Being Chosen

By Nancy Nobrega

In the First Reading, David was chosen by God but he was the most unlikely candidate. Jesse did not even include him in the group of sons from which Samuel was to choose. Samuel saw potential in all the sons but God clarified his choice of David because he looked not on his “outward” appearance. Then again Samuel included that David was “handsome”…“but the Lord looks on the heart”. What? So, it seems that although David was handsome God picked him anyway? I guess really God did not care what he looked like on the outside……that is the message. God looked at his heart and knew that David would hear His call and be a good King.

I have certainly not been chosen to be “a King”, but God has chosen me and all of you too and all of His children in this world that He created. He loves us all. In Baptism we have been chosen to be Priests, Prophets and Kings. I very much feel like an unlikely candidate. Why did God call my name and why did I hear him? I was Baptized as a child…was that an accident of my birth? There are no accidents. God has a plan. Who am I in God’s plan? Here we are together, supporting one another in the Mystical Body of Christ. God must have seen our hearts? Then again there are lots of people I know who have such good hearts and they don’t attend Mass, or even know God in any way. They don’t always hear His call…even if they are Baptized …or do they…or not yet? Such a mystery!

I am so grateful. Sitting in the pews at St. Basil’s really helps me with this. I see my fellow members of God’s family as folks like me…hearts like mine…who come to pray in thanksgiving, pray for help for themselves or others, and to praise God. Sometimes I can see their hearts weeping, sometimes I can see their hearts rejoicing and sometimes I see their hearts being peaceful in God’s presence and in the presence of the Mystical Body of Christ – all of us who support one another as we come together at St. Basil’s and then take that out into the world to support those who are not as fortunate as we are…those who don’t hear God’s words. We do this with the grace of the Holy Spirit and Father’s blessings. Such grace! We learn and are nurtured just by being in the presence and grace of this wonderful Mystical body! Such a gift!

Our wonderful Candidates and Catechumens have missed their First Scrutiny because of these trying times. We acknowledge them in our loving prayers. Even though we are not together in body we are together in Spirit. We are all part of God’s plan so this can only be correct. They have heard God call their name and are full of wonder and have chosen to follow.

Sofia Cavalletti explains it so well when she says ”We can compare wonder to a magnet…it is situated ahead of us and attracts us with irresistible force toward the object of our astonishment…”. Hearing God’s voice is quite astonishing! In the Gospel today John uses the word “astonishing” to describe Jesus’ miracle. Cavalletti is describing the wonder that children feel in relationship with God. We are all God’s children and experiencing the wonder of our Candidates and Catechumens in our RCIA program has been such a blessing to me. Let us welcome these new members of our Mystical Body as we pray for them and see their hearts with God’s eyes, each one different, each one supporting as we support them…as we go forward…hearing God’s words…being His bridge to others …connecting all hearts…with wonder and astonishment with the grace of the Holy Spirit. I am so grateful that I hear God’s word and so grateful to know that I am part of His plan. I am so grateful that I can experience this through my brothers and sisters in Christ. Such a mystery

At the Well

At the Well By Michael Pirri This weekends Gospel reading focuses on Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman coming to draw water at Jacob’s well. I always wondered how it was that these two should happen to meet, both unaccompanied. It’s important to note two aspects that make this interaction so significant. This is a woman of Samaria, most likely of very low social standing – why else would she be coming unaccompanied to a very deep well in the hot sun of midday (It was extremely uncommon for women to travel unaccompanied)? Further, a Samaritan woman, even of very high social standing, would not typically interact with non-Samaritans, like Jesus. How is it that both of these people, who usually travel accompanied, should meet on their own? The water imagery in this Gospel passage is vivid. The Samaritan woman’s thirst is physical, she comes to the well to draw water. A persons physical needs are met through much difficulty: the well is deep. The living water offered by Jesus is like a wellspring, gushing up from the ground. How is it that we, like the samaritan woman, can encounter Christ and learn to seek out the living water too? This imagery is reinforced in one of the responsorial canticles from the Easter Vigil: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12.3) In the same way that woman comes to the well to draw water, Jesus comes too. He comes thirsty not only for us and our salvation, but also to supply our needs, to be the wellspring in this Lenten desert. Sunday’s Readings: Exodus 17.3-7 Psalm 95 Romans 5.1-2, 5-8 John 4.5-42

The Lenten Journey… One Day at a Time

The Lenten Journey… One Day at a Time By Kevin Kelly, SJ Last Sunday our focus was on temptation: how Jesus overcomes his temptations in the desert; how Adam and Eve failed to overcome theirs; and how we must better understand and recognize our own if we are to face them and turn them over to God. Now that we are into our full Lenten stride, we might be struggling to adhere to the promises we made, feeling overwhelmed by old and maybe new temptations, and beginning to doubt our ability to face the things that need transformation in our lives. Today, we experience Jesus’ Transfiguration. Our readings provide hope for us just when we might be starting to lose it. They encourage us to take one day at a time… to face our challenges and desire to chance and grow not all at once, but bit by bit. In the reading from Genesis, Abram is told to leave everything behind and build “a great nation”. Even though God assures him that God will be with him, Abram must have felt overwhelmed. However, jumping to the end of the story, we know Abram learns to trust and do God’s will. In the Epistle, we see both Paul and Timothy facing their own struggles: Paul is aging and in prison and Timothy is being challenged to accept God’s call to be a leader in the Church. Taking on leadership and growing old are real challenges that must be faced and accepted over time, through prayer and God’s grace. Finally, we see the disciples completely overwhelmed, watching Jesus, the man with whom they have put their faith, their trust and their lives, transfigured before them. It must have been terrifying; they don’t know how to respond. Jesus tells them to keep it to themselves, to go slowly, to trust that, with time, they will come to understand who he is and what he will call them to do. That’s what Jesus encourages us to do too: to be patient, to be gentle with ourselves, and to go slowly… trusting that he will carry us along if we turn our lives over to him. Sunday’s Readings: Genesis 12.1-4 Psalm 33 2 Timothy 1.8-10 Matthew 17.1-9

Temptation

Temptation

By Trevor Rainwater, SJ

All three of our readings revolve around temptation – giving into and not giving into temptation. Our First Reading tells the story of the “Fall of Humanity,” through which Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate from the tree from which they were told not to eat. Our Second Reading from Romans explains how we understand sin and its connection to death, yet provides hope through Jesus. The Gospel provides the three-fold temptations of Jesus and how NOT to give into temptation.

On Wednesday, we began our journey through Lent, which for those in the RCIA program, is the season when everything “ramps up.” The RCIA program of discernment and gaining deeper knowledge about the Roman Catholic faith begun in October comes to an end in the next six weeks. The Gospels during the Scrutinies of Lent (March 14, 22, and 29) speak to the Elect (those unbaptized) as a means of uncovering and healing some of the weaknesses and sins of the Elect. Through these Scrutinies, the goal is for the Elect to have a grace-filled encounter of the healing power of the Holy Spirit, which will be fully realized at the Easter Vigil.

While the Scrutinies focus on the Elect and are still a few weeks away, their message is for all of us. We are called at the beginning of Lent to examine how and where in our lives, we have been tempted and have fallen into sin. By examining “what we have done and in what we have failed to do,” our goal is to try to avoid future temptations. By recognizing these potential pitfalls, we can then “grow in the understanding of the riches hidden in Christ” (Collect, 1st Sunday of Lent).

Sunday’s Readings:
Genesis 2.7-9, 16-18, 25; 3.1-7
Psalm 51
Romans 5.12-19
Matthew 4.1-11

The Relentless

The Relentless
Pursuit of Perfection

By Fr. Morgan Rice, CSB

Some of you might recognize the title of this reflection as the original motto of Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division. It accompanied the launch of its LS 400 sedan in 1989 after several years of research and development to build the world’s best car. This required identifying the best features of their competition and improving them. The result was an extremely refined, reliable, luxury car that even cost much less than the competition. However, to be the best depended not only on the car but also on the service experience associated with ownership. In this area, too, Lexus excelled. It was a total package aimed at perfection.

Today’s Gospel passage concludes with Jesus’ exhorting his disciples, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48). Our society presents various notions of perfection (for example, with respect to appearance), but they usually only fit a small portion of the population. For most, it is not something that can be achieved no matter how hard one tries. However, the perfection that Jesus speaks of does not exclude anyone, but it is something that God’s grace allows anyone to obtain, no matter who they are or where they have come from.

St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s holy temples, temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our guide to the perfection that reflects the perfection of God in whose image we were created. Like those Lexus engineers and researchers who spent great deals of money and time to produce the LS 400 and the network of dealerships, we are to use what God makes available to us in our relentless pursuit of human perfection. While they studied Mercedes and BMW as ways to perfection, we look to Christ and the many holy women and men who have reflected his ways and qualities in their lives.

Christ is our model for perfection. Following his teachings, including his ways of non-violence, love and forgiveness of enemies, seeking others’ good without expecting anything in return, and giving of what he had to those in need, will help us to get closer to perfection. The thing is, God’s perfection does not require that all of us be exactly the same but instead to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us to be our unique, most authentic selves and fulfill our role in the diverse body of Christ.

Sunday’s Readings:
Leviticus 19.1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103
1 Corinthians 3.16-23
Matthew 5.38-48

What does it mean for us to be light?

What does it mean for us to be light?

By Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB

Last weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. As we blessed the candles that we use in Church and at home we were reminded that Jesus is the light of the World. This weekend Jesus speaking to his disciples and to the Church, the Body of Christ, “You are the light of the world, …let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” What does it mean for us to be light?

Isaiah tells us, “…to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly… If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday”.

The light of compassion and mercy that may be as source of healing, hope and liberation for some, may also be a challenge and judgment on others. For the light may also reveal what causes the darkness. Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999), Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in Brazil, an advocate for the poor and oppressed said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist”.

Over the centuries many individual Christians and the Church, herself, have been worthy witnesses to Christ’s care and concern for those who suffer and they are models of God’s love and mercy as they feed the hungry, care for the sick, shelter the homeless and educate men and women so that they can live happy and productive lives. Others at times have spoken out against the injustices, suffering and hurt caused by prejudice, economic systems, governments.

As we reflect on this week’s readings let us consider how we have been light to others and how others have been light to us. Let us pray that we be sensitive to the needs of others and work together to find the causes and cures for injustice in our society and the world in which we live.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 58.6-10
Psalm 112
1 Corinthians 2.1-5
Matthew 5.13-16

Who made God?

Who Made God?

By Nancy Nobrega

One of our daughters lives in the United States so I often talk to my grandsons on the phone. Since they are young they get their Mom to call and then she hands the phone over to them. Nana “knows everything” and “Nana rules” so they sometimes ask for information and sometimes ask for permission thinking that I will overrule my daughter when she has already said no. One day, when he was 4, Ryan called and asked me, “Nana, if God made me and you and Mommy and Daddy (etc. etc.) who made God?” I wasn’t really ready for that but the Holy Spirit helped me and I replied, “Honey that is the most important and best mystery of all!” I felt ok about that answer because it really is the truth and he was quite satisfied and ran off to play. Kids accept and love mysteries and isn’t everything a mystery to them? That’s all he needed to know.

Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Matthew didn’t ask any more questions either. Prophets like Isaiah did not have easy lives telling the truth that more often than not no one wanted to hear. Isaiah told us that we must trust the Lord to love and care for us even when we are in hard times. God does not give up on us so we should not give up on him. Even today the truth is often hard to hear or sometimes believe. We are however given the task of being prophets by our covenant with God at our Baptism. Richard Rohr tells us the prophets are not so much those who tell the future but “ones who see clearly in the present.”

St. Paul’s life was transformed when he “met” Jesus on the road to Damascus. He had been a harsh and cruel man, persecuting Christians until he met Jesus and became a disciple – fully engaged. He heard the truth and off he went to spread the word, travelling throughout his world and eventually dying for the truth.

St. Matthew did not have an easy life either. He was a tax collector – shunned by his community. He was the only one of the three from the readings and Gospel today who met Jesus in His humanity. His life was also transformed when he heard the truth of Jesus’ word.

He connected the Old and New Testament when he wrote in his Gospel that Jesus was the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets had foretold. He also died for the truth.

These men who were chosen by God to spread his word were not chosen because they were saints. As we have so often heard, they were just ordinary people like you and me. We have our good days and bad days and there are times when we are not proud of what we do. We are not asked to die for God, but we are asked to let our “old life” die – the life that we are not proud of. We ask God for help often and every time we share in the Eucharist we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We ask for God’s grace to help us let our old lives die.

In today’s gospel Matthew tells us that as soon as Jesus called to Peter, Andrew, James and John they left their whole lives behind to follow him. They were humble fishermen and “immediately left their nets to follow Him.” They did not doubt, they saw the truth. At the end of Mass, Father sends us off with the grace of his blessing and tells us, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Fr. Norm, in his homily last week ended by quoting St. Francis. “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” We don’t need to be prophets like Isaiah, or evangelists like Paul or gospel writers like Matthew, but we are just as important to God.

God made us too. Each one of us can show the truth of God’s word by our actions and we just need to have “no doubt” about the truth, just like little children, like my Ryan, that God’s grace will help us in our enthusiasm and commitment as it did and does for these great men and the little children whom God so loves. That is the joy that we must feel, the truth that we must see – our task and our purpose, to help one another see God. It is a mystery and it’s all we need to “know”.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 9.1-4
Psalm 27
1 Corinthians 1.10-13, 17-18
Matthew 4.12-23

Church Unity

Church Unity

By Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB

John the Baptist in today’s Gospel reading, points to Jesus Christ saying, “…He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” It is through Baptism that we put on Christ and become members of the Body of Christ, the Church. St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians writes, “To the church of God, … to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. St. Paul prays for unity and peace among Christians. All those who are baptized in Christ, Catholic and non-Catholic, are united to each other in Christ. St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). But since the beginning of Christianity there have been misunderstandings and arguing, divisions and schisms. Sometimes those divisions have been reconciled, but at other times they have remained, even at times becoming deeper and more painful. These divisions are what prompted St. Paul to write to the Ephesians, “… lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). This admonition is still appropriate today as we encounter disharmony among Christians, even discord within the Catholic Church. From Saturday, 18 January (the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter) until 25 January (the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul) we invite you to pray with Christians around the world to pray for harmony and peace among all the baptized. Here is a prayer you might want to pray daily during the Church Unity Octave. God, giver of life, we thank you for the gift of your compassionate love which soothes and strengthens us. We pray that our churches may be always open to receive your gifts from one another. Grant us a spirit of generosity to all as we journey together in the path of Christian unity. We ask this in the name of your Son who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday’s Readings:

Isaiah 49.3, 5-6

Psalm 40

1 Corinthians 1.1-3

John 1.29-34

Dialogue

Dialogue

By Michael Pirri

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
Matthew 3.16

Just before the point where today’s Gospel begins, John the Baptist remarks that he baptizes ‘for repentance’. Christ, a man with no sin, shows great humility in approaching John in the river. It is a sign that he is fully human – just like us, he encounters the Holy Spirit at baptism.

Most of us are fortunate that we are able to receive the sacrament of baptism as infants; this initial encounter not only marks our cleansing from original sin, but we are also sealed with the chrism by having the sign of the cross made on our foreheads. If baptism is the first encounter with Christ, how are we meant to build upon this foundation? How do we foster relationships with people in our lives?

Communication is the cornerstone to all great relationships. With friends and family, we can see the fruits of frequent communication borne out. Equally important is an efficiency in communication; a healthy dialogue involves both actively listening and participating. It is no wonder that these are also the words used when discussing how the faithful ought to participate in the Mass: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people, is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium n.14)

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 42.1-4, 6-7
Psalm 29
Acts 10.34-38
Matthew 3.13-17

What can I give?

What can I give?

By Michael Pirri

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

–In the Bleak Midwinter (Rossetti)

No doubt today’s Gospel reading is a familiar story. Though we usually meld it together with the birth of Christ as part of the nativity, the wise men don’t actually show up until Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. The season of Christmas lasts from Christmas to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. (In some communities, it’s observed until Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation.)

As we continue through the Christmas season, it’s important to consider how we are invited to share the joy of the nativity throughout the entire Christmas season.

Sunday’s Readings:
Isaiah 60.1-6
Psalm 72
Ephesians 3.2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2.1-12