Saturday, March 31, 2012

April 1st 2012: Passion Sunday Gospel Reflection

Mark 14:1-Mark 15:47

Today’s Gospel retells the climax of all human history; all creation is made new and brought to new life through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The most valuable reflection is to re-read today’s Gospel, to really spend some quiet time putting yourself into the scene and asking what meaning this Palm Sunday has for your life. Below are some questions to guide that reflection…

Reflection/Discussion Questions
Judas betrays Jesus for 30 silver coins
-What are the ways that I ‘sell out’ Jesus by my actions or word to gain the ‘reward’ of pleasure, popularity, pride, convenience, etc.?

Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave thanks and said “This is my body…this is the blood of my covenant”
-Do I believe that Jesus is made present in the Eucharist at Mass for us? Do I ask God to help me believe? When I struggle to believe who could I ask questions to or ask advice from?

Jesus asked his Disciples to stay and keep watch with Jesus while he prayed, but they fell asleep. Jesus says, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?”
-What are the times that I spend in conversation with God? Do I regularly spend enough time with God in prayer? How could I better keep holy Sunday as God’s day?

Jesus was scared and did not want to die, but said in prayer “not as I will, but as you will”
-Am I open to listening to what God wants from me? Do I have the courage to follow through with this even when I am asked to do something that I don’t want to do or am afraid of?

Jesus allowed himself to be condemned for something he did not do by Pontius Pilot
-Am I willing to be accused of something that I didn’t do? Do I always have to have the last word or have other people think that I am right? Is other people’s opinion of me one of the most important things to me?

Although it may be hard to do, put yourself in the perspective of Peter. He was so eager and confident that he would not betray Jesus yet before the cock crowed he denied Jesus three times.
-What are the times that I deny my faith through what I do and say or what I fail to do and say?

What are the crosses I bear in my life? Am I willing to offer them up to God and to ask Him to help me carry them?

You've Got Holy Week...with Cardinal Dolan from NYC

Friday, March 30, 2012


Two interesting etymologies to keep in mind as we hear about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem in our first Gospel this weekend:  Hosanna, which means "Save us, we pray!" and comes from "yeshua," or "salvation," which is also the root of the name "Jesus" in Hebrew.  How cool is that?

From the Online Etymological Dictionary:

hosanna Look up hosanna at
O.E. osanna, from Heb. hosha'na, probably a shortening of hoshi'ah-nna "save, we pray" (cf. Psalms cxviii.25), from imper. of y-sh- (cf. yeshua"salvation, deliverance, welfare") + emphatic particle -na. Originally an appeal for deliverance; used in Christian Church as an ascription of praise, because when Jesus entered Jerusalem this was shouted by Galilean pilgrims in recognition of his messiahhood (Matt. xxi.9, 15, etc.).
Jesus Look up Jesus at
late 12c. (O.E. simply used hælend "savior"), from Gk. Iesous, which is an attempt to render into Greek the Aramaic proper name Jeshua (Heb.Yeshua) "Jah is salvation," a common Jewish personal name, the later form of Heb. Yehoshua (see Joshua). 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat…

Before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for his triumphal entry into the city, he sends two disciples on ahead of him.  He tells them they will find a tethered colt; they are to untie it and bring it to Jesus because the Master has need of it. 

Jesus’ disciples don’t understand how he can know this, but they do as he says; they trust in his word completely, and act accordingly.  Perhaps, in the back of their minds, they were hearing this passage from Genesis, chapter 49: 

The scepter shall never depart from Judah, nor the mace from between his feet, until tribute comes to him, and he receives the people’s obedience.  He tethers his donkey to the vine, his donkey’s foal to the choicest stem.  In wine he washes his garments, his robe in the blood of grapes. 

This donkey, which has never been ridden, has been set aside for a special purpose:  it is to carry the Messiah into Jerusalem amid the acclamations of all the people, who greet Jesus as a prophet.  The crowds spread their cloaks (and leafy branches) on the road, calling out Hosanna!, a word used to express praise or adoration.  In fact, the crowds do everything but declare Jesus the Messiah; they do, however, recognize him as extraordinary. 

Let’s not forget that these same individuals will later cry out: Crucify him!  Yet only Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection will clarify his true mission for the early members of the Church.  His entry into Jerusalem marks the beginning of the end of his long journey.

The donkey, for its part, will be returned to its owner, as Jesus had promised.

To see a montage of images, both ancient and modern, depicting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, view the video below:  

Monday, March 26, 2012

YES! Let it be done to me according to your word...

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

Check out this great reflection on the feast of the Annunciation! + a never before seen piece of art! 

March 25th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

John 12:20-33

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit

Many of us are not used to doing or liking things that require us to sacrifice or set aside our preferences and desires. We are regularly taught (and rewarded) to get what we want when we want it—immediate gratification. This leads to an attitude of self-preservation; we feel that we have to fight for our happiness or for good things which oftentimes puts us in competition with others.

In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds his disciples that we already hold true happiness and joy within us; we don’t have to go fighting for it or searching far and wide. This path to true joy and happiness is deep, eternal and hits at the core of who God made us to be. This path is not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, does not seek its own interests…but bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

The path to happiness and joy is loving as God loves us. This love looks different than how we are often told, it is rarely immediate but it is always gratifying and fruitful, this is agape love, (total self-gift). In Jesus we find the fulfillment of agape love,—the love of the cross. Love always requires sacrifice, to believe otherwise is to be constantly disappointed. This sacrifice cannot be forced but must be offered freely with no strings attached, as a gift. When love is offered as a gift our little dying-s to self are allowed to produce much fruit in us and in the other. This is the love that God has planted in our hearts to bear fruit for the world.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
-What are the ways that I am regularly able to sacrifice out of love for others?
-What are the ways that I find it difficult/painful to sacrifice out of love for others?
-Who are the people that I have difficulty loving?
-How are my Lenten commitments going to Fast, Pray, and Give?

This week…
-Spend time praying with the image of Jesus on the cross and ask God to help you love like Jesus.
-Sacrifice for someone else in a way that goes beyond what you would normally do.

The Myth of Fulfillment

The Myth of Fulfillment

We are addicted to filling up every single space we encounter.  
We are addicted to fulfillment, to the eradication of all emptiness.

The myth of fulfillment makes us miss the most beautiful aspect of our human souls: our emptiness, our incompleteness, our radical yearning for love.  We were never meant to be completely fulfilled; we were meant to taste it, to long for it, and to grow toward it.  In this way we participate in love becoming life, life becoming love.  To miss our emptiness is, finally, to miss our hope.

Source:  Gerald May, The Awakened Heart

Friday, March 23, 2012

Allegri's Miserere

Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei

In the 1630s, during the reign of Pope Urban VII, Italian composer Gregorio Allegri set to music Psalm 51, a text commonly referred to as the Miserere, for liturgical use in the Sistine Chapel during matins and as part of the Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week.  You can listen to it by clicking on the video link, above.  (This is the composition Fr. Pat mentioned at Scripture class Thursday night, in case those of you who were present are interested.)

The Latin text of the psalm, which we read at Mass on Sunday, March 25, is as follows:

Miserere mei, Deus:  secundum magnam misericordiam tuam. 
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.

Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.

Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.

Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.

Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.

Asperges me hysopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.

Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.

Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.

Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.

Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.

Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.

Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.

Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.

Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.

Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.

Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.

Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.

Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I will write my law upon their hearts...

One of the core prayers of the Jewish tradition is the Shema, based on the Book of Deuteronomy:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.  
Therefore, you shall love the LORD your God, 
with your whole heart, and with your whole being, 
and with your whole strength.  
Take to heart these words which I command you today.

In the Book of Jeremiah, God promises a new covenant with the people of Israel in the form of this very law that God will write upon their hearts:  I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer. 31:33).

Like the Jewish people, we are called to accept God’s “signature” (his seal) as the source of our identity, and that means we are to love God with our whole heart, with our whole being, with our whole strength.  It is up to us to say yes to this covenant, to a loving relationship with God, allowing God to work in our lives.  The perfect model of the beauty of this relationship is Jesus himself, whose prayers to God are heard because of his reverence.  As we move toward Holy Week, may we embrace these words written upon our heart, participating fully, accepting God’s will and allowing it to rule our own, to be the only identity we seek.
(Above:  Rare Babylonian bronze cylinder seal, used to sign clay tablets)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
     to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
     unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
     that it is made by passing through
     some stages of instability—
     and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
     your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
     let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
     as though you could be today what time
     (that is to say, grace and circumstances
     acting on your own good will)
     will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
     gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
     that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
     in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 18th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

John 3:14-21
In today’s Gospel we hear one of the most quoted Scripture verses: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. This Scripture quoted often for good reason, it is at the core of our faith as Christians. This is a Scripture verse that we should memorize.

Throughout the Old Testament (aka Old Covenant) God made promise after promise after promise to be faithful to His people saying I will be your God and you will be my people. The story in the Old Testament and for us is that we are not always faithful to God, sometimes we turn away. Yet, even when we turn away from God, from our promise/covenant with Him, He is still there waiting for us to return, waiting for us to accept His love.

What is so meaningful and radical about today’s Gospel is that, in the Person of Jesus, God lays out a New Covenant, a New Testament, a new way of being in relationship with God. In this New Covenant, God Himself comes to us and takes our place by dying for us. Jesus takes away the sins of the world by dying with them and rising from them, conquering sin/death and offering us eternal life and relationship with God. He died at a particular time and place but the effects of his suffering, death and resurrection (we call this the Paschal Mystery) are eternal. Even though we sin in new and creative ways today, He has already died for them and taken them onto Himself if we allow Him. How do we allow Jesus to take away our sins? By remembering and celebrating the Paschal Mystery in our life; walking with him to the cross, making sacrifices if love in our life to lay down our own lives like Jesus for others. When we die with Jesus He promises us that we will rise with Him into eternal life.

This is not easy. As the Gospel goes on to say, the light came into the world but people preferred darkness to light. We are called to be a people of the light and need to concretely and measurably practice turning away from the dark places in our life this Lent and embracing the light!

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
-What are you doing to grow closer to God this Lent? (FAST. PRAY. GIVE)
-How does what you are doing for Lent help you to grow closer in your personal relationship with Jesus?
-How does what you are doing for Lent help you to embrace the light in your life or to let go of and turn from the darkness?

This week…
-Today ask someone else what they have decided to do this Lent and share what you have committed to do.
-Come up with a concrete way to remind yourself of your Lenten commitment (i.e. set an alarm to remind you, make it a point of dinner conversation, ask someone to check in with you about it, etc.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia...

Cyrus II (580-529 BC), known as Cyrus the Great “was the first Achaemenid Emperor. He founded Persia by uniting the two original Iranian tribes:  the Medes and the Persians. Although he was known to be a great conqueror who at one point controlled one of the greatest Empires ever seen, he is best remembered for his unprecedented tolerance and magnanimous attitude towards those he defeated.

“Upon his victory over the Medes, he founded a government for his new kingdom, incorporating both Median and Persian nobles as civilian officials. The conquest of Asia Minor completed, he led his armies to the eastern frontiers [,… extending to] the Jaxartes, where he built fortified towns with the object of defending the farthest frontier of his kingdom against nomadic tribes of Central Asia.

“The victories to the east led him again to the west and sounded the hour for attack on Babylon and Egypt. When he conquered Babylon, he did so to cheers from the Jewish community, who welcomed him as a liberator – he allowed the Jews to return to the Promised Land. He showed great forbearance and respect towards the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of other races. These qualities earned him the respect and homage of all the people over whom he ruled.

“The victory over Babylonia expressed all the facets of the policy of conciliation that Cyrus had followed until then. He presented himself not as a conqueror, but a liberator and the legitimate successor to the crown. He also declared the first Charter of Human Rights known to mankind. He took the title of ‘King of Babylon and King of the Land.’ Cyrus had no thought of forcing conquered people into a single mold, and had the wisdom to leave unchanged the institution of each kingdom he attached to the Persian Crown. In 539 BCE he allowed more than 40,000 Jews to leave Babylon and return to Palestine. This step was in line with his policy to bring peace to mankind. A new wind was blowing from the east, carrying away the cries and humility of defeated and murdered victims, extinguishing the fires of sacked cities, and liberating nations from slavery.

“Cyrus was upright, a great leader of men, generous and benelovent. The Hellenes whom he conquered regarded him as ‘Lawgiver’ and the Jews as ‘the Anointed of the Lord.’”

(Source of the above-quoted material:

Below you will find a map of Cyrus’ empire, and of Darius' empire after him:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Confirmation Retreat 2012!

Check out the pictures from our parish Confirmation Retreat in Point Reyes March 9-11th! Keep all of the 19 Confirmation Candidates in your prayers as they prepare to receive the Gifts of the HS and complete their full initiation into the Catholic Church on May 13th!

Lent: Ooh We're Halfway there...oooOOO...Living on a Prayer

Congratulations! Today we are at the halfway point of the season of Lent. 

Today seems like a good time to check-in...
-How is your Lent going?
-What do you want to do differently for the next 20 days of Lent/Holy Week?
-Today I am going to recommit myself to Lent by...

Monday, March 12, 2012

When we talk about prayer...

"When we talk about prayer or contemplation we are really talking about those moments when God enters our life.  Drawn by the prompting of the Spirit we are distracted from ordinary occupations, and turn toward God.  Something happens then that we are not always aware of.  We may not be like Moses, who came down from his encounter with God on Mount Sinai with a face so radiant it could not be looked upon.  But each contact with God awakens and quickens some spark deep within us that nothing else can touch.  Opening ourselves to God is what makes us come alive.  We were created with an orientation toward God, and so actions that direct us toward God accord with the imperatives of our nature.” 

From Toward Godby Cistercian monk Michael Casey.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 11th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

John 2:13-25
When someone is faced with a tough/trying decision people often ask: ‘WWJD: What would Jesus do?’--be kind, loving, gentle, give the benefit of the doubt, etc. Yet in today’s Gospel we hear a very different and shocking story of Jesus overturning tables of merchandise, making a chord our of whips to drive people out of the Temple, and firmly commanding people to stop trying to turn the Temple, a place of prayer and the house of God, into a marketplace or mall. Why does Jesus do this? Is He getting angry? Is this a sin? No.

Sometimes doing what is right and just requires us to take a stand and turn away from or overthrow bad habits or structures. Jesus is restoring God’s house to a house of prayer by clearing out the junk that gets in the way between people and God; this is the story of Lent, to take a stand in our own lives.

Jesus took a stand by clearing out the people who had come to the Temple simply to make a profit by selling items for the Temple sacrifices. They forgot the whole point of the sacrifice and were just there to make money or to be seen. Sometimes we too have the wrong motives in our relationship with God or a faith community that get in the way of us actually drawing closer to God. During Lent we have the opportunity to more intentionally clear out bad habits, addictions, or things we cling to more than we should (technology, food, drink, etc.) and do something extra to help us intentionally draw closer to God and to those in need. These actions of fasting, praying and giving more remind us of who God made us to be and how we are meant to live.

After clearing out the Temple Jesus promises the people that if the Temple is destroyed He will rebuild it in three days, an impossible task for a huge building that they had been working on for over 40 years! Yet Jesus was not talking about the physical Temple, but of the Temple of His body. What the people did not understand yet is that worshiping God is not limited to making sacrifices in the physical structure of the Temple. Jesus Himself is the Temple of the Lord. Instead of going to the Temple to make sacrifices Jesus sacrifices Himself for us once and for all. We are called to walk with Jesus in our own lives and to allow Him to take our sin and brokenness from us so that He may overcome it in us with His grace. This requires us to take a stand for ourselves and to clear out the junk that gets in the way between us and God through our fasting, prayer, and giving to those in need.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
-What commitments have you made during Lent to Fast. Pray. And Give?
-How have you been doing in your commitments to clear a space for God in your life?
-What have you done well so far this Lent? What needs work or is still missing?
-What do you need in order to be successful in the coming week? How can family or friends support you?

Photo Credit

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lord, you have the words of everlasting life...

Human beings have a natural resistance against being told what not to do.

We think of the Ten Commandments – the Decalogue – as a set of restrictions around important moral issues (“thou shalt nots”), but in fact this text is a defining document of our faith, a set of instructions about life that specifies, first of all, the relationship we are to seek with God, and secondly, the relationship we can hope to have with one another.

When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all of your strength.  The second is this:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:30-31).

In fact, the Decalogue given to Moses is simply another way of stating this Greatest of all Commandments:  the first commandments of the Decalogue are directed toward the love of God, while the subsequent ones relate to love of neighbor.  The Decalogue encourages us to enter fully into the activity of faith and faithfulness as a way of being focused in the one relationship that should define every aspect of our lives.  And then we are called to live that relationship out in the ways we engage with our fellow human beings.

If we are open to relationship, open to obedience, open to life-giving justice for other, then we will quite naturally follow the Ten Commandments, inspired by grace constantly to turn toward the God who loves us, and to each other, to foster the Kingdom of God on earth.

Photo credit 2:  Gary Larson, The Far Side.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Five Best Pieces of Jesuit Wisdom I’ve Ever Heard

Check out the Top 5 below from Fr. James Martin S.J.
I’ve been a Jesuit for 23 years.  I’ll spare you the complete description of my training or “formation,” as we say.  (Short version: Boston to Jamaica to Chicago to Nairobi to New York to Boston to New York to California to New York.)  Instead I’d like to boil down the most helpful things that I’ve heard from my elders: those who have trained me, who have been my spiritual directors, who have been my superiors, and who have been my colleagues and friends.

All of these pieces of wisdom stopped me in my tracks and left me speechless; all of them changed the way I look at life, God and my fellow human beings.  And all of them, I hope, will be helpful to you, whether or not you’re a Jesuit.
1.) “Allow yourself to be human.”  In 1989, as a brand-new 28-year-old Jesuit novice in Boston, I was told that I would be sent to work for four months in the slums of Kingston, Jamaica.  Though work with the poor was part of our life, I was terrified.  Never having spent any time in the developing world, I was almost paralyzed with fear.  What if I got mugged?  What if I got sick?  (It didn’t help that one of the second-year novices kept telling me how dangerous it was: he was, by the way, exaggerating.)
The night before leaving for Kingston I was sitting in the living room staring at (I was too nervous to read) The Boston Globe.  An elderly Jesuit came in to say hi.  Joe McCormick, an experienced spiritual director, was one of the freest people I knew: warm, open, joyful.  “Ready for Jamaica?” he said.  Out came my worries.  Joe patiently listened to them all.
“What’s your biggest fear?” he said.  I told him that I was worried that I’d get so sick I would have to come home.  That would be embarrassing, I thought darkly.
Joe nodded and said, “Can you allow yourself to get sick, Jim?  You’re a human being with a body, after all, and sometimes bodies get sick.  The worst that could happen – coming home – isn’t the end of the world.  So why not just allow yourself to be human?”
A cloud lifted.  Yeah, why not just relax and be human?  Getting sick wouldn’t be the end of the world.  I went to Jamaica…and never once got sick.  But I got more human.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

3 Myths about the Church to Give Up for Lent!

Check out this thought provoking reflection by John Allen answering the questions:

-When you hear of 'the Church', who do you think of? Religious sisters who work in hospice care? Young adults in the Jesuit Volunteer Corp?

-Is the Catholic Church in decline? (you might be surprised by the answer!)

-Is religious persecution still going on for Christians or have we moved past that?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Born of the Virgin Mary...


On rethinking our traditional image of a docile and passive Mary, submissive and unquestioning: 

“This was a woman who risked everything to do what she knew her God required of her, whatever its cost socially, publicly, spiritually.  This was a woman who acted alone, outside the permission of the systems and the tradition around her.  This was a woman who inserted herself into a public situation and directed Jesus to do the same, despite the fact that he said he was not ready to do so.  She had a strong will, a strong faith, a strong sense of self, and deep spiritual stamina.”

Practice:  Mary’s strength lay in her willingness to risk opening herself to God.  Ponder the risks you might need to take in order to allow God into your life, to participate in “the outpouring of divine life.”  Then pray the Canticle of Mary found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1, making your own the words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness;
behold, from now all will all ages call me blessed.
The Might One has done great things for me,
and Holy is his Name;
His mercy is from age to age to those fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones,
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Quotations from Benedictine sister Joan Chittister’s book In Search of Belief, which explores the Apostles’ Creed phrase by phrase, demonstrating how the Creed is not a static set of rules or statements, but a living document that speaks to the deepest meaning of our existence and serves as a life guide, calling all of us to engage more deeply in relationship with God and with each other.  Sr. Chittister’s thoughts challenge us to live the Creed more fully as Christians; her writing is thought-provoking and inspirational.