Friday, August 31, 2012

9/2/2012 – Vigésimo segundo Domingo del tiempo ordinario – Marcos 7,1-8, 14-15, 21-23

       En el Evangelio de hoy, escuchamos los fariseos y los escribas discutiendo con Jesús sobre la falta de lavar sus manos antes de comer como un ritual de purificación.  Estaba reflexionando sobre la manera que lavaba mis manos muchas veces en la selva cuando trabajaba allí como misionero.  En nuestra cultura, es importante para tener manos limpios para eliminar algunos enfermedades también.  Podemos darnos cuenta que esta discusión que Jesús tenía con los escribas y los fariseos tenía un meta mas profundo que las manos limpias.  Jesús quería enseñar a su pueblo sobre las leyes y los mandamientos de Dios.
     Los fariseos y los escribas tenían una obsesión con las reglas de las leyes, pero no podían comprender el espíritu de estas leyes.  En nuestra lectura de Deuteronomio, Moisés enseñó sobre las leyes de Dios, sobre la vida y la libertad que podemos descubrir en ellas.  Tenemos la llamada para vivir estas leyes en justicia y sabiduría, para mostrar a nuestros vecinos la verdad de Dios en nuestra vida.
     Y si reflexionamos sobre las enseñanzas de Moisés, podemos tener mas claridad sobre la interacción entre Jesús y los lideres judíos.  Los fariseos y los escribas pensaban que Jesús faltaba el respecto a sus tradiciones, pero Jesús se daba cuenta que estas tradiciones vinieron de los seres humanos, no vinieron de Dios. En sus palabras radicales, Jesús tenía otro punto de vista sobre la purificación en nuestra vida, que es mas de una ritual. Podemos participar en los rituales, pero podemos no hacer caso a nuestras relaciones con Dios y con nuestros hermanos.  Como Moisés explicó, la ley de Dios tiene su fundación en el pacto entre Dios y su pueblo, en las relaciones con nuestro prójimo. No podemos tener motivos y acciones en nuestros corazones que van a separarnos con nuestro prójimo, como el robo, la codicia, la injusticia, la envidia, el orgullo, o el desenfreno.  Podemos tener las intenciones buenas, pero es fácil para manipular la ley de a la sumisión de nuestro egoísmo.  En las palabras de Isaías, Jesús explicó que podemos proclamar a Dios con nuestros labios, pero si tenemos otras cosas en nuestros corazones, no somos seguidores de Cristo.
     Necesitamos mirar nuestros pensamientos y nuestras obras.  Necesitamos cambiar nuestros corazones.  Necesitamos abrazar la ley de Dios y su amor para tener un cambio adentro, para afectar nuestras acciones y nuestras palabras que salen. Podemos limpiar nuestras manos y nuestros platos – pero esta acción no va a limpiar nuestros corazones.  Es mas fácil para mirar las acciones afuera, como los fariseos y los escribas en sus rituales.  Pero tenemos trabajo mas importante en nuestra llamada de Dios – para limpiar nuestros corazones y nuestras almas.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

9/7/2012 - Friday of the 22nd week in ordinary time - Psalm 37

         Our psalm today declares: “The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.”  It goes on to say that we should commit our way to the Lord, to trust in him and he will act.  According to the psalmist: The Lord “will make justice dawn for you like the light; bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.”  However, we all know that life does not always work out that way.  Sometime we are faced with detours and roadblocks in our lives that can be very devastating.  Trusting in the Lord and trying to follow his path does not always mean that everything in life is always going to wonderful and rosy. 
I really enjoy learning about the saints and learning from their journeys of faith.  The saints are great witnesses for us and have much to teach us.  This week, one of the saints on our calendar is Blessed Dina Belanger, a young woman who was born in Quebec, Canada in 1897.  Dina was a gifted musician and pianist as a child and youth, having studied the piano as a young woman in New York.  Yet, she felt God calling her to serve with joy as a religious sister of the Congregation of Jesus & Mary in Canada, where she taught music.  From the devout examples of her parents, who spent a great deal of time caring for the sick of their community as a ministry. Dina declared at a young age: “I want to be a saint.”  A mystic who saw great joy in her union with God through her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Blessed Dina died at the young at of 32.  This is the message she received from Christ that brought her great joy: “My happiness is to reproduce Myself in the souls that I created through love. The more a soul allows me to reproduce Myself truly in itself, the more happiness and repose I feel in it. The greatest joy a soul can give Me is to let Me raise it to the Divinity. Yes, My little spouse, I feel an immense pleasure in transforming a soul into Myself, in deifying it, in absorbing it entirely in the Divinity.”
When we face struggles and frustrations in life, the examples of faith we have in our lives give us encouragement and strength.  May the prayers and intercessions of all the saints give us strength on our journey.  May we rejoice in the salvation we receive in the Lord. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

9/10/2012 – Monday of the 23rd week in ordinary time – Luke 6:6-11

          At issue in today's Gospel reading is whether it's lawful for Jesus to cure a man of a withered hand on the Sabbath.  As we reflect on all that has cluttered up the Sabbath and has filled our daily lives in our modern word, perhaps it is appropriate to recognize the need our community has to recover the meaning of Sabbath. 
         But what does the Sabbath really mean for us, and what did it mean in the context of the Ten Commandments that were received by the people of Israel?  When I was associate pastor at St Richard in Jackson, in our parish book club, we read a book by Benedictine sister Joan Chittister about the Ten Commandments.  Regarding the observance of the Sabbath, Sister Joan asserted that the rabbis of ancient Israel taught that the Sabbath has a threefold purpose. First, it is to free the poor, as well as the rich, for at least one day a week; this included the animals also. Nobody had to take an order from anyone on the Sabbath. Second, the Sabbath is to give people time to evaluate their work as God evaluated the work of creation, to see if their work is really life-giving. Finally, Sabbath leisure gives people space to contemplate the real meaning of life. Sister Joan asserts strongly: “If anything has brought the modern world to the brink of destruction, it must surely be the loss of Sabbath.”  
         Just as the scribes and Pharisees questioned the true meaning of the Sabbath, our challenge as a community is to hold the time and place of Sabbath sacred, despite all the forces that seek to envelope it.  We still need to take up our time together to celebrate what we have received from God.
         As our Gospel story illustrates today, the Sabbath, after all, is not ultimately about law, but it's about compassion.  It is about the compassion for the needs of our bodies and minds to rest. It is about compassion for the needs of our loved ones and our neighbors. It is about compassion for all of God's creation: also for the sea, the land, and the air, that they may also rest refresh. The Sabbath is about radical identification with and for the God of compassion, who revels in all that has been made & calls it good. 

9/6/2012 – Thursday of 22nd week of ordinary time - Luke 5:1-14

         Many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen by trade.  These men had a keen sense of what they needed to do to catch fish and make a living doing so.  Here comes Jesus after they've been trying to catch fish all night long to no avail; he orders them to put out again in the deep water and to lower their nets for a catch.  Jesus is not a fisherman – how does he know that there will be fish out there for them?  Behold, they catch so many fish that their nets are in danger of tearing, that their boats are in danger of sinking.
         God can call us to do some things in our lives that seem to be illogical & beyond reason – his call can go against everything we know and all we've learned.  God's call can break all of our familiar patterns and take us from our comfortable surroundings.  Yet, God's call often takes us out of our comfort zone beyond anything we could ever imagine.
         Think about what would have happened if those disciples had been afraid, if they did not want to leave their comfortable profession as fishermen?  They would have never opened their lives to the fullness of God's graces if fear and trepidation would have kept them from breaking through their comfort zone. 
         Most of you know that I am very involved in prison ministry, and have been so most of the time I have been a priest.  Even to this day, when I enter the prison to preside at mass or to visit an inmate, I am struck by how different an environment I am entering.  I had no idea how to approach prison ministry when I first got started in it, but I give thanks to God that he called me to this ministry and gave me the courage to respond.
         Let us not let our set patterns and routines keep us from responding to God's call in our lives.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, may we find the courage to respond in faith.  

9/3/2012 – Monday of the 22nd week of ordinary time – Luke 4:16-30

         Today, we hear of an incident that occurs at the start of Jesus' public ministry.  Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth.  He proclaims his understanding of his mission and ministry in words taken from the prophet Isaiah.  Even though the crowd gathered in the synagogue initially had its eyes all fixed on Jesus, as they spoke well of him and took in his gracious words, this warm welcome quickly turned to violence as they cannot get beyond their perception of Jesus as just an ordinary local boy, the son of Joseph.  Jesus' description of his mission is similar to the mission to which he later sends out his disciples: to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand; for them to cure the sick, raise the dead, and to cleanse those afflicted with demons or disease. 
         So, how do we see the good news of God's kingdom operating in our lives & in our world?  Is it purely spiritual?  Do the poor, the oppressed, and the outcasts of the world rejoice in the Lord and his word, and then just return to the suffering, poverty, and despair of their lives here on earth without any change at all?  One of my favorite professors from seminary, Dr. Stephen Shippee, used to always say that there is a tension in the proclamation of God's kingdom – it is proclaimed in the here and now of our earthly existence, with some elements of God's kingdom already here.  But, there is a quality to God's kingdom that is not yet here, that will be fulfilled only in the future when Christ will come again.  So, we can say that God's kingdom is “already here”, but it is also “not yet”. 
         How do we proclaim in our lives that God is truly present among us?   We are called to have hope, we are called to prepare, we are called to work for peace and justice in the midst of so much in our world that goes against our faith as we wait for the fulfillment of God's kingdom.  What are we doing to transform ourselves and our own lives of faith?  What are we doing in our lives to transform our world?