Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Laity’s Responsibility

August 30: Saturday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Psalm 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21; Matthew 25:14-30

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

The Laity’s Responsibility
“Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.” 1Corinthians 1:26

Paul insists Jesus turned our culture’s standards upside down: “God chose those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.” God doesn't want his Church respected because of the evident importance, education and social status of its members. This applies even more so to the clergy and hierarchy. To the degree that we treat priests and bishops as “more important people,” we are destroying the Church.

See the destruction we have already brought about. How many bishops and pastors really consult or listen to the laity? How many priests are arrogant and rude? How many drive people out of the Church? How many pontificate from the pulpit, “exspouting” rules and doctrines dogmatically, without asking input from anybody? How many “bishops of bling” and self-pampering pastors “wear soft robes and live in royal palaces” as if entitlement to a lavish lifestyle were intrinsic to ordination?

Whose fault is this? The laity’s! Sheep who accept wolves for shepherds deserve to be dogfood. If the laity refused to “live the lie” by treating the clergy as privileged, the abuses would stop. But when parishes suffer in silence, silence becomes applause.

The name for this is “clericalism.” The remedy is not anti-clericalism but insistence that we all share one common dignity—“being Christ” by Baptism—and actually treating all as equals.
PRAY: “Lord, show me who I am.”

PRACTICE: Treat priests and bishops as equals. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dead and Alive

August 29: Friday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptizer
1 Corinthians 1:17-25; Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 10-11; Mark 6:17-29

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

Dead and Alive
“We proclaim Christ crucified.” 1Corinthians 1:23

The last line of the Gospel sounds pretty final: “When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.” John’s disciples, yes. But when Jesus’ disciples laid his body in a tomb, that was just the beginning.

We proclaim Christ risen. And we proclaim it by being Christ visibly—his risen body continuing his messianic mission as Prophet, Priest and King.

And yet we proclaim Christ crucified.

Our only justification for walking erect among the people of this earth is that we have died in Christ. He took us, with all of our sins, into his body on the cross, so we could die with him and in him, and go down into the grave with him, where our sins were annihilated. We rose with him out of the waters of Baptism a “new creation.” We have no record of sin. The one who committed those sins died in Christ on the cross. We are his risen body: a “new creation.”

We can present ourselves as Christ risen only because we proclaim Christ crucified. He is risen in us because we died in him.

Jesus on the cross is my excuse for being on earth.

Until we really know our sin, we don’t know Jesus crucified. Until we know him risen, we don’t understand him crucified.  

PRAY: Jesus, I died in you. Live in me.”

PRACTICE: Look at the crucifix. Be aware. Appreciate.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In Christ Jesus

August 28: Thursday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
1 Corinthians 1:1-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; Matthew 24:42-51

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

In Christ Jesus
“Called to be sanctified... enriched… strengthened… united… awaiting” 1Corinthians 1:1-9

Three words dominate the beginning of Paul’s letter: call, name, and Jesus Christ. Paul is called an apostle of Jesus Christ, writing to those called saints because they are made holy in Christ, and call on the name of Christ. To them grace (divine life), light, and strength are given in Christ. They are called through the name of Christ into the fellowship of Christ as they await the final revelation of Christ.

For Paul, to be “the Church of God” is to be Christ in five essential ways: We are:

1. Christians: “made holy and called saints in Christ Jesus, thanks to the grace of God given in Christ Jesus, who call on the name of Jesus Christ”;
2. Disciples: “enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge," to be “made perfect in unity of mind and judgment”;
3. Prophets: “in whom witness to Christ has been strengthened (or  ‘confirmed’) so that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift ”;
4. Priests: “called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ”;
5. Stewards: who “await  the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christian ministry is to help people be these five things.

PRAY: “Live, Jesus, in my heart!”

PRACTICE: Be Christ.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spiritual Freeloaders

August 27: Wednesday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18; Psalm 128:1-2, 4-5; Matthew 23:27-32

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

Spiritual Freeloaders
 “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Paul had the rank of a bishop. But in Thessalonica he earned his own living by moonlighting, making tents. This tells us, not what bishops should do today, but how every Christian should think. There are no freeloaders. And no work is “beneath” anybody.

There is a “clergy joke” meant to express the exact opposite of how priests should think: “These hands were made for chalices, not calluses.” Pope Francis, asked about clerical dress, said, “The problem is not whether you wear a cassock, but rather if you roll up its sleeves to work for the good of others.”

Every Christian is consecrated at Baptism to minister. A paraphrase of Paul could be: “Anyone unwilling to minister as Christ should not eat the Bread of Christ.” We would never actually refuse Communion to the “spiritual freeloaders.” But Paul’s words indict all who won’t contribute to the liturgy by singing and greeting others, or to the life of the community by listening intently (intentionally) to the word of God as disciples, making decisions about how to live it out in a “prophetic” lifestyle, and expressing their faith, hope and love in physical words and actions as a “priests in the Priest.” Or who won’t take responsibility as “stewards of Christ’s kingship” for transforming the Church and the world.

Clergy and laity are equally obliged to minister.

PRAY: “Lord, send me into your vineyard.”

PRACTICE: Minister to everyone everywhere.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


August 26: Tuesday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 14-17; Psalm 96:10, 11-12, 13; Matthew 23:23-26

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside.” Matthew 23:26

Jesus says the heart counts more than behavior. Behavior can both reveal and hide the true values of our heart. Sinners may be “pure of heart,” because they hate the sins they fall into. Scrupulous law-observers may be unscrupulous exploiters whose hearts are “full of greed and self-indulgence.” Pope Francis describes a modern form of Phariseeism in The Joy of the Gospel:

93. Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of religiosity and even love for the Church… is a subtle way of seeking one’s “own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21)... Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances… from without, everything appears as it should be. But [in the Church, it is] “infinitely more disastrous than any other worldliness which is simply moral.”

94. This worldliness… is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who in their hearts rely only on their own strength and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism. Instead of evangelizing, they evaluate and label others. Instead of opening the door to grace, they put all their energy into controlling... They are not really concerned about Jesus Christ or others” (quoted August 5 above).

Use this to judge yourself, not others!

PRAY: “Create a clean heart in me, O Lord.”

PRACTICE: Examine your motives and desires.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Inherited Diseases

August 25: Monday of Week 21 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12; Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 4-5; Matthew 23:13-22

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

Inherited Diseases
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees...” Matthew 23:13

Paul compared ministry to giving life: “My little children… I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). But like all parents, we give the life we have. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees… when you make one convert, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!” Distorted doctrines and poisonous practices are passed down for generations in the Church. So, because we are all ministers, we need to watch over our spiritual health as much as a pregnant mother cares for her body for the sake of the child in her womb.

The most common inherited diseases are legalism, clericalism and triumphalism—all explicitly rejected, but not eradicated, by the bishops in the first session of Vatican II.

Legalism refuses to look to the purpose of laws and to apply them with common sense and mercy. Clericalism denies the equal dignity and responsibility all Christians have by Baptism. Triumphalism basks in worldly signs of success: riches, prestige and power. All three preclude relationship with God, do away with discipleship, cancel out Christian witness, undermine ministry and destroy the Church. And unfortunately, frequently they are CTD’s: clerically transmitted diseases. Those most contaminated in the Gospels were the higher-ranking clergy (“chief priests”), “approved” religion teachers (“scribes”), and super law-abiding laity (Pharisees). Verbum sat sapienti.

PRAY: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

PRACTICE: Turn to Jesus.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


August 24: Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“You are the Christ…. You are Peter.” Matthew 16:16

Jesus ties together his identification and Peter’s: “You are… You are.” This isn’t accidental: Peter will only understand his identity as pope by seeing it together with Jesus’ identity as Messiah. Peter is neither lord over nor savior of the Church; he is simply the foundation of human weakness that keeps us conscious of our need for the strengthening power of God. By choosing weak, impetuous, overconfident Simon to be Peter (“rock”), Jesus showed he wasn’t building his Church on human wisdom, talent or virtue.

The Gospels show Simon as a leader, yes, but make a point of showing he was only right twice (Matthew 16:16; John 6:68). He was wrong every other time he opened his mouth: when he rejected Jesus’ way of saving the world, misunderstood the transfiguration, presumed Jesus paid the temple tax, protested he would never deny Jesus, objected to Jesus washing his feet, slept during Jesus’ agony in the garden, and cut off Malchus’ ear (Matthew 16:16,22; 17:4,25; 26:35,40; John 16:22; 18:10).

Peter walked on water by faith, then almost drowned by doubting. John delightedly reports Peter could not run as fast or see as well as himself. And if we just go by Scripture, Simon the fisherman never caught a fish without divine intervention! (Matthew 14:20; 17:27; Luke 5:5; John 20: 4,7; 21:3).

Relying on yourself in ministry is being more Catholic than the pope.

PRAY: “Jesus, help me!”

PRACTICE: Never trust in yourself.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ministry and Ambition

August 23: Saturday of Week 20 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 43:1-7; Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Matthew 23:1-12

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

Ministry and Ambition
“Kindness and truth shall meet… glory dwelling in our land.” Psalm 85:9-0

In every generation we see “scribes and Pharisees” taking the “seats of power.” That is natural: those who love power do what works to get it. What traditionally works is robotic obedience to rules, supportive subservience to anyone in authority, and flying flags of loyalty to everything pretentious in the Church. Legalism, clericalism, triumphalism.

Until Pope Francis. His instructions are that candidates for bishop should be “pastors close to the people, fathers and brothers, gentle, patient and merciful; animated by 1. inner poverty [humility vs. clericalism], 2. the freedom of the Lord [vs. slavish legalism], and 3. outward simplicity and austerity of life [vs. triumphalism]. They must not have the psychology of ‘Princes’ and must not ambitious, or want to be bishops.” They must see themselves as “married” to their diocese, and not covet a bigger, more prestigious one (to Apostolic Nuncios, June 21, 2013).

Everything above applies to everyone in ministry, both laypersons and clerics. And “ministry” includes every interaction with people that aims at helping everyone grow to the fullness of divine life—that is, every interaction that is authentically Christian.

Authentic ministers speak as fellow disciples, not “experts.” They interpret and apply laws through deep, prayerful knowledge of the heart of Christ. They never want to be treated with special respect because of their title or position.

PRAY: “Lord, give me a servant’s heart.”

PRACTICE: Serve Christ by serving others as Christ.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Life is Love

August 22: Friday of Week 20 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Matthew 22:34-40

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

Life is Love
“Prophesy over these bones.” Ezekiel 37:4

The Gospel completes the first reading. God shows Isaiah the dry bones of Israel coming to life. Jesus tells us how it will happen: “You shall love…”

God said “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live.” Jesus says we will know he is the Messiah and Savior when we let him open our hearts and raise us out of our absorption with ourselves. When he puts his Spirit of love in us, we will live.

Those in whom faith is dead will return to Mass. The youth will be on fire. Love will breathe spirit into dried-up devotion. God’s People will stand up, come together, and live.

If we make love our life.

When you hear “religion,” do you think of love? Does “God” mean “Love” to you? Is Mass an experience of passionate love? When you participate, are you thinking of love?

Do you get out of bed to love? Is that your first thought every morning? Your preoccupation in everything you do? Your parting thought before you dismiss the day?

Love puts life into death.

PRAY: Every time you deal with another person, say: “Lord, love this one with me, love this one in me, love this one through me.”

PRACTICE: All day, whatever your thoughts or feelings are, replace them with love.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


August 21: Thursday of Week 20 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 36:23-28; Psalm 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19; Matthew 22:1-4

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.” Ezekiel 36:26

Celebrations “lift up our hearts.” We “take heart” when celebrations help us focus on what is good or getting better in our lives.

Christian ministry is an invitation to a party. Communion during Mass is a foretaste of it. We proclaim, “Happy are those who are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb”—if they accept the invitation.

Some can’t celebrate. Their Christianity is a “religion” of doctrines, rules and practices. Their focus is “orthodoxy and orthopraxis.” They even come to Mass clothed in rigidity and reserve, insisting on a robotic presider. They are not “dressed for a wedding” prepared to “worship the LORD with gladness,” and to “come into his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2). If they are obstinately “reduced to silence” when invited to celebrate, they are choosing to be “cast into the darkness,” where their contribution to the Church will be “wailing” in criticism and “grinding of teeth” in anger.

But if they will let themselves be drawn into the party, God promises: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.” If you will “clothe yourselves with the new self,” and accept to be “anointed with the oil of gladness” (Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 45:7), you will be able to “live and give” the Good News.

That is ministry.

PRAY: “Lord, lift up my heart!”

PRACTICE: Give up your reserves and celebrate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Non-discriminatory Shepherding

August 20: Wednesday of Week 20 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 34:1-11; Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Matthew 20:1-16

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

Non-discriminatory Shepherding
 “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” Ezekiel 34:11

Through Ezekiel God condemns ministers who are in it for what they get out of it. Not just money; it could be prestige, preferential treatment, or just self-satisfaction.

By contrast, Jesus presents an employer who is in business first of all to provide a livelihood to his employees, and what he gets out of it is secondary. His work is his ministry.

Good shepherds work to feed the sheep; not to feed their own egos, their pocketbooks, or—God forbid—their vices by a soft, lazy, high, or pretentious lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the clergy come to mind. But more unfortunately, we don’t blame the laity for tolerating them. Passive sheep are as guilty as profiteering shepherds. Those who don’t react, resist, report and rebel are responsible for every abuse the clergy inflict on the flock

The laity profiteer by failing to minister to every single person they deal with. Every Christian who does not “ strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed and seek the lost” is in the Church to take, not to give. We are all “our brother’s shepherd.”

Frequently we don’t see shepherds as lost sheep. But we are all both sheep and shepherds; equally responsible for intervening—as equals—when shepherds or sheep are going astray, regardless of anyone’s “title” in the Church.

PRAY: “Lord, give me a shepherd’s heart.”

PRACTICE: Care for sheep and shepherds alike.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Investment Policy

August 19: Tuesday of Week 20 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 28:1-10; Canticle: Deuteronomy 32:26-27, 27-28, 30, 35-36; Matthew 19:23-30

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

Investment Policy
“Everyone who has given up… will receive a hundred times more.” Matthew 19:29

We naturally assume rich people know how to invest. We should assume the opposite. Jesus says they know the least about it. What they have tends to blind them to the best deal on earth. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

This is not a condemnation. It is a warning. Being rich isn’t sinful. It is just dangerous.

The “smart money” is money given to the poor—or to whatever can help the poor: both the materially poor and the spiritually poor. Jesus’ financial advice is:

Sell your possessions, and give alms. Get yourselves an unfailing treasure in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:33).

Call this “charity” if you want. Jesus calls it a good investment policy.

Begin by sharing your gifts of faith, hope and love with everyone you deal with. By expressing them—sometimes explicitly (don’t be afraid to), but always implicitly, by speaking and acting in a way consciously inspired by what you believe, live for, trust in. And by love.

What you got for free, give for free (Matthew 10:8). Gifts of grace grow through physical expression.

PRAY: “Lord, give yourself with me, give yourself in me, give yourself through me.”

PRACTICE: Every time you use something, ask how you might share it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How Much For All?

August 18: Monday of Week 20 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 24:15-24; Canticle: Deuteronomy 32:18-19, 20, 21; Matthew 19:16-22

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

How Much For All?
“Go, sell what you have...” Matthew 19:21

Does it cost to reach out to others? What if God said to you: “By a sudden blow I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes, but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears.” And that evening your wife died. Or husband.

For Ezekiel, this was the price of being a prophet. Thousands are paying it today as the price of being Christian.

Christians are today, statistically speaking, by far the most persecuted religious group on the planet. According to the Frankfurt-based Society for Human Rights, fully 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians. The Pew Forum estimates that Christians experience persecution in a staggering total of 133 nations, fully two-thirds of all the countries on earth. The Catholic relief agency "Aid to the Church in Need" estimates that 150,000 Christians die for their faith every year, in locales ranging from the Middle East to Southeast Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America (John Allen, National Catholic Reporter, March 02, 2012).

What price will you pay to be a “priest in the Priest”? Remember, the other side of the coin is “victim in the Victim.”

What will you give—and give up—to make your parish a “missionary parish”? To convert your own life into constant missionary outreach?

PRAY: “Lord, give yourself in me.”

PRACTICE: Put ministry before maintenance.


August 17: Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“A house… for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7

Do we build churches for ourselves, or for everybody in the neighborhood?

God doesn’t have any “Catholic,” “Presbyterian,” “Baptist” or “Jewish” houses. He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Pope Francis said (Joy of the Gospel):

27. I dream of a “missionary option” capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures are changed into channels geared to the evangelization of today’s world rather than to self-preservation… A pastoral reform more inclusive and open, that wins a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself…
28. The parish is… the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration… a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey.

What if our parish re-designed its “times and schedules, language” and all its policies to draw in the unchurched rather than to please the “old guard”?

Does fear of losing old members keep us from making parish life and liturgy attractive to new ones? Is evangelization our goal, or “self-preservation”? Are we open or closed? Loving or selfish? Free or frozen?

What if we saw ourselves as a “neighborhood church”?

PRAY: “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”

PRACTICE: Ask for a meeting of the parish council to discuss this.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Generation Zap

August 16: Saturday of Week 19 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13, 30-32; Psalm 51:10-11, 12-13, 16-17; Matthew 19:13-15

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Let the children come to me.” Matthew 19:14

To “zap” is to “cause to move suddenly and rapidly in a specified direction.” The youth (of western culture) are being zapped out of Christianity. The previous generation was not able, and the present generation is not willing, to pass on the faith to their children.

God does not judge parents for their children’s sins. “I will judge each one according to his ways.” But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Do not prevent them.” How are we preventing youth from experiencing “the good, the true, and the beautiful” in Jesus and his Church?

We are “our children’s keeper.” More: we were consecrated by Baptism to minister to everyone: to give divine life by expressing God’s divine life—the invisible faith, hope and love within us—in physical words and actions. What remains bottled up in our hearts stagnates. Unshared grace corrupts the Church.

Our diffidence does more damage than debauchery. Bad example shocks; no example deadens. The fear that makes us “hide our light under a basket” condemns the world to darkness. We have “dug a hole in the ground” and hidden our children’s inheritance (Matthew 25:25).

We are so afraid of showing love for God that we barely sing in church. Enthusiasm is inappropriate. We don’t celebrate during religious celebrations.

“Make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”

PRAY: “Lord, open my lips.”

PRACTICE: Say what you feel; feel what you say.

Friday, August 15, 2014


August 15: Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Blessed are you who believed.” Luke 1:45

Is the Church “wailing in pain as she labors to give birth”? Has she “fled into the desert”? Or does she “stand at God’s right hand as queen, arrayed in gold”?

How about “All of the above”?

Though “in Adam all die, in Christ all shall all be brought to life.” Jesus, in his resurrection, was “the firstfruits; then, at his coming, all who belong to Christ” will rise, “when he hands over the Kingdom to his Father.”

It’s a process. We suffer from the past, minister in the present, and believe in the future. In our “labor to give birth” we frequently have to “flee into the desert” to draw strength from prayer. Then we look to Mary, “preview and promise of the Church in her perfection” (Prefaces of Immaculate Conception and Assumption) already “standing at God’s right hand as queen, arrayed in gold.”

Mary’s body, taken into heaven, is the sign that where Jesus has gone, we will follow (John 13:36). What began with Mary’s surrender of her human body—“Be it done to me according to your word”—is revealed in the preservation of her human body from corruption: the sign that in life and death the Church that cooperates and co-suffers with Christ also co-triumphs with Christ. In his weak, human Church Jesus conquers sin and all its ruinous consequences, including death.

“Blessed are they who believe.”

PRAY: “Mary, be my encouragement.”

PRACTICE: Remember Mary’s Assumption and believe.

The Quality of Mercy

For Friday of Week 19 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63; Responsorial = Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; Matthew 19:3-12

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Some Pharisees came to test him...” Matthew 19:3

How should we minister to the divorced and re-married?

First, by acknowledging that “not everyone can accept this teaching” but only those who live on the level of God. Jesus says, “Let anyone accept this who can” (compare Matthew 19:16-26).

Second, by showing God’s mercy to those who cannot. Oikonomia tolerates people breaking laws they cannot observe, if what they are doing is not intrinsically evil. Jesus did not come for the strong, but to have mercy on the weak. Eucharist is the “Bread of sinners” to strengthen those who are “falling short” (Matthew 9:10).

The truth is, we all fall short. The New Law calls it “adultery” to even look at a woman with lust. We fail as Christians if we are angry or un-reconciled with anyone, resist anyone who hits us, sues us, or imposes on our time; or if we refuse anyone who begs or wants to borrow from us.

The New Law requires us to dedicate everything we have to help the poor; love our enemies, pray for those who oppress us; and love one another as Jesus himself loves us (read Matthew 6; 19:21; Luke 14:33; John 13:34).

In short, we have to “be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect”.

We give Communion to soldiers, lawyers, bankers, stingy employers and hardnosed executives. So why pick on the divorced?

PRAY: “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”

PRACTICE: Before all else, be merciful.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Actions Speak

August 14: Thursday of Week 19 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 12:1-12; Psalm 78:56-57, 58-59, 61-62; Matthew 18:21 to 19:1

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“I am a sign for you.” Ezekiel 12:11

To minister as priests by Baptism, we first have to be prophets by a lifestyle that “raises eyebrows.” God told Ezekiel to say nothing until the people asked him what he was doing. Then he was to explain that he was acting out what was going to happen to them.

People don’t listen until they have questions. Many don’t have questions until something goes wrong in their life. Then we have to be there for them.

But we have to be there with the example of our actions more than with words. Someone said, “Words have only the value of our actions.” If we can’t point to what we are doing as proof we believe what we say, our words are a waste of time.

Jesus is the Way. In what ways are you following him in opposition to the culture? To your peer group?

Jesus is the Truth. How much time do you give to reading and reflecting on his words? Jesus said it is only “if you abide in my word,” that you “are truly my disciples” and “will know the truth,” truth that “will make you free” (John 8:31).

Jesus is the Life. Are you obviously investing your life in what helps his Life grow in you?

We can only give what we live. Live to give his Life to everyone you know.

PRAY: “Lord, let me give what I live.”

PRACTICE: Live to “bear fruit.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One Voice

August 13: Wednesday of Week 19 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 9:1-7 and 10:18-22; Psalm 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Matthew 18:15-20

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“If two of you agree...” Matthew 18:19

If an angel were marking a Tau (cross) on the foreheads of those who speak out against our society’s “abominations,” would you qualify?

Are you outspoken only about things you are not personally involved in—abortion, same-sex marriages—but silent about issues that call your own life into question? Is affluence a problem for you, and how it is achieved? Is “outsourcing,” joblessness, and their connection with your own buying practices? Are you strident about reforming the prison system, education for the poor, making health care available for all, adopting realistic immigration policies? Would that cross be on your forehead?

What Jesus said to Peter (Matthew 16:19) he now says to all his disciples: “What you bind and loose…” meaning what the laity—the whole Church— condemns or accepts, will be the voice heard in heaven. The “Catholic voice” must be the voice of the Church as a whole to be effective. It is important we all address all the issues in our society, especially those that affect the poor.

I personally think every Catholic adult has an obligation to read Pope Francis’ “apostolic exhortation,” The Joy of the Gospel, which in Britain has “already sold twice as much as any previous papal document” (Catholic News, NZ).

Then you will know if the cross is on your forehead.

PRAY: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace… for your poor.”

PRACTICE: Read The Joy of the Gospel (Google “The Holy See”).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Whom Do We Go?

August 12: Tuesday of Week 19 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Psalm 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 13; Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” Matthew 18:1

After identifying children as the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus focused on those to whom the Father goes in search of. He speaks of   “the greatest,” “little ones” and “strays” in the same breath. Is there a connection?

To whom do we minister? Do we want to impress the “important” people? Do we share our thoughts, smiles, helping hands, our offers of support with our peers, those “above” us in riches, rank and power? Or with the “little people” who don’t count for much in society’s eyes?
How much time do we spend talking to children? Even our own?

How much of that time are we talking about Jesus? The Father? The Holy Spirit? Talking about them as persons we know. That we interact with and experience—that children can interact with and experience also?

Have you ever invited the janitor to Mass? Sat on a curb and read Scripture with a street person? Given a spiritual book to a highschool student? Said the rosary with someone in the hospital? Invited a college student to make the Cursillo? “Shared your testimony” in an evangelical church?

Have you ever asked your pastor what he prays about? Cries about? Or someone equally lonely?

For you, is the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” the one who needs you most?

PRAY: “Lord, open my eyes.”

PRACTICE: Re-examine your pastoral priorities. Go to the needy.

Monday, August 11, 2014


August 11: Monday of Week 19 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28; Psalm 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14; Matthew 17:22-27

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Give it to them for you and me.” Matthew 17:27

Peter, afraid to stand up against the collectors, said that of course Jesus paid the temple tax. Jesus challenged him: “Do kings take payment from their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said, “Then the children are free.”

Then he told Peter to give them double: “for me and for you.” He was making two points:

First, Jesus didn’t need to pay the temple tax; it was his Father’s house.

Second, Peter (and every Christian) is identified with Jesus, with all the rights and privileges that belong to “sons and daughters of the Father.”

And all the obligations.

For example, Christians do not engage in ministry as employees or “volunteers.” As family members, we are just as obliged as Jesus was to be “about our Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). By Baptism we “became Christ.” We “presented our bodies as a living sacrifice to God” (Romans 12:1) to become Christ’s body, so that he might act with us, in us and through us in everything we do. Through anointing with chrism we are consecrated and committed to let Jesus continue his “messianic mission” in us as Prophet, Priest and King.

This means we minister in union with Jesus. Ministry is surrender to Jesus wanting to express himself through our words and actions. It is a mystical experience—of union with Jesus in action.

PRAY: “Lord, do this in me.”

PRACTICE: All day, be conscious of surrendering.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


August 10: Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
1Kings 19:9, 11-13; Psalm 85:8, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-32
Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“A tiny whispering sound.” 1Kings 19:12

The readings are all about hearing God’s voice—that is, knowing God, because God reveals himself when he speaks.

God spoke to Elijah, not in the power of the hurricane, earthquake or forest fire, but in “a tiny whispering sound.” Some translations say, “a sound of sheer silence.”

The Psalm echoes this: “I will hear what God proclaims—for he proclaims peace… steadfast love and faithfulness.”

God’s voice was in Paul’s “constant anguish of heart” that made him almost wish to be himself “cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people,” if it would bring about their conversion. This was the voice of self-sacrificing love in response to the persecution that eventually killed him.

God spoke most eloquently and definitively in Jesus as he was nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them….” (Luke 23:34).

God’s words reveal a God of gentleness, peace, “steadfast love and faithfulness”; of forgiveness even as he is being put to death.

We hear his voice when our hearts are listening to silence. We may be in turmoil, tossed about by wind and waves, but when Jesus speaks, it will be with a quiet voice: “Take courage, it is I” (literally, “I AM”—ego eimi—the words he used in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I am” (see Exodus 3:14).   

God is all power. He is most clearly revealed in its absence.

PRAY: “Lord, let me hear your voice.”

PRACTICE: Learn to listen to silence.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Defeatable Demons

August 9: Saturday of Week 18 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Habakkuk 1:12-2:4; Psalm 9:8-9, 10-11, 12-13; Matthew 17:14-2

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Why could we not drive it out?” Matthew 17:19

Jesus gave his disciples power to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons.” That was a power they “received without payment” and were to “give without payment” (Matthew 10:8).

But to exorcise some demons, they would have to pay a price. When they could not drive out one who was casting a boy “into fire and water, to destroy him” Jesus said that kind could not be driven out “except by prayer and fasting.”

To cast out the demons of greed and violence that are destroying our civilization takes a national conversion of mind, through deep prayer; and of heart, through detachment (fasting) from affluence and power. If we Christians cannot bring this about through our ministry, it is just a matter of time before our society self-destructs.

 The conversion has to begin with ourselves. This gives us a goal to aim at.

Francis said in The Joy of the Gospel (84): “The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment… Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations… directed to the fulfillment of God’s higher and un-hoped-for designs. Everything, even human setbacks, leads to the greater good of the Church.”

We can cast out the demons. We just have to have faith “the size of a mustard seed.”

PRAY: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

PRACTICE: Dream the impossible dream.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Death Fulfills the Promise

August 8: Friday of Week 18 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7; Canticle: Deuteronomy 32:35-36, 39, 41; Matthew 16:24-28

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Never again shall the wicked invade you; he is utterly cut off.” Nahum 1:15 or 2:1

Promises, promises… In truth, Israel was invaded again repeatedly—and is inviting destruction today by relying totally on force and retaliation instead of on God.

And we ourselves are invaded constantly by bad desires and thoughts. Jesus says we won’t be delivered unless we accept to “lose our lives.”

We did that when we accepted to die with and in Christ at Baptism. Then all of our sins—past, present and future—were “taken away,” annihilated when we went down into the grave with him and rose as a “new creation” (Romans 6:3; 2Corinthians 5:17).

But the physical results of sin, including the attitudes and inclinations “programmed” into us by our infected culture, will not disappear until we say “Yes” to dying physically. That “Yes,” in which we surrender ourselves to death in total faith, hope and love, is our final purification.

Then in unqualified truth, “Never again shall the wicked invade us.” Everything evil will be “utterly cut off.” We will have “life to the full” in total union with God.

In the meantime we give and receive ministry in hope. We keep our eyes on the “end time,” when we will “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” and “be filled with all the fullness of God.”

That is the mantra that motivates our ministry.

PRAY: “Lord, deliver us from evil.”

PRACTICE: Die to yourself through love.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Interior Life

August 7: Thursday of Week 18 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19; Matthew 16:13-23

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts.” Jeremiah 31:33

All our senses are trained outwards—to see, hear, taste, smell, touch what is outside of us or comes to us from outside.

But there are “interior senses” also. We can “see” what is in our minds and hearts, and “hear” what God or his Spirit is saying to us. We can “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). “Wisdom” is defined as “a taste for spiritual things.” We speak of the “odor of sanctity,” and Paul calls us the “aroma of Christ,” who “spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him” (2Corinthians 2:14). We are “touched” by things that move our hearts; we call them “touching.”

All this says we can know, be aware of, truth and goodness that are inside of us, and recognize them by our interior reactions. If we pay attention to our hearts.

God promised he would “place his law within us, and write it upon our hearts.” If we listen to our hearts, we will not believe those who interpret God’s laws in a way that makes him a monster. Or think keeping all the laws makes us Christian when our hearts are crying for “more.”

And in dealing with others we will let our hearts speak in our words and actions. This is ministry.

PRAY: “Lord, speak to my heart.”

PRACTICE: Listen to your heart. Be aware of feelings.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Vision

August 6: Feast of the Transfiguration  
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9; 2Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“The mountains melt like wax before the Lord.” Psalm 97:5

The essence of “Fear of the Lord” is proportion. Imagine fear without the emotion of fright. What is left? Perspective. How great, powerful, good, wise, loving God is compared to us. This “Fear of the Lord” gives joy, hope, confidence, encouragement. God is great beyond all imagining. And he is on our side.

What the disciples got on the mountain was a glimpse of Jesus in his glory. Later, when they felt fear of human beings, when the obstacles to their ministry seemed insurmountable, or the weight of their own sins and weakness was crushing them, all they had to do was remember the vision. The answer to all their problems was, “Jesus is Lord.”

“The mountains melt like wax before the Lord.” All fears, obstacles, problems and preoccupations “melt like wax” before the vision of what Jesus really is; what he is able to do for us, wants to do for us, is doing for us, whether we see it or not. In the awareness of who and what Jesus is, all mountains are reduced to molehills.

Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered sin and death. He said, “In me you may have peace… I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He is God the Son. His Father is our Father. His Spirit is enlightening, empowering the hearts of all who believe.

PRAY: “Lord, it is good you are here.”

PRACTICE: Keep him in the picture.

Monday, August 4, 2014

False Judgments

August 5: Tuesday of Week 18 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22; Psalm 102:16-21, 29, 22-23; Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“Not what enters, but what comes out of the mouth defiles.” Matthew 15:11

Some Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”

Big deal. The same critics needed to “clean up their act” more than to wash their hands. Jesus said the filth that matters is in the heart: “evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”

Later (chapter 23) he went into what corrupted the Pharisees’ hearts: keeping details and externals of the law, but neglecting “justice and mercy and faith.” Laying heavy burdens on the shoulders of others; loving places of honor at banquets and titles of respect: all we summarize as “legalism, clericalism and triumphalism.” They were blind to the distortion in their hearts.

Pope Francis condemns the “spiritual worldliness” of those who “trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism. Instead of evangelizing, they evaluate and label others. Instead of opening the door to grace, they put all their energy into controlling... They are not really concerned about Jesus Christ or others” (Joy of the Gospel, 94).

Ministry is heart to heart.

PRAY: “Lord, show me my heart.”

PRACTICE: Look in more than out.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

False Confidence

August 4: Monday of Week 18 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Jeremiah 28:1-17; Psalm 119:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102; Matthew 14:22-36

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“You made this people trust in a lie.” Jeremiah 28:15

Where would you feel more secure: holding tight to your seat in a boat, even in a storm, or jumping out into twelve-foot high waves because a voice that might have come from Jesus invites you to walk on the water?

Scared Christians resist change. People who seek security in stability (aka rigidity; aka legalism, clericalism and triumphalism) are still fighting against the reforms Vatican II called for. They persecute innovators and abhor the thought of an innovative Holy Spirit. They prefer stagnation to challenge any day. When Jesus, attacked by the Pharisees,  called for “fresh wineskins” for the “new wine” he came to give, they killed him for it (read Mark 2:14 to 3:6).

Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel (49): “My hope is that we will be moved less by the fear of going astray, and more by the fear of remaining shut up within structures that give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat.’”

Jesus said, “If you love me, feed my sheep!” (John 21:17) Ministers keep looking for more effective ways to do that. Pharisees cling to the status quo.

PRAY: “Lord, make me an instrument of your love.”

PRACTICE: Keep asking: “How does this nurture people?”

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Feed the Hungry—And Those Who Should be

August 3: Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“All you who are thirsty, come.” Isaiah 55:1

There should never be hunger on earth. There are enough resources to feed everyone, if we were all as concerned about the whole human race as about our own families. Faith in God the Father tells us we are all one family. We forget that.

We should be even more concerned to feed those who hunger for God; especially those who do not know they do. An authentically human life cannot survive on bread alone. Now that the Bread of heaven is available on earth, those indifferent to it are not in touch with the insatiable hunger of their own hearts.

How can we help them?

First, be so different they approach you with questions.

Second, observe people. Ask indiscreet questions. Find out who is searching and who isn’t but ought to be.

Third, intervene. Offer unsolicited advice (like “Stop!” before someone runs into a car). Lend a book. Invite a friend to Mass. Pray with someone in trouble. Talk about God as predictably as others show you pictures on their smartphone.

What passes for discretion is really indifference. And fear. Just extend the boundaries of “politically correct” inquiries. What would you ignore in your sister? Are you your brother’s keeper? Already asked and answered.

PRAY: “Lord, let me give them something to eat.”

PRACTICE: Watch Jesus at Mass giving himself to people in Communion. Be his “eucharistic minister” to everyone you meet.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Mystery of Ministry

August 2: Saturday of Week 17 of Ordinary Time, Year A-II:
Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24; Psalm 69:15-16, 30-31, 33-34; Matthew 14:1-2

Thoughts to help us surrender to Jesus expressing himself through us in ministry.

“In truth it was the Lord who sent me to you.” Jeremiah 26:15

Ministry is an experience of union with God.

First, because ministry is often so disappointing and dangerous that, to persevere, we need the support of knowing, “in truth it was the Lord who sent me.”

More deeply, we know God never just “sends” us. We minister as Christ’s living body on earth. He ministers with us, in us, and through us. If not, there is no point in getting out of bed.

When Jesus sent out his disciples, he told them, “Go make disciples of all nations… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the world.” The name God gave him—Emmanuel—means “God with us.”

The soul of ministry is to let Jesus express himself in and through our physical words and actions. This is the mystery that makes ministry a “mystical experience.”

By faith we share in God’s own act of knowing. By expressing our faith we let God share his truth with others as he did in Jesus: in human words and actions. When God’s words are made flesh in us, the “Word made flesh” is visibly among us.

It is Christ’s love, made flesh in our actions, that comforts the afflicted, drives out demons, heals wounds in the sinning and sinned against, and gives “life to the full.”

PRAY: “Lord, be with me. Let me be with you.”

PRACTICE: Speak and act consciously as Jesus.