Jesus, please help us to see with the eyes of your love.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is followed by two blind men asking him to heal them. They continued to follow even after Jesus entered the house. When they had done so, Jesus turned and said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this” (Mt 9:28)? The pair said in unison that they did. Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith” ((Mt 9:29). Both men were healed.
Though the pair were blind physically, they had faith that Jesus was the Son of David. This term was a title for the Messiah. The two blind men believed that Jesus was who he said he was and then collaborated in their healing, for as Jesus touched their eyes, they had faith and believed that Jesus could heal them and they were healed.
Though we may have eyes to see and ears to hear, do we see and hear with the faith of the two blind men in today’s Gospel? Jesus came into the world just over two thousand years ago as the visible reality of the embodiment of God’s Love. Jesus calls us to be conformed to this same love. No easy task, for more often than not, we are blind and deaf to this gift.
The saints are those who followed through the narrow gate as did the two blind men. They encountered Jesus, had faith in him and believed. Will we follow the same path? Do we believe that Jesus is truly who he said he is, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity who became one with us so that we can become one with him? Let us pray together:
Jesus, this Advent, I choose to walk on your path of love. Free me from my blindness such that I may experience the grace of your Father, so to know the safety and security of your presence. I believe and have faith that you will provide for my every need and will be present through my pain and struggles, the everyday moments, as well as my joys and successes. Expand my heart and mind that I may more fully experience your love so as to have the courage to surrender the false self of my ego, my fears, prejudices, pride, and indifference. Help me to begin anew in small ways to love others as you love me, recognizing that your Love is not merely a feeling or an emotion, but a conscious act of the will. As I participate in your life and love, please help me to be more present to those people I encounter and give me the courage to will their good, without conditions and without counting the cost.

Photo from pexels.com
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, December 4, 2020

God invites each of us to play our part in his theodrama. The saints have accepted, will we?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
I have written quite often, quoting and paraphrasing one of my favorite quotes from St. Irenaeus, that Jesus came to be one with us so that we can be one with him. In his becoming one with us in our humanity he invites everyone, no one is excluded, to participate in his divinity. Yet if everyone is invited, how can Jesus say that not everyone will enter the Kingdom of heaven?
The answer to that question is in the line that follows. The one who will enter heaven is, “the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” If this verse does not help, then it might be helpful to understand a little about heaven, as best as we can, as the mere mortal, finite beings that we are.
Heaven is not so much a place but a state of being in relation to God. Heaven is the state of being in which we are privileged to share communion and a deeper intimacy with God for all eternity. We will still not know everything about God because God is infinite and we will still be finite in heaven. God is without limit, we are limited. We will never exhaust our relationship, never get bored with God.
Maybe a more three dimensional, an earthly example may be of help. If we were invited to play a sport, an instrument, or to act in a play, with the end goal being that we would play in the upcoming game, concert, or performance, we might feel pretty excited about the offer. We tell the coach, conductor, or director “That’s great news!” Yet, in the days that follow, we do not attend any of the practices, we do not practice the skills required to play the position, instrument, or role and we don’t return any of the follow-up invitations by phone, email, or text. The day of the big game, concert, or performance comes, we gather our self together and head on over to the arena or hall. We arrive to see the coach, conductor, or director but are denied entrance. We might say, “I don’t understand, you invited us to play!” The reply is, “Not everyone who says to me coach, coach (conductor, conductor, or director, director) is ready and prepared.”
Jesus indeed invites us to play a part in God’s theodrama, everyone. Some say yes and some say no. Some say yes, and then don’t do anything, some say yes and do some things, some say yes and dive in. Most of us take a few steps forward and a step or two back. Just like preparing to play in the big game or perform in the big concert, or play, we need to be committed, disciplined, and persistent with our faith life. Unlike a missed opportunity to participate in a game or performance, that we can correct and make another attempt down the road, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven.
The above analogy does not imply in any way that we earn our way into heaven, or we can do so on our own effort and will power. The bottom line is that Jesus gave his life for all of us and through his grace, we have been saved. This is a free gift. Yet, we have to be willing to receive and open the gift. Our time here on earth is the time we are given to work out our salvation, to put into practice his teachings, and be about building a relationship with Jesus, being conformed to him, so that we can come to know his Father as he does and help others to open their gift as well and invite them to play their part.
If we want to know God’s will, we need to come to know God. Advent is a time of preparation, to place ourselves in a position before God so we can come to know him and his will. Jesus helps us to recognize when we are off the target in our attempt to conform his Father’s will to our small reality. Instead, we need to reorient ourselves such that we allow our minds and hearts to be expanded by his love.
This happens when we are quiet and still, through mediation and prayer, spending time in his word, spending time in worship and fellowship, and in doing so we will be more open to be led by the Holy Spirit to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to others in an act of service for another’s sake and not just our own. For we are here not only to actualize the grace we have been given for our salvation, but we are also here to help others to do the same.
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Photo: Tapestry hanging in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA. Some of the saints who practiced their part in God’s theodrama and are now with God in heaven.
Link for the Mass reading for Thursday, December 3, 2020

We too are to give what we have to Jesus to multiply and satisfy the needs of others.

“Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them” (Mt 15:29-30).
There is a key yet subtle point before Jesus began to heal that might be missed. Before great crowds came to him, Jesus “went up on the mountain, and sat down there.” This is no insignificant sentence. The posture of sitting on the mountain would have been recognized right away by the people of Jesus’ time. This was the posture of the teacher and sitting on the mountain a reference to Moses. Prior to the healing in this setting, as he did throughout the Gospels, Jesus most likely taught about the reign of God. In fact, time and again, Jesus’ “works of healing took place in this context of his preaching of the kingdom of God” (Lohfink 2014, 58).
A great multitude of people came to Jesus to hear his message and also brought with them a plethora of needs. Jesus made himself available, restored, and healed those who were brought to him. He encountered them as they were in their present condition. There is no record in this Gospel account that Jesus asked for any identification, that he discussed their belief system before healing them, nor did he ask if they were Jewish or Gentile, and nowhere in this account did Jesus deny anyone who came to him. The response of those to being healed and restored was that “they glorified the God of Israel“. This is because, “where God is master, there is salvation and healing” (Lohfink 2014, 62).
The recorded accounts of mass healings in today’s Gospel are but a foretaste of the heavenly realm of eternal communion with the Father. Jesus is the kingdom of heaven at hand, for as St Irenaeus wrote, “Jesus opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.” Jesus though was not done. The whole process took some time, which is an understatement, and as people were getting ready to leave, Jesus showed compassion yet again. He sought the assistance of the disciples because he did not want to send the people away hungry.
The disciples, of course, are taken aback because of the reality of the undertaking Jesus proposed. Jesus asked what they had with them and they shared just some bread and fish. Jesus took “the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full” (Mt 15:36-37).
This Advent let us make an extra effort to surrender our will to God, to pray with and meditate on the Gospels such that they become a living teaching that is relevant in our lives, that moves us to serve those in need as Jesus did. Identification, religion, race, gender, creed, or political affiliation does not matter. What matters is that we are willing to see in each person before us a human being with dignity and worth.
Neither are we to be dismayed with how little we believe we might have to give. We are to offer what we have to Jesus in solidarity for his purpose, just as the disciples with the seven loaves and fish did. In so doing, the Holy Spirit will work through us to provide those we serve not only with their immediate need, but also an abundance of grace, mercy, love, and healing to overflowing.
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Painting: The Multiplication of the Loaves by Giovanni Lanfranco between 1620-1623
Lohfink, Gerhard. No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.
Mass readings for Wednesday, December 2, 2020

God reveals himself in the wonders of his creation.

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Lk 10:22).
God the Father knows God the Son and God the Son knows God the Father. They do not just know about each other, they know each other with a deep intimacy that is far beyond our human comprehension. Contemplating this reality can fill us with hope especially when we come to realize that Jesus is the Son of God who has come into our lives so that we can participate in this trinitarian communion of the Father and the Son and the love shared between them, the Holy Spirit!
Jesus has come as an agent of reconciliation, to restore our relationship with God, to undo the effects of the sin of separation that has so ruptured and wounded our relationship with him, each other, and his creation. Our hope this Advent is that we can come not just to a better understanding of God, but to intimately know and restore our relationship with God through our participation in the life of his Son.
We need to be careful that the Advent season does not get away from us before it even starts because of the material, commercial, and busyness that tempts to distract and divert us. A good practice is to be still and spend some time in the gift of creation, to enter into its natural rhythm, and bask in the wonder and vast expanse of it all.
This past Saturday morning I arose early to meditate and pray before heading off to serve at the 8:00 am Mass. As I sat in my chapel area, I looked out the window and I saw setting in the low western sky, in Lakota, Tayamni Cankahu, the ribs of the animal or the buffalo (more commonly known as the belt of Orion). A site sorely missed, because I have not been spending any time recently looking at the stars.
All of creation echoes the wonder and adoration of the gift that the season of Advent offers: Jesus, who became one with us so we can become one with him, invites us to participate in a deeper walk with his Father, the creator of heaven and earth, the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb, and who knows us better than we know ourselves!
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Photo of buffalo I took while driving in South Dakota in between Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations around 1990 – a moment of quiet wonder, God’s creation on full display as the buffalo appeared to be walking right out of the sun.
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Jesus invites us to relationship, to practice, and to share.

He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).
Today’s Gospel account recalls Jesus’ call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. An interesting contextual point is that Jesus was the one doing the calling. Spiritual teachers were common during the time of Jesus within and without Judaism. What was more common in those accounts was that the disciples came to the master. It was a rarer case that the master would search out and call his followers.
Another interesting point is that Jesus met the brothers in the midst of their everyday activities of fishing, in the midst of their work. The encounter with Jesus was not on some isolated mountain top, it was not at a revival, nor at the temple or synagogue. Jesus met them in the midst of Simon and Andrew casting their nets and James and John mending their father’s nets.
The third point from this short account is that Jesus immediately followed his invitation to Simon and Andrew with the insistence that they will be fishers of people. They are not entering their new apprenticeship with Jesus having any false notion that they will wait for others to come to them. They will travel out of their comfort zones. They were called to leave their current way of life, financial security, and to trust in Jesus as they learned about and shared the Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand.
The three points above apply directly to us as well. Jesus seeks us out and invites us to join him. Are we willing to receive this invitation and say yes as Simon, Andrew, James, and John had done. Jesus meets us in our everyday moments, in our workplace, among our interactions with family and friends, in our class and dorm rooms, as well as in our activities and leisure. He meets us in our conflicts, struggles, suffering, as well as our joys, success, and our moments of wonder. Jesus also encounters us during our unpreparedness for interruptions, in our times of prayer, and worship.
The very desire to pray does not actually begin with us. It is the beginning of our awareness of Jesus’ call to follow him. When we take the time to pray we slow down and become more aware of his presence so that when we leave our times of prayer and worship, we will be more able to see him in the midst of our daily activities.
Finally, Jesus calls us to share what we have experienced and learned from our encounter with him. No matter how small. We will make mistakes, we will not be perfect, but as we put into practice his teachings, we will learn and grow as his disciples. Remember who he called? Peter, Andrew, James, and John. There are four Gospels full of accounts of their false starts, gaffes, and “Oops”. We grow and learn by doing. As we crawl, we will soon learn to walk, as we walk we will soon learn to run, and as we run, we will soon learn to fly!
Jesus calls us to participate in his life and to put his teachings into practice. This is a gift of transformation we are invited to experience. As we begin or continue this journey with the Lord, we are to share our faith by accompanying those in our realm of influence. This happens in the our normal interactions, remembering first and foremost to do so in a way that respects the dignity of each person we encounter. We are to resist any desire to impose and instead authentically bear witness to our practice and engage in respectful dialogue.
Three years ago the cause for the canonization was promoted for Nicholas Black Elk (ca. 1866-1950), an Oglala Lakota, holy man, best known from John Neihardt’s work, Black Elk Speaks. A key reason was that he, like St Andrew whose feast we celebrate today, said yes to the invitation to follow Jesus. Black Elk was baptized in 1904, on the feast day of St. Nicholas, taking his name. He continued to practice his Lakota ways while also becoming an effective catechist. Under his invitation and guidance, over 400 people came to believe in Jesus.
Let us say yes to Jesus’ invitation to come and follow him, and become fishers of people! St Andrew, pray for us. Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, pray for us.
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Photo: Source Marquette University Catholic Mission Archives. Nicholas Black Elk catechizing with the “Two Roads Map” at the cabin of Broken Nose, Pine Ridge Reservation.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, November 30, 2020

Advent has begun, let us watch and pray for opportunities to love.

As the earth turned again one more time on its axis last night, and the shadows began to fall, night slowly crept over each part of our planet. Our sacred text, our sacred word, is not only written in the Bible, but the finger of God has traced his word across all of the earth, the galaxy, the universe, the whole of the created order. God continues to write and sing us his love song. The ground, foundation, and source of creation and our very being is the outpouring of the Trinitarian Love expressed between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
As the sun appeared to us to set, and night gently made its way across our minuscule earth in this part of the Milky Way last night, the vigil began and so also the began the new liturgical year and we now find ourselves in the season of Advent. We heard or will hear again today the words of Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (Mk 13:33).
Traditionally, the readings of the first two weeks of Advent focus on our watching for the second coming of Jesus. We are to watch and pray, two words that may challenge many of us who instead are too busy and in a tense posture ready to react to this or that stressor. But as the daily cycle of day to night and night to day repeats itself, so are we called to enter into a daily rhythm of watching and praying so that we can be more aware and more alert for the signs of his coming, like a watchman standing guard over the city.
During Advent, we also prepare in the final two weeks to remember again the first humble coming of Jesus, the Incarnation, in which the infinite Son of God took on flesh at his miraculous conception in the womb of Mary and became man. Fully God and fully man, Jesus experienced our human condition in the most vulnerable of settings. We are a people of memory, though we often forget, that is why we hear the story again of the simple birth of our savior, who many rejected even then, saying there was no room for him in the inn.
The third way we prepare for the coming of Jesus during Advent is in our everyday experiences. We who have much in the way of material comfort need to remember, how God heard the cry of the poor and saved his people by sending Moses to free them from their bondage in Egypt. He sent judges and prophets to guide his people, and he sent his Son to free us from our bondage to the sin of our pride, seeking of fame and celebrity, greed, lust, sloth or acedia, gluttony, despair, and wrath.
May we remember this Advent who we are, whose we are, and who we are called to be: Pope Francis teaches that the Church of Jesus Christ, “is the people of God, and the people of God welcome, love, forgive, and encourage others by how they live” (McCann, 5). As we prepare for Jesus’ second coming and to remember his birth, may we also remember to watch for him in our encounters with those we meet each day, and to spend time in the rhythm of his creation.
We have been created by Love to love. As gently as the night gave way to the morning rays of the sun this morning, may we live and move more gently upon this earth. May our thoughts, actions, and words be filled to overflowing with kindness, compassion, understanding, thanksgiving, and mercy toward those we encounter. May we remember the forgotten, the invisible, the lonely, and dehumanized, may we see Jesus as St. Mother Teresa saw him in the distressing disguise of the poor: the materially poor as well as the spiritually poor, the one hundred percent, who seek to belong and to be loved as God loves us.
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Photo accessed from Peng Louis pexels.com
McCann, Deborah. 30 Days of Reflections and Prayers: What Pope Francis Says About Mercy. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2015.
Link to the Mass readings for Sunday, November 29, 2020

Be vigilant and trust in Jesus.

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (21:36).
These are the last words we will hear or read this year from the readings of the Mass. The season of Advent and the new liturgical year begins tonight at the vigil Mass. As I read these words, I thought they are not only good words to end the year with but that they would also be good words to read at the beginning of each day.
“Be vigilant at all times” are certainly words to abide by. This is not a call to be paranoid or to live in fear. This is a call to be aware, to watch and pray. Being vigilant is also a reminder that we need to resist the temptation of speeding through life with blinders on and not taking time to listen to that quiet voice of God that guides us day in and day out. The more we hear the subtle, quiet leading of the Holy Spirit and ignore it, the less we grow in our awareness of his presence in our lives or the presence of those who need his mercy, grace, and love.
Worse yet, the less we take the time to hear and know God’s word, the more we will be tempted and persuaded by the myriad of other voices that are not of God, that might lead us astray. That is why prayer is so important, so we can develop an ear for our loving God and Father’s guiding voice heard when we are still. Once we begin to recognize his voice spoken in the silence of our hearts, we will begin to hear him speak in our daily activities.
Being vigilant also requires us to surrender our self-serving ego, for if we want what we want when we want, if we just keep up our pace at a fever pitch, if we are feeding ourselves with apparent goods, we can open ourselves up to some unsatisfying and pretty horrible scenarios.
God will provide us with the strength and awareness to escape the imminent tribulations. There are those who seek to do us harm in so many ways and forms that are unconscionable, yet pretending that they aren’t there, doesn’t work, and being paralyzed with fear makes us more vulnerable. We need to be aware of, and establish clear boundaries for ourselves and communicate them with others. Each time we listen to our intuition, our conscience, the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, we increase our confidence in who we are and who God leads us to be. We can also sidestep scenarios that can lead us down some very dark pathways.
Even while being vigilant, people of prayer, darkness can still fall upon us and those we care for. We still live in a fallen world. There is darkness within the Church as well. But in each and every case, we are to maintain hope in the one who we will be preparing for this Advent, the Son of Man, who we stand before. He is the Light that shines in the darkness who has not and will not be overcome by it (cf. John 1:5).
Though others may let us down, Jesus is the one we can trust. Jesus is the one who will accompany us through the trials and tribulations we face. As St Augustine said in one of his homilies, “while we are still in the midst of this evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God who delivers us from evil.” For, in the end, Jesus the Christ will be the one to lead us home to the Father’s embrace for all eternity. Watch and pray today and all days!
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Painting: Head view of Rembrandt’s Christ with Arms Folded.
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, November 28, 2020

Don’t wait, live life now!

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Lk 21:33).
All that we know will pass away eventually because all things are finite, they are limited and material. The readings of this week repeat the same theme that we are not to place our hope and trust ultimately in the things of this world. The longer we live, the more we will experience loss, even the death of those closest to us.
The words of Jesus will not pass away because Jesus is who he proclaimed himself to be, God. He is the Logos, the Word, the very reality of God. Hearing his word is not enough though. We need to put his words into action in our lives. Once we begin to do this we will begin to bear fruit. We will become like the fig trees when their buds burst open.
Accepting the reality of death and contemplating death is not a morbid exercise when we enter this pondering with the end goal in mind that we will be one day be with God for all eternity. Also, those who contemplate their deaths more regularly live more fully now. By doing so, we don’t take our life for granted because we come to see the fragile nature of our human condition. We also come to realize that we do not know the time or hour when others or we ourselves will die.
What and who is really important to us in our life? Dr. Leo Buscaglia, a professor at USC would give an assignment to his students. They were to really contemplate the reality that they had one week to live, and they were to come up with a list of what they would want to do for that week and who they would want to spend it with. After they turned in their assignments, Dr. Buscaglia then asked his students, “Why not live this way now? Why do you have to wait until you are dying to start living your life more fully?”
The less we push uncomfortable situations away to avoid them and the less we cling to wonderful experiences once they are gone, the more we will be able to fully experience life in the moment. Jesus helps us to live in this way because he lives in the eternal present. We are going to die someday, so let us begin to start living now.
Jesus, help us to appreciate and experience each moment as it comes. Help us to face conflicts and deal with them instead of denying or pushing them away. Help us to be thankful for the enjoyable experiences, while at the same time, help us to resist clinging to them and to the past so we can be free to experience even more wonderful expressions of life you have planned for us. Help us to bloom where you have planted us and live our life to the full.

Photo: Sometimes knowing the time we have left can be a blessing. Enjoying our final two months together with JoAnn, July 4th weekend, 2019. Swan boat ride on Echo Lake in, LA.
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, November 27, 2020

Gratefulness is a pillar of our faith.

As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him (Lk 17:14-15). Ten were healed from their leprosy and only one, a Samaritan, after realizing he was healed, returned to thank Jesus.
It is a good practice to spend some time each day reflecting on what we are thankful for. Through this practice we can see where God has entered our lives and provided assistance, and we can better appreciate those who have been there for us not just in large but in small ways. At times when we feel a bit down and out, or in a bit of a funk, often the reason may be that we are focusing on what we do not have instead of on what we do. There is a quote, I am not sure of the source, that goes: “I cried because I had no shoes, and then I came upon a man with no feet.” We can be so bombarded by the mass appeal to the material, that we forget the truly important realities of this life that we have been given.
Times of family coming together can be wonderful and can also be a bit messy. There is all the cleaning, setting up and the prep for the big dinner, the travel, the unresolved issues of life, and there are the wonderful gifts of diverse personalities and points of view. If we can periodically stop, take a breath, and be thankful for the fact that we have families and friends to be messy and grumble with, we might appreciate each other a bit more this day.
As Jesus reminds us, we do not know the time or the hour. Life is fragile even in the best of scenarios, life is also finite. We will not be here forever. November is a time in the Church when we remember those who have joined the communion of saints. I know many that have lost family members and grieve their loss. I continue to join them. We can take confidence in the fact that death does not have the final answer or say, Jesus does. May we remember our beloved through pictures and stories shared on this day when we stop to give thanks. My heart continues to ache but I am beyond grateful for the time that JoAnn and I spent together.
Jesus, help us to remember that life is a gift. Help us to appreciate and be thankful for our life and the lives of those near and far we are blessed to call family and friends. Help us to also be thankful for the lives of those that have had an impact upon and shaped us that are no longer with us in this life. Help us to also remember and pray for those who may be alone, struggling, or without food and home this day.
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Photo: JoAnn and me at my maternal grandparents for Thanksgiving maybe about 15 years ago…
Link for the Thanksgiving Mass readings for Thursday, November 26, 2020

Living our lives authentically has a cost that is worth paying.

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name” (Lk 21:12).
Each of the predictions above; being seized, persecuted, handed over, and led before the rulers happened to Jesus’ disciples as was recorded by Luke in his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus did not nor does he hide or paint a rosy picture of discipleship. He consistently shared and modeled in his own life how demanding it will be to follow his lead, the will of his Father, the demands of discipleship, as well as the reality of having to endure the reaction of others. This continues to be true today. In fact, the number of Christian martyrs in the twentieth century rose to a higher level than at any other time in history combined.
Yet, there have been those who have said yes to the invitation to be a disciple of Jesus generation after generation. Each of us has to make our own commitment to Christ. It is a personal invitation and a personal response. Though the demands, the sacrifices, and the expectations are high, Jesus is present with us through the journey. St. Paul equated discipleship with running a race: “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one” (I Cor 9:25).
Any athlete, musician, artist, or person engaged in any serious endeavor, must discipline themselves to accomplish their goal of freedom for mastery, for excellence. A lack of concerted discipline, fluency, and freedom for the sought after goal does not usually end well. The same is true with discipleship.
The discipline required that Jesus presents in today’s Gospel of Luke is to remain firm in authentically living out our faith even in the face of pushback and hostility. This pressure may not just come from those who would seek us harm, but from family, friends, and/or peers. This is where the issue of putting God first comes to bear again. We are not to be belligerent or in someone’s face about living our faith. We are to meet others with love, mercy, and respect, while at the same time not back down and away from what we believe. We are called to learn the teachings of our faith, live them by putting them into practice, share them with others, and clarify what we believe through dialogue with charity.
We are to also respect and allow another the opportunity to do the same. From a place of mutual respect and honoring the diversity of others within and without of our own faith tradition, as well as those having none, we grow. People are free to decide as they wish. We need to resist the temptation to water down what we believe to be accepted or to appease. Sometimes people will react emotionally, rudely, crudely, or even violently. Yet that is not an excuse nor does it provide the green light to respond in kind. If we do, then we will often feed into and justify another person’s preconceived notions.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen said: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” As disciples of Jesus Christ, it is our job to: know our faith and what we believe, live it out authentically, and clarify as needed through respectful dialogue, and above all to be icons of hope and love. We need not be afraid. The Holy Spirit will give us the words to speak as well as the ears to hear another. The gift of respectful dialogue within and without of our faith tradition will result in the deepening of our relationship with the one who made us for himself and one another; for where there is the truth, there is God who is Truth.
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Photo: Fr Frans Van der Lugt SJ was assassinated five years ago outside of his home in Homs, Syria, where he served for over 30 years as a bridge between Christians and Muslims. He refused to abandon those who could not leave.
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, November 25, 2020