May 20th – Ascension of Our Lord
Reflection on Acts 1:1-11
Ps 47:2-3, 6-9
point of cloister is to get rid of the horizon!” That is how a
rich and enthusiastic Scripture discussion concluded this
Sunday, and although I do not have time to record all the
insights that we shared with one another, I very much want to
share with you this particular thread.
It all began as we delved
into the mystery of Jesus being both in heaven and still in the
world. Sr. Rose Marie put it this way: “As He ascends, He
becomes more active in the world!” He departs, so that He can be
more with me. What a glorious paradox! And it points directly to
the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we celebrate next Sunday.
Because Jesus ascended, He can and does send His glory and power
to dwell in us… and His glory and power are given so that His
Kingdom might be built up in and through us.
It was in this context
that, as Sr. Mary Andrea was reflecting upon the verse in Acts
in which Jesus promises that “you will receive power when the
Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in
Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the
earth,” Sr. Cecilia Maria was suddenly struck by the breadth of
the Lord’s plan. Have you ever noticed that Jesus jumps from
“Judea and Samaria” to “the ends of the earth?” Probably for the
fishermen of Galilee, Samaria was as far as the horizons of
their worldview extended. If Jesus had mentioned Greece, Rome,
Egypt, Persia… they probably would have panicked! So He tells
them simply: by my power, you will be my witnesses in all the
places you can imagine and beyond. As time progressed and they
matured in their vocations as Apostles, they realized more and
more what the Lord meant by “you will be my witnesses… to the
ends of the earth.” They scattered throughout the known world,
preaching and witnessing with their lives in order to spread the
Kingdom. Their horizons expanded even to Spain, Gaul, and India!
And throughout the centuries they have continued to expand: new
continents, new hemispheres! God’s plan extended way beyond the
tiny horizons of those eleven Galileans in Jerusalem.
“Isn’t that just like
God?” Sr. Rose Marie exclaimed, “He is constantly expanding our
horizons.” And Anne remarked that “two years ago I would never
have imagined myself sitting here”. Indeed, with each of our
lives, God does the same thing as He did with the Apostles. He
loves to lead us into new realms of understanding and desire!
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has prepared for
those who love Him…” and that is true even here on earth!
“And at a certain point,
you just get rid of the horizon altogether!” Sr. Cecilia Maria
laughed. At a certain point, you realize that God’s loving plan
is infinite, and you surrender wholly to His guiding light,
content to watch with joy as He unfolds His grace in and through
you. How could any of us ever have imagined how many adventures
we would embark upon, how many lives we would touch, how wide
our hearts would be opened, when first He called us to follow
“You know, it is really
interesting that we are saying this as cloistered nuns,”
observed Sr. Mary Andrea. “Most people would think the opposite
is true of our life.”
“But in a sense, that is
the whole point of the cloister.” Sr. Mary Veronica. We are
called to be witnesses to the whole world, to pray for the whole
world, to be channels of grace for the whole world and for
countless souls. Yes! The whole point of the cloister is,
ultimately, to get rid of the horizons of our human imagination
and power, embracing instead the limitlessness of God’s love.
May 13th – 6th Sunday of Easter
Reflection on Acts 10:25-26,
Love! Life! Joy! That is
what our conversation was full of (and hopefully we were too!)
as we reflected upon this Sunday’s Scripture readings. And
rightly so! The Epistle and the Gospel passages are especially
peppered with these cornerstones of Christian spirituality.
Sr. Rose Marie and Sr.
Cecilia Maria both brought their current spiritual reading books
and read passages from them to elaborate upon a word from the
Gospel which captivated them. One word was “joy.” Jesus tells us
that the way to remain in His love is to keep His commandments,
just as He has kept His Father’s commandments and remained in
His love. Then He says something very interesting: “I have told
you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be
complete.” This begs the question, what is Jesus’ joy? The
answer can be found throughout the accounts of His life, and is
beautifully illustrated by Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity on “Day
Fourteen” of her Last Retreat of Laudem Gloriae. Bl. Elizabeth
shows us – just like this Gospel reading – that Jesus’ joy is to
do the will of His Father. (It is also His food and His entire
existence.) And so, in this Gospel passage, Jesus reveals to us
the intimate secret of His whole being, the secret to His
happiness: keep God’s commandments. For Jesus, keeping God’s
commandments is equivalent to loving. They are the same thing.
His joy is complete when He loves by doing His Father’s will,
and He desires our joy to be complete, too. So He tells us how:
keep my commandments.
The rest of us had a
flurry of insights stemming off this one. It is so simple, we
exclaimed, because God is so simple! That’s it: do God’s will,
and you will love, and be full of joy. Then Sr. Mary Veronica
observed that it is the Holy Spirit living within us who enables
us to love, to keep His commandments. (Because who of us, on our
own, can truly love perfectly?) And the Holy Spirit is Himself
the Will, the Love, and the abiding Joy!
The other word that
brought a book with it was “chose.” Jesus says, “It was…I who
chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit….” Did you ever
think about the far-reaching effects of God’s calling you? We
did, after we heard a passage from Fr. Arminjon’s book A
Canticle of Love. He speaks of how the Bride (every soul is the
bride of God in the spiritual life!) is chosen not only for her
sake, but for the sake of the whole world. In the Old Testament,
Israel lives this vocation; she is chosen by God to be His
special possession, so that through her, all nations might be
blessed. Here in the Gospel, the apostles are chosen by Christ
to be His beloved friends, so that they might bring His
salvation to the ends of the earth. Each of us cloistered nuns
is chosen to be the bride of Christ, so that through our hidden
lives of prayer and love, many souls might be blessed. Each
Christian is called for the sake of the whole world’s salvation.
Are you overwhelmed yet?
Never fear: God is the source of all our being, our loving, and
our doing good. In the Epistle, St. John reminds us that “God
sent His only son into the world so that we may live by Him.” We
don’t have to do it ourselves; in fact, we can’t. But He can,
dwelling within us and granting us the life, love, and joy of
His own Spirit to animate our beings. Alleluia! That is good
April 29th – 4th Sunday of Easter
Reflection on Acts 4:8-12
Rose Marie started us out with a question this week. “What do
you think St. John means when he says, ‘We shall be like [God],
for we shall see Him as He is?’ It seems like he is saying that
because we shall see Him, we shall be like Him.” Usually, as Sr.
Mary Andrea pointed out, we think of it the other way around: we
shall see God in heaven, because we will have been made like
Him. Perfection in God’s image and likeness is the prerequisite
for heaven, so to speak. But St. John turns it around. We shall
be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Her question started a
glorious discussion about the power of God’s being. Sr. Cecilia
Maria suggested that since God is Life Himself, so creative and
regenerative in His very essence, perhaps merely being in His
Presence changes us into Himself. Perhaps seeing God as He truly
is, is a bit like standing by a fire: if you stand close enough,
you become fire yourself! Our discussion continued: perhaps this
is a hint at what Purgatory is. If when we die, we have not yet
become like God, perhaps the sight of Him in all His Holiness,
Power, and Beauty transforms us into His perfect likeness!
Sr. Mary Veronica had a
beautiful suggestion: St. John may mean something more than
physical sight here. “To see God” may well take on the deep
implications of the Biblical “know,” implying profound communion
between two beings. When we see God as He is, we will know Him,
and that knowledge will by its very nature bring about the
intimate communion of spousal love. Knowledge between God and
the soul renders each into the other!
The other half of our
sharing focused on our call to communion with Christ Jesus, our
Good Shepherd. Sr. Cecilia Maria was captivated by Jesus’
statement, “I will lay down my life for the sheep…. No one takes
it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” We are baptized into
Christ, and we are called to the same reality, the same powerful
and heroic choice! When I am hurt, when I suffer, when I must
die to myself in the course of my day, I have a choice: I can be
a victim and say, “woe is me,” or I can freely lay down my life
for the sheep. Jesus looked like a powerless victim in His
Passion, but He turned around and chose it. He chose to die for
me and for the whole world. I must do the same! Our chaplain
preached a beautiful homily on this call: we are all called to
be Good Shepherds in our own lives; we are all called to lay
down our life for the sheep entrusted to us. And as
contemplative nuns, the whole world is the flock in our care!
Sr. Mary Andrea connected
this reality with the psalm. “We bless you from the house of the
Lord!” the psalmist sings. Since we are the house of the Lord by
our baptism, we are called to be a blessing for the world
wherever we are! We dwell in communion with Christ; we always
and everywhere must live His life of redemption for the world.
April 22nd – 3rd Sunday of Easter
Reflection on Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Ps 4:2, 4, 7-9
week and this week I have been captivated by the fact that the
risen Jesus is recognized and defined by the wounds of His
crucifixion,” Sr. Cecilia Maria began as we reconvened for our
Sunday Scripture discussion. In this week’s gospel, Jesus
reassures His troubled disciples that it is truly he by showing
them His pierced hands and feet. Last week, St. Thomas declared
that he would not believe unless he saw and felt for himself the
wounds left by the nails and the lance, and Jesus came to
satisfy his desire. What makes these scenes so remarkable is
that none of the disciples, save St. John who was on Calvary,
would have known the crucified Jesus. They knew Him by His
voice, miracles, walk, visage. Yet He shows them His wounds, and
by them they recognize and believe in Him. “See my hands and my
feet, that it is I myself!” Why? Why the wounds?
Sr. Mary Veronica phrased
the mystery this way: God chose to retain and glorify the wounds
of His shameful and bloody crucifixion. He didn’t have to. He
could have wiped them away entirely, just like He could have
avoided the Passion in His work of salvation. But He didn’t. He
suffered, and He chose to remain wounded even in His glory for
all eternity (as Sr. Mary Andrea reminded us). Jesus Christ –
and therefore God, who is Love Himself – chose to be defined by
His wounds. This should give us great hope and consolation! God
did not only enter into our suffering, but He made it a part of
Himself and then glorified it. This means that we can meet God
even and especially in the parts of our life that hurt the most,
the wounds of our own existence. This gives an extraordinary
dimension to our own resurrection and eternal life. In heaven,
God will not remove from us our wounds from physical, emotional,
psychological, spiritual sufferings. No, but He will glorify
them! Our ugliest sufferings and trials will, in Christ, become
the most beautiful parts of us, just like Christ’s glorious
wounds shine with the brightest radiance.
Sr. Rose Marie helped us
to see the consolation and assurance Christ’s wounds gave to the
apostles, and that they can give to each of us. What was the
disciples’ reaction to Jesus as he appeared and said to them,
“Peace be with you?” They were startled, terrified, troubled,
questioning, incredulous, amazed! And for good reason: the vast
majority had abandoned or denied Him, and they were cowering
from fear of joining Him in His fate. Seeing Him alive would
have confirmed their earlier conviction that He truly is the
Messiah of God…and God’s people had killed Him. Surely they were
thinking in their hearts, “What will He say now? What will He do
now? We are in trouble. We blew it.” But Jesus comes with peace,
and the assurance: look at my hands and my feet, and know that
“it is written that the Messiah would suffer.” This was planned,
and I did it for you! Peace be with you.
May we each discover the
peace that flows from Christ’s glorious wounds! May we recognize
Him in them, and may we discover, as Sr. Rose Marie stated so
poignantly, that Christ’s wounds mark the way to heaven.
March 25th – 5th Sunday of Lent
Reflection on Jer
Ps 51:3-4, 12-15
This week we were all captivated by – as Sr. Mary Veronica eloquently put it – the pathos of the heart of Christ, expressed not only in the Gospel but in all the readings. They all take us deep into the mystery of God’s covenantal love for us, a love which reaches its climactic fulfillment in Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate. Sr. Mary Andrea highlighted Jeremiah’s narrative of God’s poignant and tender promise of His new covenant, in which He will heal the very roots of our infidelities and make it possible for us to truly be in intimacy with Him. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people…. All, from the least to the greatest shall know me!” The psalmist fervently prays for Him to accomplish this work: “A clean heart create for me, O God; renew in me a steadfast spirit!” But it is St. John and the author of Hebrews who really paint for us the stunning portrait of Jesus Christ upon the eve of consummating this new covenant.
According to Hebrews, Jesus “offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” The “loud cries and tears” of the Lord have always captivated Sr. Mary Veronica. How rich is the heart of Christ! The full spectrum of His human virtues and passions includes fervent intercession, profound reverence, unstinting obedience…and heart-wrenching grief and majestic joy. Sr. Cecilia Maria pointed out that in the original Greek, when Jesus says, “I am troubled now... Father, save me from this hour,” He is actually quoting the Greek text of Psalm 6:4-5: “In utter terror is my soul…Lord, save my life!” What a mystery of suffering! Sr. Rose Marie was similarly intrigued by the seeming contradiction of Jesus’ fear and confidence in the Gospel.
We found an answer to the contradiction in the eternal reality of God’s covenantal love. Anne and Sr. Cecilia Maria focused upon Jesus’ words, “It was for this purpose that I came to this hour…. When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself.” Jesus trembles from fear, yes, as the time of His Passion draws nigh, but He trembles also from the strength of His loving longing for union with His beloved people…a union which will finally be accomplished at “this hour.” Since the dawn of creation, God has yearned to gather His people to Himself, into the embrace of His love. Jesus gave voice to this elsewhere in the Gospels when He cried, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often have I yearned to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…but you would not!” This hour of Jesus Passion will finally accomplish His purpose: upon the Cross, Christ Jesus will gather all of us to Himself.
It is consummated!
March 18th – 4th Sunday of Lent
Reflection on 2Chr 36:14-16,
readings this week call us to a deeper understanding of God. We
all have heard that God is our Creator and Redeemer, but the
terms are so familiar that we can forget what that means in our
lives – in your life and in my life. This Sunday we are
challenged to open our eyes to see God as He wants us to see
St. Paul in our epistle
beautifully sums up our relationship with God: “We are His
handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God
has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Wow! Anne
and Sr. Cecilia Maria found great consolation in this second
reading. God continually creates us in His Son! Not only did He
create us “once upon a time,” but through our whole lives He
forms us, teaches us, guides us, admonishes us, calls us back
when we wander, and heals us when we hurt ourselves. Why?
Because He has prepared good works for us to live in, and He
just can’t stand it until we are able to live fully in that
goodness! Everything that exists, everything that happens is a
gift of God for you. He had you personally in mind when He
created it, so that it would help you grow into the good works
He has prepared for you.
Our first reading relates
to us how this beautiful providence looked at the time of the
Babylonian exile of the Hebrew people. “Early and often did the
Lord … send His messengers to them, for He had compassion on His
people,” the Chronicler tells us. God wants not only to give us
His gifts, but to have us keep them always! He seeks to teach us
how to live in those good works; when we are unfaithful, in
compassion He cries out to us to return. Sr. Rose Marie
highlighted for us how the justice of God is always related to
His mercy, and that when we think God’s justice is “punishment,”
we are forgetting who God really is. God does admonish us, in
the hopes that we will hear and return to the good works He
created us for, but His justice is not punishment. He knows that
on our own we cannot live in His good works. How could He punish
us for not doing something we are incapable of doing? No, He has
mercy and gives us His own justice, His own strength, His own
Yes! “God so loved the
world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes
in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This
Sunday’s gospel sings once again that well-loved verse and
celebrates the largess of our tremendous Gift-Giver. God created
us in Christ Jesus for His good works! He loves us so much that
He gives us everything we need to live in His goodness; we have
only to open our hearts to receive His gift. Sr. Mary Veronica
kept returning to this mind-blowing reality. He GAVE His only
begotten Son! He did not just send, He GAVE His Son to us! Have
you received Him? Do you live in Him?
Sr. Mary Andrea brought
our attention to a message common to all the readings this week:
God gives us all these gifts so that He might be our abiding
companion. “May his God be with him,” acclaims the first reading
about every Hebrew. “May thus and so happen to me if ever I
forget you!” cries the psalmist in exile from his land and his
God. God creates us “that we should live in [His good works],”
teaches St. Paul. And finally, the gospel reminds us that God
gave us His own Son so that we might have “eternal life” with
Him. Did you know that eternal life can start now? It starts as
soon as you begin living in the goodness God created you for!
March 11th – 3rd Sunday of Lent
Reflection on Ex 20:1-17
it be wonderful to have a piece of fine art depicting the
cleansing of the Temple?” we asked ourselves this Sunday. How
powerful it would be to see the anger, grief, holiness, and
majesty of Jesus Christ as He confronts the people who have been
making His Father’s house a marketplace! Our whole discussion
centered upon the Gospel passage and its meaning, both in the
context of Jesus’ earthly existence and of our own lives.
Sr. Rose Marie brought a
reflection from the opening pages of Pope Benedict’s Jesus of
Nazareth, which called our attention to Jesus’ “going up to
Jerusalem” for the feast of Passover, which is the context of
His cleansing of the Temple. Much more than being simply a
physical ascent (which it is), it symbolizes the Christ’s ascent
to the Father through the course of His life, His ascent to
“loving to the end.” As Jesus goes up to Jerusalem and drives
the vendors out of the Temple courts, He is illustrating in
symbol what He does with His life and passion. Through the
Cross, Jesus “goes up” to the true Temple, not made by human
hands – His glorified body – and cleanses us to be part of it.
Sr. Mary Andrea brought a
similar insight: Jesus tells us, “Destroy this temple and in
three days I will raise it up.” How shocking! Of course we know
that He is speaking of His body, but not merely His physical
body which rose again on that first Easter morning. He speaks
too of His mystical body, the Church; He raises her with Him
into the glory of His Father’s love. But He is also speaking of
you and me individually. He can and He does transform us into
that Temple not made by human hands. But we each have a part to
play. Even as He cleansed the earthly Temple, Jesus asked for
help from the dove-sellers, “Take these out of here!” He asks us
to help Him cleanse our Temple courts of all that keeps us from
being true and living tabernacles of the Holy Spirit.
Sr. Cecilia Maria was
intrigued at how the Gospel story illustrates St. Paul’s
beautiful verse from the second reading, “The foolishness of God
is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger
than human strength.” As Jesus drives out the vendors, He is
using human strength and is actually acting like the powerful
Messiah so many awaited, but His human power is useless to
convince anyone that He is the Christ. This is true not only of
the cleansing, but also of His miracles and even His
transfiguration. People still asked for a sign, and they saw
folly and instigation, or at best wonder-working, in His
actions. However, Jesus points to His Passion and Resurrection
as the sign which will be given. The Crucifixion, Death, and
Resurrection are certainly foolish and weak by human measures!
Yet through the ages, they have been stronger than all human
strength and wiser than all human wisdom.
Anne and Sr. Mary
Veronica expounded upon the poignant last paragraph of our
Gospel. “Jesus would not trust Himself to them because He knew
them all….” Alas for our fickle human nature, that renders the
same souls who begin to believe in the Son of God to turn upon
Him three years later and to condemn Him to death! Christ comes
to me every day, every hour, and He longs to give Himself to me.
Can He trust Himself to me? Am I open enough to receive Him? Do
I welcome Him as King of my heart no matter what; do I cling to
Him, no matter what that means and no matter where He leads me?
Let us each love Him to the end, that He may abide in us and us
in Him forever!"
March 4th – 2nd Sunday of Lent
Reflection on Gn 22:1-2,
test and Jesus’ transfiguration – what rich scripture passages!
They are both powerful stories about faith, and they both tell
us about the sacrifice of God’s beloved Son on Calvary. Our
conversation this Sunday centered on both of these themes.
St. John of the Cross
writes eloquently about the darkness of faith being the surest
guide to union with God. We see a beautiful illustration of this
truth in Abraham, who was able to believe in God’s loving
promise even in the face of horrible circumstances – the
sacrifice of his own son at his own hands. Can you imagine what
he must have gone through emotionally, spiritually,
psychologically? And yet his faith was stronger than the trial,
and it led him through the darkness into the light of God’s
salvation and blessing. Faith gave Abraham strength to journey
into that incomprehensible darkness, and faith was rewarded by
God’s salvation, and by the revelation of His covenant at the
very altar of sacrifice.
The disciples of Jesus
are also led up a mountain into faith. This time it is
symbolized by the cloud, the “glory cloud” of God which appears
throughout the Old Testament. It overshadows them as Jesus is
transfigured, and once again we encounter the darkness and
“fuzziness” of faith. Entering the cloud is never comfortable;
staying in the cloud is even less so, but it is precisely in the
cloud, in the obscurity of faith, that God reveals Himself. It
is in the cloud that we hear His voice and receive His
direction. With St. John of the Cross we can exclaim: O night
that was my guide! It is in the cloud of faith that we hear the
words, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!”
The mount of
Transfiguration is often described as the “flip side” of
Calvary. Both the transfiguration and the crucifixion are scenes
of the dark night of faith, but one is shrouded in the bright
cloud of glory, the other in the dark cloud of suffering. The
one reveals the other; neither can be understood without the
other. Our suffering, because it is united with Jesus’, always
has a glorious side, a transfiguration that perhaps still awaits
it, but that is no less real. Let us draw strength from this
revelation of the glory that we all await in faith, as we travel
through this “valley of tears!”
February 5th – 5th Sunday in Ordinary time
Reflection on Job
“The Church presents us with another rich series of readings this Sunday, and we were each struck by the powerfully transformative figure of Jesus as He emerges in their light.
Sr. Mary Veronica’s translation of Job has the statement, “The life of man on earth is a warfare,” and she saw an illustration of this in the gospel. Jesus comes preaching and driving out demons – His is not merely a warfare, but a strong and triumphant warfare by which He routs the enemy, repossesses the earth, and restores His Father’s Kingdom. Thanks be to God for such a Savior!
Anne also contrasted Job’s complaint with Mark’s narrative. “My days…come to an end without hope,” Job cries. Peter’s cry to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you,” is another way of saying the same thing. How many in this world ache for a Savior, a reason to hope in the midst of suffering, sorrow, and darkness? How many are looking for Jesus, without even knowing that it is Him they seek? May we each, like the disciples, find Him in His fullness, so that we can possess their same heroic hope.
Sr. Cecilia Maria heard the gospel as a symbolic narrative of Jesus’ harrowing of hell and resurrection. “When it was evening, after sunset” – after Jesus is sealed in the tomb – He is met by a vast crowd of ill and possessed people, the whole town gathering at the door. Perhaps this is what Sheol looked like as He arrived! Jesus cures many and drives out many demons, a symbol of His leading the just forth into Paradise. Then “rising very early before dawn,” Jesus goes to a deserted place and prays. Why do we so often find Jesus praying in the pre-dawn hours? Such prayer powerfully elicits His yearning for the resurrection and for redemption. He so desires to bring us up out of death into eternal life of communion with the Father! And as Anne pointed out, Peter and the disciples are beautiful images of humanity through the ages, looking for Jesus. Not only do they find him – resurrection appearances? – but He continues His mission in them. His direction that they should go to the other villages also, that He may preach to them and fulfill His purpose, is a distinct parallel of His command before the Ascension: “Go and preach to all the nations….”
Sr. Mary Andrea found in the pairing of Job’s complaint and the Psalm of praise a call to live in the present moment. “My life is like the wind,” he cries, and it is true. Our days pass swiftly, and what we consider “the future” constantly becomes “the past,” never to be had again. But the Psalmist praises God in all things! If we praise God in the moment we have right now, in whatever life has brought us right now, we are freed from the slavery that Job labors under. We are not called to worry about what will happen, nor to brood about what has happened, but only to praise God with and in the life He gives us now. The praise itself becomes our freedom and our life!
Finally, Sr. Rose Marie shared with us the power of Jesus to transform slavery into service. To Job, life is a drudgery, but to Christ and His followers, life is a ministry. There is a constant call of the Spirit to preach, to heal, to teach, to serve. “Let us go to the other villages also,” Jesus says. “I preach willingly,” Paul proclaims. Simon’s mother-in-law, cured of her fever, immediately gets up and begins to wait upon her guests. This suggests to us that Jesus’ healing is always undergirt by a deeper purpose. He heals in order that we may subsequently do the Father’s Will in love and freedom. For some, this may mean to serve at table, or to preach, or to rejoice. What does it mean in your life? For what service does Jesus heal you?"
January 29th – 4th Sunday in Ordinary time
Reflection on Dt 18:15-20
1 Cor 7:32-35
“The readings this week are so full of significance that all five of us had focused on different themes as we prayed on them. Sr. Mary Andrea noted the overriding theme of authority and leadership, and observed that we humans always desire a strong leader, someone we can trust and who can motivate us to excel…but that we don’t always want to obey said leader when he actually leads. How true it is, as much for us as it was for the ancient Israelites! And God has mercy on us in this, too. We cannot stand to hear the power and glory of His voice, so just as He provided the Israelites with a mediator (Moses) and promised to raise up another prophet like him, so He continues to provide “prophets” to us today. So that his will might always be known to us in ways that we can endure and obey, He gives us a pope and a magisterium, our local bishop and priests, our religious superiors and even the individual sisters assigned to a certain charge within the monastery. All of these give voice to the divine will in our daily lives. Isn’t God good to us?
Sr. Rose Marie chimed in by commenting that it can still be so hard to hear the Lord’s voice. Weak as we are, we miss Him both because He is too loud AND because He is too “soft;” too simple and humble for us to take any note. That was certainly true when Jesus trod the roads of Galilee, and it is still true in our own lives. Sr. Mary Veronica and Anne helped us recognize that St. Paul in his epistle gives us – especially us as religious – welcome advice on how better to listen for His voice. “An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit…. I am telling you this for your own benefit…for the sake of propriety and so that you may pray to the Lord without distraction.” It is indeed possible to be attentive to the Lord without distraction, to give Him an undivided heart! That is the goal of our life as His consecrated brides.
Sr. Cecilia Maria focused upon the man possessed by an unclean spirit, and upon the stark contrast between that evil spirit and the spirit of Jesus. The Greek has an interesting turn of phrase – St. Mark literally says “there was a man in an unclean spirit.” This is the same construction that is used often in the New Testament to describe the relationship of the believer to Christ or the Holy Spirit; a person is “in Christ,” or “in the Spirit,” or does something “in the Spirit,” etc. It is an expression of great intimacy and great compenetration between the two beings. This man “in an unclean spirit” is in deep trouble. His existence is the exact opposite of what it should be! And Jesus has mercy on him, commanding the spirit to depart.
As we discussed this scene, one of the sisters pointed out that the behavior of the spirit mirrors our own experience of two realities of the spiritual life. The spirit, commanded to leave, first convulses the man and then shrieks as it leaves. This horrific experience is a reassuring demonstration of a common healing process, in which we get much worse before we get better. The remedy can sometimes feel worse than the ailment! But the healing does come. The spirit also shows us how we ourselves can act (interiorly or exteriorly) when the Lord tells us to do something that we don’t want to do. How much better it would be if we would gladly comply with the Lord’s will for our salvation!
I suppose all of these themes touch upon the importance of hearing God’s voice and heeding it, that we may have life in Him. May He be praised for making it possible for us to do so!
January 15th – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time
Reflection on 1Sam 3:3b-10, 19
Ps 40:2, 4, 7-10
1Cor 6:13c-15a, 17-20
“This Sunday marked the close of National Vocations Awareness Week very fittingly, with all four readings centering upon the theme of God’s call and our response to Him. In the first, young Samuel hears the Lord call his name as he is sleeping near the ark of the covenant. (We could make a joke here about dozing off in chapel, but we will refrain. J) Sr. Cecilia Maria pointed out one of the consoling elements in this story: the fact that God calls Samuel four times, because the first three times, he doesn’t “get it,” and thinks that the voice is Eli’s. It takes a spiritual director finally to clue Samuel in and teach him the correct response: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” God is patient and persevering in His call, to be sure, because He desires so much that we hear His words!
The psalmist this week sings some of the most well known words of response to God’s call. “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, ‘Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart!’” Sr. Rose Marie recalled for us that in Hebrews, these words are put on the lips of Christ at His Incarnation, with an even more striking translation. “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire; but a body you have prepared for me!” This wording helps us to understand the reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. “The body…is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body,” he writes, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” As we say yes to God’s call in our lives, Christ’s life and redemption continues in our very bodies! Our whole being belongs to God and to His work of love.
Sr. Mary Andrea also highlighted those verses from Paul. How consoling it is to know that “the Lord is for the body.” God so wants to be one with us that He gives us Himself as food for our mortal bodies! To God, our bodies and our souls are precious, beautiful creations molded by His own hands, and He stops at nothing in His work of restoring them to the glory He created them to possess.
The insights of Sr. Cecilia Maria were nostalgic this week. She shared that, as she read over the Scriptures in preparation for our sharing, she suddenly remembered that it was these very readings, three years ago, which enkindled anew in her heart the desire to give herself totally to God in religious life. The words of Jesus to the two disciples, “What do you seek?” ring true for her now as they did then, and as they should for all of us.
What do you seek? Could it be that you will find it, as those two disciples did, following Jesus Christ and staying with him this day?
December 4th – 2nd Sunday of Advent
Reflection on Is 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Pt 3:8-14
Where has this verse been all my life???” Sr. Cecilia Maria opened our Scripture Study with a laugh regarding our reading from St. Peter’s second letter. He assures us in verse 9, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Self-avowedly impatient as she is, Sister often wonders out loud why God doesn’t get a move on with what is obviously his eventual plan in her life, and this Sunday she found a beautiful answer to that wondering. God is not delayed in coming; much less is he putting off his work in our lives. Rather, in his great mercy he is allowing us time to be prepared, so that we shall possess fully all his promises of salvation!
Sr. Rose Marie chimed in on the same theme. She pointed out that when we perceive that God delays in granting some grace that we yearn for, we often conclude that he must be punishing us for something. But that is not his purpose at all! If he delays in bringing to completion his work of salvation, it is only because he so desires us to be ready to receive it. “He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish.” How loving a Father is our God!
Consequently we have another question to answer: how should we use this time the Lord gives us to prepare for his coming? St. Peter exhorts us to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion, “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” Ponder the mystery behind these words! By striving to lead holy lives of prayer and loving service, we can in fact hasten the second coming of the Lord! As soon as he sees that we are ready for him, he will come!
“Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace,” St. Peter concludes. Sr. Mary Andrea brought out for us the significance of the final word in this reading. The more we exist “in peace,” the more we already exist in him and the fulfillment of all his promises. Yes, we must work at “preparing the way of the Lord,” but it must be in peaceful confidence that he is accomplishing that work. Indeed, from God’s perspective, the new heavens and the new earth are so sure that they already are; God already knows us as we are in eternal life. The more we open ourselves in peace to his work, the closer we come to his presence itself, his final coming in our individual lives.
October 16th – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection on Is 45:1, 4-6
Ps 96:1, 3-5, 7-10
“ Well, after a LOOOOOOONG hiatus (15 weeks!), the novitiate and juniorate reconvened for a Sunday Scripture Study this weekend, and we took off running with our readings’ reflections on the gifts and providence of God. Isaiah’s beautiful prophecy to Cyrus, the Persian king, struck us all with its illustration of how God works in history. Cyrus is the most unlikely candidate to further God’s work of salvation – he is a foreigner, outside the covenant; he does not even know God! But it is precisely him whom God anoints and arms “for the sake of Jacob my servant;” it is precisely this outsider who enables Israel to return to and rebuild Jerusalem after their exile. How encouraging for us! Even when all seems hopeless, when we seem to have messed up beyond all reparation, when we cannot (or will not) help ourselves, God does not give up on us. In His ceaseless and infinitely creative care, He continues providing for us, calling out to us, raising up Cyruses in our own lives to liberate us from our captivity so that we may return to Him again. We can have confidence in God’s will and help, especially when we find ourselves unable to help ourselves!
The readings also proclaim how much God gives to us, and how we ought to make a return for such free generosity. Cyrus is anointed and endowed with all sorts of gifts “though you know me not;” through him Israel is given a new lease on freedom and righteousness, and all the nations are given a witness of the goodness of God Almighty. The Psalm praises God for having made the heavens and, indeed, everything that is. In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul effuses thanksgiving for all the works God has wrought in the hearts and minds of the brethren there, not least their election “in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much conviction.” How much God does for each of us! How much we have received from Him! And He desires that we make a return for such gifts. In Isaiah, we learn that he has done all these things for Cyrus and Israel so that all peoples may know that there is none besides Him. In the Psalm we are exhorted to sing to the Lord, bless His name, announce His salvation, give Him glory and might, bring Him gifts and bow down…in short, to acknowledge what He has done and to consecrate a portion of the gifts as a sign that all belong to Him. St. Paul gives us an excellent example of how to repay thanks and praise to such a generous Lord. And – last but not least! – Jesus in the Gospel summarizes our obligation: “Repay…to God what belongs to God.” How often throughout the day do we acknowledge and consecrate a portion of our gifts?”
July 3rd – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection on Zec 9:9-10
Ps 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14
Rom 8:9, 11-13
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and 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.”
It is such an oft-quoted verse, so full of comfort for so many souls. But what does Jesus mean when he exclaims these words in today’s Gospel? What is his yoke, and what his rest? What lesson shall we learn from him who is meek and humble of heart, and how shall we learn it? I suspect that the answers to these questions vary from person to person, as Jesus beckons each of us from our unique labors and gives us our own unique share in his yoke. But a certain paradox in these lines stands out: how can any yoke be easy, or any burden light?
The paradox deepens when we consider that the yoke of Jesus Christ was (and is) his Cross. He himself shuddered in the garden before he took it upon his shoulders; he stumbled under its weight thrice as he bore it up to Calvary; he died upon it a painful and shameful death. How, then, can he call it easy and light? How can he beckon us to his side in order to find rest?
For us in our sharing, we found the key in God’s abounding love and mercy. Our psalm proclaims that “the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is good to all, compassionate to every creature.” This same Lord is our teacher, “meek and humble of heart;” how can he be aught but gentle in teaching us to shoulder a bit of his yoke? Far from crushing us, the Cross gradually teaches us how to love with his own love, for the sake of his love. Neither the teacher nor the lesson is terrifying in the context of his love. He shall always and only guide us along the paths that we can manage, and he shall always be with us to help us bear the burden. It is this that makes it “easy” and “light.”
May 15th – 4th Sunday of Easter
Reflection on Acts of the Apostles 2:14a,36-47(49a)
1 Peter 2:20b-25
“ It’s Good Shepherd Sunday, and after a brief vacation from scripture sharing we all sort of meander one by one into the novitiate recreation room to post our personal reflection theme on the dry erase board. Usually, we don’t have to write much, because chances are one of us will post the rest of what another would like to say.
So today, our novitiate is struck by the confidence we can have in Jesus, Our Good Shepherd. We know that He is the way, that we are in Him and that through Him we have access to the Father. Even though the dark valleys He may lead us through sometimes are truly dark valleys, we don’t have to worry too much because it’s safe to follow wherever He leads.
And what does it mean to “follow in his footsteps” as our 2nd reading for the day has it? I asked the question to myself, and I found myself being answered directly by Sr. Mary Veronica. Jesus calls us countless times throughout the course of our life. But the meaning of His call seems to change depending on where we’re at with Him on our journey.
I like St. Peter a lot. He turned out to be such a good shepherd to Christ’s flock because he, himself, had a lot of experience with learning what it means to follow Him. Our Lord called Peter to follow Him at the beginning of His ministry, and Peter was so up to the challenge and so eager to find out more that he left his nets, his boat, house and home to follow Jesus. Did he ever get excited wondering what was in store for him since he was so close to Jesus? Sometime after he had gotten used to being a leader among the apostles and disciples, he tried to lead Jesus away from His Passion. (Jesus had strong words in response… “Get behind me Satan!”) Then, at the last supper, Peter declares that he will follow the Lord to death, only to be bitterly heartbroken at his utter failure when the test came. Then after the resurrection there comes the same call to Peter from Jesus, “Follow me.”
I think it’s particularly meaningful that this call came after Peter had gone back to fishing—his comfort zone. How did Peter feel now about this invitation? I venture to say that Peter understood something differently about what it meant to follow Jesus because Peter, after Jesus’ Passion, death and resurrection, had a deeper and more enlightened understanding of who Jesus is. Maybe now he knew that following Jesus isn’t an immediate experience of glory. He knew through experience that following Jesus means going through the Passion with Jesus with patient faith, hope and love so that we will be glorified with Him. And not only had Peter seen who Jesus is, he had also deeply experienced his own weakness and failure and had a deeper self-knowledge as a result.
But we know that Peter still chose to follow Jesus. And later, when he came to the dark valley once again, he followed Jesus through the Passion into glory. What is the strength that enables us to follow the Good Shepherd through the dark valley? Maybe humility and total confidence in the strength and love of the Lord.
April 10th – 5th Sunday of Lent
Reflection on Ez 37:12-14
“I AM the Resurrection and the Life,” the Lord proclaims to us this Sunday, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my Spirit in you that you may live!” What hopeful words to us who so often cry to Him “out of the depths,” wondering if He “hears the voice of our supplication.” We discover in all our readings, and especially in our Gospel, that the Lord does indeed hear our cry, He heeds it, He takes it up as His own, and He conquers the powers that hold us in death.
When do I raise my voice in a cry “out of the depths?” In the psalm, “the depths” connote Sheol, the place of the dead, as well as the depths of human anguish, and from the psalm’s own words, we know that this is the anguish of a soul who has died the death of sin. This poignant song is a perfect backdrop to the story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection, for we are each a Lazarus in the eyes of God. We have all died of sin, but no matter how long we have been in the tomb and no matter how much we stink, God loves us and desires to give us fullness of redemption. He hears our cry, and in His love He is moved to pity us.
“See how He loved
him,” is what the onlookers say of Jesus and the dead man. See
how much He loves you! Having heard of your anguish, your
bondage, your darkness, “He became perturbed and deeply
troubled…and Jesus wept.” In His anger at a death that never
should have been, He rebukes those who have bound and imprisoned
you: “Take away the stone! Untie him and let him go!” And He
calls you forth to life.
sharing, we actually spent a good chunk of time looking at the
figure of Mary, who falls at the feet of Jesus in supplication
for her brother. John tells us that “Mary was the one who had
anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her
hair;” perhaps, then, she knows what it is like to cry “out of
the depths,” and to receive mercy and new life. She knows that
Jesus is able to grant that same new life to her brother, and so
she cries to the Lord on his behalf. It is her supplication that
draws forth Jesus’ compassion and miracle; it is because she
fell at His feet that Lazarus is brought back to life and that
many of the Jews begin to believe in Jesus! We realize the power
of a single prayer, a single act of love, a single act of faith.
“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
Amen. May we
all pray with the confidence of Jesus, Martha, and Mary! This is
the trustworthiness and love of God for you!
April 3rd – 4th Sunday of Lent
Reflection on 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13
This Sunday we came into the recreation room to write down the themes that stood out to us in our liturgy this week. Somehow we all ended up gathered around a Dictionary looking at translations for the Greek word for “worship.” I have found that Dictionaries can actually be quite entertaining since I came to St. Joseph’s, though I must say that Greek dictionaries are a new thing that came with Sr. Cecilia Maria, our classical language scholar!
Anyway, our themes for this week centered very much around faith and paradoxes as Jesus restores the blind man’s sight by anointing his eyes with mud and sending him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Why did Jesus first cover his already blind eyes with dirt before healing them? Could it be that sometimes he has to make us blind, or more blind rather, so that He can give us true sight? Much of the time we do not know the extent of our own blindness, though, do we? So deep that St. Paul can say in his Epistle to the Ephesians, “You were once darkness.” But he follows by saying, “but now you are light.” And we know that this transformation is what happens when we say “I do believe” to the Lord’s word.
Another theme that struck us was the way in which this blind man was sent to wash in the pool to be healed. It occurred to us that this poor blind man didn’t really meet Jesus (or see him, for that matter) until after he had been thrown out of the synagogue. He had his sight, and he was expelled from the synagogue for testifying to the facts and appealing to the reason of those who questioned him. This man had just lost an important part of his standing before God and Jewish society. However, we know that there is much more than loss happening here— because after he is expelled, Jesus comes and finds him. Then this man comes to faith in Jesus as the messiah. So in being rejected on one level, this man was actually being sent to Christ, the living water and the light of the world.
March 27th – 3rd Sunday of Lent
Reflection on Ex 17:3-7
Ps 95:1-2, 6-9
Rom 5:1-2, 5-8
This Sunday we filled the novitiate whiteboard, as usual, with the words and verses that struck us each as we prayed on our lectionary readings. When all arrayed, our choices drew some laughter – each Sister had brought a contribution very typical to her….
Sr Mary Veronica enthusiastically inscribed, “Woman, believe me!” (Jn. 4:21), and we caught her enthusiasm for the riches of the marital imagery at the well. We hear “woman” thirteen times in this passage – it must be important – and we are reminded of the other significant times Jesus addresses someone as Woman: at Cana and on Calvary. We also recall the numerous times in Scripture that a man meets his wife at a well, and we remember that each of us is created for union with the Divine Bridegroom in the eternal wedding banquet of the Lamb. We are each the Samaritan woman, hearing our God cry out with His eternal longing, “Woman, believe me!” Having searched high and low for a husband, one to whom we can give our whole love, we are each challenged to believe in the One who says to us, “I AM, the one who is speaking with you.”
Sr Cecilia Maria had delved into the
pages of her Greek Bible and dictionary, writing the words,
moi pein - give me to drink” (Jn 4:7). She was struck that Jesus does not here ask for a drink, He asks that we give Him to drink. What does He thirst for? John hints at the answer in recording Jesus’ later statement, “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (Jn 4:32). What has He been given to eat, if not the faith of the Samaritan woman in Himself, and the beginnings of faith among all the townsfolk? He thirsts for our faith, our souls; He thirsts for us to come drink of Him! Notice that the Samaritan woman leaves her water jug at the well – her thirst has also been sated.
Sr Rose Marie brought our attention once again to “the gift of God” (Jn 4:10), which is the Spirit’s faith, hope, and love in “the glory of God” (Rom 5:2). How blessed we are that He has poured forth His Spirit into our hearts, His sanctifying grace as a spring of living water, welling up to eternal life!
Sr Mary Andrea began with a practical detail and used it as a springboard into the rich spirituality of the Passion. “I will be standing there in front of you on the rock…. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink,” God says to Moses in Exodus. What a rich symbol of the rock of Christ, struck upon the Cross to pour out streams of living water that are the Sacraments!
March 20th – 2nd Sunday of Lent
Reflection on Genesis 12:1-4
2 Tim 1:8-10
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
We love Jesus, but if we listen to Him deeply we realize more and more that we are sinners. Sometimes we, who love Him, want to fall on our faces in fear and shame before the pure and glorious light on the face of Christ.
We are just settling into Lent. We’ve been repenting and mourning our sins for the past week. Now the Church encourages us with Christ’s words, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Maybe this is also a way of saying, “Do not be discouraged. Keep looking at the Jesus you know and love. Trust Him, and keep going ‘with the strength that comes from God.’” And He will deliver us from death.
March 13th – 1st Sunday of Lent
Reflection on Genesis 2:7-3:7
We had a beautiful Scripture sharing this past Sunday.
It connected perfectly with the tapes we have been watching
during meal times, “The Father’s Plan” with Jeff Cavins and
Dr. Scott Hahn. They have
been discussing the fall of Adam and Eve and it is Dr. Hahn’s
insight that Adam was indeed the first to sin because the Lord God
told him to tend and guard the garden.
When the serpent or
dragon, they are used synonymously in
the Scriptures, entered the garden and tempted Eve it seems Adam was
sitting idle watching everything rather than defending his wife and
driving out the dragon. Dr.
Hahn surmises that perhaps Adam was frightened and intimidated by
the dragon and that this indeed was his trial, would he be faithful
unto death or cave in to fear and rationalize that perhaps the
dragon was right. He opened
the door to fear, let trust die in his heart, and realized just how
vulnerable he was in his nakedness.
Once the door was open to fear humanity has been plagued on
ever escalating levels. A
constant refrain in Scripture is, “Do not be afraid,” the words Pope
John Paul II is so famous for uttering.
He had pondered so profoundly the mystery of the fall I
wonder if this is what prompted him to make these the first words of
his pontificate. Perhaps
it is because Adam and Eve’s sin was so nuanced by this fear
that God was so merciful. It
was not the diabolical rebellion of Satan, “I will not serve” which
could not be forgiven. Is it
not fear that is at the root of so many sins, perhaps, most sins.
From earliest childhood we seek to cover our vulnerability by
all kinds of defense mechanisms, we so do not want to be vulnerable.
It is scary.
In our fallen condition indeed we need to have some
boundaries, the Lord God himself made clothes for the man and woman,
but we tend to put on armor and surround ourselves with walls.
Most unfortunate of all, we protect ourselves from our
Heavenly Father. All this is
explained much more clearly in the book by Dr. Scott Hahn, A
Father Who Keeps His Promises.
Jesus, the new Adam, so
wondrously redeemed us by willingly accepting the Father’s plan,
entering into combat with the dragon, defenseless except for the
mighty love burning in his Heart.
The dragon used all the violent forces he is familiar with,
while Jesus stood naked and vulnerable with truth and love as his
only weapon. And, He was
vindicated! Ohh! The pathos
of our humanity, so frightened and vulnerable.
Are we willing to say “Yes” to our Father’s plan and cry out
to Him for help, or will we try to fall back on our own resources
when things get tough?
One can understand why the Father is so merciful to us and
why we, in turn, should be merciful to one another, ever looking for
the frightened child hiding behind the walls of pride and arrogance
or laziness and selfishness.
March 6th – 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection on Mt 7:20-27
"I do not know you”
How powerful, sad, and
also terrifying those words are coming from Jesus in last week’s
Gospel from Matthew! Not
just, “Sorry, friend, you got something wrong.”
But “I do now know you.”
What does Jesus mean?
Doesn’t He know us all?
After discussing it in our group, we
concluded that Jesus must be speaking in terms of having an
authentic relationship with Him.
It’s like He’s saying that those who do the “work” of God
without truly being sent by God (giving the impression that they
have a relationship with Christ without having one in fact) are
either deluding themselves or are out-right frauds.
Jesus tells us that only the one who
does the will of God will enter the kingdom of God.
Obedience to God, then, is an effect
of truly knowing and loving God.
And He acknowledges a relationship with us when we seek to
make Him happy by doing what pleases Him.
And is this not the simplest necessity of love?—to make the
one we love happy?
February 27th – 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection on Is 49:14-15
Ps 62:2-3, 6-9
"Every once in a while, God
graces us with a set of lectionary readings whose meaning is so
blindingly obvious that we cannot but hear it. Such is the case with
this Sunday’s readings, and thanks be to God, for we desperately
need to hear and to heed His lesson. We desperately need to trust
and hope in the loving providence of our heavenly Father.
mother forget her infant? Even should she forget, I will never
forget you,” God assures our doubting hearts. His love is
unconditional and everlasting; no matter what we do or how much time
passes, He is ever mindful of His covenant with His beloved people.
“Trust God at all times, my people! Pour out your hearts to God our
refuge,” the psalmist cries, “in God be at rest!” He is a faithful
and trustworthy Father to each of us; He shall never fail to provide
all we need. There is no need for worry!
Indeed, our Lord in the Gospel reading pleads with us not to worry.
Five times He begs us: Do not worry! And He assures us that our
heavenly Father will provide for all our bodily and spiritual needs
even more perfectly than He does for the birds and the flowers of
His creation. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,” He
says, and we do well to heed and imitate their lesson. They grow
wherever they happen to be planted and exert neither worry nor
effort into blossoming forth; they are utterly dependent on God to
clothe their humble grasses with beauty, which He never fails to do.
Would that we, too, set aside our own anxieties about food and
clothing and health and wealth, and instead trusted confidently in
God’s never failing care! Indeed, we know that worry and stress
(even about good and necessary things) can stunt or even kill our
lives, if not physically, almost certainly spiritually.
We shall never do wrong by giving our heavenly Father our
wholehearted, undivided allegiance. With St. Paul, we are called to
be “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,” and we
shall be held accountable to Him for our fidelity. Do we trust Him
who is trustworthy? And do we enter wholeheartedly into His
trustworthiness as we go about the daily task of bringing His
Kingdom into our world?
May God alone be our rock and our salvation, our secure height from
which we cannot fall.
February 13th – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
not think that I have come to abolish the
law or the prophets. I
have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you,
Y not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a
letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
YWhoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be
called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.@
With these words, Jesus introduces the section of His Sermon on the
Mount that deals with parts of the Mosaic Law. In the teachings that
follow, He deepens the implications of the commandments, seemingly
binding His disciples even more strictly than the most fervent of
"You have heard
but I tell you
Y," He repeats over and over
Akilling@ to include anger and insult,
to include lustful glances and divorce,
"a false oath"
to include any oath at all, etc. The Christian moral law seems here
to be more impossible to obey than the Mosaic! How can we hope to
live according to this law of love that God writes upon our hearts?
One answer can be found in our reading from
AIf you choose, you can keep the commandments,@
the wise man assures us, for
Abefore man are life and death, whichever he chooses
shall be given him.@ God does not ask of us a task
that is beyond our ability to carry out. All He asks is our right
choice, our willingness to keep His commandments, and He honors that
choice by Himself supplying the power we need to be faithful. If
this was true in the Old Covenant, how much more true it is in the
New, when we have the Spirit dwelling within our very beings! What
is impossible for man is possible for God, and He does supply the
grace we need to live by Christ=s
We can and must pray with the psalmist for this
ALord, teach me the way of your laws; give me insight
to observe your teaching, to keep it with all my heart.@
The heart is the seat of our choice; what abides in the heart is the
root of all our righteousness, as Christ teaches in another part of
the Sermon on the Mount. He can call us to a higher living of the
moral law precisely because He sends His Spirit to dwell in our
hearts and to guide us in His ways of love! He Himself is, in fact,
the answer to the psalmist=s
prayer; we pray for the wisdom to observe God=s
law, and Wisdom incarnate comes to us to show us the way.
In all this, we must remember that to choose to
will and to accept the His grace that empowers us to do it, requires
that we be humble. The wisdom of God is Christ Crucified,
Aa stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to
wisdom were easily recognized by the proud,
Athey would not have crucified the Lord of glory,@
reminds us. We must always bear in mind that to live the moral law
in the New Covenant is to be conformed to Christ, who died that we
might live. The fulfillment of the law happened in the shedding of
precious blood on Calvary, in the whole and humble outpouring of self that
Jesus made in His Passion and Death. May we always live united with
Him in that eternal moment of the law=s
February 6th – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection on 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5
“I resolved to know
nothing… but Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
“…your faith rests
not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
does it mean to have faith? We talk about it often in terms of what
we believe… what we know about God. But this reading from
Corinthians says that the foundation of our faith is not so much
what we know about Christ
on an intellectual level. Just a bit earlier in 1 Corinthians, St. Paul describes Jesus Christ crucified as
the power and the wisdom of God. Then, he goes on to say, “your
faith rests not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” Our
faith, then, is founded on the
person of Jesus Christ, and not only that, but him
crucified. In other words,
faith is personal. Faith is about knowing who God is.
St. Paul says, “I resolved to know nothing…
but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We want to know God. We want to
see Him… ask Him questions, sit and talk with Him, enjoy His
company. Sometimes it comes easy. Other times we seem to be in
darkness, even as we are wanting even more to know Jesus. St. Paul points us to the cross. He seems to
be telling us that if we want to know God, if we want to believe in
Him more deeply, Jesus crucified is the answer: love in the midst of
darkness. And this love is wisdom, power and light.
January 16th – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reflection on Isaiah
Ps 40: 2, 4, 7-10
We find in the readings this week a vivid
illustration of God’s overwhelming love for His chosen one – His
people, His Christ, and each and every one of us chosen to be His in
Christ. In the book of Isaiah we find that the Lord has formed each
of us in the womb “as His servant,” that is, to do His will and thus
to bring His people back to Him. This is our purpose of being, the
very reason He created us! To do His will far surpasses a duty; for
us it is a joy and a fulfillment of the very core of our nature. But
for a God who is Love, this service does not satisfy. “It is too
little, He says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of
Jacob…; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation
may reach to the ends of the earth.” Here we see the largess of
divine love, a love that cannot be sated by servitude nor by a
partial salvation. Finding an open heart in His servant, God calls
him deeper into love and transforms him into a beacon of His grace
to all the nations. He does this with each of us. Each time we open
our heart to doing His will, He draws us deeper into relationship
with Him, deeper into the receptivity that is ours as His beloved,
His chosen one.
The psalmist sings a similar theme as Isaiah.
Finding that “sacrifice and offering you do not want” – “for it is
too little for you to be my servant” – the just one responds,
“Behold I come,” or in another translation, “Here am I!” This is the
response of the willing servant to the call of the divine Master,
ready to do His will. Only a few weeks after Christmas, it is
striking that this joyful cry is the fulfillment of all our Advent
longing. “Come, Lord Jesus,” we have prayed, and we have heard the
promise, “Lo, I am coming soon,” and now we hear: “Behold, I come!”
And God blesses His willing Servant, who loved even unto death, by
making Him a light to the nations, the means of salvation for the
ends of the earth.
In the Gospel, then, John the Baptist
recognizes this Servant and Lover in Jesus Christ and proclaims the
fulfillment: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the
world!” Beholding the One whose Advent he has been proclaiming,
John’s first testimony to Him regards His fulfillment of Isaiah’s
Servant, the one who will extend salvation to the ends of the earth
through the Paschal Sacrifice of His Body and Blood.
May we ever more fully recognize with John the
fulfillment of all our hopes in Jesus, and may we model our lives
after both of these holy servants of God. Like John, may we be
willing to prepare the way of the Lord with our every word and
action, and may we be always watching for “the one who will baptize
with the Holy Spirit.” May we have confidence that our little acts
of fidelity to the will of God do, in fact, make Him known in the
world…and may we have the confidence of the chosen Servant that God
will, for His part, make us a light to the nations, to bring
salvation to the ends of the earth.
January 2nd – Epiphany
Reflection on Isaiah 60:1-6
The birth of
Christ was well publicized at first. First one, then many angels
announced the good news to the shepherds, who must have gone and
told the other poor citizens of the Judean hills. The Magi disturbed
Herod, the chief priests and leaders, and all of
with their inquiry about the newborn king of the Jews. Simeon and
Anna prophesied about the child to all who were in the Temple. No class of people was excluded from
the announcement, and all of
was expecting the Messiah’s immanent advent. Why, then, was He
rejected by His people and driven into a life of hiddenness? What
was the difference between the expectation of
Israel, and the expectation of the
Magi, whose search for truth in the stars prepared them to respond
immediately when the Messiah’s birth was heralded?
We all should learn a lesson from the Magi. Do we recognize
the coming of the Lord in our lives, and do we respond in adoration
and self-oblation? Or do we see in Him a threat to our
self-proclaimed kingship, and drive Him away into hiding?
The majestic truth about the light of Christ that began to
shine in the world in Bethlehem is that He is
not a light to be feared. He is a light for revelation – the
revelation of God, certainly, and also the revelation of “the sons
of God,” among whom are we. “Your light has come,” sings Isaiah,
“the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the
earth…but upon you the Lord shines…. Nations shall walk by your
light….” Christ, the light of the whole human race, does not merely
shine upon us; He shines within every Christian! We bear within our
souls the fire of His love, to be a light to the nations that cannot
be hidden. This is the mystery of salvation, that “God became man so
that man might become God.”
Do we allow Him to work this mystery in our lives? It is not
enough simply to enter the house where He dwells. We must also open
our treasures – the treasures of our hearts – and present Him with
the gift of our very lives, so that He can pour into us His own.
December 5th – 2nd Sunday of Advent
Reflection on Isaiah
We find the presence of the Holy Spirit prominent in each of
today’s readings, and in all of them He is revealed as
Paraclete, the divine comforter and encourager. Although we best
know of the Paraclete from Jesus’ promise in John 16, a word
study of today’s Epistle reveals that what the NAB translates as
“encouragement” is in Greek
directly related to the Holy Spirit’s title. It can mean
“encouragement, exhortation, comfort, consolation,” and it is
made up of the words
clesis, “call, summons,” and
para, “to/at the
side of.” As Paraclete, God the Holy Spirit is one who is called
to our side to be a comfort and encouragement. This is
particularly meaningful when we realize that the word used for
“endurance” in early Christian literature (hypomone) is especially used for the enduring of toil and
suffering – the very time that we are most in need of the Holy
Spirit’s aid in our daily lives. It is this “God of endurance
and encouragement” whom Paul invokes to give the Romans (and us)
the grace to be truly one with each other and with Christ Jesus.
Paraclete is also present in Isaiah’s beautiful prophecy of the
“shoot from the stump of Jesse,” upon whom shall rest the Spirit
of the Lord. This passage is famously full of comforting images
of the reconciliation of all creation: the wolf and the lamb,
the leopard with the kid, the calf and the lion, etc. We are
struck by the seeming impossibility of the reconciliation
prophesied here, until we realize that this is the paradox of
salvation, both on the cosmic scale and within the tiny
realities of our daily lives. God seems to shout joyfully, “I
delight in doing impossible things!” and He does so through the
power of His Spirit’s indwelling. With (and only with) the
Spirit of the Lord resting upon us, we can become the glorious
dwelling of Christ!
Finally, in our Gospel passage we read of John the Baptist’s
foretelling of the Spirit. While he baptizes with the often
bitter waters of repentance, the Messiah will come to baptize
with the Holy Spirit’s fire – the all-consuming fire of God’s
love. The contrast between John’s baptism and that of Jesus is
similar to the contrast between the liturgical seasons of
Advent, with its penance and preparation, and Christmas, with
its joyful celebration of the Christ coming into the world. Both
are necessary, but as we live this season of repentance, let us
always keep our eyes fixed upon the comforting and encouraging
presence of God With Us.
November 28th – 1st Sunday of Advent
Reflection on Isaiah 2:1-5
“Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” What is the light
of the Lord? When I think of the light of the Lord, I think of
In the second reading for today, we are exhorted to cast off
deeds of darkness and to put on the armor of light. If you think
about it, people who feel afraid want to hide. Darkness is for
hiding. But we are told here that the darkness is actually not a
secure place to be at all. The security, or “armor” we need
comes from the revealing power of the light of truth, who is
Jesus. He comes to clothe us with Himself and penetrate us with
His light from within. When does He come? As Fr. John Corapi
likes to say, “We don’t know when He will come again at the end
of time, but we do know that He’s coming for you and me very
soon!” In other words, He’s coming for each one of us on the day
of our death. That’s where vigilance comes in.
The original Latin translation of this week’s Gospel has Jesus
using the word “Vigilate” as He tells us to stay awake and keep
watch. Our waiting for His coming therefore requires the
attention and awareness of a true vigil. Perhaps it is awareness
of how He is coming to us in the NOW of today that can be
challenging for us to see.
Lord, grant us a heart vigilant heart that will recognize these
moments of Your coming!
November 21st - Christ the King Sunday
A Reflection on 2 Sm 5:1-3
On this Christ the King Sunday, we find that each of our readings
direct our attention to our Eucharistic King, specifically to the
celebration of Holy Mass. So many concepts central to our understanding
of the Eucharistic celebration are touched upon today: Calvary,
thanksgiving, body, blood, remembrance, reconciliation, and food are the
ones that we specifically picked out.
In the Gospel, the thief speaks those words that have been repeated by
countless Christians down through the ages: “Jesus, remember me when you
come into your Kingdom.” This faith-filled plea touches our hearts –
hardly daring to ask a share in the Kingdom for himself, this condemned
man nevertheless professes his belief in Jesus as the King of the Jews,
the Messiah foretold, and his belief that despite appearances, Jesus
will rise again and take up His rightful reign. The thief asks only for
remembrance, and his prayer has been granted more abundantly than ever
he could have dreamed. He and his words recalled and repeated around the
world by the members of the Body of Christ, the Church, Christ’s Kingdom
on earth. Not only that, but his prayer closely parallels Christ’s own
words in the Gospel of Luke as He institutes the Eucharist at the Last
Supper. The thief says, “remember me;” Christ says, “do this in
remembrance of me.” The thief says, “when you come into your Kingdom;”
Christ says He will not eat or drink this Pasch again until theKingdom
of God comes.
Both the remembrance and the Kingdom are fulfilled in the Mass! Each of
the Eucharistic prayers is explicit in remembering Christ and in praying
that God remember us, His people; to celebrate the Eucharist is to enter
with Christ into a mutual remembrance. (As Passionists, we are exhorted
by this knowledge to renew our vowed commitment to a continual
remembrance of Christ Crucified – let us live the Mass ever more fully
in our daily lives!) The Eucharistic celebration is also a beautiful
manifestation of the coming of God’s Kingdom into the world, as it
renews the triumph of Christ and the reconciliation of the world with
St. Paul opens up to us the glorious side of the Sacrifice in the
passage from Colossians. “Let us give thanks "eucharistontes!” he says,
inviting us to the celebration with the very Greek verb that gives us
“eucharist.” And what do we give thanks for, what do we celebrate at
Mass, if not Christ’s reconciling all things in Himself through the
blood of His Cross? The fullness of His Kingdom begins on Calvary and is
among us every time His Sacrifice is made present upon the altar, every
time we give thanks as He commanded us to do. In the psalm, too, we see
the foreshadowing of the Eucharistic celebration at the Jerusalem
temple: “Here the tribes have come […] as it was decreed for Israel, to
give thanks to the name of the Lord.”
Let us renew our zeal in remembering and giving thanks to our Crucified
and Risen King throughout our days, and let us do so especially at the
altar where we enter into His Sacrifice itself.
November 7th - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Reflection on
2 Thess 2:16-3:5
The witness of the Jewish martyrs recorded in our Old Testament
reading is a powerful one. The fortitude, courage, and nobility of the
mother and her seven sons who choose death rather than violation of the
Lord’s covenantal law resonates deep within our hearts, as does their
unwavering hope in a future resurrection. “It was from Heaven that I
received these [hands],” proclaims the third brother, “for the sake of
His laws I disdain them; from Him I hope to receive them again.” How can
we but marvel at the majesty of the sacrifice he implies, disdaining
lesser gifts – life and limb – in favor of the greatest gift of all, the
covenant between God and His beloved people. But couched within the
sacrifice itself is the faith of Abraham, the hope and trust that
nothing sacrificed to God is lost forever, but will received again in
the loving faithfulness of the Father who loves us.
We find echoes of these martyrdom themes in the reading from St. Paul’s
letter to the Thessalonians. Throughout the passage, the apostle lists
gifts of our loving God to each of us: everlasting encouragement,
strength, the love of God, the endurance of Christ. With such gifts, the
power of God truly dwells in us – the same power that dwelt in the
Jewish and Christian martyrs who have gone before us! Indeed, since God
has so loved the world that He gave us His only Son (our “everlasting
encouragement and good hope”), we are able to say with St. Paul when
faced with our own martyrdoms, “I consider that the sufferings of this
present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for
us” (Rom 8:18).
October 31st - 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
A Reflection on Wis 11:22-12:1
Ps 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14
2 Thess 1:11-2:2
In our reflections on this Sunday’s readings, we focused on God as
“Lord and lover of souls” from a number of different angles. We first
wondered at the connectedness between the power and the mercy of the
Creator and Ruler of the entire universe. “You have mercy on all,” sings
the wise man, you can do all things,” and the psalmist praises the
goodness and compassion of a great God who wields fearsome power over
all His mighty works.
To our minds this simultaneous – almost
synonymous – power and mercy seems paradoxical, but it is not so. Our
God is a Lover, and the reason behind all His deeds of power is His
everlasting love. Even His chastisements in the form of sufferings stem
not from cold justice as from the ardent mercy of a Lover who desires
our conversion, “that [we] may abandon our wickedness and believe in
October 24th - 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
A Reflection on LK 18:9-14
Sometimes I wonder if some of the most powerful prayers are prayed in
the back pews of churches. It is interesting that during the times when
we can barely find the courage to raise our eyes to heaven (perhaps
because of our sins or personal failings), we are moved to pray “the
prayer of the lowly” that “pierces the clouds” of heaven and closes the
distance we may feel between God and ourselves.
The thought often
comes to me that God must rejoice in giving us the gift of a humble
heart through what can appear to be just another failure. Thanks be to
God! Do we see in our failings the opportunity to receive the gift?
Lord, teach us how to pray the prayer of the lowly.
Do we ever feel like the tax collector in today’s reading? Sometimes we
just feel more at home in the back of a church—perhaps more so during
the times when we feel a distance between the Lord and ourselves. Maybe
we have a lot of unhealed sin in our lives. Maybe we repeatedly fail to
practice the particular virtues the Lord asks us to practice at certain
points in our lives.; Maybe at the end of the day the best and most
honest prayer we can pray is “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
(Interestingly enough, both the Confraternity translation and the Greek
translation of the Scriptures say, “O God, be merciful to me, THE
Sometimes I wonder if some of the most powerful prayers are prayed in
the back pews of churches. It is interesting that during the times when
we can barely find the courage to raise our eyes to heaven (perhaps
because of our sins or personal failings), we are moved to pray “the
prayer of the lowly” that “pierces the clouds” of heaven and closes the
distance we may feel between God and ourselves.
The thought often comes to me that God must rejoice in giving us the
gift of a humble heart through what can appear to be just another
failure. Thanks be to God! Do we see in our failings the opportunity to
receive the gift?
Lord, teach us how to pray the prayer of the lowly.
October 17th - 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
A Reflection on Ex 17:8-13
2 Tim 3:14-22
Moses the hilltop, raising his hands in prayer as Joshua leads the
Israelites in battle below, evoked for us the image of Christ Calvary,
stretching His hands between heaven and earth in order to obtain for us
the victory over death. We were even more vividly reminded of Christ’s
priesthood through the ages, as each priest is called upon to hold up
the cross of Christ in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which is our most
powerful weapon in the spiritual battle. How much we must rely the
strength of God, brought to us daily by the outstretched hands of the
priest celebrating the Eucharist! With it, all things are possible, but
without it, we quickly are overcome by the modern Amaleks in our lives.
Moses on the hilltop, raising his hands in prayer as Joshua leads the
Israelites in battle below, evoked for us the image of Christ on
Calvary, stretching His hands between heaven and earth in order to
obtain for us the victory over death. We were even more vividly reminded
of Christ’s priesthood through the ages, as each priest is called upon
to hold up the cross of Christ in the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which
is our most powerful weapon in the spiritual battle. How much we must
rely on the strength of God, brought to us daily by the outstretched
hands of the priest celebrating the Eucharist! With it, all things are
possible, but without it, we quickly are overcome by the modern Amaleks
in our lives.
The symbolism does not end with the figure of Moses, however. On his
own, he does not have the strength to persevere in his intercessory
role, and neither do our priests. Moses is given a rock to sit on and
two helpers, Aaron and Hur, to support his arms, lest he fail in his
vocation and the whole people of perish. In God’s loving providence, we
are called to play the role of Aaron and Hur to our priests, helping and
supporting their weakness in many (often hidden) ways. Regardless of
whether our help is seen or known, we are as essential to the priesthood
as the two men were to Moses on the hilltop – without our prayers and
sacrifices, perhaps they would be unable to persevere.
Isn’t the Mystical Body of Christ marvelous? United with Christ our
head under the one banner of the Cross, seated firmly on the foundation
of the Church, supporting the other members of the Body by being
ourselves faithful to our own vocation, we shall be victorious!
October 3rd - 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
A Reflection on Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4
Ps 95:1-2, 6-9
2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14
The prophet Habakkuk’s cries for help recalled for us the Holocaust and other tragedies of the 20th century – “destruction, violence,
strife, and clamorous discord” he laments to God – and we listened in
wonder to the Lord’s reply. He assures us that relief will come, that
even if it seems to delay, His promise is trustworthy and will be
We noticed that in the midst of the strife and sorrow
and suffering, God is speaking, and it is our task to heed the words of
the Psalmist and not to harden our hearts in hearing His answer. What is
the Lord’s answer to our cries of suffering? He calls us just as "on"
St. Paul calls to Timothy: “ Enter into my sufferings with the strength
that comes from God.” Christ renders human suffering redemptive by
Himself suffering and then calling us into a sharing in His Passion. In
the light of this call, we understand the inclusion of such a joyful
Psalm 95 with our other, more somber readings; the psalmist invites us
into God’s Presence, and our participation in His sufferings becomes our
way of entering into that Presence.
May we never harden our hearts to
the voice of the Lord, calling us into His Presence in order to become
co-workers of his Redemption! May His grace transform us, unprofitable
servants as we are, into members of His glorious Body.
September 26th - 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
A Reflection on 1 Timothy 6:11-16
In this letter of St. Paul to Timothy, St. Paul
exhorts Timothy to “Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to
which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of
many witnesses”— A strong command! It surprises us in a way. He’s not
merely asking us to try to “make it” to eternal life. He’s saying, “I charge
you before God…to keep the commandment..."
And what about “the noble confession ? What noble confession is He
referring to? We discovered that in the original Greek translation the verb
“to make a confession” and the noun “witness” have the same root: martyr. We
know that a martyr is one who gives testimony (or witness) to God by giving
his or her life.
Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you “martyred”
the noble confession in the presence of many “martyrs”. Interesting, is it
not? We are commanded to become living witnesses, or martyrs. Maybe this is
what St. Paul means when he tells us to compete well for the faith. Quite
the task! However, we are also told to pursue love, patience, and gentleness
as we compete and lay hold.
Apparently, the competition for holiness includes all temperaments!