Let us not be anxious about tomorrow but be present in the experience of today.

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here– the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Lk 21:5-6).
As we read yesterday, Jesus observed the widow donating her two coins. Today Jesus observes those who are commenting about the wonders of Herod’s temple. Jesus responds by sharing, as did Jeremiah, that the temple will fall, and not a stone upon another stone will be left. The reality of this statement would come to pass in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the temple and crushed the Jewish rebellion during the Jewish War from 66-70 AD. The only significant remnant of the temple still to this day is the western retaining wall, also known as the Wailing Wall.
The people of the ancient Near East certainly witnessed and passed on tales of the rise and fall of mighty kingdoms beginning with Egypt’s impressive reign from about 3,000 to 721 BC, followed by Assyria who then gave way to Babylon. The Babylonian army would destroy Solomon’s temple as predicted by the prophet Jeremiah. The Persians would then overtake the Babylonians and push west only to be repelled by the unification of the Greek city-states under the Macedonian Philip and then his son Alexander the Great who would continue south and east all the way to India. The massive Greek empire would then give way to Rome. Rome would then fall in 476 AD.
As each empire fell, and especially during the fall of Rome, there was a great concern that the end of the world drew nigh. Throughout the ages up until the present day, nation has continued to “rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…” and the world has experienced “powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place” (Lk 21:10-11). Each made their historical impressions on those who lived through them. There has also been a plethora of end of the world predictions from the ancients up to the more well known modern prognosticators such as Jeane Dixon, Pat Robertson, a handful of predictors around 2000, and most recently Harold Camping who caught a lot of attention with his prediction of the end of the world that was to have happened on October 21, 2011.
As of this typing, we are still here. The Gospels of Mark and Matthew record Jesus addressing the same concern of those questioning him: “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (see Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36, RSV translation). In Luke’s presentation from today’s Gospel, he moves further away from Mark and Matthew’s eschatological or end of times talk and spoke more toward the destruction of the temple.
We have a few more days of Luke and Ordinary Time to go before the end of the liturgical year. Kingdoms have and will continue to rise and fall. Abuse of power continues worldwide. Storms and fires rampage. So many are displaced from war, terrorism, violence and too little are reaching out to provide compassion and support. Too many are enamored by our technological ingenuity and advancements, as were those who were admiring the adornment of Herod’s temple. Political division and this ongoing, global pandemic weighs heavy upon many of us. Are we in the final days? Only the Father knows.
Yet, we are not to be anxious about tomorrow as the Pope encouraged those in his homily when he spoke at Tokyo Stadium in Japan about this time last year. We are to seek first the kingdom of God and “to re-evaluate our daily decisions and not to become trapped or isolated in the pursuit of success at any cost… [that] leave us profoundly unhappy and enslaved, and hinder the authentic development of a truly harmonious and humane society”.  
We need to place our hope and trust in Jesus, the Son who knows the Father. He will help us to embrace the wonder and the marvelous gift of all life; human as well as all of God’s creation. Our investments ought to be in relationships not in anxiety and worry. We are called to encounter, accompany, and empower each person in the realm of our influence, while at the same time strive to be better stewards of God’s creation. In this way, we can make decisions, not just for what we can get now, but ones that will positively impact the next seven generations.
Photo: JoAnn and me in California around 2015.
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, November 24, 2020

“Give until it hurts with a smile.”

“I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood” (Lk 21:3-4).
There are biblical prescriptions for giving a tithe, meaning ten percent. We can see an example of this in the book of Genesis when Abraham offers a tithe of his possessions to the priest Melchizedek in thanksgiving to God for a successful battle and rescue of his nephew Lot (cf. Genesis 28:20-22). Tithing was practiced consistently and this, or the giving of alms, was most likely what Jesus was observing at the temple.
The widow far surpassed giving a simple tithe. Widows in Jesus’ time were often destitute and needed care and support from others. They were often recipients of alms. There was a long tradition in Judaism of the mandate to care for the widow and the orphan. This widow, though giving a significantly smaller amount than the heftier donations by those giving before her, proportionally gave much more, indeed, “her whole livelihood.”
St. Mother Teresa understood these verses very well, especially after receiving her “second call” in which she left her Loretto Convent and went to serve among the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. Often in her talks, she mentioned giving until it hurts, not from our surplus, but more like the widow. To her, this was true giving.
One of the many examples of giving Mother Teresa witnessed was when she gave a cup of rice to a poor Hindu family. The mother was very grateful for the gift and as soon as she received the rice, she measured out half of her portion and went to her Muslim neighbors to share what she had received. Upon her return, the woman told Mother Teresa, “They are hungry too.”
What impressed Mother Teresa was not that the woman shared the meager amount that she had received, she had often observed the generosity of the poor. She was touched by the fact that this woman was aware of her neighbor’s need. 
Mother’s charge to us is, “Are we aware?” 
Are we willing to see the needs within our own family as well as the needs of others? If so, are we then willing to share? We do not need to share just monetarily. We can and ought to discern how we can give of our time, talent, and treasure.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ observation and pointing out how the widow “gave more than all the rest” shows us how to participate in the kingdom of God. We are to recognize all that we have is a gift from God and all truly belongs to him. We are simply stewards of what he has given us. This teaching is apparent in the parables of the talents, the gold coins, and Matthew 25 – what you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.
When we are willing to embrace the love of Jesus, he will empower us to be better stewards of our time, talent, and treasure so that all of our life is a participation in the building up of the kingdom of God. In this way, we will see not just poverty, hunger, or immigration, but a person who is poor, a human being who is hungry, a brother or sister who needs help and support to begin a better life. When we are willing to share the love we have received, we will not see just an abstract problem but through the eyes of God we will see the opportunities for new relationships. We will also be more likely to put Mother Teresa’s words into practice, to “give until it hurts with a smile,” so that we too can experience the joy of sharing God’s love.
Photo of St. Mother Teresa that I took when I saw her in Massachusetts in the early ’90s.
Link of video of St Mother Teresa talk at National Prayer Breakfast 1994. Her talk begins at 48:58: https://www.c-span.org/video/?54274-1/national-prayer-breakfast
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, November 23, 2020

A program for holiness

Today is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday will begin Advent and the new year in the Church calendar. In today’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus offers a parable about the Judgment of the Nations that addresses the key criterion for judgment. Jesus eloquently clarifies what will determine eternal punishment and what will determine eternal life. It comes down to how we treat one another. Are we indifferent, blind to another’s suffering, or are we willing to bother, to get involved, to be, as Fr. James Keenan, S.J. wrote, “willing to enter the chaos of another.”
The gift of our faith is that Christianity is personal. We serve Jesus in being aware of and encountering one another. We are not to be about bringing world peace, ending hunger, providing homes for all. We are instead to treat each person we meet with dignity, to feed someone hungry, and to provide clothes and shelter for someone who has none. We are to see Jesus in our midst: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Mt 25:35-37). Jesus commands us to be aware, to accompany, and to make a difference, one life at a time.
We can easily believe that there is so much that needs to be done that no one person can even make a difference. We can easily get overwhelmed with it all. How do we even begin? One place to begin could be to pay attention to our interests and emotions. What do you find you spend your time doing already? When you read or hear a news report, what gets under your skin? This could be God speaking to you, moving you to help. The key is to resist looking out too abstractly or broadly when we are willing to see. Instead, it is more helpful to begin by making a commitment to making a difference one person at a time.
As we draw closer to Advent this week, it would be good to make a commitment to serve Jesus in one another. God is guiding us already, we just need to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a willingness to reach out to one another. A positive step would be to take this week to look back at the year, or month and evaluate how we have done in being aware of where we were willing to enter the chaos of another and where we weren’t. Then for assistance on how we can do better, may we spend some time reading and meditating on the Beatitudes and chapter 25 of Matthew. As Pope Francis said in his 2014 homily these are:
“Few words, simple words, but practical for all. Because Christianity is a practical religion: it is not just to be imagined, it is to be practiced. If you have some time at home today, take the Gospel, Matthew’s Gospel, chapter five. In the beginning, there are the Beatitudes; in chapter 25 the rest. And it will do you good to read them once, twice, three times. Read this programme for holiness. May the Lord give us the grace to understand his message.”

Pope Francis hosts a meal for 1.500 poor and homeless – photo credit: Reuters/Guglielmo Mangiapane, November 17, 2019

Fr James Keenan article on Mercy

Pope Francis homily, 6 September 2014

The Mass readings for Sunday, November 22, 2020

The God of the living is present to us in so many ways.

The Sadducees present an absurd scenario for Jesus to respond to: a woman’s spouse died leaving her childless and then successively married her husband’s six brothers who all died, also leaving her childless. The question from the Sadducees was, “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” (Lk 20:33)? The Sadducees sought to have Jesus weigh in on his views about whether there was or was not a resurrection of the dead.
The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection of the dead because they only believed in the Torah, the law, or the teachings, which we as Christians today recognize as the first five books of the Old Testament. In the Torah, there is no overt reference to the resurrection. The Pharisees recognized the written Torah, but also acknowledged an oral tradition beyond the written text, and thus recognized the resurrection of the dead. Jesus deftly answered the question by keying in on the verse from Exodus: “That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Lk 20:37-38).
Jesus clearly pointed out that God was not a God of the dead but of the living. The deeper reason for the question was ultimately, and is the question that also arises today, “What goes on in heaven? What do we do all day?” Jesus’ response to the Sadducees then and to us today is: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise” (Lk 20:34-36).
What Jesus means is that heaven is a different reality than we experience here on earth. Heaven is a different dimension of existence and no temporal time as we know it. We will no longer marry because we will be living eternally, there will be no death, no more need to procreate.
Also, heaven is not so much a geographical place as it is a relationship and experience of an intimate and deep communion with God. We want to know what we are going to do there because we are attached to what we have and what we do here. In heaven, we will experience the fulfillment of that which we have been created for, that which we truly crave and hunger for, that which will fulfill our deepest longing, which is to look upon God face to face, what theologians call the beatific vision. 
Many would scoff and say, “That’s it?” I am sure there is more, but if that was all, there would be more joy, more acceptance, more totality of being than we could ever imagine or embrace in just a second of that eternal gaze. As the psalmist wrote: “Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:11).
Definitively speaking, heaven is a mystery to us. Again, the Mystery of God is not a problem to be solved but a relationship to experience and develop. This is why prayer, worship, encounter, relationships, and experiencing God’s creation are so important. Each one is an encounter with the living God, each is a foretaste of heaven. If we are only tied to the material, the finite, our self apart from others, we will succumb to attachments and addictions that will create walls of division and separation such that we cannot even begin to conceive of the eternal or spiritual ground and foundation of our existence.
A good daily practice is to be more mindful and more present in what we do. This can begin when we pray. We can slow down our breath and allow our mind to be more still. We can reread today’s Gospel slowly, multiple times, pondering it, wondering about the gift of eternal communion with God, the God of the living, and what it would be like to see God face to face. We can worship with a community of faith this weekend, and actually sing during the service. God does not implore that we sing well, but only that we make a joyful noise unto the Lord (cf Psalms 98, 100). During the Mass, heaven and earth become one through the presence of Jesus in his people gathered, his word proclaimed, and his real presence in the Eucharist.
In our homes and in our everyday experiences, we can focus on what we are doing at the moment, and not thinking of twenty other things such that we walk into the next room and forget why we went in there. It is especially important to really experience, accompany, and be with the people around us, talking and listening to one another. We can seek a ministry of service that we can participate in regularly or invite someone to join us if we are already active. We can spend some time immersed in the wonder of God’s creation, whether taking a walk, taking long deep breathes while looking at the starry night, or just sitting and watching all the gifts of life pass by, birds, otters, bobcats, or whatever may cross our path. Each one of these is an opportunity to encounter the God of all creation, the God of the living, and to experience a foretaste of heaven!
Photo: A family of bobcats JoAnn noticed playing in our backyard about three years ago. Witnessing the living interconnectedness between the three. A living icon of the Trinity?
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, November 21, 2020

Jesus, please cleanse all that would defile us.

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out all those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves” (Lk 19:45-46).
Luke’s account of Jesus casting out the money changers is the most succinct of all four Gospels. Luke uses the Greek term for “drive or cast out” – ekballō, eight other times. Each time he used it, Luke was making reference to exorcising demons and unclean spirits. The profanation of the body through possession of evil is equivalent to the desecration of the Temple precincts.
Jesus justified his actions of driving the sellers out of the Temple precincts by saying: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). Jesus showed the dignity of our humanity, in that as the Son of God he entered our humanity. He entered into the chaos of our lives, our faults, and foibles, our sins while remaining sinless himself. He showed that even though we have turned away from God, we are not destroyed. He reminds us that what God has created is good and that includes us. Even when we turn away, he continually and infinitely reaches out to us in love and calls us home.
One of the wonderful features of the upcoming holidays is that families seek to come together, to return home. Some are not able to especially this year with Covid and so will connect by phone, email, or the other avenues of media platforms we now have available. But there are those, we may even experience this ourselves, who have recently lost someone who has died, or we may be estranged, or those who no longer have a family. There are those suffering today that are homeless, displaced, refugees and immigrants, or living in fear of deportation. May we pray for them and be avenues of solidarity and reconciliation when and where we can.
No matter who or where we are, Jesus is present. He became one with us to restore our communion with God and one another. He provides the living water that quenches the thirst of our deepest longings. Jesus, our Temple, our new covenant, the dwelling place of God, is alive and present to each one of us in every condition, situation, time, and the place we find ourselves. Through his resurrection, ascension, and our participation in his life, he has made us temples of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. 
Jesus meets us where we are and loves us as we are, yet he wants more for us. Jesus, please cast out, as you did in the temple precincts, all from our being that would defile us and keep us bound in sin. Send the Holy Spirit to reign in our hearts that we may embody and bear his love with all we meet so to be reconciled with God and one another.
Painting: By El Greco, 1600 – Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, November 20, 2020

“If this day you only knew what makes for peace.”

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Lk 19:42).
What Jesus foretold in these words would arrive some thirty years after his death. Jewish and Roman conflicts increased until it spilled over in 66 AD. A Jewish rebellion amassed such force that the Roman occupying military was pushed out of Jerusalem. This triggered an overpowering response from Rome which would result in the horrific deaths of over a million Jewish people, Jerusalem fell in August of 70 AD, and the Temple was destroyed. The only remnant was some of the retaining walls, the western retaining wall, is still present today and often called the Wailing Wall.
Jesus knew that peace would not come from violence. We can glean from his teachings that peace is not just the absence of war, but a change of mind and heart. A metanoia or conversion of the mind must take place. There must be peace within before there will be peace without or as Thomas Merton wrote, “If you are yourself at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world.”
The words of Jesus from today’s Gospel ring just as true today: “If this day you only knew what makes for peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes.” If Jesus walked across the northeast border of Israel into Syria, he would witness the horrific violence and devastation as far as the eye could see. Yet, is there anywhere he could walk and not experience violations of human dignity? I am sure he would weep as he approached the US border from the south and entered the detention centers or walked among the dead who lost their lives from our rampant epidemic of gun violence.
How about even a little bit closer to home? If Jesus were approaching the border of our mind and heart, how would he react? Would he smile or would he weep?
Some also wept and took the teachings of Jesus to heart and applied them in our present age. Mohandas K. Gandhi marshaled a non-violent movement that defeated the oppressive English Empire. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. applied both the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi shining a light that exposed the dark night of segregation and our military presence in Vietnam. Through the bold witness and preaching of the Gospel through his words, writings, and presence, Pope St. John Paul II played his part in inspiring the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union.
There are so many other people throughout our world history known and unknown that have worked for peace in our violent and weary world. As we near the end of the liturgical calendar let us allow the love of Jesus to transform our hearts and minds such that each of our thoughts, words, and actions will promote that peace that Jesus gives, that peace that surpasses all understanding (cf Philippians 4:6-7). May we be willing to work with people of all faith traditions and good will to work for peace.
John Heidbrink, Thomas Merton, and Thich Nhat Hanh – advocates for peace. Accessed from churchvisits.com
Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, November 19, 2020

We are to be contemplatives in action.

In today’s Gospel, we have available to us the parallel to The Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30, which is the Parable of the Ten Gold Coins from Luke 19:11-28. There are some differences. A key opening point is that in Matthew’s account, we do not know why or where the master goes after he entrusted three of his servants with talents; five, two, and one respectively. In Luke’s account the man is a noble and he “went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return” (Lk 19:12). He called ten servants to invest a gold coin he gave each of them. The theme that is similar in both accounts is that when the man returns, two of the servants invested well and brought about a greater return on their investment, and one hid what he was given out of fear of his lord.
Another added feature in Luke’s account was the fellow citizens of the nobleman that did not want him to be king and openly opposed him. The nobleman after attaining his kingship and returning successfully, dealt harshly, to say the least, with those who opposed him, having them slain. Those listening to Jesus tell the parable would understand this outcome, as it was not uncommon in the ancient Near East for a ruler to slay those who would oppose his rise.
The readings over this week continue in this vein of eschatological talk, references to the second coming of Jesus, and final judgment because we are in the final two weeks of the liturgical year. The readings present us with the reality that there will be a judgment by God, but what Jesus makes clear is that we are not the judge and jury, though many appropriate this role for themselves. We are only accountable for the talent or gold coin we have been entrusted with.
There is a unique gift that God has given each of us, and we are called by him to put this gift into action to be a part of building up the kingdom of God. We need to resist burying this gift or wrapping it in a handkerchief and hiding it away. Doubts, fears, and anxieties will arise in our hearts and minds. We may say to ourselves, “I don’t even know where to begin.” One place to begin is to pray with the one who calls us to this work of encounter, solidarity, and accompaniment.
How we respond will be different for each one of us. Our starting point though will be the same. We are to trust in God for his guidance regarding how best we can serve him and open ourselves to the love of the Holy Spirit such that in the words of Pope Francis we may: “Have the courage to go against the tide of this culture of efficiency, this culture of waste. Encountering and welcoming everyone, [building] solidarity – a word that is being hidden by this culture, as if it were a bad word – solidarity and fraternity: these are what make our society truly human” (Pope Francis 2014, 61).
We are to share the love that God gives us with one another, but we are not mere social workers. We are to be contemplatives in action. We begin each day in prayer, receiving the Eucharist whenever and as often as possible, and ask God for his guidance regarding how he would have us put into action the gift of his love that he has given us. In this way, Jesus is the source of our strength. He will sustain, guide, and give us the strength to accomplish the task before us.
Photo: An icon of prayer for discernment in solidarity and fraternity
Francis, Pope. The Church of Mercy: A Vision For the Church. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014.
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Following the lead of Jesus, may we to be willing to open up access to all.

Yet again, as in the Gospel from yesterday, the crowd gets in the way of someone seeking access to Jesus. The wall of people does not appear to be overtly keeping Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus, as they may be so focused on seeing him themselves that they are not aware. There is also the possibility that the people were aware of him. They knew Zacchaeus, and many judged him to be the sinner of sinners. He was the chief tax collector of the area and that meant he was most likely reviled by most in his community. Each time Zacchaeus nudged by to get through a gap to get a better look, the individuals may have time and again closed each gap such that he could not get through.
Zacchaeus was not thwarted. He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree. From his perch he was not only able to see Jesus, Jesus saw him and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house” (Lk 19:5). Jesus did not see a tax collector or a sinner, he saw a seeker. One who was also willing to humble himself by climbing a tree, much like a child.
Jesus does not see the 99% nor the 1%. Jesus sees people in need of compassion and mercy. Jesus did not meet Zacchaeus with judgment but with love and compassion, and that made all the difference for conversion. 
Jesus acknowledged the one who so many despised, and by inviting himself to dine with Zacchaeus in his own home, Zacchaeus must have felt overwhelmed with emotion. Maybe for the first time in his life, he felt like a person with dignity, and he repented on the spot as a response to the love he had received, with the words: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over” (LK 19:8).
The encounter of Jesus and Zacchaeus offers us an inspiring model to start seeing each other as human beings. One way to do so is to resist the temptation to “grumble”, to gossip, to pre-judge, and/or to dehumanize one another. Jesus invites us instead to see beyond the exterior and to be willing to go deeper to the heart and character of the person. To do that, we need to be willing to encounter one another, to walk with one another, to accompany, and spend time with one another.
When we do so, we will move from being people who seek to define and limit ourselves by our identity, and instead open ourselves up to being people of integrity. This means resisting the temptation of building walls that protect ourselves from others and instead building bridges of dialogue to embrace the wonderful gift of our God-given diversity. 
Integrity means that we will be more present and aware, we will stand with and stand up for someone who is ignored, belittled, dehumanized, harassed, discriminated against, ridiculed, abused, objectified, persecuted, segregated, and prevented access no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, income level, class, political party, religion or none.
Life is hard enough, so let’s stop grumbling and start healing. Let’s stop preventing access and start opening up opportunities, and let’s stop closing ourselves off and begin to open our arms wide to embrace and accompany one another as we allow Jesus to love others through us. Not only will they be loved and healed, but so will we in the process.
Photo by Belle Co from Pexels.com
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Are we willing to be healed from our blindness?

He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me” (Lk 18:38-39)!
The difference between the blind man who shouted to Jesus and the people walking in front of Jesus was that the man knew he was blind. Those preventing access to Jesus were not aware of their spiritual blindness. Luke does not say why the people were preventing access to Jesus, just as Jesus in his parable of the Good Samaritan did not say why the priest or the Levite did not help the man dying on the road to Jericho.
Why would the people prevent the man from having access to Jesus? Especially since he was asking for pity or mercy. One practical reason could be time. They were on the way to Jericho, their mind was set to get there, and stay on the schedule they would. Another could be that the man was a beggar. He was not seen to have dignity and worth, so they attempted to quiet him so he could go back to being invisible. The Jericho road was a dangerous road, maybe this was just a setup, a way to lure Jesus into an ambush.
Ultimately, we do not know why they attempted to prevent the man access. The more important question is how often do we prevent others from accessing Jesus for similar reasons? We do not have the time, they are other than us, we too may not see their dignity and worth as human beings, and/or we are afraid of difference so we keep others at arm’s length. Could it be we are just indifferent to the suffering of others?
Jesus responded differently to the call of the beggar in today’s Gospel account. He stopped and had the blind man brought to him. He made the time, saw him as a fellow brother with dignity and worth, and he took the risk to reach out to someone in need, and healed him. As Pope Francis has said, “[Jesus] understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul. This is Jesus. This is his heart” (Francis 2014, opening page).
This is to be our response as well. Even if we do not understand the suffering of another, Jesus does. We are invited to stop, to be present, to enter the chaos of another, and trust that Jesus will be present through us to provide mercy. May we resist indifference and fear and instead see each person we encounter, not as other, but as a fellow human being. We do this best by making the time and being present with others. May Jesus heal our blindness that we may be willing to see the dignity and worth of each person that we meet so that those we encounter see in us the face of God’s mercy.

Photo: Healing the Blind Man by Yongsu Kim
Pope Francis. The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, November 16, 2020

Be not afraid to share what talent God has given you!

Today’s reading is a return to the Gospel of Matthew and the well-known Parable of the Talents. The master is about to embark on a journey and while he is away he entrusts his servants with talents; the first with five talents, the second with two, and the third one. Scripture scholars debate on the exact amount of a talent and any definitive number is lost to us today. The point is that it was a significantly large sum.
Even more important than the amount, God has given each of us unique gifts and has charged us to invest in making the kingdom of God present and relevant to others. Fear and anxiety, as they did with the third servant, are temptations that arise in all of us. I have experienced both throughout my life since my early youth and the good news is that I have been improving as I continue my journey with God. Through my growing relationship with him I continue to access the courage to rise above those temptations, such as speaking in public.
Had I given in to anxiety, I would not be a teacher, nor a deacon today. Anxieties and fears still arise for me and what I have been learning most recently is to resist suppressing or fighting these emotions. Instead, breath into and embrace them and seek to harness their energy in a more positive way. Time and again, I have turned to the Holy Spirit and he has walked with me.
When I first embarked on this new evangelization of sharing the Gospel through social media, I was not sure how it would be received or if it would be received. Yet, again I trusted that it was God inspiring me to step out in faith, and he has given me the words to type each day; even on those days in which I sit and stare at a blank white screen. 1.243 consecutive, daily posts later, is a testament that the Holy Spirit (I pray) has continued to guide me.
Each of us have been graced with talent! God has something for all of us to share in our own unique way. Trust in those intuitions that God is inspiring you with. Say yes to sharing the unique gift(s) you have been given to help to bring light and healing to a tired and weary world. If we cling or sit on them they will wither and fade, if we share them they will multiply. The best way is to start small, take baby steps. Each time we step out of our comfort zone we take a risk. True enough, but God will provide the means and he will send others to support and help us to fulfill what he calls each of us to accomplish. Another point that may help ease anxiety when it arises, is to realize that it is God’s work and not our own. We are inspired to express and not impress through our words, actions, and/or faces. My prayers are with you as we continue to journey together to bring about the joy, mercy, love, and glory of God to others!

Photo from my first Mass, seven years ago already, after being ordained. St Peter pray for us!
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, November, 15, 2020