shall guide me,
    and your right hand hold me fast.
    R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
    Truly you have formed my inmost being;
    you knit me in my mother’s womb.
    I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
    wonderful are your works.
    R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

 Gospel lk 10:13-16

Jesus said to them,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented,
sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
at the judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.’
Whoever listens to you listens to me.
Whoever rejects you rejects me.
And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

Today’s Reflection:

The readings today take me on a progressive faith journey. In the Old Testament reading, God is clearly putting Job in his place as a small and insignificant creature. This God who has created the earth, who commands the morning and has “walked about in the depths of the abyss” asks Job what he has done in comparison.  I’ll show you my resume, says God to Job, now you show me yours. Job wisely decides to grovel.

The Psalmist‘s experience is a little different. He acknowledges the greatness of God but in a more intimate fashion: “you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made.” He accepts that God is awesome and far beyond his own human comprehension, and yet he also senses that God took the time, out of all this head-spinning work, to create him. We are not just thrown together in some heavenly assembly line, but rather God carefully “knits” us into unique, individual human beings. We are truly wonderfully made.

Finally, we have Jesus, the embodiment of God among us, who includes us in the growth of his Kingdom: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” We are now so intertwined with Christ that when we attempt to spread his message and are rejected, then he is rejected. We are now one garment with Christ, knit together, unified, one Body. We have made the ultimate shift from peon to beloved daughter, beloved son. We are now called friends, and we are called to give our lives in the service of this friendship. Not out of fear and groveling, but rather out of humility and love.

Who am I? I am fearfully, wonderfully and uniquely made. I’m just going to sit with that today.

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October 2, 2014

Memorial of the Guardian Angels
Lectionary: 458/650

Reading 1 jb 19:21-27

Job said:
Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has struck me!
Why do you hound me as though you were divine,
and insatiably prey upon me?
Oh, would that my words were written down!
Would that they were inscribed in a record:
That with an iron chisel and with lead
they were cut in the rock forever!
But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives,
and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust;
Whom I myself shall see:
my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him,
And from my flesh I shall see God;
my inmost being is consumed with longing.

 Responsorial Psalm ps 27:7-8a, 8b-9abc, 13-14

  1. (13) I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
    Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
    have pity on me, and answer me.
    Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
    R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
    Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
    Hide not your face from me;
    do not in anger repel your servant.
    You are my helper: cast me not off.
    R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
    I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
    in the land of the living.
    Wait for the LORD with courage;
    be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
    R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

 Gospel mt 18:1-5, 10

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

 

Today’s Reflection

I love these beautiful words in today’s reading from Job:

 But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives,
and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust;
Whom I myself shall see:
my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him,
And from my flesh I shall see God;
my inmost being is consumed with longing.

 Can you imagine having this depth of faith amidst such adversity? It is the rock upon which Job stands in his sufferings when all has been lost (except for his miserable friends). To believe that after the worst has happened to you, your Vindicator, your God, still lives and you will see him with your own eyes? I can feel Job’s longing in this text and I share it. To know as we are known, to see face to face what we have only envisioned through faith with our mind’s eye. The beatific vision will be ours then, as it is already for the angels.

Seeing for ourselves is important. Job clearly says “my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him.” The angels who guard us “always look upon the face” of our heavenly Father. When we long for someone, we want to see them with our own eyes, to hold them close and reassure ourselves that they’re with us. This is an image I often have of those I love who have died. To see them with my own eyes again, face to face, will be the fulfillment of my faith in God and in the Kingdom.

Today, I must have faith, but someday, “I myself shall see!”

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October 1, 2014

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 457

Reading 1 jb 9:1-12, 14-16

Job answered his friends and said:
I know well that it is so;
but how can a man be justified before God?
Should one wish to contend with him,
he could not answer him once in a thousand times.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength;
who has withstood him and remained unscathed?
He removes the mountains before they know it;
he overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth out of its place,
and the pillars beneath it tremble.
He commands the sun, and it rises not;
he seals up the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads upon the crests of the sea.
He made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south;
He does great things past finding out,
marvelous things beyond reckoning.
Should he come near me, I see him not;
should he pass by, I am not aware of him;
Should he seize me forcibly, who can say him nay?
Who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
How much less shall I give him any answer,
or choose out arguments against him!
Even though I were right, I could not answer him,
but should rather beg for what was due me.
If I appealed to him and he answered my call,
I could not believe that he would hearken to my words.

 

Responsorial Psalm ps 88:10bc-11, 12-13, 14-15

  1. (3) Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
    Daily I call upon you, O LORD;
    to you I stretch out my hands.
    Will you work wonders for the dead?
    Will the shades arise to give you thanks?
    R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
    Do they declare your mercy in the grave,
    your faithfulness among those who have perished?
    Are your wonders made known in the darkness,
    or your justice in the land of oblivion?
    R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
    But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
    with my morning prayer I wait upon you.
    Why, O LORD, do you reject me;
    why hide from me your face?
    R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

 

Gospel lk 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

 

Today’s Reflection:

To say that I don’t understand a lot about God would be the understatement of human history. I’m with Job when he asks “how can a man be justified before God?” In comparison to who God is and what He can do, how can I possibly begin to understand His ways and the greatness of his power? I am small, after all. Small and only one of many. God is infinite and One. With my weaknesses and sin, I am light years away from any real ability to understand God. I am dense enough about the ways of God to agree that “should he come near me, I see him not.” And yet…

 We do see him, in the person of Jesus Christ . Maybe in all our acknowledgments of the vast differences between us and of our inability to know the ways of God, perhaps he too, wanted to know more about us. What was it like to be human? To suffer and die? To be lonely and cold and poor and sad? Maybe that distance didn’t sit well with God either, and so he came in the person of Jesus to turn the chasm into a bridge which we could all cross.

 Jesus gives us another understanding of God in today’s gospel when he says that “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Most of the interpretations I have heard about this gospel say that focusing on what we have given up for God makes us unfit for his Kingdom. But I think there is another meaning. I agree that looking back doesn’t do much good and only detracts from the tasks of this day. But this includes our own sin. Once we have repented of it, confessed it and made whatever amends we can and should make, we must look and move forward. Constantly revisiting our past sin is counterproductive to the work God wants us to do now, today. We may feel pulled back again and again, to revisit the sin, but this is not from God.

So how can a man be justified before God, to answer Job? I’m not 100% sure and never will be on this side of eternity. But Jesus, the Bridge, makes at least one thing clearer. If I am to be justified before God – and thereby fit for his Kingdom – I need to let go of my obsessive (prideful?) revisitation of my past sins once they have been forgiven and work for God. Stop questioning “how could I have done this or that?” You’re human – get over it and get back to work.

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September 30, 2014

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church Lectionary: 456

Reading 1 jb 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23

Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. Job spoke out and said: Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, “The child is a boy!” Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Or why was I not buried away like an untimely birth, like babes that have never seen the light? Wherefore did the knees receive me? or why did I suck at the breasts? For then I should have lain down and been tranquil; had I slept, I should then have been at rest With kings and counselors of the earth who built where now there are ruins Or with princes who had gold and filled their houses with silver. There the wicked cease from troubling, there the weary are at rest. Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather than for hidden treasures, Rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad when they reach the grave: Those whose path is hidden from them, and whom God has hemmed in!

 

Responsorial Psalm ps 88:2-3, 4-5, 6, 7-8

(3) Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

O LORD, my God, by day I cry out; at night I clamor in your presence. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my call for help. R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

For my soul is surfeited with troubles and my life draws near to the nether world. I am numbered with those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength. R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

My couch is among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom you remember no longer and who are cut off from your care. R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit, into the dark abyss. Upon me your wrath lies heavy, and with all your billows you overwhelm me. R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

 

Gospel lk 9:51-56

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

 

Today’s Reflection:

I find a lot of angst in today’s readings. From Job’s pity party to the Psalmist’s hang-wringing, even Jesus seems at the end of his patience with the Apostles and their bright ideas. Everyone just seems fed up and disgusted.

I have days like this. I have weeks like this. We all do. These are the times when I just find it hard to pray because I don’t know what to say or ask for, and so I avoid even the attempt and keep busy with other things. The unfortunate part is that those other things won’t really help me climb out of the pit I’m in. But I continue to scurry around, grumbling while I’m at it that I’m overworked and overwhelmed.

But the interesting thing, if I look a little deeper at the readings, is that they show a sort of perseverance. For someone who wishes they had never been born, Job questions God for quite a while. The Psalmist counts himself among the dead and yet, his refrain is still “let my prayer come before you, Lord.” And Jesus…well, Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” I’m sure his heart was heavy, not only with natural worry for his own fate, but for the sheer density of the Apostles. They simply continued not to get it. I picture him, tired in his sandals, trudging on with a weary heart and a weary body. But still he continues onward even when things like annoying companions and unwelcoming townspeople just won’t let him rest.

I’m going to try very hard to remember this the next time I feel dark and heavy myself. I’m going to simply ask God to be with me in that difficult place, until the clouds lift and I can see a brighter day. Reminding myself of this passage, finding Jesus in a place of heaviness as well, I’ll be comforted by that companionship. He went before me…and he goes before me still.

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