Let us come out from the shadows and into the light of Jesus.

After Jesus continues to call out those Pharisees who follow their own will and put themselves in the place of honor instead of God, one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”
Jesus does not miss and beat and convicts the scholar as well when he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them” (Lk 11;45-46).
Jesus is clear about his mission, about what the kingdom of God is not and what it is. Jesus is shining a light on the practices of the Pharisees and the scholars of the law in the hope that they can see the darkness that is blinding them. Unfortunately, unlike Bartimaeus (see Mk 10:46-52) who knew he was blind and wanted to see, this is not true for these men who Jesus confronts in today’s Gospel.
How about us? As Jesus shines his light and love in our direction, do we cover our eyes because the light is too bright and withdraw further into the shadows or do we remain still and allow our eyes time to adjust so that the brightness of the Mystery of God will reveal to us that which has kept us bound? Will we justify, or rationalize our behavior or that of others that we know are sinful, or will we be transparent and walk further into the light and the embrace of Jesus, so to repent and believe in the Gospel?
We need to resist the path of those Pharisees and scholars of the Law who imposed heavy burdens on those seeking a relationship with the living God and instead be willing to follow Jesus and meet others where they are in the moment, so to accompany, encourage, and support each other in living the Gospel in our everyday lives. Hiding in the darkness, enslaved by our fears and prejudices, is no longer an option. Jesus beckons us to come out from the shadows and into the radiance of his light. As we experience his love and mercy, he encourages us to continue to move out of our comfort zones and complacency so that we may encounter others with the same love and mercy we have received.
In actuality, the prescriptions that Jesus places on us as his disciples are more challenging than those of the Pharisees and scribes. The difference is that what Jesus invites us to do, he will accompany us and give us the divine assistance to accomplish. What we need to remember is that it is Jesus working through us, not us doing it on our own. Apart from Jesus, we are nothing, but with Jesus all things are possible.
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Photo from remehernandez from Cathopic.com
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Stronger than our words is our actions and deeds.

The Lord said to him, “Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools” (Lk 11:39).
Jesus’ harshest critiques were for acts of hypocrisy. He did so to show, in no uncertain terms, how dangerous this was, especially for religious leaders. These men were entrusted with the care of God’s people. They may have observed the proper rituals, spoke, and dressed to match the part but this all meant nothing if their hearts were hardened and they were closed to the will of God. Most of all, the danger was when they themselves became obstacles, stumbling blocks to those who sought God. Jesus indicting them as fools meant that they were bereft of the wisdom of God they projected to have.
A recent Pew study tracing religious affiliation from 2007 to 2014 found that approximately 56 million Americans identify themselves as following no religious affiliation. Some have labeled this group as the “Nones”. I am sure the context and nuance of why this trend is on the rise have many components, but I believe one ingredient is that many feel that they have witnessed unacceptable levels of hypocrisy which has turned them off to organized faith traditions. Our present crisis regarding the abuse of minors and cover-up within the Catholic Church by religious, priests, and bishops continue to support this trend. That the very leaders commissioned to bring the Good News, guide, and protect their flock have instead abused anyone is horrific and unconscionable.
In the depths of our very being, we seek and yearn for the transcendent, the infinite. We are spiritual seekers, yet, time and again, we experience suffering, injustice, and hypocrisy at the hands of the very ones who are our leaders in both the religious and political sphere. This is why Jesus convicted those who abused their positions because he knew the significant damage that they could inflict.
No one is perfect, our leaders or ourselves. We all fall short of the perfection of Christ, even those of us who seek and aspire to live by the Gospel. If we put anyone up on a pedestal they, sooner or later, are going to fall, and the higher up they go, the greater the fall. God is to hold the priority of place. One way we can sidestep this trap of hubris is by resisting the urge to project all is well and good, that we are fine when we are not. None of us are super men or women. If we think we can go it alone, we will fall sooner or later.
When we turn to Jesus in our weakness and our sin, we can experience his transformative power in our lives. To be vulnerable, to allow Jesus to shine his light into our inner darkness takes courage, but when we open all of our lives to him we will identify and be able to release our own “plunder and evil”. The Holy Spirit can also help us to trust one another with our weaknesses, faults, and shortcomings.
In assuming a posture of humility and openness, in reaching out for help, in entrusting ourselves to a core group of people will allow the unique gifts of others to come to the fore so we can empower one another while holding each other accountable at the same time. When we are transparent with our weaknesses and willing to accompany one another, we as Church can resist the temptation of hypocrisy and instead of driving people to the nearest exit, we can welcome people home.
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Painting: Supper In the House of Simon, by Italian artist Moretto da Brescia (1150-1554)
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Spending time with Jesus will help us to better serve him in our neighbors.

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah” (Lk 11:29).
To understand what Jesus means we need to understand the sign of Jonah. Jonah was sent by God to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, to call them to repent from their wicked ways. The Jews not only considered Nineveh to be a place of decadence, wickedness, and godlessness, but the military of Assyria had invaded Israel and eventually conquered the northern kingdom around 721 BC. We can understand Jonah’s initial refusal to follow God’s lead. Not only did he not want to go to Nineveh, but Jonah also did not want them to receive mercy. He wanted God to punish and destroy them. Those who have read the Book of Jonah, know that Jonah finally acquiesced, and within hours of his proclamation to the citizens, including the king, they repented and God showed them mercy.
Jesus draws a parallel between the people of Nineveh and his listeners. The people of Nineveh heard and repented to a reluctant messenger. The Ninevites, Gentiles, the sworn enemies of Israel, received God’s mercy when they repented. Now, in their midst was one greater than Jonah, the Son of God, and they were demanding of him a sign. The sign of Jonah was repentance. Jesus, from the beginning of his public ministry, preached the same: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).
We would do well to listen to Jesus’ message. Repentance is a foundational spiritual discipline. We are called to consistently examine our conscience and to come to accept that we live in a fallen world. This is not a pessimistic view. This is an awareness of the reality of our present condition.
By accepting that we live in a fallen world, that there is only so much that we can do by ourselves, we will begin to recognize that we do need a savior. The next step that we can make is to acknowledge that we need to repent and turn back to him who can save us. For apart from him, we can do nothing, yet with God, all things are possible.
St Mother Teresa recognized the need for Jesus and stressed this when she taught her novices that she was not interested in numbers and she was not interested in having a branch of social workers. She and those who followed Jesus were to be missionaries of God’s charity. They were to serve Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. To do so they participated in daily Mass for an hour so they could bring Jesus to those they encountered that day. After returning from their time of service they participated in adoration for an hour. Empowered and renewed by Jesus, blessed by his mercy and love, they could serve Jesus in those they met in the harshest of conditions.
The Gospel message today is clear. We are not so much to seek signs but to seek Jesus. By emptying ourselves of our preconceived notions and opening our hearts and minds to follow his lead and being conformed to his life, we can be about doing God’s work. As long as we stay connected to him, he will guide and give us the means to accomplish that which he sends us to do. 
We empty ourselves by repenting from our own selfish pursuits and accepting the invitation of Jesus to be the center of our lives, the very source of our thoughts, words, and actions. “For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13 ). 
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Photo: Cardinal Newman Chapel where I like to begin each day, looking at Jesus while he looks at me.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, October 12, 2020

We are invited to the feast, will we attend?

The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14) continues with a similar tone to The Parable of the Tenants presented last Sunday (Mt 21:33-43). An invitation is offered that is followed by rejection, death, and harsh judgment. We need to remember that these are parables, not specific historical accounts, in which Jesus is seeking to reveal something significant. Jesus would have also shaped this parable, as well as others, depending on the audience he was speaking to, a common practice in oral tradition. This can be a possible reason for the similarity and differences in the account of the same parable given in Luke (14:15-21).

Jesus often shared table fellowship with many, we see consistent evidence of this. Jesus also “used meal imagery to depict the eschatological banquet or final salvation” (Meier, 271). The imagery of the great wedding feast in this parable conveys to the listeners then and us reading today, that all are invited to participate in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus first sought to gather the scattered people, once united under King David as the twelve tribes Israel, yet there were those who rejected his invitation. They, as the chosen people of God, were to be a holy people, a faithful witness to the one God. Jesus sought to reignite their original purpose, yet there were those who refused and so he shared in this parable that others would be invited. Jesus’ invitation as a universal message echoes that of Isaiah: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” (Isaiah 25:6).

As with the Parable of the Tenants, Matthew emphasizes not only the rejection of the invitation, but includes the violent images of the abuse and death of the servants sent by the king, and the king’s punishment, by putting them to death and then the burning of their city. Some biblical scholars see this as a possible allusion to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Luke does not include the abuse of the messengers or the king’s punitive justice. Matthew was emphasizing that there will be accountability to the way in which one responds to the invitation. We do not know the time or the hour, so we must not delay in our decision. “In the concrete context of his ministry, at any given time Jesus would have spoken this parable to this or that group of his fellow Jews as a salutary warning not to ignore his urgent final message, lest they suffer the consequences on the last day… Decide now, or soon it will be too late and your place will be taken by another” (Meier, 272). This message was directed to all who heard it. Each person then and now needs to make a decision.

Jesus, the Son of God, in the humanity that he has assumed, in his willingness to give his life for us, opened up heaven for us. This act of love and grace is a free gift and we are invited to receive or reject it. Many of those who have said yes, have followed the same path to martyrdom by sharing the message they have received and lost their life and now wear the white robes at the great wedding feast in heaven.

The invitation has been given to us today. We may not all be asked to give our lives but we are called to give witness to our faith in the unique way God calls us to. Will we make excuses or say yes to this invitation?

The writer of the second letter to Timothy gives us encouragement that what we can depend on. We are to remember that Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead assures us that, “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12).


Photo: Enjoying JoAnn’s lasagna then. JoAnn is enjoying dinner at the heavenly banquet now!

Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew, vol 5, Probing the Authenticity of the Parables. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, October 11, 2020

Are we willing to see Jesus in one another?

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Lk 11:27-28).
The woman’s comment directed to Jesus in today’s Gospel account from Luke is certainly better than the charge leveled against him yesterday that he was healing by the power of Beelzebul, yet even this complement is still off the mark. What made Mary truly blessed was her fiat, her yes, to be willing to participate in the incarnation; conceiving, carrying to term, and giving birth to the Son of God. Then continuing to listen for and be guided by the word of God and observing it through the rest of her life. Mary is the model disciple.
With the response of Jesus, he is seeking to realign the woman who called out, those present, and us today to a keep proper perspective regarding living under the kingdom or reign of God. God is to be sovereign, primary, first, and foremost. We need to be careful not to put any “thing” or any “one” before God. Even today we need to be careful not to make Mary into a goddess. We honor Mary and the saints, we invoke their intercession for assistance as we do family and friends with us now, but we do not adore them, as we do with God. Mary points us to her Son, not to herself. She is like the moon that radiates the light of the sun. This is the point of discipleship.
As St. John Henry Cardinal Newman articulated so well in his prayer, “Radiating Christ”, the goal of the disciple of Jesus is to come to that point where others may look up at us and “see no longer me, but only Thee, O Lord!” How do we do that? 
We place ourselves in a posture of humility, of prayer, of being willing to hear the word of God, observe it, and then act upon it and serve him through serving one another when we slow down, resist the urge to accomplish, and just get something done. Even prayer can just become a function instead of an encounter with the living God.
We don’t only hear and experience God in prayer and meditation but this will happen in the events of our daily lives as well when we are attentive and willing to follow his subtle invitations. Such as resisting the temptation to walk around or away from someone who is homeless, and instead share a few moments, a few dollars, some food, and to even ask their name. Is this uncomfortable, yes, challenging, yes, but the Word of God calls us out beyond our comfort zones, and to be there for others.
Last year at this time, I was still on a leave of absence from school and visiting our oldest daughter, Mia, in San Francisco. She was away the first two days that I arrived and on Saturday night I visited the cathedral for Mass. On the way back to her apartment, I walked downtown to see some of the sights and came across a panhandler named Oman. I gave him a dollar, shook his hand and we talked for a few minutes. As I was leaving, a man across the street called out and said, “What about me?” I waved and smiled and started up the street. Then I stopped, turned back, crossed the street, and gave Charlie a dollar, a handshake, and some of my time as well. 
When we are willing to see Jesus in one another, love will replace our fears, prejudices, and pride, and we will have the courage to be present, to provide aid, and comfort to those he sends us to encounter. May we say yes, as did Mary, and so allow the Son of God to dwell within us, in the very depths of our souls, such that our thoughts, words, and actions, all reflect Jesus to others.
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Photo: Accessed from Pexels.com
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, October 10, 2020

Trust in Jesus, our great deliverer.

When Jesus had driven out a demon, some of the crowd said: “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons”(Lk 11:15).
There are consistent acts present in the Gospels that show Jesus teaching, preaching, healing, and exorcising demons. Many will accept that Jesus preached and taught, some might even agree that he healed, but there are many who might dismiss that he exorcised demons. The person in today’s passage did not scoff at the fact that Jesus dispelled a demon but emphasized that he did so through the power of Satan. Jesus corrected him with simple logic by stating that, “if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”
This account from Luke expresses the reality of the culture and beliefs of their time. Were, and are, all illnesses caused by demons? Most likely no. But to dismiss demons altogether, we do so at our own peril. There is a spiritual reality as well as a physical reality. Demons are fallen angels. They fell because they chose to follow Satan, the archangel, Lucifer, instead of God. The term śāṭan is Hebrew and is found in both the Old and New Testaments. There are some English equivalents depending on how it is used. Most commonly śāṭan can be translated as accuser, slanderer, or adversary. Clearly, Satan is one who opposes the will of God and the demons are his minions who support him in that effort.
Satan and his demons roam the world seeking to sow division, to do us harm, as well as seeking the ruin of souls. Their power lies in false truths, temptations of apparent goods, deception, diversion, and condemnation. Although it is important to acknowledge that they exist, we need not fear them; for no demon, nor Satan himself, can possess or harm us against our will. The weakest Christian can overpower any negative spiritual influence because we have access to the name of Jesus. In invoking the name of Jesus, the powers of evil have no sway. We can take strength in the instruction of James from his letter: “So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Condemnation is one of the devil’s most effective attacks. First, we are tempted, and then when we fall, the hammer of accusation and slander comes down to invoke shame. We are not to feel guilty regarding our misdeeds or sins. Instead, we are to have a healthy sense of guilt. The difference is that when we walk around moping in a cloud of feeling guilty and berating ourselves for how awful we are, we keep the focus on our self and sink deeper into our own morass of self-pity and in so doing, we making fertile ground for spiritual mayhem. When we embrace a sense of guilt though, we acknowledge what we have done or have failed to do, then with humility admit that sin, come to a place of contrition, meaning we are truly sorry. Healing continues when we seek confession, absolution, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Satan, demons, and evil are presently active in this world, yet God did not create evil. All that God created he created good. One way of looking at evil is to see it not a some thing but as a deprivation, a twisting, and distortion of the good. God created angelic beings with a free will like us, and some turned away. Demons distort their original purpose as messengers of God. We need not be paranoid, just aware. We need to develop a spiritual discipline of discerning spiritual influences, from both our guardian angel, as well as resisting the temptings of fallen, angels. We can do this best when we build an intimate relationship with Jesus, knowing that we are God’s children and under his care and protection.
We need to resist any thought that says we are not worthy of being in a relationship with God, that our sin is too great, or that it is too late to repent. God loves us more than we can ever mess up, more than we can ever imagine, and he does not define us by our worst choices. Be confident, strong and stout-hearted, and be not afraid. Whenever you feel threatened, anxious, tempted, self-critical beyond a healthy sense of guilt, or fearful, just speak the name of Jesus aloud, he is our great deliverer, our light in the darkness, and will be present whenever we call.
One of the most powerful weapons against evil is music, a reflection for another time. But for now here is a quote from the chorus of “Trust in Jesus”, track 5, from Third Day’s album, Move. I am sure that you can pull it up on YouTube or any other music app. A good song to carry with you throughout the day!
Trust in Jesus
My great Deliverer
My strong Defender
The Son of God
I trust in Jesus
Blessed Redeemer
My Lord forever
The Holy One, the Holy One

Painting of St Faustina’s vision of the Divine Mercy by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski
Link for the Mass reading for Friday, October 9, 2020

Ask and you will receive the gift of relationship.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Lk 11:9).
We can be frustrated in prayer because when we do make the time to pray, we feel or think that nothing is happening or has happened. We may pray for a specific petition for our self, or for a particular intention for another and felt, or thought, that there was not an answer from God. One may pray a sincere, seemingly selfless prayer for a loved one, a child, a spouse, a friend, to be healed and the person still dies. They may be deeply hurt because they did what Jesus said; they asked, they pleaded and begged, but felt they did not receive the healing; that which they sought for, was not given and, instead what they found was nothing but pain and heartache from the loss; they knocked until their knuckles were raw and experienced no one on the other side.
Our attitude and orientation to prayer matters. When we sincerely turn our hearts and minds to God in prayer, something happens between us and God, though it may be beyond our cognitive grasp to understand or our sensory awareness to experience. There may indeed be emotional highs and consolations experienced in prayer, but if seeking those is the primary motivation for prayer we will find ourselves more frustrated than not. There may also be lows in prayer, dryness, even desolations, and even feeling God’s absence are also a reality. Emotions are fleeting and not a good barometer when measuring the effectiveness of prayer.
Another big misconception is that we pray to God as if he were a gumball machine. It may seem a silly analogy but how many of us really do pray and only pray that way, and when we do not receive the specific thing we asked for, at the time specified, when we wanted and as we wanted, we brood and think God doesn’t care or does not, in fact, even exist. We may even slip into the barter posture. God if you grant me this, I will do that. If we are only open to receive what we want on our terms, again we are setting ourselves up for frustration.
The very desire to pray, a turning our hearts and minds to God though, is an answer to his invitation, for he is the one who reaches out to us. The answer to what or who we ask, seek, and knock is found at the end of the Gospel reading for today: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Lk 11:13)?
God knows what is best for us, he sees our potential, he wants us to experience joy and be fulfilled. How can we best live our lives in this world to attain that reality? We do so by receiving the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? The infinite, communal love expressed between God the Father and God the Son. Our goal in prayer is to enter into God’s reality of infinite communion of Love. 
Through building a relationship with God, which we are able to through our participation and conformation to the life of Jesus, we come to see the truth of empty promises, apparent goods, substitutes to fill our emptiness and faulty defense mechanisms that we have been utilizing as guideposts to merely survive and get through life.
When we stay consistent in an authentic prayer life our lives will change, we will begin to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)?
Why may God not appear to answer a prayer for our healing or for a loved one with a chronic condition or one who is dying? I do not know. But we need to resist running from the pain of loss and be willing to trust that God has not abandoned us but is with us as we spend time in prayer. The tears that arise from our suffering can then become a healing salve, a doorway into the open arms and embrace of Jesus who awaits us in the depth of our grief and pain. Even our loved ones, who have died, have not come to an end but have experienced a new beginning with our loving God and Father. JoAnn often would say in her last few weeks that she was just changing her address.
Ultimately, what we ask, what we seek, and what we knock for when we pray is to be loved, to belong, to be a part of something, someone greater than ourselves. We have been created as a living, craving hunger, and desire to be one with God and each other. This is true for the atheist and the mystic alike. We have been created to be loved and to love.
The Holy Spirit is the gift of prayer that is open to us all. He is the love shared between the Father and the Son, that we too can experience. This is why he is the answer to our prayer, though sometimes to be aware of him in our lives takes perseverance. It may not be that God is not answering, but that we are not patient enough to receive the answer. Prayer is about building a relationship and like any other relationship before we can grow into it, we may be needing more time to heal or to build trust, and we must spend time together. Most importantly we need to learn to communicate and that means learning God’s profound language of silence.
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Photo: Prayer brings us closer to God and each other.

Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, October 8, 2020

Our Father, who art in heaven…

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him,”Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples” (Lk 11:1).
Jesus’ response to the disciple’s question is what we typically call the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. The longer and more common version is paralleled in Matthew 6:9-13. The Lord’s Prayer provides for us two basic ways to pray this prayer: as a rote prayer and as a model of prayer.
Rote prayers are those prayers that we memorize word for word. The value in rote prayer is that when we have memorized them, it gives us a good starting point. How many times do we sit down to pray and not even know where to begin? Starting with the Our Father shows us a way to lift our hearts and mind to God in prayer. Also, during times of stress, anxiety, or trial, having rote prayers at the ready, when we are not able to focus our mind, gives us a natural rhythm that we can access and slow ourselves down.
The more we can then be mindful of the words we are saying, adding slow and deep breathes, matched with their familiarity, will assist us in bringing a calm and collected manner which we have experienced in the past during less anxious times. It is a calm alternative to feeding a mental frenzy that seeks to undo us.
Rote prayers are also beneficial when we pray with others. When we gather for worship, fellowship, or with two or more, praying the Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful place to begin. It is pretty amazing if we stop to think that we can pray together no matter the age gap with one voice the same prayer that Jesus and the Apostles prayed, all the saints as well as all Christians throughout the ages up until this day.
The Lord’s Prayer with its roots in Sacred Scripture, can also be a key to open the door to a deeper communion with God. As a model of prayer, we pray the prayer slowly, then stop at a word or phrase and speak freely. Here are a few examples. “Our Father, thank you for this moment that we have to spend together.” From there we can enter into a conversation with God, as we would with our parent, sharing the joys as well as the struggles we are going through. This could take two or twenty minutes or more and we have only recited two words!
Hallowed be thy name. God, you are holy, majestic, so beyond my understanding. How can you be so distant from me, yet you know me better than I know myself?” Again, from there we just enter into a dialogue. We can then, with the first or second phrase go into prayers of petition, bringing our needs before our loving Father. We can offer prayers of intercession, praying for the needs of others with the Holy One who is Love. We can also continue our conversation or just quietly pause and rest silently in the loving presence of God. We can continue to take each part of the prayer, especially spending some time with forgiveness which we do not do very well. There are infinite possibilities to explore.
I invite you to pray the Our Father today as if for the first time, slowly embracing each word. As you do so you can also allow memories to emerge from times praying this prayer with others. I have fond memories of my grandfather leading us in the Our Father before Sunday meals, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Easter dinners. When I pray the Our Father, I can often hear his voice, his laugh, how he called me Sergie.
Especially, during this time of pandemic, we can reach out and pray the Our Father imagining ourselves sitting next to Jesus and the Apostles when they first asked them to teach this prayer. We can call someone living in another state, or country, or imagine we are with them, or even imagine being with those who have left this physical plane of existence, like my grandfather and JoAnn, who are now where we too will one day be. Another very good exercise is to pray the Our Father with someone we seek to forgive or seek forgiveness from. We can pray for reconciliation and healing.
Create a quiet place for yourself with a picture, a cross or crucifix, a candle, rosary beads, pictures of those you would like to be closer to, whatever sacramental object helps you to turn your heart and mind to God in prayer, then take a deep breathe and say, “Our Father,” and let God happen!

Photo: My maternal grandfather, Bernard Morcus, who is just about to lead us in the Our Father before a Thanksgiving meal.
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, October 7, 2020

We can feed our anxiety or choose to sit at the feet of Jesus.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Lk 10:41-42).
My wife, JoAnn, and I have had more than a few spirited discussions on this Gospel passage each time that it arose because at first reading it appears that Jesus does not show any empathy or regard for Martha’s gift of hospitality nor for all the work she has done. All the men are sitting around listening to Jesus with Mary doing the same, and who is left to do all the work? Martha.
It is not only deacon’s wives who carry extra weight and burdens in support on the home front to allow their husbands the time to serve, (The time it took me to write these daily posts was less time I could spend with JoAnn or less time to devote to the needs of our home) but many wives who are full-time homemakers, run in-home businesses or carry a job outside the home, as well as caring for the children, overseeing the bills, the day to day grind, find themselves at times, rightly so, underappreciated, undervalued, and not respected for all they do.
To all husbands reading this, WE definitely can do a better job of being present, more patient, respectful, and attentive to our wives and be more of an equal partner in our journey. All of us, female or male, could also be better served if we follow this pattern of attention and priority: God is to be first, then our vocation to marriage and family must come second, then work, then our vocation.
With that said, I do not believe that Jesus was disregarding Martha. Especially in the Gospel of Luke, there are many instances in which Jesus empowers women so far beyond the cultural reality of the time period. We read this account from our twenty-first-century mindset. Contextually, the men sitting at the teacher’s feet in a different room, the women cooking, and most times eating separately were commonplace for those in the first century AD. The only person out of step was Mary.
Jesus said that Martha was worried about many things, Mary could have been one of those worries, and not so much that Mary wasn’t helping in the kitchen, but because she was breaking the social norm of sitting with the men. When Martha calls Jesus to redirect Mary, she probably expects him to support her plea. Yet, Jesus acknowledges that “Mary has chosen the better part” of sitting and having her primary focus be on him. I can visualize Martha being taken aback at first, but then slowly seeing the muscles in her face relax, as she chooses to let go of her anxiety, take her apron off, throws it off to the side, and sits down next to Mary.
There is consistent evidence that beyond the Twelve, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus,  were Jesus’ closest friends. When Jesus came four days after the death of Lazarus, it was Martha who initially came out to Jesus, not Mary, and in that exchange, it was Martha who made the claim that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God (cf Jn 11:27). She would not have had this insight, the same as Peter, who Jesus said only knew this through the revelation of the Holy Spirit if she was still holding a grudge over the dinner.
Today’s reaction and push back from this scene is not so much a reflection on Jesus but how poorly men have emulated Jesus in their interactions with women. No matter their ages, young and old and everywhere in between, women are human beings created in the image and likeness of God. No one has the right to abuse, demean, disparage, devalue, or exploit any woman. They are to be appreciated, heard, respected, understood, and valued.
All of us need to make a choice. We can either feed our anxiety or choose Jesus.  We can recognize and admit that we are anxious about many things, we can resist choosing to take our anxiety out on one another, and instead come and sit at the feet of Jesus, breathe slowly, let the anxiety dissipate, seek his guidance, and begin again.
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Photo: Painting by Nathan Greene
Mass Readings for Tuesday, October 6, 2020

We too are to follow the words of Jesus, “Go and do likewise.”

“And who is my neighbor” Luke 10:29.
This question of the scholar of the law lines up with Peter’s question: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him. As many as seven times” (Mt 18:21)? Both the scholar and Peter knew the letter of the law but sought justification in following a minimalist approach to putting the law into practice. Jesus invites us to a deeper appreciation of the purpose of the law of God and that is to uphold the dignity of each person. Laws can be certainly unjust, and a mere following of the law for the law’s sake can wreak havoc.
Jesus made this point when he was challenged for even thinking that he would heal someone on the Sabbath when he said: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). Time and again Jesus is calling us to have the courage to resist keeping others at arm’s length. He is calling us to risk assuming a stance of understanding, taking time to listen, and be present to, as well as accompany those we encounter. 
The Samaritan did just that. The Jericho road was known for attacks just as the one suffered by the man who was left for dead. The priest and Levite may not have stopped to help because they might have thought the man was faking, or in the time they took to care for the man those that harmed him could have returned to abuse them. We don’t know the reason they continued on, because it was Jesus’ parable and he did not tell us. What we do know is that they did not stop to help, but the Samaritan did.
When Jesus asked who was the neighbor to the man robbed and beaten, the scholar said, “The one who treated him with mercy.” The scholar could not bring himself to say the Samaritan, as the Jews and Samaritans had a long-standing agreement of mutual loathing. Jesus himself sought hospitality from a Samaritan home, did not receive the invitation, and James and John were quick to implore God to send fire to destroy them and Jesus refused to entertain their condemnation.
Before we discuss or implore our lawmakers to enact policies to address such life issues as the unborn, people on death row, immigrants and refugees fleeing violence from Mexico and Central America, Syria and other violent-torn regions, those seeking hope and a better life, children who have made a life here and this is the only home they know, oil corporations laying pipelines that threaten clean water resources and disregarding indigenous people’s rights, opening up dialogue with the LGBT community who have felt like they have been treated like dirt, people of color who have been humiliated, profiled, and lost their lives, and too many forgotten in rural and urban America, we may want to read today’s Gospel account of the parable of the Good Samaritan again, slowly and prayerfully (Lk 10:25-37).
Pope Francis said in a homily last September, “Loving our neighbor means feeling compassion for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, drawing close to them, touching their sores and sharing their stories, and thus manifesting concretely God’s tender love for them.” Many human beings who feel demeaned, dehumanized, lost, and afraid are our neighbors. They are wounded and in need. 
Will we, like the priest or the Levite just walk on the other side of the road, indifferent or afraid; will we dig in our heels and embrace our fears and prejudices; or will we have the courage to show forgiveness, mercy, compassion, understanding and accompany those in need that God has brought before us? The scholar said the neighbor was the one who showed mercy. Jesus’ response to him is the same to us: “Go and do likewise.”
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Photo: “Angels Unawares” by Timothy P. Schmalz unveiled at the Vatican. Picture credit: Vincenzo Pinto/Pool Photo via AP
Link for Mass readings for Monday, October 5, 2020