Saturday, February 25, 2012

Discipleship Gives Sight To The Blind: First Week of Lent: February 26 to March 3, 2012

The theme that unites and brings to excitement all the readings this week is the key role of seeing.

The purpose of seeing is to “take aim.” To aim we have to see the target. To “take aim” in life, we have to see what we are aiming at in life, what our goal is. What we call “repentance” is a recognition that our aim is off, that we are “missing” the target. To “convert” is to correct our aim. That involves correcting attitudes and priorities.

God’s word is the lens through which we focus on the target. Like a telescopic sight, it brings the far away near. Wisdom is to see everything in the light of our ultimate end: to see clearly what is most distant in order to get in focus what is right in front of us: our present choices and actions. Without the lens of God’s word everything gets distorted. Our “culture” blinds us.

To focus on Church rules; — even on God’s laws! — can blind us, unless we see the rules in the light of their goal and God’s laws in the light of his mind and heart, which they are intended to reveal. The goal is always God; never good behavior. “Good behavior” that does not lead to God has “missed the mark,” which is the Scriptural definition of “sin.” That is why Jesus says many will be surprised at the Final Judgment. We will see what we were really aiming at in life, as opposed to what we thought we were. So our basic choice in life is whether to look at what God says we are and aim at being that, or not to look and just be lost.

The Our Father teaches us what to aim at by listing what Jesus lived for: his priorities, the purpose for which he came. Praying it daily helps us refocus every day. We need to pray it consciously, aware that we are “taking aim.”

In our prayer we “say what we see.” We ask for what we see as good for us. And we can only see what is good for us in the light of faith. Faith tells us what we are, what our real goal is, what we should aim at. What enlightens our faith is God’s word.

To be ourselves we have to see ourselves. Baptism, the “sacrament of faith,” gives us divine light to see we have “become Christ.” and that “in him,” the “only Son of God,” we are sons and daughters of the Father. The only authentic “self” we have is our self as the risen Jesus, the body of Christ. That is why “following Christ” means being Christ. We don’t follow abstract teachings and rules; we look at Christ as he reveals himself in Scripture through words and actions. To be a Christian is to be what we see. “Disciples” are those who keep looking.

As Church we look together. And we say together what we see together. That is why our communal prayer, especially the Mass, is dependent on our communal faith. We can only say together what we see together. That is why we need to be “disciples — students — of the Mass.” We need to understand what we are saying and doing when we pray together as Christ.

To order your own Daily Reflections for the Immersed in Christ program, click here to visit

Click here to subscribe to Daily Mass Readings delivered by email.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Accepting New Life: Seventh Week in “Ordinary Time” and Beginning of Lent: February 19-25, 2012

As the Sundays and weeks of “Ordinary Time” are interrupted by the special focus and readings of Lent, the liturgy first prepares us, then invites us to accept the call to “metanoia.”

We translate metanoia as “repentance,” but it really means a “complete makeover” of mind, will, heart and lifestyle. Really active Christians can never get bored, because the Church keeps calling us to change.

From Sunday to Tuesday the readings try to overcome our fear of change. The truth is, we are afraid to think about Scripture or to ask Jesus questions, because we assume we won’t like the answers. We reject “wisdom” because we accept in practice, if not in theory, that “ignorance is bliss.” We deliberately choose not to be disciples, “students” of the mind and heart of God.

We can avoid asking the questions. But we cannot avoid the consequences.

The readings reassure us. The call to “repentance” is always joyful, because it is always joined to the promise of life-experience on a higher, richer, more satisfying level. Every sin is a sign of an unsatisfied heart. Jesus promises “life to the full” to those who listen to his words.

And that is what discipleship is: “committed listening.” Lent invites us to commit to meeting regularly with Jesus, asking him questions and letting him teach us.

From Ash Wednesday to Saturday the readings pinpoint what “repentance” means. It means to accept a new mindset. For those who are already “practicing Christians,” Scripture emphasizes the choice between focusing on law observance or on living and giving love. This is a major crisis in the Church today. And always.

Jesus focused on giving life, not on enforcing rules. The Great Metanoia is 1. to realize we “became Christ” by Baptism; and 2. to commit ourselves in concrete ways to learning how to think, love and live like him.

This is the commitment that makes us disciples.

To order your own Daily Reflections for the Immersed in Christ program, click here to visit

Click here to subscribe to Daily Mass Readings delivered by email.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

To Get Real, Get Practical: Sixth Week in “Ordinary Time”: February 12-18, 2012

We will be spending this week with James — who is no-nonsense practicality when it comes to living by God’s word.

The Sunday readings “soften us up” for James’ hard line by telling us the great things Jesus does for those who really listen to what he says. He frees us from hurting others by giving us light to see what does harm. He frees us from loneliness by always being present to us and teaching us that loving unites us to others. He frees us from looking down on ourselves by showing us how he looks at us, and from despair by promising us the Holy Spirit. But he does this only if we let him guide us by reflecting on his words.

But this is rare. Most Christians don’t really want to grow to spiritual maturity and to the “perfection of love.” At Mass they don’t “listen to do.” They don’t commit themselves in any concrete ways to being disciples, “students” of Jesus. Fact is fact. What did you do in response to what you heard last Sunday? Or read in these Reflections all week? What does that say about you? (Okay, okay — but James is even tougher!)

Perseverance in reading and reflecting on Scripture is a “miracle” of empowerment by grace that makes us a “sign” of Jesus risen. The alternative is failure to be a Church that bears the witness to Jesus we should bear.

We can be disciples, or inert, or closed to God’s word (like Pharisees). Jesus breaks our inertia by leading us “out” of our cultural apathy. We become free by repeated exposure to his word combined with repeated decisions about how to put it into practice.

Failure to do this explains why we, the Church, in many ways live in contradiction to Christ’s clear teaching. We forget “who we are.” We don’t let his words mature and bear fruit in us by discipleship that lead us into mission (as prophets) and ministry (as priests) and into taking responsibility (as stewards of Christ’s kingship) for bringing about changes in society.

James keeps urging the practical response of concrete commitment to the “three R’s” of Christian meditation: Reading and Reflecting on God’s words, and Responding to them in real decisions to act on what we have seen.

Praying, “Hallowed be thy Name!” impels us to accept the discipline of discipleship. That is to let Jesus lead us up “into the mountain,” where we will see him transfigured, hear the Father speaking to us, and be moved to stay with him as disciples.

The key to everything is a commitment to a concrete regime of reading and reflecting on the word of God for the purpose of making responses in choices.

To order your own Daily Reflections for the Immersed in Christ program, click here to visit

Click here to subscribe to Daily Mass Readings delivered by email.

Friday, February 3, 2012

To Be or Not To Be: Fifth Week in “Ordinary Time”: February 5-11, 2012

The readings this week supply a battery of motives for being a disciple.

In the Our Father, Jesus teaches us to pray by teaching us what we should pray for. What he presents and reveals are the priorities of his own heart. If we make Jesus’ priorities our own, we will pray well and learn to pray better.

Jesus reveals his first priority in the “second phrase” of the Our Father, “Hallowed be thy Name!” To make the Father known and loved is what he lived and breathed for. This should be the first desire of our life. Every time we pray the Our Father, it reminds us. And motivates us to learn who the Father is so that we might appreciate him more ourselves and make him known to others.

Sunday tells us we do not become disciples until we commit to doing concrete things, on a regular basis, that let us enter into the mind and heart of God. Like reading and reflecting on Scripture. What sustains this commitment is hope that God actually will reveal himself to us.

Monday and Tuesday focus us on the core mystery of Christianity, which is the interaction between the divine and the human. By taking flesh in his Incarnation, Jesus put the divine and the human into physical contact. God’s presence in the Book of his words is more awesome than his presence in the Temple. Through it he touches our minds as truly as Jesus touched and healed the bodies of people he healed. Not to read Scripture is to settle for “second-hand exposure” to the Christian faith.

Wednesday: True response to God is not in external actions, but in what they express. Discipleship enlightens, guides and nourishes interior response to God: conversion of mind, heart and will.

Thursday: Full union with another person is impossible without union of mind, heart and will on the level of shared faith. We seek this by openness to others and by sharing in prayer and worship..

Friday: Right direction in the Church requires the collaboration of authority and lay leadership. But good leadership depends on discipleship. To “speak” as Jesus we need to “listen” to Jesus. Leaders come from those who have made listening their lifestyle.

Saturday: When people leave the Church, it is not just the clergy they abandon, but their Covenant, Sacrifice, history, theological and spiritual inheritance, and communion with the Saints and others in the Church. We are vulnerable to this in the measure we are “secondhand Christians,” gullible to false teaching — from those both in and outside the Church — because we are not disciples of Jesus ourselves.

When we pray, “Hallowed be thy Name!” we are called and committing ourselves to keep learning through “word and sacrament and Spirit” the mind and heart of God. This commitment makes us disciples.


To order your own Daily Reflections for the Immersed in Christ program, click here to visit

Click here to subscribe to Daily Mass Readings delivered by email.