What Is the Rudder in Your Life?

Posted on February 7, 2018 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: What Is the Rudder in Your Life?For Sunday, February 11, 2018
Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Mark 1:40-45

“If you wish, you can make me clean … I do will it. Be made clean.” This dialogue can easily be on each of our lips as we begin the season of Lent this week. This season is a wonderful opportunity to take an assessment of where we are on our journey of faith. Lent is a time of discovery, renewal, conversion, and repentance. To be fully engaged in this intimate walk with God, we must be prepared to be vulnerable, humble, and brutally honest. Not only does God want to make us whole, but we desperately desire, in the depths of our being, to have our often fragmented and disjointed lives gathered and healed.

Lent is a time of healing and wholeness. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches. Children have very little time for their parents and parents have very little time for their children and for each other. So the breakdown of peace in the world begins at home.” (more…)

Our Families: Blessed and Broken

Posted on December 27, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Our Families: Blessed and BrokenFor Sunday, December 31, 2017
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 OR Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3
Colossians 3:12-21 OR Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19
Luke 2:22-40

Does the “typical” family really exist? Families come in so many shapes and sizes and there is nothing “typical” about them. Our family of origin, our family of association, the family of our church, the family of humanity and the family of creation are all different types of families. Even our work and school associations are often referred to as “families.” They vary in expression and style as much as human beings vary one to the other. As much as we are different, our families are different. All require tolerance, patience and freedom of expression. We are more connected to each other and to all of creation than we think. We are hard-wired to be connected with God, one another and our world. We cannot be our best selves in isolation.

The Holy Family was not typical either. (more…)

A Hollow Kingdom?

Posted on November 22, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: A Hollow Kingdom?For Sunday, November 26, 2017
Solemnity of Christ the King

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

In his encyclical Laudato Si Pope Francis writes: “The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” In other words, we are designed by God to keep these fundamental relationships in proper perspective and order. With our reading from Ezekiel and Matthew’s Gospel front and center on this Feast of Christ the King, we are able to give these primary relationships some much needed reflection. Also, assessing these relationships is a wonderful way to end one liturgical year and begin another.

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Harmony as God Intended

Posted on October 4, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Harmony as God IntendedFor Sunday, October 8, 2017
27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 5:1-7
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

God created the beautiful glory of the heavens and the earth, animals, plants and human beings. All things were placed in proper order and he blessed it all with the gift of free will. He placed within the human heart the desire to know him, the author of all that is. It is with this gift of free will that all can find their paths to freely love God, their very selves, one another, and the world he has entrusted to our care. After all was finished and properly in place, God looked at all that he had made and found it very good. What more was there to do that God had not done?

The virtue of temperance helps us discover balance and harmony. We are meant to live in proper relationship with one another, the world, and the God who made us. But that gift of free will that makes life so creative, meaningful, and engaging can, if not properly used, lead us down a very different path. By choosing not so virtuous and balanced choices, we can quickly find our relationships very disordered. (more…)

Life with Conflicting Opposites

Posted on August 16, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Life with Conflicting OppositesFor Sunday, August 20, 2017
20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

A simple authentic and honest encounter with another human being can reveal hidden truths, allow enemies to embrace, and mutual respect to flourish. It is necessary to journey into the heart of a person in order for walls, prejudices, and antiquated barriers to be removed. Inclusivity has been one of the hallmarks of God’s agenda from the beginning of time. His house is intended to be “a house of prayer for all peoples” where human dignity is safeguarded regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what we believe. (more…)

Moving Beyond Fear

Posted on June 21, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Midweek Reflection: Moving Beyond FearFor Sunday, June 25, 2017
12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20:10-13
Romans 5:12-15
Matthew 10:26-33

We live in unsettled times. Issues are brewing across the globe, whether in North Korea, Russia, with ISIS, or in our very own country. Conflicts and divisions seem to be deepening every day and the news headlines constantly reveal more. We hesitate to have our children play outside alone, we fear being vulnerable in public places, and things we normally could trust are being called into question. Fear is an emotion not only becoming more common, but becoming justifiable in light of our current situation.

But we are people of faith and Jesus clearly makes the point that fear has no place in the life of the disciple. Matthew’s Gospel specifically tells us: “Fear no one.” Even the Stoic philosopher, Seneca, had no tolerance for fear: “If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.” That being said, there is a difference between actual fear and imagined, crippling fear. Fear in the presence of a specific threat can propel us to action. For the Christian, however, that action must be a faith response. Imagined, crippling fear can prevent us from discovering and enjoying life’s beauty and developing our true potential. (more…)

We Have a Choice

Posted on April 18, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, April 23, 2017,
2nd Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:42-47
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

All of the happenings in our world have people very concerned and worried. Whether its chemical weaponry, suicide bombers, religious persecution, or just violence in general, people—especially those who possess some kind of faith—are wondering what is God doing about all of this? Asking where God is when we experience hurtful and frightening things is normal. It may appear at first that God is deaf to our concerns, lacking empathy for our fears and suffering. Depending upon where people are on their faith journey, this apparent absence of God can easily lead them into a doubt where they begin to question the existence of God altogether.

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Who Do We Trust?

Posted on February 28, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, March 5, 2017, 1st Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19 or 12, 17-19
Matthew 4:1-11

Who do you trust? In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin McManus tells an exceptional story about his two-year-old son getting caught crawling up the stairs. During one of his escapades, the father caught his son midway up the stairs and firmly told him to get down. In a normal two-year-old manner, the child exclaimed, “Daddy, carry me.” This interaction continued for a while and McManus remarks, “Then it happened. I never would have expected it. It took me entirely by surprise. He jumped.” McManus reached out his hands and caught his son. (more…)

Who Are You?

Posted on January 10, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, January 15, 2017, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend’s readings are all about knowing who you are. That being said, many reading this reflection may immediately react by saying that they know exactly who they are. But do you? We know the particulars of our lives, the nuances of our personalities, our successes, our weaknesses, and our personal histories. These traits define us and assist us in presenting ourselves to the world and interacting with others. But is this the end of the story? Who we really are is rooted in something we all share: baptism. (more…)

Finding Our Own Kolkata

Posted on September 13, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, September 18, 2016, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sept18

As you know, on September 4, the person many have come to know as Mother Teresa of Kolkata was canonized and now stands with us as St. Teresa of Kolkata. Pope Francis remarked, “For Mother Teresa, mercy was the ‘salt’ which gave flavour to her work, it was the ‘light’ which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.” Mother Teresa stood before the world as a living example of Christ with us, ministering to the poorest of the poor who had been cast aside by a system that often caters to injustice and disregard.

We can easily become complacent and ignore the cries of those who are poor. In fact, the prophet Amos tells us exactly that! “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” The continuation of this reading next weekend will show us how this attitude has led to self-destruction. Amos sees the destruction experienced in northern Israel as the direct result of complacency and indifference to the poor, outcast, and needy. Regardless of the scope of our sinfulness, I do not believe for one minute that God causes our demise or inflicts this type of “repayment” upon people for their misdeeds. However, what is to be considered is whether a habit of self-focused self-indulgence can and will eventually lead to the demise of an individual or to an entire nation. Trampling upon or ignoring anyone will always come back with negative results.

Mother Teresa saw a clear link between personal well-being, holiness, and service to the poor. As a woman who believed in Jesus Christ, even in her darkness she felt compelled to live this life of total service, bringing to fulfillment the vision God places before us. Our psalmist lays this out before us: “He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor.” As Christians, it is important to consider the systemic causes of poverty and injustice. We need to continually challenge contemporary systems to see the light and truth of the Gospel. However, it is even more important to put our questions and even our doubts aside for a bit, being consumed less with dealing with why a person is hungry, and using our energy to simply feed them. We need to help God’s vision become a reality.

Jesus often spoke of the intimate linkage that exists between love of God and love of neighbor. It stands to reason then that if we are in a covenant, loving relationship with God then we are also in a covenant, loving relationship with each other. We cannot turn our backs on the needs of humanity, especially those that are so obvious and grave—the poor and the powerless.

This weekend Luke’s Gospel is a lesson in stewardship. We are blatantly told, “No servant can serve two masters.” The Christian has to be prudent and efficient in the matters of God and in care of others. In short, less energy must be spent on self-interest and more on the interest of others. We are called to be stewards who serve, not stewards who squander. What will convince us to make God’s vision our own? This is a matter of conversion, of allowing God to change the way we see.

Many often believe that true conversion comes only when the truly miraculous is witnessed—the parting of a sea, the rolling thunder of the sky, a phenomenal healing, or an actual theophany. Actually true conversion is more often experienced in subtle, human ways. Conversion, brought about by repentance, occurs when I finally humbly admit to being the lovingly created child of a God who delights in every fiber of my being, even if that God may seem distant at times or even nonexistent.

True faith happens when I persevere in spite of my doubt and live out this covenant relationship of love. If the unmistakably miraculous occurs, it may cause me to stand up and take notice a bit, restore a certain measure of faith but may also position me to expect more of the same in the future. Then, the sustenance of my faith will be linked to the extraordinary and I will continue to miss God opportunities in the ordinary stuff of life. And I will continue to lapse into the pursuit of self-interest.

If a heart is hardened, even actual testimony may not penetrate it. St. Teresa did what her heart told her to do. She knew that even when she was unable to feel God’s presence or even be certain of his existence, the road to love would inevitably lead back to him. And so, she persevered. Riches were of no consequence to her.

So what happens when we persevere on our often dimly lit path on the road of faith and love? We find ourselves stumbling upon other virtues that can assist with deepening our covenant relationships: righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, gentleness, and a deepening desire for eternal life. Look at the life of Mother Teresa, the humble saint, and you will find all these things. Look at the life of any person who takes the command to love one’s neighbor seriously and you will find them as well.

How do we love our neighbor and honor their dignity? Not all of us can work in soup kitchens or find our way to Kolkata. Interestingly, Mother Teresa once told some folks that they can always find their own Kolkata. In other words, there is always need around us. Perhaps the biggest challenge is getting over the idea that my needs are more important than my neighbors’ and beginning to understand the intimate connection God’s love creates with all of my brothers and sisters and even creation. We need to become good and effective stewards. Once we change the lens through which we see life, then the way we live life will change as well and we give God more occasions to use us.

Mother Teresa did not start out seeking to be a saint. She just learned early on how to get herself out of the way.

Rev. Mark S. Suslenko

PRAYER

Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance
everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly
that our lives may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through us and be so in us
that every soul we come in contact with
may feel your presence in our soul.
Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus.
Stay with us and then we shall begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from you.
None of it will be ours.
It will be you shining on others through us.
Let us thus praise you in the way you love best
by shining on those around us.
Let us preach you without preaching,
not by words, but by our example;
by the catching force –
the sympathetic influence of what we do,
the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you.
Amen.

Prayer of Mother Teresa.

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