Christ the King (November 25, 2018)

Each time we gather to celebrate Eucharist, we come together as the Body of Christ to offer thanks and praise to God through Jesus who is our Head.

We honor Jesus who is the “faithful witness” - the one who has shown us the love God has for us by dying on the cross to free us from our sins. Jesus who died and is risen has shared his new life with us, incorporating us into his Body, making us one with him and with each other. As today’s reading from the book of Revelation reminds us: “He has made us a royal nation of priests in service of his God and Father.” We are here today to exercise our baptismal priesthood - to give praise to God and offer ourselves in his service.

Our service as priests is to testify to the truth which we have learned by listening to the voice of Jesus, our Priest and King. Our commitment to living and speaking the truth is our priestly service to the world. Our openness to hearing God’s word to us today and our eagerness to be fed with Jesus’ Body and Blood as food for our journey enable us to grow in our priestly service.

Our remembering in Eucharist is not limited to making present today the power of Jesus’ death and rising to free us from our sins and give us a deeper sharing in his new life. We also call to mind that we are part of God’s continuing work of building the kingdom, preparing ourselves and our world for the time when Jesus will return to present the kingdom to his Father.

We continue to witness to the truth of all that Jesus said and did. Through us, the power of saving grace is made evident to the world. Who we are and how we live each day makes it possible for the grace of salvation to change the world around us. Think of it! God is reconciling the world to himself through you and me.

Jesus is the living head of the kingdom to which we belong. As members of the kingdom, we give honor to our King today. As we honor Jesus, let us also recommit ourselves to him - choosing to live fully our priestly witness by making God’s compassionate love evident in us.

May his love reach out to all his children through us.

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 18, 2018)

Today’s Scriptures remind us that the world as we know it will come to an end.

The apocalyptic events described in today’s gospel sound terrifying. How often we have heard them repeated. As believers, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, we must be very careful that we don’t let ourselves become so focused on the possible terrifying events that may occur, that we forget all that Jesus has told us about the end. He will come again “with great power and glory.” But Jesus is also our brother. He is not a stranger but the one whom we know by faith. He knows our human existence from inside and he has suffered and died once for all for our sins.

We may not know all the details of his return, but we can be confident that it will happen. What should be our attitude toward his coming again? Put briefly, Jesus wants us to be confident. He wants us to be secure in him every day of our lives.

And he wants that security to move us out into the world and offer others the same reasons for confidence that we have.

Our names are written in the book of life. They have been written in the blood of Christ and cannot be erased. Salvation is a promise from our God to all who are baptized into Jesus and have welcomed him into their hearts. Forgiveness of sins has occurred, and continues to occur, so we are very safe. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith – not us. He has won our salvation and he will keep us safe so long as we stay close to him.

Our faithful living of our vows as Oblates is our way of staying close to Jesus – letting Jesus live in us. We are to be witnesses that Jesus touches human lives and lifts them up to be of service to the Church.

As you renew your vows and we await the return of our Savior and Brother, let us share our joy and hope with our brothers and sisters. With the daily grace of our God, let us become pillars of strength for all those who don’t yet know the salvation that is available to all God’s children.

May our God continue this good work in us and through us.

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 11, 2018)

All of us are familiar with today’s Gospel parable.

Did you notice that the end of the passage doesn’t fit the content of the story? All the young women in the story feel asleep. So the command, “Stay awake” must not be the point of the story. Wisdom is the real point of the story – wisdom which led the five young women to prepare themselves for their duties. They did everything they could to get ready, so they were able to wait patiently for the wedding party.

There is a very practical message for us in Jesus’ parable. When it comes to the events of daily life, we humans make two contributions: intention and attention. Often, we don’t have much control over the outcome. That’s a very hard lesson for us humans to learn, but it’s an important one. It can prevent a lot of agitation and negative self-talk. Often enough, I’ve heard my frustrated self say: “I worked so hard. I put my best in, and it didn’t turn out as I planned. Where did I go wrong?” I forgot the difference between human control of input and outcome.

The application of Jesus’ story reaches into all aspects of our life. As disciples, we believe that God’s providence cares for all creation and the plan of God’s will is always effective. God’s grace makes us holy; our responsibility is to use the grace we are given. If that is our belief, then my responsibility in human actions is limited to: good intention for doing whatever I do ( I want to please God) and good attention to what I do (I put myself fully into what I do). God will take care of the rest.

This is what living a holy life means: asking for the grace of God as I begin any action, then doing well what I am doing with the intention of pleasing God. When I do this, then I can accept whatever results as God’s will for me. I am free to “let go and let God.”

Wisdom is a gift of God which enables us to understand life from a divine perspective. Wisdom allows me to place my trust in God whose provident care upholds the universe. Wisdom encourages me to ask the best of myself and be happy with that best.

Let us ask for the gift of wisdom so that we will be prepared each day with our best and have the patience and calmness to wait for the coming of the Lord.

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary (November 4, 2018)

“Which is the first of all of the commandments?”

When we get right down to it, what is the most important dimension of our faith? Upon what foundation does the edifice of Christianity rest?

Jesus’ answer is unambiguous: love. This love has three facets.

Love of God. Francis de Sales tells us that the reason that we love God is because of who God is: our dignity, and our destiny. “We love God because God is the most supreme and most infinite goodness.”

Love of neighbor. Francis de Sales tells us: “Love of God not only commands love of neighbor, but it even produces and pours love of neighbor into our hearts. Just as we are in God’s image, so the sacred love we have for one another is the true image of our heavenly love for God.”

Love of self. This is the aspect that perhaps we are most tempted to overlook: after all, “self-love” sounds suspiciously like being self-centered. Why should we love ourselves? Simply and profoundly because “we are God’s image and likeness,” says Francis de Sales. When we are at our best all of us are the “most holy and living images of the divine.”

Why is authentic love of self so critical to our love of God and neighbor? Simply, if we fail to love ourselves, how can we possibly give praise and thanks to God for creating us? If we fail to love ourselves, how can we possible love our neighbor who is not only made in God’s image, but who is fundamentally made in the image and likeness of us since we all come from the same source – God himself.

The fullness of Christian perfection – the fullness of living Christ’s life – can be likened to a three-legged table. To the extent that any one of the three legs is weak, the whole table is seriously at risk. Such a table cannot hope to support any significant weight. So, too, if any one of the three loves of our lives – God, self and others – is deficient, all three will suffer, and we cannot hope to carry the weight of God’s command for us to build up something of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

To be sure, love is the simple answer to what is most important in our lives. In our lived experience, however, this love is never quite so simple as we might like to believe.

How is your love of God? How is your love of neighbor? How is your love of self?

Really?

COMMEMORATION OF ALL SOULS (November 2, 2018)

On the subject of praying for the dead, St. Francis de Sales wrote: “We believe that we may pray for the faithful departed, and that the prayers and good works of the living greatly relieve them and are profitable to them, for this reason: that all those who die in the grace of God, and consequently counted among the saints, do not go to paradise at the very first moment, but many go to Purgatory, where they suffer a temporal punishment, from which our prayers and good works can help and serve to deliver them.” (The Catholic Controversy, 3, pages 353- 354)

We pray for our departed brothers and sisters. We pray that they may be at rest. We pray that they may be experiencing the fullness of peace. We pray that they may no longer want for anything. We pray that they may take their place at the eternal banquet of love, a place prepared for them by God before the beginning of time.

On this feast of All Souls, we pray for all the dead whom we have loved and lost.

But prayer is a conversation. Prayer is an experience of mutuality. Prayer is never a one-way street. Therefore, we not only pray for the dead: we also pray to them, for they are not merely “the dead” but are now counted among the saints.

We pray to them for their assistance and support. We pray to them for guidance and strength. We pray to them for patience and forbearance. We pray to them for reconciliation and healing. Someday, we may pray to them for the ability to simply put one foot in front of the other.

Here is a simple example of this subject. Francis de Sales had occasion to write a letter of encouragement to a married woman. In it he recommended: “I should like you to consider how many saints, both men and women, have lived in the married state like you, and that they all accepted this vocation readily and gladly: Sara, Rebecca, Anne, Monica, Paula and a host of others. Let that encourage you and ask them to pray for you.” (Stopp, Selected Letters, page 61)

So, we not only pray for the dead, we pray to the dead. We ask them to pray for us. Just as death no longer has power over them, so too we pray that the effects of sin and death will not have power over us during what remains of our journey on earth. We ask them to pray that when we likewise pass from this world to the next, we shall join them at that eternal banquet of love.

All Saints (November 1, 2018)

“Let us join our hearts to these heavenly spirits and blessed souls. Just as young nightingales learn to sing in company with the old, so also by our holy associations with the saints let us learn the best way to pray and sing God’s praise.” (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part II, Chapter 16)

We stand on the shoulders of giants. Over the last two thousand years countless men, women and children of many eras, places and cultures have spent their lives in the service of the Good News of Jesus Christ. From among these many, a smaller group of individuals have earned the distinction of being known as “saints.”

These are real people to whom we look for example. These are real people to whom we look for inspiration. These are real people to whom we look for encouragement and grace.

These saints – these real people - have blazed a trail in living and proclaiming the Gospel. The challenge to us is to follow their example in ways that fit the state and stage of life in which we find ourselves.

In case you haven’t yet figured it out, you, too, are called to live a saintly – a God-centered, self-giving - way of life in the very places in which you live, love, work and play every day. Francis de Sales wrote: “Look at the example given by the saints in every walk of life. There is nothing that they have not done in order to love God and to be God’s devoted followers…Why then should we not do as much according to our position and vocation in life to keep the cherished resolution and holy protestations that we have made?” (Introduction to the Devout Life, Part V, Chapter 12)

What does it mean to be a saint? Surprisingly, it is much more down-to-earth and obtainable than we might think. Francis de Sales observed: “We must love all that God loves, and God loves our vocation; so let us love our vocation, too, and not waste our energy hankering after a different sort of life, but get on with your own job. Be Martha as well as Mary, and be both gladly, faithfully doing what you are called to do…” (Stopp, Selected Letters, Page 61)

In the view of St. Francis de Sales, sanctity – sainthood – is measured by our willingness and ability to embrace the state and stage of life in which we find ourselves. Saints are people who deeply embraced their lives as they found them, rather than wasting time wishing or waiting for an opportunity to live someone else’s life. Sainthood – sanctity – holiness – is marked by the willingness to embrace God’s will as it is manifested in the ups and downs of everyday life.

How are you being called to be a saint today?

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 28, 2018)

All of us like short, clear instructions. Jesus’ fulfills our desire in today’s Gospel passage. When he is asked about the greatest commandment, he quotes a text from the book of Deuteronomy (6.5) familiar to his listeners: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” Then he adds the familiar commandment from the book of Leviticus (19.18): “The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Jesus’ response is short and clear: loving God, neighbor and self is everything that God commands. It should be very simple, then, to do all God commands. If your experience is like mine, we know that loving God, neighbor and self is not easy at all. It takes a lot of effort and concentration to love each day, every day. Loving means that I have to look beyond myself and my needs and notice and respect the needs of every person I encounter.

Today’s first reading from the book of Exodus reminds us that caring for the least among us is an important aspect of loving. How we treat the alien, the widow and the orphan among us reveals something about the way we love God. Remembering where we have come from can help us to be sensitive to the value and worth of those who are less fortunate.

Isn’t it interesting that the Lord asks the Israelites to remember that they were aliens at one time in Egypt. What might the Lord be asking you and me to remember today that will help us to be more attentive to people less fortunate than we are?

Jesus spoke to us very simply and clearly this (afternoon/morning). He told us how we are to live if we want to be pleasing to our God. Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor as yourself.

We can benefit greatly if we take these words of Jesus and pray with them this week. As we read them slowly and prayerfully, we can ask the Lord to show us how we can live them out today.

The word of God then becomes a living word for me, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me in every day life. Let us pray for each other that we may be open to the ways the Lord will call us to love this week.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 21, 2018)

It’s interesting that Jesus does not directly criticize James and John when they ask to sit at his side in glory. Instead he challenges them: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” He contrasts their lofty ambitions with his humility: zeal for glory is set against God’s call to humble service.

Jesus’ humility was born of his love for the Father and for the world. Because he loves, Jesus is willing to endure anything – even death – in order to save the human race. This kind of humility releases God’s love to the world and advances the kingdom of God. It’s this kind of humility we heard Jesus teaching his followers: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be a slave to all.”

It’s obvious that Jesus is not trying to gather a bunch of shrinking violets. That’s not the kind of humility he’s looking for in his disciples. He wants a people like himself who will shoulder the Father’s sadness over the suffering in the world. He is looking for a people who will work with him so that the world will be free of sin.

Rather than rebuking the misdirected ambition of James and John, Jesus channels it into an embrace of the Father’s will: “The cup that I drink of you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.”

Jesus is speaking to you and me, is challenging you and me. The challenge is not an easy one. It would be easy for us to become discouraged. What Jesus shows us through his life and suffering and death is that the cup of sacrifice is also one of intimacy with God. Every willing act of death to self for the sake of the kingdom brings us closer to Jesus.

The more fully we are willing to drink of this cup, the more fully we learn that Jesus never asks more of us than he empowers us to give. Jesus is always inviting us to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus is reminding us that he knows what our suffering is like, and we never have to suffer alone. He is telling us that our suffering can be a time of grace – for us and others.

Are we willing to drink of our cup, as Jesus drank of his? If we are willing, then let us approach Jesus where we will receive mercy and find grace to help us.

Twenty-eight Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 14, 2018)

In the closing minutes of the movie Field of Dreams, the character of Thomas Mann is invited by the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson to come “out” with the team. Ray Concella is incensed. Why is the writer invited instead of Ray? Ray launches into a litany of all the things that he has done in following the promptings of the “voice” and ends with the statement: “Not once have I asked what’s in it for me!” The ghost inquires: “What are you saying, Ray?” Ray responds: “I’m saying, what’s in it for me?”

How honest. How revealing. How human.

We hear echoes of this same refrain in St. Peter’s statement in today’s Gospel: “We have put aside everything to follow you.” Implied? “What’s in it for us?

The truth is that the Good News never seems to let up. Even as we grow in our love for God, ourselves and others the Good News always calls us to give more, to go deeper, to press on. Truth is, the Good News sometimes doesn’t feel so good.

No wonder we sometimes ask the questions: “What more do you want? Why should I do this? What’s in it for me?”

What’s in it for us is a twofold promise. First, we come to know the joy that comes with being more concerned about giving than receiving. We experience the freedom that comes with allowing God to penetrate all – not just some – of who we are. In short, we experience the wealth that is only known by generous people.

Second, we live each day with the belief that we shall one day enjoy God’s generosity forever in a life that never ends.

So, what’s in it for us? How about purpose, meaning and direction in this life? How about the fullness of these – and so many other gifts – in the life to come?

Now that’s Good News!

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 7, 2018)

Jesus’ words today may not be easy to listen to; they can make us uncomfortable. It’s important to hear his words in the context in which they were spoken.

Jesus is responding to a hostile question about divorce. Jesus responds to their question by explaining to them God’s plan for marriage. He invites his listeners to consider the creation story in Genesis.

God formed the woman directly from the man, not from the ground as he had made other creatures. Woman is created as a suitable partner for the man. She is the mirror of the man’s very being. The man recognizes their intimate relationship when he acknowledges the woman as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

The author offers this acknowledgement of their intimate relationship by creation as the reason for the sacredness of marriage. The relationship of husband and wife in marriage

becomes a concrete realization of God’s plan for creation. As Jesus comments: “They are no longer two but one flesh.” And so he adds: “Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Jesus’ words are not spoken in judgment. They are meant to explain the place of marriage in God’s plan of salvation.

Perhaps this can help us understand why the Church places such emphasis on preparing couples for the sacrament of marriage. The Church wants couples to look more deeply at the sacredness of their relationship. Christian marriage is much more than the legal union of the secular world around us. The Church would like couples to think beyond their feelings of love and discern whether or not God has brought them together as “suitable partners.”

Are they willing to recognize that they are graced by God for each other? Are they willing to work with each other and with grace each day to become “one flesh”? For the Christian, marriage is a way of being holy together, not just a sanctioned way of living together.

Jesus is presenting us with the ideal for married love. He knows our limitations as human beings so he promises married couples the grace they will need each day to work patiently with each other toward that ideal. He is also compassionate and accepting of us when we fail.

During this Eucharist, let us pray for all married couples: for those who find joy in becoming “one flesh,” for those who struggle in their efforts to be faithful, for those who have been hurt and betrayed by their partners.

Let us pray too for those considering marriage. May they have the patience, wisdom and courage to seek “a suitable partner” made for them by God, with whom they can work to become “one flesh.”

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 30, 2018)

As always, the Scriptures challenge us in several ways.

The disciples in the Gospel, as well as Joshua in the Old Testament, are concerned that others outside their group are exercising God’s power. Jesus, and Moses before him, remind them (and us) that God can use anyone he wishes to work his wonders among his people. It’s very easy for us to become like the disciples and forget to rejoice that the Spirit of God works in many unexpected ways. Do I, do you, keep our eyes and hearts open each day in expectation that the Spirit of God may visit us in unexpected ways and through unexpected people?

The words of St. James offer us a challenge. The Oblate community has worked hard to provide us with all we have here. We have much more than many of our brothers and sisters. How do we live our vow of poverty when we have our needs taken care of so well? We can identify with our poor brothers and sisters by being grateful often each day. We can share our sufficiency through our hospitality to guests. And we can remember our brothers and sisters who have much less than we do, and cut short our complaints when we don’t have everything we may think we need.

When we take the time each day to be aware of God’s abundant providence, we also continue to be aware of our own ingratitude. We are aware that there are things about us that draw our attention away from God’s graciousness. Jesus challenges us to total concentration on the God who loves us. If something causes us to sin, cut it off. Jesus is not calling us to mutilation, but he is calling us to decision-making. If we are serious about responding to the great love God has for us, then we will make serious efforts to accept God’s grace throughout the day and choose to move beyond those things in us that lead us to be self-centered.

We have all lived long enough to know the things about us that tend to distract us from God’s loving providence. De Sales reminds us that these tendencies ought to become the subject of our morning preparation of the day. Together with God, we can develop a graced plan which will help us to become more dependent on God’s grace during our day. In this way, we learn to make practical decisions that “cut short” our tendencies toward selfishness and self-centeredness and refocus our attention on God who is providing for us.

Let us not overlook the challenges of today’s Scripture readings. They call us to grace.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 23, 2018)

At Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan, the Father had identified Jesus as his Son, the beloved one in whom he is well pleased. This is a reference to the “suffering servant” in the prophet Isaiah. The servant must suffer and die in order to fully actualize his identity.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for what is to come. He identifies himself with the “just one’ in the Book of Wisdom which we heard in today’s first reading. He will be put to the test so as to give proof of his gentleness and patience. He will be condemned to a shameful death – and God will take care of him.

Mark comments that the disciples did not understand the saying and were afraid to question him. Apparently they distracted themselves by arguing about who was the greatest among them.

Jesus was not distracted and continued to teach them about himself and how they were to live. “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Jesus is among them as servant – the “suffering servant.”

The child Jesus places in their midst and embraces is how they are to receive him: peaceably, gently, without inconstancy or insincerity, open to wisdom from above.

Jesus comes to us as the “suffering servant” – Savior and Lord. He invites us to embrace him as he did the child. May we not allow ourselves to become distracted by petty, personal concerns. Let us accept Jesus as the First and Only in our lives, for he has shown us how to be the last and the servant of all.

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 16, 2018)

Today’s Gospel passage is the turning point in the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus asks his disciples an innocent-enough question: “Who do people say that I am?” And we hear the various ways that people are seeing Jesus. Then Jesus asks the crucial question: “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter responds: “You are the Christ – the Messiah.”

We heard Jesus begin to tell them that he, the Messiah, is going to be rejected, suffer, die, and rise after three days. Peter is shocked and begins to argue with Jesus. Imagine his surprise when Jesus calls him “Satan.” “You’re not thinking as God does, but rather as human beings do.” And Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that, in order to follow him, they will have to take up their cross. They will have to lose their life in order to save it.

If they weren’t confused at first, they must be very confused now. Do I want to follow someone who offers me suffering and self-denial? That’s not a very appealing invitation.How is this “good news”?

What is “God’s thinking” that Jesus is talking about? We need to look at the larger picture of Jesus’ message. St. John tells us: “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that we might have life.” Jesus has come to show us how much God loves the world. He reveals God’s great desire for us – that we share in divine life and love. Jesus loves us so much that he is willing to give his own life for us – to suffer and die – so that we can be reconciled to God and share God’s life.

The Father’s love for Jesus is so great that Jesus’ willing death for us is transformed into new life in the resurrection. Self-denial and suffering are not ends in themselves. They are the inevitable consequences of unconditional love. When love is patterned on divine love, no cost is too great for the one who loves.

Divine love is always life-giving – eternal life-giving. Jesus’ love was so focused on us that self-denial and suffering, even death on the cross, became the means of salvation and reconciliation. You and I now share in God’s life and love because Jesus’ love for us was unconditional.

Jesus offers us the challenge: love one another as I have loved you. Loving others as Jesus loved will have its costs. Jesus has shown us that the costs are life-giving. When we embrace self-denial, suffering, and even death, because we love, they will always lead us to resurrection – new life – eternal life.

May we know Jesus’ great love for us and learn to love generously as Jesus did.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 9, 2018)

We have just heard that curious command of Jesus: “Don’t tell anyone about the miracle you’ve just witnessed.” And Mark tells us that the people went about telling of Jesus’ power to heal. Why would Jesus make such a strange command?

Jesus knew human nature all too well. He knew how easily we are attracted by power, by the miraculous. He also knew that power can distract us from examining reality.

Today’s Scripture readings call us to look beyond the miraculous, the powerful and seek to understand reality. Jesus makes the deaf hear and the mute speak clearly in order to point to the reality that God is present among his people. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise made through the prophet Isaiah. Jesus is trying to tell the people whose hearts of frightened: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; … he comes to save you.” Jesus’ power to heal reveals the compassionate faithfulness of God.

But he’s concerned that the people will be distracted by the miraculous and never come to understand who he really is and why he has come. And we all know that his concern was justified. Many found it difficult to identify the miracle worker with the crucified Savior.

The words of St. James remind us that we are part of the human race, and we’re susceptible to the distraction of power. The attractiveness of power can blind us to reality in everyday living. How easily we are attracted by wealth, power and position. How often we choose to pay attention to people who have and ignore those who don’t have. Power distracts us from the reality that all of us are equally made in the image and likeness of our God. And Jesus reverenced the needy as well as the well-off as deserving of God’s compassionate love.

The Scriptures seem to call us to look more deeply within ourselves. What has my God told me about reality? Does power distract me from that reality? Jesus desires to live in each of us as crucified savior, as well as miracle worker. Each person desires to be reverenced for who he or she is by creation, as well as for what he or she says or does.

May we ask for the grace each day to discipline ourselves to see through power and love the reality of our God and our brothers and sisters.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 2, 2015)

Today, the Scriptures focus our attention on two basic attitudes that are to characterize us as a community. The first: the law of God (the word of God) is meant to change our hearts, and then our actions. The second: God’s word is meant to be lived, not just heard.

Jesus reminded the Pharisees in today’s Gospel that good and evil come from what is in our hearts, not from some outside law. Jesus keeps calling us to a change of heart. That’s the only way that our actions can truly be holy actions. When we allow ourselves to be open and receive the immense love that God has for us and understand how passionately God desires us to live in his love, then our hearts will truly change. As a result, we are better able to hear God’s word for what it is – a word spoken to us because he loves us and desires us to be one with him.

We all know what happens in our life when someone truly loves us: how free we feel to be our self, how openly and generously we act, how much we seek to do what pleases the one who loves us. The same is true when we open ourselves to the love God has for us. God’s love for us is unconditional and everlasting; God loves us just because he made us in his image. I know we have all heard those words many times. But do you, do I, really believe them?

Have we spent time with God alone and asked God to open us to experience the depths of his love for us? God desires to do just that if we are willing to spend quiet time with him.

When we do begin to understand and accept God’s great love for us, then we are drawn to love in return. Loving God with our whole being is the gift we receive, and that love overflows to touch the lives of all around us, especially those who are in need of experiencing God’s love.

Today’s Scriptures call us to look more carefully to our God who loves us, and then look inside ourselves, at our heart. Am I hearing God’s word as a word of love for me? Am I letting God’s word of love change my heart? Do I spend enough time with God so that I am renewed by his love?

God’s love is what makes us the Body of Christ, a community of faith. May we be wise in choosing to live by God’s love.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 26, 2018)

During the past few Sundays, we have listened to Jesus speak of himself as the living bread come down from heaven. He has made it very clear that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood or we won’t have life within us.

Today we have heard the disciples respond to all that Jesus has said. Some find his words hard to believe and walk away from him. With a note of sadness, Jesus asks the Twelve: “Do you also want to leave?” We heard Peter speak for himself and the Twelve: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.

We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” What a profound act of faith!

Peter responds from his experience of God in Jesus, as Joshua had done before him. It may have been difficult to understand what Jesus was saying to them, but Peter and the Twelve were convinced by what they had seen and heard that Jesus was the Holy One of God. They would put their faith and trust in him, knowing that they would eventually come to a better understanding of all that Jesus was telling them.

Like the Israelites of old, they chose to serve the Lord who is our God. They have seen all that God has done in the person of Jesus. They put themselves at the service of Jesus.

Jesus continues to ask his question. You and I have opportunities to respond. Each of us has experienced difficult moments in life that make Jesus’ words hard to accept. Jesus repeats his question: “Do you also want to leave?”

Just staying here because that’s where I am does not answer Jesus’ question. I can be here and not be open to Jesus’ words of everlasting life for me. I can be here and not accept the graces offered to me to draw me closer to Jesus.

Are we, willing to respond whole-heartedly to Jesus? Let us ask for the grace to respond with open heart to the present moment to all that Jesus wants to do in us and through us to one another. Let us make our Oblate response with sincere faith and trust: “Live, Jesus, whom I love! Live in me today!”

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 19, 2018)

What a wonderful gift the Eucharist is! Jesus gives us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. And he commands us to eat and drink that we might have life – His life, eternal life.

Like Wisdom in today’s first reading, Jesus invites us to the meal he has prepared for us – a meal that enables us to unite ourselves to his saving death and resurrection. On the Cross, Jesus’ flesh was pierced and his blood shed for others,for you and me. As we eat and drink, we are called to “forsake foolishness that (we) might live; advance in the way of understanding.”

The words of Wisdom remind us that this is a sacred meal, a meal of covenant. God has given Jesus for our sake. In Jesus, God’s great love and mercy become visible, tangible. When we eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood, we are expressing our willingness to be one with Jesus in his saving mission to the world. We become his “good news” to today’s world.

Each day we seek to understand better how we are to live as members of this covenant community. In this meal, we become one with Jesus and one with the community – one in the Body of Christ. As we leave this sacred meal, we are challenged to live the daily reality of our oneness.

St. Francis de Sales offers us some practical advice on how to make this happen more effectively. He writes: “After Communion, consider Jesus seated in your heart and bring before him each of your faculties and senses in order to hear his commands and promise him fidelity.” This exercise can become our thanksgiving and our commitment to living out what we have celebrated and received. Jesus will offer us a way of using our intellect, our will, our memory, our hearing, our touching, our speaking today so that we can witness to God’s loving presence in the world.

We heard St. Paul encourage us: “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise.” Our eating and drinking at the table of the Lord makes all of us one. May the wise way we live today and everyday make visible the oneness we experience here in Eucharist.

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 12, 2018)

Jesus explained to them: “I myself am the bread of life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall ever thirst.”

Today is week 3 of the 5 weeks dedicated to john’s sixth chapter on the bread of life.

The first reading from 1 Kings tells of Elijah’s eating bread, a hearth cake. It also tells us that this was quite the “power bar.” After eating two of them, we read that he walked for 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb where he re-examined his fear-ridden life, accepted once more the word of God and renews his trust in God.

The Hebrew bible has a tradition of knowledge being called the bread of the spirit. In Deuteronomy, we read a famous and familiar quote: “Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the Lord. [8:3]

In John 6 we read of two different senses of Jesus’ speaking of himself as the bread of life. John follows a clear outline. He first quotes Jesus claim: “I am the bread of life.” Next, there is murmuring from the Jews. Finally, there is Jesus’ explanation of his saying, “I am the bread of life.” Today’s Gospel addresses the first sense in which Jesus uses the phrase: “I am the bread of life.”

Key to understanding the two parallel passages are the verbs that Jesus uses when he speaks about the “bread.” Let’s review today’s reading:

“No one comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall ever thirst.” It is written in the prophets: God shall teach them all. Everyone who listens to my father and learns from him comes to me…this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.

Do you see how these verses correspond to the quote from Deuteronomy? “Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the lord? We heard the verb - phrases: believes – taught by God – listens to my father – learns from him - eat[s] [this bread].

Jesus is proclaiming in today’s passage that he is “the bread of life” in the sense that he is food for the mind / heart. He gives us “something to chew on.” He is sapiential food. He is wisdom for those who listen to him, to those who accept him as the center of their lives. This food provides the one who accepts him with a life that is not at mere subsistence level, not simple existing. Bread is seen as something that is necessary for living a life that is fully alive. This bread of life provides an answer to the question of what living is for.

We can never underestimate the intelligence and the ingenuity of John the author. It is well accepted that this section of john 6 was calculated to express what we call “the liturgy of the word” in the celebration of Eucharist. It is at this time of our celebration that we turn our attention to a theme that is present in each Sunday celebration of Eucharist.

We first hear a connection to the Hebrew bible; we then usually hear a passage from the apostle, Paul; the final reading is from one of the four gospels. When we listen carefully each week, we hear the great themes from scripture in carefully chosen seasons of the year. These give us the history of salvation, the interventions of our god in the lives of those who have gone before us. During the season of Easter, the first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles that tells us the formative experiences of the early Christian church.

This is bread that thoroughly nourishes us. We realize that our concerns, our worries, our burdens, our joys are not unique to us. We hear of others who walked before us and experienced similar times. In a sense, these people are brought into ours lives in our day. We digest the bread of life and are eternally nourished on our journey.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 5, 2018)

The Scriptures today invite us to open our minds and hearts to the lavish love of our God.

When the Israelites asked for food in the desert, God gave them exactly what they needed. Their grumbling didn’t put him off; he fed them with manna and quail. God only asked them to trust in his loving care for them.

When crowds of people gathered around Jesus, he not only fed them; he gave them more than they could eat. God’s only desire in both instances was to show his lavish love in such a way that it would move people to trust him with their lives.

When the people asked Jesus what they were to do to accomplish the works of God, he gave them a simple answer: believe in the one sent by God – believe in me. Then Jesus identifies himself: I am the bread of life, come down from heaven to give life to the world. All who come to him will never hunger or thirst.

All of us believe that Jesus is the bread of life for us. We desire to place our trust and confidence in God’s loving care for us. We have also found that there is a challenge involved in this trusting. The challenge comes in our willingness to embrace God as he is, and not as we might like him to be. Confidence in God’s loving Providence means accepting with our whole being that God will provide for us, but not always as we might want or expect. Hoarfrost on the ground in the early morning was not what the Israelites expected, but it was bread from heaven as God had promised.

Are we courageous enough in our faith to say to God: “Give us this bread always” and then meet the challenges of letting Jesus, the bread of life, live in us as each day unfolds?

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 29, 2018)

Throughout history, God has fed his people generously.

We just heard how he fed one hundred from the twenty barley loaves given to the prophet Elisha – and there was some left over as God had said. The Gospel recounts Jesus feeding five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish – and leftovers filled twelve baskets. God truly visits his people and feeds them generously.

But these signs were only hints of God’s generous care. At the Last Supper Jesus ate with his disciples, He takes bread and a cup of wine and gives thanks, and tells them to eat. He tells them that the bread they are eating is his body soon to be given for them, and the wine is now his blood soon to be poured out on the cross for the sins of all. Then he instructs them to continue this sacred rite in remembrance of him.

You and I are here today to continue to fulfill that command of Jesus. Each time we celebrate Eucharist, Jesus feeds us with his body and blood. Our God comes to be one with us. St. Peter Chrysologus, an early writer of the Church, asks us to open our minds and hearts to the wonder of this gift: “God always gives greater gifts than he is asked for. …He gives himself as food to be eaten. …(And God promises) ‘You who have continued with me will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.’ He who prepares such great provisions to sustain you on your journey, what has he not prepared for you in that ever-lasting abode? So do not be anxious about the quality of this banquet.”

If our God has provided the body and blood of Jesus as food for our journey, then his promise for the future will be just as surprising and generous. What, then, are we to do as we journey? St. Paul tells us: “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” Live humbly, gently, patiently, bearing with one another through love. Strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

He is reminding us to remember the food we have eaten and allow Jesus to fill us with himself. As we remember, we are called to live as Jesus did, to love as Jesus loved, to be humble and gentle and patient as Jesus was, to be transformed more and more in the image of Jesus so that we can be Jesus’ presence in our world. The gifts of God are generous; the Gift-giver calls us to be generous in turn.