Feb 062005

Your Daily Tripod

"Your Daily Tripod" reflects the personal Fourth Day journeys of its authors and editors. We are happy to have companions like you share in this project. Our prayer is that these reflections will invite and inspire your Fourth Day journey of Piety, Study and Action as much as writing or editing them inspires our journey and brings us all close moments with Jesus and our neighbors.

Serve the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful song.  Psalm 100:2

And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold." After saying this, he called out, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear."  Luke 8:8


Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.

(Responsorial Psalm for the say based upon Psalm 100:2)


When we come with joy into the presence of the Lord, we put ourselves into a situation when we can truly listen to what he has to say to us.  No TV.  No smartphone.  No distractions. 

The disciples today had the advantage of dialogue to overcome their lack of understanding.  When they didn’t “get it,” they asked Jesus for clarification.

We don’t have the benefit of such an exchange unless the Holy Spirit intervenes with clarity.  That’s why we have to be able to cut out the clutter and the clatter.  That is why we need to engage in piety and assume practices that allow us to hear the Lord despite the cacophony around us. 

True piety demands that we engage in certain actions to bring us into a closer
La Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti
relationship with Jesus. Our pious practices allow us to experience quiet moments conducive to listening – like that final moment Mary has with Jesus after the execution and before the Resurrection.  When we make time for Jesus, we put ourselves in a position to use our ears. 

One of my favorite spiritual books is the Rule of St. Benedict – especially the version in which Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, comments upon each section.  The very first word of the Rule is a marker for today’s Good News: LISTEN!

Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to God from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus wants that quality time with you while you and He can still enjoy it.  He wants to talk to you. Walk with you. "You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." Walk humbly with your God.  A walk in the Garden.  A walk down a city street.  When you walk with a friend, you talk.  To each other.  And you listen when the other talks.  True Piety is a relationship with God, founded upon listening to his message and then directing your life -- your whole life -- to God. 


Take a new look at La Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti all over again.  Listen to what Jesus has to say to you are you spend some time with him and his mother. 

Pray for the men of the 135th Cursillo who are in talk day today. Pray that they may listen to the message Jesus has for them to deliver and that they hear the constructive critiques offered by their teammates. 

Pray also for the participants in the Retreat for those who are Seriously Ill this weekend at San Damiano. 

Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.  If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.  Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains. 

(1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Fear not when a man grows rich,

when the wealth of his house becomes great,

For when he dies, he shall take none of it;

his wealth shall not follow him down.

Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed,

“They will praise you for doing well for yourself,”

He shall join the circle of his forebears

who shall never more see light.    (Psalm 49:17-20)


But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody


I am seldom ever rendered totally speechless.  However, during one visit to my father in the final months of his life, I found myself unable to utter a single word.  Here was someone who was nearing the end of his life, and what comes out of his mouth?  Not “hello,” but “I’ve got to do something to make my money earn more.”  I thought to myself, Why? You have enough to take care of your needs.  You can’t take it with you.

That’s exactly what the psalmist says in today’s reading.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person on earth; you’re still going to die like everyone else.  You’ll be buried with the family who’ve gone before you.  You will neither see the light of day on earth again nor the bottom line of your bank statement.

If you channel surf on any Sunday morning, you can find preachers telling you that God wants you to prosper, God wants you to be rich.  Well, yes, God does desire those things for us, but not in the way the prosperity gospel preachers would have us believe.   God desires that we be rich in faith, the only kind of wealth that follows us everywhere, even after death.  God hopes that we will be content with and grateful for having the things we need – food, clothing, and shelter -  and that we will turn that grateful satisfaction into faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Invest for the long-term in God’s Kingdom. 

Money and the things money buys are neither good nor bad in and of themselves.  It’s when we love our wealth and our belongings more than we love God that we get off-track just as surely as if we built a golden calf and bowed down to it.  Certainly, there are many wealthy people who use their money for God’s purposes – helping the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the victims of natural disasters, etc.  As Paul says, it’s the love of money, not money itself, that can be the root of all evil.


In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, under the section on the call and cost of discipleship, there is a meditation on the Three Classes of Persons.  It’s a meditation that asks us to consider the attachments in our lives that keep us from being fully able to say yes to God’s call to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  In today’s first reading, Paul writes to Timothy specifically about the love of money as one of those attachments, but there may be other loves in our lives that are equally problematic when it comes to being a disciple of Christ.

It’s worth taking the time to prayerfully do this meditation.  Imagine that you desire to be a disciple.  You are trying to follow the Lord.  At the same time, you have acquired something that also means a great deal to you.  In line with today’s Scripture readings, it could be a large sum of money.  As you consider each of these three classes of people, think about your attraction to that wealth and how you might deal with it so it doesn’t get in the way of your faith journey. 

The first person procrastinates.  He or she can see that this money (or whatever else you are attached to) is getting in the way, making it difficult to be totally free for Jesus.  Plans are made for dealing with this, but as time passes, lots of other things happen.  Life goes by and there’s always something else to do.  In the end, this disordered attraction to the money is still there.

The second person compromises.  He or she would like to be free for the Lord, but the pull away from Christ and toward that money is very strong.  Just like many of us do in our prayers, this person attempts to bargain or negotiate with God.  He or she wants to be free of what gets in the way of being fully available to Jesus, but the love of the money or other object is just so strong.  In the end, nothing changes.  The attraction to that thing other than God remains.

The third person is the one who is totally free and available for whatever Jesus calls him or her to do.  As St. Ignatius puts it:  The person typical of the third class desires to get rid of the attachment, but in such a way that there remains no inclination either to keep the acquired money or to dispose of it.  Instead, such a one desires to keep it or reject it solely according to what God our Lord will move one’s will to choose… (Spiritual Exercises 155)

Consider the things to which you are attached in this life.  Do they keep you from being fully free for Christ?  What choices have you made with regard to these attachments?  Can you see yourself in any of the three types of persons St. Ignatius describes? 

Whatever the result of your meditation, take time to share it in prayer with the Lord.
Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist

The Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio
Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-4)

(Jesus said) "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13)


Sharing in that saving joy, O Lord, with which St. Matthew welcomed the Savior as a guest in his home, we pray: Grant that we may always be renewed by the food we receive from Christ, who came to call not the just, but sinners to salvation. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

        (Prayer after Communion from the Mass for the Day)


A bit of mystery shrouds the man called Matthew but consensus has it that he was, indeed, a disrespected character whose “yes” and fidelity to Jesus led him to become the first of the evangelists and a saint. Of course, the leaders of the temple were scandalized and Matthew’s call to discipleship puts me in mind of Pope Francis’ recent words in Columbia. He pointed out “that true freedom is found in letting go of the superficial things we cling to for security, embracing instead a discipleship which has the courage to follow Jesus in living in the fullness of the law. ‘For the Lord, as also for the first community, it is of the greatest importance that we who call ourselves disciples not cling to a certain style or to particular practices that cause us to be more like some Pharisees than like Jesus’.”[i]

According to the footnotes to the NAB, Paul’s description of Christian community explains “Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief. It is manifested in the exalted Christ’s gifts to individuals to serve so as to make the community more Christlike” [ii] It’s just too easy to scapegoat those not like us even if wrapped in a true desire to remain “authentic” or adhering to an imagined tradition. It’s also easy to write off the Matthews who might, indeed, be cheating, lying, hurting others. Christ asks us to reach out and serve – not condone sin - and make the community more Christlike not just “me” more Christlike.


Caravaggio’s beautiful painting shows us St. Matthew probably saying in disbelief, “Who Me?” How powerful can be our humility, gentleness, patience, and desire for unity in the spirit in the world today? Take a moment to lovingly listen to someone from the LGTB community, or who has had an abortion, who voted for an elected official you detest, who worships in a manner or with a faith you find suspect, or other. Build a bridge. God calls! God does not want “do not enter signs” within our own hearts.
Matthias Gerung [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Beloved, this saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1)

I will walk with blameless heart. (Psalm 101:2)

As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep." He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, "Young man, I tell you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. (Luke 7:12-15)


Jesus, be with me as the parts of my life that are displeasing to you are put to death.


Jesus was in midst of his public ministry when the scene from Luke 7 unfolds. He’s fresh from Capernaum, where he healed the centurion’s slave without touching or seeing him, and a large crowd has accompanied him to Nain. It’s easy to imagine a joyful, somewhat festive atmosphere.

And then, they encounter another crowd. A widow’s only son has died, and is being carried out. We are told Jesus is moved with pity, touches the coffin, and instructs the son to arise. And. He. Does.

It will be less than three years before a large crowd accompanies Jesus into another city, a city where the only son of a widow will die. This time, the crowd that is with the widow as the son is being carried out to his tomb will be not be large by anyone’s estimation. But what happens to him just a few days later will change the world forever. It will start a revolution—and give the world hope.

Pray with or for your parents, or those who have been like parents to you.

First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.
 1 Timothy 2:1-4

And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
"Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed."
 Luke 7:6-7


Father, help us to exemplify the faith preached by Jesus and exemplified by the
Roman centurion. Give us the humility of your Son so that our pride never gets in the way of your true Words and Works. Amen.


Jesus has just completed some important sermons in Capernaum. He preached about the Beatitudes. Then he talked about a tree being known by its fruit, and finally, having a proper foundation between words and deeds, faith and action. After this sermon on the “plains,” he entered the city of Capernaum where Jesus encountered the centurion.

Luke juxtaposes this right next to these important lessons because the centurion -- even though he is a Roman -- exemplifies the qualities of the earlier lessons perfectly. What are we to make of this today?

Perhaps we should realize that no person, group or nation is privileged or exalted over others. If you are saved or born again, you have no special relationship with the Lord which is not also granted to sinners and tax collectors. These days, as college and pro football season gets into full swing, how long will it be until we witness the players of one team kneeling in prayer and holding hands while the kicker goes out to attempt the winning field goal. If the cameras swing to the other side of the field, perhaps we will see the opposing team praying that the kicker will miss. Do we think that God is really there pushing the football through the uprights for one team or blowing it away for the other.

There is a famous story about Abraham Lincoln who was confronted by a person who prayed that God was on the Union side during the Civil War. The sixteenth president is said to have remarked, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”


Every time we attend Mass, we repeat the prayer of the humble centurion right before approaching the altar.

Yesterday, I attended Mass at the Trappist monastery of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia.  The prayers they offered are recited at a much slower pace than in our local parish where we have to race to get back to the parking lot in an hour or less in case we miss brunch or the kickoff to the NFL Game of the Week or to beat the crowds to Safeway.

The next time you recite this prayer.  Repeat it slowly.  Slower than that.


I am not worthy…

For you to enter under my roof. 

Only say the word…

And my soul shall be healed.

Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins?  Sirach 28:2-4

“‘I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' Then in anger, his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So, will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart." Matthew 18:32-35

An African proverb says: "You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla." Experience counts. Wisdom is simply its distillation. (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB).

There is nothing new in today’s readings for anyone who has recited the Lord’s Prayer a time or two.  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass AGAINST US.

Nothing new but that does not make the prayer any easier to put into practice.  We are our own strongest advocate.  We hate to admit that we are wrong. 

Forgiveness, revenge, and mercy come to mind recalling the poignant last scene of the movie Manon of the Spring.  It is the sequel to Jean de Florette.  As the IMDB blurb explains, the movie is about Manon, “a beautiful but shy shepherdess who plots vengeance on the men whose greedy conspiracy to acquire her father's land caused his death years earlier.”

SPOILER ALERT: Jean de Florette (as portrayed by Gérard Depardieu
literally worked himself to death carrying water up to his property.
The first movie traced the plot of a greedy landowner and his nephew who conspired to block the only water source for an adjoining property in order to bankrupt the owner and force him to sell. SPOILER ALERT: Jean de Florette literally worked himself to death carrying water up to his property.

Ah, but those who take vengeance into their own hands have a surprise waiting. "Vengeance is mine." (Deuteronomy 32:35)

By the second movie, the grown-up daughter lives in the hills in sadness for her departed father. She realizes that not only the old man and his nephew but also the whole village knew of the existence of the spring when her father was desperately trying to water his crops. An accidental discovery leads her to the source of the blocked-up spring and a way to get even with the conspirators. 

She exacts revenge on the village by blocking the spring that feeds their property.  Without water, the village and its economy are crippled.  The nephew commits suicide and after some time, Manon, acting out of pity, compassion and forgiveness, unblocks the spring and the village comes back to life. She rises above her feelings of revenge and provides mercy to the village – the mercy that her father never experienced.

SPOILER ALERT: The greedy old man learned in a revelation in front of the town church how cruel his actions were not only to Jean and Manon but also to himself.  Due to his crime, his aspirations shall never come to pass the way he wanted.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass AGAINST US. 

Who do you need to forgive?  

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these, I am the foremost. But for that reason, I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. 1 Timothy 1:15B-16

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.” Luke 6:46-48


Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. (John 14:23


Jesus wants consistency. No exceptions. He has regularly railed against the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees. However, his patience also wears thin when people listen to him and do not do what he requires.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is concluding the “sermon on the plain.” Jesus was standing on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd attended including people from Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal regions. That inclusive territory means that even Gentiles from outside Palestine had come to hear Jesus. Many also came to be healed their diseases and freed of the unclean spirits that tormented them.

The first several parts of the sermon – like Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount – are inspirational and instructional. The Beatitudes. The requirement to love your enemies. The precept to love your neighbor. The requirement for doing good deeds. After all these parts, Jesus ends with a parable of the house on a solid foundation – a parable that illustrates the result of listening to AND doing what Jesus demand.

The relationship is not between saying and doing as in Jesus said in his critique of the scribes and the Pharisees. However, this is address to all Christians who listen to the Good News. No exceptions.


Sometimes, I am really puzzled by some of our fellow Catholics when I read what Jesus asks of us – to listen and to act accordingly.  Theological College at The Catholic University of America just canceled a talk by Rev. James Martin, SJ. Fr. Martin was planning to speak about Jesus but several people have waged a smear campaign against him in social media.

Opinion columns in places like the Wall Street Journal have attacked his latest book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

The Rev. James Martin knew his latest book – which urges a dialogue between the Catholic Church and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics who feel estranged from it – would be provocative. Even though the book was approved by his Jesuit superior as being in line with church teachings and was endorsed by several cardinals, he did not expect everyone to agree. That’s fine, he said. That’s why dialogue was needed.

The book has been endorsed by several bishops and two cardinals, including Cardinal Kevin Farrell, a Vatican official who called it “welcome and much-needed.” The message in Fr. Martin’s latest book is about reaching out in love to people on the margins. On that issue, and the Sermon on the Plain we have been contemplating this week in Luke’s Gospel, we still have a lot to learn. If we can’t even begin a dialogue without a charge of heresy, then we need to take a good look at how we understand the gospel, says Fr. Martin.

Many of the attacks on Fr. Martin come from Catholics who do not seem to remember Pope Francis’s remark that “who am I to judge” if a member of the clergy was gay. He seems to be coming up smelling like a sheep. Fortunately, Fr. Martin promises to keep on loving in the face of his critics who have not even read his book. He says:

"Being pro-life, as I am, means supporting all life as a precious gift from God. That includes life in the womb, of course. And most people would expect and should expect, a Catholic priest to defend that. But it also includes the life of an inmate on death row. The life of an elderly person in a hospice. The life of a refugee on a crowded boat in the middle of the sea. And here, the life of an LGBT person, who also deserves to have his or her or their life raised up as holy, precious and unique. Pro-life is a lot broader than people might think."

Keep building bridges of love. 
 Posted by at 8:28 am

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