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Mt 20:1-16a Taking a Chance

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Jesus told his disciples this parable:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual da…

Lk 8:4-15 Holy Randomness!

Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.  “A sower went out to sow his seed.  And as he sowed,…

Lk 36-50 On God’s Radar

Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By JENNIFER BURGIN

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 
The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
About ten years ago, on my way to work, I got stuck in traffic on a feeder road toward the interstate.  Two stop lights emerged one after the other. Not realizing, I ran through the first red light because my eyes focused on the second green light.  As I waited to cross the intersection, I heard a tap, tap, tap on my driver’s side window. Two bicycle cops stood next to my car while a third officer carried a radar gun. I rolled down the window.  “Is there a problem, officers?”  I asked calmly. One of the officers replied:  ”Ma’am, you just ran that stop light back there.  We need for you to pull over out of traffic.”  I was like, “What the….? Are you kidding me?”   I fumed in anger.  Here I could hardly move my vehicle in this traffic mess, and I get pulled over by bicycle patrol.  How ridiculous!  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I blasted my horn (repeatedly) while shouting out profanities (not very lady-like!) Two of the cops laughed at my spectacle while the other one remained serious.   “Ma’am, if you don’t calm down we’ll take you over to the jail.  It’s only on the other side of this street.”  Uh oh..Let’s just say I reversed the bad attitude, apologized, and accepted the ticket with a “Have a nice day.”  I was late to work carrying in my wallet a hefty $200 traffic citation. 
Shortly after the incident with the cops, I went to confession. I humbly asked for the Lord’s forgiveness.  My mother always warned me that if I ever ended up in jail she would never bail me out.  This run-in with the bicycle cops forever stamped mom’s warning into my stubborn brain.  
Police vs. God’s Radar We are all sinners, like it or not.  We make errors, blunders, and mistakes.  God’s radar detector is aimed at us 24/7.  It’s not the same as a police officer’s radar gun ready to pull us over and slap us with a fine for speeding.  God’s radar is like a heavenly telescope watching our every move, ready to assist us at any moment. He knows when we’ve done things wrong , giving us the opportunity to seek forgiveness.  We should realize His presence and pray, pray, pray.  When a situation occurs out of our control, we know that God is in control.  Bad circumstances do not last forever.

Pharisee vs. Sinful Woman  In today’s gospel reading, the Pharisee is critical of the sinful woman washing Jesus’ feet with her hair.  What a disgraceful act.  Does Our Lord not know what kind of woman she is?  Jesus knows precisely who she is!  In fact, Jesus appreciates her great humility.  The feet can be a smelly, and dirty part of the body, especially after walking around in the desert; yet, the sinful woman bathes them with her tears.  The odor doesn’t bother her.  She doesn’t mind the dirt.  All she wants is to show how much she loves Jesus.  A simple, loving touch from a sinner is all Our Lord needs to pour out his graces. 
Have you been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a while?  Maybe it’s time to make an appointment with a priest.  Remember that God’s radar is always keeping an eye on us – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Take the opportunity to seek out forgiveness.  It will strengthen and encourage you!
“Oh Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising you discern my purpose from afar.  You mark when I walk or lie down, all my ways lie open to you….”  - Psalm 139

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality

Lk 7:36-50 Are You An Effective Team?

Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time(Click here for readings)Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him…

1 Cor 12:31-13:13 Loving like a Christian

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
 
By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE


“When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”


 

This passage of Corinthians probably ranks among the most well-known in Bible; it is certainly the most famous words Paul ever wrote. Christians and non-Christian can recognize these words since nearly every wedding ceremony includes them. As they hear it read, the groom and bride can look at one another, meditate over the meaning of love and apply it to their own relationship: their love is patient, kind, humble, trusting, hopeful, strong. Although context of the passage frames love in a theological sense, not necessarily a nuptial sense, the newly weds will insist on treating Paul’s love as a worthy description of the love they have for each other. While this may aptly serve the occasion of a wedding, understanding Paul’s words as some schmaltzy ode to love ultimately cheapens its meaning.


 

First, one must consider Paul’s audience. He writes this chapter on love in his letter to the Corinthians, a group of believers having problems working together because of their passions and jealousies. Far from exalting passions or the married life, Paul actually hopes to quell the passions and caution against married life (see 1 Corinthians Ch. 7). He reprimands the Corinthians for having cliques and division among themselves and for mishandling the Eucharist. Thus, when he speaks about love, he means love in the Church, between members, and love for God, which should unite all members. Marriage applies to this passage insofar as the couple intends to serve the Church together, raise their children in the faith, and have their relationship reflect Christ and His Church.


 

In order to make his logic of love apparent, Paul couples his discussion of love with his discussion of maturity. His mention of putting “aside childish things” sounds nice on its own, but it does not make as much sense when coupled with his discussion of love. Paul wants to make the point that children grow out of their ignorance, their silliness, and their overall helplessness; in other words, the “partial” life of a child passes away and the completeness of an adult sets in. In the same fashion, a person may know God partially as a child partially knows the world, yet he will eventually mature into a complete knowledge of God. Paul himself admits to knowing God only somewhat:  “At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”


 

This still does not resolve the question of why Paul juxtaposes these two ideas, love and knowing God, until we realize that love helps us to know God because God is love. Love serves as the foundation of the other two theological virtues, faith and hope, because love “believes all things” (faith) and “hopes all things” (hope). This love finally enables one “to endure all things” like sin, hardship, and even death so that one can finally experience God “face to face.” At the point that we experience God in heaven, hope and faith become unnecessary: we see the God we trusted and believed in, and we finally join with the God we always hoped for.


 

Until we love as Paul explains so eloquently, we remain children, ignorant and self-indulgent.  Love helps people mature out of their childish notions of God to a much richer and more resilient understanding of God. Jesus compares his generation to “children who sit in the marketplace” who complain that the world does not meet their expectations and, what is worse, does not even pay attention to them. They do not love the messiah or his prophet, but choose rather to contradict them out of pride. As a result, they never learn to love, but only to desire—which they mistakenly regard as “love.” Needless to say, this selfish love, that prevailed in the Roman empire as it does today, does not endure but fades into irrationality. Like a child, the man who loves falsely cannot recognize himself, let alone God and His Son.


 

Therefore, let us love as Paul tells us to love. It will not only make us strong and happy, but it will make us wise. In love, we may come to know ourselves,  our neighbors, and the Holy Trinity. With such knowledge, our lives will finally be complete and Heaven will have arrived.


 

LK 7:11-17 An Opportunity for Surprise


Memorial of Sts. Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs


By KIM ELENEZ
 The other day a saw a story online where a woman in a Starbucks drive-thru line paid for the person behind her. Then the next person did the same. Then the next. Then the next. Apparently this went on for 10 hours. Did those people know it had been going on that long? Did they realize they were part of something so big? As the hours went on I’m sure some did, but many probably did not.
Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
In today’s gospel Jesus continues to do His thing. The crowd that accompanied him likely varied from true believers to skeptics waiting to see something happen. Well, they hit the jackpot.
As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
Also in today’s gospel, a funeral is happening. The crowdthere likely varied from close friends to sympathetic acquaintances. They were not waiting for anything to happen. In fact they were very much stuck in the expectation that nothing would happen. What was done was done, this son was gone and that was that. They were having a very bad, but predictable day.
“Do not weep.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Two crowds came together. Strangers with very different expectations, ideas and plans for that day. But the Lord connected them forever through his act of surprise andgrace.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming,
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst,”
and “God has visited his people.”
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.
Once this miracle took place, the gospel tells us that the story spread far. I can imagine the commentary – “The most fascinating thing happened in Nain. Did you hear about it?” And then unlikely but delightful things would continue to happen. Believers were formed. Perhaps people would encounter other people who had already heard about it, and they would look at each other in amazement. A bond would form because they had heard, and they would share different aspects of what they heard, compare notes, etc.
This is a human truth. We walk into many days thinking we know what is about to happen, then inevitably – bam! Something happens that we didn’t see coming. Some days the bam is bigger than others; some days it’s exciting and some disappointing.  We bond with unlikely people over these occurrences. It’s unites us in knowing.
Do you think the woman who started that “pay for the guy behind you” coffee chain had any idea what she was starting? Doubtful. Though not even close on the scale of Christ’s miracles, this simple act of surprise and grace had an effect on both the people in line and all who hear the story. We delight in these stories because they remind us of the good of the world and the joy of being connected to each otherA glimmer of Christ’s surprise such as this will unite us and then change us. Inch by inch.
Whether you buy someone’s coffee or something much more significant, what will you do today to seize the opportunity to surprise? Don’t make just random acts of kindness, but rather create frequent acts of grace. Christ performed these glorious miracles for so many reasons;seek ways to share a piece of His grace where ever you can.
This meditation was written by Kim Elenez, wife, mother and media executive in Raleigh, NC. Kim converted to Catholicism in 2012.

Lk 7:11-17 Do Not Weep

Memorial of Sts. Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs(Click here for readings)Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was bei…

Jn 19:25-27 Sorrow

Our Lady of Sorrows

By KATIE GROSS

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Mothers are incredible. For a mother, nothing is more important in the entire world than her child. She wants to keep her child with her forever.
This past week, I went to a college fair affiliated with my high school. Looking at colleges is such an overwhelming process for me, especially because I still feel like I am twelve years old. I looked at a few colleges, but I just wasn’t feeling the crowds, the hundreds of booths, and especially thought of taking the SAT again (yikes). So, I called my mom and told her I wanted to leave. My mother is a very academic woman, so I thought she would be disappointed in me for not spending the entire time fawning over Vanderbilt and the Ivy Leagues. After all, she graduated top of her class in nursing school, and is still going back to school for more degrees in medicine. But instead, she just gave me a big hug and told me I could stay with her forever. Oh, mom. Clearly, I am not going to stay with my mother forever. But I am sure she would love that.
Or, has it ever occurred to you that your mother understands you better than you understand yourself? Sometimes, when I am in a bad mood and don’t really know why, my mom knows the reason better than I do. There is no better reader of facial expressions or tone of voice than a mother. More succinctly put, mothers understand.
I am positive that this is how Mary understood her Son. On a saccharine, cutesy level, she probably knew what Jesus’ favorite meal was. She dressed him, fed him, bathed him when he was a child. She probably knew all those seemingly inconsequential quirks about how Jesus liked things. For example, my mom has stored away in her brain (behind all the medical knowledge) that my favorite dinner plate isthe plastic one with the blue flower pattern on it. She knows which three exact brands of laundry detergent that I am allergic to. Mary knew all of those things about her Son.
If we want to understand Jesus, there is nobody better to ask than Mary. You can bet the farm that she didn’t only know the small things about him; she knew His personality, His way of going about the day, and most of all, how He loved the people around Him.
All that is cute and wonderful, but what we sometimes neglect about Mary is how much she suffered alongside her Son. How could she not? How could a mother bear to see someone that she knew inside and out being seized by cruel, unknowing savages and nailed to a cross? She had to see her Son, once so full of life, staggering and falling under the weight of sin. The head she had kissed and put to bed at night was now scratched beyond recognition, mocked with a crown of thorns.   How could a mother bear it?
This is another reason why we should love Mary so much: she could bear it because she knew that her Son was redeeming us. I heard a homily last night for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross that made me think about this. The priest retold the plot of a movie he had seen. There was a father who brought his son to his work at a bridge crossing. The father’s job was to raise and lower the bridge so that trains could pass over the river. The father had to leave and attend to something, and left his son standing on the track because no train was scheduled for another two hours. However, while the father was gone, a train came early. He had to decide: should he lower the bridge and let his son be crushed by the train, or let the passengers on the train all plunge into the river? He ultimately decided in great agony to let the bridge down, killing his son.
The most obvious parallel that comes to mind with this story is the sacrifice of the Father in giving Jesus, his Son. But didn’t Mary do the same? Didn’t she give her beloved Son as well? She bore a lifetime of agony for our salvation. And she bore it willingly, without question or protest. How great must her love for us be!
Make her sorrow worth it. Be ever cognizant of the price that your mother paid for you. In the movie that I mentioned, only one woman saw the sacrifice that the father made. The rest of the passengers did not even notice. That one woman was a drug addict, and she realized the price that the father paid for her life. She then got clean and worked for her community for the rest of her life. Make that price worth it!
I’m no liturgical expert but in the Mass readings, there was this thing called a ‘sequence’ that was incredibly beautiful. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but this is an excerpt:
O sweet Mother! font of love,

Touch my spirit from above,

Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;

Make my soul to glow and melt

With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,

In my heart each wound renew

Of my Savior crucified.


Jn 3:13-17 Pray to be Brave

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross(Click here for readings)Jesus said to Nicodemus:  “No one has gone to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man.  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the So…

Lk 6:43-49 Sacrifice

Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

By KIM ELENEZ

Ever wanted to do something but you couldn’t because of commitment or someone didn’t want you to? Of course you have! The more apt question is how many times did that happen this week! We sacrifice our time, talents and treasure all the time. But what do we sacrifice it for?
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,
listens to my words, and acts on them.
Last weekend a girlfriend in Atlanta invited me to go with her to an event where one of the speakers was Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times Best Seller Eat Pray LoveI could write 1,000 meditations on the experience, but I’ll stop much short of that and say – I enjoyed her talk, I did not agree with her thinking, andI’m glad I went. Based on a lot of what she said, Father Alfonse’s eloquent meditation on Monday “Are you spiritual or religious?” was very well timed!
That one is like a man building a house,
who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock;
In today’s gospel, Luke accounts a simple analogy from Jesus – build your house (faith) on solid ground (Christ). Now, I’ve never built a house before but I would bet it’s whole lot more productive if you have at least one other person. Can you do it by yourself? Sure. It would be hard and take an incredibly long time, but I suppose it can and has been done. But if you can help it, why would you build it alone?
When Elizabeth Gilbert spoke last weekend, she shared details of her quest to find her purpose. If you haven’t read the book – here’s a quick summary: she leaves her husband and travels to Rome, India and Bali. She eats (pasta). She prays (sorta). She falls in love (of course). The premise in her talk was that she owed it to her herself to leave her life behind to find the life she was meant to live. I guess Elizabeth Gilbert thinks building a house by yourself is better.I’m in no place to judge Elizabeth Gilbert. Travel and exploration are a gift that I love. I pray that she discovers Christ in all corners of the earth and understands that all that is exotic comes from his creation. We can find our purpose by consistently listening to him in any and all geographies, including the one you are already in.
When the flood came, the river burst against that house
but could not shake it because it had been well built.
I am a convert to Catholicism, and you know converts can be a little different from Catholics born into the faith. Some of us tend to be a little more, I’ll say, chatty about it.  For me, I think it’s because I am trying to catch up. I had over 30 years of not knowing, and now I know! I want everyone to know! The more Iexplore our faith, the more I can feel the foundation strengthening under my feet. It’s addictive. I want to share it.
Together in this glorious religious community, we can build foundations and houses together. Sacrifice for each other – not out of burden, but out of hope and joy. We don’t need to leave this community; it goes wherever we do. The better we do, the more people will take note of it, too. The more people who take note, the more people will join us.
Let’s start here: I will pray for you. I hope you pray for me. I will support you by doing my best to model Christ’s love, and I hope you will do that for me. Because, my dear friend, we are in this together.
This meditation was written by Kim Elenez, wife, mother and media executive in Raleigh, NC. Kim converted to Catholicism in 2012.

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