Sunday, September 30, 2012

10/5/2012 – Friday of 26th week in ordinary time – Psalm 139

     The psalmist asks the Lord to guide him in the everlasting way.  It is the last verse in today’s psalm that really struck me.  The psalmist reflects on the way in the which the Lord formed him in his mother’s womb, the way God formed his innermost being.  The psalmist gives thanks that he was wonderfully made, and he expresses wonder at all of the marvelous works of the Lord.  If we truly believed that, if we truly believed that God formed us in our mothers’ wombs and made us so wonderfully, how would be take care of the life that God has entrusted to us?  Would we abuse our bodies with alcohol and drugs?  Would we do any of those things that we do that get us off track or get us in trouble?  The ramifications of what the psalmist proclaims in the Gospel truly have an impact if we believe in the truth of those words.

         I work a lot with prisoners.  And many of them are so honest about how hard it is to get back on track, to turn toward the Lord when their roads have taken them so far away.  Even though they detest prison and despise that way of life, many of them continue to get into trouble when they get out and end up right back in prison.  We want the Lord to lead us and guide us in the everlasting way.  But are we willing to go where God is directing us?  

10/3/2012 – Wednesday of 26th week in ordinary time – Luke 9:57-62

       Following Jesus may be something that we want to do with all of our hearts, but it is not always an easy thing to do, is it?  Making sacrifices for our faith and truly being loyal to Jesus may seem to go against so many things in our secular world.  There may be other worldly things that call out to us.  We may sympathize with the man who wants to bury his father.  I remember that I was serving as a missionary in Ecuador when my dad passed away in California.  I was given a leave of absence from my missionary work in order to attend my dad’s funeral and to be with my siblings.  However, I did not get to go to Chicago to where my dad was buried until I came back from my missionary assignment two years later.  I remember that I went to my dad’s grave and put a wooden cross and some rosary beads there that I had brought back from my mission site in Ecuador.  And I remember that when I finished up at the seminary in Milwaukee in my studies for the priesthood, I stopped by the cemetery in Chicago to say a prayer at my dad’s grave and to ask for his prayers for me as I drove down to Mississippi to begin my life as a priest.  Jesus tells the disciple that wants to bury his father that he has a greater obligation – the obligation to proclaim the reign of God’s kingdom.  As I mentioned, I think that we can all empathize and sympathize with that disciple.
         We have to live out our faith in the reality of our lives, in the reality of the different obligations we have in life.  We make sacrifices.  We live out our calling to discipleship as best as we can.  It is not easy, that’s for sure.  We can tell from this reading that Jesus wants us to be aware of what it really means to be his disciples.  May we have the grace and the strength to truly follow him. 


10/2/2012 – Tuesday of 26th week in ordinary time – Guardian Angels – Psalm 88

        The psalmist today expresses how he cries out to the Lord, how he hopes that the Lord will incline his ear and listen to his cries.  Most of us wonder from time to time: Is God indeed listening?  Does he answer my prayers?  When I want something so badly, why doesn’t it seem like God is listening?  Why aren’t my prayers answered? 
         We in the Catholic Church believe in angels. We see angels as spiritual being who were created by God.  Our English word “angel” comes from the Greek word “angelos”, which means “messenger”.  God sends out his angels to carry special messages for him.  Today, we celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels.  We see the role of the guardian angel as to guide us to good thoughts, in good works, and in good words, to keep us from succumbing to evil. Since the 17th century,  the Church has celebrated a feast honoring the Guardian Angels in October.  We talk about how our American society is becoming more secular, but I was looking at an article from Time Magazine from 2008 that quoted statistics from a study on religious belief in American conducted by Baylor University, which stated that 55% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that “I was protected from harm by a guardian angel.”  Very interesting. 
         I love the prayer to the Guardian Angels.  It is a favorite prayer of many Catholic children, and many Catholic adults remember this prayer from their childhood: Angel of God, My Guardian Dear, to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard and rule and guide. Amen. 
         In the prayers that we say, we communicate with God and we develop and grow in our faith.  May the angels and the saints hear our prayers and pray for us as members of the kingdom of God. 

10/1/2012 – Monday of 27th week in ordinary time – St Therese – Luke 9:46-50

        The disciples were arguing amongst themselves who was the greatest, Jesus lifted up a child to them as an example, telling the disciples that if they received this child in his name, then they were receiving him.  A child would have been seen as the least in society in Ancient Israel.   Jesus is telling us that we need to approach God from a stance of humility and vulnerability, not from power and might.
         I think that many have toned down the radical message Jesus gives us in his Gospel.  In a world where power, wealth, and celebrity are admired above everything else, where reality TV stars command more attention and adulation than those who work for the good of society, Jesus’ message of lifting up a child to the disciples is radical and shocking indeed.  The saint we celebrate today is one of the most admired saints in our modern world – Therese of the Little Flower.  Therese died of tuberculosis at the age of 24, having lived as a cloistered Carmelite nun for less than 10 years.  Pope John Paul II named Therese as a Doctor of the Church, even though her only published work was her edited autobiography entitled The Story of a Soul.  And even though she never left her cloister as a nun, John Paul II named her as the patron saint of the missions for her great missionary zeal and her love of bringing the Word of God to all.  I remember asking some of the prisoners whom I minister to in the prisons the names of their favorite saints, and most of them gave me the name of Therese.  I was at first perplexed how they could relate to this cloistered nun, but a friend of mine at St Richard parish remarked that the prisoners perhaps see themselves as being in a cloister during their incarceration, and thus very much relate to the life which Therese led. 
         I also think that many of us can relate to her “little way”, in which she sees us being able to lift up the acts and deeds that we perform during the course of our daily lives to the glory of God.  Therese’s way is not a complicated theology which is difficult to comprehend, but rather something that all of us can relate to and comprehend. 
         May we pray today that we can approach God with the heart of a child.  And may we pray for the intercessions of St Therese, to be able to lift up all we do in life as a celebration in our faith in the Lord.  I also want to pray especially for the men whom I minister to in the prisons – at the Yazoo County Regional Correctional Facility, at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, at the Yazoo City Federal Correctional Complex, and at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville.  My heart goes out to these men and their families.  May they feel the prayers and intercessions of Therese and the rest of the community of saints helping them and guiding them during this difficult stage of their journey.