Sunday, January 25, 2015

Call of 1st Disciples: Security/Responsibility/Wealth (2015-01-25)

January 25, 2015
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

[__01__] What we read and observe in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 1, this Sunday is the start promise being made …and a response to the promise by the early apostles.

If someone were to make us a promise, a promise which we would find reasonable…this could not only console us…but also motivate us.

Peter, Andrew, James, John were motivated by a promise.

A transition took place in the lives of Peter and Andrew – and – James and John … as a result of the promise made to them.

They were four (4) fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. They had a livelihood, family ties, income.
These – livelihood + family ties + income – were surrendered to follow Jesus, our Savior.

[__02__]  Is this not the challenge for all of us, to let even our professional objectives, our family challenges and differences, our pursuit of leisure, our desire for success…to let this be guided by the Gospel?

That is, by following God’s ways – and hearing his promise -- it does not meant that we would NOT be successful, not have money, not have a roof over our heads.

Rather, we are invited to let ourselves be guided by a new standard, a new law, a new commandment.

In the letter to the Romans, St. Paul wrote –
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

And, in the letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote …

whatever is true … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

[__03__]  These – livelihood + family ties + income – were surrendered to follow Jesus, our Savior.  A new promise.

Not all  the details of the promise – the covenant – are revealed in this first “INTERVIEW” … this first “ENCOUNTER” with our Savior.

Later, through the entire message of the good news, we come to understand the promise, and the reason that they put down their nets for a new calling, a new career, a new project.

[__04__]  Would it not be true that we would be more likely to accept certain changes, certain transitions if promises were made?

Perhaps, we would also want our attorney or agent present, as a witness?

In the Gospel, promises were made to the disciples.

Because of these promises – this covenant between Jesus and his disciples – they were able to relocate, to change their lives.

I suggest that similar promises are made to us. Moreover, I suggest that the promises are – in some ways – similar to those promises which make any transition or change possible.


What person today – or college student or college graduate does not give some thought to “job security”?

We choose professions or employers in the hope that we would not only have a job this year but also next year and beyond.

Jesus promises us “job security” in the tasks he assigns us.
Consider that by following his ways – his covenant – he is always waiting for us to show up for “work” …even if we have strayed.

Is there not more joy in heaven – “more job security” – over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people with a secure retirement-plan who have no need of repentance?

Would we not also experience SECURITY, knowing that we have followed our consciences, even if this were not popular or convenient?

Through the Holy Spirit we have security and shelter …as we read in Psalm 91 about  God’s promise –
his faithfulness is a buckler and a shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:4-5)

“SECURITY” is one of our Savior’s Promises, meant to motivate his disciples then …and us – his followers – today.

Another promise is…

Each of us will know – or we have known – the affirmation of greater responsibility, or of being promoted to a new grade … or recognized in some way.

In our professional life at work – in academic life at school – greater responsibility is often the objective –

·       An assistant coach wants to be the head coach.
·       A vice president wants to be president.
·       A freshman wants to be senior (or anything but a freshman).
However, we are also called to remember that each of these steps requires that we would be humble, that we would be confident of God’s help that we would demonstrate mercy and love….

As Jesus later tells James and John, greater responsibility does not grant us a license to control or arbitrate. They were seeking to climb the corporate ladder; Jesus told James and John:

whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” (Matthew 20:26-27)

“RESPONSIBILITY” is one of our Savior’s Promises, meant to motivate his disciples then …and us – his followers – today.

Another promise is…

[__05.03_- WEALTH_]

Greater Wealth.

What professional linebacker or lawyer is not drawn – attracted – by a higher monetary salary offered by a different team.

The grass – or artificial turf in a new stadium - may be greener.

This is the wealth we understand most readily. It is also the wealth which we work to protect with tax deductions, sensible investments, and other financial measures.

Greater wealth. Who would not jump ship at such a promise? And, the 4 apostles were jumping ship on the Sea of Galilee, out of their fishing boats.

Jesus, through his life – death – resurrection – is promising a means to wealth, treasure.

Yes, I will admit this is not a portfolio of assets denominated in the Euro or U.S.  Dollar.

Nevertheless, consider the treasure present through the commands of the Gospel, values such as …

[__05.03.01__] SANCTITY OF LIFE.
At every stage, a human life has value.

Jesus was the Savior of the world even before he had been born … he remains the Savior of the world even after his death, before and after his resurrection.

We are called to see the value – the wealth – in the lives of the very young, the unborn, the terminally ill person.

In our own lives, when we feel healthy and strong, we are sometimes not aware of how God works within us…

But, for the person who lacks certain capabilities, or strengths, he or she can teach us great things about God’s power.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians to teach them about how he learned more about God’s power through times of adversity than through times of strength…

Paul wrote    “...  power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
1 Corinthians 12:9)

These are the promises that Jesus makes to us, promises to his early disciples, a reminder that in his kingdom, there is the promise of greater security, greater responsibility, and greater wealth, in spiritual terms.

And, we are called to follow him.


Good News - Being Early? (2015-01-18)

January 18, 2015
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

[__01__] Is it good news to be the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive?

[Is it good news to be the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive?]

Certainly, in the community of a family – amongst our brothers and sisters – there may be debate [discussion] about the advantages or disadvantages of one’s order in  the line of children, one’s birth order.

Is it good news to be the eldest, the  youngest, somewhere in between?

Sometimes, the elder or eldest child gains certain advantages.  Parents, you yourselves, will also think (or talk) privately about how your methods – or discipline – might change as new children are born – or grow up.

[Is it good news to be the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive?]

[__02__] In the marketplace, in business, on Wall Street, don’t investors and inventors try for success by virtue of their timing, their early arrival, and their advancement of a device or machine …FIRST.

And, on the basketball court or football field, it’s never a bad idea to score a few touchdowns or baskets before the other team does, to gain the early lead and advantage.

[It CAN BE good news to be the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive … in a competition or competitive endeavor.]

[__03__] In the first book of Samuel, our first reading this Sunday, we read about the ELDEST, the EARLIEST, the first to arrive among the prophets of Israel.

In the Promised Land, the Holy Land, Samuel was the first of many prophets. And, he was also the prophet chosen to anoint the first 2 kings of Israel.

[Being the first and the eldest… Samuel was well connected; and also had a big responsibility to King Saul and King David – the first 2 kings of Israel and to his people.]

[__04__] It’s a burden being the eldest and the earliest … prophet.

For those of you who are the eldest child in the family … or perhaps the only child in the family, this is also a big responsibility. Our parents may expect us, at times, to be more patient… while they spend time with our younger siblings…or they expect us to remember what they have told us many times before.

We are expected to remember because we heard it first.

This is a challenge.

Yes, there is also a great opportunity to learn and to grow closer to our parents through this process.

It does not mean that the eldest are automatically FAVORED by their parents … but that, for the eldest, something more is expected.

Could we, perhaps, say that Samuel was similar to the eldest child of whom more was expected?

He was called as a prophet, but he presume that the voice he hears is coming from the next room, from the priest of the Temple, Eli.

So, on 2 occasions, hearing the voice, Samuel goes to Eli … saying… “did you call?” … “was there a  [dropped] call here?“ … “do we have a bad connection?”

But, it is through this questioning that Samuel discovers this special intimacy with God.

So..first, Samuel had to identify his “caller” … he needed some spiritual caller ID before he could proceed. And, there was no elder sibling … or elder prophet to explain it to him.

And, as the “eldest” or earliest in the family, we may – at times – have to proceed courageously … to ask a few questions before we find out what is expected..and who is calling us.

[__05__]  [Is it good news to be the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive?]

Yes, it was good news for Samuel. He learns to listen and discern God’s ways.

And, isn’t it the responsibility of all of us as parents, as teachers, as deacons or sisters or parish priests, as guardians of younger people, to listen for God’s voice.

That is, if you and I were FIRST or EARLIEST, we would not have carte blanche / permission to do whatever we want. Some restraint is necessary

[__06__]  This  restraint – this patience – was also part of the prophet Samuel’s sermon and his dialogue with the people of Israel.

As their spiritual leader, they clamored, petitioned, begged him – had a referendum – and decided that Samuel as prophet would be the one to change their society and government.

That is, they desired that Samuel would anoint for them a king, a royal leader. The mood of the people – in that election cycle – was that a king would make the nation strong, would fight battles for them.

Eventually, Samuel gave in to their demands anointed King Saul. However, Samuel cautioned them about a monarchy, about the danger of tyranny, all of which later come true under the rule of King Saul and other kings.

King Saul had a few good early years, a few good seasons..but he was not a Hall of Fame candidate.

Saul – was the “eldest” among the kings…but also did not listen to God’s voice.

[It’s difficult to be the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive?]

[__07__]  Samuel, as the first prophet, resembles the earliest disciples of our Lord and Savior.

They are also the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive.

And, in this Gospel reading, we are introduced especially to John the Baptist and to Andrew and his brother Peter.

Yes, Peter and the others are the first to flee – escape – after our Savior’s betrayal and arrest.  However, they were also the first to meet Jesus the Risen Lord. Jesus sought them out first after the Resurrection.

They shared an intimacy, a connection with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry.  As his earliest disciples, they were also held to a higher standard. More was expected of them. 

[__08__]   Peter is the first to proclaim Jesus as Messiah, as the Savior who had come into the world.

Peter, however,  had an attitude similar to the population of citizens by whom Samuel was speaking. This population wanted a king through whom they believed the country would have greater wealthy, higher status, and fewer  problems.

Peter had a similar understanding of Jesus as Messiah, and rejected the idea that the Messiah would have to suffer and die.

Then again St. Peter …it’s difficult to be the eldest, the earliest, the first to arrive.

[__09__] When we are faced with a challenge, a sorrow, a difficulty, we can be edified / strengthened by the example of Samuel, and by Peter and Andrew who are eager to learn more.

Peter and Andrew ask, “where do you live?” (John 1:38)

[__10__] In our own prayer and discernment, we might also ask not only what we are to do, but also to ask for some guidance and and some peace about the destination, the next step especially the new location.

Where is God leading us?

And, through the example of the first – but not fully knowledgeable Samuel – we ask … speak Lord, for your servant is listening.   [__fin__]

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Baptism of the Lord (2015-01-11)

2015 January 11 / Baptism of the Lord

[__01__]    Have we not, at times, approached the water with some reluctance, trepidation, fear?

WATER – which is very familiar – also has its dangers. [___]   Water hazards exist not only for golfers trying to reach their greens in regulation but for everyone.

In a new CITY or COUNTRY, we would ask if we were wise to drink the [H20] … at a new beach or coastal area, if we were wise to swim, surf, or sail …. Lifeguards anyone?

And, in the kitchen, we would check the temperature of the [H20] frequently depending on our intention – cook, clean, drink …?

[__02__]   We approach water and water sources and bodies of water – lakes, oceans, rivers – with some respect for their strength, if not some anxiety about their power.

The wind and sea do not obey you and me…

[__03__]  This Sunday – the final Sunday – of our Christmas season – and the Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany is also the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

We observe that Jesus – in the Gospel – was submerged, immersed in the River Jordan.

[__04__]    Do we not understand/ evaluate athletes, soldiers, based on their capacity and capability in and around the water?

The depth of the water; the height of a wave height, or the vertical altitude of a diving board could intimidate the average person but could invite others.

They would willingly, eagerly, seek out the water, for hours, or days at a time or longer.

[__05__]  In the Baptism of the Lord – in the Jordan – we are reminded that Jesus was submerged, immersed in the same human existence as you and I have been.

Yes, he is the Son of God, human and divine.  Yes, our Lord and Savior performed miracles with water…

è Changing water into wine.
è Calming the storm with heavy precipitation and rainfall.
è Walking on the Sea of Galilee

Yet, he was also willing to be submerged, immersed in fragile human form.  What was miraculous was that God – in his infinite power – and wisdom and strength was born a human being…submerged.

[__06__]  And, in this Gospel, we read that our Savior comes up out of the water to hear God’s voice.

Yes, he’s submerged, immersed in human frailty, human form, but was still able to hear God’s voice.

“This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”  (quote ___)

[__07__]  Presented with a new water source, a new water glass in a new country or a new undertow at the beach, we would naturally be cautious.
These are natural dimensions and realities of WATER.

[__08__]  On this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are also presented with water as a symbol of God’s grace and presence in ordinary circumstances.

Yes, it can be daunting – we can at times feel overwhelmed by certain burdens of commitment ..

è The burdens of loving and caring for someone elderly, ill
è The burdens of loving someone who may not return our affection.
è The burden of forgiveness.
è The burden of doing the right thing even if our friends were to pull us in the the opposite direction.

In such circumstances, we would also approach the water …or the task with some fear, some concern… we might not want to dive right in.

[__09__]   The Baptism of Jesus reminds us that we are also called to immersion at times…to acceptance of the baptism not only as a freedom from original sin..but also as acceptance that we live in a world with sinfulness, brokenness…and water that is not entirely clear..sometimes muddy.

Yet, we enter this water, the stream of God’s mercy so that we also can – through baptism and God’s grace – rise to new life – and hear God’s voice… [__10__]    [__fin__]

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Epiphany, Gifts of the Magi (2015-01-04)

2015 January 4 / Epiphany Sunday • Isaiah 60:1-6 • Psalm  72 • Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6 • Matthew 2:1-12 •

 [__01__]   What we have read in the Gospel of  the Epiphany is the focus – ABOVE – the visual and  mental attention turned  upward toward the Star of David, the Star of Bethlehem by the Magi or Three Kings.

Thus, trouble is avoided.  The downward spiral of King’s Herod’s jealousy and  rage are avoided by the Three Kings.

They focus their attention above and not  only reach Bethlehem safely but also returned home securely by another route.

Sometimes, through a combination of peer pressure, of temptations, of the attitudes of others around us, we can also focus only what is below, only on what is expedient or convenient rather than what is right. We can grow closer to God by taking the high – or higher – road.

[__02__]  Isn’t it true that sometimes we bring  or offer GIFTS for very noble reasons?  That is, for a noble reason and with a virtuous purpose, we offer our gifts up to another person or to God.

On the other hand, we could offer a gift with an intention to gain favor or reward or connections. That is our gift is not motivated or animated by what is  above …but rather  on the treasure can lay up on earth rather than in heaven.

The 3 Kings, the Magi, manifest a spirit  of generosity and a focus on what is above.

This is not only because they focused on the GPS of a star and because they turned  their visual attention to the sky.

They also focused  on a higher, noble purpose in the presentation of their gifts.

They did not court the favor of King Herod … and they did not come before the Savior to receive special treatment but rather as a sign of respect, of respect for Jesus as King.

[__03__] Their packages, their 3 articles were presented to a newborn king, although he’s yet an unknown king and has a small place and a limited security detail, he is still a king.

And, as we know it would be expected that we would bring a gift, show respect, pay homage, if we were invited to the home of someone with connections, with power.

Would our generosity, however, focus on what is above or what is below?

We can apply the reading and lesson of the gifts of the Magi to our lives.

[__04__]    The myrrh. In the gift of the myrrh,  we see the symbol of  our Savior’s death and  resurrection, the sacrifice of his body. The myrrh was an oil and a fragrance used after death, and symbolized that a person had surrendered his life to God.

The gift reminds us that neither Jesus nor you nor I would wait  until death for the sacrifice of our lives.

Jesus invites each day to lay down our lives for each other.

[__05__]  The incense.  The incense symbolizes our prayer,  our prayers which – as we read in Psalm 141 – rise up to God. 

But, sometimes, we keep only this incense, this prayer,  this meditation as a resource to be used for my calculations, my purposes, my plans.

Are we not called  to offer up some of our prayer time, our petitions for  those around us?

It is for this reason that we come adore him communally at Sunday Mass.

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote that we come into relationship with God by our focus on what is above us, even what may be beyond us, or what may seem to be out of reach.

For example, if communication or reconciliation with a loved one were out of reach or were out of control, we could pray that  God would change our viewpoint to that of a higher altitude, meaning also a longer  and more patient view of the  situation, a more objective view of  who is hurting and why,  the  ability to separate the good from the evil which we can  do with a prayerful view from  above.

Prayer is not meant to bury us in silence but rather to help us rise above our sinfulness, our selfishness, and communicate by our words and actions.

[__06__] The gold. We might recall that the 3 kings were being invited to the home of a 4th king, and the newborn king, Jesus.

Would one king [or head of state] show up at the door of another king [or head of state] with gold? If so, for what purpose? 

To court favor? To pay off a debt?

It seems  unlikely … nevertheless, Jesus receives gold…and more importantly, there is a message in the gold.

For what is more important to a head of state, to a king, president, or prime minister…what is  that Solomon prayed for as a young prince and  heir to the throne (cf. 1 Kings 19:3). 

WISDOM.  The gold symbolizes the precious metal and material of our wisdom.   And, while the Lord also blesses us with wisdom, he is also asking us to share this with him, to share this for the achievement of his plan.

The gold symbolizes the gift, the surrender of our wisdom, our intelligence, our mental energy for  God’s work, God’s purposes.

Am I willing to share the  gold of my wisdom, above – offering it up – for God’s purposes, or do I keep it  buried below?


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Saved/Forwarded (Mary Mother of God, 2015-01-01)

2015 January 1 / Mary Mother of God   • Numbers 6:22-27  • Psalm  67 • Galatians 4:4-7 • Luke 2:16-21 •

[__01__]    In the Gospel we have just read, the MESSAGE of our Savior’s birth was being SAVED by at least one person, being SAVED, KEPT, for current reflection and future reference.

Meanwhile, the message of our Savior’s birth was being FORWARDED by others.

If you and I were to receive important messages, message of significance, we would probably want to STORE, … ARCHIVE, them for future reference.

Nevertheless, we would also read them first, we would endeavor to understand them. 

[__02__]   There are certainly messages we are taught not to save, not to forward, not even to read, in case [lest] some damage could be wrought by a virus or some harm arriving in an electronic message.

We are taught to disregard and delete certain messages we receive in the mail, or even in person.

Not every message would be worthy of being saved …and of these messages … only a small percentage, a fraction, would be worthy of being forwarded. 

[__03__]   It seems noteworthy that in the Gospel we have just read that there is at least one individual inclined to save – for future reference – the message of our Savior’s birth. This is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We read that … “Mary kept all these things [reflecting] pondering them in her heart.”  (Luke 2:19)

Our Lady, our Blessed Mother,  was saving the message.

[__04__]    On the other hand, we have the shepherds of Bethlehem were very eager to tell it on the mountain and all who heard them were amazed.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2:16-18)

 [__05__]   The shepherds are forwarding the message, publicizing the Good News.

It is, of course, consistent with Mary’s humility, piety, simplicity that she would not be the one – right now – to forward the message.

Later, Mary would be the sender and speaker, in word and action.

Later, at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, Mary spoke up at the moment of the discovery of the lack – the scarcity – of the wine.

Mary said authoritatively of Jesus and his mission and credibility, “do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
At the foot of the cross, on Calvary, Mary will wait with our suffering Savior, testifying to his mission, being among the few willing to be seen and heard as a witness in Jerusalem. By her presence, Mary was forwarding the message of our salvation.

All of these events would come later…. After this birth and birth announcement in Bethlehem.

[__09__]   For now, in this episode, Mary gave us an example of reflection, prayer.

Mary pondered the message of Jesus, about whom others forward their affirmation, forward their Gloria in Excelsis Deo, forward their Glory to God in the Highest.

[__10.01__]   Is there not a spiritual benefit to this reflection, this restraint displayed by Mary?

Do we not, at times, let others do the talking, the forwarding?

For example, as parents, mothers, fathers or family members, we may have significant news to share about another member of the family. This news could be either sorrowful or joyful.

In either case, as a parent or family member, we would need to read the message first ourselves, save it..perhaps share it with no one or only a very small intimate group in order that we would understand it.
We would do all these things before we forward the message.

[__10.02__]   On the other hand, it’s also true that we can understand our own calling as a parent, mother, father, family member, if we were to listen carefully – prudently – even critically – to what others say about our children, our families.

This does not mean that every statement has equal credibility.  Nevertheless, our own treasure of faith can grow by our understanding of the words and ideas of others.

I suggest this because St. Ambrose of Milan wrote that the faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary was enriched, was confirmed by the message forwarded by the shepherds and heard – about Jesus - in the Bethlehem neighborhood.[1]

[__11__]   Can we not also discover our calling – our vocation – if we were to listen prudently, prayerfully, to what others are saying?

If we keep them, ponder them in our heart and with God’s grace determine when and how to make our reply known, to forward the message ourselves, whether in word or action.


[1] St. Ambrose of Milan, “V. 19 Mary ..pondered”, page 108 of Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Christmas Day, Mass of the Aurora, Catena Aurea