Catholic Financial Life Blog

Song for the Journey

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 16, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 15: Easter Sunday: The Resurrection of the Lord

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Alleluia!  Today and throughout the Easter season to come, that’s our song. In Gregorian chant, gospel style, and glorious polyphony, alleluia washes through our churches, chasing away the struggles of Lent, the pain of the Passion, the silence of Holy Saturday.  Flame replaces darkness, and flowers replace bare sanctuaries.

The hard season is done, the season of celebration has begun. I can’t help hearing a friend’s annual Easter refrain ringing in my ears: “Alleluia, Lent is over!”  She sings it privately, of course.

It isn’t true.  Amid the Easter alleluias, Lent goes underground, but its work goes on for both those who came to it already baptized and those newly emerged from the baptismal waters. Lent goes on because we have a long journey of conversion yet to make as Sundays again tempt us out to the shopping mall instead of to church, or annoying neighbors still annoy, or bad habits temporarily squelched reemerge when we’re not looking.  Christ now enthroned in glory urges us forward, but he does not allow us to skip over real life to get to the happy ending we look forward to.  Life is still our workshop, discernment and discipline our tools, love our practice and our goal. 

But alleluia lightens the way.  There is reason for joy right here, right now, it seems to say.  Catch glimpses of it over there in that child’s laughter, or here in the glory of that sunrise,  or this evening when a loved one calls, or anytime light wins against the shadow, as it has and always will (John 1:5).  How can that be when the evening news or the morning paper or the gossip at the grocery store so often bears tales of darkness seeming to envelop the world?  Christ—crucified, buried, and risen—answers, “I am with you always!” (Matt 28:20).

Even here, in the midst of tribulations and temptations, let us sing alleluia, says St. Augustine. Sing not to escape the work of conversion but to lighten the load.  But sing as travelers do, he says, because we have a ways yet to go.  Sing alleluia, but keep going!

Meditation:

What gifts and challenges will you carry forward from here?

Prayer:

Christ our life, be our alleluia and our goal as we travel forward. Grant us the joy of your risen presence and the strength of your love to sustain us on the journey.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

Emptiness Filled

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 15, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 15: Holy Saturday and Easter Vigil

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“[T]here is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness,” said an ancient preacher on Holy Saturday.  Silence, stillness, emptiness—an empty sanctuary, an empty tabernacle, an empty cross.  The early church even maintained the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday, as some do today. 

It is tempting to fill the emptiness with activity—doing the Saturday shopping, cleaning the house for tomorrow, filling the church with flowers.  But then we lose the day’s gift.  “Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness,” said Abraham Joshua Heschel. Today’s silence recalls the first disciples’ experience of the whole world lying empty because the Lord was gone. That emptiness calls us to prayer.  Prayer at the edge of emptiness offers no consolation because God seems absent.  It is our cry of faith into the abyss precisely because we believe against all evidence that God lives, is with us, hears our every whisper.  For many people today, faced with the evil breaking over the world in waves of unstoppable violence, prayer at the edge of emptiness is the only prayer there is.  Even if this is not our own experience, today is the day to go and stand beside them in spirit and lend them our strength as we borrow theirs.

We can because we know that at the far side of the Holy Saturday emptiness lies one even greater: the emptiness of the tomb that held the Savior yesterday.  We will gather this evening on that far side of emptiness and fill the air with the fragrance of incense, the ringing of bells, the singing of alleluias.  The irrevocable emptiness of the tomb is God’s assertion that every other emptiness is an illusion filled with a Presence we cannot see.  “I am with you always,” said Jesus to his disciples after Easter (Matt 28:20).  As we listen to all the other words read and sung tonight, we watch the light spread through our churches from a single flame, we receive the living Bread—and we know the promise is true.

Alleluia!

Meditation:

Spend time today before an empty cross. When evening comes, set a light before it, and give thanks.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, come to us in our emptiness and fill us with your loving presence.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

The Gate to Glory

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 14, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 14: Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

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On the First Sunday of Lent, we read the story of the original human couple in Eden but left them before their tragic exodus from the protected garden to the harsh world beyond when the gate closed behind them and a fierce guard was posted to prevent return (see Gen 3).  But that fiery sword-bearer has never stopped humanity from dreaming of our lost utopia and trying to find our way back.

However, the hard fact is that we must travel forward, not backward, on life’s road. And the road ends at the garden wall humanity could never breach or climb, no matter how hard people tried.  The wall is death. For millennia, no traveler could find a ladder or a gate, despite growing belief in life on the other side. But when Jesus died, he at last burst open a gate in the wall and left it open behind him for all who would follow.

It is a difficult gate.  Narrow, Jesus suggested (Matt 7:13). Cross-shaped, says St. John of the Cross.  As we get close we see that the rough wooden frame is still marked by the blood of the Paschal Lamb who first passed through.

The gate has two sides.  Our side is darkness as we read last Sunday in Matthew 27:45, when darkness covered the whole earth as Jesus hung dying.  The darkness frightens us because it’s all we can see from here.  But the far side of the gate is bathed in light, the light from which Jesus came (cf. John 1:9) and to which he returns.  In John’s gospel, he knows the light is there. At the Last Supper, he asks the Father to glorify him (John 17:5).  In the context of the Old Testament imagery John often relies on, Jesus is praying to return to the glory he once left behind (cf. Phil 2:6-7). In John’s gospel, then, the cross is not a tragedy but the gate to glory.

Meditation:

Have you ever been at or heard about the deathbed of someone who caught a glimpse through the gate to the light?  How did it affect those present?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you are the gate of life.  Draw us by faith and prayer through the cross to the garden of light awaiting us.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

Bread for the Journey

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 13, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 13: Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) 

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Tonight we hear the story of the first Passover meal eaten by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt on the vigil of their journey to freedom in the Promised Land (Exod 12). They ate unleavened bread, quickly made and easily carried. According to the first three gospels, Jesus and his disciples shared that other Passover meal we remember tonight. There Jesus held out unleavened bread and said something very odd: “This is my body that is for you.”

Jesus was preparing for his own Passover.  When early Christians struggled to comprehend the impossible mystery of a slain Messiah, they borrowed the familiar language of Passover to make some kind of sense of Jesus’ death.  Jesus was slain on the vigil of Passover, at the hour when the paschal lambs were sacrificed (John 19:14). John the Baptist had said of him, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).  On Calvary, he would complete the journey from the world enslaved by sin to the land of everlasting freedom. And he called us to follow.

But it would be a longer, harder journey than Israel’s, and far more demanding.  Jesus had already sketched out bits of the map. His followers would meet a gate too narrow for excess baggage (Matt 7:13; 19:24), abandon the familiar and the comfortable (Matt 19:27-29), meet persecution (e.g., John 15:21), and face death (John 16:2).  Jesus knew it would be hard.  He knew disciples would grow weary and dream seductive dreams of the Egypt left behind (cf. Exod 16:13).  So he left us food for the journey: “This is my Body, take and eat.”

As we follow him, we might wonder what food he had on his paschal journey?  He himself said, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me” (John 4:34). This offers a clue to the bread he gives us.  As it becomes part of our bodies, it transforms us into his Body.  His journey becomes ours.  Thus we assume his life of intense obedience to the single law of love for God and neighbor that he dramatizes in the washing of feet and lives out on the cross.

Eat up.  We have a long way to go—a lifetime, in fact.

Meditation:

Good food strengthens. How has the Eucharist strengthened you?

Prayer:

Bread of Life, nourish us with your love so that we may live it faithfully on our way.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

Betrayers

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 12, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 12: Wednesday of Holy Week

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In the passion story, Judas and Peter have betrayal in common.  Judas betrays Jesus to those who seek to kill him, apparently for no better reason than a handful of coins.  Peter betrays himself on the eve of the crucifixion when he denies being Jesus’ follower, apparently for his own safety (John 18:17).  Peter will repent and accept Jesus’ forgiveness.  Judas will repent but he will accept no forgiveness, not even his own. Instead, he will hang himself (Matt 27:5). It is easy to say of him, as Jesus did, “better for that man if he had never been born.”

Judas remains forever a mystery.  However he began, he ended up a man of contradictions, chosen by Christ, reviled as a thief by John, despised by the authorities who paid for his information, and utterly despairing of himself.  We don’t know why Judas’s life took the turns that led him to this end.  But we do know his greatest mistake.

During his years as a disciple he missed the most important thing about the Master he had agreed to follow.  He may have learned all the right words, but he never learned to know the Person who spoke them.  Jesus expressed frustration with hypocrisy and blindness.  He even uttered dramatic woes against the towns that refused to accept him and his message (e.g., Matt 11:20-24).  But he never refused compassion to a repentant sinner.  Never.  And somehow Judas missed it.

Lent offers us an extended time in which to seek what St. Paul calls “the supreme good” of knowing Christ more deeply, more intimately, more truly (see Phil 3:8-9) Whatever we may have done in the way of fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and other good works, the underlying purpose has been to free us of the claustrophobic self so we can plunge into deeper communion with the One who is God’s mercy.

Missed it?  Don’t worry.  Lent, like every other liturgical season, is a rehearsal for all of life. And the invitation to know and love and live in Christ remains open all year round.

Meditation:

How have you come to know Jesus better this Lent?  How do you feel called to grow toward knowing and loving him even more deeply in the months to come?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, grant that daily we may see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

Chosen

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 11, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 11: Tuesday of Holy Week

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So accustomed have we become to casting Judas as the ultimate betrayer for selling Jesus out to his enemies that we can overlook the real extent of his betrayal.  We know very little about Judas. What we do know comes to us largely from the pen of a biased evangelist who exposes him as a miser and a thief before he ever becomes a traitor.  In John’s portrait, Judas is painted in dark colors, with no hint of light, but for balance, we should remember that, whatever his character defects, Judas was born one of God’s chosen people, called by God from birth like all of us, and appointed Jesus’ disciple.

So in handing Jesus over to his enemies, Judas betrayed not only his Master but also his heritage, his history, and his vocation.  His tragedy is not limited to the last act of his personal drama: betrayal and suicide.  His tragedy includes the longer story of a person twisted and lost, one who came into the world beloved by his Creator and destined for good but threw it all away. 

We don’t know the details of that story, but we can heed its warning.  We also came into the world beloved by our Creator, chosen and gifted for good we grow into.  Along the way, we have our own choices to make, some small, some momentous: Will I choose friends wisely, will I learn, will I take the path God lays out for me, will I do good or ill?  And never mind the drama: “good” is not always throwing myself in front of a truck to save a child, and “ill” is not always grabbing for the thirty pieces of silver. Good and ill come in all sizes and shapes, most of them not worthy of mention in the evening news, but all of them vital to the shape our story and our world will take and the ending it will come to.

Meditation:

Think back about your life’s crossroads moments. When and why did you choose for “good,” and when for “ill”? How have those choices shaped your life?  What choices is God offering you now?

Prayer:

O God, Creator and Redeemer, guide us through the crossroads small and great, so that we may truly grow into your faithful servants.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

The Heart of Discipleship

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 10, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 10: Monday of Holy Week

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Mary of Bethany—Martha and Lazarus’s sister, Jesus’ friend and disciple—reappears in today’s gospel.  In Luke’s gospel, written earlier than John’s, she provoked her sister’s ire by choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet like a disciple and listen to him rather than helping with the meal.  Now she again flouts convention by anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfumed oil and drying them with her hair. Again she provokes ire, this time from Judas.  Ironically, he protests her disregard for Jesus’ teaching about the poor, though he, not she, will prove to be the false disciple.  In neither story does Mary utter a word of self-defense, but Jesus defends her in startling terms—in Luke, for choosing the one essential, a listening discipleship; here for expressing her discipleship in an act Jesus deems prophetic. 

In both cases, Mary goes to the heart of discipleship: the mystery of Jesus himself, in Luke as the Word of God speaking in their midst, now in John as the Anointed One who will die.  She annoys her sister Martha by ignoring the precept of hospitality to a guest.  She angers Judas by ignoring the poor.  Jesus says once again that Mary, disciple to the core, has her priorities right: the person of this Messiah outweighs even his own ethical teaching.  There are times, and this is one of them, when the disciple must let Jesus’ teachings fade into the background to focus attention entirely on him and own fully who he really is.  And, as Jesus himself will, Mary sets aside all concern for her own good name to do what discipleship bids her because she above all of them has truly understood the Truth he will claim at the Last Supper to be (John 14:6).

We live in a doing world, busy about works of all sorts.  As disciples, we do our best to carry out the works of the gospel.  But Mary teaches us the core of discipleship: knowing Jesus, the source and definition of all good works.

Meditation:

What has your focus been this Lent?  How has your Lenten penance brought you to know Christ more deeply?

Prayer:

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, grant us the grace to recognize you as the source and center of our life as disciples.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

Crowds

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 9, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 9: Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

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Wherever there’s a motorcade, there’s bound to be a horde of people crowding the sidewalks in hope of catching sight of the celebrity in the main car, be it movie star, president, or pope.   Crowds have always loved a spectacle.  Best of all, they love a spectacle that gives them some kind of access, however brief and distant, to someone important.  The people of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day were no different.

First came the procession of the enigmatic figure who might be a prophet, or the king long prophesied (cf. Zech 9:9), or even the Messiah, depending on which whispers you believed.  Everyone, it seems, rushed to get a look.  “Who is this?” the city asked.  Not a horse-mounted Roman soldier, nor a slave-borne aristocrat, nor an exotic visitor from the East, but simply “Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee,” riding on a donkey colt. I wonder how many of them went away disappointed that there were no miracles, no shows of power, no spectacle at all, really, except the strange parade.

Later came another kind of spectacle: a bedraggled, bleeding figure dragging a wooden beam through the streets up to Calvary.  Crowds seem to have gathered along the road then too. Were there whispers about a prophet, a king, a Messiah?  Or about the healer who had worked such wonders?  Surely.

Some of these crowds followed Jesus up the hill for the grisly spectacle of crucifixion.  No palms and hosannas then, just the mockery of onlookers (Matt 27:38b-41) and the indifferent cruelty of Roman soldiers going about their grisly business. 

We look at crowds gathered for a spectacle and see only a sea of faces.  We can be sure Jesus saw the persons shouting “Hosanna!” standing by the road as he struggled toward Calvary, hanging about within sight of the cross, each one unique. “Love your neighbor,” he said, not “your neighbors.” You can love a person.  You cannot love a crowd.  And it was for every human person he died, not for the faceless masses.

Meditation:

The next time you see a crowd event, look at the faces. Try to see them as Jesus sees them, with the eyes of love.

Prayer:

Jesus, you see the people in every crowd. Grant that we may look beyond the anonymity of the throng and see individuals you love.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

Promises Kept

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 8, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 8: Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

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Caiaphas, high priest in Jerusalem during Jesus’ last days, has gone down in Christian history for this double-edged prognostication.  The actual context was a Sanhedrin worried that if Jesus kept gathering followers, the Romans would take control to prevent an uprising, as Rome was known to do. Caiaphas proposes to remove the danger with a trade: Jesus’ death for the survival of the people.  Ironically, that is God’s own plan: that Jesus die “not only for the nation, / but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God” (John 11:52), as God promised centuries before through the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 37:21-22).

Scripture assures us again and again that God’s promises are always kept, but rarely in the ways we anticipate.  Think of Abraham and Sarah; think of David the shepherd boy; think of the people sunk in the gloom of exile in Babylon.  They would never have imagined how God’s promises to them would play out.  Ezekiel never dreamed that the new shepherd-prince David he prophesied in the first reading would die to gather up God’s scattered children.  Caiaphas never imagined how Jesus’ death would in fact deliver God’s people from annihilation. 

Our own vision of the future is never more than partial. Even as we continue at every Mass to proclaim our faith in the saving power of Jesus present in the Eucharist, the deaths of martyrs, the failures of the church’s political dominions, the earthquakes caused by scandal all take us by surprise. Yet the Good News continues to thrive.  God works with unexpected tools through unexpected situations to keep the great promise: “I will make with them a covenant of peace; / it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, / and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever” (Ezek 37:26-27).  At Easter we will celebrate the fact that God’s work always ends in ultimate success no enemy can really foil. 

Meditation:

Think of times in your life when the future has seemed to be unremitting bleakness.  Did you catch glimpses of the triumph of light over that darkness?  Did others help restore your hope?  Have you in turn done that for others amid all the bad news we read and see daily?

Prayer:

Lord of life and hope, open our eyes to your power at work unexpectedly even through the darkest of circumstances.

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent

Deliverance?

Posted by Catholic Financial Life

Apr 7, 2017 12:00:00 AM

April 7: Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

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In the first reading, the beleaguered prophet Jeremiah, confronted on every side by hostile enemies intent on his destruction, much as Jesus is in the gospel, exclaims in faith, “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: / my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. . . . For he has rescued the life of the poor / from the power of the wicked!” Jesus can make the same claim with even greater authority, for he knows “that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  Yet neither Jeremiah nor Jesus will enjoy the kind of happy ending they look forward to, or so it seems.

Jeremiah’s enemies cast him into a dry cistern to starve to death, but he is rescued to live out his life in exile in Egypt.  Jesus’ enemies, of course, succeed in having him put to death on a cross.  One might accuse both of them, as nonbelievers do, of naive optimism in their faith that God will deliver them.

The irony is that God will, but not by sparing them from death.  All sufferers reprieved from hostile foes or illness or the ravages of age do, in the end, die.  Even God will not save them from death, however great their faith and fervent their prayer.  And Jesus does not ask, except perhaps in that one moment in the garden when he begs the Father to take the cup away (Luke 22:42).  The secret, known to people of faith but never understood by those who cannot believe, is that God delivers Jesus, and with him all of us, not from death but through death, beyond which there are no further threats.  By that deliverance, all Jesus’ enemies are indeed defeated, most especially the great enemy behind all the others, the power of evil.

In Christ, then, every prayer for deliverance is ultimately answered even when enemies seem invincible and suffering unending.  Christian prayer is always justified in its trust and praise.

Meditation:

Who are your enemies?  They may not be people but circumstances, habits, or something else. Present them to Christ on the cross. Imagine his love transforming them into opportunities rather than destroyers.

Prayer:

O God of power, deliver us and those we love from every hostile force through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.

 

From Not By Bread Alone 2017: Daily Reflections for Lent 2017, by Genevieve Glen (Liturgical Press). Visit www.litpress.org for more information.

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Topics: Faith - Lent