Thursday, February 20, 2020

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time_A - The Call to Holiness_022320

Deacon Tom Writes on….
The Call to Holiness”

Jesus takes the contemporary wisdom of his time and turns it upside down. The ancient patterns of behavior of seeking revenge, the old “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” order of the day mentality needs to give way to a new mindset, a new way of resolving differences. So Jesus introduces his followers to some new and innovative ways to bring about justice saying, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil” and “turn the other cheek.”

Jesus’ radical new prescription to eradicate the plagues of hatred and discrimination is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Of course, this is much easier said than done. There is a story told about the days following the North’s victory over the South in America’s Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln was being pressured to completely destroy the Confederacy, to decimate the enemies of the Union once and for all. Lincoln’s answer was classic. He responded to those calling for the annihilation of the South with these reconciling words saying effectively:  “Don’t I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Lincoln understood very well that violence only begets more violence. The cycle never ends. How could it in the absence of a new mindset, a new vision that lifts the victim and the vanquished to a higher level of social and moral conscientiousness? This attitude perhaps helped fashion America’s treatment of our enemies in the twentieth century when, after the Second World War, the Marshall Plan sent massive humanitarian aid to Europe in order to lay the foundation for a world able to reconcile differences through mutual respect and an orderly process of dialogue rather than mutual destruction.

Embracing a new way of responding to problems that give rise to the endless cycle of violence that ravages peoples, cultures, and societies is a critical component of our faith. Through the Prophet Moses, the Lord told his people to “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” We are called to be holy as God is holy. Therefore violence and revenge are not options. There is no better advocate for this than Christ who became a victim for us all and who suffered torture and death at the hands of violent people in order to show us the way of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Let us take Christ’s words to heart and strive to put them into practice by “turning the other cheek” when others choose the way of violence and also by praying for those who do so.

I would like to recommend the book, Living Justice, by Thomas Massaro, S.J. as a great Lenten read on Catholic Social Teaching. Watching the News will never be the same!

Enjoy the day!
Deacon Tom

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, A - Make the Right Choice_021620

Deacon Tom Writes,
“Make the Right Choice”

Our readings today address the choices we have in life. Sirach seems to say that, in essence, every choice that we make comes down to this: we choose between life and death or, stated differently, between good and evil. Then the Sacred Writer cautions us further that, “whatever we choose shall be given to us”.  

It is not often we think of the choices we make throughout the day as either good or evil or between life and death. We probably make hundreds of choices over the course of an ordinary day. Yet, it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that every choice we make counts; every choice we make has us heading in one direction or another. We often find ourselves in situations where we must compromise... our faith, our values, our entire belief system. Jesus, in saying that he has come to fulfill the law, not to abolish it, reminds us that we have a reference point on how to determine if we are making good or bad choices. His focal point is … the Law, specifically, the Law God handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus expands the meaning of the Law when he interprets it in a much broader sense. He equates anger with the act of killing another person. Then again, the act of calling someone a fool and thereby diminishing their dignity as a child of God becomes punishable by eternal damnation….

I don’t think that Jesus is being overly scrupulous. He is being very cautious. He knows that it is the little things that trip us up not only in the day-to-day happenings in our material life but also on our spiritual journey as well. He knows that every choice we make is either drawing us nearer to him or has us moving further away from him. He knows that little by little we can loose the kingdom of heaven by making bad choices. 

Jesus taught us that the best choice we can make is to choose to love, to love God first and foremost, and to love others, even our enemies as well. And this happens every time we choose to put others first, and by doing so, we deepen our love of God, which is always the right choice! 

Enjoy the day!
Deacon Tom

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time_A - Light and Zest_020920

Deacon Tom Writes,

“Light and Zest

The Sacred Author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote this insightful passage concerning the enduring truth about the Word of God when he penned these words, “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart”. Hebrews 4:12

It seems there is no shortage of problems in our world today. Look around and you see protesters carrying signs and placards supporting one cause or another, advocating one course of action over a different path forward, labeling one ideology good and those who stand in opposition to that way of thinking bad. We seem divided over many issues... the world seems to be in disarray. Where does one turn to find a meaningful message, one that inspires hope, gives us a path that we may follow that helps heal our social maladies? Perhaps anyone who enters any of our Catholic Churches around the world today, February 9, 2020 will find some direction in these words from the Prophet Isaiah

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;

Isaiah goes on to say:
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

We don’t surrender our politics, our agendas, our experiences or hopes for the future when we enter Church to worship God. These are essential dimensions of our lives that are to be conformed and shaped by the Word and Sacrament that we receive when we participate in “the sacred mysteries” which bring us together as “the people of God” whenever we gather in his name.

We are faced with many challenges today; we have many factors dividing us into contentious fractions to put it mildly. Where to begin? In good conscience, we must not overlook the cautionary and prophetic advice we find in Sacred Scripture from those who have not only experienced similar extraordinary times but also persevered while endeavoring to remaining faithful to high moral standards.

Jesus calls his disciples “the salt of the earth”. All who heard Jesus say this understood how valuable salt was as a preservative, an antiseptic, to enhance the flavor of food. Salt was a medium of exchange from which the word “salary” is derived. If we are to be the “salt of the earth” as Jesus called us to be, we must bring to the current debates the Christian values we find in Sacred Scripture that sees us all as God’s children and not just with our words but with our actions as well by bringing light and zest to the world around us. 

Enjoy the day!
Deacon Tom

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord_A - My Messenger_020220

Deacon Tom Writes,
“My Messenger”

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” as the saying goes. In today’s first reading the Prophet Malachi speaks of another messenger whose anticipated arrival was awaited with much desire by the Jewish people. Malachi writes that this mysterious person will be pleasing to the Lord and will purge every tinge of imperfection from his priests and his people. He will fulfill the covenant and be swift to judge with justice. Malachi writes that “You will find him in the temple”.

While our Christmas season has faded into the past, our feast today celebrates the Jewish ritual in which the first-born male born was presented in the Temple as a sacred offering to the Lord. What a thought! The most precious gift we receive from God is symbolically offered back to the Lord, the source of all that we have… and all that we are.

How our faith really challenges us! God’s messenger, God’s Word, God’s revelation of himself to his creation was manifested in such a fully recognizable and human experience, a child….  a vulnerable, needy, dependent, infant in whom lies the salvation of a broken world.

The Feast we celebrated today calls to mind our need to present ourselves to the Lord; that we are called to offer our very being and the work of our hands to do what God asks of us in bringing about the Kingdom of God here in our time, where we work and live and go about our daily tasks. 

Jesus enters into the human family in an ordinary way, subjects himself to the rites and rituals of the Jewish faith in order to fully embrace our human condition. Throughout his ministry, Jesus continues to draw closer to the Father and discerns what is God’s Will for him. And, by so doing, Jesus becomes for us the “The Way, the Truth and the Life.”

The Prophets Simeon and Anna tell Jesus’ wonder struck parents somewhat of the foreboding road that lies ahead… there will be challenges for their child to overcome, there will be pain and suffering for him and them, too. Isn’t that the story of life? Perhaps that’s why God’s Messenger begins his story where we all do, an infant. May our journey through this life, like Jesus’ follow the path God has laid out for us. And may we follow his example and place our hope and trust in him.

Enjoy the day!
Deacon Tom

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time_A - Decision Time_012620

Deacon Tom Writes,
“Decision Time”

Making important decisions is seldom easy. St. Matthew recounts the story of ordinary men who were running a successful business when they were asked to make a decision. Their encounter with Christ causes them to alter the course of their lives. They set out in a new direction to face the uncertainties of life with a new certainty….that all is not contained in this life, but rather, the greater reality is yet to come.

In deciding to follow Jesus these men became witnesses to the life transforming possibilities that Christ brought to every person and every situation he encountered during his brief ministry. Because they decided to follow Jesus, it is through their eyes and through their stylists these events have been written down and preserved by Holy Mother Church. Today these words come alive for us here and now. We now are asked how we respond to Christ’s invitation to “Come after me…”

We all have received a calling from God. We all have a unique and specific purpose in life that belongs to each of us individually. If we do not accept this call, if we don’t set out to accomplish the specific task God has given us, then that work, that effort, remains undone.

Today our Gospel prompts us to look into our lives and see how we have responded to the call that we have received, the call to love God and neighbor, the call to forgive those who hurt us, the call to live our lives in a spirit of wonder and awe knowing God is with us, always present in our lives, always seeking to bestow his abundant graces upon us just as he did to those we read about today. What he does for them he will do for everyone who makes a decision to follow him.

Enjoy the day!
Deacon Tom

Friday, January 17, 2020

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time_A - Too Little To Ask?_011920

Deacon Tom Writes,
“Too Little To Ask?”

In today’s First Reading, Isaiah reminds his listeners that God has great things in store for his people. Yes, Israel has fallen upon difficult times and is in a state of decline. But, the day will come when God will work wonders through his servant, Israel. Yes, too little is the work of raising up the tribes of Jacob and restoring the survivors of Israel. God has even greater plans for his Servant Israel, who will also ... “be the light of the nations that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth”.

Now at the beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on how we are the beneficiaries of this ancient promise God made to Isaiah. What has God revealing himself to the world meant to us? How do we respond to his coming into our lives?

While reflecting on Isaiah’s reading, we might consider how little God really asks of us in light of all we have received from him. We have so much to be grateful for; we all could probably amass a large list, and yet God doesn’t overburden us with demands. He tells us simply to “love one another”, to share our food with the poor, to be peaceful, to be honest, to consider others first. He is not demanding that any of us end poverty, war, bigotry… No, he doesn’t demand that any of us individually solve the problems of hunger or disease. But I wonder if, just like servant Israel, God is just waiting for us to do our part, no matter how little or insignificant that may be, so he can bless the work of our hands and therefore bring to our troubled world the peace, justice and goodness that he desires for us.   

As we journey through this new year, one that may prove challenging and exciting in many ways, let us all be mindful that we are the torch bearers who bring the light of Christ to all those around us. May our thoughts, actions and prayers find their source in our Lord Jesus Christ who came to give us new life.

Enjoy the day!
Deacon Tom

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord_A - We are God's Beloved_011220

Deacon Tom Writes,
“We are God’s Beloved”

In one of his first encyclicals, Spes Salvi, In Hope We Are Saved, Pope Benedict wrote, “It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love. This applies even in terms of this present world. When a man experiences a great love in his life, it is a moment of “redemption” which gives new meaning to his life. However, soon he will also realize that the love he has received cannot, by itself, resolve the questions of his life. All love remains fragile. It can be destroyed by death. The human being needs unconditional love. He needs the certainty which makes him say: “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38- 39)
At the heart of this Pope Benedicts encyclical is the fact that the deepest longing of the human spirit is to be loved completely, without judgment or qualifications, conditions or limitations. We all desperately want to be “beloved”, unconditionally. We want to be absorbed in a love that protects, nourishes, encourages, forgives, nurtures, enlivens, animates. When we don’t experience this type of love, we become fearful and withdrawn. Our lives become shallow and resentful. We become self-absorbed and self-centered.

One of the many gifts Christ’s death and resurrection secured for us is the reality that because of his selfless love, we too are beloved by the Father. This elevated status frees us from fear and gives us the hope, the certainty that there is nothing that will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  

This is a good way to begin this New Year, to hold on to this profound truth thought throughout the new year: we are beloved, each of us by God whose love is overwhelming. Our God is with us always, by our side, always, in good times and when we are in despair. God gives us that same love he gave his own Son, Jesus; revealing himself so that we may continue to grow in his Love; encouraging us to love one another; speaking in the depth of our hearts that we too are loved with an everlasting love, an unconditional love that awaits our falling into it.

Enjoy the day!
Deacon Tom