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Father Dennis’ Past Reflections

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

The Eyes of Faith

Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”  Luke 10:23–24 

Today, Christ is still present and continues to stand before us. If we have the eyes and ears of faith, we will not miss Him day in and day out. We will see and understand the countless ways that He speaks to us, leads us and guides us today. The first step toward this gift of sight and hearing is your desire. Do you desire the Truth? Do you desire to see Christ? Or are you satisfied with the many confusions of life that seek to distract you from what is most real and most life-changing?

 

Reflect, today, upon your desire. The prophets and kings of old “desired” to see the Messiah. We are privileged to have Him alive in our presence today, speaking to us and calling to us continually. Foster within yourself a desire for our Lord. Allow it to become a blazing flame which longs to consume all that is true and all that is good. Desire God. Desire His Truth. Desire His guiding hand in your life and allow Him to bless you beyond what you can fathom.                                    

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, November 30, 2020

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:18-19

Today, we honor one of the Apostles: Saint Andrew. Andrew and his brother Peter were fishermen who would soon take on a new form of fishing.  They would soon become “fishers of men,” as Jesus said. But prior to being sent on this mission by our Lord, they had to become His followers. And this happened as our Lord was first the fisher of these men.

Notice that in this Gospel, Jesus was simply walking by and “saw” these two brothers working hard at their occupation. First, Jesus “saw” them, and then He called them. This gaze of our Lord is worth pondering.

Imagine the profound truth that our Lord is continually gazing at you with divine love, looking for the moment that you turn your attention to Him. His gaze is perpetual and deep. His gaze is one that yearns for you to follow Him, to abandon all else so as to hear His gentle invitation not only to follow Him, but to then go forth and invite others on the journey of faith.

As we begin this Advent season, we must allow the call of Andrew and Peter to also become our own calling. We must allow ourselves to notice Jesus as He looks at us, sees who we are, is aware of everything about us, and then speaks a word of invitation. He says to you, “Come after me…”  This is an invitation that must permeate every aspect of your life. To “come after” Jesus is to leave all else behind and to make the act of following our Lord the single purpose of your life.

Reflect, today, upon Jesus speaking these words to you. First, ponder the question of whether you have said “Yes” to Him with all the powers of your soul. Second, reflect upon those whom our Lord wants you to invite on the journey. To whom is Jesus sending you to invite? Who, in your life, is open to His call? Who does Jesus want to draw to Himself through you? Imitate these Apostles as they said “Yes” to our Lord, even though they did not immediately understand all that this would entail. Say “Yes” today and be ready and willing to do whatever comes next on this glorious journey of faith.                                                                    

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, November 29, 2020

The First Sunday of Advent


“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:37

Are you attentive to Christ? Though this is a profoundly important question, there are many who may not even fully understand what this means. Yes, on the surface it is clear: Being “attentive” is being aware of the presence of our Lord in your life and in the world around you. So are you attentive? Are you watchful? Are you looking, seeking, waiting, anticipating and preparing for Christ to come? Though Jesus came to Earth over 2,000 years ago in the form of a little child, He continues to come to us today. And if you are not daily aware of His profound presence, then you may already be somewhat asleep, spiritually speaking.

We “fall asleep” on a spiritual level every time we turn our interior eyes to the passing, unimportant and even sinful things of this world. When that happens, we can no longer see Christ Himself. As a result, the eyes of our soul, our interior vision of faith, is darkened, ignored, forgotten about and dismissed. And as a result, many in our world today no longer appear to be able to cut through the growing chaotic noise so as to perceive the gentle, clear and profound voice of the Savior of the World.

As we begin our Advent season, our Lord is speaking to you in the deepest depths of your soul.  He is gently saying, “Wake up.” “Listen.” “Watch.”  He will not shout, He will whisper so that you must give Him your full attention. Do you see Him? Hear Him? Listen to Him? Understand Him? Do you know His voice? Or do the many voices all around you take you away from the deep, profound and transforming truths He wishes to communicate to you?

Reflect, today, upon the fact that God is speaking within the depths of your soul each and every day. He is speaking to you now. And what He says is all that really matters in life. Advent is a time, more than any, to renew your commitment to listen, to be attentive and to respond. Do not remain asleep. Wake up and diligently be attentive to the profound voice of our Lord.     

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, November 28, 2020

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Beware . . . the anxieties of daily life. (Luke 21:34)

Stop, drop, and roll. For years, children were taught these three words to help them remember what to do in the event of a fire. They stop running in fear, drop to the floor, and roll to put out whatever fire may have jumped to their clothing.

St. Padre Pio had a famous piece of advice that is just as simple to remember for when we are feeling burned by anxious thoughts: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” This little phrase is so simple and effective that we can even equate it to “Stop, drop, and roll” as a way to help us avoid the trap of anxiety.

Stop and Pray. If anxious thoughts begin to well up, stop as soon as you notice them and turn to God in prayer. Remind yourself that God is with you and that he will help you release your burdens and concerns into his hands.

Drop in Hope. Once you have stopped to pray, drop to your knees—either literally or figuratively—and intentionally hand over your anxieties to the Lord. “Lord, all my hope is in you. Please come and help me.”

Roll and Don’t Worry. Don’t let your concerns paralyze you. Instead, try to roll with whatever comes your way. Of course, it’s easy to say, “Just don’t worry,” but it’s hard to do it. That’s why we have the gift of faith. Exercise your faith in God’s love and provision by trying your best to keep moving forward with your day. Often, one or two steps may be all you need to break through.

Jesus cautions us to “beware” that we do not slip into worry (Luke 21:34). So try to be more aware of your thoughts today. Be ready to stop, drop, and roll whenever you need to.

“Lord, teach me how to pray, hope, and not worry.”                 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

[Rev 20:1-4, 11-21:2 and Luke 21:29-33,579]

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [Revelation] "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." [Luke]

 Both the Book of Revelation and the Gospel According to Luke were composed to comfort and encourage Christian communities under persecution.  There were two dangers associated with this situation.  One of them was to develop a kind of "fatigue" with "keeping the faith."  Christian faith, as St. Paul reminds us in First Corinthians, is like running a race.  One has to stay in shape, and the reward is far greater than something an athlete achieves. [1 Cor. 9:24-27].  The second danger is to read too much into current events and conclude that the Lord is about to come.  This kind of thinking can lead to ignoring the daily tasks of caring for one another.

     The end of the liturgical year is not the end of time!  But it does serve as a reminder to us to "keep the faith" and that there is an ultimate accountability for our lives.  With the beginning of the new liturgical year and the Advent/Christmas season we have the opportunity to once more understand the reason why we have hope, live faithfully and look forward to life with God in the new heavens and new earth.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, November 26, 2020

 

Thursday of the Thirty-forth Week in Ordinary Time

[Sirach 50:22-24; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19]

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" [Luke]

Understandably, the three scripture passages chosen in the USA for Thanksgiving Day mention different ways of being thankful.  Sirach speaks of gratitude for God's providential care of all people.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks of his gratitude for Christ Jesus' blessings on the Corinthian Christian community.  Last, but not least, a Samaritan gives thanks when the other lepers seem to have forgotten to do so or took their healing for granted.  Jesus' question, "Where are the other nine?" should give us something to think about on Thanksgiving Day.

     Perhaps we could give some thought and gratitude for the things we take for granted:  good health (especially during this pandemic), food, shelter, family, friends, employment...  Perhaps we might, in that same thought, remember those who are going without those blessings!  We might remember to avoid the prayers of the Pharisee, who said, "I thank you, God, that I am not like the rest of people, including this tax collector!" [Luke 18:10-14) As Pope Francis says in his latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, we are all brothers!

     Losses during the past year since last Thanksgiving, especially during this time of pandemic, may cast a cloud of sorrow which should indeed be acknowledged in our prayers. We may have only the promise of a "tomorrow" to be thankful about.  But Sirach, Paul and the Samaritan leper offer us encouragement so that we do not join the "other nine" but return to give thanks for whatever blessings we can count. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

‘By perseverance you will secure your lives’ Luke 21:19

    Yes, to be treated with harshness and cruelty, especially by family and those close to us, is a heavy cross.  It can rattle us to the point of discouragement, anger and despair.  But do not give in!  The Lord foresaw this and is preparing us for it.

    Jesus gives us the answer to how we deal with being treated harshly and maliciously.  He says, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  By remaining strong through the trials of life and by retaining hope, mercy and confidence in God, we will become victorious. This is such an important message. ‘By perseverance you will secure your lives’

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

[Rev 14:14-19 and Luke 21:5-11]

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." [Luke]

     Herod the Great spent nearly 40 years or more and a fortune to restore the temple in Jerusalem.  The restoration was still going on in Jesus' time!  Yet, in 70 AD, the Romans destroyed it in response to a bloody rebellion 66-70 AD.  To the Jews of Jesus' time, the world seemed to have come to an end!  The Gospel According to Luke was written after that event.  Luke reports Jesus' prophetic weeping over Jerusalem and his somber words to the wide-eyed rural-rooted apostles who came with him to Jerusalem.  Luke also quotes Jesus as warning against false messiahs, which is what happened in the rebellion that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple!

     We are always experiencing some of the "signs" of the end of time that Jesus speaks of.  But he also warns us that "it will not immediately be the end."  Earthquakes, famines and plagues (COVID-19?), and nations rising against nations have been going on before and after Jesus' life and resurrection.  The gospel message is consistent.  We do not know when Jesus is going to return or when "the end of time, as we know it" will occur.  Our calling as disciples of Jesus is to be prepared by living out Jesus' teachings on a day to day basis.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, November 23, 2020

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”  Luke 21:1-4

Did she really give more than all the rest?  According to Jesus, she did!  So how can that be?  This Gospel passage reveals to us how God sees our giving compared to the worldly view.

What is giving and generosity all about?  Is it about how much money we have?  Or is it something deeper, something more interior?  Certainly it is the latter.

Giving, in this case, is in reference to money.  But this is simply an illustration of all forms of giving we are called to offer.  For example, we are also called to give of our time and talents to God for the love of others, the upbuilding of the Church and the spreading of the Gospel.  

Look at giving from this perspective.  Consider the giving of some of the great saints who lived hidden lives.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for example, gave her life to Christ in countless small ways.  She lived within the walls of her convent and had little interaction with the world. Therefore, from a worldly perspective, she gave very little and made little difference.  However, today she is considered one of the greatest doctors of the Church thanks to the small gift of her spiritual autobiography and the witness of her life.

The same may be able to be said of you.  Perhaps you are one who is busy with what seems to be small and insignificant daily tasks.  Perhaps cooking, cleaning, caring for the family and the like occupy your day.  Or perhaps your employment takes up most of what you do each day and you find you have little time left for “great” things offered to Christ.  The question is really this: How does God see your daily service?  

Reflect, today, on your calling in life.  Perhaps you are not called to go forth and do “great things” from a public and worldly perspective.  Or perhaps you do not even do “great things” that are visible within the Church.  But what God sees are the daily acts of love you do in the smallest of ways.  Embracing your daily duty, loving your family, offering daily prayers, etc., are treasures that you can offer God every day.  He sees these and, most importantly, He sees the love and devotion with which you do them.  So do not give in to a false and worldly notion of greatness.  Do small things with great love and you will be giving an abundance to God in service of His holy will.

Lord, I give myself to You and to Your service this day and every day.  May I do all I am called to do with great love.  Please continue to show me my daily duty and help me to embrace that duty in accord with Your holy will.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Fr. Dennis

 


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

[Ezek 34:11-12, 15-17; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Matt 25:31-46]

Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you.’ And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least brothers or sisters of me, you did for me.'" [Matt]

     Throughout Jesus' ministry of preaching the Kingdom of God, he met with misunderstanding.  People then and now associate kingdoms with "Kings" and "power."  Then, as now, "kings" could say, "You're hired! You're fired!" in the minds of those who are fascinated with power.  Jesus had to correct his disciples when they showed notions of this. [Matthew 20:20-28].  It would not be hard to lose the meaning of today's gospel passage or even the other two scriptures from Ezekiel and Paul, if we focus on coercive power.  I don't think the official title of this day helps us: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!"  What we can learn is that Jesus' "kingdom" is to be found in our neighbor, who can be anyone, but especially the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned or newly-arrived person.  At the end of time, we will be held accountable for how we loved one another.  The year 2020 in our land, viewed through the lens of today's gospel, may give us pause to think!!!!  In the midst of a virus pandemic, riots and electoral process that brought out the worst in so many, we are challenged to find the kind of love and care pictured in Ezekiel and Matthew, and to see the true reign of God to whom we are all accountable.

     In today's gospel, the righteous ask, "When did we SEE....and give, etc."  On this feast day we can pray with the blind beggar at Jericho, "Lord, let me see!"  [Luke 18:35-43]  It is only then that we will know what it really means to be a 'king" in Jesus' kingdom.

Fr. Dennis

   

 


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, November 21, 2020

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

[Rev 11:4-12 and Luke 20:27-40]

"The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called 'Lord' the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." [Luke]

     The Sadducees were a group of Jews who denied any resurrection from the dead or the existence of angels or anything that could not be shown from the first five books of the Bible, the Torah.  There was no love lost between the Sadducees and Pharisees because the latter believed in resurrection and angels among other things that could be found in other books of the Old Testament.  St. Paul exploited this difference during one of his many arrests. (cf. Acts 23:6-9).  In today's gospel passage, the Sadducees try to test Jesus by proposing an absurd theoretical question about a woman who marries each of seven brothers.  At the final resurrection, whose wife would she be?  No doubt, such questions were used during arguments between Sadducees and Pharisees.  In this case, Jesus shows that the Sadducees have failed to understand their own position since the Book of Exodus refers to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as if those patriarchs were still alive!!

      For us Christians, the question may seem to be a silly dispute, but Jesus' statement is a direct affirmation of life after death and, indeed, of the existence of angels!!!  Once we are conceived, we are "alive" to God and remain so for eternity!  On earth, we live but a miniscule part of our life, but this miniscule part determines all the rest.  "Tomorrow" makes sense only on earth, but it is never guaranteed.  After death it makes no sense at all.  As a matter of faith, the one "tomorrow" we should aim for is the one when we join God and leave "tomorrow" behind.  That is Jesus' guarantee!

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

[Rev 10:8-11 and Luke 19:45-48]

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, "It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves."

    Tradition attributes to King Henry II the words, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" when St. Thomas Beckett was confronting him with his behavior.  There is no question that Jesus was a charismatic figure who was capable of dramatic deeds that revealed his identity.  The problem throughout his ministry, however, was that people focused on the dramatic deeds more than on the identity!  By going into the temple during the busy Passover time and interrupting the ordinary course of business - namely birds and animals sold for sacrifice and currency exchange tables for paying temple taxes - Jesus truly created a royal mess, and enraged the "powers-that-be" who made their living off the whole temple reality.  How could they get rid of him?  The ordinary people were "hanging on his words." 

     This would be an interesting scene at any time, but it applies to us now.  When Jesus enters our temple and disrupts our lives with his teaching, do we try to get rid of him or replace him with a Jesus of our own designs?  Much, if not all, of Jesus' teachings run counter to certain cultural and political realities of our own country.

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

[Rev 5:1-10 and Luke 19:41-44]

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes." [Luke]

     The evangelist Luke chose to tell the story of Jesus' life in ministry as a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, from where the gospel would ultimately spread to the rest of the known world. (cf. Acts 2:1-13) The scene in today's gospel reflects not only Jesus' frustration with the failure of his fellow Jews to receive Him, but since it was written after the destruction of the temple and the city, it shows what ultimately happened as a result of that failure in 70 AD.  (Luke describes normal Roman military siege tactics, which can be seen also at Masada, the last refuge of Jewish resistance.)  Still, the city inspires awe. 

     Parents, grandparents, friends, teachers and spiritual directors know well the sadness and frustration when a loved one, especially an offspring, refuses to see the possible destructive consequences of the direction they are taking in life.  Denial is a powerful adversary to wise counsel.  This can be true also of organizations and nations!  It is an old problem because the Old Testament prophets warned the leadership about introducing foreign idolatry and making alliances with outside powers.  They were ignored and the Assyrians and Babylonians and later on the Romans destroyed the country and Jerusalem and took much of the population into exile.

     Jesus' tears are those of prophetic frustration. Jesus could not "fix" Jerusalem.  It is no different for parents, grandparents, friends, teachers or spiritual directors.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

[Rev 4:1-11 and Luke 19:11-28]

I, John, had a vision of an open door to heaven, and I heard the trumpet like voice that had spoken to me before, saying, "Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards." At once I was caught up in spirit. [Revelation]

     The starting point of any discussion or reflection on the Book of Revelation has to be the recognition of its genre!  Scripture scholars call it "apocalyptic" literature.  That is why this book in older bibles was called The Book of Apocalypse.  It is about a vision experienced by one writer.  The Old Testament provides us with good examples in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel.  The gospels use "apocalyptic" language to describe Jesus' return at the end of time.  Some of the language can be as vivid as any sci-fi movie ever made.  

     Visionary language in the bible is highly symbolic and not meant to be taken literally but rather interpreted and understood in a "Get what I mean?" way.  In the Book of Daniel, Chapters 7-13, one may find amazing visionary descriptions.  In Ezekiel, the very first chapter begins with a vision in which the prophet receives his call to prophecy!   In the gospels, Mark 13:24-27, Matthew 24:15-28, and Luke 21:25-28  Jesus is portrayed in using apocalyptic language to describe the end of time.  

     The Book of Revelation was written to encourage a community under persecution.  The images are intended to assure the reader or listener that God's kingdom is more powerful than any other kingdom and will triumph over all adversaries. 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  Luke 19:5b

    What joy Zacchaeus had at receiving this invitation from our Lord.  There are three things to note in this encounter.

    First, Zacchaeus was seen by many as a sinner.  He was a tax collector and, therefore, was not respected by the people.  There is little doubt that this would have affected Zacchaeus and been a temptation for him to see himself as unworthy of Jesus’ compassion.  But Jesus came precisely for the sinner.  Therefore, truth be told, Zacchaeus was the perfect “candidate” for the mercy and compassion of Jesus.

    Second, when Zacchaeus witnessed that Jesus came to him and selected him out of everyone present to be the one to spend time with, he was overjoyed!  The same must be true with us.  Jesus does pick us and He does want to be with us.  If we allow ourselves to see this, the natural result will be joy.  Do you have joy at this knowledge?

    Third, as a result of Jesus’ compassion, Zacchaeus changed his life.  He committed to giving half his possessions to the poor and to repay four times over anyone he had previously cheated.  This is a sign that Zacchaeus began to discover true riches.  He began to immediately repay to others the kindness and compassion shown to him by Jesus.

    Reflect, today, upon Zacchaeus and see yourself in his person.  You, too, are a sinner.  But God’s compassion is far more powerful than any sin.  Let His loving forgiveness and acceptance of you overshadow any guilt you may feel.  And allow the gift of His mercy to produce mercy and compassion in your own life for others.

Lord, I turn to You in my sin and beg for Your mercy and compassion.  Thank You in advance for showering Your mercy upon me.  May I receive that mercy with great joy and, in turn, may I shower Your mercy upon others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Father Dennis

 


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, November 16, 2020

Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

He kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  Luke 18:39c

    Good for him!  Here was a blind beggar who was treated poorly by many.  He was treated as if he were no good and a sinner.  When he began to call out for mercy from Jesus, he was told to be silent by those around him.  But what did the blind man do?  Did he give in to their oppression and ridicule?  Certainly not.  Instead, “He kept calling out all the more!”  And Jesus took notice of his faith and healed him.

    There is a great lesson from this man’s life for us all.  There are many things we will encounter in life that get us down, discourage us and tempt us to despair.  There are many things that are oppressive to us and difficult for us to deal with.  So what should we do?  Should we give in to the struggle and then retreat into a hole of self-pity? 

    This blind man gives us the perfect witness of what we should do.  When we feel oppressed, discouraged, frustrated, misunderstood, or the like, we need to use this as an opportunity to turn to Jesus with even greater passion and courage calling upon His mercy.

    Difficulties in life can have one of two effects on us.  Either they beat us down or they make us stronger.  The way they make us stronger is by fostering within our souls an even greater trust in and dependence upon the mercy of God.

    Reflect, today, upon that which tempts you the most toward discouragement.  What is it that feels oppressive to you and difficult to deal with.  Use that struggle as an opportunity to cry out with even more passion and zeal for the mercy and grace of God.

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

[Prov 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thess 5:1-6; Matt 25:14-30]

"'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'" [Matthew]

      Today's gospel scripture might be seen as touting the virtues of investment in contrast to hoarding one's resources!  But, as is often the case in the Gospel According to Matthew, it is the attitude of faithfulness that the parable aims at.  Faithfulness in this parable means putting God's work ahead of personal fears.  It took courage for the two enterprising servants to trade with the money given to them (a "talent" was a lot of money).  There would be a lot of "What if's...?" that could arise.  Does "wisdom" suggest holding on to the money and giving it back without any further ado?  

     What can be easily missed here is that God makes an investment first.  We are challenged to carry that "investment" forward.  God's faithfulness is meant to be shared and not hoarded as a personal possession or an object to be feared lest it be lost and God be angry with us.  The first and second servants had far more to lose than the third one, but all the amounts were huge by the standards of Jesus' time.  The first two servants saw that what the Master gave them was a challenge to advance the Master's wealth with which they were entrusted.  The third servant let fear of the Master take over and create paralysis.  

     The overall theme of ultimate accountability for our lives as Christians comes through in the series of parables at the end of the Gospel According to Matthew: the Wise Virgins, the Talents, and the Final Judgment scene are worth reading together.  The "oil" of good deeds, the courage of faithfulness, and the awareness that these are meant to serve Christ, especially in the poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, imprisoned and alien in our midst are lined up for our prayerful consideration.  What we truly want to hear in the end are the words: "Well done, good and faithful servant.....Come and share your Master’s joy

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saturday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

PERSEVERE IN PRAYER

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? (Luke 18:7)

The widow was desperate. So day after day, she stood before this dishonest judge and pled her case. Despite the judge’s indifference, she did not give up. Instead, her pleas likely became more intense and frequent until he finally gave her a just settlement.

Now, we know that God is not like the unjust judge when we come to him in intercessory prayer. Instead, his ears are open, and he is always ready to listen to us. Still, we need to be like that widow, persevering as we intercede to God, calling out to him day and night. This “calling out” is much more than a casual hello or a quick request. It is rooted in a deep need to be heard. And that means not giving up.

So why does it seem that God delays in answering us sometimes? Because as you persist in pouring out your needs to God, you are receiving blessings that go beyond the solution to a problem or the pulling down of an obstacle. You develop a deeper relationship with him and become more like him. You take on his heart and his perspective. And that is the most important thing that can happen!

This is especially true if you don’t perceive a solution right away or if it feels as if God is not answering your prayers. The more you persevere, the more opportunity you have to offer him not only your needs but your fears, desires, and hopes. You become more eager to invite him into your heart and ask him to strengthen you.

That’s the mysterious reward of intercession. It goes beyond getting the answer you expect from your prayers. God secures your “rights” to his wisdom, his peace, his love, and his character (Luke 18:7). You develop an ever-deepening relationship with the One who gives all good gifts.                                        

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, November 13, 2020

Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

One in the field must not return to what was left behind. (Luke 17:31)

We may not live to see Jesus return, but we will all come face-to-face with him at our death. When that happens, all the possessions that we’ve spent our lives accumulating and caring for will be left behind. So will our loved ones, our jobs, and our unfinished plans.

As sobering as this may sound, there is also a lot of hope in today’s Gospel reading. Think about the saints—what did they leave behind? No one remembers what they wore or what kind of house they lived in. But we do remember their love, faith, sacrifice, trust in the face of suffering, kindness, and courage, as well as the fruits of these traits: hospitals, homeless shelters, religious orders, a body of inspired teachings, and a host of spiritual sons and daughters.

So what will you leave behind? Perhaps a family more united because of your commitment to reconciliation. Maybe a parish that is closer to Jesus because of your witness to the joy of the Lord. Maybe grandchildren who are more thirsty for Jesus because of your intercession.

Tomorrow is not assured. So what is Jesus calling you to do today? Begin by listening to the small promptings he has placed in your heart and acting on them. Someday Jesus will call you home. Until then, do your part to make the world a better place for the people you will leave behind. Start now!

“Jesus, show me how I can leave behind a legacy of faith in you and love for one another.”

Father Dennis

 


God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, November 12, 2020

Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr

"The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you." [Luke]

    Jesus' words, quoted above, are spoken to the Pharisees, whose behavior he repeatedly criticized for its hypocrisy.  They were taunting him about what they would have called "your so-called kingdom."  The Kingdom of God does not arrive externally like some kind of victory parade. It arrives first and foremost in faith within the believer which is then manifested in love of God and neighbor.  Good deeds, even heroic humanistic deeds, can be done by those who do not believe in God.  The way in which a Christian acts manifests the way in which he or she first believes.

     There is a tendency to identify the external manifestation of the church as the "Kingdom of God" with all its pomp, ceremony and splendor.  But the church is first and foremost the Body of Christ, manifested in the bodies of believers.  This is most clearly demonstrated in those parts of the world where public Christian worship is prohibited!     

     The Pharisees were looking for the wrong kind of kingdom.  Even some of Jesus' own disciples misunderstood his teaching about this.  The Kingdom of God will not be imposed by human statutes and laws or event planners.  It is offered at baptism and encouraged by other faithful believers.  Jesus' own presence among us is experienced sacramentally, but he is not absent when sacraments are impeded!  The COVID pandemic may teach us how important sacraments are, but it may also teach us about the real meaning of "the Kingdom of God.


God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop

Titus 3:1-7 and Luke 17:11-19]

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" [Luke]

    The gospel for today appears on Thanksgiving Day!  Gratitude is at the center of that day and this gospel story.  The only one of the ten lepers to return and thank Jesus for healing him turned out to be the least expected one, a Samaritan! (cf. Luke 10:29-37!].  

     Most of us at one time or another will have both the experience of being thanked when we least expected it, or of not being thanked when we most expected gratitude!  Jesus experienced both in this incident.  One of the complaints from parents and grandparents is that their children and grandchildren seem to take for granted anything done for them by their parents and grandparents.  Maybe there's a quick polite and perfunctory "Thanks" but the focus remains on the favor or gift and not on the generosity of the giver.  If someone were to ask what the most important lesson we learned from our parents is, we would certainly rank "saying 'Thank you!'" near or at the top of the list.  Both the feeling and expression are important.   If we are unable to feel gratitude when it is due, the expression is empty.  But if the expression is missing, the relationship suffers. “Thank you!" is still one of the magic words!

Father Dennis

 


God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, November 10, 2020

Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

[Titus 2:1-8, 11-14 and Luke 17:7-10]
For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good. [Titus]

     This passage from the Letter to Titus usually appears as one of the scriptures at Christmas Midnight Mass!  That alone might cause us to think, "Where have I heard that one before?"  The message can be lost, then, in all the "T'is the season to be jolly"-ness   St. Paul aims at everyday life and good example!  The passage today begins with advising "older men" to be "temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love, and endurance." Similarly, older women, younger women and younger men all get their share of attention as well.  The portion quoted above gives the reason for the good example, namely, Jesus himself!

 

Father Dennis

 


God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, November 9, 2020

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

[Ezek 47:1-2, 8-9, 12; 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17; John 2:13-22]
 Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy. [1 Corinthians]

    The feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica is about space and place.  The "place" is the official cathedral of the diocese of Rome, and the pope is its pastor and bishop, just like any other diocese!  However, the meaning goes further than just one church structure, even one so noble as the Lateran Basilica (so-named because the Laterani family gave the land!).  It could be any church where worship occurs.  The building, like any familiar object, can develop its own sentimental value because of its association with personal or family experiences (baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals).  Bishops discover this when they try to close a parish or "de-commission" a church so it can be used for other purposes.

     This is where "space" comes in.  What is it that makes any space holy?  For many Catholics, the "holiness" of the space of a Catholic church is centered on the tabernacle with the eucharistic presence of Christ.  What St. Paul is saying to us in the second scripture for today is that God is present in each one of us as well.  Each one of us is a sacred temple!!  Christ is present in other ways outside the tabernacle and that presence is no less "real" than the eucharistic presence in the tabernacle!  Catholic faith and worship have survived (and still do) under circumstances where a church building was (is) impossible.  Physical or psychological abuse of another person is a form of desecration.  We are challenged to love and respect one another as sacred space, as temples of the Holy Spirit, as the Body of Christ!!  Christ's Body, whether in the tabernacle or in the worshiper, is what makes a place a holy space!  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, November 8, 2020

Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, teaching his disciples the importance of being prepared, vigilant, and watchful for Jesus’ return. What distinguishes the wise from the foolish virgins is symbolized by the oil or lack of oil in their lamps. Oil was a symbol for good deeds; so we must be about doing good.

To be prepared for Jesus’ return is to be a doer rather than a mere hearer of God’s Word. As St. Francis of Assisi was fond of saying ‘preach the gospel by the way you live; use words if necessary.

When Jesus returns on a day and at an hour we do not know
How can we ensure that the Lord will recognize us as his disciples when we arrive at the door of the heavenly kingdom? By keeping oil in our lamps so that our lamps may burn brightly with love. It is through a continuous input of small drops of oil that each one of us must supply from our own living out of the teachings of Jesus.  These drops of oil consist of the small things of daily life, the little deeds of kindness and of service to others. The small things of daily life as in a warm smile, acknowledging one another; words of encouragement, a thoughtfully reaching out to others by a phone call, a card, a handwritten letter, a gesture of support; spending time to listen; offering a helping hand; a visit. The oil of prayer, spending our time wisely and well; being about good works is the oil which keeps the lamp of love burning and by which Jesus will recognize us as his disciples. Jesus knows and recognizes us when he looks into our faces and sees himself. Are we living so as to be a reflection of Jesus?

An old friend was given a card which read ‘I see Jesus in you’

Can the same be said about each one of u

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, November 7, 2020

I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account. (Philippians 4:17)

The novel The Ultimate Gift tells the story of a spoiled young man, Jason Stevens. His wealthy late grandfather’s will stipulates that he must give one gift each day for a month before he can receive his inheritance. So he does things like donating blood, watching a neighbor’s children, and delivering meals to people with disabilities. Through these acts of charity, he learns that “when you give out of love, both the giver and the receiver have more than they started with.”

It seems that the Philippians understood this lesson too—at least based on Paul’s words to them. He rejoiced in the financial help he had received from them, not because he couldn’t do without it, but because he saw that their generosity was benefiting them as well (Philippians 4:10-11). By accepting their gift, he was helping them to grow spiritually. That’s why he was eager to see them profit from it (4:17).

God wants us to experience the blessings of giving as well—and there are so many! For example, giving requires that we have an outward focus so that we can see the needs of the people around us. This helps us to be less concerned about ourselves. As we give, we also become less attached to our money and possessions. We become more peaceful as well, as we lose our fear of not having enough. We may experience joy as we witness the gratitude and joy that our gifts bring to other people. And as we learn to trust less in material wealth, we grow in trusting God.

“Lord, teach me to be a cheerful and unselfish giver.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, November 6, 2020

[Phil 3:17-4:1 and Luke 16:1-8]
For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.

The parable about the dishonest steward is about using one's resources to enhance one's standing in the sight of God.  Stewards in Jesus' time were agents who were empowered to make the best deal they could for their master, but also for themselves.  So, if the understanding between the Master and the Steward is that the Master is owed 80 bushels of wheat, the Steward can bargain for 100 and keep the extra twenty as a commission.

      In today's parable, the Steward was being accused of some other “squandering" of the Master's property.  When he (the Steward) learns he is about to be fired, he goes and re-writes some contracts for less than what his commission might have been.  This makes friends for himself and also makes the Master look good even though he actually gets what he originally wanted.   In a society where "honor" is highly prized, the Master is not about to protest and the Steward now has some new friends who will be obliged to help him when he gets fired.  He is still going to be fired, but the Master commends him for his prudence in this matter, not his dishonesty in regard to other matters for which he was being fired.

     The Gospel According to Luke continually challenges those who are well off to share their wealth with others instead of hoarding it.  Charity is an obligation and not just an option.  Jesus challenges those who have resources to act wisely in using them to help others.  Failure to do this will have long term consequences. Just ask the "Rich Fool" who hoarded his wealth [Luke 12:13-21] and "Dives" who never noticed Lazarus at his doorstep. [Luke 16:19-32].  The "children of light" are challenged to gain "honor" in the sight of God by acting wisely with their wealth. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, November 5, 2020

[Phil 3:3-8a and Luke 15:1-10]
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." [Luke]

     The scenario in today's gospel scripture in which Jesus is critiiced by religious authorities because he preached to and dined with persons who were considered unclean by the standards of Mosaic Law results in three parables, the third of which will be the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The latter will not appear at this point in this liturgical cycle but should be read as the culmination of the first two.  Why is this important?

     The emphasis in all three parables - shepherd seeking the lost sheep, housewife seeking the lost coin, parent welcoming back the two "lost" offspring - is on God continuing to seek out those who are "lost."  The first two parables focus on finding a lost "asset."  The third focuses on finding a lost "love."  The third parable, the Prodigal Son, goes further than the first two because it is not just the "finding" that is important, there is the mercy that follows.  Any parent who has lost a child in a crowd (cf. Luke 2:48, "Son, why have you done this to us?") knows the relief of finding, but then must deal with the anger v. mercy issue!   

     Ultimately, the reason for the search is mercy.  We can be assured that none of us is "God-forsaken" unless we want to be, and no authority on earth can keep God from reaching out or searching for us.  The challenge to the "found" is to remember that they were once "lost" and show the same mercy they have received.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, November 4, 2020

 [Phil 2:12-18 and Luke 14:25-33]
"If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

 NOVEMBER 4,  ST. CHARLES BORROMEO

     The Gospel According to Luke was written for a community struggling to survive in the face of persecution.  Was it worth being a Christian if your family and friends weren't and were rejecting you?  Was it worth being a Christian if it meant risking arrest and possible death at the hands of public authorities?  The passage from the Gospel According to Luke for today is a kind of collection of Jesus' statements on various occasions warning disciples that Christianity is a serious commitment.  It requires an integrity of purpose that will not be deterred by personal or public opposition.  The passage from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians likewise challenges that community to maintain its integrity of faith in word and deed.

     The great spiritual writer, C.S.Lewis, once said: "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.  The one thing it cannot be is moderately important."  When faith becomes one more consumer item among other "options," The Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis in the last months of World War II, wrote a classic entitled THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP in which he warns about "cheap grace."  

     In our own times, we do not face public persecution for our religious faith, but we do face the eroding effects of a secular and consumer society.  Tiny "compromises" are like drops of water on a rock.  Although God's healing mercy is always available, it does not substitute for our deliberate efforts to maintain integrity of faith in word and deed.  We will fall down and get up many times in our efforts to live our faith, but the idea is to learn from and not repeat the mistakes.  Surrendering to the secular culture of options makes Christianity only of "moderate importance" and just another "option."  Love of God and neighbor deserves far better from us!

 Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, November 3, 2020

[Phil 2:5-11 and Luke 14:15-24]
"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave...." [Philippians]

NOVEMBER 3  ST. MARTIN DE PORRES, O.P. 

     St. Martin de Porres is the patron saint of those who work for social justice, especially in the area of racial discrimination and care of the poor.  At this particular moment in the life of the U.S.A., his intercession is sorely needed.  Recent events and subsequent civil unrest have laid bare what has been a heritage of racial discrimination dating back to the very beginnings of the nation.  Martin was born into a 16yh-17th century society in Lima, Peru, that was rigidly layered.  His father was a Spanish soldier and his mother an emancipated African slave woman.  This relegated him toward the bottom of the social layers.  His father had him trained as a barber/physician and then placed him with the Dominican priory in Lima, Peru.  There he became the "porter" - in charge of greeting visitors at the front door of the priory.  He dealt with all walks of society but was famous for caring for the poor in whatever way he could.  He literally lived in a closet at the foot of the stairs just inside the front door of the priory.  He is portrayed in his statues with a broom and with mice at his feet because he supposedly made a deal with them that if they stayed outside, he would feed them!!!

     The passage from Philippians speaks of what theologians called "kenosis," the self-emptyting" of Christ in becoming human - literally a "slave."  Martin's example of self-emptying in his care for poor and rich alike at the front door of the priory remains a model for all of us.     In this time of racial tension, with a pandemic and the divisive noises of the election, we can pray for the powerful intercession of St. Martin de Porres to help us find a way forward to a more just and caring society in our nation. 

 Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, October 31, 2020

[Phil 1:18b-26 and Luke 14:1, 7-11]
Ahd this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again. [Philippians]

     Although we cannot claim to know what it is like to be imprisoned, the experience is can be terrifying.  St. Paul experienced this more than once!  For him, however, there was no asking, "Now what?"  He fully expects to see the Philippians again (and he did).  He simply sees his situation as just one moment in his ministry, but he also has a longer hope in terms of a reunion with Christ after death, and that reunion is very attractive to him.  But as long as he is living, he has a duty toward those whom he has evangelized and he continued to exercise his role as a preacher and evangelizer right up to the time of his death in Rome.  [Acts 28:30-31].

     As St. Paul puts it, "Life is Christ, and death is gain," but, as long as one is still in this world, there are all those to pray for and to be "there for" in whom one has invested time and effort and love.  The retirement cell cannot imprison hope and love.

 Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, October 30, 2020

Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day? (Luke 14:5)

“All you need is love.” We could sing this song to the Pharisees and scholars in today’s Gospel. That’s what sums up the heart of the law, not “All you need is rules.” We know that the goal of all the commandments is to help us love God and his people.

When Jesus likens the man with dropsy to a scholar’s son in today’s Gospel passage, he is trying to help the people see how all of the law is at the service of these two great commands to live in love. This fellow suffering with dropsy wasn’t some random person; he was a son of God, a brother in the family of God. Healing him was loving him, and loving him was keeping the law.

Jesus wants to keep teaching us how to live out the law—with love—in our everyday lives. If we’re humble, teachable, and open to receiving fresh understanding, he will keep guiding us so that we can love as he loves.

“Jesus, what new ‘lesson’ do you want to teach me today? Open my heart to receive it.”

 Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, October 29, 2020

Overcoming Intimidation

Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.’“  Luke 13:31-32

What an interesting exchange this was between Jesus and some of the Pharisees.  It’s interesting to look at both the action of the Pharisees as well as that of Jesus.

It could be asked why the Pharisees spoke to Jesus in this way, warning Him of Herod’s intent.  Were they worried about Jesus and, therefore, were they trying to help Him?  Probably not.  Instead, we know that the majority of the Pharisees were jealous and envious of Jesus.  In this case, it appears that they were warning Jesus of Herod’s wrath as a way of trying to intimidate Him to leave their district.  Of course, Jesus wasn’t intimidated.

Sometimes we experience the same thing.  At times we may have someone come and tell us some gossip about us under the guise of trying to help us, when in fact it’s a subtle way of intimidating us so as to fill us with fear or anxiety.  

The key is to react only in the way that Jesus did when confronted with foolishness and malice.  Jesus did not give in to the intimidation.  He was not at all concerned by Herod’s malice.  Rather, He responded in a way that told the Pharisees, in a sense, “Don’t waste your time trying to fill me with fear or anxiety.  I am doing the works of my Father and that’s all I should be concerned about.”

What is it that bothers you in life?  What are you intimidated by?  Do you allow the opinions, malice or gossip of others to get you down?  The only thing we should be concerned about is doing the will of the Father in Heaven.  When we are confidently doing His will, we will also have the wisdom and courage we need to rebuke all deceit and silly intimidation in our lives.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.  Luke 6:12

It’s a fascinating thing to think about Jesus praying all night.  This act on His part teaches us many things just as it would have taught His Apostles.  Here are a few things we can take from His action.

First, it may be thought that Jesus did not “need” to pray.  After all, He is God.  So did He need to pray?  Well, this is actually not the right question to ask.  It’s not a matter of Him needing to pray, rather, it’s a matter of Him praying because His prayer goes to the heart of who He is.

Prayer is first and foremost an act of deep communion with God.  In Jesus’ case, it’s an act of deep communion with the Father in Heaven and with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was continually in perfect communion (unity) with the Father and the Spirit and, thus, His prayer was nothing more than an earthly expression of this communion.  His prayer is a living out of His love of the Father and the Spirit.  So it’s not so much that He needed to pray so that He could stay close to them.  Instead, it was that He prayed because He was perfectly united to them.  And this perfect communion demanded an earthly expression of prayer.  In this instance, it was prayer all night long.

As we honor the Apostles Simon and Jude, reflect, today, upon your own calling to follow Christ and act as His apostle to the world.  The only way you can fulfill this mission is through a life of prayer.  Reflect upon your prayer life and do not hesitate to deepen your resolve to imitate the depth and intensity of our Lord’s perfect example of prayer.

Lord Jesus, help me to pray.  Help me to follow Your example of prayer and to seek the presence of the Father in a deep and continuous way.  Help me to enter into a deep communion with You and to be consumed by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus, I trust in You. 

May all Americans recall the necessity of dialogue, civility, and humility in this election season. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”  Luke 13:20-21

Yeast is a fascinating thing.  It is so small in size and yet has such a powerful effect upon the dough.  The yeast works slowly and somewhat miraculously.  Little by little the dough rises and is transformed.  This is always something fascinating for children to watch when making bread. 

This is the ideal way for the Gospel to work in our lives.  Right now, the Kingdom of God is first and foremost alive in our hearts.  The conversion of our hearts will rarely effectively take place in a day or in a moment.  Sure, each day and every moment is important, and there are certainly powerful moments of conversion we can all point to.  But conversion of heart is more like the yeast causing the dough to rise.  The conversion of heart is usually something that takes place little by little and step by step.  We allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives in a continually deepening way and, as we do, we grow deeper and deeper in holiness just as dough rises slowly but surely.

Lord, I do desire to become holy.  I desire to be transformed little by little every day.  Help me to allow You to change me every moment of my life so that I can continually walk the path You have laid out for me.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, October 26, 2020

When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.  Luke 13:10-13

Every miracle of Jesus is certainly an act of love given toward the person healed.  In this story, this woman was suffering for eighteen years and Jesus shows her compassion by healing her.  And though it is a clear act of love for her directly, there is much more to the story as a lesson for us.

One message we can take from this story comes from the fact that Jesus heals on His own initiative.  Though some miracles are performed at the request and prayer of the one healed, this miracle comes simply through the goodness of Jesus and His compassion.  This woman apparently was not seeking a healing, but when Jesus saw her His heart went out to her and He healed her.  

So it is with us, Jesus knows what we need before we ask Him.  Our duty is to always remain faithful to Him and know that in our fidelity He will give us what we need even before we ask.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, October 25, 2020

[Exod 22:20-26; 1 Thess 1:5c-10; Matt 22:34-40]
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" [Jesus] said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." [Matthew]

     The great Carmelite mystic, St. John of the Cross, once wrote: "in the evening of life, we shall be judged on love alone."  Out of the 613 precepts of the Mosaic Law, Jesus pointed to two that sum up and are the foundation of all the rest - love of God and neighbor.  In the Gospel According to Luke, the same inquiry by a "scholar of the law" led to that inquirer trying to define "neighbor" so as to "justify himself."  Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan.[Luke 10:25-37].  Our neighbor is anyone.  The Book of Exodus, in today's first scripture, provides some very practical examples of love of neighbor, one of which is definitely neuralgic in our current public debates concerning immigration: "You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for your were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt...." 

     The gospels portray Jesus as cutting through all the intricacies of the Mosaic Law to show the foundation of all his teaching.  That foundation is love of God and neighbor.  The Last Judgment scene in the Gospel According to Matthew provides a list of persons who cry out for compassionate love.  Jesus identifies his very self with those persons!  [Matt. 25:31-45].    The First Letter of John [4:20-21] puts it very succinctly: If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother or sister."

     In the current toxic political atmosphere of our nation, the gospel is struggling to be heard.  Where is the love of God and neighbor in all of this?  The words of St. John of the Cross are worth remembering:  "In the evening of life, we shall be judged on love alone."

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, October 24, 2020

[Eph 4:7-16 and Luke 13:1-9]
Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into Christ [Ephesians]

   One of St. Paul's favorite analogies is the human body as an image of the Christian community as a whole.  A quick reading of 1 Cor. 12:12-27 where he goes into detail with this image but neatly sums it up with the words, "....the body is one and has many members."  Our own experience of our bodies should bear out the image.  We are more than the sum of our parts!  Yet, if one of the parts is not functioning correctly, the whole body suffers.  If one of our five senses is not functioning correctly, our "life" is impacted in dramatic ways!

     The Christian community is the Body of Christ, his physical presence and ministry in the world.  We Catholics tend to forget this because of the emphasis that is placed on the eucharistic presence of Jesus.  Yet, Christ is present when two or three are gathered in his name or his Word is proclaimed.  He is not a ghost at the table, but is present through our presence and in his Word.

     Parents know how a family can be disrupted if one member gets sick.  Pastors know how a parish can be disrupted by "turf" wars.  Indeed, in 1 Corinthians, Paul begins the letter addressing the problem of factions! [1 Cor 1:10-17].  Maintaining bodily unity is a full time task.  As St. Paul points out, the foot has to get along with the hand since both belong to the body. [! Cor 12:15].  In Ephesians today, we are urged to "live the truth in love" and that means recognizing in our American culture that our individualism can be our worst enemy.  Our current election season is bearing that out graphically.  Even within our church there are the kinds of factions that Paul warned about.  Pope Francis has his hands full!    We are challenged always to remember that our baptism makes us part of something greater than ourselves and can help us recognize that each gifted person is important to the whole.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, October 23, 2020

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. (Psalm Response) PSALM 24:1-6

Lord, we want to see your face so that we can gaze on your goodness and holiness and reflect it to the people we encounter each day. And so, in the spirit of today’s readings, we offer you this prayer:

“Lord, we long to live in a manner worthy of the calling you have given us (Ephesians 4:1). We long to walk all our days in humility and gentleness. Let those virtues accompany us as we go about our daily tasks. May we humbly prefer your plans for our day to our own so that we can live and move and have our being in you.

“Lord, we long to bear with each other patiently and in love (Ephesians 4:2). May we do so even when those ‘others’ are too loud, too slow, or too far off on another track. Help us to see and believe today that you love all whom you have made.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, October 21, 2020

At an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (Luke 12:40)

You unlock the door of your home after a long day at work. A million things are on your mind—paying the bills, fixing the crack in the ceiling, taking the dog for a walk. Then as you step through the door, you are completely stunned. Your friends are in the living room, with big smiles on their faces. In a split second, you realize what’s going on as they all call out, “Surprise!” at the top of their lungs. They’re throwing you a surprise birthday party.

The experience of a surprise party seems like quite a contrast to the “surprise” that Jesus is talking about here. Obviously, Jesus is talking about a very serious event, one with eternal consequences. He wants us to be prepared for his coming and to greet him with joy. He wants us to be busy about his work and living our lives for him. He realizes our human tendency to “slack off,” and he warns us of the consequences if we do. Just think of how pleased the Lord is with each step you take and each decision that you make for him. He has a glorious crown waiting for you when he comes (2 Timothy 4:8). So keep living for him, and get ready for that awesome day!

“Lord, I long for your coming! Help me to be ready to meet you.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.”  Luke 12:35-36

The key here is that we are to “open immediately” when Jesus comes and knocks on the door of our heart.  This passage reveals the disposition that we are to have in our hearts regarding the way Christ comes to us, by grace, and “knocks.”

Jesus is knocking on your heart.  He is continually coming to you seeking to come in and recline with you so as to converse, strengthen, heal and help.  The question to honestly ponder is whether or not you are ready to let Him in immediately.  Too often we hesitate in our encounter with Christ.  Too often we want to know the full plan for our lives before we are willing to submit and surrender.  

Reflect, today, upon how ready you are to open immediately every part of your life to the grace and will of God.  Let Him in with great joy and enthusiasm and let His plan continue to unfold in your life.

Lord, I do wish to let You into my life more deeply each and every day.  I desire to hear Your voice and respond generously.  Give me the grace to respond to You as I ought.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Father Dennis

 


 


God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, October 19, 2020

[Eph 2:1-10 and Luke 12:13-21]

OCTOBER 19  Sts. Isaac Jogues and John Breboeuf and Companions, martyrs

    There's an old expression: "There are no pockets in a shroud."  The Book of Job puts it more simply and starker: "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shallI go back there.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." [Job 1:21]  The parable of the Rich Fool highlights Jesus' consistent teaching about the dangers of great wealth.  We will see another example in this same gospel in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. [Luke 16:19-31].  In today's parable, it does not seem to have occurred to the Rich Fool that he should share the great surplus of the harvest.  He only thought of building bigger barns to hold it.  In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Rich Man (Dives) seemed completely unaware of the poor man, Lazarus, sitting at his doorstep!  Great wealth can have an anesthetizing effect that creates a kind of bubble around the possessor.  

     The disciples were astounded by Jesus' teaching about the dangers of wealth.  They, like most in their society (and now) considered wealth a blessing from God.  However, they also believed that the wealthy had an obligation to share that wealth with those less fortunate.  This is where Dives and the Rich Fool go astray.  However, Jesus pushed the boundaries of their awareness even further in Luke [18:18-23] when he advised the rich young official to sell all he had so that he could follow Jesus unreservedly.  In this case, it is not just the material wealth that is to be shared, but the very person of faith.  How much security does a person need?  The example of St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind.  He is widely admired but not widely imitated by those most in need of imitating him!    How do we respond to Jesus' teaching about the dangers of wealth or great possessions? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, October 17, 2020

The one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Luke 12:10)

Wait! Doesn’t God forgive all sins? Isn’t his mercy inexhaustible? Yes, he does, and yes, it is. So what is Jesus really saying?

Pope St. John Paul II put it this way: blasphemy does not mean “offending against the Holy Spirit in words,” but rather “in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers . . . through the Holy Spirit” (Dominum et Vivificantem, 46). It’s not that there’s literally an “unforgivable sin” that we can commit. God will forgive any sin we bring to him. But if we don’t ask for and receive his forgiveness, it becomes “unforgivable.” It’s like being in a room that you’ve locked from the inside, and you won’t let the Lord in. You’re trapped, but you’re the one who has trapped yourself.

Now, we all know what it’s like to struggle to repent of sin. We may carry so much shame and guilt that we’re reluctant to bring it all to the Lord. Perhaps we think that what we’ve done is just too serious to be forgiven. Or we may not even recognize that what we’re doing is an offense against God, so we don’t bother to ask his forgiveness. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. He stirs our conscience, showing us where we have sinned. Then he urges us to seek the Lord in prayer and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we ignore these promptings, we push away the salvation that God is offering. Conversely, when we do follow them, our relationship with God grows stronger. We experience his mercy and compassion firsthand, and we realize that though we are sinners, we are redeemed and loved.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, October 16, 2020

[Eph 1:11-14 and Luke 12:1-7]
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." [Luke]

     The price of sparrows must have been different in Luke's community than in Matthew's community.  Luke has them at five for two coins and Matthew at two for one coin.  But the image in both gospels is part of Jesus instructions to his disciples.  The Gospel According to Luke was clearly written to encourage a community under persecution.  The disciples are urged to keep in mind that God's providence is continually with them as they cope with the challenges of preaching in areas where both religious and civil authorities will prosecute them.  The message of Jesus must not become a secret of a small religious sect.  It must be proclaimed from the housetops.  God's providence will be with them in every respect  "Even the hairs of your head have all been counted!"  

     Christianity still faces persecution in some parts of the world, and some Christian authorities have themselves persecuted other faiths.  In our own country's history, Catholics and Mormons have been attacked.  There is a kind of secular/civil faith in our land that is called "patriotism" and once in awhile there is tension between that civil faith and religious faiths. 

     Christians have been martyred because they refused to bow to "Caesar."  Catholics do not face martyrdom in the USA, but Catholic institutions have been challenged because they refuse to engage in conduct supported by secular authority.  Standing firm in the face of that secular authority puts us in the same situation as Luke's community.  We are more important than sparrows and God’s providential love is with us.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, October 15, 2020

From every angle, Paul was trying to help his listeners understand that through Christ, we experience a whole new life. We don’t just receive the “inheritance” of eternal life; we get to live as forgiven, grace-filled sons and daughters right now. We gain a loving family in the followers of Christ around us. We get to participate in the “work” of our Father to fill the earth with his goodness. We are freed from the slavery of sin and death.

When someone is adopted, every corner of his life is affected—where he goes, how and with whom he eats, and what he can look forward to in the future. That’s your story. You are an adopted heir of all God’s promises. You are a new creation!

“Father, thank you for adopting me into your family. Help me to embrace this new life you have given to me.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, October 14, 2020

[Gal 5:18-25 and Luke 11:42-46]
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. [Galatians]

     In the writings of St. Paul, the use of the terms "flesh" and "Spirit" refer to a person who is baptized and converted or a person unbaptized and unconverted.  He gives us quite a list of what people do who are not living according to the Spirit they would receive in baptism.  Then he gives us a list of what should characterize a person who lives according to the Spirit.  It is the Spirit that motivates a person to avoid the works of the flesh, not the law of Moses or any other law for that matter.  If we avoid doing one of the actions in the list of the "flesh" simply because it is illegal, and not because it is contrary to the Spirit, what kind of integrity do we have?

     In the Gospel According to Matthew [7:15-20], Jesus warns the disciples about false teachers and says, "By their fruits you shall know them."  But this applies to all disciples today as well.  How much of our lives reflect those "fruits of the Spirit" in St. Paul's list today?  We may not engage in some of the more spectacular items in his "list of the flesh," ("immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like") but we might find "a little bit" of one or two of them lurking in us.  

     Christian faith is a summons to continual conversion in the midst of a secular society that will regard anything "legal" as "moral."  Christians are called to a much higher standard than that.  We will have an impact only if we can be known by the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our daily lives.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, October 12, 2020

[Gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1 and Luke 11:29-32]
"This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.

     Popular media manages almost every year to come up with a different "generation" to describe the young people of today. Whether it is "generation X, Y or Z or whatever," I seem to see the same lessons being learned that "generations" before the present one had to learn.  Jesus tells the "generation" in the Gospel According to Luke that they are fixated on "signs" and failing to see the "wisdom" and warnings that prophetic figures in their midst are offering.

     Jesus' own fate at the hands of the "generation" he was preaching to was a repetition of the fate of the Old Testament prophets and a foretelling of the fate of other prophets to come who challenge the lifestyle and secular values in force at any time.  The prospect of a final "judgment" just doesn't seem to register, only the desires and cultural offerings of the day matter.  

     Jesus' words are addressed to every generation.  Faith is an everyday commitment to God and neighbor in love and integrity, and not to special "signs."  We have available to us every day "something greater than Solomon or Jonah."  Will our present "generation" be any different than the ones who came before us?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, October 11, 2020

DAILY MEDITATION: MATTHEW 22:1-14

Many are invited, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)

Does this sentence give you a chill? Maybe it makes you wonder, “I hope I get chosen for heaven.” Or maybe you question the justice in it. “If God has already invited people, why would he not choose them?” Today’s parable offers some answers.

First, we hear about a king who decided to look elsewhere when the first set of invitees refused to come to his son’s wedding and abused his messengers. “Those who were invited were not worthy to come,” he said (Matthew 22:8). Then, we see him telling his servants to go invite everyone they could find.

Look at the “worthiness” of the king’s initial invitees. They turned out to be murderers, so the king probably knew they weren’t “worthy” to begin with. But that didn’t matter. Even if they had a sinful past, that did not have to disqualify them. By accepting the invitation and making their way toward the banquet hall, they would have placed themselves on the path of repentance and new life. The same is true of the second group, which was made up of the “bad and good alike” (Matthew 22:10). They were not bound by whatever they had done or failed to do earlier. The same is true for you. Your worthiness is not based on whether you have done everything right. You become worthy as you accept his invitation. Every step you take that brings you closer to the heavenly banquet hall makes you more worthy. It weaves another thread of the garment of holiness that all the saints in heaven wear.

God invites everyone to his banquet. His light shines “on the bad and the good” and “on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Ever and always, he is calling out, urging, even begging us to come to him. Everyone is called; may we all accept the invitation so that we can be counted among the “chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, October 9, 2020

[Gal 3:7-14 and Luke 11:15-26]
And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear, for the one who is righteous by faith will live.[Galatians]

 OCTOBER 9 St. Denis

      In recent public dialogue, one often hears the expression: "Words matter!"  In a faith where the words of scripture "matter" in a very significant way, one phrase can be the cause of considerable challenge.  The line, for the one who is righteous by faith will live, comes from a post-exilic prophet named Habakkuk (2:4), but it found its way into St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans and then into the mind of a spiritually tortured Augustinian friar in the 16th century named Martin Luther!!!  St. Paul repeats it in his Epistle to the Galatians as we see above.  

     In the case of St. Paul, he was bluntly telling the Galatians that mere performance of the observances of the Mosaic Law would not be sufficient to save them.  It would be faith in Christ that would save them.  There were Christian preachers who were converts from Judaism but who also insisted that Christian faith was simply a Jewish recognition of Jesus as the messiah, which meant that Jewish identity (and observance of the Mosaic Law) was essential to Christian faith.  St. Paul had been a zealous Pharisee and his conversion led him to reject the Mosaic Law as an instrument of salvation.  

     In the case of Martin Luther, his scrupulous nature made him despair of observing all that Catholicism required and when he heard that an "indulgence" could "save" someone, he rebelled because he found solace only in the fact that he had faith and that this alone would save him.  This led to the rejection of much of the sacramental and devotional expression of Catholicism by various elements of the Protestant Reformation.  Faith alone, as found in the Bible, without any human traditions added, would save.

     The sacraments and devotional life of Catholicism are intended to be expressions of our faith, not substitutes for it.  Mere performance of a rite on a person who is not properly disposed to receive it is ineffective.  St. Paul made the same point about the Mosaic Law.  Performance without faith is empty.  We Catholics with so many customs and rituals can develop our own kind of Pharisaism and we need to be careful about insisting on certain non-sacramental observances as essential to our faith.  Faith comes first.  Devotion is how we express it.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, October 8, 2020

[Gal 3:1-5 and Luke 11:5-13]
"If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him>" [Luke]

   St. Augustine is quoted as saying, "Pray as if everything depended on God.  Work as if everything depended on you!"  The gospel scripture today quotes Jesus as telling us to persevere in prayer and trust that God will supply the wisdom we need to accomplish what is best for us.  It is good remember this prayer  "when you wake up in the morning and put your feet on the floor, just say this prayer: " Lord, nothing can happen today that you and I can't handle together!"

     The Catholic treasury of prayer is immense, but ultimately it all comes down to our relationship to God and how we express it.   We are human beings who relate to God as human beings do.  Our expression of that relationship will have all the ups and downs of all human relationships.  What is important is to understand what our particular relationship really is and then ask if our prayer truly reflects that relationship, or do we simply pick something in print because it is considered a "prayer."  

     What we know from today's gospel is that God is faithful and wise, and we are challenged to be faithful and wise, as well!

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, October 5, 2020

When he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. (Luke 10:31)

 In Jesus’ parable, the priest and the Levite passed by a man on the side of the road who had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead. We don’t know why these two men continued on their way—maybe they were hurrying to an appointment or were just fearful about stopping and possibly getting robbed and beaten themselves. Maybe they just didn’t care. Only the Samaritan was willing to sacrifice his time and money to save the man.

It’s likely that each of us will “pass by” someone in need today. While it could be someone literally stranded by the side of the road, it could also be a coworker who is wrestling with loneliness. It could be someone in our own home, like a teenager who is worried and anxious. How will we relate to these “neighbors” whom Jesus is asking us to love (Luke 10:27)? Could we start by sitting with the coworker in the lunchroom and getting to know that person? Could we set aside some time for our child to ask him what’s on his mind and how he’s really doing?

Jesus shared this parable to illustrate how God defines love and how he invites us to love the people around us. Loving our neighbor often translates to some level of personal sacrifice. It requires us to be accessible. It might call us out of our comfort zone, or it might mean giving of our time and resources. Maybe we don’t feel we have anything extra to give at that moment.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

[Job 9:1-12, 14-16 and Luke 9:57-62]

 SEPTEMBER 30 ST. JEROME

     It has been noted by more than one commentator that one of Job's greatest sufferings was his friends who try to get him to admit that he has done something to deserve what happened to him.  That was and still is one of the common responses to suffering.  Every time there is a disaster in this country, more than one prominent evangelist will speak up and claim that the resulting suffering is punishment from God for sin.  Job continually rejects the suggestions of his "friends" and asserts the truth of his integrity.  It is this truth that sustains him throughout the course of his suffering.

     In today's passage, Job speaks to the problem of dialogue with God.  He says something that I hear often in counseling:  "He/she won't listen to me."  Job's concept of God places God outside human heart-to-heart conversation.  God is too great and almighty to pay attention to a mere mortal.  As I hear often, "What's the use of praying?  God never answers!"  

     The ultimate question in the entire Book of Job is one that has continually challenged the faith and understanding of humanity:  "If God is both almighty and loving, why is there so much suffering, especially by people who don't "deserve" it?  Job's steadfast integrity and faith enable him to persevere, and God does restore him to a position even greater than before, but the question of the purpose of suffering will remain unanswered, at least in human terms, as we shall see.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, September 29, 2020

[Dan 7:9-10, 13-14 or Rev 12:7-12a and John 1:47-51]
Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. [John]

 SEPTEMBER 29  STS. MICHAEL, GABRIEL and RAPHAEL, archangels

     Nothing can excite the imagination like angels!  While they are part of God's creation, they have become part of human creation as well.  Scripture supplies the names of the three angels we celebrate today, the term "archangel" comes from a medieval source.  The Book of Revelation speaks of Michael and his angels battling against the dragon, so our statues of Michael feature him in Roman or medieval armor with a huge sword.  In today's imagination he would be like one of the Jedi in Star Wars!!  Gabriel gets big feathered wings and pretty nightgowns.  Raphael seems more "normal" in his companionship with Tobias.  Last, but not least, what would be the point of "canonizing" one of God's angels?  Yet, we call these three, at least, "saints" and set aside this celebration in their honor.  However, not to be unfair, we also celebrate the "Guardian Angels" on October 2nd.  This is a way of pointing to Jesus' teaching about children's angels beholding the face of God. [Matt. 18:10].  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, September 28, 2020

The one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest. (Luke 9:48)

Jesus didn’t reject or rebuke his disciples for thinking and feeling as they did. He redirected them to the heart of the gospel instead. Unity, love of neighbor, a tender heart, and a humble mind are the dispositions that should mark followers of Christ. That is what makes a person “great” in God’s eyes.

We have to be on guard not to fall into the same mindset as the disciples. The truth is, Jesus calls everyone, not just those we might perceive as “great” or worthy of following him. Furthermore, he has called each of us to fulfill a specific role in his kingdom. That could be as the leader of the meeting or as the one stacking the chairs. To him, it’s not what we do that’s as important as how we do it—with a loving heart and a sincere and humble desire to serve in whatever way is needed.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, September 27, 2020

[Ezek 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11 or 2:1-5; Matt 21:28-32]
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?" [Matthew]

  Today's gospel scripture teaches a lesson on two different levels: cultural and religious.  On the cultural level, as scripture scholar John Pilch points out in THE CULTURAL WORLD OF JESUS, the son who said, "Yes, sir!" but didn't go would have been considered the better son because he was respectful to his father's public command, even if he didn't later carry it out!!  The father's "honor" was not lessened by a publicly disobedient son like the first one who said he would not go but later DID go.  This is the Middle Eastern cultural ethos, which has not changed since Jesus' time!  "HONOR" (or what we Westerners would call "face") is of crucial importance in all relationships.

     However, Jesus did not ask which son was the "better" son, but which son DID HIS FATHER'S WILL.  The chief priests and elders, to whom Jesus addressed this parable, publicly said "Yes" to God but were not, in fact, doing the Father's will.  The tax collectors and sinners, on the other hand, who were considered lesser and disobedient people by the chief priests and elders, changed their minds, and followed Jesus.  The tax collectors and sinners turned out to be the "better" children.

     The challenge for us is to look at our "yes-es" and our "no-es" to God.  Is there a gap between our public faith and our private behavior?  If so, how can we change our minds and do the Father's will

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, September 26, 2020

[Eccl/Qoh 11:9-12:8 and Luke 9:43b-45]
Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes; yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment. Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting. [Ecclesiastes]

 Ecclesiastes advises the young to enjoy their youth because it is fleeting.  That is true enough, but I cannot share the pessimism of author's vision of old age which seems like that of an abandoned and ruined city.  All of life is meant to be enjoyed and that includes "elderhood."  Parents should encourage their children to "follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes..." in love of God and humble service of others; that is a complete joy.  If nothing else, it is like those senior citizens (elders) whom I have seen in certain grocery stores who circulate through the store helping people to find what they are looking for in the bewildering variety of items.  These "guides" know where things are.  If we can teach the younger to know "where things are," then life is completely lived "before the silver cord is snapped..." 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, September 25, 2020

This passage from Ecclesiastes will always set heads to nodding in a congregation if only because those of us who were young in the 1960's will remember the musical setting of it in TURN, TURN, TURN, which was recorded by many different artists, beginning with the group The Byrds.  Although the passage fits in with the rather skeptical tone of the book, it has much to teach us about acceptance and perspective in life.

     Ecclesiastes places the meaning of life squarely between the ant and the grasshopper of fable.  Workaholism is rejected, as is laziness.  There is a profound understanding of "time" that goes beyond the clock.  We use the expression, "The time has come to....."  But in Ecclesiastes, it is not the overconfident human who determines that "time."  The ancient Greeks used the word kairos to distinguish that idea from chronos, as in "What time is it on the clock?"  All time is in the hands of God.

    "What 'time' is it in your life?"  Some folks speak of this in terms of a "mid-life crisis" when one takes a look at one's life and tries to make sense of it and reaches frantically for a means to understand.  Ecclesiastes offers good advice on this.  To the person of faith, perhaps the best response is the one that Dag Hammarskjold wrote in his famous spiritual diary, MARKINGS:  For all that has been, thanks.  For all that is to come, Yes!.  What time is it in your life?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, September 21, 2020

St. Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

[Eph 4:1-7, 11-13 and Matt 9:9-13]
"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." [Matthew]

  Whether or not the evangelist Matthew was the apostle Matthew is something we can leave to scripture scholars and historians. The prevailing opinion is that they were not the same person.  It doesn't really matter as long as we realize that we celebrate BOTH today.  We celebrate the apostle (also called "Levi" in Mark and Luke) because he reminds us that Jesus calls all kinds of people to the mission of preaching the gospel.  Tax collectors and "sinners" were the "nitty-gritty" of life.  The scribes and Pharisees were the "hoity-toity."  Guess which group knew their need for mercy more?  As important as the Twelve are in the theological foundation of the church, St. Paul reminds all of us that we have received God's grace and are called to mission.  That mission is to bring the sick and wounded to the "field hospital" that Pope Francis calls the church.

     We celebrate the evangelist because he organized the traditions preserved by the Gospel According to Mark and other sources into the magnificent portrait of Jesus as a New Moses and distills all His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount with a straightforward call that challenges us to respond!    Do we go and sit at table with Jesus? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, September 15, 2020

[Heb 5:7-9; [opt. Sequence: Stabat Mater]; John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35,710]
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. [John]

 SEPTEMBER 15  OUR LADY OF SORROWS

     Anyone who has seen in person or in an image the famous statue by Michelangelo, the Pieta', can appreciate the meaning of today's commemoration.  The statue features Mary holding the dead body of Jesus in her lap right after he has been taken from the cross.  This is one of the seven "sorrows" of the Blessed Virgin, a devotion that began with a religious order, the Servite friars, in the 17th century.  The feast day was added to the universal calendar in 1814.  The seven sorrows include: Simeon's prophecy at the presentation in the temple (alternative gospel for today), the flight into Egypt, the disappearance of the boy Jesus in Jerusalem, the road to Calvary, the crucifixion, the removal from the cross and the entombment.  In addition to the Pieta' most of us will recognize the famous hymn, Stabat Mater, which is part of the Stations of the Cross.

     This is really a feast for mothers.  Any mom who sees her child suffer can identify with Mary's sorrows and could come up with a list of her own.  The pregnancy, the illnesses, the accidents, the "declarations of independence,", the departure for college, the wedding - you can add a seventh!   But the death of one of your own children is a special and deep sorrow which Michelangelo succeeded in capturing in marble!  

     Today is like another Mother's Day in many ways.  It's not just Mary's sorrows but the sorrows and sacrifices of all mothers that Mary represents. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, September 9, 2020

[1 Cor 7:25-31 and Luke 6:20-26]
"Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh...." [Luke]

SEPTEMBER 9 ST. PETER CLAVER, SJ +1654

          Today is the feast of St. Peter Claver SJ, a Spaniard, who joined the Jesuits in their earliest years and was sent to Colombia in South America where he ministered to African slaves arriving on the shores. St. Peter Claver for 38 years dedicated himself to caring for African slaves, baptizing over 300,000. He called himself “the slave of the slaves forever.”  He The USA was not the only place where the evil of slavery was manifested.  In his ministry, Peter Claver personified the beatitudes. He became, justifiably, a patron saint for those who minister in the Black Catholic community. He is the patron saint of African Americans and enslaved peoples.  The current turmoil in our own nation, manifested in the movement, Black Lives Matter, could look to him as an inspiration for renewing our efforts to eliminate racism as a force in American life. Even more are we as disciples of Jesus challenged to eliminate racism as a force in Catholic Christian life. 

Father Dennis 

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, September 2, 2020

“The cross is the holy sign of God’s Love and a sign of Jesus’ Sacrifice."

The Bible recounts many instances when Jesus went off to pray by himself. And sometimes the crowds managed to find him.

How did Jesus feel when people ruined his plans? We don’t know. We do know that he didn’t complain about the interruptions but instead, he took the time to speak with the people and heal them. In today’s Gospel, for instance, Jesus must have treated the people respectfully, because they encouraged him to stay on. But Jesus knew God’s will for him, and his response was firm: it was time to pray, then move on.

Another instance of Jesus meeting an unexpected crowd occurs in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus wanted to be alone to grieve the death of his cousin John the Baptist. But when a large crowd tracked him down, he was “moved with pity” and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14). He even fed them by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish. Eventually, though, Jesus “dismissed the crowds” and “went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:22, 23).

As unique as Jesus’ life was, in many ways it was also similar to our lives. Like us, he faced many demands on his time, and he had to handle life’s ups and downs with grace and humility.

We should be flexible with our schedules, as Jesus was, especially when people need our love and help. He never ignored the person right in front of him. But he was just as careful not to ignore the Father, whose love sustained and strengthened him. If Jesus, who was without sin, needed time alone with God, how much more do we need it!

So if your plans for quiet prayer are interrupted, don’t fret. Just look to the next opportunity. Make God a priority. Pray that you are following his will for you. He will provide the balance and peace you are seeking for your busy life.

“Jesus, teach me how to balance the needs of people with my need to spend time with you.”                                                          

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, September 1, 2020

[1 Cor 2:10b-16 and Luke 4:31-37]
The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. Among men, who knows what pertains to the man except his spirit that is within. Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. [1 Corinthians]

     To understand St. Paul's argument about the Spirit in this passage, we have to be aware of the cultural and theological context in which he was preaching.  He is addressing himself to the Christian community in a Greek city, and most likely aiming his argument at a particular element in that community that was influenced by the ideas of Plato and the Jewish philosopher, Philo, who adopted Plato's philosophy into Jewish theology.  This could give rise to the notion of a spiritual elite, possessing a secret knowledge that made them superior to all other Christians or other people in general.  This current of belief is known in Christian history as "gnosticisim."  St. Paul rejects the idea of s spiritual elite and tells his audience (and us) that all of us have received the Holy Spirit, which can enable us to see life from the perspective of Christ - the "mind of Christ."

     Traces of the influence of gnosticism can appear from time to time in any movement, Christian or otherwise, which claims to have some kind of secret knowledge that entitles a person to behave or interpret things in a way that is superior to others outside the movement.  All of us are called to grow in our faith and understanding of Jesus and his teachings.  Each of us is called according to our gifts, as St. Paul makes clear elsewhere in First Corinthians, but all of us are called to the gift of love, as the wonderful passage in 1 Corinthians 13 proclaims.  This does give us a perspective on life, but the perspective is not secret or esoteric but rather available to anyone who accepts the Spirit of God that is within and pays attention to its promptings.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, August 31, 2020

[1 Cor 2:1-5 and Luke 4:16-30]
"Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." [Luke]

     The gospel scripture for today tells the story of Jesus' hometown debut as a preacher.  He had grown up in Nazareth but apparently had left at some point, established himself in Capernaum and became a follower of John the Baptist until the right moment to step forward.  By the time he came back to Nazareth, he had already made a name for himself in Galilee. His return to the synagogue in Nazareth was nice enough to start with.  He is offered a scroll of Isaiah and he deliberately unrolls it to one of the passages describing the Suffering Servant: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me....." [Isaiah 61:1-2] and then tells his startled hometown crowd that he is the fulfillment of that prophecy!  That was much too much for them!  They rejected him.  Even his own relatives thought he was crazy. [Mark 3:21]

     One of the major themes of all the gospels is that of "rejection."  Jesus' teaching was rejected by the very people who should have known better (scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees) and by the people who knew him from infancy.  It was accepted by "sinners and tax collectors!"  Because the gospels were composed as messages to communities of disciples, the message was clear.  Expect your preaching to be rejected even by friends and family.  That does not excuse the disciple from preaching to them, nonetheless!  Each year in campus ministry, students who are faithful Christians find themselves the target in classrooms from teachers who tell them flatly that their faith is fantasy!  

     The courage to preach by word and example is described by St. Paul in today's first scripture: I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power. We can encourage and support one another when the inevitable rejections take place, knowing that God will take care of the power of our good example.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

[Jer 1:17-19 and Mark 6:17-29]
"I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." [Mark]

With those words, spoken by a dancing girl, the life of John the Baptist was ended.  The liturgical powers-that-be decided not long ago that the traditional title of the feast, "The Beheading of John the Baptist," was not noble enough, so they changed it to the "Passion of St. John the Baptist."  That certainly had no impact on the event itself!

     John the Baptist confronted Herod over his marriage to Herodias, who had previously been married to one of Herod's half-brothers.  This was prohibited in the Law of Moses [Leviticus 18:16, 20-21].  Naturally, the lady in question was not pleased to be the subject of public criticism and looked for a chance to get rid of the source of that criticism.  When her daughter was given a drunken promise at a public banquet, the opportunity came.

     The Gospel According to Mark makes it clear that the religious authorities of Jesus' time resented his ministry and his attitude toward their understanding of the Law of Moses.  This resentment resulted in their manipulating the Roman authorities into killing Jesus.  Thus, the story of the death of John the Baptist takes on the color of Jesus' own death.

     Resentment can be a powerful emotion, as this story indicates, and all of us can identify the feeling at one time or another.  It can lead us to do some very destructive things.  Learning to watch for it in ourselves can be a sobering challenge.  Maybe thinking of the head of John the Baptist on a platter can help us think twice! 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, August 28, 2020

[1 Cor 1:17-25 and Matt 25:1-13]
For the Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. [1 Corinthians]

 AUGUST 28 ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, (bishop and doctor of the Church)

     Two figures stand like giants in the historical and modern development of theological thought in the western Catholic Church:  Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.  As it is, Augustine is the most quoted authority in Aquinas' Summa Theologiae.  Today is Augustine's feast day. The Rule of St. Augustine is printed in the constitutions of a number of religious institutions "One mind and one heart in God. On a broader level, outside the theological ivory towers, Augustine's Confessions, the story of his life and conversion to Christianity as a young man, continues to influence college students all over the world.  Students of political science and philosophy still read his City of God as one of the great classics of all time.

     Augustine was a teacher of rhetoric (a speech teacher) at the time of his conversion.  He brought enormous passion to everything he wrote or said.  In this, he reflects St. Paul's personality and the same passion for the gospel.  One can see this in just one quote from the Confessions: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."  That same restlessness shows in the passage from St. Paul in the first scripture for today.  God's "foolishness and weakness" is powerful in the person of the crucified Christ!  

     One man, writing more than 1500 years ago, continues to inspire and challenge Christian faith.  God's ways are truly mysterious.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, August 27, 2020

[1 Cor 1:1-9 and Matt 24:42-51]
You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. [1 Corinthians]

AUGUST 27 ST. MONICA (mother of St. Augustine)

     One of the most frequent concerns is expressed by parents and grandparents for the faith and spiritual welfare of their children and grandchildren.  It is not unusual to hear words like this, "My kids and grandkids don't go to church!"   Occasionally we will hear of grandparents taking matters into their own hands by secretly baptizing grandchildren when the parents, for whatever reason, have not had the children baptized!  Similar concerns are expressed by parents who have kids in college: "Twelve years of Catholic school and they're not going to church!" Parents and grandparents with this worry have a patroness in St. Monica!  She spent much of her life praying for her pagan son, Augustine. The best advice in responding to these concerns is "Live your own faith.  That's the best encouragement."

     St. Paul's words to the Corinthian community are an effort to encourage them to remain faithful to their baptismal commitment in the midst of a port city environment where the term "anything goes" would be quite descriptive. Students are exposed to a vast "Corinthian" cafeteria of ideas and possibilities.  Mistakes should be expected, but one's prayers might best be directed to the mistakes one does not want to make even once!!!   

    St. Augustine's conversion was dramatic but his mother's encouragement was influential.  Her encouragement, however, goes not just to the children and grandchildren who have become indifferent but also to the parents and grandparents who worry.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, August 25, 2020

You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean." [Matthew]

     The twenty-third chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew can make for tough reading!  Scripture scholars point out that Matthew has put together accusations against the scribes and Pharisees that were made at various times in Jesus' ministry to add to the dramatic tension in Jerusalem just before Jesus' arrest.  The long indictment could be called a "negative" Sermon on the Mount - i.e. a list of things a Christian should NOT do.  This means that the long list is intended not just for scribes and Pharisees but for Christians in the early church as well.  It is intended for us, too.

     Today's passage speaks to two different aspects.  The first speaks to the question of religious observances.  Jesus does not deny the rules about details in tithing even from garden vegetables and herbs but argues that putting an emphasis on such observances to the detriment of judgment, mercy and fidelity is wrong-headed.  We Catholics can be guilty of that when we insist on punctilious observance to the point of causing real anxiety.  As an example,  I have had folks ask me if a novena "counts" if they forgot to do one small part!!  

     The second item in this passage has to do with interior motivation.  Jesus repeatedly charged some scribes and Pharisees with misusing their religious authority to interpret the law in such a way as to enrich themselves. He calls them hypocrites!   His image of the inside and outside of a cup is right on point.  What good is keeping the outside (appearances) sparkling if the inside is dirty. God makes both the outside and the inside. [Luke 11:39-40]

     The lessons to us are pretty clear.  Get your priorities straight in your actions as your motivations.  Love of God and neighbor come first.  The rest is intended to make that possible.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, August 24, 2020

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him. (John 1:47)

Today we commemorate St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, the central character in today’s Gospel. The story tells us a lot about conversion. Even more, it can show us that every day presents an opportunity for a new encounter with Jesus.

First, Nathanael is introduced to Jesus by his friend Philip. Philip knew Nathanael was hoping for the Messiah and was excited to introduce him to Jesus. And so it often happens for us. We encounter Jesus through another person, someone who has been touched by Jesus, who is excited about their faith, whose fervor might even call us to stretch our own way of looking at things.

Second, Nathanael’s expectations were jolted when he met Jesus. For us, encountering Jesus can shed light on a way of thinking or acting that needs to change. Maybe we don’t pay enough attention to caring for the poor or we feel too busy to listen to people who don’t agree with us. Jesus asks us to be open to rethink our ideas.

You might experience a singular, spectacular conversion moment like Nathanael. But it’s more likely that the response Jesus wants from you is to turn your life over to him more, to say yes to him a bit more completely.

Expect to meet Jesus today. Be on the lookout for someone through whom Jesus might be reaching out to you. How might he want to upend your expectations or call you to take the next step in following him? Today is an opportunity to encounter him. Make the most of it!              

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

[Ezek 43:1-7ab and Matt 23:1-12]
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.

     The "scribes and the Pharisees" get a lot of bad press in the gospels not because of their status but because of their misuse of that status.  Chapter 23 of the Gospel According to Matthew is one long indictment of that misuse.  Jesus, at the beginning of the chapter, recognizes their authority, based on their knowledge of the Mosaic Law (scribes) and their efforts to live that law down to the smallest detail (Pharisees).  What Jesus attacks is the corruption that had grown up in that authority.  Historians of the period known as Second Temple Judaism are showing that the Pharisees deserve better attention because they literally saved Judaism after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D., less than 40 years after Jesus' death and resurrection.  The focus of Jewish worship moved from animal/vegetable sacrifice in the temple to synagogue worship with the Torah (the Law of Moses).  The Pharisees played a big role in this transition.  They were not temple priests but "laity" dedicated to an understanding of Judaism as fidelity to the Law of Moses.

     Nevertheless, in Jesus' time, their position in society was being abused.  Jesus accuses them of hypocrisy.  We know from the gospels that there were Pharisees and scribes who were sympathetic to Jesus' teaching (Nicodemus, for example), so not all of them were bad.  But we can learn from this a lesson that continually needs to be taught, namely that religious authority can be abused and when this happens, those who are guilty should be confronted.  The worst example of this has been the sex abuse crisis.  It is a hard lesson to learn, but the Gospel According to Matthew is unrelenting and so should we be in this matter.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, August 21, 2020

St. Pius X him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." [Matthew]

In today's gospel scripture Jesus is challenged to identify which precepts are the most important.  He chooses one from Deuteronomy, a prayer that pious Jews say everyday: "Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One.  You shall love the Lord your God, etc..."  [Deut. 6:5]. The second one is taken from Leviticus 19:18: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  One might recall here the account in the Gospel According to Luke 10:25-37 when Jesus answers the same question but when the lawyer asks what is meant by "my neighbor," Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan!

     Can one imagine what would happen in any law-making body in this country or even in our beloved Church if the primary criteria for any rule would be, "How does this help us to love God and neighbor more?"   It is a great challenge to our individualism to acknowledge that there is a God more powerful than we are (ask Adam and Eve) and to acknowledge that we do have a neighbor whose needs may be greater than our own!!!  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Levites and the Samaritan were challenged to transcend both the "Law" and prejudice.  It was the Samaritan who helped, and not the victim's fellow Jews.  This is more than an individual act of kindness.  Jesus proposes it as the way to follow him [Matt. 25:31-45].

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last." [Matthew 20:1-16

The fundamental lesson of the parable in today's gospel scripture may be stated in a question:  Is God governed by our expectations?  Each laborer in the parable agrees with the landowner about the daily wage from the outset.  Each one receives the same amount, but those who worked longer believe they should be give more simply because they worked longer.  They based their expectation on what they observed of the other workers.  If those later workers had not been there, would the earlier workers have grumbled?  But there is no favoritism at work in this parable.  The early workers got what they agreed to.  The generosity of the landowner determined what the others got.  The first workers are envious of the later ones and envious of the landowner who was in a position to be generous!

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, August 18, 2020

 Matt 19:23-30]
Peter said to [Jesus] in reply, "We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?

 This dialog follows the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man, whom Jesus challenged to give up his "many possessions" to follow him.  We were told he "went away sad, for he had many possessions.  The disciples are dumbfounded by Jesus' response to the young man.  In their estimation, wealth was a great blessing.  Jesus tells them that the wealthier a person gets, the more they have to give their allegiance to taking care of.  So, Peter asks the question on everyone's minds, "So, what's in it for us?"  Jesus promises them a prominent role in the establishment of his kingdom, but promises "eternal life" to all who are willing to give up possessions and relationships (even family) for the sake of his name.

     Does that promise seem like "pie in the sky by and by" to us?  The "new age" that Jesus speaks of in the gospels is not something beyond the grave.  It comes to pass when Christians take their faith seriously and behave accordingly.  The gift of eternal life is not "earned" by our actions.  Our actions are in response to the gift!  Do we consider that gift too expensive to have?  Do we own our "stuff: or does our "stuff" own us?    Jesus' response to the young man is not against private property but it does place possessions (and relationships) in a perspective larger than our immediate wants and needs.  How much do we value the gift of faith?  What would we be willing to forego to respond to that gift?  If we find such questions disturbing, we are in good company with Peter and the disciples!

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, August 17, 2020

[Ezek 24:15-23 and Matt 19:16-22]
A young man approached Jesus and said, "Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life." [Matthew]

In the Gospel According to Matthew, following Christ means taking the Sermon on the Mount very seriously, which includes what we learn from Matthew 25:31-45 (the parable of the Final Judgment).  The "more" can be found in examining one's lifestyle and determining what one really needs.  The young man was not prepared to accept what Jesus told him about his lifestyle: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me."  When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  We don't know what happened later on to him, but we do know that the disciples themselves were astonished by Jesus' advice.  To have the "more," we must live with "less."  Adding piety and devotion without examining one's lifestyle and the daily ways we live will not help us find that "more."  We can all ask the same question that he did.  Are we prepared for Jesus' answer?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

[Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a; 10ab; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56]
And Mary said, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior 

 The words of the Magnificat from the Gospel According to Luke really sum up the foundation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Her "assumption into heaven" is truly one of the "great things" God did for her.  It does not first and foremost speak to a physical place that she went to at her death but to her relationship with God.  It is that relationship that determined her identity at death.  She shared in the same status as Jesus' risen body.  What we must wait for until the end of time, she attained immediately. [cf. 1 Cor.15:35-58]

     The church spent a long time considering and reflecting on this truth.  The dogma was not officially "defined" until 1950 by Pope Pius XII.  Marian theology, in general, was slow to develop in the church and it was not until the third or fourth century AD that theological reflection on Mary's special role became prominent, even with what we know of her from the Gospel According to Luke.  After universal investigation, Pope Pius XII determined that Mary's assumption had been believed semper et ubique ab omnibus. (always and everywhere by everyone).  

     A simple and fundamental "faith-fact" is at the root of this.  Mary's privilege flowed from her relationship to her Son.  In that relationship, she becomes both model for us and mother to us.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, August 14, 2020

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate. [Matthew]

 Among the teachings of Jesus that Christians have found most difficult to observe is the prohibition against divorce.  Certainly the disciples were stunned by his reply to the Pharisees, who quoted Deuteronomy 24:1 and were more concerned about the cause for divorce and not about divorce itself!  It was assumed by all who were listening that divorce was a part of life.  Moses had permitted it - end of story!  Jesus rejects the debate and asserts that Moses allowed divorce because of human weakness and not because it was permitted by God!!  Jesus quotes Genesis (also a part of Torah, the law of Moses) in pointing out that "from the beginning" God had sanctified marriage and any human efforts to break that bond were unacceptable.

The reasons for people marriages breaking down or people seeking annulments vary.

The intentional concealments are rarer than the unintentional ones.  The former may involve for example, sexual orientation or addictions.  The unintentional ones may involve the cultural attitude that views marriage as one more consumer item or some family-of-origin issues.

Jesus' teaching remains the same.  The legal and cultural battle against marriage as a sacred reality continues.  The church's efforts to prepare couples properly for a sacramental reality has to improve.  The witness of happy and healthy marriages needs to be better known so that young couples will desire it and work every day at it. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, August 13, 2020

This in short, is the meaning of the parable today. It is actually an explanation of that petition in the Lord’s Prayer. The Master is God; we are the servant who owed him a huge amount that we cannot pay; the other servants who owed us a petty amount are our fellowmen. Since God has forgiven us our sins, we, in turn, must forgive others also: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Mt. 6:14-15). C.S. Lewis puts it this way: "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, August 12, 2020

[Ezek 9:1-7; 10:18-22 and Matt 18:15-20]

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. 

All families and communities of whatever kind are challenged to have "compassion of correction." In the Gospel today, Jesus lays down the three steps involved in fraternal correction. It must be noted that its main objectives are conversion and reconciliation, not punishment. Hence, utmost care and compassion should prevail all the time. The gospel offers a way forward in this challenge.

The gospel today challenges us to speak first to the person with whom we have a "difficulty!" The first step is to talk to the person concerned in private. It looks easy, but is actually difficult, simply due to human respect, and the fear of the possibility that the good-intentioned action might be misinterpreted and taken negatively. 

However, if the wrongdoer will not listen, then one or two companions who are also aware of the offense can be brought along, “so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” This is stipulated in the Book Deuteronomy 19:15:

If the wrongdoer remains recalcitrant in the face of this evidence, then the matter is to be presented to the whole community, or the ‘church’. (Matthew uses the term ‘qahal’ in Hebrew, or ‘ekklesia’ in Greek, which refers to the gathering of a Christian community.) But if, unfortunately, he ignores even the church and there is still no sign of repentance, then the person is to be expelled and treated like “a Gentile or a tax collector” – as a total outsider.

This Gospel passage highlights the important role and value of the sacrament of Confession. Through the priest, who is the representative of God and the representative also of the Church, the penitent is reconciled to God and the community. May we rediscover the beauty and invaluable grace of this sacrament in our journey towards holiness and salvation.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, August 11, 2020

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

As the result of original sin, our wounded human nature has the propensity towards sin, especially that of pride. Everyone wants to be the first, the best and the greatest. 

Jesus takes this opportunity to teach them about true greatness. Contrary to what many people think, greatness is not in being first, but in being last; not in being at the top, but in being humble. In short, it is humility that makes us truly great. As St John of the Cross explains, God does not look on a person’s greatness, but the greatness of the person’s humility.Ęş

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday August 10, 2020

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain. (John 12:24)

Jesus’ life comes to us ultimately through his greatest act of love: his death on the cross. St. Lawrence, whose feast we are celebrating today, is a moving example of this truth. A deacon in Rome in the third century, Lawrence lived during a time of great persecution. When an agent for the emperor demanded that Lawrence hand over all the treasures of the Church, Lawrence gathered all the poor and hungry people the Church was serving and presented them. “These are the treasures of the Church,” he told the prefect. For this act of humble defiance, Lawrence was put to death.

Lawrence knew his life was meant to be poured out for the people around him, and he lived that out to the very end.

Now, we don’t have to die physically to live out this calling. We can follow Lawrence’s example by asking the Spirit to help us put other people’s needs ahead of our own. We can ask him to make us into servants just as Lawrence was—and just as Jesus was.

Father Dennis

 


 

Jesus went up on the mountain by himself to pray - Sunday, August 9, 2020

Today by Jesus’ example we are called to reflect on the need for sincere and genuine prayer. Nowadays, people find it harder and harder to pray.  Whether we are busy or bored, the first activity that we drop is prayer.

Jesus’ ordinary day is spent moving around, teaching, curing the sick, expelling demons and helping the needy. The Gospels would say that he was too busy that he had no time even to eat (Mk 3:20). But did he ever drop prayer from his schedule? In the Gospel this Sunday, he has just finished another grueling day, capped with the stressful event of feeding the five thousand from five loaves and two fish. But instead of taking a much-needed rest, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. He did not excuse himself of being tired. In fact, he was on the mountain for six hours, appearing back on the scene at about 3 o'clock in the morning. Who among us will spend six hours in prayer after such a long day?

Jesus example clearly shows us that prayer is not just an activity, but is a way of life. As the Catechism tells us, "Man was created to live in communion with God, in whom he finds happiness" (CCC, #45). And since, according to St. John Vianney, "Prayer is union with God," there can be no communion with God without a life of prayer.

However, an atmosphere conducive to prayer is necessary – silence. Jesus had to leave behind his disciples and go up the mountain by himself. The lack of silence is what makes prayer life more difficult in our time. The world is full of noise.

In the midst of life’s troubles, noise and confusion, we need not be overwhelmed and confused. Jesus bids us, “Come!” In prayer, we come to Him. "Prayer is a royal gate through which we enter into the heart of God." It is, in fact, “the key of Heaven” according to St. Augustine. He who holds the key has the power to open the door. So, the one who prays is truly powerful. 

“Prayer is not a ‘spare wheel’ that you pull out when in trouble; it is a ‘steering wheel’ that directs us in the right path throughout our life.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, August 8, 2020

 AUGUST 8,  ST. DOMINIC GUZMAN, O.P. - FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS [DOMINICANS]

    Dominicans around the world celebrate today the feast of our holy founder, St. Dominic Guzman.  More than 800 years ago, he established a group of itinerant preachers to combat the Albigensian heresy in southern France.  This small group of preachers and a monastery of cloistered nuns became the foundation for today's worldwide Order of Preachers, the title given it in the official document of approval by Pope Honorius III.  Although the scriptures assigned for the Mass today are those for Saturday in the 18th week in Ordinary Time (and will vary at Dominican celebrations), there are two elements that characterized St. Dominic and remain part of the Dominican charism: vision and faith.

     Dominic was a Canon of St. Augustine in Osma, Spain, and went with his bishop on a diplomatic journey requested by the pope which took them through southern France where the Albigensian heresy had taken hold and divided the church.  The official preachers sent to combat this were bishops and abbots who traveled in high style, in contrast to the heretical preachers who lived austere lives and were making converts. Dominic and his bishop, Diego, noticed the difference and conceived the idea of preachers whose lifestyle matched that of the heretics.  Dominic's bishop returned later to his diocese, leaving Dominic to continue the vision which was meant to preach the faith in an authentic way.  His vision led him to Rome to secure the approval of the pope and the Order of Preachers was born. December 22, 1216.

     Dominic's vision also led him to do something his little group thought was odd.  He divided the group and sent some to the two biggest university cities in Europe: Paris and Bologna to preach, study and establish the Order.  Good preachers needed to be well-educated.  St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Albert the Great would benefit from this visionary decision some twenty years later. And the church continues to benefit from that decision.  Another important decision, one shared by the Franciscans who were founded around the same time, was that Dominicans would not be confined to a monastery but would be itinerant and flexible to meet the needs of the faith wherever necessary.  

     The family of the Order of Preachers now includes not only the friars (like me) but cloistered nuns, apostolic sisters, and lay tertiaries, as well as associated movements that take their inspiration from St. Dominic.  It took faith and vision to establish the Order.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Transfiguration of the Lord

[Dan 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Pet 1:16-19; A: Matt 17:1-9 B: Mark 9:2-10 C: Luke 9:28b-36,685]
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." [Matthew]

     All three of the "synoptic" gospels report the incident of the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain.  Tradition assigns this location to Mt. Tabor in Israel and it is indeed a magnificent location for the event described in the gospels!  In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as a "New Moses" and he begins his ministry on a "mountain" (5:1) and ends it on a mountain (28:16), just as Moses did important things on Mt. Sinai.  The transfiguration is placed by Matthew at a point in the gospel where Peter has made his confession of faith (16:16) and Jesus has made his first prediction of his passion (which Peter protests).  The transfiguration is a momentary unveiling of the total reality of Jesus to Peter, James and John.  Jesus was no ordinary rabbi or charismatic teacher.

     For centuries after Jesus had died and risen, the church experienced fierce debates about Jesus' identity.  Some would make him less than God (Arians) and some would make him God in a human suit (Docetism).  The Councils of Nicea (325 AD, which gave us the creed we profess on Sundays) and Chalcedon (451) established firmly for our faith that Jesus was fully divine and fully human.  

     To this day Christians will find themselves emphasizing one or the other ways of looking at Jesus.  Some will emphasize his transcendent divine status as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and Lord of lords.  Others will emphasize his ministry of healing and his teachings about the way we should live our faith.  The Transfiguration reminds us that we can't have one without the other. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, August 5, 2020

[Jer 31:1-7 and Matt 15:21-28]
"O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed from that hour. [Matthew]

     The story of the Canaanite (Syro-phoenician) woman speaks to us on a number of levels.  The first, and most obvious, is the interaction between Jew and non-Jew in the mission of the early church.  Were non-Jews welcome?  The behavior of the disciples suggests that there were some who felt that pagans ("dogs") were not welcome.  They urge Jesus to "send her away."  This tension would come to a head when St. Paul and other Christian missionaries began to receive Gentile converts. [Acts 15:1-12]  Jesus, in this account, clearly opens the way to the faith of outsiders.

     As we must always do with the scriptures, we fast forward to our own time and circumstances.  How welcoming are we to "outsiders" in our church?  On an institutional level, we may see this as a matter for the RCIA program.  As important and powerful as that process is of formal admission to our community, it is not the only way.  In my own pastoral experience, I have had to instruct persons in the faith who could not participate for various reasons in that program.  On another level, I have known non-Catholic spouses who have attended Mass with their Catholic spouse for years and found it spiritually helpful.  

     Jesus teaches us that faith is where one finds it in others.  It takes discernment and gentle challenge to respond to and nurture that faith, which sometimes can be expressed in inconvenient ways!  The Canaanite woman interrupted the focused attention of the disciples.  We can become so focused on our own faith that we fail to see faith in others.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, August 4, 2020

[Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22 and Matt 14:22-36 or, in Year A, Matt 15:1-2, 10-14,480]
    "Hear and understand. It is not what enters one's mount that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one."

 AUGUST 4 ST. JOHN VIANNEY

Jesus rejects the notion that food could make a person unclean and tells the disciples - in the verses that follow this passage - that it is what comes out of the mouth, not what goes into it, that can make a person unclean because it would come from the heart.

     The dispute with the Pharisees shouldn't distract us from the question of what we say as a reflection of who we are! There is a sign that says, "Be sure that your brain is in gear before setting your mouth in motion!"  Language can become a matter of habit, but it can truly reflect what is going on inside of us at a given time.  The current expression, "Words matter!" reflects concern about the importance of language.  We should not be blinded or distracted from a consideration of our own language patterns and how we personally use words.  How much does our own language reflect our hearts?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, August 3, 2020

[Jer 28:1-17 and Matt 14:22-36]
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt:"

 It was only when Peter allowed fear to overcome him that he began to sink.  When our fear is stronger than our faith, we will be in trouble and truly have to call on Christ to take us by the hand.

It takes a lot of courage to do what Peter did, but one might ask if Peter was bluffing!  If so, his bluff was called and honor required him to make the effort to walk on the storm-tossed sea!  Others might say Peter was faced with what is called a "Hobson's choice" - a forced choice between two or more difficult alternatives. 

We may "all be in the same boat" but how many of us can hear Jesus' challenge to focus on him? It should be noted that Jesus eventually gets in that boat and that's when the storm calms down.  Maybe there's a lesson for our church in that thought!  Instead of clinging to our fears, we should invite Jesus into the boat.  Or maybe we might just have the courage to walk on the sea toward him? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, August 2, 2020

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

[Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-39; and Matthew 14:13-21]
     "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves."  But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here."  Then he said, "Bring them here to me."  [Matthew]

     The multiplication of the loaves and fishes was important enough in the traditions about Jesus to appear in all four of the gospels.  The Eucharistic overtones are rather prominent in this first of two reports in the Gospel According to Matthew. Note that Jesus says a blessing, breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples to distribute.  That sequence of gestures should be familiar to all of us.    

     What captures our attention, however, is the dialog between Jesus and the disciples at the beginning of the story in which the disciples ask him to dismiss the crowds to go and find food to eat.  Jesus challenges them to feed the crowd.  It is then that the disciples learn that with the help of Jesus they can participate in one of his mighty deeds.  We know from our own personal experience the sense of helplessness that can overwhelm in the face of all the needs presented in our daily.  Sometimes one has to give the situation to God and a way forward providentially appears. Isaiah's image in the first scripture for today speaks of God feeding the people.  Today we celebrate this at every Eucharist.  As the theologian, John Shea, says, "Gather the people, tell the story, break the bread!"  Or, "Say the blessing, break the bread and give it to the hungry ones."  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, August 1, 2020

[Jer 26:11-16, 24 and Matt 14:1-12]
"This man deserves death; he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears." [Jeremiah] "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." [Matthew]

AUGUST 1  ST. ALPHONSUS LIGOURI, cssr

If truly prophetic voices are hard to find sometimes, the fates of Jeremiah, John the Baptist and, yes, Jesus may be the reason.  Prophetic voices disturb the status quo of power.  Jeremiah faced a lynch mob!  John the Baptist faced an outraged Herodias.  Jesus faced religious (scribes, Pharisees, Saduccees) and political (Roman empire) authorities.  Jeremiah confronted his adversaries with their dependence on foreign allies and foreign/false gods. John the Baptist confronted Herod and his incestuous marriage to the wife of his half-brother.  Jesus confronted the religious authorities for their narrow and manipulative interpretation of the Mosaic Law and preached a "kingdom" which aroused the suspicion of Roman authorities.  Prophets, who are truth-tellers make people uncomfortable.  Rather than be converted, it is easier to get rid of that uncomfortable voice.

We are hearing uncomfortable voices in our own time. When truth speaks to power it causes tension and friction. For example we are being confronted with racism and our individualistic and political resistance to efforts to control a pandemic. The voice we need to hear is that the truth will you free.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, July 31, 2020

MATTHEW 13:54-58

Jesus had returned home to Nazareth, to the people who knew him best. But their familiarity with Jesus biased them; all they saw was the carpenter’s son. So they missed out on the new life Jesus offered. How frustrating this must have been for Jesus! But he didn’t let the unbelief he encountered at home keep him from teaching and working miracles everywhere else. Jesus kept himself faithful whether people believed in him or not. Even when his closest friends rejected him, Jesus remained obedient to the Father’s will, to his last breath.

How can we tap into the source of Jesus’ perseverance and follow in his footsteps? Our first step is to learn to rely on the strength and wisdom that come from God. This means turning to him in daily prayer and in the course of our day. It means being real with God and telling him when we are tempted to give up or when we don’t understand situations in our lives. It means asking for help and guidance when we need it—and even when we think we don’t.

The second step is to try to obey the Lord. When we choose God’s preferences and desires over our own, we open ourselves to receive his grace. Over his thirty-three years, Jesus learned the disposition that allowed him to say to the Father, “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). In our daily obedience, in the ordinary tasks of our jobs and our families, we can grow in strength and willingness to say the same thing.              

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, July 30, 2020

He tried again, making of the clay another object. (Jeremiah 18:4)

Israel had wandered from the Lord—not once, but multiple times, over many years. The people were worshipping false gods, breaking the commandments, and cozying up to foreign enemies. It was into this state of chaos that God sent Jeremiah to prophesy. Often, Jeremiah’s words were upbraiding. But in today’s first reading, he gives a word of hope. God isn’t done with Israel—and he never will be. He will never give up his love for them. As a potter refashions clay, God will always work to mold them into the people he created them to be.

Our Father never stops trying to form and mold his children’s hearts—and that includes every one of our loved ones. He will always try again, “making of the clay another object” (Jeremiah 18:4). He refashioned Israel time and again, and he will do the same for each of us.

“Divine Potter, I surrender my loved ones to you. Mold them how-ever you desire.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, July 29, 2020
St. Martha

[1 John 4:7-16 and John 11:19-27 or Luke 10:38-42,678]

"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died...." [John] "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." [Luke]

    In the Gospel According to Luke, the story of Mary and Martha appears right after the parable of the Good Samaritan, the challenge of compassionate service to all.  Martha is certainly a busy servant.  But she is so busy doing the work of the Lord that she may be forgetting the Lord of the work!  Mary sits at Jesus' feet and listens to him.  Finding the right balance will ever be a challenge to any Christian.

     In the Gospel According to John, Martha again conforts Jesus for not coming earlier to save her brother.  Jesus reminds her that he is in charge of life and death and faith in him will mean life not only to Martha but to Lazarus.  "I am the resurrection and the life!"  She remains worried even at the tomb: "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days!"  Jesus takes care of that worry in a very definite way by raising Lazarus!

     Martha remains Martha and those of us who have a measure of her in ourselves can rejoice that we are well represented in the gospels.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, July 28, 2020

[Jer 14:17-22 and Matt 13:36-43]

Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. [Jeremiah]

     Jeremiah is noted for his laments.  His name has even entered the English language in the term "jeremiad" which means a lament or long complaint.  The first scripture today is taken from one of his laments which refers to disasters that befell Judah and Jerusalem.  War and famine are the two disasters.  War comes from political alliances that led to the destruction of Jerusalem.  The famine is a punishment for idolatry because much of it focused on fertility rites which included temple prostitution.  Idols could not produce rain.  Only God could.  In the case of both disasters, the cause is direct - lack of faith in God.

     War and drought remain human disasters.  One of them is within human resources to prevent - war!  The other can be mitigated by proper care of the environment to lessen the possible effects.  Political solutions and greedy exploitation of the environment seem to be lessons humanity has a hard time learning.  There are Jeremiahs in our midst, but like the original prophet, we often turn a deaf ear or do the equivalent of what happened to Jeremiah.  He was thrown into a cistern to die.  Only a court official with a conscience saved him. [Jer. 38]  Jesus, in his turn, would weep over Jerusalem.  Tears of frustration are the fate of all prophets.  

Father Dennis

 


 

To prepare yourself for the Zoom that I have the privilege of hosting on Mondays at 7:00pm, please the below reflection in preparation for Monday evening’s (7-27-20) zoom for the 18th Sunday in ordinary time (8-02-20).

Father Dennis

 

Gospel
Matthew 14:13-21

1. Feeding 5,000 would be a large task for most of us. Are some problems too big to handle? How do you look at “insurmountable” tasks in your own life? Do you think there are any problems that can’t be resolved with Christ’s presence in our midst? Environmental? Racial? Viral?

2. Discuss Pope Francis remarks in his homily at Mass on Corpus Christi at St. John Lateran on May 30, 2013:

And it is the disciples, bewildered by the inability of their means, by the poverty of  what they have at their disposal, who invite the people to sit down, and—trusting the Word of Jesus—distribute the loaves and fishes that feed the crowd. This … knowing how to place what we have at God’s disposal: our humble abilities, because [it is] only in the sharing, in the giving of them, that our lives will be fecund, will bear fruit. … because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it.

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, July 27, 2020

[Jer 13:1-11 and Matt 13:31-35]
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full=grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the air come and dwell in its branches.'"......The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened." [Matthew]

     Gardening and baking are two of people’s favorite hobbies.  During the current pandemic, both are receiving a lot more attention.  Apparently, baking has become more common during the pandemic because there was, for a while, a shortage of yeast in the country.  These two activities bring us into almost daily contact with the two parables that make up the gospel scripture for today.

     In the first parable, Jesus engages in a bit of hyperbole because the mustard plant does not get big enough for birds to perch.  However, the small size of the seed does contrast with the size of the plant! Very small things can yield very big results, for better or for worse.  In the case of the gospel, a word of encouragement, a smile, a random kindness - all of these can make the "Kingdom" very real for the person who needs them.

     Yeast looks like desert dust!  In the parable, the "measure" that Jesus refers to is much larger than the three cups of flour that we use for baking bread.  In addition to the contrast in size, there is the patience required to let the process occur. The "Kingdom" does require time, patience and prayer.  One might recall that the Israelites had to eat unleavened bread before leaving Egypt because there wasn't time to let the bread rise!!!  

     The parables show us things that we can do that are ordinary, yet powerful if only we are attentive to the small opportunities that each day offers to us. 

Father Dennis 

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, July 26, 2020

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. (Matthew 13:45)

Today’s Gospel introduces us to someone who is also a seeker: a merchant on a quest for fine pearls. Like many of us, this merchant is searching for something specific. And in the midst of his search, he finds something far more wonderful than what he expected: one single pearl of surpassing value, a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46). Seeing it, he gives up the search for those “fine pearls.” He commits himself fully to obtaining that one beautiful pearl—so much so that he sells everything else so that he can buy it.

Jesus says this merchant shows us what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is made up of people like us, searching for happiness. In some ways, the things we seek can make us happy. But finding Jesus and being part of his kingdom far surpasses the happiness that anything else can give. In him we find the answer to our deepest longings for love and reconciliation. For security and fulfillment. For purpose and meaning.

Make no mistake: things we long for can often be good things. But remember the merchant. There was nothing wrong with the pearls he was trading in. Yet he sold all of them for that one pearl of great price.

“Lord, help me to see you as a priceless pearl worth everything in my life.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, July 24, 2020

There’s one way we are not like the seeds in this parable. We have the ability to jump out of the thorns and weeds, fend off the birds, and roll off the worn footpaths that might trip us up. In other words, we have the ability to seek out the proper spiritual environment and set down our roots there.

So how is your environment? Are there aspects of it that threaten to choke off your faith or keep it shallow and without deep roots? Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect environment—except in heaven—and there are some things we just can’t change. But we still can make choices that improve the “field” in which we live.

Sometimes small things can make a big difference, like a little bit of fertilizer mixed into the soil of a garden. Maybe all you need is to wake up just ten minutes earlier so that you can spend a little more time in prayer. And perhaps your effort to be a little more patient around the house can create an environment that will help the entire family become more patient.

You have within you the potential to grow into a saint. All it takes is the right environment.

“Lord, help me grow into the person that you know I can become.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, July 23, 2020

[Jer 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13 and Matt 13:10-17]
The disciples approached Jesus and said, "Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?" He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted." [Matthew]

     One of the most distinct characteristics of Jesus' teaching is his use of parables.  This was not unique to him.  Colorful metaphors that communicate wisdom are part of many cultures.  Aesop's Fables would be an example.  In Jesus' case, the parables become a means of understanding who he is and what he has come to reveal to us.  Scripture scholars, who write big books on the parables, point out that the Hebrew word for parable. mashal, can mean both a metaphor that communicates or it can mean a riddle!  For those who are open to Jesus' words, the parables are revelations of the mystery of the Kingdom of God.  To those who are not open, the parables are like mysterious riddles.  The point of this is RESPONSE.  

     One does not have to read very far into the gospels to encounter people whose minds and hearts were closed to Jesus.  One does not have to live very long to encounter people who claim to be Christian but whose minds and hearts are closed to the gospels.  Jesus' words can conflict with deeply ingrained political and social customs and beliefs.  The words from Isaiah, quoted by Jesus, are as true now as they were when they were first spoken.  If, having read the Sermon on the Mount or the parables, we find ourselves RESPONDING, "What if.....?, this can mean that a parable or teaching has touched one of those ingrained political or social beliefs.    That can be a call to conversion and to opening our minds and hearts to the gospels.  For all of us, from Pope to pew person the situation is the same.  Jesus has spoken to us.  What is our RESPONSE? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, July 22, 2020
St. Mary Magdalene

[Canticle 3:1-4b or 2 Cor 5:14-17 and John 20:1-2, 11-18]
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 Magdalen went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and then reported what he told her. [John]

     After Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalen surely stands out as one of the most vivid and important female characters in the gospels.  Some interpreters have unjustifiably identified her with the woman in the Gospel According to Luke who washes the feet of Jesus [Luke 7:36-50] and have branded her as a prostitute.  The Gospel According to Mark states that she was someone from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. [Mark 16:9 - longer appendix].  The early church gave her the title APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES because, in the Gospel According to John, she became the first to announce the resurrection of Jesus.  She became the first Christian preacher. 

     The Gospel According to John seems to make every encounter between Jesus and someone else a kind of mini-drama.  The encounter with Mary Magdalen after the resurrection is no exception.  There is a comic moment when Jesus asks her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" and she thinks he is the gardener!  But when he speaks her name, her impulse is to embrace him.  He instead sends her to announce that the empty tomb which seemed to be the end of hope had become the symbol of hope because Jesus is risen from the dead!  Her faith ["I have seen the Lord!] is not just personal but becomes the faith of the church. St. Paul would make the same claim to be an apostle because of a similar experience with the Risen Lord. [1Cor 9:1]  Her role in making this announcement has become a symbol of hope to women. Today we celebrate this woman of faith. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, July 21, 2020

[Mic 7:14-15, 18-20 and Matt 12:46-50]
"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." [Matthew]

     Jesus says that blood kinship to him carries no privileges - only following him through acceptance and action according to his teachings. The point of the story is the same: natural kinship with Jesus counts for nothing; only one who does the will of his heavenly Father belongs to his true family.

     Jesus did not create a kingdom with a hereditary monarchy of the sort that some people love to see in Great Britain and elsewhere.  There is no "royal family" of princes and princesses, or dukes and duchesses - no matter how much pageantry we may surround the pope with.   Indeed, Jesus warned his disciples not to become like "the rulers of the Gentiles."  He rejected the notion that James and John had of privileged seats.  Whoever does the will of "my heavenly Father" is the brother, sister or mother of Jesus.  Therein is the kingdom.

     Nor does the kingdom start at the walls of a church building or the boundaries of a diocese.  It begins wherever there is faith in Jesus and love of God and neighbor.  It spreads from there to all humanity, Christian or not, as long as we follow in the steps of Jesus.  We can choose to be brother, sister or mother of Jesus Christ. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, July 20, 2020

[Mic 6:1-4, 6-8 and Matt 12:38-42]
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. [Micah]

    In an older translation the Bible verse noted above read "Act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God." For couples who are engaged, that verse is a good way to think about their marriage!  Faith, love and justice go together to sum up the right relationships between humans and with God.

     The verses just before that line show how many in Micah's time thought they should behave toward God.  The emphasis is on sacrifice and worship, but Micah, like so many of the prophets, moves the emphasis to love and justice.  What should mark a Jew and Christian is not how they worship, but how they treat one another and how they relate to God:  love of God and neighbor!  Worship should spring from that.  The "Final Judgment" scene in Matthew 25:31-45 is a graphic reminder that what we do to our neighbor, we do to God!  Micah is a good reminder to us of this fundamental truth. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, July 19, 2020

[Wis 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Matt 13:24-43]
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows that is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will. [Romans]

     People have always found this passage from St. Pauls' Letter to the Romans very comforting.  There are times when words of prayer simply don't come or else are inadequate to express what we feel or help another in their distress.  There are times when nothing seems to "work."  Those are the times when we have to stop, take a deep breath and let the Spirit find a way to express what we are feeling.  Sitting still and letting a situation work itself through without our active words or deeds is not easy, but the passage from the Book of Wisdom in today's first scripture assures us that God will find a way: And you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

     The feeling of helplessness or of being overwhelmed by circumstances, whether they be in matters of education, health, employment, relationships, etc. are never comfortable.  Those who face not just the possibility of becoming ill during the current pandemic, but also of losing their livelihood because of necessary measures to fight the virus could easily find themselves overwhelmed by it all.  The future seems to shut down and we are forced into a day to day existence just making sure we wear masks, keep distance, wash hands, etc.  Even some of the comforts of sacramental life such as Eucharist become difficult.  Weddings, baptisms, graduations all are postponed until "safer times."  We can pray that a vaccine be found as soon as possible so that we can find a "new normal" for our lives, but even there we have to leave this to the work of the Spirit in those who are doing the development. 

     The Spirit is praying with us as we move forward with the help of one another and the medical and scientific community toward a new future, a new normal.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday, July 17, 2020

[Isa 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 and Matt 12:1-8]
"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." [Matthew]

     The "innocent men" in Jesus' words above were his disciples.  They were condemned by the Pharisees for pulling grain to eat as they walked behind Jesus.  It was a sabbath and pulling grain/reaping grain would have been considered "work" in the very legalistic and meticulous world of the Pharisees.  Jesus turns their arguments back on them by citing the example of King David and companions eating bread that was supposed to be for the temple priests, and the example of the priests themselves who had to "work" on the sabbath!!  But, in the end, it is not the casuistic argument that Jesus uses.  It is hunger and mercy!!  The temple of sacrifice would be replaced by the temple of Jesus. The ultimate justification for the disciples’ violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law.

      This was not the first time Jesus said this to the religious authorities.  When he called Matthew [Levi], the tax collector, Matthew invited him to dinner with other tax collectors and "sinners."  The Pharisees and scribes objected to Jesus eating with them.  Jesus spoke the same quote from Hosea 6:6 to them about God's preference for mercy over sacrifice.  Matters would come to a head in chapter 23 of this gospel when Jesus really unloads on the Pharisees and scribes about the burdens they had created through their narrow interpretation of the Mosaic Law.  The accounts may well have reflected conflicts between the first followers of Jesus and the religious authorities in the time after Jesus' death and resurrection.  The conflict lives on today when some folks take on the cloak of liturgical "vigilantes" and report any tiny deviation from rubrics at Mass or accuse the preacher of "politics in the pulpit" when the needs of the poor and hungry are being ignored by public authorities.  

     Jesus' conflict with the religious "powers" of his time unquestionably led to his death.  He warned his disciples that they too may suffer the same consequences for following him.  Do we have the courage to stand up to those who put small matters of liturgical etiquette or political opinions ahead of the mercy that God desires?  The current need to dispense from Sunday observance to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity of wearing facial coverings along with distancing when we do have Mass comes to mind.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, July 16, 2020

[Isa 26:7-9, 12, 16-19 and Matt 11:28-30]
"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." [Matthew]

      The image of the "yoke" for many of us is probably something we see once in awhile in the pages of National Geographic magazine, reporting on agriculture far away!  The oxen or other "beasts of burden" seem weighed down by the plow or wagon they are pulling.  The audience in Jesus' day would have been aware of a popular analogy for the word "yoke."  It referred to the duties and requirements of the Mosaic Law and its enforcement by religious authorities.  The Gospel According to Matthew is especially sensitive to this subject since Jesus' is portrayed as a "new Moses," bringing a new way of looking at the law.

     The passage from this gospel today is popular because faith can be a great comfort in times of stress and difficulty, like the present COVID-19 pandemic.  We long for some kind of comfort and a reassuring way forward for ourselves and our loved ones and for our country as well.  However, the challenges of the Sermon on the Mount in this gospel remind us that Jesus and his teachings are not some kind of spiritual narcotic!  There is peace to be had if we are willing to let go of the very prejudices and practices that form the burden that is weighing us down.  Jesus offers a different "yoke!"  We will still have to carry life's ordinary burdens and some extraordinary ones as well, but we will be able to do this with his comfort and support and without unhelpful formalities. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, July 15, 2020

[Isa 10:5-7, 13b-16 and Matt 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.

     There are moments in the gospels when the day to day preaching and healing actions of Jesus pause and a curtain is briefly lifted to show the full identity of Jesus.  The example many of us would immediately think of would be the "transfiguration" experience on Mt. Tabor.  Another would be the voice at Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3:17.  In both experiences we hear a voice that says, "This is my beloved Son...."The gospel scripture for today from the Gospel According to Matthew has Jesus himself speaking to his relationship with his Father.  It is this relationship that underlies everything in the gospels.  It is this relationship that keeps Jesus going to his death and resurrection.

     The "wise and learned" is not meant to discourage us from study of Jesus' revelation but rather to emphasize that our faith comes first and foremost from an encounter with a God of love.  Jesus invites us to this encounter.  Today's passage will be followed by the words, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened...."  [v. 28].  The encounter in faith must come before we can undertake a study of what it all means.  That is the field of "Christology!"  A relationship in faith, an openness to a love greater than any we could imagine, must come first.  Can we accept this invitation?  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, July 14, 2020

[Isa 7:1-9 and Matt 11:20-24]
Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! [Isaiah] Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. [Matthew]

 Some lessons seem destined to be repeated and remain unlearned.  The words of Isaiah were spoken 700 years before Jesus' life.  Jesus' words were spoken more than 2,000 years before our time.  Prophetic warnings seem fated to be disregarded because they mean change and conversion, which appear unacceptable or inconvenient.  Our ears and eyes are being filled with news of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, yet there are people who still refuse to wear a mask, stay home, and observe "social distancing!"   Science is often the prophetic voice nowadays on many important issues and finds itself denounced as a "hoax!"   The denunciations by Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets were aimed at lifestyle and political choices made by rulers and the people.  Jesus wept over the future of Jerusalem [Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44] because it did not "recognize the time of your visitation."  

      Isaiah's words, "Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!" should lead us to recognize the prophetic voices and make the necessary changes to avoid loss of life and health. [Those who "recover" from COVID-19 may still be dealing with lung and kidney damage!]   Our "delivery" may come from the very same science being denounced as a "hoax!"  Vaccines do not invent themselves.  God's mighty deeds may come in that form.  We can do our part by accepting the penitential practices of wearing a mask, staying home, observing appropriate social distancing and hand hygiene.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, July 13, 2020

[Isa 1:10-17 and Matt 10:34-11:1]
Put away your misdeed 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. [Isaiah]

The passage today from the very first chapter, written during the time the Assyrians were attacking the northern kingdom (700's BC), attacks a central problem.  Faith is more than liturgical splendor!  Faith must be expressed in words and deeds of love not just for God but for neighbor as well.  God rejects the worship that ignores the widow and orphan.  Preachers in our own day sometimes find themselves criticized when they address the challenges of the widow and orphan because some think this is a matter of politics.  Isaiah reminds us that God cares not one bit for our political affiliation but for how we take care of one another.  Our worship should reflect this care and not be an escape from it.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, July 11, 2020

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8)
Let’s try to put ourselves in Isaiah’s shoes. It seems that he was praying in the Temple when he received this amazing vision. So he was already a worshipper of the Lord. But on this particular day, he saw the majesty of God in a new way and was overcome. He recognized his sinfulness as compared to the infinite holiness of the Lord. But he also experienced God’s mercy and was transformed by it. Now he was ready to serve God with his whole heart.

Isaiah’s vision can help us understand the power of prayer to change us. Like Isaiah, we too can experience a transforming encounter with the Lord in prayer—perhaps without the smoke, seraphim, and burning ember. How?

First, you need to detach yourself from your everyday environment. Whether it’s in church or at home, try to find a place and time free from distractions.

Then, place yourself in God’s presence, whether you feel him or not. Of course, God is always present to you, but this is a time for you to focus exclusively on him. It may help to meditate on a psalm, gaze at a crucifix or an icon, or even imagine Jesus standing before you. Whatever you do, it should help you realize how awesome God is. You may remember, as Isaiah did, that God is “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). Your very breath—and every moment you’re alive—is a gift from him. This should lead you to give him thanks and praise.

As you worship, you may start to see yourself in his light. Like Isaiah, you might see aspects of your character that need to change. You may be led to say, “I’m sorry, Lord!” But if you’re seeing yourself through his eyes, you will also realize how merciful he is. No matter what you’ve done—or haven’t done—you can seek forgiveness and be cleansed.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday, July 10, 2020

I am sending you. . . . Do not worry. (Matthew 10:16, 19)
Jesus makes it clear: there are consequences to being sent out in his name. He tells his disciples that they will be handed over, persecuted, and rejected. But then he says something unexpected: “Do not worry” (Matthew 10:19). The Holy Spirit will be with them, he promises, speaking through them and showing them what they are to say and do.

Few of us will face imprisonment, beatings, or execution for sharing the gospel. Nevertheless, every time we open our mouths to talk about the Lord, there is always the risk that someone will reject us or ridicule us. To which Jesus says, “Do not worry.”

God has equipped you to bring his love to a hurting world. So don’t worry! He has great confidence in you—a confidence based not just on your own gifts and abilities but on who you are in Christ Jesus.

“Father, thank you for making me a new creation. Give me the courage to share your good news.

Father Dennis

Our way of acting should be different from the world’s way. The love of Christ must come before all else

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, July 9, 2020

[Hos 11:1-4, 8e-9 and Matt 10:7-15]
The more I called them, the father 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, thought I stopped to feel my child, they did not know that I was their healer! [Hosea]

     In this very moving passage, Hosea speaks with the voice of God the loving Father/Mother who is saddened and frustrated by the rebellious and unfaithful conduct of his/her child!!  God can act through human love! Similar complaints from parents and grandparents over and over again have been voiced and heard.  The challenge for the parent is to see their role much like the father in the parable of the prodigal son.  Both sons show themselves to be difficult each in his own way.  The father does not give up on either one of them but "goes out" to meet them and invite them in!

     Perhaps the most poignant modern form of this love is the parent who must cope with an addicted offspring!  Another form that we have heard more often is the son or daughter who has abandoned their religious faith to "burn incense to Baal."  On occasion parents or grandparents actually disown their children or grandchildren when the latter go astray.  If only they could read God's words in Hosea today.  God expresses the same frustration and pain: "My heart is overwhelmed, my compassion is stirred.  God will pick us up and hold us to his face if we will let it happen! 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, July 8, 2020

It is time to seek the Lord. (Hosea 10:12) Idolatry was everywhere. Israel had begun to place their faith in military strength and foreign alliances instead of trusting in God. At the same time, they began erecting altars and offering sacrifices to honor Baal, the pagan god of fertility (Hosea 10:1). How could God’s precious chosen people have fallen so low?

The truth is, we all have a tendency to worship “false gods,” sometimes without even realizing it. It happens when we let anything take priority over the Lord. When we allow other things to grab our attention or our hearts more than God, or when we seek our joy and comfort in things God has created more than in God himself, we have in essence made them idols.

What’s the solution? Hosea tells the people, quite simply, “It is time to seek the Lord” (10:12). Seek the Lord when you cling to your own strength instead of relying on God’s grace. Seek the Lord when you find yourself rearranging your schedule to fit in more screen time and end up squeezing out your prayer time. Seek the Lord when you realize you are doing things to please other people because you care more about their opinion of you than what God thinks. Seek the Lord when you are tempted to place career success above time with your family.

Today, make time to seek the Lord. Ask him, “What things am I tempted to place before you? What can I do to put you first?” By asking these questions on a regular basis, God can open your eyes and heart to show you what steps you might need to take to knock those “gods” off their pedestals. It might mean easing up on Netflix for a few weeks to spend extra time in prayer. It might mean making it a point to go to Confession on a regular basis. Or it might mean putting a little extra money into the poor box after Mass.

It is always a good time to seek the Lord. As you do, he will show you how you can place him at the center of your life.

“Lord, what am I tempted to place above you? Show me how to make a change.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. (Matthew 9:38)

Be careful what you pray for; you might be called upon to answer your own prayer! Or as one paraphrase renders the verse right after today’s Gospel, “The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields” (Matthew 10:1).

Intercession may be a very important form of prayer, but we need to remember that all prayer originates with Jesus, not with us. When a need strikes us, whether we see that need in the world, the Church, our neighborhood, or our family, we can be confident that this need is on Jesus’ own heart. He is the One who has opened our eyes to it and has moved us to pray for this need to be met.

Sometimes we clearly know what to pray for: “Heal this sickness, Lord.” “Let food aid get to this starving child.” “Give me the strength to make the right decision.” But at other times we don’t know how to pray; we just sense that something is wrong and that we need to take action. The best thing we can do in these situations is to place them in God’s hands and ask him to act in whatever way he knows is best.

Intercessory prayer is a beautiful way to work with the harvest master, but it’s not the only way. As we pray for people, we can also ask, “Lord, is there something you want me to do for him or her?”                                            

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, July 6, 2020

[Hos 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22 and Matt 9:18-26]
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. [Hosea]

     Our daily first scriptures move now to a prophet very different from the thunder of Amos.  Amos aimed at rulers and society.  Hosea looks to fidelity to the covenant and knowledge of God.  God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer, who is constantly unfaithful to him (Hosea).  Gomer becomes a symbol of Israel's infidelity to the covenant and Hosea becomes a symbol of God's love, loyalty and mercy in his efforts to get Israel (Gomer) to return.  The lines quoted above are an eloquent summary of Hosea's (God's) efforts.

     When our baptismal covenant becomes a thing of the past, we too can wander off.  We take a "that was then, this is now" attitude.  Many marriages and close friendships have been destroyed by that attitude.  "You are no longer the person I married!" is a line one might hear.  The answer to that is, "Yes I am and no I'm not!"  Knowledge of God requires that we continue to grow in our relationship to God.  For this to happen, we have to be continually faithful to the covenant.  Mistakes and failures will be a part of this effort, but Hosea assures us that God is not going to give up on us. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, July 5, 2020

We are not debtors to the flesh. (Romans 8:12)

In today’s second reading, St. Paul uses this image of indebtedness to encourage us: “We are not debtors to the flesh” (Romans 8:12). The flesh—that part of you that is attracted to sin—has no more power over you. Because you have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have died and risen with him. You have died to sin and no longer owe it any allegiance. Raised up with Christ, you now have a way out when temptation arises.

Think how wonderful it feels to walk through a temptation and come out on the other side unharmed. Or think about how comforting it is to know that you don’t have to be bound by guilt or destined to repeat your past sins.

Of course, this is easier said than done. We know how strong our fallen desires can be, especially when it comes to habitual sins that have woven their way into our lives. But Paul is announcing a truth that can sustain us if we should fall into sin, just as it can inspire us in the midst of temptation.

So if you lose a battle here or there, you can pray, “Lord, you know how weak I am, but I believe that this sin does not define me. Thank you, Jesus, for abolishing my debt to the flesh!”

Jesus has broken the yoke of sin. So take up his yoke—the yoke of faith and trust—and let him give you rest (Matthew 11:29). Let his good news wash over you today: you are not bound to sin. You don’t owe it anything!     

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, July 4, 2020

[Amos 9:11-15 and Matt 9:14-17]

     History has a way of putting perspective on human endeavors that can be humbling.  What would an ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian or, in more modern times, Incan, Mayan or Aztec think of the pictures they could now see of archaeological sites representing the ruins of what they thought were divinely inspired civilizations?  It's hard for us to project that far into the future, just as it would have been for them!  The Jewish people thought that God had ordained their own geographical kingdom to last forever, and learned that the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans did not agree!  Prophets like Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah were ignored or persecuted, only to be shown to have been true voices of God.  Are those voices speaking to us now?

     As we celebrate today the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and give thanks for those "liberties" that characterize our American multi-ethnic culture, we are in a world-wide pandemic that is sorely trying our political and religious foundations.  As we struggle to maintain the balance between human health and economic health, our political beliefs are proving to be a challenge!!!  Our spiritual health is no exception, either!  The tenacity of our faith is what is inspiring to me right now, and I think we can celebrate God's blessing of that stubborn faith, which will see us through the pandemic.  The Holy Spirit will have to work hard - perhaps even harder with certain political leaders - to fulfill the promises enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.  Those "self-evident truths" enshrined in the Declaration need to become flesh and blood reality for a lot more people in our land.  With God's help, we can leave a much better historical record for the archaeologists of the future!

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday, July 3, 2020
St. Thomas, Apostle

John 20:24-29]
"Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." [John]

     There are times when reading the Gospel According to John that I feel as if various characters become almost archetypes of classes of people in the process of hearing the gospel and coming to faith.  The sheer vividness of the characters makes it seem as if they are more than just themselves.  The apostle Thomas, with his ominous comment about going back with Jesus to Judea to mourn Lazarus ("Let us also go to die with him! John 11:16) and his question at the Last Supper, ("Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" John 14:5) and his confession of faith in the Risen Christ, after doubting the initial message ("My Lord and my God!" John 14:28) seems to come off the page into our imagination.  He is like so many other colorful characters in the Gospel According to John:  Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the Man Born Blind, not to mention Peter and "the disciple whom he loved."  We can find ourselves identifying with these people.  We are those whom Jesus speaks of in replying to Thomas' confession: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  We are the ones who "are no longer strangers and sojourners, but...are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets.." as we read in the first scripture for today from Ephesians.

     Characters, like Thomas, of the kind we encounter in the Gospel According to John remind us that Jesus did not choose plaster of Paris or porcelain figurines as his followers, but rather imperfect flesh and blood people who would struggle to know him and then risk their lives to tell others about him.  We are the others who know Jesus because of their preaching.  Like Thomas, we may find it hard to believe at times.  Perhaps, like Thomas, we need to have a personal experience of Christ or at least meet someone who personifies Jesus and inspires us.  Thomas waves to us from the page and says, "I did it.  So can you!" 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, July 2, 2020

I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. the Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, 'God, prophesy to my people Israel.' Now here the word of the Lord." [Amos]
I am not a prophet: Amos reacts strongly to Amaziah’s attempt to classify him as a “prophet-for-hire” who “earns [his] bread” by giving oracles in exchange for payment (cf. 1 Sm 9:3–10; Mi 3:5). To disassociate himself from this kind of “professional” prophet, Amos rejects outright the title of nabi’ (“prophet”). By profession he is a herdsman/sheepbreeder and a dresser of sycamore trees, but God’s call has commissioned him to prophesy to Israel.

Amos made powerful people very uncomfortable.  He condemned their lifestyles at the expense of the poor and their cocky belief that the Assyrians would not be able to conquer them.  So, he became a real nuisance and in the passage for today's first scripture, he is confronted by one of the chief religious authorities in the "northern kingdom," - Israel or Samaria.  The role of a prophet in those days was more formal and accepted than in our own, but the results were the same.  Great prophets make the powerful and the complacent very uncomfortable.  In our own time, the advent of social media can spread statements far and wide in a matter of seconds!  As in Amos' time, there were many "prophets of prosperity" who calmed the nerves of the powerful and assured them that they were in no danger. Yet, as he points out to Amaziah, God called him from nowhere and Amos intended to do what God has asked him to do.

Time and again both in Old Testament times, New Testament times, and in our own times, a complacent social consensus can take over and act as a kind of narcotic that cloaks real problems.  That consensus led to the introduction, even by Solomon, of foreign deities into the temple and the beggaring of the people to build that temple in the first place!  In our own history, our congress actually passed the Alien and Sedition Acts that punished speech critical of the government. 

As we approach the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and give thanks to God for the blessings of liberty, we would do well to remember those in our land who are unable to enjoy those blessings, and work ever more to make these blessings more accessible.  Amos is watching

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, July 1, 2020

[Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 and Matt 8:28-34]
I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the Lord, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream. [Amos]

     Amos was one "tell it like it is" prophet!  He denounced empty religious devotion that cloaked injustice.  He is not the only Old Testament prophet who did this.  However, he is certainly one of the most colorful ones.  Can we imagine someone showing up at a big church celebration with all its pomp and circumstance and denouncing all of us for our failures to care for the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the imprisoned, the hungry!  Our first reaction would be, "Who invited him?"  Then we would get angry and have him thrown out for "disturbing the peace" or worse!  This is exactly what happened to Jesus about 700 years later, and is generally the fate of anyone (prophet/prophetess) who dares to disturb the peace of the powerful in the land!

     The Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament says, "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.  No creature is concealed from him but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account." (Heb. 4:12-13).  We cannot dismiss Amos as some quaint Old Testament figure, let alone Jesus whom we worship as our savior, and at the same time ignore those whom he considers as "the least of my brothers and sisters." [Matt. 25:31-45].  Can the Book of Amos and the Gospel According to Matthew be "living and effective" in us?  Or do we throw them out of our celebration for disturbing our peace? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Prepare to meet your God, O Israel. (Amos 4:12)
Amos prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam of Israel (786–746 BC). A shepherd and farmer from the southern kingdom of Judah, Amos urged the people of the north to return to God. Israel’s wealth and military success had led them astray; sadly, they began to live like the nations around them instead of following the Lord’s commands. In their prosperity, Israel’s moral standards collapsed. The rich oppressed the poor, might made right, and corruption ran rampant. Even worse, the people fell into idolatry and worshipped foreign gods. Amos warned the people of God’s coming judgment: “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12).

Like the Israelites, we can drift away from God and his commands. We can forget that the God we worship is holy and worthy of our obedience. None of us are worthy to stand in God’s presence; we have all sinned. Even so, we never have to be afraid to meet him. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know for certain that God will always welcome us. He will always gather us in his loving arms, just as the father did in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

With the psalmist, we can marvel, “I, because of your abundant mercy, will enter your house” (5:8).

“Lord, by your steadfast love, I will enter your presence today.” (Psalm 5)

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, June 29, 2020
SS. Peter and Paul, Apostles

[Acts 12:1-11; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18; Matt 16:13-19]
"I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." [2 Timothy] "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church...." [Matthew]

     Peter became the principal representative of the original Twelve Apostles.  That leadership was conferred on him by Jesus, as we learn in today's gospel scripture.  The shape and form of that leadership has varied over the centuries - something we need to remember.  The most important function of the "Petrine Ministry" is the unity of the faith!  That unity, battle-scarred as it is, still exists and is now represented by Pope Francis.  Peter's personal response to Jesus as impulsive and rash as it could be, showed that Jesus knew well the humanity and shortcomings of his disciples.  The cardinals do not elect spiritual robots to be pope.

     Paul has come to represent the "charismatic" side of the Church - the enthusiasm and tremendous gifts of the faithful that give flesh to the Body of Christ.  His own personal experience of Jesus motivated him to incredible efforts to preach the gospel well beyond the original territory of Palestine. It motivated him to confront Peter on the subject of requiring Gentile converts to be circumcised and observe the Mosaic Law!!  His passionate writings are a major source of our faith and understanding of "the Church."  He is justly regarded by some church historians as "the second founder" of Christianity.

     In celebrating this feast, we are reminded that for each of these two men, the basis of all that they did was their faith in the Risen Lord.  It is that relationship that underlies everything.  If we turn the Church into just another institution and forget what the Body of Christ truly means, we betray not only Peter and Paul but the Lord himself.  All of us baptized carry on their work.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, June 28, 2020
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

[2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Matt 10:37-42]
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. [Matthew]

The Sermon on the Mount (Chs. 5-7), the "missionary discourse" (Ch. 10 - from which today's gospel scripture is taken), the condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (Ch 23), the parable of the Last Judgment (25:31-45) - these words can make us uncomfortable, to say the least.  Some people just do a "cafeteria style Jesus" and pick and choose bits and pieces to put together a Jesus of their own designs.  What could be most indicative of their faith are the pieces that don't make it into their image!  This is the very stuff of spiritual direction!

     The gospel scripture for today gathers into one chapter many of Jesus' sayings about what it means to follow him.  Yes, we do have the other three gospels to help us in putting together our own image, as well as the other New Testament writers (with the Old Testament as background, too), but once we do that, it might be helpful to look at what we have left out!  If we leave out what Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic, THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP shows us, we may find ourselves outside Jesus' own description of what a disciple should be. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 27, 2020

[Lam 2:2, 10-14, 18-19 and Matt 8:5-17,448]
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." [Matthew]

These words should be familiar to us.  We say them just before we move out of the pews and into the aisles (observing, of course, "social distancing!") to go and receive communion. In place of "servant," we say "soul." Like so many Catholic devotional words, the sheer familiarity and ritual use of the words has robbed them of much of their original power as an act of faith!  The story in today's gospel scripture of the centurion is also familiar to us, and its familiarity can cause us to let it go by without a lot of thought.  A closer look might help us pay more attention.

     A centurion would have been a combination of lieutenant and sergeant in charge of a group of one hundred foot soldiers.  He would have complete power of command over that group.  His command would be law!  It was said that the Roman army depended on the quality of its centurions.  The centurion in the gospel story would not have been Jewish or Christian.  If anything, he would have followed the customary polytheistic Roman religious system except that he would have been required to pay homage to Caesar, who was considered a divinity.  His acknowledgment of Jesus' power to heal would have been quite surprising, and Jesus admits to his own astonishment: "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith."  

     The centurion did not need Jesus to come to his house to perform a public miracle.  His faith and experience told him that Jesus' command would be enough.  When we make his words of faith our own at Mass, do they express a similar faith? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday June 26, 2020

Matthew’s Gospel 8:1-4 The Cleansing of a Leper
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
“I will do it.  Be made clean.”
His leprosy was cleansed immediately.

This narrative section of the second book of the gospel is composed of nine miracle stories, most of which are found in Mark, although Matthew does not follow St. Mark’s order and abbreviates the stories radically. The stories are arranged in three groups of three, each group followed by a section composed principally of sayings of Jesus about discipleship.

From the moment he exhibited signs of leprosy, this poor man was separated from his family. He had to ring a bell and call out “Unclean!” whenever a healthy person approached him.

We may feel “unclean” at times, or undeserving of the little blessings—or certainly the big miracles—that God wants to give us. We may hesitate to call out to Jesus for help, to ask for forgiveness, or even to try going deeper in our faith or drawing closer to Christ. We might avoid going to Eucharistic Adoration because we don’t believe God would speak to us there. Or we might go to Confession but doubt that God has truly forgiven our sins.

Just as this fellow courageously called out to Jesus and asked for healing, you can do the same. So come to Jesus. Believe in your heart that he welcomes you and he wants to speak with you. Ask him to heal you. Right now, imagine him placing his hands on you and giving you an extra supply of his grace and healing power. Be made clean!

“Heal me, Lord, of whatever keeps me from you.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 25, 2020

[2 Kgs 24:8-17 and Matt 7:21-29]
"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. [Matthew]

     With these words, the evangelist Matthew brings the Sermon on the Mount to a close.  Because Jesus' teachings in the "sermon" are so challenging, one might be tempted to feel relieved - of guilt, if nothing else!  But the closing words are just as challenging as everything that preceded them.  The operative words are "listen" and "act."  Just before these words, in the same passage for today's Mass, we read: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."  It will not be enough to be "astonished at his teaching," there must be action and conversion.

     This conversion and action are not simply in the external and physical realm but also the interior realm of mind and heart.  Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stresses that interior thoughts and motivation can be just as important as exterior actions, but BOTH are necessary.  The scene, later on in this gospel, of the Last Judgment will tell us what action means.  But the ultimate goal is integrity which means the right thing is done for the right reason.  This is why Jesus' teaching was so threatening to some of the scribes and Pharisees.  They were taking a good thing, the Law of Moses, and using it as a means (cf. Matt. 23:1-36) to enrich themselves.  

     After laying the foundation of his ministry in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will begin his ministry in Galilee.  This would be a good opportunity, before we follow him, to examine our thoughts and actions to see how we are listening and acting on his words.  Chapters 5 through 7 of the Gospel According to Matthew are a catechism of Christian life.  How firm is our foundation?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, June 24, 2020
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

[Isa 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80]
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.' [Acts]

This feast, dating from the 4th century in both the East and the West, came to be celebrated in accord with Luke 1:36, six months before the Lord’s birth; quoting John 3:30, Augustine found this date (near the summer solstice) appropriate for, after the birth of John, daylight begins to grow shorter, whereas after the birth of Jesus daylight begins to increase.  Luke writes that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in the "sixth month" and mentions that "Elizabeth, your kinswoman has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren."  So, if the Christian community adopted December 25th as the date to celebrate Jesus' birth, then the annunciation to Mary had to be nine months earlier, March 25, and John the Baptist's birthday had to be six months earlier, June 24th!   When composing his Gospel narrative and the Acts of the Apostles, the evangelist Luke found a way to "put John in his place" - an important figure, to be sure, but not more important than Jesus!

     To us now, 2000+ years later this all seems obvious, but the influence of John the Baptist must have been a challenge for the early Christian preachers.  St. Paul encountered "Christians" who had been baptized "with the baptism of John." [Acts 8:16].  The narrative we are accustomed to, especially in Advent, makes John the Baptist the great "advance man" for Jesus.  We celebrate his birth as a reminder of his "place" in the story of Jesus' life for he must decrease and Jesus must increase.  We also can remember that our own baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus makes us participants in the job description given to John the Baptist!

Father Dennis 

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 23, 2020

[2 Kgs 19:9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36 and Matt 7:6, 12-14]
"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets." [Matthew]

The scripture passage noted above is known as the ‘golden rule.’ It appears in the Bible explicitly in the Book of Tobias (4:15) but stated negatively, which was the way it was known in Jesus' time. (Do not do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you.) Jesus states it positively and says that it sums up "the Law and the Prophets."

In its ancient form, the roots were probably in the "laws" of retribution and revenge.  For Jesus it is stated as a law of love.  The Sermon on the Mount goes beyond physical action to motives.  Jesus asks us to give without expectation of return.  If our giving is conditioned by the expectation that someone will reciprocate, then our giving is tainted.  [Luke 14:13-21].  The refusal of some invitees to attend a banquet could be based on an inability to reciprocate!  Jesus urges us to do more than "random acts of kindness."  Kindness is to be a way of life for Christians.  Others may or may not reciprocate, but Jesus promises that our actions will not go unnoticed and unrewarded if done from love of God and neighbor.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday June 22, 2020

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults. The designation hypocrite previously given to the scribes and Pharisees is here given to the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of another and ignores his own more serious offenses.

Just how sensitive we are to Jesus' words might be illustrated by Pope Francis' reply to a journalist on the papal plane when asked something about gay people.  The pope replied, "Who am I to judge?

Wisdom coming from the Holy Spirit can help us to make the "judgments" that life requires from time to time.  That will tell us it is not a good thing to be wasting time looking for the splinters in other peoples' eyes.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, June 21, 2020
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

[Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Matt 10:26-33]
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. [Matthew]

The context for Jesus' wonderful statement about sparrows is what scripture scholars call the "missionary discourse"  in the Gospel According to Matthew.  At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus "summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness."  He gives them their marching orders and warns them to expect resistance and even persecution.  With all that in mind, God's providence will guide them just as it guides the little sparrows!

In the church courtyard at the fountain small sparrows come and sit on top tier to drink water then fly away only to return later. The feeling of God's providence, the image of sparrows and the passage quoted above helps us realize that God cares for each one of us just as God cares for them.  The beautiful old hymn says it well: "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me."

Happy Father’s Day

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 20, 2020
IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

[2 Chronicles 24:17-25 and Luke 2:41-51]
He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  [Luke]

My mother often times said the everyday should be mother’s day and today we celebrate our beautiful and blessed Mother, who is Mary, whose heart beats with love for each one of us. The same spirituality that fostered devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus also gave rise to a similar devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  A mother's heart beats for and in each child!   The Gospel According to Luke twice makes mention of Mary keeping events and circumstances about Jesus "in her heart."  This is mentioned in Luke 2:19, after the visit of the shepherds to the manger site after Jesus' birth, and in the passage above after the anxious lost and found incident when Jesus stayed behind after his parents had left Jerusalem.  The scene of the presentation in the temple could be included when Simeon promises Mary that the life of her son will mean a sword in her own person. [Luke 2:34]

God's providence in choosing a young Palestinian Jewish woman to be an instrument in the plan of salvation must be kept in front when telling the story of Jesus.  Mary is not an incidental person.  The celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary may seem sentimental to some, but the sheer fact that she gave birth to Jesus remains before us.  The celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not about a physical organ but about two persons to whom we owe everything.  Yes, Mary's life must be seen in the light of Jesus' life but we see her life in the Church and accept her important intercessory care in the Communion of Saints.  The rosary serves as a reminder of this, as do the various liturgical celebrations in her honor.  Today is one of those reminders.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, June 19, 2020
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

[Deut 7:6-11; 1 John 4:7-16; Matt 11:25-30,61]
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. [1 John]

 One might wonder why this feast does not happen on February 14th when our entire world seems to be focused on the heart and love! As it is, this celebration occurs in summer and during the week.  Nevertheless, it has the rank of a "solemnity" which puts it on a par with other very important celebrations in the liturgical calendar.  It is the basis for the First Friday devotional observance.  This is a testimony to the popularity of the devotion to the heart of Jesus, which really began to gain prominence in the 17th century with the private revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque which included a promise that anyone who attended Mass and received communion worthily for seven straight First Fridays would not die without the final sacraments of the Church.  That is a powerful incentive, but achieving that number of First Friday observances alone may cloud over the real meaning of the feast.

     The second scripture assigned for the feast makes it clear that God's love for us carries an imperative to love one another.  If we go to confession and receive communion on seven straight First Fridays without gaining in love for our neighbor, we frustrate the whole purpose of the devotion. The feast celebrates God's love for us which must "overflow" to our neighbor. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 18, 2020

[Sir 48:1-14 and Matt 6:7-15, 44]
This is how you are to pray: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.' If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." [Matthew]

The English translation of the Greek text cannot capture the urgency of Jesus' prayer because we lack a verb tense that Greek has, called "aorist."  This carries with it the idea of "right now" and not pie in the sky, by and by.  We can get lost in the familiarity of Jesus' prayer and ignore the actual words and petitions which place us in complete dependence on God's providence and mercy.  Pope Francis recently caused a stir because he called attention to the line "and lead us not into temptation" and made it clear that God does not lead anyone into temptation.  The petition is a prayer for protection and guidance and not to ask God to avoid doing something! 

The petition for forgiveness is reinforced by the words that follow the prayer.  If we expect forgiveness of our sins by God, we must also forgive our neighbor their transgressions against us.  This should remind us that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is just the beginning of the process.  We receive God's forgiveness there, but it requires a further action on our part - that we forgive others!  

We pray the words Jesus has given us thousands of times, but that repetition can numb us to the strength of Jesus' words which we make our own.  It must not be just one prayer among thousands. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, June 17, 2020

[2 Kgs 2:1, 6-14 and Matt 6:1-6, 16-18]
"Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father...." [Matthew]

 Jesus today is speaking about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as He takes aim at the scribes and Pharisees but what he says is meant for all of us.  Our motives are just as important as our behavior.  It is a warning against doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all good things to do, but when they are done for the wrong or less than noble intentions, their value for the one who does them is diminished. 

One might wonder how Jesus' teaching in this passage connects with his earlier teaching about being "a light to the world" so that people may see our good deeds and glorify God.  It comes down to the connection between the mind/heart on one hand and the behavior on the other.  Some might say, "Who cares where the money came from.  The new building was built!"  Others might have the idea that good deeds are put into some kind of heavenly bank account that will guarantee admission in spite of other motives and actions that are much less honorable - in short, money talks to God.   

Jesus teaches us that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is not going to get us any closer to the Kingdom of heaven.  If his teaching took hold in the political arena, we might witness a moral revolution!   

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 16, 2020

[1 Kgs 21:17-29 and Matt 5:43-48]
"You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust......So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Matthew]

     Scholars have studied the various religious and ethical cultures that existed in the Middle East in Old Testament times and compared them with Jesus' teachings.  Many things were found that are similar, but Jesus is unique in one respect.  He challenges us to love our enemy!!  He says that when we do this, we are showing the same kind of love that God has for all people.  The Greek word that is translated as "perfect" in English has the meaning of "complete" or "wholeness."  If we wish to love as Jesus loves us, we have to love our enemy.

     One does not have to be at war to have an enemy.  Anyone we see as "alien" or "other" in a fearful or negative way becomes an "enemy" in the gospel understanding.  The current demonstrations over racial discrimination may have policing behavior as a focus, but they are about a lot more than police behavior, just as the demonstrations many of us who are older remember from the time of the Vietnam War.  Discrimination of a negative kind, by definition, declares a person or group of persons as an "enemy."  The tragic and terrible history of slavery, destruction of Native Americans, exclusion of Asian peoples or any non-Anglo ethnic group that marks our country's story and is being featured in the current protests is a reminder that we who are Christians need to do a far better job of living Jesus' teachings.

     The Last Judgment scene in the Gospel According to Matthew (25:31-45) tells us how we will be judged at the end of time.  It could be a difficult but necessary exercise on our part to ask ourselves, "Who is my enemy?" and then examine our feelings and behavior in their regard.  Are we loving (perfect) as Jesus loves us? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, June 15, 2020

[1 Kgs 21:1-16 and Matt 5:38-42]
"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well." [Matthew]

 It has been said that if we all lived by the maxim ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ everyone would eventually be toothless and blind. The desire for revenge and retaliation when someone hurts us can be very strong.   Is it the old saying, "I don't get mad.  I get even?"  If we have any responses in our head or heart towards getting even we are facing the challenge of being a Christian.  The Sermon on the Mount goes beyond external behavior into the recesses of the mind and heart and says that revenge and "getting even" are wrong - period!  Reasonable defense, yes.  Revenge, no. 

Jesus gives to us six examples of the conduct demanded of the Christian disciple. Each deals with a commandment of the law, introduced by You have heard that it was said to your ancestors or an equivalent formula, followed by Jesus’ teaching in respect to that commandment, But I say to you; thus their designation as “antitheses.” Three of them accept the Mosaic law but extend or deepen it; three reject it as a standard of conduct for the disciples.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 13, 2020

[1 Kgs 19:19-21 and Matt 5:33-37]
"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

 JUNE 13th ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA Priest, Doctor of the Church who died in 1231 at the age of 36. He was from Lisbon and a member of the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans. He was a devoted student of scripture; the first friar to teach theology to his fellow friars. He was a gifted orator and preacher; known as the Evangelical Doctor. He is the patron saint of Portugal, of the poor, and of lost articles.

 We have seen and heard it a thousand times in courtroom scenes: "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"  Or we may have attended a ceremony where leadership of some kind is "sworn in." or watched the inauguration of a newly elected president of the USA or governor of the state as they take the oath of office.  We may not "swear" but "promise" (as in a wedding ceremony or religious profession) but the intended effect is the same:  we want someone or some group to believe that we will do what we say we will do.  Will we be "true" to our oath or promise?

     Jesus teaches us that an oath is only as good as the integrity of the person making the oath, so invoking some higher reality or penalty) as evidence of our intentions is unnecessary.  A plain "yes" or "no" means exactly that from a person with integrity.  "Lying under oath" is no different from lying any other way except that there may be some physical or spiritual penalty to serve as an incentive to tell the truth or keep the promise.  For the person of integrity, the incentive is unnecessary.

     The challenge can be a difficult one, if what is mentioned in the sacrament of reconciliation is any indication.  Lying can become an addiction and it can destroy a person's credibility and erode trust.  It matters not whether the statement or behavior is "a little white lie" or a serious misrepresentation.  The erosion takes place both inside the person and in their relationships with others.  It can be a useful spiritual exercise at the end of the day to ask if we have told the truth in our words and in our deeds.  Can we look at ourselves in the mirror without self-deception or look the Lord in the eye and say, "I told the truth."

Father Dennis 

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday June 12, 2020

There was a tiny whispering sound. (1 Kings 19:12)
Israel was at a critical juncture. The weak King Ahab, along with his pagan wife, Jezebel, had led the people into deep idolatry and sin. What’s more, the prophet Elijah had just overcome the false prophets of Baal and fled to Mount Horeb to seek help from the Lord. First a strong wind, then an earthquake, then a fire passed before Elijah—each one seeming to bear the kind of majesty that befitted Israel’s need. But God was in none of them. Instead, Elijah heard the Lord through a “tiny whispering sound” that was so intimate and so intense that it made him hide his face in his cloak (1 Kings 19:12).

We may think that heroes like Elijah found it easy to hear God, but history shows that they were ordinary people just like us. They too had to learn the art of discernment. In our spiritual life we might ask ourselves where is God is this? What is God asking of me? What is God wanting to show me? What is God wanting to learn from this situation?

So how do we begin? It’s really quite simple. Jesus once said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16). We typically apply this verse to how we think about other people, but it applies to our spiritual lives as well. For instance, if a thought in your mind helps you love God more or be a little kinder to someone, it’s probably from the Lord. But if something makes you anxious, fearful, angry, or resentful, it’s probably not coming from God or his Spirit.

“Holy Spirit, open the ears of my heart. Teach me to hear you clearly so that I can follow your plan for my life.”

Father Dennis

 

“Discernment” in common usage is the ability to judge wisely and to be able to choose carefully among many choices. For the Jesuit, however, “discernment” means something much more. It is the art of prayerful decision-making

“Discernment for St. Ignatius means being aware that God wants us to make good decisions, that God will help us make good decisions—but that we are often moved by competing forces: ones that pull us toward God and ones that push us away. Anyone who has ever made an important decision knows this experience. You feel pushed and pulled by a variety of inner forces: selfish versus generous motives, free versus unfree motives, and healthy versus unhealthy motives.”

First, you try to be “indifferent”—that is, free of anything keeping you from following God’s desires. Second, you ask for God’s help. Discernment is not done on your own. You need God’s help to choose the right path. Third, you weigh the various “movements” within oneself, to see which may be coming from God, and which may not be. For someone progressing in the spiritual life, says St. Ignatius, the “good spirit” will bring support, encouragement and peace of mind. Fourth, if there is no clear answer, you can rely on other practices, each suggested by Ignatius. Imagine what you would want to tell Jesus at the Last Judgment. (That doesn’t work for every decision, but particularly for complex ethical decisions it can be clarifying.) Or think of how you would judge your decision on your deathbed. (This can help prioritizing what is most important in your life.)

Finally, after making a good discernment you will feel a sense of what Ignatius calls “confirmation,” or a sense of rightness. You feel in line with God’s desires for you because you are in line with them. And this naturally brings peace.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 11, 2020 (St. Barnabas, Apostle)

[Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3 and Matt 10:7-13]
In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabus to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the LOrd in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. [Acts]

Today the Church celebrates St. Barnabas, Apostle. Barnabas lived in the first century and preached the gospel in Antioch. He was a missionary companion of St. Paul and attended the first church council in Jerusalem. St. Barnabas was martyred on, and patron of, the island of his birth, Cyprus.


     There are moments in the history of Christianity that were pivotal for the future of the Church which can easily escape us.  St. Paul might have remained a tentmaker in Tarsus if it hadn't been for St. Barnabas who remembered the conversion experience of Saul, the former zealous bounty hunter of Christians.  Barnabas knew talent and took Paul under his wing (Acts 9:27) until things got too hot for Paul (his conversion made him suspect to Jew and Christian) He (Paul) had to get away from Jerusalem.  He returned to Tarsus and was a tentmaker by trade [Acts 18:3].  When Barnabas needed somebody to help with the preaching in Antioch, he knew just the man to get! The rest is history, as the saying goes.  

     We generally use the word "apostle" to refer to one of THE TWELVE.  However, others like Paul, Barnabas and Mary Magdalen have been considered "apostles" as well.  The word comes from Greek and means someone who is sent to do something.  Some of the apostles were personally chosen by Jesus, but others were appointed either by the original twelve or by their successors. Paul and Barnabas are examples.  We profess faith in a church that is one, holy, catholic and APOSTOLIC.  We owe a lot to St. Barnabas for his role in making that ministry possible. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

[1 Kgs 18:20-39 and Matt 5:17-19] 
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

There is an important lesson for us Catholics in the Gospel today.  The love of God and neighbor, which comes to us from the Law of Moses, remains in effect.  The essential elements of Catholicism: creed and sacraments have taken the place of the rest of the Law of Moses.  But there is an incredible variety of devotional forms that have also developed - the rosary being an obvious example.  These are very much a part of daily Catholic life, but are not the same as the Creed and the Sacraments.  This has been brought home to us dramatically in the requirements imposed by the coronavirus crisis when the celebration of the sacraments has been curtailed by the need to stay healthy.  Our devotional life has been a source of comfort, but the return of normal sacramental celebration is what we long for.  Our faith remains intact, but our expression of it has been stifled to some extent.  We should remember above all that the coronavirus cannot conquer love of God and neighbor which we can find in Matthew 25:31-45: "When I was hungry, etc......"  This, too, requires caution just as the requirements of Church attendance does right now, but all of this remains for our reflection and determined effort to continue. 

Let us continue to live out in our daily lives the great commandment of love of God and neighbor as we go forward in the current groundswell to end racism seeking to preserve peace and justice for all. Let us teach by our example so our children may learn that ‘But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 9, 2020

[1 Kgs 17:7-16 and Matt 5:13-16]
"You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? You are the light of the world......Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." [Matthew]

We know that the evangelist Matthew put many of Jesus' teachings together in creating the Sermon on the Mount, but the overall intent of Jesus becomes clear as we read through the Sermon.  To be salt of the earth and light of the world requires a great deal of wisdom and courage to accompany our faith.

     We commonly use the expression, "salt of the earth," to describe a reliable, wise and unpretentious person who is always willing to "do their part" and show the common sense that comes from wisdom.  To hear someone described as "the light of the world" is less common except, perhaps, in the descriptions we hear at canonization ceremonies.  Those words could have been used when St. Teresa of Calcutta was canonized, her life comes to mind when we think of a life that is "the light of the world."

Take some time to think about the people around you. Do you know someone who is thirsting for the Lord but who doesn’t even know it yet? Is there someone who might respond to an invitation to take a drink from the living waters of Christ? By all means pray for that person, but make sure to ask the Spirit to help you become the salt that will awaken in other people a thirst and lead them to Jesus.

Fr. Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, June 8, 2020

[1 Kgs 17:1-6 and Matt 5:1-12] 
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven......" [Matthew]


What might the final exam consist of when we meet the Teacher

The "Beatitudes" that begin the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel According to Matthew are some of the best known of all the teachings of Jesus. 

The first thing is that Jesus goes "up the mountain."  Matthew's portrait of Jesus presents him as a kind of "new Moses," with some new "commandments" ("You have heard it said.....but I say to you."  Moses received the Ten Commandments on a mountain.  When Jesus is "transfigured," this takes place on a mountain [Matt. 17:1].  When Jesus commissions the disciples at the end of this gospel, it is on a mountain. [Matt. 28:16].  In short, a mountain is a place of revelation, which means that when Jesus went up the mountain in today's passage, we are being warned that revelation is going to happen.

The second thing is that Jesus "sat down."  In Jesus' time, real "teachers" did not stand in front of a classroom.  They sat on something and their disciples would sit at their feet.  Jesus, the son of a carpenter from Nazareth, who had no recognized background as a rabbi or teacher, assumes a position of authority.

If we understand those two points, it can make a difference in how we understand the whole Sermon on the Mount!  If what Jesus says in that "sermon" is divine revelation and we recognize him as our teacher, then after reading the whole sermon, would we pass a test on it - not just on content but on our way of living?  If we are curious about what will be on the Final Exam, we can find it in Matthew 25:31-45: "When I was hungry......"  

Blessings 
Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 6, 2020

[2 Tim 4:1-8 and Mark 12:38-44]
[Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." [Mark]

 The central character in the Gospel is the poor widow who comes to pay her temple tax reminding us perhaps of Mother Teresa, a great servant of the poor, of the Church and of the whole world. Her life is a testimony to the dignity and the privilege of humble service. She had chosen to be not just the least but to be the servant of the least. As a real mother to the poor, she bent down to those suffering various forms of poverty. Her greatness lies in her ability to give without counting the cost, to give "until it hurts". Her life was a radical living and a bold proclamation of the Gospel.

An interpretation would emphasize the radical generosity of the widow and note that Jesus' own generosity in sacrificing his life is being foretold here by Jesus. How does the widow in the Gospel and the example of Mother Teresa challenge our own willingness to give and share?  Does our generosity come from our "surplus" or from our "poverty?"  What impacts our generosity toward the poor and vulnerable, or even to our local church?  The Gospel scene can give rise to much that we need to think about. Mother Theresa said ‘give love until it hurts with a smile.’

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, June 5, 2020

[2 Tim 3:10-17 and Mark 12:35-37] 
But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy]

One of the greatest achievements of the Second Vatican Council was its document on divine revelation, DEI VERBUM (The Word of God)This document began the gradual reversal of centuries of ignorance of the Bible among Catholics. The Word of God is "living and effective" [Heb. 4:12] and we remember St. Jerome’s favorite quote ‘Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  The Second Vatican Council took place 1962-65 and the People of God were just then being encouraged to read the scriptures on their own instead of hearing them only in the gospel at Mass.  Now there are literally thousands of "aids" for every age of Catholic to understand the Word of God and have it "living and effective" in their lives.

We are encouraged to adopt the Gospel Reflection Process (Lectio Divina) as a way by which the living Word of God can touch and transform us; challenging us to change in our ongoing conversion of conformity to Christ. One is encouraged to begin by praying to the Holy Spirit; then to read the Gospel for the day. One chooses an echo (a phrase that calls/catches your attention or speaks to your heart; then relating the ‘echo’ you have chosen to a story or an experience of why you choose that echo. The last step is an action step promising to do something practical that you will do as a result of reflecting on the Gospel for that day. This gospel reflection process can be prayed personally and with others, namely your own family members or in a group at work.

We just need to be open to what the Holy Spirit, who guided the authors, enables us to understand.  Yes, we do have the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Tradition of the church.  Our goal should be the one offered to Timothy: [S]o that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 4, 2020

[2 Tim 2:8-15 and Mark 12:28b-34]
The scribe said and to love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." [Mark]

 The scribe in this Gospel scene is not looking at Jesus with the same eyes of faith that we do.  Jesus was, to him, one among many other "teachers."  His dialogue with Jesus would have been a common interaction.  Scribes were considered the experts in the Law of Moses.  What sets this scribe apart is the priority he gives to this commandment of love among the 613 precepts in the law.  Jesus' response is basically, "You're headed in the right direction...."  Jesus creates with his encounter with the scribe ‘a teachable moment’.

 We meet people who have a terrific knowledge of all the traditions and rules of Catholicism, some of them not even Catholic!  What seems missing in their "faith" is the priority commandment that Jesus approves.  Occasionally we learn that what is keeping the non-Catholics in this group from becoming a Catholic or Christian at all is our failure to demonstrate our commitment to the priority of love that Jesus approves!       And from those who are Catholic-by-baptism, we learn, especially from young adults, that rigid enforcement of rules and regulations concerning customs from of old has "turned them off" to our wonderful tradition.  In this regard it is helpful to see earlier in the Gospel According to Mark 7:7-8: "You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."  Learning the difference between the two is an important "step in the right direction." 

We May be the only Bible some people read…. We may be the only Jesus some people see…. How we carry ourselves as a committed believers in Jesus Christ is as important as what we say. Francis of Assisi said, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday June 3, 2020

I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. [2 Timothy]

The Holy Spirit empowers, enlightens, and encourages all of us who are baptized to be strong, loving, and wise in serving the Lord Jesus.


There has been a loss of understanding of the power of baptism that remains in us all our lives but which becomes dormant because baptism is seen as a one-time event that produces a certificate of the past rather than testimony to a power of the present.

We are anointed by the Holy Spirit and are drawn into the very life of the Trinity, the inner of life of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we will celebrate this coming Sunday (Holy Trinity Sunday)

Where do I need to be made stronger in my faith witness today? To whom do I need to be more loving today? Where in my life do I need self-control today?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today  Tuesday, June 2, 2020

[2 Pet 3:12-15a, 17-18 and Mark 12:13-17]
"Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?" Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, "Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at." They brought one to him and he said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" The replied to him, "Caesar's." So Jesus said to them, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." [Mark]

Having celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost this past Sunday, the Easter season concludes and t
he Church returns to the liturgical season of "ordinary time" although it is hardly ordinary but very much extraordinary time considering the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic and these past days of peace protests scared by violence, looting, arson, and destruction that is visible across the face of our nation.

God’s living word today reminds us of the importance and challenge of awaiting the Day of the Lord in peace, full of virtue and integrity. Most importantly obedience to civil authority must never interfere with the higher obedience owed to God, who alone is our refuge. When Caesar demands that Catholic hospitals engage in immoral procedures (abortion), we must say to Caesar that we cannot obey.

In light of our obedience to God first what is our Godly path ahead regarding peaceful protest and unrest? As civil unrest and protests continue in Los Angeles and cities across the nation, Archbishop Gomez calls for prayers and shares a message for peace and the respect for all life and human dignity in the following message. Friends, pray for our city and our nation. No one in America should suffer cruelty, violence, or unequal treatment because of their race or the color of their skin. Racism is a blasphemy against God who creates all men and women with equal dignity. But let our protests be peaceful. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let’s keep working together to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise of life, liberty, and equality for all.

Let us pray for the grace to see that all people are created in God’s image and likeness with equal worth and dignity no matter what one’s race or color of skin. In our obedience owned to God first and foremost let us pray that we might all be spiritually color blind.

Father Dennis

  


 

God’s Living Word Today - June 1st, 2020

[Genesis 3:9-15, 20 or Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14 and John 19:25-34]
The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living. [Genesis] When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. [John]

MONDAY AFTER PENTECOST:  THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH

Pope Francis made the decision that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be inscribed on the liturgical calendar for the Monday after Pentecost in March 2018, so it is very recent.  It is a reminder of the special relationship that we Catholics (and many other non-Catholic Christians as well) have to the mother of Jesus.

The Acts of the Apostles, authored by St. Luke, places Mary at the scene of the Pentecost event, which is regarded as the birth of the church.  It is by the power of that same Holy Spirit that Jesus was conceived in her and made her in a very real way the first disciple.  She is united physically with the body of Jesus as mother, but she is also united spiritually with the Body of Christ, the Church.

The Gospel According to John has Jesus as he is dying on the cross providing for his mother's immediate future by entrusting her to the disciple, John, at the foot of the cross.  It should be noted that he did not entrust her to any of the extended family of his relatives!  She was entrusted to a disciple and entrusted through him to all of us as our mother.  

Let us take time today to honor our blessed Mother by praying the rosary; perhaps placing a flower near a statue we may have of our Blessed Mother in our homes and as we may do that let us honor our own mothers at home with love and kindness.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today  - Friday May 29, 2020

[Acts 25:13b-21 and John 21:15-19]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." [John]

     The gospel scriptures from the Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper are over and there is a complete shift of scene to the final chapter in the Gospel According to John - what is called the "Johannine Appendix."   

     Much attention is given to the triple question to Peter" "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" This section constitutes Peter’s rehabilitation and emphasizes his role in the church.  The threefold confession of Peter is meant to counteract his earlier threefold denial (Jn 18:17, 25, 27). The First Vatican Council cited these verses in defining that Jesus after his resurrection gave Peter the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole flock. 

But a verse much later on, quoted above, perhaps captures an elderly person’s attention. The words of Jesus about growing old are a challenge to acceptance, to gratitude and to grace.  The role of memories becomes more and more important even as the day to day physical challenges demand patience and acceptance. Acceptance of the past, gratitude for the present, and hope for the future even when the challenges get more and more difficult is what we pray for. 

Gospel challenge and opportunity for today:
Consider the elderly that you know and talk to them about what faith means to them at this time. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, May 28, 2020

[Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 and John 17:20-26]
"I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." [John]

Many people in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic are grieving a loss in some fashion. We will not be able to go back to the way things were, but will experience a new normal as we move ahead in the days to come and we are never alone.
In the Gospel today Jesus prays not just for the disciples with him but for us and all those who will come to believe.  Jesus was (and is) praying for all who believe in him and for all those who will come to faith because of OUR faith. We can bring the assurance that Jesus is praying for all those we share our faith with and those who will come after us since Jesus desires that we be one.

     Parents may pray that after they are gone, their children will all get along and that there will be family unity.  We know from our own experiences that this is a challenging thing to accomplish and maintain.  Jesus' prayer for unity remains a challenge for us today and for the future.  The celebration of Pentecost this coming Sunday offers us an opportunity to reflect on how we help or hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about unity. Let us take to heart that the family who prays together stays together thereby fostering the unity that Jesus desires and the Holy Spirit can achieve when we are open. Let us pray together today ‘Come Holy Spirit.’  

With whom does Jesus want me to reach out too in order to in order to foster unity?

What is the blessing and benefit when we take to heart that the family who prays together stays together?

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 7th Week of Easter - Wed

[Acts 20:28-38 and John 17:11b-19]
"I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth." [John]

     In this portion of Jesus' "High Priestly Prayer" in the Farewell Discourse, Jesus prays for the disciples. He speaks as intercessor, with words addressed directly to the Father and not to the disciples, who supposedly only overhear. Yet the prayer is one of petition, for immediate (Jn 17:619) and future (Jn 17:2021) disciples.   The disciples are being sent just as Jesus was sent.  Their mission is sacred just as Jesus' mission was sacred.  They are to preach the truth about Jesus and his Father with the help of the Holy Spirit.
     This "sending forth" will be celebrated in particular this coming Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, but it occurs every day around the world as the sacrament of baptism is administered.  We are "consecrated in the truth" and sent forth to proclaim it in word and deed.  Jesus is praying for us.  We can't get better help than that!  AMEN

Reflection Questions to consider
Where do I need Jesus’ prayerful help against the evil one today?
Where am I being called and sent to speak the truth to someone today?
As you pray with your children today at home what can you tell them of Jesus love for them?


Father Dennis

 


 

Monday, May 18, 2020 - 6th Week of Easter - Mon

[Acts 16:11-15 and John 15:26-16:4a]
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify,

Jesus, who never forgets nor forsakes us, promises to send "the Advocate" (older translations use the word "Paraclete") to enable and empower believers to bear witness.  He also promises that bearing witness (testimony) will lead to persecution.  The very word, "martyr," comes from the Greek word meaning "witness." 

Pope St. John Paul II promoted what he termed "the new evangelization."  This effort, still being promoted, is not directed to converting non-Christians or even non-Catholics to Catholicism but to those who are baptized and even practicing Catholics!!! 

The sad fact is that the second largest Christian denomination in the U.S.A., in numbers, would be former Catholics who have lost hope in our church! 

In the gospel, Jesus is assuring his followers that he will leave them a strong witness to assist them after he has gone from them. The witness is the Holy Spirit. Christ is fully aware of the trials and persecutions which are to befall his followers but he is equally aware that with the aid of the Holy Spirit they will be able to endure and so be victorious. We too will be strengthened if we allow the Spirit to work in us.

Hope in God; I will praise him still, *
my savior and my God. Psalm 42

Inspire us to yearn for you always

Father Dennis

 


 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - 4th Week of Easter - Tues

[Acts 11:19-26 and John 10:22-30]
Those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. [Acts]

The first historical moment is when Jewish Christians began preaching about Jesus to non-Jewish people.  A second historical moment occurred when to distinguish believers in Jesus from other Jews, the term "Christians" came into being!!  The third moment occurred when Barnabus went to Tarsus to find the recently converted Pharisee named Saul and brought him back to Antioch to help with the preaching.   On such little historical moments our very existence as "Christians" was founded!

The earliest believers in Jesus chose to share their faith with others and the faith spread.

From very small beginnings in Palestine and the Middle East, Christianity has spread to the whole planet!  The choice of Paul (Saul) to get involved in the mission had tremendous consequences.  We constantly read his teachings about Jesus!

Pope Francis has challenged all the baptized to become "missionary disciples."  All that may be required is the courage to share our faith with someone who may be curious about it.  The First Letter of Peter (3:15) says it best: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence...."  God will take care of the rest! 

Father Dennis

 


 

Sunday, May 3, 2020 - FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER: GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY

WE NEED THE GOOD SHEPHERD NOW AND JESUS IS WITH US. HE IS TRUSTING AND TRANSPARENT WITH NO HIDDEN AGENDA TO HURT OR HARM US, BUT HAS SAVED US. JESUS, THE GOOD SHEPHERD IS KIND, COMPASSIONATE AND FILLED WITH EMPATHY FOR ALL OF US AND FOR THE WHOLE WORLD.

JESUS AS OUR GOOD SHEPHERD LEADS US OUT AND FORWARD. WE PRAY THAT THE GOOD SHEPHERD WILL LEAD US OUT OF THIS DARK VALLEY OF PANDEMIC AND FORWARD INTO THE BRIGHTNESS OF A NEW NORMAL; INTO THE SILVER LINING OF NEW APPRECIATION, GRATEFULNESS AND GRATITUDE FOR ALL OF GOD’S BLESSINGS THAT PERHAPS AT TIMES WE HAVE TAKEN FOR GRANTED.

THE SHEPHERD’S TASK AT THE TIME OF JESUS WAS A CONSTANT AND DANGEROUS GUARDING OF HIS FLOCK. A GOOD SHEPHERD, WHO WAS RELIABLE AND RESPONSIBLE WAS ALSO Sleepless; far-sighted, weather beaten, leaning on his staff and looking out over THE sheep ENTRUSTED TO HIS CARE, every one of them DEAR TO his heart.

TODAY Jesus LEANS AND LOOKS OUT OVER ALL OF US WHO ARE DEAR TO HIS HEART LEADING US FORWARD by his own example of constant vigilance; fearless courage, AND patient love.


AFTER THE EXAMPLE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD We are all shepherds for God’s people in one way or another AS WE LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER; FOR TOGETHER AND WITH THE GOOD SHEPHERD WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.  Our SHEPHERDING may include our OWN children AT HOME, our ELDERLY parents WHO WE CARE FOR, or A VULNERABLE NEIGHBOR THAT WE CAN REACH OUT TOO BY PHONE OR FACEBOOK. We may be quiet shepherds THROUGH OUR ENCOURAGEMENT OF HOPE TO THOSE WHO ARE STRESSED, ANXIOUS, AND FEARFUL.

WE TRUST THAT JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WILL LEAD US TO GREENER PASTURE AND TO FRESH WATER THAT REFRESHES AND RENEWS OUR WORLD, OUR COUNTRY AND OUR HOMES. WE PRAY THAT OUR CHURCHES WILL BE FILLED AGAIN TO A NEW CAPACITY ANOINTED AFRESH BY THE SAME HOLY SPIRIT. Following THE GOOD SHEPHERD we will be able to say, with the psalmist, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. With your rod and your staff that give me courage.”

Father Dennis

 


 

Friday, May 1, 2020 - Today's Meditation: Acts 9:1-20

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4)

Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus has all the elements of a dramatic film. Paul is suddenly stopped in his tracks by a light from the sky. A voice comes from heaven, and Paul undergoes an amazing conversion from Saul, the persecutor of Christians to Paul the great missionary preacher.

What about our own conversion story? How did Jesus get our attention and draw us to himself? Through an encounter with someone; an experience with Scripture or an event in our lives, the Lord awakens us to the importance of our relationship with Him and calls us to follow him.

Conversion in our own lives is rarely as dramatic as that of St. Paul, but is rather a daily on going call to conform our lives to the person of Jesus. Jesus is our model, our mentor, our master and our measure.

As the refrain to a popular worship song reminds us, “Step by step, you lead me.” Whatever our initial conversion was like, it’s still going on. Today, let us try to draw closer to Jesus. If we have fallen in some way, let us rededicate our life to him. We don’t have to look back. We just have to keep pursuing your goal: “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:17

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 2nd Week of Easter - Wed

[Acts 5:17-26 and John 3:16-21]

"God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish might have eternal life." [John 3:16]

One of the major "themes" of the Gospel According to John is something scripture scholars refer to as "realized eschatology!"  This means that, in the Gospel According to John, eternal life begins with faith in Jesus and not only at physical death or the final resurrection.  Thus, in this gospel, THE one sin is failure to believe in Jesus.  The "world" in this gospel refers to all of humanity with its struggles and challenges.  God loves this world which He created by his Word and sent this word in human flesh to offer eternal life to the "world".  There are echoes of the Prologue to the gospel in this, and it is worthwhile to go back to the Prologue time and time again in reading this gospel.  For us, today, the assurance of God's love and the experience of eternal life through belief in Jesus as the one whom God has sent are powerful helps in a time of plague! 

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn- the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Condemn: the Greek root means both judgment and condemnation. Jesus’ purpose is to save, but his coming provokes judgment; some condemn themselves by turning from the light.

Father Dennis

 

God so loved the world. (John 3:16)

In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic and the 3.7 earthquake at 12:03 this morning we might be feeling shaky, but God’s love for us is unshakable.

We might call to mind the song He’s got the whole world in His hands and not only that, but God has so loved the world


Did you know that this verse is not just talking about how much God loves the world? It’s also talking about the way God loves the world.

He gave: God loves without reservation. Love is not something God hoards to himself. God’s love is generous.

His only Son: God does not love begrudgingly. He gave us his only begotten Son most precious to his heart. Because God’s love holds nothing back.

So that everyone who believes: God loves without restriction or reservation. He has opened the door of his heart to anyone who believes, no conditions. He makes no exceptions. He pours his love out on each person who comes to him in faith. Because God’s love flows freely to everyone.

Might not perish: He does not withhold his love from us because we have sinned against him. He does not give us “what we deserve” but removes our guilt and restores us. Because God’s love is merciful.

But might have eternal life: God wants to be united with us. He has opened heaven’s gates and welcomes us in! Because God’s love is everlasting.           

Safety & Protection 

Father Dennis

 


 

Sunday, April 19, 2020 - THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER: DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

The Heart of Jesus is the ultimate symbol of God’s mercy – but it is not an imaginary symbol, it is a real symbol, which represents the center, the source from which salvation for all humanity gushed forth. Pope Francis

Divine Mercy Sunday: St. Faustina’s Diary records 14 occasions when Jesus requested that a Feast of Mercy (Divine Mercy Sunday)
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me.

On May 5, 2000, five days after the canonization of St. Faustina, the Vatican decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Image:  Jesus appeared to St. Faustina in a vision, with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left touching his garment above his heart. Red and white rays emanate from his heart, symbolizing the blood and water that was poured out for our salvation and our sanctification. The Lord requested that “Jesus, I trust in You” be inscribed under his image. Jesus asked that his image be painted and venerated throughout the world: “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish” (Diary, no. 48) and “By means of this image I will grant many graces to souls” (Diary, no. 742).

“Do what the Catechism says,” the Jesuit Pope stressed, “it’s very clear: if you don’t find a priest to hear your Confession, talk with God, He is your Father, and tell Him the truth: ‘Lord, I’ve done this, and that, and that . . . I’m sorry,” and ask Him for forgiveness with all your heart, with the Act of Contrition and promise Him: “Afterwards I will go to Confession, but forgive me now.” If you do all this, Francis said, you will return to God’s grace immediately.

When our church doors can open and we can safely gather together the Sacrament of Confession will be lavishly provided for. Blessings to you and your families.

Father Dennis

 


 

Friday, April 10, 2020 - Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.

Perhaps for those who saw Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION each one may have come away with the personal realization that Jesus did that for me. But if one focuses only on the physical suffering, the meaning of what happened on that day can be lost.  Jesus suffered for us - for you and me and for every human who ever lived or will live or is living.

The somber mood of the Good Friday service this year is deepened by the necessity of an empty church because of the coronavirus pandemic.  There is worldwide suffering taking place.  Those of us who are not ill still suffer with and for the victims as well as for the sacrifices we make to mitigate the pandemic.  We suffer for others and not just for ourselves alone.  And we can be confident that Jesus fully understands and accompanies us. Today affords us the opportunity to begin the 9 day Divine Mercy Novena that will take us to Divine Mercy Sunday on April 19th. The words ‘Jesus I trust in you’ can bring each one of us and all of us great comfort during these days of testing and trial. Let us make those words our own in our daily prayer.

God demonstrated his love by sending Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. God's love is extravagant - it's a free gift of self-giving, self-sacrifice, and self-emptying that cost God His only Son. On Good Friday God Wrote His Love in Red in the blood of His Son shed on the cross for our sins.

Peace be with you this day

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - Holy Week – Wednesday

The Betrayal by Judas was a violation, a breaking of a trust that he had with Jesus in order To deliver Jesus into the hands of an enemy. The motive of avarice, meaning extreme greed, is introduced by Judas’s question about the price for betrayal: “what are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” For mere money, Judas betrays Jesus.  Judas had participated in the ministry of the apostles and had been with Jesus from the beginning; for the three years of Jesus’ public ministry.  Thirty pieces of silver was the price of the betrayal which is found only in Matthew’s gospel; the wages paid to a rejected shepherd, a cheap price.

However, the shocking fact that the betrayer, Judas, is one who shares table fellowship with Jesus is emphasized and the enormity of the deed of betrayal is such that it would be better not to exist than to do it.

In pointing our fingers of judgment at Judas, we may be pointing at ourselves.  Judas' motives (other than money) are unknown to us.  Peter's motives of rejecting Jesus three times was clearly fear of being associated together with Jesus! 

Those of us who regularly gather around the table of intimacy with Christ in the Eucharist and yet engage consistently in the works of darkness are meant to see ourselves in the betrayer Judas. Reflect: How have we betrayed or denied Jesus? Jesus, surely it is I who have sinned against you. Forgive me and show me the way forward today.

"Churches may be closed, but 'Lord's heart remains' open to all

Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains

Peace be with you all

Father Dennis

 


 

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Lord is my life’s refuge

In our responsorial psalm this morning we read that ‘the Lord is my life’s refuge of whom should I be afraid’ This Psalm 27 was written by King David and it is a reflection of how his faith in the power of God sustained him through many trials and difficulties

Refuge is that condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. In this Bible verse ‘the Lord is my life’s refuge’ there is the boundless hope that God will bring rescue to His people in our personal lives, within our own families and to this pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. Let this be our prayer that we commit to memory today: the Lord is our life’s refuge in whom we place our trust.

We are alone together physically distant spiritually united

Peace be with you

Father Dennis

 


 

Sunday, April 5, 2020 - Palm Sunday: At the Mass – ABC

The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while other cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest." And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?" And the crowds replied, "This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee." [Matthew]

While Physically Distant we are Spiritually United​

This will be a Palm Sunday like no other in the lives of most of us.  The churches are closed.  The distribution of palms is prohibited because of fear of the coronavirus pandemic.  The faithful are urged to attend Mass through the televised or livestreamed services and to go out into their yard (for those who have one) and pick some kind of foliage to wave! 

Sorrow and joy are part of Holy Week, which we observe not only in the sorrow of Jesus' own sufferings, but also in the sorrows we are experiencing in the pandemic which will make this Holy Week one that will live in terrible memory as we participate in the services by the internet! Resurrection will take on new meaning as we slowly work toward conquering the virus that has brought the planet to its knees!  It is a special cross that we bear with Jesus this year. We must keep in mind that wherever there is the cross of suffering there is the promise of Resurrection and new life; that is the Paschal Mystery. Death and Resurrection is the Paschal Mystery woven into the fabric of our lives as Christian people. Let us be people of hope and prayer that God will bring this virus that has infected so many people throughout the world to an end.

Palm Sunday will begin this special drama of which we are all a part.  

Peace to you and your families. May God protect and keep you safe

Fr. Dennis

 


 

Friday, April 3, 2020 - 5th Week of Lent – Friday John 10:31-42

We are called to have a deep respect and reverence for God’s Holy name and not blaspheme

Today we read in the Gospel of St. John “Can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? John 10:31

Recently I was in a store turning down an aisle where a new stock of hand sanitizer was newly stocked. People had gathered in that aisle and were stretching and grabbing as many bottles as possible. The air was filled with tension and expletives could be heard many of which using God’s name and the name of His Son not in a respectful and reverent way, but out of anger and frustration. The word ‘blasphemes’ stood out for me when hearing the gospel today.

At times when we become angry at ourselves, at others, and even at God our speech can dishonor and disrespect God whose name is holy. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” the Second Commandment tells us.

We must be careful in our speech not to take God’s name in vain out of anger. We must avoid blaspheming God’s holy name. So just what is blasphemy?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2148, defines blasphemy like this: Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward God in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due to God’s holy name.

As we are at home within our domestic church, our families, and when going out for essentials to the store, let us strive to be calm, to be kind, to be humble, and respectful by honoring God’s name thanking Him for sending us his Son who is God with us, never to abandon nor forsake us.

The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself.

God’s Peace and Protection

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

From the Book of Daniel we heard

Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered
“But, the king replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”

This morning we might feel somewhat like the three servants Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in our first reading from Daniel who had been cast into the white-hot furnace, yet they and we are not alone. As we look ahead in our own country to these next few critical and painful weeks feeling the heat from the Coronavirus we are reassured by God’s word that we are not alone; God is with us

The three servants in our first reading give us important insights as to how we can live our lives today, as we move forward in the midst of being tested and tried by the Corona pandemic. The three servants while in the midst of the white hot furnace remained steadfast in faith and in their service to God. Their first love was God to whom they remained faithful and they were not alone, God was with them.

*We too, in the midst of what we are experiencing alone/together, are called to remain steadfast in faith and in our service to God. We are being reminded that God must be the first love of our lives to whom we are to remain faithful as God is faithful to us; we are not alone, but the Lord is with us. Let us attach ourselves faithfully to God and pray the prayer of petition that the three servants prayed May God save us for God is with us who will never leave us nor forsake us.

Lord, thank you for always being with us, even when we feel the heat of these unprecedented times. Lord give us your peace and strength to calm our fear and anxiety.  You are Emmanuel God with us. We are not alone. Amen

 

 

 

Today's Reflections

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