Thursday, September 29, 2016

God Gives His Answer

God Gives His Answer

Twenty-Sixth Week of Year II     Friday    September 30, 2016

The Responsorial Psalm gives voice to humility and hope: “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way” (Psalm 139). 

Job 38:1 to 40:5 is the dramatic, overwhelming climax of the whole book. God answers Job “out of the whirlwind” of his majesty and power: “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding, who determined its size… laid the cornerstone while the morning stars sang in chorus and all the angels of God shouted for joy?” God is pointing out how little Job, or any human, knows about anything: “Have you entered into the sources of the sea…? Tell me, if you know all….”

God doesn’t give an answer to Job’s questions or to the problem of suffering. He just says, “What do you know?” He is putting perspective into the dialogue between himself and Job — and all of us. We can question, we can argue with God; but the bottom line is, God knows all, and compared to him we know nothing. So we can seek answers but not demand them. We can question everything, so long as we are unwavering in our acknowledgment that God’s answers are the right ones, whether he reveals them to us or not. We can plead our case before God, but we do not sit in judgment on him. Compared to God we are nothing, know nothing, and can do nothing. God is true, God is good, God is love. At the beginning and the end of all dialogue with God we say, “You, Lord, are just in all your ways, faithful in all your works.”1 And we ask for his guidance: “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

How will we fare if God sits in judgment on us? In Luke 10: 13-16 Jesus begins “to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent.”2 Strangely, those who should know best the ways of God are often the last to accept them: “Woe to you, Chorazin…, Bethsaida!… If the miracles worked in your midst had occurred in Tyre and Sidon [Gentile cities] they would long ago have reformed in sackcloth and ashes!” As Christians, we need to pay attention to this.
We assume that we would have listened to Jesus — and that we would listen now if he spoke to us. Jesus’ next words are, “Whoever listens to you [his seventy disciples] listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me.” Do we listen to Jesus speaking in one another? In leaders as well as in authorities? Do we recognize his leadership in all who by Baptism are stewards of his kingship?3 Are we studying diligently and putting into practice his words? How are we putting to use the gifts of faith, hope and love God has invested in us? What fruit are we bearing? Are we faithful or negligent stewards?

1Psalm 145:17. Read all of it!    2Matthew 11:20.   3There is an unofficial authority from mission. See Luke 10:16, 19 and tomorrow’s Gospel.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Trust God and keep working for change.

Angels Have Uses

Angels Have Uses
September 29  Feast of archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

The Responsorial (Psalm 138) invites us: “In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.” 

The word “angel” means “messenger.” Since the Church “exists to evangelize” (Pope Paul VI), all Christians are “sent” as “ev-angel-ists.” (“Ev-“ is from the Greek “eu,” meaning “good). We are all “angels” of the Good News, commissioned and empowered for this by our baptismal consecration as prophets, priests, and kings (stewards).

Today the Church celebrates three angels who could well be the patrons of these three functions of our mission.

As prophets we live “in the sight of the angel” Gabriel, whose name means “El (God) is strong.” Gabriel is an “interpreting angel” who explains things to the prophets.[1] He is “the angel charged with the meaning of visions and of the unfolding of history.” As prophets we are called to be strong in faith, “giving flesh” to God’s words through changes that embody them in action. Gabriel called Mary to give flesh to the Word himself in a response of faith that changed human history.

As priests we are consecrated to heal through love, and to express our inner life to God and others. And so we live “in the sight of” Raphael, whose name means “El heals.” He is “the healer, the expeller of demons... one of the seven angels who offer the prayers of God’s people and enter the presence of the Holy One.”

As stewards of Christ’s kingship we are conscious of living “in the sight of” Michael, whose name challenges, “Who is like El?” He is “the ‘great prince who stands over your people’.... the heavenly spirit who watches over the Jews.... the leader of the angelic hosts in the battle between the dragon and his angels. In the Christian liturgy Michael is the protector of the Church and the angel who escorts the souls of the departed into heaven.” He gives us hope in our task of bringing about change in the Church and the world.[2]

Daniel 7:9-14 describes what we will praise God for: the outcome of our stewardship:
I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven.... To him was given dominion and glory and kingship... that shall never be destroyed.

In Scripture “there is not always a sharp distinction between the angel as a personal being and as a personification of the divine word or the divine action.” We who have “become Christ,” sent as his risen body to reveal his continuing presence and action on earth, should strive to make that distinction less and less visible in our lives. As “angels” we say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”[3]

As God incarnate, the Son made flesh, Jesus is the “link” between heaven and earth. In John 1:47-51 he tells Nathanael, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” as they did on “Jacob’s ladder.”[4] We are sent as prophets, priests and stewards of his kingship to be the link between the historical Jesus who came in Mary and the victorious Jesus who will come at the end of time.

Initiative: Be an angel. Ev-angel-ize by embodying your faith as prophet, expressing love as priest, persevering in hope as steward of the Kingdom.

[1] See Daniel 8:16-26, 9:21-27. For the explanations here, see McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible, and Leon-Dufour, S.J., Dictionary of the New Testament.
[2] See Daniel 10:21, 12:1; Revelation 12:7.
[3] Galatians 2:20.
[4] Genesis 28:12.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It’s Going To Happen

It’s Going To Happen

 (Same Day) Twenty-Sixth Week of Year II     Thursday   September 29, 2016

The Responsorial Psalm declares unshakable hope: “I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27).

Job 19: 21-27 begins with Job’s plea to his friends to stop pelting him with platitudes. He is suffering, and their facile explanations are no help. But then Job makes his own profession of faith. He can speak with credibility, because he is drowning in the reality of his pain. And he wants his words recorded for all generations! “I know that my Vindicator lives…. whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him. And from my flesh I shall see God.”

Job goes to the essentials. He cannot explain his suffering. But he knows that God is, that God is faithful and will triumph over all evil, and that he, Job, will survive, somehow, to see it. Without knowing it, he was expressing implicit faith in the triumph of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.

This is the faith and hope that sustain all who are committed to establishing the reign of God on earth as stewards of the kingship of Christ. We may not be able to explain why God often seems to be losing — or absent — but we trust absolutely that Jesus will come again in triumph, and that we will see it. “I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

In Luke 10: 1-12 Jesus is as realistic as Job. He doesn’t send out his disciples with na├»ve expectations of getting an enthusiastic reception. The Good News won’t be perceived as good by everyone: “I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

When we evangelize, we should test the waters before we dive in. Sound out the spirit of those to whom we are speaking. Listen to (and for) their spiritual experience.

Jesus says, “If there is a peaceable person there,” you can share peacefully. If not, you may have to “shake the dust” of that place from your feet. But like Job, we must have no doubt and leave no doubt about the ultimate outcome: “Know that the reign of God is near.” 

Regardless of acceptance or opposition, the world is going to be transformed. We will bring about the reform of social structures: in family and social life, education, health care, the prison system, business and politics. The “pilgrim” Church will discard policies of power and prestige. The national income will be diverted from swords to ploughs. We will focus, not on tools to kill but on stomachs to fill. And the wolf shall lie down with the lamb. “None shall hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.” We just don’t know when.

1Isaiah 11: 6-9; 65: 25-26.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Make faith your answer to appearances.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Feelings Are Invaders

Feelings Are Invaders

Twenty-Sixth Week of Year II     Tuesday   September 27, 2016

The Responsorial Psalm is a prayer from a man so “without strength” that prayer is all he has left: “Let my prayer come before you, Lord” (Ps. 88).

Job 3: 1-23 is a longing, not for death as such — no one wants that — but for death as an escape from pain. When Job “opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth,” he was expressing his feelings — just as Jesus did in his agony in the garden: “Father… remove this cup from me.”1 Neither Jesus nor Job turned from God with their wills, but both had human feelings not in harmony with the truth they believed in.

There is an important lesson for us in this. To establish the reign of God over ourselves or others, we do not have to make any feelings go away. For one thing, it is impossible. Feelings are not subject to our free will; therefore there is no moral value, good or bad, in any feeling or desire that we have. Until we choose to “adopt” a feeling, make it our own, give it permission to be in us, it is nothing but the effect of some cause, an uninvited intruder in our consciousness, and we are not in any way guilty for having it, any more than Jesus was guilty or less loving for wishing, on the feeling level, that he could just call off our redemption! His will never wavered; that is the important thing.

So whenever we have any intrusive thought, persistent temptation, obsessive desire or unwelcome feeling, we should never blame ourselves for it. Jesus, God himself, suffered the same thing in his human nature. We can try to distract ourselves, but whether this succeeds or not, we keep declaring our willed desire, our free choice, to God in prayer: “Let my prayer come before you, Lord.”

To do this is to let God reign over us. It is to exercise faithful stewardship over the life God has given us.

The problem is, we often choose to act on our feelings instead of just ignoring them. In Luke 9: 51-56 “the Samaritans would not welcome” Jesus because Jews and Samaritans were culturally hostile to each other. They followed their knee-jerk reaction to Jesus the Jew instead of getting to know Jesus the person.

James’ and John’s answering knee-jerk reaction was to “call down fire from heaven to destroy them” as Elijah did.2 But with Jesus things had changed, as the new “Elijah” who announced him discovered.3 Power and force are out; vulnerability and mercy are in. Jesus did not take the Samaritans’ reaction as their final choice. He would wait to reach them4 — as we must wait if we want to establish God’s reign in his way, not ours.

1Luke 22:42.  
22Kings 1: 9-13.  
3Matthew 11:14, 17: 12, 14: 1-12.    
4John 4:39; Acts 8: 1-14.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Follow faith, not feelings, in your choices.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

It Is Big To Help The Little

It Is Big To Help The Little
 Twenty-Sixth Week of Year II     Monday   September 26, 2016
(Begin reading the Book of Job)

The Responsorial is a cry of faith-supported hope: “Lord, bend your ear and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17).

The drama of Job 1: 6-22 is that Job is a righteous man. God is not punishing him for his sins, and Job will insist on this steadfastly against all the arguments of his friends, who think God must be. Nor does he fall into the sin of blaming God in anger and doubting God’s goodness. He does not understand, but he will not judge God.

Sometimes the daily news makes us feel we are getting messages similar to Job’s. One disaster follows another. They don’t all affect us personally, but they affect the world we are responsible for as stewards of Christ’s kingship. One report after another makes it appear God is not reigning on earth; or that, if he is, he is raining punishments down with anger against the human race.

Nevertheless, our faith tells us God is in control, even though he allows freedom and therefore allows sin to delay the establishment of his kingdom on earth. And he is not “punishing” the human race. Most sufferings, even some “natural disasters,” are the natural consequence of our sins, because sin is by definition a destructive way of acting. Other sufferings are simply the result of physical laws impartial in their consistency. But our duty as stewards is to persevere in faith by believing God is winning in spite of appearances; and in fidelity by continuing to work for God’s reign regardless of visible results. We just keep praying, “Lord, bend your ear and hear my prayer.

In Luke 9: 46-50 Jesus tells us that to do great things for his kingdom, we need to do small things for the “little“ people: for children and those whom the world does not consider important. “Whoever welcomes this little child on my account welcomes me.” To help God reign in our world we first have to let his love reign in us — for God typically works through humble beginnings that grow slowly like the mustard seed1, not through great impressive projects. And what allows him to bear his fruit through great institutions and undertakings is the humility and charity of those working within them — especially the respect and kindness they show to all people, great and small alike.

We can get so impressed by some big group or institution with which we identify that it surprises us to see people “not of our company” doing  great things. We even try to stop them. But Jesus said,  “Whoever is not with me (not you) is against me.”2 Those “not against you are for you.” Only Jesus is the criterion.

1Matthew 13: 31-32; 17:20.    2Luke 11:23.

Initiative: Be a faithful steward. Keep working with faith, hope and love. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

One God, One People

One God, One People

September 25, 2016

To live is to be aware. To be unaware is to be half dead. The readings today deal with complacency, which is one of the worst kinds of unawareness. So we ask ourselves, “Is the God of peace disturbing me?” God’s disturbance always holds the promise of peace and leads to peace. That is how we distinguish it from worry.

The Entrance Antiphon focuses above all on God’s “greatness of heart” and “unbounded kindness.” This is what gives us the courage to admit that God has “just cause to judge” us, because we “sinned against you and disobeyed your will.”

The Scriptures sometimes call the bad things that happen to us on earth God’s “judgments” against us. This does not mean God “sends” disasters and causes them to happen in order to punish us. Most of the bad things that happen on earth (except “natural disasters”) are simply the result of our failure as persons and communities to follow the “manufacturer’s instructions” in using the human powers God gave us. To break God’s rules is to sin against each other by doing what God warned us would mess up the world. Then the mess we make is the “judgment” against us pronounced by the consequences of our own actions.

But there is a remedy. In the Opening Prayer(s) we say God shows his “almighty power” in “unbounded mercy” and “constant forgiveness of our sins.” God doesn’t just forgive; he heals. And so we ask that the “power of his love” will be in us to bring, not only his pardon but his kingdom to all we meet and deal with. We count on God, not just to forgive us, but to empower us — as stewards of God's mysteries — to free ourselves and others from all that diminishes the quality of life on earth. The Responsorial Psalm is appropriately, “Praise the Lord, my soul” (Psalm 146). When we add to our awareness of what the world has become our awareness of what God unchangingly is, we always have a reason to express joy in praise.

Sleep of Prisoners
Amos 6: 1-7 tells us that we can’t get rid of prison walls by closing our eyes to them — or keep the crumbling walls of our society from falling in on us by refusing to look at the cracks in them. When we say the ostrich thinks it is hiding from its foes by burying its head in the ground, that is a myth: God wouldn’t make any animal that dumb! Only rational animals act irrationally.

We not only let sin enslave us; we let it blind us by refusing to look at what it is doing to us. Amos says that if we can’t see it in our own selves, we should look around us. What is sin doing to our society, our environment, our culture? If we don’t see the reflection of our personal choices in the public life of our country, we are not connecting the dots.
It isn’t just our country that we affect. What we do and say, the attitudes and values we accept and express in our conduct (not always consistent with our words) are what give shape to our family life; to our environment at school and at work; to our social life. We lie in the bed we make, whether we face the fact we are making it or not.

Woe to the complacent in Zion!
Lying on beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches….
They shall  be the first to go into exile!

So keep using bad language, and see how you and others unconsciously come to devalue the body and its sexuality. Keep talking unkindly to and about people, and see how enjoyable your company becomes. Keep working or shopping on Sunday and see how tense you soon find life in these United States. Keep voting narrowly for candidates who favor your own interests and see what happens to the overall good of the country. Sit by passively while our government follows policies that make the poor (and poor countries) poorer and the rich (and rich countries) richer — and then act indignant “when whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores.”1 

Dip occasionally into “social” drugs — contributing to the drug trade — and watch your city become immersed in crime and murder. Keep silence while we Americans initiate “first strike” wars, copy criminals by killing officially those who kill unofficially, destroy living babies in their mothers’ wombs — and see how secure you feel about your own life in the “culture of death” we create. Raise your voice, if not your fist, in violence and see how peaceful things remain around you. Keep sleeping, and see what you wake up to. That is what Amos is saying.

Can you still say, “Praise the Lord, my soul”? You can if you open your eyes and look at what God is, so that when you have the courage to look at what the world (and your life in it) is becoming you will draw hope to do something about it.

A gated community
In Luke 16: 19-31 Jesus shows us a man who doesn’t have to close his eyes to the suffering around him; he just manages to keep it far enough away from himself that he never has to see it.

Lazarus, the poor man, lay outside the rich man’s gate. The rich man lived inside the walls, separate and isolated from the condition of those outside. He seldom, if ever, had to say “No” to the pleas of the poor: they never got close enough to ask him for anything.
We may live in affluent suburbs, where poverty is not visible. If so, in our case does “Out of sight” mean “out of mind”? The farther we are physically from the poor, the closer we have to keep ourselves spiritually to their condition. We have to listen for what we don’t hear, look for what we don’t see, be sure we are touched by what we don’t feel. We have to make sure we are informed. This is our responsibility as stewards of the kingdom of God. We are all our “brother’s keeper.” When God asks us, “How is your brother? In what shape is your sister?” we must not answer as Cain did: “I do not know.”

Isolation works both ways. When the rich man died and asked “from the abode of the dead, where he was in torment,” that Lazarus might give him a touch of cool water, Abraham replied, “between you and us there is fixed a great abyss, so that those who might wish to pass from here to you cannot do so, nor can anyone cross from your side to us.” What goes around comes around. Those who build walls to keep the poor on the “other side” will find themselves on the “other side,” excluded from the party, when God calls everyone together at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” Scripture warns: “If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard.”2

The response, “Praise the Lord, my soul!” is followed by “Happy are those who… secure justice for the oppressed, who give food to the hungry.” What we praise God for above all is love: his and ours (his revealed in ours). To live out God’s love for everyone, rich and poor, is responsible stewardship.

The root of all
Abraham may appear a little cynical in the Gospel story. When the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his rich family to “warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment,” Abraham answers, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” The rich man replies, “No, they wont, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent,” In Abraham’s answer we can hear the voice of everyone who has experience preaching the Gospel: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Luke’s point was, Jesus has risen from the dead. He is preaching today in us who are his risen body on earth. And people still don’t listen. But we must not let this discourage us. In 1Timothy 6: 11-16 Paul is writing to a “bishop” — the word means “overseer’ — charged with that special responsibility for the community that is synonymous with authority. He is urging him to be a faithful steward, to “fight the good fight of faith” and to persevere, in spite of all resistance, in “the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine that is in accordance with true religion.” 3

What is this sound teaching? Paul’s main focus is on the temptation of those who “long to be rich.” “They get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction. The love of money is the root of all evils.” The bishop, “as a man dedicated to God,” — as all of us are by Baptism — must take special care to shun wealth and prestige in order to preach more by example than by words. Not to do this, whether as a bishop or layperson, is to be an “unfaithful steward” — at least in this particular way.

It is in the example of our lifestyle that the presence of the risen Jesus in us is revealed. This makes it an act of faithful stewardship to live in such a way that we will be able to extend the reign of God through what we say and do. This calls us to solidarity with rich and poor alike. Since all we have and use belongs to God, as good managers we must use and acquire things only in ways that are in God’s best interest; that is, for the good of the whole human race.

1See Edwin Markham’s poem, “The Man With the Hoe.”    2Genesis 4:9,  Matthew 8:12, 22:13; Revelation 19:9; Proverbs 21:13.  3See the context of this reading, verses 3-10, in the Jerusalem Bible.

Have possessions, or the desire for them, separated me from the poor? How?

Make contact with the poor. Go where they are and serve them in some way.



By Baptism we were solemnly anointed to take responsibility for establishing the reign of Christ’s truth and love over every area and activity of human life on earth. This is our job as stewards of his kingship. We can only do it through love.

Jesus has invited you to help establish the reign of God on earth — here and now.

Our faith: How many of these statements do you believe? And live?
A “purely personal” religion is as contradictory as a “purely personal” patriotism. Every sin is a crime against society; every crime is a sin against God.

Environment affects attitude. So we work, as stewards of the kingship of Christ, to bring about a just society in which riches do not make people ignore God and extreme poverty does not lead them to anger and bitterness.
Jesus transformed everything. With Christianity “there is a new creation. We are consecrated by Baptism to exercise leadership in making “all things new.”

Luke 8: 16-18: God doesn’t give people graces — e.g. “enlightenment” — just for themselves. He invests in those who listen, learn and share as stewards of the light.

Luke 8: 19-21: Jesus recognizes those who act on his words as his “mother and brothers.” We are related to him more closely by grace than even Mary was by her biological kinship with him as his mother.

Luke 9: 1-6: When Jesus sends out his disciples he gives detailed instructions about living a prophetic lifestyle. The “apostolate” is more appealing than “asceticism.” And rallies draw more people than retreats. But to be effective stewards of the kingship of Christ we first have to take seriously our own spiritual growth.

Luke 9: 7-9: Herod explains Jesus as John the Baptizer risen. The Church can only be explained as Jesus in his risen body working on earth to make “all things new.

Luke 9: 18-22: Peter recognizes Jesus as something new, never seen on earth before: “Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus announces that his work will not end in death: he will rise and continue his mission in his risen body. The mystery of our stewardship is that Jesus transcends time. His work endures in us.

Luke 9: 43-45: Jesus is “handed over into the power of men.” His disciples, not looking beyond the plane of human time, see this as proof that “all is vanity.” What is entrusted to our stewardship is the truth of resurrection. That changes everything.

Be a responsible steward: Pick one thing you can do to try to change one thing

Maintain the stewardship of light: Seek light to be light for the world. Let Christ’s light shine in your actions. Change your life to give light to the world. Shine a new light on everything you touch. Live and labor in the light of what will be. Let your life reveal the risen Jesus working in you. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Time Is God’s Investment In Us

Time Is God’s Investment In Us

Twenty-Fifth Week of Year II     Saturday   September 24, 2016

The Responsorial Psalm sings harmony to the first reading in asking: “Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart.” But the bottom line, as always, is confidence and hope: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge” (Psalm 90). And so the Psalm concludes with the steward’s constant prayer: “May the favor of the Lord be upon us: give success to the work of our hands. Prosper the work of our hands!

Ecclesiastes 11:9 to 12-8 tells us that if we look ahead, restricting our view just to the plane of human time, everything is ultimately worthless. Nothing lasts, including our lives on this earth. But youth are not inclined to look ahead. So Ecclesiastes begins by taking the young as they are: “Go ahead,” he says, “Follow the promptings of your heart and the desires of your eyes…. Cast worry from your heart.” But you still need to know, he concludes, that “for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” Whether the young face it or not, youth doesn’t last. Like everything else “youth is vanity.”

Ecclesiastes counsels the young: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before...” and then gives a vivid description of the negative aspects of old age, ending in Ecclesiastes’ theme song: “Vanity of vanities… All is vanity.” His point is that life is entrusted to us to be used well, and if we just do what “comes naturally,” without thinking responsibly about it, we will find in old age that we have literally wasted our time.

Life isn’t just something that is; it is an ongoing gift of our Creator. We are stewards of our lives, not absolute owners. God expects a return on his investment.1 The return benefits us — what God wants is for us to grow to “life to the full” 2 — and it benefits the human race, but it is God’s plan and desire that we should play a part in bringing to fulfillment all he began both as Creator and as Redeemer.3 Nature and grace are both gifts of God. But they are gifts entrusted to us for development.4 Old age should be for us a time for rejoicing in a fruitful life.

In Luke 9: 43-45, when Jesus is “handed over into the power of men” his disciples, not looking beyond the plane of human time, see this as proof that “all is vanity.” This reminds us that what is entrusted to our stewardship is the truth of resurrection. That changes everything.

1Matthew 25:27.    2John 10:10.    3 Colossians 1: 15-20; Ephesians 1: 9-10;   4Genesis 1: 26-28; 2:15; Isaiah 5: 1-4; Matthew 3:8, 7:19; 9: 37-38; 13: 3-23; 21: 33-43; Luke 13:6-9; John 4: 31-38; 15: 1-16; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5: 6-17; Colossians 1: 3-10.

Initiative: Be a steward of the revelation that Jesus risen is working in us.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Time That Is Timeless

Time That Is Timeless

Twenty-Fifth Week of Year II     Friday   September 23, 2016

The Responsorial Psalm adds a balancing note of stability to the first reading: “Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!” (Psalm 144).

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11 reflects on the human experience of change and of time. We experience one thing after another. One period of time is unlike another, and what is appropriate or possible at one time of life is not when we move into another. “There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.”

Humans can “consider time in its wholeness,” aware that there is a past and a future, but we really cannot see the whole picture. We cannot “comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.” So Ecclesiastes goes on to conclude there is nothing better for humans than to make the most of the present moment: to “be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live.” He sees it as “God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.” But when we quote this — “Eat, drink and be merry! — there is a note of fatalism in it, as if we are closing our eyes to an emptiness in life that we do not want to face.

The Responsorial Psalm shows us where to look for stability in our changing world: “Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!” — “my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge.” It is true our life “fades like a shadow,” but God endures. And we who have received “grace” — the “favor” of sharing in the divine life of God — will also live forever with God and in him. “The world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.”1 In the same way, the fruit of our labors for God on earth will endure forever: “I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”2 This gives new meaning to “Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!

Luke 9: 18-22 sounds like an echo of Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The “crowds” think Jesus is “John the Baptizer... Elijah… [or] one of the ancient prophets come back to life.” But Peter, speaking for Christ’s disciples, recognizes that Jesus is a different reality altogether, something new, the like of which had never been seen on earth before: “The Christ [Anointed] of God,” the “Messiah, the Son of the living God.”3
Jesus goes on to prepare his disciples for the shock of his death. But he announces that his work will not end in death: he will rise and continue to fulfill his mission in his risen body on earth; in us. This is the mystery of our stewardship: Jesus transcends time. His work endures in us.

11John 2:17; John 6: 26-59.    2John 15:16.    3Matthew 16:16.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Live and labor in the light of what will be. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Everything Has Become New

Everything Has Become New
Twenty-Fifth Week of Year II     Thursday    September 22, 2016
(Begin reading Ecclesiastes)

The Responsorial Psalm pinpoints hope: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge” (Psalm 90). 

Ecclesiastes 1: 2-11 bears witness to a common perception of life on this earth: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The Sumerian religion that preceded Judaism thought human life here below mirrored the unchanging cycle of the stars, which revealed the divine life and will. When God intervened in history and chose Abraham, he broke the cycle. Something new was afoot.[1]

Jesus transformed everything. With Christianity “there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”[2]

Jesus came to establish a new covenant, to give the new life of the Spirit; creating new wineskins to hold new wine; a new garment to receive a new patch; making us a new dough to be unleavened bread purified of the old yeast.

Baptism makes us a new creation, everything has become new. We are one new humanity in place of the old division into Jews and Gentiles. We have received a new birth into a living hope. We are a new self with a new name, speaking new tongues.

We are being renewed in knowledge by a new teaching with authority, so that everyone trained for the kingdom of heaven draws from a treasure of what is new and what is old. We have received a new commandment. We are taught to follow a new and living way. We wait for new heavens and a new earth, the new Jerusalem that comes down from God out of heaven; where we will sing a new song. God says, “See, I am making all things new.”
No wonder we are committed to work for change in society! We are consecrated by Baptism stewards of the kingship of Christ to exercise leadership in making “all things new.”

In Luke 9: 7-9, when Herod heard “about all that was being done by Jesus” he sensed something new was taking place. “People were saying that John had risen from the dead,” and he too saw Jesus as more than a prophet (see Matthew 14:2). In his superstitious fear he had an inkling of the truth: that the Church can only be explained as Jesus risen, animating and empowering his body on earth. In us Christ himself is making “all things new.”

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Shine a new light on everything you touch.

[1]  See Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews.
[2] References to all the following citations are given here in alphabetical order: 1Corinthians 5:7; 11:25;     2Corinthians 3:6; 5:17;     1John 2:8;     1Peter 1:3;     2Peter 3:13, 14:3;     Acts 2:13; 17:19.;     Colossians 3:10;     Ephesians 2:15;     Galatians 6:15;     Hebrews 8: 8, 13; 9:15; 10:20; 12:24;     John 13:34;     Luke 5:36-39; 22:20;     Mark 1:27; 2:22; 14:25; 16:17;     Matthew 9:17; 13:52; 26:29;     Revelation 2:17; 3:1,12; 5:9; 21:1-2, 5;     Romans 7:6.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Concern For The Culture

Concern For The Culture
(Same Day) Twenty-Fifth Week of Year II     Wednesday   September 21, 2016

The Responsorial Psalm proclaims that God’s word is a practical guide for living: “Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet” (Psalm 119).

Proverbs 30: 5-9 asks for preservation from false thinking — and from the kind of situation that would lead to it: “Give me neither poverty or riches… for fear that… I should fall away….”

Notice that the real fear here is of not being aware of and acknowledging God. Riches can make one ignore God or even dismiss him: “Who is the Lord?” Extreme poverty can lead one to “profane the name of the Lord” in anger and bitterness.

This is why we work, as stewards of the kingship of Christ, to bring about a just society. The truth is, environment does affect attitude. To form people in the attitudes and values God teaches we need to create an environment, a society, “of truth and life… of holiness and grace… of justice, love and peace.” That is, we need to establish the kingdom of God on earth.[1]

For this we must work to change some attitudes and values that everyone takes for granted. How “American” is it to pray, “Give me neither poverty or riches!”? Isn’t it an underlying assumption in families and schools, in what is celebrated and advertised in the media, and in the conversation of all around us, that it is normal to want to be at least as rich as our parents were? As stewards of Christ’s truth we must keep recalling the guideline, “Your word, O Lord (not the culture) is a lamp for my feet.

In Luke 9: 1-6 Jesus sends his disciples out to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” For this he gives detailed instructions about living a prophetic lifestyle: “no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money” — not even a change of shirt! To heal others of false attitudes and values we have to be visibly healed ourselves. Jesus himself acknowledged the proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” (Luke 4:23). We say “charity begins at home” — and so does change.

It is much easier to enlist people to work for changes in the environment than to work on changing themselves. People will engage in projects more readily than in prayer. The “apostolate” is more appealing than “asceticism.” And rallies draw more people than retreats. But to be effective (and authentic) stewards of the kingship of Christ we first have to take seriously our own spiritual growth. Otherwise we are flying blind: “Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet.” It must abide in our hearts (John 15:7).

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Change your life to give light to the world.

[1] Preface for the feast of Christ the King.

Gifts Are For Giving

Gifts Are For Giving
September 21  Feast of Saint Matthew,  Apostle and Evangelist

The Responsorial (Psalm 19) declares Matthew, and all evangelists and apostles, faithful stewards of the Good News entrusted to them: “Their message goes out through all the earth.”

In Ephesians 4:1-13 Paul is “pleading” with all of us “to lead a life worthy of the calling you have received.” He mentions some key virtues, then passes rapidly to what he wants to stress: faithful stewardship.

This is shown first in preserving the unity so vital to the Church: “Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force.”

Secondly, Paul pleads for fidelity in carrying out the mission “each of us was given... according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Paul echoes Peter in begging us, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” We are responsible for “building up the Church” and bringing all of human society under the reign of God.[1]

This returns us naturally to the theme of unity. Paul begs us to use our gifts “until we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son.” We are called to be one, not in some natural way, through having a common background of experiences, beliefs or values, but in a way that is a mystery: the mystery of divine life revealing itself as a communion of divine faith, hope and love, “communion in the Holy Spirit.”  This unity culminates in the mysterious unification of all people to “form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.”

In Christ, at the end of time, all things in heaven and on earth will be “united,” “gathered up,” “summed up,” “recapitulated,” “brought together under a single Head.” God’s goal is to “bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ’s headship.” As stewards of his kingship, we are responsible for bringing that about.[2]

This is the mystery behind what we wish for each other in the Mass Greeting, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and communion in the Holy Spirit be with you.”

Matthew 9:9-13 tells how Matthew himself received the call to do this, a call that led him, eventually, to write his Gospel. Jesus found him in his tax-collector’s booth, isolated and ostracized by his fellow Jews for collaborating with the Romans. Jesus expressed neither reproach nor pity. He just met Matthew’s eyes through the window of his booth and said, “Follow me.”

That was all it took. Matthew followed and Matthew wrote. Now we see, “His message goes out through all the earth.”

Initiative: Respond as Matthew did. Devote your life to being and working with Jesus. You don’t have to leave your job; just transform the way you may be doing it.

[1] 1Peter 4:10.
[2] Ephesians 1:10. This is the NAB (1970) version. The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1958) translates this as “to unite all things in Christ under one head,” and explains: “The verb anekephalaiosasthai literally means to place at the top of a column the sum of figures that have been added.”

Monday, September 19, 2016

Walk Humbly, But Walk

Walk Humbly, But Walk
Twenty-Fifth Week of Year II     Tuesday  September 20

The Responsorial Psalm asks for enlightenment — “Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands”— because “they are happy… who follow God’s law” (Psalm 119).

Proverbs 21: 1-13 says some things that every believer instructed in God’s word should know. But Christians are also aware that this knowledge is given to them so that they can guide the human race toward happiness — in this world and the next. We are committed by our baptismal consecration as stewards of the kingship of Christ to use the gift of our knowledge for others. We are responsible for doing this at all the points of contact we have with the human race: in our family and social life, in our business and civic relationships. In every area and activity of human life in which we are involved, we are responsible for exercising leadership to bring about changes. We cannot rest content with the status quo anywhere we are until God’s reign is total.

Proverbs warns us to do this with humility, intent on self-knowledge, because “the Lord weighs the heart.” We need to act “virtuously and with justice,” not with a “haughty eye and proud heart” like know-it-alls, but thoughtfully and prudently, without “too much haste.” We must pray always, “Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.” But we need to act.

In Luke 8: 19-21 Jesus declares that our action on his words is what makes him recognize us as his “mother and brothers.” This is what shows we are related to him more closely than by biological kinship — even his biological relationship with Mary, Mother of God!

The most intimate, mystical relationship that all of us, including Mary, have with Jesus is through grace, our sharing in the life of God, which makes us Jesus’ own flesh and blood, his own body. By Baptism we “became Christ” (St. Augustine), and therefore became what he is as Prophet, Priest and King. But we only recognize and experience this relationship as real when we act as members of his body, moving in obedience to signals from Christ our head and letting him continue his mission on earth in us, expressing his own self in and through our human actions. Then we experience with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”1 When we “hear the word of God and put it into practice,” we know we have “become Christ” and that he is acting with us, in us and through us as Prophet, Priest and King. “Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.”

1Galatians 2:20.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Let his light shine in your actions.