Read the daily quote from Pope Francis

 

Previous Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings from Fr. Dennis

God’s Living Word Today - Friday, May 14, 2021 - 6th Week of Easter

St. Matthias, Apostle

[Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 and John 15:9-17,635]
"Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection." [Acts]

     The necessity to choose a successor to Judas Iscariot was based on the importance of the number twelve.  The early church saw itself as the continuation of the original twelve tribes of Israel and it would be the "new Israel."  The person to be chosen had to have been part of the original group of disciples in Galilee and probably a disciple, at first, of John the Baptist and also one of those who first learned of the resurrection of Jesus so that he could bear witness with the other Eleven.  It is on this original apostolic witness that the church was founded.  

     After his selection, Matthias disappears into untold history.  The method by which he was chosen - basically by flipping a coin or throwing dice or drawing straws - is certainly not the way in which a pope or bishop is chosen nowadays.  At least I've never heard that there are dice sitting on the pope's desk!  Matthias' importance rests on his continued faith in Jesus from the outset of Jesus' ministry and as a member of the Twelve whose faith and witness we continue whenever we gather to worship.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, May 13, 2021 - 6th Week of Easter

[Acts 18:1-8 and John 16:16-20]
A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me." So some of his disciples said to one another, "What does this mean that he is saying to us, 'A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" So they said, "What is this 'little while' of which he speaks? We do not know what he means."

    Many are the parents who have had to say, as Jesus said, "In a little while!" to an impatient child for whom "a little while" seems like an eternity.  The disciples spoke from within the time/space context that all of us mortals are subjecc to.  Jesus is speaking from a timeless context.  The difference is between two different Greek words for time.  The first is chronos, which is the time we measure with our clocks.  The second is kairos which we would express by saying, "It's about time we did this!"  Jesus refers to his "hour" throughout the Gospel According to John in that sense.  His death and resurrection and the sending of the Spirit all occur within the time/space continuum but are not subject to it.  Jesus did not assign a schedule to these events.  They occurred in "God's good time."   The Gospel According to John focuses on the significance of these events rather than their timing (which has led to endless debates among scripture scholars trying to square John's timing with the other three gospels' timing of events.)

     Although we are liturgically focusing on the period between Jesus' death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, we have to live with the tension between those events and the Second Coming - another "little while" that the New Testament scriptures struggled with and we struggle with.  God's "time" is not our "time."  Jesus assures the disciples that even if he is returning to his Father, he will not "leave them orphans (John 14:18), but, like small children, they want their "When?" to be a human one.  We have to learn over and over again that just because we can schedule a sacrament, we can't put God on a calendar!  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 6th Week of Easter

[Acts 17:15, 22-18:1 and John 16:12-15]
He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For 'In him we live and move and have our being,' as even some of your poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring,'" [Acts]

     In the cowboy movies of years gone by there was always a sequence that appeared during an exciting chase scene that was labeled, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch..."  For the past couple of weeks or more, the gospel scriptures from the Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper in the Gospel According to John have challenged my attention.  At the same time, the first scriptures have been taken from the post-Pentecostal preaching of the early missionaries, especially Paul and Peter.  The address of Paul at Athens is worthy of interrupting the Farewell Discourse.  The selection in the lectionary unfortunately leaves out the description of the scene in which Paul "grew exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols" and debated in the open forum with anyone who would talk to him.  The text says it wonderfully, "Now all the Athenians as well as the foreigners residing there used their time for nothing else but telling or hearing something new!" {v.21).

     I have quoted from the beginning of Paul's speech.  I think it is one that we can all learn from because we too live in a society with many idols that compete with what has become an "Unknown God."  The audience listened until Paul mentioned Jesus' resurrection, and then there were mixed reactions!  Some scoffed at the idea.  However, some were attracted and became believers.  This will often be our experience as well.  Some will scoff and others will be attracted.  What is important is that we engage the world around us and point to the altar of the Unknown God, whom we do know and proclaim.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, May 11, 2021 - 6th Week of Easter

[Acts 16:22-34 and John 16:5-11]
"Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." [John]

     There is a lot of "coming and going" in the Gospel According to John.  Scripture scholars speak of the overarching theme in this gospel of Jesus coming from the Father and returning to the Father ("exitus/reditus").  This theme is quite strong in the Farewell Discourse since Jesus is preparing the disciples for his "hour" to be "lifted up" and his "return to the Father."  Today, the theme seems to be reversed.  Jesus GOES and the "Advocate" COMES.

     The consistent theme of conflict and judgment also appears because the Advocate will enable the disciples to confront the "world."  This struggle is "cosmic" in scope but at the time of the gospel's composition, it was very local and particular because those who accepted Jesus as the One whom God has sent were being expelled from synagogues.  But the struggle goes on for hearts and minds.  The temptation to view the scriptures as a kind of antique and think, "That was then, this is now" ignores just how contemporary the Gospel According to John truly is.  

     After his resurrection Jesus will tell the disciples, "As the Father has sent me, so also do I send you!"  It is in the power of the Holy Spirit (the "Advocate") that we are enabled to bear witness individually and together in our own time and circumstances.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, May 10, 2021 - 6th Week of Easter

[Acts 16:11-15 and John 15:26-16:4a]
"When the Advocate comes who 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, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God." [John]

     Jesus now introduces a new character in the Farewell Discourse, the "Advocate."  Some translations use the word, "paraclete," which is an English rendering of the Greek verb, parakletos, - a person who speaks or intercedes on behalf of someone.  Jesus refers to this person as "the Spirit of truth," which recalls to my mind his words to the woman at the well in Ch. 4:24, "God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth."    The reason is to assure the disciples that Jesus' departure is part of a bigger reality and they will not be "left as orphans." (14:18).  The Spirit of truth will "guide you to all truth." [16:13].

     Church history is always a good teacher.  Christians fought with one another later on about how the Spirit of truth was sent.  The dispute was called "the Filioque" problem.  The Latin means "and the Son."  Every Sunday at the Creed, we profess that the Holy Spirit, "who proceeds from the Father AND THE SON."  This was decided at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.  So, for nearly 300 years, there were debates about how Jesus accomplished the promise he made.  This may seem like ancient debate over something that doesn't matter now, but the import of it comes home when we realize that we are accompanied by the entire truth about God in our faith.  The disciples would need that accompaniment as they were being expelled from the synagogues.  We need it today as we confront an indifferent and sometimes hostile secularism that pushes religious faith to the margins of life.  The evangelist John would not have known about our later speculations on the Holy Trinity, but he has preserved the words of Jesus that remind us that we are not "orphans" but are beloved children of God and we can be sure of God's guidance.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, May 9, 2021 - 6th Week of Easter

[Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17]
"This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

     A dear friend, the Catholic mother of five wonderful kids, introduced me to a "blog" entitled, MIGHTY IS HER CALL.  It is written by Catholic moms and the posts run the gamut emotionally, spiritually, and physically!  The writers are not shy about sharing their experiences of motherhood.  Since I have spent many a visit with the family of my friend, as well as listening in spiritual direction to other moms. I can testify to the authenticity of the accounts posted on this blog!  Jesus' statement in the "Farewell Discourse" at the Last Supper, "No greater love....." finds a flesh and blood expression in those experiences.  If I may add a little twist to this, a mom often has to "lay down" her life so she can ""pick up (no matter what their age)" her child!  This is not mere sentimentality.  The role of the mother in passing on the "wisdom of love" is crucial, and when it is missing, the results are very sad and destructive.  I read that blog every day to remind myself of the love that is going on every day.

     Judaeo-Christian tradition holds that "motherhood" is "hard-wired" in a woman even if she is unable to give birth or chooses not to.  The denial of this reality, by choice or circumstance, has serious consequences.  The expression of love as Jesus describes it, indeed was found in his own mother's love for him, He speaks of the relationship between himself and his Father but his human expression of that love found its roots in the love he received from his earthly parents, especially his mother.  The consequences of that love can hardly be underestimated for all of us!

     Mothers' Day is about more than sentiment, gifts and corsages.  It is about a relationship born of God's creative act.  In recognizing this, we pay tribute not to "motherhood" but to the flesh and blood that has been "laid down" for us.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, May 8, 2021 - 5th Week of Easter

[Acts 16:1-10 and John 15:18-21]
"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you......If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (Jesus)

     What would you think of when you hear the word, "the world."  We have many expressions of it in English.  "I think a WORLD of that person!"  "What in the WORLD?"  "He/she is the WORLD champion."  The Greek word "kosmos" is translated in English as "the world."  And this word appears often in the Gospel According to John.  John 3:16 and other places in the first half of the gospel speak of a "world" that God loves, but it is in darkness and God has sent his Son to bring light to it.  There is a kind of "cosmic" struggle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light, represented now by the disciples of Jesus.  The Farewell Discourse is both a warning as well as a description of contemporary circumstances in the community the gospel was addressed to initially.

     In our own time, we speak of "the secular WORLD" as a force that either opposes or ignores or is indifferent to religious faith.  Charles Taylor's book A SECULAR AGE is well worth the reading to obtain an understanding of this situation.  God indeed has so loved the WORLD, but Jesus and his disciples (including us) can expect hostility and resistance to our faith.  Our response is not to be hostile or hateful of "the World" but to consistently shine the light of Christ.  Christians are not some kind of superior elite in the human race, but rather brothers and sisters who are called to love the world as God does and continue to bear witness to the One whom God has sent. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, May 7, 2021 - 5th Week of Easter

[Acts 15:22-31 and John 15:12-17]
"This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. [John]

     In reflecting on this portion of the Farewell Discourse, we might recall what the evangelist says of Jesus as he prepared to wash the feet of the disciples: "Having loved his own in the world, he loved them to the end." [13:1] Now, Jesus challenges the disciples (and us) to love as he loves.  He shares the love between himself and his Father and he expects us to share that same love with our neighbor.  The enormity of this challenge is obvious to us not only in our individual daily lives but on all levels of state, national and international life.  How can we profess to be disciples of Jesus when so much violence surrounds us?  Some will even defend the violence as an unfortunate side effect of living in a free society!!!  What will Jesus say to that at the Final Judgment?

     However, we witness that "laying down one's life for one's friends" in many ways all the time.  Parents sacrifice for children and vice versa when parents grow older.  Friends put aside convenience to help friends.  People enter military service realizing it could cost them their lives in a combat situation (just visit a national cemetery for this testimony).  There are many who are indeed living out Jesus' commandment of love.  If we wish to be a friend of Jesus, we must be a friend to our neighbor whether close or distant.  That kind of love is ultimate and is Jesus' constant challenge to us. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 5th Week of Easter

[Acts 15:7-21 and John 15:9-11]
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete." [John]

     A question that often puzzles Catholics when it is addressed to them is: "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?"  We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of "the church" and "the sacraments" that we tend to allow these realities to serve as our relationship to Jesus.  For some, this relationship may be more personally expressed by participation in eucharistic adoration, but, even there, Jesus may be held at "arms' length" and too sacred to approach as one person to another.  The Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper challenges each of the disciples (and us) to think about our own relationship to Jesus and how we express that relationship to others.  There is no "mediating" reality such as church and sacraments in this.  Those are definitely part of our faith and are addressed elsewhere in the New Testament.  The Protestant Reformation tried to eliminate much of those in its individualistic interpretation of scripture.  We Catholics went to the other extreme and tended to substitute the institution of the church for the person of Jesus.  These are broad generalizations, but I think it explains why we Catholics are puzzled by the question I began with:  "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?"

     Today's passage from the Farewell Discourse is another example of the relationship described in the word "remain."  How does one "remain" in love with Jesus or anyone else?  It can be instructive to consider the long term relationships in our own lives.  In no small way they represent the love of Jesus for us, a continual presence.  Jesus challenges us to love neighbor as Jesus loves his Father and us.  Can we sustain that effort as we have sustained it in our long term friendships?  It takes effort and a sense of humor as well.  Can we bring that to our relationship with Jesus as well as with one another? 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 5th Week of Easter

[Acts 15:1-6 and John 15:1-8,361]
"Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing."

     Sunday's gospel scripture re-appears today.  (The daily scriptures are on a different schedule.)  The vine and branches relationship becomes the pivotal reality in Christian life.  The repetitive use of the word "remain" always captures my attention because it speaks to the experience of friendship.

     St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that the best human analogy for the relationship between God and human is friendship.  A true friend desires the best for a friend and God desires the best for us.  In turn we respond in love to God and live out that love with our neighbor.  I know from my own experience that my closest friends "remain" in me and are part of my life to the extent that I cannot imagine their absence!  It is this kind of relationship that can motivate the "bearing of fruit" in everyday faith.  As with all kinds of friendship, this means an effort to keep the relationship strong and steady on an everyday basis.  The farewell address at the Last Supper was meant to assure the disciples that Jesus would "remain" in them if they "remain" in him.  His physical absence would continue by the presence of the Holy Spirit and by the Eucharistic celebration.  

     The old hymn says it well, "What a friend we have in Jesus!"  Is that how we see him?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 5th Week of Easter

[Acts 14:19-28 and John 14:27-31a]
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." [John]

     These words of Jesus in the Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper should be familiar to us.  We hear them just before "the Sign of Peace" at the Eucharist.  The COVID19 pandemic has made the actual physical exchange of that sign a "no-no" for the time being, and some folks have never liked it.  This has a way of overshadowing the gift of Jesus which is more than a polite acknowledgement of the persons around us in the pews.  Jesus is trying to calm the disciples who are beginning to realize that he may be leaving them.  Throughout the Gospel According to John, Jesus has been in charge of his mission and destiny.  His calm confidence in his relationship with his Father is the peace that he seeks to share with the disciples - his peace.  "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid."

     Our faith in Jesus is not a denial of the challenges and trials that we face.  It is a recognition that whatever those may be, we can count on God's presence to help us find a way forward.  For the disciples (including us), that "presence" is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to send.  This is more than sentimental piety.  The gift of Jesus' peace is that calm confidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and we will find a way forward. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, May 3, 2021 - 5th Week of Easter

May 3 - Sts. Philip and James, Apostles

[1 Cor 15:1-8 and John 14:6-14]
After that he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles....[1 Cor.] Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?"

     The choice of scriptures to be proclaimed on the feast of the apostles, Philip and James, seems based on the fact that they are mentioned in each of the two readings.  Philip manages to have speaking parts in the Gospel According to John (6:5, 7 and 14:8), one of which is featured in today's gospel scripture.  The James in the first scripture may or may not be the apostle!  In any case, Catholic tradition refers to him as James the Lesser in contrast with the brother of John, the sons of Zebedee.  The confusion is between the term, James "the brother of the Lord" who became a leader in the Jerusalem community and James, son of Alpheus, mentioned as an apostle.  In any case, it is the apostle we celebrate today.

     The importance of these two figures comes from their membership in the Twelve, the apostles whom Jesus chose and on whose initial preaching the foundation of the church was laid.  Philip, at least, demonstrates that even an apostle could have a struggle to understand the meaning of Jesus' resurrection.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit, these two men, like the other apostles, became part of the faith we profess in "one, holy, catholic and APOSTOLIC" church.  The celebration of their feast day is a reminder of that truth.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, May 2, 2021 - 5th Week of Easter

[Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8]
"Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." [John]

  One cannot help but notice the repetition of the word "remain" in the passage from the Gospel According to John in today's gospel scripture.  It is not the only place the word appears in this gospel and it is a clue to the relationship between Jesus and his Father, Jesus and the disciples, and the role of the Holy Spirit in the continuing mission.  At the same time, "remain" is a mysterious term.

    When we become close friends with someone, they become an abiding presence in our life, a kind of "given."  They become a part of our own self-definition.  We could not imagine our lives without including their presence.  They "remain" in us and we "remain" in them.  When Jesus says, "Without me you can do nothing," we can see the extent to which he summons us into relationship with him.  This is not an "arms-length"  relationship in which he is some kind of benevolent employer.  It is a union of persons in a common identity even if, by definition, we don't become totally the other.  

     For some, this kind of relationship is intimidating.  It can imply a loss of liberty or personal identity.  But, as the last line of today's passage indicates, the reason for the relationship is to enable the disciple to go on mission, to "bear fruit."  Without this relationship, any disciple or the whole church loses its reason for preaching the gospel.  We would become simply one more humanitarian institution or individual, promoting a "be nice" agenda.  Nor can Jesus just be a kind of "welcome guest" in our lives.  He and we must "remain" in one another. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, May 1, 2021 - 4th Week of Easter

[Acts 13:44-52 and John 14:7-14]
"The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it." [John]

     The "Farewell Discourse" at the Last Supper in the Gospel According to John is like a smorgasbord with all kinds of wonderful foods that are put on a table in no particular order.  The diner is invited to partake and enjoy but there is no systematic presentation.  The broad context of the discourse is Jesus' departure from being present in an earthly sense and it's meaning for the disciples.  This includes reminders of Jesus' relationship to his Father, the One who has sent him, as well as the future missionary work of the disciples with the help of the Paraclete, which will be sent when Jesus is no longer present.  But these themes are interwoven in a kind of stream of consciousness and repetition that challenge the reader to continually return to the broader context to make sense of an individual statement.

     In John 6:29, Jesus responds to a question from the crowd, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God."  Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."  This may help us to understand the words in today's passage about doing "greater" works.  It is not that the disciples (or we) will raise people from the dead or restore sight to the blind, but that we will do things in "the name of Jesus" because we believe that he is the one whom God has sent.  Whatever we do in faith is based on this conviction, guided by the Holy Spirit. {14:26].  

     The Farewell Discourse will continue to challenge us in the days ahead as we reflect on the various themes that appear and reappear.  Keeping in mind the broader context that I mentioned above can assist us in this contemplative and apostolic challenge.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, April 30, 2021 - 4th Week of Easter

[Acts 13:26-33 and John 14:1-6,357]
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places

     The gospel scriptures for daily Mass for the next few days will be taken from what scripture scholars call "the Farewell Discourse" at the Last Supper.  It encompasses four complete chapters and it defies efforts to systematically organize it!  The evangelist seems to have used various statements from the traditions he had and has placed them all in this one discourse.  The overarching purpose of the discourse is to prepare the disciples at the Last Supper (and subsequent disciples) for Jesus' "hour" in which he would be "lifted up" and "glorified."  Today's passage contains two sayings that have attracted the attention of the faithful over the centuries.

    The first saying is: "In my Father's house there are many mansions."  If nothing else, this statement has been the source of much humor about what kind of "mansion" would be waiting for a particular person.  Jesus, however, is trying to strengthen the hope of the disciples beyond present events and move them toward eternal life now and beyond the grave.  

     The second saying is probably more prominent, especially in some currents of "evangelical Christianity: "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  This statement has been unfortunately interpreted to mean that only Christians are "saved."  And in some Catholic circles it means only "Catholic Christians" will be saved!  This is not the teaching of the church.  Indeed, the Gospel According to John reminds us that God "so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son."  Christian faith cannot exclude from God's providence those who, by no fault of their own, do not embrace Christianity.  Nevertheless, we who are Christians have the baptismal call to share our faith and invite others to be a part of the fullness of life and revelation in Jesus Christ.  The eternal destiny of non-Christians is not ours to determine.  Like all pilgrims, we can show what the journey means to us and invite others to join us on the "Way." 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 4th Week of Easter

[Acts 13:13-25 and John 13:16-20]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it." [John]

 APRIL 29  ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA, O.P., [Doctor of the Church]

     One of the greatest figures in the Dominican Hall of Fame was not a friar, nun or apostolic sister.  She was a lay person who joined a Dominican-sponsored group of women who were dedicated to works of charity.  They were called the "Mantellate" from the head scarves they wore.  Initially they were not happy about her joining because she was very young and they were mostly widows in what would have been considered old age in the 14th century!  They were afraid she would get married and leave in short order!  She joined them after years of seclusion in a small cell in the family home.  She had undergone a vision that told her to become active in caring for the poor.  Well....the poor might have included the state of the church at that time.  It definitely included those who suffered as a result of the continued outbreaks of the Black Death which decimated European population.  The pope was living in "captivity" in Avignon, France.  Hope for the reform of the church was sliml  Yet this one woman became not only a servant of the poor, but a diplomat and a mystic.  Her Dialogues is one of the spiritual classics of the Western Church.  Her stubborn determination in all that she did was based on her unshakeable conviction of the call she had received, and she lived it in accord with the words from today's gospel quoted above: ,,,(N)o slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

     Catherine's efforts were not all successful!  She did have an influence on the decision of the pope to return to Rome.  but her diplomatic efforts to reconcile warring city-states in Italy were, at best, partially successful.  These efforts capture attention (e.g. B. Tuchman's rather savage portrait of her in A DISTANT MIRROR) but leave out her care for the sick and poor and her extraordinary relationship to Christ, "the sweet truth." 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 4th Week of Easter

[Acts 12:24-13:5a and John 12:44-50]
Jesus cried out and said, "Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. [John]

     Tradition has divided the Gospel According to John into two major sections, book-ended by the "prologue" (1:1-18) and the "appendix" {ch. 21).  The first of the two major sections is called "the Book of Signs" (1:19 - 12:50) and addresses Jesus' ministry from Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist to his final journey to Jerusalem.  The second section, "the Book of Glory," (13:1 - 20:31) addresses the period from the Last Supper (the washing of the feet of the disciples) through the post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, especially Thomas.  The passage we read in today's gospel scripture contains the last verses of the Book of Signs and is a kind of summary of Jesus' teaching and mission.

     In this passage and in the verses that immediately precede it (37-43), we have not only the summary of Jesus' teaching and mission but also a summary of some frustrating results!  The evangelist identifies the disbelief of the Jewish authorities as one group and those who believed but were afraid to admit it publicly because of fear as another group.  No doubt these groups were in existence at the time the gospel was composed as well as in Jesus' time.  

     We who are "cradle Christians" may find it difficult to understand the dramatic challenge that Jesus presented to his listeners.  He says, "Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me."  Those who heard the preaching of the first disciples were faced with believing that a carpenter from Nazareth was the one sent by God to save the world, and was furthermore the very physical manifestation of God.  We have more than the witness of the first disciples since it is now 2000+ years since the Gospel of John and the whole New Testament were composed.  Nevertheless the challenge is the same.  Do we believe that Jesus is the one whom God has sent?  It is really a spiritual life and death decision.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, April 27, 2021 - 4th Week of Easter

[Acts 11:19-26 and John 10:22-30]
The works I do in my Father's name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." [John]

     Recent events in our land have shown that unpalatable truths will be denied no matter what the evidence to the contrary may be.  Such is the case in the various confrontations between Jesus and "the Jews" in the Gospel According to John.  Perhaps Pilate's statement in the trial cuts closer when he says, "What is truth?"  [John 18:38} The confrontation in today's gospel passage is an outcome of the Good Shepherd discourse: "But you do not believe me, because you are not among my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me."  At the end of today's passage, "the Jews" get their answer.  Jesus says plainly, "The Father and I are one."  The reaction is an attempt to stone him!

     The setting for this confrontation is the temple during the feast of the Dedication which commemorated the reconsecration of the temple after the successful revolt against Greek-oriented rulers in 164 BCE by Judas Maccabeus.  The temple would symbolize God's presence to His people, but there is irony here because Jesus is God's living presence and he is being rejected.

     Over and over again in the Gospel According to John, Jesus is presented as the one whom God has sent.  One either believes in him or does not.  Either choice has consequences.  Jesus promises eternal life.  What is the alternative? 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, April 26, 2021 - 4th Week of Easter

[Acts 11:1-18 and John 10:1-10 or, in Year A, John 10:11-18,353]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. [John]

     The Good Shepherd discourse made an appearance on Sunday but the daily scriptures are on a different schedule and so the discourse shows up again today.  Three different aspects of the image are presented.  First, Jesus is the true shepherd.  Second, Jesus is the gate!  Third, Jesus is the distinctive voice of truth and life.  All of this is based on the unique system of a common corral in a village where all the flocks are placed at the end of the day.  The next day, each shepherd comes to the gate and makes his own call and only his sheep separate out and follow him!  It's a bit like a mom or dad calling into a crowd of kids and only their own kids respond.  The whole purpose of the image is then summed up in the last line, which often appears in framed cross-stitched form on walls: "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."

     Tomorrow (Tuesday), the importance of hearing Jesus' voice and following him will be emphasized in a more conflictual way.  For now, it is the relationship of the shepherd and sheep, a kind of spiritual "symbiotic" relationship, that is offered to us.  Sheep and shepherd depend on one another and each sheep is important.  In the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus notes how a shepherd will go looking for one lost sheep out of a hundred.  (Luke 15:1-5).  Abundant life is ours if we remain focused on the voice of the true shepherd.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, April 25, 2021 - 4th Week of Easter

[Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18]
"I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. Thi is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep." [John]

 The fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally known as "Good Shepherd Sunday."  I suspect, however, that unless we are sheepherders, the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd comes from pictures in bibles or stained glass windows in a church.  We see actual sheep only at state fairs or when traveling abroad.  To the original audience, the image was close to home since the practice of a common corral for all the village flocks was well known, as well as the unique call each shepherd could make to have his/her sheep separate out and follow.  Shepherds also took turns sleeping at the gate to guard against theft and predators.  Since parables are not a big feature in the Gospel According to John, the use of this one image commands attention!

     Jesus presents himself in two ways.  First, he is the "gate" through which the sheep come and go to pasture.  Second, he is the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.  He makes the relationship between shepherd and flock an image of the relationship between himself and his Father.  This will be reinforced by the image of the unique call: "My sheep hear my voice...."  

     The original audience (and we) could make the connection between the images from the Old Testament in Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd") and Ezekiel 34 ("Woe to the shepherds") and Jesus' (and the community's) conflict with Jewish religious authority.  Jesus would indeed "lay down his life."  The image of the relationship between shepherd and sheep is not meant to be one of unthinking passive submissiveness, but rather one of recognition of the life that Jesus offers.  He is the gate of access to the Father and he offers us a share in the relationship he has with the Father.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, April 24, 2021 - 3rd Week of Easter

[Acts 9:31-42 and John 6:60-69]
Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?".....As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

     The Gospel According to John makes it clear that Jesus' teaching about what came to be known as "the eucharist," caused a crisis of faith in some of his disciples.  Those of us who are "cradle Catholics" may take this teaching for granted since it is instilled in us from infancy.  For those who do not grow up in Catholic or Orthodox tradition, the eucharist remains a challenge to faith.  Even in Christian traditions that lay strong emphasis on the Bible as the source of all revelation, Jesus' teaching about the eucharist is somehow swept away as a kind of "ordinance" with no change in bread or wine.  What we Catholics refer to as "the Real Presence" in consecrated host and wine seems almost idolatrous to them.

     Christ is "really present" in more ways than the sacrament of the Eucharist, but it is in this particular sacramental presence that Catholic faith finds its central focus.  The Eucharist, as celebrated at Mass and as preserved in the tabernacle, is a physical reminder of Jesus' abiding presence with us who are the Body of Christ on earth.  The Eucharist is the visible union of heaven and earth.  To be unable to "receive communion" is considered by us to be a terrible deprivation.  

     Ultimately it comes down to Jesus' question to the disciples, "Do you also want to leave?"  Peter's answer must be ours: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, April 23, 2021 - 3rd Week of Easter

[Acts 9:1-20 and John 6:52-59]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink.

     The gospel portraits of Jesus are not meant to be history or journalism in the sense that we know these things today.  They are documents of faith in Jesus.  They reflect that state of faith of the community for which they were written.  The evangelists took whatever resources they had in terms of written or oral traditions about Jesus and his teachings and about his death and resurrection and shaped them according to the way they (the evangelists) had come to believe.  The Gospel According to John was the last of the four gospels to be composed and reflects the state of faith in the Eucharist which had developed over 60 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is interesting to compare this with St. Paul's statements (the earliest we have in writing) in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 12:23-29 which place this subject in a community context.  The dramatic statements of Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum also contrast with the somber and solemn accounts of the Last Supper in which Jesus presents the bread and cup as his Body and Blood to become a perpetual reminder of his presence.  What we have in the Gospel According to John is a dramatic and stark challenge to the individual faith of the believer.

     The eucharistic faith of the community in this gospel was being challenged and rejected by fellow Jews.  To this very day, the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is challenged or misunderstood, even by devout Catholics.!  The theology of the priesthood reflects a development of how the worship of the community went from small home celebrations to large basilicas.  What we learn in today's words from the Gospel According to John must be integrated into what the other New Testament witnesses tell us.  The celebration of the Eucharist is about more than the change that takes place at the altar with the words of consecration.  It is about the whole Catholic Christian way of life. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 3rd Week of Easter

[Acts 8:26-40 and John 6:44-51]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. [John]

     Time and again in the Gospel According to John, faith in Jesus is tied in with encounter with Jesus.  It is the "seeing and believing" that are wound together.  The believing may not happen instantaneously.  The Samaritan woman at the well engages Jesus in conversation which gradually "spirals" toward belief.  We may be in the position of the Man Born Blind in chapter nine who struggles to understand what his initial encounter (the washing and healing) means in the face of the questions from Jewish authorities.  As he "spirals" toward full belief, he has a second encounter with Jesus: "'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered and said, 'Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?'  Jesus sai to him, 'You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.'  He said, 'I do believe, Lord,' and he worshiped him."   We could recall the encounters of Mary Magdalen and Thomas with the Risen Jesus.

     The encounter that the Gospel According to John offers today is the encounter with the very Body and Blood of Christ - his flesh for the life of the world.  This reality, as we will see, will create a crisis for the audience at the time and for the disciples who thought they believed in Jesus [John 6:66-69].  The crowd states the question simply, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"  Just as they misunderstood the loaves and fishes, they are challenged to move beyond the manna in the desert to a new manna.  As a matter of faith, it is not HOW Jesus gives us his flesh to eat, but THAT he does it.  If he is the one whom God has sent, he can do this.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 3rd Week of Easter

[Acts 8:1b-8 and John 6:35-40]
"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. [John]

     The "Bread of Life" discourse continues in today's gospel.  The characteristic features of above/below, seeing/believing, the one-whom-God-has-sent are on display.  The message is still focused on the person of Jesus and faith in him as the one whom God has sent.  Two aspects of the message stand out.

     The first is that Jesus will not reject anyone who comes to him in faith.  He will refer to the disciples later on in the "Farewell Discourse" as "your gift to me."  (John 17:24-26)  We, as disciples, are both the object and subject of Jesus' mission.     

     The second aspect might be framed in the question, "When does "eternal life" begin?  The Gospel According to John speaks of this as beginning with faith in Jesus, but, also as a "future" thing in relation to "the last day."  Death becomes "relativized" as an event in a life that becomes eternal with faith. Thursday, introduces a startling idea that we today might take for granted: Jesus as food! 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, April 20, 2021 - 3rd Week of Easter

[Acts 7:51-8:1a and John 6:30-35]
The crowd said to Jesus: "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat." So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." So they said to Jesus, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." [John]

     The "Bread of LIfe" discourse begins in earnest today.  The first of two different levels of understanding of what "bread of life" means unfolds.  This level focuses on faith in Jesus as the one whom God has sent.  The second level will be more "eucharistic" in content. ( today's dialogue between Jesus and the crowd resembles his dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well. [cf John 4:4-41].  She misunderstands the meaning of "living water" and appeals to the example of Jacob.). The crowd is focused on physical bread of the kind Jesus multiplied and they appeal to the example of Moses and the manna in the desert.   Jesus' response to the crowd is one of his "Amen, amen..." and "I AM"  statements.  Faith in him means eternal life, as will be seen in the gospel scripture for Wednesday.

     It is our faith in Jesus that is the "bread of life."  This faith is what enables us to move further into our understanding of the eucharist.  This faith has survived in places where the celebration of the eucharist was not possible.  We have experienced this to some extent in the current pandemic when the celebration of Mass has been live-streamed only and access to communion was not possible.  The act of "spiritual communion" was invoked to emphasize that the relationship in faith to Jesus is what enkindles the desire for a more physical expression in the eucharist.  Both levels of faith feed us with "the Bread of Life." 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, April 19, 2021 - 3rd Week of Easter

[Acts 6:8-15 and John 6:22-29]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the good that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." [John]

     I think most of us have had the experience of watching in person or on media a famous magician or illusionist or escape artist perform and asking, "How did he or she DO that?"  We don't ask, "WHO is he or she?"  They are "famous" because of the particular action they perform, and not because they have some other great purpose for being!  

     The crowds scurry around to find boats, etc., to find Jesus so they can question him about how he managed to feed them or they just want more food.  Misunderstanding of Jesus' "signs" or statements ("Amen, amen, I say to you....) is a major feature of the Gospel According to John.  When the crowds ask him how they might perform the "works of God," Jesus doesn't give instructions on how to multiply bread but tells them: "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

     Over the next several days, the discourse (another major feature) that follows on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes will open up a world of understanding that underlies our faith as expressed in the celebration of the Eucharist.  Scripture scholars call this "the Bread of Life" discourse.  The crowd focused on the "bread" and not on the "life."  Jesus will challenge us to focus on the "life!" 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, April 18, 2021 - 3rd Week of Easter

[Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48]
"Why are you troubled" And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." [Luke]

   The experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, recounted on Easter Sunday, is continued today in the second part of that story.  The two disciples moved from depressed disappointment at the loss of Jesus and their hopes to having their minds opened to the scriptures and then recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread - Word and Meal.  They returned to Jerusalem to share that experience,  In the very sharing, Jesus appears to the frightened disciples, shows them his wounds, EATS with them and then OPENS THEIR MINDS TO THE SCRIPTURES - Word and Meal.

     What the disciples had to understand (and so do we) is that they (and we) are part of an experience that is the fulfillment of God's promise to our ancestors in faith - Moses and all the prophets - and this is to be preached to the whole world.  Christianity would not be simply bound up in Jerusalem as a minority sect of Judaism, but would become a world movement.  We are "witnesses of these things."  

     When we gather to celebrate the familiar sacramental event of the Eucharist, we do not engage in a private spiritual event but a proclamation in WORD AND MEAL of the resurrection of the Lord.  We continue the witness of the two disciples who were traveling to Emmaus as well as the women who first announced the resurrection to the disciples and then the experience of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  God has fulfilled and continues to fulfill the promise of salvation.  Jesus continues in our midst in WORD AND MEAL, but we, in our turn, proclaim this "to all the nations."

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, April 17, 2021 - 2nd Week of Easter

[Acts 6:1-7 and John 6:16-21]
When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the board, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid." They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. [John]

     In the Gospel According to John, every "sign" or "work" that Jesus performs has one purpose: to reveal him as the one sent by God.  The multiplication of the loaves and fishes immediately precedes the account of Jesus walking on the sea.  Both these signs are moments of revelation.  They echo important themes from the Old Testament of God feeding the Israelites in the desert and deliverance through the waters of the sea and, most importantly, the encounter of Moses with God in which God reveals God's name:  I AM!.  (Although the English text translates the Greek as "It is I!," the Greek says, "I am!")  We will see the importance of that revelation in the discourse that will soon follow, known as the "Bread of Life" discourse.

     Our everyday lives may not seem to us to be as "dramatic" as the events recounted in the gospels, especially in the Gospel According to John.  But, when we recount stories of our lives, the very telling brings others into our lives as good drama and story-telling can do and the outline of revelation is revealed.  Often on retreats, one is challenged to do a "history" of prayer, learning, loving and serving in their lives.  In doing this, the moments of revelation often appear and we can experience Jesus' words, "Do not be afraid!  I AM!"  The moments may, indeed, be stormy ones as in today's gospel, but they may also be like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes when we were able to do a lot with very little and find ourselves wondering how we managed to do it.  It is the same Jesus who feeds us and calms us.  He is the one whom God has sent.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, April 16, 2021- 2nd Week of Easter

[Acts 5:34-42 and John 6:1-15]
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said this to test him because he himself knew what he was going to do. [John]

     One of the characteristics of the portrait of Jesus in the Gospel According to John is that Jesus does not react to situations as much as he directs them.  He is in charge from the beginning "because he himself knew what he was going to do."  The scene begins on a mountain with Jesus seated - a sign of authority.  (cf. a similar detail at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel According to Matthew.)  Jesus then asks a rhetorical question which the disciples misunderstand (again, a Johannine characteristic) and take literally.  When Jesus takes the bread and blesses it, it is HE who distributes it, not the disciples, as in the other three gospel accounts.  In short, Jesus is in charge and manages the scene.  This scene will serve as the introduction to the "Bread of Life" discourse, which will be the focus of the gospel scriptures next week.

     The power of the Gospel According lies in its dramatic presentation of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.  From the Prologue to the "Appendix (Chap. 21), Jesus is presented as the one whom God has sent and he is acting in accord with his relationship to his Father.  The "encounters" can draw us in and challenge us to look at our own reactions.  What "discourse" could we write as a result of our own encounter with Jesus?  How is this impacted by the other gospel portraits or the portraits of faith in the New or Old Testament?  At least in the Gospel According to John, we can be in the position of the temple guards who could only say, "Never before has anyone spoken like this man." 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, April 15, 2021- 2nd Week of Easter

[Acts 5:27-33 and John 3:31-36]
The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the who who comes from heaven is above all. [John]

     In the Gospel According to John, one of the overall ideas is that Jesus comes "down" from heaven and returns "up" to heaven.  Scholars call this the "exitus/reditus" theme. Jesus bridges the gap so that those who believe in him may be with him and have eternal life.  So the emphasis is on bringing what is "below" to what is "above."  This idea of Jesus as the bridge between heaven and earth would find special prominence in the DIALOGS of the great Dominican mystic, St. Catherine of Siena.

     For some, the Gospel According to John seems rather abstract and too far "above" human experience.  Yet, the "discourses" in the first twelve chapters of this gospel (what scripture scholars call "the Book of Signs") seem to follow on encounters between Jesus and individuals like Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman, the Crippled Beggar, the Man Born Blind and Lazarus.  It is in these encounters that what is above bridges the gap to what is below.  Our own experience can tell us that if we are open to an "encounter" with Jesus, we will experience something beyond what our "earthly" expectations can provide.  The encounter may be brief.  The guards sent by the chief priests and Pharisees came back empty-handed in a physical sense but filled with wonder in another: "Never before has anyone spoken like this one." (John 7:46).  Are we open to Jesus' invitation to "bridge the gap?" 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, April 14, 2021- 2nd Week of Easter

[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 but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [John]

     The Gospel According to John is characterized by the use of sharp contrasts: light/darkness, above/below, sight/blindness, disciple/world.  The language of conflict permeates the gospel and the use of terms like judgment and condemnation appear as well.  Scripture scholars believe this reflects the situation of the community for which this gospel was composed.  Those who believed that Jesus is the one whom God has sent were being ejected from the synagogues.  This explains in part the general use of the term, "the Jews," in the gospel - partially the religious authorities and partially the rejection by the community in general.

     The use of the word, "the world," refers to those who do not accept Jesus as the one whom God has sent.  It is a kind of "us versus them" way of thinking.  Yet the text today speaks of God loving the world of unbelief and sending the Son precisely because of that love.  The Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper  will address the conflict with "the world" at some length (15:18-20; 17:6=26).

     This is not merely a matter of what was happening at the time this gospel was composed.  It is a matter for today as well.  The "world" today is broader in terms of "secularism" as well as conflict between religious beliefs.  It is easy to find oneself in an "us versus them" mentality.  Yet, God so loves the world that he has sent us as well to bear witness so that the world might be saved through the Beloved Son.  The possibility of conflict and contrast, as the gospel warns us, will be part of the experience of discipleship.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, April 13, 2021- 2nd Week of Easter

[Acts 4:32-37 and John 3:7b-15]
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. [Acts]

     There have been thousands of efforts historically to imitate that first community of Christians in Jerusalem.  Some have succeeded for a time and others have been short-lived.  Catholic religious orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans do make a "vow of poverty" in which no one actually owns anything.  All material items are the property of the order.  In other Christian groups like the Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites and Anabaptists, there are varying degrees of communal life.

     Individualism and private property are deeply rooted in our American way of life.  The lifestyle described in the Acts of the Apostles seems impractical and idealistic to many if not most in our country.  Yet, it was that lifestyle which faith in Jesus inspired and which attracted many to that same faith.  Perhaps there is a challenge to us to consider how individualistic and acquiring we really are, and what does this say about our faith, especially in a society like ours where many are still without adequate shelter or food or medical care.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, April 12, 2021- 2nd Week of Easter

[Acts 4:23-31 and John 3:1-8]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?" Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit." [John]

     When I was in Catholic grade school so many years ago, it was a common interpretation of the passage from the Gospel According to John, quoted above from today's gospel, that explicit baptism by water was necessary for salvation.  Needless to say, we weren't very concerned about the billions of Jews, Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists (just to name some) who would inevitably be left out!  Scripture scholars warn us that the sacramental interpretations of later Christianity cannot be inserted into the text of the scripture without nuance and understanding of how those sacramental practices developed in the first place.

     In the Gospel According to John, the story of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus (early in the gospel) is not about sacramental baptism but about faith and the role of the Holy Spirit.  It is this Spirit that would be given after Jesus' resurrection.  Coming to faith in Jesus in this context is the equivalent of being "born again."  Water and Spirit are closely associated in this gospel as the encounter with the Samaritan Woman (living water - John 4) and the side wound of Jesus (water and blood - John 19:34-35 and 1 John 5:6-8) would show.  Nor should the expression "born again Christian" be confused with these passages.  The consistent message in the Gospel According to John is that Jesus is the one sent by God.  Faith in Jesus, enabled by the Holy Spirit, gives eternal life.  Sacramental baptism is the means by which one is formally introduced into this life, but we are not thereby granted total control of the Holy Spirit!  A baptismal celebration is a wonderful occasion to celebrate "re-birth" and can be a reminder to us of our own commitment in faith.  It is this faith in Jesus that enables us to "see the kingdom of God."

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, April 11, 2021- 2nd Week of Easter

[Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31]
The community of believers was of one heart and mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. [Acts of the Apostles] "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." [John]

     The Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel According to John were composed roughly 40 and 60 years, respectively, after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  They were written to encourage their respective Christian communities to be steadfast in faith and continue to bear witness to events that members of these communities would not have experienced firsthand.  This would include us now 2000+ years later!  On what does our faith rest?

     The Acts of the Apostles speaks of the actions that were motivated by faith in Jesus.  Faith gave birth to lifestyles and outreach that attracted attention in the places where early Christians were settling, especially when the first persecutions led to a dispersal of believers around the Mediterranean world.  The connection between faith and lifestyle becomes a powerful preaching that can draw others to belief in Jesus.

     I once saw a poster that read:  "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"  The questions we ask in Lent every year persist in the rest of the year.  Is our faith a "private" matter which has nothing to do with our lifestyle and relationships?  St. Paul's letters consistently challenge the communities he wrote to in matters of lifestyle and behavior.  Baptism alone is not a sufficient witness.  A copy of the Bible in the living room or a copy of the Catechism on the shelf will not get the job done.  Pulpit preaching will have no effect if our lives do not draw others to come and hear it!    The description in the Acts of the Apostles (first scripture for today) is a challenge to us to do some serious discernment that leads to action. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, April 10, 2021 - Octave of Easter

[Acts 4:13-21 and Mark 16:9-15]
When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalen, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe [Mark]

          In today's two scriptures from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel According to Mark, the experiences first of Mary Magdalen and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were discredited by the apostles!!  Jesus rebuked them for their disbelief (as he often did during the Gospel According to Mark).  Once the Holy Spirit put some energy into them, the apostles found that their experience would be disbelieved by the religious authorities in Jerusalem.  But those authorities found themselves facing "the people who were all praising God for what had happened." (the healing of a crippled beggar).  

     Authority and leadership in the church require the power to make the kinds of decisions that the effective preaching of the gospel demands.  At the end of today's gospel scripture, Jesus tells the apostles, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."  But the power that is given from the Lord is given to human beings and discernment, challenging in most cases, can be clouded by power.  I could cite any number of "issues" in our own church that could illustrate this.  One thing we can all do is to pray for those who exercise power in our church that they pay attention to the voice of the Spirit speaking from outside as well as inside so that the common good of the church and the preaching of the gospel can be well served.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, April 9, 2021 - Octave of Easter

Simon Peter . . . tucked in his garment . . . and jumped into the sea. (John 21:7)

The apostles’ lives had changed so much in so little time. Jesus had washed their feet on Holy Thursday and then faced his death on Good Friday. Three days later came the news of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Some had seen him a few times since that morning, but the apostles must have longed to see Jesus again, to be with him one more time. But he didn’t come back. So you might forgive them for being a bit slow to recognize Jesus when he appeared on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

All that changed with the miraculous catch of fish and with John’s cry of recognition: “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). Immediately Peter jumped into the water and waded to the shore.

Like the apostles, we can have days when we feel as if the Lord is distant from us. We try to pray to him, but we just don’t sense his presence. Even now, just a few days after Easter, the excitement may have worn off, leaving us with the sense that everything has returned to the ho-hum way it was before Ash Wednesday.

When you find yourself feeling discouraged like this, take a few moments to reflect on why Peter jumped out of that boat. He had waited long enough; he couldn’t wait even a few more minutes to be next to the Lord! Similarly, know that a moment of recognition is in your future as well, a moment when the clouds clear and you sense his presence once again. Until that day, stay watchful in prayer, confident in his love, and ready to jump into the sea as soon as you spot him.

“Lord, help me to hold fast to you in faith.”

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, April 8, 2021 - Octave of Easter

[Acts 3:11-26 and Luke 24:35-48]
"These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." [Luke]

     The 24th chapter of the Gospel According to Luke is a summary of the gospel and its purpose.  It is also a bridge to the second volume of Luke's story, the Acts of the Apostles.  The latter work is the source of the first scriptures for daily Eucharist this week and tells the story of the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem, ending in Rome, the center of the Mediterranean world at that time.  In modern terms, Luke tells the story of how Christianity "went viral."

     Jesus' crucifixion, death and resurrection were a terrible shock to his first disciples.  His appearances post-resurrection added to the trauma in some ways.  It took time for the community to digest the meaning of it all with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Since the scriptures from what we would now call the Old Testament were the primary reference for God's message for them, the disciples turned to these for understanding.  Luke speaks of minds being opened to understanding what the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms were saying about God's plan of salvation.  This became especially important because Luke wrote not long after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem!  Christianity could no longer be anchored to Jerusalem and Palestine!  The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of the early preaching to all nations.

     There is a challenge in all of this for us to see that our shared faith is a worldwide reality, expressed in multiple ways in multiple cultures but anchored not in just one place in geography or time but rather in the Word of God.  Pope Francis and the papacy serve as a unifying force to keep everyone "on message," but we are not called to imitate everything that happens in Rome, as if that were appropriate in an Amazon jungle or small parish in rural West Texas or big city cathedral!  Christianity went from being a small sect within Judaism to being a worldwide community of faith.  This is still happening in our own time as long as we are faithful witnesses.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, April 7, 2021 - Octave of Easter

[Acts 3:1-10 and Luke 24:13-35]
"And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" [Luke]

     The 24th chapter of the Gospel According to Luke is a masterful piece of weaving the story of Jesus with the post-resurrection experience of the community for whom Luke was writing.  It serves, too, as a bridge to the second volume, as it were, of the gospel, which we call the Acts of the Apostles.  The encounter between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is a challenge to be faithful to the task of "opening the scriptures" that takes place before the breaking of the bread.  All too often, and sadly, the former is poorly done and the people are left half-fed!

     Jesus appears to exercise a bit of "tough love" with the two disciples: "Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow to believe all that the prophets spoke!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  No doubt that got their attention!  "Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures."  The recognition of Jesus in the breaking of the bread rests on what he has told them of himself.  Every celebration of the Eucharist is meant to repeat this experience.  God's word is essential to this.  St. Paul says it well: "How can they believe in one of whom they have never heard?" [Romans 10:14].  We are those disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Does Jesus remain a stranger to us?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - Octave of Easter

[Acts 2:36-41 and John 20:11-18]
Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brother and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and then reported what he had told her. [John]

     Mary Magdalen was the first preacher!   The gospels are quite clear that Jesus first revealed himself post-resurrection to the women who followed him, and not to the Twelve! Mary Magdalen's experience of Jesus would soon become the experience of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them as well.  Jesus was the same, but not the same.  He could eat and drink and his wounds were still there to see and touch, but he could show up in a locked room unannounced! The amazement and confusion of the post-resurrection experiences would only be resolved with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the effects of which we see in the first scripture for today from the Acts of the Apostles.  The first daily scripture for the next few days will give us samples of the early post-pentecostal preaching.  It should be noted as well that it wasn't only verbal preaching but life-style preaching as well [Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35] that caught the attention of the people.  

     All Christians, men and women alike, are called to be preachers.  The preaching must go on in word and deed outside the walls of the church building.  Can we all show some of the same excitement of the first witnesses?  Can we both say it and live it?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, April 5, 2021 - Octave of Easter

[Acts 2:14, 22-33 and Matt 28:8-15]
"You who are children of Israel, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it......God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses!" [Acts]

     The reason we are Christians, especially Catholic Christians, is because of that last line of the quote.  "God raised this Jesus, of this we are all witnesses."  Peter spoke these words on Pentecost Day, which we will celebrate later liturgically, but which we celebrate by our very existence as Christians.  Our children and their children and all generations of Christians after us will be Christians because we are faithfully bearing witness just as Peter and the first disciples did, often at the cost of their lives!

     There was another narrative [cf. today's gospel], that the Jewish authorities of the time tried to circulate, of a body removed by followers who made up the story of the resurrection.  And there are people to this very day who accept that narrative!  Thanks to the witness of faithful Christians, the narrative of secular skepticism has not prevailed.  Billions of faithful Christians for more than 2000 years have kept alive the message of truth:  CHRIST IS RISEN!  ALLELUIA!

     When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist or simply when we pray alone, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to those who have gone before us in faith and have handed on the message to us.  We, in turn, can give the same life-giving message to those who come after us:  CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA! AMEN!

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

Jesus is nowhere visible. Yet today’s Gospel tells us that Peter and John “saw and believed.”

What did they see? Burial shrouds lying on the floor of an empty tomb. Maybe that convinced them that he hadn’t been carted off by grave robbers, who usually stole the expensive burial linens and left the corpses behind.

But notice the repetition of the word “tomb” — seven times in nine verses. They saw the empty tomb and they believed what he had promised: that God would raise him on the third day.

Chosen to be his “witnesses,” today’s First Reading tells us, the apostles were “commissioned … to preach … and testify” to all that they had seen — from his anointing with the Holy Spirit at the Jordan to the empty tomb.

More than their own experience, they were instructed in the mysteries of the divine economy, God’s saving plan — to know how “all the prophets bear witness” to him (see Luke 24:27, 44).

Now they could “understand the Scripture,” could teach us what he had told them — that he was “the Stone which the builders rejected,” which today’s Psalm prophesies his resurrection and exaltation (see Luke 20:17Matthew 21:42Acts 4:11).

We are the children of the apostolic witnesses. That is why we still gather early in the morning on the first day of every week to celebrate this feast of the empty tomb, give thanks for “Christ our life,” as today’s Epistle calls him.

Baptized into his death and resurrection, we live the heavenly life of the risen Christ, our lives “hidden with Christ in God.” We are now his witnesses, too. But we testify to things we cannot see but only believe; we seek in earthly things what is above.

We live in memory of the apostles’ witness, like them eating and drinking with the risen Lord at the altar. And we wait in hope for what the apostles told us would come — the day when we, too, “will appear with Him in glory.”

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, April 2, 2021 - Holy Week

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion - ABC

[Isa 52:13-53:12; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42]
"Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured...." [Isaiah]

     Years ago, when the movie, THE PASSION, came out, perhaps you saw it.  The only thing many could think about upon leaving the theater and for some time thereafter was, "He did that for me!"  Yes, the crucifixion and resurrection, and, for that matter the entire life of Jesus, was meant to be for all human persons everywhere at all times.  Jesus joined and continues to join all human suffering to his own, not to take it away but to share it.  But when it touches us personally, the meaning goes deeper, and in turn moves us to compassion for others.

     The focus of Holy Thursday on the Eucharist shifts sharply to a day when the Eucharist is not celebrated at all.  The Good Friday service is not a Mass.  Even if we may receive communion at the service, the focus is on the cross.  Although some liturgists debate the matter, it is a cross and not a crucifix (cross with Jesus body on it) that we unveil and venerate (as best we can during the pandemic).  It is the sharing of the cross with Jesus that binds us together but also personally in this service.  In Luke 9:23, Jesus warns all disciples that following him means taking up the cross daily.  The cross is not simply a symbol or a relic, it is an invitation to follow Jesus.  In John 15:13. Jesus says that there is no greater human love than to lay down one's life for a friend.  The cross on Good Friday is the ultimate act of self-giving on Jesus' part that invites us to compassion for others.  In remembering that Jesus did this for me, I am reminded to do this for others. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, April 1, 2021 - Holy Week

Holy Thursday: Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper - ABC

[Exod 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; John 13:1-15]
"This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution. " [Exodus] I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took break, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. [1 Corinthians] "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." [John]

     When Jews around the world gather to celebrate the Passover meal, a child is chosen to ask why this occasion is different from others.  The presider then recounts the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  This is more than reminiscence because Jews have suffered from other Pharaohs through the centuries.  In doing this, Jews proclaim the continuity of God's deliverance and the fulfillment of God's command to celebrate the original event while living a present deliverance.  

     When we Catholics gather to celebrate the Eucharist, one of the "memorial acclamations" after the consecration of the bread and wine, proclaims: "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again."  These words are taken directly from St. Paul's words, quoted above.  When we gather on Holy Thursday, we make a special effort to recall the original celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord while living its meaning every day.  Although the pandemic will prevent, in most cases, the re-enactment of the "mandatum (command)" to wash one another's feet; that command remains.  The Eucharist means more than consuming the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  It means becoming that Body and Blood in service to our neighbor.  The Eucharist is not our private personal possession.  It is shared in person through Jesus' command at the Last Supper, "Love one another as I have loved you!" [John 13:34]

     Holy Thursday reminds us that our commemoration is more than reminiscence.  It means "living memory" that springs from the original event as a living force along with Good Friday and Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.  We celebrate not only the past but the present and future of God's providential plan. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - Holy Week

[Isa 50:4-9a and Matt 26:14-25]
The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. [Isaiah]

     The gospel scripture for today is the evangelist Matthew's account of the moment of Jesus' announcement at the Last Supper that one of the disciples would betray him.  The first scripture, however, from Isaiah takes us closer to the events that follow - Jesus' arrest and trial - that Matthew recounts.  One may read the words of Isaiah above and then go to Matthew 27:27-31: Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.  Weaving a crown of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand.  And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"  They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head....."   Matthew's description echoes the Song of the Suffering Servant!  All of Holy Week happens against the backdrop of Isaiah's prophecy.

     The events of Holy Week and Easter with all their sorrow and joy take place within a much greater context of God's plan of salvation.  St. Thomas Aquinas, along with many others throughout history, asked if somehow God could have handled all this in a different, less difficult, way.  His response is that God could have done it differently, but the way it did happen was more in keeping with the promises God made through the prophets and others in the Old Testament.  [ST III, q.46. a.2].  None of this happens outside of us as some ancient event, but continues in us as baptized into Christ's death and resurrection. [Romans 6:3-11]: Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

     The fullness of meaning in Holy Week and Easter are there for us to contemplate and understand in the next three days.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - Holy Week

“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.”  John 13:31–32

Jesus speaks this line about Himself being glorified immediately after Judas leaves the supper to go forth to betray Him. Jesus had just finished washing the feet of His disciples, and soon He would finish the Last Supper, go to the Garden of Gethsemane, be arrested, beaten and crucified. And this was to all take place through the betrayal of one of the Twelve. Yet rather than speak of these pending events in a fearful or anxious way, Jesus points to the glory He will receive through them.

Everything in life has the potential to become an instrument of the glory of God. Even our sin can end in God’s glory when we repent and receive God’s forgiveness. It will not be our sin that glorifies God but His mercy poured forth from the Cross upon us that gives Him glory.
Reflect, today, upon your call in life to see everything from the divine perspective. If you are upset, angry, despairing or confused at times, know that God wants to bring clarity and grace to every situation. He wants to show you how you can share in His divine mission of transforming every evil into God’s glory. Seek out the ways that your life must give glory to God in everything, especially those things that seem incapable of being used for good. The more an experience in life seems incapable of being used for God’s glory, the more that experience is capable of giving true glory to God.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, March 29, 2021 - Holy Week

[Isa 42:1-7 and John 12:1-11]
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching. [Isaiah]

     When the four evangelists set out to tell the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, they began with the events in Jerusalem that we commemorate in Holy Week.  But how were they and their audiences (which includes us) to understand the "WHY?" of the whole thing.  On one level, the level of the ordinary Jew in Jerusalem at the time, Jesus was just one more religious/ political figure who irritated the authorities, both Jewish and Roman, so they got rid of him in a gruesome way as a warning to everyone else.  Life went on with the celebration of Passover.  End of story?  Not for those who believed in Jesus.  But how to preach about this, especially to one's fellow Jews, but later on to non-Jews?  One resource for people of faith was, and still is, the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah, especially his beautiful and haunting "songs of the Suffering Servant."  These four songs are featured on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and, most graphically, on Good Friday!  They envelop us in the world of God's plan while touching on the sorrow and joy of Holy Week and Easter.

     In the gospel scripture for today, there is a kind of "first" Last Supper in Bethany on the way to Jerusalem.  This is where Lazarus was raised from the dead and he is a guest at the banquet!!!!  His sister performs an extraordinary gesture of anointing Jesus with extremely expensive aromatic oil.  Her gesture is prophetic, because she would be bringing the rest of it with her to anoint Jesus' in the tomb!  

     If we enter in faith into the events of Holy Week, we sit today at this dinner with the Palm in our hands.  We are looking from Lazarus to Jesus and then to Mary and the irritating figure of Judas.  We may not hear the echoes of Isaiah in the background until much later.  But we are part of this.  We are not re-enacting a past event, but living it now in faith, from "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday, to "This is my Body, this is my Blood..." on Holy Thursday, to "Crucify him!" on Good Friday, to "Alleluia!" on Easter Sunday.  This is not a story we are simply telling, it is one we are living. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, March 28, 2021

Palm Sunday: At the Mass - ABC

[Isa 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; A: Matt 26:14 - 27:66 or 27:11-54 B: Mark 14:1 - 15:47
Christ Jesus, 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, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Philippians]

     Writing decades after the events of Holy Week, St. Paul offers a broad theological interpretation of what happened.  We can keep this in mind during Holy Week, but this should not stop us from joining in the events themselves.  Each Sunday of the year, we gather to celebrate the Eucharist - the Passover of the Lord.  Palm Sunday and Holy Week invite us to celebrate this step by step so that the remaining Sundays of the year can take on greater meaning in keeping with St. Paul's interpretation. That interpretation is like the narrator who comes out before the curtain rises to tell us what the drama is about.  Isaiah's "Songs of the Suffering Servant", which provide the first scripture for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, provide a profound "musical" background. Palm Sunday is the curtain-raiser with the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem from the account in the Gospel According to Mark and continues with the Passion account in that same gospel.  The gospel scriptures for the first three days of the week, from the Gospels According to John and Matthew take us through the events building up to the Last Supper on Thursday, the Crucifixion on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Saturday.

     Good drama draws the audience into the experience of the action.  We can become less as spectators and more as participants.  We can become a face in the fickle crowd that goes from "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday to "Crucify him!" on Good Friday.  We can become bewildered disciples trying to understand Jesus' words about betrayal and then panic in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We can become the denying Peter in the high priest's courtyard or Mary and Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross or any other witness to all these events.  Holy Week offers us the opportunity to be more than passive observers.  Jesus is giving his life for us in real time and not just in history. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, March 27, 2021

[Ezek 37:21-28 and John 11:45-56]
"What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish." He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God." [John]

     The account of the meeting of the Sanhedrin (the ruling council of Judaism in Jerusalem) in the wake of Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead is full of irony.  The concerns are expressed in political terms, but there is a theological twist as well.  The Gospel According to John was composed anywhere from twenty to thirty years after the Romans destroyed the temple in response to an insurrection (66-70 AD).  There would be another uprising in 135 AD and the Romans would crush that one thoroughly and build a new city on the ruins!  In other words, what the Jewish authorities were worried about in regard to Jesus happened, but not because of Jesus.  His mission and teaching survived.  The temple was destroyed and Judaism had to survive in a completely different way oriented around the Torah and synagogue and not around sacrificial worship and one temple. 

     The vision of Ezekiel in the first scripture for today was preached to the Jewish exiles in Babylon who had experienced the destruction of the first temple.  It is a vision of hope, centered on the rebuilding of the temple in a future Jewish nation.  Our hope is built not on St. Peter's in Rome or on the Vatican but on the person of Jesus Christ.  The Christian faith has survived in places where the priesthood and Eucharist were not available because of political persecution.  In Holy Week, beginning this weekend with Palm Sunday, we can understand that what happened to Jesus then did not destroy him or his message and mission.  No persecution has ever been able to destroy the faith.  We continue it even when circumstances deprive us of certain expressions such as the circumstances forced on us by the COVID-19 pandemic!!!   We will follow Jesus on his path to Calvary and the tomb of resurrection but we go beyond that to Pentecost and to the preaching of the gospel around the world. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, March 26, 2021

[Jer 20:10-13 and John 10:31-42,329]
If I do not perform my Father's works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." [John]

     The Gospel According to John is, in large part, about belief and non-belief.  Do we believe that Jesus is the one whom God has sent?  If so, do we believe what Jesus says when he calls God his "Father" and that he is more than a great man who was martyred by Roman authorities in collusion with Jewish authorities?  Jesus' identity would be a subject of debate in the Christian community for nearly 400 years before the Councils of Nicea (325 AD) and Chalcedon (454 AD) settled the matter for the Church.  There were some who believed Jesus was less than God (Arians) and some believed he was less than human (Docetists).  The Gospel According to John reflects the debate early on between Jewish converts to Christianity and Jews who really believed that Jesus was blaspheming. "You, a man, are making yourself God."  

     Each year, the celebration of Holy Week, which begins this coming weekend with Palm Sunday, brings us to the center of belief.  The gift of the Eucharist, the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus are commemorated not simply as past historical events but as present realities in a living faith to be proclaimed from then to now.  But it is not only those events, as important as they are, that are proclaimed.  Jesus' teachings remain with us after Easter.  If we believe all that Holy Week teaches us, do we believe what Jesus proclaimed and taught before his death and resurrection?  This is the work of the Holy Spirit and we have Jesus' own command: "As the Father sent me, so I send you." [John 20:21].  The work of the disciple is never-ending!

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Annunciation of the Lord

[Isa 7:10-14; 8:10; Heb 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38]
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." [Luke]

     Two of the four gospels contain stories of the conception and birth of Jesus: Matthew and Luke.  Scripture scholars call these "the infancy narratives" and point out that these narratives are "mini-gospels" in that they were likely written later and in the light of what would follow years later in the rest of the gospel account.  There is an emphasis, particularly in the Gospel According to Matthew, on how everything in the story is a fulfillment of God's promises given by the prophets in the Old Testament.  The annunciation stories differ in that in Luke the angel appears to Mary, and in Matthew, the angel appears to Joseph.  The connection with descendance from King David is mentioned in both.  What is most important is that the incarnation of Jesus is both the work of the Holy Spirit and the cooperation of Mary and Joseph in this work.  If nothing else, the very date of this feast is fixed exactly nine months before the date chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, December 25th.  Those who want to go deeply into the story of Jesus; conception and birth may read the wonderful and exhaustive study by Fr. Raymond Brown, S.S." THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH.

     In the feast of the Annunciation, we are presented with the big picture of God's plan of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit works through human cooperation to bring this about.  The celebration of this feast in the midst of the season of Lent and with the death and resurrection of Jesus soon to be celebrated reminds us that our work is to proclaim Jesus' entire life and to continue the human cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit in realizing God's plan of salvation. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, March 24, 2021

[Dan 3:14-20, 91-92, 95 and John 8:31-42]
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." [John]

     Today's gospel scripture continues the discourse that follows the story of the woman caught in adultery.  These "discourses" often begin with a statement that is misunderstood, resulting in Jesus clarifying with profound teaching.  Today, a word that appears often in this gospel - "remain" - challenges the audience to be faithful.  It is followed by an "Amen, Amen, I say to you...." statement about the freedom to be gained by belief in Jesus as the one whom God has sent.  "Sin" is the refusal to believe and thus remain in darkness and slavery to untruth. The audience mistakes the word "slavery" to mean physical servitude.  Jesus means slavery to disbelief.  The audience takes refuge in the faith of Abraham, but Jesus accuses them of being unfaithful to Abraham.  When this discourse reaches its climax further on, Jesus will reveal himself as before and above Abraham!

     We who are "cradle Catholics" can learn from this discourse.  It is possible for us to take refuge in the identity of "Catholic" and be blind to what this identity fully means.  Sometimes this is due to less than complete education in all the truth that our tradition embraces.  Sometimes it is due to social or political blinders that keep us from seeing truth that is inconvenient or threatening.  Our "remaining" can become something on our own terms and not those of Jesus.  A recommendation is talking to those who embrace the Catholic tradition at the Easter Vigil and hearing their stories as one way of understanding what we "cradle Catholics" may be missing.  Can we accept the "freedom of truth" that Jesus is offering?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, March 21, 2021

"I am troubled.“ (John 12:27)

So what troubled Jesus so much? The realization that his “hour” had come (John 12:23). After spending so much time preaching and teaching, healing people and driving out demons, Jesus had now arrived at the time for his passion. He knew that agonizing torture and a slow, lingering death awaited him, and the thought of it filled him with dread.

Yet Jesus also knew that, as terrible as it would be, the cross was necessary if he was going to save us from sin. It wouldn’t be easy, it wouldn’t be pretty, but it was necessary. So rather than shrinking back, he placed himself in God’s hands and trusted that his Father would see him through it. He loved us too much to walk away.

We all face times when we feel troubled. It could be because we are witnessing a loved one suffering, or it could be as we face our own suffering. It’s painful, it’s challenging, but it’s unavoidable. If that describes you today, know that you are not alone. Jesus has his arm around you and is holding you close. He knows what it’s like to feel so distressed that you want to run away. And because he knows, he can comfort you and help you.

Jesus endured the cross because he knew that his death would reveal the depths of God’s love for us—and for you. Let that love surround you and sustain you today.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, March 20, 2021

[Jer 11:18-20 and John 7:40-53]
"Never before has anyone spoken like this man." [John]

     The Gospel According to John has a different time-line than the other three.  The three "synoptic" gospels envision a single year's ministry beginning in Galilee and ending in Jerusalem.  The Gospel According to John presents a ministry of roughly three years because Jesus goes to Jerusalem at least three times for the Passover [Ch. 2, 7 and 12].   The second time is featured in today's gospel and it is clear that Jesus is already controversial because he had created chaos in the temple with his "cleansing" in chapter two and because he didn't fit certain scriptural expectations regarding a messiah's origin.  This time, the chief priests and Pharisees try to send guards to arrest him and they come back empty-handed.  When asked why, they respond with the words I quote above: "Never before has anyone spoken like this man!"  Indeed, Nicodemus, who appeared earlier at night in chapter three, shows the growth in his faith by speaking up somewhat timidly in favor of Jesus.

     What do we think?  Is Jesus controversial to us?  As long as we keep him on the cross and believe in the resurrection, is that sufficient?  What about his teachings, especially in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) or the parable of the Last Judgment (Matt. 25:31-45) or the parables in Luke (Good Samaritan, Prodigal Son, Rich Man and Lazarus)  or on the Eucharist in John 6?  Some very strong cultural and political currents in the USA would find themselves severely challenged by Jesus' teachings.  Indeed, there appears to be denial or ignorance on the part of many Christians that those teachings apply to them in everyday cultural and political life!  Preachers who mention these teachings and how they run counter to popular cultural and political beliefs will find themselves in hot water for "preaching politics!"  These preachers will be in good company because Jesus was similarly accused.  The temple guards had it right. "Never before has anyone spoken like this man."  Are we listening?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, March 19, 2021

March 19: St. Joseph

[2 Sam 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16; Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22; Matt 1:16, 18-21, 24a or Luke 2:41-51a,69]
"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." [Matthew]

     For someone who is barely mentioned in the gospels (only in Matthew and Luke and only in the "infancy narratives"), Joseph has a lot of influence!  Pope Francis has just declared a "Year of Joseph," and he is already the patron saint of too many things to list here.  Anyone interested in how powerful his influence is can visit the enormous Shrine of St. Joseph in Montreal, Canada, that is the result of the faith and efforts of a Holy Cross brother, St. Andre Bessette, CSC. One might speak to the LIttle Sisters of the Poor who time and again in cases of great need would write the need down on a slip of paper and put it beneath the statue of St. Joseph.  Bingo!  Results obtained!  Or, on a slightly more mundane level, I frequently hear of the devotion of burying a statuette of St. Joseph (some say it has to be upside down) on real estate or home that one wants to sell.  There is currently a national program called "Consecration to St. Joseph" that is popular with male Catholic students. Last (no pun intended) but not least St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death!!!

     The first two scriptures assigned for the celebration of the Eucharist on this day focus on God's promise/plan of salvation made to Abraham and David.  Joseph is addressed in the account from Matthew as "Joseph, son of David." Joseph becomes a necessary part of that plan.  There's no question that he was a man of faith and courage to marry a pregnant lady who was bearing someone else's child!  

     Popular devotion has given rise to many different inspirations from St. Joseph.  I mentioned only a few just now.  One may pick and choose from those inspirations and devotions, but his role as a willing participant in God's mysterious plan of salvation remains the starting point for it all!

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, March 18, 2021

[Exodus 32:7-14 and John 5:31-47]
"If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true....The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life." [John]

     Each of the four gospels reflects the conditions of the Christian community it was written for at the time it was written.  In the case of the Gospel According to John, the latest of the four, there is an adversarial tone that reflects conflict between Jews who accepted Jesus as "the one whom God has sent" and those who did not.  The ones who rejected Jesus were expelling from the synagogue those who did accept him.  The conflict and consequent resentment found their way into the manner in which the evangelist told the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

     In today's passage, which continues the "discourse" about Jesus' "works," the word "testimony" appears frequently.  The adversarial tone reflects a judicial trial and a "crisis" of belief versus non-belief.  The very word, "crisis," comes from the Greek word for "judgement."  Jesus argues that the scriptures (meaning the Old Testament) testify on his behalf as well as the "works" that he was performing, but that testimony is being rejected.

     Our very own faith rests on the "testimony" of the scriptures and the apostles and preachers who spread the word from Jerusalem to the whole world.  The Bible and reflection of the church fathers have been passed down through the centuries to us.  That is the testimony.  But we also have our own experiences in faith to enable us to bear witness and testify that Jesus is the one whom God has sent.  That testimony must be given to a secular world that can be skeptical of any religious faith.  Ultimately it is our good example and fidelity to Christ that will convince.  Are we ready to testify? 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, March 17, 2021

[Isa 49:8-15 and John 5:17-30]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." [John]

     The gospel scripture today from the Gospel According to John continues from yesterday's account of the healing of the crippled beggar.  We encounter two of the major features of this gospel in these two passages.  The first is that the "signs" of Jesus serve as a kind of introduction/platform for a discourse that follows.  In this case, Jesus had performed a sign on a Sabbath.  To the Jewish religious authorities, this constituted "work" and was a violation of God's law.  The discourse that follows builds on the notion of Jesus' "works:" My Father is at work until now, so I am at work."

     The second major feature is the use of the "Amen, amen...." statements.  This expression is equivalent (roughly) to our saying, "Listen up! This is important."  The quotation at the beginning of this reflection is an example and contains two "Amen, amen..." statements which themselves contain a major theological theme of the Gospel According to John - what theologians call "realized eschatology."  This is a fancy way of saying that the eternal life promised by Jesus does not begin only at death.  It begins with faith in Jesus as the one whom God has sent.  Jesus will repeat this again in the very next chapter in response to the question, "What do we have to do to accomplish the work of God?"  He says, "This is the work of God that you believe in the one whom he has sent."

     It can be difficult to understand how our religious faith in the present is an experience of eternal life.  Our idea of this is strongly connected to life beyond the grave.  But Jesus tells us that our relationship to him is, in fact, eternal life.  The strong contrasts we hear in this gospel between darkness and light or blindness and sight are meant to contrast between belief and unbelief.   Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection are meant to be the ultimate "works" that offer eternal life to the eyes of faith.  Do we believe in him as the one whom God has sent?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, March 16, 2021

[Ezek 47:1-9, 12 and John 5:1-3a, 5-16]
"Do you want to be well?" [John]

     The encounters in the Gospel According to John can go to the heart of the matter.  Jesus' question to the crippled beggar is not as simple as it might seem.  The man does not directly answer Jesus' question!  He has made a living for 38 years by that pool.  One wonders if he really wants to be well!  In fact, the text seems to imply that the guy "got back" at Jesus by reporting him to the religious authorities!

     That same question could be directed to each of us!  Do we really want to be "well?"  There is a famous quote, I think from St. Augustine;s CONFESSIONS: "Lord make me chaste, but not yet!"  Do we really want to change our ways?  Is it easier in Lent just to give up something for 40 days without changing any attitudes or ways of behaving that are contrary to the gospel?  Do we offer excuses to Jesus rather than asking him to heal us?  I think we know our resistance to medical advice that requires a lifestyle change.  We just want a pill to make the problem go away.  Do we really want to be well?  If we do, then we will have to do our part.  Jesus will do his! 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, March 15, 2021

[Isa 65:17-21 and John 4:43-54]
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe." The royal official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to him, "You may go; your son will live." The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. [John]

     The gospel scriptures for this fourth week of Lent all come from the Gospel According to John (except Thursday, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph).  The focus is on belief or non-belief.  In the Gospel According to John the major sin is failure to believe in Jesus as the one whom God has sent.  The most important point of the encounter in today's gospel scripture comes when "the man believed what Jesus said to him and left."   The result is not only the healing of the sick child but that the royal official "and his whole household came to believe."  Faith is not a matter of "signs and wonders" but belief in God.

     I frequently hear folks say that they wish they had "more" faith and could trust God more.  The royal official initially wanted Jesus to come in person to heal his sick child.  He was asking for a "sign."  It was only when he was willing to take Jesus' word for it that a "sign" took place.  The child is healed but the real story is that Jesus' identity is revealed through the "coming to faith" of the royal official and his whole household.  

     This is not a matter of substituting faith for medical science.  It is about our willingness to trust in Jesus' word to us in our own individual circumstances.  Do we really believe that Jesus is the one whom God has sent?  If we do, are we willing to live as he has taught us?  A good reading of the Gospel According to John shows us one encounter after another in which someone "comes to believe."  What is our own encounter with Jesus?  If we say we believe in him as the one whom God has sent, what difference does it make to us and to our neighbor? 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, March 14, 2021

[2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Eph 2:4-10; John 3:14-21]
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. [John]

     I haven't seen it in awhile, but in the past on a Sunday afternoon when watching professional football. the goal posts at the end of the field seemed to have a banner between them reading: JOHN 3:16!  It was a unique form of preaching.  The reference on the banner is to the lines from today's gospel scripture, especially the first sentence: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  This is the very essence of the revelation on which our faith rests:  Jesus is the one whom God has sent.

     In the Gospel According to John, the "world" means the "world" of unbelief in which life goes on without any hope of a transcendent call to a life that only God can give.  This "life" begins with belief, and not just with our physical death.  Jesus speaks the words quoted above to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who comes to him "at night."  At that point in John's gospel story, we do not know the impact of Jesus' words on Nicodemus.  Later on we discover that Nicodemus spoke up in defense of Jesus and participated with Joseph of Arimathea in the disposition of Jesus' body after the crucifixion..  As with Nicodemus, so also with the Samaritan woman (John 4) and the Man Born Blind (John 9), the process of coming to believe may take time. 

      In parishes around the world today, congregations may witness the ceremonial "scrutinies" of those who will become members of the church at the Easter Vigil.  Their stories of faith can be quite inspiring to us "cradle Catholics" if we have the opportunity to listen to them.  We can easily take our "world of belief" for granted.  Lent (and the RCIA program) provides us with an opportunity to get "reacquainted" with the One whom God has sent.  Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman and the Man Born Blind will be happy to share their stories with us in the Gospel According to John!

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, March 13, 2021

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. Luke 18:9–10

This Scripture passage introduces the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. They both go to the Temple to pray, but their prayers are very different from each other. The prayer of the Pharisee is very dishonest, whereas the prayer of the tax collector is exceptionally sincere and honest. Jesus concludes by saying that the tax collector went home justified but not the Pharisee. He states, “...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

True humility is simply being honest. Too often in life we are not honest with ourselves and, therefore, are not honest with God. Thus, for our prayer to be true prayer, it must be honest and humble. And the humble truth for all of our lives is best expressed by the prayer of the tax collector who prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

How easy is it for you to admit your sin? When we understand the mercy of God, this humility is much easier. God is not a God of harshness but is a God of the utmost mercy. When we understand that God’s deepest desire is to forgive us and to reconcile us to Himself, then we will deeply desire honest humility before Him.

Lent is an important time for us to deeply examine our conscience and make new resolutions for the future. Doing so will bring new freedom and grace into our lives. So do not be afraid to honestly examine your conscience so as to see your sin clearly in the way God sees it. Doing so will put you in a position to pray this prayer of the tax collector: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, March 12, 2021

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

When asked about what is the greatest commandment, Jesus gives a double answer: Love of God and love of neighbor. There is only one commandment: Love. The first is love of God, and the second is love of neighbor. These two loves are inseparable. Love of God is supposed to be seen in the love of neighbor. In fact, Jesus identifies himself with those who are in need: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me” (Mt 25:40). And so the Apostle John calls a person a big liar if he fails to do so.

Every person needs two feet in order to walk on earth. Similarly, every Christian, in order to move forward towards God’s Kingdom, needs two feet in the spiritual life: love of God and love of neighbor. Do we have both feet strong and working well?  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, March 11, 2021

[Jer 7:23-28 and Luke 11:14-23]
"I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets. Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers. When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either; when you call to them, they will not answer you. Say to them: This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself has vanished from their speech." [Jeremiah]

     Jeremiah is known, traditionally, as the "reluctant" prophet.  He complains often about his fate in life. His name has become a word in English: JEREMIAD - meaning a combination of complaints and "woe is me" talk.   He not only has to listen to the complaints of the people to whom he preaches, he has to listen to God's complaints as well!!  It is not an enviable position to be in!  Today's first scripture is a good example.

     God tells Jeremiah to tell the people that God is displeased with them.  At the same time, God tells Jeremiah that the people are not going to listen!  What is poor Jeremiah going to do?  He has to persevere in the task.  Like it or not, he has been called and his destiny is to be a prophet.  At one point the people get so upset at him that they throw him in a well!!

     Preachers and leaders of all kinds know well that challenging their constituents to be true to the way of life that they espouse with their lips can result in angry replies.  In some cases, these replies can be lethal!  Many Catholics have found themselves upset when they discover that the teachings of the church are very much at odds with their social and political prejudices and attitudes.  The role of the prophet is to shine a light on the "dark side" of our lives and invite us to clean up our act - personally and nationally - and be what God has called us to be.   Lent offers us an opportunity to take away Jeremiah's flashlight and shine it on ourselves.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, March 10, 2021

[Deut 4:1, 5-9 and Matt 5:17-19]
"Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" [Deuteronomy] "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." [Matthew]

     The evangelist Matthew composed his gospel portrait of Jesus for a predominantly Jewish-Christian audience.  These early Christians accepted Jesus but saw no reason to abandon their Jewish identity.  The gradual conversion of non-Jewish people and their resistance to Jewish observances such as circumcision and "kosher" regulations about food, etc. created tensions.  These tensions were more or less resolved at the "Council of Jerusalem at which non-Jewish converts to Christianity were freed from the necessity of most of the Jewish ritual practices.  The destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. added to the gradual disappearance of the formally Jewish identity, but Matthew was trying to assure them of the value of their way of life.

     Catholics of all kinds have devotional and physical rituals that reinforce Catholic identity, from holy water fonts to genuflections to fish on Friday to rosaries to novenas, etc. etc..  Any attempt to discredit "popular observances" meets with puzzled and emotional resistance.  Tension arises when these popular devotions develop a theological significance that makes them seem magical or at least equivalent to sacraments.  Fundamentals can be overshadowed and obscured by incidentals, no matter how popular.  Jesus criticized the Pharisees for allowing incidentals to take over the fundamentals of faith.  Knowing the difference between fundamentals and incidentals does not destroy the usefulness of a popular devotion, but puts everything in proper perspective.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, March 9, 2021

[Dan 3:25, 34-43 and Matt 18:21-35,312]
"Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." [Matthew]

The parable which follows this statement of Jesus is about the unforgiving servant who refuses to be as merciful to a fellow servant about a debt as he had been shown mercy earlier.  This parable is helpful along with an Examination of Conscience that focuses on forgiveness rather than sins.  After morning confessions an elderly gentleman approached me and thanked me because I had enabled him at long last to forgive his mother.

     Many Catholics receive the sacrament of reconciliation and feel that they need not do anything more about the harm they may have done to a friend, neighbor of family member.  But sin has a face on it.  Forgiveness must extend beyond the sacrament.  Earlier in the Gospel According to Matthew  in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to be reconciled with someone who has offended us (or vice versa) before worshiping! Lent offers us the chance to resolve all those forgiveness debts, just as we pray about them in the Lord's Prayer! 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, March 8, 2021

[2 Kgs 5:1-15a and Luke 4:24-30]
"Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." [Luke]

     Jesus spoke these words in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth.  They could not believe that a hometown boy could possibly be the Messiah, the fulfillment of the prophets foretellings.  He points to the stories of Elijah and Elisha to make his point against the lack of faith he was experiencing from his own people!  Honorable mention is given to Naaman the Syrian, whom Elisha had cleansed of leprosy.  Naaman's story is the subject of the first scripture for today.

     Naaman was a military hero but he suffered from a skin ailment that his own people considered leprosy.  He is disappointed when the King of Israel sends him to a hut where an old prophet tells him to bathe in a dirty little river called the Jordan.  His disappointment was based on his expectations that a big shot like him would be told to do something dramatic.  When a Jewish slave girl advises him that his expectations were getting in the way of his healing, he wisely accepts her advice and does what the prophet ordered.  The results were dramatic - baby skin!

     The expectations of the folks in Nazareth led them to reject Jesus.  Naaman, at least, changed his mind and listened to the man of God.  Perhaps this is a reminder to us to ask ourselves in Lent what our expectations of God are?  Maybe God doesn't expect dramatic things from us.  Do we expect dramatic things of God?  Are our expectations sounding so loud in our ears and hearts that we cannot hear the simple advice that could lead to dramatic results?  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, March 7, 2021

[Exod 20:1-17 or 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17; 1 Cor 1:22-25; John 2:13-25]
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]

     St. Paul speaks to the reaction that his preaching elicits from his two principal audiences.  The gospels show that Jesus was continually asked for "signs" to the point that it exasperated him.  The non-Jewish audiences (Greeks) that came a few years later found such ideas as Jesus' resurrection to be foolishness.  In the gospel scripture for today, Jesus causes an uproar by upsetting all the various booths in the temple that catered to the need for animals to sacrifice and currency exchange for the temple tax.  The religious authorities see only the physical damage and demand a special sign to prove Jesus' behavior.  They fail to see the symbolic meaning of the future loss of the temple and its replacement, in faith, by Jesus himself!  The Greeks would have found that idea to be foolishness.

     On a Sunday when the RCIA scrutinies may be occuring, parishioners may see men and women making an act of faith in Jesus' actions by joining his Body, the church.  They (and we) are among "those called" that St. Paul refers to.  The "sign" is the Sign of the Cross and the wisdom is the Word of God and our Tradition.  It helps us "cradle Catholics", who can become a bit too comfortable in faith and take it for granted , to see someone make  a leap of faith that was made for us at baptism when we were babies!  Their witness can have the effect of telling us to tidy up our temple and remember the one who made it possible! 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, March 6, 2021

[Mic 7:14-15, 18-20 and Luke 15:1-3, 11-32]
"My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found!" [Luke]

     When preaching from the parable of the Prodigal Son - our gospel scripture for today reminds us of the last lines of AMAZING GRACE: I once was lost, but now am found.  Was blind but now I see!  The noted spiritual writer, Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI, in his book THE HOLY LONGING, reminds us that at different points in our lives we may be like either of the two brothers.  We may be young and rebellious or old and judgmental!  Perhaps we may be in the position of the father who has to show compassion to both sons!  Are we just one of the villagers with mixed feelings about the situation, but glad to enjoy the celebration.  Seeing that family might make us think of our own and our behavior?

     A realistic and honest self-appraisal can lead us to the conclusion that we are telling the truth when we sing those last lines of AMAZING GRACE.  Both brothers were lost and found.  So are we. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, March 5, 2021

They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. (Genesis 37:28)

In today’s first reading, we see Joseph, the favored son of a well-to-do landowner, prompt so much jealousy from his brothers that they threw him into a cistern and then sold him into slavery.

As easy as it may have been to be angry at God, Joseph stayed close to him and let the experience teach him important lessons about humility and trust in the Lord. By the time he and his brothers reconciled many years later, a wiser and holier Joseph confessed, “Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Not only did Joseph grow closer to God, but his ordeal paved the way for his entire family to be saved from famine.

Sometimes, it’s good to try to find a way out of our “cisterns.” But there may also be times when trying to climb out is either fruitless or imprudent. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that the situation is out of your control, surrender it to the Lord, and wait to see how he will help you.

Maybe he’ll use that situation to teach you patience, perseverance, or forgiveness. Maybe he’ll use your witness of faith to soften somebody else’s heart. Or maybe he has an even better solution waiting for you a little further down the road. Whatever the case, you can always trust that his plan is bigger than yours will ever be.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, March 4, 2021

[Jer 17:5-10 and Luke 16:19-31]
"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores." [Luke]

     With these words, the evangelist Luke sets the scene for one of the more dramatic parables in his gospel.  The contrast between the Rich Man (whom tradition gives the title "Dives," which means "rich") and Lazarus could not be more stark.  It amounts to a kind of chasm or gulf that is finalized at the death of both men.  The chasm in awareness is contrasted with the proximity of the two men.  Lazarus is at the doorstep, and Dives is unaware.  The ultimate result is terrible for Dives and consoling for Lazarus.  

     Jesus preached this parable to the Pharisees, who would presumably know what Moses and the prophets would have said about justice and compassion.  Even if they would reject Jesus and any notion of his resurrection, they still knew what they should do.  We are beyond that 2000 years later.  How do we address the poor at our own doorsteps in our own neighborhoods, communities and nation?  Dives lived in a "bubble" of his own creation, which dulled his awareness of Lazarus.  The Gospel According to Luke consistently calls our attention to the bubble that material security can create, which can become both a wall or a chasm that seals us off from others in need.  Lent offers us a reminder to open whatever doors we have, interior or exterior, and become aware of others in need and do what we can to narrow the gap. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, March 3, 2021

[Jer 18:18-20 and Matt 20:17-28]
"Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue: let us carefully note his every word." [Jeremiah] "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day." [Matthew]

     The gospels are consistent in reporting Jesus' predicitons of his suffering, death and resurrection.  Also consistent is the inability of the disciples to understand what he meant!  Immediately after the prediction recorded in today's gospel scripture, the mother of James and John tries to get preferential treatment for her sons in Jesus' kingdom!  He questions them as to whether they are willing to accept the same fate he will face.  They claim they are!  He assures them they will!

     The Book of Jeremiah records the kind of thinking and plotting that often results from the preaching of prophetic figures.  Jeremiah was seen by the powers-that-be as a dangerous nuisance.  Jesus would be seen in the same way by the Jerusalem Jewish authorities.  What comes through is the necessity of courage in the face of certain opposition to the prophetic stance.

     Here in the USA, it doesn't take a lot of courage to be a Catholic or any kind of Christian in most circumstances.   Occasionally there will be hostility to those who keep vigil outside abortion clinics or at vigils before executions, but the risk of life and limb is slight.  More courage is required to say things that challenge the cherished political or social prejudices that clearly contradict the teaching of our church.  That can get some angry comments from parishioners and even vandalism of homes and businesses!   How courageous are we in the face of those social and political ideas and attitudes that are contrary to our faith?  Do we have the courage to face our own prejudices?  Lent offers a good opportunity to ask those questions and face the answers!  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, March 2, 2021

[Isa 1:10, 16-20 and Matt 23:1-12]
Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken! [Isaiah]

     Isaiah offers a thundering invitation to conversion with a startling contrast - scarlet and white!  Where would we find ourselves on that spectrum? Pink? Rose? In the gospel scripture today, Jesus takes the Jewish religious authorities to task for their behavior.  He does not question their authority, but their behavior!  "All their works are performed to be seen!"  Does that say anything to us?  Is it important to us to be seen doing things that are good, especially if those actions are "religious" in nature?  Isaiah suggests that doing justice is a religious act.  If that is true, how "religious" would we be?

     Isaiah and Jesus summon us to an honest self-examination in the light of God's commands.  Isaiah speaks for God with the words,  If you are willing and obey you shall eat the good things of the Land....  In the season of Lent we are invited to wash out the scarlet, to hear the orphan's plea and defend the widow, whether or not anyone sees us doing this.  Are we up to the challenge?  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, March 1, 2021

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  Luke 6:36–37

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his guide for a thirty-day retreat, has the retreatant spend the first week of the retreat focusing upon sin, judgment, death and hell. At first, this can seem very uninspiring. But the wisdom of this approach is that after a week of these meditations, retreatants come to a deep realization of just how much they need the mercy and forgiveness of God. They see their need more clearly, and a deep humility is fostered within their soul as they see their guilt and turn to God for His mercy.

But mercy goes both ways. It is part of the very essence of mercy that it can only be received if it is also given. In the Gospel passage above, Jesus gives us a very clear command about judgment, condemnation, mercy and forgiveness. Essentially, if we want mercy and forgiveness, then we must offer mercy and forgiveness. If we are judgmental and condemning, then we will also be judged and condemned. These words are very clear.

Perhaps one of the reasons that many people struggle with being judgmental and condemning of others is because they lack a true awareness of their own sin and their own need for forgiveness.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, February 28, 2021

[Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10]
"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." [Mark]

     At first sight there seems to be a considerable contrast between the gospel scripture for this Sunday and the first two scriptures.  The first two speak to a son being "handed over" to be sacrificed.  The gospel speaks of the powerful revelation on the mountain that tradition calls the "transfiguration."  Yet, the latter event occurs right after the first of Jesus' predictions of his passion and death [Mark 8:31-33], a prediction that Peter found very difficult to accept!  His puzzlement is understandable, but the event of the transfiguration may have been calculated to get his attention and remind him to "listen" to Jesus.  

     It is not difficult to think of the events of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection as something that happened in the past that we "commemorate" continually.  Yes, we do that at the Eucharist, but our baptism unites us with Jesus in his passion, death and resurrection, which makes those events a continual happening.  The transfiguration reminds us that what happened to Jesus can and will happen to us.  God entered into our own trials and suffering, and promises us eternal life if we are faithful.  The Gospel According to Mark makes it clear that even after the transfiguration the disciples remained without understanding until what Jesus predicted actually took place.  We have the benefit of 2000+ years of reflection on these truths, do we understand?  Are we really listening? 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, February 27, 2021

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

We all have them, the “challenging” people in our lives. Even when they don’t intend to, they seem bent on opposing our peace or our plans, and that makes us want to avoid them. We know that we should love them, as Jesus tells us to, but it seems so hard. Where can we find the love that will soften our hearts and overcome our resistance? In Jesus, that’s where!

The key to loving anyone—especially those we have a hard time with—is to try to see them as Jesus does. He doesn’t focus on the imperfections that tend to cloud our vision. Instead, he sees gems of such great value that he would lay down his life for them. They are diamonds in the rough, and he is committed to loving them and helping them as much as they will let him. In other words, Jesus sees them in exactly the same way that he sees us.

God loves everyone, not because they deserve it, but because he is God, and God is love. And because Christ is in us, we can learn how to love in the same way.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, February 26, 2021

[Ezek 18:21-28 and Matt 5:20-26]
"Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." [Matthew]

     Our imagination is tempted to picture the size of the sanctuary filled with unopened gifts awaiting reconciliation between the giver and someone with whom he or she is at odds!  Even if we run from the confessional to the communion line, we do not approach the Eucharist as perfect people.  The traditional expression, "state of grace" does not mean perfection! "If we were perfect, we would be God!"  Every celebration of the Eucharist begins with a penitential rite!

     What unfortunately escapes the attention of many very good people is the connection between worship and everyday Christian life.  The Old Testament prophets continually denounced worship that was not reflected in justice and mercy and love of neighbor.  Our worship cannot be compartmentalized away from the annoying person in the next pew or in the place where we work or in our own homes.   A "time-out" in a sport is part of a bigger effort in the game and not an escape from playing on the field, especially if we have committed some foul that hurt a teammate or opponent.

     The gospel scripture today offers us the opportunity to reflect on any unopened gifts we have left at the altar

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, February 25, 2021

[Esth 12, 14-16, 23-25 and Matt 7:7-12]
"Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 Two questions come to our mind on reflection on these words from Jesus about perseverance in prayer.  The first is about asking.  Not all prayer is about asking, but when we do ask, what are the "good things" we should ask for?  Since these words of Jesus are part of the Sermon on the Mount, and we have just read the words of the prayer that Jesus gave us, perhaps we might find a suggestion that "daily bread" and the ability to forgive others are "good things" to ask for.  We might add the ability to resist the temptation to evil deeds.  

  However, our reflections might also include the necessity to maintain communication - i.e. pray always.  They might include what we mean by "daily bread."  We might look at all those whom we need to forgive or from whom we should ask for forgiveness.  Jesus promises that prayers about these "good things" will definitely receive a positive response.  We might recall that the Sermon on the Mount speaks often about motives and intentions in our actions, and this could apply to prayer as well.  The WHY can be as important as the WHAT.   Lastly, we might ask ourselves how generous are we with these "good things" when WE are asked by others?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, February 24, 2021

 [Jonah 3:1-10 and Luke 11:29-32]
"At the judgment the people of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here." [Luke]

Jonah makes two appearances in Jesus' preaching.  In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus refers to Jonah as a sign of his {Jesus'] future resurrection: "Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." [Matt. 12:40].  The second mention takes place in today's gospel scripture from the Gospel According to Luke, and here the successful result of Jonah's preaching is mentioned.  What was that success?  The people heard Jonah and repented [much to Jonah's surprise, it should be admitted}.  Those who were hearing Jesus did not seem to think Jesus was anything other than a wonder-worker and kept demanding a "sign."  Jesus appeals to them to remember Jonah and repentance.

       Repentance is not simply a single event, like going to confession (although it should include that)..  Repentance is not "guilt-relief."  Repentance is an orientation of one's whole life toward love of God and neighbor.  None of us can treat repentance as something that has happened in the past.  It is a lifelong effort.  It should not be confused with penance (which is one part of repentance).  If a change of heart and a firm resolution accompanied by action are missing, repentance may become just "guilt relief."  

     Lent offers us the opportunity to review the role of repentance in our lives.  Are we really listening to Jesus?  Can we call ourselves Christians if we "disregard his message?"

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Jesus said to His disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Mt 6:7‐15  

During His public ministry, Jesus makes it a point to get up before dawn every day so that He can be in solitude and have quality time with the Father in prayer (cf Mk 1:35). His extraordinarily busy schedule is not reason for Him to forgo with His prayer time. Prayer is simply indispensable to Him. 

The disciples notice this. So, at one time, they approach Him after finishing His prayer to make this important request: “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples” (Lk 11:1). And Jesus teaches them: “This is how you are to pray:”  

Let us, therefore, consider some important pointers on prayer to make it truly pleasing to God. First, in prayer, what really matters is the sincerity of our hearts more than the words recited. St. Padre Pio gives this advice:  “You must speak to Jesus also with the heart, besides with the lips; indeed, in certain cases you must speak to Him only with the heart.” After all, as the Lord notes, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  

Second, prayer is essentially communicating with God. And communication is always a two-way relationship. One party talks, the other listens, and vice versa. This is the most effective way to deepen our friendship with God. As the great mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, said, Mental prayer is nothing else but being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him.”  

Third, in prayer, we acknowledge that we are mere creatures in the presence of the Almighty Creator. Hence, our first and main concern is not telling God on what to do, but on what we should do according to His will. This is clearly expressed in the Lord’s Prayer: Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” Jesus shows this in His prayer in the Garden during His agony: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39). 

Fourth, there should be no trace of selfishness when we pray. That is precisely why in the Lord’s Prayer, the pronouns used are the plural form in the first person: “our” instead of “my”, “we” instead of “I”, and “us” instead of “me”. It is essentially, therefore, a community prayer of God’s children gathered together as brothers and sisters. 

And finally, we have to remind ourselves that although we are so familiar with the “Our Father”, every single word in it comes from Jesus. Therefore, it may be considered lack of respect when we recite it hurriedly and without really reflecting on it. Needless to say, when we pray the “Our Father” we have to recite it with full attention, devotion and love. For as the patron saint of pandemics, St. Edmund, said, "It is better to say one Our Father fervently and devoutly than a thousand with no devotion and full of distraction."

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, February 22, 2021

The “chair” means an office of the Church. The feast of the Chair of Peter is a celebration of Peter’s special role in teaching and leading the Church. It’s also a celebration of the role that his successor, the pope, plays in every generation. The feast highlights the fact that the gospel message proclaimed by the pope can be traced all the way back to St. Peter and the twelve apostles.

There’s an implicit message in Bernini’s sculpture. He fashioned a “throne” for Peter’s chair with the statues of four Doctors of the Church—Sts. Augustine, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, and Athanasius—holding it up. By creating these statues, Bernini was telling us that Jesus didn’t just put Peter “in charge”; he gave each of us a charge as well: to hold up, or take an active part, in his Church. Notice that those saints aren’t exalting Peter the man. They’re supporting his teachings, which come directly from Jesus. In other words, Peter does not rule alone. He is supported and upheld by everyone who follows the teachings and the commands that Jesus gave to his apostles.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.  Mark 1:12–13

Today’s Gospel from Mark presents us with a short version of the Temptation of Jesus in the desert. Matthew and Luke give many more details, such as Jesus’ threefold temptation from Satan. But Mark simply states the fact that Jesus was driven into the desert for forty days and was tempted.

What’s interesting to note is that it was “The Spirit” Who drove Jesus into the desert. Jesus did not go there against His will; He went there freely in accord with the will of the Father and by the direction of the Holy Spirit. Why would the Spirit drive Jesus into the desert for this time of fasting, prayer and temptation?

First of all, this time of temptation took place immediately after Jesus was baptized by John. And though Jesus Himself did not spiritually need that baptism, these two series of events teach us much. The truth is that when we choose to follow Christ and live out our baptism, we receive a new strength to fight evil. The grace is there. As a new creation in Christ, you have all the grace you need to conquer the evil one, sin and temptation. Jesus, therefore, set for us an example in order to teach us this truth. He was baptized and then was driven into the desert to face the evil one so as to tell us that we also can conquer him and his evil lies.

As Jesus was in the desert enduring these temptations, “the angels ministered to him.” The same is true with us. Our Lord does not leave us alone in the midst of our daily temptations. Rather, He always sends us His angels to minister to us and to help us defeat this vile enemy. 

What is your greatest temptation in life? Perhaps you struggle with a habit of sin that you fail at time and time again. Perhaps it’s a temptation of the flesh, or a struggle with anger, self-righteousness, dishonesty or something else. Whatever your temptation may be, know that you have all you need to overcome it on account of the grace given to you by your Baptism, strengthened by your Confirmation and regularly fed by your participation in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Reflect, today, upon whatever your temptations may be. See the Person of Christ facing those temptations with you and in you. Know that His strength is given to you if you but trust Him with unwavering confidence.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, February 20, 2021

[Isa 58:9b-14 and Luke 5:27-32]
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to [Jesus'] disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners." [Luke]

     Pope Francis caused a real stir when he referred to the church as a field hospital for the sick and wounded.  He challenged all the baptized to become "missionary disciples" who go out to collect the sick and wounded and bring them to healing.  Why should this challenge cause a stir?  There are some folks who believe the church is a "perfect society" of "saved" people.  At one time, this notion of the church was promoted because of the way canon law was interpreted.  Yet, the very existence of the Sacrament of Reconciliation should have alerted us to the reality of the Body of Christ.  Indeed, when an interviewer asked Pope Francis, shortly after his election, who he considered himself to be, he answered, "I am a sinner."

     The gospel scripture for today tells the story of the call of one of the apostles, "Levi/Matthew," who was a tax collector.  Given the way we in our day feel about the IRS, one might multiply the feeling in Jesus' day since the taxes were collected by agents of the Roman empire!  Levi/Matthew would have been scorned by Pharisees and scribes.  There were other occupations that also made people "unclean" in the eyes of the Pharisees and scribes.  Levi/Matthew celebrated his call with a dinner and Jesus attended.  This caused the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes.  Jesus' reply should make us think carefully about our own situations.  "I have come not to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."  Which group do we belong to?  "Missionary disciples" are not perfect people.  We are called to help one another get to the field hospital the church.  Isaiah's many warnings about empty worship unaccompanied by good deeds can add to our reflection on this.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, February 19, 2021

In the Gospel today, the Pharisees criticize the disciples of Jesus for not fasting. Jesus takes this occasion to teach about the proper meaning of fasting. In the first place, fasting does not only consist in avoiding or limiting our intake of food and drink. Rather it should lead us to a firm rejection of sin and selfishness. Pope Francis urges us to do this. He said: 
“Fast from hurting words and say kind words. 
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. 
Fast from anger and be filled with patience. 
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. 
Fast from worries and have trust in God. 
Fast from complaints; contemplate simplicity. 
Fast from pressures and be prayerful. 
Fast from bitterness; fill your hearts with joy. 
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate. 
Fast from grudges and be reconciled. 
Fast from words; be silent and listen.” 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, February 18, 2021

[Deut 30:15-20 and Luke 9:22-25]
"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?" [Luke]

     It is a physical fact of life that if we do not diet properly and get exercise, we can become "flabby," which can bring on other physical problems like diabetes and heart disease.  We may regard a good physical health regime as a daily penance, but the facts of life tell us that this bit of "suffering" is nothing compared to the suffering that will come if we don't take good care of our bodies.  Good physical health cannot be taken for granted.   The same is true for spiritual health.  Moses and Jesus remind us that if we want the rewards of God's blessings, we have to discipline ourselves and live according to God's laws and commandments.  Jesus speaks of the daily cross that must be carried if one wishes to follow after him.  The path to the site of the resurrection goes past the site of the crucifixion.  The daily cross is as simple as it is difficult.  We have to deny our egos and appetites and reach out in love to others.

     The Lord knows, for the past year or so, our whole planet has suffered from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The disciplines of wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand-washing have not been easy, but they have been and continue to be necessary to prevent the spread of the illness.  Even if we have received both vaccination shots, we can still carry that illness to others.  Some of us have lost loved ones to the virus.  Important spiritual events such as weddings and funerals have been reduced to family-only events.  The celebration of the Eucharist has been altered.  We have suffered the necessary disciplines in order to help one another.  This makes the hardship of the pandemic an object lesson about Lent.  Without discipline, the virus spreads and causes much worse suffering.  Without the discipline of self-denial, for which Lent serves as an annual reminder, our Christian faith gets weak and "flabby."  Pandemic discipline is necessary, but we can also voluntarily take a look at our spiritual discipline and ask how we can stay in good shape.  Moses and Jesus today give us a blueprint to follow.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021

[Joel 2:12-18 and 2 Cor 5:20-6:2 and Matt 6:1-6, 16-18]
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. [Joel] We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. [2 Corinthians] "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]

     This will be an Ash Wednesday to remember.  Parishioners will be wearing masks and "socially distancing."  The ashes will not be smeared on our foreheads but sprinkled on top of our heads.  Lent seems not so much a change from the penitential practices that the pandemic has imposed on us as an intensification, just as we are beginning to find some hope in vaccination! 

     The prophet Joel calls us to a rending of the heart and not our garments.  Jesus tells us not to parade our penances in public to gain notice.  The penance brought to us by the pandemic are quite visible.  We have to wear masks and keep our social distance in public and to some extent in private.  Our loved ones are isolated in hospital rooms.  Weddings and funerals and other treasured rituals are reduced to  minimally small events.  The scars we bear from the pandemic will be lasting and mostly in the heart and memory, especially if we lost a loved one to the vicious virus.  We have endured the longest Lent of our lives!

     Perhaps with this Ash Wednesday, we can change the tone, if not the practices imposed by COVID.  We can proclaim a Lent of Hope that celebrates with Jesus a "resurrection" from the long night of COVID.  This will, indeed, challenge us to offer the depression and anger and genuine economic, spiritual, emotional and physical suffering as an opportunity to strip away [perhaps in the Sacrament of Reconiliation?] the false layers of our lives.  The aim is to heal the heart and spirit while we await a healing from the physical requirements and penances of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The "sprinkled" ashes are no less a challenge than the black cross-shaped smear on the forehead.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, February 16, 2021

[Gen 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10 and Mark 8:14-21]
The Lord said: "I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created, and not only the men but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them." But Noah found favor with God. {Genesis]

     Today our lectionary journey through Genesis introduces us to the story of Noah and the Flood.  Few Old Testament stories have captured the imagination as much as this one has! The principal theme of the whole story, however, focuses on the ambiguous feelings of God about the human creature that God created.  By endowing humans with free will and all the other elements of human desire and choices (Adam and Eve and their descendants), God took a chance!!  Indeed any parent, disappointed with the choices their offspring make, can identify with God's disappointment.  God decides to start over with the one human and his family that found favor: Noah!

     Biblical, historical and archaeological scholars tell us that this story has its roots in some cataclysmic flood because the literature of surrounding ancient cultures also have a similar story, but with different theological interpretations.

What we are able to see from our own faith perspective is human accountability to God.  The Gospel According to Matthew has Jesus referring to Noah in regard to being prepared for the last days of time. (Matt. 24:37-38)  If, as St. Thomas Aquinas OP assures us is true, we are capable of friendship with God, then we must be prepared to experience the possibility of God's "disappointment" just as we find ourselves from time to time disappointed in the way we think God has decided.  In the end God swears never again to "start over" by eliminating creation.  God has kept that promise even if we humans continually find ways to destroy that very same creation.  Once more, the Word of God reaches deeply into our present lives. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, February 15, 2021

[Gen 4:1-15, 25 and Mark 8:11-13]

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the Lord said to Cain: "Why are so recently and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master. Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let us go out in the field." When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He answered, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" [Genesis]

The psychological genius of the early chapters of Genesis takes us into the most common and deep elements of human nature and character.  Adam and Eve speak to us of our desire to rebel against God in favor of our appetites.  Cain and Abel speak to us of envy and its corrosive effects.  That corrosive effect can lead us to destroy the very thing we are envious of because we cannot bear the feeling of envy.  If nothing else, it will lead us to destroy a precious relationship. 

     We are not told why God did not accept Cain's offering.  But God does try to encourage Cain to continue to do good work, with the warning about the evil of envy lurking in him.  Perhaps the reason may have been the very rivalry that we all know between siblings.  The text does not tell us. An important question to ask ourselves concerning our own envious feelings.  "You are doing good things yourself.  Why do you want what someone else has?"  That question requires serious and honest self-examination.  Even when we celebrate with a friend, (family member, co-worker, roommate, etc.) some good fortune or ability, is there the faintest thought that the other does not "deserve" it as much as we do?

     Adam and Eve and their sons, Cain and Abel, teach us some awful truths that are at the same time beneficial ones.  Learning how to discipline our appetites and feelings is a lifetime task that Jesus reaffirmed in the Sermon on the Mount.  Genesis and Matthew (chs. 5-7) offer us a challenging examination of conscience. God's mercy awaits the results.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, February 14, 2021

[Lev 13:1-2, 44-46; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45]
"The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean!' As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp." [Leviticus] A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he [Jesus] stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.."

     After reading the passage from Leviticus, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how COVID-19 has impacted our lives.  It is not just a matter of the illness itself, which can be minimal in some and lethal in others, but the whole status of the individual in society!  In Jesus' day, "leprosy" could include any number of skin ailments and not just Hansen's disease, the classic example.  Life was hard for those unfortunate to be stricken with Hansen's disease right on into the 20th century.  

     The COVID-19 pandemic gives us a small taste of the isolation and exposure protocols that have made our lives miserable for the past year or so.  "Social distancing" and prohibitions against gatherings have impacted our faith life with actual dispensation from Sunday worship!!  The celebrations of ordinary sacramental life have become perilous with baptisms, weddings and funerals being limited in attendance.  The everyday requirement to wear masks in public has given rise to tensions between neighbors and in communities.

     All of this can give us plenty to consider in the story of Jesus and the leper today.  What Jesus does for the man is more than cure him.  Jesus restores him to his family and community.  The leper no longer has to cry, "Unclean, unclean!" and live apart from the community in a state of poverty.  What we may need to consider as well is not simply an illness that no one wants to have, but what one might call "social leprosy" which we create with our fears and prejudices in regard to individuals or whole classes of individuals.  Jesus was not afraid to be declared "unclean" by touching the leper.  How brave are we to cross the lines of prejudice to reach out to those whom "society" has declared to be "leprous."  If our goal is to be "imitators of Christ," as St. Paul writes in today's second scripture, we are challenged to "heal" the social lepers who reach out to us, and also understand what might lead us to create such a state for anyone.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, February 13, 2021

[Gen 3:9-24 and Mark 8:1-10]
Then the Lord God said: "See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is evil! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever." The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken. [Genesis]

     Although the words may not have occurred to the authors of the story of the fall of Adam and Eve, they knew the meaning of "passing the buck."  Adam tries to blame Eve and, indirectly, to blame God for putting her there in the first place.  Eve blames the serpent.  In the end, all three [and subsequent humanity] suffer.  St. Augustine called this the "original sin" and linked baptism to it as a necessity to overcome the ancestral guilt for it.  The consequences for our first parents were dire and we share those consequences.  Choices have consequences.

     There are many "what if's" that theological and philosophical speculation could offer.  "What if" Adam and Eve had not chosen to eat forbidden fruit?" for example.  The biblical authors were not concerned with those questions.  The hard necessities of life - labor in the field and labor in the womb - are the consequence of choosing a material/psychological benefit over God, a form of idolatry.  We know this now from our own experience!  Whatever form of development has taken place in humans coming to experience disobedience and guilt, it had to start somewhere.  The story reminds us that we can choose to obey God's commands or not.  If we disobey, we choose something else besides God and suffer the consequences.  If we obey, we choose God and enjoy the consequences. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, February 12, 2021

They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:37

This line is the conclusion to the story of Jesus healing a deaf man who also had a speech impediment. The man was brought to Jesus, Jesus took him off by himself, cried out “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”), and the man was cured. And though this was an incredible gift to this man and an act of great mercy toward him, it also reveals that God wants to use us to draw others to Himself.

Reflect, today, upon this Gospel scene. Ponder, especially, the friends of this man as they are inspired to bring him to Jesus. Ask our Lord to use you in a similar way. Prayerfully ponder those in your life whom God wants to call to Himself through your mediation and place yourself at the service of our Lord so that His voice can speak through you in the way He chooses.

Lord, please open my ears to hear all that You wish to say to me and please loosen my tongue so that I will become a mouthpiece of Your holy word to others. I offer myself to You for Your glory and pray that You will use me in accord with Your holy will. Jesus, I fully trust in You.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, February 11, 2021

[Gen 2:18-25 and Mark 7:24-30]
The Lord God said: "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him....... [Genesis]

     Jesus quotes this passage from Genesis in replying to the Pharisees' question about divorce, which was permitted under the law of Moses.[Matt 19:4-6}.  In doing this, he made it clear that Moses permitted divorce because of "the hardness of your hearts,"   Jesus' position on divorce has been one of the most difficult for humankind to accept.  Nearly 50% of marriages in the USA, at least, end in legal divorce.  There is a lot of "hardness of heart" in our culture!

     In this passage, God states "It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a suitable companion for him."  God makes all the other animals and man rejects them as a suitable "companion."  However, the man exercises his right of dominion by giving each animal its name.  God then creates woman out of the substance of man, and man gives her the name "woman."  However, the dominance of giving a name to the "suitable companion" did not extend to the kind of dominance over other creatures.  This, too, has been a hard lesson for many cultures to learn.

     I have celebrated many weddings.  Some of these marriages have ended in divorce for various reasons, much to my dismay and sadness.  The theological dimension of marriage has been lost in the various cultural expectations.  The two do not become one until death but rather two until divorce.  All the marriage preparation programs put into place by our own Catholic tradition in this country do not seem to penetrate into the long term relationship, which requires a constant effort and conversion as the two create a union that tells the truth about them.  

     It looks like Moses' teaching has become more popular than Jesus' teaching, but Jesus has the advantage, even if we don't recognize it.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, February 10, 2021

God made the earth and the heavens. (Genesis 2:4)

Whether our universe was created in a few days or a few billion years, one truth is clear: God is the One who started it all. He created everything out of nothing, and he sustains everything by the power of his love.

Isn’t that amazing? Not even the most talented scientist has been able to make life out of nothing—or even to create life from an inanimate substance, like the clay that God used to create Adam (Genesis 2:7). No scientist can fully explain how that first spark of life emerged on our planet. Although science has important truths to reveal, it was God who designed the universe and guided its development.

And because God had us in mind as the apex of his beautiful creation, he made certain that all our needs would be met. This included not only our physical need for food, water, and sunlight, but also our inner need for beauty and order. We see this in the way the Book of Genesis describes the Garden of Eden: its trees were “delightful to look at” as well as “good for food” (2:9).

Take a moment to thank God that he has put you on this beautiful planet, right now, right where you are. Not only has he created the sun, the stars, the seas, and the mountains, but he brought you into existence! You are unique, wonderfully made in his image, and deeply beloved by him.

But with these great blessings come responsibilities. God entrusted Adam to “cultivate and care” for the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). That’s a task for all of us. He wants us to tend to this world and its many creatures so that it can continue to sustain us and reflect his glory. When you do what you can to care for creation, you are treasuring this gift and preserving it for future generations. Not only that, but when you carefully attend to the creation God loves and cares about, you become an expression of his own love for the world.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, February 9, 2021

[Gen 1:20—2:4a and Mark 7:1-13]
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground." God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth." [Genesis]

     Today's passage from the Book of Genesis presents God as creating the living creatures (plants don't seem to count) that will inhabit the places God created in the first half of the story.  The last of the creatures to be created are human beings - man and woman.  Scripture scholars have long informed us that there are at least two creation stories in Genesis.  In the first one, God creates man and woman at the same time.  In the second one, as we shall see later, God creates woman later than man because God thought man should not be alone.  Needless to say, the second story has been utilized to support the superiority of males and gives them a place of dominion over women.  The first story speaks only that man and woman are created together and in the image of God.

     The phrase "in our image" is the subject of much theological reflection.  It has multiple possible meanings.  The plural "our" has been interpreted as reflecting the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Others have seen it as the "royal WE."  Scripture scholars believe it to mean God's heavenly court of beings, such as angels, that God created earlier.  Another distinction comes from what humankind is designed to DO - i.e. like God, to rule over all creation - as contrasted with humankind sharing in the very "substance" of divinity as an image of that divinity.  

     All of this is a reminder of the richness of the story and the richness of the traditions of interpretation which may be woven into our own understanding of how God has created the world we live in and the creatures, including humankind that live in it. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, February 8, 2021

'Seeking Healing’

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6:56

Though Jesus’ physical healings were unquestionably an act of charity given to those who were sick and to their families, it obviously wasn’t the most important thing Jesus did. And it’s important for us to remind ourselves of that fact. Jesus' healings were primarily for the purpose of preparing the people to listen to His Word and to ultimately receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of their sins.

In your own life, if you were seriously ill and were given the option to receive either a physical healing or to receive the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins, which would you choose? Clearly, the spiritual healing of the forgiveness of your sins is of infinitely greater value. It will affect your soul for all eternity. The truth is that this far greater healing is available to us all, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In that Sacrament, we are invited to “touch the tassel on his cloak,” so to speak, and be spiritually healed. For that reason, we should have a much deeper desire to seek out Jesus in the confessional than the people of Jesus’ day had for physical healing. And yet, too often we ignore the priceless gift of God’s mercy and healing offered so freely to us.

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the hearts of the people in this Gospel story. Think, especially, about those who were seriously ill and about their burning desire to come to Jesus for healing. Compare that desire in their hearts to the desire, or lack of desire, in your heart to run to our Lord for the spiritual healings your soul so desperately needs. Seek to foster a greater desire for this healing, especially as it comes to you through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, February 7, 2021

Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?

The funny thing is, as soon as that reading is concluded at Mass, the entire congregation will respond, “Thanks be to God!”  Really?  Is this reading worth thanking God for?  Do we really want to thank God for an expression of such pain?  We most certainly do! 

Job was clearly expressing feelings that we all face at times. He speaks of a sleepless night.  Feelings of a loss of hope.  Months of misery.  Et cetera.  Hopefully these feelings are not an everyday occurrence.  But they are real, and everyone experiences them at times.

The key to understanding this passage is to look at Job’s whole life.  Even though he felt this way, it did not direct his decisions.  He did not give in to ultimate despair; he did not give up; he persevered.  And it paid off!  He stayed faithful to God through his tragedy of losing everything precious to him and never lost faith and hope in his God.  In his darkest hour, even his friends came to him telling him he was being punished by God and that all was lost for him.  But he wouldn’t listen.  

Remember Job’s powerful words, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”  Job praised God for the good things he received in life, but when they were taken away, he continued to bless and praise God.  This is the most central lesson and inspiration of Job’s life.  He did not give in to the way he felt in the reading above.  He did not let the despair he was tempted with deter him from praising and worshiping God.  He praised Him in ALL things!

The tragedy of Job took place for a reason.  It was to teach us this essential lesson of dealing with the heavy burdens life can throw at us.  Interestingly, for those who carry heavy burdens, Job is a real inspiration.  Why?  Because they can relate to him.  They can relate to his pain and learn from his perseverance in hope.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, February 6, 2021

Come away by yourselves . . . and rest a while. (Mark 6:31)

Ah, rest! In order to function at peak performance, opera stars rest their voices midway through their performances and athletes take midgame breaks. Some of us need naps to make it through a hard day. God even commanded a recurring day of rest for his people (Exodus 20:8-11). That’s how vital rest is. So it’s not surprising that Jesus and his disciples sought the chance to rest and recharge after a period of preaching and healing.

What is true physically is even more true spiritually. It’s especially important to your life of faith to spend time now and then simply resting with the Lord. The late Cardinal Hans Urs Von Balthasar, in his book Prayer, described it this way: “Harassed by life, exhausted, we look about us for somewhere to be quiet, to be genuine, a place of refreshment . . . [where we can] restore our spirits in God, to simply let go in him and gain new strength to go on living” (emphasis added).

To simply let go in him can be the hard part. As we try to be quiet before the Lord, most of us find a to-do list forming almost instantly in our minds. Or we begin to experience guilt pangs over things undone.

Let those go. Instead, breathe deeply and let the tension drain away. Then try to picture Jesus present with you. If music helps keep your thoughts on the Lord, play something in the background. But don’t be afraid of long stretches of silence. Good friends often sit together silently enjoying each other’s company, not needing to say anything to one another.

If thoughts arise that might be from the Lord, ponder them for a while. Write down any words you think God might be giving you or what you thought about or experienced. But even if you don’t feel God’s presence, believe that he is with you nonetheless. You have answered Jesus’ invitation to “come away . . . and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31). You can count on him to refresh and renew you!

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, February 5, 2021

St. Agatha, virgin & martyr

[Heb 13:1-8 and Mark 6:14-29]
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.

     One of the more famous quotes from the great Catholic writer, G. K. Chesterton, is: The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult and left untried.  The words from the Letter to the Hebrews in the first scripture for today are basically a summary of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel According to Matthew (Ch. 5-7).  Much of the New Testament is a commentary on those teachings.  But the words of Chesterton challenge us in regard to Jesus' teachings.  The operative words are "difficult and left untried."  The difficulty has been present from the very dawn of creation.  Humans, created with free will, have found it difficult to follow God's way.  When God intervened in the person of Jesus Christ, the difficulty remained and is still with us.  To be a faithful Christian is to do a difficult thing.  It requires effort and discipline.  It is not always "user-friendly!"  Some might claim that God deliberately made it difficult by giving us hormones and appetites!!!

     We don't have to look far to find examples, whether in recent political events in our country or in our local parish or even in our own homes.  Christianity requires more than being "nice to others."  It demands sacrificial love and infinite patience.  The temptation on our part is to "redesign" it to make it more convenient or sympathetic to our political or social or economic beliefs and prejudices.  Conversion and renewal are a constant requirement for true faith in God.  We have many good examples to follow, as Hebrews reminds us.  These good examples made the effort to follow Jesus, even at the cost of their lives.  C. S. Lewis once wrote: Christianity, if false, is of no importance and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.  How important is it to us? 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, February 4, 2021

[Heb 12:18-19, 21-24 and Mark 6:7-13]
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts.

By baptism, we are all called to proclaim the kingdom of God.  What kind of baggage do we bring to the task?  Does it help or does it hinder us from the task?  The lifestyle of the preacher has a direct influence on the quality of his or her ministry.  St. Dominic was very insistent on this point when he founded the Dominican Order, the Order of Preachers.  His first disciples thought he was a bit too strict because they couldn't function without certain resources.  If the mission is to proclaim the kingdom of God in word and deed, the question of resources should be considered in the light of that mission.  What we really NEED should be contrasted with what we WANT.   It's a question that can serve as a lifetime theme, if only we remember to ask it.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, February 3, 2021

St. Blaise Bishop and Martyr

[Heb 12:4-7, 11-15 and Mark 6:1-6]
Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. [Mark]

The Gospel According to Mark makes it clear.  From the Jewish authorities down to his own kinfolk, Jesus experienced rejection and disbelief.  In the case of Nazareth it may have been a kind of "familiarity breeds contempt!"  "Who does this guy think he is?  We've known him all his life!  He's just a carpenter!"  Their rejection was so complete that Jesus felt stymied in his ministry, as the lines quoted above tell us.  The old expression, "There are none so blind as those who will not see..." has its roots in the experience of Jeremiah the prophet (5:21): "Pay attention to this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes and do not see, who have ears and do not hear."  Jesus' statement about the fate of a prophet applied to him and challenges us to take a close look at ourselves.

     Are Jesus' contemporaries any different than people of our own time?  Rejection of Jesus occurs at many levels: theological, social, and political.  There are some who cannot accept that he is divine.  There are those who find his teachings inconvenient to their lifestyle, so they pick and choose.  There are those who reject his teachings because those teachings contradict their cherished political beliefs.  Nazareth can be any place.  Could it be in any one of us?  Has Jesus become too familiar?  Or is it a matter that we don't want to see and be healed?  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Presentation of the Lord

[Mal 3:1-4; Heb 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40]
"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel." [Luke]

     As with all of his "infancy narrative," the evangelist Luke packs a lot into the scene of the "purification" or "presentation."  To begin with, the old title of "purification" would focus on Mary, but a newer title "presentation" focuses on Jesus.  The feast is celebrated 40 days after Jesus' birthday because a woman who had just given birth in Jesus' time was considered "unclean" for forty days and had to undergo a purification rite at the end of that period.  But Mary is warned by Simeon that she will have a greater suffering ahead ("and you yourself a sword will pierce...")  

     The temple and light are important themes.  Jesus is seen as fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi in the first scripture for today: "And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, etc."  But he "replaces" the temple because the temple was a symbol of God's presence to Israel, but now Jesus becomes that presence not just for Israel but for the Gentiles as well.  The liturgical symbol of this is the candle, and a candlelight procession can be part of the celebration, which traditionally has been called "candlemas day."  For many Catholics this just becomes the prelude to the feast of St. Blaise, when throats are blessed, using blessed candles as part of the ritual.  (It may not happen that way during the pandemic, however!)

     The Canticle of Simeon is recited each day in the last "hour" of the Liturgy of the Hours - Compline.  It is a prayer of gratitude and hope coming from the heart of the elderly Simeon.  Grandparents know the feeling when they see their grandchildren born. but this particular encounter has universal significance.  Christ is revealed as a light to the nations as well as the glory of Israel..  

     Coming as it does during the week and connected with a popular devotion (blessing of the throats), the feast of the Presentation of the Lord may pass without notice to many of us.  The challenge is to focus on the revelation of Jesus

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, February 1, 2021

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He  replied, “Legion is my name.  There are many of us.” Mark 5:7–9

If Jesus could transform the life of this man who was completely possessed by a Legion of demons, then no one is ever without hope. Too often, especially within our families and among old friends, there are those whom we have written off as irredeemable. There are those who have gone so far astray that they seem hopeless. But one thing this story tells us is that hope is never lost for anyone—not even those completely possessed by a multitude of demons.

Reflect, today, upon anyone in your life whom you have written off. Perhaps they have hurt you over and over. Or perhaps they have chosen a life of grave sin. Look at that person in the light of this Gospel and know that there is always hope. Be open to God acting through you in a profound and powerful way so that even the most seemingly irredeemable person you know will be given hope through you.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, January 31, 2021

Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.  Mark 1:25–26

This passage from Mark’s Gospel could be the scene from a horror movie.  Well, at least if Hollywood were producing the film.  In truth, it’s the scene of an act of great love and mercy and reveals the power and authority of Jesus!  

It’s the story of a man with an unclean spirit, a demon.  The demon is tormenting him.  So, Jesus looks at the man with great love and compassion and expels the evil spirit, setting him free.  This truly is an act of love.

But one question this clearly brings up is the role of the evil spirits in our world and their ability to control, manipulate or, at least, tempt us.  They are powerful spiritual beings created by God with free will, and they exercised that free will to turn away from God.  One of their primary duties, granted them at the moment of their creation, was to care for humanity.  Those spirits who fell from grace by their pride and sin still retain their natural spiritual power.  But because of their fall, they now only have hatred for mankind and seek to destroy us.  This is real.  And this is something we should be keenly aware of.

But there is no reason to lose hope or to give in to fear.  These beings are, of course, ultimately subject to the power and authority of God.  They can do nothing without God permitting it—and, in the end, they can have no power over our lives.

But for now, we need to be aware of their natural spiritual power and influence.  We need to understand that they can and will try to wreak havoc in our lives.  When we let fear weaken our faith, and lack trust in God’s almighty power, we slowly allow them to have more influence over us.  But when we allow the grace and mercy of God to overshadow their evil influence, we hear Jesus rebuke them and order them to cease.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that the spiritual battle is a real one.  However, the victory is assured if we only humble ourselves before God and trust in His power and authority.  Humility is the key to this spiritual battle.  It’s the key to overcoming the attacks and temptations of the evil one.  So, humble yourself before God when you feel oppressed or tempted.  Humble yourself by admitting your weaknesses.  Acknowledge that only God has the authority to strengthen you.  Put your trust in Him.  He will not let you down!

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, January 30, 2021

[Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 and Mark 4:35-41]
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." [Hebrews] "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" [Mark]

     Have you ever met a real live atheist?  They do exist; perphaps we have seen a TV ad promoting atheism as a cause.  For awhile there were some  books by atheists - Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens - that attracted some attention.  Although their arguments for their positions have had some superficial attraction, there are plenty of folks who have responded with more than adequate rebuttals.  But the very existence of atheism is a good challenge to us to be informed and intelligent about our faith.  St. Thomas Aquinas, OP, provides some good arguments for the existence of God in his SUMMA THEOLOGIAE, but their considerable appeal can leave a some aspects of the experience of faith untouched.  The Letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel According to Mark speak to the experience of faith in today's scriptures.

     Hebrews makes one of its most famous statements about faith and then goes on to provide examples of heroes of faith like Abraham, Isaac and other great Old Testament figures.  Where did Abraham get his faith in God that led him to move to a new land?  What he had was an experience of God - something beyond the intellectual but including it.  Popes Benedict and Francis, in their joint encyclical LUMEN FIDEI, speak of faith as the response to an encounter with a love far greater than any human could imagine.  

     In the Gospel According to Mark, the incident of Jesus calming the storm gave his frightened disciples an encounter with a transcendent power.  They had to see this power ultimately in Jesus' own death and resurrection and it became something worth their very lives to proclaim.  

     It is the experience of transcendent power and love that faith offers.  Ultimately it is our own experience of God's love in the heart and mind that compel us to look further into an ultimate goal that we can begin to experience in this life. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, January 29, 2021

[Heb 10:32-39 and Mark 4:26-34]
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised....We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life. [Hebrews] "This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear." [Mark]

     Serious Christian life requires serious Christian effort.  However, it is not meant to be self-fulfilling in the sense that we somehow live this life alone.  By its very nature, Christianity is meant to be shared.  As St. Thomas Aquinas says, "Good is diffusive of itself."   It is meant to spread by its very nature.  However, as the scriptures for today remind us, the effort to spread the Good News means endurance and confidence in the goodness of that news!  It also requires the kind of patience that farming or gardening demands.  A seed will rarely sprout and grow as fast as we would like.  As the parable of the seed and sower yesterday reminds us, the soil may not be right. And once the seed sprouts, there are all kinds of environmental challenges that can interfere.  

     The wise Christian learns when witness requires "action" or "non-action."  Sometimes it's best simply to "be" and not try to force things by overacting.  There are other times, when conditions are right, to act confidently and forcefully.  (One can overwater a plant!) There are times when silence is more eloquent than words, and patience more productive than pushing.  The life of faith is a human life with an ultimate goal, but, being human, it can be a messy business because human weakness can mean limited success.  This is why we need others to support and encourage us to persevere and to keep planting the seed of the Word of God as well as being good examples of what that seed can grow to be. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, January 28, 2021

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, O.P.

[Heb 10:19-25 and Mark 4:21-25]
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. [Hebrews]

     Not long before he died, St. Thomas Aquinas is said to have received a vision from the chapel crucifix in Naples of Jesus who said, "You have written well of me. Thomas!  What would you have?"  Thomas is said to have replied, "Nothing except you, Lord."  Like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas stands like a giant in the theological tradition of the Latin/Western Catholic church.  His story is simple enough in outline.  He was born to a minor noble family in 1221. He defied his family (who had other plans for him) and joined the brand-new (at that time) Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) whom he had met as a college student in Naples.  His intellectual abilities were quickly noticed by another great Dominican scholar, St. Albert the Great, who mentored him and fostered his academic career.  He taught mostly in two places: Paris and at the papal court in Italy.  His boldest innovation was to introduce the philosophical wisdom of Aristotle as a way of framing Catholic theological thought. While on his way to attend a church council, he suffered a fall and died at a Benedictine Monastery in 1274.

     His theological and scriptural works continue to influence the teaching of the church.  The Summa Theologiae, which remained unfinished at his death, is a foundational source for all Catholic theologians, but it is one of many works he produced.  Yet, in the end, he considered it as "straw" compared with what he had experienced in his relationship to God toward the end of his life.  A very accessible and readable paraphrase of the Summa Theologiae, entitled MY WAY OF LIFE, first published in 1952 is still in print for those who want to share in his wisdom.   A line from the Summa Theologiae, continues to inspire, "The new law of Christ is nothing other than the Holy Spirit working in our hearts through faith in Christ." [I-II, Q. 106 a. 1].  

     The Letter to the Hebrews today speaks to the life of Thomas Aquinas.  He held unwaveringly to his confession of faith and can inspire us to do the same. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, January 27, 2021

St. Angela Merici

[Heb 10:11-18 and Mark 4:1-20]
"Hear this! ........Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear."

There were no megaphones in that day, so one wonders how Jesus was able to get his message across!  The parable he tells on this occasion of the sower and the seed could come true just in that venue.  

     Those in the crowd can ask themselves what kind of "soil" they are: path, rocky, thorny or fertile?  But there is another side to the parable of the sower and the seed.   Jesus preached with parables and images that were meant to challenge people to ask about how his teachings touched their everyday lives.  The harder the ground, the harder the challenge is.  As Jesus points out, there are a lot of environmental things that can impede understanding about his message.  Even his close disciples seemed to have trouble navigating what he was trying to say.  Preachers have to be persistent and consistent in preaching but they also have to be wise in understanding what the audience is working with or against in their lives of faith!  Although there have been some top-down efforts in the church to improve the quality of preaching, nothing works better than the audience telling the preacher that he just isn't "getting it" about them and their needs.  There ARE ears to hear, and the cultural, social and political environment may be difficult,  but is the messenger also paying attention?  If it takes sitting in a boat and shouting at people on the shore, then that's what has to be done. Just make sure it's worth shouting!   

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

[2 Tim 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5 and Luke 10:1-9 or Mark 3:31-35]
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. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord......; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. [2 Timothy]

     There is such a thing as "faith fatigue!"  I suspect we all experience it in one way or another in our efforts to remain faithful to our baptismal calling as Christians and particularly as Catholic Christians.  The head-winds of secular attractions and resistance to Christianity are strong.  Political and social causes that we find sympathetic can make demands that run counter to or erode the commitment to Christ and his teachings.  Why not just offer incense to Caesar and get on with life?  Why do we have to go to Mass or believe this or that just because someone across the Atlantic says so?     

The words of the Second Letter to Timothy that are quoted above are a real pep-talk for faith-fatigue!  The fire is dying down because it lacks attention.  Other concerns distract the fire-stoker.  The Spirit is there but its power is being diminished by other attractions.  "Power, love and self-control" seem no longer as important as consumer or political or social interests.  The appetites seem to make us self-enemies!  We just get tired of acting on the Word of God that we hear, and then stop hearing!  The "spirit of cowardice" comes in through hormone-friendly urges and an "everybody is doing it" attitude.  Needless to say, when we get the energy to go to Mass or other observances, are our leaders giving good example, especially in their preaching and lifestyles?

     Fatigue can strike any commitment, but when it strikes our faith, the long term consequences can be considerable in this life and the next. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, January 25, 2021

Though there are many fascinating aspects to the story of Saint Paul and his conversion, it is also inspiring to reflect upon the way in which God first converted him. Jesus was not harsh with Saul. He was not condemning. Instead, he saw the goodness and vigor of Saul and knew that he would respond if he were given the opportunity. Though Jesus used the powerful action of striking him blind, He did so because He saw so much potential for good within Saul.

This same truth applies to our lives. Each one of us has incredible potential for good, and God does see this. God is aware of all that He can do with us and is seeking to draw us into His mission of sharing the Gospel with those in need. The question to ponder is whether or not you have responded to the ways that God has spoken to you and invited you to serve Him with your life. Saul’s encounter with Jesus was powerful and transforming not only because he was blinded by this vision—it was powerful and transforming, first and foremost, because Saul wanted to serve God but was trying to do so in an erroneous way. And once that error was corrected, Saul responded in an immediate and complete way. As a result, Saul became one of the greatest evangelists in the history of the Church.

Reflect, today, upon the desire in the heart of Jesus to invite you into His mission. Though you may be unaware of the many ways God can use you, Jesus is fully aware. He sees all of your gifts and knows who He wants to draw to Himself through you. Say “Yes” to Him this day and do so with every fiber of your soul. Doing so will allow God to do great things through you.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, January 24, 2021

It can be an interesting and often amusing exercise to ask a couple how they first met.  One will say, "We met on a blind date!"  The other will say, "No, I remember clearly meeting you in a class we took together.  In fact, I registered for that class so I could meet you!  You just don't remember it.  My buddy deliberately set up the 'blind date.'"  Both are right but each experienced the "first meeting" in a different way.  So, if someone asked Simon Peter how he first met Jesus, he could say, "Well, I remember him calling out to me when I was fishing..."  His brother, Andrew, could interrupt and say.  "Wait a minute!  I introduced you to Jesus after I met him!"  Simon might reply, "Yeah.....I guess so, but I don't remember that!"

     Last week, we heard Andrew's side of the story (as told by the evangelist John) and this week we heard Peter's side of the story (as told by Mark, Luke and Matthew).  Does it matter?  Ask yourself how you first "met" Jesus?  How did he come into your life?  Ask Samuel (last week) and Jonah (first scripture for today) how they first encountered God in person!  The story of Jonah is really colorful.  He heard God's voice and tried to run away.  He took a boat and God rocked the boat in a storm, for which the sailors rightly blamed Jonah and threw him overboard where he was "swallowed" by a "whale" and spit up on the beach, at which Jonah finally got the message.  You can try to run from God, but you can't hide!

     The stories of the "call" in the Bible are as colorful as they are many.  There is no particular race, personality type or income level or other qualification.  At some point there is an acceptance that demands faith and commitment.  God's call may be experienced in that man and woman who meet and fall in love and experience all the ups and downs of their history together (including how they first "met").  It may be experienced in that nagging voice that provides an attraction and nudges one in that direction, "You really ought to try this!"  We can run, but we can't hide! 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, January 23, 2021

[Heb 9:2-3, 11-14 and Mark 3:20-21]
Jesus came with his disciples into the house Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." [Mark]

    The Gospel According to Mark pulls no punches.  Jesus is rejected not only by the Jewish authorities, but also by his own family. These are not distant relatives.  A little further on in the text, we discover that it is "his mother and his brothers!" (vv. 31-32].  They arrive to "seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."  In our own time, we might call this a "family intervention."  Most likely the cause is the notoriety that Jesus was gaining, especially the negative attention of Jewish authorities!  The "family honor" was at stake and Jesus' response to their effort (vv. 31-35) is to say, "'Who are my mother and brothers?' And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers.  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'"

     In our individualistic culture, especially with the phenomenon of "blended families," it may be difficult to understand the power of kinship in Middle Eastern terms.  Family, clan and tribe are still extremely important in those cultures, along with the social "honor" that guides all social interactions.  So, the rejection of Jesus' ministry by his own family is the ultimate and cruelest cut of all as he starts on his journey to Jerusalem.

     Our common expression for someone in the family who has cut ties or earned rejection is "the black sheep of the family."  The story in today's gospel is a reminder that while an "intervention" or tough love may be necessary from time to time, rejection and dis-ownership should be very rare.  Jesus is summoning his own family to a higher awareness of "the will of God" and a new family called "the Kingdom of God." {cf. Mark 1:15] 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, January 22, 2021

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

[Heb 8:6-13 and Mark 3:13-19]
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles

     The story of Jesus' appointment of the Twelve apostles is both a statement of an ordinary occurrence and a theological statement!  Rabbis of Jesus time would usually have a set of disciples who formed a kind of executive committee or "inner circle."  But everything in the gospels is there to say something about Jesus and his mission, so we have to look closely at the account.

     First of all, Jesus makes the appointment on a mountain.  In the Bible extraordinary things happen on mountains.  In this case, Jesus is echoing the example of Moses who with God on Mt. Sinai.  There God constituted the twelve tribes of Israel as God's people.  Jesus, on a mountain, creates a "New Israel" with his choice of twelve disciples.  

     Second, Jesus calls these twelve disciples "apostles."  The Greek term means "one who is sent to do something.  Their job description is given in the text - to preach and have authority to cast out demons.  In other words, Jesus shares his "authority" with them.  This "authority" has already been noted in the Gospel According to Mark "What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."  {Mark 1:27-28)  Our church stands on the succession of this authority in the pope and bishops.

     Third, Jesus picked ordinary men.  The group included impulsive, politically ambitious people (Peter, James and John), an extremist (Simon the Zealot), a chronic skeptic (Thomas), a collaborator with the Romans (Matthew/Levi) and the very one who would betray him (Judas Iscariot).    

     Every time we recite the Nicene Creed, we profess faith in a "one, holy, catholic and APOSTOLIC church".   The pope and bishops are called to speak with the "authority" of Christ.  Like all of us who are baptized, however, even our leaders must meet the criteria of a disciple who comes to serve and not to be served. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, January 21, 2021

[Heb 7:25—8:6 and Mark 3:7-12]
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God." He warned them sternly not to make him known. [Mark]

 JANUARY 21 ST. AGNES, virgin and martyr

           Throughout the three synoptic gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke - the reader is confronted with something that, to this day, leaves scripture scholars as well as ordinary believers scratching their heads.  It is what scholars have called "the Messianic Secret."  The term itself is from the early 20th century but it describes what we see often in the gospels - a tension between secrecy and publicity!  Jesus is shown frequently telling people not to tell others about his ministry, especially his miracles.  This admonition extends to "evil spirits," who would certainly be able to recognize his true identity.  In today's gospel passage, publicity is a problem of crowd management, not of secrecy.  Those who chose not to believe saw the same miracles, etc. as those who did believe.

     One approach that is helpful is to remember that the aim of the evangelist is to tell the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.  Each evangelist has his own purpose in telling the story.  In the Gospel According to Mark, this purpose means that one will only recognize Jesus for who he is, i.e. Son of God, when one knows the whole story and not by seeing one or more miracles.  Jesus' identity is not "proven" by his wonderful healings.  There were others in his time who made the same claims.   But Jesus' claim is established by his resurrection from the dead.  To understand the big picture in the Gospel According to Mark, one begins with the resurrection and works back!   

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. Mark 3:4–5

This Gospel passage offers you an important opportunity to look into your own heart with honesty. Only you and God need to be part of that interior introspection and conversation. Begin by reflecting upon the Pharisees and the poor example they set. From there, try to look at yourself with great honesty. Are you obstinate? Are you hardened in your convictions to the point that you are unwilling to even consider that you may be wrong at times? Are there people in your life with whom you have entered into a conflict that still remains? If any of this rings true, then you may indeed suffer from the spiritual ill of a hardened heart.

Reflect, today, upon your own soul and your relationships with others with as much honesty as possible. Do not hesitate to let your guard down and be open to what God may want to say to you. And if you detect even the slightest tendency toward a hardened and stubborn heart, beg our Lord to enter in to soften it. Change like this is difficult, but the rewards of such a change are incalculable. Do not hesitate and do not wait. Change is worth it in the end.

My loving Lord, this day I open myself to an examination of my own heart and pray that You will help me to always be open to change when necessary. Help me, especially, to see any hardness I may have within my heart. Help me to overcome any obstinacy, stubbornness and self-righteousness. Give me the gift of humility, dear Lord, so that my heart can become more like Yours. Jesus, I trust in You.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, January 19, 2021

[Heb 6:10-20 and Mark 2:23-28]
God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones. [Hebrews]

     This passage from Hebrews is one of the most encouraging statements in the whole New Testament.  It is the best reply to a good parishioner who feels worn out by the effort to live Christian life faithfully in his or her given circumstances, especially in the face of the challenges that our secular culture poses to everyday moral and spiritual life. 

I once asked an elderly priest what kept him going in circumstances where he could not count on seeing growth or big results.  He said to me, "You have to remember that you're only going to do a limited amount of good.  The important thing is to do that limited amount!" That lesson might serve us all well.  God will remember. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, January 18, 2021

New wine is poured into fresh wineskins. (Mark 2:22)

Today begins the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and today’s Gospel reading certainly is appropriate.

God has been doing something new in the body of Christ: he has been drawing together divided churches and helping them overcome painful, centuries-old prejudices. Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists have come to agreement on the term “justification by faith.” Orthodox and Catholics are talking together about the role of the pope. Even Catholics and Evangelicals are putting aside their suspicions and working together to promote a culture of life. So much is changing, and God is inviting us to embrace these changes as part of his plan.

As Christians, we may still disagree on doctrines like the papacy and the role of Mary. But we all agree on so many more: a loving, Trinitarian God; salvation in Christ; the gift of the Holy Spirit; the call to conversion and baptism; and the promise of heaven. Instead of emphasizing what divides us, let’s focus on what we have in common.

All this week, as people from different churches pray together, let’s ask the Lord to soften our hearts and open us up to this new path of greater unity.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, January 17, 2021

Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas”—which is translated Peter.  John 1:42

Simon is given the new name of “Rock” because Jesus intends to make him the foundation of His future Church.  This change in name reveals that Simon must become a new creation in Christ in order to fulfill his high calling.

So it is with each one of us.  No, we may not be called to be the next pope or a bishop, but we are each called to become new creations in Christ and live new lives fulfilling new missions.  And, in a sense, this newness of life must happen each and every day.  We must daily strive to fulfill the mission that Jesus gives us in a new way every day.  

Reflect, today, upon the fact that God invites you to live a new life of grace in Him.  He has some new mission for you to daily fulfill, and He promises to give you all you need to live it.  Say “Yes” to the call He gives you, and you will see incredible things happen in your life.

Lord Jesus, I do say “Yes” to You and to the calling that You have given to me.  I accept the new life of grace that You have prepared for me, and I willingly accept Your gracious invitation.  Help me, dear Lord, to daily answer the glorious vocation to the life of grace I have been given.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, January 16, 2021

 Able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Today’s first reading might scare you a bit. Sharper than any sword, God’s word effectively cuts through our very souls to reveal what’s really going on inside our thoughts, both good and bad. We can’t even hide—everything is exposed before the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.  This swordlike quality of God’s word is actually a gift for us. It’s one way that God can both show us our need for him and help us open ourselves to his power to save and to heal. For example, a verse from Scripture might sting your conscience as you read it and convict you of a pattern of sinful thoughts or actions. A podcast might help you realize that an objection you have to one of the teachings of the Church is closing you off to grace. A stray remark by a loved one might make you reconsider a long-held opinion.

These are all ways God’s word might shed light into areas where you fall short. But they are also ways that God can show you how deeply he can change and transform your life. So every time you feel the tip of the blade, remember that Jesus has come to heal, not to wound.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, January 15, 2021

[Heb 4:1-5, 11 and Mark 2:1-12]
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, "Child, your sins are forgiven." [Mark]

     The story of the paralytic lowered through the ceiling to Jesus has always fascinated me because it is one of the more dramatic scenes of healing in Jesus' ministry.  However, what fascinates me is not the question of healing or forgiveness so much as the faith of the four stretcher-bearers.  They were not about to be discouraged by the size of the crowd.  They take their patient up on the roof, tear a hole and lower the patient down into the room!  They seem to be like the EMT's we experience in our own time!   They are like engineers. The text (in all three synoptic gospels) says, "Seeing THEIR faith....."

     Unlike Job's "friends," these four men do not sit around and tell the paralytic that he must have committed some terrible sin which he needs to admit.  They care only that he is healed and they believe Jesus can heal him.  The scribes and Pharisees are concerned about "blasphemy."  The care-givers are concerned about their friend.  No doubt the parable has the purpose of telling the audience of Jesus' power over sin and sickness (not that the two are necessarily connected as cause/effect), but we are also reminded how the faith of caring friends can lead to dramatic results.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, January 14, 2021

[Heb 3:7-14 and Mark 1:40-45]
Oh that today you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts......Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still "today," so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners with Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end. [Hebrews]

     The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews today contains a quote from Psalm 93(94) which is included in the official Liturgy of the Hours at Morning Prayer.  "Oh that today you would hear his voice, harden not your hearts...."  This quotation is part of the encouragement that the Letter is offering.  It is common today to hear of _________-fatigue.  This arises when we feel that we are being overwhelmed and numbed by a constant effort.  The early Christian community clearly experienced this.  They experienced periodic persecution by the Roman authorities as well as being expelled from synagogues and, in those places St. Paul ministered, "competition" from pagan religious practices.  But we stand on their shoulders!  

     The various "fatigues" that we experience have a way of n"hardening" the heart and eroding even the highest and more important "ideals" that we hold dear.  We can begin to make little and not-so-little compromises.  These can be doctrinal as well as practical.  Can there be such a thing as "faith-fatigue."  Yes, there can be.  Maintaining a commitment in faith and the practice of the faith can be very difficult.  Little compromises lead to bigger ones.  Our church is sometimes one of the causes of this because of "finger-wagging" judgmental preaching or inability to understand the challenges facing a faithful Catholic Christian.

     The Letter to the Hebrews offers us a kind of "pep-talk" in perseverance, reminding us that those who have gone before us are counting on us to continue their faith and life.  We are "partners of Christ," but that means we live that partnership "today" and not let our hearts be hardened by fatigue.  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, January 13, 2021

[Heb 2:14-18 and Mark 1:29-39]
Surely [Jesus] did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. [Hebrews]

     The first scripture for daily Mass for the next couple of weeks in Ordinary Time will be taken from the Letter to the Hebrews.  It was once thought to be one of St. Paul's letters but not anymore. Scripture scholars date it to the period not long after the destruction of the temple (70's-80's AD)  It stands on its own as a remarkable reflection on the significance of Jesus' life and death.  He is a new kind of "high priest" in a new kind of temple, "not made by human hands."  However, his exalted status is balanced with his humanity.  He is not removed from human experience, especially human suffering.  He has "been there and done that!"

     In most great movements, the initial energy can fade, especially if there is persistent and consistent opposition. (Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire until the Edict of Milan by the emperor Constantine in 3i3 AD.)  A kind of "faith fatigue" can set in and momentum is lost.  The Letter to the Hebrews is meant both to teach and to comfort.  The words from today's passage, quoted above, are an example.  Jesus did not come to help the angels but to help humans!  When we are tempted to think, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen...," Jesus can say, "I beg to differ!" and offer comfort in our faith in him.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, January 12, 2021

[Heb 2:5-12 and Mark 1:21-28]
The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes......"What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him." [Mark]

     There are always three "audiences" for any scripture passage.  There is the audience in the story, the audience for which the story was originally written, and ourselves.   Today, we learn of the way he struck a larger audience in the synagogue.  There were plenty of wandering teachers in Jesus' time, but they always taught what their teachers taught and cited them each time: "As Rabbi So and So says, etc.")  Jesus did not do that.  He spoke on his own "authority."  We might say, "Well, of course he did!" but our perspective is different 2000 years later!  To demonstrate his authority, Jesus then drove out an evil spirit on his own authority - again different from other "exorcists" of the day who would invoke another authority.  We are told then that his "fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee."

     What authority does Jesus have in OUR regard?  We know there were plenty, including his own disciples, who admired him for his teaching and were wonder-struck at his miracles but were unable to see beyond these to his identity as God's Beloved Son.  Ultimately, in the Gospel According to Mark, his disciples would come to complete faith only at Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, and even then had doubts.  What authority does Jesus have for us?  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, January 11, 2021

[Heb 1:1-6 and Mark 1:14-20]
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel." [Mark]

     The Gospel According to Mark, compared to the other three gospels, is abrupt and "in your face."  There's no time to drag your feet.  Immediate action is demanded.  Simon, Andrew, James and John were all in the daily process of making a living as fishermen.  On hearing Jesus, they get up and follow him.  One can imagine the father of James and John shouting, "Hey, where do you think you're going?  I can't fix these nets by myself. 

      We should commit this to memory: THIS IS THE TIME OF FULFILLMENT! (repeat), THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND! (repeat), REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL! (repeat). This is the fundamental message that Jesus came to preach.  It is the theme and attitude of the Gospel According to Mark.  There must have been a combination of Jesus’ message and personality that pulled those four first disciples away from their boats and nets.    

     Can we hear the urgency about it for us?  Is our reply, "Sounds like a plan.  Let me check my calendar?"  Is there anything about you and me that says, "The Kingdom of God is at hand!  Repent and believe in the gospel!?"  Despite the attraction of Jesus, the Gospel According to Mark makes it clear that the disciples had a hard time getting below the surface of the words to the real identity of Jesus as the "Beloved Son" of God!  It is not until the crucifixion that they realize what has been going on since they left their boats and nets. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, January 10, 2021

[Isa 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11]
"One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." [Mark]

     The Gospel According to Mark cuts to the chase.  There is no "infancy narrative," no star, no stable, no shepherds, no magi, no Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as in the gospels according to Matthew and Luke.  There is no majestic poetic "prologue" as in the Gospel According to John, speaking of the "Word" existing before time began.  The curtain rises on the Jordan River with an adult John the Baptist and an adult Jesus of Nazareth.  John's subordinate role is first made clear in his words, quoted above. He is just a messenger. Then Jesus appears from the little town of Nazareth, is immersed in the Jordan, and sees "the heavens being torn open and the Spirit like a dove, descending upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."   Then Jesus goes off to the desert to be tempted before he begins his ministry.

     This scene can leave one wondering, "OK, yes, and......?"  We can leave it as the end point of the Christmas/Epiphany season (that voice from heaven and Holy Spirit are an epiphany too) and move on.  But our tradition invites us to consider our own baptism, which identifies us with Christ as a member of his Body on earth - our church.  We might be babies when we receive baptism, but it is not just a "one off" experience.  It is the beginning of our own ministry.  The certificate of baptism which we have to produce for certain events is not a diploma but a testimony to a PRESENT power, not a past event.

     The Gospel According to Mark, which will supply the gospel scripture on Sundays for this liturgical year, tells the reader that Jesus is God's Son from the very beginning of the story, but also tells us that the disciples don't "get it" until Jesus is crucified!  Our own challenge is to find a way to live as members of the Body of Christ so that people don't have to wait until we die before they "get it."

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, January 9, 2021

[1 John 5:14-21 and John 3:22-30]
"You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. the one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." [1 John]

Occasionally a translation uses a term that is clearly a cultural expression designed for a particular audience.  Today we find one of those in the use of the term "best man" to describe the role of John the Baptist in relation to Jesus!  Our American bishops decided that the Greek term philos, which usually means "friend" and is translated that way in other translations, doesn't quite capture the relationship of John the Baptist to Jesus, at least not in the context of the scene.  So they translated it as "best man."

     The choice of a best man or maid of honor at one's wedding is a public expression of esteem and closeness between the groom/bride and the one chosen.  One thing has to be certain, however, the best man and maid of honor are not allowed to distract attention from the groom/bride!!  Those two witnesses are there in a supportive role, e.g. provide the rings or hold the bride's bouquet/make sure the bride's dress is properly managed for photos!!  They also offer toasts at the reception.  John the Baptist gives the best toast of all:  "He must increase; I must decrease!" 

     All four gospels each have their own way of "managing" the role of John the Baptist in the story of Jesus, but tomorrow, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the focus must be on Jesus and not on John.  It is another example of "epiphany" in which Jesus' true identity is manifested, even if the future disciples had no idea what it meant.  We are in a different position.   To proclaim the Lord, we have to put aside our own tastes for glory and accept the role the Lord has given us as best man or maid of honor! 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, January 8, 2021

I do will it. Be made clean. (Luke 5:13)

It’s understandable to focus on physical healing when we read that Jesus healed everyone who came to him, including the leper in today’s Gospel. We ourselves have needed healing at one time or another; we’ve all known and loved someone who needed it too. It’s right and natural to pray for whatever physical healing someone may need, whether it’s leprosy, a bad cold, or stage-four lung cancer.

But in addition to physical ailments, every one of us suffers from a spiritual disease: sin. It’s like a leprosy of the spirit. It numbs our consciences, it makes us feel isolated from God and from other people, and it can spread like wildfire. Sin produces outward “sores” like angry outbursts or broken relationships as well as inward ones: guilt, shame, fear, and a kind of paralysis that keeps us from turning to the Lord for forgiveness and healing. If leprosy is a wasting disease of the body, sin is like a wasting disease of the spirit.

“Lord, if you wish . . . ” (Luke 5:12). Jesus was emphatic. He absolutely, without question, willed that this man be made clean of the disease that filled him. And he always, absolutely and without question, wills healing and cleansing of sin for us. It’s why he died on the cross! Every time we come to him and confess our sins, Jesus says, “I do will it. Be made clean” (Luke 5:13). He wants us to be made pure and untainted by habits of sin and the paralysis and isolation sin generates.

Read again what this poor man did: he “fell prostrate”—he humbled himself before Jesus (Luke 5:12). His mind was focused wholly on the power and desires of Jesus. So kneel before Jesus today, whether in prayer or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and tell him, “Lord, you know my sins. Will you make me clean?” As you do, believe that his answer to you will be the same one he gave the leper. His loving desire for you is holiness and freedom from sin. Jesus says to you today, “I do will your healing. Be made clean.”

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, January 7, 2021

[1 John 4:19-5:4 and Luke 4:14-22a]
Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother 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. [1 John]

 JANUARY 7 ST. RAYMOND OF PENAFORT, O.P.

     Well.....there we have it!  The connection between love of God and love of neighbor could not be more starkly stated.  Love of God cannot be divorced from love of neighbor.  Of course, being human, we will have thousands of "What if.....?" questions.  A good example might be found in the lawyer who asks Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Jesus' reply is the parable of the Good Samaritan! [Luke 10:29-37].  We cannot escape the human dilemma of the "unlovable" or "difficult to love" person(s).  We don't have to look far.  Racial prejudice is rampant in our world.  Or we can go to a mirror!

     Yesterday, the First Letter of John spoke to us about the obstacle that fear can be to loving one's neighbor.  Studies have shown time and again that prejudice is often based on fear of the "other."  But Jesus tells us we have to love the "other."  We can be like a sculptor with a big piece of marble who chips away at the block until the image in his/her head emerges.  We cannot choose our neighbor.  The First Letter of John warns us about abstract love of God and neighbor.  We cannot be like the character from the "Peanuts" cartoon, Linus, who said, "I love humanity.  It's people I hate."  

     With such a challenging demand, it is indeed a good thing we have a Sacrament of Reconciliation, but even there we are challenged to show the same mercy to our neighbor that we receive in that sacrament.  [Matthew 18:21-35].  In short, real Christianity is not for the "faint of heart!" Nor for the "faint of love!" 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, January 6, 2021

After Epiphany

[1 John 4:11-18 and Mark 6:45-52]
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. [1 John]

     The Letter of John this morning and tomorrow links the love of God and love of neighbor in such a way that we cannot claim to love God if we do not love our neighbor!  The Sacrament of Reconciliation is often seen as settling matters between the penitent and God, but not necessarily between penitent and neighbor!!  

     When the most important relationships in life become characterized more by bonds of fear than by bonds of love, the love of God becomes distorted and destructive.  Love of God and love of neighbor are united in one act which can fill out lives.  It is when we fear our neighbor, whether it be a family member, spouse, child or any class of people of a different race, gender or political persuasion that we erode our love of God.  Keeping the love of God and of neighbor together is the primary challenge of Christian life. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Jesus’ Compassionate Heart

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34

What is compassion? It’s an attribute by which someone sees the suffering of another and experiences true empathy for them. This empathy, in turn, leads the person to reach out and share in the person’s suffering, helping them to endure whatever they are going through. This is what Jesus experienced within His own Sacred Heart as He looked out upon this vast crowd.

The Scripture above introduces the familiar miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish. And though the miracle itself offers much to ponder, this introductory line also gives us much to ponder regarding our Lord’s motivation for performing this miracle.

When Jesus looked out at the large crowd, He saw a group of people who seemed lost, were searching and were spiritually hungry. They desired some direction in their lives, and, for that reason, they were coming to Jesus. But what’s very helpful to reflect upon is Jesus’ Heart. He was not annoyed by their insistence, He was not burdened by them; rather He was deeply moved by their spiritual poverty and hunger. This moved His Heart to “pity,” which is a form of sincere compassion. For that reason, He taught them “many things.”

Reflect, today, upon the most compassionate Heart of our Divine Lord. Allow yourself to see Him gazing at you with the utmost love. Know that His gaze is one that drives Him to speak to you, to teach you and to lead you to Himself. Trust this most compassionate Heart of our Lord and allow Him to reach out to you in love.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Monday, January 4, 2021

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

Now that our Christmas Octave and Epiphany celebrations are complete, we begin to turn our eyes to the public ministry of Christ. The above line from today’s Gospel presents us with the most central summary of all of the teachings of Jesus: Repent. However, He doesn’t say only to repent, He also says that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And that second statement is the reason we must repent.

But he also goes on to say that this can only be accomplished when we turn away from sin and all inordinate attachments in our lives so that the one and only focus of our lives is the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the goal of repentance.  Repentance, a turning away from sin and a turning toward our glorious God.

Reflect, today, upon this exhortation from our Lord to repent. Repent with your whole heart. Examining your actions every day is essential to this mission. See the ways that your actions keep you from God and reject those actions. And look for the ways that God is active in your life and embrace those acts of mercy. Repent and turn toward the Lord. This is Jesus’ message to you this day.

Father Dennis

 


God’s Living Word Today, Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Epiphany of the Lord

[Isaiah 60: 1-6; Eph. 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matt. 2:1-12]

Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance...[Isaiah] ...{T]he Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.... [Ephesians] When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the new born king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." [Matthew]

     The feast of the Epiphany of the Lord celebrates the story of the three mysterious figures who arrive in Jerusalem looking for the "newborn King of the Jews."  Tradition calls them "kings" and after many years finally decided that there were only three of them.  The text is silent on both points, saying only "magi from the east."  Tradition has also given them names: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar!  Their gifts are also symbolic of what will later occur in the gospel after Matthew's infancy narrative: gold for royalty, incense for divinity, myrrh for anointing and death.  After all this tradition and imagination gets laid on, the message of the story sometimes gets lost, especially after the magi join Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the star, the stable and the shepherds in the closet or attic until next year!!!

     The very title of the feast offers the meaning.  Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning to "shine out" or reveal.  The "epiphany" in the Gospel According to Luke is to the shepherds - poor Jews.  In Matthew, it is to Gentiles, non-Jews from outside Israel!  The prophecy of Isaiah and the Letter to the Ephesians which provide the first and second scriptures for today speak to the revelation of Christ as being made to the whole world, not just to Jews or to those who are already disciples.  At the end of the Gospel According to Matthew, the disciples are commissioned to "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations..."  In short, WE disciples are commissioned to be "epiphanies" of Jesus Christ.  We may not be as exotic as the magi, or deal with paranoid rulers like Herod, but we can join the star and the magi and shine out, each of us wherever we are.  We can "put skin on" the Epiphany!  The magi may be back in the attic or closet until New Year, but we are still here and still shining! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Saturday, January 2, 2021

Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. Anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well. [1 John]

[1 John 2:22-28 and John 1:19-28]

     Who is the liar?  Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.  Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist.  Anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.  [1 John]

     The feast of Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzen are a reminder that in the 4th Century AD, the Church was very much in conflict over a heresy known as "Arianism."  Arius was a bishop who taught that Jesus was not divine, but someone just below that status.  God could not become human!  The words of the Nicene Creed "consubstantial with the Father" which we recite on Sundays and other major feast days are meant to contradict that heresy.  Basil and Gregory and Athanasius were all big supporters of the orthodox truth that we often just mumble on Sunday, not realizing that people once came to blows about it!!!

     The scriptures chosen for the celebration of the Eucharist during the Christmas/Epiphany season are all directed toward reminding us of the identity of Jesus as both entirely divine and entirely human.  Although there is a good deal of Greek theological vocabulary that accompanies the official declaration at the First Council of Nicea in 325 AD, ultimately we accept this in faith as one of the great mysteries of God's plan of salvation.  The birth of Jesus is the divine way of putting skin on promises made to humanity.  We participate in the fulfillment of those promises when we, like Mary, John the Baptist, the shepherds and the Magi proclaim the truth about Jesus.  The official liturgical season of Christmas/Epiphany will continue with the feast of the Epiphany tomorrow (Jan. 3) and end with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday January 10, but our task of proclamation is year round! 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Friday, January 1, 2021

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

[Luke 2:16-21] And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

At home my brothers and I would always check with our mom asking permission to go out and letting her know where we were going. And so on this first day of the New Year we celebrate Mary, The Mother of God and our mother as we all go out into the uncharted waters of a new year.

The gospel scripture for today, taken from the infancy narrative of the Gospel According to Luke, focuses on Mary's identity as mother of God, and as the ideal disciple.  Mary "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."   

At the beginning of this New Year and as a New Year’s resolution we are invited to follow Mary’s example of pondering and proclaiming the good news of her Son Jesus. We are challenged to live our lives not recklessly reacting, but to responsibly responding and reflecting upon our daily experiences, encounters with people, and worldly events in order to discern the presence of God.

The active life rests on a foundation of reflection. St. Ignatius in his spirituality teaches us to discern the footprints of God in our own experience. Daily reflections shows us how to look back on our lives, the gift of each day, to sift through our memories of encounters with people, events and experiences in order to see the way God has been present to us.

The goal of the spiritual life, as Ignatius conceived it, is to “choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.” This is a dynamic goal. We are to choose—to freely unite ourselves with God. We are called to detect God’s presence and to discern his will through close attention to the subtle interior movements of God’s spirit.

Let us ask Mary, Our Blessed Mother, at the beginning of this new year to help us imitate her in being her children who reflect, ponder, and proclaim the good news of her Son, Jesus Christ.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

[1 John 2:18-21 and John 1:1-18]

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only-begotten son, full of grace and truth......From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him. [John]

     Among the more majestic passages in the Bible, the Prologue to the Gospel According to John stands out for its power and beauty.  Since this gospel was the last to be put into writing (90-110 AD), it reflects a considerable development of understanding  of the significance of Jesus above and beyond the simple facts of his birth, death and resurrection, important as those facts are.  In the Prologue, Jesus is Christ from the very "beginning"  - the word that "begins" the Book of Genesis!  He is both the "word" (small w) and the Word (capital W) spoken by God.   

     If nothing else, we can learn from the Prologue how time and space conditioned we are.  History is, for most of us, a linear thing - one thing after another.  The Prologue professes that Jesus Christ is beyond history and yet became part of human history for our sake.  Theologians call this "kenosis," a self-emptying.  As St. Paul put it in his Letter to the Philippians, "He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." [Philippians 2:7-8].  The same Gospel According to John has Jesus saying at the Last Supper: "Greater love than this no one has, than that they lay down their life for a friend." [John 15:13].  The child in the manger is given to us in life, death and new, eternal, life.  His birth as human was not the beginning of his eternal life, but he became fully human so that he could call us to a share in eternal life.  The birth in Bethlehem, the ministry in the Holy Land, the crucifixion and resurrection are all moments in earthly history that speak of God's love and life-giving grace that have existed beyond all time.  Jesus Christ is not just a figure from the past whom we will meet beyond the grave, He challenges us to proclaim his presence in our midst "from the beginning," now, and forever! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

[1 John 2:12-17 and Luke 2:36-40]

     Anna seems to be the ultimate "church mouse."  She was a "prophetess" and a widow.  Put together, those two characteristics meant that she enjoyed respect and was also dependent on the kindness of others.  Widows were always considered to be among the most vulnerable in the society of Jesus' time, largely because there would be no male figure to protect.  Her presence in the infancy narrative continues the theme of the revelation of Jesus' birth to those who were the least in society.  The other important person in this story is Simeon, who, like many others in the Gospel According to Luke, is guided by the Holy Spirit to come to encounter Jesus.

     All of this goes to remind us that every character in the infancy narratives of Luke and Matthew is important because they represent themes that will appear in the story of Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection.  Anna does what every disciple is called to do.  She speaks about the child "to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem."  Simeon's canticle speaks of a "light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel."  This speaks to the scope of the kingdom to be proclaimed by Jesus and then by the disciples under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

     If we put away the nativity scene until next year, we may be removing an important symbol of our faith from our view.  Jesus did not simply die and rise again, he was BORN.  The various Angels, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon and Anna all join in proclaiming that truth - the "Incarnation."   The figurines and stable are put away, but we aren't.  We have received the same revelation and the Holy Spirit will guide us to proclaim, CHRIST IS BORN! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  Luke 2:33–35

Reflect, today, upon how fully you have allowed your mind to engage the incredible mystery that we celebrate this holy season. Have you taken time to prayerfully read the story once again? Are you able to sense the joy and fulfillment experienced by Simeon and Anna? Have you spent time considering the minds and hearts of Mother Mary and Saint Joseph as they experienced that first Christmas? Let this deep supernatural mystery of our faith touch you this Christmas season in such a way that you, too, are “amazed” at what we celebrate.

Lord, I thank you for the gift of Your Incarnation. With Simeon, I rejoice and offer You praise and thanksgiving. Please renew within me a true sense of wonder and awe as I gaze with amazement at what You have done for me and for the whole world. May I never tire of pondering this supernatural gift of Your life.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Monday, December 28, 2020

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

[1 John 1:5-2:2 and Matt 2:13-18]

When the Magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy." [Matthew]

The Gospel According to Matthew portrays Jesus as a "new Moses."  This portrayal is echoed in the story of the "flight into Egypt."  The story of Moses' life being threatened as an infant by Pharaoh's murderous decree [Ex 1:15 - 2::10] serves as the model for the escape from Herod.  The Gospel According to Matthew is also at pains to show Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, so Jesus' return from Egypt after the death of Herod is the fulfillment of Hosea 11:1: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.

     It is understandable that anyone dedicated to the welfare of children of all ages, from conception to adulthood, would see in this feast the commemoration of all those children who were never allowed to reach adulthood, especially the unborn.  

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Feast of the Holy Family

[Gen. 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Heb. 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40]

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. [Luke]

     The Sunday within the Octave of Christmas is traditionally celebrated as the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Jesus may have been an "only Child" but he was a member of a vast network of relationships - family, clan and tribe.  This network could be a matter of life and death under certain circumstances and the "honor" of the network could determine certain social behavior.  Everyday life in Jesus' time could be very difficult since most of the people were poor subsistence farmers or fishermen.  Joseph's livelihood would have depended secondarily on harvest or catch!

     In celebrating the feast of the Holy Family, the church points to the importance of family.  This does not mean that Jesus' family was like something out of "The Little House on the Prairie" TV program.  Jesus' made it clear that blood relationship to him did NOT mean any special privileges in his "kingdom."  At one point "his mother and his brothers" set out to seize him because they thought he had lost his mind by attracting crowds and antagonizing the Jewish authorities. [Mark 3:20-21, 31-34].

     The strength of a family depends on the strength of love and forgiveness, two very important elements in Jesus' teaching.  A strong family is a family of disciples.  This is an everyday, lifelong challenge.  The rewards, however, are as great as the challenges.  This feast reminds us to meet those challenges with determination, love and forgiveness!  

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr

[Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59 and Matt 10:17-22]

"You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved." [Matthew]

     Scripture scholars remind us that the "infancy narratives" are like overtures to a musical or opera.  They contain the main themes of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In Matthew's version of the story of Jesus' birth, the arrival of the Magi triggers a slaughter of infants in an effort to get rid of the "newborn King of the Jews."  Pilate and the Jewish religious authorities of the day succeeded where Herod failed and Pilate would put a notice on the cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews!  In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus warns the disciples that his name could mean martyrdom for them!  Today we celebrate the first "official" martyr, Stephen!  

     It's a challenge to move in thought from the romance of the nativity scene to the gory truth of martyrdom, but today and Monday (Holy Innocents) we will be doing exactly that!  Those who would call themselves disciples of Jesus must understand that the joy of the gospel will contain the sorrow of suffering for the sake of that gospel.  Right now, the joy of the birth of Jesus and the future arrival of the Magi (who manage to get into the scene long before we celebrate their arrival) claim the lion's share of the season.  Grim reminders of lethal consequences, even if occurring in our own day and in this very season, can get shunted to the sideline.  St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents are prophetic reminders of the whole gospel! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Friday, December 25, 2020

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

[Isa 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14,]

For a child is born to us, a son is given us! [Isaiah] 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....[Titus[ "Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born to you who is Christ and Lord!" [Luke]

     There are four different sets of scriptures for the liturgical observance of the Nativity of the Lord!  There is the Vigil (very likely the "Children's Mass in many parishes), Mass During the Night (Midnight Mass - or whenever it starts), Mass at Dawn (depending on how early the kids open the presents) and Mass During the Day (for those who need to get away from the happy chaos and "go to church").  The basic story for all four liturgies is the same: CHRIST IS BORN!

     Each year the humble plea to at least give that proclamation a place in our Christmas observance outside of going to Mass.  If there is a nativity scene in our home, can we pause in front of it FIRST and acknowledge the power and importance of the birth of Jesus Christ?  Why should we do this? There is inspiration for us in the words of one of the older Christmas "prefaces" for the Mass: In the wonder of the incarnation your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory.  In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.

     Can we be "caught up in the love of God" and move beyond Christmas Day with the good news of "our God made visible?"  Can we resolve to live "temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age?"   Can there be in us the "wonder of the incarnation?" There is nothing in the pandemic to prevent us from doing this and proclaiming to one another: CHRIST IS BORN! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

[2 Sam 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16 and Luke 1: 67-79]

"The Lord reveals to you [David] that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever." [2 Samuel] "He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David......You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way......" [Luke]

     The figures of King David and John the Baptist make a final appearance today to bring the past and the future into play with the birth of Jesus.  I have already spoken about the importance of the connection to David, which is reflected in the first scripture for today.  The Canticle of Zechariah (recited at Morning Prayer each day) reflects the importance of John the Baptist as a herald of the coming of Christ.  Both David and John would have been part of the "credentials" of Jesus to the immediate intended audience for whom the evangelist Luke was writing.  The covenant with Abraham receives an echo, as well!

     These aspects of the story of Jesus' birth may seem too abstract and distant from our present adoration and enjoyment of the nativity scene.  The characters in the drama are more prominent to our sight than the larger meaning!  Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Magi, Shepherds, Star, and even the animals, the stable, the swaddling clothes, the manger - all of these have been the subjects of traditional reflections.  But the message is bigger than the scene!  God is in our midst, ever faithful to the promises made to Abraham and David.  The Canticle of Zechariah unfolds the message today.  Tomorrow and every time we look at the nativity scene, we can meet the characters and appreciate each role in the message  

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

[Mal 3:1-4, 23-24 and Luke 1:57-66]

"What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. [Luke]

     Aren't we getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus?  Why is the birth of John the Baptist part of the celebration?  The simplest answer is that John is part of the story of Jesus from the beginning, just as he would be when Jesus begins his ministry.  The "infancy narratives" contain the whole message of the gospel because they were written last.  In some nativity scenes over the years a figurine of John the Baptist (an adult one!) standing off to one side!  The early Christian community would see John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi.  Indeed, Jesus speaks of him as being that person (Luke 7:27).

     All of this reminds us as we focus on Bethlehem and Baby Jesus that there is a bigger picture being revealed which unfolds throughout the liturgical year.  John the Baptist is an important figure but the arrival of the Shepherds and the Magi will introduce us to the wider community for whom Jesus is born, a community of which we are all members - the Body of Christ!  By baptism, we become part of the scene in the stable. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

[1 Sam 1:24-28 and Luke 1:46-56]

Today’s Gospel, we hear the Magnificat—Mary’s great hymn of praise to Yahweh.

The hymn commences with the simple declaration, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Or, as many other translations have it, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Mary announces here that her whole being is ordered to the glorification of God. Her ego wants nothing for itself; it wants only to be an occasion for giving honor to God. But since God needs nothing, whatever glory Mary gives to him returns to her benefit, so that she is magnified in the very act of magnifying him. In giving herself away fully to God, Mary becomes a superabundant source of life; indeed, she becomes pregnant with God.

Reflect: Think about times when you have given yourself away to God and became a source of life for someone. Or, if this hasn’t happened to you, how can you submit to God now and trust that his plan will lead to abundant life?

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Monday, December 21, 2020

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Bringing Christ to others

Imagine the scene. Mary had just traveled about 100 miles. She was most likely exhausted. As she finally arrived, she would have been relieved and joyful at the completion of her journey. But Elizabeth says something quite inspiring at that moment, which elevates the joy of all present, including the joy of Mother Mary. Elizabeth says, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44). Again, imagine the scene. It was this tiny child within Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, who immediately perceived the presence of the Lord and leaped for joy. And it was Elizabeth who immediately perceived the joy in her child living within her womb. As Elizabeth expressed this to Mary, who was already joyful at completing her journey, Mary was suddenly all the more overjoyed at the realization that she had brought to Elizabeth and John the Savior of the World living within her womb.

Reflect, today, not only upon your mission to invite your Lord to dwell within you as our Blessed Mother did, but also upon your Christian calling to then bring Him who dwells within you to others. Do others encounter Christ living within you with joy? Do they sense His presence in your life and respond with gratitude? Regardless of their response, commit yourself to this holy calling of bringing Christ to others as an act of the deepest love.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

[2 Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38]

"Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." [Luke]

     There's an old saying, "Promises are made to be broken!"   Not so!  At least not so when it comes to God's promises.  The promise of God to David figures strongly in the story of Jesus' birth and in the story of his subsequent ministry.  The image of "kingdom" features strongly in the story of his preaching and in the accusations against him before Pilate.  The story of the Annunciation to Mary, which forms the gospel for this Sunday shows the power of God's promise which the prophet Nathan conveyed to David, more than 700 years before!

     The power of a promise is that it can give hope.  It can create a new tomorrow in the minds and hearts of those to whom it is given.  The nativity scene in our homes is not just a commemorative display.  It is the sign of God's fulfillment of a promise and a sign of God's continuing presence in our midst.  This is a promise that goes far beyond what the presents under the tree can offer.  It might be worthwhile to leave that nativity scene up year round, just as we do the crucifix!  God is faithful and the nativity scene is a reminder that we are also called to be faithful in living out God's promise. 

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today Saturday, December 19, 2020

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

[Judg 13:2-7, 24-25a and Luke 1:5-25]

An angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, "Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son." [Judges] Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John." [Luke]

     The days just before the celebration of the Nativity feature scriptures that offer a view of various aspects of the story.  Today we have two "annunciations" that focus on the providence of God that reaches into the most profound human experiences, in this case, that of conception and birth.  Barrenness in the Bible was regarded as a curse.  The stories of Sarah, mother of Isaac [Genesis 17:15-21]. Hannah, mother of Samuel [1 Sam. 1] and, today, the mother (not named) of Samson all seem to have served as models for the evangelist Luke in telling the stories of the annunciations to Mary and Elizabeth, and in Matthew, the annunciation to Joseph.  God's providence is part of God's plan of salvation and is manifested in the human process of conception and birth.

Reflect: In his wisdom and power, God arranged for certain people to aid in the mission of his Son (e.g., the birth of John the Baptist from a barren mother and the sinlessness of Jesus’ mother, Mary). Who has God put in your life to help you fulfill the mission he has entrusted to you?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Today’s Gospel centers on one of the most beloved figures in Christian history: Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. He’s featured in countless works of art and is prominent in the devotional lives of many. Yet we know almost nothing about him. The scant verses here in Matthew offer the most extensive description, yet even they reveal some powerful spiritual themes.

First, we discover Mary was betrothed to Joseph and this union had been blessed by God. But then Joseph finds his betrothed is pregnant. Can you imagine the distress? This must have been an emotional maelstrom for him. And at a deeper level, it was a spiritual crisis. What did God want him to do?

But then an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” He realizes at that moment that these puzzling events are part of God’s much greater plan. What appears to be a disaster from his perspective is meaningful from God’s perspective.

Joseph was willing to cooperate with the divine plan, though he in no way knew its contours or deepest purpose. Like his wife, Mary, at the Annunciation, he trusted and let himself be led.

Reflect: What, in your own life, “appeared to be a disaster but was meaningful from God’s perspective” when you viewed it in hindsight and with the eyes of faith?

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

[Isa 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25 and Luke 7:18b-23]

"Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" [Luke]

 Scripture scholars debate the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist.  In the Gospel According to Luke, if John was Jesus' cousin and "recognized" Jesus when they were both in the womb when Mary went to visit, why is he sending two disciples to ask Jesus if he is the "one who is to come?"   The other gospels put the recognition at the time of Jesus' baptism by John in the Jordan River.  It's one of those "How much did he know and when did he know it?" situations that fuel theological debate.  But the question remains not just for theologians but for all generations, including our own.  Is Jesus the one who WAS to come and WILL come again?

     Jesus sends the two disciples back to John to tell what they have "seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them..."  We who live now can reflect on more than 2,000 years of history and on our own lifetime of faith.  What have we seen and heard that would convince us that Jesus is indeed the one whom God has sent?  The contrast between the baby in the manger in our nativity scene and the body on the cross that hangs somewhere in our homes could not be more stark!  Yet they are the same person.  From the shepherds in Luke's gospel [Luke 2:20] to the two disciples in today's passage from Luke to our own times, we are sent to proclaim what we have "seen and heard, just as it has been told to us."

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today, Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

[Zeph 3:1-2, 9-13 and Matt 21:28-32]

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” [Matthew]

      These words of Jesus are set in the last days of his life.  They are addressed to some very important people – the chief priests and elders of the people.  Jesus contrasts them in a parable of two sons who are asked by their father to do something.  One of them said, “No sir!” but later changed his mind and did the job.  The other one said, “Yes sir!” but did not do the job.  Jesus asks which son is the better one.  The answer from the audience is that the one who changed his mind was the better one.  Jesus accuses them of being the ones, who by their position should know that he is the Messiah, of being the son who says “Yes sir” to God but refuse to accept the one whom God has sent.  They rejected John the Baptist and they rejected Jesus.  The ones who did believe were the ones the chief priests and elders also rejected as being tax collectors and sinners. 

     The challenge in this gospel scene to us who live 2000+ years later is to ask ourselves about our own acceptance of Jesus.  Are we devoted to “Baby Jesus” but not to what he will ask of us when he grows up?  Are we part of a devotional faith that excludes the “tax collectors and prostitutes?”  The announcement of Jesus’ birth, in the story from the Gospel According to Luke, was initially made to some shepherds.  Shepherds were not romantic figures in Jesus’ day!  They would have been classified by the chief priests and elders with the tax collectors and sinners! 

     The story of Jesus’ birth, represented in that nativity scene, includes the WHOLE gospel.  That baby and those shepherds and pagan Magi show us the challenge of conversion.  If we follow the star we should be ready to accept what we find.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today Monday, December 14, 2020

Memorial of St. John of the Cross

Jesus’ authority is questioned in today’s Gospel. The chief priests and elders question Jesus: “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?”

The Greek word used for “authority” is most enlightening: exousia. It means, literally, “from the being of.” Jesus speaks with the very exousia of God, and therefore, his words effect what they say. He says, “Lazarus, come out!” and the dead man comes out of the tomb. He rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Be still!” and there is calm. And the night before he dies, he takes bread and says, “This is my body.” And what he says is.

Friends, this is the authority of the Church. Our power comes—and this remains a great mystery—only when we speak with the authority of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Third Sunday of Advent

[Isa 61:1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thess 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28]

 [1 Thessalonians] I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice. [Isaiah]

There is a clear note of joy in today’s readings. Joy is not the same as pleasure. Pleasure is of the body; joy is of the spirit. Pleasure is like a flare in the night; it brightens things up for a while, but dies quickly, leaving us darker and emptier than ever.

Joy, on the other hand, is like a bright fire in the hearth; even when it dies down, it leaves a warm glow behind it. Joy in the heart is the surest sign of the presence of God.

 The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as "Laetare" Sunday, from the Latin word that means "rejoice!"  The observance is meant to create a kind of pause in the preparation to remind oneself of the "reason for the season."  It is likened to the child who happily recognizes that even if it is still wrapped under the Christmas tree, the box is the right size for the desired toy!

     The scriptures for today cover a wide range of expectations.  The first scripture from Isaiah is echoed later in the Magnificat of Mary and in Jesus' inaugural appearance in Nazareth.  It expresses the hope of deliverance by a wise and compassionate messiah.  The gospel scripture is aimed at making sure John the Baptist is not confused with Jesus as messiah!  Those two scriptures speak of Jesus' FIRST coming. The scripture from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians aims at Jesus SECOND coming. Christ has come; Christ is here; Christ will come again.     

      No matter which "coming" we celebrate today, it is the same person whose life, death and resurrection gives us hope.  Whether it be the small baby in a manger or the adult Jesus on the cross or the glorious risen Christ at Easter, the person is the same.  He is the "reason for the season" and a reason to be joyful, even in our current difficult time of pandemic! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

[Zech 2:14-17, or Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab and Luke 1:26-38, or Luke 1:39-47,800]

And Mary said: "my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior."

     It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and the USA!  Her image appears in any parish church that has parishioners with connections to Mexico, no matter how long those parishioners may have lived in the USA.  The liturgical calendar reflects this importance.  The feasts of Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes are considered "optional" memorials.  The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a compulsory memorial.  The cultural connection is important because there are many other titles bestowed on Mary.      

     The importance of a symbol as expressing the meaning, history and aspirations of a people stands forth here.  Although the Mary in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the same "person" as the Mary in the nativity scene we set up for this season, she clearly serves a different purpose in the minds and hearts of those who look to her for inspiration and help.  The fact that she is portrayed as pregnant in the image anticipates the birth of Jesus.  But even more than that she appears as a mestizo (mixed race) woman, whose nickname La Morenita (little brown one) connects her with the entire history of the Mexican nation and, by extension, with all Americans of Mexican descent.

     One may wonder if the young Jewish woman giving birth in a stable had any idea of what lay ahead of her.  Her soul clearly magnifies the Lord! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today Friday, December 11, 2020

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

[Isa 48:17-19 and Matt 11:16-19]

"To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is vindicated by her works. [Matthew]

     Jesus' rather wry comment is something any pastor can identify with.  "There's no pleasing some people!"  A big theme in the gospels is "rejection."  No matter what Jesus (or John the Baptist) said or did, the religious authorities and others refused to believe in him and rejected him.  This even extended to his own family!  To the Pharisees and scribes, he was a violator of the Mosaic Law.  To the chief priests and elders, he was a threat to their position because they relied on the Roman authorities to maintain their status quo!  And to those who expected a political messiah who would end the Roman occupation, he was just the son of a carpenter who had no troops or army, and his kingdom seemed more like pie in the sky!

     As we gaze with devotion on the nativity scene, for which we sing "Come, oh come, Emmanuel!" over and over again in Advent, we can find more than devotional comfort.  Jesus was born into a hard world, the world we live in.  He lived (and lives) in our midst in the person of every human being.  He certainly did not live up to the expectations of the righteous Pharisees, the fearful religious authorities or the political zealots.  Will he "live up" to ours?  What do we expect of him as we see him lying in that manger? 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today Thursday, December 10, 2020

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

[Isa 41:13-20 and Matt 11:11-15]

"Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come." [Matthew]

     There is no doubt that the gospels considered John the Baptist to be an important figure, but a figure that could not be allowed to be more important than Jesus!  A reading of the "infancy narrative" in the first chapter of the Gospel According to Luke shows a striking parallel between the events surrounding the births of Jesus and John.  But Jesus is presented as the one John is born to introduce.  There is some confusion in that Luke presents John as a "cousin" to Jesus, whereas Matthew seems to make Jesus a stranger to John.  One must read the verses leading up to today's passage in which John sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come?"  The gospels also seem to make Jesus initially as a disciple of John.  When all is said and done, John the Baptist is a prophet who "prepares" the way for Jesus.  His preparation is very colorful and could be said to be "violent" in its imagery.  Certain messianic currents of Judaism at the time considered him to be the figure prophesied by Malachi 3:23.

     In our own time, John the Baptist has been domesticated to a certain extent.  Violent prophets can still attract followers, but they also attract law enforcement authorities!  In John's case, he attracted the wrong kind of attention from Herod! The musical, "Godspell," turned John's message into a song we often hear in Advent, "Pre-e-e-pare ye the way of the Lord!"  All of this should not detract from the challenge of preparation that focuses on the coming of Christ, which has to compete with all the other kinds of cultural preparation for Christmas that our secular society presents.  Do we allow Santa to triumph over Jesus?  It might take a "violent" voice like John the Baptist to shake us up and refocus our attention on the true "reason for the season."

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, December 9, 2020

 

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

[Isa 40:25-31 and Matt 11:28-30]

Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles' wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. [Isaiah] "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]

     Even in a "normal" year, the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season, for all its "ho-ho-ho!" can be a tough one for some folks.  But the Year 2020 marks a tough one for the whole planet under the COVID-19 pandemic.  Even if one has been fortunate enough to avoid this sickness, the likelihood of a loved one, especially an elderly person, being dangerously sick is very high.  The front-line caregivers at hospitals and even at home are getting exhausted and infected!  Vaccines are on the way, and this gives a glimmer of hope, but in the meantime, this season struggles to raise the spirits.

     Isaiah and Jesus offer us some encouragement today.  Isaiah's words come from that portion of his "book" called the Book of Comfort.  Many of us will recognize the "eagles' wings" in the quote, which are echoed in a popular hymn.  And the last line of the quote from the Gospel According to Matthew finds its way into many an embroidered surface!  These words of encouragement are like getting a hug from the Bible before facing another day of masks, social distancing, Christmas shopping from a keyboard, and drive-by communion after Mass!  When "Ho-ho-ho!" falls flat, faith-hope-love from Isaiah and Jesus can keep us going through this season and into 2021 and beyond! 

Fr. Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

[Gen 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38]

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him

     The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a holyday of obligation in the U.S.A. because under that title, Mary is considered the "patron saint" of our country.  There is an impressive shrine in Washington, DC, that testifies to the importance given to this particular dogmatic tradition in our faith.  Put simply, Mary was, from the moment of her conception, not subject to the state of "original sin" that all human persons inherited from Adam and Eve.  Her status as the Mother of God had to preclude such a fate. The quotation from Ephesians notes God's providential power that could encompass this.   Reflection and debate about this tradition lasted a long time because it was only in 1854 that Pope Pius IX declared this truth to be part of our deposit of faith.

     The gospel scripture for today focuses on the conception of Jesus!  But God's providential power again is presented in Mary's consent.  One might point, instead, to the Canticle of Mary ("the Magnificat") [Luke 1:46-55].  Since there is a tradition that calls Mary the "New Eve" and Genesis refers to Eve as the "Mother of all the living," we may celebrate this feast as one of many "Mother's Days" for the Mother of God.

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Monday, December 7, 2020

Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

[Isa 35:1-10 and Luke 5:17-26]

And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven." [Luke]

     The scene from the Gospel According to Luke in which a paralyzed man is brought by caring friends on a stretcher and lowered through the roof shows me the importance of those very friends.  Note that Jesus sees the faith of the stretcher-bearers and responds to it in favor of the paralytic!!

     None of this matters to the scribes and Pharisees who focus on whether or not Jesus has the power to forgive sins!  The paralytic and his friends may as well not exist!  Those who want to help bring others to Jesus will sometimes meet with this kind of carping legalism.  Pope Francis' vision of the church as a hospital for the sick and wounded is lost to the scribes and Pharisees of our day.

     The seasons of Advent and Christmas, which our secular culture calls "the holidays," under "ordinary" circumstances are tough on many people, but in this time of pandemic, all kinds of troubles become magnified.  Illness, loss of all kinds, political turmoil - all these cry out loudly and need healing.  A kind of numb paralysis void of hope can set in.  Can we be the caring friends with the stretcher?  Can we bring Isaiah's hope to others?  The practical actions of caring friends can make all the difference in the world to those who are paralyzed!  

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Second Sunday of Advent

[Isa 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Pet 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8]

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled d hill shall be made low [Isaiah]

       If ever there was a time for "comforting/encouraging words" from God and one another, this Advent/Christmas "season" qualifies without doubt!  In the "desert" of COVID-19, we hear words about vaccines on the way.  Does our faith offer us more than the vaccines?

     Each of us is experiencing this pandemic desert in different ways.  The fear of illness, of losing our employment, of not being able to be with family and friends when we need them most - all of this cries out for comforting words AND actions.  The prophet Isaiah and the evangelist Mark remind us of the larger context of God's plan of salvation which can be expressed in the care we give for one another in our present "desert."  Christ is born in every comforting word and every action of kindness we speak or do right now.  There are so many valleys and mountains right now that the task may seem impossible.  The news media remind us that all of us now know at least someone who has been made ill!  What comfort can we give them?

     In the nativity scene we place in our homes or yards, the past event of Jesus' birth, the present comfort in our pandemic desert, and the future hope that our "next normal" will come soon are represented!  This is the time to truly sing, "Come, oh come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!"

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, December 5, 2020

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

[Isa 30:19-21, 23-26 and Matt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8]

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: "This is the way; walk in it," when you would turn to the right or to the left.

     Throughout Advent, the majestic words of the prophet Isaiah are featured in the first scripture at Mass.  Liturgically, we await the revelation of our Teacher!  We set up a nativity scene in our home to remind us of that revelation.  The Gospel According to Matthew today speaks of Jesus going "around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom."

     In today's passage from Isaiah, quoted above, about a voice sounding in my ears, "This is the way, walk in it" challenges us. The voice is externally audible when we hear it from Pope Francis and the other great teachers in our lives, but it is visually available to us in the good example of faithful Christians and on the pages of the scriptures.  It is not always a voice we "want" to hear when it challenges us to avoid those turns "to the right or to the left."  Elsewhere in the Gospel According to Matthew [7:13-14], Jesus warns us that the path to life is narrow and the path to destruction is wide.  

     We have heard the words, "I know what I should do, but I am afraid of making a mistake!" or "Why does this or that teaching of the church seem so strict?"  Prophetic teaching will always seem strict because it calls us back from those attractive "right or left" turns that lead to destruction.  In Advent we have the opportunity to consider who have been the great teachers in faith in our lives.  How did they reveal the Teacher to us?  Are they still the "voice from behind" saying "This is the way, walk in it!"

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Friday, December 4, 2020

Friday of the First Week of Advent

[Isa 29:17-24 and Matt 9:27-31]

As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, "Son of David, have pity on us!" When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" "Yes, Lord," they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, "Let it be done for you according to your faith." And their eyes were opened. [Matthew]

Miracles have a way of distracting attention from the concerns that underlie them! Our attention in this incident from the Gospel According to Matthew could be drawn to the recovery of physical sight for the two blind beggars. But the real point has to do with their faith. When they first call out to Jesus, they use a name of faith: "SON OF DAVID, have pity on us!" It is this faith that captures Jesus' attention. Then, as he does with the Canaanite woman elsewhere in Matthew [15:21-28], Jesus tests their faith by asking if they really believe that he can restore their sight. They reply with another title of faith, "Yes LORD." Jesus' then says, "Let it be done for you ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH."

We often hear people say, "I wish I had more faith." What would "more" mean? They often reply in terms of quantity of religious devotion and practices - more prayers, more rosaries, etc. But faith is not a quantifiable commodity. It is a relationship that requires the best intentions and efforts to live as Jesus taught. The Sermon on the Mount is the best guide. In the case of the beggars, they were at the bottom and had ONLY their faith to work from. Jesus replied to them "according to their faith."

In this season of Advent/Christmas, we can ask ourselves about the strength of our faith. Is the nativity scene in our homes simply a minor nod in the direction of faith, dwarfed by everything else? If we are not starting from "ground zero" in faith, then what is our starting point and what do we expect from Jesus according to our faith?

Father Dennis


God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, December 3, 2020

Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Priest

[Isa 26:1-6 and Matt 7:21, 24-27]

"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. Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock....." [Matthew]

 DECEMBER 3 ST. FRANCIS XAVIER, SJ

     These words of Jesus come at the end of the 'Sermon on the Mount.'  That collection of Jesus' teachings is a fundamental catechism of practical Christianity, despite the claims of some that it is impractical to "love one's enemy" and "turn the other cheek, etc."  These closing words emphasize "doing" and  "listening/acting."  Piety is not enough.

     Advent is traditionally described as a season of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  However, the preparation tends to be lost in the preparation for the secular observance.  That secular observance is often the cause of the terrible depression that many people experience in the "holiday season" because they cannot afford the gift-giving or have experienced a great loss in the past calendar year.  A missing face at the celebration is a far worse experience than a missing gift!!

     The closing words of the Sermon on the Mount are a call to action.  Can Jesus be born in our actions to reach out to our neighbor in this season?  The great Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart, is quoted as saying, "What good is it to me that Christ was born so many years ago if he is not born again in me every day?"  Can that nativity scene that has passed the year in a closet or attic turn out to be a mirror?  Will our neighbor in need be able to see it reflected in us?

Father Dennis

 


God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

[Isa 25:6-10a and Matt 15:29-37]

The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces....[Isaiah] Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there......Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd....[Matthew]

     In the Bible, "mountain events" are significant events. Moses on Mt. Sinai and Jesus on a "mountain" by the Sea of Galilee are deliberately brought together in the portrait of Jesus in the Gospel According to Matthew.  Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount and he heals and feeds the multitude on a mountain.  Later on he will be transfigured on a mountain. 

     The majestic and magisterial setting, however, should not drown out the principal feeling of compassion that Isaiah and Matthew portray.  Jesus responds to the "lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others."  He provides a banquet to feed the hungry crowds.  The "tears of suffering" are wiped away to make room for "tears of gratitude."

     The holiday season is a tough season in ordinary times.  During the current pandemic, the usual challenges of daily life plus the particular problems of health, unemployment, illness (especially the COVID) magnify the sorrow.  In what way can we replace the mountains of problems with the mountain of compassion?  What tears can we wipe away in this season of Advent/Christmas?  Jesus is summoning us, his disciples, and asking how we can help!  If we can share our own resources, meager though they may be in the face of so many hungry needs, Jesus will take care of the rest and Isaiah's vision will live in our own time.                       

Father Dennis 


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.ʺ

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

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!