Blessing or Woe
When we reflect on the Beatitudes, how do we feel? Are we encouraged or discouraged? Are we happy or sad?
Luke’s presentation of the Sermon on the Mount is sometimes referred to as the “Upside Down Kingdom” or “The Great Reversal.” The Beatitudes are often described as the “higher law”—higher than the Ten Commandments. What does that reversal or upside-down-ness teach us? How does it inform us about what to expect in the next life? Will it be bliss or woe?
The meaning of the word “beatitude” is a state of utmost bliss, supreme blessedness
Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus advocates for the lowly and critiques those who do not use their status and wealth wisely.
Jeremiah challenges us with a contrast/comparison of the tree planted beside the water and the barren bush. Do we choose to place our trust in ourselves and human beings alone? Do we choose to place our trust in God? Blessed are they who hope in the Lord. May we sing that refrain with boldness and joy realizing that Jesus invites us in the words of Pope Francis “to leave behind all that is passing, to be a source of reassurance to those around us, and to give freely to all those in need.”
Here I Am, Send Me
But I am sinful, of unclean lips, unworthy, unfit, and unqualified to be a follower of Jesus! These are the excuses we hear in the Scriptures this weekend. How then do we get to saying YES, to saying “Here am I, send me?”
At Mass, we often have children run to the altar for the dismissal for Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Sometimes I think some are racing to be the chosen one to carry the Book of the Gospels as they leave us. Others join them a bit slowly, and some reluctantly led by an older sibling. Whatever the motives for racing or plodding, they do all leave giving us witness to “Here I am, send me.”
When’s the last time you responded to a “call” that stretches you out of your comfort zone? Did you quickly disqualify yourself with reasons not to respond with an enthusiastic YES? What does it take to get to YES?
Every time we are with the community at Mass, we ask to be healed multiple times. We publicly admit that we are sinners and we ask for mercy. At the invitation to Communion we pray “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” We follow that with our act of trust in God’s mercy: “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Our procession to receive the Body and Blood of Christ is an act of faith and trust that God’s bounteous, loving mercy makes us fit to be sent! Communion fortifies us with strength and goodness, courage and resilience, and
Sometimes It Hurts
February is the time for pruning! My dad taught me when to prune rose bushes. My brother taught me about grafting pecan trees. There’s something to this notion of “cutting back” or “adding possibilities” for new growth that parallels our faith journey. We keep the rooted parts, cut off some of what is lifeless or not life-giving, and give room for new growth.
Our readings this weekend invite us to expand our hearts to prophecy, to love and perseverance. It is never easy to change for the sake of growth. That is, however, exactly what the prophets do. They exhort us firmly and sincerely to do what is right, always with LOVE. When love is absent or waning, we “graft.” We find the goodness and love in those around us, those who wish us well, and those who will help us to become the best version of ourselves that God created us to be. God loves potential.
This weekend we have the potential to express love, loyalty, and perseverance in new and profound ways. We will be tempted to give in to imperfection in ourselves, our community, and our Church. We pray for our love to increase, for our perseverance despite distress,
“Do not be crushed….for I am with you to deliver you.” God’s promise is one we take to heart!
Giving captions to images is a real art, an act of creativity and imagination. When you look at this image, what messages do you hear?
Here are a few of mine. All hands on deck! Many hands make light labor! I’m in! Don’t be afraid, we’ll catch you and hold you! Coming from a large family, living
What do we need most to be able to do this kind of unified work or ministry? Our readings for this weekend again speak of gifts that are given. Many of our gifts are given to be shared with others—generously, mercifully, compassionately! Take time today to reflect on your gifts. Which ones do you use most often? Which ones rarely are used? How will you continue to build on those gifts?
Then reflect on Luke’s gospel and Jesus’ teaching about freeing the oppressed, giving liberty to captives,
I found the following reflection most challenging. The author challenges us to answer the question: “How will this scripture be fulfilled in you?”
A Shortage Problem
What do we do when we become short of wine? Short of food? Short of energy? Short of money?
In John’s retelling of the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary is the one who notices and becomes concerned that there is a shortage of wine. Was it her family wedding? Was she the caterer? Why does she care? Even Jesus seems to imply that it is none of her business.
Nevertheless, Mary (the woman, the mother, the perceptive one) instructs the servants to bring jars of water. She trusts that what she has paid attention to, combined with her awareness and her request will lead to Jesus’ doing something about it. In fact, she impels him to the first miracle of his ministry. Her deep concern for others pushes Jesus! Her bold faith and hope are evident in the directions she gives to the servants. And then she lets it go!
Mary teaches us that what we notice, what concerns us, also matters to Jesus. It also matters to God. Mary is filled with confidence and
This miracle, the first of many that Jesus performs, gives us insight into Mary’s role in our journey of faith. As we notice and are drawn to care with compassion, we too have the opportunity to use our voices for change. We can have a role in miracles too. What would we be doing today if we did “whatever He tells you?” How will our shortage be changed into abundance?
Celebrating the Baptism of Jesus hopefully reminds us of our own Baptism. Even if we were baptized as a child, our consistent attendance at Mass, especially when we witness the Baptism of children, gives us copious reminders of what Baptism means. We often refer to the work of the Holy Spirit and ask the Spirit to renew our lives and everything in creation. We remember!
We use the sign of the cross multiple times during Sunday liturgy. Each signing is similar to the signing of our Baptism. We are initiated into the Body of Christ. By that signing, we are indelibly connected to each other, related in mind, body, and spirit. We join the Holy Spirit in active renewal of the earth and all that populates the earth. We re-member! We restore and mend relationships.
In what ways do we experience the Spirit coming to us, to our families, to our parish community, and to the Church at large? How are we asking the Spirit to be ever more present to us? How do we recognize that the Spirit is the active, transforming agent in our prayer, our rituals, and our lives?
Our fervent prayer for this week: “Come, Holy Spirit! Dwell among us! Fill us with your joy and your peace! Renew the face of the earth! Renew the face of our Church! Renew us and our parish community! Help us to live our Baptismal call.”
May Christ Bless This House
The Magi trekked a long, long way riding camels, following only a star, one that shone brightly and was the guide to finding Jesus. What love and adoration we find in their presence to Jesus, his family, and all the creatures that surrounded them.
In our daily lives, we too search for Jesus. Like the magi, we can find him in the humblest of settings, our homes. One of my greatest memories of the Feast of the Three Kings was an activity that we religiously did after attending Mass. Some of you may recognize it as the “chalking of the door.”
This ritual of prayer and action asks for God’s blessing on the dwelling, including barns and “man caves,” and on all who live, work in them and visit them. Inviting Jesus to be present as a guest in our home kept us vigilant about monitoring our behavior in the house, or the dairy barn, or the garage.
We prayed that our dwellings would be filled with listening in our conversations, compassion and mercy in the midst of troubled times, and generous hospitality to all who came to visit us. We marked the doorpost, the entry to the house, with 20 C+M+B 19 remembering that 2019 years ago LOVE came to earth as a child, one of us. That love is present in each of us, in the ways that we choose to be love in the lives of others.
The use of chalk reminds us of teaching and learning, (Today it would have to be Dry Erase or Washable Markers or Smart Boards.) We remember that today we learn from others, our companions in the home. We remember that love is made present in humility and kindness, in mercy and compassion, in listening and instructing.
May Jesus find the warmth of a home in our hearts and in our habits. May we be blessed with health, kindness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of the commandments to love. Fill us with the light of Christ!
For more information, http://lituryg.co.nz/epiphany-cahalk-house-blessing-3.
A Family Trip Gone Wrong
Let’s try to name some adjectives. Some might be biological, blended, growing, young, distant, adopted, loving, interracial, bi-cultural, broken, international, separated, dysfunctional. Did you discover others? As I did this exercise, I had to think intentionally of descriptive words that had a positive connotation. I wonder why that is? Was it the same for you?
The story of Jesus being “lost” to Mary and Joseph might have some differing meanings. There is always the physical reality of being lost, or not able to be located. The other is the idea of not sharing the same concept of what it means to be family. Jesus explains to his mother that he has a Sonship with the Father, as well as his sonship with her and Joseph.
In our own families, many of us suffer from anxiety about our children who in our minds are “lost” to the faith, or “lost” to drugs, or “lost” to unhealthy relationships. It’s hard to be family in these situations. Most of the time we cannot understand why this is happening or how it came to be.
Perhaps the lesson from the Gospel this weekend is this. Our responsibility is to focus less on ourselves and our anxiety, to love intensely and continuously, to teach our children to listen and obey, and then to let them go, and ultimately to believe that we like Jesus, will all be reunited in our Father’s house.
Part of this reflection was inspired by the reflection from Catholic Women Preach. You can find it at http://catholicwomenpreach.org/preaching/12302018.
Who Will I Visit?
If you could visit with anyone in the world, during any time period of life, who would it be? Why would you want to visit with them? What would it take to get there? And what would it be like to be in their presence after all? (Try these questions for a very interesting dinner conversation sometime soon. It’ll get you through the holidays!)
This Sunday’s Gospel of Mary going in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth is filled with emotion. It is an example of what happens when we can’t wait to share something with someone else. It’s about incredible JOY at the surprises, the new births in life. When we think something is impossible, we are reminded that with God all things are possible.
Imagine all of the conversations between Mary and Elizabeth. What all did they talk about? When do you have spiritual conversations like theirs? With whom do you have them?
As we travel to visit in the next week or so, with whom will we seek to have conversations? Who will we invite? Will we intentionally spend some time with someone elderly? Will we recognize the miraculous life, the vibrant and joyous spirit within each individual we encounter in the next few days?
In this third week of Advent, we focus on JOY—on rejoicing. What would it be like to sing “Joy To the World” accompanied by spontaneous jumping for joy?
God rejoices in us! Do we really believe that? Each Sunday when we gather as community, our celebration of the Mass gives us opportunities galore to show that joy, that rejoicing in God’s goodness to us. Here are a few:
Sing with joy, using the voice God gave you!
Pray boldly and audibly—with joy!
Greet others with gladness to see them!
Spend some time after Mass visiting with others and getting to know them. Express gladness to have seen them.
Thank those who generously serve at our liturgies!
Talk about what brings you joy on the way home, at lunch, or sometime during this week.
Let’s look for reasons to “cry out with joy and gladness” all week long, all season long!
P.S. I am filled with joy at the very generous response from many of you to the Religious Retirement Fund appeal I did last weekend. Thank you for your monetary donations and your words of affirmation of my message.