Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (June 30, 2019)

Today’s Scriptures are a strong reminder that following Jesus is a challenge.

We heard St. Paul tell us: Jesus has set you free to love. Live by the Spirit; don’t become slaves of the world again. Paul is echoing Jesus in today’s Gospel: if you want to follow me wherever I go, don’t seek security in this world. Once you set your hand to proclaiming the kingdom of God, don’t look back at what you have left behind.

Jesus reminds us that journeying with him will take us in one direction - to the cross. We must be willing to complete the journey with Jesus if we want to share in his glory.

Our problem as human beings is often our focus. When we think of what we are by our baptism and profession of vows–members of the Body of Christ, sharers in the life and mission of Jesus, the presence of Jesus in our world –then we want to give ourselves to the work of the kingdom; we love and forgive and show compassion.

But too often we let our minds and hearts focus on other very natural desires –desires for security, for intimacy with family and friends, for acceptance by others –and, “looking back,” we take our hands from the plow and forget Jesus’ call to save the world with him. We can help ourselves to focus more on Jesus and our call if we learn to consciously remember Jesus’ presence with us as we begin each new activity of our day. Just a momentary prayer can keep us focused.

Jesus is calling us to a love gentle enough to endure all things without violence, a love strong enough to stand against the whole world in loyalty to the work and ideals of the kingdom of God. We know that we cannot love this way by ourselves.

Jesus has promised to be with us at every moment of our life. His Spirit will prompt us in our efforts to love as Jesus loved. The challenge is great; even greater is the grace Jesus will give us to meet the challenge. Let us refocus ourselves today at this Eucharist.

Jesus is here; let us take him with us; let us journey with him. He desires to lead us back to our Father.

The Body and Blood of Christ (June 23, 2019)

Today’s second reading gives us the oldest written account of the origin of Eucharist.

St. Paul reminds us that Eucharist is intimately united with the death of Jesus.

We heard him tell us: “Every time we eat this bread (Jesus’ body) and drink this cup (Jesus’ blood), we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.” That means that each time we share in this Eucharistic meal, we express our willingness to share in the death of Jesus - a willingness to join him in giving ourselves for the sake of others.

Luke’s gospel reminds us that Jesus cared about feeding the many hungers of the people he served. He fed their bodies with bread, but he also fed their spirits with healing.

Do we always remember the grace and responsibility we accept when we eat and drink? The bread and cup we share are one - the body and blood of Jesus. Therefore, we who eat it must be one - forgetting ourselves completely and living for the happiness of others. Do we take care about that responsibility as we leave the Lord’s table and go about our daily living?

The Eucharist is the graced means given to us to fulfill our purpose in life - letting Jesus come alive in all we say and do. The Jesus whose body we eat and whose blood we drink is the same Jesus who is in us as we go about our day. Do we let the gentle, humble, compassionate, forgiving Jesus come alive in us in the circumstances of daily living, reaching out through us to touch others? Or do we tend to forget and let self-interest and self-gratification come alive instead?

We all give thanks each day for the gift of Eucharist we celebrate and receive. Perhaps today’s celebration can remind us once again in our humanness that the gift we receive in Eucharist - Jesus himself - is the Jesus we carry with us during the day.

May each of us learn more and more to share Jesus living in us with everyone we encounter today and every day. In this way, we continue Jesus’ work of feeding the hungers of our sisters and brothers.

Pentecost Sunday (June 9, 2019)

We have just heard Jesus announce the new creation.

As God breathed life into Adam, so Jesus breathes new life into his disciples – the gift of the Holy Spirit. As they breathe in the Spirit, they are able to receive and give forgiveness.

St. Luke describes the coming of the Spirit in more dramatic fashion. As the Spirit descends as tongues of fire on the disciples, they begin to make bold proclamation of the Good News in an astounding way.

The same Spirit is given to each of us at our Baptism, and his presence has been strengthened in Confirmation. St. Paul points that that we are one in the Body of Christ because we all share the one Spirit.

Each of us has special gifts that have been given to us as a way of manifesting the Spirit’s presence in us. Our gifts are given, not for our own good, but for the good of others; when we use our gifts for others, we witness to our oneness in Christ. No one’s gift or ministry or work is more important than anyone else’s; all are needed for the unity of the community of the Church.

Each of us is important because each brings a gift or talent or way of working that no one else can bring to the group. We all lose something when an individual person’s gifts are not welcomed or used in the community.

That’s why a welcoming attitude is so important in the Church community. It’s also why forgiveness is so important among us. We need one another in order to experience the full wonder of God’s love for us.

As we celebrate this feast of new life, our breathing can be a graced reminder. The Spirit is as close to each of us as our very breath, taken deeply into our lungs thousands of times every day, a constant life-giving force.

As we exhale, the Spirit’s power directs us outward to our mission - spreading the love, peace and forgiveness we have inhaled from the risen Lord Jesus.

May we breathe deeply today!

Seventh Sunday of Easter (June 2, 2019)

We have just heard Jesus’ prayer for us: That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me…and you love them even as you loved me.”

That is Jesus’ great desire for us and he died and rose to make that desire possible.

That is the mystery of God’s great love for us. And we have been baptized into the mystery of God’s love. We now share the very life and love of God.

God’s life within us draws us into unity, not just with God, but with one another. And our unity in love allows God’s love to overflow and bear witness to the world around us. Jesus tells us that our unity in love will testify that he and the Father are one, that he was sent into the world by his Father, and that we believers are one with God.

As we express our love for one another in daily life, God is working through us to transform the division and strife of our world into unity and peace.

It’s hard not to be stirred by Jesus’ words. The challenge is: do we believe them enough to live by them? Will I, will we, choose to love today in a way that allows God’s love in us to overflow to others? Will we, will I, accept the responsibility to be God’s loving presence today in our little corner of the world? Unity and peace can only happen if you and I are willing each day to do our share of loving as Jesus has loved us.

We heard Jesus give us a promise in the gospel: if we accept the gift of God’s love and in turn love others generously, then he wants us to be with him and share his glory forever.

Jesus’ prayer challenges us today. Let us ask him to strengthen us in our efforts today to be a living witness of God’s great love.

May God be praised in us!

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 26, 2019)

Today’s first reading recounts for us the first great debate in the Church.

After listening to all the parties and praying, the apostles and elders respond: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us …” The Apostles depended on the Holy Spirit they had received from Jesus. The Holy Spirit sent by the Father in Jesus’ name will teach them everything and remind them of all that Jesus had told them. The Spirit did just that.

Through the centuries, the Church has followed the same path with new debates: listening, praying, and responding with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Along with the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us the gift of his peace – a peace that is more profound than any peace the world might offer. Jesus’ peace brings us the assurance that nothing can separate us from his love. Jesus’ peace strengthens our faith and trust that we will be victorious over trials and suffering as Jesus was. Jesus’ peace enables us to live with optimism and grace.

Jesus tells us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” If we choose to abide in Jesus’ peace and seek opportunities to share that peace with one another, we will have no reason to be troubled or afraid.

Every breath we take is a reminder of the Holy Spirit within us and the gift of Jesus’ peace in our hearts.

Let us breathe deeply today – and be at peace.

Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 19, 2019)

“I make all things new!”

This is the good news Jesus brings us through his death and resurrection. The world hasn’t been the same since that moment in history. Death on a cross is Jesus’ glorification; his death brings life. His glorification reaches its fullness in his resurrection, and he desires to share his new, glorious life with us. He has done that through the waters of our baptism.

We are a new creation. Jesus tells us that there will come a time when this new creation will be complete. We will be his people forever, dwelling with him. Every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain. All things will be completely new in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus has told us that he is going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for us. But he doesn’t want us to stand around looking to the heavens for his return. He has given us his sure promise of future happiness so that we will have the strength and courage to get about the daily work of loving one another in the same way that he has loved us.

Loving in this way will be a challenge each day. His promise gives us hope and encouragement as we try to meet the challenges of loving. Our efforts to love really do have an effect on this passing world in which we live. The sincerity and generosity of our efforts to love will be a sign in this world of Jesus’ continuing presence and work among us. Our efforts to love will continue to announce good news to all we meet.

In light of hearing once again Jesus’ commandment to love, it’s important this morning that we reflect on how committed we are to making daily efforts to love as Jesus has loved us. When we encounter people during the course of the day, do we try to witness to Jesus’ love for each person we meet? Jesus tells us clearly: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples.” Our answer to the question is important. How well we try to love one another in daily living is the true measure of our being Jesus’ good news right here and now.

Let’s pray for ourselves and for one another this morning at this Eucharist that we may grow even stronger and more courageous in our efforts to love as Jesus has loved us. Through us, Jesus is making all things new. May our God be praised in us!

Fourth Sunday of Easter (May 12, 2019)

Imagine being so secure that nothing has the ability to upset us - not natural disaster, disease, crisis, suffering, not even death itself. That may seem too good to be true, yet that is Jesus’ promise to us. “No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus’ words are meant to touch every aspect of our life, the smallest as well as the greatest.

Jesus and the Father are more powerful than anything we can ever come up against. God is greater than any natural disaster, any cultural uproar, and the most serious illness. Nothing escapes God’s loving and watchful eye. No matter how alone we may feel at a particular moment, God is with us, caring for us, strengthening us. Whatever is in our life cannot overwhelm us; God is with us.

We have been reminded that Jesus, our Shepherd, has given us eternal life through his death and resurrection. We must never underestimate the reality of that gift.

Satan would like to convince us that the cross was only a symbolic event. It’s not relevant to our daily struggles and fears. But Jesus has told us that he gives us eternal life, a sharing in his risen life. That life is no longer bound by sin, no longer under the domination of the lies of Satan, no longer subject to fear. Through repentance and faith and trust in Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we can overcome every temptation, every fear, and every anxiety that may crop up each day.

We can be secure in our position in Jesus’ hands when we make daily decisions that will keep us conscious of his presence and dependent on his grace as we go through our day. Every day we must ask Jesus to convince us more deeply of his love and mercy. Ask him to open us to the power of his life that is within us.

As we do this more frequently each day, we will find that our fears and anxieties are reduced, and temptations remain just that – temptations.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us a share in your life. Thank you for being our Good Shepherd. Help us to be mindful of your wonderful gift within us. Help us to trust in your presence and care for us today and always.

Third Sunday of Easter (May 5, 2019)

The risen Jesus appears to his disciples, “children” as he calls them. Once they realize it is the Lord and they come ashore with their tremendous catch, they see that Jesus has prepared breakfast for them. We are privileged to hear a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asks him, “Simon, do you love me more than these?” We hear Peter eagerly respond: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Peter is right; Jesus already knows that Peter loves him. But Peter needed to hear his own response. Each time Jesus asked, Peter needed to reach deeper within himself for his answer. Jesus wanted Peter to know that his declarations of love were freeing him from the memory of his earlier denials. Jesus wanted Peter to understand that his love for Jesus was able to cover a multitude of human failings.

Peter’s responses restored his faith in himself and made him ready to accept the commission of Jesus: “Tend my sheep.” Peter was freed now to follow Jesus more fully.

Each day Jesus asks us,” (Michael, Sr. Anne, Sr. Jane, each of you), do you love me?” We should welcome Jesus’ question. He already knows our answer. You and I are the ones who need to hear our response. Jesus is helping us to reach deeper within us for our response. He is helping us to reach down through our human failings and find the place within us where the love of God dwells. There we find the grace and courage to tell Jesus, “Lord, you know that I love you.”

In that sacred place deep within us, we find the strength we need to follow Jesus each day. From that sacred place, God’s love desires to flow out and transform us more and more in the image of Jesus. God’s love wants to overflow through us and touch the lives of all we meet each day.

We might learn much if we took Jesus’ question to prayer each day. Let us try not to rush our answer. Let us hold his question and allow it to reach deep within us for a response. When we hear our response, we will learn the power of the new life Jesus has won for us by his death and rising. Then we will be freed to follow Jesus more fully and tend his sheep more lovingly.

Second Sunday of Easter (April 28, 2019)

John’s recounting of the appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples is unique.

We’ve just been told that Jesus stood in their midst and showed them his wounds and gave them his peace. The wounds of Jesus bring Thomas to healing faith: “My Lord and my God.”

And we heard Jesus speak to us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

At the end of his Treatise on the Love of God, St. Francis de Sales reminds us that Calvary is the school of love. The wounds of Jesus reveal to us the extent of his love for us. Jesus took our wounds and struggles and made them his own. From his wounds flowed his sacred blood which washes us clean and give us the fullness of life.

God’s mercy and love are poured out on us in Jesus’ death for us.

Jesus invites us to bring our struggles to him with great faith. Let him take our wounds and struggles into his heart where he can transform them into saving grace for us. He desires to raise us up with him. Jesus will give us his gift of peace in the midst of our struggles.

• He will remind us to stay beneath his cross in our struggles.

• He will encourage us to look into his eyes and see his love for us.

• He will help us to remember that his wounds remained when he rose from the dead.

They have become signs of his love for us. He will invite us to let our wounds become reminders of God’s abiding love with us. Like Thomas, may we have the wisdom to proclaim with deep faith: “My Lord and my God, you are always with me.”

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord (April 21, 2019)

Brothers and sisters, we have good reason to rejoice and be glad today - this is the day that the Lord has made!

We have just shared in the experience of Peter and John as they ran to the tomb and peered in. With John, we have had the opportunity to see and believe: Jesus who was crucified and died is now risen!

St. Paul reminds us that what we celebrate today must mean something for our daily living. If we really believe that Jesus is risen, then we must make a sincere effort each day to set our hearts on heavenly things.

Jesus left his place at God’s right hand to live among us; now he has returned to his Father and invites us to live in him. We must try to be intent on things above rather than on things of earth. This is a daily struggle for most of us. It’s just too easy to become intent on our own needs and wants, our own suffering and pain. These can easily distract us from the things that we say really count: from seeking to do God’s will and not our own and trying to love others as Jesus has loved us.

The Lord has made this day for our salvation. In a few moments, we will share once again in Jesus’ saving mystery by renewing our baptismal promises as a community of faith. But renewing them is not enough. We are called to give witness to our renewal by the way we live our daily lives. Our words and deeds must flow from the same source: the saving grace that flows from Jesus’ death and rising.

May we learn to ask for God’s grace each day so that we may live this new life. Then the words we say and the actions we do will proclaim to everyone we meet the truth we celebrate today: Jesus is risen! He is alive in us!

Easter Vigil in the Holy Night (April 20, 2019)

Tonight, the liturgy has immersed us in the story of our God’s great love and mercy. Beneath this pillar of fire, the Light of Christ, we have remembered the wonder of creation.

God looked at everything he had made and found it very good. We have sung the praises of God as we walked with God’s people through the waters of the sea. We have heard God’s promise to feed his people without cost. And, we have remembered that God’s loving mercy has redeemed us through the death and rising of Jesus.

These past few days, we have eaten with Jesus at table and shared in his passion and death. Tonight, we are here to celebrate the final glorious words of good news: Jesus is risen! He has conquered sin and death. He now lives for God.

We have been baptized into the death of Jesus and have risen with him to share his new life. We heard St. Paul tell us: “Consequently you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

Something new has happened to us as we share in the resurrection of Jesus.

As parts of his Mystical Body, we must take seriously the renewal of our baptismal promises: to reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children. We cannot let these be idle words, easily repeated. They are our commitment, made in love, as a return for all that Jesus has done for us.

Our daily efforts to let Jesus live in us more fully are our humble and grateful response to Jesus who has died and risen for us.

This evening’s celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is a powerful reminder of Jesus’ great love for us. May our celebration lead us to a more faithful living of the new life Jesus has won for us.

Trinity Sunday (June 16, 2019)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to us the intimate life of our God: three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), equal in majesty, undivided in splendor, yet one Lord, one God.

We hear Jesus telling us that the action of the three persons is one. Jesus is Wisdom incarnate - the Word of God become flesh, human like us. Whatever he speaks, he has heard from his Father, and whatever the Spirit will speak he has heard from Jesus. Together our God has created all that is, and together our God has willed and brought about our salvation.

As St. Paul tells us, “now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through Jesus. Through him, we have gained access to the grace in which we now stand.” That grace is God’s gift of making us sharers in the very life of the Trinity. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Spirit present in us is the source of our peace with God. He is also the source of our hope - our confident assurance of complete union with the Trinity in the fullness of life to come.

While our sharing in divine life is very personal, it is also communal. Because we share the one Spirit, we are part of one another in the Body of Christ. Therefore the love we have for God is the same love we must learn to have for one another. How we live with one another as Christians ought to reflect in a very real way the unity of Persons in our God. Our unity with one another is possible because we share the same love of God, which Paul told us “has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

What a wonderful gift we have been given in our baptism! Each day, you and I can be the continuing revelation of God’s loving presence in our world. When we struggle each day to live as Jesus taught us to live, when we have confidence in Jesus’ promise to be with us each day, when we try to love one another as Jesus has loved us - we are giving witness to the reality of our triune God who has created us out of love, redeemed us by his love, and made us one with him in love.

Let’s recommit ourselves today to our baptismal mission as Church. May the way we live our faith continue to touch the hearts of those around us and turn them and us more fully toward our loving God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (April 14, 2019)

Today’s Scriptures have taken us from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to his last meal with his disciples and through his passion to his death on the Cross.

In the midst of all this drama is Jesus, who has chosen to be the Suffering Servant for our salvation. St. Paul reminded us that Jesus did not regard equality with God something to hold on to. He chose to empty himself and became human like us.

Then, as a further sign of his love for us, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. All of this for love of you and me.

As we remember Jesus’ great love for us, may we humble ourselves this week and open ourselves to receive the fullness of his love. Like him, let us not cling selfishly to what we have and who we are; rather, let us share selflessly what we have and who we are with others.

Fifth Sunday of Lent (April 7, 2019)

In Jesus we begin to understand the wonder contained in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Remember not the events of the past; see, I am doing something new.” That wonder takes on a personal face in the woman caught in adultery.

Her recent past is all too evident; she was caught in her sin. Now it’s time for punishment. Jesus silences the accusing voices around her when he tells them: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And we’re told they leave one by one. Imagine how surprised the woman must have been when Jesus speaks to her: “Is there no one to condemn you? Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” God is certainly doing something new here.

The truth is: Jesus knows our sins better than anyone, even us. But he chooses not to condemn us. Jesus doesn’t ignore our sins. He fully agrees with his Father that sin must be punished. But Jesus loves us so much that he freely decides to take our punishment on himself. On the cross, every penalty for all the sins ever committed was placed on Jesus. He chose to suffer for us and never blamed us.

God makes his loving mercy clear to us in the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus continues to say to us: “Neither do I condemn you, Go and sin no more.” God chooses not to remember our past; God is doing something new in us. All the more reason for us to turn to Jesus in our sins. He will forgive us and strengthen us against temptations in the future.

This morning, Jesus is telling us once again: have confidence in God’s mercy and forgiveness. How will we respond? Are we willing to bring our sins humbly to the Lord and ask forgiveness? Where else can we experience a love that forgives so freely? Then, in our gratitude, let us heed the words of Jesus: “Go and sin no more,” and know that Jesus makes that possible with the help of his grace. May our gratitude express itself in our willingness to forgive others.

As we continue to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great events of our salvation, may we learn more fully to humbly receive God’s mercy and forgiveness, and gratefully take hold of grace as strength for our resolve for the future.

May we always have a sense of wonder as we experience our God doing something new in us each day. Let us also be open to God’s desire to do something new in the lives of others through us.

Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 31, 2019)

We have just heard Jesus tell us a very familiar story – a story of arrogance, foolishness, loss, and humility; a story of love which forgives and celebrates; a story of anger, hurt pride and invitation to learn.

The father stands at the center of the story – a person filled with unconditional love. The father is willing to give all to his children. The younger son presumes on his father’s generosity and then foolishly wastes what he’s been given. His father is waiting patiently for him to come to his senses and runs out to embrace him when he returns. The father’s all-embracing love is capable of accepting his son in all his foolishness and welcoming him home with a party.

The older son is angry at his brother’s return and hurt that his father is so generous with someone so foolish. What he’s seeing simply isn’t fair. We’re told that his father comes out of the party and we hear him invite his son to grow – to learn to see with his father’s eyes, with the eyes of love.

It’s probably easy for us to identify with the younger son. There have been times when we have arrogantly and foolishly chosen to have our own way and we’ve experienced our own disasters in the process. How generous our God has been with his forgiveness!

We might even find ourselves in the place of the older son. We try so hard to be faithful and watch as others live as they want. It’s doesn’t seem fair that forgiveness is so free. What about us who try so hard?

The point of Jesus’ story is that we are invited to take the place of the father.

We’re invited to discipline ourselves to love unconditionally. We’re invited to discipline ourselves to forgive unconditionally because that’s what love does. We’re invited to discipline ourselves not to make judgments about others. Love accepts each person where he or she is at the moment. We’re invited to learn to trust that our efforts to love are pleasing to God. Our God is always loving us unconditionally, and everything God has is ours.

Jesus never tells us the ending of the story. Perhaps that is our invitation. Are we willing to come in and join the celebration? Are we willing to discipline ourselves to love as our Father loves us?

Third Sunday of Lent (March 24, 2019)

Today’s parable of the barren fig tree can make us very uncomfortable.

What is Jesus telling us?

God expects something from you; so get busy doing it? God certainly desires that we bear fruit. But it’s important that we remember that fruit comes not so much from what we do but from what God does through us.

Jesus uses the fruit tree for a purpose. Think about how fruit comes about. The roots of the tree receive nutrients from the earth, and the leaves receive energy from the sun. The tree produces flowers that are pollinated by wind and insects -- all outside sources – and fruit is the result.

The main work the tree has to “do” is remain receptive to everything that God provides for it. In the same way, God makes us fruitful through his presence in us. God wants to fill our talents and abilities with his power

so that we can bear fruit for the kingdom.

In today’s first reading, Moses is attracted to the burning bush not because it’s on fire, but because the fire wasn’t destroying the bush. In the same way, as God dwells in us and shows his life through us, we will burn with the brightness of the Lord. Our natural personalities and gifts won’t be destroyed. They will have a new power to draw other people to the Lord who lives in us.

God’s great desire is to live in us so that we can be fruitful. God wants us to do the works of Jesus today so that God’s kingdom becomes more evident in today’s world. Lent is a time to let God nourish his fire within us through prayer, reading Scripture, and serving our brothers and sisters. When we allow Jesus to live in us more fully, our lives become more and more fruitful because Jesus is living and loving through us.

Let us continue to seek our Lenten nourishment from our God. Let us ask him to bear the fruit that he has destined for us.

Second Sunday of Lent (March 17, 2019)

As we continue our Lenten journey, we hear the encouraging words which Francis de Sales wrote to us at the beginning of the Directory, quoting St. Paul:

“My brothers (and sisters), whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.”

Like Abraham before us, the Lord has made a covenant with us – a covenant sealed with the blood of his only begotten Son Jesus. Like Peter, James and John, we have heard the voice of the Father: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Each day, we come here to Eucharist to listen as Jesus speaks to us in the Scriptures and feeds us with his body, given up for us, and his blood, poured out for us. And today, we have prayed that the Father of light will restore our sight

that we may look upon Jesus who calls us to repentance and a change of heart.

All of this is part of the “plentitude of our God” that we have been encouraged to reflect upon – and for good reason. When we allow ourselves to be immersed in God’s over-whelming love, we will understand more clearly our need for repentance and a change of heart.

As we are embraced by God’s love, the love of Jesus impels us to become more like him in everything we say and do. When we allow ourselves to dwell in the heart of Jesus more completely, we understand more clearly the importance of our responding to one another with greater patience and understanding, with greater gentleness and forgiveness. We are better able to look at others with the eyes of Jesus. We will appreciate more fully that Jesus sees our faults and failings as reason for his compassionate love. And that can help us change our hearts in responding to the faults and failings of our brothers and sisters.

As our Lenten journey continues, let us be encouraged by Francis and Paul. As we stand firm in the Lord, may the love of Jesus, the beloved Son, grace our efforts to change our hearts.

First Sunday of Lent (March 10, 2019)

Isn’t it good to be reminded again that Jesus was tempted by Satan?

The Scriptures tell us: Jesus is like us in all things, but sin. We can be tempted to say: “Of course, he didn’t sin; Jesus is God.” But that thinking denies the truth that the Scriptures take such care to present to us: Jesus is Son of Man, as well as Son of God. Jesus’ temptations remind us that Jesus is human like us. They also help us to understand how Jesus dealt with temptation. That gives us a model for our own experiences of Satan.

As we take time to reflect on today’s Gospel account, it becomes obvious that Jesus learned to keep his attention focused on his Father’s love for him. His great desire was to respond to that love by doing his Father’s will.

After his long fast in the desert, Jesus is hungry. Satan encourages him to use his power – change stones into bread. Jesus responds: “bread is temporarily filling, but there’s more to my life than eating.” Doesn’t Satan present us with the same temptation at times? Something we need would make us feel good right now. Jesus is reminding us to ask a question: is there more to my life than this need? Is this immediate desire calling me to be more dependent on God’s loving care for me?

Then Satan tempts Jesus with power and glory if he’s willing to compromise his Father as God. Jesus responds: “I have one desire in life -- to serve my Father’s love.” Often enough Satan presents us with opportunities for some kind of power and glory if we’re willing to compromise our values. Jesus reminds us to look into the eyes of God when we’re trying to make decisions in our daily living.

Finally, Satan tempts Jesus to test God’s care for him. And Jesus tells Satan: “My Father’s word is enough.” How easy it is for us to try and control God’s care for us: “If you’ll just give me this sign, I’ll know you’re looking out for me.” Jesus tells us: trust in God’s providence for you; God doesn’t lie.

As we continue our Lenten journey, preparing ourselves to celebrate the great events of our salvation, we could benefit greatly by some prayerful reflection on Jesus’ responses to Satan’s temptings.

Jesus shows us where we can find the source of strength we need when we are tempted: our God’s abiding presence and care for us.

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (March 3, 2019)

“From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks…”

Today’s selections from the Book of Sirach and Luke’s Gospel suggest a powerful standard by which we can judge the heart and mind of another person: the subject and manner about which one speaks.

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? Negative people tend to speak negatively. Jealous people speak resentfully. Judgmental people speak suspiciously. Their conversations tend to weigh others down.

By contrast, positive people speak positively. Happy people speak graciously. Energized people speak enthusiastically. Their conversations tend to lift others up.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, conversation seems to be expressions of the heart.

Francis de Sales writes in his Introduction to the Devout Life: “Just as physicians learn about a person’s health or sickness by looking at the tongue, so our words are a true indication of the state of our souls.” (Part III, Chapter 26) This diagnosis has several aspects.

First: how do we speak of God? “If you are truly in love with God you should often speak of God in familiar conversation with others…just as bees extract with their mouths nothing but honey, so your tongue should always be sweetened with its God…always with attention and reverence.” (Ibid)

Second: how do we speak of others? “Be careful never to let an indecent word leave your lips, for even if you do not speak with an evil intention those who hear it may take it a different way.” When one’s heart is filled with evil or rancor or intrigue, their tongues are no longer like the sweet ones of the bees but become “like a lot of wasps gathered together to feed on corruption.” (Part III, Chapter 27)

Third: how balanced is our conversation? “It seems to me that we should avoid two extremes,” observes Francis de Sales. “To be too reserved and to refuse to take part in conversation looks like lack of confidence in the others or some kind of disdain. On the other hand, to be always babbling or joking without giving others time or chance to speak when they wish is a mark of shallowness and levity.” (Part III, Chapter 30)

What do the content and tone of our words tell others about our hearts?

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 24, 2019)

Today’s gospel offers us the great challenge for a disciple of Jesus:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who dislike you, bless those who speak ill of you and pray for those who mistreat you.” “Be merciful just as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

We all know how difficult this is to do.

We’ll never be able to do it without God’s grace, without learning to be very conscious that God is present with us each day, without asking God for the strength of his grace many times each day. The invitation of Jesus to love those who get in our face, who know how to push all our buttons, goes against our natural feelings of irritation and anger. Jesus seems to be asking too much.

What Jesus is asking of us is to be all that grace enables us to be. By our baptism, we have been given a share in the life and love of God. Jesus has become our brother; we are children of our heavenly Father by grace. Divine life is in us and that life enables us to live as Jesus lived. Jesus is asking us to learn to live by the new life we have been given. Because of grace, we are able to be merciful as our Father is merciful. Jesus has shown us how to love those who irritate us, how to forgive those who injure us.

St. Francis de Sales recommends several practices that can help us remember the strength of divine life within us.

Begin the day with a short prayer of awareness: “My God, you are here loving me today; help me to remember you’re with me as we go through the day.” Then, talk with God about the grace I will need to deal with particular people in my life who can irritate me or have mistreated me. During the day, when I know I’m going to meet such a person, I ask God’s help that I may relate with that person in a way that is pleasing to God. Then, each evening, thank God for the times when grace gave me strength and ask pardon for the times I forgot to ask for God’s help and failed because I tried to do it on my own.

The key is learning the discipline of remembering that I share divine life. When my prayer leads me to greater awareness of God’s loving presence each day, then I will more likely become dependent on the grace God makes available to me. Then the challenge that Jesus offers – to love my enemies – is not so impossible for me to try to meet. I can meet it because I trust in God who lives in me.