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Reflections on Catholic Faith - March 2009 - Lenten idea or challenge: getting serious about Scripture

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March 23, 2009
Surrender No Matter What

The Gospel reading for the Mass of the 23rd of March has this vignette in it:
“Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe."

The royal official humbles himself even further and said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.

There are some who will hear these words and who have cancer or congestive heart failure or the beginnings of dementia or some other illness. Or perhaps we have a problem with a child… or with some other family member. 

One of the messages of today’s Gospel narrative is found in this: There is a powerful person... a royal official – that’s us by the way. We have been given the gift – the richness of freedom… we are the Prodigal Sons and Daughters… but now we have a reason to come back to Jesus. We need to humble ourselves and surrender to his answer…

Jesus – will you remove my breast cancer? Will you create some circumstance to make my husband stay faithful? Will you help my child to stop using drugs? The Gospel story for today tells us that it’s okay to continue to plead further with Jesus – but we need to be willing to surrender to his decision.

My wife and I watched the movie Molokai over the weekend. You may have seen it – or you know that it’s about Father Damien who served the lepers on Molokai. One of the things that struck me was when Fr. Damien became ill with the disease – he didn’t continuously beg God for healing – he prayed to accept God’s will and to serve out his remaining days as long as God wanted him to do so.

Surrender seems easy for us as long as it’s over there… if it’s somewhere else. Surrender is tough if it is us and our circumstances. Let us pray for the gift of surrender to the Most Holy Will of God… in each and every circumstance… healing or no.

Surrender recognizes that our Hope is in Jesus – and he will give us the healing that we need… He will give us life.




March 16, 2009
St Patrick's Confession

Blessings and all good to you who are Irish – and all those that wish they were. I normally ask our ‘tech-angel’ Sue (L) – and you know who you are dear friend… to ‘post’ my reflections on Monday. [By the way – if anyone reads this during this week that includes the famous memorial of St. Patrick – if any of you will join me – let’s say a prayer for Sue L – she’s a working mom with two darling kids and a wonderful husband! Sue is Irish as Paddy’s pig – so the old saying goes – but I’m not sure about her husband… maybe we should pray for Scott that his heart turns Irish…

At any rate… this posting of Monday reflections stems from an old custom where I always did mini-homilies on Mondays at my old parish. Monday was the day off for our parish priest. And so for some hundreds of Mondays, I did Communion Service (mini-liturgies) and was able to use the daily readings and to prepare a themed message related to the Mass readings or for the saint of the day.

However – it is Tuesday as I type these words… and today I have a green sweater on… it’s St. Patrick’s Day – a day that tempts even the most devout Lenten penitent to give up his/her fast and to imbibe in the joy of the day.

I won’t go into the history or the legends of St. Patrick. You either know all about that already or you can look into it yourself. But when I was doing Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours) this morning – I happened to read from what is called the ‘Confession’ (spiritual autobiography) of St. Patrick. I thought you might like to read a little of the words that were written by the dear saint of the Isles… Here is St. Patrick speaking:

“How did I get this wisdom that was not mine before? I did not know the number of my days, or have knowledge of God. How did so great and salutary a gift come to me, the gift of knowing and loving God, though at the cost of homeland and family? I came to the Irish peoples to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.

If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly for his name. I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor. I am deeply in his debt, for he gave me the great grace that through me, many peoples should be reborn in God, and then made perfect by confirmation and everywhere among them clergy ordained for a people so recently coming to believe, one people gathered by the Lord from the ends of the earth.”

Patrick was no softie… he was a tough worker for the Lord. And most of us don’t have the depth of Christian evangelism or fervor that we read of and know of from the real stories of the real Patrick. But the question for the day... the question for the week… the question for the lifetime that we have remaining is: Are we doing what God is calling us to do in the setting we are living in?

The March theme of these reflections is getting serious about Scripture… there is something that many Christian faiths call the ‘Great Commission.” In part – it says, “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Do you think Jesus meant every word of that literally and just for priests and bishops?

Faith and b’gorrah – Jesus is coming and we better get busy!

Blessings. Deacon Tom



March 9, 2009
Stop Judging

Recently, I pulled into a Safeway parking lot and saw one of the expensive Hummer cars – parked in a handicapped parking space. As I was walking by, the owner of the car – a young blond was putting her items into the car and then she hopped in and pulled away. My immediate – my instantaneous thoughts went to why a well-to-do woman like that who could walk to her car was parked in the closest possible handicapped space. Has this sort of thinking rippled through your mind – quickly judging others before you know the facts?
And one of the few commands that Jesus gave us was this: “Stop judging and you will not be judged.” He forbids us to judge others and yet we continue to do it – well, those of us who are sinful do it.

Here I am in a month devoted to trying to take Scripture serious (that’s my announced mini-topic for the month) and I can’t even go to the grocery store without falling victim to a judgment against others… That’s a no-no in Scripture.

Well – that may all be true. But what about when you know someone is wrong. What about if a woman tells you she is going to have an abortion and she tells this fact to you before she does the act. Do you have authority to judge and tell her it is wrong – dreadfully, morally repugnant? Of course you do. We make judgments each and every day.

I have to judge when a traffic light is turning yellow whether I can get safely through the intersection without endangering anyone else. If I am at a park and I see an adult beating a child – it doesn’t matter what the provocation or thinking of the adult is – it’s wrong. Morally and legally wrong.

We are not given any authority to judge what someone’s motives are… we cannot judge whether they are ‘going to hell.’ These are God’s business – but we have every authority to recognize evil actions and to try to evangelize or help.

I can tell you that this thinking of ‘let’s all get along and not say a word to anyone’ has corrupted our capability to respond to the teaching of the Gospel. I’ve even been told that it’s necessary to ‘be pastoral’ in situations involving serious issues of right and wrong. I do agree about being loving and pastoral – but not at the expense of condoning serious issues of morality. (And as a sidenote – morality isn’t defined by the end-user!)

Have you heard of or read Archbishop Charles Chaput’s book “Render Unto Caesar?” It is written in the context of shepherding Catholics to live and preach right and wrong in the real world – the world we are really living in. To do that, the Archbishop tells us that people who take God seriously will not remain silent about their faith. To do this requires judgment – not castigation… not condemnation… not separation… but judgment.

If you agree or disagree – I’d like to hear from you.

Blessings. Deacon Tom.

Reading 1
Dn 9:4b-10

"Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land. Justice, O Lord, is on your side;
we are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the countries to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you.

O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
for having sinned against you. But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness! Yet we rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command, O LORD, our God, to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets."

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 79:8, 9, 11 and 13

R. (see 103:10a) Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name's sake.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Let the prisoners' sighing come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
through all generations we will declare your praise.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.

Lk 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

March 2, 2009
Judgement and Brother Christophers

Every so often, we have this reading with the words of Jesus… about judgment by the Son of Man – and he’ll be judging the sheep and the goats… no mention of foxes… it concerns me a little… Lord – what are you going to do with the foxes?

These readings are a bit long today – especially the Gospel… and if I were to ask you if there is any thought that comes to mind from Leviticus and the reading from Matthew’s Gospel – what would you say? Leviticus said many times ‘you shall not…” “You shall not…” And the Gospel is in a new form of commandment: “For I was…. And you gave me.” For I was… and you did something.” The old law had many things you should not do – don’t eat unless you are cleansed… don’t touch a leper or a ritually unclean person… don’t eat pork or offer a lamb with a blemish. But in the New Covenant – Jesus is telling us to act out of love. The command is quite clear: whatever you did… what you do for the least of these, you do it for me.

I used to volunteer in a place called Crossroads Ministry back in Colorado. It was supported by upwards of a dozen Christian churches. Crossroads gave out food boxes, rental assistance, transportation vouchers, medical help and other types of services for the poor and marginally employed. The area was one of very high seasonal tourism with lots of part time employment, but it was tough sledding for people during the non-tourist periods.

What I learned – or maybe what I should say is what I learned and needed to relearn over and over is that those who came in for services didn’t always dress the best… they didn’t act the way you and I act. And often times they didn’t smell very good.

What I had to work to see is that each one of them is Christ – coming for a visit. Jesus said it using the words in Matthew’s Gospel – when one of the ‘least’ of our brothers or sisters comes to visit – it is Christ himself who is the guest. I’ll tell you – when someone comes into one of the public service agencies and he hasn’t showered for a week and smells of alcohol – it’s pretty hard to see Christ as the visitor.

And this reminds me of a story – a real experience. Many years ago, the wonderful Catholic lay leader Catherine Doherty went to visit another activist named Dorothy Day. Dorothy invited Catherine to spend the night with her at the House of Hospitality run by Dorothy.

Because they both devoted much of their lives to the poor – Dorothy didn’t have much in terms of facilities – she invited Catherine to sleep with Dorothy in her double bed in the shelter. As they were preparing to go to bed – a woman of the streets came to the door of Hospitality House. She had no nose and she had active syphilis. Dorothy welcomed her like a queen. Dorothy then told Catherine that she could put a mattress from a cot in the bathroom and that Catherine could sleep in the bathroom – and that Dorothy Day and the street woman would then spend the night in Dorothy’s double bed.

Catherine took Dorothy aside and said: “Speaking as a nurse – I want to warn you that this woman has ACTIVE syphilis.

Syphilis can be passed to you if she has any cuts on her body.” Dorothy replied – “Catherine – you have little faith. This is CHRIST who has come to us for a place to sleep. Christ will take care of me. You must have faith!” And Dorothy Day and the street woman slept together that night.

Catherine Doherty, you may know is the foundress of Madonna House… and to show you the impact that Dorothy Day’s statement and example made on Catherine Doherty – now when any person comes to a Madonna House seeking food or clothing or whatever – they are referred to as Brother Christophers… Christopher meaning Christ bearer or Christ carrier. That’s what a disheveled person is who comes to ask for a sandwich or a cool drink of water… he is a Brother Christopher.

Up in Winslow, there is an active Madonna House field location. The staff does a number of tasks in the community – one that I especially love is that they teach the faith to young children starting as early as age three. They have a Montessori-style classroom set up and they have been doing this with great positive effect in the community of believers in Winslow.

But when a Brother Christopher comes to the front door – one of the staff immediately stops what they are doing and they serve the person and honor him (or her) with the dignity given to that person by Christ. And if there is time, the staff isn’t uncomfortable to sit and talk for a while – they don’t set down a sandwich and then leave as if the job is done by handing food to the person… They serve others with love. The lesson of Dorothy Day and Catherine Doherty is to pick the one near to you who is the hardest to love… and treat them as you would treat Christ. I don’t know about you – but I’m probably not getting a passing grade in this class (yet).

As a Lenten postscript – there are so many things you can find on the web these days to help you in this holy season. SQPN has a number of good podcast programs. The Franciscans have a wonderful site, as do many others. There are too many to mention – but I’ve just started a weekly participation on a Lenten Blog – it has some nice contributing authors and solid Lenten thought and work on it. You can find it at: http://thesefortydays.blogspot.com/

Reading 1
Lv 19:1-2, 11-18
The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

"You shall not steal. You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another. You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer. You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake. I am the LORD.

"You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove him, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD."

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R. (John 6:63b) Your words Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul . The decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.

R. Your words Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart . The command of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eye.

R. Your words Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; The ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just.

R. Your words Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Mt 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'

Then the righteous will answer him and say: 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, '

Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."


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