Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Luke 11: 1-13

Matthew 13: 24-30

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."

And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within,
'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? This passage says, “Ask and you shall receive.” I’ve asked to win the lottery. I’ve asked that my illness be cured. I ask all of the time but God never comes through. God doesn’t answer my prayers. God has turned a deaf ear to me.

How many people have lost their faith because of the above sentiment? How many people feel abandon by God because he did not answer their prayers in the exact manner of their choosing on their timeframes?

Even the worst parent among us wouldn’t intentionally give their child something that would do them harm even if they ask for it. Likewise, our heavenly Father will not give us something that will do our salvation harm even if we ask for it. God answers every single prayer. Sometimes that answer is, “No.”  Sometimes that answer is, “Not now.” God will deny us nothing that we really need for our salvation.

So if God knows all our needs why do we have to ask him for anything? Shouldn’t we just trust that he will give us all that we need?

The one thing God respects above all else is our free will. He will not violate our free will. He respects our free will so much that he will even allow us to choose Hell if that is what we truly desire. We ask the Lord for what we need in order to give him permission to give us what we need. We then have to trust in him like small children to give us exactly what we need to obtain everlasting life, even if what we are given is pain and suffering.

To a child an immunization causes pain and suffering. Why would a loving parent ever allow this to happen? As a loving parent we know that the temporary hurt prevents lasting harm. The child looks at the immediate, small picture. As a parent we look at the whole picture. Remember this the next time you are suffering. As you concentrate on the immediate know that God sees the whole. Be grateful in your suffering knowing that your heavenly Father has only your welfare in mind.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Matthew 13: 24-30

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Why does God allow evil in the world? Why doesn’t he just pluck it up from our midst? Evil exists so that love can exist. Evil exists so that there is a choice. Love cannot be forced. It can only be chosen. For love to exist something other than love has to also exist to give us a choice between the two.

Every seed God sows is good seed. Every creature he makes is a good creature. The enemy turns the good into evil by getting them to choose something more than God. But just as the evil one can turn someone away from God love can turn them back towards God. Therefore, God cannot pluck out the evil among us without also plucking the good within the evil.

In the end God will know the good from the bad by the fruits they produce. Those who choose to love others will be gathered for the Lord’s barn. Those who choose to love themselves will be gathered for burning.

Holy Scripture is full of this poetic language. It all comes down to who you love. If you love others you will the best for them. Love will be returned to you in the form of mercy at the time of judgment. If you choose to love yourself love will be given to you in the form of justice.
Are you wheat or weed?

Friday, July 22, 2016

John 20: 1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

Before Jesus’ ascension to the Father he could only be on one place at one time. He was in his glorified, yet, earth bound body. After his ascension he could be among us anywhere and everywhere. He gave his priests the words of consecration. Jesus now dwells among his people in every tabernacle in the world all at once and everywhere.

This part of scripture gives reason to believe that the resurrection is true. In Jesus’ day women could not testify in court. Their testimony to any event was not considered worthy to anyone. Yet, the scriptures tell us that Jesus appeared to a woman first. It was Mary who brought the news to the Twelve. If the scriptures were written to justify a false, made up religion of the Twelve they would have surly written that Jesus appeared directly to them first. But they wrote that he appeared to a woman as the men hid in fear.

This is the first of several stories of the resurrected Lord appearing to his followers. When he appears to them his identity is always veiled. He comes in secret and listens to the person or people he is with tell what has occurred. He gives them a chance to evangelize before he makes himself known to them.

Jesus comes to them in secret. How often has Jesus come to us with his identity veiled looking to see how we respond to him? Have you ever been approached by a stranger in need or one who was offering consolation out of the blue?

October 25, 2014 I went in for an angiogram expecting to find one blockage that could be fixed. What we found instead was that my heart was 90-95% blocked and that I was in great need for open heart bypass. The doctor told my wife the news as I was in recovery. The news hit her pretty hard and she was visibly shaken. From out of nowhere a disheveled looking man appeared at her side. He had a Bible in his hand. He told her not to worry, that I would be fine. Then he asked if he could pray with her. After the prayer the man was gone and she never saw him again.

Jesus comes to us with his identity veiled. He appears as another person, a gardener, a travel companion, a disheveled man in a hospital waiting room. How do you choose to respond to these people?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Jeremiah 2: 1-3, 7-8, 12-13

This word of the LORD came to me:
Go, cry out this message for Jerusalem to hear!

I remember the devotion of your youth,
how you loved me as a bride,
Following me in the desert,
in a land unsown.
Sacred to the LORD was Israel,
the first fruits of his harvest;
Should any presume to partake of them,
evil would befall them, says the LORD.

When I brought you into the garden land
to eat its goodly fruits,
You entered and defiled my land,
you made my heritage loathsome.
The priests asked not,
“Where is the LORD?”
Those who dealt with the law knew me not:
the shepherds rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after useless idols.

Be amazed at this, O heavens,
and shudder with sheer horror, says the LORD.
Two evils have my people done:
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns,
broken cisterns, that hold no water.

Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. Israel is God’s chosen people and on them he poured out his blessing and grace. The people responded as a bride to her husband. God was revered, feared, and held in the most sacred regard.

Then, when things got good the people forgot God and turned from Godly things. When God rained down blessing Israel held up the fruits of that blessing and said, “Look what our hands have made.” They started worshipping gods of their own making.

God also shed his blessing and grace upon the land known as America. He bestowed all the goodness and bounty this country has. We were a Godly people who knew and revered God. There was nothing we could not accomplish. We sent people to the deepest parts of the earth and to the moon above. We cured disease that claimed the lives of so many and we ended the tyrannies of evil men.

But, like Israel before us, we took the blessings God provided and said, “Look what OUR hands have done.” We drifted away from God and created for ourselves our own gods out of selfish desire. We now worship money, power, pleasure, and our own disordered desires.

Shudder with sheer horror. We have done two evils in the sight of God. We have forsaken him. God is dead; we no longer have need for him. We have replaced him with science. We have become the creator but our creations have no real life.

Woe to this world when God stops providing and leaves us to wallow in our foolishness.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Matthew 13: 1-9

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

A seed of thought cannot be brought to blossom in the infertile ground of a closed mind. We are called to preach the Gospel to all people so that all people can hear about the love of God but that message will not be received by all people. We are not to spend our time trying to till rock and clay. Our time is better spent working the fertile ground, bringing the Gospel to those open to receive it.

Sound leads to thought, thought to conversion. Anyone with ears should be able to hear the Gospel and change their hearts and minds to the Lord. If someone is deaf then the only way they can be converted is by sight – by example. Not only do we have to preach the Word but we have to live the Word in the sight of every people. The deaf who can see will slowly begin to hear as well.

This is the mission of a Christian – to love the Word with our lives, speak the Word with our mouths, and house the Word in our hearts. Others will come to know him by the love we show to each other.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Matthew 12: 46-50

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you.”
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

God’s Kingdom is among us, that is, God’s royal nature has chosen to dwell among men. Anyone who turns their mind and will to that of the Father is adopted by him as his child. We become heirs to the royal kingdom. We inherit God’s royal nature. God became incarnate to be one of us and to live as one of us to show us the right way to live and to be in right relationship with the Father. Then the Father adopted us as his children. He went from God of all creation, so far beyond our reach, to being one among us, to being our brother – family. God crossed all infinity, all creation and lowered himself to call me son, brother.
How humble is our God?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

Matthew 12: 38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

Exalt the messenger; ignore the message. The messianic promise had been given to Israel for centuries. Now the promise stood fulfilled before them and they refused to acknowledge him. He was not what was expected. They expected a mighty king to arrive who would vanquish the Romans and restore the throne of David to world domination.

Instead they got the living God who came as a thief in the night to offer himself for their salvation. The Sadducees did not believe in eternal life or resurrection. For them Christ offered nothing. The Pharisees believed in righteousness by living to the letter of the Law. Christ threatened their entire belief structure. Following the Law was not enough. He required faith instead.

The living God, the Messiah, walked among them yet they chose to revere the prophets who came before to announce his arrival. There is something greater than those here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Colossians 1: 24-28

Brothers and sisters:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and in my flesh I am filling up
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
on behalf of his body, which is the church,
of which I am a minister
in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me
to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.
But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles;
it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
It is he whom we proclaim,
admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Christ was chastised, hated, spit upon, scourged, crowned with thorns, his closest friends ran from him in his time of need, and he was finally crucified. What could possibly be lacking in the afflictions of Christ?

My participation in it all.

If we could see the invisible reality that is happening around us at Mass each and every time we attend we would be left speechless and trembling. The reality of Mass is that it acts as a conduit connecting heaven and earth through all of time and allows us to participate fully in the crucifixion of Jesus. Our Mass does not re-crucify Jesus. It does not re-sacrifice the one true sacrifice. It brings us to that one true sacrifice. It makes it present to us. We are joined with the afflictions of Christ. We stand at the base of the cross with Mary, the ever virgin mother, and with Saint John. We stand at the base of the cross with every believer who has ever attended Mass at every Mass ever offered. We stand at the base of the cross with all of the angels and Saints. We stand at the base of the cross with every person whose name is written in the book of life.

We celebrate this one Mass in communion with all of these people. When we say the creed, or the Our Father we do so not alone with our parish but with every believer in one loud voice. Listen for this voice the next time you are at Mass. Open your heart to the invisible reality that is unfolding before your unseeing eyes. Realize just how big and important this Mass is. You will never look at Mass as something small or meaningless again.

Make up in your body that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Offer up all that you have to him on the cross and complete his Holy sacrifice for the sake of every soul ever created.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Micah 2: 1-5

Woe to those who plan iniquity,
and work out evil on their couches;
In the morning light they accomplish it
when it lies within their power.
They covet fields, and seize them;
houses, and they take them;
They cheat an owner of his house,
a man of his inheritance.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
Behold, I am planning against this race an evil
from which you shall not withdraw your necks;
Nor shall you walk with head high,
for it will be a time of evil.

On that day a satire shall be sung over you,
and there shall be a plaintive chant:
“Our ruin is complete,
our fields are portioned out among our captors,
The fields of my people are measured out,
and no one can get them back!”
Thus you shall have no one
to mark out boundaries by lot
in the assembly of the LORD.

The cup of the Lord’s wrath has been filled and will now be emptied out on an Israel who has turned their backs on the Lord. He will remove his protective hand and allow evil to fall upon his chosen people until they change their wills and return to the Lord.

God bless America; he shed his grace on thee. And like a prosperous Israel we too have turned our backs on the Lord. There are those among us who do everything they can to remove God from the public square. We have removed prayer to him in our schools and public events. How much longer can we expect God’s grace to be poured out to us and his protective hand to guide us? Let us learn from Holy Scripture and from history and turn our wills and hearts back toward the Lord.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

Matthew 12: 1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

When a man points to toward the moon the fool stares at the finger. The Pharisees were so wrapped up in the letter of the Law that they couldn’t see the Law incarnate standing before them. Instead they parsed the Law in a way that they could trap Jesus and his disciples. Work was prohibited on the Sabbath and here they have caught these men harvesting wheat (picking the heads of the wheat as they walked), threshing wheat (they rubbed the wheat in their hands to separate the fruit from the chaff), and winnowing wheat (blowing the chaff away from the fruit). These men were in clear violation of the Sabbath law however miniscule it seemed.

Jesus countered them in three ways that they could not understand. First he tells them that King David violated Sabbath laws when his friends ate of the sacrificial bread reserved to only priests. Jesus would assume the throne of King David and become the king of kings. Therefore his disciples were justified to do this labor in the presence of the king. Second, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that priests are also exempt from Sabbath law when they serve in the temple. Jesus’ disciples would go on to become his first priests and were serving him in the field. His last point was the most important.

There is something greater than the temple here.

The temple was where God resided among the Jews. It is the place you went to offer praise, worship, and sacrifice. The disciples were in no need for the temple for the Lord was present in their midst. He was not longing for sacrifice. He was longing for mercy. The Pharisees gave him condemnation instead. The Pharisees put the Law before the Lord when the purpose of the Law was to give us direction on how to have right relationship with the Lord. Man was not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath for the man. Sabbath is a day set aside for man to worship God. The Sabbath was made for the Son of Man.

When the disciples pointed toward Jesus the Pharisees stared at the disciples.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Matthew 11: 28 – 30

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

A Pharisee lived by the letter of the Law to the Nth degree. Even the most stringent of things were debated and followed. The Law was so strict that it made it nearly impossible to follow faithfully. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. He is the Law incarnate. He showed to us the true meaning of why we had the Law to begin with. In him the entire Law is boiled down to two commands:

Love thy God with your entire self.

Love everyone else as God has loved you.

If we follow these two simple commands we will embody the actual spirit of the Law. No longer do we have to worry about eating something that will make us unclean. No longer do we have to worry about wearing cotton and wool together. We no longer labor under the burden of the Law. Jesus’ way is easy – love. Will the best for everyone, especially those who wish you harm. All we have to do is let go of those things like hate, jealousy, envy, pride, greed. We need to become like the Master – meek and humble of heart. All we have to do is put the other before self.

Wearing the yoke of self fulfillment is always a hard and burdensome task. You can never really achieve success. There is always more you can get; more you can make. There is always someone better looking to get under your control. The path of self fulfillment has no end.

But the yoke of selflessness is easy. You give what you have. No one can give what they don’t have. There is no greater satisfaction than giving your all for another, for their well being. There is no greater satisfaction than in loving sacrificially. This is the yoke Jesus asks us to wear.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Matthew 11: 25 – 27

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

You have come to know these things not on your own accord but through the revelation of my Father. Why does God reveal himself to those who are like children? The simple answer is trust. Children trust without doubt. My two-year old daughter does not worry about where her next meal will come from. She doesn’t worry about what she will wear. She has no concern about the roof over her head. She trusts as only a child can that these things will be provided to her by her loving parents.

With knowledge comes the illusion of control. We leave trust at the curb and take things into our own hands. We no longer rely on our heavenly Father to provide for our needs. We make ourselves the gods of our world. Why should God reveal himself to us?

No one can see the Father except through the Son. The Son is the visible image of the invisible Father. If we have seen the Son we have also seen the Father. In order to see with perfect sight we must trust completely. We must make ourselves children fully dependent upon God for our very lives without fear or worry that he will provide for us. This is so hard for a thinking people to do but when we can it becomes the greatest source of peace in our lives.

Put your trust in God, not in yourself or in other men.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Matthew 11: 20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:
Will you be exalted to heaven?

You will go down to the nether world.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

During Jesus’ public ministry he performed many signs and wonders so that the people may come to believe who he was. Yet, many of the people turned a blind eye to the miracles performed before their eyes and refused to believe. Why? Why is it so hard to believe?

To believe is easy. Even the evil one believes. The next part is the part we all struggle with – repentance. We are called to conform our minds to reflect that of the Father. We are to make his will ours. Metanoia. This means letting go of ourselves and allowing someone else to be in control. It means to trust fully that God will take care of us and provide for all that we need.

Are we really that separated from Chorazin and Bethsaida? Has the Lord not done mighty deeds in our midst as well? Is every day not a miracle? Yet we turn our backs on him and hold tightly to the reigns. We are driving this chariot and the horses are at a full gallop towards the edge of the cliff that will plunge us directly into the nether world.

Jesus warns of the dark days ahead. Sodom was completely destroyed and yet it will be more tolerable for them than what awaits a nation who has been shown the face of God and have turned its back on him. Pray that we will not be that nation. Pray for the conversion of hearts and minds back to the will of the Father.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

Isaiah 1: 10-17

Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!
What care I for the number of your sacrifices?
says the LORD.
I have had enough of whole-burnt rams
and fat of fatlings;
In the blood of calves, lambs and goats
I find no pleasure.

When you come in to visit me,
who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more!
Bring no more worthless offerings;
your incense is loathsome to me.
New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies,
octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear.
Your new moons and festivals I detest;
they weigh me down, I tire of the load.
When you spread out your hands,
I close my eyes to you;
Though you pray the more,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

We live in a culture where everything is permissible but nothing is forgivable during a time where people stand together at Mass and proclaim, “I believe…” but get to the parking lot and declare, “But the Church is wrong on…” Are we really that far removed from Sodom and Gomorrah? Do we not do wickedness during the week and then stand in Church on Sunday as a righteous people?

What good is sacrifice when it is not accompanied by a humble heart seeking to conform to the will of God? I’ve thrown my two coins in the offertory. Isn’t that enough? How much more does God want?

Often our approach to God is from arrogance and not repentance. We don’t need to dress respectfully when we come to worship him because he is happy that we came. I shake my brother’s hand at the sign of peace while holding a grudge over how he keeps his yard. For far too many the Sunday obligation has become the Sunday option and the Ten Commandments have become the Ten Suggestions.

I have heard it said that God has a cup of wrath that is filled slowly by the transgressions of his people. When it is filled it spills over and must be emptied. When this happens God pulls his protective grace and lets the natural chaos follow its course. We have example after bloody example of this through the course of human history. Will we not learn from the past? Can we not see where this road is leading?

Like Nineveh, we can repent and be saved. The largest hurdle before us is the belief that we already are.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Deuteronomy 30: 10-14

Moses said to the people:
"If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.

"For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out."

God is like a great teacher. He gives us a lesson. When we struggle with it he gives us some homework. If that doesn’t do the job he gives us more. When God created man he gave him only one command, “Do not eat of the tree of good and evil.” When we could not obey that one simple command he gave us ten new commandments.

The Ten Commandments showed us the way to live in right relationship with God and with each other. If we would only heed them we could live in peace and harmony on this earth. Alas, man’s earthly desire for more controlled what he did and we strayed from the Ten Commandments as well. So we were given six hundred and three more commands that controlled every little aspect of how we live, how we eat, and how we love. God had to spell out these things in detail so that no question remained on how we are supposed to live.

Jump forward a few centuries and enter the Pharisees. Not all Jews were able to get to the temple to worship so they devised a way to be devout without the temple. This called for the strict observation of all six hundred and thirteen laws. The better you could keep to the letter of the Law the more righteous and just you thought you were in the eyes of the Lord. This put a heavy yoke of the Jewish people that turned the Law into a burdensome obligation and not a joyous way to live in right relationship.

God had to show us how to live this relationship himself. Enter Jesus, God made man. He was the fulfillment of the law. He boiled the Law down to two simple commands that encompasses the entire Law. Love God with your entire being and love people as God has loved you. His yoke easy, the burden light.

This is what Moses is trying to remind his people of in this scriptural reading. Living in right relationship with God does not require some grandiose law dictating your every action. Living in right relationship with God does not require a scholar to explain it to you. God wrote how to live in right relationship with him in our hearts. If we look for the deepest desire of our hearts we will find it. All we have to do is embrace it and live it.

Knowing this the evil one puts before us an abundant number of choices, each appealing to the eye and body. Bright shining things that have greater allure than the truth before us. He wants us to choose anything other than the simple truth that brings us true joy and happiness. Just as the true desire of the heart brings forth life the disordered desires of the flesh bring sadness and death.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Matthew 10: 24-33

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more those of his household!

“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

God loves every creature that he created. Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation for he made us in his own image and likeness. Anyone who is obedient to the commands of the Father will be cherished in heaven for obedience is desired even more than sacrifice. For the one who is truly obedient to God there is no need for sacrifice. But for the one who spurns God there is no sacrifice great enough to atone for this sin. Heaven will be denied to those who choose love of self over love of God.

No slave is above his master; no student above his teacher. Jesus is the master teacher we strive to imitate. He is the Law fulfilled; the visible image of the invisible God. He was first loved by the people, then envied, feared, hated, and eventually killed. A fallen people cannot tolerate perfection living among them for it makes their weaknesses, limitations, and iniquities shine in the light of truth. The light which holds us to truth must be extinguished.

Anyone who therefore carries that light as if they were a lantern will also be despised and hated. A true student carries the lessons of their master inside of them and passes those lessons on to others. For a people who long to live in darkness all sources of light must be extinguished. We are promised hardship for refusing to let the light die in our age. What do I have to fear from this age when I am also promised that I have the master to mediate for me before the Father at the completion of this age? I can be bold in my love for the Lord and proclaim that love from the rooftops for I have been assured mercy when the age of judgment comes.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Matthew 10: 16-23

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”

Those who preach the truth of God will be hated by those who dwell in darkness. We will be persecuted and despised among our brothers. We will be attacked and discredited. The evil one does not want the truth to be known. He does not want people to see the light of God’s love for them.

Although I may be persecuted in this world for standing up in my faith God will not forget. When he delivers his justice I shall have mercy for I will have stayed true to my faith in the face of the evil of men. He will provide for me at the appropriate time. He will fill my mouth with the right words. What do I have to fear in this life except losing my faith? This world has no claim on my soul. Into your hands Lord I commend my spirit. Thy will be done. Let me be an instrument of your love and a lantern to carry your light to all those in darkness.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hosea 11: 1-4, 8E-9

Thus says the LORD:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the farther they went from me,
Sacrificing to the Baals
and burning incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.

How difficult is it for a parent when their beloved children rebel against them? Who among us has not been that rebellious child? How many of those rebellious children go on to be loving parents? I look back through my life and I clearly see the pain I caused my father with my rebellious attitude. I can also see the deep love my father had for me. Now I am in his place with children of my own. Now I understand things from his side of the coin. I wish I could be half the father my dad tried to be.

So how much more so does this apply to God?  The resounding message in the Old Testament is “I am your God, you are my people. I love you.” And what happens over and over again? God’s beloved rebels against him constantly turning to gods of their own creation that can never love them back. Are we really that different today? We have created for ourselves our own gods. We have even gone as far as making ourselves our own gods. We sacrifice for our own selfish pleasure. The Old Testament people sacrificed their children to the gods of Ba’al. We sacrifice our children to material possessions, money, pleasure, and a host of other selfish desires. We are no better than those who have gone before us.

God’s heart is heavy. He is filled with pity for those of these generations. He promised not to destroy Israel like he did in the great flood but how long can he hold back his anger with this generation? Every society that has ever practiced child sacrifice has been wiped off of the planet. Every society except ours. But where there is love there is hope. God loves us and will never give up on us. We still have time to repent. We still have time to turn our hearts back to our Father and give him the love of children.

Lord, make yourself known to those who live in darkness. Call us back to your loving arms.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Matthew 10: 1-7

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
The names of the Twelve Apostles are these:
first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew,
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus;
Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot
who betrayed Jesus.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

Jesus gave the Twelve his authority over demons and to cure disease and illness and it is through this authority that they acted. They could do nothing on their own. Later Jesus would pass on all of his authority including the authority to forgive or bind sin. The Twelve would give this authority on to their replacements who passed it on to their replacements who would become the bishops. This is Apostolic Succession. The bishops today derive their authority through an unbroken chain leading all the way back to Jesus himself.

I do nothing on my own authority. I don’t even preach the Gospel without the permission of my bishop. The authority within me is the authority bestowed upon me by my bishop. Because of this I am not free to teach whatever I believe. I must teach only those things passed on to me by those with the proper authority who came before me. I am not entitled to express my opinion where it differs from official Church teaching on the matters of faith and morals.

This ensures that the Catholic Church has a universal message no matter where you go in this world. We are not a Church of a billion popes. We are often shown as a three legged stool of Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium guided by the Holy Spirit with Jesus’ promise that the Church he created will never fail. One will never contradict another.

In the beginning Jesus did not open his Church to everyone. He started by delivering his messaged that the Messiah has come to the Judeans who were waiting for the return of David’s kingdom. Only after his message was rejected by the majority did he open it up to all people.

Makes you wonder what would have happened if the Judeans would have embraced his message instead of rejecting him.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hosea 8: 4-7, 11-13

Thus says the LORD:
They made kings in Israel, but not by my authority;
they established princes, but without my approval.
With their silver and gold they made
idols for themselves, to their own destruction.
Cast away your calf, O Samaria!
my wrath is kindled against them;
How long will they be unable to attain
innocence in Israel?
The work of an artisan,
no god at all,
Destined for the flames—
such is the calf of Samaria!

When they sow the wind,
they shall reap the whirlwind;
The stalk of grain that forms no ear
can yield no flour;
Even if it could,
strangers would swallow it.

When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin,
his altars became occasions of sin.
Though I write for him my many ordinances,
they are considered as a stranger’s.
Though they offer sacrifice,
immolate flesh and eat it,
the LORD is not pleased with them.
He shall still remember their guilt
and punish their sins;
they shall return to Egypt.

I have heard people say, “I cannot believe in a God who allows…” One of the biggest ways we worship golden calves in this day is by creating in our minds an image of God as we like to see him instead of the way he really is. There are many who turn their backs on Church teaching because they believe that God has changed his mind and that the teaching is outdated. There is a demand that the Church get with the times. Church has lost her relevance in so many lives because people have redefined God and therefore can redefine their relationship with him. When you conform God to your image you commit the ultimate idolatry.

The reading goes on to speak to our times about the multitude of “Christian” churches that have sprung up that preach God not as he is but how they want him to be. People desperate to have a relationship with God, on their terms and not his, flock to these ecclesial communities in vast numbers. They eat the bread made of fruitless wheat. They get fed but the food they receive is deficient. The body is what it eats and the soul is what it sees and hears.

Altars are made to offer God sacrifice, praise, and worship. Animal sacrifice was used to atone for sin. Today many altars are used as occasions of sin by people who have redefined the truth of God into their own truth. A prominent example is same sex marriage. God created marriage in Adam and Eve and defined it as one man and one woman for life. Jesus affirms this definition and condemns divorce during his ministry. Yet, in churches all across this nation pastors perform same sex marriages before these altars to people who have created for themselves a god who approves of their union. Even more prominent are the marriages performed to divorced people, all justified because people worship a god of their own creation.

When we sow wind, we will reap whirlwind. When we sow the ungodly, we will reap destruction. God will remember those who have turned from the true God for the golden calf of their creation. They shall receive his justice. But for those who know that God is God and they are not and do their best to live by his commands, they will be shown God’s mercy in place of the justice due.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hosea 2:16, 17C – 18, 21-22

Thus says the LORD:
I will allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak to her heart.
She shall respond there as in the days of her youth,
when she came up from the land of Egypt.

On that day, says the LORD,
She shall call me “My husband,”
and never again “My baal.”

I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD.

I am your God and you are my people. This is the oath the Lord took to Israel. It is a covenant oath that God as never forgotten. He has never strayed. He has never been unfaithful to it. Israel, on the other hand, has been unfaithful to this covenant every time things got good. It is a never ending cycle of covenant fidelity/covenant infidelity. Israel is in misery and cries out to God. God hears his children and responds. He brings his people into prosperity and the people forget the Lord.

Is it really that different from our own times? America came out of the World Wars as a country in distress. We were a people in misery. We were closer to God in those days. Churches were full. Confession lines long. People had a sense of responsibility to God, country, and each other. There was nothing we couldn’t accomplish. There was no task too great.

Then we entered into the decade of decadence. This was the decade of my generation. The Greatest Generation made a pledge that their children would want for nothing, that they would have everything they never got to have. That oath was fulfilled with my generation. It was the age of greed. We saw the family size start to drop off because you couldn’t provide everything for eight or more kids. My generation limited it to one or two because you couldn’t give everything to your kids and still have everything you wanted as well.

We have marginalized the role of fathers. Divided families. Removed God from the public square. We have gotten to the point where we have demanded that everyone be able to define reality for themselves. Things that are unchangeable have become optional and subject to personal interpretation.

History constantly repeats itself. This era will be no different. We are headed into despair and dark times. We have to be put back into misery so we can learn that there is a God. We must cry out to him as Israel did.

God will call to us from the desert of our lives, when all seems bleak and lifeless. We will be reinvigorated and our hearts will swell with love for the forgotten God. God will renew the vow he made to his people and we will return to covenant fidelity with him. The false gods we worship today and sacrifice our children to will be forgotten and we will be reminded…

I am your God and you are my people.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
'Peace to this household.'
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
'The kingdom of God is at hand for you.'
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
'The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.'
Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town."

The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said,
"Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name."
Jesus said, "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.
Behold, I have given you the power to 'tread upon serpents' and scorpions
and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

 “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few…”

Like a farmer fills his bins with grain during the harvest so too does God wish to fill heaven with the children he created. God extends the invitation to every person of this world. He needs people to deliver that invitation. He needs laborers for the harvest.

Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples to deliver this message. What faith these people must have had to journey forth through dangerous country without even the simple basic necessities. They had faith that the Lord would provide. Can you imagine the conversations that took place between the pairs as they went their ways?

When they came upon the town they were sent to preach they extended Jesus’ peace to them. If the peace was returned, that is if they were among a people who were willing to hear the message, they stayed and delivered the message. If they were among a deaf people they would shake the dust off of their sandals and move on.

This is a very important message to the Christian today. It is not our job to convert everyone. We are to spread the good news to a people of good will who wish to hear it. We are not to stand on street corners and shout at those who do not wish to listen. The Gospel of God is the Gospel of love and love cannot be forced upon anyone. Love only exists if there is a choice.

The kingdom of God is at hand. This is widely misunderstood as the nearing of the return of paradise. In the original Greek the word used for kingdom is basileia and is more aptly translated as the royal nature of a king. A king is a basileus. When Jesus told his disciples to deliver the message that the kingdom of God is at hand what he was really saying was that God’s royal nature was soon to be among them. God’s royal nature was none other than Jesus himself. He sent his disciples forth to prepare his way.

The disciples returned to the Lord rejoicing in the miracles they could work through the authority given to them by Jesus. Even demons obeyed their commands. Jesus told them not to rejoice because they had his authority but to rejoice because their place in heaven was assured.

This should give us great satisfaction and courage. If we listen to the voice of the Lord and answer his calling we too can be assured that we will inherit the basileia, God’s royal nature through his adoption.

Repent, for the kingdom of God is among us. We get to hold the King in our hands and take him completely into our beings each and every time we receive the Eucharist at Mass. Have you prepared your heart as a thrown and your body as a basilica?