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Reflections on Catholic Faith - July 2009 - The Lord Be With You

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July 27, 2009

St. Martha

For a couple weeks now, our first readings at Mass have been following a somewhat continuous flow. We’ve read of the Israelites in captivity in Egypt, and about the birth and adoption of Moses, the special relationship of Aaron and Moses with God… the departure or flight from Egypt… Scripture said it was a lot of people – it used the number 6,000 men – and there were families and livestock. We heard of the crossing of the Red Sea in a dramatic flight in which God spurs on Moses who spurs on the Israelites...  And then in the desert, -- our forefathers in faith were, like many of us – full of complaints until God hears their grumbling and feeds them with quail and manna…

However you process these stories – however you are perhaps led by the Scripture readings – a couple themes continue to play out…. First – in all circumstances – God is with his chosen people… and perhaps not too different some 3,000 years later – we have people who break the bonds of relationship with God… and God comes forward to reestablish covenant with his people.

This reaching out is demonstrated in the words we read last Friday when Scripture says, “Then God delivered all these commandments.” And in that reading, it listed those prescriptions for relationship by men and women with God… and with one another. In effect – in handing the commandments to mankind – God is saying – do these things and you will live in accord with my wishes and in harmony with others.

And what happens? Moses is delayed on the mountain and the people are impatient and they build a golden calf.

They are having quite a time worshiping something they had made themselves… and Moses comes down and, in anger breaks the two stone tablets. More stories unfold and then Moses goes back up the mountain and gains two new tablets and this brings us to today’s readings.

What is interesting about today is that the emphasis in the readings shifts from the law to the glow – the radiance on the face of Moses. Moses speaks to the people – he enjoins them to hear the voice of God… and we’ll speak about that when we talk about the Gospel reading for today. God’s voice can illumine us as it did Moses… It may interest you to hear that St. Paul sees in this face covering incident a symbol of the future failure of the Jews to recognize Jesus as the coming Messiah… Jesus – bringing the new law of love and repentance – and once again, God’s message… God’s messenger is rebuffed.

I will branch off from this frequent failure of God’s chosen ones as a lead in to St. Martha – which is of course the memorial for today. We all have heard the Martha and Mary story… in fact I have a book here with this title: “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” This book was written because the life of a woman today isn’t all that different than that of Mary and Martha in the New Testament.

Some of you… maybe many of you long to sit at the Lord’s feet… to find more time to be in prayer or holy silence but the daily demands of the world won’t leave you alone. You struggle to find holy balance. That’s illustrated by what Mary did – what sort of person she tried to be.

However some here… some who read these words may try to justify their daily lives with these words to the Lord:

“Oh I don’t have time for adoration because I have to call all the women of my organization and get a head count for a luncheon we’re planning. Or I don’t have time for the rosary because I have cleaning to do and it wears me out. I don’t have time for helping someone who is at home and alone because I have to go down to the valley for shopping.''

For people that, perhaps we can pray for help and assistance from Martha. And I might say to you I often include myself in these excuse makers… Jesus says to us today, “Martha… get your heart right… do what Mary is doing because she has chosen the better part.

So the Old Testament and the New Testament readings invite us through story and example to allocate our priorities… with God always in first possession of the time and activities we do.

Let not television or golf or even working in the church kitchen become the idols of our worship…when Christ invites us to spend time at his feet – listening for his voice.

Reading 1
Ex 34:29-35

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD. When Aaron, then, and the other children of Israel saw Moses and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become, they were afraid to come near him. Only after Moses called to them did Aaron and all the rulers of the community come back to him. Moses then spoke to them.

Later on, all the children of Israel came up to him, and he enjoined on them all that the LORD had told him on Mount Sinai.

When he finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses entered the presence of the LORD to converse with him,
he removed the veil until he came out again. On coming out, he would tell the children of Israel all that had been commanded. Then the children of Israel would see that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to converse with the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 99:5, 6, 7, 9

R. (see 9c) Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God, and worship at his footstool; holy is he!
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
Moses and Aaron were among his priests, and Samuel, among those who called upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
From the pillar of cloud he spoke to them; they heard his decrees and the law he gave them.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.
Extol the LORD, our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for holy is the LORD, our God.
R. Holy is the Lord our God.

Jn 11:19-27 or Lk 10:38-42

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died]. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus,

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”


Lk 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply,

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

July 20, 2009

Scounting for the Lord's Presence

My mini-theme for these reflections for the month of July is titled: “The Lord Be With You.” This is the way we begin and end our Mass, and it’s the way we do many if not most of modern day liturgies in the Church.

And so – today I can report that I was again with Boy Scouts and their leaders at Camp Geronimo in the north central Arizona mountains on Sunday. I led them in a Communion Service and there were perhaps 50 or so young boys and men. I saw one lady – perhaps a wife of one of the Scout leaders in our little worship service.
One young scout lad had a guitar and he led us in an opening hymn, the Alleluia verse before the Gospel – a meditation piece after my homily, a Communion hymn and a closing song. He picked the songs – and his closing one was so appropriate because it was exactly what I preached about. The Scout chose “Go make a difference,” as our recessional song. We also selected three Scouts to do the readings and responsorial psalm.

The theme of the liturgy was driven by the Scripture readings. Jesus as the example was willing to minister to his own apostles… come aside and rest – you’ve been busy.

I encouraged the boys that Church was not a ‘to do’ item in their lives. Instead, faith is a lived experience –They were encouraged to be signs of Christ to others – and to witness to their faith. I said there were simple things like inviting non-believers to come to Church with them (especially if there’s going to be food afterwards… I encouraged them to help their parents and to make the sign of the cross and do grace before meals. Again – faith is a lived experience – it’s not a ‘check-off’ (done that) sort of practice.

If you understand this – and if in your own way you are trying to find ways to live faith in your life, then it is safe to say you are likely not far from the Lord – in fact… rather than the way we start and end our liturgies, I might just say:

“The Lord is with you.”

Reading 1
Ex 14:5-18

When it was reported to the king of Egypt
that the people had fled,
Pharaoh and his servants changed their minds about them.
They exclaimed, "What have we done!
Why, we have released Israel from our service!"
So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers
six hundred first-class chariots
and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all.
So obstinate had the LORD made Pharaoh
that he pursued the children of Israel
even while they were marching away in triumph.
The Egyptians, then, pursued them;
Pharaoh’s whole army, his horses, chariots and charioteers,
caught up with them as they lay encamped by the sea,
at Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
Pharaoh was already near when the children of Israel looked up
and saw that the Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them.
In great fright they cried out to the LORD.
And they complained to Moses,
"Were there no burial places in Egypt
that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert?
Why did you do this to us?
Why did you bring us out of Egypt?
Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said,
'Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’?
Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians
than to die in the desert."
But Moses answered the people,
"Fear not!  Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.
These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.
The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still."
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the children of Israel may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers."

Responsorial Psalm
Exodus 15:1bc-2, 3-4, 5-6

R.(1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Mt 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
"Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you."
He said to them in reply,
"An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.

Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here."

July 13, 2009

Will We Have Peace?

Our first Mass reading for today is from the second book of the Pentateuch – it is called Exodus which comes from the Greek word meaning departure. Today, we have an easy-to-follow story of humanity – about the chosen people who are captives of the Egyptians. They are oppressed and forced to work at slave labor. In fact, the reading today tells us that the wary Egyptian king is so worried about the growing numbers of the Jews – he is so concerned with their solidarity that he tries to break them. And it appears that he is unable to break them by hard labor – so the king issues orders to have the first-born male children of the Israelites drowned.

Now what seems strange (does it not??) is that the Church contrasts this first reading story with a Responsorial Psalm which repeats over and over “Our help is in the name of the Lord.”

And then we have the Gospel reading in which Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”

As I prepared for today’s reflection it became clear what I ought to preach about… Our peace – the peace that Christ promises us is not a peace of this world. It is not a peace that the world can give. We will have wars and threats of wars – it says that someplace. But the peace of Christ will, perhaps be three things: it will be an inner peace. It will be a later peace, and it will be a lasting peace.

In this world – amidst its problems and struggles… those who find Christ… those who ‘live’ Christ will find eternal life and an inner peace that cannot be broken or assaulted by the forces of the world.

This may sound all too simplistic. But one of the main truths of Scripture – especially the Old Testament is that God is with us at all times and in all circumstances. He was with the Jewish people during their exile. He was with them in the desert. God the Father was continually renewing or restarting his covenant with the Jewish people.

And now it’s up to us to ask or to see…. Arguments with your children’s school system? Fights with city hall? Trying to deal with a non-responsive priest? Coping with an alcoholic or drug addict in your family? In all of these – I turn to the topic of this month’s reflections….

The Lord Be With You…… And He is you know. He is.

Lord, increase my faith. Help increase my faith.

Blessings. Deacon Tom

Deacon Tom is a proud supporter of SQPN.COM – the Star Quest Production Network where you will find the best and most faithful Catholic audio broadcasts (Podcasts), columnists, videos and movie reviews. 

Reading 1
Ex 1:8-14, 22

A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his subjects, "Look how numerous and powerful the people of the children of Israel are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave our country."
Accordingly, taskmasters were set over the children of Israel to oppress them with forced labor. Thus they had to build for Pharaoh the supply cities of Pithom and Raamses. Yet the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread. The Egyptians, then, dreaded the children of Israel
and reduced them to cruel slavery, making life bitter for them with hard work in mortar and brick and all kinds of field work—the whole cruel fate of slaves.
Pharaoh then commanded all his subjects, "Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews, but you may let all the girls live."

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 124:1b-3, 4-6, 7-8

R. (8a) Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Had not the LORD been with us– let Israel say, had not the LORD been with us– When men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive, When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us; The torrent would have swept over us; over us then would have swept the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us a prey to their teeth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
We were rescued like a bird from the fowlers' snare; Broken was the snare,
and we were freed. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Mt 10:34-11:1

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's enemies will be those of his household.
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
"Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet's reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man's reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward."
When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

July 6, 2009

Jesus In My Car

From Genesis – today’s first reading has these words: Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you."

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, "Truly, the LORD is in this spot, although I did not know it!"

Yesterday – Sunday, I had to get up and get moving. I was asked to do a Communion Service for Boy Scouts who were at a camp (can you believe the name was Geronimo?) up in the north central Arizona mountains. I had a homily prepared (see Sunday’s homily which is scheduled to be posted on my site as well as this) and had everything ready. I just had to go to the parish and pick up about fifty already consecrated hosts.

Well – as luck or whatever would have it – I was running a little bit late. Not too late but I didn’t know where I was going. I had been given directions by someone whom I should have known might be confused. He had been there some time before but not for a while. At any rate – I missed the turn-off twice and had to ask for directions two times. I was getting anxious and concerned. But during the drive and watching, I was able to listen to and do a rosary from a recorded CD. I also did the Divine Mercy chaplet.

All the while – Jesus – yes, Jesus Himself in the Blessed Sacrament was with me. I prayed to Him – I spoke to Him. Later – I had the recorded music of some nuns singing wonderful old hymns. As it turns out – I was late and we had to do a very abbreviated Communion Service. But Jesus understood. The young Scouts seemed to understand.

And it was so good… so very good to see the young, scrubbed faces and the young boys in their Scout uniforms.  They even applauded when I was finished. They thanked me so much for coming to them. What priest or deacon gets thanks for being at the parish and doing a Mass or Communion Service? It doesn’t happen often I can tell you.

Now there were some hosts which I hadn’t distributed. I put them in the little carrying box and once again had Jesus riding on the front seat. (He tells me He prefers the ‘shotgun’ position so He can give directions. Ha ha).

So – let me quote one other piece from today’s first reading. Jacob says this prayer: "If God remains with me, to protect me on this journey I am making and gives me enough bread to eat and clothing to wear, and I come back safe to my father's house, the LORD shall be my God.

As unworthy as I am… this is my prayer today… the LORD shall be my God. Thanks, Jesus… I loved having you with me in my car.

Reading 1
Gn 28:10-22a

Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and proceeded toward Haran. When he came upon a certain shrine, as the sun had already set, he stopped there for the night. Taking one of the stones at the shrine, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep at that spot. Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God's messengers were going up and down on it.

And there was the LORD standing beside him and saying: "I, the LORD, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you."

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, "Truly, the LORD is in this spot, although I did not know it!" In solemn wonder he cried out: "How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!" Early the next morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a memorial stone, and poured oil on top of it. He called the site Bethel, whereas the former name of the town had been Luz.

Jacob then made this vow: "If God remains with me, to protect me on this journey I am making and to give me enough bread to eat and clothing to wear, and I come back safe to my father's house, the LORD shall be my God. This stone that I have set up as a memorial stone shall be God's abode."

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 91:1-2, 3-4, 14-15ab

R. (see 2b) In you, my God, I place my trust.
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
R. In you, my God, I place my trust.
For he will rescue you from the snare of the fowler, from the destroying pestilence. With his pinions he will cover you, and under his wings you shall take refuge.
R. In you, my God, I place my trust.
Because he clings to me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in distress.
R. In you, my God, I place my trust.

Mt 9:18-26
While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live." Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured." Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter!  Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official's house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, "Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping."

And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that  land.

© 2006-2009 Deacon Tom Online

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