Challenge of the Church's Teachings

March 31, 2017 Friday, Lent Week Four View Today's Readings “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” What the Responsorial (Psalm 34) tells us sometimes appears to be contrary to appearances, especially to unbelievers. Wisdom 2: 1-22 lists some reasons why many nonbelievers, now as well as then, find even those who are authentically religious “obnoxious.” “They reproach us” for going against the law of God. But we should. We can’t judge people’s consciences, but when something is wrong we should say so. “They profess to have knowledge of God.” Of course. Religion is empty without it. But this is not pride; the knowledge is a gift, not an accomplishment. “Their life is not like others’ — they

Arguing with God

March 30, 2017 Thursday, Lent Week Four View Today's Readings “Lord, remember us, for the love you bear your people.” The Responsorial (Psalm 106) presumes the value of prayer. Now we see an example of it. In Exodus 32: 7-14 Moses gives God good advice, reminds him of what God seems to have forgotten, and gets God to change his mind about what he had planned to do. Yeah, right. This is a good example of the way God inspires the Scripture writers. He inspires them with truth, but truth expressed in the kind of words and images the writers understood, and that the people for whom they were writing would understand. Sometimes a story incorporates assumptions everyone had that were false, but w

Countering Phariseeism

March 29, 2017 Wednesday, Lent Week Four View Today's Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 145) reminds us that "the Lord is kind and merciful." In contrast, “Phariseeism” is legalism: a focus on rules with desire to enforce them for others. It is never joyful, never nurturing, never loving. There is always underlying anger in it. And unconscious resentment, which surfaces in anger against those who are not rule-bound. — Paul fought the “false believers” who “slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us.”[1] Phariseeism feeds on fear. And a sense of rejection. And unacknowledged anger at abandonment. We don’t say, but we feel, “The Lord has forsaken me

“The mighty Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

March 28, 2017 Tuesday, Lent Week Four View Today's Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 46) tells us to trust. “The mighty Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Ezekiel 47: 1-12 is about water, a symbol of the life God gives in Baptism. All who have this life within them should be sources of life for others: “Wherever the river flows, every living creature that can multiply shall live.” Picture it: a clean, flowing river. On both banks, green plants, flowers, crops and trees. This is the way the world should look, wherever Christians are. At least to those who have eyes to see the Life he gives. “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” Jesus used this same image

“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me”

March 27, 2017 Monday, Lent Week Four View Today's Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 30) is an acknowledgement each one of us needs to make. Frequently. What kind of God comes through in Isaiah 65: 17-21? Lo, I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth.... There shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create. For I create Jerusalem [read “the Church”] to be a joy, and its people to be a delight. Larry, a Baptist minister, told at a dinner party how his loving wife was the one who kept order in the family. She got their daughter Jane off to school, regulated the TV, and kept the candy down. But Larry didn’t conform: “I just gave Jane everything she wanted.” One morning, when h

Conversion to a New Guidance System

March 26, 2017 THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (Year A) View Today's Readings Inventory How do I make most of my decisions? Is it by common sense? By applying rules and doctrines to situations? By reflecting on things in the light of Scripture? By trying to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart? Input The Entrance Antiphon calls us to rejoice in the Church (the new Jerusalem): “Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts.” We may see many faults in the Church to mourn over. But if we love her, we will seek nourishment from her and we will find it. We just have to know where to look. And we have to l

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION: LENT WEEK THREE

All God asks is “forward motion,” God is always working to set us free from whatever holds us back from him. But he accepts gradual conversion. So should we. Invitation: Keep drinking from the pure spring of God’s own words. They raise fruitful questions in our minds to which we can seek more careful answers. Ask yourself in prayer and others in discussion, for each statement below: “Do you see this in the Scripture reading? What response does it invite? Sunday: Be suspicious of any voice that leads toward discouragement or suggests doubt about God’s love or readiness to help us. When we feel discouraged, we are looking at ourselves instead of at Jesus. We should think more about what God is

“Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will”

March 25 2017 Feast of the Annunciation View Today's Readings The Church applies to Mary the promise made to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:10-14: “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the young woman [literally “virgin”] shall be with child and bear a son...”? The basic meaning of the sign in biblical thought is the symbol which indicates the existence or the presence of that which it signifies; it directs the attention to the reality signified.[1] The Church is the “symbol” the “sacrament,” which indicates the existence and presence of Jesus on earth. And calls attention to him.[2] Whenever he is asked for a sign, Jesus says emphatically that “no sign” will be given but the “sign of Jonah.” Except

“I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.”

March 24, 2017 Friday, Lent Week Three View Today's Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 81) is incomprehensible. It is impossible to summarize these readings — just as it is impossible to begin to grasp what “I am the Lord your God” means. We could sit silent in front of this mystery for the rest of our lives. So read Hosea 14: 2-10. Then re-read it. Then read the Responsorial Psalm — all of it. Then start over. Read Mark 12: 28-34. It is saying the same thing. Keep reading until you realize you don’t understand any of it and yet have grasped the meaning of all of it. Then sit in silent wonder before your God. “Return....” What does it mean that God says this? Not just a human; God himself. Wha

“Idolatry” Means Dividedness

March 23, 2017 Thursday, Lent Week Three View Today's Readings “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This Responsorial (Psalm 95) is a “survival principle! God tells Jeremiah (7: 23-28) that from the day the people left Egypt until now he has “sent untiringly” prophets to guide them. But they won’t listen. And, “when you speak… they will not listen to you either!” Do we? Isn’t God’s word constantly available to us? Can’t we pick up the Bible any time we want? Aren’t the “prophets” preaching every Sunday? Every day, even, for those at daily Mass? Don’t children have parents and teachers, and all of us friends God uses to help us? Do we listen? God’s conclusion is sobering: “F

“Praise the Lord, Jerusalem”

March 22, 2017 Wednesday, Lent Week Three View Today's Readings “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem” Why does the Responsorial (Psalm 147) invite us to praise? Deuteronomy 4: 1-9 says God’s laws are so good and just that if we live by them people will say, “This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.” We would be, if we had written them. But since they were given to us by God, we can only claim credit for being smart enough to recognize how good they are. And the jury is still out on whether we are that smart or not. Have you ever given thought to how wise God’s laws are? How much sense it makes to live by them? How they enhance our life on earth? Most of us weren’t taught to do this.

“Remember your mercies, O Lord"

March 21, 2017 Tuesday, Lent Week Three View the Readings “Remember your mercies, O Lord" (Responsorial: Psalm 25)” During Lent the first reading and the Gospel are chosen to match. The Responsorial gives us the theme of both. The Gospel is going to talk about a man in an impossible situation. To match it, Daniel 3: 25-43 describes a situation the whole People are in that doesn’t offer any ray of hope — except God: For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader. What hope is there for a nation — or a church — that seems to be losing on every level? No competent authorities or governm

Faith, Hope, and Promise

March 20 (instead of 19, 2017) St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, Foster Father of Jesus View Today's Readings In Matthew 1:16-24 the angel tells Joseph “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” What was he afraid of? We usually assume that Joseph thought Mary, to whom he was engaged, was pregnant by another man, and for that reason was going to break off the engagement and “dismiss her quietly.” Another interpretation is that Mary told Joseph exactly what had happened, and he believed her. He was intending to take Mary as the wife who would be the mother of his children. But when Yahweh, the LORD, made it known that he had chosen his fiancée to be the mother of his own Son, Joseph’s reaction,

The Pace of Conversion

March 19, 2017 THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT (Year A) View the Readings Inventory Do I ever get discouraged about growing into intimate friendship with God? Am I tempted, because of my sins or shortcomings, to stop reading Scripture and praying? When I feel like this, how does God feel? Input The Entrance Antiphon encourages us to believe God is always working to set us free from whatever holds us back from him: “My eyes are ever fixed on the Lord, for he releases my feet from the snare.” God says, “I will prove my holiness through you” — his love, his mercy and power — by “gathering you from the ends of the earth. I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins. I will give you a new

FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION: LENT WEEK TWO

We get so caught up in things in our culture that are important to others — and ourselves — that we need the Mass readings — readings chosen for us, not by us — to break us out of our tunnel vision and broaden our perspective. Invitation: To keep assembling with the community for Mass and listening during the Liturgy of the Word so that truth will catch up with us, whether or not we want to hear it. Ask yourself in prayer and others in discussion, for each statement below: “Do you see this in the Scripture reading? What response does it invite? Sunday: If we want a motivating goal for our life, we need to keep striving to make the event of Christ’s death and resurrection the explanation fo

Why Am I Blocked from Full Participation in the Church?

March 18, 2017 Saturday, Lent Week Two View Today's Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 103) gives a hope in God’s love that encourages conversion: “The Lord is kind and merciful.” Micah 7: 14-20 tells us that if we feel blocked from Mass or from participation in the sacraments, the block is not because of God’s attitude. We may think it is. We may think that God — or the Church — does not accept us. That God’s acceptance is conditional on our “living up” to some law or ideal we are not able — or, to be honest, perhaps just not willing —to live up to. We feel blocked from Confession (Reconciliation) because we don’t have the “firm purpose of amendment” we may have learned in religion class was

Hope in Times of Trouble

March 17, 2017 Friday, Lent Week Two View the Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 105) gives a simple remedy to many troubles: "Remember the marvels the Lord has done.” If we pay attention to the Liturgy of the Word, we will hear enough of those marvels to be able to remember some when we need to. Genesis 37: 3-28 shows us what envy can do. And what God can do in spite of it. Envy is more than jealousy. Jealousy is to want something another has. Envy is to hate so much the fact the other has what I don’t that I don’t want the other to have it either. Joseph’s brothers were envious. They hated the fact he enjoyed more love from their father than they did. Enough to stop it by killing him. But th

“Happy are they who hope in the Lord.”

March 16, 2017 Thursday, Lent Week Two View the Readings If we keep assembling with the community for Mass, the Liturgy of the Word assures us that the truth will catch up with us, whether or not we want to hear it. All truth is life-giving, but sometimes it takes faith to accept that. And all truth offers hope, even if at first it discourages us. Yesterday’s reading could have been hard for some priests to hear, especially if they are infected with “clericalism” or “triumphalism.” Today’s reading might make some of the affluent uncomfortable. But truth is truth, and all truth is life-giving. And all truth holds out hope. (If it doesn’t it is not from God and therefore not truth). If we want

“Save me, O Lord, in your steadfast love!”

March 15, 2017 Wednesday, Lent Week Two View Today's Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 31) prays with confidence: “Save me, O Lord, in your steadfast love!” Jeremiah 18: 18-20 affirms a truth of human life as shocking as it is sad. Truth arouses criticism. Good incites to evil. “Must good be repaid with evil, that they would dig a pit for my life?” You can’t love people enough to stop them from hating you. Jeremiah couldn’t. “Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf.” Jesus couldn’t. And no one who works for renewal in the Church can. Accept it. But we can count on God: “Save me, O Lord, in your steadfast love!” In Matthew 20: 17-28 Jesus leads us onto dangerous ground. We a

“To the upright I will show the saving power of God.”

March 14, 2017 Tuesday, Lent Week Two View Today's Readings The Responsorial (Psalm 50) promises: “To the upright I will show the saving power of God.” Isaiah encourages us to add: “And also to those not upright.” Isaiah 1: 10-20 offers forgiveness and purification to the “princes of Sodom.” When we read in Genesis 19 the sin that brought destruction on Sodom, we wonder that Isaiah can promise what he does. In the eyes of Lot, in whose culture protecting guests was sacrosanct, to have allowed the rape that the men of Sodom intended would have been worse than turning his own daughters over to them for child abuse! (19:8). But even to these rapists God says, “Though your sins be like scarlet

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