Monday, October 9, 2017

Led to the Right Path by Adversity

In today's first reading, Jonah 1: 1-2: 2, 11, Jonah boards a ship going in the opposite direction from Nineveh. God's request of Jonah was that he [s]et out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; their wickedness has come up before me." Jonah runs away from God, as does a little child whose parents are asking of him/her what the little one does not was to do. Just as a parent runs after the fleeing child, so, too, does God follow Jonah. He gets Jonah's attention when a violent storm breaks out and the ship on which he is traveling is in great danger of sinking!  Frightened, the crew, once they believe that Jonah is the problem, throw Jonah overboard. The turbulence ceases. And Jonah is swallowed up by a huge fish and coughed up on the shores of Nineveh, so the story goes--a theological treatise teaching us that God is in charge and that, when we try to escape God's ways and fail to carry out God's will for us, we, too, will experience turbulence--a troubled conscience that deprives us of sleep at night and denies us the peace we crave. We, too, become swallowed up by darkness!

Our only chance of becoming free is that God ultimately rescues us from our waywardness. With Jonah, Jonah 2: 3-5, 8, we pray:

Out of my distress I called upon the Lord,
and he answered me; 
From the midst of the nether world I cried for help,
and you heard my voice.

For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea,
and the flood  enveloped me;
All your breakers and your billows
passed me over.

Then I said, "I am banished from our sight!
yet would I again look upon your holy temple."

When my soul fainted within me,
 I remembered the Lord;
My prayer reached you
in your holy temple.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Feast of the Sorrowful Mother

With special permission from the Vatican,  the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother celebrate their congregational patronal feast day, the feast of the Sorrowful Mother, on the Sunday following the feast of the Sorrowful Mother, September 15th.

As I reflected upon Mary standing beneath the cross, my heart felt pierced by Mary standing their watching her beloved son die an agonizing death.  As Jesus walked up the hill to Calvary to be crucified, as He was scourged and crowned with thorns and covered with blood and wounds, as He died an agonizing death on the cross, Mary, too, was tortured as His mother, as any mother would have been to watch their beloved child, in similar circumstances, put to death!  And as He was dying, Jesus gives His Mother to us, saying to the beloved disciple standing with Mary: "Son, behold your Mother" and "Mother, behold your son."  Mary is our Mother, as she is the Mother of the Son of God made flesh. We are her daughters and sons, as is Jesus her son and our brother.

Mary stands by us in our sufferings, as she stood with Jesus.  She stands by every person in the process of dying physically or dying psychologically to selfishness, greed, envy, anger, hatred and other evils that may grip our souls.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us, for all humankind, especially those in war-torn countries, in brothels against their wills, in the sex trade, those coerced in labor camps or forced into the drug industry. Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for your children who have abandoned their faith and walked away from your Son, as did those to whom He said: "Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood  [Holy Communion or the Sacrament of the Eucharist], you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him....This is the bread that came down from heaven" (John 6: 53-58).  It is that Living Bread, the Son of God, Jesus, who dwells in every Eucharist and in the Tabernacles in our Catholic Churches. It is that reason that Catholics reverence the Eucharist and receive it at every Liturgy!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Discernment of One's Moral Strength

Discerning one’s moral strength:  In today’s Gospel, Luke 16: 19-31, the evangelist presents the story of Dives and Lazarus. Dives,  a rich man,  ignores the needs of Lazarus, a poor, very ill man who sat outside the gates leading to the rich man’s property.  Dives  is deaf to the cries of the poor and blind to their needs, using all of his wealth for himself alone.  On the subject of morality, he would score an “F” on his report card.  The consequences of his choice to live for himself alone, not sharing his wealth but ignoring the needs of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and the vulnerable of his society:  eternal  torment outside of the presence of God for all eternity (See today’s Gospel, Luke 16: 19-31)!

The author of the March 16th reflections on this Scripture passage, as given in the March 1, 2017 issue of WORD AMONG US,  states clearing how we can discern the moral strength of a society or of ourselves as well.  The author states:  “There is no getting around it. God wants us to work together to improve the situation of society’s weakest members.  In the end, the moral strength of any community  will be measured by how we have  treated our most vulnerable citizens, not by how we ourselves have fared.”

In what ways am I, are you, working to improve the situation of the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society, of our families, of our religious communities, of our parishes?  We can discern how moral we are by the way we respond to those in need.

Given our responsibilities to “work together to improve the situation of society’s weakest members”,  I believe, that the government of the U.S.—the President, His Cabinet, and members of Congress--earns an “F” in terms of morality. How much longer, I ask, will I, will you, or will the citizens of the U.S. support the choices of a President, of our Senators and members of the House of Representatives who are  making choices that deny the poor and vulnerable among us what they need to provide their
families with adequate food, shelter, clothing, health care, and an education that prepares them to
provide for their future families?

 How willing am I to take my moral responsibility seriously by standing up for what is right? Am I willing  to challenge  unjust legislation that exploits the poor and ignores the most vulnerable members of our country? For what reason, I ask,  might our elected leaders be doing this? Is it not possible that they truly want to increase the wealth of the richest among us and also line their own pockets, no matter what the cost to the poor and marginalized of our country, thus bringing to reality the  President’s desire to increase billionaires in our country, as he stated during his campaign for presidency?

Final question:  How would you and I score our moral strength? Would we  give ourselves an “A,” a “B,” a “C,” a “D,” or an “F”?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Discernment: How do you know that you are called to religious life?

Discernment:  How do you know that you are called to religious life?  You might get some answers to that question by asking a couple of other question: How do you know what career to pursue in college? How do you know to date such and such a person or terminate the dating relationship, not pursuing marriage?

The answers are: 1) you sense the direction to take career-wise by listening to an inner voice.  You choose according to your preferences, your likes, your dreams, your talents. You choose according to what energizes you.  2) You hear yourself say “Yes! That’s it!”  3) Then, you take steps to move in that direction.  4) If the choices you make confirm your decision, you continue pursuing your dreams and making them a reality or you change careers.

Religious life: 1) an inner voice directs you to look into religious life as a vocational option, 2) your research confirms your decision, 3) when you find the right community, you and the community says: “Yes, this is it. Let’s proceed with the application process”, 4) through the process, you and the community come to the decision to accept you into the postulancy: the first stage of training to become a member of that religious community ,5) during postulancy, you and the community continue to believe that you are called to religious life within this particular community—or you and the community come to realize that a) you are not called to religious life or b) you are called to religious life but in a different community (for instance, a Dominican community instead of a Franciscan one).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Discernment of your mission and purpose in life

Discernment of your mission and purpose in life:  Today we celebrate the baptism of our Lord. The first reading of today’s liturgy, Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7,  presents the prophesy concerning Jesus’ mission. God says to us through the prophet Isaiah that Jesus is God’s “servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, …A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching….”  Jesus, Isaiah tells us,  is “a covenant of the people, a light for the nations.” He is “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”

As you reflect upon Jesus’ mission, you will discover that your mission, through baptism, is the same, as is the way your creator feels toward you. As with Jesus, God says to you:  You are my “servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am please, upon whom I have put my spirit.”  To properly know your mission—the reason you are sent to earth and within which vocation you are to live out God’s purpose—you need to see yourself as “God’s servant,” as one in whom God is well pleased and upon whom God as put His spirit. Without that perspective, you are likely to lack the confidence to follow God’s direction for your life.  The task God may be calling you to accomplish and the vocation in which He wants you to do this,  may seem too difficult from a perspective that exclude’s God delight in you, God being pleased with you. 

Every day, bask in God’s delight of you, his pleasure in creating you and giving you an unique mission. Hear God say to you every day: You are be beloved daughter/son. In you I am well pleased. Hear God say to you as you consider the work you are about to undertake or the decision you are about to make: “Son/daughter, I am proud of you.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Discernment: Come and See

Discernment:  In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes to Galilee and there finds Philip. Jesus says to Philip: “Follow me.”   Philip, in turn, finds Nathaniel and says to him: “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth. Nathaniel asks Philip: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip does not argue but says: “Come and see.”  Jesus sees Nathaniel coming “toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There I no duplicity in him.”  “How do you know me,” Nathaniel asks.  “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel,” Nathaniel responds.  “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this…Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man.”

Just as Jesus found Philip, so, too, does He find you.  He says to you, as He said to Philip: “Follow me.”  What do you need to leave behind to be truly following the Lord? And once you have begun in earnest to live by faith and grow in your relationship with the Lord, whom, to you invite to do the same?   Do you, like Nathaniel,  when invited to meet Jesus, ”son of Joseph, from Nazareth,” ask:  “What good can come out of Nazareth?”    Furthermore, if invited to become a woman religious, a man religious, a priest, a deacon, do you  ask:  “What good is there in entering religious life, in studying to become a priest, a deacon?”  Come and see! Take that next step and pay attention to that small, persistent inner voice inviting you to consecrate your life solely to the Lord.

Perhaps you do not realize that you “will see greater things...” if you trust the Lord totally in His call to you, in His invitation to follow Him unreservedly as a woman/man religious, as a priest, as a deacon.  Remember that could be the same if God is calling you to sacramental marriage or to the single lifestyle.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Discernment and Personal Identity

Discernment:  In today’s Gospel, John 1: 19-28, Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to John to find out who he was and why he was baptizing; in other words, to give an account of himself.  When asked “Who are you,” John the Baptist replied: ‘I am not the Christ.’ So they asked him, ‘What are you then? Are you Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?’ He said: ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.’”

In order to develop the skill of discerning God’s will, it is essential to be able to answer the questions about yourself that were posed to John the Baptist: Who are you? If not such and such, or so and so,  then what or who? What do you have to say for yourself?

If I answer those questions by saying: I am  Mary, I’m Elizabeth, I’m Mary Magdalen, I’m  Peter, I’m Paul; or I’m Joe Biden, I’m Mitch McConnell, I’m  Brett Favre, I’m Aaron Rogers, I’m Marilyn Monroe, I’m Carrie Fisher, I’m Warren Buffet, that defines someone who is not me. God’s will for anyone of these individuals is not God’s will for me.  I am not anyone else but my unique self. The purpose for which God created me is also unique, containing a mission given to no one else.

So who am I? Who am I not?  What am I and what am I not?  Who are you and who are you not? What are you and what are you not?

 St. John the Baptist found the answer to his identity in the book of Isaiah? In which book of the Bible will you find, or have you found, the answer to who you are?