The First Sunday of Lent ~The Fidelity of Jesus
(All the Scripture texts for this Mass can be found at the link that follows. After you’ve looked at this site, to get back to this page, at the top Left corner of your computer screen look for the tiny arrow ( <) pointing left. Click on it. Here’s the link for the Mass readings: (Click here.)
This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.
This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.
This is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.
This is a story of confrontation and testing.
Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.
There, he would shape his mission. He was searching for the answer of the question: What kind of spiritual leader would he be?
There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.
First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him. Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread.
Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up. He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders. Things would be easier that way. People would easily follow a clever magician. But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.
The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.
Jesus realized his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all. Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.
A third harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world. You can be king of this world.
And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form. They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.
As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal. In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment. And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.
In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine. Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him. We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.
In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?
The answer was: to surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful. God could have intervened on behalf of his own son. But that was out of the question. The world could not accept God as a gentle Father. They found his message of love much too demanding. And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end. He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father , not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.
Jesus had to suffer and die because, tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard and preached.
The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.
This is a powerful lesson for those among us who would coerce others into being good.
The false voices which Jesus tamed and quieted–the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.
The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear. And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the Jesus I know and love.
And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father. Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.
And now, before you go, here’s a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Click here. Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
We’ve been talking about St. Paul’s Ode to Love (1 Corinthians 13) ~ the awesome love that transforms.
But many of us don’t know how to love in a way that transforms because we’re more interested in getting love than giving it.
So, let’s think about that for a moment.
Many young folks in our society have not experienced the love that transforms, even from their own parents or their spouses. Very often, their relationships center on their own needs, even when they’re “giving” to their significant other.
But in order to love in a transforming way, we have to loved in a way that frees us.
So I ask you ~
Who are the people in your life who were able to recognize the YOU inside you?
Who-knew-who-you-were behind the mask you present to the world each day?
Who are the people who recognized-your-gifts and called-them-forth-from-the-deep-within-you?
Who-drew-forth-the-goodness-they-saw-in-you when what you were presenting to the world you thought wasn’t very good at all?
That’s love that transforms! That heals. That gets us going again. That moves us down the road a bit.
At this moment I want to name one such man who has had an enormous influence on my life. He is Father Eugene Walsh. We used to call him Gino. He was the rector of my seminary the year I was preparing for ordination. He was a Father-figure for me and a mentor; I learned most of what I know about the sacred liturgy from him.
I had the good fortunate to get on his short list to have him as my spiritual director. He had a way of listening deeply below the level of my words.
I remember one night in his study. We were sitting across from each other in two easy chairs. I was always intrigued that the wall behind him was bright orange with a large abstract painting on it. I was struggling that night about whether I would procede toward ordination.
Of a sudden, he sprung from his chair, hugged me and whispered in my ear my name ~ Bob ~ and I heard it resonate for the longest time. His voice found me ~ some place deep within and called me forth.
I can still hear him calling me ~ right now. At that moment, his deep, resonating love ~ transformed me. Affirmed me, confirmed me. (I’ll start writing very soon about my priesthood and my bipolar journey and I will tell the story of this wonderful man and the many others who influenced and shaped my life over the years; there are many; and I am grateful to each and every one.)
More than any other person, there there is Jesus; I have tried to be like him. He was so human. He taught me how to be a human being, above all. A simple, decent, human being. And to be human, most of all, is to be capable of loving and receiving love. The same was true of Father Walsh.
And that’s what I’ve always taught: Sin is the refusal Of love, the refusal To love, as well as the refusal to grow and the refusal to give thanks.
So ask yourself: Who are the people who really knew who you were on the inside, accepted you as you are–the good and the bad–and called you forth to be the best person you could be?
Why don’t you reflect on this through the day — while you’re driving, sitting on the john or doing the dishes. Give thanks for them. And maybe give them a call. Not an email; a phone call.
And finally, I want to honor the two-love birds in the picture above. They are John and Betsy Walders of Sebastian, Florida. They will be married sixty four years next week (February 19, 2013) and are as much in love as the day they met as teens. (Take note that there both still wearing denim.) In their eighties they went on a serendipitying around the country, quite oblivious to the fact that they weren’t teenagers anymore! The joy and memory of all those years sustains Betsy as she witnesses her beloved withdraw into Alzheimers.
Asked if they ever considered a divorce, she thought a moment and said, “Divorce, no, murder, yes!”
I love them dearly and miss visiting, but Betsy and I talk and have many a laugh on the phone every couple of weeks.
Dear Friends, see if you can make this prayer your own ~
Good and gracious God,
You are the One most of all who has loved me into wholeness,
who is calling me forth to be the best person I can be,
calling me not so much to want to be loved as to love.
I thank you for sending people into my life who, even for a brief moment,
have touched me deep within and helped to transform me into a more deeply loving person.
Help me always to be a person who is capable of transforming love.
And now, before you go, here’s Joan Baez’ Forever Young Click here. Turn up your speakers. Be sure to enter full screen and have a great Valentine’s Day!
Ash Wednesday is upon us once again. Easter is early this year ~ March 31st.
So, you may ask ~ what’s this Ashes thing”
We Catholics like symbols. (So does Harry Potter.)
What are ashes about?
What can they tell us about life? And death? And reality?
When the priest smears ashes on the penitent’s forehead he says one of two poignant phrases:
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST AND UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN,
or REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.
So, it’s a sign of humility, a sign that we are part of the earth, that we are dust.
Are we to reflect and ask ~ Are we just dust?
Have made an ash-heap of our life
Are we sitting in an ash-heap?
Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?
If so, do we despair?
Or can we dream of re-building?
Whether or not, the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it is important to humble ourselves before our God.
They could very well be true at any moment of our life. There but for the grace of God go I.
I was searching for a song about ashes and I found one by the Rock group Rev Theory in their song The Fire.
Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics; they seem to know this:
Tell me that I’m hopeless
Tell me I’m a lost and wayward son
Tell me that I’m callous
Tell me that our life is too forgone
So take a breath and brace yourself
Tell me I’m a lost soul
Tell me I’ve one foot in the grave
Tell me that I’m shallow
Tell me it’s enough to keep you awake
So take a breath and brace yourself
Coz tonight this could be the last chance before we die
Can we rise again from the ashes?
In this final moment
Is the fire still alive?
Notice these guys are dealing with the same issues here.
Of being lost; of needing a change. And, amazingly, they use the metaphor of ashes and ask if the fire is still alive.
What is the fire for them? Love? Creativity? The Holy Spirit perhaps?
But for us, Lent is a season of hope that ends in new life, in risen life.
It’s a time to TURN AROUND ~ to make a U-turn ~ when we realize our life has gone in the wrong direction.
That’s what the word conversion means. To simply do a U-turn.
Turn around and head in a different direction.
Get going again.
CHANGE, so you don’t keep on doing the same old thing and expecting different results.
Or of just renewing and deepening our commitments. Or just deepen our fervor.
I have a little bone to pick with Catholics who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes on their forehead without the slightest intention of doing what they symbolize: CHANGE.
Don’t just give up something for Lent. Get at the root of your life where you need to look at the real stuff.
I invite you to go deeper into the practice of your religion.
Make the sign Mean Something!
Let it transform you from inside out.
The question is: Do we ~ you and I ~ have the COURAGE TO CHANGE?
So, let’s do Lent well — together.
During Lent, be ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Find out who this Jesus is ~ for you.
And what wisdom he has to offer us that will help us to change.
It seems Rev Theory are on their way to it already.
Whether you are Catholic or not, perhaps you will find some wisdom,
some meaning for your life in these pages. Join us as we walk the journey together
as Jesus did — through suffering to death to new and risen life these six weeks of Lent 2013.
God of pardon and of love,
Mercy past all measure,
You alone can grant us peace,
You, our holy treasure.
Now here’s Rev Theory’s ~ The Fire Click Here. Be sure to enter full screen but if you’re not used to rock music DON”T turn up your speakers.
Friday ~ The Jesus I know and Love
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Well, this week the Big Easy and Rio have one thing in common — one huge party. And what is so interesting its very Catholic. It’s a time to let your hair down before the strike of midnight Ash Wednesday when we when Catholics used to abstain from meat during the six week lenten season.
The root of the word “CARnival is the same as the word “inCARnation”~ a word that means the enfleshment of the Son of God.
Now here’s a bit of carnival or Mardi Gras history for you.
A carnival is a celebration combining parades, pageantry, folk drama, and feasting, usually held in Catholic countries during the weeks before Lent. The term Carnival probably comes from the Latin word “carnelevarium”, meaning “to remove meat.” Typically the Carnival season begins early in the new year, often on Epiphany, January 6, and ends in February on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French).
Probably originating in pagan spring fertility rites, the first recorded carnival was the Egyptian feast of Osiris, an event marking the receding of the Nile’s flood water. Carnivals reached a peak of riotous dissipation with the Roman BACCHANALIA and Saturnalia.
In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church tried to suppress all pagan ideas, it failed when it came to this celebration. The Church incorporated the rite into its own calendar as a period of thanksgiving. Popes sometimes served as patrons.
The nations of Europe, especially France, Spain, and Portugal, gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks, and dancing in the streets. All three colonizing powers carried the tradition with them to the New World, but in Brazil it landed with a difference. Not only did the Portuguese have a taste for abandoned merriment, (they brought the “entrudo”, a prank where merry-makers throw water, flour, face powder, and many other things at each other’s faces), but the Negro slaves also took to the celebration. They would smear their faces with flour, borrow an old wig or frayed shirt of the master, and give themselves over to mad revelry for the three days. Many masters even let their slaves roam freely during the celebration. Since the slaves were grateful for the chance to enjoy themselves, they rarely used the occasion as a chance to run away.
Pre-Christian, medieval, and modern carnivals share important thematic features. They celebrate the death of winter and the rebirth of nature, ultimately recommitting the individual to the spiritual and social codes of the culture. Ancient fertility rites, with their sacrifices to the gods, exemplify this commitment, as do the Christian Shrovetide plays. On the other hand, carnivals allow parody of, and offer temporary release from, social and religious constraints. For example, slaves were the equals of their masters during the Roman Saturnalia; the medieval feast of fools included a blasphemous mass; and during carnival masquerades sexual and social taboos are sometimes temporarily suspended.
Tomorrow: Why Ashes on Ash Wednesday?
May I suggest that by Wednesday morning to try be ready to enter into a deeper journey into your inner depths to discover our Lord and at the same time your deepest Self. Be ready to experience new life, new growth for your self — and for our country.
Today we let our hair down a bit and when the the fun is over,
may we be ready to enter the desert on Wednesday with you
and discover how desert experiences can cleanse and purify us and make us whole.
Let us enter the desert willingly and learn its lessons well.
We ask you, Lord, to lead the way.
But, before you go, here’s a musical slide show of what a Carnival parade is like down in Rio. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen. (Ladies: Let your husbands have some fun – um ~ it’s not exactly rated R.)
Bob Traupman contemplative writer
Today, I want to honor women around the world who have been treated wrongfully. On this St. Valentine’s Day, there’s a world-wide call to join in a Dance to call attention to the violence against women. The movement is “One Billion Rising.”
The abuse of women came to my attention this past year. First, in the Vatican’s insistence on investigating the inner lives of our beloved, hard-working American sisters. They have literally built the Church in this country. And secondly, Congressman Tod Akin who spoke of “legitimate rape.” I was outraged. But most of all saddened that such stupidity infects the halls of Congress. He said that a woman’s body could shut down and somehow make pregnancy impossible.
Here I quote Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. from her column From Where I Stand in the National Catholic Reporter who alerted me to the upcoming celebration in support of women.
“We know now that half the population of the planet — women — are routinely sneered at, demeaned, beaten, sexually abused, bought, sold, trafficked for sex, underpaid or enslaved. We know, too, that this is not simply a byproduct of poverty that we’re talking about; this is simply what it means to be a woman. Still. Yet. Even in so-called developed countries of the world.
We know that the airwaves are a cloud of dirty stories about women raped and thrown out of buses; used as weapons of war; sexually mutilated. So many stories, in fact, so many numbers of women, so many hundreds of thousands of them that the shoulders sag and the soul begins to shrivel under the weight of it all.
And worst of all, we know, too, that all the while the men of the world go on talking about “rationality” and “equality” and “justice.” And the churches talk about “the will of God” and say little or nothing from any public pulpits about what all of this has to do with crimes against women or the moral obligations of men.
And yet, at the same time, there is also a new list developing that may well change the world.
This is the growing body of young men who are becoming “fathers” as well as “bread winners.”
These are men who parent small children as well as either spoil or discipline them and so themselves become more feeling, more sensitive.
These are the men who are marching in India in great numbers, demanding reform in the rape laws.
These are the men who are hiring women so the agendas, approaches and quality of their services become gender-free.
And now, these are the young women — and men — who are calling us to be one of the One Billion Rising. You’ll like it. It’s a dance for the world to do together Feb. 14, on St. Valentine’s Day, the day on which much of the world celebrates the kind of love between women and men that makes both more human, more whole.
One out of every three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That is 1 billion women treated as things, beaten and bruised, used and exploited sexually without their consent, humiliated and mutilated invisible victims of war. Some of them are as young as 3 years old. Many of them are targeted and attacked in their 70s. All of them are changed for life.
Thank you, Sister Joan; I always look forward to your columns and in particular to this one.
Now, I focus on a girl of 15, who has shown courage and wisdom, leadership and strength well beyond her years. She is Malala Yousafzai from a remote village in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.
On a ride home from school on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012, gunmen halted the van. They demanded that other girls in the vehicle identify her. Malala had faced frequent death threats in the past. Some of the girls pointed her out. At least one gunman opened fire, wounding three girls. Two suffered non-life-threatening injuries, but bullets struck Malala in the head and neck. The bus driver hit the gas. The assailants got away. Malala was left in critical condition. An uncle described her as having excruciating pain and being unable to stop moving her arms and legs.
PAKISTAN’S MALALA: GLOBAL SYMBOL, BUT STILL JUST A KID.
She has penned her online diary in cooperation with the BBC in the past, and has spoken to other media, including CNN. At home, her writings led to her being awarded Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize in late 2011. Her attack let to international outrage, but also called attention to violence toward women and contributed toward her efforts to secure the right of education for girls in Pakistan and elsewhere.
From her hospital room in the UK, Malala, asked early on for her school books, so she could study for exams she wants to take when she arrives back home in Pakistan. She is all about education.
The teen blogger simply sought to get an education. But she became a symbol of defiance against militants, empowering young women worldwide.
Please watch this powerful short film > Click here.
Good and gracious God,
we ask your forgiveness for the way we have treated our women,
our wives, our mothers, our girls, our employees,
even our babies or our elderly.
Forgive us, Lord.
Give us the courage to change our behaviors.
Give us the courage to ask forgiveness from those we’ve harmed.
We look to the Mother of Jesus for comfort, Lord who understood such great sorrow.
We commend these women to her intercession, for she understands.
And here’s another one on the Dance > Click here. Be sure to enter full screen.
Dear Friends and Lovers everywhere,
“Love is patient,
love is kind.”
We’re in a series of reflections based on St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Cor. 13)
This is also about transforming America.
You’ve seen the bumper sticker that says, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”
We would transform America inside out if we just were a little kinder to the people we meet each day.
A smile to the store clerk instead of a scowl.
A wave to our neighbor across the street.
A quick phone call or email to just say to a friend, “You’re thought of, loved and prayed for.”
A thumbs up sign to the homeless man on the street corner.
My mother was very harsh with me when I was a kid. There was a lot of yelling in my boyhood home.
So parents and brothers and sisters can think about the kindness issue as well.
I have had my own inner work to root out that kind of unkindness, even rudeness, from my own behavior.
I get upset when someone answers a phone call of mine with a curt email because they don’t want to talk to me.
There have been times that I was so angry with company greed that I had the store clerk in tears when i yelled at her. It helped me realize I had a lot of improvement to do in this area.
With God’s grace that’s happening. I’ve made it a point to transform myself more and more to be kind to everyone even and especially those who are not kind to me. And I examine myself on this at day’s end, especially with telemarketers.
And what about texting? How much rudeness and downright hurt and heartache happens in an instant without a thought of what the long term damage two thumbs can do!
The more technology we have to communicate with, it seems the less we communicate.
That’s what Paul is getting at:
Let’s just be kind to one another.
It will transform America.
Before you go, and especially if you haven’t quite woken up this mornin’ here’s a rousing gospel melody for ya: “Put a little Love in your heart!” Click here. Turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen and have a great day, whether you like it or not!
Editor’s Note: Over the next 10 days, you’ll be exposed to a pot-pourri of themes. First, I’ll do a series on St. Paul’s famous Ode to Love. But connected to that, a group has selected Valentine’s Day to draw attention to violence against women world-wide, so I will be incorporating that as well. But to complicate things further, Lent begins the day before Valentine’s Day (the 13th), with its traditional Mardi Gras celebration running up to that. It will be confusing and hopefully a bit of fun, too. So, let’s start with this . . .
Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers, intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers . . . At least Halmark would have us “send the very best.”
So, what is love?
I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples over the 44 years of my priesthood who’ve chosen St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.
It has got to be one of the most wonderful pieces of prose of all time.
Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
I Corinthians 13
You are Love itself.
We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-persons-we-are.
We rejoice in them and remember them in love.
But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love
that would allow us to know and experience how to love.
Help us take your servant Paul’s words to heart that we may understand the true meaning of love.
May we have a heart that is open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.
To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.