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Racism in America ~ can we change for the better (part two)

Amid unrest, some say church can engage in fight against racism

A group of children near the White House in Washington hold up their fists in front of a Black Lives Matter sign June 7, 2020. (Credit: Joshua Roberts/Reuters via CNS.)

I’d like to continue our reflections on Racism in America with two articles that I’ve selected on the subject—one that was an experiment that has been used over the years to get people to realize their prejudices by the woman who developed them.

The second article is about how the Roman Catholic Church is and can possible assist in the future to combat racism.  Here’s the first one  . . .

A Teacher Held a Famous Racism Exercise in 1968. She’s Still at It.

The day after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Jane Elliott carried out the “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” exercise in her classroom. Now, people are returning to her work.

Credit…Amrita Marina
By Alisha Haridasani Gupta

— Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher turned anti-racism educator

As protest against racism started sweeping across America and rest of the world, clips of Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher turned anti-racism educator, began circulating on social media.

Perhaps you’ve seen them.

In one grainy clip in 2001, Ms. Elliott, with her signature round glasses and clipped white hair, gets into such a heated argument with a white female college student during an educational exercise about racism that the uncomfortable and distraught woman starts crying and storms out of the classroom.

“You just exercised a freedom that none of these people of color have,” Ms. Elliott tells the student, sternly. “When these people of color get tired of racism, they can’t just walk out.”

Or maybe you’ve seen the 2018 video of Ms. Elliott in a round-table discussion on racism with the actress and producer Jada Pinkett Smith, Ms. Pinkett Smith’s daughter, Willow, and Ms. Pinkett Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris.

“I’m not a white woman. I’m a faded Black person,” Ms. Elliott says, stunning the hosts. “My people moved far from the Equator, and that’s the only reason my skin is lighter.”

“Wow,” Ms. Pinkett Smith says back. “I’m with you, Jane!”

Ms. Elliott, now 87, said she started teaching about racism on April 5, 1968 — the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

At the time, she was a third-grade schoolteacher in the all-white Iowa town of Riceville, and the news of Dr. King’s death so shocked and moved her that she threw out the lesson plan for the next day and came up with a new one that would force the children to experience prejudice and discrimination firsthand.

In what is now known as the “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” exercise, she split up her class into two groups based on an arbitrary characteristic: eye color. Those with blue eyes were better, smarter and superior to those with brown eyes, she told her students, and therefore they were entitled to perks, like more recess time and access to the water fountain.

Quickly, the dynamic of the room shifted. “I watched wonderful, thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious, discriminating little third graders,” she explained, in a PBS documentary about her work.

The next day, she reversed the roles. Now the brown-eyed students were superior and had perks and the blue-eyed students were inferior.

For decades, Ms. Elliott repeated the exercise around the country, including in 1992 on the Oprah Winfrey Show and she would witness more or less the same outcome: people turning on each other on the basis of eye color.

Now, as the recent wave of demonstrations reaches every corner of the U. S., drawing more white people than previous protests against racism, Ms. Elliott’s work is thrust back in the spotlight.

And she’s sick and tired of it.

“I keep trying to tell people why racism has to stop, and they keep asking the same questions, like ‘How do we do that?’ and then continue to ignore the answers,” she said in a phone interview.

“It makes me really angry that I’ve been saying these things for 52 years.”   ( Seems theres’ a coincidence here: She began her work the same day I was ordained a deacon, the day after Dr. King was murdered and she’s been doing this as long as I’ve been a priest.)

Now here’s the second one . . . .

Amid unrest, some say church can engage in fight against racism

  • Rhina Guidos /Crux Now.com Jul 12, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some bishops have denounced them. Others have embraced them. One held a sign with the words as he kneeled in a moment of prayer recalling the death of George Floyd, which sparked demonstrations and wide discussion about racial injustice in the United States.

Some Black Catholics believe the unrest and the ubiquitous words proclaiming that “Black Lives Matter” provide an opportunity for the Catholic Church in the United States to engage in an uncomfortable and long-overdue deep discussion and look at racism and racial injustice.

From his @PadreInAtlanta Twitter handle, Father Bruce Wilkinson, a retired priest, has been almost daily calling attention to and sometimes calling out those who attack those three words, including some bishops.

“They’ve the taken position from someone telling them that ‘this is a Marxist group and pro-abortion and pro-gay therefore we have to be against them,’” said Wilkinson in a July 8 interview with Catholic News Service. “There are some, I’m sure, involved in the (Black Lives Matter) political group that are about that, but that is far from the vast majority of people.”

Instead, what Wilkinson wants others to understand is those engaging with the words “Black Lives Matter,” including many Black Catholics like him and those who support them, “what they are seeking, especially in the Catholic Church, is to have racism be addressed.”

He points to a July 2 statement from Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, who spelled out in detail support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Speaking from his experience as a new pastor at an Oklahoma City parish in 2003, Taylor recalled how he arrived to tend to a community that was 95 percent Hispanic and had a weekend schedule with six Masses — three in English and three in Spanish. The Spanish-language Masses were packed, with people standing in the back, in the aisles and sometimes outside the church’s front door, he said, and though the English-language Masses were less than half full, they had the more desirable Sunday morning time slots.

“I asked what we would do if the tables were turned and we had English speakers standing in the back, along the aisles and outside the front door and they realized that of course, we would adjust the Sunday schedule to provide more English Masses. In that way, the eyes of these well-meaning people were opened to the hidden injustice embedded in our Sunday schedule,” he wrote.

“When I left that parish five years later, we had nine weekend Masses that better corresponded to the makeup of the parish: Seven in Spanish, one in English and one bilingual,” he said. “When people know that they matter, things begin to change.”

The bishop continued, saying that something similar is happening with the movement seeking to point out racial injustice.

“That is the contribution that the Black Lives Matter movement is offering to us today. All lives matter, of course, but as a society we don’t act that way — and that’s the point,” he wrote in his statement. “There are injustices embedded in the way our society is structured to which we are often blind. Most of my Anglo parishioners were aware of the crowding at the Spanish Masses, but they didn’t think of it as a problem, indeed viewing it from outside, they spoke with admiration of the fervor of their fellow parishioners and were blind to the underlying injustice.”

Looked at from a different vantage point, the injustice becomes clear, he said.

“In a similar way, most of us are aware of some of the disadvantages that come with being Black in America, but from the outside we tend to ascribe these disadvantages to internal factors within the African American community and we miss the point that if Black lives really mattered as much as white lives, our whole society would be structured differently,” he wrote.

The bishop pointed out in detail and with statistics structural injustices for Black Americans in law enforcement, health care, employment, and education.

It’s important that others take the time, as Taylor did, to think about, read about, and have a dialogue with parishioners of color to “come to understand what (Black Lives Matter) is, before they condemn something,” said Wilkinson.

Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown University history professor, said the church has an opportunity to work toward the greater interracial justice the Black Lives Matter movement espouses.

“While they may not find themselves aligned with all the points that have been expressed, they really do have an incredible opportunity to engage in an important moral civic and social movement,” she said in a July 9 interview with CNS. “I would hope that, at some point, people would take time to really understand what they’re debating.”

Parishes also should be having difficult conversations about the ways that they may have benefited from slavery, segregation or other ways that have been or still are, detrimental to people of color in their localities, she said. But some might be reluctant to do so, Chatelain added, since some might find themselves “so proximate to the problem.”

And Wilkinson has been witness to some of it. As a retired priest, if he’s not helping out, he attends Masses without his collar or anything that would identify him as a priest and sits in the pews with the laity.

“What I have found is disconcerting,” he said. “I’ve noticed some people, if I’m in a church that’s predominantly white, look at me as if I’m not supposed to be there, to the point where at the sign of peace, I don’t even get approached. It’s not universal … but there’s been too many that I’ve gone to where it’s happened.”

Those are the kinds of experiences bishops and others in church hierarchy need to listen to so they can engage with the message some Catholics have found in the Black Lives Matter movement, he said. But that doesn’t begin to address the structural injustices that Taylor referred to, he added.

For Taylor, as for Wilkinson, the plight of Black Americans speaks to one of the church’s main teachings, and yet it is a situation not absent from the life of the church.

“If you and I are truly pro-life, we are obligated to work for the protection and respect for human life from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between, and thus it is obvious that racism is a pro-life issue,” Taylor wrote.

“Racism is a sin,” he added, “and we have to admit that even as church, we have not been immune to racial bias and the blindness to structures of sin that affect how our own institutions are run.”

While it was easier to condemn acts that led to George Floyd’s death and the killing of many other people of color, he said, some could be “blind” to structural injustices that continue to harm others. Some also may fail to take into account the generational effects of slavery, segregation and the systemic use of violence, he explained, “including the lynching (publicly approved hangings) of more than 4,000 black men, women and children across 800 counties throughout the United States between 1877 and 1950.”

Those realities must be recognized and addressed in any attempt to combat racism, Taylor said.

“I hope this has helped you understand why it is so important for us to insist that Black Lives Matter and to view the task before us through the pro-life lens of our Christian belief in the God-given intrinsic dignity of every person, in this case Black people, rather than the more secular Marxist-inspired class struggle lens that some would propose and which sometimes gets disproportionate coverage in the news,” the bishop wrote.

For Chatelain, the task at hand is one that requires patience and diligence on the part of Catholics, one that goes beyond just recognizing what happened or reading a few books, “it has to be a lifelong struggle,” she said.

Making a commitment to that process requires making serious changes in personal behavior, pointing out racial injustices at work, institutions or even by family members, she said.

“I think we are at a moment of moral reckoning is this country,” she said.

The question is if the church is going to continue to be an observer in a social movement or is it going to look for an active path toward a search of justice “for people who are justly trying to experience the fullness that life should offer everyone?” she asked.

Wilkinson said that as pastors, priests are required to attend pastoral training sessions on how to deal with a wide array of topics, such as abortion, how to address immigration issues and how to address religious liberty, but once he asked whether they could discuss differences in culture and people of color.

“I was told that was too difficult,” he said. “If it’s too difficult and we’re people of faith, I just don’t see how we don’t trust God enough to lead us.”

Now, before you go, here’s an old spiritual from the Black community you might like to enjoy. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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Racism in America ~can we change for the better?

a-protestor-waves-a-sign-denouncing-racism-while-at-a-protest-against-police-brutality-june-4-2020-at-memorial-park-in-mobile-alabama-2BX41PM.jpg

Usually, dear friends, I interrupt my blog service until the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th. However, on the morning of the Fourth of July last Saturday, I received an email from a friend from the church I had been attending before the coronavirus stopped us from attending church.  He was up in the middle of the night writing an essay about racism in America. (And when I read it there wasn’t a mis-spelling, or a grammar error; the essay was just plain compelling.

I had already posted a couple of external links on the subject on my Facebook page on racism, so he got me think—Hmmm—maybe I should write a blog or two on the subject. And so this is the result.

Many of my long-time readers may recall the story that I’ve often told that I was ordained a deacon for the Catholic Church the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. That was April 4th, 1968. I was a a seminary student at Theological College of the Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C.

At the beginning of the ordination ceremony, we ordinandi laid down on the marble floor before the bishop as the choir intoned the ancient Litany of the Saints, that particular day was mingled with the sounds of sirens wailing in the distance. I sucked in a few deep breaths and told myself I would try to follow that great man’s example and do something about racial justice.

The following month the “Poor Peoples Campaign” that Dr. King had conceived was marching toward Washington had arrived in D.C. and hurriedly constructed what was dubbed as “Resurrection City” on the National Mall. They received a permit for 3,000 folks to set up camp there. I had at times reported certain events for The Florida Catholic, the newspaper for the Orlando, Florida diocese to which I belonged. By the time I got on the Mall, it was a muddy mess. There were wooden sidewalks throughout, but I didn’t have the proper footwear to get around without slipping and sliding. I interviewed a few folks for our paper back home and went back to the seminary for a warm shower. I wasn’t particularly helpful, but at least I ventured out there where the action was.

What I propose to do here is, first share with you my friends essay. Since it’s quite controversial and he himself is a person of color I suggested to him that I not print his name so that he have no repercussions from his family or employer.

And then today also I’m going to share with you Frederick Douglas’  Fifth of July Speech. There was word today that his statue in Rochester, NY was toppled. 

Next week, I will share with some external links I posted on Facebook and two statements by the Bishops of the United States.

It has been said that this movement, sparred by the death of Mr. George Floyd is the largest and longest movement in US history. Let us pray it leads to fruitful change for the better.

Here’s my friend’s essay . . .

Dear Father Bob,

Thank you for sharing your insight and prayers helping us to recognize our national sin.

However, I’d like to offer a few thoughts you might want to consider in our national discussion about racism. First, racism and slavery was pressed upon peoples of color since the 1500s by European peoples, not the other way around. So by the time the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, abject subjugation of Black people and the systematic extinction of Indigenous peoples was the norm.People of color and their families who remained oppressed under this new independence actually ved an alternate historical reality—a Declaration of Indifference.

Four hundred years later, George Floyd’s senseless death by those sworn to protect him, as they idly watched the last breath snatched from him, is our testimony of said indifference. Photographs of the last 100 years record black men hanging from trees while many watched and posed with glee. Billie Holiday recalled seeing lynched black bodies hanging in trees while touring the south subsequently writing an anthem about these atrocities—Strange Fruit An anthem that became ignored. Holiday first performed the song at Café Society in 1939.

She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece, making it a regular part of her live performances. Because of the power of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; and there would be no encore. During the musical introduction to the song, Holiday stood with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer . . . .

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Pastoral scene of the gallant south

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop

Here is a strange and bitter crop

Racism is a product of our character defects. Dr. King revealed this truth when he said,  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” When we live with a sense of entitled superiority rather than with empathy and compassion, we no longer see our brother or sister through God’s eyes, but with our own shortsightedness. Our human family on this earth becomes our “supply” and horrifically treated as such.

Racism then acts like a disease, an evil, contracted in every generation and a virus we can no longer afford.  Sadly those who are plagued with this insanity also suffer the worst kind of denial. A denial that blinds us from humanity and God.
”

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1John 4:20 (NIV)

Thomas Jefferson, a well accomplished man, while pondering the Declaration of Independence and staring out the window at his slaves toiling in the fields lived in the Nineteenth Century, the Age of Enlightenment, for whom I dare ask?

In the movie, Gone with the Wind, a 1939 epic set in the Civil War era around Atlanta that pits two dysfunctional families against each other in sordid romances. There’s been a movement afoot to address the difficult treatment the film depicts of black people and the condoning of slavery. 

Not unlike the dysfunctional relationships we have become all too familiar with today many of us have suffered a lifetime of  harm and abuse at the hands of a loved one or others, and  despite our conscious efforts we still remain unseen, unheard, and unloved.

That is what has happened with black folk who have served, first their “Mass’rs”, and then have been “put in their place” ever since, in ever nook and cranny of our country. Our nation has become—in that sense—like a dysfunctional family.

Thus, racism is a character defect that can never be improved only removed. Many a founding father’s perspective of the sacred document they helped forged, saw their own grandsons and granddaughters leading the South in indenturing slaves for their own aggrandizement. Moreover the following hundreds of years of oppressed living in black and brown communities developed their own generation’s stories.  Is it practical, fair or morally acceptable to gloss over our own racism if we truly love America today or our own honor and dignity?

Finding comfort in the founding fathers wisdom, has brought us to no avail, accept for those who continue to take the life and breath from our black brother, the liberty from our black sister, and the pursuit of happiness from our black children.

Addressing racism in America, will require a bedrock honest approach to this great dilemma and perhaps we may have to admit we have reached the point of exhaustion. Have reached the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired and are willing to take fearless steps to remove our racial attitudes and the behaviors toward others that go with them? Can we find the courage to be accountable for our wrongs and humbly make amends to those we’ve harmed? Georgetown University has already taken a few steps to do that. We need a declaration that is God directed, rather than one that is politically motivated or self-referential..

May God’s Good Peace reign in our hearts through His Holy Spirit, and the unfailing Love of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring us deliverance from all evil. Help us Lord to be reconciled to You and to each other by the help of Your Holy Grace that unifies us. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.

Sincerely,

~ G

And now I turn you to another black man of another generation Frederick Douglas

What to the slave is the Fourth of July?

By Frederick Douglass

July 5th, 1852

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th of July oration. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom.

I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. Cling to this day – cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. With them, nothing was settled that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were final; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men.

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. My business, if I have any here today, is with the present. We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.

Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me.

This Fourth of July is yours, not mineYou may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, is inhuman mockery. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?

Above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY.

Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery – the great sin and shame of America! I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! Had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Americans! Your republican politics are flagrantly inconsistent. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a byword to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! Be warned! Be warned! A horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope.

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end.
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive –
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost. 

And now, before you go, here’s a song that my friend “G” chose for us to conclude with ~ “For the One” Click Here  

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

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Are we re-birthing America today?

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This little guy is enthralled by the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial

Dear Friends, the boy in the image above was reading the Declaration of Independence emblazoned on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial when I visited there in October 2007.  He represents our future.

Have you ever read it?  (I offered you an image of it two days ago as it was emblazoned on the wall that this young man is reading; I’ll attach a full copy at the bottom of this post.)

Keith Carradine wrote (along with others) and composed an interesting song ten years ago about America.  I’ll write out the lyrics and then play the song for you in a few minutes. But first I’d like to offer my own comments on America today.

Ever since 2006 when I began this blog I’ve been pleading with my readers to pray for the spiritual transformation of our country. That was the year before the stock market crash and the bail-out of the big banks, the mortgage crisis, and the bailout of the auto industry. I’ve said it was necessary for us also to “pledge our lives, our fortunes and our honor” to save America. And it seems to me that is more and more the case when our political leaders abdicate their responsibilities, and now in the midst of this pandemic that has wrought fear in young and old alike and caused a great deal of economic hardship for millions of Americans.

Add on to that, we have the added crisis as the racial tension that has plagued us since the beginning of our country  has exploded once again in our midst. We’ve attempted to address it from time to time with the assistance of some great leaders and the passage of some legislation but this time, it seems to me, we must do some radical surgery to root it out of the soul of our country and our hearts. Each of us needs to do some soul-searching to look at our prejudices and our racism.

I still identify with Mr. Carradine’s song sentiments today.

I suggest that you read these lyrics and think about them and then listen to this powerful song sung by people all over the United States.

Then spend some time to reflect on our responsibilities this Fourth of July holiday on the future of our children and our country and let us ask ourselves what we are doing to help re-birth America.

BORN AGAIN AMERICAN
By Keith Carradine

Just a workin’ man without a job
It got shipped off to China via Washington, D.C.
And I know I’m nothin’ special, there are plenty more like me
Just the same
I thought I knew the rules of the game

I stood up for this country that I love
I came back from the desert to a wife and kids to feed
I’m not sayin’ Uncle Sam should give me what I need
My offer stands
I’ll pull my weight you give me half a chance

I went up to a congressman and said to him “you know
Our government is letting people down”
He said he’d need a lot of help to buck the status-quo
I said there was a bunch of us around

I’m a Born Again American, conceived in Liberty
My Bible and the Bill of Rights, my creed’s equality
I’m a Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

My brother’s welding chassis at the plant
He’s earning what our granddad did in 1948
While CEOs count bonuses behind the castle gates
How can they see
When all they care about’s the do re mi

It’s getting where there’s nowhere left to turn
Not since the crash of twenty-nine have things been so unfair
So many of our citizens are living in despair
The time has come
To reaffirm that hope’s not just for some

The promise of America’s surrendering to greed
The rule is just look out for number one
But brace yourself ‘cause some of us have sown a different seed
A harvest of the spirit has begun

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and The Bill Of Rights
My creed’s equality
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

It’s clear my country’s soul is on the line
She’s hungering for something that she lost along the way
The principle the framers called upon us to obey
That in this land
The people’s will must have the upper hand

I felt the calling once before and took a sacred vow
And faithful to that vow I have remained
I hear the calling once again, my country needs me now
And to her cause I have been re-ordained

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and the Bill Of Rights, all people living free
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream
From sea to shining sea
And everyone who shares the dream
From sea to shining sea
A M E R I C A

Click here for the song.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endevoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative writer

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A Prayer for the Fourth of July 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is an actual image of one of the four panels of the words of Thomas Jefferson emblazoned upon the walls of perhaps America’s most sacred shrine, the Jefferson Memorial.
The image was taken in October 2007 on my first pilgrimage to pray for our country’s transformation.

As I offer my thoughts, I invite you to observe this Fourth of July by a deeper, interior observance of the heart.
Take time to make these words, of the Declaration of Independence, your own.
Realize, especially those of you who are young people, that these words conceived, founded and established our country.
What existed only in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers and mothers became the United States of America.
But, very sadly, it is my sense that we have wandered far away from this vision.
We don’t realize that we must constantly re-birth America — for good or for ill.

It is my sense that at this critical point of American history that we — each and every American — ought to revisit that moment of our founding.  And imagine what it was like.
Imagine their vision of what did not yet exist in the external world.
Imagine the courage they had.
Next to the Word of God, there are no words that are more sacred to me than these.
They are sacred because they reflected divine reality.
God blessed these words of Thomas Jefferson.   And our country was born on the Fourth of July 1776.

When I lived in Washington in the summer of 1979 when I was 36 years old, I would go often and sit in the rotunda of this sacred shrine and ponder the vision of these sacred words.
I’d like to share with you what was going on in my head and my heart 38 years ago and today in America in which we are so in much in need of unity and healing, and inspiring leadership.
They are faith-based thoughts.
I just share them because they lead me to a very positive view of our country and our world,
a view that resists the profound hatred and violence and self-indulgence of our comatose society.
As you ponder my thoughts ask yourself what vision of America, what vision of the world and our future do you yourself have?
What do you want for you, for your children, for our country, for our world, for our planet?

Dearest God,

I believe your Holy Spirit inspired these words:

WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL
AND ARE ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS.
AMONG THESE ARE THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

As a Christian among other God-fearing women and men.
I address You and love You as my God.
You are my God.
But this means that You are not just my God, but the God of all those you have created.
You care about every person on this planet who has ever lived or who ever will;
Therefore, we are all equal in your sight.  We are all persons.
You conceived and created each human being from the very beginning in Your mind and heart with a unique identity, a body and soul, and you sustain each one of us today and for all eternity.

I have come to recognize that ALL of us are in Your family, dear God.
And that makes us but sisters and brothers.
Help me to embrace Your children on this planet in my heart.
Help me to want for every one what you have so generously provided for me –
a little place to call home,
simple food on my table,
a decent education
and decent health care.

Help me, God, to recognize and support
the right of every human person to life, liberty and the pursuit of other people’s happiness as well as my own.
Help me not to be only concerned about my own needs, my own family’s needs,
but to realize that we are all one family.
Yet we are torn apart by hatred and violence and bigotry and brother still kills brother.
Help us export love not hate, peace and development for all people, not war and destruction.

This is my daily prayer, heavenly Father, for the world in which I live.
I pray that you would allow me the grace in some small way to help bring that about.
To you, heavenly Father ~
Father of my Redeemer and elder brother Jesus ~
all honor and praise and thanksgiving, with the Holy Spirit, 
now and forever.
Amen!

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The Jefferson Memorial

This, dear friends, is my prayer for the world in which I live.
It has ever been such since my lazy summer  of ’79 in Washington and always will be.
I do not expect you to use my words as you pray.
I just invite you to make your own prayer.
Make this Fourth of July a re-dedication to our ideals.
We need God in our world today as we face the effects of covid 19 that continues to plague us.

I am presently away from home and intended to visit friends along my way, and have found all but one declining  to see me because they are choosing to remain quarentined.   And then there’s the double plague of racism that we also have to look into ourselves and see how each of us is infected by this virus that has been with us for so a long time. And it’s about time we faced up to it.

But we rely on ourselves and not on God.  Capitalism, by definition, can create that illusion.
I urge you to rebirth the vision of our founding fathers and mothers in your own heart this Fourth of July 2020.
We need to renew that vision, that commitment every year, indeed, very often from the mightiest to the lowest of our land.
And I warn you (me too), if we don’t constantly attend to our renewal,
we will lose what we have and are.
Great civilizations before us have collapsed because of their complacency.

Nevertheless, it is my sense that God will transform us if we pray and bind together!

Before the hotdogs and the baby back ribs and the fireworks, let’s be at prayer and reflection, this Fourth of July.
Ask God for guidance.  Ask forgiveness for taking all of this for granted.
We need God to bring us through these critical times.

And now, before you go, here’s a powerful song with historical images to inspire your reflection.  Click here.

Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  Enjoy your celebration for we still have a beautiful land.

  (There will be two other posts to reflect on following this one.)

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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The Feast of Corpus Christi ~ Body broken ~ Blood poured out for you and all the world!

The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)

Sunday, June 14. 2020

Dear Friends,

Today is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.

I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe about this wonderful sacrament.

In my 50 years as a priest I must have celebrated hundreds, maybe thousands of Masses over that time. But I’d like to offer some wonderful comments from Father Richard Rohr, an author I have always appreciated for his wisdom and insight. These are from a recent book “The Universal Christ.” Father Rohr realized that Jesus did not say, “This is my spirit given for you”, or ‘These are my thoughts.” Instead he said very daringly, “This is my body,” which seemed for a spiritual teacher, a God-man to speak. And John reports many left him because of it (John 6:66).

Rohr says he has come to realize that in offering his body, Jesus is precisely giving us his full bodily humanity more than his spiritualized divinity! Eat me,” he shockingly says.

Many of the ancient religions portrayed their god as eating or sacrificing humans or animals, which were offered on altars, but Jesus is inviting us that God would give himself as food for us.

On helpful piece of the Catholic ritual is our orthodox belief in ‘Real Presence.” By that we mean that Jesus is somehow physically present in the sacramental bread. This, Father Rohr says, sets the stage for what he likes to call “carnal knowledge” of God, who is normally assumed to be Spirit. It seemed that mere mind-knowing is not enough because it does not engage the heart or the soul. Presence is a unique capacity that includes body, heart, mind and whatever we mean by soul.. Only real presence can know Real Presence.

When Jesus speaks the words “This is my Body,” Father Rohr believes he was speaking not just about the bread right in front of him, but about the whole universe, about everything that is physical, material, and yet is spirit-filled. (The name of his book , again, is “The Universal Christ”). When we speak these sacred words at the altar, we are speaking them to both the bread and the congregation—so we can carry it “To all creation” (Mark 16:16). As St. Augustine said, we must feed the body of Christ to the people of God until they know they are what they eat! And they know what they drink!

Jesus pushes it further into even scarier directions by adding the symbolism of intoxicating wine as we lift the chalice and speak over all of suffering humanity. “This is my blood.’ Jesus then directs us Drink me, all of you!’

In drinking the Blood of Christ at this Holy Meal you are consciously uniting yourself with all unjust suffering in the world from the beginning of time till its end.

The bread and wine together are stand-ins for the very elements of the universe, which also enjoy and communicate the incarnate presence.

A true believer is eating what he or she is afraid to see and afraid to accept; The universe is the Body of God, both in its essence and its suffering.

As Pope Francis insists, the Eucharistic bread and wine are not a prize for the perfect or a reward for good behavior. Rather, they are food for the human journey and medicine for the sick.

For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy and at times, and a deep affection for my Jesus.

When I receive our Lord in holy communion I pray:

Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken

and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.

As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist

may I become Your body

and Your body become mine.

May Your blood course through my own blood stream.

I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.

Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies

into common-union.

Let me become Your Body-broken

and Your Blood-poured-out

into a world that needs You

now more than ever.

To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise

this day and forever!

So be it!  Amen!

And now. before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro Te Devote sung in procession. On this day throughout the world, it is the custom to have  public processions in Catholic countrie with the Blessed Sacrament  such as the one in this video. Click here.  Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings with the Ancient “Sequence” or Eucharistic poem included before the gospel. Click here

 Richard Rohr  The Universal Christ / Ch. 11 pp. 129-138                                              Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge /2019 /                                                               36 Causton Street / London SWIP 4ST /                                                                        Copyright Center for Action and Contemplation 2019

 

With love, .

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity ~ Caught up in the circle of their love!

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The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity ~ Sunday June 7th, 2020

Dear Friends,

We Catholics (and most Episcopalians) recite these words Sunday after Sunday.  (And some Lutheran congregations as well.) But I have a question for you: Do you ever think about what you are saying or reciting? Will you allow me to help us look at them together and plumb their meaning a bit?

I believe in one God,

the Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only Begotten Son of God.

Now right there, some of us might not understand what “only Begotten” means,

but I suppose the next line explains it:

Born of the Father before all ages,

God from, God, Light from Light,

True God from True God,

Begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.

Before this last change in the Mass, we said “one in being with the Father,” which is a  bit easier to understand.

So, I’d like go back to one of the early Church Fathers and to St. Paul, and a little of my own experience to see if we can understand this important mystery of the Holy Trinity a little better.

The word consubstantial means “being of the same substance.”  Yeah, I know, that doesn’t help a lot.

Well, here’s a letter written by St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt to Serapion in the early 4th Century. He is best known for his tirelessness defense of the full divinity of Jesus Christ ~ God the Son’s equality with God the Father during the troubled period of the Arian heresy that taught that Jesus was only a man.  It was through this saint’s efforts that the nature of Jesus Christ, both fully man and fully God was clearly articulated in the Nicene Creed. Here’s what he has to say . . . .

“It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.

“We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word (Jesus) and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved.

“Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

I would like you to note what might seem “Pantheistic” here. God is “through” all things. The implication here is that God can be worshipped in all things! Think about that! That’s true!  The worship of God didn’t start with the Hebrews or Catholics. It began eons ago!

Earlier, writing to the Corinthians, St. Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.

This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians (2:13): The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

“For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.”  Saint Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria.

Now. isn’t that amazingly clear?

And notice that he ends with the phrase that the priest often uses to greet the people at Mass, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit … be with you all.”

And when the priest ends his prayers at Mass and sometimes we do too with: Through our Lord jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

And yet this is all a secret, a mystery that God invites us to share in by entering into the silence of our hearts. We call this contemplation  ~ or some would say “Centering Prayerl

Now here’s a story often told about St. Augustine, surely a legend. . . .

St. Augustine spent thirty years trying to write his definitive work De Trinitate. (About the Holy Trinity)  But one day . . . .

He was walking by the seashore one day contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a sea shell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.

The Bishop of Hippo approached him and asked, “My boy, what are doing?”

“I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole,” the boy replied with a sweet smile.

“But that is impossible, my dear child, the hole cannot contain all that water” said Augustine.

The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, “It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence.”

The Saint was absorbed by such a keen response from that child, and turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished.

Some say that it was an Angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson on pride in learning. Others affirm it was the Christ Child Himself who appeared to the Saint to remind him of the limits of human understanding before the great mysteries of our Faith.

Through this story, the sea shell has become a symbol of St. Augustine and the study of theology.

And now, let’s turn to St. Paul and to passage I’ve always loved . . .

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,

and what has not entered the human heart and what God has prepared for those who love him,”

but what God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. [. . . .] And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms. [. . . . ]

For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (Corinthians 2: 9-16)

And finally, what do we take from this? What does the Holy Trinity mean for our lives today?

The Holy Trinity is that dynamic energy that sustains the universe.  Theirs is a circle of love that encircles everything that exists.  And that includes you and me too! They’re a dynamic threesome. They’re dynamite! They’re love itself! The new Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “by sending his only Son and Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and he has destined us to share in that exchange. (CCC No.221.)

And so, we are invited to share in, to be caught up in that eternal exchange of love, that dynamic energy, that eternal communion.

And then, we’re to share that loving, dynamic energy with one another.

I found this insight in my seminary’s latest alumni news talking about “connecting” .   . . . The writer Brene Brown says “connecting” is the energy that exists between people when they realize that they are seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they can derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

This challenge is especially significant given the times in which we live, times that are afflicted by patterns of polarization and the demonization of those with whom we disagree; times that seem to grapple with the consequences of social media sites that remain unaccountable even as they seek to divide rather than to unite especially with the challenges  and burdens that all of us complicated our lives with the two major crises our Nation is facing right now. The first being the coronavirus epidemic and how our states should or should not open up and how each of us should come out of quarantine. And on top of that, how each of us is responding to the the fact that the three recent killings of Black folk have brought to the surface that our Nation has a great deal of work to do to solve the racial crisis that has been brewing beneath the surface since the Watts riots of 1968.

I urge you to take care of yourself! Find caring people you can talk with  by phone or by email or in person (6 ft please ~ as we still have to observe. There’s a lot of pressure on all of us. But this Feast is a feast of joy and hope so take it in.

Does this make the Holy Trinity seem a little more vital to you?  The Holy Trinity keep it all going! They’re a circle of love! And they want YOU in it!!! Yes You and me too! And then they want you to tell the world about how it all really works. that: That they have a Father who loves them, a Brother Jesus who redeemed them. And the Spirit they sent to shake things up and get you and me a-movin! Brothers and Sisters we have work to do!

And so may we pray . . .

All holy, undivided Trinity, Creator and Ruler of all that exists,

may all praise be yours now and forever,

and for ages unending, Alleluia, alleluia! 

And now before you go, here’s the Hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty Click here

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them.  Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

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The Feast of the Ascension  ~ May 24th, 2020

We’re coming to the conclusion of our Easter season now, even if we don’t see any end to this drasted  coronavirus. I’ve enjoyed writing these Easter blogs for you because it’s impacted my own spirituality as I was researching and writing for you.

The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord is part of the Easter mystery.  First was the Resurrection six weeks ago on Easter Sunday in which Jesus conquers death for us and reveals that life will never end.

Then there is the Ascension in which Jesus is taken up into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand (designated, you may remember as “Ascension Thursday,” but to get more people to celebrate it, the feast was transferred in most dioceses to the following Sunday~ May 24th.)

And finally Pentecost in which God pours forth his Spirit upon the church and all humankind on Sunday, May 31st.

All three experiences are intertwined; they reveal different aspects or facets of the same reality.  The Scriptures separate them over 50 days to afford us the opportunity to reflect on each aspect of the one Easter mystery.

Now, let us look at today’s feast, the Ascension.

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (first reading ~ Acts 1:1-11), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience.

Jesus told them not to depart from Jerusalem but to

“ . . . .wait for the promise of the Father of which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water but in a few days you  will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

He was, of course, referring to Pentecost.

. . . Then he said,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you

AND YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.”

What would it have been like to have been there?

As we listen to the last words of Jesus to the men he had chosen to carry on his mission—men he had fondly gathered, camped out with, ate with, slept with, talked and joked with, and formed to carry on his mission. This last meeting with Jesus, Barclay says, did three things:

~ He assured them of his power. (Matthew says they doubted.)

~ He gave them a commission. He sent them out to make all the world his disciples. (It may well be that the instruction to baptize is something that is a development of the actual words of Jesus.) That may be argued about; the salient fact remains that the commission of Jesus is to bring all people to himself.

~ He promised them a presence. It must have been a staggering thing for eleven humble Galilaeans to be sent forth to the conquest of the world. Even as they heard it, their hearts must have failed them. But no sooner than the command was given, than the promise was fulfilled. They were sent out—as we are—on the greatest task of history, but with them there was the greatest presence in the world.

And we remember, they went out to the ends of the earth as they knew it and all were martyred for their faithfulness and zeal except for one.

Then, Acts says,  “Jesus was lifted up, a cloud took him from their sight.”

(However, in today’s Gospel from Matthew, the “lifting”  is not mentioned, just the commissioning.)

They stood there, awestruck, spellbound .

Then two men dressed in white garments stood beside them and said,

“Men of Galilee, why are standing there looking at the sky?

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

This feast is about heaven, but also about earth.

Jesus is taken into heaven; that is, he returns to his Father where sits at the Father’s right hand.

And the second reading from Ephesians states that. . . .

God the Father “put all things beneath Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23)

Thus, there is a cosmic dimension to Christology.  The great mystic and theologian Father Teilhard de Chardin  talked about “Christogenesis” – the entire universe evolving by the power of Christ’s all-embracing love.  When Chardin was far away from bread or wine and could not celebrate Mass, he talked fervently and passionately about the  “Mass on the world – that the whole planet was the body of Christ.

So we think about Jesus as Lord of the Universe,  and we pray in these days of the pandemic that has left no nation untouched that our Lord and our Blessed Lady would watch over us all.  And so the Feast of Ascension is also about earth.

The angels ask the disciples — Why are you standing there looking up in the sky?  You and I have work to do!

YOU MUST BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

A witness is one who experiences with one’s own eyes and ears what has taken place.

A witness is one who has filtered through one’s own senses what their account of the truth is.

I consider myself a witness to the resurrection.  I have had enough experiences of risen life, even, it might seem,  of mystical experience that I am convinced that Jesus is real, that he lives and reigns, that he empowers us through his Spirit. Throughout my life I have found myself immersed in the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is true also, because Jesus has allowed me the ability to share his life with others, and they with me.  Many others have deepened and enriched their faith as the Holy Spirit worked through my priesthood.

Brothers and sisters, we have work to do.  We are put on notice in the scriptures of today’s feast.

Next Sunday we will attend to the third aspect of the Easter mystery ~ Pentecost ~ the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all humankind.

During the coming week may we pray that the Holy Spirit would renew each of us individually, the whole Church of God and indeed the whole world.

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s a rousing version of the wonderful hymn, Crown Him with many Crowns a. Click here.   Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ Jesus said he would send someone else to help us!

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ May 17, 2020

Ordinarily we human beings try to make provisions for those we will leave behind when we die; Jesus, who became fully human and fully immersed in all that we are and do, was no exception.

Some of us are concerned with anticipating and attending to the economic needs of loved ones and, to that end, we pass on to them whatever monetary wealth we’ve accumulated through the years. Sensitive to the emotional well-being of our dear ones, we may leave behind assuring messages, not only a last testament but a note, a letter or even a personal journal or a videotape. Admittedly, none of these efforts, can negate the stark reality of death, but all can, in some small way, diminish its pain.

Before he departed from his disciples in death, Jesus also attempted to ease the burden of those whom he would leave behind, not by providing for their economic, emotional or psychological needs but by seeing to their spiritual well-being. Indeed, Jesus left behind his very self so that his presence would continue to embrace, enable and empower his followers.

Three weeks ago on Easter’s Third Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in Luke’s gospel, explained that his abiding presence could be known and experienced in the breaking of the bread of the scriptural word and in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist. Upon realizing his presence among them, the disciples burned with love and affection in their hearts.

Six weeks ago, on Easter’s second Sunday, the risen Jesus as recorded in the gospel of John breathed upon his own and indicated that from then on they would be inspired and impelled by his abiding presence to bring peace and forgiveness to a needy world.

In today’s gospel, John tells us that the abiding Spirit of Jesus within every believer sets us at odds with the world. It is the Spirit of truth whom the world does not recognize or accept. Nevertheless, and despite all odds, that Spirit has been promised us; that the Spirit will remain with us as Jesus’ living legacy until he returns.  Jesus will not leave us orphans!

That Spirit was described by Jesus as another Advocate.

William Barclay, the Presbyterian scripture scholar to whom I frequently refer gives us some insight into the word “Advocate.”  . . . . .

Jesus doesn’t leave us to struggle with the daily battle of Christian life alone. He would send us another Helper. The Greek word is parakletos. (When I was a kid, and my mom asked me what I learned that day, I said, “I learned that the Holy Spirit is a parakeet!”) How ’bout that?

Barclay says, the Greek word is really untranslatable. Some English translations render it as Comforter, but upon examining the origin of the word we “catch something of the riches of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.” It really means someone who is called in; but it is the reason why the person is called in which gives the word its distinctive associations. A parakletos might be a person called in to give witness in q law court in someone’s favor.; he might an advocate called in to plead the cause of someone who had some serious charge against them. The paracletos might be someone who’s called to help in time of trouble or need.

Comforter was once a perfectly good word. It originates from the Latin word fortis; which means, brave, (or consider the virtue of fortitude) ,and a comforter was someone who enabled some dispirited creature to be brave. These days, comfort has to do mostly sorrow, and a comforter is someone who sympathizes with us when we are sad. The Holy Spirit substitutes victorious  for defeated living.

So what Jesus is saying is: “I am setting before you a hard task and sending you out on a difficult engagement, but I’m sending you someone, the parakletos, who will guide you as to what to do and enable you to do it.

Thus, the Holy Spirit as our advocate is one who represents our interests, like a defense attorney who is sincerely concerned with our well-being. As our Advocates, the Son and the Spirit will support us in all our efforts, strengthen us against every adversary, and sustain us through every trial. It is the Holy Spirit who will assure the permanence and the power of the community’s faith in the risen Jesus. For Jesus solemnly promises that he will not leave us orphans.

Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them orphans. We have been chosen! And like an older brother, Jesus is going ahead to prepare a home for us. And an unbelievable gift is about to be given us! What Christ has by nature, we are granted as gift—a share in the divine life – in the interior life of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their love surrounds, supports us, nourishes us and sustains us. When the Father sees us, hears our prayers, God sees and hears the divine Son. We are not orphans; we are God’s beloved children, and our train is bound for glory. Pentecost is in two weeks.

Jesus, we’re moving to the close of our Easter season now.  Pentecost is just two weeks away.  

Grant us the grace to receive the gift of your Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide anew.

In this time of crisis we so much need a Helper, and Advocate  on so many different levels.  

You also said,

    “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.                                                                                                    And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and  reveal myself to him (14:21).”   

Help us to observe your commandments, Jesus.  They are simple: “Love one another as I have loved you.”   Help us get through this crisis by helping each other through it.

And allow us to know you and the Father.

To you and the Father and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate be all honor and glory, now and forever.

Amen.

And now before you go, here’s a simple song to the Holy Spirit by the Australian young peoples’ group Hillsong. Click here.Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.  

And here’s the link for today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ I am the Way and the Truth and the Life

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The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ May 10th, 2020

Many of us are struggling in one way or another ~ most of us financially ~ because of the coronavirus crisis and its lingering effects among us. So we might gladly hear as good news Jesus’ opening line in today’s gospel:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.

This passage appears very shortly before the apostles’ life begins to cave in (John 14:1-10).When he speaks of “his Father’s house” he’s talking about heaven, of course, and when he says there are “many dwelling places—or as Barclay calls them, “abiding places,”—Clement of Alexandria thought that there were degrees of glory, rewards and stages in proportion to a man’s achievement in holiness in this life.

Barclay suggests to us that there’s something attractive here. A lot of us think heaven is boring and static! There’s something attractive at the idea of a development which goes on even in the heavenly places.

And if there are many dwelling places in heaven, it may simply mean there’s room for all; an earthly house can become overcrowded especially in these coronavirus days,with short tempers and and all.)

It was Jesus real purpose “to prepare a place for us.” One of the great words that is used to describe Jesus is prodromos (Hebrews 6:20). It’s translated as forerunner. In the Roman army they were the reconnaissance troops that went ahead to blaze the trail.

And then Jesus said: “Where I am, there you will also be.” Here is the great truth put in the simplest way: for the Christian, heaven is where Jesus is!”

Again and again Jesus had told his disciples where he was going, but somehow they never understood. “Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go to him who him that sent me (John 7:33). Even less did they understand that the way he had to take was the Cross.

At this moment the disciples were bewildered men; they followed him, yes, but they didn’t quite get what was going on. But there was one among them who would never say he understood what he did not understand.

You might guess who that one was.

Thomas, of course!

Thomas said, “Master, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?

And Barclay says, that no one should ever be ashamed to express one’s doubts for it is amazingly true that he who seeks to the end will find—and the wonderful thing is that Thomas’ question provoked one of the greatest thinks Jesus ever said:

“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

That is the great saying to us, but it would be still greater to the Jew who heard it for the first time.

The Jews talked a great deal about the ways of God. “You shall walk in the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you Dt. 5:32,33). “Teach me your way, O Lord. (Psalm27: 11). 

So what did Jesus mean when he said he was “the Way”?

Jesus doesn’t tell us about the Way; He is the Way. He will take us where we need to go!

Jesus said, “I am the Truth.”

How many people have told us they have told us the truth—car sales persons, politicians, insurance brokers, realtors, bankers, journalist, husbands, wives, children and doctors who have lied to us instead.

But Jesus is the Truth. Moral truth cannot be conveyed solely in words; it must be conveyed by example. It finds its realization in him.

Jesus said, “I am the Life.”

The writer of Proverbs said, “The commandment is the lamp, and the teaching a light; and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). “You show me the path of life. (Psalm16: 11).

There is only one way to put all this: “No one, said Jesus, comes to the Father except through me. He alone is the way to God. In him we see what God is like, and he alone can lead us to God’s presence with fear and without shame

.And so, once again, dear sisters and brothers, I call you, I invite you to an intimacy with Jesus who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.  

Last week we reflected on Jesus in his image as the Good Shepherd, walking the road ahead of us, protecting us from harm as the Sheep-gate. If you feel afraid or hesitant to draw close to him, don’t be. Sometimes people who’ve been hurt by love are even afraid of God too. That’s understandable. Just don’t be afraid! There is nothing to be afraid of.  Put your big toe in. The water’s warm. You’re in for the biggest surprise of your life!

Gentle Jesus, I thank you for guiding me along the way of my life,

I thank you for leading me on my life-long search for You, my Truth;

may I finally be united to you, my Life!

But most of all, I beg of you, to be with all of those who are struggling this day in any way because of this terrible disease ~ those who are sick, those who take care of them, those who worried about their jobs and finances, those in leadership positions to help guide us through this.

And finally, bless all of our mothers, grandmothers and mothers-to-be on this Mothers’ day. 

May Our Blessed Lady watch over us all! Amen!  

And now before you go, here’s the song ” I am the way and the truth and the life.Click Here. 

And here are this Sunday’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them.Click here.   

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2                                Revised Edition / Westminster Press – Philadelphia – 1975/ pp. 154-9.

 

 

 

 

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Shepherd me, O God ~ Do you really want God to shepherd you?

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ May 3rd, 2020

Good Shepherd Sunday

Have you ever thought about how shepherds handle their sheep? In many places even today they follow their shepherd, who walks in front of them. They’re not goaded like cattle. Cowboys herd cattle from behind, pushing them forward. Not so with sheep.

Muse a bit about  Jesus as the Good Shepherd – Jesus walking ahead of us along the way. He shows us the way. He’s been there ahead of us. In Mark 10:32, we are told that the disciples were going up to Jerusalem “and Jesus was leading the way.” And of course, along the way, he was teaching and forming them. And that’s how it can be with you and me!

Apparently, it is the voice of the shepherd that controls the sheep. “My sheep hear my voice,”says Jesus. The sheep pick out the voice of their one only shepherd from that of others. They only follow the one whose voice they recognize.

In another place in the text, Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are hired hands that won’t go out of their way to help the sheep. The good shepherd is the one dedicated to his sheep and his care.

The concept of the Messiah as the Good Shepherd appeared frequently in the Old Testament, notably in the prophet Ezekiel. All of Chapter 34 is dedicated to the good shepherd. Ezekiel warns of the peril of following false shepherds who lead their flocks astray.  He admonishes to seek the good shepherd: “The Lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal. . . . Thus shall they know that I the Lord, am their God, and they are my people.”

And, of course David was the Shepherd King of Israel, having written our beloved Psalm 23 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The words  of Ezekiel were as familiar to the Jews in the time of Jesus as they can be to us in this difficult time of  the coronavirus: the lost, the injured, the sick and those who are struggling to care for them.  The Jews, too, recognized the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling, who was more interested in his pay than the welfare of the flock. (And isn’t that the same in our time, with politicians who don’t seem to care.)

While we love the image of the Good Shepherd, most of us lack firsthand acquaintance with either a shepherd or with sheep. But picture this  as shown to us by Professor Barclay. . .

The life of a shepherd in Palestine was very hard. He was never off duty. The sheep were bound to wander, and had to be constantly watched.  On the narrow plateau the ground dipped sharply down to the craggy deserts and the sheep were liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd’s task was not only constant but dangerous, for he not only had to guard the flock but to protect them from wild animals and thieves and robbers. He was out there with them in all kinds of weather, day and night.

As Barclay writes, quoting Sir George Adam Smith, who travelled in Palestine, “On some high moor, at night hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, leaning on his staff, and looking over his scattered sheep, everyone of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why the Jews gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of Providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.”  Constant vigilance, fearless, courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.

And so listen for the Voice of your Shepherd. What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows your voice and you know his. We will have instantaneous, constant communication as we seek to become one with this Good Shepherd. The closer, the more intimate that relationship, the better we will comprehend the words of our Shepherd: “No one can take them out of my hand.”

Jesus says he is not only the shepherd, but he is the sheepgate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.  

When the sheep came into the enclosure, the shepherd would lie down at the entrance, thus, literally becoming the Gate, or the Door!

Jesus is the Gate to the spiritual world. Because he claims us as his own, we are safe.

There’s another meaning here, too, I think. A lot of people experiment with other matters in the spiritual world that are not so safe. Like hallucinogenic drugs or seances and tarot cards  or fortune-telling, or calling on the spirits.  These are not protected and can be very dangerous.

William Barclay has this to add about this passage. . . .

~ Jesus promised eternal life. If someone became a member of his flock, all the littleness of life would be gone and they would know the splendor and magnificence of the life with God.

~ He promised a life that would know no end. Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of the indestructible life.

~ He promised a life that was secure. Nothing could snatch them from his hand. Not that it would save them from sorrow or suffering. Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.

Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And thus Jesus received his confidence from the Father. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s. And the Gospel passage ends with the words, “The Father and I are one,” which calls to mind his intense prayer at the end of the Last Supper, according to John, “Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

But let’s look at another side of this. The Good Shepherd seems to be doing all the giving, all the caring, all the protecting. The sheep just receive.

Now isn’t that the relationship we strive for with our God? We have received everything from God; should we not give all in return? Our love, too, should be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God.

And then ask yourself this question: Am I not, in turn, a good shepherd?

If you have children or others under your care, ask yourself: Do I shepherd well those who are under my care? Do I shepherd by leading? Or by goading? How can I adapt my leadership style to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

Then, and only then, will we be able to say, “I know my Shepherd, and my Shepherd knows me.”

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s a version of our beloved Psalm 23, “Shepherd Me, O God,” that has the flavor of Jesuit spirituality as well. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series – revised edition / the Gospel of John: Volume 2 / The Westminster Press Philadelphia – 1975 / pp. 55-60.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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The Third Sunday of Easter ~ You will know him in the Breaking of the Bread

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THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER ~ April 26, 2020

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to take a walk with Jesus down a country road? Think about it. 

That’s what I want you to do with me right now in your imagination. Let’s go back as  the two disciples walk with Jesus and walk along with them.

I will reflect on the story, the fruit of my own imagination; but you need to engage your own.  

(Please note: When I use the actual words from Scrip­ture, they appear in red type; the narrative appears in regular type and when I offer comments about the story, these appear in italics.)

“That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus.”

They were sad and downcast, as they were discussing the events in Jerusalem over the previous three days.

Think about how all of Jesus’ disciples must have felt during the interim between Good Friday afternoon and when they were able to fully grasp that Jesus had risen. They were terrified the Jewish authorities would hunt them down next. As we face this coronavirus crisis, most of us are distraught and fearful too.  Or reflect on a time in your past when you were sad or despondent.

Then Jesus invited himself along and they began to converse with him as they walked.

They do not recognize him, and began telling Jesus about Jesus. “. . . a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.”

(Why don’t they recognize him? Are they just ruminating over depressing events?)  What do you think?

They told him, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  

(Feel the depth of their disappointment and an­guish ~ and fear; they must have been heartsick.  What kept them from a sense of hope?)

“They knew that women in their company had gone to the tomb early that morning and found the tomb empty, but had seen a “vision of angels who an­nounced that he was alive.”  But they didn’t get it, did they?

Then Jesus interjected, Oh how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the proph­ets spoke!’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” 

( What change was taking place in them?) Was it that they felt the warmth of his love?

When they reached their village, they pressed him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”

(How do you think the disciples were feeling at this point? Had a change or transformation occurred in them?)  ( I remember a conversation I had with someone on a train when I was a seminarian and he invited me to his home and I felt his love. I never saw him again; but I still pray for him.)

“So he went in to stay with them. And it hap­pened that, while he was at table. . .”

. . .Now they could see him directly, not alongside of them, but across from them. . . 

“. . .He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and THEY RECOGNIZED HIM, but he vanished from their sight.

A veil had covered their eyes, but now their eyes were opened and they recognized him—in the breaking of bread.”

And then they returned to the Eleven in the Upper Room and “recounted what had taken place along the way and how [Jesus] was made known to them in the breaking of bread.”

There was victory in their hearts!  The point here is that they had to share their experience! They had to “evangelize!”

Now for a couple of  observations ~ especially for those of you who are Catholics or who appreciate the Holy Eucharist . . . .

Love of the holy Eucharist: Down through the centuries the church has recognized the Lord—has rec­ognized itself—in the breaking of bread. This prompts a deep and abiding love for participating in the holy Eucharist. 

(What kinds of varied feelings do you have when you celebrate the Eucharist? What could deepen your love of the gathering, listening, sharing, singing that is the holy Eucharist?

(Eucharist is a verb and a noun!) What kind of thoughts and feelings do you have during these past weeks when you’ve been deprived of receiving of the Holy Eucharist because of the coronavirus?

And then this: The disciples realized “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The two disciples came very, very close to Je­sus in their conversation on the way. It was an intimate moment they would always remember.

I can remember a good number of holy (that is, open and honest) conversations  with friends that changed my life and have given me the nourishment to grow and move on.

(Who are the people in your life who nourish and encourage you in conversation?)

Whom do you so nour­ish?  

And here’s a bit of a commentary . . . .

What a joy and a privilege it would be to share an evening meal with Jesus as the two disciples did after the memorable walk to Emmaus!  How blessed it would be to listen and learn as Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets to interpret every passage of scripture that referred to him.  What a gift to watch him take the bread, bless it, break it, share it. What a joy to feel our hearts burning within and our eyes open wide to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

As we look back over the gospels, particularly that of the Lucan evangelist, we are reminded that Jesus afforded his contemporaries many such nourishing, enlightening and transforming experiences within the context of shared meals.  Indeed, throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, meal sharing was a profoundly important event, one that sealed friendships, affirmed marital and family relationships, solidified political alliances and confirmed and celebrated one’s faith and worship (as in the Passover meal.)

Israel’s wisdom literature is lavish in its banquet imagery.  Recall Wisdom’s invitation as recorded in Proverbs:  “Wisdom has built herself a house…she has prepared her table…Come eat of my bread, drink of the wine I have prepared for you.”  

Gradually the Israelite community who came before us in the faith began to envision the experience of salvation in terms of a great banquet prepared by God for all of humankind.

Also realized and clearly in evidence at those meals of old was the universal and welcoming love of God for all, especially sinners.

Jesus’ contemporaries would have shunned sitting down at someone’s dining room table with sinners; these they regarded as off the playing field of salvation.  Jesus deliberately associated with outcasts, however, welcoming them and agreeing to be welcomed by them.  Indeed, he made it quite clear that some of these outcasts would come into the kingdom before the established religious leaders.  Recall Jesus’ willingness to be a guest in the homes of Levi and Zacchaeus, both of whom were hated tax collectors.  These would never have been welcomed into a respectable Jewish home.  Yet it was to these very people to whom Jesus extended the privilege and blessings of table fellowship.  It would be like Jesus going to the home of a homosexual or Muslim couple today and eating and drinking with their friends..

Then recall that when Jesus hosted the multitudes and fed the 5000 in the deserted place, he did not first determine who was worthy of his food or his presence.  He fed them all, first with the nourishment of his teaching and then with bread and fish.  Given the enormity of the number who ate to their satisfaction, surely there were some in the crowd who fell short of the law’s standard, who sinned against their neighbors, who were remiss in some aspect of their lives.  Nevertheless, without hesitation or discrimination, Jesus welcomed and fed them all.

Now we come to this wonderful story of the breaking of the bread, this my favorite and beloved resurrection appearance of Jesus.  As in most of the resurrection appearances, the risen Jesus was not immediately recognized by his own.  Recognition came gradually and only with the insights afforded by faith. Though Jesus had been transformed by his resurrection and was not initially recognized, he was, nevertheless, the same Jesus who had walked with them, talked with them, and shared their lives while he was  among them before he was crucified.  He was the same Jesus who took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to feed the multitudes.

 He was the same Jesus who allowed himself to be taken and broken on the cross and who gave his life so that sinners may be blessed with forgiveness, freedom from sin, salvation.

I am a priest 51 years now.  I never grow tired of the holy Eucharist.  I always come back to celebrate after a couple of days if I am absent from it.

In fact, I am certain that I could not live happily without the Eucharist.  Maybe I couldn’t live at all without the Eucharist – at least sanely.

Appreciate this great and wonderful experience, dear friends, that Jesus shares with us in his person even now, two thousand years after the Last (or the First) Supper.

One last question for you: when you finally get to walk into church again and walk up to the communion table and receive the Holy Eucharist again, how do you think you will feel?

What a beautiful experience it is to share in the breaking of the bread – whether there is a glorious celebration with trumpets and gorgeous music or with just one other person present.

Yes appreciate this great and wonderful gift.

May we never take it for granted.

Lord Jesus,

We praise you and thank you for sharing with us

in every place and for all time

the gift of your sacred body and blood.  

May we always cherish such a wonderful gift

and never take it for granted.  

To You be all glory and honor

with the Father and the Spirit,  

now and forever. Amen. Alleluia! 

And now to complete your experience for today, here’s the song “You raise me up.” Click here.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.  

And here  all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

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The Second Sunday of Easter ~ Peace be with You!

The Second Sunday of Easter ~ April 19th, 2020~ “Peace be with You!”

Here we are continuing to celebrate the fifty days of the Easter Season as most of us are still locked down similar to the way the apostles were on that first Easter. See if you can learn from their experience today as we try to cope with this ongoing coronavirus that’s invading and infecting all our lives.

The Apostles were very disturbed after the crucifixion. Their life with Jesus ~ their hopes and dreams for the future ~ seemed to be totally shattered. They were afraid that the leaders would come for them and crucify them as well. How have your hopes and dreams been averted in the past month?

These issues were so strong in them that they could not believe the message that the Women brought them that Jesus had been raised. They were not at peace.

They were distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were depressed and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would come after them as well.

William Barclay, the Scripture scholar says that “they met in something like terror.” They knew the envenomed bitterness of the Jewish leaders who had plotted his execution and feared they would be next.

They really needed some peace.  So the first thing Jesus says when he appears to them is “Peace be with you.”

Thus, peace is an Easter gift. It’s a gift that we can claim and pray for too.

I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats. It means more than “May you be saved from times of trouble or conflict.” It means much more than that. It means, “May God give you every good thing.”

Jesus said when he appeared to them in the locked room, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

There’s a parallel between the sending out of the Church by Jesus and his being sent by the Father. John’s Gospel makes clear that the relationship between Jesus and God shows Jesus’ perfect obedience and perfect love. Jesus could be God’s messenger only because he rendered to God that perfect obedience and perfect love. It follows that the Church is fit to be a messenger and an instrument of Christ only when it perfectly loves him and perfectly obeys him. The Church must never be out to propagate man-made policies. The Church fails whenever it tries to solve some problems in its own wisdom and strength and leaves out of account the guidance of Christ.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit . . . .”

Barclay suggests that when John spoke in this way, he was thinking back to the story of the creation of humankind. “And the Lord God formed man out of dust from the soil and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

And we can compare this to the story of the valley of the dry bones in Ezekiel when he heard God say to the wind, “ Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”

The coming of the Holy Spirit is like the awakening of life from the dead.

 . . . . Until Jesus appeared to them. They no longer had to rely on faith, which was lacking for all of them, not just Thomas. They had to experience the Risen One for themselves.

Then enter Thomas. He is not at peace. He says that unless he puts his finger in the nail-marks and his hand into his side, he will not believe.”

Thomas is honest.

Thomas needed to be convinced. He absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or to say he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about him.

But when he was sure, he went all the way, My Lord and My God,” he proclaimed!

At this point, Thomas is overwhelmed. A week earlier he had said he would not believe. The truth of it all came home to him: so different from other men, he is the same one they used to be together with, who was put to death a short time ago. And Thomas surrendered. “You are my Lord and my God!” Thomas believed.

But then Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

These words are really extraordinary, according to Bread and Wine author Romano Guardini. Thomas believed because he had been allowed to “see.,” to see the hands and the side and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he was not blessed.

Blessed indeed are those whose who have yet learned to believe!” Those who ask for no miracles, demand nothing out of the ordinary, but find God’s message in every day life. Those who require no compelling proofs, but remain in a certain ultimate suspense, so that faith may never cease to require daring.

And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and inclination to “know better-than-others.”. Who are quick to listen, and are humble and free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel of he day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they’ve heard a thousand times, phrases with no charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of every day life that always end up the same way: work and rest, anxiety—and then again some kind of success, some joy, and an encounter, and a sorrow.

Blessed are those who can see the Lord in all those things!

~ Romano Guardini / Bread and Wine Believing is Seeing” pp.. 119- 123,

There’s a message for us in what Father Guardini  says here for all of us as we ” stay in place” bored perhaps, day-in- day-out, not knowing when our lives will return to normal, or if there will be a “normal.” A message of patience and love.

As for me, I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW my Redeemer lives.  I KNOW his love for me in the present moment. He is as close to me as my very own heartbeat. Not that I’m always aware of him. No, I am a sinful man who has made many mistakes in the fifty -one years of my priesthood. But I know that I love him and I know at the bottom of my heart that Jesus loves me. And, with all my heart and soul, I want you, my dear readers, to know in the bottom of your own hearts the deep, deep love and affection that Jesus has for YOU, too!

I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift the peace he has given me.

AND MAY THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU AS WELL!

And now before you go, a couple of things, first, today is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the Devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus, and is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church. Jesus associated with this devotion. A simple prayer associated with this devotion is “Jesus, I trust in you.” A simple act of abandonment is enough to overcome the barriers of darkness and sorrow  and desperation. The rays of God’s divine mercy will restore hope hope to those who feel overwhelmed by any burden, especially the burden of sin.

And now,  here is a powerful song to pull all of this together ~ , Click here.  

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen, and there’s another song just behind it.

And here are the Mass readings, if you’d care to reflect on them. Click here.

William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2                                Revised Edition / Westminster Press – Philadelphia – 1975/ pp. 272-4.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection: Let us say thank you, Lord!

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 

April 12th, 2020

Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!

How do we celebrate Easter against the background of this ongoing coronavirus crisis? It’s upended all of our lives and it surely could well upset our Easter Sunday celebration. For one, it preclude any kind of family dinners. Picnics are out. Walks in the park? Depends on your city. Play outside? Again depends. But it doesn’t have to ruin our spiritual enjoyment of the day. I want to try to help. You can also probably live-stream Easter Sunday Mass. (I’ll provide some resources for that on my email that accompanies this blog or you can google it yourself in your area.

As I did yesterday, I’m going to share another article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading book, this time from the Easter section. It’s one by Philip Yancey and it will lead into the them I want to set for all of us for this Easter Sunday and that is one of Gratitude. As we’ve had to step back and (most of us anyway) have had time on our hands, let’s use that time for good. For prayer and reflection. To think about the good things we do have and not the things we don’t. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did. It really affected me deeply and as I share this with you today, it could possibly bring about powerful change among us. At least that is my hope and prayer.

The image of the Cross is proof that God cares. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from contemplating the reality of the True Cross and what it ought to mean for us.

In this time of the coronavirus crisis in which all of us are shaken, anxious and fearful perhaps of what our future holds and that of our country that’s a perfect image for us to think about this Easter Sunday.

Love was compressed for all history in that lonely, bleeding Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

What practical effect does Christ identification with us have on people who actually suffer? A dramatic example of this effect of this truth was seen in the ministry of Dr. Paul Brand while he was working among leprosy patients in Vellore, India.  Dr. Brand was one of the few, together with his staff that would draw close to and touch a person with Hansen’s disease—the townspeople quarantined them.

He slipped in late to a patients’ gathering sitting on a mat at the edge of the open courtyard. The patients insisted on a few words from him and he reluctantly agreed. Gazing around, his eyes were drawn to their hands, dozens of them, in the familiar “leprosy claw hand,” some with no fingers.  Some sat on their hands; others hid them from view.

“I am a hand surgeon,” he told them, waiting for a translation into Tamil or Hindi, so when I meet people “I can’t help looking at people’s hands.  I can tell your past, for instance by the position of the calluses and the condition of the nails. I can tell a lot about your character. I love hands.” The patients were rapt with attention.

“How I would have loved to have had a chance to meet Christ and study his hands! ” He began with infancy when his hands were small, helpless, grasping. Then as a boy clumsily holding a brush or a stylus, trying to form letters of the alphabet. Then the hands of a carpenter—rough, gnarled, with broken finger nails and bruises working with a saw and hammer.

Then there were the hands of Christ the physician, the healer. Compassion and sensitivity seemed to radiate from them, so much so that when he touched people they could feel something of the divine spirit coming through. Christ touched the blind, the diseased, the needy.

Then there was the crucified hands. Dr. Brand said”it hurts me to think about a nail being driving through the center of my hand because I know what goes on there, the tremendous complex of nerves and blood vessels and muscles. It’s impossible to drive a spike through its center without crippling it.  The thought of those healing hands being crippled reminds me of what Christ was prepared to endure. In that act he identified himself with all the deformed and crippled human beings in the world.  Not only was he able to endure poverty with the poor, weariness with the tired, but clawed hands with the crippled.”

The effect on the listening patients—all social outcasts—was electrifying.

Dr. Brand continued. “Then there were his resurrected hands. One of the things I find most astounding is that, though we think that the future of life is something perfected, when Christ appeared to his disciples, he said, ‘Come look at my hands,” and he invited Thomas to put his finger in the print of the nail.”

“Why did he want to keep the wounds of his humanity? Wasn’t it because he wanted to carry back with him an external reminder of the suffering of those on earth? He carried the marks of suffering (and there there on every crucifix to look at) so he could continue to understand the needs of those suffering. He wanted to be forever one with us.”

And then . . . . and then hands were lifted high all over the courtyard, palm to palm in the Indian gesture of respect, namaste.  The hands were same stumps, the same missing fingers and crooked arches. Yet no one tried to hide them. God’s own response to suffering made theirs easier.

It should make yours easier too.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,  and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11:29-30)

As many of you, my readers are aware. I have suffered from a social disorder for many years too but it’s more hidden, but it did cause me a great deal of suffering. They call it manic-depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. And it has caused me to be estranged because of behavior that I was not fully in control of at the time with friends in the past. That has caused me a great deal of pain, let alone the embarrassment. I truly regret those incidents and hope someday I can be reconciled with some of those friends. I miss them! 

But most of all, this leads me to a profound sense of gratitude. On Tuesday of Holy Week, I had the opportunity to go to confession to a special priest. We practiced “social distancing” outside under a gazebo and he let me talk for 45 minutes. And for my penance, he asked me to think of five things I am grateful for and I’m going to ask you, my readers to do the same, this Easter Sunday if you are moved by the grace of Mr. Yancey’s writing and my own contribution. Here’s my list:  ( I came up with seven.)

* My Friendship with Jesus 

* The gift of my priesthood over fifty-one years

*  My home 

*  The friends who’ve nourished and sustained me

*  My gifts and talents for writing especially

*  My little dog Shoney

My candy apple red Mustang (how ’bout dat?)

Dearest Lord, 

On this very peculiar Easter Sunday, I really am filled with gratitude for life and love ~ Your love ~ and the love of so many.

Please, Lord be with those who are suffering this day from the virus    or in any other way. Those who courageously care for them.

Be with all those who are disabled in some way. My friends George and Pat who dedicates their lives to assist them. And so many others. Just thank you, thank, you, thank you!

JESUS IS RISEN!

Before you go, here’s the Australian young people’s group Hillsong singing “Worthy is the Lamb” with a stadium full of young people singing with them! Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen.

Now here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

From Where is God when it Hurts?

Grand Rapids MI Zondervan Publishing House C. 1977 by the Zondervan Corp.

Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003

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Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord ~ Jesus saving us still

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Good Friday April 10th, 2020

Like a sapling he grew in front of us,
Like a root in arid ground…
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering ….
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings in peace
and through his wound we were healed
–excerpts from Isaiah 53.

Well here we are at Good Friday once again and life seems so surreal for all of us in the midst of this Coronavirus crisis. For our Jewish neighbors Passover began Wednesday night at sundown without the possibility for most of them to celebrate according to law and custom by family gatherings. It must be really hard for them. And the same thing will hit a lot of us Christians two days from now on Easter Sunday when most of us cannot gather with family either!

However, it is possible for us to have a good Good Friday and that’s the point of this blog. I selected some material that really helped me  when I read it. It’s an article from my favorite Lent / Easter spiritual reading companion that now has a broken spine like an old man called Bread and Wine, It’s an article entitled Naked Pride by the Rev. John Stott, a distinguished Anglican priest and theologian. So, as we wait this crisis out, let’s put our fears and anxieties aside and open ourselves for some deeper prayer and learning this most sacred of days, would you so? Here we go . .

The essence of sin is human beings substituting themselves for God while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us all. Humans claim prerogatives that belong to God alone while God accepts penalties that God should not have to endure—only humans.

As you and I gaze upon the cross this Good Friday— either one in your home or the one at the end of your rosary or just the one printed in this blog if you have no other—we can gain a clear view both of God and ourselves. Instead of inflicting on us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured that sentence in our place. Hell is the only alternative. This is the “scandal”; i.e. the stumbling block of the cross.

For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin or our utter indebtedness to the cross. Surely there must be something we can do to make amends? If not, we give the impression we’d rather suffer our own punishment rather than of seeing God through Christ bear it in our place.

Our author tells the story of a play by George Bernard Shaw entitled Major Barbara (1905) about an incident at the alleged West Ham shelter in which Bill Walker, “a rough customer” arrives one cold January morning drunk. He gets himself into trouble there and seizes a girl by the hair and strikes her, cutting her lip. He’s mocked by the other residents because he didn’t have the courage to take on the “bloke” that he’s jealous about. Bill’s conscience and pride nag him until he can no longer bear the insult. He decides, in a kinda cockney accent, to spit in the guy’s eye, or if not, “git me aown fice beshed.”

But his opponent refuses to cooperate, so Bill returns shamefaced. He comes back to the group and lies, telling everybody, he spit in his eye to which one of the girls calls out, ‘Glory Allelloolier!”

The girl who was injured tells Bill that she’s sorry and he didn’t really hurt her, which makes him angrier still. “Aw down’t want to be forgiven by you or by anybody. Wot I did Aw’ll pay for.

He tries another ruse. He offers to pay a fine that one of his mates just incurred and produces a sovereign.

“Eahs the manney. Take it; and let’s ev no more o your forgivin and pryin and your Mijor jawrin me. Let wot Aw dan be dan and pid for; and let there be and end of it. This bloomin forgivin and neggin and jawrin mike a menn thet sore that iz lawf’s a burden to im. Aw won’t ev it. Aw tell yer. Avve offered to py. Aw can do more. Tike it or leave it. There it is.”—and he throws the sovereign down.

And so, our author sums up . . .

The proud human heart is thus revealed. We insist on paying for what we’ve done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that that somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take for some people. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.

Rev. Stott, an Anglican priest, and renowned theologian, states that only the gospel demands such a self-humbling on our part. No other religion or philosophy deals with the problem of guilt apart from the intervention of God, and therefore, they come to a “cheap” conclusion. In them, you and I would be spared the final humiliation of knowing that the Mediator has borne the punishment instead of us! We would not have to be stripped absolutely naked.

But . . . but we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing absolutely naked before God.

Think about that for a moment. You and I will have to take off our shoes and socks. Our shirts and pants or our dresses.

Our undershirts or our bra.

Our skivvies. And stand absolutely naked with your private parts and all.

Rev. Stott continues: It’s no use trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness and gaze on the Lord wearing our filthy rags instead of us.

And then . . . and then allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness and light.

Nobody has ever put it better than Augustus Toplady in his immortal hymn Rock of Ages . . . .

 

Nothing in my hand I bring

Simply to your Cross I cling

Naked, come to for dress

Helpless, look to you for grace

Fool, I to the fountain fly

Wash, Savior, or I die.

And now here’s my prayer . . . .

Dear God, We give you thanks for sending your Son to us.

He has lived among us ~ become one with us ~ borne our griefs.

He became obedient unto death to bear our sins and pay our debts.

Yet we were ungrateful and turned our backs to goodness and love.

Forgive us, Lord for the hardness of our hearts.

Turn us back to you to accept you love and forgiveness.

And please, Lord, guide us through this terrible plague!

Be especially with those who are sick

and those who courageously care for them.

And let us once again share in the joy of your Risen Life!

We ask this as we ask all things through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Amen!

And now, before you go, here’s the hymn from Bach’s Passion “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” ~ Click here

Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the readings from today’s service of the Word, including the Passion story according to St. John. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

John Stott Naked Pride In Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter Plough Publishing co. pp. 217-221. From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515

 

 

  1. 217-221.

 

From “The Cross of Christ” by John R. W. Stott Copyright 1986 John R.W. Stott. Interunivarsity Press P. O. Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515

 

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The Sorrowful mothers of the world

 

The Sorrowful Mother (The Pieta) – Michelangelo –
in the millennial year of 1500 when he was 24 years old

HOLY WEEK 2020

As we face this terrible Coronavirus  crisis that has so unsettled all are lives. and has caused over 12,000 deaths in our country. 9’11 caused under 3,000. And this pandemic is seems to be only on its first wave. All of us are confused, bewildered and fearful. We don’t know what to do. It’s all so surreal. Standing in line six feet apart in a line that was a block long at Walmart this morning, everyone wearing masks. I thought I was in a Science Fiction movie.

This blog is a Holy Week prayer to our lady the Sorrowful Mother. The image is the most famous in the world the masterpiece chiseled by the young Michelangelo a half a Millennia ago. Even if you’re not used to praying to the Mother of Jesus, this is a good time to do so. Her prayers are powerful indeed. We haven’t gone through anything like this since the Bubonic plague in Europe in the Fourteenth Century.

While I was on my retreat the first week of Lent 2009,  one of my prayer assignments was to sit before a statue of the sorrowful mother.  I have always had a devotion to Mary, the mother of the Lord,  and on that balmy afternoon against the background of the cypress swamp I reflected on all the mothers I have tried to console throughout the  (then) forty years of my priesthood.  I record for you now  the prayer which was my journal note for Father Don the next day.  Several of those women mentioned in the prayer are still in my life today.  I dedicate this blog as I remember them with love.

Be sure to read the commentary about the 24-year-old Michelangelo and his first sculpture which follows.  He chiseled his understanding of human grief, tap by tap,  for two years.  It is a magnificent meditation.  Ponder it yourself.  And unite your own prayer to our Lady to his this Holy Week.  There is also a very different image of grief below that I photographed from a book.

Dearest Lady,
mother of Jesus, whose tender love
brought Love Itself into our world,
may those who have never known
the tender embrace
of their own mother’s love
receive the same tender care and  love you wish for each of them. . .
for each of us . . .
as you offered the stern, yet tender love of a Jewish mother upon
Jesus, the Son of God
who was nourished at your tender breasts,
cradled in your arms,
bounced upon your knee;
whose booboo was kissed by your lovely mouth,
whose dead body you received come down from the Cross:
You were the one from whom
Jesus learned the joys of human love.

Dearest Lady,
Simeon said, holding your little Child in his arms,
that a sword would pierce your soul.

Did you have any idea what he meant?
Did you follow Jesus throughout his ministry?
Where you among the women who took care of him
and the others?
If so, where did you stay?
Or did you stay at home in Nazareth?
Did you go out to visit him when you could?
To listen to him preach?

Were you in the midst of the crowds
who pressed around him?
Did you have a chance to be alone with him for a while?
Did you give him any motherly advice?
Did you wash his clothes,
fix his favorite meal when he was on the road?

Did you gain a sense of foreboding as you listened
to the murmurings of hostility beginning to grow toward him?
What did you do with that concern?

I think perhaps you knew.                                                                                      You could see  where this was going to end,
because you kept all those foreboding things Simeon told you
in your heart.
Sorrow and sadness must have entered your heart
long before that fateful Friday.
But probably not much worry or anxiety because
I think you must have said over and over:
Be it done unto me according to Your word.
Be it done.
Thy will be done.

A mother can never be prepared to lose her son.

Fran, whose son Jimmy died at the hands of a drunk driver;

Chris who loved two children within her belly.

Dearest Lady, I think of  mothers I have known

who’ve watched their children die.

My cousin, Lynda, whose beautiful child Robbie
who bore her father’s and my name
died in a fire at age three.
I don’t think his mother ever got over that sadness.
I think of Marie whose paralyzed son was in prison
who couldn’t find a priest to console her after his wrongful death.

I think, dear Lady, that you unite yourself with other mothers who suffer at the bedside of a sick child.

I think of Monica whose son Andrew died of AIDS;
Rosemarie, whose very popular high school senior John died of a brain tumor, and wrote a book to work out her grief;
Florence, the mother of my best priest-buddy Phil who died suddenly at age 47.
“What a dirty trick!” she wailed at God;
the woman whose name I have long forgot whose surfer-son drowned in a storm in my first week of priestly ministry;                                                                                                                                                                           mothers I’ve known whose sons who couldn’t escape from addiction;     Monique whose son despaired and ended his life, leaving his children.

How can any of us really know what a mother must feel
who must outlive her child?

And I think of all the mothers of the world who are condemned to watch their children die of malnutrition.

And the mothers who are being deported by the Trump administration, leaving behind their American-born children.

And terrified mothers who try to comfort their children  caught in war-torn countries, especially in Syria and the Rohigya  people

Dearest Lady,

I have loved you since my boyhood.
I brought you flowers in springtime
to express my devotion.  Still do.
Today, I contemplated the sorrowful image
a sculptor captured in white marble.
When I gazed into the eyes of that chiseled image
for just a moment, I knew what you must have felt,
what my friends must have felt.
And that moment was gift.
A gift I will always remember.

Dearest Lady,
as you yourself shared in Jesus’ passion,
I ask you to be with all those whose hearts are
broken in sorrow.

Receive today

all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters

on this planet,
born and unborn.
Draw us all into that one great mystery of divine/human love
which is the glory of our Christian faith:
the birth, suffering, death and resurrection
of the son of a young beautiful woman,
Son of God,
our Brother,
our Redeemer.
Our Friend,
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

+ + + + + + +
From: ‘Guide to Saint Peter’s Basilica ‘
This is probably the world’s most famous sculpture of a religious subject.

Michelangelo carved it when he was 24 years old, and it is the only one he ever signed. The beauty of its lines and expression leaves a lasting impression on everyone.

With this magnificent statue Michelangelo has given us a highly spiritual and Christian view of human suffering. Artists before and after Michelangelo always depicted the Virgin with the dead Christ in her arms as grief-stricken, almost on the verge of desperation. Michelangelo, on the other hand, created a highly supernatural feeling.

As she holds Jesus’ lifeless body on her lap, the Virgin’s face emanates sweetness, serenity and a majestic acceptance of this immense sorrow, combined with her faith in the Redeemer. It seems almost as if Jesus is about to reawaken from a tranquil sleep and that after so much suffering and thorns, the rose of resurrection is about to bloom. As we contemplate the Pieta which conveys peace and tranquility, we can feel that the great sufferings of life and its pain can be mitigated.

Here, many Christians recall the price of their redemption and pray in silence. The words may be those of the “Salve Regina” or “Sub tuum presidium” or another prayer. After Peter’s Tomb, the Pieta Chapel is the most frequently visited and silent place in the entire basilica.

It is said that Michelangelo had been criticized for having portrayed the Virgin Mary as too young since she actually must have been around 45-50 years old when Jesus died. He answered that he did so deliberately because the effects of time could not mar the virginal features of this, the most blessed of women. He also said that he was thinking of his own mother’s face, he was only five when she died: the mother’s face is a symbol of eternal youth.

Before you go, here’s the Stabat Mater,  the traditional mourning song to Our Lady. Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. The translation of some of the verses follows.

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?

For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:

She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord. 

With Love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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Monday of Holy Week ~ Love’s extravagance

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK ~ April 6th, 2020

“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. “~ John 12:1-3

Yesterday we found Jesus mobbed but probably exhilarated by the crowds as he made his entry into the great holy city of Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

This day, Monday, weary from all the excitement and eager once again to be welcomed by his beloved friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he makes the short trip to Bethany with his disciples.

Apparently he was expected; a dinner party had been arranged and Jesus was to have quite an intimate surprise ~ right there in front of God and everybody. Martha and Mary were sisters; Martha was the practical one; she was always busy in the kitchen preparing the meals. Mary loved Jesus in a special way; she was often at his feet listening to his wonderful words.

This day, in front of the guests, she got down, washed Jesus dusty, tired, weary bare feet and massaged, soothed, and caressed them.

Suddenly she got up, went to a nearby shelf and got a beautiful alabaster bottle filled with the finest aromatic spikenard.   She broke it open! and the whole house was instantly transformed by its wonderful aroma.

She poured it liberally over the Master’s feet. (And as we know Judas objected strenuously ~ but let’s not go there for the moment.

(Permit me this Ignatian-style reflection ~ a bit R-rated.)

A sensual woman caresses a 33-year old man with perfumed oil. The oil squishes down between his toes; it soothes his weary feet. She rubs it in circular motions around the ankles.

Then Mary teases him dripping some, drop ~ drop on his shins, watching the glistening oil slither down his feet.

She leans back on her haunches and waits to get his reaction.

He grins, and raises his eyeballs toward the ceiling.

Then she pounces on him and rubs his feet firmly and furiously and backs away again, then just looks at him and smiles.

He returns the gaze, obviously, very pleased, very delighted, very relaxed.

Then she leans forward and begins to dry his feet with her hair!

This process takes a long time.

Oil takes a long time to come out, just being dried by hair, as lovely as Mary’s is.

Now, dear friends, you can’t get more sensuous than that!

I wonder.

I wonder what the Lord of the universe was thinking and feeling during this most intimate of male / female encounters? Would this most unusual, very creative experience be as intimate, as soul-connecting as intercourse itself?

I wouldn’t even dare to imagine. Take a moment of silence right now and ponder those thoughts and let him have his own thoughts and feelings in your own mind and heart.  (That is what Ignatian imaginative Scriptural prayer is: You reflect on the Scripture in your imagination and see how the Lord speaks to you; try reading this passage again and see what turns up for you.)

The sacred text doesn’t say, but we can intimate from what we already know that Jesus is already very comfortable with Mary who used to sit gaga-eyed at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42.)

Was it sexual? No. But it sure as h- was sensual!

Did he enjoy the experience?

You bet he did!

Jesus was a whole, integrated man.

Was he embarrassed to have that happen in front of the others? Quite sure not.

He was with people he could “let his hair down” with, although Mary probably got a good talkin’ to by her sister in the bedroom later! Jesus, unlike many of us, was not afraid to be himself, no matter what.

That Monday of that of Holy Week two Millennia ago was a day of relaxation for our Lord. He seemed to have the ability to be able to make the present moment a sacrament as he put aside concern about the events that lie ahead.

In William Barclay’s commentary on this passage, he has a series of little character sketches.

First, Martha. She loved Jesus, but she was a practical woman and the only way she could show her love was by working with her hands by cooking and serving. She always gave what she could.

Then there’s Mary.  We see three things about her love in this story. We see love’s extravagance. She took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus. We see love’s humility.It was a sign of honor to anoint someone’s head, but she anointed Jesus’ feet.  And then we see love’s unselfconsciousness.  Mary wiped his feet with her hair. In Palestine no woman would appear in public with her hair unbound But That was a sign of an immoral woman.Mary never even thought of that. Mary loved Jesus so much that it was nothing to her what the guests might have thought.

But there’s something else here. The house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.  Many Fathers of the Church have seen a double meaning here. That the whole Church was filled with the sweet memory of Mary’s action.

Then there’s the character of Judas. We see Jesus’ trust in Judas. As early as John 6:70, John shows us Jesus was well aware that there was a traitor within the ranks.  It may be that he tried to touch Judas’ heart by making him treasurer.   And here, in the house of Jesus’ friends, he had just seen an action of surpassing loveliness and he called it extravagant waste. Judas was an embittered man and took the embittered view of things.

And the scene ends with the mob coming to see Lazarus and the chief priests plotting to kill Jesus.

But Barclay doesn’t end here. He tells us that there’s one great truth about life here. Some things we can do almost any time, but some things we will never do, unless we grasp the chance when it comes. We are seized with something that seems important to do, but if we put it off, we say, Oh I’ll do it tomorrow and it never gets done.

This Holy Week resolve to do something that you have put off doing for someone~ an act of kindness or forgiveness, or asking for forgiveness.

Lord Jesus,

help us, too, to live in the present moment as Jesus did

~ not thinking about what comes next.  

Help us to fully give ourselves to the moment we are in,

embracing it, with eyes and ears wide open to it,

putting all other concerns aside.  

For that moment is where life happens;

we may not get another!

And now before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Click here.   

And here are today’s Mass readings:  Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of John – Volume 2  Revised Edition / Westminster Press / Philadelphia Pa 1975 / pp. 108-112.

You might like to know that the sourceof spikenard is Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas. It is a source of a type of intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil, spikenard.

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He became utterly poor for us!

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ  April 5th, 2020

Dear Friends,

All is ready now for the final days of our Lenten journey with Jesus.   The drama of the Paschal Mystery will  be re-enacted  once again in  parishes throughout the world.  I have loved the liturgy of Holy Week since I was a boy and in this blog I hope I can share that love with you.    We’ll go deep here.  Please take time to reflect.  Come with me now, won’t you? But STOP!

The coronavirus, has nearly brought to a halt the wonder and enjoyment we have always had with Holy Week liturgies. Gone are are the Palm Sunday processions. Gone is the Washing of the Feet at the Solemn Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening. Gone is the Veneration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday. Gone is the Blessing of the new fire and procession with the new Easter Candle and the singing of the Exultet on Holy Saturday night. And the baptisms and the welcoming of new candidates into the Church will have to wait until “the All Clear Signal” is promulgated, whenever that will be (and you’ll get your palms then too ~ never fear!) This is all unprecedented, maybe since Wartime or even the Plagues of the Middle Ages and it’s world-wide. Nevertheless, we still have the events, in Jesus’ life to commemorate and this is what this blog is about.

So please join me reverently here and enter into Jesus’s last days as best we can  . . . .

Jesus entered the holy city Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden ~ himself burdened with the sins of the world, Here’s the Gospel story (from Matthew 21:1-11) that (normally precedes the blessing of palms and the procession into the church . . . .

When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, 
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 
“Go into the village opposite you, 
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, 
‘The master has need of them.’
Then he will send them at once.”
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet 
might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
“Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, 
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, 
while others cut branches from the trees 
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem 
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

William Barclay, the great Presbyterian scripture scholar I’ve been referencing, notes, what Jesus was about to do was a deliberate, planned action on his part:  this would begin the last act in the drama of his life.

This was not a spur of the moment decision. He had told his disciples exactly where to find the ass and the colt; they were waiting for him.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem. He was to be acknowledged as king. He came humbly riding on an ass. Barclay says we must be careful to see the real meaning of this. In western lands the ass is a despised beast; but in the east the ass could be a noble animal. Often a king came riding into his city upon an ass, indicating that he came in peace. The horse was the mount of war. Jesus showed that he came not to destroy, but to love; not to condemn, but to help, not in the might of arms, but in the strength of love.

The whole city of Jerusalem was awash with visitors in preparation for the Passover at this moment.  Barclay also notes that thirty years later a Roman governor had taken a census of the number of lambs slain for Passover and found the number to be about a quarter of a million. Now, Passover regulations stated that a party with a minimum of ten people were required for each lamb which meant that there were about two and a half million people in Jerusalem at the time Jesus entered the holy city!

The crowd receives Jesus like a king.  They spread their cloaks in front of him.  They cut down and waved palm branches (and that is why we bless and distribute palms and this day is known universally as Palm Sunday.)

They greeted him as they would a pilgrim, Barclay notes: “Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord.”

They shouted, “Hosanna!”  The word means, “Save now!” and that was a cry that a people addressed to their king or their god.   (Interesting ~ I didn’t know that!)

So, we see that Jesus action here was planned and deliberate, similar to those of the prophets of old who would put their message into a dramatic act that people could not fail to see or understand.  Jesus action here was clearly a Messianic claim, or at least when a few days later he would be the cleanser of the Temple, an even more dramatic act in which he was to rid the Temple of the abuses that defiled it and its worship.

To conclude, then, Barclay had made three points about this story . . .

+  It shows Jesus’ courage.  He knew he was entering a hostile city.  All through his last days, in his every action is there is a “magnificent and sublime defiance” –“a flinging down the gauntlet.”

+  It shows us his claim to be God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One. And the cleanser of the temple.

+  It shows us his appeal–not a kingship of the throne, but a kingship of the heart.

In today’s liturgy, when the procession reaches the altar inside the church, and the people settle into the pews, the mood of the liturgy radically changes dramatically. It becomes somber as the ministers at the altar and the congregation prepare for the solemn reading of the Passion—this  year from the Gospel of Matthew, that’s usually proclaimed with several voices.  But I’d like to reflect a moment on the New Testament reading from Philippians 2:1-11 that precedes it because it captures the essence of the meaning of this day . . . .

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Johannes Metz wrote a little book Poverty of Spirit, in which he says . . .

Have we really understood the impoverishment that Christ endured?

Everything was taken from him during the passion, even the love that drove him to the cross . . .

His heart gave out and a feeling of utter helplessness came over him. Truly he emptied himself . . . He became utterly poor. [Thus] he accepted our humanity, he took on and endured our lot, he stepped down from his divinity.

He came to us where we really are ~ with all our broken dreams and lost hopes, with the meaning of existence slipping through our fingers. He came and stood with us, struggling with his whole heart to have us say ‘yes’ to our innate poverty. [God’s faithfulness] to us is what gives us the courage to be true to ourselves. And the legacy of God’s total commitment to humankind, the proof of God’s fidelity to our poverty, is the Cross.

[The Cross is the sacrament, the sign] that one human being remained true to his own humanity, that he accepted it in full obedience.”

Thus each of us has the opportunity to embrace our own poverty, or as I have been saying in Arise for the past two years we have the opportunity to accept whatever brokenness shows up in our own lives and find the treasure buried within. But this goes against the grain for us in American life. We are told to keep up with the Joneses. And so we strive for power, prestige, possessions.

“Poverty of spirit is the meeting point of heaven and earth,

the mysterious place where God and humanity encounter each other,

the point where infinite mystery meets concrete existence.”

And now, here’s my prayer . . . .

Lord Jesus, here we are at the beginning of Holy Week once again.

We can’t raise  our palms this year,

But we’re here, trying to be faithful to you as best we can.

We will try to read the story of your sacred passion and death so that we can understand and accept more fully how much you loved us

And now we learn that You really meant it!  

You weren’t just pretending to be human;

You immersed Yourself in our misery,

You got down in the muck with us

~ accepting it all, even death on a cross.  

Jesus, help us to embrace our humility,

our poverty, our brokenness, our share in Your cross.  

May this Holy Week truly be holy for us even if we can’t be there in church this year but  that we too will rise again with You to new life

and receive anew the gift of the Spirit.  

To You, Lord Jesus, be glory and honor forever! Amen.

Before you go, dear friends, here is a beautiful song, The Power of the Cross. Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen. 

Have a fruitful Holy Week.  I will publish again throughout the week. 

Here are the today’s Mass readings. Click here. To get back to this page, go to the top left corner of your computer screen, click on  the  < back arrow, and you’ll be right back here. I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire passion story according to Matthew.  I have also provided you a commentary on this gospel (and also the other readings), if you’d like to reflect on them further. Click here.

Acknowledgements  Johannes Baptist Metz Poverty of Spirit / Translated by John Drury / Paulist Press / New York / Mahwah, NJ / 1968, 1998

William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Matthew- Volume 2          The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 238 – 243.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ~ What wondrous love is this?

THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS ~ Friday, June 19, 2020

This is a Feast for our present moment when we are harried and frustrated and hurting from the fallout of Covid 19 upon all of us,  and all of what has been going on the past few weeks with the racial tension in our country. 

Reflecting on the Love that flows continually from the heart of Jesus has been a devotion of mine since childhood. I had an altar in my bedroom with flowers that I picked from our garden. In May, the backdrop was blue for Our Lady and in June, it was red for Our Lord.

I wrote the article below in 1981 at a difficult time in my life and then preached these words as a Good Friday homily in 1992.

I hope you enjoy it; I think it can have some practical value for you in managing the suffering in your own life ~ and in America and our whole world today.

* * * * * *

The Heart of Jesus

(Jesus the Tremendous Lover)

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

Jesus is the one who is our tremendous Lover.
He came to live among us to reveal to us, his sisters and brothers, that we have a Father/God who loves us with a Love that is once a passionate, unconditional love and yet gentle, always inviting, never coercing.  Jesus came among us to be our Love, to show the human race how to use the supreme power which God could give us:  the intimate, infinite Love which is ours, if only we would claim it and model our lives after Jesus, who is Love itself.

Jesus was to be for us the model of Love because he was willing to experience in his heart the depths of human emotion.  He risked time and again to embrace the sorrow, the agony, the unfreedom, the need of those who came  to him to be healed.  He risked being burdened by the needs of others.  He risked being disheartened by those who would take from him and not even say thanks.  He risked being misunderstood and rejected  by the authorities of the day and even his neighbors in his home town.  He risked the pain of realizing that even his closest disciples and friends had narrow vision and missed the main point of his message.

He risked all, and realized that, in spite of the pain and sorrow, in his heart, the soft Voice of the Father within him was asking him to keep going, to risk even more.  To go deeper into his heart and to carve out still more and more places for those he would touch and heal, until one day there would be room in his heart for the whole world.

I doubt that Jesus ever forgot a single individual that he encountered, not even those who oppressed him.  He kept them all in his great heart, remembering them, praying for them, hoping that they would open their hearts to the One who Loved them with a passionate Love — the Father/God of all.  He must have realized how important it was to see and feel the tragedy of the corruption he witnessed among the religious and political leaders of the day, to keep even these things in his heart.   As painful as it was, he hoped that by keeping them there some of the great evil he saw would be disarmed and tamed.

That’s all he could do, after all — absorb the tragedy, the struggle, the sin, the failures in Love of the human race in his great, great heart.  Yes, he healed a few sick and gave the gift of sight to some, but most of all he Loved:  He let people into his heart (that’s the definition of Love, after all:  to let someone into one’s heart)  there to be comforted, if just for a moment. For one brief moment in the heart of the Lord Jesus is enough for any of us.

He had room for young John and impetuous Peter.  And for Judas.  He had room for the outcasts of his day, Zacchaeus and Matthew and Mary Magdalen.  And he sat at the table of outcasts who invited him to their table.  He had room for beggars and lepers and blind people.  And he had room for the Pharisees who broke his heart by their refusal to see and understand.

We remember that he was capable of deep emotion.  He wept profoundly when he saw in prophecy what would happen to Jerusalem because of the hardness of the people’s hearts.  And yet, even the gift of his tears and the greatness of his Love would not stop the destruction that would come because of Israel’s hardness of heart and lack of vigilance.

In the end, he wept in the garden.  I like to believe that his agony was not focused on the trauma he personally was about to endure but because the Father permitted him, in that moment, to experience to the depths the reality of evil and tragedy in the world.  He must have experienced some of the pain and loss that many of us feel when we ourselves encounter hardness of heart and misunderstanding.

Jesus embodied the compassion of God — the mercy, the tenderness, the Hesed of God  (to use the wonderful Hebrew word).  God wanted to be known as the Merciful One.  And we, likewise, are instructed to “Be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate.”

Jesus became for us the “Man of Sorrows”, familiar with suffering”  — the suffering Servant of Yahweh.  He bore the weight of the world’s refusal to Love and even worse its refusal to be Loved by the God of Love.  He allowed that evil, that senseless tragedy of the human race, to be absorbed, and thereby redeemed and purified, with his own blood.  In his own bloodstream the cosmic battle between the forces of Love and Hate was waged.  And “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.”   In him the great cosmic battle was focused.  Our great compassionate God sent his Son to bear within his soul the brunt of that cosmic storm.

We are filled with awe at such overwhelming Love.  And so we honor today his great, great heart.  But most importantly we should realize that he has become for us Love itself so that we will also might become Love.

The one essential ingredient of the Christian religion is to Love as Jesus has Loved us.  We are to become compassionate as Jesus is compassionate.  We, like Jesus, are called not to be afraid to embrace the suffering, the tragedy, the sin of the world, so that in Love we will join our hearts to his and, as St. Paul says, “to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”

Perhaps we can say, therefore, that there are two kinds of people in the world — those who are willing to accept their own share of suffering in the world (and a bit more for Jesus’ sake) and those who cannot or will not bear even the suffering caused by their own failures and sins.  The compassionate ones do what they do out of Love, a seemingly foolish Love.  Some Love because they have been opened up to a mystical awareness that they, like Jesus, are making their own soul and body available as an arena for the cosmic drama of interaction between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

I do not pity those who suffer.  I rather pity those who are afraid to suffer.  Out of suffering comes understanding — a larger perspective of the world and with it a practical wisdom that tempers Law and Life with Mercy.  Out of suffering comes the ability to see the face of Christ in even a hardened criminal or a seemingly pitiful alcoholic.

The ability to see, to understand, the inner workings of people’s lives is a gift far greater than the suffering one must endure to attain it.  To-suffer-unto-understanding (a definition of compassion) is to be able to look upon the world as Jesus does and as he invites us to do in the Beatitudes.3 (Of course, a person can suffer without  understanding — especially when we are angry about  and refuse to accept our lot of suffering.  But if we pray faithfully while we suffer, God will most assuredly gift us with  his own very special kind of understanding.)

Understanding is the goal of suffering for those who have eyes to see.  Understanding which sees through the eyes of Jesus.  Understanding allows us the courage to be with Jesus hanging on the Cross and to see what he saw from that perspective.  Understanding allows us the courage to go with Jesus into the bowels of the earth and descend into hell and to see what Jesus saw.  Then, too, understanding allows us to feel what Jesus felt when he was lifted from the grave.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have always had an inner sense that the fastest, most efficient way to handle a crisis was to face it head on — not to avoid it.  And so, I invite you to “go with” the suffering.  Explore it.  Allow yourself to experience the feelings, as painful and confused and frightening as they may be.  The more you fight it, the more you will suffer.  Ask Jesus the Light to lead you through the darkness.  Then have faith and confidence that he will.  (After all, the worst you will experience is what Jesus experienced, as long as you follow the will of God.  (Other persons have suffered more cruel deaths than crucifixion.)  And if you truly want  to follow the will of God and are praying daily, then be assured that God is  leading you.  Take his hand in the darkness and follow — even if you can barely see the ground in front of you!

The pain may feel unbearable for a while, and the temptation is to avoid it as long as we can, and, of course, to worry about it.  (I have always found worry most bothersome, like walking around with a pebble in my shoe.  Far easier to bend down and take it out than to walk around with it for years!)  So, too, with suffering.  Even in one of my earlier bouts with emotional and mental suffering, I somehow found myself diving into it to seek its cause.

From what I can see there is always a cause of suffering.  Discovering the cause can often lead to alleviating the suffering.  In fact, the pain oftentimes will be transformed the moment the cause is recognized and diagnosed, so it is to the person’s advantage to stay with it and find out who or what the “bugger” is.  (Perhaps there is an analogy to the oyster who “suffers” an irritation that will eventually through which it may become a pearl of great price.)  If we see the larger picture of reality, seen through the eyes of Christ, some joy and satisfaction and relief will enter our soul.  We will thus be on our way to recovery and new life.

The easiest way through suffering is to stretch out our arms and allow ourselves to be nailed to our cross.  Don’t fight it.  Surrender to the will of God.  Jesus in his agony on Thursday night saw through the nails in his hands and the crown of thorns on his head to the Resurrection.  He didn’t ignore the Cross; he saw it and the horizon beyond it.

Jesus didn’t focus on the pain.  The pain of the Cross was only a brief moment (which he knew he had the strength to endure) in the history of his lordship presiding over the business of the universe.  So you, too, should not focus on the painful aspects of our life.  Look instead for the cause of the pain.  Look for the reality — the truth!  And remember that Jesus said “the truth shall make you free!”   See as Jesus sees; that is, see and accept the truth.  And leap from your cross as a butterfly leaps from the cocoon and as Jesus leapt from the grave.

“Impossible!” you may say, especially if you have been suffering for years.

“Not so!” says Jesus and the whole company of prophets and martyrs and confessors and virgins.

Ask for strength and you will receive strength.

Ask for guidance and you will be led through the darkness to a point you will recognize.

Ask to understand and Jesus will let you see yourself through his eyes.

But remember! Don’t focus on the pain.  All those gory pictures of Jesus in agony and bloody crucifixes of the past generation, hopefully, are, hopefully, gone for good.

The Cross is the focal point in that we realize the great Love which Jesus has for us and what he personally has done for us.  But one must not forget to look at the horizon beyond the Cross.  The sky on that first Good Friday afternoon undoubtedly was an awesome sight to behold.  The cross, the pain that is our lot in life to endure, is there only to be transformed and transcended.  The cross is but a moment.

Suffering in life is only a means to greater life.   It is not our final lot.  Resurrection is.  Glory is.  Triumph is.  Though the paradox is that we must accept our cross totally to be through with it.  We are invited to surrender to our Father in complete abandonment as Jesus did, as if we were to leap off a cliff and know that we will land in the Loving arms of our great God.

A further delusion of spirituality of the past generation is that our reward will not come until the next life.  What is delusional about that is that we fail to realize the kingdom is already inaugurated by Jesus in history by his triumph on the Cross.  Our lives are already illumined  by the light of the resurrection.  And there is no reason that we cannot triumph here and now — if we accept our cross.  And, in fact, I am convinced that it will be Christians bold enough to take up in their hand and in their minds the Cross of Jesus who will lead us in XXI and XXII Centuries, just as this has been true in every age of the Church.

And so, the question that we ponder this feast day is, once again:

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

And the answer is:  “The great, great Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who Loved us so much that he stretched out his arms in the most loving, indeed, the most-nonviolent act, the world has ever seen.  He stretched out his arms in the face of his enemies and said from his Cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Come, then adore the Lord who wants to be for us all our Beloved.  Come, then, adore the Lord, the tremendous Lover.  Renew your Love for him and know even more than ever before that it is by his holy Cross that we have been redeemed.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this?

And now, before you go, here’s that wonderful hymn, What wondrous love is this? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

The Feast of the Ascension  ~ May 28, 2017

The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord is part of the Easter mystery.  First is the Resurrection in which Jesus conquers death for us and reveals that life will never end.

Then there is the Ascension in which Jesus is taken up into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand.

And finally Pentecost in which God pours forth his Spirit upon the church and all humankind.

All three experiences are intertwined; they reveal different aspects or facets of the same reality.  The Scriptures separate them over 50 days to afford us the opportunity to reflect on each aspect of the one Easter mystery.

Now, let us look at today’s feast, the Ascension.

At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (first reading ~ Acts 1:1-11), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience.

Jesus told them not to depart from Jerusalem but to “wait for the promise of the Father of which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water but in a few days you  will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  He was, of course, referring to Pentecost.

. . . Then he said,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you

AND YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then Jesus was lifted up, a cloud took him from their sight.

(However, in today’s Gospel from Matthew, the “lifting”  is not mentioned, just the commissioning.)

They stood there, awestruck, spellbound .

Then two men dressed in white garments stood beside them and said,

“Men of Galilee, why are standing there looking at the sky? 

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

This feast is about heaven, but also about earth.

Jesus is taken into heaven; that is, he returns to his Father where sits at the Father’s right hand.

And the second reading from Ephesians states that. . . .

God the Father “put all things beneath Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23)

Thus, there is a cosmic dimension to Christology.  The great mystic and theologian Father Teilhard de Chardin  talked about “Christogenesis” – the entire universe evolving by the power of Christ’s all-embracing love.  When Chardin was far away from bread or wine and could not celebrate Mass, he talked fervently and passionately about the  “Mass on the world – that the whole planet was the body of Christ.

So we think about Jesus as Lord of the Universe,  and we pray that people on earth would somehow find ways to stop the violence and inhumanity toward each other.  And so the Feast of Ascension is also about earth.

The angels ask the disciples — Why are you standing there looking up in the sky?  You and I have work to do!

YOU MUST BE MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

A witness is one who experiences with one’s own eyes and ears what has taken place.

A witness is one who has filtered through one’s own senses what their account of the truth is.

I consider myself a witness to the resurrection.  I have had enough experiences of risen life, even of mystical experience that I am convinced that Jesus is real, that he lives and reigns, that he empowers us through his Spirit. Throughout my life I have found myself immersed in the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I know this also, because Jesus has allowed me the ability to share his life with others, and they with me.  Many others have deepened and enriched their faith as the Holy Spirit worked through me.

Brothers and sisters, we have work to do.  We are put on notice in the scriptures of today’s feast.

Next Sunday we will attend to the third aspect of the Easter mystery ~ Pentecost ~ the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all humankind.

During the coming week may we pray that the Holy Spirit would renew each of us individually, the whole Church of God and indeed the whole world.

Christ is Risen!

Now, before you go, here’s a rousing version of the wonderful hymn, Crown Him with many Crowns. Click here.   Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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Unbind us, Lord! Let us go free!

The Fifth Sunday of Lent ~ March 29, 2020

John the Evangelist has still another incredible story of a three-part series used by the church to show us how Jesus wants to be for us: He is the One who unbinds our shackles ~ calls us forth from the tombs of our lives and offers us new and risen life!  When? For all eternity – Yes!  But also right here, right now ~ especially when all of us are affected by this terrible coronavirus crisis! 

(Also see the two previous posts for the first two stories “A thirsty man meets a thirsty woman (John, Chapter 4)  and “You light up my life” John, Chapter 9).  There are marvelous lessons for believers and unbelievers alike here. You’ll find them on the top right column of the blog.)  The images I use here are of a statue interpreting the unbinding of Lazarus on the grounds of the Diocese of Lake Charles Retreat Center in Lake Charles, LA.  I title them: “Addictions.”

Before I offer my own reflections on this precious Gospel text of St. John, I’d like to begin, as I usually do with some notes by our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay . . . .

Jesus often went to the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha at Bethany to rest from the tensions of his life—to “hang out” with them and just relax for a while. (You might note that the word ‘Bethany’ is often used for Retreat Centers for that reason.)

The sisters sent a note to Jesus that simply was a request to come to Bethany, knowing he would come. Barclay notes that the word Lazarus means God is my help.

The sisters sent a note to Jesus that simply was a request to come to Bethany, knowing he would come. Barclay notes that the word Lazarus means God is my help.

But he stayed away several days before going up to Bethany.

Martha was the first to go out to meet him, but Mary lingered behind. Martha spoke half with reproach that she could not keep back, and half with a faith that nothing could shake. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And Jesus, replied, “Your brother will rise again.”

Barclay tells us that one of the strangest things in scripture is the fact the saints of the Old Testament had practically no belief in any real life after death. In the early days the Hebrews believed that the soul of every man, good or bad alike went to Sheol. Sheol is wrongly translated Hell; for it was not a place of torture, it was the land of shades. All alike went there and they lived in a vague, shadowy, joyless ghostlike kind of life. “In death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give you praise? (Psalm 6:5)

In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees and the majority of Jews did believe in some kind of afterlife, but the Sadducees refused to do so.

Then our Scripture scholar comments on Jesus’ display of emotion at the tomb of Lazarus.

“When he saw the Jews who had come with her weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit, so that an involuntary groan burst from him, and he trembled with deep emotion.”

Barclay says this one of the most precious things in the gospel. So deeply did Jesus enter into people’s sorrows that his heart was wrung with anguish.

John was writing in Greek for Greeks for whom the primary characteristic of god was what they called apatheia, which means total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever.

They argued that if we can feel sorrow are joy, then that person can have an effect on us. Now, if that person can have an effect on us, that means for the moment that they can have power over us.. No one can have power over God, and that means that means that God is essentially incapable of feeling any emotion whatsoever.

What a different picture Jesus gives us. The greatest thing that Jesus did was to bring us the news of a God who cares.

But there’s a problem . . .

In the other three gospels there are stories of Jesus raising people from the dead: Jairus’ daughter in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The raising of the widow’s son at Nain in Luke. In both cases, the raising occurred immediately after death, suggesting that they could have been in a coma.

Secondly, in the other three gospels, there is no account, not even a mention on the raising of Lazarus. If it actually happened how could they possibly omit it? Barclay goes on to elucidate this problem thoroughly.

But then he resolves it by telling a story of a young marine who came to faith after living a life of sin and nearly despairing, he read this story, and it brought him back to Christ.

And now, it’s time for my own reflections, dear reader . . .

As you read this story,  picture it.  Get into it.  And I will add a few reflections of my own along the way.  Here’s  an edited version of the NRSV version.  Cf. the following link for the complete text: John 11:1-45.

NOW a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”

I can muse that  You, Jesus often went to the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus.  You probably went there to  “let your hair down.”  To get away from the crowds — even Your chosen  and sometimes unruly band of  Twelve who often didn’t  “get” what You were about.  I muse that You sometimes felt quite alone even among them.   But You really seem to enjoy the three siblings’ company.  You could be who You were, without pressure, without demand.  You could simply “be.”   And Your three friends were very comfortable with You as well.  (Remember the story in Luke 10:38-42 when he came for dinner?)

Lord, help us to find friends who accept us as we are — warts and all —  with whom we don’t have to pretend to be someone / something we’re not.  Where we can learn and be encouraged to bind our wounds and become whole.  I thank you for the people in my life who are “there” for me when I need them.

But when Jesus got the note from Martha, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory.

Lord, You have enabled me  to realize, that illness and difficult times can end in glory for those who persevere ~ who trust ~ who are willing to understand what such crosses will teach us. 

Lord, help us to see the glory hiding in the dark places of our lives. . . .

Though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Lord, help us to grow into patience — to wait.  To wait for God’s time for things.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”  [ . . . . ] “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”

How many of  us have fallen asleep to the reality of our lives?  Jesus, help me to WAKE UP! and really see and accept the reality of my life — both the good and the bad.  And the reality of what’s going on in our nation and our world.

[. . . .] When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Lord Jesus, I hear you saying this to ME.  As a priest I have consoled many who wept at the death of their own loved ones.  And throughout my own long years  of illness, these words consoled me.  Somehow, I realized that, even on this side of the grave, You have granted me new and risen life again and again. 

She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Yes, Lord, You are the One who is my Friend / my Beloved / my Redeemer / my Shepherd and Companion on my life’s journey!

When Martha had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

In those few words I feel her grief, Lord  . . . and a bit of a reprimand: “Why weren’t You here?”

How often as a priest have I heard people say that!

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

Jesus, as I (we) reflect on this story, help us to feel / to sense / to realize that it is your humanness / Your humanity that saves us:  You are one like us!

He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus began to weep.

Lord, You always weep with and for Your friends . . . and the folks who do not know You are waiting for the touch of your friendship.

You cry — even now — over the state of our world.  I know.  I often cry with you!

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Jesus, I praise You that You were not afraid to express Your love to other men, especially to the young beloved disciple who leaned on Your breast at the Last Supper (John 21:20).

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, You always worked in an atmosphere of hostility.  There were always people around who hated You because you loved.  And teach others to do the same.  In these later days of Lent as we approach the celebration of Your passion, death and resurrection — this year — may we be soberly aware that it was the religious leaders who had you killed. Something for us to ponder even today.  Are we for You or against You?  Are we on the side of Love or Hate?

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

Jesus, I know many who have heavy stones laying across devastated lives.  Particularly my friends  who have lain in the tomb of addiction.  I know families who weep and worry over the death of the spirits of their loved ones.

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”

There are always consequences to devastated lives.  They’re always hard to repair.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

. . . . but Jesus reminds us  to always to have hope in the ones we love — even when matters seem hopeless.

So they took away the stone. And Jesus [. . . . .] cried with a loud voice, “LAZARUS COME OUT!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.

Jesus said to them,

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

I have come to realize, Lord, that coming out of our tombs is only the beginning of recovery.  Resurrection takes a long time.We need others to unbind us.  And I thank you for the people who have helped to unbind me ~ especially You, Lord!

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

May we come to deepen OUR faith in You, Lord, and realize that as we stay close to You, You will unbind us and let us go free to new and risen life and love!

 
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!
Now here is the song “He will raise you up on eagle’s wings” Click here. by Michael Joncas   sung at my parents’ funeral and so many others I had the honor of presiding at.  We Catholics truly believe that we will live forever!
 And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

 

the garden on the edge of the bayou in which the statue is placed

 

With love,
Bob Traupman
contemplative writer
 
This post is dedicated to the young men for whom I’ve  prayed and their parents: May they be unbound from the shackles of their addictions and have a new and risen life.

 

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.  From the oremus Bible Browser http://bible.oremus.org v2.2.5 2 March 2008.  

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of John – Volume 2 Revised Edition                                                The Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 80 – 103.

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The Courage of the signers ~ where is our courage?

Dear Friends,

On  July 4, 1776, the men, and their families supporting them
published the sacred document, the Declaration of Independence,
that created this country.  At its conclusion, they said:

FOR THE SUPPORT OF THIS DECLARATION
WITH A FIRM RELIANCE ON THE PROTECTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
WE MUTUALLY PLEDGE OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES AND OUR SACRED HONOR.

Imagine the risks they undertook and the courage that they needed
to bring the ideal of freedom and equality that existed in their minds and hearts into external reality.
They had to be willing to sacrifice everything dear to them — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
Their signatures, bound to their lives, fortunes and honor, created the United States of America.

We need to return again and again to that moment.
We need to re-birth America in our hearts in this time and place.

We honor the sacrifices of the women and men and their families
who have served in Iraq and in Afghanistan  in the service of our country.
Many of these men and women had been compelled to serve tour after tour, sacrificing their physical and emotional lives and those of their families.
But the rest of us American people have been asked to sacrifice very little, except to suffer the fallout from the coronavirus.

Where is the courage and the leadership in our President and in our Congress?

I received an email some time ago from a friend that showed what happened to many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife; she died shortly after.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

We go on with our complacent lives, untouched by the swirl of politics and the even the plight of the immigrant children on our Southern border.

May we not take for granted what we have here in America for we could lose what we have.

May we not let some try to divide us for we are one people under one flag and a God who respects all people.

May this Fourth of July be a time for us to take stock of ourselves.

John Kennedy said:

Ask not what our country can do for you;                                                                                                              Ask what you can do for your country.”

I have pleaded for years that we need to be willing to enter a path of personal transformation for the sake of transformation of our country.

And so again today, I invite us to pray for God’s help in that transformation.

Good and gracious God of our understanding,                                                                                                         we thank You for the courage and vision of our founding fathers and mothers,
May each of us be willing to transform
our hate to respect for all people,
our reliance on material things to reliance on You,
our greed and selfishness to self-giving and compassion
May we always be willing to respond to the grace You give us
to transform our lives and our country to serve the good of all.             

Please be with those who are suffering from the coronavirus              and those who care for them.                                                                     

Please help us face up to our racism and draw us together as one people, Lord!
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us now are experiencing
bring us to You, God of our understanding,
for You, are the Source of all that is good in our lives.                               

May all our actions show Your wisdom and love.                                      For we declare that we are:                                                                                                                                “ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE,                                            WITH FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”
Amen.

Now, before you go, here’s the Star Spangled Banner like you’ve never heard it before. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers,  Click here.

And if you’d like, here’s Celine Dion singing God Bless America with a wonderful slide show that just might give you some goosebumps! Click here.  And again, be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

Enjoy your Fourth of July Celebration this weekend!

With love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

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Pentecost Sunday 2020 ~ We need God’s Spirit now as ever before!

            The Great and Glorious Feast of Pentecost             

Sunday May 31st, 2020 

What would it be like to have something like “tongues of fire” descend upon the group with whom you were meeting? You’d be a little shocked, right? Well let me tell you the story of how that happened.

In our last blog, we celebrated the Feast of our Lord’s Ascension. After Jesus left the disciples and ascended into heaven, they had gathered again behind locked doors, despondent, worried, fearful, bewildered, devastated.

“[Then] suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,

and it filled the entire house in which they were. 

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted

and came to rest on each one of them. 

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues, 

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (Acts 2:1-21.)

Well, there’s a parallel here to the very beginning of things . . .

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.” And then . . .

“When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place.  Suddenly from up in the sky there was a noise like a strong driving wind.

The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind.  The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that stirs things up and gets them moving.

The word for “wind” in Hebrew is “Ruah” — the same as the word for “breath.”

Often at night as I’m sitting in my chair I would just pay attention to my breathing for a while. I imagine that the Holy Spirit is the breath entering me, and when I exhale, I’m breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.

What a wonderful image is breath!  Breath is life itself.  No breath, no life in the body.

The mighty wind of Pentecost stirred things up and the church was born.  The apostles and the others who were part of their company, including some women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were given enthusiasm.  No longer afraid, they courageously preached the message that Jesus established a new order for people’s lives. They began gathering the church.  The Acts of the Apostles is in so many ways the gospel of the Holy Spirit.

In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, that tries to explain why there are so many different languages on the earth that we cannot understand each other; that causes  so much discord, so much disharmony.

The story has God confusing the languages of people at Babel  (Gen. 11: 1-9) and from that day onward they were scattered.

On the day of Pentecost the opposite happened.  People were gathered together.   Parthians and Medes and Elamites; people from Cappodacia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt  — all heard the apostles speaking to them in their own languages.

On the day of my ordination, I was filled with enthusiasm.  It was the day before Pentecost, May 24, 1969.

I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:

I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

your young men shall see visions.

Even upon the servants and handmaids,

in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28, 29)

Those were the days immediately following the Second Vatican Council.  There was a lot of enthusiasm all over the Church.  Those of us who were young, had wonderful opportunities to serve.

The enthusiasm that poured onto me and into me lasted the first seven years of my priesthood.  The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained with me.

Nine years later, the opposite happened.  My life crashed in upon me. And I was reminded of still another scripture about the Spirit — the prophecy of the dry bones.

“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:  “See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again.   Breathe into these slain, O Spirit, that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)

That’s what Pope Francis is trying to do. Breathe new life into the Church that the Holy Spirit will draw the church together in new ways.

There is still something else to note from the Pentecost story.  A tongue of fire rested individually on the heads of each person.  The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us, just as the Father and the Son do.  The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one of us.

So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things for us!

The Spirit is also the source of inspiration for all who would design and create.

“There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries, but the same Lord;  there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in every one.  To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

The body is one and has many members, many though they are, are one body;  and so it is with Christ.  It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into the one body.   All  of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit.”     I Cor. 12

In the seminary I learned to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit before each class.  And for me it was a powerful devotion.  I realized that the work I produced was more than the sum of its parts.  I realize that is still true some 51 years later.  If we seek and cooperate with God’s grace, wonderful things can and will happen that are so far beyond what we ever imagine!

But I must realize that there were also times in my priesthood when I experienced a great deal of powerlessness.  I felt like Samson who had lost his strength.  My soul had become like the valley of dry bones. I didn’t like my own mediocrity.

It is clear that I needed to bring the Holy Spirit to the foreground of my life again and again.  I would like to have a vibrant and vital relationship with the Holy Spirit from moment to moment.  In each moment of my life I hope that I will discern and follow the Spirit’s lead.

And so, an important role of the Holy  Spirit is to encourage gifts. To invite risk. To reach out beyond safe boundaries, as Pope Francis is encouraging his priests to do. To make connections. To unite. To celebrate diversity. The story of Pentecost states that the Spirit of God is uncontrollable – by us. It comes as a “strong driving wind’ and “tongues [on] fire! Or in “Trekkie” language, to go “where no one has gone before.”

The greatest saints did just that! Catherine of Siena (a woman religious!) chastised the pope. Francis Xavier undauntedly stepped off the boat in Japan into a culture very foreign to him. A peasant girl named Joan rallied the French army to victory and was burned at the stake because of it. Katharine Drexel stepped beyond boundaries to treat Blacks and Native Americans as persons. And a supposed “care-taker pope” John XXIII shocked everyone by calling a solemn Council of the Church.

They improvised! They pushed the boundaries of the established ways of doing things! They were not afraid to do things differently. They were bold and convicted in the confidence they received from the Spirit of God – just like at Pentecost. They were the innovators, the Reformers. The ones who led and changed the Church. They listened to the Holy Spirit who prompted /disturbed / prodded / led them/ inspired them / and who became their “Defense Attorney” or Advocate, i.e. “Paraclete.” They simply learned to trust that they were tuned into God from moment to moment who would guide them in what to say and do at the appropriate time.

Our world, our our country desperately needs people with that kind of enthusiasm and conviction today. We have no idea where the coronavirus and its aftermath is going to lead our nation, our church and our world. What we do know is that it will require different responses from all of us because the world will not be the same as it was before. We will have to rely on our faith and call on the Holy Spirit to give us the resources we need to adapt to whatever situations lie before us.

As for me, I pray that as I may still have some of that enthusiasm and joy and conviction to serve God’s holy people in this, now beginning the fifty-first year of my priesthood.  There’s still a lot of joy and and eagerness within me to serve!

May we celebrate on this Pentecost Sunday the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the Church, in our world and in, indeed, all of creation!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,

and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

and You shall renew the face of the earth.

May it be so.  May it be so.

Now, here’s the ancient Sequence for the Feast ~ or if you will, a poem that occurs within the Mass . . .

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

And before you go, (A little different “Come Holy Ghost” for a change.) Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.

And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman,

Contemplative Writer