The Word of God

Daily Reflections

  • Open-Handed Holy Week

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 6, 2020

    “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” This particular and perhaps familiar Gospel passage has been quoted and misquoted, applied and misapplied by so many over the centuries, literally ever since it was first transcribed. This, among many other factors, is exactly why it is simply not enough to know what the Bible says, but what it means. You see, on a first glance, the phrase about always having the poor seems almost fatalistic, as if to suggest that there is really no use to address the issue of poverty because we will never rid our society from it, but that is so far from the meaning.

    Jesus was actually quoting another well-known Biblical passage from Deuteronomy which sets the context of the poor and our response in a very different context: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be … For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11) Thus, realistically and with the greatest of authentic interpretation, the Lord Jesus is enthusiastically begging us to be “open-handed” toward the poor among us. Holy Week begins for most of us with this deep and emotional call to be aware of those who suffer in our own circles, perhaps right in front of us and to respond quickly, deeply and readily.

    In this most awesome week, we must see our own roles to feed the hungry and lift up the poor among us. In the New Testament humble beginnings of the Church, there were no needy persons among them. Everyone shared and cared for each other. Poverty, even as we can describe it today, was eradicated in their midst. That was the natural outcome of taking Jesus’ teachings seriously and to heart. Just imagine that for a moment: a world where all are free to love and serve! This is not some nimble-headed utopia but the goal of being a follower of Christ right here, right now. The fulfillment of Lent, Holy Week and all that Jesus taught and lived and died for is now about to realized and celebrated. Spend today reflecting on those in your own homes and friendships who really need you. Pray for all those who are unhappy in this life and beg Jesus to live deeply within them and in you. He has the ultimate endorsement from Heaven: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my Spirit.”

    “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Saint Augustine

  • Who Are You Carrying?

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 5, 2020

    Among several cultures on our planet, there exists a delightful little story about a young donkey and his mother who was trying desperately to prepare her young son for the ravages and cruelty of the world which typically never treated these animals with much respect. Coming home, however, one day, the young animal was full of excitement and unbelievable joy. He had a small job earlier that morning and everyone was shouting with respect and joy and even throwing palm branches in front of him so that the walk on the hard surface would be less strenuous. “They love us, Mama!,” he shouted with almost unbelief. “They now respect us! We are free!” His kind mother looked with love upon her somewhat idealistic son and simply said, “We are free as long as we carry greatness upon our backs.” “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here.” (Opening Gospel Before Procession with Palms)

    Today we celebrate Palm Sunday while ushering in the great mystery of Holy Week when we commemorate Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with gleeful and exuberant shouts of “Hosanna.” It was, however. a short-lived moment of public popularity for Jesus. In just a few days the feckless crowds would become violent and hostile crying out for His execution. The donkey would be traded for a cross. By the end of the week on Good Friday, the burden-bearer would be Jesus Himself and a donkey would not be carrying Christ, Christ would be carrying the cross. He would not be astride the back of a donkey’s back, but rather a cruel, albeit, redemptive cross would be crushing upon His back! So let us begin and let us pray:

    All-powerful, eternal God, You have chosen to give us all a model of humility; our Savior took on our flesh, and subjected Himself to the Cross. Grant us the grace to preserve faithfully the lessons He has given us in his Passion and to have a share in His Resurrection. Amen.

  • What’s In Your Tree?

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 4, 2020

    “Every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” This is yet another profound and useful image to understand our role and purpose in this life. How often have we asked ourselves or heard others ask about why we are here and what exactly is our purpose. Sometimes our vision for ourselves falls short of what is actually going on in our lives. At times our perspective on the world around us becomes bitter and thus our actions and words become rude, unkind and thoughtless with numbing regularity. We mistakenly think there is no good fruit to be found but the real truth lies in the fact that we haven’t spent enough quality time with our beautiful and loving God. When we allow ourselves the time to realize how great is our God, we begin to see and bear good fruit. Then and only then does it be become much easier to choose gratitude over complaining.

    This now brings us to this very telling and provocative warning from the Lord: “An evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” At the heart of the battle for our souls is a real enemy who prowls around seeking someone to devour. Evil will never stop to gain new ground and move others away from the Lord. This is yet another reason why we must be aware of those who just “talk the talk.” “By their fruits you will know them.” We must also realize that we will be able to recognize the true person living in every human being by their fruits. That includes you and me especially in or day to day interaction with our fellow sojourners on this planet toward Heaven, always knowing and trusting that the Lord Jesus will make a great harvest even out of our most humble intentions as long as we remain faithful. Be great today! You may never know what kind of rich harvest you will be planting.

    “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” Robert Schuller

  • Out Of The Fire

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 1, 2020

    By now there are many of us who could agree with the marvelous assessment of those deep within the fire bravely and accurately uttered by the three young men hurled into the hottest of all possible flames in today’s First Reading: “If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us!” Our specific take on this observation would need to be tweaked just a little: If our beautiful and merciful Lord preserved us during these trying and unprecedented days of Lent then He can do even greater things! This much is certainly true and we have literally only a few more days until the fulfillment of the Easter promise of Resurrection will be ours in abundance. We just need to hold on to this truth in our lives and practice endurance without whining or dramatic overreacting.

    “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And this is the truth: God loves us so much that even wants us to be better with every passing day, especially the passing days of our Lenting this year. The Lord has been, is today and will always be at our side assisting us in our daily struggle to become more like Jesus in every way possible. This is the bright promise of Easter made during the somewhat dark, at least purple, days of Lent. If we accept this truth, the consequences are literally out of this world.

    “The difference between a good life and a bad life is how well you walk through the fire.” C. G. Jung

  • Name Changer

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 2, 2020

    “On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.” If there is such a thing as a science of belonging it would most certainly have to include behavior as an essential element of what it means to be part of something much larger than life itself. Today in the Scriptures, this belonging has to do with the Family of God in faith and acting in certain modes of belief that cause an entire group of people to stand apart from the rest. This is what is actually meant by “holy.” This is precisely where our modern-day understanding and practice of fasting and other Lenten practices have originated, especially the actual marking of ashes on the forehead. This clearly sets us apart as a group of people with the same or similar mindset and definitely the same goal, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”

    “No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations.” Such an acceptance of so universal an invitation makes a definite and indelible change within the individual and the whole people. such was the case with Abram who became Abraham. The same happened to Saul who became Paul and Simon who became Peter. All had their name changed because their entire destiny and future had undergone a magnificent and overwhelming overhaul. Lent is the same for us. Hopefully, by now, we can sense these deep-rooted changes in our hope and our direction toward Heaven. We are so close to our goal this year!

    “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” Soren Kierkegaard

  • Distress Call

    Reflection on Mass Reading for April 3, 2020

    “In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.” In some dictionary excerpts, distress is defined as extreme anxiety, sorrow or pain. Human life encounters distress all throughout the experience that we engage while on earth and the Lord knows that we must be ready and fully equipped to face whatever we must to grow and become a new creation in Christ. In fact, in a very poignant and real way, it is truly the only way we will become transformed into that new existence.

    “Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?’” There are however, not a small number of people who do not accept the call of grace to see things in life with the eyes of faith and then, in turn, blame God for every ill and problem under the sun. Because of spiritual blindness and a faithless approach to reality, they seem to actually attack God as Jesus was in the Gospel today. Our stance, especially throughout these days of Lenten Journey must be entirely different: “Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, For he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” Imagine singing to God when life is hard and burdensome. Yet, that is exactly the remedy!

    “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” Paulo Coelho

  • Look And Be Saved

    Reflection on Mass Reading for March 31, 2020

    “Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Our First Reading makes an inspiring case for the deep relationship between our sins, our pain, our incessant desire for healing, and the free offer of forgiveness of the sins that cause us so much pain and guilt. Moses dealt with the criticism and pessimistic reaction on the part of the Israelites for all that the Lord had done for them and in response, they were bitten by horribly attacking snakes which must have been quite a sight! Their unending complaints were answered by sheer harshness and fear. What is beautifully clear today is the Lord truly wants us to safe, happy and holy. Our own sins and failings often stand in the way and present an enormous stumbling block to achieving all the God has intended for us, including acknowledging and receiving His healing forgiveness to a greater healthier spiritual life. Moses was commanded to construct a bronze serpent so that anyone who would look up would be cured and saved. That must have taken an immense act of faith and well, well worth it.

    “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” It is, however, in the Gospel where the real truth to unlock the mystery of true inner freedom that is characteristic of a true believer and those who desperately want to get to Heaven. It is to take seriously the innocence, total trust and openness to look up at the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, lifted up on the cross so that all may be cured and saved. Jesus made this more than crystal clear in the Gospel: “Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.” When you are suffering or worried or anxious, look up at the cross to see your Jesus there wanting everything that is good for you. Accept this in faith and never look back. It would also help not to complain so much, either.

    “When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle