Jesus through the stirring of your Sacred Heart, help us to be moved to help others.

Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you” (Lk 13:31).
Even with this warning, from some Pharisees no less, Jesus continued to teach openly and publicly as well as performed healings and cast out demons. He did not fear the threat of retribution even from the likes of Herod. He willingly surrendered all to his Father.
The courage of Jesus makes him a very dangerous man because he cannot be controlled, threatened, or coerced. Jesus is sure of what God has sent him to do and he is going to follow through with his Father’s plan even it means giving up his life.
Some of his persecutors like the centurion who ran his spear through his side, admired the courage of Jesus, coming to believe that he was the Messiah (cf. Mark 16:39). Many of the first-century martyrs who followed Jesus to their own deaths were a big reason for many who came to believe and also became followers of this One who died on a Cross. Tertullian, an early Church Father, living from 155 – 220 AD, went so far as to say that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
We are all called by God to be martyrs, not necessarily by shedding our blood. Martyr literally means witness. Each of us is called by Jesus to bear witness to what we believe. Faith is a gift. If we feel that we are weak in our faith, we are in good company, because Jesus said on more than one occasion to his Apostles, the ones he would send out as his witnesses, “Oh, you of little faith.”
If we feel like our faith could use a little shoring up, then we can ask God to increase our faith, while at the same time, we can start to bear witness in our everyday encounters. How this plays out will be different for each of us. All of us have had those stirrings of the heart to say or do something or to reach out in one way or another.
Last year while I was still in Los Angeles, I was walking back to our apartment with a pizza for supper. Ahead of me was a disheveled, skinny, man who certainly looked like he could have used something to eat. I felt the stirring within to ask if he wanted a slice, not a big effort or cost on my part. I bought into the mind noise of reasons why I shouldn’t make the offer and instead picked up my pace like the priest or the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, widened my distance, so as not to provide him the opportunity to ask, and walked by him at a steady clip.
A few months ago, back home now in Florida, I was driving home with a pizza and saw a man sitting on the sidewalk. This time I pulled the car over and offered him a slice. He said he didn’t like pizza but thanked me for the offer. Like all of us, there have been times I have not followed through on the invitation of the Holy Spirit and times when I have. The key is not to beat ourselves up when we don’t but to continue to pray for discernment, and for Jesus to give us the courage to act as he did.
How is God calling, challenging us, to resist indifference and be his witnesses in our everyday lives? May the Sacred Heart of Jesus help us to be more open to the stirring of the Holy Spirit to be better witnesses. Each time we say yes, our faith increases.

Photo: Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Mission Dolores Basilica in the Mission District in San Francisco
Link of the Mass readings for Thursday, October 29, 2020

Experiencing the desire to pray is already prayer.

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God (Lk 6:12).
Jesus spent the whole night in prayer to God. What is prayer? All of us as human beings seek meaning and to belong. We desire security and stability, as well as direction and adventure. We want to be accepted, to love and to be loved and to experience meaningful relationships. These primary yearnings are present within us. Often though we confuse what we truly desire and succumb to the temptations that ultimately leave us unsatisfied and more important ignore what will truly fulfill us: developing a relationship with God through prayer.
If you want to pray, you have already begun. The desire in and of itself to pray is prayer. The danger of reading about prayer is that we think we are praying. In the turning of the page or completion of the chapter, we feel as if we are accomplishing something, but we are only imagining how prayer can be. Peter Kreeft wrote: “It is tempting to remain in the comfortable theater of the imagination instead of the real world, to fall in love with the idea of becoming a saint and loving God and neighbor instead of doing the actual work, because the idea makes no demands on you” (Prayer for Beginners, 12).
There is a myriad of ways to pray and each practice will match each of our unique personalities. The key to prayer is to make a commitment to a time and a place to pray each day. Start with a timeframe, such as five minutes that you know you can do. Depending on the discipline of prayer you practice, your family, school, work, and/or ministerial demands will be indicators going forward as to how much you might be able to increase the time you pray once you have built a consistent practice.
The amount of time that we dedicate to prayer is not important. What is important is the commitment to pray each day. For me, attending Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours has been a consistent anchor since studying for the diaconate. The daily Mass readings, writing a reflection each day on them, and then sharing both with JoAnn was a practice we shared together each evening. Beginning about a year ago, I started meditating in the morning and the evenings. Before bed, I end the day praying and meditating with the mysteries of the Rosary.
JoAnn was less contemplative and more active in her prayer. She would speak to God as if speaking to a friend, we attended Mass together, and she experienced God in her daily activities and encounters with people. I too have found that seeing Jesus in those we encounter is a sign of our maturation in prayer. For the person is no longer other or one to be kept at arm’s length but a human being with dignity created in the image and likeness of God. This becomes more apparent when we spend time with one another.
St Therese of Lisieux offers us a good approach to prayer: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (CCC, 2559). No matter how we pray, our goal is that we allow our lives to be conformed to Jesus, that we encounter and build a relationship with him and each other, such that our experience of prayer matches St Augustine’s: “True, whole prayer is nothing but love” (Foster, 1).

Photo: Taking a hike or walking with JoAnn was one of my favorite forms of prayer!
Foster, Richard J. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. NY: HarperCollins, 1992.
Kreeft, Peter. Prayer for Beginners. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000.

Link for the Mass readings for Monday, October 28, 2020

Simple acts of caring and kindness can save lives.

In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed and yeast. Each of these elements is not only small but they are tiny. Though with the proper environment, resources of sustenance, water, and sunlight, this seed will germinate, sprout, and grow into a large bush. Yeast, a single-celled organism, is the catalyst for assisting dough to rise, strengthen, and ferment, thus providing a more appealing and tasty bread.
Jesus offered these simple examples from everyday agrarian life that his listeners understood from experience. If we have planted seeds or made our own homemade bread, we could be in a better position to relate to these two small parables as well.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus lives out the parables, in his engagement person to person. Jesus’ interaction happened concretely, through walking along the road and breaking of bread together, sharing stories, teaching, healing, and exorcising demons with his touch, and he still does so today. The smallest, genuine act of kindness or love can seem insignificant and may even go unnoticed by many, but it is important to the individual and can reveal dramatic results over time.
There is a story that expresses this point called, “A Simple Gesture” from the story collection, Chicken Soup for the Soul. The short tale describes how one day a boy named Mark was walking home from school and came upon another boy who had tripped and dropped all of his books and many other items. Mark offered to help carry some of the load of the other boy, who, as they walked home, found out was named Bill. They talked about common interests and when they approached Bill’s home, Bill invited Mark in for a Coke and to watch some T.V. They spent the afternoon together, then interacted on occasion for the rest of middle school and into their high school years.
Three weeks before their graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill shared that the reason that he had been carrying all of that stuff home on the day they had first met was because he didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else to clean up. Bill had planned to commit suicide that evening. Bill continued to share that, after their original encounter and afternoon together, he realized that if he had killed himself that day he would have missed more opportunities to talk and laugh. Bill finished the conversation by saying, “So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life” (Canfield and Hansen, 35-36).
Personal encounters were how Jesus helped others to realize that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Mark, in making the effort to help Bill pick up some of the personal items that he had dropped, helped to shift the momentum away from a potential suicide attempt. This action shows how Jesus can continue to work through us today.
Like a modern-day Good Samaritan parable, “A Simple Gesture”, helps us to see that when we are aware of opportunities to help and act with genuine care, no matter how small, we can have a dramatic effect on another’s life. The opposite is also true.
Many people have a lot on their plate, we may not be aware of even half of what others are going through. That is why we need to be attentive to the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He will lead us out beyond ourselves so that we notice others. In doing so, we become like the mustard seed, or the yeast, in another’s life. Through a smile, a hello, a bent ear to listen, what may appear to be minuscule or mundane at the moment, may, in fact, be life-changing and transforming.
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Photo: Back when we were still dating! Without JoAnn’s consistent kindness, caring, and support, I would not be where I am today.
Canfield, Jack, and Mark Victor Hansen. Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1993.
Link for the Mass Readings for Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Healing can happen, when there is awareness, invitation, and an acceptance of the invitation.

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God (Lk 13:1013).
In reading this Gospel passage, we see again the compassion and mercy of Jesus. He was aware and saw the need of the crippled woman, called her to himself, she came, and through his words and the laying on of his hands, the woman was healed. He did so without hesitation, knowing that since he was healing on the sabbath this would bring further scrutiny and criticism. Yet, Jesus did not think of himself, he thought of the woman in need and made himself present to her.
Jesus is not only a model of service but also the very power as the Son of God that brings about healing. In today’s Gospel, Jesus was aware of the woman’s need. The first step in building a culture of life is to respect the dignity of each person we encounter and to be aware of their need. It is much easier to be unaware of or to operate from a position of – they brought the issue upon themselves. We can react with indifference, impatience, and/or contempt because we would rather not be bothered by another’s issues.
The next step is an invitation. Once Jesus becomes aware of the woman, he did not impose his will, even for her healing. Instead, Jesus invited her to come. We need to respect another’s option to say no to help and allow them to come on their own. Though there are times, such as for those who are dealing with an addiction, when there may be a need for more direct intervention.
We need to resist being stumbling blocks to others in need of the healing presence of Jesus. We are all capable of accepting another where they are and as they are, we can will their good, and we can be a healing, understanding, and supportive presence. We can be a means of healing as were the four men who brought their crippled friend to Jesus and being undeterred from not having access by letting him down through a roof (see Mark 2:1-12 and Matthew 9:1-8). We are called to bring the love and mercy of Christ to others and we also need to be kinder and more gentle with ourselves. When there is awareness, invitation, acceptance of the invitation, and two or more gathered in the name of Jesus, there can be healing.
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Photo: from freebibleimages.org
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, October 26, 2020

Jesus, you loved God and neighbor. Please help us to do the same.

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:37-40).

The scholar of the law who asked Jesus to share with him which commandment of the law is the greatest was a common question among Jews for they had 613 laws! Following these laws was how one showed faithfulness to God. Discussing which were the most important and which were those of lesser rank as well as the practicality of learning and practicing all 613 presented quite a challenge. How do we do with just following the Ten Commandments today? Could we even recite the Ten?

The scholar brought Jesus into this debate. Jesus’ response, that we call today the Great Commandment, was a masterful synthesis of the Torah, the Law, or the Teachings. He drew from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which was the beginning of the Shema, the prayer that Jews offered each morning and each evening while facing the Temple that stated: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Jesus then added to it Leviticus 19:18: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

As we witness time and again with Jesus, he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (cf. Mt 5:17). Jesus sought to help people to come to know his Father who he knew so intimately, who he loved so fully. Though the Great Commandment sounds simple enough, and it is, it demands our whole self, our full commitment to be contemplatives in action. We are called to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind. That means all of us, physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. We are to recognize that God is actively engaged in all of what we do and who we are in every aspect of our self-identity and integrity.

Our lives will be richer and more fulfilled once we embrace, once we open ourselves up to this reality, and resist the temptation to compartmentalize our time with God. Saying we are only with God on Sunday while in the sanctuary of the Church but leaving him there in the tabernacle is not loving God with our whole heart, soul, and mind.  Stepping into the parking lot becomes like a time warp in which we go back into secular apparent reality, where in the first instant of encounter with our neighbor cutting us off with their car, our hand gesture is most likely not a blessing in the form of the sign of the cross.

If we can turn on a dime so quickly, have we really worshipped at all? Are we living our lives more as Pope Francis calls, “defeated Christians”? Are we just going through the motions of our faith, showing up but our heart, soul, and mind aren’t fully engaged? Pope Francis shares that “the one who confesses the faith well, the whole faith, has the ability to worship, to worship God” (Francis, 292).

We become Christians, contemplatives in action when we give our all as did St. Francis of Assisi who would often pray this simple prayer “My God and my all”. He gave himself in love, all of who he was to God. He encountered the God of Jesus Christ who is Love, received his loving embrace, and went forth to share that love with others. This is called the Greatest Commandment not one of the Greatest Commandments, because loving God and neighbor is one and the same act.

May we embrace the gift of who God is for us, not just as the one who created us and went away to do whatever God does, that is deism. The God of Jesus Christ is a God of relationship grounded in unconditional love, the one who is present with us always, in all the practical and mundane we do, and in everyone we meet. Through this embrace of God and his love and going out from ourselves to will the good of the other, the better we will be able to heal from our wounds of prejudice, bigotry, selfishness, pride, greed, lust, fear, and anxiety.

Our very life is a blessing, a gift, to be thankful to God for and to share and bless others with. May each thought we entertain, each word we speak, each action we take, each facial gesture we express, be one of encouragement, of support, of empowerment, and of love. Dedicating ourselves to following the Great Commandment means that we are to approach our life one day at a time renewing our commitment to love God and neighbor a little bit better today than yesterday. To aid us in our trust and conviction, let us pray often the prayer of St. Francis, “My God and my all”.


Photo: Replica of the San Damiano Cross that I have had since my novitiate year while with the Franciscans. When St. Francis was praying before the original he felt the call by God to rebuild his Church.

Pope Francis. Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday. NY: Image, 2015

Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, October 25, 2020

Repentance is the key for a healthy relationship with God and each other.

In today’s Gospel, we read about two accounts of horrific deaths. The first is at the hands of Pontius Pilate, who has not only ordered the execution of Jesus’ fellow Galileans but had their blood mixed with “the blood of their sacrifices.” In the second incident, Jesus brought up the tragic accident in which eighteen people died “when the tower of Siloam fell on them.” 
In both cases, Jesus rejected the common notion of the time that these incidents were caused by God’s punishment and focused instead on the importance of repentance. Jesus stated quite emphatically, that, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did” (cf. Lk 13:1-5)!
Jesus was emphatic about helping his followers understand the purpose of his coming. Jesus provided meaning and fulfillment in this life as well as being the way to the truth of eternal life in the next. Yet, to receive the gift of his invitation, people needed to repent from their focus on self, misunderstandings of God, and the false substitutions that the world offered. Instead, they were to repent, have a change of mind, and turn back to God, the very source of their being. This is just as true for us today.
Jesus accompanies us through our trials, pain, and desolation, just as he is present in the midst of our achievements, joys, and consolations. To repent and surrender to him is not some submissive posture to a tyrant but an acceptance of the aid offered by the divine gardener. Our repentance gives permission to Jesus to cultivate our ground to rid us of that which sickens us and fertilize us in such a way that we are renewed by his care. Jesus tends to our growth such that we can be more aligned with the will of his Father and the love of the Holy Spirit. In these ways, we are healed and mature so that we will bear fruit that will last. We will become more patient, kind, loving, understanding, forgiving, present, and joyful in our encounters with one another.
We live in uncertain times as did those of the first century. We still live in a fallen world. We do not know the time or the hour, and sometimes we do not understand the rhyme or the reason why someone’s life here ends. The death of my wife, JoAnn, still makes no sense. She was proactive and took good care of herself and I remember her doctors saying that except for the pancreatic cancer she was in perfect health. What made our last months together in this world more bearable was our daily turning over our lives to God’s will and the many people who were praying for us. The months together then seemed like forever and today looking back it seems like the blink of the eye.
We often do not want to think about our death, yet, we need to ponder it from time to time. By doing so we just might live the one life we have been given a little bit better. Each day we wake up is a gift from God. Please don’t take it for granted. Repent, turn back to the God who loves us more than we can ever imagine or mess up. The time to appreciate our life and the lives of those that we hold close to our hearts is now.

Photo: Each day with JoAnn was a gift.
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, October 24, 2020

Take the time each day to read the signs.

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time” (Lk 12:56).
Reading this verse brought two memories from my childhood. The first one is from when my friend Steve and I as kids were interested in reading the natural signs and weather patterns, and we enjoyed watching our local weatherman, Hilton Kaderli forecasting the weather each night. Another memory was with my cousin Danny. We were at my Uncle Pierre and Aunt Claudette’s house one afternoon and we saw a storm rising. We headed to the road and started running as fast as we could in the opposite direction to see how far we could get before the storm caught us, and when it did we walked home, sucking in air, being pelted by the rain, and enjoyed a good soaking. Steve, Danny, and I read the signs of the earth and the sky, but we didn’t pay all that much attention to the things of the spirit at that time.
Not only through his teachings, but also through his public actions, Jesus revealed some powerful signs that God was in their midst. Jesus taught and preached on his own authority, he cast out demons, forgave sins, healed people, met and ate with sinners and women. These were amazing signs that the Messiah came to dwell among them, yet some did not or would not see, rationalized away that he could not be who he showed himself to be.
Some did see and believe and some two thousand years later because of their faithfulness, Jesus speaks to us again today. The stories and encounters of Jesus have been preserved, passed on generation after generation. They are not just a dead letter, nor is the sacred deposit of our faith some inanimate object passed on blindly generation after generation. We are invited time and again to be aware, to look for how Jesus still works in our lives today.
Do we see coincidences or God-incidents? Do we see his presence working in our lives? If not, could it be because our lives are so busy and fast-paced? If so, we need to schedule some time each day to stop and reflect, to take some deep breaths, and ask God to help us review the past twenty-four hours with the express purpose of noticing how he has been involved and engaged in our lives.
It is often by reflecting and looking back over the course of a day, a week, or a month, that we will recall some God-incidents no matter how small. Being thankful for this growing awareness and asking God for greater insight each day will help us to grow in our awareness of how much he has been accompanying us all along in our daily experiences.
For those times that we have refused or failed to recognize this closeness to Jesus, especially in his presence coming to us through others seeking our help, we can ask for forgiveness and for him to assist us in being more aware and more intentional in following the stirring of the Holy Spirit going forward. Opening our hearts and minds to God will help us to better read the signs that the kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand, in our very midst.
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A moment of rest, enjoying family time and God’s creation, Christmas 2010 – Photo credit: Jack McKee
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, October 23, 2020

May we be willing to be set on fire by God.

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” (Lk 12:49)!
What has been burned does not remain the same. What fire touches, it transforms. Jesus wants us to be consumed so as to be transformed by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Encountering Jesus effects a change in us. When we are open to allow the Holy Spirit to breathe on the embers in the depths of our souls they are fanned like tinder and ignite. We continue to fuel the fire by getting in touch with what God has called us to do in our place and in our time.
We are not to be a Christian in name alone but in thought, word, and deed. Pope Francis, in his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, wrote: “THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept this offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness” (Francis 2013, 9). Joy is a gift, a holy flame, that is given to us by the Holy Spirit and it wells up within. It is different than pleasure which arises when the stimulation of the senses is aroused but fades once the external stimulus has ended.
Happiness is also external and fleeting. It lasts longer than passion in that the memory of the experience will linger on but it too will also dissipate. Joy wells up from within, as it is imparted to us by God and can be present even when the external experiences are stressful or chaotic. I experienced this when I was still teaching 5th and 6th Grade Religion and acting as the dean of students at Rosarian Academy. At the same time, I was also immersed in family and parish life, as well as my studies and formation activities for the permanent diaconate.
One particular morning I woke up exhausted. When the alarm went off my first response was to skip my morning prayer and hit the snooze button to get an extra twenty minutes before getting up to go to school. Instead, I literally crawled to my small chapel area, lit the candles, and opened my breviary. When I read the words in Psalm 42: “Hope in God; I will praise him still, my savior and my God”, something ignited within the depths of my being. I felt an energy well up within me that I cannot to this day describe. I felt an inexpressible joy. Not only did the experience carry me into the day but lasted throughout the whole week.
God comes to us and seeks to transform us with the fire of his Love, and even when we are at our lowest as if we were just cooling embers, we need to resist the temptations of indifference and complacency and remember to turn to Jesus. Instead of brooding over what we don’t have, we will encounter him in being thankful for that which he has given. We will experience him in his Word, in prayer and worship, and in serving one another. We just need to keep showing up, even if sometimes we have to crawl to get there, and allow God to set us on fire.
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Photo by moein moradi from Pexels
Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel. Frederick, MD: The Word Among Us Press, 2013.
Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, October 22, 2020

In our present darkness, we are to reflect the light and love of Jesus to others.

“That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely” (Lk 12:47).
Jesus, as did the prophets, spoke in ways that can be jarring. The purpose was to shake his listeners out of a dull stupor and to make clear his point. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus addressed Peter’s question: “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone” (Lk 12:41)? Jesus was most likely speaking to Peter and the Twelve. They are the ones he entrusted with continuing his mission. And just as he had been clear to point out those Pharisees who had abused their positions, he was being clear with Peter and the apostles. Jesus wanted to make sure that his successors were not to continue on with business as usual. What Jesus required of them was not just for themselves, but those whose care they had been entrusted with and beyond them to all the nations. His parable was for both the Twelve first and foremost and then to everyone.
Unfortunately, we have witnessed those in Church leadership who have in effect, “beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk” (Lk 12:45) on their own power. Those who have: abused children, covered abuse, skimmed off the top of the donations of the blood, sweat, and tears of their parishioners’ donations, limited access to positions within the leadership of the Church to only male or clergy, been unmerciful confessors, held up the sin of one group or groups while turning a blind eye to others. These and other forms of hypocrisy do irreparable damage.
The world has been darkened by sin and so has the Church. Even though all of us have been wounded we have not destroyed by sin. The Son of God entered into the condition of our fallen nature, became one of us, one with us, and overcame the darkness of sin. Even when those in his name have participated in and perpetuated in that which Jesus warned his Apostles against, we are not to lose heart nor hope. I agree with Bishop Robert Barron that we are called out of “the realm of hatred, racism, sexism, violence, oppression, imperialism, what Augustine termed the libido dominandi (the lust to dominate).”
We are called out of this darkness to be children of the light. There have been many throughout the ages as well as up to and including our own present time who have done just that. They have embraced the light of Christ allowing it to reveal to them their sins. With humility and contrition, they confessed their weaknesses and failures and from this place of surrender, they were healed and transformed. They have become an empty cup able to be filled to overflowing with the love of Jesus. We too are to be open to opportunities to share the purifying light, the healing salve of the Father’s Love that we have received so also to spill over into the lives of those in our realm of influence.
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Photo: Crucifix front entrance of St Peter Catholic Church, Jupiter, FL
Barron, Robert. Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith. NY: Image, 2011.
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Do we plan or prepare?

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-36).
As disciples, we need to be ready for the coming of Jesus. Yes for when he comes again at the end of time, but more importantly, to be prepared for his coming each day in the midst of our lives. If we do not prepare to encounter him daily, the likelihood of us being prepared for his coming again will be slimmer, and only the Father knows the time or the hour.
To plan something means that we outline all that needs to be done down to the last detail. This can be an advantage especially when we are dealing with blueprints for a home or building. By having detailed plans we can be sure we have the proper materials and tools, an estimated budget, and hire the help needed to accomplish the goal. There are many areas in our life where planning has its advantages. Planning our spiritual life is important, deciding when and how we are to pray, meditate, study, engage in Bible and spiritual reading and/or which service we are going to attend, establishing a routine of spiritual direction, time for fellowship and small groups, and how, when and where we can serve others. These are all plusses for planning.
The challenge with planning pops up when we become too attached to the plan and we leave no room for the Holy Spirit, no awareness for the knock at the door because we are so focused on finishing the plan. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are on the horizon. How many times have we experienced planning a dinner with guests, gotten stressed when things did not go exactly as planned and spent more time adhering to the plan and its execution such that we missed engaging with those we are working so hard to provide hospitality for?
Preparing is akin to planning, in that we get ready but are more flexible to other options not governed by our mind and control alone. Jesus calls us to be prepared to receive him at any moment. Are we prepared to encounter and be present to a classmate, colleague, family member, or neighbor who asks for help at an inopportune time, the homeless person in need, the undocumented immigrant, migrant, or refugee looking for safety and security, the unborn striving to actualize his or her potential, the coworker that has not been the most pleasant, the person that we perceive as somehow different from us – who we keep at arm’s length?
How about planning and preparing for those traumatic events in life that appear all of a sudden? When we heard of JoAnn’s diagnosis we went into planning mode, and anyone who has spent any time with JoAnn knows that she is in her element when there is something to plan for. There were many items we could plan out and for the most part, they came together as JoAnn planned. There were other experiences where we needed to be flexible and adjust the plans sometimes on minimal notice. Since we were open to the guidance and leading of God, as well as his help, support, and prayers coming through family and friends, we were blessed during a tremendously challenging time.
JoAnn often said that life is hard, even before her diagnosis. She saw many people suffering and couldn’t understand why people couldn’t be kinder to one another. St. Oscar Romero wrote, “It would be beautiful if people saw that their flourishing and the attainment of their highest ideals are based on their ability to give themselves to others.”
Can we better prepare ourselves to be more open to those closest to us, even in the most challenging of times, as well as being present to whomever we meet today as human beings, as brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God? Yes, even in our current political climate. Are we willing to see and serve Jesus, who is present in each person we encounter, for: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
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Photo: JoAnn and me two spring breaks ago in CA.
Rothrock, Brad. 30 Days with Oscar Romero. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2016
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, October 20, 2020