Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Beatitudes

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 

 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! Colossians 3: 1-11
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God. 

‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
   for you will be filled.

‘Blessed are you who weep now,
   for you will laugh. 

 ‘Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 

‘But woe to you who are rich,
   for you have received your consolation. 

‘Woe to you who are full now,
   for you will be hungry.

‘Woe to you who are laughing now,
   for you will mourn and weep.

 ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. Luke 6: 20-26

It is interesting to consider the passage from the Letter to the Colossians side-by-side with the Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. In this world, we are not hapless victims.

We stand before society as people who have been called by Christ to manifest the first fruits of the re-creation. The Beatitudes are about choices.

Saint Paul reminded his readers that everyone has the opportunity for salvation by choosing to cooperate with the grace of Christ. The risen Lord has encountered us, the sinners we are, and has invited us to allow Him to make us whole.

We must be willing to make ourselves empty so as to be filled up with the abundant blessings of the Spirit. Our ethnic background, our personality makeup, our compulsions and addictions are no excuse.

Everyone is offered the grace to follow Christ. Each one of us can choose charity over greed, can choose a spiritual path over a material path, choose love over anger, and can choose truth over deceit.

In order to enjoy eternal life, we must walk on the path of the Commandments with our hearts expanded with the in-expressible delight of love.

Knowing that we are the objects of God’s loving care, we can find peace of mind and soul when confronted with poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution.

Saint Paul puts it quite beautifully in his second letter to the Corinthians: “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

The children of the Kingdom are blessed because their hearts are set free to run on the path of God’s commandments. They delight in the Lord because they are rooted in Him.

We behold a reflection of Christ in the faces of those who depend on God and have placed their trust in Provident Care for them.

The obedience of faith and total dependence on the love of Christ are at the root of our transformation. We know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul tells us: “Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty he might make you rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, enlarges our hearts to receive His abundant blessings. May we choose to live in loving devotion and total surrender to His will until that day when we shall see the Lord face-to-face.

Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Our Lady of Sorrows

The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows celebrates the Woman who stood beneath the Cross. We acknowledge her as the Mother of Life who won the martyr’s crown as she stood beneath the Cross of her Son.

Saint John presents the scene of Christ providing for His mother. In this action, we see how God sometimes removes one comfort from us, only to provide another.

Watching her Son die a most hideous death, she finds herself the mother of many sons and daughters who have been adopted by means of that death.

Through His sacred passion, Christ made an end of sin and death. Hanging on the Tree of Life, Jesus makes Mary the Mother of the New Creation.

In the person of John, all Christ’s beloved disciples are to show Mary filial affection, honor and respect. As she embraced the beloved disciple, Mary initiated her new mission as universal Mother, establishing a special relationship between her and all the members of the Body of Christ.

As she stood near her Son during His hours of agony and pain, so too, does she stand by all the members of the body of Christ when they are in need.

As universal Mother, Mary stands before us as the first fruits of Christ’s promise not to leave us orphans. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, Mary could serve as the glue holding together the family of Faith.

Nurtured by this Woman of Faith we will develop a sincere love for her Son. Under her watchful eye, love will become the guiding principle of our lives.

Whenever we stray from the path, she will draw us closer to herself at the foot of the Cross.

May each one of us, precisely through the concrete reality of Mary's universal motherhood, fully acknowledge her as our own Mother, and trustingly commend ourselves to her maternal love.

Saint John Paul II

Let me stand and mourn with you, O Mother. Permit me to mingle my tears with yours. Allow me to share your grief. Let me learn to feel as you do. Help me understand the depth of His love for me, a sinner. Foster in me the urgency to reach out to those in anguish. Remove the complacency in me so that I become sensitive to the needs of others. Let me hear these words everyday: “Woman, behold your son.” For he died for me. And you stood by Him. Even as your tears fell. 

--Father Jerome Machar OSCO

God's Doesn't Always Meet Our Expectations

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 

 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, ‘My lord Moses, stop them!’ But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’(Numbers 11:25-29)


John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.(Mark 9:38-48)


One of the lessons I took from these readings is that God refuses to be restricted by our presuppositions or plans. God's grace and God's gifts don't always come to us in ways that we expect. Often we miss these moments of encounter because they do not fit our expectations.

As a result we miss the grace offered us because it didn’t follow our established norms. We run the risk of missing our time of visitation.

While God is a God of order, He is also a God of surprises.

Who would have thought that the Holy One of Israel, who forbade the making of images, would become a human being, born of a virgin?

Who would have thought that the God who has no beginning or end would die on a cross?

Who would have thought that the God who fed His people during their trek through the wilderness would become their Food for the Journey?

Who would have thought that the God who led His people out of slavery would make them heirs of the Heavenly Kingdom?

Who would have thought that to believe is to be open to God’s surprises?

The liturgy provides us with signposts along the path that leads us to the definitive encounter with the Risen Lord.
This passage from the Book of Numbers gives us a brief encounter with the God of surprises. God knows what He is doing, even though we may have a better plan.

We hear how Eldad and Medad failed to show up for the gathering of the elders because they felt themselves to be weak and unworthy. But the Good Shepherd sought out the lost sheep and poured out His Spirit upon them. Immediately they began to exercise the gifts of praying, preaching and praising God as the Spirit moved them.

Because God is a God of surprises, He is not bound by our liturgical forms. Like the wind, He blows where He wills. He surprises the humble by exalting them.

Believing in a God of surprises, are we willing to receive the Lord in all His distressing disguises? We may be surprised if we open the ears of our hearts to hear the voice of mercy calling us to repentance and faith. If we are willing to humble ourselves before the Lord, we will find ourselves being raised up from glory to glory.

A good starting place for each of us the Sacred Word.

By means of the Scriptures God engages us in a heart-to-heart conversation. The Word of the Lord, when received in faith, is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey to the soul.

If we wish to satisfy the longings of our souls, we must drink deeply from the springs of salvation. The things of this world can help sustain human life but cannot satisfy our deeper hunger.

We are called by God to feast at the Banquet of the Lamb and to eat of the Bread that comes down from heaven.

God surprises us again. He emptied Himself of all majesty and made us rich through his poverty. By himself becoming a curse, Christ has given us a blessing.

By dying on the Cross, Christ has given each of us eternal life.

The Gospel passage is a powerful reminder that God is a God of surprises. He is free to do mighty deeds through the instrumentality of whomever He chooses.

Confronted by these surprises, we are challenged to identify the motives of our hearts. Only then can we overcome the prejudice that keeps us from the bond of love and unitythat the Father offers us in Christ.

Many of us are like the disciples in this Gospel passage. We are ready to silence others who have success in bringing sinners to the Lord because they do not belong to our communion of faith.

Christ’s admonition is most needed today. Anyone who works miracles in His name cannot at the same time be against His mission.

If sinners are brought to repent of the sins and to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we can assume that the Spirit of God is working through the messenger. The surprise: God is working to bring about the new creation, using some very strange people in the process.

We need to resist the temptation to limit the grace of Christ. Christ would not have us hinder the movements of the Spirit. Rather, He would have us rejoice that the Seed of the Word is being planted.

Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of the universe. He is not the special possession of any particular Church or faith communion. He refuses to be put into a tidy little religious box.

The love of God and the mercy of His heart are neither limited nor constricted. There is plenty mercy and abundant compassion for everyone.

The surprise of all surprises: the unseen God took to Himself a visible face.

The all-holy God chose to be a companion of sinners.

The just God chose to manifest His power by performing works of mercy.

The Creator of the universe chose to recreate a flawed world.

He Who once walked in the Garden chose to walk the paths of Galilee making the lame, the deaf and the blind whole.

As heirs of the Kingdom, we act and pray in the name of Jesus, trusting that He will intercede for us before the Father of all Who desires to forgive, to heal and strengthen us and to bring us peace.

May the Lord grant us the grace to align our wills with His.

May He fill our hearts that we can learn to live simply thereby allowing others to simply live.

May we strive to conform our lives to Christ, so that we may become the instruments whereby the whole family of humankind will be made whole.

Let us come to know and to seek the path to Christ that passes through every human heart - even the most sinful, those who are most insecure and hardened.

And when the Lord returns in glory, may He bring us all together into everlasting life. Amen.

Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Healing of the Deaf Man

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus heals a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. This is a story about Jesus’s healing power, and in it we find clues about our understanding of sacrament. We are struck by the physical means used to heal the man, the use of spittle and touch. The Church continues to celebrate the sacraments using physical means. In the Sacrament of Baptism, water and oil are used to show the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are anointed with holy oil on the forehead and the hands. In the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. We are a sacramental people who believe that God’s grace is given to us through these physical signs. 
Some, however, see in this Gospel an image of the proclamation of the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles. The geographic references tell us that Jesus is journeying through Gentile territory. Jesus had previously visited this region and healed a person possessed by a demon. Jesus was already famous there, which explains why people brought the deaf man to him.The story that precedes this reading in Mark’a Gospel sets the stage. Jesus encounters a Gentile, a Syrophoenician woman who asks him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus engages her in a dialogue about not feeding to dogs the food intended for children. Jesus is struck by the woman’s great faith when she replies that even dogs eat the food that falls from the table, and he heals her daughter immediately. The faith of this Greek woman compels Jesus to respond to her plea.

Mark shows that Jesus’s own mission affirms the early Church’s mission to the Gentiles. This was a significant issue to the early Christian community, which found that the good news of Jesus took root and spread quickly among the Gentiles. Yet there is an irony in the story of healing that Mark tells. Jesus gives the man the gift of speech, but then tells him not to use it. Jesus asks that the news of his healing power, which is evidence of his identity as the Messiah, not be spread. This is a recurring motif in Mark’s Gospel and is sometimes called the “messianic secret.” 

All of us baptized Catholics are called to bring God’s healing to others in different ways. Of course the priest anoints the sick which continues Christ’s healing ministry. We may all pray for those who are ill, help care for them, clean their homes, bring them cooked meals when needed. For too long we as a people have left too much to “others”to do for the sick in body, soul or mind. Let us ask the Lord for forgiveness for not personally reaching out to those in need. Let us then ask the Lord to show us what He wants us to do to for others in love. Every act of love, be it a service to others, a kind word, a gentle touch, a home cooked meal, time given to just be with the other...these things bring healing and we are called to be a healing balm to the world.

--Deacon Joseph Pasquella