Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The biggest crowd I can imagine is St. Peter's Square in Rome during a General Audience. Instead of the Holy Father, Francis, it is Jesus of Nazareth teaching the crowd. I listen eagerly to His words but He can't see me among nine thousand people. All of a sudden, however, I look up and there is Jesus. "I have come to be with you." I reply with an astonished, "Who, me?" Yes, he is looking directly at me and smiling. He is inviting himself to my home. My first thought is that I left the house in such a hurry that the breakfast dishes are still in the sink, the laundry to be folded is on the couch and that mark of all civilization, the made bed, is not done. Please, Lord, come tomorrow so I can be ready to receive you worthily... He tells me that I am already 'worthy' for His love has made me special. He wants to come now. He doesn't seem to notice the external disorder, but invites me to share the secret darknesses in my heart. "I have come to heal and save what is in danger of being lost and to brind peace and joy." As I give him full access to my heart I gratefully notice his gentle walk that does not embarrass but only increases my love and trust.... I cry each day, "Come Lord Jesus!"
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Since this Gospel was written we have heard many times the phrase: "..whoever exaltss himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." We all know people who "take the last place" or who say, "I don't deserve praise" and embarass the one who tries to give them a sincere compliment. I remember a very good cook whose every meal was a delight. When I sincerely thanked and complimented her for about the third time she seemed angry. "I don't do it for the praise so you shouldn't praise me." I was startled by that reaction and replied that I NEEDED to acknowledge her talent because I knew her gift ultimately came from God. We learned that humility is truth. It is also a gift from God. If we fake it because we want people to praise more or for some other reason, perhaps a habit, it comes across strange. It cannot be faked. In the parable, Jesus is not criticizing the pharisee for the good he does, but because he thought that makes him better than the near bye tax collector. In a healthy examination of conscience we must begin by examining and thanking God for the good he has allowed us to do, and then to ask light to see our failures and sins, knowing that both the strength for the good and the forgiveness for the sin are pure gifts of his love. Pope Francis insists that we must constantly walk with Jesus, not just thinking of him when we need something from him... That is the secret of peace and joy and it is free!
Thursday, October 10, 2013
We have been worshiping Jesus as the Son of God for two thousand years. It is easy to forget that he had and has a human heart with feelings. In the Breviary recited by priests, religious and some lay persons there is a lovely prayer which I will paraphrase... "though the entire universe is yours you still delight in such tokens as human beings can give...." Yes, Jesus DELIGHTS in what we say and ask, but I think, especially, in our thanks. When we are grateful we give joy to the object of our gratitude, but that is almost nothing compared with what happens in our own hearts. We become humble, gentle, peaceful. We relax because others are also doing good. The functioning of the world is not exclusively on our shoulders. The most spiritual thing that humans who are non believers do is thank... They thank those they love as we all do. The greatest joy, however, is to thank the Creator of the Universe, for the sunrise or sunset, for life, for each new day, for the squirrel that does remarkable acrobatics on the very tip of a branch of an oak tree. We can change the world, our family, our community, and ourselves by just being generous with expressions of sincere thankfulness.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The disciples ask the Lord to increase their faith. That is a good thing, isn't it? That is a prayer that we ourselves might have made several times over a life time. Why does there seem to be an implied criticism in Jesus' reply? I think He was responding to the why they wanted more faith. Did they want to become miracle workers famous throughout the land? Did they want to feel better in moments of stress or fear? Was their idea of faith as a remedy for life's hardships or a tool to increase one's status? Jesus seems to be saying that faith is not a quantity ... the more the more powerful. Faith the size of a mustard seed will already do the impossible. But faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit and it is given for the Kingdom, for the salvation of the receiver and the fruitfulness of his witness. Faith that is self-serving is not from God and it is a false faith. Faith increases according to our love of God and neighbor. It is the reward for self-emptying, for caring, forgiveness, compassion, goodness and brings peace and joy. We perhaps do not need more faith but a genuine faith rooted in the love of God. It requires study, getting to know God through reading daily from Sacred Scripture and sound spiritual books. Second it requires reflection, prayer howeverlong or short, but a contact with God, and then third, it requires action-- some loving service according to our state in life. These can all be "the size of mustard seeds" but they must be regular and consistant... and faith the gift of God will grow in our hearts opening a vision of an every larger and more beautiful horizon.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
How different is Jesus' narration than what we read in our daily papers. There the rich and famous, the so-called 'beautiful paper' see their names printed daily. In Jesus' story the rich man is called only that while the poor man gets a name, Lazarus. We can assume that Jesus is not criticizing the rich man simply for his wealth but more for the fact that he doesn't even take note of the poor man begging at his doorstep. There are several points to the parable that could be explored, but a BBC News broadcast put the thought of EXCESS wealth into sharp focus. In the same broadcast we learned that there are people who have women's purses, handbags, that are so valuable that they can be used in Hong Kong as collateral for loans of tens of thousands of dollars. The scene shifts to the Bakar valley in Lebanon where thousands (did the commentator really say hundred thousand?) of children do heavy work daily in the fields picking crops for a very low wage. The heartbroken parents, refugees from the violence in Syria, must allow and watch this because it is the onnly source of income for the family. Lazarus tells the rich man that his brothers would not listen even to someone returning from the dead if their conscience wasn't moved by the Sacred Scriptures. What can we do? We can allow ourselves to be appalled by the injustices we see and then begin by looking carefully for the Lazaruses at our doorstep
Sunday, September 22, 2013
This Gospel was one of the most difficult to glean from and I wonder each time I hear it if Jesus really meant us to be dishonest when life hands us a blow. One commentator tried to explain that the unjust steward was simply lowering his own profits... the master tells him what is expected from each tenant farmer and the steward is allowed to add as much to that amount as the farmers will accept. What really struck me was the end of this portion where Jesus tells us to be trustworthy in small things so that we can receive greater gifts and responsibilities. We tend to overlook the small things... We cannot make peace in Syria so we sadly turn to other things... perhaps with a little prayer. We can continue to be friendly to a neighbor or family member who simply doesn't like us and cannot hide that fact. We can reach out to a lonely person, pay attention to a child or make a phone call to someone who lives alone. We are not directly helping the suffering Syrians, but we are adding to the total amount of peace in the world. We can think of good and evil in our world as items on a scale. Which side has the most? Can a speck of dust adjust the balance of the good? Our praise of God each morning, our thanks for the joys in our day, our kindness in carrying out our daily tasks with patience and good will all tip the scales for the good side. We heard about the "last straw that broke the camel's back". It is the same with the good. It may have been one small sacrifice or prayer or good deed that foiled a terrorist plot we did not even know about. Everyone can do good instead of bad... and make the world a happier and more peaceful place. Mary, Queen of Peace and Lady of the little tasks in the home in Nazareth, show us the way!
Monday, September 9, 2013
How many are the un-miracles in our lives if we are really attentive to them. What is an "un-miracle" you ask. Those are the wonderful things that happen to the individuals who have kept their child vision. When I was little my wonderful Uncle Karl said he would take my brother and I to a cousin's farm in New jersey but that we would have to go to an early Mass because he wanted an early start. My brother got up but when the time came I just did not want to get out of my snug quilt. My Aunt Mathilde and Uncle Karl were having breakfast at our house as I dashed out to the later Mass. They said that it was too bad that they couldn't wait. My brother would go but I wouldn't be able. I prayed all during Mass and on the run back home that God would figure out some way for me to get on that trip. As I rounded the corner to our street, Uncle Karl was changing a flat tire. OOOOH I thought, Jesus, please don't tell him it was my fault. Since they were still there, and I had gone to Sunday Mass, I was allowed to join them. That waa my first experience of an "un-miracle". All the rational, adult people will call that a coincidence, the result of a nail left in the street. I knew better. It was God's way of answering a little girl's prayer. The un-miracles in my life have brought me great joy. Circumstances arranged that I made my perpetual vows in the very church in Vienna built by our Foundress. Because I was working at our Generalate, I got to go to Uganda and saw the very shrine of Charles Lwanga, my patron saint. Since then there have been so many un-miracles... when I needed money there was a gift card that should have been all used up, but contained exactly what I needed. Computer problems are the occasion for many un-miracles.... a printer doesn't work and the repair cost would be more than my budget would allow, but in the middle of the night comes an idea that works in the morning... after all, somewhere in Scripture is says "He comes to His beloved in sleep." The sceptics could point out all kinds of ordinary causes for these things, but isn't our wonderful God the ultimate cause of all things, so I feel perfectly justified in thanking Him with exuberant joy! May you have many un-miracles and recognize them, in your life