Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I AM not cheating

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Minute Meditations
Preaching Jesus

One of the things that we need to remember is that we're preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It's easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.
— from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—"golfer of the century," "composer of the century," "right tackle of the century"—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's "man of the twelfth century," without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.
His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.
Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.
The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster.
Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.


Bernard's life in the Church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts produced far-reaching results. But he knew that they would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction. His life was characterized by a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. His sermons and books about Mary are still the standard of Marian theology.

"In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal" (St. Bernard).
Saint of the Day
Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Lord, help me to be fully alive to your holy presence.
Enfold me in your love.
Let my heart become one with yours.
Lord you gave me life and the gift of freedom.
Through Your love I exist in this world.
May I never take the gift of life for granted.
May I always respect the right to life of others.
I remind myself that I am in the presence of the Lord. I will take refuge in His loving heart. He is my strength in times of weakness.  He is my comforter in times of sorrow.
The Word of God

Reading 1 ez 34:1-11

The word of the Lord came to me:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!
Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.
You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.
My sheep were scattered
and wandered over all the mountains and high hills;
my sheep were scattered over the whole earth,
with no one to look after them or to search for them.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
As I live, says the Lord GOD,
because my sheep have been given over to pillage,
and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast,
for lack of a shepherd;
because my shepherds did not look after my sheep,
but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep;
because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I swear I am coming against these shepherds.
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
I will save my sheep,
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

Responsorial Psalm ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness will follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Gospel mt 20:1-16

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 daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o'clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.'
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o'clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o'clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
'Why do you stand here idle all day?'
They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.'
He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
'Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.'
When those who had started about five o'clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
'These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day's burden and the heat.'
He said to one of them in reply,
'My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?'
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Conversation requires talking and listening. As I talk to Jesus may I also learn to be still and listen. I picture the gentleness in his eyes and the smile full of love as he gazes on me. I can be totally honest with Jesus as I tell him of my worries and my cares. I will open up my heart to him as I tell him of my fears and my doubts. I will ask him to help me to place myself fully in his care, to abandon myself to him, knowing that he always wants what is best for me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
 world without end.

Catholic Meditations

Meditation: Psalm 23:1-6

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Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
Did you know that studies have shown that humans can act a lot like sheep without even knowing it? Ironically, other studies have shown that sheep don't always act like sheep. These studies challenge our assumption that sheep tend to follow a leader blindly. While some sociologists point out that humans can take on a herd mentality, blindly following a leader or a crowd, other research (using GPS monitoring, no less) shows that sheep tend to be independent. They follow the herd only when they sense a need for safety in numbers. In other words, sheep actually make intelligent decisions that sometimes elude us humans!
This little insight is important because many biblical analogies talk about God or Jesus as our shepherd and about us as sheep in his care. So understanding how intelligent sheep can be—and how attentive shepherds can be to their flocks—can help illustrate the relationship that Jesus wants to have with us.
For example, sheep can recognize as many as fifty other sheep for up to two years. They can also recognize their shepherd's face and sense his emotions. They can even have emotional responses to traumatic situations—responses that will color the way they act for years afterward.
So sheep are not just docile, dimwitted animals who need constant, high-maintenance supervision. And neither are we! God knows that we are intelligent creatures endowed with a free will. It's how he made us, after all! He respects our decisions, even if they are wrong. As a good and loving shepherd, he will try to keep us in his flock, under his care. But he also knows that we sometimes need to figure things out for ourselves—just as a sheep needs to.
Today, reflect on what it means for you to be a member of Jesus' flock, the Church. Are you the kind of sheep who keeps wandering away and getting into trouble? Or are you one who knows the "goodness and kindness" that is the heritage of those who stay close to the shepherd (Psalm 23:6)? If you've wandered too far, know that your Shepherd is always ready to take you back and restore you with the "restful waters" of his love (23:2). You belong to him, and he belongs to you!
"Jesus, you are my Shepherd. I place my life in your hands. Keep me safe today."

Ezekiel 34:1-11; Matthew 20:1-16

At all hours of the day He calls.  At all stages of our lives, He calls.  "I Need You Child".  I need help tending to my own.  I need more arms to reach out to more people in warm embraces and lifting them up when they can not lift themselves.  I need your faces to look on the faces of those who are faced in need.  I need your hearts to touch the hearts of others."  That's why He needs us.  Created for a purpose.  I am pretty annoyed with racist remarks. God came for souls in no particular shape or color.  Why do I mention this?  Because the last shall be first.  Those chosen last shall be first and equal in reward.  So what's my problem?  Why am I stingy with love and mercy...compassion and forgiveness?  Because we are capable of more, we need to open up for more.  "Oh but it's just not fair" we hear little kids cry throughout all ages.  Is it not fair that the prodigal son came home?  Or is it not fair that he was greeted with so much love and compassion?  The last shall be first.  Those "last" in your thoughts, those you just can't see eye to eye, or face to face, those are first too.  Just because you don't love them doesn't mean God doesn't need them and love them.  So who is in failure, you or them?  One...or both.  So we make life complicated with drama, when the answer is simple and One.  Yet, I have been amazed at youth that I have spoken to at retreats or classes and they have never heard of the prodigal son.  The sheep keep getting lost.  Parents love their children, but not so much that their souls aren't tended to.  So what kind of a father am I?  What kind of a shepherd am I?  What kind of an uncle or aunt am I?  What kind of a teacher am I?  What kind of a leader am I?  I was in a grand jury for many months.  I experienced the mass mob mentality.  The district attorney would pretty much insinuate open and shut cases and everyone would just agree, perhaps it was trust, faster, or easier that way.  One case I had to defend the accused because the mob was taking over.  I had to play the "angel's advocate".  Thank God they heard me, the poor guy had enough troubles on his hands in a horrific accident with other charges coming.  And so, we can all play a part of God's mercy, compassion, and love.  Something stirs inside that speaks for the truth and the truth must be heard.  But generations grow that know less and less of the Truth, that is, the True Shepherd.  He says "Do This" and we "do that".  We hear in Holy Mass "Do This In Rememberance Of Me".  But others do "that", that something else like watch football (idol), or "that" go to work (idol) and what's bad about idols, our idealisms, is that the idol ideal is idling the soul.  Tepid at best.  He calls out to work.  Maybe you can't do much at the parish but we can do much to transform the world around us to come to the Church, the flock that He shepherds.  And so, I will tell my fellow sheep right now, "My Child, our Lord is calling us!"  Whether we work all day or not matters not, all He cares about is all He calls and the ones to be called. 
Let's Go
Let God