Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Danger of Success

Wed. 22nd Week Year I
Gospel (Lk 4, 38-44)

This week we leave the Gospel of Matthew to begin our liturgical sojourn through the Gospel according to Luke.  And so we jump back to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry when he is enjoying tremendous popularity as an eloquent preacher and a rising reputation as a worker of wonders.  After a particularly successful day, He escapes into the wilderness in order to renew Himself in prayer to His Heavenly Father, the Source of His energy and love.  The crowds find Him and try to keep Him from departing.  Who can blame them?  But Jesus refuses to bask in the glory of their adulation, just as He had not allowed the demons to acclaim Him as the Messiah.  Jesus knew the danger of premature success and that His true glory lay in doing His Father’s will.  He would admit of no delay!  He must go forth to walk the sacrificial way of service, suffering and self oblation—even to death, death on a Cross.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Children of the Light

Tues. 22th Week Year 1

First Reading 1Thes. 5,1-6, 9-11

“You are not in the dark, brothers, so that the day might catch you off guard, like a thief.  No, all of you are children of light and of the day”.  There was a smile in the voice of the reader as she proclaimed these words of St. Paul during the pre-dawn hour of Lauds (Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours).  And there was an answering smile in the heart of the Poor Clare Sisters as they sat listening with their array of flashlights and other makeshift lighting arrangements in the dim monastic choir.  As God would have it, we would hear the same reading at Mass, this time in the half light of the dawning day.  One thing is certain, in these days after Hurricane Irene, when our artificial light has been cut down to about 40% capacity due to the limitations of our generator; and that light gives us a wavering effect not unlike a disco and very unlike a monastery, the coming of the day does not in any way catch us off guard!  We are alert and expectant and eager for the sun to rise!  We are truly children of the light and of the day.  And so should we be expecting the coming of the Rising Sun of Justice, the Divine Thief who will surprise those who are sleeping but not us who are awaiting Him.  Let us open the window of our mind and unlock the door of our heart so that He may enter swiftly and easily, not only at the end of time, not only at the end of our life, but at each moment of every day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Aug. 29 Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
Gospel Mk 6, 17-29

I must confess that Herod fascinates me.  Here is a man who is thoroughly worldly, completely given over to his pleasures, who values a man’s life less than a woman’s dance.  Yet, he is also someone is enticed by holiness and tempted by truth.  He imprisons John in the darkness of a dungeon, yet the brilliant light of the Baptist shines, attracts and disturbs.  But alas!  Herod is too committed to the worship of the god of this world and he resists the allure of divine goodness.  How many are there who are like him!  How I wish that those of us who have given our allegiance to Christ would sing a siren song drawing all the weary and jaded followers of evil away to Him!  It is He alone who gives a happiness that lasts, a life that is really worth living.  Of course, it is dangerous, for the worldly are half asleep and do not like being awakened.  But there is no adventure if there is no risk.  Perhaps someone will listen after all.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

August 28, 2011
Hurricane Irene

Since the Poor Clares built their monastery in Barhamsville, they have had trouble with water leaks.  Over the past 7 years, much time, consultation, labor and expense has been spent in attempting to make walls, roof and windows impervious to the outside elements.  And so now the Sisters no longer fear every rainstorm that happens by.  Even tropical storms cause little concern.  But hurricane Irene proved yesterday that the sealed, patched, caulked monastery could yet leak under the duress of torrential rain being driven by 75mph winds.  It is disappointing, but not altogether unexpected.  Just as a hurricane will reveal the inevitable structural weaknesses of a building, so do the severe trials of life unveil the hidden weaknesses of our character.  No matter how hard we try to examine our consciences, resolve our issues, deal with our problems, repent of our sins, get our lives together, or whatever else you want to call our attempts at self improvement, we always will come up somewhat short.  And it is precisely here that we meet God.  I once heard Scott Hann say that God gives us our strengths and gifts to be used for the benefit of other people and that He allows us to have our weaknesses and faults for our own sake.  No matter how good or bad we are at self-improvement, we are all desperately in need of the mercy of God.  Tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom of God first because they know this truth very well since their faults are more obvious.  The hurricanes of life prove to us that we are not God, we need Him as our Savior.  Suffering and weakness are not the worst evil but rather sin is.  And suffering, borne with love heals us of our sins.  Our weaknesses which can be our greatest sufferings can actually be our greatest blessings.  How paradoxical!  It is the paradox of the Cross.

The One Talent

Sat. 21st Week Year I
Gospel (Mt. 25,14-30)

Jesus tells us another parable about the kingdom of God.  A man gives money to his servants to invest while he goes on a journey.  Two of the servants double their investment while the third buries his money in the ground and just gives it back to his master unchanged.  The first two are rightly commended and the last is justly chastised.  I am reminded of another saying of Jesus: “ He who saves his life will lose it and he who gives his life for my sake will find it”.  We may feel like we have very little to give to the Lord by way of great talents or gifts.  But no matter how poor or limited we are, each of us does have one gift, the only thing He really wants from any of us.  All of our so called “talents” or “gifts” are simply means of giving that one thing.  In fact, St. Paul says that if we give everything we have except that one thing then it means nothing to God.  What is that one thing?  It is our own self, our own heart, our very life.  It seems that the faithless servant in the Gospel did not trust himself, nor did he trust the bankers who could have helped him, and certainly he did not trust the master.  And so he just kept what he had been given, did nothing with it, and finally lost it.  If we refuse to give ourselves away, then we will lose the ability to do so.  We condemn ourselves to an eternal frustration of our very being that is made in the image and likeness of God who is self-giving love.  Another name for this self imposed exile is hell.  In this life, the misery of this condition is actually a mercy for it will sometimes impel the sufferer to repentance.  But once we cross to the other side, God will ratify our decision to be with Him or apart from Him.  May we all choose to “enter into the joy” of our Lord by living now for Him.

The Foolish and the Wise

Fri. 21st Week Year I
Gospel (Mt. 25,1-13)

Last night, after a great deal of meteorological fanfare, we just received a bit of a thunder storm.  I thought Irene had snubbed us and was heading toward Manhattan!  She may still end up there, but it turns out that our rain and wind was simply a preview of coming attractions.  We still have time to prepare!  In today’s Gospel parable of the 5 foolish and the 5 wise virgins all the bridesmaids fall asleep waiting for the delayed bridegroom.  Those who were wise could afford to take a nap, for they were well prepared.  Too bad the 5 foolish ones did not use the delay to get their oil.  St. Peter says that the Lord delays His coming because He is merciful and wants to give us more time.  But we have to realize that sooner or later our time is going to run out.  Why could not the foolish virgins borrow oil from the wise ones? We can see the oil as the symbol of love, that which lights and warms our lives for God and for others.  Each of us freely decides whether or not to love and no one can do it for us.  We can “fool” other people into doing our work for us or giving us their money, but we cannot make them love for us.  And it is the height of foolishness to think that we can fool God!  What a terrible thing it will be for some to hear those awful words from Him, “I do not know you”.  How can the all knowing God not know everyone?  Because He allows each person that freedom to consent to be in a knowing, loving relationship with Him or to reject such a relationship.  St. John of the Cross says that in the end, we will all be judged on love.  Let us echo the words of St. Francis that he spoke on his deathbed, “Up to now we have done nothing.  Now let us begin.”

The Coming of the Lord

Thurs. 21st Week Year I
Gospel (Mt. 24, 42-51)

Our Lord tells us today to stay awake, for we do not know the day nor the hour that He is coming.  We must be prepared.  Right now, everyone on the east coast is preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.  She is courteously sending out heralds of her coming in dark, lumbering clouds and fits of gusting winds.  And all the weather people are diligently keeping vigil for us from their technological watch towers.  Although we do not actually know the day or the hour of her coming, Irene is very well documented.  I cannot help but compare the relative predictability of a hurricane to Tuesday’s sudden earthquake phenomenon.  Then there was no herald, no warning.  Immediately it was upon you.  It overtook you wherever you were, and invaded you while you were doing whatever you were doing.  I imagine the coming of Christ at the end of time will be like that.  In fact, each day He comes to us just as suddenly in the unexpected person who needs our help, the untoward circumstance that tries our patience, the surprising loveliness that crosses our path.  If we are preoccupied with advancing our personal agendas over other people or indulging our selfish desires like the unfaithful servant in the Gospel story, then we will not be ready to respond to the challenge of the Lord’s coming, today or on the last day.  But if we are constantly seeking His face and doing His will, then when He arrives unannounced, we will tremble, not with fear, but with joy to finally see Him whom our soul loves.  May it be soon.  Come, Lord Jesus!

Jesus Takes the Initiative

Aug. 24 Feast of St. Bartholomew
Gospel Jn. 1, 45-51

Jesus always takes the initiative in our relationship with Him.  We see this clearly in today’s Gospel on the feast of St. Bartholomew.  Jesus found and called Phillip to follow him.   Then Phillip in turn finds Nathanael (whom some think is another name for Bartholomew) and tells him about Jesus.  After some hesitation and a cynical remark, Nathanael comes to see for himself.  He is shocked to find that Jesus already knows him and has seen him “under the fig tree”, a phrase used to describe someone who was praying and meditating.  Nathanael, the former cynic is overwhelmed and exclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the king of Israel!”  Jesus must have laughed as He said, “Do you believe just because I said I saw you under the fig tree?  You will see greater things than that!”  But we should not be too surprised at Nathanael’s seeming overreaction.  There really is nothing more wonderful than to be known and loved by Jesus.  Sometimes we think that He is far from us and that we are the ones who are in search of Him.  But St. Peter tells us that it is God who inspires in us any measure of desire for Him.  So He is there watching and waiting while we are under our own fig tree, praying and seeking.  Then He sends us our own Phillip when he sees we are ready for Him to call us to Himself.  Even when we hesitate or perhaps just respond because of curiosity, He takes us as we are.  Now that we are with Him, let it be our joyful task to open ourselves more and more to Him and His love until every part of us is touched by Him.  Let us be able to sing with the psalmist:  O God, you search me and you know me, You know my resting and my rising, You discern my purpose from afar.  Behind and before you besiege me, your hand ever laid upon me.  Too wonderful for me this knowledge, too high beyond my reach!

Earthquake Wake Up Call

August 23, 2011

Like everyone else from New York to North Carolina the Poor Clares had some excitement this afternoon. Mother Abbess reports: We were all doing the dishes when everything began to move underfoot. I wondered if something was exploding in the basement or there was some construction nearby. Postulant Kimberly from California said, "This is nothing", and Postulant Joscelyn said, "This is soo cool!"  That's youth for you!  I said, "We just built this monastery and I don't want it coming down nor anyone dying either!"  That's middle age responsibility.  We thank God there was no damage to us or anyone else that we know of.  A good priest friend called to see how we were doing in the earthquake.  I was grateful for his concern and also for the news.  It seems we are quite near the epicenter.  He said we should take all these kind of events as a communication:  shake up, wake up!  In the Gospel today, Jesus calls to task the Pharisees who are good at keeping all the little rules they have made up so as to avoid having to do the great commandments of the law.  They have made their religion into a way of controlling their lives and an attempt to manipulate God.  We "good Catholics" are always in danger of doing the same.  But an earthquake is a very visceral reminder that we are not in control.  So let us put aside all our pettiness and get down to the business of really serving God with everything we have and loving one another as He has loved us.  Let's do it before the next earthquake strikes!  You never know.

Feast of the Queenship of Mary

Aug. 22 Queenship of Mary
Gospel Lk 1, 26-38

Eight days after the Solemnity of the Assumption of our Lady, we celebrate the feast of her Queenship.  Today’s Gospel is that of the Annunciation.   I love to contemplate Mary at the moment of Gabriel’s greeting for she is so very human.  Although she was immaculate, not having any pathological insecurity or afflicted with false humility, she is deeply disturbed by the sight of the great Archangel and even more by what he says.  Every true encounter with the supernatural has a certain terror in it.  We often like to treat God as a kind of commodity, or like some celestial vending machine.  We say some prayers and expect to get some blessing in return.  But once we really understand Him as the Supreme Being who nevertheless deigns to draw us into an incredible intimacy with Himself, then we can never regard Him in a casual way again.  Yet this terror does not terrorize.  Rather it fascinates and draws the human being to its Source.  Although Mary was afraid and had to be reassured by Gabriel, she did not lose her composure.  She was a queen even here, a royal mistress of herself because she was utterly submissive to her Lord.  She had a question and she was able to ask it.  And although the answer was even more mysterious than the original statement, she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word”.

A New Name

Sun. 21th Week Year A
Gospel (Mt. 16, 13-20)

Jesus asks His disciples who they say He is and Simon responds for them all by saying, “You are Christ, the Son of the Living God”.  Jesus tells Simon that he is blessed because the Heavenly Father has revealed this to him.  Then Simon receives a new name and a new mission.  He now is called “Peter” and holds the keys of the Kingdom.  A beautiful dynamic is taking place here.  God the Father reveals to Simon Peter that Jesus is His Divine Son and the One Anointed by the Spirit.  Then in Peter’s dialogue with Jesus, Peter’s own identity is revealed to himself.  As we come closer to Jesus, the Father gradually reveals His mystery to us.  This is to be expected.  But it is a shock to realize that Jesus is actually a mirror who reveals our own mystery to ourselves.  He speaks our name; not the name that our parents gave us but a new name that only He knows and only He can say.  It is the creative name that He continues to utter at every moment of our existence.  And it is the name by which the Good Shepherd us to follow Him.  When a Poor Clare postulant becomes a novice, the abbess gives her a new name that she has received in prayer from God.  This name symbolizes the new novice’s special call and new mission in the Church.  The girls who came to the Come and See Day at the Poor Clares were blessed to have this Gospel preached to them this day.  Pray for them now as they continue to discern their call.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Service of Authority

Saturday, August 20, 2011
20th Week Year I
Matthew 23:9-10

Jesus tells his followers that they should not want to be called “Rabbi” or “Father” or “Teacher”.  He is using a bit of rhetorical hyperbole here, using an exaggerated statement in order to make a point.  Just as we do not feel obliged to take Him literally when He says we ought to tear out our eye if it gives us trouble, so we do not have to feel guilty for calling our priests or our Dads “Father”.  The point that Jesus wants us to get is that we should not be concerned about titles of honor, marks of respect, or what advantage to our egos we can obtain by being experts in Catholic theology or observance.  Pope Benedict said at his inauguration Mass that his being Pope was not about honor, but about service.  St. Francis saw the position of authority as one of serving the brethren and wanted the “superiors” of his order to be called “ministers” or “guardians”.  St. Clare exhorts the abbess in her rule to lead the sisters by holiness of life rather than by her office.  She herself thought it a privilege to perform all the lowliest tasks of the monastery.  Jesus, the Son of God Most High emptied Himself for love of us to become our servant so that we could join Him for all eternity in the happiness of the heavenly kingdom.  He has given us the Eucharist and the indwelling Holy Spirit so that we can follow His example. Let us do so.

Two Commandments of Love

Friday, August 19, 2011
20th Week Year I
Mt. 22:34-40 (Two Commandments of Love)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the 2 great commandments of love on which we are to base our lives:  love God with everything you have within you (heart, soul, mind), and love your neighbor as yourself.  But where do we, sinful and selfish as we are, get the power to love like this?  For this answer we must turn to the Beloved Disciple John.  He tells us that God Himself is love.  “God’s love was revealed in our midst in this way:  He sent His only Son to the world that we might have life through Him.  Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins.  Beloved, if God has loved us so, we must have the same love for one another.”  Love always begins with God for He is the origin and source of all love.  We have to first receive His love before we can love Him or anyone else.  We cannot believe in our own goodness and so love ourselves as we ought, until we experience that we are loved.  But since we live in a sinful world, we have all been wounded by sin, our own and that of others.  Those of us who have been blessed with good and loving families find they are able to love easily.  But they must remember that “to whom more has been given, more will be required”.  They are called upon to sacrifice themselves with a heroic love like Christ did on the Cross.  And those of us who have grown up in unloving and even abusive families must not despair.  Christ has suffered their abuse with them.  He has said that whatever is done to the least is done to Him.  He loves the abused with a special and tender love, but they must open themselves to Him and allow Him to love them where they hurt the most.  Surrendering every part of our being to Jesus is the way He wants us to love Him.  Once we do that and really believe in our own God-given goodness, then we can turn in love towards our neighbors with a true and Godlike love.  We will be able to fulfill the new commandment of love given by Jesus at the Last Supper:  “Love one another as I have loved you.”

The Wedding Garment of Love

Thursday, August 18, 2011
Matthew 22:114 (The Wedding Garment of Love)

When a Poor Clare Sister wakes up in the morning, she prays a morning offering and then dresses while reciting what are called “dressing prayers”.  Each garment has its own prayer.  When she takes off her night habit she prays, “Strip me now of the old man” and as she puts on her daily habit she prays, “Clothe me with Your virtues, enrich me with Your graces and give me the wedding garment of Your love”.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable of a king giving a wedding feast for his son.  A man is found in the banquet hall not wearing a wedding garment.  When asked by the king why he is not properly dressed, he makes no reply and so is thrown out.  The man made no reply because he had no excuse; the wedding garment was provided by the host at the door.  Jesus calls us each day to the wedding feast, but we must be willing to put on “the wedding garment of His love”.  All love requires a certain surrender of autonomy, a loss of our personal independence.  Divine love is especially all-engaging.  But we resist, fearful lest we sacrifice too much of ourselves.  How foolish can we be!  Sometimes we are like the first guests of the parable who could not be bothered with the feast because they were too interested in their own affairs.  They did not care because they did not love.  In the end, each will get what he or she chooses: self-centered loneliness or self-giving unity with Love Himself.  Let us choose wisely.

Laborers in the Vineyard

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Matthew 20:1-16 (Laborers in the Vineyard)

A man goes out to hire laborers in the morning, mid-morning, midday, afternoon and late afternoon.  At the end of the day he calls all the laborers and gives them all the same wage!  Report this man to the Better Business Bureau!  He has violated the principle of “equal work, equal pay”, or at least its logical corollary, “unequal work, unequal pay”.  But Jesus is not talking about economics here, but about the kingdom of God.  How do we feel when we hear about some notorious sinner who has lived a life of debauchery and then at the last minute is given the grace of repentance on his deathbed and is saved?  Hopefully we rejoice and thank God for His great mercy.  But is there also a little petulant voice inside us that cries out, “Unfair!  Here I am, a good Catholic all my life, doing everything I am supposed to do and avoiding all the things I am not supposed to do and this guy gets off easy!  He has a good time doing just exactly what he wants all his life and then gets heaven besides!”  But let’s look at this a little more closely.  Are we in a business relationship with God or in a love relationship?  What woman, happily married to a man who deeply loves and respects her, ever looks with envy at her unmarried counterparts who are flitting from one unhappy liaison to another, vainly seeking the joy she herself daily experiences?  Oh, she may do so briefly on a bad day when the kids are crying and the wash is piled too high.  But she will soon come to her senses.  Are we serving the Lord for pay?  Or do we find our joy in being in love with Him and doing what He wills and loving those He loves?  And what about those people outside the Christian fold.  Are they having such a good time?  They do not look like it to me.  In fact, they look bored, like laborers hanging around all day waiting to be hired.  They are looking for joy in all the wrong places.  They just find brief pleasure that disappears and leaves a gaping hunger that can never be satisfied except with the infinite love of God.  So let us who have the privilege of working in the Lord’s vineyard renew our commitment to Him in love.  And let us pray that He may soon find those who will only be happy once they join us in His service.

Gideon's Call

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Judges 6:11-24a (Gideon's Call)

In today’s first reading at Holy Mass we meet Gideon, a man called by God to rescue His people from the power of their enemies.  An angel appeared to Gideon, using words that remind us of Gabriel’s salutation to our Lady, “The Lord is with you, O Champion!”. (Actually, it is better in the Latin, “The Lord is with you, O strongest of men!”)  But Gideon argues, “My lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” And then he mournfully lists all the troubles of the Israelites.  The angel replies, “Go with the strength you have, and save Israel from the power of Midian.  It is I who send you.” Gideon continues to argue, “How can I save Israel? My family is the meanest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”  And the angel (who is really the Lord Himself), insists, “I shall be with you”.  And that really should end all argument.  So often, when we are called by God to do something great for Him, we look at our own weaknesses and tell Him he has the wrong person.  We are no one special, we are not important, we don’t have what it takes, so get someone else.  But we have to remember that God actually delights in using just such people as we are.  St. Paul said, “He chooses the weak and makes them strong”.  He also says that God uses those who are nothing to put to shame those who are something.  So let’s stop making excuses and get going.  If God is with us, who can be against us?  Even if it is the whole world, He can handle it.  I heard a priest say it well in a homily many years ago, “Do your best, and Jesus Christ will do the rest”.

Feast of the Assumption

Monday, August 15, 2011
Feast of the Assumption

All my life I have been fascinated with clouds.  During my school days, I eagerly studied the different cloud formations, diligently memorizing their names.  Almost every day since then I have delighted in looking at the sky to see what new cloud design God was creating there.  So last night, just after sunset, I was intrigued by a large cloud bank, looming dark on the southern horizon like a just formed mountain range.  I marveled anew at how hard the cloud looked, silhouetted against the dying light of day, and wondered again at what celestial substance held together the mist whipped by wind in the mixing bowl of sky.  Musing thus I was surprised to see what I had never before seen up close—heat lightning!  From the heart of the cloud came flashes, now here, now there, but no thunder.  I opened my window to be sure of the silence.  No thunder, did I hear, but neither was there silence.  Instead I heard the music of serenading crickets.  As I listened, there was another flash of light, this one, not up in the sky but near the ground.  A lonely firefly made its presence known, now here, now there, almost as if it were imitating the fantastic display above.  I remembered the firefly’s other name of “lightning bug” and fancied that perhaps this one might fly up into the mountainous cloud, attracted irresistibly by the heavenly flashing light which in some way resembled its own.
Infinitely great is the distance between God and us, yet we are made in His image and likeness.  We yearn to be united to Him we resemble, however remotely.  But there was one among us who was overshadowed by the bright could of the Holy Spirit and God became incarnate in her flesh.  On this feast of the Assumption, we celebrate the mystery that the one who brought God to us has now been drawn up into heaven.  She is clothed with the sun and the flashing clouds surround her.  We too, little fireflies that we are, flashing our brief sparks of divine life amidst the darkness of the world, will someday follow her into the eternal light.  Let us rejoice and be glad in this hope.

Of Wounds

Sunday, August 14, 2011 10:32 AM
Matthew 15:21-28 (Of wounds)

A good Franciscan Capuchin Friar was visiting the Sisters for the feast of St. Clare.  In the course of his inspiring talks to them he said this lovely word, “No one can hurt you more deeply than Christ has wounded you.”  Surely Christ wounded the good Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel who pleaded with Him for the healing of her possessed daughter when He seemed to ignore and rebuff her. But His wounding was like that of a surgeon whose laser light cuts not for harm but for wholeness.  Jesus knew the quality of the woman kneeling before Him and that His cutting remarks would serve to increase her faith until He could call it great.  And they would pierce her heart, making it more tender with love.  The wounds we receive in this life are meant for the same ends.  Of course, every wound is painful.  We cry out in sorrow for the pain and in anger for the injustice of it all.  We attempt to scar over our wounds with hard layers of resentment and pick at the scabs with endless remembering.  But some wounds are never meant to close.  Rather, they are to remain open like the wounds of Christ, and to be pressed against His so that His life and ours can flow together.  As the life and love of Jesus flows into our opened heart, it becomes tender with love for our suffering brothers and sisters.  Here then is the fulfillment of that mysterious saying of Scripture, “All things work together for the good of those who love God.”

Let the Little Children Come to Me

Saturday, August 13, 2011
Matthew 19:13-15 (Let the Little Children Come to Me)

There is a young woman visiting the Poor Clares this weekend.  Pray for her and Mother Abbess as they discern God’s will.  And 16 girls have signed up for the Sisters Vocation Day on August 20-21.  There is still room for anyone else who wants to come!  A mother of 3 girls contacted Mother Abbess to inquire if her children could come.  She thought they might be a little young…How young?  4, 6 and 7!  Although Mother Abbess is an experienced and versatile speaker, she thought that it might be beyond her capabilities to address such a diverse audience and attend adequately to all their needs, so she suggested that the youngsters come at a different time.  “Let the little children come to me” said Jesus in today’s Gospel, “for to such belong the kingdom of heaven”.  Little children are so open to God and the things of God.  Mother Abbess always delights in speaking with them, for they respond instinctively to the beauty of a life given over to divine Love.  So pray for these little ones who are excited about having their own “Come and See Day” with the Poor Clares.

2nd Day of Celebrating St. Clare

Friday, August 12, 2011
2nd Day of Celebration
Today is the 2nd day for the Poor Clares to celebrate their foundress, St. Clare.  Franciscans are famous for celebrating!  One day is not enough for this celebration.  I would like to share another part of St. Clare’s beautiful novena that the Sisters prayed before her feast day.

Seraphic St. Clare, whose virginal heart was great enough to love the whole world, take our petitions into your pure hands and present them to God.  Pray for us that we may one day enter in joyously before the throne of God. Let the light of your perfect purity consume the shadows of sin and corruption that darken the world.  Intercede by your innocence for our youth.  Safeguard the peace of our homes and the unity of our families.  Plead with your chaste love for all in peril.

Feast of St. Clare

Thursday, August 11, 2011 at
Feast of St. Clare
Blessed Feast of St. Clare to one and all!  Retired Bishop of Richmond, Bishop Sullivan presided at the morning Mass for the Sisters and outdid himself with uncharacteristic solemnity.  Those who know him will be amazed that he actually used incense, intoned the Credo and sang the Eucharistic Preface!  Many friends joined the Sisters in the celebration of their patronal feast, including a group of young people from Virginia Beach.  Mother Abbess was able to speak to them for a few minutes about vocation and answering the call of the Lord in their own lives.  Here are Mother Abbess’ petitions at the Prayer of the Faithful during Holy Mass:

  1. That the many young people being led by the Lord to Madrid for World Youth Day, may hear Him speaking to their hearts, calling them to a deeper relationship of love with Him.
  2. That those who exercise authority may be careful to set their hearts on eternal values that their efforts on behalf of their people may bear fruit that will last.
  3. That our Mother St. Clare may bring the light of Christ’s peace to all those places in the world that are dark with despair and violence.
  4. That like St. Clare, we may ever abide in Jesus, finding in Him our supreme joy which transforms every affliction into an occasion of sacrificial love and the preparation for eternal glory.
  5. That our Mother St. Clare may obtain every grace and blessing for all our friends who have sought her intercession during her novena.

Novena to St. Clare

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Novena to St. Clare

Today is the vigil of the Solemnity of St. Clare.  The Sisters have been praying a very beautiful novena to their Mother St. Clare during these days.  I would like to share with you the final prayer of this novena so that you can join with the Sisters as they prepare to celebrate their mother and foundress tomorrow.
Loving Father, You have shared with us every good thing, but Your love is made especially manifest in the gift of Your Beloved Son.  May we respond to this wonderful gift of love by accepting to live in intimate union with Him.  Grant to each of us the grace to offer our whole being in a sacrifice of love to You and, like St. Clare, to become “passionate lovers of the poor, crucified Christ”, who lives and reigns with You, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Strength, Steadfastness and Humility

Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Deuteronomy 31:1-8, Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14 (Strength, Steadfastness and Humility)

Today I am intrigued by the contrast between the first and second reading at Holy Mass.  The first is from the Book of Deuteronomy, where Moses commissions Joshua to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land.  He exhorts him to be “strong and steadfast”.  The Gospel has Jesus answering the question of the disciples about who was the greatest in the kingdom of God by placing a child in their midst.  “Whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest”.  How should we reconcile the injunction to be strong and steadfast with the quality of a child?  The key is humility.  Without this essential virtue, strength becomes arrogance and steadfastness degenerates into stubborn willfulness.  Humility does not mean being a doormat, but is about being comfortable with the truth of who we are and who God is.  St. Paul says that with God we can do all things.  And Jesus says that without Him we can do nothing.  Back to St. Paul, “If God is with us, who can be against us?”  So let us receive all our strength from our love-relationship with the Lord and so be able to face every adversity with courage and faith

Salt and Light

Monday, August 08, 2011
Matthew 5:13-16( Salt and Light)

Happy feast of St. Dominic, especially to his followers the Dominican Friars Preachers and Sisters!  St. Francis was a contemporary of St. Dominic, and legend has it that they met in Rome at the Fourth Lateran Council.  It is said they considered joining their two orders but decided against it.  That was a very wise decision, for Dominicans and Franciscans are very different!  We glory in our differences for they are complementary and round out our services to the Church.  For today’s feast, we have special readings.  The Gospel is from the Sermon on the Mount and gives the famous images of the Christian being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”.  The cloistered Poor Clares are often criticized for “hiding their light under a bushel basket”.  They respond by saying that their lamp is on the lampstand!  When you put a lamp up high, no one looks at it.  It is there only to shine on “all that is in the house”.  And then there is the salt.  It disappears into the food, not calling attention to itself but enhancing the flavor of the meal.  The cloistered nun is not seen, but grace flows from her life of love to give brilliance and savor to the whole Church.

Praying on the Mountain

Sunday, August 07, 2011
Matthew 14:23-33 (Praying on the Mountain)

After Jesus had multiplied the bread in the wilderness and fed the crowd of five thousand, He made His disciples get into the boat while He went up the mountain to pray. There He saw them struggling against the wind and waves. When, like Jesus, the contemplative prays alone on the mountain, she is never less alone, for to pray is to be in a loving communion.  Just as a woman gives herself to her husband and conceives new life, so the contemplative becomes a spiritual mother in her surrender to God.  Her children are borne in her heart, their needs, sorrows and sufferings flood her mind and she holds them in her arms before the face of the Father even as she is in the embrace of Divine Love.  Jesus rescues her children, by walking on the chaotic waters and speaking words of encouragement and peace.  Let us all pray for those who are sailing on stormy seas, and especially for those called out of the boat to walk on water, that their faith may not fail until Jesus brings them safely home.

Feast of the Transfiguration

Saturday, August 06, 2011
Matthew 17:1-9 (Feast of the Transfiguration)

Happy feast of the Transfiguration!  When Peter saw the Lord resplendent with glory, His face shining like the sun and his clothes white as snow, he cried out, “Lord it is good for us to be here!”  Yes, Peter found it good to be with Jesus on Mt. Thabor.  But he did not find it so good to be with Him in Gethsemane, and he found it even less good to be with him in the courtyard of Caiphas.  And where was St. Peter that Good Friday afternoon?  Not on Calvary!  It takes courage and faith to find it good to be with Jesus when He is suffering and especially when we are hanging on the cross beside Him.  If, like St. Peter, we fail, Jesus will not abandon us.  He will search for us until He finds us and offer us His peace.  And we will learn to rely on His strength and not on our own, to draw on that power which comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  Let us take courage from Him and from those faithful people who really do stay with Jesus until the end, no matter the cost.  If they can do it, we can do it too!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The New Heavens and the New Earth and No Sea

Friday, August 5, 2011
Revelation 21(The New Heavens and the New Earth and No Sea)

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”  When I read those words of Revelation this morning, I looked out of my window at the beauty of the present heaven and earth that is destined to be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth in the coming age.  How lovely they are right now!  How much better can they get?  What will these new realities be like, free from the hidden corruption which limits the beauty of creation?  And I felt regret for the sea.  I love the sea in its immensity, and its wild freedom from every human attempt to tame it.  The sea speaks to me of the infinity and omnipotence of God.  I will miss the sea.  But of course, the Book of Revelation speaks, not only of nature, but more especially of the transformation of humanity.  The sea is symbolic of those forces of chaos in the human heart.  I will not miss that sea!  Nor will I miss the ocean of sorrow that is fed by streams of sin flowing from the multitude of unrepentant hearts and the tsunami of violence that devastates so many innocent lives.  Jesus has passed through the sea of suffering and death.  Someday, these things will be no more.  Let His star of hope rise in our hearts to guide us on our voyage, when not only our nights are stormy, but even our days are dark.

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Thursday, August 04, 2011
Matthew 16:13-23(Who do you say that I am?)

Bl. John Paul once said that although he received his faith from his strong Catholic family, there came a certain point when he himself chose Christ.  Some of us are "cradle Catholics" and all of us have heard what the secular world has to say about who Christ is.  But each of us has to listen to the voice of the Father speaking through the power of the Holy Spirit to identify Jesus as our own Savior.  St. Peter did just that at the beginning of today's Gospel when Jesus asked the apostles who they said He was.  "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" declared Peter.  He had the right answer, for he was listening to God.  But then Jesus tried to lead him to a deeper understanding by introducing him to the mystery of the Cross.  "God forbid, Lord!" was Peter's response.  Wrong, Peter!  You were listening to poor human nature and not to God.  Peter would not get this one right until after the Resurrection.  We too often baulk when Jesus tries to lead us to the Cross, but it is only there that we discover the depths of His identity as Merciful Love.  St. Clare would say, "Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him and desire to imitate Him".

The Canaanite Woman

Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Matthew 15:21-28 (The Canaanite Woman)

I love the Canaanite woman who persistently asked Jesus to cure her daughter.  I love her for her great faith, I love her for her motherly anguish, I love her for her humility, but most of all I love her for her wit.  In such a situation, fraught with emotion, she could still see through the seeming indifference and even hostility of the Lord and engage Him in a clever repartee.  “It is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ table”.  I doubt I would have given such an answer!  And she merited to receive extraordinary praise from the Lord, “O woman!  Great is your faith!”  Thank you, Madam, for giving such joy to Jesus and for giving us such an example of trusting boldness.  I look forward to meeting you in heaven.  And when Jesus seems to ignore me I will have confidence that He really does want my good.  Perhaps He just wants to show off my faith.

Feast of St. Mary of the Angels

Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Feast of the Portziuncula, the Mother Church of all Franciscans (St. Mary of the Angels)

In the early days of his conversion, St. Francis heard the voice of Christ coming from the crucifix in the Church of San Damiano bidding him to “go and repair His Church”.  Being the simple, humble man that he was, Francis interpreted the Lord’s words literally and took up the tools of a construction man.  After repairing San Damiano, he turned his attention to a little abandoned chapel in the oak woods of a little portion of land belonging to a Benedictine monastery.  The local people said they sometimes heard angels singing there, and so the place was named “St. Mary of the Angels of the Porziuncula (little portion).  Francis fell in love with the place.  He rebuilt it and asked the Benedictine Abbot if he and his brethren could use it as their place to pray.  Here the dozen friars became hundreds and then thousands.  Here St. Clare was consecrated to God as the first Poor Clare.  And it was here that the little Poor Man of Assisi died.  Today is the feast of the Portziuncula, the Mother Church of all Franciscans and the first day of the novena to St. Clare.  This year the Poor Clares are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Profession of St. Clare which took place at the hands of St. Francis in this place.  The Poor Clare family has spread over the whole world.  But today they remember their small beginnings and thank God for this little portion where the Mother of God gave them birth.

Bad Day for Moses

Monday, August 01
Numbers 11:4b-15 (Bad Day for Moses)

“Why do you treat your servant so badly?”  Moses asked the Lord.  Why are you so displeased with me that you burden me with all this people?...If this is the way you will deal with me, then please do me the favor of killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress.”  Moses was having a very bad day!  What can be worse than having to listen to peevish wining?  The people have miraculous bread to eat and they want garlic and cucumbers!  Who of us has not felt like Moses?  I can’t handle this!  It’s too much!  I’d rather die!  Why me?  Moses had the good sense to turn to prayer.  At a later time the psalmist would do the same:  Hear my voice O God as I complain!  And still later Jesus Himself would say, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass… but not my will but Yours be done!”  The saints also knew how to “cast their care on the Lord”.  When St. Clare faced a horde of Moslem soldiers overrunning her monastery, she prostrated herself before the Blessed Sacrament and prayed, “Behold, my Lord, do You wish to deliver into the hands of pagans Your defenseless servants whom You have nourished with Your own love?  Lord, I beg You, defend these Your servants whom I am not able to defend at this time.”  A bold prayer that merited a swift response, “I will always take care of you”.  The soldiers immediately were seized with fear and fled.  God has always taken care of the Poor Clares.  Not that He has spared them every suffering.  Other monasteries have been ravaged and there are martyrs among the saints of the Order.  Neither did the Father take the cup of pain away from His Divine Son until He had drained it.  But the prayer of complaint is always answered when it is made in faith, hope and love.  God either relieves the suffering or He supports the sufferer until he is raised to new life.  So let us too “cast our care upon the Lord” for He cares for us.


Sunday, July 31,2011
Subject: Retreat

Mother Abbess was looking forward to her annual private retreat, 2 days of relative solitude and freedom from her usual abbatial duties.  The retreat literally began with a bang in the very early hours of the first day when a clap of thunder nearly jolted her out of bed.  She sat up in stunned silence until a knock on the door brought her to full consciousness   “Mother, we have no water”.  Nocturnal investigations at the water pump in the pouring rain revealed that it had been hit by lightning.  The rest of the night was given to drawing water out of the pipes to bring it to strategic locations for the morning’s work, and the next day to arranging for the electrician to fix the pump and surveying the damage to the enclosure wall also struck by the electrical violence of the night.  Somewhere between hauling buckets and making telephone calls, Mother Abbess cast a glance toward the God of her heart and said, “Very funny, Lord!  So much do you care about the quiet of my retreat!”  Something similar happened to Jesus in today’s Gospel  He had just received news of his cousin’s death and He sought a deserted place to mourn and reflect.  Yet, when He disembarked from Peter’s boat, he found, not a deserted place but a crowded arena full of people eager to hear His word.  Both Jesus and Mother Abbess had their plans, but the Father had His own agenda for their retreats.  Yet both received that refreshment which only comes from obedience to God.  As Dante once wrote, “In His will is our peace.”  And this peace multiplies in miracles of love that feed the hungry multitudes from its abundance of new life.

Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Saturday, July 30, 2011
Matthew 14:1-12 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist)

As I prayed over today’s Gospel of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, I was reminded of a passage from St. Bernard’s commentary on the Song of Songs.  He writes of a man in love with God:  “Falling asleep in the midst of his prayer he dreams of God; what he sees is a dim reflection in a mirror, not a vision face to face.  However, although it be but a vague apprehension and not an actual vision, a fleeting glimpse of sparkling glory as it passes, utterly delicate in its impact, yet he burns with love and says:  “At night my soul longs for you and my spirit in me seeks for you.”  A love like this is full of zeal; it is a love becoming the Bridegroom’s friend, the love that must inspire the faithful and prudent servant whom the Lord appoints over his household.  It fills the soul’s capacity, grows heated and brims over, gushing with abandon into streamlets.  This is the love that cries out:  “Who is weak and I am not weak?  Who is scandalized and I am not inflamed?”  Let such a man preach, let him bear fruit, let him show new signs and do fresh wonders, for vanity can find no toehold in the man whom charity totally possesses.  A total love is the law in all its fullness, it can effectively fill the heart’s capacity.  Finally God himself is love, and nothing created can satisfy the man who is made to the image of God, except the God who is love, who alone is above all created natures.  The man who has not yet attained to this love is promoted to office at the gravest risk to himself, no matter how distinguished he be with other virtues.  Even if he knows everything, if he gives all his goods to the poor and lets his body be taken for burning, without charity he is worthless.”
Such a man full of zealous love was St. John the Baptist.  And such a man promoted to office without the least semblance of this love was Herod the Tetrarch.   It is a sad fact of our sinful human condition that often those who hold public or even ecclesiastical office are unqualified according to St. Bernard’s standards.  And so, those truly on fire with love are persecuted, imprisoned, and put to death because they prove too hot to handle for the powers that be.  Let us pray that our modern day prophets may not lose courage and our Herods be converted to the greater power of divine love.

Feast of St. Martha

 Friday, July 29, 2011
Luke 10:38-42 (St. Martha)

Busy St. Martha is often portrayed in contrast to her contemplative sister Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His word.  But Martha also had a very deep and vibrant relationship with Jesus.  The brief dialogues between them recorded in the Gospels show that she spoke with Him like Moses, as one friend speaks to another.  She did not dress up her prayer, but spoke from the honesty of her true self.  And Jesus responded to her with unfailing divine good humor.  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the serving?  Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things…”  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died…”  “Your brother will rise.” “I know he will rise at the resurrection on the last day.”  …“Take away the stone.”  “Lord,…surely there will be a stench!”  “Did I not tell you that if you believed…”  Martha was a fussy lady, but she was not afraid to let Jesus see her as she really was and to tell Him exactly how she felt.  Her honesty did not put Him off, but rather endeared her to Him. We cannot have a relationship with anyone, least of all Jesus, if what we show him is a false self.  We do not fool Jesus, nor do we have to.  He loves us as we are just as He loved Martha.  He will gradually lead us to a better self as He led her, but we have to drop the protecting pretences.  He is with us and for us.  He will never shame us or reject us.  Let us entrust ourselves to Him.


Thursday, July 28, 2011
Matthew 13:47-53 (Understanding)

After speaking his parables, Jesus asks His listeners if they have understood all that He has told them and they respond, “Yes”.  Surely Jesus must have smiled.  He knew that even after more than 2,000 years of pondering, the Church would not be able to exhaust the depths of His parables, yet his first century audience had understood them all!  But being the good teacher that He was, He did not discourage His students, but assured them that if they learned well, they would have treasures of wisdom in store, both old and new.  The time would soon come for their testing and the proving of their ignorance.  Then they would be ready to receive another Teacher, the Spirit of wisdom who would dwell within them, leading them into all truth.  Let us entrust ourselves to this Spirit who has already been given to us so that we may read the Scriptures with understanding and live our lives informed by His love

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Meeting Tent

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Exodus 33:7-11, 34:5b-9, 28 (The Meeting Tent)

We read in the book of Exodus that Moses used to pitch the tent of meeting outside the camp of the Israelites.  There, accompanied by his young aid Joshua, he would speak to the Lord face to face as one man speaks to his friend.  Afterwards, Moses would return to the camp, but Joshua would remain in the tent.  Why did Joshua linger in the meeting tent?  Was the experience of being close to God, of seeing the pillar of cloud and hearing the divine voice so overwhelming that for awhile he could not move?  Was he reluctant to return to ordinary life like St. Peter on Mt. Tabor who exclaimed, “Lord, it is good for us to be here!  Let us erect 3 tents…”  Or was he like another young Joshua (otherwise sometimes known by the Greek form of his name) who remained in the temple without his parents’ knowledge in order to be about his father’s business?  Moses was glad to return to the camp unassisted.  The man who had met God in the burning bush knew that Joshua, son of Nun, would someday be a leader of Israel and that the best training for such a vocation is contemplative prayer.  Before Joshua could lead he would have to learn to be led by the Lord.  May all who are called to ministry in the Church learn this lesson as well.

Feast of St. James

Monday, July 25, 2011
Matthew 20:20-28 (Feast of St. James) 
Among the Galilean women who stood on Mt. Calvary that first Good Friday was the mother of James and John.  As she watched the thorn crowned King of the Jews slowly die on his bloody throne, flanked by two condemned criminals, did she think back to the day she asked Jesus for the favor of having her sons sit on his right and on His left?  Truly were his words made clear to her “You do not know what you are asking”.  Nor were her sons able to drink the bitter cup that they had so confidently declared they could.  But let there come another time, post-Pentecost, when filled with the wine of God’s love that is the Holy Spirit, James would have the power to drain the chalice of martyrdom at the hands of Herod and John would drink the slow draught of long service in exile.  Now James and John are in the heavenly kingdom along with their mother and no one cares where they are sitting.  Each is with Jesus, facing the Father, in the Holy Spirit.  And that is all that matters.

The Hidden Treasure

Sunday, July 24, 2011
Matthew 13:44-52 (The Hidden Treasure)

I thought I was going to have a day off because I already have a poem for this Gospel passage, but the Lord gave me another thought to share.  So the poem I have in reserve!
We often feel that we are not understood, even by our closest friends and dearest family members.  This feeling can be the source of a great, abiding sorrow in our lives.  But we must realize that the inner treasure of our true self is hidden with Christ in God.  Jesus has bought us with the price of His own blood.  He wants us for Himself.  Yes, we do and should give ourselves to our loved ones, but that secret, innermost source of our life is reserved and revealed only to the Divine Lover.  Everyone needs to feel that he or she (especially she!) is treasured by a special someone.  The cloistered nun knows that she has been found and loved by Christ, then hidden in the enclosure to be His own.  But she is also the sacramental sign that each human being is also the treasured one of God.  When we permit Him to purchase us, it is at the same time a death to our selves and a nuptial embrace.  Here we find our life and bear fruit for the kingdom of heaven.

The Covenant

Saturday, July 23, 2011
Exodus 24:3-8 (The Covenant)

At the base of Mt. Sinai, Moses built an altar of stone and sacrificed holocausts of oxen as peace offerings to the Lord.  He poured out the oxen’s blood on the altar and sprinkled it upon the people of Israel to ratify the covenant they had made with God. “All that the Lord has spoken we will do and be obedient.”  How wonderful!  And yet we know how short lived was the people’s obedience and how long suffering the Lord would have to be with them.  Human beings have little power to keep their good resolutions, no matter how fervent and sincere.  And so God would provide another altar, this one made of wood, set on top of another height called Calvary.  There He would sacrifice, not oxen, but Himself, pouring out His own blood for the remission of our sins.  Let us take up the cup of salvation and drink the saving blood that sanctifies and unites us to Jesus.  For it is only through Him, with Him and in Him that we can give glory to the Father.


Friday, July 22, 2011
John 20:1,2, 11_18 (Rabbouni)

Below a poem inspired by today's Gospel.  Jesus calls us by name, but not only the name our parents gave us.  He calls us by that inner name which expresses our essence.  And He calls us, not for ourselves alone, but for those who will benefit from our Gospel living.


A ray of rising sun
Escaped the mists of morning
And sought the Risen One
His sight with light adorning.

It caught and touched His eye,
Caressed His ruddy cheek,
But I, He would deny
This consolation seek.

For though we stood apart
He penetrated through
The prison of my heart
To press my essence new,

Where He alone could go
And I with Him would see
What He alone could know
That I with Him would be.

My Master taught me this:
His naming me was grace,
His everlasting kiss,
My most profound embrace.

Assenting now to ascending Son,
Beholding still, to His own I run.

God Descending on Mt. Sinai in a Cloud

Thursday, July 21, 2011
Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20 (God descending on Mt. Sinai in a Cloud)

 I love the image of God descending upon Mt. Sinai in fire and cloud to the sound of thunder and trumpet blast.  Surely, for the people of Israel it must have been an overwhelming experience, a defining moment that would stay with them the rest of their lives.  It is tempting to cry out to God with the prophet Isaiah:  Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down with the mountains quaking before you!  Then everyone would repent and believe in you!  But what happened to the Israelites when they left Mt. Sinai?  They forgot the mighty deeds of their God as soon as adversity came upon them.  When Moses was too long talking with God, his people became impatient and fashioned the golden calf, a god they could handle and control.  Later still they would get bored with the miraculous manna and then still later, on the verge of the promised land they would lose their nerve and turn back.  But let us not be too hard on the people of Israel.  Would we have done any better?  God has done greater things for us then He did for them.  He has saved us, not just from slavery to Pharaoh, but from the worse slavery to sin and death.  Yet we too forget.  We daily fashion for ourselves our own golden calves, grumble our own complaints and turn back from our own battles.  St. Clare tells us that we should remember continually the mysteries of the Lord’s Passion.  If we do so, our hearts will be set on fire with love, that love which endures all things.  Let us go especially to the Eucharist where is the divinely instituted remembering and re-presenting of the Lord’s saving Sacrifice.  There we find the Bread come down from Heaven and Jesus, the sure Way to the Promised Land of the Father. 

Who is My Mother and My Brethren

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Matthew 12:46-50 (Who is My Mother and My Brethren)

Jesus says that whoever does the will of His heavenly Father is His brother, sister and mother. Because of our tendency toward materialism, we  are apt to think that physical realities are more real then spiritual ones, when in fact the very opposite is true. By virtue of our Baptism, we have access to an incredible intimacy with Christ that goes far beyond any natural human relationship. We are children of the same heavenly Father and so are truly brothers and sisters of Jesus. And like the Blessed Virgin, we too have been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, becoming living tabernacles. St. Clare says that just as Mary carried Jesus in her body, so the faithful person carries Him in her soul. As wonderful as all this is, there is still more. On Calvary, Jesus consummated our relationship with Him on the Cross, so that now we are not only sibling and mother to him, but also beloved spouse.

I Will Fight Your Battle

Monday, July 18, 2011
Exodus 14:5-18 (I Will Fight Your Battle)

During these last few weeks, the first reading at Holy Mass has been from the Book of Exodus, that dramatic account of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, from slavery to freedom. Today we find the children of Israel have just arrived at the shore of the Red Sea. But looking back, they see Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit of them. The newly freed slaves do what is all too easy for human nature: they cry out to the Lord and complain to Moses. For his part, Moses handles the situation well. He calmly told them to have confidence, the Lord will do their battle for them, so they can keep quiet. It is a good answer, but only the beginning. The Lord has more to say. I like to fill out the conversation between Him and Moses that is given in the Scriptures. “Go forward!” says the Lord. Where?” “Into the sea.” “But that’s crazy!” “Yes, and it’s going to get worse (but we won’t deal with that now). Just trust me. Take up your wooden staff by which you worked miracles in my name, stretch out your hand and do a greater wonder: split the sea in two! Yes, I will indeed fight your battle, but I will do it in a way you cannot imagine, and you must come with me into the unknown, into the impossible, into death itself.”
And so it is with us when we reach our own dead ends on our journey through life. We must trust God and go forward with Jesus, our new Moses, who has stretched out his hands on the wood of the Cross, who has already fought our battle for us and leads us through the sea of death into a new and glorious life.

Weeds and Wheat

Sunday, July 17, 2011 10:34 AM
Matthew 13:24- 43 (Weeds and Wheat)

At the sprouting stage, it can be hard to distinguish weeds from good garden plants. But when they grow up, the difference becomes obvious to the experienced gardener. Unlike weeds and good plants, however, human beings have a free choice about whether or not they are going to be beneficial to the Lord’s garden. And what makes things even more complex, that choice is not final until the last breath. So it ill behooves those of us who consider ourselves “wheat” to be judging those who seem to be “weeds”. Let us rather pray for them that they may repent and join us in giving glory to God. And let us not forget to pray for ourselves that we may be faithful to the end!

Jesus Withdrew

Saturday, July 16, 2011
Matthew 12:14-21 (Jesus Withdrew)

Faced with the murderous antagonism of the Pharisees, Jesus withdrew from them. But He did not withdraw out of fear for his safety or because He was hurt by rejection. Rather, it was for the sake of His enemies that He took His leave. He knew that in their present state of mind, His presence would only aggravate them. So too, does He sometimes act with us. When He sees that He is a bit “too much” for us, He will withdraw His sensible presence until we are able to receive Him again. The bruised reed He will not break, nor quench the smoldering wick. Every good parent and superior knows that there is a time to admonish and a time to refrain. However, only a loving, discerning and patient heart is able to know that perfect timing. Let us ask Jesus to give us His wisdom and to trust His action and even more His seeming inaction in our lives.

Feast of St. Bonaventure

Friday, July 15, 2011
Feast of St. Bonaventure

On this feast of St. Bonaventure, great Franciscan mystic, and doctor of the Church, I would like to share an excerpt from one of his many writings, “The Journey of the Mind to God”. This piece is especially interesting, for although Bonaventure was an eminent scholar, he gives the primacy not to the intellectual knowledge of God, but to the loving relationship with God in mystical union.

Speaking of contemplation, St. Bonaventure writes: “It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit. If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Meek and Humble Heart Give Rest to the Soul

Thursday, July 14, 2011
Matthew 11:28-30 (A Meek and Humble Heart Give Rest to the Soul)

Jesus asks us to learn of him, for he is meek and humble of heart. Obedient to this word, I have made a special study of meekness and humility and they have not been easy lessons to learn. I have a choleric personality, attracted to strength, achievement and excellence. Meekness and humility, as I once perceived them, did not seem to fit in with my attractions. St. Thomas Aquinas helped me to understand meekness as that which modifies anger. St. Teresa of Avila taught me that humility is truth. And of course, I meditated on these qualities in the life and death of Jesus. But it was not until I truly saw meekness and humility incarnated in living human beings that I felt their irresistible loveliness and desired them for myself. And I also experienced a welcome rest for my soul every time I willingly renounced the yoke of arrogance and pride. We learn meekness and humility, not from books and exhortations, but like a child learns how to walk: by watching the grown-ups do it and then just doing it ourselves.

The Burning Bush

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12 (The Burning Bush)

Not only to Moses on Mt. Horeb does God reveal Himself in a burning bush that is unconsumed. We saw Him in Mother Theresa who, although deprived of all sense of the presence of God for 50 years, was an icon of that presence to millions by her ardent charity toward the poorest of the poor. We looked upon God when we witnessed the flaming spirit of Bl. John Paul unquenched by the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. We have seen the divine action in the lives of members of our families and friends, who when faced with the most crushing of circumstances, somehow were not crushed. And we ourselves experience God each time after suffering the worst devastation of sorrow, that inexplicable flash of hope ignites our hearts anew. Wherever obedient love is revealed in the midst of pain, wherever the crucified Christ is once more manifested in one of his disciples, there is another burning bush and there is holy ground.

Suffering and Self Sacrifice

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reproaches the cities and towns that witnessed his preaching and miracles yet did not repent of their sins.  It sounds like He is frustrated!  We should not be surprised, for Jesus was a true man with true human feelings.  Those of us who are preachers or teachers, parents or superiors ought to take heart when our exhortations fall on deaf ears.  We are in good company.  Incarnate Wisdom himself failed to move the hearts of His listeners with His divine eloquence.  In fact, Jesus died a failure.  He was rejected, executed as a criminal with only a handful of followers (mostly women) who remained loyal to Him to the very end.  Indeed, it was not His preaching that saved the world but His suffering and death.  Only when the Son of Man was lifted up on the cross did He begin to draw all men to Himself.  And throughout the ages it is the suffering of the Church that gives power to her preaching.  “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”  And the self sacrifice of the Poor Clares is a hidden source of evangelization that permeates the whole Church like the fragrance of nard that was poured on the feet of Christ by Mary of Bethany. Both those who preach and those who hear the Word are enlivened by the contemplatives’ sharing in the Cross, which like perfume, is sensed rather than seen.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Love not anyone more than Jesus

Monday, July 11, 2011
Matthew 10:34-11:1 (Love not anyone more than Jesus)

Jesus says that if we love our parents or our children (or anyone else for that matter) more than Him, then we are not worthy of Him.  If Jesus were not divine, this statement would be the height of egoism.  But Jesus is God.  He must be at the center of our life and our heart.  If we love anyone more than Him, then our love is disordered at the very core.  It can never be a blessing to ourselves or even to the one we say we love, for it is ultimately self-centered and self-serving.  The bond formed by this kind of love is weak and easily broken by human weakness and failure.  By contrast, when Jesus is at the center of our love, then all our relationships are strong with His strength for it is He who becomes the bond which unifies.  One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that we love our family and friends better when we love them less than Jesus.  The Poor Clare gives radical expression to this truth by her vow of enclosure.  By this vow she separates herself from most physical contact with her loved ones.  But she discovers that her love for them grows richer and more profound, not in spite of, but because of her enclosure.  Being denied superficial contact, her infrequent encounters with her family and friends become occasions of a new and deeper level of relationship, free from the pursuit of self gratification which always prevents true intimacy.  It takes time for this to happen, but it is a blessing worth waiting for.  Today is the feast of St. Benedict who exhorted his followers “to prefer nothing to Christ”.  When we do so, we find ourselves enjoying the sometimes unexpected hundredfold.

The Sower

Sun, 10 Jul 2011
Matthew 13:1-11 (The Sower)

Whenever I hear the parable of the sower, my gardening instincts are aroused. Just let me get at that neglected field! Pull up the thorns! Sift out the rocks! Dig in the compost! Bring down the hoe! The preparation for planting a garden is a laborious task and the cultivation of the heart even more so. It is in the many decisions of every day that we either care for or neglect our interior garden. The Poor Clare’s form of monastic life is completely orientated toward nurturing in her the Word of God. She receives the abundant sowing of the seed again and again in the Liturgy of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day. In the warmth of Eucharistic adoration she is warmed by the radiation of divine love. Her vows of poverty and obedience deepen her soil for the growth of the Word, while chastity and enclosure create space for its flourishing. Prayer and penance water and fertilize the seed so that it bears rich fruit for the Church and for the world.