The Most Holy Trinity (May 27, 2018)

Ask yourself, as Moses did: “Did anything so great ever happen before?” We hear Moses remind the Israelites that our God has revealed the Divine Presence in many wonderful ways: from creation through the great signs of divine power done for God’s people during the Exodus. God lovingly gave the chosen people commandments by which to live and the promise of a land where they would live long and prosperous lives.

Our Triune God continued to love his people. The Father sent the Son, Jesus, to dwell among us. And Jesus died and rose to save us from our sins. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as God’s abiding Presence in us and among us. God sought us out in love and made us adopted children, brothers and sisters of Jesus. We have “received the Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” In prayer, Jesus taught us to approach God and call him “Father.”

As adopted children, co-heirs with Jesus, we have the right to inherit the promised reign of God. The Spirit of God is always with us, enabling us to bear our sufferings with Jesus, so that we may also be glorified with Jesus.

St. Francis de Sales describes for us our promised eternal inheritance.

“We will see face to face and very clearly the Divine Majesty, the essence of God, and the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. There we will understand and participate in those adorable conversations and divine colloquies which take place between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” ( Sermons for Lent, 1622, p. 63)

Ask yourself again: “Has anything so great ever happened before?” De Sales encourages us:

“Note well how ardently God desires us to be His, since to this end He has made Himself entirely ours. He gives us both His death and His life; His life so that we may be freed from eternal death; His death so that we can enjoy eternal life. Let us live in peace, then, and serve God so as to be His in this mortal life and still more so in life eternal.” ( Treatise on the Love of God, 3. 5)

All praise and honor to you: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Pentecost (May 20, 2018)

Jesus breathes new life into his disciples. Jesus announces that mutual forgiveness will be the mark by which his community will be recognized. And as God has forgiven them in Jesus, Jesus tells them to forgive one another as a sign of the new life they share.

(St. Luke’s account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles describes the coming of the Spirit in a much more dramatic fashion than John. As the Spirit descends on the disciples as tongues of fire, the disciples begin to make bold proclamation of the Good News in an astounding way. In John, Pentecost takes on the form of a more intimate conversation and communication.)

The very same Spirit is given to each of us at our Baptism. The Spirit’s presence has been strengthened in us through Confirmation. (In some Christian traditions – mostly in the East - Baptism and Confirmation as essentially administered/celebrated back-to-back at the same time.) We are one in the Body of Christ because we all share the one Holy 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 solely for our own good, although that’s a good place to start! Ultimately, our gifts of the Spirit are meant 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 we bring 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. We need one another in order to experience the full wonder of God’s love for us.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come!” This is a bold request on our part. Are we really open to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that God wants to give us? Are we willing to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to be drawn more deeply into the Mystery of God’s love? Can we find new ways to use these gifts in our efforts to love one another during the day?

May this feast of Pentecost be a rebirthing in each of us of all the spiritual gifts that help us stay centered in the Holy Spirit.

Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 13, 2018)

We have just heard Jesus’ prayer for us:

“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.”

Jesus died and rose to make this prayer for us possible. Jesus lived, died and rose for us to make life possible. This is the great mystery of God’s great love for us.

You and I 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 he sends us into the world just as He was sent into the world by his Father. With Jesus as our example, compansion and guide, 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? Being ‘one’ – that ism being instruments of 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: to the extent that we strive to live together in the name of the Father and of His Son (and enlivened, of course, by the Spirit) then our joy will be complete! Let us ask him to strengthen us in our efforts today to be a living witness of God’s great love through our attempts to be ‘one’ with one another.

May God be praised in us!

Ascension of the Lord (May 10 and/or 13, 2018)

Today we celebrate the conclusion of Jesus’ mission from his Father. We see Jesus stand before his chosen eleven as the Christ, Lord of the universe. With full authority for the salvation of the world, Jesus sends the Eleven forth to make disciples of all the nations. They are to baptize in the name of the Trinity, and teach all they have been commanded by Jesus.

Then Jesus returns to his Father, leaving the earth in his bodily form. His leaving emphasizes the importance that faith will play in their mission. They are to put their trust in the Spirit he will leave with them, and they are to act on all they have been taught to believe. They will have doubts and fears as they go, so they are to remember his final words to them: “I am with you always.” Jesus’ abiding presence with them through the Spirit will give them strength and courage when they need it to continue their efforts.

Over the past few weeks, you and I have been renewed in our faith by our celebration of Jesus’ death and rising. Today, as we celebrate his return to his Father, Jesus speaks to us, his disciples, with the full authority of the Christ: I send you forth to make even more disciples. Announce the truth of what I have taught you by living it every day. When you feel the insecurities of the journey, recall my promise to you: “I am with you always.” My Spirit will provide the strength you need to continue on.

As we carry out our mission each day, we are not to waste time trying to judge our success or failure. Jesus asks us to place our faith in him and give the best effort we can each day. St. Francis de Sales reminds us to begin each day anew, trying to be faithful today to letting Jesus live in us and love through us.

As we celebrate Jesus’ return to his Father, let us renew our faith in all that Jesus has taught us. With confidence, let us set about living today with grace and enthusiasm. Remember: Jesus is with us always!

Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 6, 2018)

Today’s Scripture readings call us to embrace the great reality: God is love.

God has loved us eternally. Even when the human family chose to reject God’s love and sinned, God’s eternal love for us sent his Son Jesus among us as expiation for our sins. God’s love does not change; God doesn’t love us because we love him.

Jesus reminds us of this wonderful news in the gospel today: “You are slaves no longer. I call you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” Through of our baptism into Jesus’ saving death and resurrection, you and I share in the life and love of God. Jesus has made it possible for us to love one another as he has loved us. Through the grace of faith, you and I are begotten of God and know God. God gives us the ability to love and he desires us to use that ability for the good of one another.

God makes his enduring love surprisingly evident in today’s first reading. When Peter enters the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, the Holy Spirit is poured out on this pagan family even before they are baptized. Peter is shocked that non-Jews are speaking in tongues, but he accepts the wonder of God’s love working in these foreigners and baptizes them in the name of Jesus. Peter is forced to acknowledge that God shows no partiality in loving. That will become the practice of the Church community.

We are to love all as Jesus has loved all. There can be no strangers or aliens in our community. We must be open to the many ways that God’s love will manifest itself among us. Sometimes the working of God’s love will surprise us, as it did Peter. Since God’s love is always present among us, we may experience it through the least likely people and situations.

You and I are often the unsuspecting channel of God’s love for people who least expect it from us. When we learn to accept the great mystery of God’s eternal love for each of us, when we make the time each day to allow God’s love to reach deeply within us, when we decide to expect to find God’s love in each person we meet during the day, then we will find ourselves experiencing the great transformation that Jesus has come to make in us. We will learn to treasure being Jesus’ friend and try to be friend to everyone we meet. We will be mindful of St. John’s words: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us.” It is not that others have loved me first; rather, I have loved them. This is how Jesus has loved us. It is the way that he asks us to love one another.

May our God be praised in our efforts to love!

Fifth Sunday of Easter (April 29, 2018)

Today, Jesus is telling us that a personal, intimate relationship with him is essential if we are to bear fruit as his disciples.

As branches need a vine in order to bear fruit, we need Jesus. Jesus is very clear: “Without me, you can do nothing.” The opposite is also true: with Jesus, we can do everything. Jesus reveals his great desire for us: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” Our efforts to remain in Jesus each day give glory to our Father.

One of the ways we remain in Jesus as he remains in us is that we love in our deeds, and not merely talk about loving. St. Francis de Sales offers us some practical advice about how to do this each day. He encourages us to begin our day by being conscious of God’s presence and love:

My God, I know that you are here with me.
You are loving me today.
Help me to be conscious you are with me
in everything I say and do today.

Then, as we begin each new activity of our day, he encourages us to be conscious again of God’s presence and ask for the help of his grace so that we might do this activity in a way that is pleasing to God.

All of the activities of our day are part of God’s plan for our salvation. God graces them, making them holy activities, no matter how ordinary they may seem to us. Eating a meal, shopping for food, listening in class, working at a job, meeting with friends, washing clothes and pots and pans – each of these activities can be holy when I choose to do them as God’s will for me right now, and I ask God for the grace to do them in a loving way.

When we make this short prayer at the beginning of each of our activities and trust in God’s presence and love with us, we are better able to accept any difficulties we may meet in an activity and possibly see them as God’s way of pruning us so that we can bear more fruit.

De Sales’ advice helps us to remember that we are branches on Jesus, the vine, as we go about the tasks of daily living. It also helps us to do our actions and speak our words in a way that is loving.

Let us pray that his advice may help each of us to deepen our friendship with Jesus and to love one another more as Jesus has loved us.

Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 22, 2018)

In today's Gospel, Jesus is telling us about himself and his relationship with his disciples. "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

You and I know what a good shepherd Jesus is. He loves us so much that he willingly died on the cross for all his sheep down through the ages. All of his sheep are sinners and his loving death has freed us from our sins, and his resurrection has given us a share in his new life.

Jesus tells us more: "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father." Because Jesus has loved us and called us to be his disciples, he has invited us into a special intimacy with him: the same intimacy he shares with his Father -- a divine intimacy.

How can anyone pass up that invitation?

The more we open ourselves and respond to Jesus’ invitation, the more we realize how life changing our response is. And we are not alone. All disciples around us and in our world are making the same effort we are, allowing that divine intimacy to transform the way we live our daily lives. Our efforts support the working of grace in all.

The Eucharist we share nourishes our divine intimacy with Jesus and with one another. Our good shepherd gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink and he promises us eternal life.

As we allow the divine intimacy to grow within us, the words of St. John offer us encouragement. "Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God...We are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Let us keep our minds and hearts focused each day on the intimate invitation of Jesus and respond generously.

Third Sunday of Easter (April 15, 2018)

It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like to be in the room where the disciples had gathered and were now listening to the two who had just returned from Emmaus and were telling them about their experience of the risen Jesus. All of them had to have been excited and full of questions.

Then Jesus came and stood in their midst and spoke to them very gently: “Peace be with you.” It’s obvious that Jesus understood their amazement and confusion. He immediately wants to set their minds at ease: “See my hands and feet; it is I. Touch me; I’m not a ghost.” “Have you anything to eat?” And he eats the piece of fish they gave him. We’re told the disciples were incredulous with joy.

Then Jesus takes the time to explain to them all the Scriptures - from Moses and the prophets and psalms - that referred to him. All of this was to prepare them for their mission as witnesses to all these things.

Jesus wants to have a similar encounter with each of us in prayer. He wants us to know him as our crucified and risen Lord. He wants us to experience him as our Advocate with the Father – the One who forgives our sins and reconciles us with the Father. He wants to open our minds and hearts to the depths of God’s word in the Scriptures – words which invite us into the fullness of the mystery of God’s great love and mercy – words which are meant to transform us into his brothers and sisters.

Sometimes we find ourselves tempted to think that there must be one definitive experience of Jesus that will change us forever – an experience like the one in today’s Gospel. We search the books of spiritual writers, trying to find that “best” way to make this happen. And we often find ourselves frustrated – and feeling very imperfect: “I must be doing something wrong.”

Today’s Gospel is instructive. Jesus is the one who chooses the time and way he will reveal himself. The disciples were just there in the room; they didn’t have to do anything to prepare for Jesus’ coming among them. They were just thinking about him and their minds were filled with questions. Then Jesus is there, telling them: “Peace be with you.”

Our expectations for some definitive experience of Jesus may be blinding us to the experience that Jesus wants for us. He knows our desires – and our limitations. He may not want to overwhelm us at a particular moment. He does want us to be there in prayer with an open heart. He will fill us with his love in the way he knows we need it.

May our eagerness for an experience of Jesus in prayer always be tempered with confidence and trust in his loving care for us.

Second Sunday of Easter (April 8, 2018)

The heart of Thomas longed to see what the others had seen. He wanted to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. And we just heard Jesus respond to Thomas’ longing in today’s Gospel.

Jesus’ gift of peace entered the heart of Thomas and Thomas’ faith and love poured out in response: “My Lord and my God!” Then we heard Jesus speak to disciples down through the ages: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

There is a longing in the heart of every disciple to have the experience of Thomas – a deep encounter with Jesus. Our longing doesn’t come from unbelief or disbelief. It is a longing of love and faith that seeks even deeper union with Jesus.

This longing draws us to prayer, to the Scriptures, to the Eucharist. When we come with faith and an open heart, we express our longing for union. Jesus responds in love, giving us his body and blood and often a word to encourage us to long even more deeply.

We are truly blessed Even though we haven’t seen as Thomas did, we believe and seek to deepen our faith and love. As Jesus responded to the longing of Thomas, he will respond to our longing by drawing us closer to him each day. May we learn to echo Thomas’s cry of faith and love: “My Lord and my God!”

Easter Sunday (April 1, 2018)

My brothers and sisters, Jesus is risen from the dead! Alleluia! He has conquered sin and death! Let us rejoice!

The dying and rising of Jesus is the foundation of our faith, the reality on which our hope is built. We have been made new in baptism. Jesus has shared his risen life with us. We have become his brothers and sisters, children of the Father, gifted with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

And we are destined to share the fullness of divine life in eternity.

While we are here on this earth, we are to keep our eyes on the things above as we go about living our daily life in sincerity and truth. Because we are a new creation, we have the power to live a life that reflects God’s loving presence in our world. Like our brother Jesus, we are to live for the good of others. We are to make God’s compassion, mercy, healing and empowerment evident for all to see in the way you and I choose to live.

Today we are invited to put aside our past ways of living, and let the yeast of Jesus’ death and rising rise within us and change us.

As we look around us and see the signs of new life in the trees and the flowers, we can use them as a reminder of the newness we want to bring to our daily living: the greens of compassion and patience, the reds of zeal for justice and truth, the whites of simplicity, the yellows of hope and joy, the purples of forgiveness and healing.

As we renew our baptismal promises this morning, let us go deep within our heart to get in touch with the divine life flowing in us. Let us remember that we are beloved children of our God, brothers and sisters of Jesus who has died and risen for us. Let us resolve to be newness of life to all we meet today and tomorrow, and every day.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus our brother is risen! Let us rejoice and be glad!

Easter Vigil (March 31, 2018)

Tonight we join the whole Church in a most sacred celebration. We are celebrating our thankfulness for the whole history of God’s saving work among His people.

We began our celebration by accepting once again Jesus our Light. In the Easter Proclamation, we sang of our Father’s great care for us - his boundless, merciful love. We even rejoiced over Adam’s sin that gained for us so great a redeemer.

Our Scriptures recounted the wonders of God’s creating word. We joined God’s chosen people as they passed to safety through the waters of the sea. And we heard the words of the prophets who kept the hope of salvation alive among God’s people.

The Gospel has just announced the great mystery that brings us together tonight.

The waiting is over: salvation and redemption have come. Jesus, the One who was crucified for our sins, is risen. He is alive, among us.

St. Paul reminds us that we have been joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection through the waters of our baptism. As a result, we are slaves to sin no longer.

We have been made new, alive for God in Christ Jesus.

In a moment, we will renew our baptismal promises together -- a sign of our re-dedication to letting Jesus live in us more fully.

Then as our celebration continues, we will experience in sacrament the renewal of Jesus’ death for us: his body broken and his blood poured out for us. And we will receive his body and blood as food for our continuing journey with him.

At the end of our liturgy of thanksgiving, we will be sent forth as messengers of God’s continuing mercy and love for his people. May our celebration this evening renew us and give us strength for our mission.

Palm Sunday Passion of the Lord (March 25, 2018)

Today we begin the most sacred week of the Christian calendar.

We heard Isaiah’s Servant Song proclaimed to us. The Servant represents the sufferings of the exiled community of ancient Israel in Babylon. In the midst of their suffering, the Servant speaks a word of hope to the community: “The Lord God is my help; therefore I am not disgraced.”

In Mark’s account of the Passion, Jesus’ last words from the Cross are the opening words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”? Jesus was identifying himself with the suffering people of every age. Jesus has taken upon himself the sufferings and sins of every person who will ever live.

In the midst of all his suffering, Jesus knew his Father’s love.

Perhaps his last cry in a loud voice indicated that he was identifying himself with the last words of Psalm 22: “You, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me.” Then Jesus breathed his last. We know that his Father heard the voice of his suffering Son – and has greatly exalted him.

Jesus wants each of us to know that he has shared in our sufferings – for he is our brother. He invites us to join our sufferings to His – for the salvation of the world.

Let us be with Jesus, our brother and Savior, during this Holy Week.

Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 18, 2018)

As we continue our Lenten journey, the prophet Jeremiah turns our attention to the new covenant God desires to establish with his people. “All, from least to greatest, will know the Lord. He will write the law on our hearts and forgive our evildoing and remember our sins no more.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus announces that the “hour” has come. When he is lifted up from the earth, he will draw all to himself. Jesus has chosen to strip himself of his divinity and become human like us so that we would know the great love God has for us.

Now he is preparing himself to be the grain of wheat that will fall to the ground and die in order to produce much fruit. This will be the hour of our salvation. Because Jesus is obedient to his Father whom he loves dearly, he will suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. He will reconcile the whole human race with God. With his death and rising, Jesus will complete God’s new covenant. Through the grace of baptism, God’s law is now written on our hearts. We become God’s children once again, able to call God “Father.”

When we go within our hearts to listen to God’s word, we must not be surprised that we encounter a challenge. Jesus will challenge us to follow him wherever he goes, to do the will of his Father, as he did. Like Jesus, we may feel troubled at times with what we have to face each day. Like Jesus, we will come to understand that our Father is with us in everything we do.

We have nothing to fear. We heard Jesus tell us: “My Father will honor whoever serves me.” That is Jesus’ promise to us.

Let us be faithful to the new covenant Jesus has made with us. Let us listen to our heart; it is there that God speaks to us. Let us strive each day to do with love all that our God asks of us. Let us ask Jesus, who has died and risen for us, to draw us closer to him and one another each day.

Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 11, 2018)

Here we are at the mid-point of our Lenten journey.

During the past three weeks, we have been listening to the call of the prophets and Jesus himself: “Repent and believe the Good News.” Change your way of living.

Today, in the midst of these voices for change, we hear the Good News: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world” but to save it.

We heard St. Paul expand on John’s words: “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in sin, brought us to life in Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

The wonder of God’s loving mercy shown to us in Jesus: the immeasurable riches of his grace, his kindness to us in Jesus.

Our salvation, our new life, is pure grace, freely given by the God who loves us. We have done nothing to deserve it; we can do nothing to merit it. It’s ours because God loves us. When we have the humble faith to accept this gracious gift of our God, then we can be made new, for we share in the life and love of God.

When we listen to the Good News and trust in God’s faithful word to us,

then we are open to confessing our sins and receiving the mercy of God.

When we understand what God is doing in us, we will find ourselves being led to gratefulness. And our gratefulness will show itself in the way we live with one another. We then choose to become part of the light that Jesus is bringing into our world. The good we do for one another is done in response to God’s graciousness.

It is good to be reminded that God has loved us so much.May today’s reminder be a source of encouragement as we continue our good works on our journey to our Father’s house.

Third Sunday of Lent (March 4, 2018)

The Temple was built as a house where God’s glory would dwell in the midst of his people. The buyers and sellers of offerings had compromise the sacredness of the Temple. Jesus’ zeal to restore its sacredness leads him to clear the Temple.

But this parable-in-action had a deeper meaning, as his disciples understood later.

When the Jews asked for a sign for why he had acted this way, Jesus responded: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews thought he was talking foolishly. Later on, the disciples understood that Jesus was talking about the temple of his own body. Jesus is the sacred place where God’s glory dwells in the midst of his people.

After the disciples experienced the tragic death of Jesus on the Cross and became witnesses to his resurrected body three days later, and the Holy Spirit had come upon them and filled their minds and hearts with light, they were able to look back at all they had experienced with Jesus in a new light. They began to understand that they were now part of the Body of Christ – the continuation of the sacred place where God’s glory remained in the midst of his people. As they preached Jesus Christ crucified and raised, they experienced the power and wisdom of God at work in Jesus’ name. Some people who heard them found a crucified Savior to be a stumbling block; others thought it utter foolishness. Still many others accepted it as saving grace.

You and I are among those who have accepted saving grace. We have been incorporated into the Body of Christ by our baptism. As Church community, we are to be the sacred dwelling place of God in our world. And each of us has been taught to reverence our body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Hearing the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple is a good Lenten reminder to us individually and as a community. Am I keeping the temple of my body sacred?

What kind of effort do I make to keep the community (both Oblate and Church) sacred? Is Jesus inviting me to a cleansing in some way?

Lord Jesus, you are the power and wisdom of God. Open each of us to the cleansing you want to do in your temple during this Lent.

Second Sunday of Lent (February 25, 2018)

“Jesus was transfigured before their eyes.”

Something remarkable happened on that mountain.

Consider the possibility that it was not Jesus who changed but rather it was Peter, James and John who were transformed. Imagine that this account from Mark’s Gospel documents the experience of Peter, James and John as their eyes were opened; their vision widened, enabling them to see without impediment the virtually blinding light of Jesus’ love that flowed from every fiber of his being.

Indeed, every day of Jesus’ life something of that remarkable brilliance, that remarkable passion, and that remarkable glory was revealed to people of all ages, stages and states of life. The shepherds and magi saw it; the elders in the temple saw it; the guests at a wedding saw it; a woman caught in adultery saw it; a boy possessed by demons saw it; a man born blind saw it; a good thief saw it.

If so many others could recognize it in a word, a glance, or a touch, why might Peter, James and John have required such extra effort in helping them to see Jesus’ glory? Perhaps it was because they were so close to Jesus; perhaps it was because they were with him every day; perhaps it was because, on some level, they had somehow taken his glory for granted.

What about us? Do we recognize that same divine glory present in us, present in others, present in creation, present in even the simplest and most ordinary, everyday experiences of justice, truth, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion?

Or do we take it for granted?

St. Francis de Sales saw the Transfiguration as a “glimpse of heaven.” During this season of Lent, may our eyes, our minds and our hearts be transfigured and transformed. May we see more clearly the glory of a God who always loves us, who redeems us, who heals us, who forgives us, who challenges us, who pursues us, who strengthens us and who inspires us.

May we grow in our ability, through the quality of our lives, to make that “glimpse of heaven” visible in the lives of others.

First Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers us a pattern that can enable us to get the most out of our Lent this year.

We’re told that the “Spirit sent Jesus out toward the desert where he stayed forty days, put to the test by Satan.” What did he do for forty days in the desert? He did what many holy men and women have done in the desert. He listened to God, his Father. As he listened, he also heard the alluring voice of Satan - a voice that challenged him to be someone else than his Father wanted him to be. But Jesus spent a long enough time listening in prayer that he gradually knew who he was and what he had to do. And he returns to the countryside, a powerful man with a powerful message: “It’s time! The reign of God is at hand. Reform your lives and believe in the good news!”

That can be the pattern of Lent for us this year. Jesus invites us into the desert, the quiet of our hearts, and he asks us to listen. He knows that our Father will speak to us about who we are and what we are to do. He also knows that Satan will also speak to us - alluring us with all kinds of contradictory messages. And he asks us to stay in the quiet of our hearts long enough to come to know and believe his Father’s words of love and mercy.

Our willingness to listen will prepare us well to come back to our countryside and announce our recognition that the reign of God is at hand. We will be prepared at Easter to renew our baptismal commitment to reform our lives and live more deeply the good news.

The real temptation of our Lent will be to leave our desert too quickly. If we fall for Satan’s trickery (“You don’t really need all that quiet time!”), then our Lent may be like many other times in our lives - just another time period we lived through.

If we’re willing to stay in our desert and listen, we will be rewarded for our patience and we will be renewed.

What choice will you - will I - make this Lent? Will we dare to enter the desert and stay to listen, or will we leave too quickly? Our choice can make all the difference to our lives!

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 11, 2018)

“They shall declare themselves unclean. They shall dwell apart, making their abode outside the camp.”

“Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “Be cured.”

St. Francis de Sales wrote in his Introduction to the Devout Life: “There is scarcely anyone without some imperfections.” (Part 3, Chapter 22)

We have a pretty good handle on the imperfections, vices, idiosyncrasies and even the sins of those with whom we work, we play, we neighbor and we live each day.

Most days we overlook them. Some days we put up with them. Other days, we might even make excuses for them. Occasionally, we dwell on – maybe even magnify – them.

Sometimes it is necessary to draw attention to things in other people that blemish their potential for happiness, health, and holiness. Sometimes we need to take the risk to name the sins, the faults and the wounds in others that prevent them from being more of who God calls them to be. Sometimes we need to reflect back to others those social, spiritual, psychological or relational sores that rob them of their full citizenship as sons and daughters of the living, loving and saving God.

The Scriptures contrast two very different methods for doing this. One approach draws attention to others’ sins in order to isolate them, ostracize them or distance them from the community. The other approach – Jesus’ approach – is to draw them even more closely into the life of the community, to create a space in which the “unclean” can experience healing, strength, and a new lease on life.

As yourself the question: When you do draw attention to the imperfections, the warts, the blemishes of others, why do you do it? To distance yourself from them? To embarrass them? To humiliate them? Or, are you reaching out, reaching in to the heart of others? Is your goal to create a space of truth in which they can experience healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and strength? Do you intend it as an opportunity for a new beginning?

A footnote worth considering: before ever calling attention to the imperfections, the sins or the blemishes of others, we must take that most important of first steps.

Be clear and unambiguous about our own sin and weakness. Be clear and unambiguous about our own need for healing and forgiveness. Be clear about our own need for friends who will not only sometimes tell us what we want to hear about ourselves, but who will consistently have the courage to tell us what we need to hear about ourselves.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 4, 2018)

“Is not our life on earth drudgery?”

Let's face it. Try as we might to always look at the bright side of life, each and every one of us have times in our lives when we would answer Job's question with a resounding "yes."

The burdens of life are real. Setbacks in life are painful. Headaches - and heartache - are a part of being human. We need to be honest. We need to name and address those areas of our lives in which we feel weighed down and burdened. However, wallowing in or dwelling upon the negative can be far more dangerous and debilitating to our spiritual, emotional, psychological, social and mental health than the troubles themselves.

Francis de Sales observed that dwelling on the burdens of life “upsets the soul, arouses inordinate fears, creates disgust for prayer, stupefies and oppresses the brain, deprives the mind of prudence, resolution, judgment and courage, and destroys its strength. In a word, such sorrow is like a severe winter that spoils all the beauty of the country and weakens all the animals. It takes away all sweetness from the soul and renders it disabled.”

What is the best remedy for melancholy, for the temptation to focus only on what is wrong, what is broken, what is painful? The combination of prayer, good works, and good friends:

Prayer – “Prayer is a sovereign remedy for it lifts up the soul to God who is our joy and consolation."

Good works – “By means of sorrow the evil one tries to make us weary of doing what is good, but if he sees that we won't give up on doing good, then he will stop troubling us.”

Good friends – “Humbly and sincerely reveal to another all the feelings, affections and suggestions that proceed from your sadness. Try to talk to spiritual friends frequently and spend time with them as much as you possibly can during this period” of dryness.

St. Francis de Sales claimed “the evil one is pleased with sadness and melancholy because he himself is sad and melancholy and will be so for all eternity. Hence, Satan desires that everyone should be like himself.” Hence the expression misery loves company.

In the face of life's burdens and difficulties let's do our level best to deprive the evil one of our company and walk in the company prayerful, positive and proactive people.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 28, 2017)

When was the last time that you or I were ‘astonished’ or ‘amazed’ when faced with Jesus – in the Scriptures or in Eucharist? When have we prepared ourselves to come to Eucharist to experience the mystery unfolding from the hand of our Father?

Perhaps the daily celebration of Eucharist has become too routine: familiar Scripture readings, the same bread and wine. Even the new sound of our praying can be a distraction. It’s too easy to forget that we are invited to Eucharist, invited to experience the continuing mystery of God’s great love for us:

- a mystery that draws us into the intimate mystery of our salvation and redemption: the death and rising of Jesus.
- a mystery that expresses our God’s desire that you and I be one with him by sharing in the Body and Blood of his Son Jesus;
- a mystery that makes us more fully the Body of Christ, the Church;
- a mystery that continues to transform you and me in our efforts to be the Savior walking the earth today.

I was awakened again to this sense of ‘mystery’ as I was reading an article entitled: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” The writer offered me a thought that has led me to some prayerful reflection: “The invitation that comes to us again and again in Scripture, directly or indirectly, is to consent to a relationship with the Lord of Mysteries and the God of Surprises, who waits patiently for us with open arms (and delights we can’t even guess at), while demanding that we put away our childish cravings for smaller securities so as to enter into a wider, richer, more complex intimacy” – into mystery. (McEntyre, Weavings, Jan-Feb 2006)

As I continued to read today’s Gospel, I was struck by the words of the unclean spirit: “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” It’s possible to know Jesus without really knowing Jesus in the Scriptural sense. When we really encounter Jesus, our hearts are changed, transformed. When Jesus encounters us in the mystery of the Scriptures and Eucharist, we are invited into mystery – a moment of intimate encounter with our God who is loving us into a deeper union with him. The more willing we are to entrust our heart to God, the more God is able to mold us more fully into the image of his Son Jesus.

Once again, you and I are invited into the mystery of this Eucharist. Jesus is present in his Word and will be present in Sacrament. Will we be open enough to being “astonished” and “amazed” during this encounter?