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Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Scripture Readings

Today’s readings show us the type of life we can expect to live if we place our trust in God’s providence.  In Deuteronomy we read the original life-or-death question from Moses:  Follow God to life and prosperity, or do it yourself and face certain death.  With a choice so plain, it’s surprising that anyone would choose not to follow the Lord.  Yet so many people do not follow.  Why?

Ash Wednesday

Scripture Readings

Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2)  These words from St. Paul’s intone a sense of urgency to the people of Corinth.  An even greater urgency can be found in the first reading from the prophet Joel, “Even now, say the Lord, return to me with your whole heart. (Joel 2:12)  This urgency is recognized by many of us today as we turn out in large numbers to attend Ash Wednesday services.  It is ironic then that this sign of the cross in ash on our foreheads marks us so outwardly when the readings strongly push for inward conversion.

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

God does not accept bribes (we read in Sirach 35 today). Is that a relief to hear or a disappointment? We cannot “pay” or work our way into God’s kingdom. We also read that God is a God of justice, who “knows no favorites.” If you think you’re on God’s “good side,” this may be difficult to hear. How often do we believe that if we are on our best behavior we deserve to be rewarded by God; or when tragedy or bad times fall upon us, we start to
wonder and question what we did to deserve this lot in life, “am I being punished?”.

Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

William Holman Hunt painted a beautiful picture “The Light of the World” (1853) based on the verse from Revelations that states, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev 3:20) Today’s readings remind us that Christ stands ready at the door to enter our lives and shine His light on our world. We need to listen, open and respond to His invitation. Only then can we experience the fullness of His grace.

Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Pride makes us do funny things. I've pretended to get a phone call one time on a Chicago street because I realized I was going the wrong way and didn't want to just turn around in the middle of the block. I've pretended to scratch my head instead of letting a stranger know I accidentally waved to him or her. Of course running into a spiderweb no one else can see is impossible to play off as you pat your self down like you've been lit by an invisible fire. Pride's consequences go further though as we choose sin in order to seem like we have it all together, even though the Lord clearly tells us these words in Sirach today, "Avoid all evil."

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

In our era of Facebook, the concept of "friends" is interesting to ponder. Some people on Facebook "friend" anyone who requests a friendship with them; others are much more guarded, and "friend" only people who they really know well, because of privacy concerns. Either way, more than one cultural commentator has said that social networking seems to be changing the way we see our relationships with each other. We generally have looser connections with each other, but we have connections to more people. I think it is somewhat strange, actually, that I know more about what a good friend from my high school days who lives in another state is doing this morning than I do about my next door neighbors.

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Reflections

When I started learning to cook, I was amazed at the prevalence of salt in recipes.   I expected salt to factor heavy in a good steak, homemade potato chips, and soup.  But I had no idea that a chocolate chip cookie without salt is just … missing something.  Oatmeal cereal just isn’t right without a sprinkle of salt, even though I can’t taste even a hint of saltiness.  I had heard people say that salt ‘brings out the other flavors,’ but the first few times I tasted these subtle salt-effects, I was surprised.

Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Every person is made in the image and likeness of God.  Also, every person has been given a set of gifts that are given to them for the benefit of the others.  So why is it then that we think we have a right to block others from using their God given gifts?  Have you ever heard someone say to another disciple, I would not minister in that manner?  There are of course many valid reasons to draw limits.  However, the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

What are we to make of the fact that so often in the Old Testament we are admonished to fear the Lord yet in the New Testament Jesus instructs us repeatedly not to fear? Is this some kind of contradiction between the Old Testament and the New? Is there any way to reconcile these two apparently incommensurate teachings?

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

"All wisdom comes from the Lord and with him it remains forever." This is the opening verse of today's reading from the book of Sirach. It establishes God as the creator and eternal keeper of all wisdom. The wisdom this passage speaks of is divine wisdom (of the heart) rather than human wisdom (of the intellect). It equates divine wisdom with God's revelation of Godself. All of creation, including humanity, is instilled with this divine wisdom and, therefore, a revelation of who God is.

Memorial of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Scripture Readings

I have a bad habit, well several bad habits, but one in particular came to mind when I read today’s Gospel.  Remarkably, I can take the simplest of things and over complicate them into muddled messes.  I’m sure others can attest to this.  Maybe they have experienced it in the midst of a planning session when I have proposed a convoluted solution and upon noticing confused looks around me, timidly offer, “Maybe I’m overthinking all of this.”  We can all do this with the Lord as well.

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

Scripture Readings

When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.  God’s glory is constantly being shown to us.  Sometimes our eyes or minds are not always attuned to the wonder God has placed before us.  Or perhaps we recognize the beauty but we do not attribute that grandeur as coming from God. 

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

 In yesterday’s first reading from Genesis, we heard the end of the flood story, as Noah sent out a dove to look for dry ground. Today we hear what happened after this great flood. It almost sounds as though it is a second creation story. God makes a new covenant with his people: He gives all the animals to Noah and his family, and he reaffirms that human beings are made in God’s image. He also gives these people the same instruction he had given Adam and Eve, namely, to be fertile and multiply so as to fill the earth and subdue it. In this new covenant, God promises never to send a flood again to devastate the earth. 

Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The readings speak to us today of God’s extraordinary power, God’s generosity and how we need to be grateful for God’s accomplishments. The story of the flood and Noah continues in the readings today. The rain has stopped, but the journey is nowhere near complete. Noah sends forth a bird three weeks in a row to find out if it’s possible to download his cargo. The first week the dove returns, the second the dove returns with an olive leaf. The third time the dove does not return at all, signaling Noah that the land was dry enough leave the ark.

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I hear a parental God in today’s readings. A very frustrated, parental God. In fact, in the first reading from Genesis, God is so frustrated with the state of the world, the “wickedness” of human kind, that God even regrets that he made human kind. And God’s “heart was grieved.” That’s pretty strong emotion. Similarly, in the gospel reading from Mark, we hear of Jesus’ frustrations with his disciples. Almost like a frustrated parent, we hear Jesus
exclaiming, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? …Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember…? Do you still not understand?”!! 

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Do you ever wonder why certain things happen? I believe completely in a God who is all love, so when I hear and see something that seems horrific- a tsunami that kills thousands of people, a bomb that explodes in a crowded marketplace, an accident where an innocent bystander is killed- whether one or many people are involved- I wonder why would God allow this to happen.   Both readings today made me stop and think about God and His role in our world. After some reflection, I realize that my tiny mind can never fully understand or appreciate God’s love and how that is expressed even in the messiness of this world.

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Today’s Psalm ends with the words, “Have pity on your servants!”  In the Gospel we see that petition answered by Christ as he tells the disciples, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd.”  And Genesis gives us some sense of the need for that pity as we see the curses of the Fall described.  In all of this we see revealed to us, Jesus as the curse breaker.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I was at a parish meeting this week, and as usual, the meeting began by reading the Sunday Gospel reading. After it was read, for about a minute, there was silence. It is as if we were all tongue-tied. It took a few quite moments to break the silence, but there still was this sense that we simply do not know what to do with Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. Unlike Matthew’s version, Luke creates a stark line of separation between the blessedness of the poor and the woe of the rich. How shall we understand Luke’s Beatitudes? 

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There was a time in my life (my teenage years) when I was "sure" I would not get married, for a variety of reasons. Marriage seemed too scary because of its long-term commitment; marriage meant I would have to think about another person besides myself and that seemed difficult; marriage seemed too "adult." When I eventually meet someone and decide to marry, I remember having a conversation with a friend about a week before the wedding. I told my friend it was still difficult to imagine being married - the largeness and longevity of the expectations of marriage seemed overwhelming. To this day, I remember her answer word for word: "But Jana, you can imagine being married to Joel, right?" In that instant, all my fears went away and I felt at peace. My perception of marriage changed. Marriage, as an abstract institution, was indeed scary. But marriage to a specific person, the specific person that I knew and loved - that I could see. 

Memorial of Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop

Scripture Readings

Jesus is the great “uniter.”  The second story of creation today reminds us that our differences are meant for one-another’s blessing.  God has declared that it is not good for us to be alone.  We need to help each other out.  This theological truth is imprinted in our bodies as male and female, but it also shows up in the diversity of vocations serving the Church: consecrated religious brothers and sisters, priests, single people and married people all play a vital role in the Kingdom of God here on Earth.  Marriage brings new life into the world and develops incredible virtue of generosity, compassion, and unconditional love. Family is where every vocation begins.  Consecrated Sisters and Brothers offer themselves in service to the Church and the world, as a unique witness of God’s love- they enrich families, schools, and parishes by their lives.  Priests mediate between the people and God through the sacramental life, shepherding people and communities on their walk toward God.  Single people are radically available to serve God, the Church, their families, and the world in whatever way and for whatever period of time pleases the lord.  We are all better for our diverse callings, and for the ways we need one another and serve one another.