Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Power of the Eucharist

In  the first reading of today's liturgy, 1 Cor 10: 14-22, St. Paul reminds us that we are one in that we all share in "the cup of blessing,...the Blood of Christ,...and the bread,...the body of Christ."  By partaking of Holy Communion, we are, in fact, unified as the Body of Christ.  We are made one with our spouses, our children and grandchild, our community members or members of our parish. That which destroys our unity is, in itself, destroyed, so to speak, and we are reunited in love, in peace, in forgiveness.  In the Eucharistic meal, Jesus restores us, makes us whole, reconciles us to one another.  

In this same passage, Paul goes on to warn us of sacrificing to idols, that is to demons.  To demons, you ask? Yes, to demons, to anything to which we cling as God substitutes or to anyone whom we "worship" in place of God, the Almighty One, the Ultimate Forgiving One, the Infinitely Merciful One, our Savior God above all gods.  To whom, in your life do you, and to whom, in my life do I seek "salvation" and leave God out of the picture? To whom and to what do we repeatedly go for a sense of peace, security, a settling down, so to speak, and shut God out?

What may help us is to realize is  that God patiently waits for us to come to Him with all of our problems!  He is there for us and ready to help us resolve whatever issues are troubling us. God wants our peace! God wants us to feel secure with Him! Whenever I am troubled and I come to the Lord and pour out my troubling thoughts, laying before His feet that person or situation about which I am upset, God restores my peace of mind. Turning people, things and myself over to the Lord, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, gives me the strength to carry whatever cross I was agonizing about.  I can get up, as Jesus did, and face whatever disturbed me. Yes, I am then able to go to the "Calvary" of my life, die to that which I need to die to--usually changing an attitude within myself--and am then able to experience a resurrection. The "stone" is then removed from the "tomb" in which I had buried myself and I can then live  differently from that which was blocking new life in me.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Jesus, the Partner of Laborers and Those Who Are Burdened

In today's Gospel, Matthew 11: 25-30, Jesus invites us to come to Him, saying to us:  "[A]ll you who labor and are burdened...I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and  you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  The heaviness of the burdens we are carrying is lessened, as Jesus is partnering with us. Whatever burden we are carrying, Jesus is not ashamed or embarrassed to "get his hands dirty," so to speak. He will help us through the messiness of our lives, no matter what!  Willingly and meekly He takes our burdens upon Himself. In fact, He will carry not only our cross up the steep "hills" for us, but also carry us personally!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

God Fights for Us against Satan

In yesterday's reading from  Exodus 14: 21-15:1, "the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel, because the Lord was fighting for them against the Egyptians."  The same is true for us. Enemies may be pursuing us on every side and especially from within our own beings: pride, selfishness, gluttony, idolatry (God substitutes such as compulsive use of alcohol, drugs, food,  pleasure, relationships,  sex or whatever we use to distract ourselves or as sole means to meet insatiable needs, calm excessive fears, and avoid feeling whatever pain is beckoning us to look at the truth of what is going on in our lives). As with the Israelites, God fights for us as well.

By our use of God substitutes, we are likely to deafen ourselves to God's voice and develop a  blindness to God's presence and action in our lives.  How do we keep our ears and eyes open?  How do we maintain our focus on God, realizing and discovering that God is on our side and that God is enough for us? By calling upon the Holy Spirit or reverently uttering Jesus' name, asking God to help us.  It is at those times that Satan sounds his "retreat" from us,  because he knows then that the Lord is fighting for us against him in the same way as the Lord fought for the Israelites, His Chosen People.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Liberation from Slavery to Oppressive Behaviors, that is from Sin

In today's first reading, Exodus 14: 21-15:1, we are given the story of the Israelites being freed from the oppression of the Egyptians.  God divides the waters of the sea, "with the water like a wall to their right and to their left," the Israelites are able to cross the sea on dry land.  Once safely across, God instructs Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea, "that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians."   None of them survive.  "When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore and beheld the great power that the Lord had shown against the Egyptians, they feared the Lord and believed in him and in his servant Moses."

This story is not only about the Israelites. It is about you and me, as well!  God also frees us from our oppressors: the oppression of selfishness, prejudice and hatred that holds us back from being a true disciple of Jesus.  It is about the ways, through baptism and the other sacraments that Jesus frees us from the oppressing blindness and deafness that deprives us of the ability to recognize Jesus in others and from hearing the voice of the Spirit guiding us to do good and avoid evil. 

The story of God freeing the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt is a precursor of Jesus freeing us from sin as He offered His life for our salvation and rose from the dead, death and sin having absolutely no power over Jesus.  In baptism we died with Christ and rose with Him to new life, a life in which we are empowered to live as brothers and sisters and mothers of Jesus, that is as persons doing what the Father wills of us (see today's gospel, Matthew 12: 46-50).

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Freed from slavery!

In today's first reading, Exodus 12: 37-42, we are told about the night that the Israelites rushed out of Egypt.  To this very day, this night is remembered by the Israelites as "a night of vigil for the Lord".  God kept watch over His people and, at the right time, freed them from the slavery of the Egyptians.  God also keep vigil for us. He knows the chaos or the slavery into which we have fallen or could fall each day. He watches. His timing of freedom for us is the perfect timing.  God is not turned back by what He sees. The turmoil, the chaos, the sinfulness, the divisiveness, the deficits in our lives do not cause God to distance Himself from us. No!  On the contrary, God draws near to us.  God is always near, watching and waiting for the right moment to set us free, to draw us closer and closer to Himself and to others in love.

For 430 years, the Israelites stayed in Egypt! That certainly is a long time!  Where was God, you may ask? God was at their side, empowering them to rise up to the occasion and do what had to be done as slaves.  Was God pleased that they were slaves? Of course not!  God, in no way, wishes us evil or rejoices when life is difficult for us.  God is the liberator, the One who reconciles us with those who  bring us harm or frees us from those who hurt us!  Our freedom may come in a variety of ways. Sometimes as dramatic as with the Israelites' passage out of Egypt. Most times, in less dramatic ways and sometimes we are not even immediately aware that we are being led to freedom.  We simply start making choices by which we let go of attitudes that enslave us to others or that allow others to abuse us.  We begin making choices that give us peace or we keep company with persons who are supportive of us and give us the courage to be our true selves, not another person's slave!

Am I, are you, choosing ways that limit our authentic freedom to be the best person we can be? What behavioral changes do I, do you, need to make to experience greater freedom to serve God with joy and in peace?  What attitudes do I, do you, need to change that will lead us more deeply into the truth of who we are, who God is and how to become our better selves?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

God's Promise to Be with Moses and with Us

In today's first reading, Exodus 3: 1-6, 9-12, Moses encounters God in the burning bush.  curious that the bush is not being consumed, Moses approaches the bush, saying to himself: "I  must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned."  As he approaches the bush, he hears a voice announcing his name"   "Moses! Moses!   ...'Here I am,'  Moses responds.  "Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.  I am the God of your father,..., the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."  God then tells Moses that he has heard the people's cry and is aware of the fact that the Egyptians are oppressing them. He wants Moses to lead God's chosen ones out of Egypt. Moses questions God:  "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?"  God says to him: "' I will be with you."

Imagine being Moses, a man in hiding out of fear of being killed by Pharaoh for killing an Egyptian in retaliation for his murder of one of Moses' kinsman. "Me go back into Egypt?  You have got to be kidding, God! I killed a man there!  I will be put to death!" God, of course, knows Moses' past crime and yet chooses him to confront Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of slavery!  Our sins are not a deterrent for God's choice of us to do the work of liberating others from that which enslaves them.  In fact, God has liberated Moses from his sinful past and empowers him to be a liberator with God's help.  The same is true for us! Or is it? Do we cooperate with God when God calls us to partner with Him?  Or do we resist, offering God every excuse in the book of why there is no way that we can do what he is asking of us?

What if Mary has said no to God?  What if Jesus had likewise refused to become one of us and show us the way to the Father and reveal the Father's love for us?  Both Mary and Jesus, however, said yes! They held nothing back! Nothing!

What am I, what are you, willing to do for God, for other's well-being, in accord with God's will for us and them, namely that we be reconciled to God and one another, that we become recipients of the fullness of life that Jesus came to give us?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Fulfilling God's Purposes Here on Earth

Today's Scripture, Exodus 2: 1-15, presents the story of Moses' mother, a Levite woman, hiding her infant in reeds on the river bank. Pharaoh's daughter finds him and asked his mother, who is watching nearby, to nurse him. She does so and when the child grew returned him to Pharaoh's daughter.   Moses is raised an Egyptian.

One day, as an adult, Moses sees an Egyptian  striking one of his kinsman and kills him.  The next day, he sees two Hebrews fighting one another and one of them asks: Are you going to kill us, too. Moses realizes that his murder of an Egyptian is known and that Pharaoh is out to kill him. He flees to the land of Midian.

As we know from the rest of the story, Moses is called up from Midian to be God's instrument in freeing the Israelites from the Egyptians. That he murdered a man is no deterrent in God using him for his divine purposes. In Moses' case, he overcomes his fear of Pharaoh and follow God's plan.  Not easy, by any means!

You and I are no different from Moses. We, too, engage in behaviors that, perhaps, we believe make us unworthy of being an instrument in God's hands. Not true, however. Because the works we are to do, or the purposes for which God created us, are accomplished, literally, by the Spirit of God at work through us. The good that we accomplish in this life is not our doing, though we may take credit for the good we do, collecting accolades and awards as though we truly carried out God's will all by ourselves.

Lord, we ask for forgiveness and repent of the times that we usurp Your power, the credit and the glory that belongs to You.  You are God. We are mere creatures, Your children, put here on earth to give You glory and honor and praise.  We are here to learn of You, to see Your glory here on earth and to be Your servants!