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Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

As we sit with the Word today, I am wondering, ‘what am I supposed to do?’  I’m confused; In the first reading, Jeremiah hears the Lord describing Israel (and us) as a lump of clay that hasn’t turned out right.  The potter can remake it.  We’ve all heard we are clay and God is the divine potter.  So, as clay, what I am supposed to do besides sit here all wet and slippery?  In the gospel, we members of the Kingdom are like all the sea creatures caught in a net.  The fisherman will separate the good from the bad, just like the angels will at the end of the age.  What am I supposed to do, because get caught in a net?

Saint Alphonsus Liguouri, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Scripture Readings

Blessings come in many forms.  It is not always easy to recognize them and beyond that we may appreciate the gift these blessings are for us.  In discovering the Word, Jeremiah states, “I devoured them,” and that “they became my joy and the happiness in my heart.”  Many of us know the hunger we feel in our lives as if something is missing.  Like Jeremiah, we may have even discovered that the Word, and the Sacraments feed us.  Yet even as we are given holy food our hunger can never be completely fulfilled.  As Augustine stated, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in You O Lord.”

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

Scripture Readings

Ten years ago this summer, we bought our home from an aging couple who did not want to leave it. They had lived in it for decades, and it was here that they had raised their two daughters. They clearly put a lot of love and hard work into the home. Along the way, they added a small study to one end of the house. Later they expanded the kitchen to include a sitting area. They poured a lot of love and work into the yard too. They added a patio out back and nurtured many perennial flowers and other plants in the large flower beds they created. As they moved into their retirement years, taking care of the house and especially those big flower beds became too much for them. It was time to sell.

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Today's readings led me to reflect on what one might call the 'big picture' AND the 'small picture'.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Just down the road from our parish is some land which the Marianists call Mount Saint John.  The other night, as I was there praying I came across a statue of Jesus for the first time.  Jesus’ heart is exposed and his open hands are lifted next to his heart.  He struck me as strong and vulnerable, ready to receive whoever comes and eager to give them whatever he can.  It is an image which I think can help us unpack today’s readings.  Let us consider the heart of Jesus, the hands of Jesus, and Eucharistic life. 

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

It was 7th grade.  We were sitting in line waiting for our name to be called to go out to our cars.  I had something pressing to tell my friend, probably something about the Pokémon I was looking for (yup we were playing that when I was in middle school too).  Knowing we weren’t supposed to talk, I folded my hands over my face so my palms covered my mouth and my fingers met on the bridge of my nose.  I was mid-sentence when my teacher crouched down right in front of me, hands just like mine telling me, “I can still see your mouth moving.”  That’s what he said, what I heard was, “I see you trying to be clever which means you know the rules, but you’re not that clever, so stop playing games with me.”

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

 In the gospel reading for today, Jesus admonishes his disciples to wholeheartedly receive his teachings.  In order to do so, they must minimize the noise, distractions, and competing influences that prevent them from letting the gospel take root in them.  It is certainly true that we need to allow the gospel to take root and to grow in us.  Without doing so our faith will be fruitless, empty, and short lived.  However, I would like to focus on a different aspect of today’s readings—namely God’s role in the process of sewing seed and causing it to grow.

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scripture Readings

A couple years ago, around this time of year, I was blessed to go on a 7-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park with some friends from college.  We affectionately call these yearly trips a “man-venture” with the intention that we are just a bunch of guys looking to get away and spend some time together.  Each year they serve as an unstructured retreat opportunity for myself, a time to disconnect from distractions, to reconnect with great friends, and a time to listen to God, others, and nature more closely.  These trips help me re-center myself, typically they are an impetus for me to recall the important things in life and how I may have lost sight of those.  For me, these trips are one of a few ways I try to use my “summer vacation” to re-prioritize, re-center, and re-focus prior to the upcoming academic year and returning to work in August.

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

Scripture Readings

A distinguishing feature of Gnosticism – a set of ancient religious ideas originating in first and second century Judaism and Christianity – is that matter is evil. This includes the human body. As a result, redemption requires an escape from our material selves.

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Bill (my husband) and I just returned from a week we spent with our four children, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren in a house on a lake in northern Wisconsin. Our time there was wonderfully blessed by cool mornings perfect for long hikes on the trails, sunny afternoons plenty warm enough for splash time on the beach, and breezy evenings well spent taking a bike ride or sitting on a bench watching an egret fish for dinner in a nearby bay. Other than the occasional challenge of one child wanting to be noisy just when another was finally settling down to sleep, everyone got along splendidly. There was much laughter and a whole lot of joy all week long. That’s pretty amazing for any family and perhaps especially for ours since our children didn’t grow up all together since they came to us via our previous marriages.

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

At our recent small discipleship gathering, our group was discussing the challenges of understanding exactly how to live out what we read about in scripture.  God gives us guidelines, but He many times leaves out the details for what that looks like in our day to day living.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The other day, I met with a young mother of three beautiful children. After merely seven years of marriage, she feels abandoned. Now she must file for a divorce for the sake of getting support for her children. While her sadness came from the fact that her marriage was falling apart, she also felt that as a Catholic if she sought for divorce, she would go to hell. She said that her faith in God was completely crushed. She felt abandoned by God. She cried through the entire hour-and-a-half she spent with me.  After much listening and some thought, I invited her to consider God’s presence in her life just a little differently. I said to her, God is not sitting up somewhere these disconnected from you or your life. God has not abandoned you. I said to her that God is beside you, crying with you. As you cry, there are tears in God’s eyes. God cannot forcefully change your husband’s behavior. God can give you the inner strength to go on. Perhaps, this meeting with me is God’s way of caring for you. By the end of the conversation, she was a lot more at peace, even though life ahead seemed to be an uphill climb. But, most of all, she was consoled that she was not going to hell. 

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Before I was a parent I used to spend some real energy deliberating things that seem less significant to me these days. Questions like, “Will my coffee be better if I reheat for 40 seconds or 45 seconds?” or “Where should Bess and I go out to eat?” Now, as my wife and I play zone defense to keep our three lovely children out of too much trouble these questions are less impactful. “Where should we eat?” has been replaced by making sure Bess has remembered to eat and is usually asked as I extract my coffee from the microwave (having been microwaved for 2 minutes so that it will stay warm for the 20 minutes it sits forgotten behind the beeping microwave door). As these questions fade in importance, others consume us daily and they are best summarized this way, “How do we best care for our children’s bodies, minds, and hearts?” In particular, we lose sleep over how we best instruct, correct, and love our children so that they may walk as disciples.

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I have a lot of nostalgia for an old Carmelite monastery where I used to go on retreat.  It was located in my favorite place in the world, in Colorado, and the retreats I made there were always rejuvenating.  I wish I could return, and go on retreat there again, especially in times when my spiritual life is in upheaval.  I feel sure if I could just go there, things would be better.

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Our first reading reminds me of a story my wife tells about a teenager she used to mentor.  ‘What was your moment of awakening, when you really decided to make different choices?’ my wife asked the girl.  She thought for a moment and responded ‘At some point, I realized it really was easier to do the right thing.’  Spinning a complex of lies and stories was too much to remember.  When we steal or cheat, the lack of trust in our relationships makes it harder to get the help that we truly need.  Using people to get what we want leaves us in situations where we are being used and lonely. But when we tell the truth, when we keep our promises, when we love and help others, the world becomes a beautiful place, and we are not alone anymore.

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

It is interesting that in three readings before us today we are presented with three very different cities. One city looks to be bound for God’s harshest judgment. Another appears to be under imminent threat of attack. And the third is the very city of God. What might we learn as people of faith from these three cities? That is what I want to consider in this reflection.

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Today's passage from chapter 10 of Matthew's Gospel (Mt 10:34-11:1) is one that can easily be misunderstood. In fact, it has been used to point out the contradictions and/or defects in the teachings of Jesus. The fact is that belief in Jesus causes divisions…even in the strongest of families and between the closest of friends. Following Christ requires every ounce of grace that God provides in order to stay the course.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I was in a phone conversation with a couple last week. They believe that their home is possessed. At least one of the family members is convinced that a strange presence may be controlling this person. They gave me very vivid and strange imageries of things happening in the house. The terms they used most often was “darkness.” Knowing that they were not Catholic or that any of them were baptized, I invited them to meet with me so that I could know more about them before I went into their house to bless it. The family did not honor their appointment and I feel a little concerned. I made a phone call to find out, but they have not responded. It is not very rare for me receive requests for exorcism. Whenever I receive them, I am a little cautious but also bold. I am always remined of today’s gospel reading, where Jesus gave authority over unclean spirit to his apostles. Today’s gospel tells us that with faith in the authority that Christ gave them, “The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, virgin

Scripture Readings

“Unclean!” We might associate this with the image of a leper traveling through a 1stcentury Jewish town or the dietary laws given through Moses. However, in today’s first reading we see Isaiah declaring his own lips and the lips of his people as unclean. What does this mean? I consulted a few resources. Came to no definite conclusion but thought that maybe I can offer just a few options. 

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings 

I know a lot of people these days who really don't like Christians; one study suggests that non-Christians associate Christians with being un-loving, intolerant, and uncivil.  These views are particularly cemented this year by the issues raised in this election year - about health care and contraception, immigration, and other issues associated with religious freedom.  So, how are we to respond, as lovers of Jesus Christ, who also seek to love our neighbors?