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.

Living in the Spirit or Enslaved to the Flesh? By Colleen O’Sullivan

If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law… Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. (Galatians 5:18, 24-25)

The Lord said: "Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. (Luke 11:42)


As St. Ignatius of Antioch prayed to be transformed in martyrdom, so we pray to be transformed each day by living in your Spirit.


In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is speaking to a particular group of Pharisees, who, he says, observe the letter of the law, but demonstrate no knowledge of the love of God. The expectations they lay on the backs of God’s people are onerous and, at the same time, these religious leaders expect to be looked up to and honored. This is not God’s way. God loves us and seeks to make our burdens lighter, not more difficult. Jesus puts the love of God before the letter of the law here and in many other places throughout the Gospels.

Today the apostle Paul writes to the Galatians about the difference between living in the Spirit and having our actions flow forth from that loving relationship and being enslaved to the passions and desires of our flesh. No one could legislate the qualities that Paul says are the fruits of the Spirit; they flow from our hearts out of our relationship with God’s loving Spirit.

The world will be a kinder, gentler place by far if more of us abide in the Spirit. Instead, ever-increasing numbers of people are leaving churches, declaring themselves non-believers or even atheists. And even at our best, we Christians aren’t perfect, so we sometimes find ourselves at the mercy of our more earthly, fleshly desires.

Works of the Flesh









Outbursts of Fury


Acts of Selfishness

Occasions of Envy

Drinking Bouts


Fruits of the Spirit









Today we remember a first-century saint, St. Ignatius of Antioch. He was born after Jesus died, but while a few of the apostles may still have been alive. St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch, in Syria. He was seized and held as a prisoner for his faith during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Trajan. He was forced to march to Rome, where the fate that awaited him was being thrown to the lions in the Colosseum. That’s a long way to march as a prisoner, and I can’t imagine what thoughts would go through a person’s mind under those circumstances. On that death march, St. Ignatius, nevertheless, managed to write seven letters to various church communities and individuals. Love, kindness, and generosity, demonstrated by the very act of putting pen to paper and writing to his friends in Christ. Faithfulness to the Lord as seen in this one line from his Letter to the Romans: “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”

The world would be a far better place if there were more people like St. Ignatius of Antioch, filled with thoughts of God and our brothers and sisters. When you look over St. Paul’s lists, where do you see yourself?
“Give Alms” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Let your mercy come to me, O Lord.  (Psalm 119:41a)

“Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.” (Luke 10:41-42)


Lord, protect me from the human desire to submit to the yoke of slavery.

Image credit is: August Heinrich Mansfeld
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Alms, alms, alms. The word shows up 163 times at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ site…and just three times in the New Testament, one of them in today’s Gospel reading.

While the first image that may come to mind is providing funds to someone who’s destitute, almsgiving means much more than that. The USCCB site tells us it’s “donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls it “a witness to fraternal charity … a work of justice pleasing to God.”

So what does all that mean? That tithing to your parish or donating to the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal or taking gently used items to Goodwill are all good things. But almsgiving doesn’t end there. People are poor in ways beyond their bank accounts. Fraternal charity includes all our brothers and sisters, not just those who frequent homeless shelters and food pantries; it includes people we are tempted to envy for their wealth and despise for their political views.

You see, giving alms is about surrender. It’s about not being careful as we select those with whom we share our witness, financially, emotionally, or otherwise. It’s about being consistent and non-discriminatory when it comes to those works of justice, whether or not we receive it in return on this earth. When we pick and choose to whom we reflect Christ in our daily encounters, we become dirtier and dirtier inside. We become slaves to our biases and self-interests. We turn over our freedom to evil without evil having to lift a finger.

Give alms to someone you find difficult to love.
“Where Is Your God?”

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here. Luke 11:32


As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God? My tears have been my bread day and night, as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:2-4)


With the canonization this weekend of five “new” saints, we can imagine in our human minds, St. Teresa (and all those in the litany of the saints) welcoming Paul, Oscar and the five other new saints to an exclusive club.  However, they have been saints since death…our earthly recognition comes long after they were elevated to such status on the Cloud of Witnesses.  

Teresa, Paul, Oscar, and all saints show the Children of God and the Church a way to achieve perfection.  “There is something greater” in the living examples of their lives.  As Pope Francis said in his homily, “All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all.”[i]

Too often we submit to the yoke of slavery to the world’s expectations.

“…(O)ur heart is like a magnet: it lets itself be attracted by love, but it can cling to one master only and it must choose: either it will love God or it will love the world’s treasure (cf. Mt 6:24); either it will live for love or it will live for itself (cf. Mk 8:35). Let us ask ourselves where we are in our story of love with God. Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him?”


Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus is radical.

“He gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart. Even today he gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange? We cannot respond to him, who made himself our servant even going to the cross for us, only by observing some of the commandments. We cannot give him, who offers us eternal life, some odd moment of time. Jesus is not content with a “percentage of love”: we cannot love him twenty or fifty or sixty percent. It is either all or nothing.” (Pope Francis)

What yoke can you throw off today?

Jesus Looked at Him and Loved Him! By Wayne Miller


Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me " (Wisdom 7:7)

“…the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword...” (Hebrews 4:12)

“…Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." (Mark 10:20-21)

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."


Abba Father, thank you for looking at me and loving me!  Thank you for accepting my lame excuses for piety and relationship with you for so many years.  Thank you for continuing to send prophets and priests my way until I finally hear what you are saying to me and what it means to live every day in the Kingdom of Heaven with You.


For so many years I was such a “good guy” that I really had no need for a relationship with God through Jesus.  I was so “good” that theft or murder or adultery or lying never crossed my mind, and I always honored my father and mother. Why did I need a personal relationship with God? I was already sinless. And every time I read Mark 10 and watched the downcast young rich man turn away, I pitied him for his obsession with wealth, but never understood my obsession with my “goodness”. But years of “goodness” only left me more and more empty, the greater my accomplishments. Finally, one night while reflecting on scripture that some caring brothers suggested, I heard the voice of God speak directly to my heart in a way that I could not refute (see Revelations 3:15-17). For the first time in my very successful, “good” life, I knew that God knew me. And, although it was more threat than loving invitation, it was exactly the wake-up call that my “good” mind and heart needed to recognize that obsession with “wealth” comes in many forms and I was not immune. The one thing I was sure of was that I had no interest in being spewed out of anybody’s mouth, especially not God’s!

I know now that every shred of my life – every bit of professional acumen, every nickel I’ve ever accumulated, every square foot of my beautiful Virginia home and all the precious articles in it, every breath I’ve ever drawn – are my wealth and His Gift to me.  And I must be ready and absolutely willing to say “YES” to a completely irrational command to give it away.

I want to be ready to blurt out a resounding “YES” to any request that comes from the Loving Glance of Jesus. I felt that glance this week in the face of a young, inspired web developer who is working on an application to capture words and phrases of obscure, dying languages into a dictionary that can support the proliferation of sacred scripture to the ends of the earth. He did his best to explain the thousands of lines of code that make a cell phone screen come to life and allow a person on the other side of the world to collaborate in building the dictionary. I don’t remember anything of the complexities of that code, but I will forever treasure the joy and warmth of the young man’s love for Jesus that motivated every keystroke. Instead of spending his life grinding out the next “Black Ops” video game, he said “YES” to a magnificent journey applying the precious wealth given to him for the greater glory of God! He blessed me with a totally unexpected 3-and-a-half hour Closest-Moment on a cramped cross-country flight and reminded me again that God’s Love is alive and active in our world everywhere, every day.


Encounters like this encourage me every day to see whatever I am doing and whoever I am engaged with through the loving eyes of Jesus. Sometimes I have “wisdom” to offer. Sometimes, all I can give is admiration, encouragement, and sincere supporting prayer.

Next week I begin a new engagement supporting Navy headquarters in the never-ending challenge of crafting a budget that will support the world’s greatest Navy as it protects our precious freedoms. Pray that I can see every bit of the analysis that I do with the same loving glance that my young web-developer friend gives to his work. And may my loving presence help every one of those men and women know their precious, intrinsic worth in the midst of the everyday Pentagon chaos.

I am so thankful that I have a wife and trusted brothers that stand with me in this loving quest. Thank you all!

De Colores!

“…And Observe It"


Before faith came, we were held in custody under the law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:23-27

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed." He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Luke 11:27-28


In today’s Gospel, we have to be careful not to over-connect the two sentences.  Let’s not interpret the new “be-attitude” as a rebuke of the mother of Jesus or of the woman in the crowd. They too are included in the blessing.  But Jesus extends that blessing to emphasize that attentiveness to God’s word is more important than merely a biological relationship to Jesus.

The operative word is “listen” – again that first word of the Benedictine Rule. This attentiveness to Jesus’ words and actions guide us to faith rather than following any set of prescribed rules.

Pope Francis reminds us that “Jesus isn’t interested in people’s opinion polls and gossip.”  At the September 16th Angelus, the Pope said, “Faith that is reduced to formulas is short-sighted.”

Paul adds a further argument in support of righteousness or justification by faith and through God’s promise rather than by works of the law.  We are children of God.  The teaching moment in Gal 3:23–25 is that since faith (Christianity) has come, we are no longer under the law. 

The notes in the New American Bible explain that the word used for “disciplinarian” was the Greek paidagōgos”.   This referred to a slave who escorted a child to school but did not teach or tutor; hence, a guardian or monitor but not a teacher.  In contrast to the child being escorted to school, with faith, we become daughters and sons of hope. 


Have you “have put on Christ” or are you putting him off?  The Baptismal imagery today remind us that we are baptized in the present moment to live out our faith.  However, the sacrament does not just mark us in church when we wear the baptismal gown, oils, water, and candle. We carry that garment forth into the world to do justice.


I wore my righteousness like a garment; justice was my robe and my turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame was I. (Job 29:14-15

We may not be asked (as Blessed Oscar Romero was) to give up our lives for the faith.  However, tomorrow, as a reminder, Pope Francis will wear the blood-stained cincture (rope belt) of almost St. Oscar.  This is from the  March 24, 1980 assassination seeking to silence his message of solidarity with El Salvador’s poor and oppressed.

What will you put on for Christ?  How will you observe what you hear with your action? 

By the Finger of God

Realize that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham. Scripture, which saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, through you shall all the nations be blessed. Consequently, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith.  Galatians 3:7-9

But if it is by the finger of God that [I] drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.  But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.  Luke 11:20-22


Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. —Psalm 139:12


Faith (once again) takes center stage in both of our readings today.  The finger of God is at work, not the civil law or even Church law. 

In the Hebrew Bible, the magicians had, for the most part, been able to replicate the signs and wonders Moses performed to manifest God’s power—turning their staffs into snakes (7:11–12), turning water into blood (7:22), and producing frogs to overrun the land of Egypt (8:3). However, in Exodus 8:15 after Aaron turns the dust into gnats, for the first time they are unable to compete, and confess and admit that a power greater than their own is at work.

Jesus’ uses that same image – the finger of God – when referring to how he drives out demons.  Those who put their faith in the finger of God at work in the world over magicians, kings, soldiers or others will be blessed as Abraham.

Faith is what matters, for Abraham and the children of Abraham, for the Galatians, and, for the Virginians, in contrast to the claims of the opponents that observance of the (man-made) civil or church laws is needed to bring the promised blessing.


What does that faith compel us to do?  While there are beauty and power in prayer and liturgy, Jesus uses a very active situation in both readings to get across the point.

Whether trying to save the people trapped in a strange land or driving out the demons of poverty, violence, and sin, faith propels us to act, too.

Sometimes Beelzebub returns with stronger companions. However, sometimes, they are gone! 

In case you missed it, this has been an epic 24 hours for death penalty abolition.

Malaysia announced it would be ending the death penalty.

Gov. Bill Haslam stopped Thursday night's execution in TN!

The Supreme Court of Washington unanimously ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Washington is the 20th state to abolish capital punishment. The ruling also converted the death sentences of the eight men on Washington's death row to life sentences.

It took faith AND action, ora et labora to achieve these milestones.

What demons will you drive out today with your actions grounded in faith? 

“I Long to Receive, Spirit of God” by Beth DeCristofaro

O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-2)

If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:13)


Teach me to receive, Lord.  Teach me to be open to the joy of the Spirit.  And teach me to act always seeking, understanding that through suffering and trust I come to know your work within me.


Scripture offers many images to help lead us to a closer relationship with – if not some fracture of understanding of – the Divine.  Burning Bush.  Whirlwind.  Stranger.  Mother Hen.  Shepherd.  A golden flaming Throne, Vineyard Owner.  Patiently Waiting Father.  Poor Woman Searching.  Here we have a sleeping Friend and a “wicked” Parent.  Many facets.  Overreaching mercy, love, generosity, dominion.  Waiting with open arms,  God is not out there but right here in many simple, pastoral forms.

Julian of Norwich wrote of today’s image.  “(A) vision taught me that God is very pleased when we continually search for him. We cannot do more than seek, suffer and trust; and this itself is the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. And the brilliance of finding him: that comes from the Spirit’s special grace, when it is his will. Seeking with faith, hope and love pleases our Lord and finding him pleases the soul, filling it full of joy. And so, I learned that as long as God allows us to struggle on this earth, seeking is as good as seeing. It is God's will for us to go on seeking until we see him, for it is because of this that he will show himself to us in his special grace when he so wills.

“God will then teach the soul how to hold him in this gaze. This is what brings the most glory to him and does most to help us, making us most open to receiving humility and other virtues by the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit. For a soul that does nothing but hold on to God, with very great trust, either to seek him or to see him, is, it seems to me, offering the best possible praise to God….

“God works in secret and yet wants to be perceived…. And he wants to be trusted, for he is such a gracious and loving friend. Praise him!” [i]  


As Colleen’s reflection reminded us, prayer includes listening for God’s voice under our own.  Sometimes we fall into knocking while looking back over our shoulder, running away before our friend opens or shouting in frustration and doubt “open up damn you” while not really listening for the answer nor holding our hands out for the loaf of bread we asked for.  We are too easily distracted by the sparkly things in life which we mistake for the Spirit of God – our good name, our rising star, a “how it used to be” gilded priority, our own answers to life.

Take a moment and review what are you asking God for?  How well are you listening to the answers God has lovingly, graciously for you?  God gives us the door and it is always to open for us.  We alone can close it in our own hearts.

 Posted by at 8:28 am

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.