MARCH 19, 2017
Today's Gospel tells the story of a woman who goes to a well for a jug of water and is promised water with properties far beyond her wildest imagining. In the context of the Gospel this woman is perhaps the last person to whom "living water" should be given. At least that is what we are supposed to think. After all, she is a woman who, in a male-preferred society, is undeserving of any special privileges. Furthermore, she is a Samaritan, a member of the group that observant Jews considered fallenaway from the true religion of Israel. On top of that, she is a woman of questionable virtue even within her own community (many scholars believe that is the reason she came all alone in the heat of the day to draw water from the well, rather than in the company of the other women in the cool of the morning, is that she may well have been an outsider in her own village.)
In the first reading along with the Israelites we are told that God will quench our thirst. In the Gospel we discover that Jesus is the source of "living water." In all of this there is no talk of our meriting this life-giving water. The Israelites were undeserving; the Samaritan woman was undeserving; and we too, it seems, are undeserving. It is from God's lavish love that this water flows and our thirst is slaked. What matters is whether or not we know that we are thirsty.
The readings over the next few Sundays offer wonderful Lenten opportunities to look deeply into our own hearts. Have they hardened like the Israelites who took God's goodness for granted? Do we test God, even though we have seen and experienced God's marvelous deeds in our lives? Or are we more like the Samaritan woman, caught in the complexities of life, yet open to new insights, to conversions of mind and heart. How thirsty for God am I...? What parts of my life need conversion? Am I gaining any new insights through my Lenten practice...is my heart any softer?
MARCH 12, 2017
This Sunday we hear Matthew's account of the Transfiguration of Jesus... right before the eyes of three of the disciples, Jesus' true identity bursts forth and in one brief luminous moment, Peter, James and John are themselves forever changed..."transfigured" with a growing awareness of who Jesus really is! I believe that each one of us has our own "moments of transfiguration"... moments in which we see or feel the very presence of God. They are moments when, deep inside, we come to know that God is present... that God is real. These moments of awareness hold the potential to transfigure our lives into something new... something wonderful. The challenge is to learn "to live out of" these moments... keeping these moments alive in our hearts and minds allowing them to continually transfigure us more and more into the image and likeness of God. As we reach out to the poor and the marginalized, the immigrant and the refugee we are transfigured by the experience as well. For in "the encounter with the other, we encounter God" and we are changed! As Jesus' true identity shown forth on the side of that mountain, so may ours burst forth during this Lenten sojourn into the desert. What "transfigurantion moments" have I recently experienced? Where have I seen the face of God revealed? Where is God calling me to this Lent?
MARCH 5, 2017
In this Sunday's Gospel we encounter Jesus being tempted by the devil with temptations to power, fame and pride. Some Scripture scholars have argued that it was through his experience of forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert that Jesus came to a deeper understanding of his true identity and his mission.
As we begin Lent it is appropriate for us to reflect a bit on our own lives, our own desert experiences and our own temptations. Most all of us, as humans, are tempted by pride, arrogance, selfishness, anger and greed...the real question is whether or not we give in to those temptations. For some, who give in, they are led to disgraceful acts of greed and ego with catastrophic results. All we need to do is to read the headlines in the newspapers or listen to the nightly news...we know who they are and are able to judge the seriousness of their acts. For most of us, sins are somewhat more contained... a white lie here and there... perhaps a small theft once in a while... a few carelessly chosen harsh words that wound. Most of us are basically good people, trying to live as God has called us to live. In the recesses of our hearts we know we've been tempted... we've stood on the precipice of surrender to our baser desires... enticed by money, recognition, or power to take advantage of situations or people, neglect of our responsibilities towards others, or treated ourselves or others with disregard and disrespect.
As we reflect on our own personal sins let us not forget the structural sins of our society... greed, arrogance, pride and vengeance feebly masked as justice. As Jesus came forth from the wilderness of the desert proclaiming the coming of the Reign of God bursting forth in the world through the preaching of the Gospel, he forever linked the "Gospel imperatives" to the Reign of God. To the extent that we live out the imperatives of Jesus; to love one another as he has loved us, to love our enemies, to actively seek to alleviate the suffering of the poor... to that same extent we participate in the building up of the Reign of God.
Lent is meant to be a time of reflection and of action! We are called to a conversion of heart... to turn away from selfishness and sin and all that gets in the way of our living as true disciples of Jesus Christ. What can I do, or stop doing, in order to become a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ? What acts of alms-giving, prayer and fasting can I commit to this Lent that will help build up the Reign of God in the midst of a suffering world?
FEBRUARY 26, 2017
In the readings this weekend the palmist calls us to trust in God, to allow God to be our rock, our foundation, our strength, our safety, our refuge and even our glory! And Jesus called the disciples to recognize that they cannot serve two masters, that they must choose. He calls them to be single minded and to not divide their loyalties between seeking to build up the things of this world and building up the reign of God. Jesus says, we cannot serve both God and mammon. I believe that Jesus is really asking the crowds who follow him around to examine their hearts to see what is first in their hearts, what is most important in their lives....what do they live for?
And yet Jesus recognizes the many worries and anxieties of providing for the needs of everyday life: food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, work, safety. And, while he recognizes the centrality of these things for life he does so in the context of our connectedness to God and challenges us to keep God at the center of our lives. For disciples living in a society that values the attainment of wealth at almost any cost, this message is surely counter cultural and poses a challenge for us to live out each day. Chasing wealth can often lead to losing touch with what is really important in our lives and we can find that all the "stuff" we buy doesn't really make us happy or feel fulfilled in life. So, back to the psalmist, it is in God that we find our strength and safety, our refuge and even our glory!
As we move toward Lent, what am I chasing in my life? Do I struggle with letting money be my strength and safety, my refuge and glory or do I struggle to let God be that for me?
FEBRUARY 19, 2017
"You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to the one who is evil." Jesus is not calling the disciples to become "door mats" but rather he is using common 1st century Middle Eastern hyperbole attempting to make a key paradigm shift from violence to nonviolence. He is challenging his followers to be willing to go beyond the letter of the law and embrace something much more difficult, to embrace the other! He calls us to be holy as God is holy, to love our enemies, to give to whoever asks of us.
How is all of this humanly possible? It seems too much! God's goodness is so great, how can any human act as good as God? Some theologians say that God's goodness comes down to "generosity", a generosity so grand that it created all known reality, that even the incarnation is as self-giving as was Jesus' death as was his resurrection and as is our salvation. So then this "generosity", this "out pouring" of God's self into the world empowers us, fills us, emboldens us and ultimately changes us to become more generous, less violent, less bent on getting even and more moved to be kind.
So we begin to work for ways in which our society makes room for the immigrant and the refugee rather than ways to keep them out. This spirit of generosity calls us to let go of racist and bigoted attitudes towards others and to work for justice and peace in our nation and in our world. Perhaps though this generosity of spirit grows from first finding our own gratitude for being loved so deeply and passionately by God, just as we are. And from that gratitude grows our ability to be generous towards "the other". For what am I grateful for today? To whom will I be generous towards today? How will I show that generosity of heart?
FEBRUARY 12, 2017
With Jesus "The Law" doesn't get smaller, it gets bigger...it's about much more than just keeping the rules....it is about growing in our love of God and our love for our neighbor. When Jesus says "The Law says....but I say," he expands the original law in order to get to the spirit that is behind The Law. It seems that Jesus is ultimately most concerned not about a slavish external keeping of The Law, but rather he desires an internal change of our heart. He tells the disciples that their righteousness must surpass that of the religious leaders in order for them to get into heaven!
Jesus expects more from his disciples...he expects them to love one another as he has loved them. So just refraining from killing someone is not enough...we have to love them and show that love by how we treat them! That doesn't mean that there is no place for righteous indignation at injustices and violations of God's call to care for and look after the lost, the last and the least amongst us. Jesus understood "The Law" to be a guide that lead to a good and faithful life, one that contributed to the building up of the Reign of God, that cared for and valued all God's children.
Many of our "spiritual heroines", like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, challenge us to love our sisters and brothers with even just little acts of love on a daily basis, especially the least of our sisters and brothers...we don't always have to look for the "big bang" of loving our sisters and brothers, sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference. How am I doing keeping Jesus' laws of love...to love my neighbor and even those who don't like me... or those have hurt me? What does Jesus call me to today?
FEBRUARY 5, 2017
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah proclaims: "Thus says the Lord: share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless" ...and Psalm 112 says that the just person is a light in the darkness! In the Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to let their light shine, to be like beacons lighting a city on a hillside! And by allowing their light to shine they will lead others to see their good deeds and thus see the glory of God. So that through doing good we both give glory to God and show forth the glory of God.
Jesus also uses the metaphor of salt for the lives of the disciples and challenges them to be sure to not let their lives "lose their flavor" and become tasteless. It is interesting to note that in the ancient world, a world without refrigeration, salt was the only way to preserve fish and meat. Just as light is essential for life to exist, so too salt was crucial for survival! So comparing the disciple's lives to salt had multiple layers of understanding and significance.
What is clear is that Jesus is calling the disciples to be on guard to make sure that the manner in which they live their lives "shine" with the "light of the values of the Gospel", that their lives are lived in such a manner that they have the "flavor of the Gospel." So we too, as disciples of Jesus, are called to the same, to let our lives "shine" and to be sure that our lives "taste" of values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As so often said, the call to discipleship is no easy call, it is difficult and challenging but we do not respond alone because by virtue of our Baptism we are strengthened with the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit, the Spirit of God, that emboldens us and impels us to go forth into the darkness to let our light shine, to share our bread with the hungry and to shelter the oppressed, the immigrant and refugee! How will I let my light shine this week? What areas of my life most "taste" like the Gospel?
JANUARY 29, 2017
This Sunday we hear Matthew's account of Jesus' famous "Sermon on the Mount". We've heard it over and over since we were children and are hardly shocked by Jesus' description of the reign of God. Undoubtedly some of those who gathered on that slope to listen to Jesus were shocked by the picture he painted of the Reign of God...it made no sense and ran contrary to the sociopolitical reality of their lives. What was he thinking...the meek will inherit the land...we all know that it is the powerful who control the land...and the "peace-makers"...well they usually get run over by the armies! And what was he saying about the "poor in spirit"...theirs is the Kingdom of God...wait a minute, I thought the Kingdom belonged to the righteous and those who followed the letter of the law.
Well the truth is that Jesus had a different take on the whole matter. The beatitudes name the ways in which peoples' lives and wellbeing are threatened: grinding poverty, grief, landlessness, hunger, war and persecution. Jesus does not advise that those so afflicted simply wait for a reversal of fortune in the hereafter, though the final verse does speak of great reward in heaven. Jesus calls for attitudes and actions that will more fully bring about the reign of God. The poor in spirit are the humble whose wealth is found in God and not in gold...their wealth is to be shared with the materially poor. The meek are not to be "shrinking violets" who accept injustice, but rather, those who know their proper place as children of God, and who stand up to insure that all people are treated with dignity and as full heirs to God's reign.
The beatitudes are really "Be-Attitudes"...they call us to holiness through reaching out to all who suffer in this world, and promise us that to the extent that we reach out to and work on behalf of the suffering we will become more fully the "blessed of God" and help to build up the Reign of God! As we take time this week to reflect on this Gospel, let's focus on one or more of the beatitudes and ask ourselves: in what concrete ways will I live out the "Be-Attitudes" today?
JANUARY 22, 2017
Jesus doesn't begin his ministry in his home town nor in Jerusalem, the seat of religious power, but rather leaves the Jewish centered world to go to the periphery....to gentile territory...so that the people sitting in darkness would see a great light! We well may feel like we are sitting in a darkness right now, but we are called to be a light in the midst of the darkness. For all those who live in fear of being singled out or feel threatened because of their race or ethnicity or religion or sexual identity or gender or immigration status, for all of them, we must stand up and be light for them. That is the clarion call of the Gospel, it is who we are all called to be, people of light, in and through our Baptism, it is how we live out our discipleship! So let us all be for one another and especially for all who live in the "darkness of fear", LIGHT! Nourished by the Word and Body of Christ let us go forth filled with Christ, filled with the Spirit and be light for our nation and for the world!
JANUARY 15, 2017
John the Baptist is once again at the center of our Gospel reading this weekend. He has moved from shouting "prepare the way of the Lord" to "behold the Lamb of God!", then he admits that he did not, at first, recognize Jesus as "the Lamb of God". And remember too that in the Gospel of Luke, after his arrest, he sends two disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?". There seems to be a certain amount of ambiguity as to John's understanding of who Jesus really was.
What is clear is that all of this happened in a particular time in a particular place to real people who actually knew this one called Jesus. God came to us, "Emmanuel", and it all points to the need for us to be con-stantly looking for the way in which God continues to come to us and is present in any particular moment of our day, of our life. Much like the Magi we heard of last week, they saw the star, they looked up at the same night sky as all the rest of the people of the earth but they were the ones who "saw" because they expected to see something...their hearts were open to God, they expected God to be present in their lives. John the Baptist expected the Messiah to come and so he recognized him when at last he came.
Like John and like the Magi we have to look, expecting to see, expecting to find God present in the midst of our daily lives, like them we too then will see, with expectant eyes, God's amazing presence in the most surprising of places in our everyday lives. Where did I last glimpse God's presence in my life? Did I stop to savor it, or to share it with someone else?
JANUARY 8, 2017
The word epiphany comes from the Greek, meaning to "appear"...or to be "revealed". In some cultures the feast of Epiphany is referred to as "Little Christmas" or "the Feast of the Three Kings", and is the day of exchanging gifts with friends and loved ones. Regardless of what we call it, it is a day on which we tell the story of the arrival of the magi, or the three kings, who have come from afar to see the newborn king and to offer gifts.
Epiphany is a time of celebrating the acknowledgement of "a new beginning"...a time to celebrate the Reign of God bursting forth in the midst of creation! For sure we dwell for a while on the visit of the magi and the wonder of their journey...led by only a star that shown brightly in the deepest of the night sky. It is a time of wonder and awe...a time to allow ourselves to enter into the story and reflect on our own journey...our spiritual journey.
For the magi the signs were in the heavens...a star that led them to Bethlehem, to a shabby little stable...where our God came among us as one of us. Perhaps the magi's real wisdom was that they knew that they didn't know everything... they valued learning, they looked for signs, they paid attention to dreams...they expected God to talk to them... they believed that they encountered God in their daily lives. Ultimately the story of the magi is a story of encounter, an encounter of the greatest kind...an encounter with God. Am I open to "following a star"...to paying attention to the signs of God's presence in my life? Where do I encounter God in the ordinary routine of my daily life? The magi came bearing gifts...what gift of self might I offer to God?
I pray you all a most happy and blessed New Year!
JANUARY 1, 2017
Today we celebrate Mary, the woman from whom was born the son of God, the Savior of the world...we hold up and celebrate her great yes, a yes she offered even though she was afraid and not sure what was to unfold in her life by saying yes to God's plan. In the first reading we have the beautiful blessing that God gives to Moses for the people, which includes the gift of "shalom". The Hebrew word shalom means so much more than "just" peace as we may often think of it. It carries with it the ideas of happiness, good health, prosperity, friendship and well-being, so much more than only the absence of violence and war. And surely is not the child who laid in the manger, visited by humble shepherds the very manifestation of this shalom, the Shalom of God.
In Luke's nativity scene there are no Magi or royal visitors with kingly gifts, only humble shepherds sent by an angel to see for themselves so that they too might join the heavenly hosts and sing glory to God in the highest and shalom to all the peoples of earth! As we continue to celebrate the Incarnation, and Mary's wondrous YES, and on this World Day of Peace let us pray for God's gift of "shalom" to fall gently upon the face of the earth that our swords might be beaten into plowshares and our hatred, fear and distrust of "the other", might by the grace of God's shalom, be turned into something holy so that God's dream for our world might burst forth. I pray you all a New Year filled with the shalom of God!
DECEMBER 25, 2016
Merry Christmas! Certain images inspire wonder. They are powerful beyond the simple contents of the scene. In the nativity scene we have such an image: a serene new mother, a concerned father, and a vulnerable newborn child. Beleaguered travelers, forced to take refuge in a stable, and a child laid in a manger. The rude surroundings leave the new family barely protected from the elements, open to any and all who come their way.
And yet this scene inspires wonder and awe! It is meant to open our hearts, to help us to see that there is more to life than we have come to expect. It tells us that Divinity courses through human life and that our God is not distant from us, but Emmanuel...God with us! The manger scene is both an invitation and a promise. An invitation to leave our pursuit of worldly things behind and instead to enter into the Mystery that lays before us...to be as vulnerable as this child and these parents...to be as open as the shepherds and as generous of heart as the magi. To praise God like the angels and pay attention like the townspeople. The resulting promise is that we meet God. We discover not only that Jesus is God, but that we too share in God's life not only in the afterlife, but right here and right now.
And so in the days to come let us open our hearts to the wonder of this Christmas moment. Let us all say a prayer of gratitude for the gift of love that God gives to each and every one of us. Let us not waste this moment of wonder on the commercialism of the season, nor lose it in the turmoil of times but let us ponder for a moment the mystery of the Incarnation of our God, allowing it to change our hearts, to fill us with hope and to give direction to our actions. I pray you have a "wonder-filled" Christmas and come to know how deeply and passionately you are loved by God...just as you are!
DECEMBER 18, 2016
This is the time of year when it seems that everyone sings of peace on earth and good will toward all! Pope Paul VI proclaimed that if we want peace we need to work for justice. In this season of dreams of peace and good will...we are called to work for justice!
Advent is a strange season...a season of hopes and dreams...a season of promises fulfilled and of promises yet to be fulfilled...a season of the Reign of God, that which is bursting forth and at the same time not yet fully here. Advent is counter cultural on so many levels...in a season when it seems the whole world begins to spin ever faster we are called to slow down...to spend time in prayer and reflection...to spend time thinking about the deeper realities of our lives.
Part of this season's story is about a young girl living in a male dominated world where women were treated as property, but she breaks free from the bonds of obscurity and insignificance and becomes the heroine. A young girl named Mary said "yes" to an impossible proposition..."yes" to what must have seemed totally absurd. Imagine yourself in Mary's place...a heavenly visitor telling you that God her/himself, The Creator of all things...visible and invisible...was "asking" her to be the mother of the long awaited Messiah. The whole idea that God would choose to become human, one like us, and enter into our world as a vulnerable and innocent child is almost too much to comprehend. And yet she said "yes"...and her yes changed the world forever! To this very day...right now...her yes is still changing the world because the Risen Christ is in our midst! Because of her yes we can profess "we are the Body of Christ!"
What is God calling me to say yes to as a member of the Body of Christ? Am I willing to risk, like Mary, and say "yes" to God not knowing where it will lead me...just trusting that God will walk with me on the journey? As I say yes to God, who am I being called to journey with?
DECEMBER 11, 2016
This Sunday we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath...it is meant to mark the week as special...for centuries, in the west, the color pink has been associated with "joy"! This Sunday is called "Gaudete" Sunday...from the Latin "to rejoice"...for the Lord is near!
The readings this Sunday have both a sense of expectancy and joyfulness. Isaiah tells us that the desert will break forth in bloom and we will see the splendor of God and the weak and the fearful of heart will be made strong. The blind will see, the deaf hear and mute will sing...all the ransomed will return and there will be gladness and joy among the throngs of people as they enter Zion. Wow...what a vision of the Reign of God bursting forth on the earth!
As we think about this vision of the Reign of God, and we look around at all the suffering and war and famine and injustices... our joyfulness can quickly turn to sadness and feelings of being cheated out of the Isaiah's vision of the Reign of God...OR...instead of feeling cheated or sorry for myself I can stand up and work to make that vision a reality. I can work to build up the Reign of God in the midst of the injustices and fear and violence by speaking out and standing up on behalf of the homeless, the immigrant, people of color, Muslims, members of the LGBT community, many of whom feel fearful and despised because of who they are and where they come from. Each one of us is called to be the voice of the prophet crying out in a wilderness, to lay down our weapons of war and destruction and to build the peaceable kingdom.
As we reflect on "Gaudete Sunday" and its meaning let us commit to joyfully building up the Reign of God. What will I do this week to build up the Reign of God? Who will I stand with this week?
DECEMBER 4, 2016
REPENT! Prepare the way of the Lord! These words of John the Baptist echo down through the centuries... and are as pertinent to us as they were to those who first heard them. John came from the desert crying out to the people, calling them to a moment of "metanoia"...literally "a turning around".
The Voice of John the Baptist cries out to us in the midst of the rush and chaos of the Advent season, calling us to a conversion of heart. He announces the breaking forth of the Reign of God in our very midst. But can we hear him amid the cacophony and the clamor of our busy and overscheduled lives. I think not...not unless we are willing to step back, to sit down and to spend a moment reflecting on our lives and our relationships. We need to ask ourselves if we are "living" our discipleship.
The Scriptures for this Sunday speak of a new time for the people of Israel, a time of great hope...a new reign that is breaking forth. In this new world, mercy and justice will flourish and the wicked and unjust ones will be banished forever. But as we look around it seems as if we are a long way off from the "peaceable kingdom". Wars rage and political unrest swirl around us like the biting winds of a cold December night. Millions of our sisters and brothers desperately seek refuge, with no home in sight. Terrorists strike the innocent and fill us with fear...it all seems so bleak.
Where is the Reign of God bursting forth? It is waiting to burst forth from within each one of us! The Reign of God burst forth every time we respond to a person or a situation in a Christ-like manner. Are we brave enough to "turn around" to answer the call of John the Baptist...to allow the love of God to soften our hearts and enlighten our minds? As Christians are we willing to really "live" the Reign of God through our daily actions? What would that look like... what would I have to change in my life for me to be a living sign to others of the bursting forth of the Reign of God in the midst of a fearful world?
NOVEMBER 27, 2016
Happy New Year! ...No, I've not lost it...Today we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church's liturgical year. Advent is truly a "wonder-filled" season. We look to the deep blue night sky shimmering with a million stars, each one a reminder of the dawn of creation, of the promise of the long awaited savior. There is something about staring up at the night sky, something awe inspiring and spiritual in nature. It calls us to look beyond ourselves.
Advent is a time to "make time" in the midst of all the commercialism, in the midst of all of chaos that we call "the holiday rush." We are called to slow down, to stand back and to reflect, to take time to allow the wonder of the Great Christmas Event to settle into our souls to shake us loose from the ordinariness of our daily lives and allow ourselves to be wrapped up in the awe and wonder of the Incarnation...the fact that our God so deeply loves us and that God's very self became human to prove that love to us. That love is for you...just as you are! This amazing love is for all of God's creation, for all peoples and for the earth itself!
This Advent we find ourselves in the midst of one the largest humanitarian crises in recent memory. As our sisters and brothers flee war and terror, they wander the earth in search of a home. And here in our own country, many immigrants, people of color, women, Muslims, people of the LGBT community and refugees are fearful of being targets of hate crimes. As we reflect on the wonder and awe of God's amazing love for the earth and all humanity let us raise our voices and act in ways to make sure that all of our sisters and brothers feel respected and safe. Let us not allow this national moral crisis to paralyze us and convince us we can do nothing, for in Christ we can do all things.
What can I do this Advent to help those feeling particularly vulnerable and fearful? How can I reach out to build bridges across the chasm of those who seek an inclusive and kind society and those who seek to exclude and demean "the other"? Let us "prepare the way of the Lord" through prayer and action.
Our Lady Queen of Peace
2700 South 19th Street