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St. Andrew, Apostle, Pray for Us

Posted on 30 November 2015 by patmarrin

"Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, 'Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men'" (Matt 4:19).

Evangelization begins with two brothers. In John's account, Andrew hears of Jesus, goes and finds his brother Peter and brings him to meet him. The two fisherman brothers become Jesus' first disciples. We celebrate the feast of St. Andrew today. He is a special patron of Greece, and we think of the boats filled with refugees arriving on the shores of Greece, and also of Scotland, whose flag has the x-shaped cross on which Andrew is said to have been crucified for preaching Jesus.

These images merge today with the news that Evangelist Pope Francis has completed his trip to Africa, ending it with a visit to a mosque in the Central African Republic, where he addressed the deadly conflict between Christian and Islamic militias with the words: "Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters."

The pope's journey to the global south to be with refugees in areas devastated by deforestation, exploitation and war was both a pastoral visit and a strong sign to the UN climate change summit in Paris, where representatives of 150 nations are meeting to reach and agreement to decrease fossil fuel emissions that scientists say are endangering the future of the planet we all share as our common home. Climate change is at the root of so many global problems, as sea levels rise and agriculture is impacted. Selfish interests that benefit the few are threatening the survival of the entire ecosystem that supports all life on earth.

Fundamental issues of global unity and fairness, responsible use and sharing of the earth's resources, glaring disparity between rich and poor, the powerful and the vulnerable, all converge on decisions the human community must make together about the kind of future we want for ourselves and our children. Pope Francis, as vicar of Christ, had brought the gospel message of peace, justice and the common good to the fore in these urgent and decisive deliberations.

We rejoice to hear good news in the midst of great challenges, a message of hope -- that all human beings are brothers and sisters, members of one family, meant to find dignity and joy in this world.

I ask your prayers for another young Andrew, struggling now to transform his life from the mystery of human suffering. He will some day be an evangelist to his fellow sufferers, that choosing life is the way forward.

The End and the Beginning

Posted on 28 November 2015 by patmarrin

"When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads bcause your redemption is at hand" (Luke 21:28).

In the rich Jewish traditions that underlie Christian liturgy, the blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn, signals the beginning of the High Holy Days with Rosh Hashanah, "Days of Awe" and ending with Yom Kippur, the "Day of Antonement." This time of intense prayer begins with God inscribing the fate of each person in the Book of Life, and ends with sealing the verdict of that life based on how the person has lived. The time between allows us to amend our lives and change our fate or to miss the chance to amend our lives and suffer our fate.

Our own lives are lived out in the interval between birth and death. We enter the world with both gifts and limitations, but have the opportunity to overcome fate by freely directing our lives toward God's mercy. Every life story is about grappling with chance and circumstances to cooperate with grace in the quest for maturity and wholeness before God.

The first Sunday of Advent reminds us that history, whether global or personal, includes judgment. We will reap what we have sown. Yet, history is also the story of God's gracious entry into our story to share the full human journey with us. In Jesus, God will take the fate of sin and death and place it on the shoulders of his beloved Son. We ponder St. Paul's mysterious and shocking phrase: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor 5:21)). The One who was totally innocent will suffer the consequences of our sinfulness in order to redeem us from death.

This mystery of Mercy -- God's hesed, unconditional and undeserved love -- is at the heart of the Jubilee Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis, which begins with the opening the of the Holy Door in Rome on December 8. The transformation of the church from tribunal to field hospital, from Fortress of Righteousness to House of Mercy, is Francis' call to renewal and the recovery of the radical gospel Jesus proclaimed.

Advent is the season of hope and expectation. It is meant to fill us with confidence that God wants us to make passage from fate to freedom, from fear to joy, by the way we live our lives. The keynote of our journey is here: "Stand erect and raise your hands because your redemption is at hand" (Luke 21:28).

Plant a Tree Today

Posted on 27 November 2015 by patmarrin

"Consider the fig tree and all the other trees" (Luke21:29).

One of the first things Pope Francis did after arriving in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday, was to plant a tree. The restoration of the Earth, our common home, begins with a simple and yet profound sign of hope, the planting of a single tree whose full lifetime will reach far into the future, even beyond our own earthly lives.

Jesus uses the parable of the fig tree in today's Gospel to tell his listeners that nature understands what we often fail to see: As the seasons progress naturally, so our lives are part of the great narrative of God's will. To defy the signs of the times is foolish and arrogant and in the end self-destructive.

On the eve of the critical United Nations summit on climate change in Paris, Pope Francis chose to go the global south and to the continent of Africa, where the consequences of global warming and economic exploitation impact the poor far more than in the developed north. He planted a tree as both a sign of hope and as a warning to the powerful, industrialized nations of the world, that our common home is endangered by human activities that benefit the few at the cost of the many.

Follow the link at the top or bottom of this short reflection to watch Pope Francis visit one of the largest and poorest urban slums in Africa, yet a place replicated around the world and even in the United States, man-made conditions that reflect the gross inequity, poverty and exclusion created by current economic and social systems.

We are all called to participate in the saving of the earth, by our lifestyles, our solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the globe, by our participation in policy making and social renewal. It is an urgent call and journey, yet one Pope Francis has chosen to undertake with great joy and hope. See for yourself at


Thank You

Posted on 26 November 2015 by patmarrin

"Stand up and go; your faith has saved you" ((Luke 17:19).

The story of the 10th leper is ideal for the holiday of Thanksgiving. Gratitude opens us to God and to the people in our lives who have blessed us. That openness is itself a gift, for to live life with the "attitude of gratitude" is to constantly remind ourselves that everything is a gift, even the adversity that teaches us compassion for others.

The 10th leper is an outcast among outcasts, a Samaritan among his fellow lepers, all Jews. This outsider is alert to an even greater gift than the healing all the lepers receive. He turns back to thank Jesus, and his faith opens him to the source of Life. He encounters God in Jesus. He enters the mysterious Kingdom of God Jesus is preaching, and he is transformed to the very core of his being.

We are invited on this special day set aside to give thanks to go beyond this world of food and drink, even family and friends, to seek out Jesus. He has even greater blessings for us if we acknowledge him in faith. He is the source of Life itself, both on this earth and in eternity. We rejoice in the love of God that moves us to love one another, especially the poor and the outcast.

The Handwriting on the Wall

Posted on 25 November 2015 by patmarrin

"By your perseverance you will secure your lives" (Luke 21:19).

Dominican Fr. Larry Lux, whose years of preaching and pastoral ministry paralleled the tumultuous decades of the Depression, World War II and the major post war social movements of the 20th century, once observed that individual lives transcend this world and can receive God's mercy, but nations, which exist only in history, are judged within history. What goes around comes around, and nations will reap what they sow. Those that rise to power through deceit and abuse will face those same forces in history. Nations that promote truth and justice will reap a harvest of good will and positive development.

"The handwriting is on the wall" for Babylon in today's first reading. The prophet Daniel is brought into the king's banquet hall where his courtiers and generals are drinking wine out of the sacred vessels plundered from the temple in Jerusalem. The verdict contained in the mysterious message on the wall is that this kingdom will fall under the weight of its own arrogance and blasphemy. God will not judge them; they have judged themselves.

Luke writes to the church as it is entering a time of persecution. He offers the words of Jesus from an earlier time to encourage his readers. As the followers of Jesus emerge from the Jewish Mother church after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, they face Roman pressure to conform to imperial culture and civic religion, which included ritual burning of incense before the gods. Many among the first generation of believers, including the Apostles Peter and Paul, were executed as subversives, even terrorists, for proclaiming the crucified Christ as Lord, a capital offense against the megalomaniac Nero.

Rome would fall, but the church would continue to grow into Christendom, then into a global community spread by missionaries. It continues to grow today as one of the oldest institutions on earth, now led by Pope Francis, whose voice is like the handwriting on the wall for global systems and nations that must reform or die as the world is reborn into a new age or recycles itself into old conflicts and fatal intransigence.

Faith has never been tested by crisis affecting the survival of the planet itself, so the prophetic voice of the pope and others call for decisive change and renewal to avert great suffering. The followers of Jesus must declare themselves to be on the right side of history. Even God’s mercy cannot rescue systems that are part of the problem and not the solution.

A New World Coming

Posted on 24 November 2015 by patmarrin

"See that you are not deceived" (Luke 21:8).

Today's gospel reading in which Jesus says that the Temple will be destroyed and great cataclysms will shake the world is a favorite of apocalyptic hucksters. But Jesus is actually discounting endtime predictions and warning his disciples no to listen to the doomsayers. Do not follow them. Do not listen to them.

When Luke composed these passages in the 80s, Jerusalem and the Temple had in fact already fallen, destroyed during the Jewish-Roman wars. Some historians call this the 9-11 of the ancient world, a crisis that shattered the center of Judaism and pushed both Jews and Christians out into the Mediterranean world in the great diaspora. But it was not the end of the world.

By this time, the Christian church was adjusting its expectations of an imminent parousia to a long view of history. Jesus would return, of course, but had already returned in the mystery of the church, the body of Christ present in the world through its baptized members. The redemptive work of Jesus was here and now in history to be carried out by his followers, filled with his Holy Spirit and empowered to transform the world.

Apocalyptic rhetoric is the refuge of escapists, those who cower in fear and refuse to take up the challenges of changing history, finding new hope in the ruins of collapsing institutions. Pope Francis is not a social scientist or an optimistic futurist. He is a prophet who is reading the signs of the times and calling us to respond to God’s invitation to be co-creators of a different world than the one now playing out in violence and injustice. He is announcing the joy of the Gospel and the gracious hope God gives to those eager to build the Kingdom of God in the shell of a world inadequate to contain the aspirations of a new age coming to birth.

All of us are part of the quickening and the birth pangs of necessary change. Don’t be deceived by those false prophets who are pitting one group against another in a world of scarcity. Don’t be afraid of the deep changes already in motion as the world evolves through dialogue and reconciliation, collaborative and creative solutions to old problems.

Something wonderful is about to happen.


Widow's Prayer

Posted on 23 November 2015 by patmarrin

"This poor widow has put in more than all the rest" (Luke 21:3).

In this mean season of political debates, some candidates will focus on welfare recipients as the biggest problem the country faces. While they conjure up able-bodied men who refuse to find jobs, the largest demographic of people in need of assistance are single women, children and the elderly. Among the elderly, the most vulnerable group are widows.

This was especially true in Jesus’ day, when a widow had no legal standing, no source of income and often no protection within the tribal and family networks after her husband died. Jesus, whose own mother was a widow, must have been particularly alert to this group, invisible to many eyes as the poorest of the poor.

Jesus’ comments about the poor widow who put two small coins into the temple treasury reflected a central theme of his Gospel: “The first shall be last and last first.” The Kingdom of God welcomes the poor, the childlike, the dreamers after peace and justice, the brokenhearted and the outcast. God's beatitude -- blessedness -- is revealed in those who can only entrust themselves whole-heartedly to Providence because the world has abandoned them.

But Jesus’ comments were not intended to idealize poverty as spiritual advantage. He was indicting the whole system, civil and religious, that created such desperate poverty. He was confronting the rich patrons of the temple who had surplus funds to tout their generosity to God while neglecting God in the poor. When Jesus next came to the temple it was to purge it of this hypocrisy and the blasphemy of turning God’s house into a marketplace and a “den of thieves.”

God sees the heart. We must consider our own surplus as belonging to others, our advantage as an invitation to share with those who lack necessities. This Gospel comes just in time for Thanksgiving as we prepare to celebrate God’s generosity to us.

God's Paradoxical Glory

Posted on 21 November 2015 by patmarrin

11-22-15 Christ the King

“Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33).

We note that in his encounter with Pilate, Jesus never directly answers the question about whether he is the king of the Jews. John’s account suggests that Jesus and Pilate are talking on entirely different levels. Pilate represents imperial power, Roman authority over the Jewish nation and the puppet king, Herod. Any other claims to royal power in Palestine at the time were subject to Roman force, since the emperor was worshiped as a god exercising total control over his conquered subjects.

For John, Jesus’ authority transcends all earthly power even as his mission transcends history. He came to witness to the truth—the very nature of reality as it comes from the hand of God. The Roman empire will go into the dustbin of history, even as every other empire or monarchy or totalitarian rule will fail. But God’s will is the basis for all reality, and so Jesus is about to be revealed as Lord, the visible face of the invisible God.

By every earthly measure, Jesus emerges from this encounter as a loser, a delusional martyr whose religious vision got him crucified, the most humiliating and brutal form of Roman execution designed to ridicule those who challenged the empire. Jesus goes his death condemned by the state and excommunicated by his own brother Jews. He is betrayed, denied and abandoned by this closest friends. He dies naked and broken on a cross on a hill overlooking the entrance to the city, where all the Passover pilgrims passing by see him agonize and then call out to his God, “Why have you abandoned me?”

With only a few family members and friends as witnesses, most of them women, his body is taken from the cross and hurriedly placed in a borrowed tomb before the Passover Sabbath begins. It is a heart-wrenching and pitiable end for Jesus of Nazareth, so-called messiah and king of the Jews.

The Gospel emerges not as the triumphant reversal and happy ending of this pathetic defeat, but as the revelation that there was absolute power here — the power of unconditional and unrequited love being poured out on a sinful world by a self-emptying God, who has taken his place among the condemned, outcast the suffering of the world, the crucified of history. This love is so deep and so strong that no evil can ever overcome it, no force can ever silence it, no earthly ruler, however wealthy or mighty, can match its ability to move the human heart to recognize the truth in someone willing to lay down his life for others.

On this solemnity of Christ the king, we are invited to enter the paradox of God’s power in our own pursuit of authentic influence and effectiveness in our lives. Jesus serves; he gives himself away; he takes the lowest place; he befriends even his enemies in order to save them. Jesus is mentor and model to us as his disciples. There is no other path to genuine greatness or lasting glory. Let us approach the cross with eyes of faith. Something astronishing is being revealed here.

The Hour of Our Visitation

Posted on 19 November 2015 by patmarrin

“Jesus wept over the city, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41).

There are two times in the gospels where Jesus weeps. One is at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, and the other is over the city of Jerusalem. Lazarus was dead, and Jesus would call him back to life; Jerusalem was dying, and Jesus wept to see that its rejection of God’s offer of peace would lead to its destruction, which occurred in the year 70 during the Jewish Roman war.

There are two kinds of death. The first is to surrender our lives to accomplish God’s will, as Jesus did, and this leads to resurrection. The second is be caught in the full circle violence we ourselves initiate, the kind of death we see in history when nations refuse to change course and suffer the consequences of escalating violence. God stands outside human freedom and can only weep at our foolishness and pride. What goes around comes around; we reap what we sow.

Pope Francis is saying repeatedly that the world is on the threshold of momentous challenges, but that a different future is possible if we choose wisely. The climate summit in Paris next month is one of those thresholds. Another is the call to address the blatant income disparity that is fueling desperation among the global poor. A third is the need to find nonviolent solutions to the growing global instability caused by war, the unprecedented movement of refugees and immigrants crossing borders to escape violence and poverty. And we are witnessing now a growing firestorm of hatred and fear caused by indiscriminate terrorist acts against civilians, made even worse by propaganda, profiteering and demagoguery in the name of God and religion.

The Christian community is being called to resist this impulse to even greater violence by being ambassadors of reconciliation, voices for peace based on justice, promoters of openness and hope over xenophobia and paranoia.

Complex problems have no simple solutions, but the process is before us and there are choices to be made that all of us can learn and pray about, talk to others about, influence the outcome in our own ways, however small. To do nothing is to invite the tears of God for our failure to know the hour of our visitation.

Use It or Lose It

Posted on 18 November 2015 by patmarrin

"I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Luke 19:26).

Today's parable about the coins given to servants to invest and multiply brings home a message increasingly emphasized by Jesus as he approaches Jerusalem: Be decisive. Whatever the risks or the cost, do not miss God's invitation to find life. The cautious servant who hides the gold coin for fear of losing it is severely scolded by his master. The parable ends with one of those paradoxical sayings that remind us that Jesus was more Eastern than Western in his cultural viewpoint: "One who has will get more: one who has not will lose even that." This is the "sound of one hand clapping."

What are you doing with the gifts God has given you? How often parents speak of their children's great potential, then lament that it is not being used. The truth is that unused potential, even genius, disappears if not developed. Another biblical saying is this: "To whom much is given, much will be expected." Advantage or privilege squandered on self rather than shared in service is like wealth that turns to dust, a closet full of extra clothing that fades and is moth-infested when it might have been given to others to wear.

The joy of the Gospel is in living life to the full, using up our gifts, giving ourselves away, for this kind of life multiplies endlessly in the web of relationships that radiate out from such habitual generosity. St. Irenaeus famously said, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Religion that promotes smallness in the guise of humility or austerity for its own sake is a rebuke to God's overflowing generosity and a failure to take up the challenge of life.