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.

“Motives and Rewards” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6:1-4)


Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)


Sermon on the Mount, Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1877,
The Museum of National History, Denmark,
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Today’s verses from Matthew’s Gospel are from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. The Lord addresses multiple issues in this discourse aimed at the crowd gathered before him. In this passage, he talks about the motives behind our almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, specifically our human tendency to want to impress others.

Jesus says that what we give to the poor should be between us and God. No one else needs to know how we respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters. Give, and don’t talk about it. With regard to prayer, Jesus says to look at it as a private conversation between each of us and God. There’s no need to flaunt our piety before others. The third topic Jesus touches on is fasting. Do it quietly. No one needs to know how much goes in your Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl during Lent or what you did to put it there. God knows, and that is sufficient.

It’s all about our motives and the rewards we seek. Jesus talks about our desire for the admiration of other people. He’s quite blunt on the subject. If that’s what we seek, when we find it, that is our reward. Period. But beware, because prestige accorded by others, like money and material possessions, doesn’t go with us when our days on earth are finished. Better to give to those in need, to pray and to fast because these are ways God has asked us to show our love for the Lord and all his children. Jesus assures us that God ultimately rewards what he sees in secret.

There are other motivations for our actions that are equally empty. Monday through Friday I receive an email from The Divinity School at Duke University containing the day’s headlines on the church and the world. Today’s offerings included one from Pacific Standard that caught my eye in light of the Gospel reading - Will Tax Reform Reduce Charitable Giving?  According to Alex Brill and Derrick Choe of the American Enterprise Institute, charitable giving could be reduced by 4% in response to recent tax legislation. Jesus never heard of tax deductions for charitable giving but giving to get something in return isn’t giving from our hearts.

I once heard a middle-aged man confess that up to that point in his life, everything he’d ever done had been for himself, not for God.  Fortunately, the Lord is always willing to help us turn our lives around. Talk to Jesus today about the desires and motivations of your heart.
“The Bad and the Good” by Melanie Rigney

“Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the LORD’s sight, I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you and will cut off every male in Ahab’s line, whether slave or freeman, in Israel.” (1 Kings 21:20-21)

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. (Psalm 51:3)

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

By Jim Forest; https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/28978936962;
used under terms at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/#.

Lord, open my eyes to the potential for salvation in those who persecute me.


As Christians, we are asked to believe many difficult things: the presence of three Persons in one. The Incarnation. The Resurrection.

But believing is one thing; it’s possible for us to accept teachings and tradition, and not give the how and why and wherefore too much thought. Acting is so much harder, and perhaps the most difficult things Jesus asks us to do is love and pray for our persecutors. That neighbor whose parties go into the late hours or who appears to be engaging in illegal activities? That coworker who seems to delight in testing our maturity and patience? That politician whose values and conduct are anathema to us?

Love and pray. Pray and love.

That doesn’t mean we become doormats. We find the right channels for reporting the neighbor after we’ve tried talking with him or her personally. We examine ourselves to determine how much of the problem with the coworker is that person—and how much is us—and we work on new strategies to keep or establish a better perspective about the significance of the treachery. We advocate and vote for people whose words and action reflect the type of world in which we want to live.

But we never stop loving and praying for our enemies and persecutors. Not ever. Because God loves them too—and His love can bring miracles in the worst of those who ever walked the earth. After all, look at what He’s done with us.

Offer your prayer time today for the private intentions of one of your enemies.
Hand Him Your Cloak

Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel next to the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it is close by, next to my house. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money.” Naboth answered him, “The LORD forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage.” 2 Kings 21:1-3

“If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow."  Matthew 5:40-42

Artwork by Fr. McNichols
'O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all the spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

'O St Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.'" Amen

With much love and gratitude to all our Fathers." Happy Fathers' Day! Jesuit Fr. Bill McNichols - June 2018

Today’s readings provide us two examples of how faith and the law intersect in daily life.  These readings are the outgrowth of the positive image provided in Sunday’s Gospel when Jesus compares our faith to the mustard seed. If our faith is like that tiny seed, then our faith can grow large and put forth large branches, having an effect on those who we may not even know we have touched.

That life-affirming image of positive growth recognizes in the weekly readings that we might encounter obstacles – including bad people acting out of bad faith.

The story in today’s First Reading tells how Jezebel manipulates important structures of Israelite social order, law, and religious observance to eliminate a faithful Israelite landowner who frustrates Ahab’s will.

Naboth is unwilling to sell or exchange his vineyard. According to the Israelite system of land tenure and distribution,the land was held in common within a family or clan.  The ancestral naḥalah was not private property, to be sold at will like we would sell our house today and move to another city for a job or to retire.

Turn to the Gospel reading and we encounter the story of Jesus turning the law upside down. 

The Old Testament commandment cited (“an eye for an eye”) was straight out of Hammurabi’s Code.  It was meant to moderate vengeance; the punishment should not exceed the injury done.  Even today’s modern “just war” theory in Catholic doctrine underscores the need for proportionality.  Jesus forbids even this proportionate retaliation. Of the five examples that follow, only the first deals directly with retaliation for evil; the others speak of liberality.

Whether we encounter people acting within their rights (like the Roman soldiers forcing the Jews into service) or others (like Jezebel) manipulating the law for their selfish purposes, Jesus tells us to act with humility and compassion and mercy.  Jesus tells us to act just as our Father would act.

This mercy connects our Sunday/Father’s Day readings with the theme that continues through the week.  It also underscores the importance of those bracelets which became popular when our daughters were in middle and high school: WWJD?
  • Jesus would certainly NOT stone someone to death for obeying ancient laws.
  • Jesus would NOT put false witnesses against someone.
  • Jesus would NOT seize the land taken with such illegal, immoral motives.
Jesus turned the law upside down.

Much has been and continues to be written about the practices being imposed on asylum seekers approaching the Southern border with Mexico.  Arresting all the parents – including those legally seeking protection – NOT those seeking to enter the US illegally -- and putting the children into detention facilities is just wrong.  Here is how New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan put it:  If they want to take a baby from the arms of his mother and separate the two, that is wrong...Not good. Not American. Not human. Not biblical."   

Contact your legislators and tell them to urge the leaders who are imposing this practice to put it to an end.

Where would we be today if the Egyptian authorities jailed Mary and Joseph and put Jesus into a tent city somewhere in the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula?

The inhumane and cruel policies imposed against legal migrants fleeing horrors at home must end.
  • Immigrant families should not be separated so they can be detained. 
  • Children should never be detained.
  • The use of military bases to hold immigrant children and families is a grave violation of human rights that transgresses core American values
May we all be open to seeing God is Love in ourselves. May we be strong enough to receive it from others, compassionate enough to give it to others, and courageous enough to demand it from others. @TonyReali

Let Your “Yes” Mean “Yes”

Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you." Elijah answered, "Go back! Have I done anything to you?" 1 Kings 19:19-20

But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the Evil One." Matthew 5:34-37

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks" (Is. 2:4)

As expounded by the notes in the NABRE, “Oath-taking presupposes a sinful weakness of the human race, namely, the tendency to lie. Jesus demands of his disciples a truthfulness that makes oaths unnecessary.[1] Therefore, another practice which was allowed in the Hebrew Bible are no longer permitted by Jesus. 

What, then, does the First Reading mean and how does it further explain the changing practices that Jesus requires of his disciples?

Elijah’s act of throwing his mantle over the shoulders of Elisha associates him with Elijah as a servant. Elisha will later succeed to Elijah’s position and prophetic power (2 Kgs 2:115). Elisha’s prompt response, destroying his plow and oxen, signifies a radical change from his former manner of living.

Many of us have no problem accepting gradual, evolutionary changes.  However, making radical changes in how we behave is quite a different story. 

We live in a culture that has – for some – a distinct tension between the demands of our faith.  The euphemism “cafeteria” Catholic describes those who accept what is comfortable and ignore what is hard. 

When Pope Paul VI spoke to the United Nations in October 1965, he pushed the leaders of all nations to adopt a stance to reject all future temptations for war. 
Here our message reaches its culmination, and we will speak first of all negatively. These are the words you are looking for us to say and the words we cannot utter without feeling aware of their seriousness and solemnity: never again one against the other, never, never again!
Was not this the very end for which the United Nations came into existence: to be against war and for peace? Listen to the clear words of a great man who is no longer with us, John Kennedy, who proclaimed four years ago: "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind." [2]

Just like Elisha destroyed his former tools to free him up for the task ahead as servant and successor to Elijah, what are you called to destroy?
Why Are You Here?

A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, "Elijah, why are you here?" 1 Kings 19:11B-13

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.  Matthew 5:29-30


All those hours that Sister Mary Theodore drilled the Baltimore Catechism into my brain in CCD classes reminds me today of why we are here:[1]

1)   To know HIM

2)   To Love HIM and have an active relationship with God

3)   To serve HIM as stewards for the gifts God has provided to us


In a flop-flip from the legacy view, the soft-spoken forgiving image of God portrayed in most of the New Testament appears in the First Reading from the Book of Kings. A sterner, more judgmental Jesus is encountered in this continuation from the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus does not hesitate from telling people that they have to abandon the habits to which they have grown accustomed. No sacrifice is too great to avoid total destruction.   

The bottom line on all of the Sermon on the Mount is that we are here for God’s righteousness, not our own. We are “here” to bring justice to the other.  As Matthew says elsewhere in his Good News (25:35); “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”


The Catholic Bishops are reminding us about the need to advocate for the stranger.

Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together."

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Galveston-Houston recently issued a statement taking exception from a new Justice Department position not to offer asylum as an option to women who seek to enter the country:

"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life. The Attorney General's recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection. These vulnerable women will now face return to the extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country. This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors. We urge courts and policymakers to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life.

Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB's Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration's zero-tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."

At the USCCB 2018 spring meeting, Joseph Cardinal Tobin of Newark suggested that the USCCB send a group of bishops to the border to inspect the detention facilities where children are kept "as a sign of protest against the hardening of the American heart." A Bishop's Presidential Statement "condemns" the use of the separation of children from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border. "It is immoral."

Why are we here is not to advocate for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

PS:  Thank you, Sister Mary Theodore. I love and still remember the Orange Trick, too! 

“See and Act with Mercy” by Beth DeCristofaro

…Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, crouched down to the earth, and put his head between his knees. "Climb up and look out to sea," he directed his servant, who went up and looked, but reported, "There is nothing."
Seven times he said, "Go, look again!" And the seventh time the youth reported, "There is a cloud as small as a man's hand rising from the sea." Elijah said, "Go and say to Ahab, 'Harness up and leave the mountain before the rain stops you.'" In a trice, the sky grew dark with clouds and wind, and a heavy rain fell.
(1 Kings 18:42-45)

Jesus said to his disciples: "I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill, and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment … (Matthew 5:20-22)


May the God of justice lead us from falsehood to truth, from despair to hope, and from hate to love, through Christ, the paschal lamb.  Amen

        (Morning Prayer)


Elijah’s prayer which ended the drought in 1 Kings and proved the authentic authority of God to Ahab is, in my reading, an example of faith the size of a mustard seed moving mountains…or in this case moving the sea to become life-giving rain.  And faith the size of a mustard seed is very much needed for me as I read Jesus’ words in the Gospel.  Swallow my anger, forgive my brother/sister, be more righteous than the righteous?  I fall to the sin of self-righteousness and judgment so quickly which then causes me to not see brothers and sisters but antagonists who must be taught a lesson (aka “taken down”).

Pope Francis speaks to my dilemma, inspiring words in the Apostolic Exhortation GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE.  

80. “Mercy has two aspects. It involves giving, helping and serving others, but it also includes forgiveness and understanding. Matthew sums it up in one golden rule: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (7:12). The Catechism reminds us that this law is to be applied “in every case”, especially when we are “confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult.”

81. Giving and forgiving means reproducing in our lives some small measure of God’s perfection, which gives and forgives superabundantly. For this reason, in the Gospel of Luke we do not hear the words, “Be perfect” (Mt 5:48), but rather, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (6:36-38). Luke then adds something not to be overlooked: “The measure you give will be the measure you get back” (6:38). The yardstick we use for understanding and forgiving others will measure the forgiveness we receive. The yardstick we use for giving will measure what we receive. We should never forget this.

82. Jesus does not say, “Blessed are those who plot revenge”. He calls “blessed” those who forgive and do so “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22). We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion. If we approach the Lord with sincerity and listen carefully, there may well be times when we hear his reproach: “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt 18:33).

Seeing and acting with mercy: that is holiness. [i]

By seeing and acting with mercy I draw closer to God!  I draw closer to my brother and sister.


Probably the most difficult act of mercy is forgiving.  It asks so much of me!  But with God all things are possible and God gives what is needed.  In these days of division and enmity, we are asked to do the impossible.  God wants us in community with our brother and sister.  What will you do today to see and act with mercy, especially to someone who needs that lesson so badly!
“Get Off the Fence” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Elijah appealed to all the people and said, "How long will you straddle the issue?   If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” …At the time for offering sacrifice, the prophet Elijah came forward and said, "LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things by your command.  Answer me, LORD!  Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses."  The LORD's fire came down and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench.  Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, "The LORD is God! The LORD is God!"  (1Kings 18:21, 36-39)


They multiply their sorrows who court other gods.  (Psalm 16:4a)


Men witnessing burning altar, Fresco from Dura Europos synagogue,
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
For three years, the people of Israel had suffered the effects of a severe drought. Elijah said the drought was God’s punishment for God’s people following their rulers, Ahab and Jezebel, down the road to Baal worship.  In today’s reading, the prophet Elijah tells the people to make up their minds.  Either be for the Lord or not.  We are not like other peoples in this part of the world, he says, selecting a little bit of this faith and a little something else from another and blending it all together.

For Elijah, this is a faith crisis.  He wants to bring things to a head.  What follows is a long account of a showdown between Elijah, the sole prophet of the God of Israel, and the 450 prophets of Baal.  Two altars are prepared, each with a bull to be sacrificed.  The large gathering of Baal’s prophets gets first go at having their god kindle the fire for the sacrifice.  For hours they call upon their deity without any response.  The Scripture says, “… there was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening.

Elijah taunts them, suggesting that their god is away on a trip or sleeping. 

When Elijah calls upon the Lord, however, fire immediately destroys everything from the bull to the wood of the altar to the very stones on the ground.  Everyone proclaims that there is only one God, the God of Israel.


This is not one of my favorite stories.  The narrative continues on past the end of today’s reading with the slaughter of all the prophets of Baal. 

Whether the story appeals to us or not, it does present us with a hard truth.  Either we are faithful to our God or we’re not.  There’s no sitting on the fence.  We can protest that we would never worship a god of another religion, but I can hear Elijah saying, oh, really?   Maybe not an officially recognized god, but what about all the other things you idolize?

Think back over the last day or two.  How did you spend your time?  How much time did you spend on social media?  How many hours of television did you watch?  How much time did you spend worrying about something?  How much time did you spend shopping on Amazon? 

How much time did you spend in prayer or study or action, the tripod on which Cursillo is based? 

Honest answers about how we spend our time may show us that we aren’t as committed to our God as we would like to believe.  The one line in today’s reading that jumped out at me was “there was not a sound, no one answered, and no one was listening.”  If we call out to most of the activities we engage in over the course of a day or the material possessions we treasure, we get no answer.  If we call upon the Lord, God is always listening and will respond.  Maybe today is the day to get off the fence.

 Posted by at 8:28 am

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