Wednesday, October 26, 2016
From the 'scoundrels' to the 'deserving': God's mercy is for all
by Sister Ann Rehrauer
Since last December 8 when the “Year of Mercy” began, many have preached about the gracious mercy of our God, which we’ve all experienced. During this year we also heard the call to imitate our God and BE merciful, especially through the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Today, the first reading from Wisdom and the story of Zaccheus remind us again that God shows mercy to all -- even to people WE might not feel deserve mercy.
We’ve all known good people who make mistakes, or those who’ve had a difficult upbringing and didn’t have much of a chance in life. We can understand that God might show them mercy, especially if they expressed sorrow for their past.
But in today’s Scripture, Zaccheus was a tax collector, a collaborator with the Romans, someone who cheated his own people and made his living by extortion. Why would God show mercy to such a scoundrel?
The gracious gift of mercy and forgiveness is given because of who God is –- not because the recipient is “deserving.” Perhaps Jesus saw in Zaccheus a desire to change his life. Perhaps he saw someone trapped by the need for wealth and possessions. Or perhaps Jesus simply felt pity for a man who seemed alienated from God and his fellow countrymen and didn’t know what to do. We don’t know the WHY. All we know is that Jesus offered mercy.
And we don’t know much about Zaccheus’ motivation. Did repentance come before or after the call by Jesus? Did he climb the tree out of curiosity or for another reason? All we know is that Zaccheus welcomed Jesus into his home and publicly committed himself to restore, four times, what he had misappropriated. Mercy begets goodness.
Questions to reflect upon:
This week, can I find one person to whom I can show or extend the mercy of God in a concrete way?
If there is someone in my life that I can’t yet forgive, or to whom I can’t extend mercy, perhaps this week I can pray for the person that God will do (for the person and for me) what we are not yet able to do.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Keeping the faith: It's a marathon, not a sprint
Sunday’s second reading is from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, possibly near the end of Paul’s life when he was imprisoned. Reflecting on the verse below, consider:
- How does my attitude shape my walk with Christ?
- When have I persevered and followed God’s will even though it was difficult?
- Faith is a gift from God. How do I care for this gift?
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Pray always: God is with us for the long haul
by Sister Renee Delvaux
Like Moses in the first reading and like the widow in the Gospel we are called to be persistent in prayer, that is, never to lose heart, to persevere and not be discouraged by difficulties. Moses prayed with hands upraised, unceasingly, even to the point of having his friends help hold his arms up when he was experiencing physical fatigue. And the widow’s persistence, not giving up, finally opened the door of the uncaring, unjust judge.
Persistence in prayer -– what it is NOT? It is not incessant pestering, whining, or cajoling God into action. Rather, it is patient, humble, persevering, faith-filled “staying with it for the long haul.” Do you remember how long St. Monica persevered in praying for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine? Yes, 30 years! Just how long am I willing to persevere and be persistent in prayer?
God has assured us that He does hear and answer our prayers. Lord, strengthen my faith and help me to be persistent and persevering in prayer. I do know that You answer my prayers. Please help me in my times of doubt and weakness.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Cleansing of 10 lepers illustrates God's healing of body and spirit
by Sister Lynne Marie Simonich
Trust and gratitude. In biblical times leprosy was controlled by isolating those who were infected. Lepers were removed from their families, friends, work and worship. No one would approach them. Jesus comes face to face with not one, but 10 lepers, who beg him to show pity to them. They trusted in his word and his compassion. He could have turned and walked away but he brought healing into their lives instead. Only the Samaritan, the “outsider," returned to thank Jesus. The healing also deepened the leper's faith and his gratitude touched the heart of Jesus.
Why did Luke specify that the Samaritan was the only healed leper to give thanks? Could it be to show that Jesus’ healing has no limits? Could it be to show that faith is a gift offered to all people? Maybe it is also a reminder to all of us that it is so easy to take all that God has given to us (our loved ones, our gifts, our lives, etc.) for granted.
- How do we show our gratitude to God? To others?
- Do we trust in God’s power to heal us and others?
- What are the “leprosies” in our lives that need healing?
Thursday, September 29, 2016
God's angels work together to benefit all of us
by Sister Jane Riha
We are surrounded by angels. Do you believe that you have a special appointed guardian angel? This year, the Feast of Guardian Angels falls on a Sunday. There is no mention of angels in the readings for this Sunday but let us together consider the angels in our lives. As a child, I grew up believing for certain I had a guardian angel. I believe in my guardian angel to this day.
Angels are messengers. How often in the course of your life perhaps some unforeseen or unpredictable circumstance caused you confusion, doubt, insecurity. On some of these occasions, did some person, maybe a stranger, suddenly help you? I recall on my first trip to Mexico City alone, knowing very little Spanish, I was confused in the airport as to where to find the bus to go to Cuernavaca, when a kind, humble Hispanic man spoke to me in English, “Can I help you?” To this day, I know God sent him.
The Scriptures are replete with the significance of angels as messengers from God. These passages reveal actual conversations with these messengers. They often assist the person to a deeper spiritual truth. Recall to mind Mary and the angel Gabriel.
As a child, I learned this prayer to my guardian angel and I continue to pray it as an adult.
Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here; ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Who are today's beggars at the door? How do I listen to God's calling?
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus shared in this Sunday’s Gospel tells us many things. Which one resonates with you?
- What is Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor? How do I align?
- After his death, the rich man pleads with Abraham to be spared of his suffering. His request is denied. Abraham reminds the rich man that while he had it good on earth, Lazarus suffered. Now in eternity, their fortunes are reversed. Who is the “Lazarus” in my life? How do I ease his or her affliction?
- Condemned to suffer, the rich man is eager to spare his five brothers the same fate. Abraham reminds the rich man that his brothers can choose to listen (or not listen) to the prophets. How well do I hear God’s words?
Image: Lazarus at the Rich Man's Gate, by Fyodor Bronnikov, public domain
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Helping those who suffer is a way to serve God
by Sister Charlene Hockers
What is your attitude toward money? What is your attitude toward the poor? These questions are worth asking when reflecting on our Sunday readings.
The first reading, from the Book of Amos, addresses the exploitation of the poor and the weak. It is evident today as well that there are many exploited workers. We might say, “Isn’t it terrible?” and not do anything about it. Instead, what action can we take to help someone who is suffering because of economic injustice?
Our Gospel reading could throw some light on it. What is our virtue of stewardship like? Our money is not our own. We need to be honest and responsible in its use. We need to use wisely and share generously what God has given us.
Stewardship means assessing our resources and then sharing with those who are poor and exploited. We need to share our time, talent, and treasure. What are we doing to help our family, friends, the Church and especially the poor? Think about it, pray about it and then act on it!
Jesus, teach me to be a good steward.
Thursday, September 08, 2016
It is well worth celebrating our return to our Loving Creator
by Sister Francis Bangert
Lost and found could be the tagline for Sunday’s Gospel from Luke. A lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son describe all of us at some point in our lives.
The key message in these stories is not that we are lost, but that we have been found. The shepherd, the woman, the father are images of a God who searches relentlessly, diligently, patiently for our home-coming. Though imperfect, we are precious and extremely valuable in God’s eyes and loved with a tender, unending love. Unearthing this truth is cause for great joy.
My participation in support groups for women and men whose lives are tarnished by incarceration and/or addictive behavior has taught me that their humble gratitude in recovery leads to praise God for "finding" them.
Each day, we are called to remember the Holy One’s mercy and forgiveness in our own lives.
“For the love of God is broader than the measures of our mind. And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind. If our love were but more simple, we should take him at his word. And our lives would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.”
(“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” verse 2)
Thursday, September 01, 2016
What does it cost to give ourselves to God?
by Sister Annette Koss
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus calls for discipleship and reminds us that this requires both renunciation and calculation -- knowing what discipleship costs.
We know that those who wish to follow Jesus must renounce everyone and everything that gets in the way of a single-minded response to God. We need to think about and consent to the cost, the price of giving our all to Christ. Sometimes it means even giving our life. The price may seem high -- but we know that what God gives us in return is beyond price -- the fullness of life.
It seems strange today to hear Jesus speak about the need to "hate" our family and even our life if we are to be his disciple. We know that this isn't a literal command, because Jesus always calls us to "love" one another. Maybe his point is that we need to "love others in proportion". If we allow the love of God to be first in our life then our beloved family and others will come right along with it.
If we are tempted to love material things too much, we need to renounce those things. Things are good and helpful when they are in proportion.
Jesus also reminds us about the need to carry our cross. Suffering is a part of every life -- even when our own life seems pretty comfortable at times. There is great pain and suffering in our world. "Taking up our cross" sends us out with Jesus to be with and to help other people carry their cross and pain.
Lord, we pay a lot to walk with you; carrying a cross, clinging to nothing and no one: family, friends, house, car, clothes, money. Help us to let go of them, and more, to take them up again only in you.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Gospel living is about loving and serving others first
Jesus offers two teachings in today’s Gospel. The first addresses letting go of one’s status; the second is about charity.
- How do I greet unfamiliar faces at church, at work, in the neighborhood, etc.? Am I helping to create the Kingdom of God?
- With whom do I share a meal? Who is left out?
- Do I allow others to give generously to me -- even when I cannot repay in equal measure? Am I able to give to others without expecting something in return?