Saturday, February 28, 2015

Praying Against Hate

Praying Against Hate
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Saturday, Feb. 28th, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

Jesus gives us a tough command in today Gospel - love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  In light of all that is happening in the world today, it seems like an impossible command. But love is a choice more than an emotion, and prayer is stronger than any earthly weapon. Let us turn to God in our tears and pray that others turn to him too.

Friday, February 27, 2015

High Standards of Virtue

High Standards of Virtue
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Friday, Feb. 27th, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

How often do we think that there are evils done by others so great that even God cannot possibly forgive them, or that He won't forgive us for the evils we have done?  We'd be wrong in both cases.  As Ezekiel points out, as long as we still breathe it is never too late for anyone to do the right thing. If we repent - change our ways - and follow the path laid out for us by Jesus, then we will preserve our eternal life.  No matter the evils in our past.

The challenge for us, if we are trying to live a virtuous life, is to not slip up and return evil for evil.  We must always believe in the infinite mercy of God toward others - and to us.  If we fail to accept that God forgives others, then we risk judging and condemning them - a sense of self-righteousness where we reject God and make ourselves into gods.  Or, if we fail to accept that God forgives us, then we reject God's grace which we need in order to overcome our own failings.

Jesus sets high standards for us to follow.  But if we accept God's grace and mercy and let ourselves be guided by His Holy Spirit, then we'll find that living that virtuous life isn't as difficult as it seems.  Lent is the perfect time for us to embrace that grace.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Praying Carefully

Praying Carefully
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Thursday, Feb. 26th, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

In today's first reading, Queen Esther prays that God would turn King
Ahasuerus's "heart to hatred" toward Haman and his followers, because of the evil that they intended for the Jews.  With the evil in today's world, especially toward Christians, we, too, may be easily tempted to pray for the destruction of those who persecute us.  But we must be careful for what we pray for, for God hears our prayers.

God seeks lost souls.  Our prayers, then, must be those of Jesus - for the conversion of hearts.  For it is only through the action of the Holy Spirit in converting the hearts of those who hate that we will be able to find peace.  The early Christians died with forgiveness on their lips and love in their hearts. And if there is love in the heart, then there will be no room for hate.  So, when we knock, when we seek, when we pray, it must be without ceasing for that love.  Only God's love will heal our broken world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Signposts Ahead

Signposts Ahead
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Wednesday, Feb. 25th, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

Jesus said to them, 'This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.' " (Luke 11:29)

How often in our lives do we demand a sign from God to prove that He exists and that He hears us?  We challenge Him with, "If you loved me you would ... " - well, you can fill in the blank.  In reality, we aren't looking for proof for His existence; we are trying to manipulate Him to conform to our will.  

Signs from God aren't meant to satisfy our short-term needs, but rather to call us to conversion for our long-term salvation.  Are we open to the signs of Jonah in today's world as they call us to repentance?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Anger Without Hate

Anger Without Hate
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Monday, Feb. 23rd, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

In today's first reading, we are commanded by God to "take no revenge and cherish no grudge" against others, and to "love our neighbor".  But with all of the hate and evil in the world today, can we seek justice without revenge, or overcome the anger and ill will we feel toward our brothers with love and not hatred? How?

Saturday, February 21, 2015


A Lenten Minute Reflection for Sunday, Feb. 22nd, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

In today's Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus' encounter with Satan does not possess all of the details that are found in St. Luke's or St. Matthew's versions; he merely states that Jesus was "tempted by Satan." Yet we know that Jesus resisted those temptations, and so can we.

Far to often we think we're guilty of sin just because we have been tempted, but it isn't the temptation that causes us to sin, it is our response to it.  And if we acknowledge and note each time we face a temptation to sin, we can turn to God for help in resisting it.  So, this week take time each evening to identify the temptations that you've faced that day, and then bring them to God for help in resisting them in the future.

God's Calling

God's Calling
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Saturday, Feb. 21th, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

In today's Gospel (Luke 5:27), Jesus calls Levi while Levi is at work. He did the same for Simon, Andrew, James, John - in fact, most of those he called were working at the time. We should not expect to be called to serve God only in church; it's more likely we're being called during our daily routine. Are we listening?

Friday, February 20, 2015

What's Your Agenda?

What's Your Agenda?
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Friday, Feb. 20th, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

In today's first reading, God has Isaiah ask the people why should they expect God to listen to them when all they do is go through the motions of fasting and self-denial while continuing to pursue their own personal agendas?  Are we doing the same thing this Lent?  Or are we seeking a way to use our prayers, fasting and almsgiving to help others?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Are You Committed?

Are You Committed?
A Lenten Minute Reflection for Thursday, Feb. 19th, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

In today's Gospel, Jesus first speaks to his disciples and tells them that their leader will suffer and die; then he speaks to the rest who are present that if they want to be disciples that they, too, must be ready to experience the same fate.  If yesterday we received ashes as a sign that we are ready to be a disciple of Jesus, then today we are reminded of what we committed to.  Do we understand?

Who's Your Authority?

Homily for Sunday, February 1, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time - B
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

What does the word “AUTHORITY” mean?

In today’s Gospel, we hear the word “authority” twice:  Jesus “taught them as one having authority”, and “A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

I guess we should first try and understand what it meant when we say, “authority”.  Merriam-Webster gives the following definitions for authority:

•    the power to give orders or make decisions
•    the power or right to direct or control someone or something
•    the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people
•    a quality that makes something seem true or real

Power.  Confidence.  Respect.   We might say that these are the three main characteristics that help determine if one is an authority or not.

So let’s look at Jesus in this passage. 
•    He has power to give orders; he exorcises the unclean spirit;
•    He has the quality of someone who knows a lot about something and the confidence to convey it in his teachings; and
•    He is respected; after all, he is allowed to speak in the synagogue on the Sabbath;

Does that make him an authority?

“He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” That’s interesting – “not as the scribes”.  You’d think that scribes WOULD BE authorities. Scribes in Israel at the time of Jesus and throughout Jewish history were men who were highly educated in the Scriptures and Jewish Law and it was their business to study it, interpret it, write about it – they were “the authorities” of their time.  It was their job to know and teach The Law.  (I like that statement – “The Law”.  It always gives me the image of Sylvester Stallone in the original Judge Dredd movie.)  Yet here we see that the scribes are not considered an authority like Jesus.

So what made Jesus different?  It might help, I guess, if we should look at those who we recognize as authorities today.   How about those who exert control over our lives - we often refer to police officers and other public or political figures as “authorities”, especially those who enforce the laws and regulations that we are subject to.  They fit the first two definitions of an authority; they have the power to give orders or make decisions and the power or right to direct or control us according to the laws that they represent.

But as we have seen in the news recently we often do not recognize or respect their authority – after all, they are only human and can make mistakes, right?  We may be compelled to obey them or face the consequences – but we often resent what we see as an abuse of power and we can lose confidence and respect in their authority over us.

OK, if we don’t always respect the authority of our civil servants, who do we respect?  Our parents?  We should – remember that whole Ten Commandments thing about honoring our father and mother?  I suppose that when we are really young we recognize their authority over our lives – they certainly know more than we do.  At least until we get to be about thirteen when they all of a sudden forget everything and we become instantaneously smarter than they are.  Actually, if you stop to think about it, we begin to reject that sense of parental authority over our lives at a much younger age – like about the age of two – when we first learn the word, “NO”?  My parents didn’t become smart again for me until I was in my twenties and then they suddenly became – smart.  Well, at least SMARTER.

How about our teachers?  Maybe now we’re getting a little warmer.  Do you remember any teacher that you had a particularly high level of respect for?  Did you recognize their authority in their teaching of you?  I can remember several teachers whose knowledge always amazed me, and I would trust them to help with other issues in my life.  Ah – TRUST!

So, maybe TRUST is a component in order for us to view someone as an authority?

Power, Confidence, Respect, AND Trust.  The people at Merriam-Webster don’t directly mention “trust” in their definitions of authority, but it is definitely part of mine.  In order for me to consider someone an authority on a subject, they have to earn my trust.

So if Jesus did exhibit these characteristics – power, confidence, respect, and trust – did that make him an authority?  Well, not to everyone.  At this point in the Gospels, we are seeing the early days of Jesus’ ministry and Jesus hasn’t been recognized as a threat to the power structure of the Jewish leadership – YET.  Over the next three years of his ministry we will see that as the recognition of his authority grew in the people, those who thought they were the authorities would feel threatened by him and, unwilling to release their perceived authority, would seek to destroy him.

Are we so different today?  Jesus lives on for us through his teachings and His Church.  For us, the teachings of the Church should carry the kind of authority that Jesus himself had.  Why?  Because Jesus himself gave it that authority.

And that leads us to the fifth and maybe most important characteristic of authority – it has to be granted by one who has greater authority.  Jesus’ authority was shown in the signs he performed, the words he taught, the respect he received and the trust others held in him because of his fidelity to his message – but he always acknowledged that that authority came from God his Father.  That authority he passed on to His Church and lives on through it, guided by the HOLY SPIRIT, because He said that it would, and Jesus IS the AUTHORITY – as shown through His POWER, CONFIDENCE, RESPECT, TRUST AND THE HIGHER AUTHORITY THAT GAVE IT TO HIM..

Especially in this country, we look in distrust of those who may have control over us, but I think that deep down we really do want someone who can, if not tell us what to do, help us to do what is right.  We all seek for that sense of respect and trust because there is security in knowing that there is someone we can trust, who we can depend on to do the right thing, who has the ability and the desire to do it.  And just like the people in Capernaum, we can find those qualities in Jesus.  The scribes and so-called authorities of the day, while educated, didn’t have the air of authority that comes from following God’s will that Jesus does.  The signs that he did and the signs of those, even today, who follow him show us that the authority represented by Jesus exists today.

So, the question we ask today should be the same as asked by those in Capernaum two thousand years ago – who is this who teaches with authority?  And the answer is the same now as then – Jesus.

Do you recognize Jesus as the true authority in your life?  Will you listen to Him through His Church?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What to Pack, What to Leave Behind

An Ash Wednesday Observation - Feb. 18, 2015
by Dcn Bob Bonomi

Whether we travel for business or pleasure, if we are traveling for more than a couple of days we usually consider carefully what all we need to take with us, and often make a list to make sure we don't forget: clothes, toiletries, camera, travel documents - money?  We create an itinerary of where we are going and how we are to get there, and even make reservations to make sure that there is a place for us when we get there.

And, especially in this post 9-11 era of travel restrictions and a la carte travel fees, we should just as carefully consider what we should leave behind.  If we have too much baggage then the joy of the trip can be spoiled as we spend time (and money) worrying about what we've brought, or worse, risk problems by having something with us that is restricted and cannot travel with us.

But, if we carefully plan our trip, then we can experience the journey itself as being as enjoyable and interesting as the destination, and we will be better prepared to deal with the unexpected in case we encounter something unplanned along the way.

We should think about our spiritual journey during Lent the same way. The more I can strip away and leave behind, the more I should be able to enjoy the journey.   So what do we need for our Lenten journey?  How do we prepare?

The key lies in the three traditional practices of Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

First, Prayer. Prayers are the resources for the journey.  Structured prayers; meditations; Lectio Divina; journaling: all are good resources for enjoying the journey.  Through our daily prayers we are nourished, and through them we open ourselves to the beauty of an encounter with God.  Prayer time also gives us an opportunity to check our "itinerary" to make sure we are still on the track for our journey.  Prayers are our conversation with our traveling companion - God.

Next, Fasting.  Just as we eliminate any excess baggage from our physical travels, fasting allows us to eliminate those things which can be a distraction to us in our spiritual travels.  Maybe it is all of the electronic clutter that interferes with seeing the natural beauty of God around us; maybe it is the excessive food or drink that dulls our senses and keeps us focused into ourselves and not out toward others.  When we fast, we shouldn't focus on what we've lost, but instead look to see what we can replace it with.

Finally, Almsgiving. Almsgiving is an extension of our prayer and fasting as it is through almsgiving that we give up something of ourselves (fasting) for the well-being of another (prayer).  And, if as St. Francis said it is true that "it is in giving that we receive", then this is where the encounters with the joy of Christ occur. While we may be in awe by what we see in our journey, it is in our charitable actions that we get to experience God's love.

So, where are you headed this Lent?  Are you packed and ready to go?