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Fr. Tom’s Reflections

September 1: Humility is Exalted

In the Liturgy today the virtue of humility is exalted. Conduct your affairs with humility, we hear from the book of Sirach. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted, Jesus says in the gospel. Humility is defined as "modest opinion of one's own importance or rank." C.S. Lewis said it this way: "Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."

Jesus himself is the great model of humility. He humbled himself to share in our human nature. He joyfully and lovingly served those he encountered while on this earth. Now that he is exalted in heaven he intercedes for us with redeeming love and saving grace.

What is especially striking to you of Jesus' humility? Who is a genuinely humble person you know? How are you called to embrace the virtue of humility?

 


August 25: Being Known By the Lord

In the Liturgy of the Word today there is a sense of the importance of realizing that we are known by the Lord. It begins in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, “Thus says the Lord: I know their works and their thoughts.” The gospel portrays people knocking at the door pleading for entrance. From within comes the voice, “I do not know where you are from.” In other versions of this gospel the message is, “I do not know you.”

Our journey of faith entails knowing the Lord. (Not just knowing about the Lord.) It also entails allowing ourselves to be known by the Lord. This necessitates transparency with God, being honest with God regarding our joys and struggles, not pretending that God does not notice or care about us. We need to be honest and transparent with God just as we need to be honest and transparent with a spouse or good friend.

How do you come to know the Lord? How do you allow yourself to be known by the Lord?                                                               

 


August 18, 2019: The Fiery Side of Christ

The second reading today from the letter to the Hebrews highlights the importance of “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” We do this every time we celebrate the Eucharist and when we see Christ in others. All of the faithful people who have gone before us remind us of how important it is to keep our gaze on Christ.

 

Today’s gospel shows us a side of Christ that is different from our usual perception when he says, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” The presence of Christ is meant to be noticed and to have an effect – like a blazing fire. Some of the Christian mystics speak of their experience of God as a furnace of love.

 

How do you experience the fiery side of Christ? How are you affected by Christ?                                                             

 


August 11, 2019: The Mystery of Faith

The word “faith” is repeated again and again in today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. Here is how the reading begins: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Throughout the reading the word “faith” is used in three different ways. First, as trust in God or assurance of God’s saving love. Second, as faithfulness – God’s and ours. Third, as the content of what we believe, as in the creed.

All three meanings of the word have to do with our covenant relationship with God. The first two center on our experience of God present and at work in our lives. The third one comes from people’s lived experience of God’s faithfulness throughout the Christian centuries.

What part do these three meanings of “faith” have in your life? In the life of the Church?

 


August 4, 2019: What It Is All About

“All things are vanity!” we hear from the Book of Ecclesiastes today. And in the gospel Jesus says, “for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” These statements caution us not to put an equal sign between who we are and what we have or what we do or our aspirations.

Our life, our identity, is about being God’s creatures and members of the Body of Christ. Our life goal and faith goal is to give glory to God and to serve our sisters and brothers. Everything else – our possessions, jobs, hobbies, and projects are to help us to live out the reason God has created us.

How is God asking you to use your possessions to give greater glory to God and to serve other people


July, 28, 2019: Lord, Teach Us to Pray

We are so used to getting what we want. We go to a store and get what we are looking for. We stand in front of a vending machine and make our selection, and the item comes down the tray. We push some buttons on an ATM machine and money appears.

Prayer is different. It is not automatic or mechanical, as in "I tell God what I want and, therefore, I get it." Prayer is the focus in the Liturgy of the Word today. We hear something about how to pray. (Jesus teaches us the Our Father.) We also reflect on why we pray. Is it to tell God what we want? Or is it to stand before God in a transparent way regarding what is really going on in our lives? In the end, prayer changes us, not God.

Here are some questions to ponder regarding your experience of being a pray-er: What is prayer like for you now? What is your understanding of prayer? Why do you pray?

 


July 21, 2019: Welcoming Christ

The feast of St. Benedict was July 11.  In his monastic  Rule he wrote, "All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35)."

St. Benedict's teaching connects with the Liturgy today. Abraham and Sarah welcome three unexpected visitors to their tent with generous hospitality and a lavish meal. In the text (Genesis 18:1-10) the guests are sometimes described as three persons and sometimes as one. Christians reading and hearing this passage see a kind of "pre-enactment" of the Trinity. This intriguing scene is the inspiration of the famous Rublev icon of the Trinity. The gospel portrays Mary and Martha as two very different ways to be present to Jesus the guest: one listened to him attentively while the other was busy with the details of hospitality.

We are called to reflect on how we welcome guests -- expected ones as well as unexpected ones. When have you sensed the presence of Christ in a guest?

 


July 14, 2019: Actually Doing It

At every celebration of the Mass we remember Jesus' words at the Last Supper, "Do this in memory of me." In today's gospel Jesus says, "Do this and you will live." The "this" is loving God with every aspect of our humanity and loving our neighbor as our selves.

 

Today St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the head of the body, the church. Obviously, we are the other members of the body.  We are to do as Christ does. St. Teresa of Avila puts it this way: "Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth;  yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now."

 

As we gather for the Eucharist, we do what Jesus has asked us to do. How will you love as Jesus has asked us to do?              

 


July 7, 2019: What Message Shall We Give?

The Word of God this Sunday is filled with divine words and messages we are to proclaim in word and deed. Say "Peace to this household." "The Kingdom of God is at hand for you" (Jesus). Offer comfort as a nursing mother comforts her child (Isaiah). Offer peace and mercy and grace to others (Paul).

Our world and so many people in our world are yearning for this kind of message. Violence, hate, greed, bigotry, racism, and many other evils fly in the face of God's hope and desire for us.

How do you receive God's message in your heart? What message will you give through your words and deeds?

 


June 30, 2019: At the Heart of Who We Are

Today we hear about Elisha’s experience of being called to be a prophet to succeed Elijah. Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. That means he had 24 of them! To prepare for his new adventure he slaughters them and has a barbeque for his family and friends. It must have been quite a feast. In today’s gospel Jesus speaks about similar behaviors that mark being his faithful followers.

This tells us that our commitment to follow Christ is the most identifying mark of our identity. All the other “hats” we wear – being a parent, child, sister, brother, friend, citizen – all of these relationships are to be influenced by the primacy of our relationship with Christ. Our relationship with the Risen Christ is to be permanent and unconditional.

What helps you to keep your relationship with Christ at the heart of your identity?

 


June 23, 2019: Sacred Feedings

Sacred Feedings

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi in Latin). We hear St. Paul’s version of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. Matthew, Mark, and Luke also tell the story. Each celebration of the Eucharist throughout the Christian centuries includes the same actions that happened that evening – taking bread and wine, blessing them, breaking the bread, and eating and drinking.

This Last Supper account is put side by side with Luke’s story of the multiplication of loaves and fish to feed a large crowd. Similar actions happen in this scene – taking, blessing, eating. These two scenes of Jesus’ actions portray how God is toward us in our need for nourishment and healing. It moves us to give thanks to God. This we do at each Eucharist.

How does your repeated celebration of the Eucharist help you to know God’s compassionate love?

 


June 16, 2019: The Most Holy Trinity

Each year the Sunday after Pentecost returns us into Ordinary Time. This Sunday is also the feast of The Most Holy Trinity. This mystery is a most important one for us Christians. God is mysteriously one and three at the same time. Unity and diversity are at the heart of God’s being. We are drawn into this Trinitarian mystery.

Today St. Paul reminds us that through Jesus Christ “we have gained access by faith to this grace.” Through Jesus’ divinity and humanity a door is opened for us to know, love, and serve the Trinity. St. Paul also says that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” This “pouring” is remembered at each Mass as we recall Jesus words over the cup of wine at the Last Supper.

How do you experience access to God’s life and love? How do you experience God’s love being poured out for you?

 


June 9, 2019

Today we celebrate the glorious feast of Pentecost. Today we complete the fifty days of Easter festivities. The sending forth of the Holy Spirit fulfills Jesus' Easter promise. At the first Pentecost the sound of a driving wind filled the house as the Holy Spirit filled the hearts of the believers. An ancient prayer echoes throughout the centuries: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love."

The presence and vitality of the Holy Spirit also completes our Christian experience of God as Trinity. Both St. Paul and the gospel today speak of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. This divine personal indwelling is in addition to our experience of God's transcendence (God the Father, the Creator) and God's immanence (the Incarnate and Risen Son of God).

                           

 


June 2, 2019: The Mission Continues

The Mission Continues

St. Luke tells the story of Jesus' ascension into heaven twice - at the end of his gospel and in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. This is a way of showing us two ways of comprehending the mystery of the Ascension as part of our Easter faith.

Jesus’ departure from the earth is an "end" in the sense of completion. His ascension concludes his earthly mission and ministry. The Kingdom of God has been ushered into our midst. The repetition of the story of the Ascension in Acts affirms that Jesus' mission continues with the first believers and through us in the 21st century. Our acts of healing, peace-making, justice, and charity continue the work that Jesus began. The presence and action of the Holy Spirit empowers us and encourages us as salvation history continues.

The mystery of the Ascension challenges us to assume our rightful place and responsibility in the mission Christ began. How do you witness to the Good News of the gospel? How is God calling you to continue what Jesus began?

 


May 26, 2019: A Council and Counsel

On this Sixth Sunday of Easter we hear of the first of many councils of the Church as it is described in the Acts of the Apostles. (The most recent council was the Second Vatican Council in 1963-1965.) The Council of Jerusalem, as it is called, dealt with how to integrate Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile) people who were becoming Christian. Their council led to this marvelous statement: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…”

This reading is paired with the gospel in which Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit who is called the Advocate or Paraclete. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to offer us counsel, guiding us in a spirit-led way of living. The Holy Spirit reminds us of everything that Jesus himself has taught us through his words and actions.

As we draw closer to the great feast of Pentecost, prayerfully think about how you experience the guidance of the Holy Spirt in gatherings with other people and in reminders of what Jesus said and did.

 


May 19, 2019: It Is All New for Us

One of our readings in this cycle of Easter Season Sundays comes from the Book of Revelation, the last book of our Bible. In today’s verses we hear the Risen Christ proclaiming, “Behold, I make all things new.” The author has a mystical vision in which he sees a new heaven and a new earth. The imagery is about God’s ongoing creative energy, constantly renewing the earth, constantly re-creating us in closer conformity with Christ.

The “new” theme continues in the gospel with the new commandment Jesus gives us – to love one another as he loves us. Wonderful renewal happens in our lives and in our relationships when we love others with this self-sacrificing love. It is a love that proclaims, “I am here for you.” It is how Christ is toward us. We are to be Christ-like.

How do you experience God’s renewing power at work in your life? How is God asking you to help others to experience this re-creation?

 


May 12, 2019: We Must Be Willing To Be Led

Each year on this Fourth Sunday of Easter the Liturgy highlights the imagery of the risen Christ being our Good Shepherd. Today’s gospel begins with the words, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” In the Book of Revelation today the risen Christ says, I will “shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.” Christ leads and we follow.

The grace of this Easter message is that we do not journey through life aimlessly. We are not headed down a dead-end street. Our Christian faith is about allowing ourselves to be led. Christ has opened up the way for us. As we gather Sunday after Sunday for the Eucharist we are told more and more about what this way looks like for us. So this way has two dimensions to it: we must be willing to be led by Christ who goes before us. And we are to follow faithfully and sincerely.

 How willing are you to be led by the Spirit of the risen Christ? What helps you to be a faithful follower?

 


May 5, 2019: With What Kind of Love?

On this Third Sunday of Easter we hear the haunting gospel story where Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” It becomes a kind of rehabilitation for Peter after his three-fold denial of knowing Jesus on the way to the cross. It reminds us of the importance of making relationships right. There is another thing to see in this scene that is not noticed in English but is very clear in the original Greek. The first two times Jesus asks the question, the verb “love” is the Greek word agape, which is a self-sacrificing love. Peter responds by saying he loves Jesus as a friend. He doesn’t seem ready to acknowledge a self-sacrificing love for Jesus. Finally, the third time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him as friend. Peter responds affirmatively.

This gospel scene invites us to stand in Peter’s shoes and imagine this important question asked of us. How far are we willing to go? Do we love the Lord Jesus as we love a friend? Are we able to say that we love the Lord Jesus with self-sacrificing love?

 


April 28, 2019: Entering the Door of Doubt

Entering the Door of Doubt

Each year on this Second Sunday of Easter we hear the gospel story of the encounter between the Risen Christ and St. Thomas the Apostle. To our day he is familiarly known as “the doubting Thomas.” Because of this scene, doubt regarding things of faith often has a negative connotation. Doubt often rattles people and makes them feel uncomfortable.

But Thomas shows us another dimension about doubt. Instead of being a brick wall, doubt is a doorway into deeper faith. By being present to his experience of doubt and because of Jesus’ invitation to see and believe, he becomes a model for believers with his acclamation, “My Lord and my God!”

When has doubt been part of your faith-life? When have you, like Thomas, passed through doubt to deeper faith?

 


April 21, 2019: The Easter Awakening

All four of the gospels begin the Resurrection Narrative with a reference to what happened early in the morning on the first Easter Sunday. Luke's account begins this way: "At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb."

This imagery of daybreak, the dawning of a new day, is about more than the time of day. It points to the experience of spiritually waking up, an awakening of faith on the part of the first followers of Christ and us who live in the twenty first century of Christianity. Something new is happening. It all begins to dawn on us. So Easter is about what happened to Jesus and what happens in us.

Anne Lamott says it this way: "This is the Easter message, that awakening is possible, to the goodness of God, the sacredness of human life, the sisterhood and brotherhood of all."

On this Easter day, think about the difference the Resurrection of Christ makes in your life. What kind of awakening does it stir up in you?                                           

 


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