Monthly Archives: June 2016

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
(Matthew 16:18)

Peter has just answered your question, “Who do you say that I am?” Lord, and now you tell him who he is. Often in the Bible, when you give someone a new commission, you assign a new name. So it was with Abraham, Sarah and Jacob. Later, when Saul began to witness to the gentiles, he would assume the Greek form of his name, “Paul.” Traditionally, popes take new names when elected, as do members of many religious communities when they receive the habit.

Peter, our rock, became the foundation of the Church; that same Peter who had said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man,” the same Peter who floundered when he was walking toward you over the water, the same Peter who would try to dissuade you from the cross, who would say, “You will never wash my feet,” the Peter who would deny you three times and then affirm his love three times. The stubborn, impetuous man who so accurately reflects our human nature will become your representative.

We commemorate him today, along with Paul. You transformed both of them so that they lived no longer in themselves, but in you. They worked together to build your Church. They argued and then agreed. They were martyred for you. On this, their feast day, I beg you to increase my dedication to you. Thy will be done.

He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.
(Matthew 8:26)

Lord, I admit that I am terrified about the path our country is taking. I admit that I have very little faith. If you can calm the waters of the ocean, you can forestall the dangerous trends that surround us. Save us, Lord.

Our Supreme Court has proclaimed that a woman’s right to kill her unborn child is greater even than the right to a standard of health care that guides all other medical procedures. Our president applauds this decision. Where are our hearts? Please, Lord, save us!

The notes in my NAB say that the word translated “storm” literally means “earthquake.” The prophets used earthquakes to show your intervention when we humans flaunted your laws. Are we any less wicked than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah? We need an earthquake, then.

How can I be idle and silent in the face of our self-destruction? What can I do, Lord? I will increase my prayer. I will fast. What can I give up that will remind me to cry out to you? You will show me. You will show me, too, how and when to speak up for our true rights, the freedom that springs from love and mercy.

Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
(Matthew 8:20)

The scribe who promised to follow you anywhere, my Jesus, did not realize that you had no place in this world. You were going to Jerusalem to die on the cross. Was he really willing to journey there? If he had done so, he would have heard you proclaim, “My kingdom is not of this world.” If he was seeking to latch on to a political leader in order to gain status, he could not follow you, for to do so is to give up home, family, possessions and all aspirations to honor and power in this world. To follow you is to be shamed, humiliated, scourged and crucified.

You were born in a stable and laid in a manger. You slept in the homes and boats of your disciples. You could multiply loaves and fishes to feed the crowds who listened to you, but you would not, as the tempter demanded, turn stone to bread to satisfy your hunger.

If we follow you, Lord, we may not know where we are going in this world or how we will survive, but we will learn to trust you. You will prepare us to share in your glory. You will keep us with you forever. What else could we want?

How and where shall I follow you today, Lord? The hours are passing so quickly. Please guide me. Stay with me.

To him, Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.
(Luke 9:62)

What do I picture when I consider these words, Lord? I have set out to plow a field, like Elisha in today’s first reading. I am turning up the earth, the most basic element, like the clay from which you created me. I cannot see the end of the field, but I keep my eyes resolutely on the horizon. I “set my face” to it, as you set your face to Jerusalem and your ultimate mission. I do not look behind to see what progress I have made, for that might either discourage me or fill me with pride. I know that I will finish this row before beginning a new one. It is what I am doing now that matters, not what I have already done. I keep the goal in mind, but in order to achieve it I have to focus on what is beneath me, this rock that was tossed up, this clod that must be broken and aerated. No one can plant until the soil is prepared. You will sow your Word on the fertile ground. That is all that matters.

Please help me today to let go of whatever prevents me from being your disciple, from fulfilling the work you ask me to do.

The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

You praised the centurion for his faith, my Jesus. He realized your power and his own sinfulness. I will repeat his words at Mass this evening, substituting the words “my soul” for “my servant.” And you will come to me!

You do say the word, Lord, when we pray, when we confess, when you send us little glimpses of your glory in the beauty of nature or the goodness of our neighbors. You are the Word, still redeeming us, bringing us into your Eternal Now. When we receive what is no longer the bread and wine but your Body and Blood, we are brought into that first Eucharist. We receive with your apostles and with all the members of your Mystical Body. You who cannot be divided come to each of us completely.

Please keep the plea of the centurion in my heart, not only when I receive Communion, but in my daily life. My Jesus, I trust in you.

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
(Luke 1:80)

After the drama of his birth, John’s life was obscure. “He was in the desert.” Like you, the Christ whom he proclaimed, he spent much more time in preparation than in ministry.

This child, who had leapt for joy at the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, knew you before either of you were born. From womb to womb the connection sparked. Six months apart, you grew up separately but must have known each other well as children. You did not manifest yourself publicly until John baptized you. For a while, you were preaching at the same time, but John had always known that he was just “a voice crying out in the wilderness.”

In this wilderness, this desert where we prepare for whatever you ask of us, in this silence, Lord, let us grow “strong in spirit.” Let us rejoice in you, announce you, and seek only your will.

I pray now for whatever this day will bring, for whomever I meet, and for the privilege of serving you in my neighbor.

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 7:24)

If we truly listen to your words, Lord Jesus, we will act on them. How can I be more active? Today, I will go to Mass, receive you in the Eucharist, and bring you home to my brothers and sisters. I do this only once a week, but it is the only true gift I can offer. Anything else is just a reflection. Please help me to remember that every word, every smile, every gesture I make on behalf of my neighbors is a measure of how I respond to your words and your love.

There is a note on my table ready to address and mail, and I don’t know why I haven’t done it yet. I feel as though I have to leave my gift at the altar and take care of it. Why do I find practical matters so difficult? Please stay with me and keep your words before me while I attend to them.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.
(Matthew 7:10-20)

What are “good fruits,” Lord? Paul lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Galatians: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Where do I fall short? Can I see these fruits in the people I admire?

The first, of course, is love. “See how these Christians love one another.” It is our mark, then, our charism. From love flow all the virtues. In an old hymn, we sing, “How can I love thee more and more?”

At this moment, in this room, Lord, how can I love you more, and my neighbor as myself? First, I can know you better. How? By reading Scripture, surely, but also by seeing you in all things, for you made all things and pronounced them good. All goodness comes from you. It is easy to see you in what is pleasing to the senses, but what about ugliness and suffering? In the wake of the Orlando massacre, someone quoted Fred Rogers, who had counseled the children who watched his TV program to “look for the helpers.” It is the helpers who are bearing good fruit. Today, let me look for the helpers, and, with your grace, to become a helper.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
(Matthew 7:14)

The gate is narrow, Lord, but it opens to the vastness of eternal life. Please help me to persevere. If that means waiting my turn, let me not grow impatient or discouraged.

We are not aimless wanderers, we have a destination. You give us glimpses of your glory in order to inspire us. Let those glimpses sustain us, no matter how many twists and barriers we encounter. Help us to encourage one another along the way. Call to those who are on the wide way to accept the challenge of constriction. You can make the few many.

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

This chapter begins with a short, stern sentence, “Stop judging.” I could make that my mantra, Lord. How quick I am to notice — what I hear more than what I see. I want others to speak clearly and logically, but do I even think before forming my own words? How often do I react instead of responding? Please, remind me to listen, not just to the words, but to the person.

I rely on your mercy, Lord. If you judge me according to how I judge others, where will I stand? Teach me to be merciful.

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
(Luke 9:23)

Peter has just professed, Lord Jesus, that you are the Christ. You were speaking only to your disciples, who had accompanied you while you prayed “in solitude.” When you were finished, you turned to them and asked, “Who do you say that I am?” You acknowledged Peter’s response, but then warned them not to tell anyone.

Now, though, you tell all of us that we must deny ourselves and take up our daily crosses. We who read these words today know that there is one cross, and by giving our lives to you, we participate in your passion and death. We participate, as well, in your Resurrection.

Those who heard your words in this Gospel, though, must have been shocked. They knew what the cross was; Roman executions were public. How could anyone be prosecuted and put to death “daily”? Even your closest followers, who had spent every day with you and witnessed your miraculous works, who now proclaim that you are the Messiah; even they could not comprehend that their King, their Savior, could die like a common criminal. What did the crowd think?

What do I think, Lord? Who do I say that you are? How can I deny myself in order to come after you? My life is too easy. There is pain and grief, of course, which I can accept as my share of your cross. Do I really deny myself, though? I am so proud, so attached to comfort. I could push so much harder. Please help me to forget myself. I must decrease; you must increase.

Look at the birds of the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
(Matthew 6:26)

Once, years ago, when I was sitting at the edge of the woods, watching birds at the feeders, I thought, “Birds are free because they take what they find.” At the time, I didn’t realize that I was just rephrasing your words, my Jesus.

How free I would be if I stopped thinking about what I need and paying attention to what I have in the present moment! Do birds think about tomorrow? They come back to their source of food and water, and if they should find it empty, they fly farther.

Some of us get upset when something is not in its familiar place, or something new has been added. Why do we resist change? I think it challenges our sense of security. Yet it is that very security that inhibits our freedom. The disciples left their posts, their boats, their livelihoods to follow you, with no idea where the journey would take them. What courage you gave them! Only the brave are free.

Are the birds brave, then? No, they are simply acting on instinct. It is we who are free to choose and we who must be brave to let go. I will not envy the birds, then, but I will pray to be so attuned to your will that following it becomes instinctive. Show me how to see and appreciate this moment.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
(Matthew 6:19-21)

In yesterday’s reading, we were instructed to ask for our “daily bread.” We trust you, Lord, to provide what we need. Bread represents sustenance, but it is perishable; so we need only what we can use. When we try to store up for the future, we belie our trust in your providence. More than that, we pay more attention to worldly possessions than to you. Your love is our only treasure, and we can preserve it only by sharing it.

As I struggle to unclutter my physical environment, help me, please, to get rid of the attachments and distractions that hamper my spirit. With your grace, I can let go.

This is how you are to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
(Matthew 6:9)

God, Father of us all, we are your children. We are brothers and sisters, united in you. Together, we bless your name. Together, we will dwell with you in heaven. Bring us into your kingdom. Teach us your will. Give us strength and courage to follow you here on earth. Provide for our needs and lead us away from whatever is not you. Above all, let us forgive one another. That is the only way we can atone and be forgiven.

My Jesus, you redeemed us. Only you could offer yourself as God to God, as human for human. You ask only that we participate in our redemption by forgiving our brothers and sisters. You not only taught us; you have shown us how when you forgave from the Cross those who had put you there.

Having meditated on the question of sin and its effects on your creation and in my life, I see that I have also to forgive myself. When I contemplate how far I have strayed, I am clear that I cannot judge anyone. You make us new every day. If I live in your Eternal Now, I will meet each person as though it were the first time. The slate is clean. Bring us together in your kingdom.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
(Matthew 6:6)

Lord, I am so blessed to have this quiet space and time in which to converse with you. Literally, the “inner room” was a closet, chamber, or storehouse. Prayer was public in your time, and ostentatious, my Jesus, but you went off to deserted places to be alone with your Father. We all need to find you in the silence of our hearts. Help us to still our restless minds and be with and in you.

As I enjoy the luxury of free time and solitude, let me remember all your servants who have little time to themselves. Help them to find you even in the brief interludes, the stop lights, periods of waiting, and lulls in activity. Help us all to find you in all things.