The Legacy of a martyr ~ what are you willing to give your life for?

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On this coming Monday, January, 17, 2022, 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. 

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. 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. Their insistence was the election was stolen from President Trump.

Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned  in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.

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 2022.       
.                                    

We also ask you bless President Joe Biden and his administration and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2022.
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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ~ You are my beloved Son / You are my beloved Daughter

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

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 Matthew’s gospel about the Baptism of Jesus –though today’s is taken from Luke’s Gospel . . . .

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 (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) 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 (John 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. 

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. 

(As recorded in the “Meditation of the Day” in the Magnificat liturgical magazine January 2019 issue, p.179.)

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 Burl Ives singing the traditional spiritual “Shall we Gather at the River.” Click here   

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

With Love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Follow your Star!

The Feast of the Epiphany ~

Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

Today’s feast day has two meanings.  In the Roman Church –or the Christian churches in the West–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.

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 mute and dumb 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 and unmoving.  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 OF US 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 these  past two yeas 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  penetrates 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 . . . .

Dearest Lord,

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–I have three special  ways for you to enjoy this Feast Day, including ” the Little Drummer Boy”. First off is 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 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.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

What will 2022 bring to us? Better things for us all we hope!

St. Augustine, Florida at Christmastime / bob traupman / 2007

Dear friends,

When we were preparing for Y2K twenty-two years ago, I dreamed about “A New Humanity for a New Millennium.” So I thought I’d reprise most of last year’s post because it was so positive and we kinda need that positivity this year too, don’t you think?

And I wrote some really positive stuff about us humans, knowing full well we really didn’t warrant it back then.

As we begin each New Year, I suggest beginning with a positive outlook is a good thing, don’t you think? So I here’s a reminder . . . .

. . . . Even though we have failed to live up to the potential of the human family, we nevertheless are called to a deeper faith and hope.  The work of Jesus is hardly begun.  The task of building a new humanity, partially begun in the first and second millennia, remains the agenda for the third.

As we reach beyond our self-imposed limits of sight, we can look beyond ~ look to the horizon ~ look where we’re headed.

Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin envisioned  humanity as evolving toward the “Omega Point,” a point of union of all of creation drawing together in Christ.  The Omega Point, Teilhard observes, is the endpoint of the historical process.

Perhaps we can see glimpses of this wonderful and exciting world view in the theology of St. Paul:

“There is no Jew or Greek . . . Christ is everything in all of you” (Col. 3:10).

And again:

“Let us profess the truth in love and grow toward the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body [the world?] grows and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16)

Thus, we are part of something larger than ourselves. With each generation, we ARE growing closer to the goal of all humanity ~ complete and utter union with Christ ~ even though we don’t perceive it!

If we keep that in mind as we look forward in hope to 2022, as we climb out of a year still filled with worries about getting covid,  trying to cope with loneliness, or perhaps reaching out to a friend or relative whose family member has passed, or wondering if we will will have stable work again.. . . .we can look upon this process with hope that, despite our failures in love, humanity will one day grow into loving relationship with all there is!

Can you feel it?  Can you peer down into the future of humanity and see that we are growing in our ability to love?  Or can  we only manage to be cynical about all of the devastation that so many humans now create for one another and our planet?

If there is one thing that we can learn in the opening movement of the Third Millennium,  it is that we live in the present moment, yet we are connected with a past with all of its achievement and failure, and with connection with a future with all of its hope and uncertainty! 

Yes! we must learn to live in the present moment!

The focus of renewing humanity has got to be with renewing ourselves ~ each and every one ~ of having faith in our own growth and hope in our own future. Of  realizing that each of us can be transformed again and again into a new person by receiving the grace of transformation that the incarnate and risen Christ extends to us, day in and day out, year in and year out.

Here’s Pope Francis in his New Year’s message this year . . . . I’m offering excerpts of of our Holy Father’s thoughts and wisdom; he is so clear and direct. Enjoy.

POPE FRANCIS’ MESSAGE
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
55th WORLD DAY OF PEACE

Dialogue Between Generations, Education and Work:
Tools for Building Lasting Peace

1. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace”(Is 52:7).

Today the path of peace, which St. John Paul called by the new name of integral development.(1)

Despite numerous efforts aimed at constructive dialogue between nations, the deafening noise of war and conflict is intensifying. While diseases of pandemic proportions are spreading, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are worsening, the tragedy of hunger and thirst is increasing, and an economic model based on individualism rather than on solidarity sharing continues to prevail. As in the days of the prophets of old, so in our own day the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth [2] constantly make themselves heard, pleading for justice and peace.

 We need to learn how to regain this mutual trust. The current health crisis has increased our sense of isolation and a tendency to self-absorption. The loneliness of the elderly is matched in the young by a sense of helplessness and a lack of a shared vision about the future. The crisis has indeed been painful, but it has also helped to bring out the best in people. Indeed, during the pandemic we encountered generous examples of compassion, sharing and solidarity in every part of the world.

Dialogue between generations to build peace

Dialogue entails listening to one another, sharing different views, coming to agreement and walking together. Promoting such dialogue between generations involves breaking up the hard and barren soil of conflict and indifference in order to sow the seeds of a lasting and shared peace.(5)

Our current crises show the urgent need for an intergenerational partnership. Young people need the wisdom and experience of the elderly, while those who are older need the support, affection, creativity and dynamism of the young.

Great social challenges and peace processes necessarily call for dialogue between the keepers of memory – the elderly – and those who move history forward – the young.can learn from one another”.  For without roots, how can trees grow and bear fruit?

If, amid difficulties, we can practice this kind of intergenerational dialogue, “we can be firmly rooted in the present, and from here, revisit the past and look to the future. To revisit the past in order to learn from history and heal old wounds that at times still trouble us. To look to the future in order to nourish our enthusiasm, cause dreams to emerge, awaken prophecies and enable hope to blossom. Together, we can learn from one another”. [8] For without roots, how can trees grow and bear fruit?

We need only think of care for our common home. The environment, in fact, “is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next”. [9] We ought to esteem and encourage all those young people who work for a more just world, one that is careful to safeguard the creation entrusted to our stewardship. They go about this with restlessness, enthusiasm and most of all a sense of responsibility before the urgent change of direction [10] required by the challenges emerging from the present ethical and socio-environmental crisis. [11]

On the other hand, the opportunity to build paths of peace together cannot ignore education and labor, which are privileged settings and contexts for intergenerational dialogue.

3. Teaching and education as drivers of peace

In recent years, there has been a significant reduction worldwide in funding for education and training; these have been seen more as expenditures than investments. Yet they are the primary means of promoting integral human development; they make individuals more free and responsible, and they are essential for the defense and promotion of peace. In a word, teaching and education are the foundations of a cohesive civil society capable of generating hope, prosperity and progress.

Military expenditures, on the other hand, have increased beyond the levels at the end of the Cold War and they seem certain to grow exorbitantly. (12)

“A country flourishes when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components: popular culture, (13) university culture, youth culture, artistic culture, technological culture, economic culture, family culture and media culture”. [14] It is essential, then, to forge a new cultural paradigm through “a global pact on education for and with future generations, one that commits families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, governments and the entire human family to the training of mature men and women”. [15] A compact that can promote education in integral ecology, according to a cultural model of peace, development and sustainability centered on fraternity and the covenant between human beings and the environment.

By investing in the education and training of younger generations, we can help them – through a focused program of formation – to take their rightful place in the labor market. [17]

The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the labor market, which was already facing multiple challenges. Millions of economic and productive activities have failed; short-term workers are increasingly vulnerable; many of those who provide essential services have an even lower public and political profile. Furthermore, young people entering the job market and recently unemployed adults presently face bleak prospects.

In a particular way, the impact of the crisis on the informal economy, which often involves migrant workers, has been devastating. Many of the latter are not even recognized by national legislation; it is as though they did not exist. They and their families live in highly precarious conditions, prey to various forms of slavery and with no system of welfare to protect them. Currently only one third of the world’s population of working age enjoys a system of social protection, or benefit from it only in limited ways. Violence and organized crime are on the increase in many countries, impinging on people’s freedom and dignity, poisoning the economy and hampering the development of the common good. The only answer to this is an expansion of dignified employment opportunities.

Labor, in fact, is the foundation on which to build justice and solidarity in every community. For this reason, our aim should not be “that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.

It is more urgent than ever to promote, throughout our world, decent and dignified working conditions, oriented to the common good and to the safeguarding of creation. The freedom of entrepreneurial initiatives needs to be ensured and supported; at the same time, efforts must be made to encourage a renewed sense of social responsibility, so that profit will not be the sole guiding criterion

In light of this, there is a need to promote, welcome and support initiatives that, on all levels, urge companies to respect the fundamental human rights of workers, raising awareness not only on the part of institutions, but also among consumers, civil society and entrepreneurial entities. As the latter become more and more conscious of their role in society, the more they will become places where human dignity is respected.

Dear brothers and sisters, as we seek to combine our efforts in order to emerge from the pandemic, I renew my thanks to all those who continue to work with generosity and responsibility in the areas of education, safety and protection of rights, in supplying medical care, in facilitating meetings between family members and the sick, and in providing economic support to the needy and those who have lost their jobs. I continue to remember the victims and their families in my prayers.

To government leaders and to all those charged with political and social responsibilities, to priests and pastoral workers, and to all men and women of good will, I make this appeal: let us walk together with courage and creativity on the path of intergenerational dialogue, education, and work. May more and more men and women strive daily, with quiet humility and courage, to be artisans of peace. And may they be ever inspired and accompanied by the blessings of the God of peace!

From the Vatican, 8 December 2021

FRANCISCUS

__________________________________________

Pope Francis concludes his message, urging “We never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way.” “Instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”

And now my prayer . . . 

Where are we, this New Year’s Day 2022 Lord?

Are we better or worse off than we were last year?

And what will 2022 bring for us?

Are we prepared for whatever it will bring?

Do we realize that . . . . “You never know . . . what the next minute will bring?”

Give us hope, Lord, this New Year’s Day.

A realistic hope that we might be a little kinder toward one another,

a little less self-centered,

a little more willing to go the extra mile for someone, even ~ or especially ~ a stranger.

Give us the strength to be ready for whatever may come . . .

~  if the economy would get better or worse

~ if we lose our job or gain some success,

~ if we meet the girl of our dreams.

Give us the grace to be truly thankful ~ truly repentant ~ truly humble when we wake up this New Year’s morning.

This is my prayer, Lord, for me, for my friends, for our country, for our world.

This New Year’s morning may we pray as St. Francis taught us . . .

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen!

May it be so! may it be so for each of us and our country and the whole world!

 Now here’s the great song “Let there be peace on earth”. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Click here.

[1] Cf. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 76ff.
[2] Cf. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 49.
[3] Cf. Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti (3 October 2020), 231.
[4] Ibid., 218.
[5] Ibid., 199.
[6] Ibid., 179.
[7] Cf. ibid., 180.
[8] Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit (25 March 2019), 199.
[9] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 159.
[10] Cf. ibid., 163202.
[11] Cf. ibid., 139.
[12] Cf. Message to the Participants in the 4th Paris Peace Forum, 11-13 November 2021.
[13] Cf. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 231; Message for the 2021 World Day of Peace: A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace (8 December 2020).
[14] Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti (3 October 2020), 199.
[15] Cf. Video Message for the Global Compact on Education: Together to Look Beyond (15 October 2020).
[16] Cf. Video Message for the High Level Virtual Climate Ambition Summit (13 December 2020).
[17] Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens (14 September 1981), 18.
[18] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 128 

Copyright © Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

A Happy and Blessed New Year, to you and your family! And stay safe!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fourth Day of Christmas ~ The Feast of the Holy Innocents ~ Rachel mourns for her children ~ still (and Day 4 of Kwanzaa)

The Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs ~ Tuesday, December 28, 2021

( and Day 4 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:

After years of congressional inaction, a growing number of children are paying with their lives. In 2019, 3,371 American children and teens were killed with guns—enough to fill more than 168 classrooms of 20 (see Table 35).

  • Child and teen gun deaths hit a 19-year high in 2017 and have remained elevated since.

  • In 2019, nine children and teens were killed with guns each day in America—one every 2 hours and 36 minutes.

  • Guns killed more children and teens than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, HIV/AIDs, and opioids combined.

  • While mass shootings grabbed fleeting public and policymaker attention, routine gunfire took the lives of more children.

  • (Source: The State of America’s Children.)

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.

images-3And 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;

spotless, they follow the Lamb and sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord.  

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupma

contemplative writer

The Second Day of Christmas ~ St. Stephen’s Day ~ Heroic Love ~ How heroic is your love? (and the first day of Kwanzaa)

The Feast of St. Stephen ~ First Martyr, is on December 26th.

On December 26, — the  second day of Christmas –we usually celebrate  St. Stephan’s Feast, but he got bumped by the Feast of the Holy Family. Nevertheless, I think the lessons he teaches us are too  important to be passed by; so I am publishing it for you a couple of days late. Monday is the third day of Kwanzaa (African-American). May we earn 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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

The Birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – 2021

While all things were 

      in quiet silence,

And when night was

      in the midst of

   her swift course,

Your Almighty Word,

           O Lord,

Leaped down out

of your royal throne,

                            Alleluia! 

     ~ And the Word became flesh

and lived among us.  John 1:14

Dear Friends,

Our waiting is over.

Christmas is here!

This Christmas–as i often do–I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite Advent authors ~ Brennan Manning entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable.

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. 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.”

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. 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,.

And so, dear friend, it’s time.

Open your heart.

Take some quiet time over the weekend to prepare yourself and be ready to receive the Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and the joy and wonder.  As you see from Brennan Manning’s wonderful story, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one gift that Jesus wants to give you.

Try to 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.
Ask yourself what is the real meaning of life—your life.

For me the answer is to love as best I can, as meager as my life may be in the sunset years of my life.   But I suppose I have some wisdom and compassion to share arising from my own crosses over the years.  But it’s all gift; it’s all grace!

So, 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.

May you have a wonderful Christmas with your those you love.
And if your Christmas is lonely with no one really special with whom to share, know that you have someone here who understands and who reaches out to you across these pages. I will remember each of you and your intentions and your needs in my Christmas Masses.

Be sure to open yourself to the holiness—
the wholeness—the peace of this Christmas.
It is there beneath all the craziness and hype.
It is yours if you seek it and ask for it.

Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we feel like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my bishop
for good food to nourish our bodies
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.
We ask you this, Jesus, always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

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. Click here. You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 22 ~ The shaking reality of Advent

7def7709b25d0e240ecc532c2e5d6dca

Wednesday of Fourth Week of Advent

~ 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 is the beautiful hymn Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J. S. Bach. I suggest you take in the words into your soul as you see them on the screen as you listen to the this short but awesome music. Click here.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

Alfred Delp, S.J. The Shaking Reality of Advent / translated by the Plough Publishing Company

 

Advent Day 22 ~ Depressed or lonely at Christmastime? (and the winter solstice)

St. Augustine Beach Florida

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

Tuesday of the fourth week of Advent  

There sometimes can be a lot of depression swirling around at Christmastime especially at the end of these loooong years 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 during the holidays

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 Tuesday, December 22 at 10:59 am.

(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  Handel’s “His Yoke is Easy” Click here.

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

With love

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 20 ~ O Rising Dawn!

MONDAY OF THE FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT

“O Rising Dawn, splendor of eternal Light and Sun of Justice:

come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

                                                                                                                       ~ O AntiphonsIMG_0303

Here’s my prayer for today . . . .

O John, In your humility,

you knew there was One to come ~

that you were only to prepare the way for Him.  

      Help me ~ help us to prepare my heart ~ our hearts for Him this Christmas.

Help us to prepare a way for Him in our world today.

COME LORD JESUS!

Now before you go, here’s a terrific music video of Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone” from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, composed and sung Andrea Bocelli. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

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

With Love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

Advent Day 20 ~ O Rising Dawn!

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

“O Rising Dawn, splendor of eternal Light and Sun of Justice:

come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

                                                                                                                       ~ O Antiphons

Here’s my prayer for today . . . .

O John, in your humility, 

you knew there was One to come ~

that you were only to prepare the way for Him.  

      Help us to prepare our hearts for Him this Christmas.

Help us to prepare a way for Him in our world today.

COME LORD JESUS!

Now before you go, here’s a terrific music video of Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, everyone” from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, composed and sung by Andrea Bocelli. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

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

With Love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

Advent Day 18 – The Burning Bush of the World

st. augustine beach, florida

Advent Day 18 ~ Saturday of the third week of Advent

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.

During Hanukkah earlier this month we honored 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,

our neighborhoods

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?”

They are one of the most cherished collections of our ancient liturgical chants called the seven “O Antiphons” that are sung each of the seven nights before Christmas at Evening Prayer. They have beautiful chant melodies.  I am using some of them interspersed this week before Christmas, like the one above.

If you’re interested in learning more about them, here’s a website that has information and  recordings of the chant melodies of all seven. (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 don’t miss this slide show of  O come, O come Emmanuel 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.”

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 15 – What’s it all about?

IMG_1030
                                                  Downtown Fort Lauderdale

Wednesday of the third week of Advent 

Dear reader,

I’ve decided to take a deeper turn in this Advent blog.

As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up to two things in the last few days.

(1) a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature.

and (2) an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that is occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to God.

That, ongoing dual process ~  “a kind of coincidence of opposites,” dear friends, is what gives meaning and joy to my life.

The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.

To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our maneuvering / scheming / elbowing for status or power or success or prestige. Or any of the things American society tells us we’re supposed to have to make us happy.

The wise person realizes they won’t!

Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about . . .

He was a pretty successful preacher.  People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive.  People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.

But he didn’t let it go to his head.  He realized what his role was.  He was just the “advance man.”  And was content with that.

He knew who he was.  He didn’t let success go to his head.  He didn’t want to be the star.  Even though many thought he was “The Man.

The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:

       “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

My spiritual directors remind me to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.

“To seek through prayer and meditation knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out,”  as the Eleventh  Step of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it.

I was a young, cool, creative priest.  I was a rising star.  I thought I was pretty hot stuff.

A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”

But God had other plans.

Today, I’m just a little guy, content  with a tiny flock to care for and writing a little blog few know about.

Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.

And so today I pray inspired by the one who was content to live in the wilderness . . .

Jesus, You are the light of my life.

Without You I would be nowhere.  Nada. Nothing.

And that’s fine with me.

(And to tell ya the truth, I’m amazed at that! That’s quite a transformation for me!)

I want You to be in all my relationships,

in all of my writing,

in everything.

You help me to be humble, Lord.  You cast me down and raised me up again.

You chastise me; You heal me.

With St. Paul, You have helped me realize that in the midst of my brokenness,

it was ~ and is ~ You who make me strong.

Not in the ways of this world,  with ambition or striving for power or success or influence,

but in knowing You are right here:  You are enough for me, Lord.

Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good

as I allow You more and more to increase

and  allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.

To  be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.

So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life.

And yet, You have surprised me / delighted me / ravished me with Your love

       And you know what? 

There, I found You!

You raised me up!  You drew me to Yourself!

You bound up my wounds!  You clothed me with LOVE!

What a joy!

And now I’m eager to share Your Love.

To help others realize that You love each and everyone ~ no matter what.

But You want us to love You in return.

Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.

Let me never ever forget that.  No matter what.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!

In the coming days I will try to have you take a deeper look at  the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy /mucky / crazy  human race as it is appears in Luke’s story that God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us.  That story ~even if you just accept as a story ~ has much to teach us.  Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level.  We’ll do that in the next week.

Here is an inspiring YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece     Click here.  Be sure 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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 14 ~ Soar like an eagle!

The symbol for St. John is the eagle because he soars to the heights of mystical love

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Isaiah is so amazing.  He offers hope. He sees imminent possibilities for the human race.

At times, he also warns and sometimes chastises.

I’ve always loved this scripture that appear in the Advent Mass texts:

God gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

– Isaiah 40:30-31.  

So many of us become discouraged by life, especially after months and months of sheltering in place because of this pandemic. Many of us may lose our job or have been told that we no longer have the health benefits we once had for our family.

We grow older and have more aches and pains and worry more. Some of us are couch potatoes and don’t exercise enough and get more depressed.

In these latter days of Advent, think about the ways you can restore your vigor ~ or better ~ ask the Lord to renew your strength! He will!  As he has done for me again and again and again! I’ve been down many times; but he never ceases to raise me up again.

And you might note that the symbol for John the evangelist is the eagle, because he soars to the heights of mystical glory in his writings. 

The Advent season provides many texts to comfort us and offer us hope. God knows we need hope in our land today! and throughout the world.

I praise you, Lord, because you’ve restored my vigor in marvelous ways.  

You have renewed my strength again and again.  

Please allow our young people to soar as if on eagle’s wings, 

and our older folk to be borne up on the wings of Your love, Lord.  

Yes, as I grow older, I’m ready to renew my priestly service to You, Lord,

as long as you grant me the grace, the vigor and the strength.  

Whatever You will, Lord. Whatever you will – for all of us! Amen.

Now, before you go, here is one of our great Catholic liturgical songs ~ “On Eagles’ Wings” Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.  

Here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. It’s the lovely feast of St. John of the Cross. Click here.

(Below, I’ll provide you a link if you’d like to know some more about this lovely poet and co-founder of the reformed Carmelite Order alongside St. Teresa of Avila in the sixteenth century.)

 St.John of the Cross is known especially for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Avila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the  soul are considered the summit of all Spanish literature. Read more. 

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Advent Day 13 The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – God prefers the poor

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12 , 2021

Today, we honor our sister and brothers in Mexico as they celebrate the appearance of the Mother of Jesus  to a poor peasant native Mexican.

Today, may we unite ourselves in solidarity with all the peoples of North and South and Central America who rejoice in this feast day; indeed may we unite ourselves in solidarity with  all the world’s poor.


Here is the charming story:

An elderly Indian man named Chuauhtlatoczin (“Juan Diego” in Spanish) had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a squalid Indian village outside of Mexico City, 471 years ago. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build the church in Tepeyac. The Spanish bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition. He asked that he bring some sort of proof, if he wanted to be taken seriously. Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the bishop. When the Indian opened his poncho to present the roses to the bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho. That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.

Significantly, Mary appeared not as a white-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired European Madonna but as a dark-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired “Tonantzin,” the revered Indian Mother, and she spoke to Juan Diego not in cultured Castillian but in his own Nahuatal language. She spoke in the language of the powerless, disenfranchised, and despised Indians. She was then and is today, “La Morenita” – the Brown One. Her message to the bishop was that God’s church should be built out on the fringes of society, amidst the poor and the downtrodden. The vision challenged the powerful conquerors, the Spaniards of Mexico City, to change their way of thinking and acting. It challenged them to move out from their position of power and influence to the periphery; to leave their magnificent cathedral and build God’s house in Tepeyac – among the poor and the despised, away from the center of power and culture and education and the arts.

Guadalupe is a “vision” story and, like all such stories, tells us something about God and something about ourselves. More precisely, it tells us how God wants to be among us. St. Juan Diego’s vision of where God wants to be or whom we should listen to should come as no surprise to us. Throughout history, God has consistently chosen to be with poor people. In that respect, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s message to St. Juan Diego at Guadalupe is a restatement of Jesus’ mission: That God is in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, naked, sick, stranger, and suffering. The challenge for us is to heed the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the message of Christ’s Gospel, and reach out to those who belong to the margins of our society.
Source: The Manila Bulletin online.

God of power and mercy,

you blessed the Americas at Tepeyac

with the presence of the Virgin Mary at Guadalupe.

May her prayers help all men and women

to accept each other as brothers and sisters

Through your justice present in our hearts

may your peace reign in our world.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

. . . a prayer from today’s Mass

The Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec Pictograph

which was read and understood quickly by the Aztec Indians.        
1.    THE LADY STOOD IN FRONT OF THE SUN
She was greater than the dreaded Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.
2.    HER FOOT RESTED ON THE CRESCENT
MOON
She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl,
the feathered serpent moon-god.
3.   THE STARS STREWN ACROSS THE MANTLE
She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshiped. 
She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over her womb and the northern crown upon her head.
She appeared on December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!
4.   THE BLUE‑GREEN HUE OF HER MANTLE
She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.
5.   THE BLACK CROSS ON THE BROOCH AT HER NECK
Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son who died
on the cross for all mankind.
6.   THE BLACK BELT
She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.
7.   THE FOUR PETAL FLOWER OVER THE WOMB
She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special symbol of
life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.
8. HER HANDS ARE JOINED IN PRAYER
She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she
pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.
9. THE DESIGN ON HER ROSE COLORED GARMENT
She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map of
Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.

The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Science

1.   The image to this date, cannot be explained by science.

2.  The image shows no sign of deterioration after 450 years!
The tilma or cloak of Saint Juan Diego on which the image of Our Lady has
been imprinted, is a coarse fabric made from the threads of the maguey
cactus. This fiber disintegrates within 20-60 years!

3. There is no under sketch, no sizing and no protective over-varnish on the
image.

4.  Microscopic examination revealed that there were no brush strokes.

5.  The image seems to increase in size and change colors due to an unknown
property of the surface and substance of which it is made.

6.  According to Kodak of Mexico, the image is smooth and feels like a
modern day photograph.  (Produced 300 years before the invention of
photography.)

7. The image has consistently defied exact reproduction, whether by brush or
camera.

8.  Several images can be seen reflected in the eyes of the Virgin. It is
believed to be the images of Juan Diego, Bishop Juan de Zummaraga, Juan
Gonzales, the interpreter and others.

9.  The distortion and place of the images are identical to what is produced in
the normal eye which is impossible to obtain on a flat surface.

10. The stars on Our Lady’s Mantle coincide with the constellations in the sky on
December 12, 1531. All who have scientifically examined the image of Our
Lady over the centuries confess that its properties are absolutely unique
and so inexplicable in human terms that the image can only be supernatural!

IN SEARCH OF A SONG TO HELP CELEBRATE THE FEAST THE ONE I GOOGLED WAS “MANANITAS  GUADALUPE,” WHICH MEANS.”BREAK OF DAY”.  YOU’LL FIND THEM, STILL AT NIGHT, WATCHING AND WAITING. BE PATIENT. THE VIDEOGRAPHER WILL EVENTUALLY TAKE YOU INSIDE THE CHURCH TO WITNESS SOMETHING AMAZING TO US GRINGOS. ENJOY.

 BE SURE TO TURN UP YOUR SPEAKERS AND ENTER FULL SCREEN. CLICK HERE.

Here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

(Actually, the Feast this year was suppressed because it fell on a Sunday.)

 With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 12~ Rejoice! The Lord is near!

Third Sunday of Advent ~

Sunday December 12. 2021

In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy.    We’re more than half way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence.  So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.

This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled.  some of us are afraid ~ disillusioned ~ confused ~ depressed ~ lonely ~ weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, and so . . .

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4: 4-7)

In our Gospel today we hear again about John the Baptist.  The Jews were sure that God favored their nation; that God would judge other nations by one standard but the Jews by another. They felt they were safe from judgment simply because they were Jewish. John told them otherwise: that life, not their heritage was God’s standard of judgment, according to Scripture scholar William Barclay.

Barclay tells us that there are three outstanding things about John the Baptist’s message.

(1) He demanded that people should share with one another. It was a social gospel that declared that God would not be pleased if someone had too much while others had too little.

(2) He told people not to leave their jobs, but to work out their salvation by doing those jobs as they should be done. Let the tax collector be a good tax collector and a soldier be a good soldier.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.” (Lk 3:10-15)

In other words, when people came to the Baptist and asked, “What should we do?” he gave them the most reasonable, commonsense reply. He says, in effect, “ Live reality. God is asking you to be faithful to the ordinary circumstances of your life. He will make himself evident there.

And with that advice, “ the people were filled with expectation, asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” All because John made them attentive to their own hearts in a way that neglected nothing of their humanity. They can exult with their own heart because they can now trust that the desires of their heart are not illusions. They have no anxiety for the Lord is near as the next moment and whatever it brings.                         (Magnificat liturgical magazine, December, 2018, ed.)

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people. 

(3)  (Barclay) John was quite sure that he himself was only the forerunner. The King was still to come and with him would come judgment. The winnowing fan was a great flat wooden shovel; with it the grain was tossed into the air, the heavy grain would fall to the ground, but the chaff would be blown away. And just as the chaff was separated from the wheat so the King would separate the good and the bad.

Thus, John painted a picture of judgment and it could be faced with confidence by those who had looked after their neighbor’s needs and faithfully done their day’s work. (Barclay / Luke pp.44.2)

John was simply the sign-post, pointing the way toward Christ.  He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death and content to simply be the messenger.

My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . .  .

O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.

I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,  

my refusal to serve, the meager way I have served him.  

You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,

to wait for him to do new things.  

Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;

ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.  

     Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.  Amen.

And before you go, here is a 1970-ish John the Baptist and company from Godspell singing a spirited Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!  Click here. 

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Advent Day 11 ~ The Feast of St. Nicholas December 6th (the man and the legend)

Advent Day 7 ~ St. Nicholas’ Feast Day ~ December 6th. 2021

Here’s the true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, and was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in AD 325. He died on December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the old Julian Calendar).

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry.

This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer. Not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.

Nicholas’ tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas’ crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe’s great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as the “Saint in Bari.”

To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari’s great Basilica di San Nicola.

Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint’s horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

Despite various variations of these customs handed down over the centuries, Dutch settlers brought the legend of Saint Nicholas, known to them as Sinter Klaas, to America towards the end of the 18th century. As their tradition goes, Sinter Klaas rode a white horse and left gifts in wooden shoes. This story merged with the  character Father Christmas, who dates back at least as far as the 17th century. Sinter Klaas was eventually Americanized to “Santa Claus.”

The rituals and fantasy surrounding Santa Claus became fixed in the modern American imagination with the publication of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Moore in 1823. better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” the poem established Santa’s physical appearance (plump and jolly), his mode of transportation (a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer), and his method of toy delivery (down the chimney) for generations to come.

Now before you go, here’s a delightful Polish Christmas carol for you. Click here.

But a couple of corrections; this should have been posted earlier in the week. Secondly, yesterday’s feast was labeled incorrectly; it should have been Advent Day 10. I was confused with the date of the Feast which was December 8th.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Bob Traupman
Contemplative Writer
arise7@me.com
904.315.5268
Blog: http://www.bobtraupman.com

Wait for the Lord to lead,
then follow his way.
(Liturgy of the Hours.)

Advent Day 8 ~ Our Lady’s Song of Justice

THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Tuesday, December 8, 2021

This is a feast of Mary for us Catholics.  In today’s gospel, we read the story of Mary’s Yes to God, her consent to bring Jesus into our world.

I offer for your reflection the Song of Mary that Luke places upon her lips ~ the Magnificat, sung or recited everywhere in the church throughout the world each evening of the year.

And as you’ll see, it has a pretty radical message ~ if you allow yourself to think about it.

And Mary said:  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

    my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: 

the Almighty  has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast  down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered the promise of his mercy,

    the promise he made to our fathers [and mothers]

to Abraham [and Sarah and Hagar] and [their] children for ever.

+ + + +

The song speaks of lowliness ~ humility. Yet it recognizes what God does in our lives.

Look with favor on US too, Lord.

Please ~ We need Your favor ~Your grace.

May we see (and accept) that You do good things for us!

May we cry out every day:  Holy is Your name, my God!

Let Your mercy be on us and our world!

Show Your strength, Lord ~ the strength of Your justice!

Scatter the proud, the arrogant ones who control so much of our world.

Cast down the mighty!

Lift up the lowly!

Fill the hungry!

Send the rich empty away as the ones in Power often do to the poor, Lord.

Come to the help of Your people now, Lord ~ especially during this pandemic!

We, too, are All descendants of Abraham ~ Jew ~ Muslim ~Christian ~ non-believer.

We are all Your children, dear God,

To You be glory and honor and praise for ever.  Amen!

Dear Reader,

The Evangelist Luke places these words in the mouth of Mary at the very beginning of the story of Jesus.  It is the “Magnificat,” the Canticle of Mary, sung or recited by priests and nuns and monks and many more believing Christians all over the world every day of the year at Evensong.  So, it’s a pretty important text to reflect upon.

I would like you to notice how radical this message is: “Cast down the mighty.” “Raise up the lowly.”  “Send the rich away empty.”

Sounds like a pretty political message, doesn’t it?

People have been thrown into prison for saying things like that.

But these words are two thousand years old!

They’re an essential and enduring part of the Christmas story as told by Luke.

It’s a Song about Justice from the lips of Mary, the Mother of God as told by Luke. About Justice entering our world.

I have sung Mary’s Song every evening for 30 years with spontaneous melodies arising from the mood of my soul of the moment.

And in that, I try to live the song!

How do you respond, dear friend?

How do you respond? 

There are political messages buried in this song that are pretty obvious for us right now as our country struggles to find itself~ or at any age or in any country.  

Now to thrill you and inspire you, here’s the introduction to Bach’s Magnificat on YouTube.  If you scroll down the right side of the page, you will find other segments of the concert as well.  Or you can Google “Magnificat videos” and have an amazing choice, including Shubert and Mozart and John Michael Talbot Be sure to enter FULL SCREEN.  ENJOY!

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

A special note for you:   The image above is a copy of the famous Vladimir icon. It hangs upon the wall in my living room opposite my chair where I pray and write.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 9 ~ Where are you going? Do ya know?

Advent Day 9 ~ Monday, December 6, 2021

“Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”  Isaiah 40:3

This image was taken on I-95 between St. Augustine and Jacksonville one misty December Sunday morning about 2 AM.  I was living in St. Augustine at the time (2006).

On my way home from “Father Bob’s night out,” I was so taken by the magic of the vista before me I had to pull off and capture it on my Canon Power Shot.

For me, even the Interstate can be a place for reflection. . .

I was thinking of John the Baptist’s message that also appeared in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) gospel:

“Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.”

And this was what I wrote back then, inspired by that moment on the side of a highway at 2 AM on a magical, mystical Sunday morning.

Where are we going, Lord?

Every day we’re on a journey that will not be complete until we meet You.

In our daily commutes, stuck in traffic, are we making progress in our spiritual journey, Lord?

Are we making a straight highway in the spiritual wasteland I sometimes think America is today, Lord?

John’s message was one of repentance.

When he said, “make straight his paths,” he meant  to clear a way for the coming of God into our hearts and souls.

Are we getting rid of the roadblocks that stop us from making progress.  Our addictions.  Our resentments. Our selfishness?

If we don’t make an effort to do that, our Christmas will be hollow, empty, Lord.

In all of our pre-Christmas bustle and hustle are we preparing a straight path for you to come into our hearts, our homes, our workplace, our land, our world this Christmas?

What are we doing, Lord?  Really doing with our lives?

Where is our life’s journey taking us?

What is life really  all about?

I-95 at 2 AM can help us ponder that question.

I realized that was a special moment for me; a moment I seized.

Or rather seized me.

Carpe diem.

Thank you, Lord.

On Monday morning many commuters would return to  their frenzied  ~  furied  ~ hurried ~ harried ~unaware ~ unreflected lives  going to and fro and not knowing really where they’re going or what they were doing or why.

Time for You to change, dear friend?  Time for a change?

Now before you go,here’s another video from Godspell: Where are You Going? Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. (The First reading from Isaiah is a wonderful piece of prose; try reading it aloud.) Click here.

Yeah, I know it’s Tuesday; but yesterday was moving day for me. My condo in Ft. Lauderdale is sold and I wish the new owner prayerful best wishes and I’m making my way to Orlando to join my brother priests there.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 8 ~ The Second Sunday of Advent ~ The herald of the King

The Second Sunday of Advent ~ Sunday,

December 5, 2021

As we examine the gospel of Luke this year, we see that for this gospel writer, the emergence of John the Baptist was one of the hinges on which history turned. He dramatically dates it in three different ways.  Here’s the text . . .

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, 
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, 
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis, 
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, 
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, 
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”  (Lk. 3:1-6)

First of all, he begins by citing Roman, that is, Gentile—not Jewish history.   Tiberius was the successor of Augustus and therefore the second of the Roman emperors. Luke thus begins by setting the emergence of John against a world background, that of the Roman empire—this according to scripture scholar William Barclay.

The next three dates are connected to the political organization of Palestine, mentioning Pontius Pilate, Herod and his brother Philip.

And then turning to the religious situation, he dates John’s emergence in the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the actual high priest, Annas was still the most influential priestly figure in the land. (All these men, of course, were also to be actors on the stage of Jesus’ trial and execution a few years later.)

Barclay suggests a unique way of understanding the quotation from Isaiah 40:3-5:

“When a king proposed to tour a part of his dominions, he sent a courier before hi m to tell the people to prepare the roads. So John is regarded as the King’s courier or herald. But the preparation on which he insisted was a preparation of heart and of life. ‘The King is coming,’ he said. ‘Mend. Not your roads, but your lives.’”

In the Magnificat edition for this month, St. John Chrysostom notes that John received the Word of God “like a commandment.” God’s word impelled John to prepare the way for Christ that was a powerful, efficacious grace that filled his whole being since he was dedicated to this work from his womb.

That was his sole mission in his preaching, teaching and baptizing.  The grace of repentance similarly moves us to overcome hopelessness and fear-perhaps during the trying years the pandemic–in turning to the Lord for the Passion of the Lord is not forbidding but forgiving.

There’s also an interesting point about Luke’s quotation of Isaiah here that’s different from the other three gospels. He brings it to its logical conclusion: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke is the gospel for the Gentiles—the gospel for everyone; he excludes no one, like our Pope Francis.

The King shall come when morning dawns

And light triumphant breaks,

When beauty gilds the eastern hills

And life to joy awakes.

 

Not, as of old, a little child,

To bear, and fight, and die,

But crowned with glory like the sun

That lights the morning sky.

 

The King shall come when morning dawns

And light and beauty brings.

Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray:

Come quickly, King of kings. 

And, before you go, here’s a rendering of Handel’s And the glory of the Lord that contains the line quoted in Isaiah.   Click here, and be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer 

Acknowledgment:  William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                             Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975-2001

 

 

 

Advent Day 5 ~ How Firm is your foundation? Is it on sand or rock?

Today’s readings talk about how our God provides a firm foundation on which we can build.

The first read from Isaiah (28: 1-8)  . . . .

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just {. . .}

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.

And here’s Jesus in today’s gospel: (Matthew 7: 24-27)

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house. 
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand. 
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house. 
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

Advent is a time for us to check the foundation of our house ~ our spiritual house. If we find that our house has termites or is built on sand rather than a solid foundation, we may be in trouble.  So, is your spiritual house on a solid foundation?

God is solid rock. He’s the best investment we can make, much more solid than Prudential’s Rock of Gibraltar. 

Now here’s my prayer .  .  .

Dear God,

You have shown us from the very beginning that you are our Rock,

and there is no other.

You showed that to Noah and to Abraham and Isaac and to Moses and Aaron,

and then down to the prophets and kings of Israel.

The prophets foretold the coming of the precursor about whom we will learn next Sunday. 

We ask you once again to be Our Rock and our Salvation, this day and always. Amen.

And today Jesus himself warns us to get our house in order and to check our foundations for he himself is our Rock ~ the Rock of Ages as the old hymn says it. And here it is for your listening pleasure click here. 

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

Advent Day 4 ~ Our God becomes flesh

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

IToday, let’s reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation ~ the Christmas portion of our faith. (Again if you don’t accept this as an article of faith, then just consider it as a beautiful story; it still has power and it still can have tremendous meaning for you.)

St. John says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus saves us as man.  If you look at the word “Incarnation” you’ll recognize the word  “carnal” ~ meat, flesh.  Our God became flesh.

“He emptied himself of his equality with God and became as humans are” (Philippians 2). The Father sent his Son into our world to identify with us. To become one of us and with us.

God likes us ~ the human race! In Jesus, a marriage is made between God and the human race. 

But this article of our Christian faith often doesn’t dawn on folks. Many think he was just play-acting ~ pretending to be human.

I offer this passage  (excerpted) from St. Gregory Nazianzen, bishop and doctor of the church in the fourth century from the Advent Office of Readings:

He [Jesus] takes to himself all that is human, except sin; i.e. unfaithfulness).

He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit.

“Spirit gave divinity, flesh receives it.

He who makes me rich is made poor;

he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of divinity.

He who was full is made empty;

he is emptied for a brief space of glory, that I may share in his fullness.”

We need God to become one of us and with us.

To help us like and love ourselves.

To realize that Love and Beauty and all good things are our destiny.

To invite us to our future instead of destroying ourselves.

If only we believed.

If only we believed.

(Please take a moment to read over this a couple of times to get the full import of what St. Gregory is saying in his poetry.)

And if you’re new to this Advent blog,  or would like a refresher, I recommend reading Welcome to Advent.Click here.  Please read this! I just re-read myself and you know what? It even motivated me to do this Advent even better! So I encourage ya to read it; it’s been updated too.   (And once again, don’t forget to click on the < back arrow on the top left-hand corner of your browser so you can come right back to this page!)

Take time today to allow this story of God’s love affair with the human race to touch you, embrace you, heal your heart and transform your life as it has mine.   

The season of Advent is about preparing our hearts once again for a deeper experience of Christ at Christmas. Here’s a wonderful hymn that supports today’s theme: “Let all mortal men keep silence. Click here.

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 3 ~ Swords to plowshares ~ Guns to roses (And Hanukkah Day 3)

The price of peace paid by the Prince of Peac
The price of peace paid by the Prince of Peace

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Dear Friends,

There’s a powerful sentence in Isaiah that has been quoted by statesmen seeking disarmament throughout the Twentieth Century . . . .

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks

nor will they train for war anymore. — Isaiah 2:4.

All of my adult life my writing and my prayer has been against war —

Viet Nam / the Balkans / the Gulf  War / Iraq / and now this never-ending war in Afghanistan.  I, for one am thankful President Biden finally brought it to an end, even though it was distressful and chaotic.

Pope Paul VI, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly made an impassioned plea:

“No more war! Never again war!”

Pope John Paul II said the Iraq war was a defeat for humanity.

And Dwight David Eisenhower, the great general of Word War II and President of the U.S. said: “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.” 

Pope Francis in his New Year’s message at the beginning of this year wrote: 

Peace, a journey of hope in the face of obstacles and trial

Peace is a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. Our world is paradoxically marked by “a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.

Advent is a time to wish for peace ~ pray for peace ~ work for peace.

The Christmas story is about peace.  One of the titles of Jesus is “Prince of Peace” as you see in this image on this side altar in the Anglican National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

But we become cynical about peace.

Many of us have our private little wars that we engage in every day with a sibling or a friend or co-worker.

Let’s “Practice peacefulness”, as a friend put it to me once.  Let’s stop the gossiping, giving people a chance. Try  to be kinder to the folks you interact with today.

The legend of St. Christopher carrying a child across a stream on a stormy night invites us to greet every human person as if they were Christ himself.

Think thoughts of peace.  Be peace.  At least try it today, the third day of Advent.

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,

a voice that speaks of peace,

peace for his people and his friends.

and those who turn to him in their hearts.

Mercy and faithfulness have met;

Justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth

and justice look down from heaven.

The Lord will make us prosper

and the earth shall yield its fruit.

Justice shall march before him

and peace shall follow his steps.

Psalm 85

And if you’re new to this Advent blog, or want to refresh your understanding of the season, I recommend reading >> Welcome to Advent to get a sense of why we spend four weeks preparing for our Christmas celebration and how it can help us deepen our spirituality. It can work whether you are a Catholic or just interested in your spirituality.  (In order to return to this page, you’ll need to use the back arrow <  on the top left-hand corner of your browser.)

Before you go here’s a great music video from people gathered from around the world ~ “Let there be peace on earth”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. 

And here are today’s Mass readings; it’s the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. (Wish everybody you know whose name is Andrew a “happy name day!”   Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Advent Day 2 ~ The lesson of the shadows (Hanukkah Day 2)

                       image bob traupman 2007 / St. Augustine Beach, Florida

MONDAY OF THE FIRST 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.

Editors 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.

If we deny they are there, we’re in trouble.

If we embrace our Shadow, make friends with it, we become whole. 

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

But since our Jewish sisters and brothers are already beginning their eight-day holiday celebration of Hanukkah, if you don’t know about the origins of that feast in Maccabees or the customs around it for their children you might want to take a peak at one of the following videos  . . .

The Miracle of Chanukah click here.

Hanukkah, Traditions Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

                                         

WATCH OUT! Be care-ful! Stand erect!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT ~ November 28, 2021

Jesus said to his disciples:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads                                                                                                        because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

     (Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36)

It’s kinda funny. We begin our liturgical year by thinking about The End ~the end of history. Our Gospel today isn’t very comforting; in fact it’s pretty scary ~he’s putting all that stuff before you!

Our Scripture scholar friend William Barclay, whom I’ve referenced from time to time, points out that there are two main points for us to take away from today’s lesson:

First, this Gospel’s talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The Stoics regarded history as circular. They held that every 3,000 years or so the world was consumed by a great conflagration , then it started all over again. That meant that history was going nowhere.

There are a lot of folks out there who want to tell us when that’s gonna happen. And even where to show up. You’ve seen the billboards and the TV preachers stomping out their predictions. But . . .

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mk 3:32).  Not even Jesus. Think about that. Jesus himself doesn’t know when it’s going to happen–only the Father.

So, when it will be and what it will be like are not ours to know. The major lesson of this first Sunday of Advent is that history is going somewhere. History has a goal and that goal is Jesus Christ who will be the Lord of all.

Second, today’s Gospel stresses the need to be on the watch. But we are not only to be vigilant for our bodily safety but, as Barclay points out, we must live our lives in ‘a permanent state of expectation’.

I’d like to note here that today’s Gospel passage is the last one in Luke before the account of the Passion of the Lord (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36).

THE LITURGICAL YEAR has three cycles. This year we’re in Cycle C and we’ll be proclaiming and listening to the Gospel of Luke all year. (We just finished listening to the Gospel of Mark in Cycle B.)

Here are some notes about the Gospel of Luke from William Barclay that I found rewarding for my own use.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE has been called the loveliest book in the world. It would not be far wrong to say that the third gospel was the best life of Christ ever written.

Luke was a Gentile—the only New Testament writer who was not a Jew. He was a doctor by profession and that fact may have given him the “wide sympathy he possessed.”

As a trusted companion of St. Paul he must have known all the great figures of the early Church and you can be sure that he had them tell their stories to him. For two years he was Paul’s companion in imprisonment in Caesarea where he had a great opportunity for study and research.

The book was written to a man called Theophilus. He is called most excellent Theophilus.—the normal title for a high official in the Roman government. Luke wrote it to tell an earnest inquirer about Jesus.

A Gospel for the Gentiles

Theophilus was a Gentile as was Luke himself. Unlike Matthew, he is not interested in the life of Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. He seldom quotes the Old Testament at all. He never uses the term Rabbi of Jesus but always a Greek word meaning Master.

Because of this, Barclay suggests, Luke is the easiest of all the gospels to read. He was writing, not for Jews, but for people very much like ourselves. (pp.1-2)

The Gospel of Prayer

At all the great moments of his life, Luke shows Jesus at prayer. He prayed at his baptism (3:21); before he chose the Twelve (6:12); before his first prediction of his death (9:18); at the transfiguration (9:28); and upon the Cross (23:46). Only Luke tells us that Jesus prayed for Peter in his hour of testing (22:32). Only he tells us the prayer parables of the friend at midnight (11: 5-13) and the unjust judge (18:1-6).

To Luke, again according Barclay, “the unclosed door of prayer was one of the most precious in all the world. (p.4)

The Gospel of Women

In Palestine the place of women was low. In the Jewish morning prayer, a man thanks God that he was not made “a Gentile, a slave or a woman.”

But Luke elevates the place of women in his narrative. The story of Jesus’ birth is told from Mary’s point of view. In Luke, we read of Elizabeth, of Anna, of the widow of Nain, of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. It is Luke who splashes lavish strokes upon his portrait canvases of Martha and Mary and Mary Magdalene. (pp. 4-5)

The Gospel of Praise

In Luke the phrase praising God occurs more often than all the New Testament put together. This praise reaches it peak in the three great hymns that the Church has sung throughout all her generations—the Magnificat (146:55), the Benedictus (1:68-79) and the Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32.)

Again friend Barclay waxes eloquently, “there’s a radiance in Luke’s gospel which is a lovely thing, as if a sheen of heaven had touched the things of earth. (p.5.)

The Universal Gospel

All the barriers are down: For Luke, Jesus Christ is for all people without distinction.

(This is the same message, by the way, as our present Pope who repeats over and over again.) 

(1) The kingdom of heaven is not shut for Samaritans. Luke alone tells the story of the Good Samaritan (10:30-7). The one grateful leper is a Samaritan. (17:11-19) John can record that the Jews have not dealings with Samaritans but Luke refuses to shut the door on anyone. (p.5)

(How does that play against the background on the American agenda today?)

(2) Luke shows Jesus speaking of approval of Gentiles whom orthodox Jews would consider unclean. He shows Jesus citing the widow of Zarepeth and Naaman the Syrian as shining examples (4:25:-7). The Roman centurion is praised for the greatness of his faith (7:9) And these great words of Jesus:

People will come from east and west, north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. (13:29).   (p.6)

(3) Luke demonstrates a great interest in the poor. He alone tells the story of the rich man and the poor man (16:19-31). In Matthew (5:3), the saying of Jesus is “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” But Luke simply states, “Blessed are you who are poor” (6:20).

Barclay here: “Luke’s gospel has been called ‘the gospel of the underdog’. His heart runs out to everyone for whom life is an unequal struggle.

Perhaps Senators Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would care to read our friend St. Luke and I’m certain President Joe Biden has.

(4) Most of all, Luke shows Jesus as a friend of outcasts and sinners. He alone tells of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfumed oil and bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair in the house of Simon the Pharisee. (7:36-50); of Zachaeus, the despised tax collector (19:1-10); and he alone has the immortal story of the prodigal son and the loving father (15: 11-32).

All four gospel writers quote from Isaiah 40 when they give the message of John the Baptist, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’; but only Luke continues the quotation to its triumphant conclusion . . . .

‘And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Isaiah 40 3-5) (Luke 3:4,6).

Luke of all the gospel writers sees no limits to the love of God.

As I’ve prepared this commentary, I look forward to studying and praying over the texts of Luke, and proclaiming his Gospel as the Lord allows me during the coming year, in a way that I’ve never done before. Will you join me? 

Before you go,here is a section of Handel’s Messiah that fits this theme, “And who will abide the day of His coming?” Click here.

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Acknowledgment:   William Barclay/ The New Daily Study Bible /The Gospel of Luke / Westminster / John Knox Press/ Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Giving Thanks in trying times ~ How will you give thanks this year?

New blog post for Thanksgiving Day 2021

Will we take time out on Thanksgiving Day to make it truly a day of Thanksgiving this year? What do you have to be thankful for?

Let’s start with this: President James Madison in 1815 was the one who created the tradition of setting aside a day for the people of the United States to Give Thanks to the Creator for the goodness of our land. It would be good for us to reflect on what the original intent this day was to be as, with so many things in our country we have forgotten who and what we are.

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.

No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. [ . . . ] And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.

It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.

Given at the city of Washington on the 4th day of March, A. D. 1815, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-ninth.

JAMES MADISON.

Two items come to mind as I approach this Thanksgiving Day. First, how did we get so far from a President encouraging us to go to our churches to pray on Thanksgiving Day to our secular society declaring it anathema for any kind of mention of God in public speech at all.

Then there’s this: How many families turn off the football games for a moment and actually pause at the Thanksgiving table to have family members reflect on what they’re thankful for and to offer thanks for them?

How ‘bout your family? What are your traditions around the Thanksgiving table? Do you pray? (If you don’t have a ritual of sorts, perhaps you can start one. Take a few minutes and ask folks to write one thing they’re thankful for; then mix them up and have others share them instead of rushing into eating. (At the bottom of this post I’ve added an article by a guest columnist in last Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles.”)

How many of us are really thoughtful about what we have to be thankful for this year as we approach the day. Especially about where our country is this year. We’ve all been through two years of suffering and worry and–near hell actually–dealing with this Pandemic for the past two years. Some of us have been very sick. Some of us have watched loved one die of Covid. Yet still others have been in denial and and have refused to take the vaccine and have protested others taking it.

As I look over the past year, I see so much suffering there is in our country and throughout the world. I have a sensitive heart, I’m thinking of all those folks particularly.

We’ve been through major hurricanes, as well as, winter storms, and devastating wild fires in the California. And on top of that, we’re dealing with climate deniers who are making it more difficult for those particularly for us to do what must be done to prepare for the future. As Pope Francis has pointed out, it’s the poor who are hurt the most by Climate Change. And we’ve seen that dramatically in the sufferings of the poor in these natural disasters.

And my heart aches for so many migrants and refugees throughout the world—some of whom are stateless. Then there’s the senseless and insane issue of gun violence.

Are we at prayer as we approach Thanksgiving Day?

Are we truly thankful for what we have in this country?

+ Freedom of Speech. Some don’t want others to have that these days.

+ Freedom of the Press. + Freedom of Assembly. For the right to protest / the right to organize / the right for unions to meet.

+ The possibility of work. But not all have it or enough of it or at a living wage.

+ The possibility of a decent education. But again, not all are able to afford it.

+ The possibility of decent health care. Again, who can get it and who cannot?

Is America the bright beacon of a hill it once was? Do other countries look up to us as they once did? As I think about these questions a day before Thanksgiving 2021.  Do I feel as proud to be an American as I used to be? I want to be, but it’s hard. I know I have to do my part as a citizen and I try; I participated in helping in the last election.

I feel rather embarrassed for us at times.

These days seem to me more like ancient Israel when they had lost their way and were unfaithful to God.

And yet—and yet, all through my own life’s struggles, I’ve learned to continue to pick myself up and sing: “I’ll go on and praise Him; I’ll go on . . . “

And so, dear friends, so will we! If. . . If we thank God for the gifts He gives us day in and day out, day in and day out. And Praise Him—No. . . Matter. . .  What!

Dear God,

We are living in difficult times.

We do not know what lies ahead of us.

Some of us look forward with confidence;

others are fraught with fear.

But let us remember that if we look to you, O God,

You will be our Strength and even our Joy.

Please be with us in our land today

and bless us.

Bless our President and elected officials

that they would serve all of the people of this land. 

And so, we give you thanks this day for all of the blessings

You have showered upon our country and each of us.

Please bless us most of all with peace among nations

and peace here at home.b To You be all Glory and Honor and Thanksgiving. Amen!  

And now, before you go, here’s the great hymn “Now thank we all our God,” Click here. It’ll give you goosebumps.  Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And please pray along with the lyrics as you listen! 

And here’s the link to the New York Times article, “Five ways to exercise your thankfulness muscles.” Click here.”


The Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael ~ Have you been touched by an angel?

 The Feast of the Archangel

Michael, Gabriel and  Raphael

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Nearly everyone is fascinated by angels, whether they are into religion or not. You may recall the popular TV series Touched by an Angel, starring Della Reese, Roma Downey, Toby Keith that ran from 1994- 2003.

Angels have a big role in the Bible and in our history. They are a part of our dogmatic Catholic tradition. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith.”

The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition. For Jews, it is impossible to not believe in the literal beings known as the angels. The Old Testament makes numerous references to them. For them it’s an article of faith that cannot be ignored if you want to be a sincere and devout Jew. Witness the angel that led Israel’s camp and protected them from Pharaoh.

The same is especially true of Christians. In addition to what is given to us in the Old Testament, almost every book of the New Testament shows us that the angels are a real and active force in our lives. And since in the life of Jesus as man and his eternal existence as God consists of numerous encounters with the angels, you cannot believe in Jesus as Christ without encountering angels.

So what are angels?

St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”.

IAs purely spiritual creatures, angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. (330)

  The Catechism of the Catholic Church in Paragraphs 329-330:

Christian doctrine thus teaches that the angels are spiritual beings who were created by God to serve him. Some say they can appear in human form and interact with us, but those bodies are only temporary illusions and pass away when their interaction with certain humans ends. As purely spiritual beings, angels thus do not have DNA and those bodies may feel tangible but are not part of the angelic nature and thus vanish after the encounter because they have no use for physical bodies as we do.

What is the purpose of the angels?

The purpose of all of the angels is to serve, and praise God, worship, and pray to God. In the process of serving God, they also protect us, pray for us, inspire us, encourage us, and guide us during our journey on Earth. Some early Christian traditions indicate that even after our death, the angels continue to guide us in our journey to our final place, whether it is to Heaven or to Hell. It is speculative that those who have to go through the final state of purification on the way to Heaven known as Purgatory might also have their guardian angels (Psalm 91:9-12; Matthew 18:1-4,10) with them during their time of purification of sin.

And yes, everyone has a guardian angel.

Our Guardian Angels love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. Sometimes though we reject God’s protection, and by consequence their protection too, we have to deal with the consequences of our sins when we do not repent. (From Paragraph 336 of the  Church’s Catechism .)

Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

   Cf. Catholic 365.com for the above information.

St. Gregory the Great notes that angels do not have names unless and until they are given a mission from God to announce a message. There are untold millions of angels in heaven, all created as pure spirits, in continual praise and adoration of our God.  Scripture also makes clear that at great events of salvation history, God sends an “archangel” to proclaim a message.

The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are three of the seven archangels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.

Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.

Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass. (I’ll include that prayer at the bottom of this blog, though it was suppressed with the Vatican II changes in the liturgy.)

Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to guard or rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call us away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment.

Gabriel is, he who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)

Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two appearances in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at Incarnation of the Word when he announces to Mary that she will be the Mother of the Most High . He again appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided them on their way to Egypt to flee from Herod’s clutches.

Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15)

Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit.  Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.

Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.

And let’s not forget our unnamed guardian angels. I’ve dubbed my own guardian angel Claretia— after the famous guardian angel Clarence—in the old movie with Jimmy Stewart it’s a Wonderful Life. All I know is she’s gotten me out of a helluva a lot of scrapes—near car accidents and falls and all. That’s what guardian angels do for us, ya know. They just watch over us Their Feast Day for our guardian angels is October 2nd. Do you remember the prayer your mother taught you? (I don’t know whether young parents still teach their children this little prayer or not.) But you can teach it to them now.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,

to whom God’s love commits me here;

ever this day be at my side; to light, to guard, to rule, to guide. Amen

 And here’s Psalm 91 that speaks of the protection of the angels . . . .

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

I have always recommended this psalm to people who were experiencing any kind of trauma, no matter what the kind, for them to pray often. It reflects what soldiers on the battlefield have often known: bullets whizzing by them and not harming them. Their angel protecting them!

And here’s this psalm set to music. Click here.

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

And here’s the old prayer to St. Michael.

Saint Michael Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

The Triumph of the Cross of Jesus ~ and our crosses too!

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross ~ September 14, 2021

 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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Labor Day 2021 ~ Remembering the gift of work

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”.[667] 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”,[663] 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.

 Our society preaches to us that our worth comes from success,

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.

IMG_0943

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.”

(Matthew 11:28)

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.

AMEN!

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!

With Love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven ~ The Exaltation of Womanhood

077870d73d5bf23cd918b4351e29fe70

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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative writer

The Courage of the Signers ~ where is our courage?

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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.                                                                          Ma
y all our actions show Your wisdom and love.                  

For we declare that we are:                                                                                                                                               “ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, WITH FREEDOM AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”
Amen.

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

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

With love,

Bob Traupman,

contemplative writer

Freedom isn’t Free! Don’t take them for Granted! We could lose them!

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,[6] 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[edit]

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.[7]

Confirmation of two other verses[edit]

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.[8]

Woodyguthrie.org has a variant:[9]

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:[9]

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

THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS ~ Friday, June 11, 2021

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.

* * * * * *

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of Corpus Christi ~ Bread-broken and Blood-poured out for you and me!

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

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Dear Friends,

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

into common-union.

Let me become Your Body-broken

and Your Blood-poured-out

into a world that needs You

now more than ever.

To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise

this day and forever!

So be it!  Amen!

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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Feast of the Holy Trinity ~ Caught up in the Circle of God’s Love ~ On the edge of mystery!

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.

I hope you enjoy it, even if you’ve heard me tell it before.

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 loggerhead_emily_mannionheads 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 loggerhead-turtle-4331tank 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!

IMG_0533

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Pentecost Sunday ~ Let God’s Spirit empower you and give you many gifts!

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.
Amen. Alleluia.

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman,

Contemplative Writer

The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord ~ You are my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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.

 

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ No Greater Love

The Sixth Sunday of Easter ~ May 9th, 2021

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 . . . .

Dear Jesus,

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ Life-Surge ~ Stay connected

The Fifth Sunday of Easter ~ May 2, 2021

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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 2 Revised Edition  / Westminster Press Philadelphia 1975 p. 173.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter ~ Being known and loved anyway

The Fourth Sunday of Easter  Good Shepherd Sunday

April 25, 2021

Dear Friends,

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 . . . .

Jesus,

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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Third Sunday of Easter ~ Why are you troubled? You will be my witnesses!

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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 ~ Peace be with You!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord ~ Christ is Risen! Go tell it!

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!

Go quickly!!

Tell it!

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?

Go quickly! 

Tell it!

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003

 

 

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

f9f8b95bef4f2b21ed3fda407d6174f2

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!

Amen!

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

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

With love, 

Bob Traupman

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

 

  1. 217-221.

 

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

 

The Sorrowful mothers of the world

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

HOLY WEEK 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mother can never be prepared to lose her son.

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

Chris who loved two children within her belly.

Dearest Lady, I think of  mothers I have known

who’ve watched their children die.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dearest Lady,

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

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

Receive today

all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

Monday of Holy Week ~ Love’s extravagance

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK ~ March 29, 2021

“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.

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.

Lord Jesus,

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

~ not thinking about what comes next.  

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

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

putting all other concerns aside.  

For that moment is where life happens;

we may not get another!

And now before you go, here’s the song “Said Judas to Mary. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings:  Click here

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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

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

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Jesus ~ He emptied himself becoming utterly poor for us!

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

March 28, 2021

Dear Friends,

All is ready now for the final days of our Lenten journey with Jesus.   The drama of the Paschal Mystery will  be re-enacted  once again in  parishes throughout the world ~ 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:
“Hosanna!
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.

lambtop

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

 the Spirit.  

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

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

IMG_2148

Take up your cross and follow me!

The Fifth Sunday of Lent 2021

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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

Heavenly Father,

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

 

 

 

Pope Francis as Father reveals St. Joseph as Father so our Fathers can be Fathers!

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.

Franciscus

.

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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer