Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John12:24.)
Jesus had said this to his disciples shortly after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I’m thinking about the issue of Dying to Self these September days because we’re celebrating a favorite feast day of mine because I have had a along association with the Cistercian (Trappist) Abbey of the Holy Cross in Berryville, Virginia, nestled on the Western side of the first ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the shore of the Shenandoah River. I’m also thinking of the issue of Dying to Self these September days as I prepare to return to my Diocese of Orlando and do more priestly work again.
Before the pandemic many of us would have shuddered and quaked in our sneakers at the thought of Dying to Self, but then it was forced on us, wasn’t it?
It goes against everything our American culture tells us we should do—Look Out For No. 1. A psychologist some time ago did a study that showed that there has been a distinct rise in more individualistic words such as “choose,” “get,” “feel,” “unique,” “individual” and “self” and a decrease in community-focused words such as “obliged,” “give,” “act,” “obedience,” “authority,” “pray” and “belong.” No sign of Dying to Self here, it seems. Let alone the Cross.
If you name the trauma(s) that have altered your life over the years or just over the duration of this pandemic. . . how did you deal with them? How did they affect you? What about Dying to Self? Can you ~ do you ~ do that?
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John12:24.)
In another place, Jesus says to his disciples . . .
If any wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Luke 9:24-26 ~ NRSV)
Obviously, this is not the wisdom of the world with its emphasis on Power Prestige and Possessions. A priest-friend sent me a Christmas card a couple of years ago that I framed and placed on my dining room table —a quote of St. Paul’s:
My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection. And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For when I am powerless, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10). Can you get it?
Now here you have three koans to mull over, dear friends, and to try to grasp:
I / Unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.
II / Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. I
II / When I am powerless, then I am strong.
What is a koan, you might ask? A koan is a Zen saying often used by Buddhist monks to teach their novices: “To meditate on a koan is to engage in an active process, like that we engage in when we try to solve a mathematical problem. As in mathematics, the solution is supposed to come suddenly.”
So, rather than giving all your energy to the three P’s of the world, why not write these three Christian Scriptures on index cards and pull them out when you’re idle waiting for something else to happen? Try it! You just might be enlightened, as I somehow receive the gift of some in wisdom, as I have from time to time when I have been attentive to my prayer-life.
Jesus, of course, shows us the way. Let’s look at the famous “Kenosis” passage of Philippians Chapter 2:6-11 “Kenosis”—meaning here Jesus’ self-emptying . . .
Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
There it is, dear friends! Jesus gave his life for us. The movement was downward. Earthward. Earth-bound. Into the muck. Humility comes from the word humus, meaning muck. So, that’s what Dying to Self involves—getting down into the nitty-gritty of our lives and those of our loved ones and those we are called to serve. Being obedient to what life demands of us. And beckons us to, whether we might like it not. Real Life elicits from our inner depths our best resources. Then . . .
Then . . . God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And so, too, with us! We will be lifted up! I have experienced this several times. My longtime readers know that I’ve struggled with manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, and other issues with it, and later Parkinson’s disease, from which I received some sort of a miraculous release, according to my neurologist and very often financial struggles,like many of you.
But Jesus is faithful! Dying and rising is a continual process in nature and in our lives as well. We are taken down in some burden or crisis but, through faith, we are lifted up again! This is the Paschal Mystery. The Pasch ~ Passover ~ Passage ~Transition ~Transformation ~ Change. The Dying and Rising of Jesus in our lives is celebrated for us Catholics throughout the liturgical year and in every Mass.
Think about how you have experienced—and continue to experience the Paschal Mystery ~ this dying and rising ~ in your own life. And so, dear friends, I will bring this missive to a close by returning to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and conclude with the wonderful words of the hymn Lift High the Cross. I remember when I first heard it. Trumpets and timpani sent shivers down my spine and goose bumps all over!
Lift high the cross The love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world Adore His sacred name
Led on their way By this triumphant sign,
The hosts of God In conquering ranks combine. Refrain:
Each newborn servant Of the Crucified
Bears on the brow The seal of Him who died. Refrain
O Lord, once lifted On the glorious tree,
As Thou hast promised Draw the world to Thee. Refrain.
So shall our song Of triumph ever be:
Praise to the Crucified For victory. Refrain:
Now here is the hymn for your listening pleasure. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
LABOR DAY 2021
This Labor Day, I’d like to reflect on the meaning of human work from a spiritual perspective.
Way back in the beginning of the bible you may remember that as God cast out Adam and Eve from the Paradise of the Garden of Eden, he told them . . .
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it
It grows thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains,
By the sweat of your brow
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”
Then Israel spent 400 years in hard toil in the flesh pots of Egypt in slavery to the Egyptians until the day came when God had Moses deliver them..
Then came Jesus who was raised in a home at Nazareth at the side of his father Joseph, a carpenter, a skilled tradesman, and Jesus learned that trade and stayed in that home until his adulthood.
St. Paul was also a tradesman, a tentmaker, and prided himself on making his own way as he travelled all over the coasts the Mediterranean.
Fast-forward now to American industry in the late Nineteenth Century. The steel, meet packing, electrical, auto and food industries just gearing up. American workers were, however, not being treated justly or fairly. Events connected with the Industrial Revolution profoundly changed centuries-old societal structures, raising serious problems of justice and posing the first great social question — the labor question — prompted by the conflict between capital and labor. In this context, the Church felt the need to become involved and intervene in a new way . . . .
The Catholic Church’s American bishops had been on their side since so many of them immigrated to the U. S. decades before. Enter Pope Leo XIII and his encyclical Rerum Novarum—(Concerning New Things) –the very first of many Catholic social encyclicals on May 15, 1891.
(An encyclical is an apostolic letter or document.)]
Rerum Novarum lists errors that give rise to social ills, excludes socialism as a remedy and expounds with precision and in contemporary terms “the Catholic doctrine on work, the right to property, the principle of collaboration instead of class struggle as the fundamental means for social change, the rights of the weak, the dignity of the poor and the obligations of the rich, the perfecting of justice through charity, on the right to form professional associations”.
Rerum Novarum lists errors that give rise to social ills, excludes socialism as a remedy and expounds with precision and in contemporary terms “the Catholic doctrine on work, the right to property, the principle of collaboration instead of class struggle as the fundamental means for social change, the rights of the weak, the dignity of the poor and the obligations of the rich, the perfecting of justice through charity, on the right to form professional associations”.
Following the Stock Market crash in 1929, Pope Pius XI again addressed the issue. At the beginning of the 1930s, following the grave economic crisis of 1929, Pope Pius XI published the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, commemorating the fortieth anniversary ofRerum Novarum. The Pope reread the past in the light of the economic and social situation in which the expansion of the influence of financial groups, both nationally and internationally, was added to the effects of industrialization. It was the post-war period, during which totalitarian regimes were being imposed in Europe even as the class struggle was becoming more bitter. The Encyclical warns about the failure to respect the freedom to form associations and stresses the principles of solidarity and cooperation in order to overcome social contradictions. The relationships between capital and labor must be characterized by cooperation.
Quadroragesimo Anno confirms the principle that salaries should be proportional not only to the needs of the worker but also to those of the worker’s family. The State, in its relations with the private sector, should apply the principle of subsidiarity, a principle that will become a permanent element of the Church’s social doctrine.
The Magisterium recognizes the fundamental role played by labor unions, whose existence is connected with the right to form associations or unions to defend the vital interests of workers employed in the various professions. Unions “grew up from the struggle of the workers — workers in general but especially the industrial workers — to protect their just rights vis-à-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production”. Such organizations, while pursuing their specific purpose with regard to the common good, are a positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life.
The Church’s social doctrine recognizes the legitimacy of striking “when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit”, when every other method for the resolution of disputes has been ineffectual.
That relationship between the Church and labor has been ongoing in America today. Richard Trunka the head of the AFL/CIO until his untimely death just recently was a devout Catholic.
As we pause this weekend for the last holiday of the summer, may we reflect on the gift of work.
But we do so, conscious of all those suffering the loss of not only their jobs, their paychecks, but also their homes and almost everything dear to them as the result of this pandemic.
We pray in solidarity with them and reach out to them with love and with whatever support we can offer as we consider our own gift of work. And so, I invite you to pray with me . . . .
Good and gracious God,
you told us from the very beginning that we would earn our bread by the sweat of our brow.
We are interdependent in our laboring, Lord.
We depend on the migrant workers who pick our lettuce and our strawberries,
the nurses’ aids who take our blood pressure,
the teachers who form our children’s minds.
We thank you, Lord, for the gifts and talents you have given us
that allow us to earn a living and contribute something positive to our world.
We pray, dear Lord, for those who are without work.
Sustain them — us — in your love.
Help us to realize that we have worth as human beings,
job or no job.
But that’s hard to get, Lord.
of being better than the Jones’.
But our worth comes because You made us. We are Your children, no matter what,
job or no job.
You love us and you call us to love and support each other.
We pray, Lord, for those who do the dirty work in our lives, Lord,
those who break their backs for us, those who are cheated out of even a minimum wage,
those who don’t have access to health care,
those who cannot afford to send their kids to college.
Help us to bind together, Lord, as a community, as a nation
because we depend on one another — the garbage men,
the police, the folks who stock our grocery stores,
the UPS driver, the airline pilot, the 7/11 clerk, the ticket-taker on the turnpike,
the plumbers, the accountants, the bank tellers, the landscapers, the lifeguards,
those who clean our houses, the cooks, the waiters, the steel workers, the carpenters,
the scientists, , our doctors and nurses and yes, we, the writers.
Help us to realize this weekend how dependent we are on one another, Lord.
We are ONE! We are family! We need each other.
May we give thanks for each other this Labor Day weekend, Lord.
Help us to celebrate and give thanks for each other and appreciate the value, the dignity, the contribution
that each one makes to keep our country, our cities, our lives going.
And in tough times, help us remember the words of Jesus. . . .
Come to me all you who labor
and are heavily burdened
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you . . .
for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
And, finally, this prayer of Cardinal Newman:
O Lord, support us all the day long
until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in thy mercy,
grant us a safe lodging,
a holy rest, and peace at the last.
Finally, may I suggest this weekend that you might think about the people who’s work makes your life go better.
The next time you talk with them, tell them you appreciate them!
Two words have great power: THANK YOU!
If only we would use them often, we would ease each other’s burden and energize each other.
and we would make trying times just a little bit easier for us all.
We call that: Love!
And before you go, here’s a spirited version of the great Celtic hymn “Lord of all Hopefulness” about the blessing of our work. Click here.Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Enjoy. Have a great weekend!
THE FEAST OF ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
AUGUST 15th, 2021
I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
In my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with the robe of salvation,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels. (Canticle of Isaiah)
Through the power of his Resurrection,
Christ has adorned Mary with the robe of his own glory and majesty.
In years past, the image I’ve chosen for Mary on this post was a strong one following her title from Revelations, ” A Woman Clothed with the Sun”, but this year, I’ve selected a softer one that connotes the Eastern Rites’ emphasis on the “Dormition” of our Lady or her “falling asleep”, and then being taken up into heaven.
Here’s a bit about this Feast (or Solemnity, as we call it in the liturgy.)
First of all, it’s a celebration of the body and an exaltation of womanhood.
In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma of the church something that we Catholics have believed throughout the church’s history ~ that Mary was taken up into heaven, body and soul, to sit at her Son’s side for all eternity.
The Blessed Virgin Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven makes clear to us that there is room for our humanity in heaven. Mary’s Assumption assures us that what Jesus accomplished in rising from the dead was not limited to his own Person—even though we are not divine, we too are meant to be in heaven with the Incarnate Son, in his home with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Blessed Mother’s birth into heaven generates in us “ an ever new capacity to await God’s future.” (Saint John Paul II). Just as grace does not destroy but perfects our nature, so the glory of heaven will include our whole humanity, body and soul! “That transformation of our mortal bodies to which we look forward one day has been accomplished—we know it for certain—in her” (Msgr. Ronald Knox). ~ From the Magnificat liturgical magazine / August 2019 – p. 202.
Everyone was quite startled when the distinguished psychiatrist Carl Jung, who was not a Catholic, said that this declaration about Mary was “the greatest religious event since the reformation.” And by the way, Martin Luther believed in the Assumption of the Virgin.
Here’s the entire text of what he had to say. You ought to read this; what he says is truly amazing coming from a psychiatrist and a non-Catholic!
The promulgation of the new dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary could, in itself, have been sufficient reason for examining the psychological background. It is interesting to note that, among the many articles published in the Catholic and Protestant press on the declaration of the dogma, there was not one, so far as I could see, which laid anything like proper emphasis on what was undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely the popular movement and the psychological need behind it. Essentially, the writers of the articles were satisfied with learned considerations, dogmatic and historical, which have no bearing on the living religious process. But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work …One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the ‘Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.’ For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.
The dogmatizing of the Assumption does not, however, according to the dogmatic view, mean that Mary has attained the status of goddess, although, as mistress of heaven and mediatrix, she is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning. How could Protestantism so completely miss the point?
I was amazed and thrilled when I discovered this text and again when I’ve just now re-read it.
And I’ve always loved to pray and sing these words from the preface of the Mass of the day:
Today the virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and the image
of your Church’s coming to perfection
and a sign of sure of hope and comfort for your people
on their pilgrim way.
Mary is the first disciple of her Son.
She is the one who said Yes! “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”
Each of us who bear witness to Christ give birth to him in our own way.
May we honor Mary on this wonderful feast day and enjoy this late summer day and exalt the women in our life as well!
On August 22nd, the octave of the Assumption we celebrate a minor feast ~ the Queenship of Mary. I honor her as my queen. Now this may sound a bit odd, my friends, but I take her shopping with me. I thanked her for finding my lovely condo. I signed the documents for the condo on August 15th, 2008 ~ my home for eleven years as of today.
Now, from ~ and in honor of ~Notre Dame de Paris ~ (may she rise again from her ashes,) here is a the Magnificat sung led by a choir boy with congregation responding. Click here. And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
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.
We need to ask same courage and the leadership in our President and in our Congress and vote for leaders who show it.
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.
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us have been 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.”
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.
Yesterday, I published the first two of Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” that were inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to Congress in 1941, eleven months before Pearl Harbor and America’s entra,nce into World War II. They were reimagined for our time by “Freedom of Speech.” Today, in our third of four Fourth of July blogs, we’ll look at the remaining two–namely–“Freedom from Fear” and “Freedom from Want.” As we’ll note these take on a more social justice /social action role than the first two–as is also noted by the song I’ve chosen for this blog, Arlo Guththrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
Freedom from Fear is by talented graphic artist Edel Rodriguez , who brings an immigrant’s perspective to Rockwell’s classic. “This is where people come for refuge,” he says. “When you see a family at a detention center maybe you will ask, ‘Why do I have a dislike of immigrants?”
And finally, photographer Ryan Schude recreated Freedom from Want in his sister’s dining room with members of his own family. “Rockwell’s paintings were idyllic,” says Schude. “That’s his style, but it was also his time. That was the kind of image that people wanted. I took a more realistic approach. There’s a little bit of tension.”
In these last two Freedoms, we see a distinctly social justice issue. In the one above with the migrant family, the issue of fear for the parents for their children and themselves would be something they would feel in their gut and indeed in every pore of their bodies constantly. Only people with strong faith and hope would survive such conditions.
And so we come to the song, Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, that had become one of the great protest songs for the Sixties and Seventies. He wrote two verses that were left out of the recorded versions that were too controversial. Here’s the song. sung by Bruce Springsteen Click here
And the lyrics of the entire song:
This land is your land, and this land is my land
From the California to the
Staten New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters,
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
As I went walking that ribbon of highway
And saw above me that endless skyway,
And saw below me the golden valley, I said:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me.
[This land was made for you and me.]
According to Joe Klein, after Guthrie composed it “he completely forgot about the song, and didn’t do anything with it for another five years.” (Since there is a March 1944 recording of the song, Klein should have said “four years”.)
Original 1944 lyrics
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
Note that this version drops the two verses that are critical of America from the original: Verse four, about private property, and verse six, about hunger. In 1940, Guthrie was in the anti-war phase he entered after the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact, during which he wrote songs praising the Soviet invasion of Poland, attacking President Roosevelt’s loans to Finland in defense against the Soviets, and ridiculing lend-lease aid to the United Kingdom. By 1944, after Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Guthrie returned to vigorous support for U.S. involvement in Europe and a more nationalist tone.
Confirmation of two other verses
After we built the Coolee Dam we had to sell the people out there a lot of bonds to get the money to buy the copper wire and high lines and pay a whole big bunch of people at work and I don’t know what all. We called them Public Utility Bonds, just about like a War Bond, same thing. (And a lot of politicians told the folks not to buy them but we sold them anyhow). The main idea about this song is, you think about these Eight words all the rest of your life and they’ll come a bubbling up into Eighty Jillion all Union. Try it and see. THIS LAND IS MADE FOR YOU AND ME.
– Woody Guthrie, from 10 Songs of Woody Guthrie, 1945
A March 1944 recording in the possession of the Smithsonian, the earliest known recording of the song, has the “private property” verse included. This version was recorded the same day as 75 other songs. This was confirmed by several archivists for Smithsonian who were interviewed as part of the History Channel program Save Our History – Save our Sounds. The 1944 recording with this fourth verse can be found on Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land: The Asch Recordings Volume 1, where it is track 14.
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
This land was made for you and me.
Woodyguthrie.org has a variant:
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
It also has a verse:
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
The church tells us “the term ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus denotes the entire mystery of Christ, the totality of his being and his person. . . . Devotion to the Sacred Heart calls for a fundamental conversion and reparation, of love and gratitude, apostolic commitment and dedication to Christ and his saving work.”
Reflecting on the Love that flows continually from the heart of Jesus has been a devotion of mine since childhood.
I wrote the article below in 1981 at a difficult time in my life and then preached it 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.
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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 brought the outcasts in and seated them at his 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 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 this evening 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 the 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 w.ondrous love is this? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are the Mass readings for tomorrow’s feast. Click here
The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)
Sunday, June 6, 2021
This Sunday is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which we 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 this wonderful sacrament.
We believe in the Real Presence of Jesus –that the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood. Thus, for us communion is a sharing in divine life, not just as a symbol.
It is stumbling block for many – not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their life into common-union or a deeper union with Christ.
And, unfortunately, I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.
I’d like to rely on men who have taught me a lot to help us here. The first is Bishop Robert Barron whom you may have seen quote from time to time. I enjoyed his article in the Magnificat Liturgical magazine that I use for my daily prayer (in 2017). . . .
“How strange and wonderful is the Catholic faith! The Buddha offers wise teaching to his followers. Muhammad presents to his devotees a revelation that was once given to him. Confucius passes on to his adepts in an intricate moral system that he has developed. Moses comes down the mountain bearing a Law he received from on high.
But Jesus presents, offers, bears, and passes on . . . his very self. On the night before he suffered at the Passover table, he gathered with his Twelve Apostles. Taking bread in his hands, he said, This is my body, and lifting up the cup, said, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
He gave them, not a teaching, a discipline, or a spiritual insight, but his substance—his very own flesh and blood. And this is why the Christian Faith is not a matter of learning or walking a religious path, but of eating and drinking Jesus’ Body and Blood.
From this Eucharistic fact, the Church Fathers derived the splendid teaching of theiosos or deification. We disciples do not just follow Jesus, we become Jesus; we become adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the Son. And this is the object of our bedazzled contemplation on the Feast of the Lord’s Body and Blood.
And now to William Barclay’s commentary on the holy Gospel according to St. Mark today, that of course is a description of what took place at the Last Supper, which is the gospel reading for today’s Mass. Barclay provides a detailed description for all of the preparation for a Jewish Passover meal at the time and what would have probably preceded the actual words we now know as the holy Eucharist.
He begins by saying that more than once the prophets of Israel resorted to symbolic, dramatic actions when they felt that words were not enough. That’s what Ahijah did when he rent his robe into twelve pieces and gave it to Jeroboam in token that ten tribes would make him king. (1 Kings 11: 28-32) That’s what Jeremiah did when he made bonds and yokes and wore them in token of the coming servitude. (Jeremiah 7).
That is what Jesus did. And he allied this dramatic action with the ancient Passover feast of his people so that it would be the more imprinted on the minds of his men. He said, “Look! Just as this bread is broken my body is broken for you! Just as this cup of red wine is poured out my blood is shed for you.”
What did he mean when he said that the cup stood for a new covenant? The word covenant is a common word in the Jewish religion. The basis of that religion was that God had entered into a covenant with Israel. The word means something like an arrangement, a bargain, a relationship. The acceptance of the old covenant is set in Exodus 24:3-8; and the passage it is noted that the covenant was entirely dependent on Israel keeping the Law. If the Law was broken, the covenant was shattered. It was a relationship entirely based on law and obedience to law. God was judge. And since no man can keep the law, the people were ever in default.
But Jesus says, “I am introducing and ratifying a New Covenant—a new relationship between God and humankind. And it is not dependent on law, it is dependent solely on love. In other words Jesus says, I am doing what I am doing to show you how much God loves you.” People are no longer under the law of God. Because of what Jesus did, they are forever within the love of God. And today at Mass and wherever there are Processions of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the world, we have an opportunity to express our Eucharistic affection and give thanks for so great a sacrament in our lives!
But Barclay notes one thing more, In the last sentence of the gospel, we note two things we have so often seen– two things Jesus was sure of: He knew he was going to die, and he knew his Kingdom would come. He was certain of the Cross, but just as certain of the glory. And the reason was that was he was just as certain of the love of God as he was of the sin of humankind; and he knew that love would conquer that sin.
For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy, and also at times, a deep affection for my Jesus.
When I receive our Lord in holy communion I like to 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
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!
Now, before you go, here’s a hymn to go with it for your reflection. It is the custom to have a procession with the Blessed Sacrament (at least in Catholic countries after Mass on Corpus Christi Sunday. That’s what you’ll witness in this video along with the wonderful chant melody composed by St. Thomas Aquinas “Adoro Te Devote” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings Click here.
The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity ~ Sunday, May 30, 2021
This is the Sunday when we give praise to God as we Christians understand and know God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For me, it’s all about being caught up in ~ getting lost in ~ finding my true self in the awesome dynamic relationship with our God as we come to know that God is love.
The Christian religion is different from the other world religions in that we see God is relational in God’s self. Other world religions see God in relationship with creation and of course, with humanity. As the Bette Midler song suggests, there’s no personal relationship there: “God is watching us—from a distance.”
The all-embracing love of the Father and the Son and the Spirit sustains us each one of us in existence. We are drawn into the dynamism, exuberance and power of that love.
In God, as Richard Rohr shows us “Everything belongs.” God splashes God’S love on us all with such abundance and exuberance that we’ve discovered that within one galaxy there are billions of suns! You and me included! (Today’s Gospel is from Matthew 28: 16- 20 ~ “I am with you always . . . that includes you and me! )
The Holy Trinity ought to be for a Christian the foundation for a whole new way of being! But we have made the Holy Trinity into a dry, boring doctrine that we dismiss as beyond our comprehension and therefore, irrelevant to our lives.
William Young’s book The Shack brings the doctrine of the Trinity—the very foundation of Christianity—to life in a clever, imaginative description of how three persons in one God might interact with each other and with us. It reveals a God who is so easy, relaxed and delightful in God’s self that we are eager to be caught up and sustained in that delight and love. The image above is the famous Rublev ikon. When I was out west a few years ago, the refectory of the Benedictine Monastery in Abiqui, NW had a painting of this ikon that filled the whole wall behind the Abbot’s place.
Sadly, however, so many of us Christians—Catholic or Protestant—relate to God as if he is eager to trip us up and send us to hell! If that is what we believe, we’re not going to be very interested in relating to him, are we? We’ll want to stay away as far as possible; to relegate God to the periphery of our lives.
The revolutionary notion of Christianity is that we are the “Thou” to whom God relates! We are not just part of God as Eastern religions view the divine. We are co-creators of our world. For me the Father, my elder Brother Jesus and the Holy Spirit are even more real and involved with me than my neighbor Loreto whom my dog Shoney and I used to visit when we walked in the evening as I watched the sun setting.
Here is a story I loved to tell when I’ve preached on Trinity Sunday.
My first assignment as a young priest was to Holy Name of Jesus Parish across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. I have fond memories of that place, not only of the whole parish but also of its geographical and ecological setting. Today I see it as one of the finest parishes in the continental United States in the wonderful ways in that hundreds of parishioners are involved in 85 ministries.
And so, that first year of priesthood rendered a story that I’ve told on Trinity Sunday almost every year of my priesthood. It’s about some sea turtles. You’ll probably be wondering as you read what turtles have to do with the Trinity. But I’ll save that for the end. It is a powerful connection.
Indialantic, Florida, summer 1969. I had just arrived in the parish and was meeting my new parishioners. Several asked, “Have you seen the turtles yet?” I assumed they were talking about turtles who came to our beach but I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. So I accepted Tony’s invitation, a teen from the youth group I had just met: “Meet me on the beach at 9:00 tonight; bring a small flashlight.”
I was a little early, so I sat on the steps watching the 2-foot waves lap the shore. It soon learned what a joy it was to live across the street from the ocean! I lived there the first three years of my priesthood. That night was a quiet, dark night; there was no moon. I took off my shoes and put them beside a small-sized dune. I could see the light of flashlights bouncing across the sand towards the south but the beach was dark to the north. Apparently, prize turtle-watching happened on the south stretch of beach. Indeed, the most active area for loggerhead turtle nesting is south of Cape Kennedy.
Tony came along and we walked south and the waves washed further up the shore. He quietly explained that loggerhead turtles grew to about 38 inches and had huge heads with short necks and powerful beaks that can break open mollusk shells. He said they weigh from 200 – 350 pounds.
We were silent for a while. I noticed that the flashlights were all turned off; apparently the sea creatures are spooked by light. A dark night is best.
“What will we see?” I asked.
“The huge creature will lumber slowly up the beach to reach an area above the high water line. The tracks she makes resemble caterpillar or tank tracks. She will then turn around facing the ocean and use her rear flippers to dig a hole. Sometimes she will not leave any eggs and fill in the hole again to fool us turtle-watchers. There are sometimes egg poachers around. But if she does lay eggs there will be about 100-126 white-colored eggs about 2 inches in diameter.”
We soon saw some turtle tracks, leading out of the surf up the beach. None of us used our flashlights, keeping some distance and, interestingly, even the children kept silent, as if there were a spell over us.
That was my first experience of turtle watching. I had many more. But there was one night I will long remember. It is that night that I have told in my Trinity Sunday homilies all these years.
I was alone that night — no companion, no other turtle-watchers. The moment opened up for me to be a profound mystical awareness, a moment I still remember vividly. I watched the giant turtle lay her eggs and slowly make her way back toward the surf. I moved a little closer as she came to the edge of the water. It was really dark.
I felt drawn to her by some compelling or impelling force. I wanted to follow the turtle! As it disappeared beneath the waves, I was drawn to follow her, to enter the unknown world beneath the sea.
But I hesitated. I pulled back.
I was on the edge of mystery.
The turtle has its own mystery; the turtle is at home in two worlds — land and sea. We also live in two worlds — the physical and the spiritual, the seen and the unseen. For a brief moment, I was drawn to follow the turtle down beneath the waves. But actually I was drawn into the mystery of the life of God which the feast of the Holy Trinity celebrates for us. And there, too, I hesitate. I pull back. I prefer to get close, but not too close. I prefer to stand upon the shore, to walk along with my toes only in the water, not to plunge in.
The shoreline is highly symbolic. It is the liminal space (the margin) between land and sea. As such, it is a powerful space, a place of mystery in its own right, as any liminal space can be. I have stood on several of the shores of the world and it’s always a powerful experience. Perhaps the shoreline runs down the middle of my soul.
So, what do we make of this feast of the Holy Trinity?
In having this feast the church is telling us we live on the edge of mystery. We live on the edge of God’s wonderful life — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This is not to be solved like a Perry Mason or Agatha Christie mystery. In religious experience, a mystery is to be lived and to be unfolded as we uncover its multifaceted dimensions, as we allow it to envelop and sometimes enrapture us.
The immensity of God’s love is a mystery for us, for sure. But we should not be afraid of mystery. We should not be afraid to immerse ourselves in the mystery of God as the turtle immersed herself in the mystery of the ocean.
The day will come, sooner or later, for me and for you to let go of our hesitancy and fear and to fall into the ocean of God’s love. To no longer live on the edge of mystery but to be immersed fully in the mystery of God’s love — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I had the experience a couple of years ago when I got off the shore and onto a dive boat. After three years, I finally got my Scuba certification, and like the turtles went below the surface of the Atlantic ocean for the first time and entered a brand new astonishingly beautiful, silent world!
There’s a similar story told about the great St. Augustine who lived in the Fourth Century. The story or legend goes that he was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity when he saw a boy in front of him who had dug a hole in the sand and was going out to the sea again and again and bringing some water to pour into the hole. St. Augustine asked him, “What are you doing?” “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit in the hole you have made” said St. Augustine. The boy replied, “And you cannot fit the Trinity in your tiny little brain.” The saint was instantly confronted with the mystery of God.
And so, dear friends . . . .
Follow a turtle!
Before we sign off, let’s ask, what about the baby turtles?
They hatch in sixty days and are completely on their own. The hundreds of condominiums on the Florida shoreline are in themselves a threat to the newborn because the little ones are drawn to the light and away from the ocean where they should be. There are laws that only a few lights are to be on the sea-side of roads and these are to be covered. Like so many other little babies they are endangered. May we protect them all!
Now, before you go, here’s a cute music video about “Caretta, the Sea Turtle.” Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full Screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings Click here.
And to complete our feast day celebration, here’s a lovely rendition of Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Click here
The Great and Glorious Feast of Pentecost
Sunday May 23, 2021
In our last blog, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension.
After Jesus left the disciples and ascended into heaven, they were cowering 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.)
“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.”
“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, or laying in bed, I’ll just pay attention to my breathing for a while. Sometimes 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 the women were given enthusiasm. (We’re told the mother of Jesus was there.) 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 effect the gospel of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, a story that tries to explain why there are so many different languages on the earth that we cannot understand each other, 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. (It will come the day after this year –beginning my 54th year of priestly service.
I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel back then . . . .
“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 full three years of my priesthood. The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained the same day as 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 a new way.
There is still something else to note from the Pentecost story. A tongue of fire rested individually on the heads of each person as is visualized in the image above. 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 that each of us possess.
So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things for us!
The Spirit is 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 driniftsk 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 49 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 also realize that there were 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. I felt ashamed at times.
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 instant, 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 Sienna (a woman religious!) chastised the pope and she was only 33 years-old when shed died. 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 the apostles 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 country desperately needs people with that kind of enthusiasm and conviction today. I pray that as I enter my fiftieth-fourth year of holy priesthood next week, I may still have some of that enthusiasm and joy and conviction to serve God’s holy people! Please pray me!
And may we celebrate today 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.
And before you go, here is the Australian group Hilsong singing Come Holy Spirit. It’s a young people’s group filled with love of the Lord. (A little different than “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.
The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ~ May 16. 2021
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 for us 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’s look at today’s feast, the Ascension.
At the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostle (the first reading ~ Acts 1:1-11), written by the same author as Luke’s gospel, describes the experience . . . .
Then 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, of course, was 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, and a cloud took him from their sight.
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 he 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–as this weekend we think about and pray about the endless strife between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
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 knows 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–and I am deeply humbled by that.
Let’s look at today’s gospel, which is from St. Mark. Barclay tells us that another writer appended a second ending to Mark’s gospel that included mention of the ascension. It has a different writing style than the rest of the text. Its great interest is the picture of the duty of the church it gives to us.
The church has a preaching task—and therefore the duty of every Christian to tell the story of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard it, Barclay suggests.
The church has a healing task. Jesus wished to bring health to the body and the soul and so the church has an interest in healing.
The church is never left alone to do its work. Christ always works with it and in it and through it. And so the gospels end with the message that the Christian life is lived in the presence and the power of him who was crucified and rose again!
So Jesus, gone to heaven, gives authority to his apostles and disciples on earth.
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!
But before we go, I have a couple of notes for you, Bishop Robert Barron reminded us a while back in the Magnificat liturgical magazine that we tend to be misled by the metaphors in the poetic images we use for heaven such as clouds and sky and cute pink cherubs flying around that are meant to signal how heaven transcends our world. But heaven isn’t a geographical place or space far away. The Risen and ascended Jesus acts as Lord of the church and is present in the sacraments and as sacred writer Father Richard Rohr has pointed out–in Every Thing!
Christ is Risen!
Now, before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn Psalm 47 “God mounts his throne” sung by the Maranatha Singers. And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of Mark-Revised Edition / Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 / Bishop Robert Barron / The Magnificat Liturgical Magazine / May 2018.
First of all, I’d like to wish all of our Mothers, Grandmothers, Great grandmothers and mothers-to-be a very happy Mother’s Day. I will offer my Sunday Mass for all of you, your special needs and your intentions. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!
The selection from the gospel of St. John today is taken from the wonderful Last Discourse of Jesus as he is reflecting with his disciples in the Upper Room at the Last Supper in the final hours before his Passion.
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you, remain in my love.” (15:9)
We can take it that each day we ought to reaffirm our choice to abide in our love of Jesus, rather than in our own ideas, ambitions, and preconceptions or our own self-reliance. Father Cornelius a Lapide, S.J. (+1637) tells us in this regard, Jesus says, “Show me your modicum of love, and you shall experience my greater love for you.”
Then Jesus goes on to say, “I have told you this so that my joy will be in you and your joy may be complete.” (15:11)
We are chosen for joy. However hard the Christian life is for any of us, it is, both in the day by day plodding and in the goal, as Pope Francis is fond of reminding us it’s all a way of joy! There is always joy in doing the right thing. It is true that we are sinners, but we are redeemed sinners, and in that, there is joy.
“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (15:12)
We are chosen for love. We are sent into the world to love one another. On the contrary we sometimes live as if we were out to compete with one another or to dispute with one another or even to quarrel with one another.
“No greater love is there than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”(15:13-14)
This assurance was clearly and firmly given in Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus had made countless overtures of love—curing a paralytic, giving sight to a man born blind, forgiving a woman caught in adultery, reaching out to people everywhere, not just to the Jews, calling little children to himself, raising to a widow’s son to life, teaching the crowds, touching the lepers.
All these and so many other loving overtures reached a climactic crescendo on the cross. Thereupon, Jesus accomplished the ultimate act of love by forgiving and healing and making whole all who were and are wounded and broken.
“I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father (15:15).
William Barclay points out that the word doulos (slave) as a servant of God was no title of shame, but one of highest honor. Moses was the doulos of God, as was Joshua and David. Paul loved to attribute the word to himself. And Jesus is saying, “I have something greater for you yet, you are no longer slaves, but friends.” Christ offers an intimacy with God that not even the greatest men knew before he came into the world.
“It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will give you (15:16).
This reminds us of God’s command in the Garden of Eden: “Be fruitful.” What does it mean? Jean Vanier offers an answer: “To bear fruit is to bring people to life. Not to judge, not to condemn, but to forgive. It is to remove our neighbor’s burden.”
“This is I command you: love one another (15:17).
My own personal relationship with Christ was not very strong in the early days of my priesthood. My faith was more intellectual back then; it was on the outside of me ~until I made a retreat in my third year. And then I hit a rocky patch for many years of lukewarm faith. Until I read Father Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain and I found myself in copious tears and suddenly a renewed and deeper relationship with Christ.
One of the major themes of this blog is The Jesus I know and Love. There really is nothing I desire from my writings more than to share my deep love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with you, my readers and somehow have you share in, and delight in, Jesus’ love for you.
Now here’s my prayer inspired by Jesus’ awesome words to us today . . . .
I praise and thank you for your love for me, for each of us.
You say you call us your friends.
What an awesome thing to behold, dear Lord!
Please allow me, to allow us, the grace to remain faithful to you always.
You ask that my life be fruitful in loving.
I’m getting up in years now, Jesus,
and I’m not sure how fruitful my life has been,
but I offer what I can, a little bit of writing,
my daily prayer ~ that’s about all ~ these days.
All I know is I love you. I am forever grateful for yours.
And I ask your blessing upon my readers today, Jesus.
Allow them to know the intimacy of your friendship too;
draw them close and keep them safe,
and answer whatever prayers they raise up to you today.
Thank you, dearest Lord!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
And now, before you go, here’s lovely music video for you. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Jesus is so cool in the images he uses to communicate.
In the gospel passage today (John 15:1-8), Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (You can read the entire passage below.)
Our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay tells us that Jesus often uses images that are familiar to the people of his day that are part of their religious heritage. Time and time again, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” Isaiah 5:1-7). “Yet I planted you a choice vine,” says Jeremiah to Israel (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel, in turn, likens Israel to a vine in Chapter 15 and in 19:10. “Israel is a luxuriant vine: said Hosea in 10:1. “Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt,” they sang in Psalm 80 as they remembered their deliverance from Egypt.
One of the glories of the temple was the great golden vine in front of the Holy Place. It was considered a great honor if you were rich enough to give gold to mould a new bunch of grapes or even a single grape to that vine.
Then Barclay gives us a bit of interesting exegesis. Jesus calls himself the true vine. The point of that word alethinos, true, real, genuine is this, he says: “It is a curious fact that the symbol of the vine is never used in the Old Testament apart from the idea of degeneration. The point of Isaiah’s picture is that vineyard has run wild. Jeremiah complains that the nation has turned into ‘degenerate and become a wild vine.’ It is as if Jesus said: ‘You think that because you belong to the nation of Israel that you are a branch of the true vine of God. But the nation it is; a degenerate vine, as the prophets saw. It is I that am the true vine.” (Barclay / The Gospel of John, Volume 2, p. 173)
Now here are my own thoughts on today’s gospel.
Take a look at the image above. Every part of the vine, every grape, receives its life by being connected to the source of its life.
So, too, with us. I have some readers who are not professed Christians. But if you think about it, the message is the same: If we stay connected to the Source of life, whatever that is for you, then our lives will flourish and bear fruit.
But some of us are like withered branches. We have cut ourselves off from the source of life and we do not bring fruitfulness into our lives.
The following commentary I excerpted from the Magnificat liturgical magazine . . . .
He [Jesus’ Father] takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. (15:2)
In pruning, the vines were cut back so severely that they gave the appearance of lifeless stalks. When have you felt like that in your life? Did God ever generate new life from what seemed lifeless?
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that if we are bent on “diverse and trifling things,” our power is weakened and rendered less effective in doing good. And thus, God, to make us productive to do good often sends us trials and temptations, which if we overcome, we become stronger in doing good.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. (15:3)
Think of how you were changed and made better by a word someone spoke to you: a word of forgiveness, of correction, of insight, of encouragement, of love
Here’s Aquinas again: “The Word of God by its power moves our hearts, weighed down by earthly things, and sets them on fire.
Another medieval Scholar, Cornelius a Lapide, says: “Christ pruned the Apostles of their ignorance, a certain vain confidence, an over-reliance on sensible (physical) presence of Christ, and from faint-heartedness, which made them almost despair of their own salvation now that Christ was departing.”
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me. (15:4)
Of all the things our Lord could ask the night before he dies, he commands only this, “Remain in me”—the simplest thing of all.
~ Magnificat liturgical magazine / April 2018 ~ pp. 411-2
Take a few moments to consider the fruitfulness of your relationships. Are the people in your life growing because they know you and are in your life? Or are they withering up?
Stay connected. Stay connected with your family, your friends, the people you love and the people who love and care about you.
We want to be connected to the Internet, on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and other social media. But those connections are most often superficial.
What about connections of the heart? The ones that really matter.
What about your connection with the earth and the environment and with the creatures who share this world with you? Or does the world revolve only around you?
What about your connection with God and his desire that the whole church, indeed the whole world be connected in love.
Now here’s my prayer . . . .
Jesus, you use simple images to help us understand
what life for us can be like when we stay connected to You.
Wonderful life-surging energy flows through You as the Vine.
Let that same life-surging energy which is Your Holy Spirit
surge through us as well
and renew the face of the earth!
To You be glory now and forever!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Now here;s the entire text of today’s Gospel . . . .
Jesus said to His disciples: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in Me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in Me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
And now, before you go, here’s a song for your reflection on your relationship with Jesus. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 Revised Edition / Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 p. 173.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter Good Shepherd Sunday
April 25, 2021
The Fourth Sunday of Easter has my favorite Gospel story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It’s my also my favorite image of Jesus. It’s the perfect image for us today.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”
Jesus says “I am” 45 times in the gospel of John. Some of the outstanding ones are: I am the bread of life. (Jn 6:35) I am the light of the world (Jn. 8:12) I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11: 25 and I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6).
Our scripture scholar-friend William Barclay points out that there are two Greek words for ‘good’. One is agathos that simply means the moral quality of the person; the other is kalos that means that in the goodness there’s a winsomeness that makes it lovely. When Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd, the word is kalos. There is loveliness in him. And yet we know that being a shepherd was (and is)a demanding task, a demanding vocation.
In Jesus’ time some looked down on shepherds as outcasts; they were not usually welcome in the towns. Their work was demanding and perilous. They were sometimes responsible for herds numbering in the thousands. They contested with hyenas, jackals, wolves, bears, human enemies, the burning heat of the day, and bitter cold of night. If something happened to a sheep, he had to produce prove it was not his fault. The law laid it down: If torn by beasts, let him produce the evidence.” (Exodus 22:13)
It took me a long time to realize that shepherds walked down the road ahead of their flock. And the sheep simply followed. They just responded to his voice.
In Mark 10:32, we’re 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.
Jesus distinguishes between true and false shepherds. The false ones are mere hired hands that don’t go out of their way to help the sheep. The good shepherd is the one dedicated to his sheep and their 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. Seek the Good Shepherd who says, “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.”
These words were as familiar to the Jews in the time of Jesus as they are to us. They, too, recognized the difference between a good shepherd and a hireling, who was more interested in his pay than the welfare of the flock.
What a wonderful model for leadership of any kind. Someone who is not coercing. Not goading. Not threatening.
Jesus just wants to lead the way. He wants to BE the way because he walked the path ahead of us. He knows what human life and death is about.
And more than that, he says “I know mine and mine know me.”
He’s talking about knowing us personally for who we are inside, who we really are. He delights in those under his care. He rejoices in us. He wants to be very close to us.
And he wants us to know him personally and intimately, too.
That’s enough. For those of us who know, who realize, that God loves us, lifts us up, supports us, wants us to be who we are, that is just enough.
This is the Jesus I know and love. Jesus has invited me into a personal relationship with him and that makes all the difference in the way I live and love.
I, too, have always wanted to shepherd like that. To be an example to others. To lead and to know and care for those in my life and those for whom I write.
This gospel says there’s a difference between a Good Shepherd and a hired hand who abandons the flock when things get rough. The Good Shepherd will leave the flock and search for the lost sheep and bring them home.
Earlier in this passage he says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” What greater blessing could there be than this: The shepherd knows my voice and I know his. 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 is not only the shepherd, he is the sheepgate. The sheep go in and out of the pasture and are safe.
Jesus is the Gate to the spiritual world. Because he claims us as his own, we are safe.
Those who dabble in mystical experience such as LSD and guided meditations of one sort or another are not protected in the spiritual word. Jesus is the only protected Door or Gate to the spiritual world.
Jesus says it was the Father who gave the sheep to him. And that Jesus received his confidence from the Father. Thus, you see, Jesus was secure, not in his own power, but in God’s.
The picture seems a bit one-sided. The Good Shepherd is 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, needs to be unconditional, our loyalty without compromise, our thoughts, words and deeds in accord with the will of God.
Now ask yourself this question: Am I, 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 model my leadership style on Jesus as the Good Shepherd?
I love this image of Jesus. He’s my model of what a priest should be like — he’s a model of what a parent or a teacher or a coach, or even a good statesman should be. I just hope that I can continue to be a good shepherd.
Pope Francis has challenged his priests to go out among their flocks and “be shepherds with the smell of your sheep.”
And now my prayer . . . .
many of us have the role of shepherding others,
whether we be priests or religious or parents, teachers, coaches,
public servants or even the Leader of a Nation.
May we rejoice in that sacred honor and privilege
and do it well, not for profit but for love.
May we never betray that trust.
May we always delight in also being cared for by You.
To You be honor and glory and praise!
CHRIST IS RISEN!
Now before you go, enjoy this version of Psalm 23. Be sure to enter full screen. Click here.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Have a great day as we continue to celebrate our joyous Easter season.
The Third Sunday of Easter ~ April 18, 2021
Here we read of St. Luke’s account of how Jesus came to his own when they were gathered in the upper room (Lk. 24:35-48)
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.
Pope Francis has warned of the danger of spiritual amnesia, of forgetting what the Lord has done for us. And of building a memory bank; and from that memory to go forward. And it would also be good for us to repeat the advice of Paul to Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead,. . . .Remember Jesus who has accompanied me up to now, and will accompany me until that moment when I must appear before him in glory”
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
he took it and ate it in front of them.
Notice it’s not a storm or other danger but Jesus himself that startles and terrifies them .Because their spiritual vision is not fully developed, and they don’t recognize him in the manner they were used to. So, they experience him as a threat, a potentially harmful presence, Do we sometimes experience something similar? We sometimes are afraid the Lord too–like Adam and Eve in the Garden.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
Archbishop Sheen often remarked that whenever Christ humbles himself and wants us to give us a great favor, he first asks for one. Christ humbles himself in way because he wants us to be unafraid to come to him, to ”feed” him with his love.
He said to them:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”
Our scripture scholar-friend William Barclay notes that that several things are stressed in this passage. . . . .
First, it stresses the reality of the resurrection. The risen Lord was no phantom or hallucination. The Jesus who died was in truth the Christ who rose again. Jesus asked his friends if they had anything to eat. They had some baked fish, and he ate it.
Second, it stresses the necessity of the cross. It was the cross to which all the Scriptures looked forward. The cross wasn’t forced on God. It was part of the plan of God in which we see his eternal love.
Third, it stresses the urgency of the task. The Church wasn’t to live forever in the upper room. It was sent out into the world. After the upper room came the worldwide mission of the Church.
And lastly, it stresses the secret power. They had to wait. There are occasions when the Christian may seem to be wasting time, waiting in wise passivity. Action without preparation must often fail. There’s a time to wait on God and a time to work for God.
The quiet times in which we wait on God are never wasted, for it is in these times when we lay aside life’s tasks that we are strengthened for the very tasks we lay aside.
Or to put it in the words of an ~ um~ “great” theologian:
Roses are reddish,
Violets are bluish.
If there was no Easter,
We’d all be Jewish!
This is not just a cute little rhyme. If Jesus had not been risen from the dead, we wouldn’t be here. Because our religion would be based on a huge deception that could not have been sustained for two thousand years.
I am convinced that Jesus is risen from the dead and that he lives and reigns right now in the center of the universes. And as I will show, Easter reveals itself in little things.
The resurrection reveals the existence of the spiritual world that exists alongside this physical world of space and time. The resurrection reveals the afterlife. The resurrection is the “engine” that powers the spiritual system of prayer that allows us to be dynamically connected to Jesus, his Father in heaven, and all of the universe.
The beauty of the resurrection is that WE are destined to rise with Jesus – and not only after our life, but right here, right now.
We share in Jesus’ resurrection.
St. Gregory the Great in the Sixth Century said,
“The body that rose again on the third day is ours.
The body that ascended above all the heights of heaven to the right hand of the Father is ours. If then we walk in his commandments, and are not ashamed to acknowledge the price he paid for our salvation in a lowly body, we too share in his glory.”
We talk about sharing in Jesus’ paschal mystery – Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. But mostly, we think about being united to Jesus in his suffering, in the suffering of the world.
It becomes a matter of faith for us until we experience resurrection ourselves.
For some of us, that will be in this life through certain spiritual experiences; for others, not until the next.
But we have difficulty celebrating Easter. We have difficulty sustaining it. The Easter season is 50 days long – ten days longer than Lent. It is meant for us to enjoy the resurrection, to celebrate it, to be transformed by it.
But we often truncate the joy of Easter. We cut it off before it really takes hold in our being and in our family life. Perhaps because we think we are not worthy of joy, that we don’t deserve it.
This Easter, may we learn to sustain it. Let us really live the season of Easter!
How? It’s really quite simple. Look for the little signs of life ~ like sighting your first tulip. Or here in Florida, like sighting your first beautiful white blossom on a Magnolia tree, or in South Florida the flaming red Royal poinciana trees.
Oftentimes, during Lent, I suggest people make a nightly inventory and look for the failures in love that happened during the day.
Today, I suggest that we also look for our little successes, our small victories in love, look for the little moments of joy that happen each day, and just take note of them. Let them weave their spell in your life! These little awarenesses are the signs of resurrection happening in our own life.
There are signs of new life emerging throughout the world for which I invite us to give thanks this day. Can you see the signs of new life in your family, in you?
For two thousand years we have celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And so, keep an eye out for the butterflies. They are the natural symbols of the resurrection. When you see a butterfly think of that little creature as US! We will be transformed from all our nastiness and ugliness into a beautiful new, creature of God, free to dance joyfully in the spirit as Jesus danced from his grave!
And now, before you go, here is “The Lord of the Dance” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
William Barclay / the Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of Luke-Revised Edition / Westminster / John Knox Press / Louisville,Ky pp.352-3.
The Second Sunday of Easter ~ April 11th, 2021~ “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 similarly to the way the apostles were on that first Easter. let’ see if we can learn from their experience today as we continue 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 year?
These issues were so strong in them that they could not believe the message that the Women brought to 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 openhearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and the 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 sometimes 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 -two 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!
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.
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
April 4th, 2021
Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Over the past few years, I’ve only shared an Easter poem of mine, but here’s a more nourishing reflection; maybe it’ll stretch you a bit, but I hope inspires you and brings you joy to celebrate the feast with renewed faith and hope.
I’ve culled together excerpts of several of the great articles in the Lenten book Bread and Wine similar to the Jurgen Moltmann I quoted in the Good Friday blog . . . .
Our first article by Brennan Manning states that over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase common in our Christian culture today the term born again was seldom used. Rather, the words used to describe the breakthrough into personal relationship with Jesus Christ were:
“I was seized by the power of a great affection!”
It was a profoundly moving way to indicate both the initiative of the almighty God and the explosion! within the human heart that occurs when Jesus becomes Lord. (B&W p. 224)
Now that, dear friends, is an amazing description of what should take place in the soul of our catechumens baptized at the Easter Vigils in churches all over the world and anyone who wishes to “become a convert”—as we used to say.
To continue the same theme in our second article, E. Stanley Jones brings out a theme that I’ve always stressed “The Christ of Experience.” The early disciples had little ritual but a mighty realization. They went out not remembering Christ but experiencing him. He was a living, redemptive, actual presence then and there. They went out with the joyous and grateful cry:
“Christ lives in me!”
The Jesus of history had become the Christ of experience. Some have suggested that the early Christians out-thought, outlived and out-died the pagans. But that was not enough; they out-experienced them.
We cannot merely talk about Christ—we must bring him. We must be a living vital reality –closer than breathing and nearer than hands and feet. We must be “God-bearers.” (B&W pp.346-9)
As a priest—and in my younger days when I taught young people and adults, I would use the phrase: “Experience precedes understanding.” The point I was trying to get across was the same as Mr. Jones—the only true experience of our faith is to have Jesus in one’s heart. To know him, not just know about him. When I was growing up, all that was required was to regurgitate Catechism answers.
And in the 1980’s, when I first went to study about how the ancients conducted their Catechumenate—what we now call the “RCIA—or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I was amazed to find out that they did not teach initiants about the sacraments until what we call the Mystagoia Period which is after they received the sacraments after Easter!
Again, the point is that experience precedes understanding. You see, in the early Church, they guarded their experience of the Holy—the Eucharist. In fact, the catechumens today are still supposed to be dismissed from the assembly after the Liturgy of the Word and at that time they are taught about the Word and only at the Easter Vigil do they come into the presence of our sacraments. But I’m not going to win that argument. Oftentimes priests settle for the minimum and, sadly many “converts” are not converted at all. They are not “seized by the power of great affection.” They do not experience the Lord Jesus in their heart and become “God-bearers.”
Now here’s more on the same theme by N. T Wright . . . . Listen to what St. Paul says taking the brutal facts of the cross and turning it inside out:
“God cancelled the bond that stood against us, with its legal demands: he set it aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:14)
That is to say: The world, and the rulers of the world, had you in their grip. But Jesus took that bondage upon himself: it is all there in the charge that was nailed over the cross and in Pilate’s cynical us of his authority: “What I have written, I have written.” ~ INRI Jesus took it on himself: and, being the one person who had never submitted to the rulers of this world, who had lived as a free human being, obedient to God, he beat them at their own game. He made a public example of them; God, in Christ, celebrate his triumph over the prince(s) of the world.
The cross is not a defeat but a victory. It’s the dramatic reassertion that God’s love is sovereign, that the rulers of the world don’t have the last word, that the kingdom of God has defeated the kingdom of Satan, that the kingdoms of the world, now become, in principle, the kingdom of our God, and of his Messiah and he shall reign for ever and ever and ever! (B&W pp. 388-90)
Now here’s the poem I wrote to celebrate this great feast . . .
First day of the week now come
The dawn, now dawning
Women rushing with their spices
Quaking earth trembling, trembled
An angel dazzling, dazzled
Rolling back the stone
Do not be afraid! he said,
Do not be afraid! he said,
He has been raised!
He has been raised!
JESUS IS RISEN!
What did he say?
Do not be afraid?
Who me? Not be afraid?
People struggling with this Pandemic.
Others trying to pay their rent or find a job.
Old people wasting away in nursing homes.
Immigrants afraid of being deported?
Don’t Be Afraid!
Yeah! Tell it!
To your neighbors, to America, and all the world!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
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.
Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003
Good Friday April 2, 2021
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 still in the midst of this Coronavirus crisis. For our Jewish neighbors Passover last Sunday without the possibility for most of them to celebrate according to law and custom by family gatherings. It must have been 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!
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.
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
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
The Sorrowful Mother (The Pieta) – Michelangelo –
in the millennial year of 1500 when he was 24 years old
HOLY WEEK 2021
As we face this terrible Coronavirus crisis that has so unsettled all are lives. and has caused so many deaths in our country.
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.
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.
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
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.
as you yourself shared in Jesus’ passion,
I ask you to be with all those whose hearts are
broken in sorrow.
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 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.
“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, bare feet and massaged them–all the while, soothing them and caressing 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 ~ 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 what the Lord of the universe might have been 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, in every circumstance
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. 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.
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 song “Said Judas to Mary. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here
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.
March 28, 2021
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 ~ with limited attendance because of the Pandemic but people can pick up their blessed palms at some other time, and I’m sure many others will be watching streamed Masses from home as they’ve become accustomed to this past year.
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?
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 according to Mark . . .
When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem,
to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately on entering it,
you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone should say to you,
‘Why are you doing this?’ reply,
‘The Master has need of it
and will send it back here at once.'”
So they went off
and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street,
and they untied it.
Some of the bystanders said to them,
“What are you doing, untying the colt?”
They answered them just as Jesus had told them to,
and they permitted them to do it.
So they brought the colt to Jesus
and put their cloaks over it.
And he sat on it.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road,
and others spread leafy branches
that they had cut from the fields.
Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:1-10)
As William Barclay notes, the great Presbyterian scripture scholar I’ve been referencing, 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. The whole city of Jerusalem was awash with visitors in preparation for the Passover.
Barclay also notes that thirty years later a Roman governor had taken a census of the number of lambs slain for Passover and noted that number to be about a quarter of a million. Now, Passover regulation stated that a party of a minimum of ten are 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.)
Barclay notes they greeted him as they would a pilgrim, “Blessed be he who enters in the name of the Lord.”
They shouted, “Hosanna!” The word means, “Save now!” as well as “praise.” and that was a cry that a people addressed to their king or their god. (Interesting ~ I wasn’t aware of 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 . It becomes somber as the ministers at the altar and the congregation prepare for the solemn reading of the long reading of the Passion ~ this year from the Gospel of Mark, 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:
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 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 Jones’s. 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 here is my prayer . . . .
Lord Jesus, here we are at the beginning of Holy Week once again.
We raise our palms,
Lord Jesus, here we are, once again, singing our Hosannas!
We listen to the story of your sacred passion and death.
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
so that we too will rise again with You to new life
To You, Lord Jesus, be glory and honor forever! Amen.
Before you go, dear friends, here is a section of Handel’s Messiah appropriate for this day “He was despis-ed.” Click here. Have a fruitful Holy Week. I will publish again throughout the week.
Here are the today’s Mass readings. Click here. I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire passion story according to Mark.
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 Mark/ The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975
We are one week away from Holy Week.
May we prepare to celebrate the mysteries with profound reverence and love.
“The hour has come” Jesus says, “for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
“I solemnly assure you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat.
But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
The image is clear. Dying is part of living. No death, no life. No dying, no rising.
Jesus goes on with a riddle:
“The person who loves their life loses it,
while the person who hates their life
in this world
preserves it to eternal life.’
We often try to grasp the things and persons in our life tightly and not let go. Parents sometimes have difficulty letting go of their children. Persons diagnosed with terminal cancer sometimes have difficulty accepting the inevitable and have difficulty preparing for a peaceful—or as we used to say “a happy” death.
This scripture is about surrender. About letting go.
We think of surrender as something unhealthy, that surrender means defeat. But for Jesus and for us surrender is the way to victory.
Jesus is a model of surrender and letting go for us. On the cross he stretched out his hands to be nailed. He let go of his ministry and his life and entrusted them to his heavenly Father.
He emptied himself—as the beautiful hymn in Philippians 2:5-11 shows us.
If we want to live a truly spiritual life, we have to let go of all things that are not God.
There is a stripping process, a cleansing and purifying that is part of spiritual growth.
Throughout our lives we are given trials that can cleanse and purify us—if we let them.
We are to be purified as gold and silver are purified in the furnace.
The task is simple: to let go.
During this past year so many of us came to understand this. The New York Times this past week and the Washington Post offered articles showing how much has changed in American life during the past year. Many or most of us have indeed surrendered to the Pandemic and the changes it has wrought in our lives.
But we find that oh! so difficult. The more we realize we should let go, the tighter we cling to things and persons and pet projects.
When I used to walk my dog Shoney, of happy memory, he was always on the hunt for chicken bones that our lawn-mower guys leave behind in the grass. Do you think I could get him to let go of one of the bones once he finds one? I was the one that used to do the surrendering ~ even though it was bad for him! But let’s move on.
“The person who loves his life, loses it” Jesus says.
Facing the issue of letting go and trying to discern the things we need to let go of is a holy and a wholesome process.
Forty years ago, at one of the darkest periods of my life, I came to realize that I needed to let go—not because it was the right thing to do but because I had no other choice. My life was not working any more. I had to try a different way.
I wrote the following prayer to capture the moment:
Lord Jesus, I surrender my ego;
forgive my sins of egotism.
Lord Jesus, I surrender my self-will;
let me be motivated by a loving concern for you and the people you want me to care for.
Lord Jesus, I surrender my self-centeredness;
let me do what you want me to do.
Lord Jesus, bring the Father and the Holy Spirit and abide with me and remain with me.
Let me see as you see,
hear as you hear,
speak as you speak
and touch as you touch.
To you be glory and honor, forever. Amen
The Cross is a paradox.
An instrument of cruelty and death becomes a sign of life and eternal salvation. Jesus allowed the soldiers to strip him of his clothes and he stretched out his hands to be willingly nailed to his cross.
What was this amazing paradox Jesus was teaching us?
William Barclay offers three suggestions . . . .
First. Jesus was saying that by death comes life. The grain of wheat was ineffective and unfruitful so long as it was preserved in a jar or in a sack. It was when it was thrown into the cold ground, and buried as if in a tomb, that it bore fruit. It was by the death of the martyrs that the church grew. In a famous saying, “The blood of the martyrs in the seed of the Church.”
It is always because men have prepared to die that the great things have lived. By the death of personal desire and personal ambition someone becomes a servant of God.
Second. Jesus was saying that only by spending life do we retain it. The person who loves his life is moved by two aims, by selfishness and personal security. Not once but many times, Jesus insisted that the person who hoarded his life must in the end lose it. My mother had a saying,, “It’s better to burn out than to rust out.” The world owes everything to people who recklessly spent their strength and gave themselves to God and to others.
Third. Jesus was saying that only by service comes greatness. The people whom the world remembers with love are the people who serve others.
This Easter, may we surrender our life more fully, more richly into the hands of our loving Father. Let us unite to Jesus’ Cross the sins and shortcomings that hinder us from being the wonderful instrument of God that he wants us to be.
We surrender our failure to spend time in prayer with the Lord.
We surrender our failure to offer true care and support to one another.
We surrender all our character defects, particularly our refusal to grow spiritually.
We surrender our cynicism and lack of trust.
Our poor self-esteem and failure to love and love and accept ourselves.
We surrender our resentments.
We our sins and our tendency to do evil.
But we also surrender all the beautiful loving moments of our lives ~ all those who have helped us grow and blossom ~ all our loving relationships.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
And before you go, here’s a wonderful hymn with words on this Scripture. Click here.
Here are today’s Mass readings, if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series /The Gospel of John – Volume 2 / Westminster Press /Philadelphia 1975: p. 123.
And here’s a Prayer of Acceptance that I composed back in 2007. Perhaps you’d like to copy and paste it and print it to place in a prayer book.
Prayer for Acceptance
I praise and thank you for the gift of life and of love you share with me and my loved ones.
I find acceptance very difficult at times.
Sometimes I feel you give me crosses too difficult to bear.
I ask you now if in your kindness you would grant me the grace to accept . . .
(here name the situation or persons.)
I really want to live in your will but sometimes I lack the faith and hope to do so.
I sometimes feel self pity / discouragement /anxiety /guilt and poor self esteem.
I keep taking back the things and persons I have placed in your hands
as if I lack confidence in your ability to preside over my life.
Today ~ right now ~ I ask that I may accept my life as it is
so that I may receive your grace and your loving guidance.
Father, I also pray for those around me who may be struggling with difficult crosses.
I pray for those who are struggling with relationships with their spouses or their children.
For those who are having financial difficulties.
For those young people who have lost their way.
For those who are seriously ill or near death.
May we all be given the strength and the grace we need.
Father, I meditate now on the Cross of your Son
and our Brother Jesus Christ who willingly accepted death on a Cross.
May we be given the strength to unite our lives,
as meager s they may seem to be, with his act of sacrifice
so that we may experience the joy of his Resurrection.
Father, I place my life in your hands.
Father, I place my life in your hands.
Father, I place my life in your hands
~ bob traupman / st. augustine ~ 2007
The Feast of St. Joseph ~ Friday, March 19, 2021
With a Father’s Heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels revealed him as “the Son of Joseph.”
We know that Joseph was a lowly carpenter betrothed to Mary He was a “just man”, ever ready to carry out God’s will as revealed to him in the Law and through four dreams. After a long and tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, he beheld the birth of the Messiah in a stable, since “there was no ,
Joseph had the courage to become the legal father of Jesus, to whom he gave the name revealed by the angel: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”.
In the Temple, forty days after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary offered their child to the Lord and listened with amazement to Simeon’s prophecy concerning Jesus and his Mother. To protect Jesus from Herod, Joseph dwelt as a foreigner in Egypt. After returning to his own country, he led a hidden life in the tiny and obscure village of Nazareth in Galilee, far from Bethlehem, his ancestral town, and from Jerusalem and the Temple. When, during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary lost track of the twelve-year-old Jesus, they anxiously sought him out and they found him in the Temple, in discussion with the doctors of the Law.
After Mary, the Mother of God, no saint is mentioned more frequently in the papal teaching than Joseph, her spouse.
Now, I would like to share some personal reflections, says Pope Francis, on this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are sure,ly shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone… How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”. Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.
Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.
1. A beloved father
St. Paul VI pointed out that Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home”.
Thanks to his role in salvation history, Saint Joseph has always been venerated as a father by the Christian people. This is shown by the countless churches dedicated to him worldwide, the numerous religious Institutes, Confraternities and ecclesial groups inspired by his spirituality and bearing his name, and the many traditional expressions of piety in his honor. Innumerable holy men and women were passionately devoted to him.
Every prayer book contains prayers to Saint Joseph. Special prayers are offered to him each Wednesday and especially during the month of March, which is traditionally dedicated to him.
As a descendant of David from whose stock Jesus was to spring according to the promise made to David by the prophet Nathan and as the spouse of Mary of Nazareth, Saint Joseph stands at the crossroads between the Old and New Testaments.
2. A tender and loving father
Joseph saw Jesus grow daily “in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favor”. As the Lord had done with Israel, so Joseph did with Jesus: he taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him.
In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him”.
Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser.
3. An obedient father
As he had done with Mary, God revealed his saving plan to Joseph. He did so by using dreams, which in the Bible and among all ancient peoples, were considered a way for him to make his will known.
Joseph was deeply troubled by Mary’s mysterious pregnancy. He did not want to “expose her to public disgrace”, so he decided to “dismiss her quietly”
In the first dream, an angel helps him resolve his grave dilemma: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” Joseph’s response was immediate: “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” Obedience made it possible for him to surmount his difficulties and spare Mary.
In the second dream, the angel tells Joseph: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him. Joseph did not hesitate to obey, regardless of the hardship involved: “He got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod”.
In Egypt, Joseph awaited with patient trust the angel’s notice that he could safely return home. In a third dream, the angel told him that those who sought to kill the child were dead and ordered him to rise, take the child and his mother, and return to the land of Israel. Once again, Joseph promptly obeyed. “He got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel”.
During the return journey, “when Joseph heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream” – now for the fourth time – “he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth”.
The evangelist Luke, for his part, tells us that Joseph undertook the long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered in his family’s town of origin in the census of the Emperor Caesar Augustus. There Jesus was born and his birth, like that of every other child, was recorded in the registry of the Empire. Saint Luke is especially concerned to tell us that Jesus’ parents observed all the prescriptions of the Law: the rites of the circumcision of Jesus, the purification of Mary after childbirth, the offering of the firstborn to God
In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat”~ his own “Let it be done!” ~ His own Yes!, like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In his role as the head of a family, Joseph taught Jesus to be obedient to his parents, in accordance with God’s command.
During the hidden years in Nazareth, Jesus learned at the school of Joseph to do the will of the Father. That will was to be his daily food. Even at the most difficult moment of his life, in Gethsemane, Jesus chose to do the Father’s will rather than his own, becoming “obedient unto death, even death on a cross”. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews thus concludes that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered”
All this makes it clear that “Saint Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood” and that in this way, “he cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation and is truly a minister of salvation”.
4. An accepting father
Joseph accepted Mary unconditionally. He trusted in the angel’s words. “The nobility of Joseph’s heart is such that what he learned from the law he made dependent on charity. Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man. Even though he does not understand the bigger picture, he makes a decision to protect Mary’s good name, her dignity and her life. In his hesitation about how best to act, God helped him by enlightening his judgment”.
Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.
The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning. We can almost hear an echo of the impassioned reply of Job to his wife, who had urged him to rebel against the evil he endured: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?”
Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive. In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.
Jesus’ appearance in our midst is a gift from the Father, which makes it possible for each of us to be reconciled to the flesh of our own history, even when we fail to understand it completely.
Just as God told Joseph: “Son of David, do not be afraid!”, so he seems to tell us: “Do not be afraid!” We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground. Even if our heart condemns us, “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything”.
Here, once again, we encounter that Christian realism which rejects nothing that exists. Reality, in its mysterious and irreducible complexity, is the bearer of existential meaning, with all its lights and shadows. Thus, the Apostle Paul can say: “We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
Nor should we ever think that believing means finding facile and comforting solutions. The faith Christ taught us is what we see in Saint Joseph. He did not look for shortcuts, but confronted reality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.
Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception, and to show special concern for the weak, for God chooses what is weak. He is the “Father of orphans and protector of widows” who commands us to love the stranger in our midst I like to think that it was from Saint Joseph that Jesus drew inspiration for the parable of the prodigal son and the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32).
5. A creatively courageous father
If the first stage of all true interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life that we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creative courage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.
As we read the infancy narratives, we may often wonder why God did not act in a more direct and clear way. Yet God acts through events and people. Joseph was the man chosen by God to guide the beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true “miracle” by which God saves the child and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage. Arriving in Bethlehem and finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, as best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world. Faced with imminent danger from Herod, who wanted to kill the child, Joseph was warned once again in a dream to protect the child, and rose in the middle of the night to prepare the flight into Egypt.
A superficial reading of these stories can often give the impression that the world is at the mercy of the strong and mighty, but the “good news” of the Gospel consists in showing that, for all the arrogance and violence of worldly powers, God always finds a way to carry out his saving plan. So too, our lives may at times seem to be at the mercy of the powerful, but the Gospel shows us what counts. God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.
If at times God seems not to help us, surely this does not mean that we have been abandoned, but instead are being trusted to plan, to be creative, and to find solutions ourselves.
The Gospel does not tell us how long Mary, Joseph and the child remained in Egypt. Yet they certainly needed to eat, to find a home and employment. It does not take much imagination to fill in those details. The Holy Family had to face concrete problems like every other family, like so many of our migrant brothers and sisters who, today too, risk their lives to escape misfortune and hunger. In this regard, I consider Saint Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.
At the end of every account in which Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up, takes the child and his mother, and does what God commanded him. Indeed, Jesus and Mary his Mother are the most precious treasure of our faith.
In the divine plan of salvation, the Son is inseparable from his Mother, from Mary, who “advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son until she stood at the cross”.
We should always consider whether we ourselves are protecting Jesus and Mary, for they are also mysteriously entrusted to our own responsibility, care and safekeeping. The Son of the Almighty came into our world in a state of great vulnerability. He needed to be defended, protected, cared for and raised by Joseph. God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who would not only save her life, but would always provide for her and her child. In this sense, Saint Joseph could not be other than the Guardian of the Church, for the Church is the continuation of the Body of Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church. In his continued protection of the Church, Joseph continues to protect the child and his mother, and we too, by our love for the Church, continue to love the child and his mother.
That child would go on to say: “As you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”. Consequently, every poor, needy, suffering or dying person, every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person is “the child” whom Joseph continues to protect. For this reason, Saint Joseph is invoked as protector of the unfortunate, the needy, exiles, the afflicted, the poor and the dying. Consequently, the Church cannot fail to show a special love for the least of our brothers and sisters, for Jesus showed a particular concern for them and personally identified with them. From Saint Joseph, we must learn that same care and responsibility.
6. A working father
An aspect of Saint Joseph that has been emphasized from the time of the first social Encyclical, Pope Leo XIII Rerum Novarum, written in 1891, is his relation to work. Saint Joseph was a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family. From him, Jesus learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labor.
In our own day, when employment has once more become a burning social issue, and unemployment at times reaches record levels even in nations that for decades have enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity, there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which Saint Joseph is an exemplary patron.
Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, to develop our talents and abilities, and to put them at the service of society and fraternal communion. It becomes an opportunity for the fulfillment not only of oneself, but also of that primary cell of society which is the family. A family without work is particularly vulnerable to difficulties, tensions, estrangement and even break-up. How can we speak of human dignity without working to ensure that everyone is able to earn a decent living?
Working persons, whatever their job may be, are cooperating with God himself, and in some way become creators of the world around us. The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!
7. A father in the shadows
The Polish writer Jan Dobraczyński, in his book The Shadow of the Father, tells the story of Saint Joseph’s life in the form of a novel. He uses the evocative image of a shadow to define Joseph. In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way. We can think of Moses’ words to Israel: “In the wilderness… you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you travelled. In a similar way, Joseph acted as a father for his whole life.
Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.
Children today often seem orphans, lacking fathers. The Church too needs fathers. Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthians remain timely: “Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers”. Every priest or bishop should be able to add, with the Apostle: “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”.
Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.
Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust.
Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration.
When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas open up. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom. A father who realizes that he is most a father and educator at the point when he becomes “useless”, when he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied. When he becomes like Joseph, who always knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care. In the end, this is what Jesus would have us understand when he says: “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven”.
In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). And a shadow that follows his Son.
* * *
“Get up, take the child and his mother” (Mt 2:13), God told Saint Joseph.
The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.
Indeed, the proper mission of the saints is not only to obtain miracles and graces, but to intercede for us before God, like Abraham and Moses, and like Jesus, the “one mediator”, who is our “advocate” with the Father and who “always lives to make intercession for [us]).
The saints help all the faithful “to strive for the holiness and the perfection of their particular state of life”. Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.
Jesus told us: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). The lives of the saints too are examples to be imitated.
Given in Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on 8 December, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 2020, the eighth of my Pontificate.
Let us now make our prayer to him:
(I will pray in my own words. . . )
I remember, dear St. Joseph, when we were in grade school
We were prompted to put J.M.J. on the top of every composition.
That meant we were dedicated all out work to Jesus, Mary and to you, Joseph.
I doubt we thought a lot about all that. But it was nice. In 2008,
I arrived at the Benedictine Monastery in Abiguiu, New Mexico
on the Feast of St. Joseph and we were treated to a feast.
Dear St. Joseph, my own father was mostly silent as apparently you were.
He never took me fishing, though he went fishing once in a while.
He got me to shingle the roof of our house and work up a sweat
during the summers I was home from the seminary.
I guess he was a pretty good Dad. He used to give great bear hugs.
Dear St. Joseph, please watch over our country ~ especially until we conquer this pandemic,
And now, before you go, here’s a lovely song to and about St. Joseph with a some lovely images to go with it. Click here.
And here are the Mass readings for the Feast of St. Joseph, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent March 14, 2021
Today’s readings are a reflection on God’s generosity, God’s forgiveness, God’s constant, loving care of his people.
The first reading from Chronicles outlines the infidelity, the sins of Judah and even the priests; they polluted the temple.
But early and often did God send messengers and prophets to try to get them to turn from their evil ways. Then they were carried off in captivity to Babylon.
But even then the Lord had mercy. A new King came to Persia—Cyrus—and he let the Jewish people return to their homes and actually helped them rebuild their temple.
The message of the reading is renewal and forgiveness. God will continue making loving, merciful overtures toward sinners early and often in our own time—toward those who are responsible for the evil the world is presently experiencing—toward those who cooperate in that evil, he will bring to justice.
We realize that God has made the ultimate overture in Jesus, incarnate, crucified and risen, in victory over sin and death.
In today’s Gospel from John 3: 14-21—our Scripture Scholar-friend William Barclay tell us that John goes back to a strange story in Numbers 21:4-9. On their journey through the wilderness the people murmured and complained and regretted that they had left Egypt. To punish them God sent them a plague of deadly fiery serpents; the people repented and cried for mercy. God instructed Moses to make a bronze image of a serpent and told them to hold it up and those who looked at it would be healed.
John took the old story and used it as a kind of parable for Jesus. He says in today’s Gospel, “The serpent was lifted up; men looked at; their thoughts were turned to God; and by the power of that God in whom they trusted they were healed. Even so Jesus must be lifted up; and when people turn their thoughts to him, and believe in him, they too will find eternal life.”
Barclay goes on—there’s a wonderful suggestive thing here: The verb to lift up is hupsuon. The strange thing is that it’s used of Jesus in two senses. It’s used of his being lifted up upon the Cross; and it’s used of his being lifted up into glory at the time of his ascension into heaven. It’s also used in Philippians 2:9. The lifting on the Cross and the lifting into glory are inextricably connected. It’s an unalterable law of life that if there’s no cross, there’s no crown.
In this opening sentence, there’s the phrase believes in Jesus. Barclay suggests it means at least three things . . . .
First, it means believing with all our hearts that God is as Jesus declared him to be. It means believing that God loves us; that God cares for us and wants nothing more than to forgive us.
It was not easy for a Jew to believe that. Jewish people looked on God as one who imposed laws upon their people and punished them if they broke them. They looked on God as a judge and on man as a criminal at his judgment seat. (In fact, I have known Catholics who have thought the same way! That they were going to hell for the even small peccadillos. I knew a lady once who thought her flatulence was a sin!) Jewish people looked on God as one who demanded sacrifices and offerings.
Second, how can we be sure that Jesus knew what he was talking about? What guarantee is there that this wonderful good news is true? We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that in him is the mind of God, that he knew God so well, was so close to God, was so one with God that he could tell us the absolute truth about him.
And Third, we believe that God is a loving Father because we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and whatever he says about God is true. We must stake everything on the fact that what Jesus say is true and that whatever he commands we must do. When he tells us to cast ourselves on the mercy of God unreservedly that we must do so.
The second phrase is eternal life. We have already seen that eternal life is the very life of God himself.
So, if we possess eternal life, what do we have
First, we have the peace of God. We are no longer cringing before a tyrannical judge. We are at home with our Father.
Second, it gives us peace with our fellow human beings. If we have been forgiven, we must be forgiving. It enables us to see others as God sees them. We become one human family.
Third, it gives us peace with life. If God is Father, God is working all things together for good. This is a friendly universe!
Fourth, it gives us peace with ourselves. We are most afraid of what’s inside of us than anything else, it seems. We know our weaknesses, the force of our temptations, the tasks and demands of our own life. But now we know we are facing them with God and with his Son Jesus.
And finally, it makes us certain that the deepest peace on earth is only a shadow of the ultimate peace that is to come.
And so we come to probably the most quoted scripture passage in the world—John 3:16 in today’s gospel.
God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have everlasting life.
All great men have had their favorite texts, but this has been called “Everybody’s text.” It contains the essence of the gospel. Barclay says it tells us certain great things . . . .
First, it tell us that the initiative in all salvation lies with God. Sometimes preachers draw a picture of a stern, angry, unforgiving God and a gentle loving Jesus. But this text tells us that it was with God that it all started. It was God who sent his Son and he sent him because he loved humankind.
Second, it tells us that the root of God’s being is love. It’s easy to think of God as looking at us humans in our disobedience and rebellion and saying: “I’ll break them: I’ll discipline them and punish them and scourge them until they come back as in the Old Testament. It’s easy to think of God as seeking the allegiance of his subjects to satisfy his own desire for power. The tremendous thing about this text is it shows us God acting not for his own sake, not to satisfy his desire for power, not to bring the universe to heal, but to satisfy his love. God is not like an absolute monarch, (as many despotic governmental rulers today are) who treats each person as a subject to be reduced to abject obedience. God is the Father who cannot be happy until his wandering children have come home. God does not batter or bully them into submission; he yearns over them and woos them into love.
Third, it tells of the width of the love of God. It was the world that God so loved. It was not a nation; it was not the good people; it was not only the people who loved him; it was the world. The unlovable and unlovely, the lonely who have no one else to love them, the person who loves God and the one who never thinks of God, the person who rests in the love of God and the one who spurns it—all are included in this vast inclusive love of God. As Augustine put it: “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”
God sent his Son not just to make judgments about our world, but to save it from itself.
If God is the father of us all, if God created and sustains us in our virtues and our vices, if God claims us as his own, makes his home in our hearts and sends his natural Son to live with us, then God is somehow responsible for us. Don’t flinch from that fact. God is somehow enmeshed in our sins. Not by personal guilt, but by blood relationship.
So the Father and the Son mutually agreed that the Son would accept responsibility for all the sins of all his people.
For the rest of Lent let us contemplate what God has done for us in Jesus, for . . . .
GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON, SO THAT EVERY ONE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM MIGHT NOT PERISH BUT MIGHT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!
And now before you go here’s a hymn for you “Remember your love” Click here
And if you’d like to reflect on this Sunday’s scriptures Click here
Barclay: the Daily Study Bible Series / The Gospel of John–Volume1 Revised Edition / The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 134-140.
The Second Sunday of Lent ~ February 28, 2021
Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire.
It’s a great story. It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil. Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.
According to our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.
The story is cloaked in mystery. We can only try to understand. We usually associate this event with Mount Tabor, which is in the south of Galilee. However, Mark tells us this event happened eight days after events in Caesarea Philippi which is in the north. Not on that, Tabor is only about 1,000 feet high, and in the time of Jesus, Barclay indicates there was a fortress on top. It’s much more likely that this event took place amidst the eternal snows of Mount Hermon which is 9,200 high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi.
Jesus took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray. On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on.
There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .
“When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”
In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.
~ There are many of us who are so wrapped up in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we’re often like sleepers who will not awake.
~ There are others of us who refuse to think about anything. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?
~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep that Big Brother can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix or read Orwell’s 1984?
But life is full of things designed to awaken us.
~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.
~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.”
I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience.
~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.
We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.”
Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Mark pp. 210–11.
But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:
After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice from the cloud . . . (Mk: 9:8.)
The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.
The saint is talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilarating conversation with a friend.
Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith” . . . Wow! Think on that one.
Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
You are my beloved son / my beloved daughter; listen to him!
It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is the Messiah who suffers for us.
You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had. Even one mountain top experience — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.
Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.
As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come. When they come, embrace them. Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do. Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.
And now before you go, here is a hymn based upon the words “This is my beloved Son: Hear him” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.
Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Mark Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001
Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY
The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus ~ February 21, 2021
This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.
This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.
Before I get into my own thoughts on this important opening story in the life of our Lord, I’d like to share some notes from our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay.
He says that the word to tempt in Greek peirazein has a different emphasis than its English counterpart. We always think of tempting as something bad. But peirazein has a different emphasis; it means to test.
One of the great Old Testament stories makes this clear. Remember how Abraham narrowly escaped sacrificing his only son Isaac? God was testing him, not tempting him!
So, with Jesus, this whole incident was not so much a tempting as the testing of Jesus.
We have to note further where this test took place. The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine. Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles. It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the Devastation.” The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestone looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted or rather the Father was shaping him — testing his mettle — for his mission.
Then there are these other points to take note . . . .
First, all three gospel writers seem to stress the immediacy with which the temptations follow the baptism. As Mark has it, “The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12). Barclay suggests to us that we ought to be on guard when life brings us to the heights because that’s when we’re in the gravest danger of a fall.
Second, we should not regard this experience of Jesus as an outward experience. It was a struggle that went on in his own heart and mind and soul. The proof is that there is no possible mountain from which all the mountains of the earth could be seen. This was an inner struggle.
It is through our inmost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us. His attack can be so real that we might almost see the devil.
(Pope Francis has said that Christian life is sometimes a battle. And then he cautioned when someone said “you’re so old-fashioned; the devil doesn’t exist, “Watch out! The devil exists. We must learn how to battle him in the 21st Century and must not be naïve. We must learn from the Gospel how to battle him.”)
Third, Barclay goes on, we must not think that Jesus conquered the tempter and that the tempter never came to him again.
Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. In Christian warfare, says Barclay as well as Pope Francis, there is no release. Some people think they should get beyond that stage; Jesus himself never did, even in his last hour in Gethsemane.
Fourth, one thing stands out about this story—these temptations could only come to a person who had special powers and knew he had them. We are always tempted through our gifts. We can use our gifts for selfish purposes or we can use them in the service of others.
Fifth, the source must have been Jesus himself. He was alone in the wilderness. No one was with him in his struggle, so he must have told his men about it.
We must always approach this story with a unique and utmost reverence, for it is laying bare his inmost heart and soul. And that is what I’ve always done in the following presentation written many years ago . . .
THIS IS A STORY about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a Father-God who loves us with an everlasting love.
This is a story of confrontation and testing.
Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.
There, he would shape his mission. He was searching for the answer of the question: What kind of spiritual leader would he be?
There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.
First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him. Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.
To interpret this, the first temptation presents physical attraction as the ultimate good, Jesus teaches us to seek bread from heaven. We continue to pray for and live by this daily bread.
Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up. He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders. Things would be easier that way. People would easily follow a clever magician. But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.
The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the true order of the Father’s kingdom.
Jesus realized his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all. Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.
Again, as an interpretation, the second temptation is about fame and admiration—making a name for ourselves. In fact, Christ will throw himself down—in free and obedient conformity to the Father. Jesus will endure mockery instead of admiration. Christ did not cast himself down from this pinnacle of the temple . . . He did not tempt God, but he did descend into the abyss of death . . .and the desolation of the defenseless.
A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world. You can be king of this world.
And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form. They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.
The third temptation is for earthly power and rule. But the only crown that Jesus will wear will be made of thorns, his kingdom is “not of this world” (john 18:36).
As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal. In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment. And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.
In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine. Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him. We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.
In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?
The answer was:
To surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful. God could have intervened on behalf of his own Son. But that was out of the question.
The world could not accept God as a gentle Father. They found his message of love much too demanding. And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.
He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father, not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.
Jesus had to suffer and die because, because tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard ~ and preached.
The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.
This is a powerful lesson for those among us who would COERCE others into being good – as we see the proliferation of dictators across the globe today.
The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted ~the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.
The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.
And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This . . . . is the Jesus I know and love.
And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father. Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.
And now, before you go, here’s a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ On Eales’ Wings. Click here. It’s the text of Psalm 91 that says, “For He will give His angels charge over you, To guard you in all your ways.” Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew ~ Volume 1 revised edition Westminster Press Philadelphia / 1975 / pp. 62 -66.
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 7, 2019
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
In the first reading, Moses says:
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Now here are my thoughts on Moses’ address to his people. One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message. That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day. This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damage the souls of our spouses and our children.
Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.
Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person. We need to choose our words carefully. To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths. To realize our words create life or death.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? (Luke 9: 22-25)
My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.
Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.
Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural. In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check for diabetes. And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from our problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits us via way of a cruel text message.
Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, yes, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey. He knew he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart. He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.
The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.
He was a person of absolute integrity. No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.
This is the Jesus I know and love: The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my Lord, my Savior, my mentor, if you will. I would like very much to be like that. How ’bout you?
Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.
Now before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie singing the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.
Ash Wednesday 2021
Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter ~ Sunday April 4th.
So, you may ask ~ what are ashes all about?
We Catholics like symbols. (So does Harry Potter.)
What can they tell us about life? And death? And reality?
When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,
or REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.
(However, if you are going to church to receive ashes this year, be aware of this change about how you will receive them. Yesterday, I noted because of the pandemic, the parades in New Orleans an Rio were cancelled, now you will have a different way of receiving ashes. You will not be touched in anyway on the forehead. The ashes will simply be sprinkled on your head as the priest or other minister say: “Remember that you are dust . . . “
So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.
Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?
Have we made an ash-heap of our life?
Are we sitting in an ash-heap?
Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?
If so, do we despair?
Or can ~ do we dream of re-building?
Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.
They could very well be true at any moment of our life.
I certainly can say ~ There but for the grace of God go I.
Now, I’m going to tell you a story from my own life to help explain what Lent is all about.
Some time ago, I was slicing some tomatoes and I put a tiny hole in the very end of my right index finger. It started to bleed a bit so I somehow managed to get a bandaid on it at that peculiar spot.
The next day I put some peroxide on it to see if it was infected and sure enough it was. So, I had to nurse my poor little finger for over a week till it got better! But then It didn’t and I had to do nurse it another few days.
Now, how does this relate to Lent?
Our souls can get hurt too.We hurt ourselves, as I did; we hurt others and we hurt God.
We can easily get an infection in our soul as well. We call that sin. The word sin comes from a Greek word in archery hamartia that means “to miss the mark”. What mark? Our best selves! The other thing about my poor little index finger is that it has a permanent scar—right at the end where I type. (I just checked the poor lil’ finger out a year later and, yes, the scar is still there.) Sin does that too. It leaves its mark on us somehow, someway, even the small ones; they chip away at us.
I’ll tell you something else about me, a little more personal. I have been prone to yell at people. When I was a kid, I grew up in a home where I got yelled at a lot. I’m of Austrian heritage and that doesn’t help either. We Germanic folk are very abrupt people. The yelling shows up when I get frustrated with clerks on the phone who give me the run-around, I need to realize that other person has feelings and should be treated as a human being. I have also been known to yell at people in the sacristy when I was under pressure. That is a sinful condition too.
It took me some growing and challenging to be able to change.
And that is what Lent is about. Growing and changing. Listening to Jesus in the Scriptures. Then putting into action what we’ve heard.
Another part of Lent is asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness from God and forgiveness from those we’ve hurt. The Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) is a powerful place to receive the grace for healing and strength we need for that growth and change.
Lent, then, is a season of hope that ends in new Life, in risen Life.
It’s a time to TURN AROUND ~ to make a U-turn ~ when or if we realize our life has gone in the wrong direction.
That’s what the word con-version means. To simply do a U-turn.
Turn around and head in a different direction.
To get going again.
To CHANGE, so you don’t keep on doing the same old thing and expect different results.
It doesn’t do a Catholic much good who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes without the intention of doing what they symbolize: CHANGE what needs changing. That’s it!
And so, dear friend, don’t just give up something for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.
I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your faith.
Make the sign of receiving ashes Mean Something!
Let it transform you from inside out.
The question is: Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?
So, let’s do Lent well ~ together.
During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.
And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change and enrich our lives for the better.
Whether you are Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom, some meaning for your life in these pages. Join us as we walk the journey together as Jesus did ~ through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2021.
God of pardon and of love,
We come to you this holy Lenten season,
begging for your Mercy and Love once again.
Please allow us the grace to open our ears to hear your Word,
to see you in the faces of one another ~ in family and in stranger,
and give us the grace to see what we need to change,
the courage to act upon it,
and to follow you on the way to Jerusalem.
Now, before you go, here’s a song about Ashes. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And if you are going to church to receive ashes this year, be aware of this change about how you will receive them. Yesterday, I noted because of the pandemic, the parades in New Orleans an Rio were cancelled, now you will have a different way of receiving ashes. You will not be touched in anyway on the forehead. The ashes will simply be sprinkled on your head as the priest or other minister say: “Remember that you are dust . . . “. The pandemic has a way of influencing everything we do, it seems. Wear your mask; practice social distancing and get vaccinated and pray for those suffering from covid and those who care for them that Jesus will raise us all up!
And here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Thursday~ The Jesus I know and Love
I usually publish a blog for CARNIVAL! at this point as we are two days away from Ash Wednesday. But this is a sobering year with the coronavirus and it has taken all the fun out of CARNIVAL in both Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. No parades allowed. No alcohol on Bourbon Street!
But today is Presidents’ Day. It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
But our present times are difficult ones, with Covid 19 and trying to build back the economy. We’ve just had a transfer of power of two very different presidents and that didn’t go very smoothly. In fact there was violence involved with the attack on our beloved, sacred Capitol building on January 6th that we still have not recovered from.
Some of us, however, find some level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.
“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”
~ John Henry Cardinal Newman
Back in the fall of 2008, I had been getting to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other. My whole perspective on my own worries has completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many more.
Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy. In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get. It’s foolish. Insane, actually. But this pandemic has taught many of us a different way. We’ve had to stay home and find our entertainments in simpler ways.
It could be a great grace; some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material way and turn to a more spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Hopefully the uncertainty we’ve been through this past year will bring us and our nation to our senses.
What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family?
We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.
It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.
Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through thirty years of learning to cope with bipolar illness I have learned to keep going . . . no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.
Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.
For years now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society. Every day I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once was. I just invite you, I implore you: Let us pray and restore our nation’s relationship with God and justice for all races and peoples in our land of immigrants and indigenous people.
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the sea. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46)
And now, my prayer . . . .
Good and gracious God,
we come before you today to ask your blessing
upon this vast and great land of ours.
We are grateful that our republic has stood safe for 241 years now.
And so, we ask your continued blessing upon us.
Please bless President Biden and all elected and government officials
that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.
Let there be peace at home and peace throughout the world.
For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
And now, before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and a Chorus singing “This Land is Your Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE!
We’ve been reflecting on St. Paul’s eloquent words about love from I Corinthians 13. And this is my final post on the subject.
Love is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, \
it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
Romantic love wears off in a few months. True love requires fidelity and is long-lasting. I often remember people I met briefly twenty or thirty years ago and there is still a place in my heart for them, even those who had rejected or hurt me. And when I think of them I believe my prayer is able to touch them even now, either living or dead.
We think we know all about love. Yet Love is an Art and a Discipline that is only learned and acquired by trial and error. Thus, we have to learn how to love. Or perhaps unlearn what we have learned in abusive homes or families and find people who can teach us well. I am profoundly grateful for the people who allowed my soul to unfold and blossom because of their love and in their love.
As I mentioned last time, I taught high school seniors (51 years ago!) that I had them read two books, Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Both books still should be required reading by anyone who wants to become a whole and healed human person.
Many of us keep focusing on finding the right object of our love. Fromm — and Jesus — tell us that being a person who is capable of loving the stranger in the checkout line at the 7-11 or your sibling whose guts you can’t stand is the way we will learn to love.
Love is being free to love the one you’re with so you can be with the one you love.
It is just not possible to love some and hate others. St. John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (1 John 3:15)
And yet, in today’s America, I wonder what kind of leadership and example we are setting for our children when some follow our political and business leaders who have sought to take revenge on their opponents instead of striving to be true noble patriots as was shown in the riots on our sacred Capitol on January 6th.
Love is being able to see and respond to the loving energy of the universe and spread it around instead of trying to possess it for oneself.
Love is faithfully loving whomever God puts in our life at every turn of our life’s journey. A hard task sometimes. I know.
How often we fail. But that’s what growth in love and Christian spirituality is all about. Sometimes it requires a heroic effort and sacrificial love ~ the love of Jesus, the Love of God for us.
So, what is LOVE?
There’s all kinds of love. There’s romance that is the kind that pervades the soaps, the news stand magazines, the ones at the grocery store checkout counter. There’s erotic love. There’s brotherly (or sisterly) love, the love of friends, neighborly love. And then there’s sacrificial love. There’s conditional and unconditional love. There’s love that isn’t love at all.
But here’s a practical suggestion for you to make your own meaning.
At day’s end, reflect on the positive things — even the tiny little things in a chaotic, insane day. Seek out where the LOVE was. Where was the LIFE?
Take a moment. Reflect on your day. Pick two incidents, however fleeting, however small that you might have missed at the time. Savor them for a moment as you get ready for bed. Those are the moments where love and God has touched you. Be ready to receive into your life and your heart the little moments of LIFE and LOVE that do happen even in the midst of the most terrible day and let them change your life.
It is not the destination that’s important; life and love happen along the way!
And so here’s my final prayer for this Valentine’s Day . . . .
Good and gracious God,
We live in a world that gives us so few models of faithful love.
Help us to learn the art and discipline of loving.
Help us to understand that we cannot love one person — even ourselves — unless we let love — rather than hate — flow from our heart to touch and heal and nourish those around us.
Heal us, Lord.
Let us trust in You, for you are the Source of all Love,
Your Love is flowing like a river giving life to everything and every one along the way,
a river from our own hearts to everyone we meet this day.
I also ask your blessing on all married couples and those engaged to be married.
It’s not easy to be faithful in this world today.
Pour out your abundant blessing upon them in all their struggles.
Renew their love and their joy this day and all the days of their lives.
And please be with all those struggling with this corona virus and all those who protect them.
We give You thanks and praise this day.
And now before you go, wouldn’t you like to hear a romantic melody for your beloved? Well, here’s a very unique one: Cold Play’s True Love Click here.
And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) Savor each line and see how you measure up. . . .
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13
mesa verde national park of southern colorado / march 2008 / bob traupman.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Our society finds it quite acceptable for people to hop into one relationship after another or just satisfy one’s needs by”hooking up”, maybe — and hopefully not so much during this pandemic!
How many times have young people thought that this was the person of their dreams and been dumped by a rude text message ~ or done the dumping themselves?
I wonder how many marriages have ended when one spouse showed up in the kitchen and announced, “I want a divorce!” No discussion. No attempt to work out problems. No mercy. No forgiveness. Over. Done, after calling a divorce lawyer.
And what happens is that some may add one unsuccessful relationship on top of another. As a result, our heart can become more and more wounded. And less and less trusting, less and less capable of loving . . . unless somehow ~ someone (Someone? helps us find a way to believe again, to hope again.
So, let’s take a deeper look at the truth and the transforming power of St. Paul’s words in I Cor. 13 we’re reflecting on in this series “What is Love?”
LOVE . . .
. . . it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
it bears all things.
believes all things,
hopes all things.
endures all things.
Love never fails.
We just have to learn to love anyway.
At least, that’s what St. Paul is getting at “Love does not brood over injuries.”
In the Art of Loving, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s classic book written in 1956, consider his statement that will blow most of us out of the water:
“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person: it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment or an enlarged egotism . . . If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world; I love life. If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say”I love in you everybody. I love through you the world, I love in you also myself”~ p. 39.)
This is, of course, is the heart of Jesus’ message, but many, if not most of us who say we’re his followers still don’t get it.
As tech opportunities for “communication” proliferate the less we communicate. We communicate more and more on a superficial level. You can’t really know someone through texting or on Facebook or in an email. A person can present a false persona. The only real way to communicate with someone is to be in their presence using all our senses.
We need to learn, once again how to come to true intimacy ~ the coming together of two or more persons who have the courage open themselves to the transformative power of love.
If you are one who seeks that, I’m with you. That’s what my writing is about. In fact, the high school seniors whom I had in my religion classes fifty years ago were required to read that book along the Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
Good and gracious God,
we ask you to heal the hearts that are broken.
Help us to see even in the midst of our brokenness the depth of Your Love for us.
And may we see our brokenness when we reject Your love.
We may feel we cannot take the risk to open our hearts once more.
Give us the courage and strength to stop destructive patterns that lead only to more pain.
Give us hope, Lord.
Instead of seeking to find our true love,
let us simply become persons who love —
. . . whomever we’re with,
. . . to grow in our capacity to love
so that we can reach out to the whole world
as You do at every moment,
in every time and place.
To You, God of our understanding,
we give You praise, now and forever.
Now I suggest you take a second look at that tree weathering the mountaintop at 8000 feet. It has been jilted by the weather. But it still stands nobly and proudly — broken, gnarled and twisted; it’s a fine lesson for us of the meaning of life.
And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) once again. Savor each phrase and see how you measure up. . . .
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous. Love is not pompous, it is not inflated,it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury,it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. So faith, hope love remain, these, but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13
Now before you go, here’s a music video for you by Brandon Flowers “Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts.” Click Here.
Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers, intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers and also spouses remembering their deceased loved ones, even ~ or maybe especially during this pandemic. And maybe because of it, we won’t be able to visit them!
Hallmark would encourage us to “send the very best.” And marketeers would like to get their greedy fingers on our credit cards for this one-day holiday, wouldn’t they? I don’t have a TV but I was in a doctor’s office this afternoon and saw a commercial for edible ‘floral’ arrangements’ that looked awfully tempting.
And later I stopped by the Post Office and as I was standing in line, I noticed this young black dude posting dozens of what looked like small pink cards and dropping them one by one in the mail bin. I went over to him and teased, “Are you sending those to all of your Valentines?” He turned around toward me and grinned, “I wish! he said.
But let’s go a little deeper here. What is true love, really?
I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples during my years as a priest have chosen St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.
It has to be one of the most glorious pieces of prose of all time.
Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up.
. . . . If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.
~ I Corinthians 13
You are Love itself.
We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-Persons-we-have-become.
We rejoice in them and remember them in love.
But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love that would allow us to know how to love.
Help us take your apostle Paul’s words to heart that we may truly know the true meaning of love.
May we have a heart open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.
To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.
Before you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. Click here. It’s a song I’ve always favored ~ one of my generation. I think it sets the tone for what I wanted to say here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen and have a great day! It’s a song I’ve always attributed to Our Lady.
I’ll be publishing two more Valentine’s blogs trying to unpack the meaning of St. Paul’s Ode to Love next week until Valentine’s Day Sunday, the 14th.
Paul was an amazing man. He was small of stature; he refused to depend on charity–thus, he worked as a tentmaker wherever he went. After he was severely beaten, he was in constant pain, but went on and on and on, because, as I tried to learn from him . . . .
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
~ Philippians 4:13
Paul before his conversion was known as Saul of Tarsus, and as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles he says, “I persecuted this Way (i.e. Christians) to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.” And then he tells the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, that a great light blinded him and he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (You can read the rest of the story in Acts 22: 1:16.) Or the alternative version given in the Mass readings below (Acts 9:1-22).
I enjoyed what St. John Chrysostom, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, in the early church says about Paul in the divine office for today . . . .
Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists and in what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed even higher; each day he rose up with even greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in his words: “I forget what lies behind me and I push on to what lies ahead.” (There’s a lesson for us here, isn’t there?)
I never paid much attention to Paul until my later years. And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m writing this blog in his honor, despite the passages that show his Hebraic attitudes toward women and the misuse of his words about gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .
Chrysostom goes on to say that the most important point of all is . . . .
St. Paul knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considers himself happier than anyone else . . . . He preferred to be thus loved and yet the least of all, or even among the damned, than to be without that love than be among the great and honored. So too, in being loved by Christ he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, the present and the future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet. (Another lesson for us, isn’t there, especially during this pandemic when we’re in lock-down mode for weeks on end?)
A few years ago, a priest-friend sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and still sits on my dining room table that I often glance at. As I have had my own cup of suffering from long years of manic-depressive illness it means a great deal to me . . . .
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for in weakness power reaches perfection.”
And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For when I am powerless, it is then I am strong.
(2 Cor. 12:9-10)
You see, Paul has helped me love my Lord ~ or rather to realize in tears of joy that Jesus loves me deeply and richly ~ as I am, weak and sinful. He has raised me up and heals me, granting me the wonderful grace to share his love as best I can at the tip of my cursor ~ if in no other way.
And so, dear friends, know that you, too, are loved, whether you know it or not. Our God is love! Know that–despite whatever else you’ve been taught, despite how guilty you may feel or how unworthy you think you are. YOU ARE LOVED! THIS IS A MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE!
We’ll let St. Catherine of Siena have the last word that really grabbed me, Paul “became a vessel of love filled with fire to carry and preach God’s Word. Amen. Amen!
And now, before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the Prayer of their Founder, “Take, Lord, and Receive.” It’s a beautiful prayer and a beautiful song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for the slide show that accompanies it.
And here are all of today’s mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Today is the forty-eighth anniversary of Roe v Wade.
In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different.
The march, which was scheduled for January 29th will be largely live-streamed.
When it began in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade in 1973. the March for Life turned the nation’s conscience toward the particular horror of abortion and the taking of human life that it entails. The four decades since have seen millions of deaths from abortion in the United States alone.
In each of those deaths, the world lost a unique and irreplaceable person. (Planned Parenthood and others insists in calling it a fetus, not an unborn child or a person.) Doesn’t that ring rather ugly to you on your tongue?
We live in a world that does not recognize that and sacredness of every person’s life on this planet is sacred and inviolate. It doesn’t understand this concept. In fact, it doesn’t understand the word ‘concept’ for the most part. (Many of us would do so for our pets, but not the unborn.)
But let’s stand down, stop the condemning and judging and seek light and understanding, forgiveness and wholeness, kindness and compassion for young women in desperate situations who have no one to turn to and who may themselves be abandoned.
My sense is that the sin of those who are quick to condemn others is as great as those who bring violence and bloodshed into their very own bodies.
We ALL have much for which to ask forgiveness. We ALL need to ask God to increase our capacity to love and turn away from condemnation. Mr. Biden made a very strong plea for that in his inaugural address.
The ones Jesus loves the most are the lost sheep of this world. He would reach out to those who have had abortions!
The enemies of Jesus are those who justify themselves, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, the ones who know nothing of compassion, those who would not think of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes but would lash out with their tongue ~ sometimes by those who minister the Body of Christ at the altar!
St. John has said no one is without sin! He also said that “Anyone who hates his brother or sister is oneself a murderer.” (1 John 3:15)
Are Christians only concerned with abortion? Do we champion the cause of life only until it’s born?
With an assault on people with terminal illnesses, special needs, the poor, migrants and refugees, minorities, and others, the call of the Christian to defend and advocate for life is real. Questions about capital punishment, euthanasia, war, torture, climate change, and other life issues are pressing and need clear answers.
President Trump was hailed for placing three pro-life judges on the Supreme Court but at the same time conducting filthy squalid, over-crowded camps for immigrant children and not being able to find their parents. That’s not exactly pro-life. And his anti-mask policy and failure to lead in a Covid epidemic is not exactly pro-life either as it has caused more casualties in our country than World War II. And Mr. Trump for some unknown reason revived the death penalty! Why?
And at the same time, even our Catholic bishops are knocking President Biden for his stand on abortion that is not extreme at all. We are seeing Democrats becoming pro-life now.
In an attempt to provide an answer to these questions, some have promoted a “consistent life ethic,” a type of seamless garment theory that was once taught by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Contemporary versions of the theory, therefore, have retrieved the rich doctrine of solidarity from the Catholic tradition.
In answer to the question about the Christian’s specific mission to serve and advocate for life, subsidiarity shows us the obvious: Before we can advocate about any other life issues, we must have life itself. The first and fundamental right that must be argued and defended, therefore, is the beginning of life.
And so, we must oppose abortion without confusion or uncertainty. It stands as the primary and perennial issue for the person who cherishes and respects life.
Then a solidarity compels us to care for the poor, the migrant and refugee, the person with special needs, and others who are helped by our attention and service. Such a solidarity urges us to work for peace, champion the rights of minorities, oppose capital punishment, and seek social harmony however we’re able.
None of these issues, however, are equal to abortion but all of them are connected to the dignity that abortion offends and they call for our intervention and action.
The above explanation can help the Christian who wants to be a true brother or sister to other people, or who wants to accompany and serve those who suffer, without being entrapped in only one issue.
And now I begin my prayer as I always do , , , ,
I praise you and thank you for the gift of life
and of love that you share with me ~ with us.
On this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children,
please allows us not to judge anyone who has had an abortion,
but to reach out with compassion to all with love and understanding.
And now, before you go, here’s the penitential hymn “Remember Your Love” Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are the Mass readings for today, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
And P.S. Don’t worry about the aborted children; the innocent ones will shine like the stars in God’s kingdom.
The tragedy is that they will never set foot on this beautiful planet.
Tomorrow, we will inaugurate the 46th President of the United States of America—Joseph R. Biden, Jr . . . .
Some folks are rejoicing in his victory, while others were contesting his election to the point that many stormed the United States Capitol building to stop the solemn process of certifying the electoral college votes. They were protesting that the election was stolen from Donald Trump and horrifying damage was done to the Capitol building and they threatened the very lives of Senators and Representatives. Much of this was instigated by a far-right organization called QAnon, who it seems was winning the influence of the president even in his phone calls to election officials in Georgia and the disruptors at the Capitol.
And because of that, much of the city of Washington is even now lockdown mode for fear of further violence. The image you see above with thousands of people at a previous inauguration won’t be repeated for Mr. Biden’s tomorrow for two reasons.
First, Mr. Biden, unlike his predecessor, does not want to draw large crowds because of the pandemic and become a super-spreadder of the virus. And secondly, because the FBI and the District police have been warned of the possibility of further violence. The inauguration itself and all of its festivities will be live-streamed with very few in live attendance.
So, I’ve musing about what his inaugural address might be like. In addition to giving us a glimpse of his agenda, I’m sure he’ll make an effort to bring our nation together.
I came across some ideas while reading the alumni magazine of my seminary—Theological College of the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. from the spiritual writer Megan McKenna . . .
Every time we bring hope into a situation, every time we bring joy that shatters despair, every time we forgive others, and give them back their dignity, every time we listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time we speak the truth in public, every time we confront injustice, we are practicing resurrection. (Resurrection is about bringing new life where there’s decay or listlessness or despair.)
I expect to hear words such as these in Joe Biden’s inaugural address tomorrow. He’s already shown that this is the kind of man he is. Joe has had to face personal tragedy in his life in the car accident that killed his first wife. On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election to the Senate, Biden’s wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping. Neilia’s station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailor as she pulled out from an intersection. Their sons Beau and Hunter survived the accident and were taken to the hospital in fair condition, Beau with a broken leg and other wounds, and Hunter with a minor skull fracture and other head injuries.
And then he lost his son Beau who was the highly successful State Attorney for Delaware to cancer in 2015. But it only made Joe Biden more empathetic. He became sought out to deliver eulogies for Democrat and Republican leaders, and no leaders, all across the country. That’s the kind of president we are about to have for as long as God will allow us to have him. He’ll be the age that Pope Francis is now at the end of his term ~ 82 ~ and Francis is still going strong!
Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear words such as this—healing words, words of hope, inspiring words, uplifting words, from the next President of the United States? That he would be able to listen?
Perhaps we will. I hope and pray we will. (I was surprised when Ms. McKenna asked to become friends with me on Facebook.)
One of the roles of a president is to inspire the people of the country. Yes, to bring about resurrection. To show us the way forward. To offer hope. To bring life!
It is up to the President to lead us in the work of healing. Should it not be one of his first orders of business to bring us together? To reach out to those with whom he disagrees and be magnanimous? To bring us together again to be a president for all Americans—whites and blacks, Christians, Jews and Muslims, men and women, the poor and the rich; Latinos, LGBT folks, immigrants, and so many more?
I must say I’ve already been inspired by the men and women he has selected for his team. I just hope that Congress and the Senate will work with him for the good of the country and the world.
Joe Biden has remained a devout Catholic all of his life, going to Mass most Sundays, taking his children when they were young, often seen with his rosary beads wrapped around his fingers. Some Catholics, including friends of mine, condemn him for receiving holy communion because of his liberal stand on abortion, though his bishop Francis Malooly of Delaware is supportive of him. (Malooly and I were in the seminary together and I pray for him whenever I celebrate Mass.) Some other bishops and priests have actually refused communion to Joe when he came up to them in the communion line ~ something that Jesus would never do! The National Catholic Reporter noted that it has been exactly 60 years since we had the last Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.
I’d also like to add a couple of program notes about Mr. Biden’s inauguration. He hasn’t chosen a cardinal, like the one who will be his pastor in Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, but a long-term friend, Jesuit Father Leo O’Donovan, former president of Georgetown University, will deliver the invocation.
The priest, a friend of the Biden family, was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass for Biden’s son Beau in 2015 at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington, Delaware.
And he will also have a five-minute poem read. Only three other presidents have done so.
Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, will be making history during the inaugural ceremony.
“The poem isn’t blind. It isn’t turning your back to the evidence of discord and division,” she said, though the poem will still focus on unity and hope — two points the Biden inaugural team asked the young poet to expand on.
Gorman, who’s Black and grew up in Los Angeles is a graduate of Harvard University and became the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She was handpicked by incoming First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and will be just the sixth poet to read a piece at an inauguration, according to the Academy of American Poets.
According to the literary organization, only three presidents have had a poet read at their swearing-in ceremony: President John Kennedy in 1961, President Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, and President Barack Obama 2009 and 2013. Gorman will add her name to that list, which includes Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Alexander and Robert Frost.
So, let’s sum up then. . . .
From St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians for all of us . . . .
Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.
Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.
Then God’s peace which is beyond all understanding, will guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, Brothers and Sisters, your thought should be directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise.
Live according to what you have heard me say and seen me do.
Then will the God of peace be with you. (Phil. 4:6-9)
And now my prayer . . . .
Almighty God, Creator of the Universe,
We thank you for the 241 years we have been a strong, vibrant country.
We’ve been through wars—one that almost sundered our own land, and many of our young have fallen so that we could be free.
We’ve been through droughts and depressions, hurricanes, and all sorts of tests to our national will and just now the desecration of our own Capitol sanctioned by our very own leaders in an act of insurrection; but we’re still more or less in one piece, dear God.
And now, we come to another moment of transition of power in our land.
Almighty God, we ask your blessing on Joseph R Biden, Jr. and Kamala Harris as they assume their office tomorrow..
Please open them to your guidance.
Send upon them your Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Wisdom,
the Spirit of justice, peace, and unity for all in our land.
And finally, dear God, we ask your blessing on all the peoples of our great country,
from east to west, from north to south, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours!
And finally, dear Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris . . .
The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace! ~
And please grant Donald J. Trump and his family peace as well.
And now, before you go, here’s a thrilling version of ‘God Bless America’ by Whitney Houston Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
On this coming Monday, January, 18, 2021, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.
On that fateful day, Dr. King took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land. This man is one of my mentors. I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore. Today, I have an image of him near my desk in my home.
He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us, that Dr. King and I believe is the only way that justice and peace can be achieved. Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.
On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon. I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I sucked in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.
Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals that Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of slipping away from us. Just this week we witnessed the desecration of our Capitol instigated astonishingly by the President of the United States. Mobs of people broke into the Capitol and into the House of Representatives and the Senate chambers and threatened their members and ransacked some of their offices, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s. Their intent was to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden. Their insistence was the election was stolen from President Trump..
Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 with a vote of XXX, the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment for ‘High crimes and misdemeanors”in act of “incitement of insurrection”. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to manifest injury of the people of the United States,” according to the documents of the House of Representative impeachment of Donald J. Trump.
Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned by President Trump, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, two years ago, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people.
The number of race-based killings and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2021. We ask you to watch over President Trump as he leaves office that he may face up his life and it’s consequences. We also ask you bless President-elect Joe Biden and his incoming administration and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2021.
We pray to you, God, for You are the God who cries for justice for your children and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You.
We pray ~ for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL. To You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever, Amen!
May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.
They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.
Dr. King held no public office. He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.
And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.
Is there anything you are willing to give your life for?
I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes! (Or at least I hope so.)
It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here.
Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
In urging his supporters to see the routine act of certifying the election results as an illegal affront against him and against them, Mr. Trump helped set in motion hours of violence and chaos that continued as darkness fell on Wednesday. (The New York Times)
It all started this afternoon with with this tirade by the president.
I was heartbroken today. For our country. For Donald Trump. For the members of the Congress who had their sacred space desecrated today and where afraid for their very lives as an angry mob invaded not only their outer chamber but even ravaged some of their offices and took selfies in Mike Pence’s presidential chair.
I was so devastated as I read what the President was screaming at the crowd to fire them up and send them to the Capitol, ending in violently storming the into the building and interrupting the most sacred proceedings of our democracy ~ the certification of the new President! The violence involved a killing inside the Capitol to further desecrate it.
Our country may not soon recover from this act of betrayal, this coup d’état as the whole world looks on in dismay and disgust.
It only happens in Third World countries.
President George W. Bush condemned what he called “mayhem” and a “violent assault on the Capitol.”
“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic,” he said in a statement. “I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement.”
“Insurrection could do grave damage to our nation and reputation,” he added. “In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law.”
(As I’m composing this blog, in the background, I’m listening to the Senate certifying the election of Mr. Biden @ 12:38 am and some members are still objecting to the certification!
I’d like for us all, including the President, to reflect on these words from the first epistle of St. John . . . .
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God* whom he has not seen.
Now let’s think about that. “Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”
I’m thinking of the president at the moment and praying for him , because I believe that he needs a lot of love. He didn’t get it as a child and he has closed himself off from it (it would seem) all of his life. He’s a fear-laden man. And therefore he wants to punish others. Lashing out at others, He doesn’t know how to love or receive love. I pity his wife and his children; they seem to act in the same mold.
Sadly, he has done a great deal of harm and this last act today was a treasonous act of insurrection that he clearly plotted out and his mob executed. And he needs to be, for his good and for the good of his country, to be once and for all, to be held accountable.
This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
And that’s what we must do, brothers and sisters. We will have a devout Catholic inaugurated as president of the United States who attends Mass weekly and says his rosary and believes in compassion.
Now before you go, here’s a very hopeful Catholic song for you “City of God” Click Here
And you’ll be surprised how fitting today’s Mass readings are. Click here, if you’d like to reflect on them.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Sunday, January 10, 2021
This feast is part of the epiphany cycle of feasts ….
It reveals a bit more of the meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, that is, our God entering our world and becoming flesh and blood like you and me.
By way of introduction, our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay offers a short commentary on today’s Gospel story from Matthew about the Baptism of Jesus . . . .
For thirty years Jesus waited patiently for the moment to embark on his mission. He waited for the hour to strike. And when John emerged, Jesus knew it was time.
Barclay asks why should this be so? For one very simple reason.
The Jews knew and used baptism only for proselytes who came from another faith. It was natural for the sin-stained proselyte to be baptized but no Jew ever conceived of a member of the chosen people, a son of Abraham, assured of God’s salvation, should ever need baptism. Baptism was for sinners, and no Jew ever conceived of himself as a sinner shut off from God. Now for the first time in their national history the Jews realized their own sin and their own pressing need for God. Never before had there been a unique national movement of penitence and search for God. This was the very moment for which Jesus was waiting and he slipped into the line of pilgrims waiting to be baptized by John. The others there were conscious of their sin and conscious of their need for God as never before. In Jesus’ baptism, though not not for the purpose of repentance, he identified himself with the people he came to save.
When he approached John, he objected, saying, “I should be baptized by you” But Jesus replied, “Allow it for now for it is to fulfill all righteousness.” (Barclay Gospel of Matthew – Vol. I pp.59-60.)
Pope Benedict XVI also has an interesting commentary on this feast . . . .
The Baptism of Jesus was held in great importance by the apostolic community, in that circumstance, for the first time in history there was the manifestation of the Trinitarian Mystery in a clear and complete way, but also because that event began the public ministry of Jesus on the roads of Palestine. The Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross and it is the symbol of the entire sacramental activity by which the Redeemer will bring about the salvation of humanity.
This is why the early Church Fathers have dedicated such great interest in this feast, which is the most ancient after Easter:
“Christ is baptized and the whole world is made holy,”sings today’s liturgy, “he wipes out the debt of our sins; we will all be purified by water and the Holy Spirit.” (Antiphon to the Benedictus)
There is a strict relationship between the Baptism of Christ and our baptism. At the Jordan the heavens opened to indicate the Savior has opened the way of salvation and we can travel it thanks to our own new birth of water and Spirit (Jn 3:5) accomplished in baptism. The commitment that springs from baptism is therefore to “listen” to Jesus: to believe in him and gently follow him, doing his will.
(As recorded in the “Meditation of the Day” in the Magnificat liturgical magazine January 2019 issue, p.179.)
Thus, God sent his only Son to become one with us.
What better way to do this than to show acceptance of the human condition by being baptized for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus has no personal sin. Yet he got in line with hundreds of pilgrims to be baptized by the prophet John by the River Jordan.
In this we see Jesus’ humility. He is willing to accept ALL of the human condition. He willingly presents himself for baptism.
Imagine this scene . . . .
There he is: John at the edge of the desert, wading out into the waters of the Jordan River.
A crowd has gathered on the banks. Jesus is among them. He’s unknown at this time because he’s yet to begin his ministry. He has chosen this meeting with the Prophet to inaugurate his own mission.
Jesus waits patiently amidst the crowd. There’s a line of people eagerly waiting to meet individually with John. Jesus is to receive his baptism of repentance ~ not because there’s sin in him, but in order to model for us the authentic way to approach the Father.
He goes to the Baptist as a beggar because the Mystery is mercy. Jesus surrenders to mercy by submitting himself to baptism in order to invite us to share in his relationship with the Father.
The Lord Jesus lowers himself in his baptism and, as Nothingness, acknowledges his Father so that we will never hesitate to do the same. (Source: Magnificat /Jan. 2019 issue p. 173.)
An astonishing thing happened; the two of them were privileged to a vision. The sky opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and hover over him.
With that, a voice from the heavens said,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
In our immersion into the waters of baptism, we are consecrated, set apart and made holy. In Jesus’ immersion in the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the opposite becomes true. Jesus consecrates, sets apart and makes holy the waters of baptism. Jesus as Man consecrates the movement of divine grace that flows just as rivers flow.
Sometimes the river has abundant waters that give life to all living things that share its banks. But sometimes the waters dry up and become like a desert.
So, too, with grace. Grace flows like a river bringing wonderful fruit to all who drink and are immersed in it. But sometimes grace seemingly dries up and we live in a desert for a while. But the river is still there, unseen; it just moves below the surface.
So we have to be willing to be immersed. To be immersed in divine grace. To be immersed in God. To be immersed in love.
But that precisely is the problem. We are scared of being immersed in love. We are scared of being immersed in God. We prefer to stand on the banks of the river and watch the waters of grace flow by, without having direct contact with it.
So this feast day is about us as well. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in God. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in love.
If we are immersed in God, in love, we will hear the voice of God say to us . . . .
“You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.
Now, before you go, here’s the traditional spiritual Wade in the Water. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here.
The Feast of the Epiphany ~
Sunday, January 3rd, 2021
Today’s feast day has two meanings. In the Roman Church we celebrate the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and offering him gifts. In the Eastern churches, they focus on the story of the Baptism of the Lord. Both celebrate the manifestation, that is, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world.
St. Paul in today’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims that
“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)
We focus on the story of the Magi in our celebration today. In the Gospel of Christmas, the angels proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth to the shepherds, who were uneducated, poor folk. The story from Luke indicates that the gospel is to be preached to the poor.
Today’s story is from Matthew. The Magi are scholars and learned men. They discern from their study of the heavens that the Messiah was to be born in their time and they would risk the search for him and offer their treasures. The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth outside and beyond the Jewish experience. Jesus is the Christ for everyone!
This Gospel story is about darkness and light. Brilliant light and terrible, fearful darkness.
The Magi were comfortable with the dark. They knew how to find their way in the dark, because they could interpret the lights of the sky. They were adventurers ~ seekers ~ explorers.
They represent all people who are at home in the world of the intellect. All people who are willing to journey far to seek and find the truth. (Unfortunately, we live in a world where some of our leaders don’t bother with seeking truth and are afraid of science.)
The Magi went out into the night following the light, the great star which marked a singular event in human history.
They stopped to see Herod, expecting that he would welcome the light. He couldn’t; he was filled with diabolical darkness; he could not abide the light of truth. He tried to snuff out the life of the God-Man: Jesus the Light of the world.
Herod, the guy in charge, a king, was worried about the birth of a baby. Herod was powerful, and yet, as Matthew says, “ . . . he was greatly troubled ~ not unlike some leaders today.”
What was Herod afraid of? He knew that Jesus was going to make a difference in his world and was afraid that a change would mean losing the power he had. He wanted Jesus gone before any of that could happen. He liked things just the way they were, the proverbial “status quo.”
So Herod decreed that all firstborn males under two were to be killed. Jesus and Mary and Joseph would have to flee into the night to find a safe place in a foreign land, the land of Egypt. And so a shroud of violence would invade the innocence of the Christmas story. Jesus and his family became political refugees. (Remember that fact if you are inclined to quickly condemn other political refugees.)
I’d like to try to penetrate the meaning of this sacred event by sharing excerpts of two articles that really impacted my faith and understanding of this great feast.
The great 19th Century Danish philosopher-poet and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, in an article entitled, Only a Rumor, states,
Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem. They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him. Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement. The power that moved Heaven and Earth leaves us completely unmoved.
What a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move. Who had more of the truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?
What a vexation it must have been for the kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained quiet in Jerusalem. We are being mocked, the kings might have thought. For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain unmoved. This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite.
Father Alfred Delp, the Jesuit priest imprisoned and executed by Hitler in 1945, whom we recently quoted in a powerful Advent article before Christmas, The Shaking Reality of Advent concurs . . . .
The wise men. Whether they were really kings or just local eastern chieftains or learned astronomers is not important. The secret of these people is as plain as the shepherds. they are the men with clear eyes that probe things to the very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. They subordinated their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey to the ends of the earth, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice . . . . The compelling earnestness of their quest, the unshakable persistence of their search, the royal grandeur of their dedication ~ these are their secrets.
And it is their message for us and their judgment of us. Why do so few ever see the star? Only because so few are looking for it .
What are we looking for anyway? And will we find a genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us?
Where is our desire? Where is our risk to set out to find the meaning of our life? To find Jesus at our center? Where is our yearning? Hunger? Thirst? What star do you follow?
And so, listen to these powerful words from Isaiah in the first reading:
RISE UP IN SPLENDOR, DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD, YOUR LIGHT HAS COME.
THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHINES UPON YOU.
This feast is about a light that penetrates the most stubborn darkness of our lives.
This feast brings a Light to us all, if only we, like the Magi, would seek.
SEE DARKNESS COVERS THE EARTH
AND THICK CLOUDS COVER THE PEOPLES.
Violence seems to shroud our whole planet at times.
Some of us too are swallowed up by darkness, enshrouded by night, as happened to all of us this past year because of the pandemic.
Some of us live in dysfunctional families. That too can be terrible darkness, though we may not recognize it. We may think that yelling and screaming are quite normal.
Some of us get up and work hard, day in and day out. Perhaps it is work that we do not enjoy, perhaps even hate. Perhaps our spirits are far away from our jobs. We go to work trying to eke out a living, hoping to not be enshrouded by darkness. And because of the pandemic, so many lost their jobs or where in unemployment lines trying to apply for assistance!
And we know that there is darkness in the world. Israelis refuse to seek peace with the Palestinians.
And there’s troubles in hotspots all over the world and in our own country. People have been displaced by the wildfires in the Amazon and in California. Hate seethes deep in the souls of neighbors a few blocks away from each other.
BUT UPON YOU THE LORD SHINES
AND OVER YOU APPEARS HIS GLORY.
Don’t despair of the darkness, dear friends. Know that there is a Light that can penetrate it.
There was sadness and a thick veil of darkness over my own life for many years. I had the good sense to move to the little bit of light that I could find.
A candle flame can be as bright as a great Nova when one is looking for light.
WE need the light of God’s truth in the world today.
NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT,
AND RULERS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.
And finally, dear friends, out of the darkness came the Magi bringing gifts for the Light of the World. Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Holy Child who was the Light.
But before we can give a gift, we must ~ often in the midst of the darkness ~ open our hands and our hearts to receive the gift God would give to us. We must first receive before we can give.
Out of the darkness of your lives, you also can find gifts to give to the Lord and your family and friends.
What gifts do we bring?
Do we bring Jesus the gift of our adoration that the Magi did? The gift of our hearts?
These learned and influential people got down on their knees before this little child.
What or who receives the gift of OUR adoration and allegiance?
The world does not know how to adore God. We adore so many other things. Maybe we adore a favorite movie star or our favorite sports team when they’re winning at least, or a new sports car, a new home, a gifted child of our own.
Maybe we adore our career path, willing to do whatever it takes, even as we embrace the darkness along with it.
And so, this Epiphany Sunday, I pray . . . .
When I get down on my knees on Sunday morning,
I’ll be humbled by this story of the Wise Men who traveled from afar and fell to their knees with their gifts for you.
Please allow me ~ allow us – to be renewed in your love this day.
May we live in your Light and share your Light with our families, friends and neighbors, and, indeed, all the world!
And please, as I’ve pleaded for years and years for our country, dear Lord,
help us to remember that it is in You we trust.
and are the source of our justice,
and the reason for us to live in civility and good will.
Renew us in your justice, love and peace.
To You be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.
And before you go, here’s a beautiful rendition of ‘ O Holy Night’. Click Here. (Remember to click on the < back arrow on the top left corner of your browser for the three remaining items I have for you below! enjoy!
Further, if you’re interested in the star of Bethlehem, you might read this article “Synchronicity and the Star of Bethlehem” Click here.
And if you’d like an extra treat, do you remember the little drummer boy? Here he he is! Click here.
You can find today’s Mass readings at this link. Click here.
( and Day 3 of Kwanzaa)
Herod the Great had been elected “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. When the Magi told him of the new King of the Jews, Herod could think of nothing but wiping out the threat to his throne. The Holy Innocents are those children who were brutally murdered by Herod as he sought the Christ Child. At his hand, the Church receives their first martyrs, thereby this feast three days after the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
And because of Herod’s act of terrorism among his own people, Joseph had to fly by night to Egypt with Mary and the young child Jesus. Thus, Jesus himself became a political refugee.
Today we think of other innocent children ~ some killed as the unborn are or have been. We also think of those innocent ones gunned down Parkland, Florida and David Hogg, a survivor, and 2018 graduate, who has gone on to advocate for the end of gun violence. These are the statistics for this past year according to Gun Violence Archive . . .
Gun violence: children under age 11 murdered 292 / injured 685 Teenagers murdered 1,092 / injured 3,010 / Mass shootings 610
Then there are children who are trafficked as boy soldiers or as prostitutes or as child laborers.
And what of the horror of children caught in war or in Syria or the Tsunami in Indonesia or the wildfires in California.
And what of the child immigrants in our own country who are held in overcrowded, unhealthy detention camp for years without legal representation that caused two tragic deaths of 7-year-old Guatemalan boy followed by the death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan girl in the custody of Homeland Security.
And what of the DACA children? What will their fate be? They have known no other country but ours.
In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning,
of bitter weeping!
Rachel mourns her children
she refuses to be consoled
because her children are no more
~ (Jer 31:15).
You know, the infant Jesus was threatened by violence himself. So, the Christmas story is not all sweetness and light. The Wise Men inquired of Herod where the newborn King of the Jews was born. Seething with diabolical fury because of his jealousy, Herod orders the massacre of all who resemble Jesus in gender and age.
The Mass texts proclaim . . .
The Innocents were slaughtered as infants for Christ;
I would think the same is true for our own dear innocent children ~ not that all of them are Christian, but that will in their own way sing for ever.
Psalm 124, also from today’s Mass, states,
“Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.”
So, for many, an eternal life of happiness and a reunion with loved ones is indeed a consolation.
And I conclude today with prayers from our dear Pope Francis . . .
Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become child soldiers.
As we fix our gaze on the Holy Family of Nazareth as they were forced to become refugees, let us think of the tragedy of those migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation of human trafficking and slave labor.
Lord Jesus, as a little child you were a refugee yourself,
and a political one at that.
Thousands of innocent children were murdered.
Millions of children die in our world because of other despots.
Because of cruelty and brutality and bullying goes on and on.
Lord, I have no idea what the future holds for children in our own country.
Please watch over them all and keep them safe.
We mourn for the children who have been gunned down,
or sick and died unattended while under the protection of Homeland Security.
And please watch over all children who are refugees,
or in war-torn countries or who are migrants on the road searching for a better home.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Now before you go, here’s a Christmas carol for you that reflects on the strife of the world. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Today, December 26, is the second day of Christmas, and the first day of Kwanzaa (African-American). May we learn about our own and each other’s celebrations. It’s easy, just Google the word Kwanzaa.
For us Christians the mystery of Incarnation (God-becoming-human in the person of Jesus Christ) needs more than one day to celebrate. Here is the second day of Christmas: The Catholic liturgy centuries ago placed the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the day after Jesus’ glorious feast to show that our faith is not sentimental but requires of us heroic, sacrificial love. Stephen fearlessly witnessed in court (the word martyr means witness) his conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, knowing that his testimony was his death sentence.
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59)
How heroic is our love, Lord?
Do we abandon people — our friends, our lovers, our spouses, our children when the going gets rough?
And I ask you please to be with those who’ve been abandoned by loved ones, Lord ~ children of alcoholic parents or kids who have gone through the foster care system and may never feel Your Love or those who have to prostitute themselves in order to survive.
Are we only concerned about our own survival? What’s best for Number One — Me?
Are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of a friend in need — for You, Lord?
Are you, elected officials willing to show any kind of heroic love for the sake of our American people ~ black or white, rich or poor, Muslim, Christian or Jew, North, South, East or West, Wall Street or no street?
And what about the DACA children or the immigrant children lost in the system? What about the Rohingya people who are stateless and suffering untold violence and immigrants and refugees the world over?
Allow me the grace to witness to your love for me, Lord, to share it when I can.
Allow me the grace to do that this day, St. Stephen’s Day and every day. Stephen, a young man, has always been one of my heroes, Lord.
We need such heroic love in our time, Lord, such heroic young people.
Inspire young women and men to be there for their friends in the hard times ahead.
Teach us to never abandon a friend, Lord.
And let my readers know that you love them, Lord, and You will never abandon them either ~ no matter what.
Now, before you go, here is Mariah Carey singing “Hero.” Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are all of today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
The Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ~ 2020
While all things were
in quiet silence,
And that night was
in the midst of
her swift course,
Thine Almighty Word,
Leaped down out
of thy royal throne,
~ And the Word became flesh and lived among us. John 1:14
Our waiting is over.
Christmas is here!
My dearest Brothers and Sisters, I pause to think about you intimately at this moment. I have 397 of you on my email list and I’m aware some of you share with other friends. I also reach out to others on Twitter and Facebook. As my cursor crosses the page I’m thinking and praying for each of you wherever you are and yes, I do have one or two readers on other continents.
So on this Christmas Eve, let’s collectively think about where we’ve been this past year. It’s been a helluva ride for every one of us trying to cope with this pandemic, hasn’t it? We’re all sheltering in place and getting “cabin fever” –though many have found good things from staying at home. The grim thing is that this disease is not something to play around with. I had heard a statistic that this is has been the deadliest year in US history and I just confirmed it.
So how do we celebrate Christmas against that background? How is all this affecting your own celebration of Christmas?
I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite Advent authors —Brennan Manning entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable. I shared it last year, but it has become more poignant this year. Think about the image of being shipwrecked for a moment. You’ve been to sea, and are now washed up on some beach somewhere—groggy, famished, thirsty, in rags, wondering where the h – – you are, probably struggling along with other grumbling, annoying former shipmates; in other words: Lost!
Our author begins . . . .
God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.
God comes as a newborn baby, giving us a chance to love him, making us feel that we have something to give him.
The world does not understand vulnerability. Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable.
The Spanish author José Ortega puts it this way:
The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from fantasy and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. (Like so many of us during this pandemic!) And this is the simple truth—that to life is to feel oneself lost. The shipwrecked have stood at the still-point of a turning world and discovered that the human heart is made for Jesus Christ and cannot really be content with less.
We are made for Christ and nothing less will ever satisfy us. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him and for him.” And further on, “There is only Christ: he is everything” (3:11). It is only in Christ that the heart finds true joy in created things.
Do you hear what the shipwrecked are saying? Let go of your paltry desires and expand your expectations. Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than himself and his name is Jesus Christ. Be unwilling next Christmas to settle for anything else. Don’t order “just a piece of toast” when eggs Benedict are on the menu. Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of himself. Don’t be contented with a ‘nice’ Christmas when Jesus says, “It has pleased my Father to give you the Kingdom.”
You know, dear Readers, this is what I’ve been sharing with all my heart with you for years. To know Jesus and his heavenly Father is the sole reason for the existence for this Blog!
The shipwrecked have little in common with the landlocked. The landlocked have their own security system, a home base, credentials and credit cards, storehouses and barns, their self interest and investments intact. They never find themselves because they never really feel themselves lost. (Like so many we know in politics these days.) “At Christmas, one despairs of finding a suitable gift for the landlocked. “They’re so hard to shop for; they have everything they need.”
The shipwrecked, on the contrary, reach out for that passing plank with the desperation of the drowning. Adrift on an angry sea, in a state of utter helplessness and vulnerability, the shipwrecked never asked what they could do to merit the plank, and inherit the kingdom of dry land. They knew that there was absolutely nothing any of them could do. Like little children, they simply received the plank as a gift. And little children are precisely those who haven’t done anything. “Unless you… become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. They have found the treasure in the field of Bethlehem. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
So here we are at Christmas once again.
Dear Sisters and Brothers it’s time.
Open your heart.
Prepare yourself to be ready to receive your Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and joy and wonder. As you see from Brennan Manning’s wonderful story, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one that Jesus wants to give you.
Be receptive to God as Mary was. She just said, a simple Yes! to the angel:
”I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”
I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wants to give you
Cleanse your heart of resentments—of preoccupations with unnecessary things. Keep your Christmas very simple this year.
And, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the posts I’ve been able to create this Advent. They are my gift to you. There are many more to come.
May you have a good Christmas with your those you love—even you’re not able to be with them physically present to them this year.
I will remember each of you, your intentions and needs in my Christmas Masses.
Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we be like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney for the time you gave him to me,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who are missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way and those caring for them.
We ask you this, Jesus, as always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
Now, before you go, here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
If you would like the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas.You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.Click here.
P. S. We’ll be back again on December 26th ~ The Feast of St. Stephen and the Twelve Days of Christmas and the celebration of Kwanzaa!
Wednesday of the fourth week of Advent
Our King and Lawgiver,
The hope of nations and their Savior:
Come and save us,
O Lord our God!
~ The Eighth O-Antiphon
Emmanuel, they tell us you are “God-with-us.”
Where are you, Emmanuel?
Are you here?
Are you here in the messiness of our lives?
In the midst of this pandemic?
Can you really ransom us from our captivities,
our slaveries to addictions, our hatreds and grudges and jealousies that eat us up and spit us out?
Our guilts, our “coulda, shoulda, wouldas — our druthers and regrets?
Our lethargy, our hopelessness, our slumber, our rage?
O Israel! O America!
Do you want Emmanuel to come?
Do We want you to? (Do I?)
Many languish in mourning in this pandemic, Emmanuel,
in exiles made by Wall Street and homelessness and sickness
and loneliness and selfishness.
Many a young heart mourns / aches for direction and meaning and love.
Prisoners waste away. Such a waste of young lives!
Will you ransom their hearts, and souls Emmanuel?
Our hearts and souls?
Will you truly rain down justice as the psalmist says?
Yes, O come, Emmanuel!
Even though we can sometimes hardly be with ourselves, Lord.
Captivate us, inhale us with Your love.
Dazzle us with hope and new life and possibility.
Yes, Emmanuel! We believe you will come.
Maybe not today or tomorrow.
You will transform the secret longings of our souls.
We will dance and sing and embrace You and each other
because you came among us, Emmanuel.
You ARE with us, Emmanuel.
Because of You our being becomes “being-in-love!”
We rejoice! We give thanks! We believe!
Come, Lord Jesus! Yes, Lord Jesus, come.
Brothers and sisters, Christmas is two days away. Let each one of us give thanks
– and receive again in a new way
such a precious, wondrous love,
such a wonderful gift.
Here is a YouTube presentation of the powerful hymn sung by Steve Green “What wondrous love is this?
And here are today’s Mass readings about ol’ Zechariah being struck dumb because . . . Click here
Tuesday of Fourth Week of Advent
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
Come and free the prisoners of darkness!
~ The O Antiphon for December 20th
Father Alfred Delp, S.J. aptly wrote two years after I was born about being shaken up, as so many of us feel in our world today, unsettled as we are by political events in our own country, especially this past year with the pandemic with hundreds of thousand of deaths and a contested election and having to spend days on end sheltering in place and the loneliness which that has brought about for so many of us.
Fr. Delp wrote with his hands in shackles in his prison cell in Berlin, just before he was hanged for high treason in 1945, three months before the war ended. His ashes were scattered on the winds; Hitler wanted him forgotten. (His writings were smuggled out of prison.) In a widely published article, The Shaking Reality of Advent, he wrote:
There is nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up.
Where life is firm we need to have a sense of its firmness;
and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation,
we need to know this too and endure it.
We may ask God why he sent us in this time,
why he has sent this whirlwind on the earth,
why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless
and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight.
I found Father Delp’s message considerably consoling in the light of what our country and our world situation is in at the moment. He goes on . . . .
Here is the message of Advent:
faced with him who is the Last,
the world will begin to shake.
The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth. [ . . . . .]
If we are inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken,
if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap,
then God will himself intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this agitation and be stirred inwardly.
Remember, that Father Delp was talking about the disastrous times of war-torn Germany in 1945.
God of mercy and compassion,
our times are quite like the days Father Delp was writing about.
We, too, need to be shaken from our complacency.
Even in recent years ~ and this year too ~ hatred and bullying and fear has increased among our people.
We need you, Lord!
Come among us once again and shake us up to the reality of your justice!
And as the O Antiphon shouts:
Free the prisoners of darkness among us ~
The poor, those imprisoned unjustly, those without healthcare, the unemployed, those about to be evicted, the homeless,
the DREAMERS who’ve got a reprieve from being deported,
and migrants all over the world in search of safe harbor.
And so so many more crying out to us, pleading for mercy and our love.
Come Lord Jesus and do not delay!
And now, before you go, here’s Josh Groban singing J. S. Bach’s awesome Jesu, Joy of man’s desiring. Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Alfred Delp, S.J. The Shaking Reality of Advent / translated by the Plough Publishing Company
O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
~ O Antiphons
Monday of the fourth week of Advent
There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime especially at the end of this loooong year when most of us have had to spend long days and nights pent up in our homes. I’ve talked to several friends who spoke to me about their loneliness in the past couple of days.
Some of us can feel lonelier because we’re expected to be cheerful and we may just not feel much Christmas joy, but instead may feel plain down in the dumps or like diving into the bottom of a bottle.
This blog is meant for us to notice and reach out to our friends and pray for them.
Let’s be with those who have lost a loved one and still miss them.
Let’s also remember kids who are shuffled back from one parent to another to “celebrate” the holidays; that’s got to be a terrible thing to do to children.
And what about service men and women away from their families and others who have to work long hours and come home to an empty house.
And so, may we pray:
There are sometimes dark clouds in our lives, Jesus.
Pierce the gloominess of our lives with Your very own Light.
May we allow You to dawn in us this day.
May we be ready for Your dawning in a new way in our lives this Christmas.
May this celebration of Your birth bring meaning and joy in the midst of our worries and concerns.
And may we BE the dawning of your light and love and justice
in our homes, our neighborhoods, our jobs, our world.
And there are dark and ominous clouds over our world too, Lord.
Pierce our greed and hate, fear and complacency and violence with hope, Lord.
May we pray earnestly for a new dawn for our beloved country and our world.
May we BE the dawning of your light, your love and your justice in our land.
Lord Jesus, come!
We need Your Light and Your Love now more than ever.
And earthy religions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the ascendancy of the sun in the northern hemisphere on Monday, December 21 at 5:02 am. It happened before most of us put our toes on the floor this morning at 5:02am for most of my readers.
(Christianity subsumed pagan celebrations into its own. Christmas trees came to us from Germanic pagan customs. And actually, it’s because of the winter solstice that we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th at the time of the solstice. Remember St. John the Baptist saying, ” I must decrease; he must increase?” Thus, our Christmas celebration comes when the sun is on the ascendancy again, and we shared it with our ~ um ~ pagan sisters and brothers who celebrated it long before we did!)
And before you go, here’s ~ “His yoke is easy” from Handel’s Messiah. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ December 20, 2020
Few things have ever been written in the history of the world that can approach the lyric beauty of the Gospel of Luke today. No matter how many times we read it, we are immersed in its majestic simplicity.
This moment in history had been foretold since the days of creation, when it was promised that a woman would give birth to the One who would vanquish the power of Satan. If the moment had been orchestrated by Madison Avenue, it would’ve been surrounded by pomp and circumstance, proclaimed far and wide. As usual, though, God’s ways are not our ways.
The word that had been awaited for centuries came silently as the sunrise, to a young girl in an obscure village, a young one who, until that moment, had but one significant event to anticipate: She was to wed the local carpenter.
Now, with a few soft-spoken words from an angel, and her “Fiat!, her resounding Yes, / her “let it be done according to thy word,” she became the central figure in the plan of Redemption, without whom / God’s plan would not be fulfilled.
(God needed Mary’s YES!)
This was not the first time God had sent a messenger to announce the birth of a child in extraordinary circumstances. Remember Sarah and her husband, Abraham? They had exhausted every hope of having a child of their own, for they were far beyond the age of childbearing. But since nothing is impossible with God, Sarah conceived and bore a son whom they named Isaac, as God had directed.
Centuries later, the scene is repeated: Zechariah and Elizabeth had despaired of having a child, for both were advanced in age. But Elizabeth conceived and bore a child, John the Baptist,whose entire life would be dedicated to one purpose ~ to prepare the way of the Lord.
Now the centuries of prophecy are about to be fulfilled. Again, there is an unlikely conception, for Mary was yet a virgin. Again that this most unlikely of all births might become a reality, God’s intervention was needed. Gabriel, messenger of the Most High, assures her . . .
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born from of your womb will be called holy, the Son of God.”
All that had transpired in salvation history up to this moment hung in the balance waiting for this girl’s response: She took her time. She questioned the angel. and then she finally said, Yes. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”
And then the angel left her, leaving for her and Joseph to work out the details, some of which were going to be quite problematic.
We’ll hear the Nativity story in four days. Today, I invite you to think about the whole story, as though you were thinking about it for the first time. Consider what a wild, crazy, loving thing God did! God created us, when he didn’t have to, simply because he wanted to share his love and his joy. We sinned, rejected God, decided to go our own way, and created a huge distance between God and us. You would think that God would say, “OK, have it your own way, then, but be prepared for the consequences.” But he didn’t. Instead, God decided to bridge that distance and repair the damage that we did.
How? First of all, by becoming one of us. A real, living, breathing, in-the-flesh human being who was also God. And not by coming down in overpowering glory and majesty. No, by being conceived in the womb of a young woman, a teenager, actually. And then by being born not in a palace but in a stable, a shelter for animals, on the outskirts of a small town, in a country that was not one of the big players in the power and politics of the time.
Does this make sense? Is this a normal way of behaving – considering that the person doing it is almighty God, creator and Lord of the universe? No. this doesn’t make a shred of common sense. This is the action of someone absolutely consumed by infinite love for people who were not acting lovably. We get so used to hearing this story that we say, “Well, sure, of course!” when it ought to take our breath away.
Today, as preparation for the great Christmas feast that’s coming in four days, let’s try to appreciate in anew the stunning immensity of God’s love for us ~ God’s desire to get us back when we were gone astray as the Christmas carol says.
Let us say Yes to God as Mary did.
A Yes that opens us up to his great love.
A Yes that shares his love with our family,
with our neighborhood,
with our work place,
with our country,
with all the world.
In a few days we will celebrate the birth of Mary’s child, a birth as striking in its simplicity as was the announcement by Gabriel. Perhaps, during these few days, we would do well to ask Mary to help us prepare our hearts for his coming, as she did. Better than anyone else, she knows how to do that.
And now, before you go, here’s the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with a glorious rendition of Handel’s “And the Glory of the Lord. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Advent Day 17 ~ Thursday of the third week of Advent – (Hanukkah Day 7)
Advent themes are all about waiting for light to shine in our darkness.
For we who are Christians we await, Jesus, Yeshua, who is for us the Light of the World.
We prepare a place for him to shine in our own hearts this day.
We invite you to search out your own inner meaning whatever that might be.
On this the seventh day of Hanukkah we honor our Jewish brothers and sisters with these words
that appear in the Catholic liturgy just before Christmas, one of the magnificent O Antiphons:
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel,
you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and on Mount Sinai gave him your law.
Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
And my prayer . . .
O Adonai*, we need you in our world more than ever!
You appeared in the burning bush long ago.
I remember this awesome sunrise over the ocean when I lived some years ago on St. Augustine Beach, Florida.
I’m reminded of the old sailor’s maxim: “Red at night, a sailor’s delight; red in the morning, sailors take warning.”
Come with your refiner’s fire and burn your way into our hearts.
so we can prepare the way for the Messiah to come into our lives,
into our homes,
our workplace and marketplace,
and, most especially into our beloved country that so badly needs You right now,
and our waiting world!
Come Lord Jesus!
What are the “O” Antiphons?”
If you’re interested in learning more about them, here’s a website that has information and recordings of all seven. Click here. (Skip the first half and scroll ALL the way down to the bottom for the O Antiphons themselves. You will notice little speaker signs next to each one. If you click on those little music notes, it will play for you the actual chant melody for each O Antiphon.
But before you go, here’s O come, O come Emmanuel with the lyrics that are the seven O-Antiphons in English for your reflection.
And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.
* Adonai is one of the names the Jewish people use for God, meaning “Lord God Almighty.”
Misty mornings can be cool, Lord.
They can teach us about You, about us.
There’s lots of misty-ness in our lives, Lord.
We often don’t see anything very clearly.
But You are still there, our sun, the Son,
somehow, some way, penetrating the fog, the mist.
Help us realize that mist is OK, Lord.
Misty-ness has its own beauty.
Thank You, Lord, for what it teaches us about You, about us.
Teach us to be patient, Lord, to wait.
To wait for the light, our light, Your light.
Come Lord, Jesus this Christmas
in our lives and in our world.
Your light will come, Jerusalem;
Your light will come, dear people of God;
the Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.
You will see his glory within you.
– the Advent liturgy.
And now before you go, here is more from Handel’s Messiah. Click on this link >>> Rejoice Greatly O Daughter Zion! ‘Tis Awesome! Be sure to enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
photo bob traupman 2007. You may have noticed this like a follow-up on the theme and image in yesterday’s blog:”Shadows.’ I began taking images on my Canon Powershot when i was living on St. Augustine Beach and you’ll see a few more of them in the next few days. I hope you enjoy them.
Advent Day 16 ~ Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
I have learned to be intrigued by the shadows of my life, Lord.
The stronger the light, the deeper the shadow.
I have come to realize there will always be shadows.
I must accept the shadows of my life as well as the light; they will just always be there.
And so I now pause for a moment when a shadow greets me;
and take in its beauty.
Teach me to stop and be confronted, to be changed, by them.
This day, Lord, help me to realize what the shadows of my life can teach me about You and Your great love for me.
Editor’s note: This was my very first blog post on December 5, 2007.
I had two priests write back and say: “Thank you, Bob.
I wonder what they were saying?
I pay a lot of attention to shadows in my photography.
It’s “both ~ and.” That’s the way life is.
Carl Jung in psychology got us to pay attention to the Shadow side of life.
And in one’s prayer life, the mystics like St. John of the Cross talk about the “dark night of the soul.”
If we deny the shadows are there, we’re in trouble.
If we embrace our Shadow, make friends with it,
we become whole.
And now before you go, here’s a selection from Handel’s Messiah to put you in an Advent mood
This Fourth of July, I’d like to reflect on the Norman Rockwell paintings “The Four Freedoms that were inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in eleven months before Pearl Harbor.’
On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addresses Congress in an effort to move the nation away from a policy of neutrality. The president had watched with increasing anxiety as European nations struggled and fell to Hitler’s fascist regime and was intent on rallying public support for the United States to take a stronger interventionist role. In his address to the 77th Congress, Roosevelt stated that the need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily–almost exclusively–to meeting the foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency.
Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans’ entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
After Roosevelt’s death and the end of World War II, his widow Eleanor often referred to the four freedoms when advocating for passage of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mrs. Roosevelt participated in the drafting of that declaration, which was adopted by the United Nations 1948.
Article Titled: Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks of Four Freedom
November 16, 2009 by History.com Editors The original Freedom of Worship, the five figures on the left are all white. The people of color,” the author says. “That’s what institutional racism is, when you fail to notice things like that.”
Democracy is a fragile thing; we could easily lose it, if we do not carefully safeguard it
Now below you see the second of the Four Freedoms–Freedom o Speech.
Melinda Beck illustrated Freedom of Speech with a strong, embellished silhouette style. “I believe in speaking truth to power. That’s why I got into this business,” says Beck. “I create a lot of political illustrations, and thanks to the freedom of speech, I can do that in this country and not be jailed.
There will be a Fourth blog on Monday, which is the legal observance of Independence Day, so you’ll have a long weekend–that one will be on the personal cost of the thirteen original signers of the Declaration of Independence.
And now before you go, here’s a great patriotic song for you– Click he