Monday, March 31, 2008

Speaking the Truth

I was reading in PARADE on Sunday, the section on celebrity news. I was sickened by the report about Melissa Etheridge. Now I don’t know anything about her, really, except for what I read, but that was enough.

Apparently, she has exchanged vows with her new female partner, with whom she “has” 17-month old twins, following her relationship with another woman with whom she “had” two children.

What struck me—and frightens me—is how casually it was reported—as if true—that two women can actually “have” a child. It’s as if it were the most natural thing in the world! It’s the same thing I hear when people identify same-sex couples as being married.

I’m not being mean or uncharitable here. I’m simply stating the truth. Two women cannot have children, nor is their relationship a marriage. It’s not a condemnation of them, it’s just a fact. We should never condemn others, but we must speak the truth in love.

Can you imagine if Jesus would have had the “whatever goes” philosophy of life? He wouldn’t have spent so many difficult hours trying to help the Pharisees “get it.” No matter how difficult it may be, we cannot change the truth.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pope Benedict--a true leader

I was reading a report in the National Catholic Register about Luxembourg’s potential for becoming Euthanasia-friendly. The Pope and the Prime Minister had a meeting where this topic was addressed. The bill is passing in this mostly Catholic country. The Prime Minister’s party wanted to block the legislation as well.

What struck me in this article, though, was a quote from the Vatican communiqué reflecting what is very typical of the Vatican—they’ll talk to anybody, even if you don’t agree with them.

According to NCR, the release from the Vatican said that they had “cordial discussions” and that those discussions were an ‘“opportunity to evoke the good relations that exist between” the Vatican and Luxembourg.”’ It said that this gave them the opportunity to “examine a number of questions of mutual interest concerning the current situation of the country.”

“We’ll talk” the Vatican seems to have said; they are a good model for us to follow . . .

When you or your brother have a major, serious disagreement, try to work through it, even if you don’t get your way. Euthanasia is a very, very serious subject and one that surely would raise the ire of the Pope, yet he keeps the lines of communication open because he knows that to do so provides the only real opportunity for progress. Just keep trying.

If you are a strong pro-life advocate, you, too, know what it feels like when your emotions are “stirred into flame” by the ignorance of the pro-abortionists. But, using the Vatican as your model, you now know that progress does not come by force, but by perseverance and love.

Pope Benedict XVI continues to lead by example. We should be paying very close attention.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who is the Woman Behind the Mask?

I was talking to my dental hygienist the other day and she was talking about her upcoming wedding. I always peruse the engagement section of our newspaper, but I missed hers. She pointed to a copy of her engagement picture clipped from the paper. I sat there is disbelief. I wouldn't have recognized her if she had walked past me on the street!

We laughed at how her hair is always up and her unrecognizable face is always disguised by a mask.

I was thinking about our conversation as I reviewed the scripture readings for this week. This week we will spend a lot of time reading about people who didn't recognize Jesus. Particularly, on Tuesday, we read that Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener!

This passage has always struck me. Did Jesus look like the gardener, or did Mary just assume that because he was there, that he was? And then my thoughts go on to consider how often, maybe, I have not recognized Jesus in others. We understand, especially from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, that we can see the face of Jesus in the poor, the sick and the dying. Can we also see Jesus in the cashier at the grocery store? My sibling, parent or friend? Or, like Mary, do we mistake him?

A greater challenge in some ways, I suppose, is seeing Jesus in the Eucharist. Do I recognize our Lord in that tiny piece of bread or in the cup?

Whether you meet Jesus on the street today, in the Eucharist, or both, be sure not to be like Mary and mistake him for someone else!

Also this week, if you are paying close attention, you will see that Jesus' identity became known when he spoke a name, broke bread or performed a miracle. This clearly indicates to us that Jesus knows us, connects with us, even when we are not aware of His presence.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gospel Unity

In the "high priestly prayer" of Jesus in the Gospel of John (Chp. 17:11), Jesus prays to the Father that his disciples "may be one just as we are."

In these words we learn of the ideal--that all followers of Jesus should be one, just as Jesus and the Father are One. If you spend some time reflecting on this, you begin to see the beauty and simplicity of this statement.

Jesus and the Father, as is evident throughout this beautiful prayer, are One. Jesus comes from the Father. The Father is glorified in Him. Jesus wants this kind of union with us and the Father, too.

Faced with this statement, we have to ask ourselves, "How can I work to bring people together?" We should be careful that our actions and words do not serve to separate us. Even in the little, everyday ways that our pride causes us to condemn each other . . .

Maybe we think our way is always right and others are incompetent.
Maybe we are a little arrogant in how we raise our children, or the work we do, or how we use our talents--forgetting that they come from God.
Maybe we think we are holier because we do such and such, or are more religious because of our pious practices.

Humility is the answer to the problem of division. If I am humble, I will respect your beliefs. I will respect the way you do things. We will find unity in this freedom.

These are not high and lofty ideals. They are very simple and practical. The Gospels tell us over and over. Do not take the best seat at the table. Serve others. Don't put yourself above others.

When we do this, we will come together with our brothers and sisters and discover the "oneness" Jesus is calling us to. That is more important than those things we let divide us.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What was Judas' problem anyway?

On Tuesday we'll read (the Gospel of John 13:21-33,36-38) the passage where Jesus identifies Judas as his betrayer. Judas, who was among his closest companions, betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:15) for thirty pieces of silver.

To what are YOU so attached that you could be pulled away from Jesus?

Obviously there was a change in Judas, if he once followed and believed in Jesus. How powerful temptation can be! To reject Jesus, Judas turned to something else. What draws you away from living the Gospel? Are you being pulled by power, or position, or like Judas himself, greed? Are you too accepting of the latest spiritual fad, distancing yourself from the Church while embracing something that strokes your ego or your need for pleasantry?

The first reading on Tuesday, March 18th comes from the Book of Isaiah (49:1-6) and it reminds us that God calls us from our birth; He knows our name.

Isaiah reminds us of the greatness for which we are destined when he says:

"It is too little, . . . for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

You see, God is calling you, not just for mediocracy, but to be a light to others so that His message of salvation can reach others! Do away with the obstacle that you have latched onto and turn to the ways of God! It is there that you will find meaning for your life.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Prayer of a sick person--Psalm 41

There's a line in Psalm 41 that goes like this:

"My enemies whisper together against me. They all weigh up the evil which is on me: 'Some deadly thing has fastened upon him, he will not rise again from where he lies.' Thus even my friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has turned against me."

These words bring to mind the betrayal of Jesus, but what about you today?

Do you ever feel that you are in the grip of something, that "some deadly thing has fastened" upon you? Do you ever feel that you cannot bring yourself out of the cloud that has rested over your head? That your spirit feels dead, as though it will "not rise again?"

Here the Psalmist speaks to the very heaviness of the human heart. Sometimes we get weighed down by our own sins, our own nature, our own character and we don't know how to rise above. Here the Psalmist speaks of the friends bringing about the pain and suffering, turning against the one who pleads. A truly painful experience when your own friends turn against you.

It is in these very moments that we can turn to Jesus in confidence that he will--as Psalm 41 attests--save us from the day of evil, guard us, give us life and make us happy. The Psalm tells us that Jesus will not "give him up to the will of his foes."

Whatever is weighing heavy on you today, be lifted by the words of this Psalm that plead for God's mercy and help. The beautiful Antiphon that comes before this in the Liturgy of the Hours says:

"Lord, lay your healing hand upon me, for I have sinned."

No greater heaviness comes upon us than knowledge of our sinfulness and the destructive impact our sins have upon others. Praying with this Antiphon turns to God in awareness of our sins and begs of his healing hand. This is an excellent prayer for Lent and I pray that it will inspire your trust in God's mercy and forgiveness when you come under the realization of the depth of your own sinfulness.

God bless!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One with God

While praying morning prayers, I was enjoying the familiar song, Sing Praise to Our Creator. As I was passing over some of the words, I was struck by one line in particular:

"To Jesus Christ give glory, God's co-eternal Son; as members of his Body We live in him as one."

We live in him as one?

I started thinking, would that be similar to the Sacrament of Marriage, where, we are united as one with our spouse? If that is the case, then we can continue with the understanding that we cannot be separated as we are joined together.

Isn't that interesting? Do you live as though you are one in Jesus? How does knowing this change anything for you? The reference to being members of his body is familiar from scripture where we hear about the importance of every part of the body, but as members of his mystical body, we can also see that there cannot be any separation.

Try as we might to walk away from God at times, it is clear that there is no cutting loose. God is faithful. He is always with us, in us, inseparable from us. For those times when you feel that God is not listening or present, meditate on the words We live in Him as One and allow yourself to explore that reality and let it work in you.

God bless.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yesterday we received the news that my husband was the victim of an attempted identity theft. The perpetrator tried to open a loan in his name using some personal information.

In today's reading from the Gospel of John (8:21-30) there is no problem with identity. Jesus tells the Pharisees and those who are listening exactly who he is. He admonishes them, telling them they are going to die in their sins. They just can't seem to hear what he is saying.

He tells them that the Father has sent Him. That when he is crucified, they will realize who He is. He tells them that he does nothing on his own that the Father is always with Him.

Some of His listeners that day, got it. Many, in fact, came to believe in Him. But we can be assured that some did not ever really "get it."

Where are you today? Are you paralyzed in your sins? Are you stuck in your world? Or will you be of the group that really hears what Jesus says and follows Him?

For the remainder of Lent, why not try to really hear the Word of God as it is revealed in Sacred Scripture? Be open to the Spirit's movement in your life so that you can come to believe, with all your heart, that Jesus is who He says He is. Really believe it and take it to heart. You will be amazed at the transformation that is possible.

God bless.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wisdom from Celebrities!

Do you ever read just a sentence or two in the news and the words strike you to the core?

Maybe it was the mood I was in, but I was reading in the recent issue of Parade (March 9, 2008) two separate statements that I thought were particularly insightful.

The first surprise came from an article about the comic, Tina Fey. At the very end of the article she is quoted as saying: "I'm here laboring over this tiny show so much, and around me people are making money by the fistful."

Oddly, it struck me because so often people in ministry work are doing just that. They are laboring diligently in the work of God, watching as those around them are "making money by the fistful." How often their skills could be used in a field that would bring in more income, but still, they stay the course, working for a mere pittance, if that.

I think that says a lot about the value of their work. They are faithful, even when the reality is, our society values work based on its return.

The second article in that same issue of PARADE was about the author Frank McCourt. He was encouraging people to do what they love to do, no matter how old they are, how old the dream is, or even if it is a brand new direction in life. After 30 years of teaching, sensing he had more in him, he turned to writing and became a best-selling author at the age of 66.

Finally, I overheard a staff person just last week say to our son, "It's okay to dream big. Your dreams don't cost you anything, do they?"

Putting all of these together, I am so inspired by the wisdom gleaned from these people. I hope you will find something in their words to inspire you as well.

Have a great day!
God bless.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Jesus, the Source of New Life

I was reading over the scripture for a communion service I will be doing this week and I was thinking, "God? Couldn't you have given me something more to work with?" Needless to say, the passage I am going to reflect on is a little unfamiliar. It's not one of those that has a nearly built-in reflection.

Although I always take time to explore the depths of passages, this one, I thought would be a bit more challenging, so I settled in for a little study time with my Magnificat and my Bible.

The Old Testament passage from Ezekiel (Chapter 47:1-9, 12) describes a river flowing from a temple. Along the river, abundant life is apparent; fruit trees whose leaves never fade and whose fruit never fails, are watered. Fish are abundant and living creatures multiply. The river is truly life-giving, like Jesus Christ Himself.

In the Gospel reading from John (Chapter 5:1-16), we hear about a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. He had been sitting by a pool of water, waiting for someone to put him in so he could be healed . . .

When you think about it, his life was small. He didn't do anything except wait by the water. A natural spring would bubble up and the idea was that the first one in would receive healing. Along comes Jesus who asks him, "Do you want to be well?" and he explains his predicament to Jesus. Jesus, by His Word, tells the crippled man to "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."

When he does, we now understand, it is by Jesus' word that each of us is healed.

What pool of water are you sitting by today, hoping to change your life? Do you know that Jesus is the one to whom you should go if you want healing? If you want new life? Do not waste your time with that which cannot bring you new life. I wonder how often we invest in false hopes when the true giver of life, Jesus, is ever-present.

Take some time to think about this today and really consider if you, like the man near the water, are looking to the wrong source for new life.