I can see! You light up my life!

The Fourth Sunday of Lent – The story of the man born blind

John the Evangelist is inviting us to ask ourselves:  Who are the blind ones?  Who are those who see?

This story is amazing.  William Barclay, the great Presbyterian scripture scholar, comments that “there’s no more vivid character drawing in all of literature than this.” So, why not read the whole text for yourself. John 9: 1-41 Click here. Then click the < back arrow on the top left corner of your computer screen to return to this page.

John causes the people to come alive for us. First, there’s the blind man himself. He began to be irritated by the Pharisees persistence.  He himself was persistent that the man who put mud on his eyes had cured him of his blindness. Period!

Second, there were his parents. They were uncooperative with the Pharisees, but they were also afraid.  The authorities had a powerful weapon.  They could excommunicate them, whereby they could be shut off from God’s people and their property could be forfeited as well.

Third, there were the Pharisees.  At first, they didn’t believe the man was cured. And then they were annoyed they could not meet the man’s argument that was based on scripture: “Jesus has done a wonderful thing; the fact that he has done it means that God hears him; now God never hears the prayers of a bad man; therefore Jesus could not be a bad man.”

The consequence of this for the man was that the authorities cast him out of the temple.  But Jesus the Lord of the Temple went looking for him.  Jesus is always true to the one who is true to him.  

And secondly, to this man Jesus revealed himself intimately.  Jesus asked the man if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked who that was. And Jesus said it was He.

And so, this man, who is not given a name in this story, progresses in his perception and understanding of Jesus. At first, he says, “the man they call Jesus opened my eyes.”

Then when he was asked his opinion of Jesus in view of the fact that he had given him his sight, his answer was, “He is a prophet.”  Finally, he came to confess that Jesus is the Son of God.  

Before we leave this wonderful story, I want you to take note of the final line that surely sounded Jesus death knell and is a warning to us all.

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.  

So in our world today, we ask, “Who are the blind ones?”  “Who are those who see?

The movie The Matrix portrayed us as  blind to reality.  We don’t want to really see or know what’s going on as long as our private little worlds are not disturbed.

When we ~ um ~ “converse” with people online, we often don’t really know whether they’re presenting themselves for who they are or giving a false persona; or we probably don’t get to know them very well.

Some people only see the appearances of things.  Many of us don’t have the eyes to see the unseen and the unknowable.

A lot of advertising today only shows handsome young men and women.

What do you See when you wander around town?

Are you on the lookout for the truly beautiful?

Like Cindy, the bag lady I found sitting in the park knitting one day next to the main library in downtown Lauderdale.

A while back I took a double take when I noticed her on a cold morning just outside the door.  She caught my eye because she was polishing her nails a luminous pink. She had on a fuzzy cardigan to match.  I backed up ten steps to say hello.

What impressed me the most was the twinkle in her eye, her cheerful demeanor and her ready smile.

I wasn’t  nearly as self-possessed when I was homeless for a short time in the early Eighties. It ain’t pretty.  I was scared to death.

What DO you See with those eyes of yours, my friend?

Are you able to see the truly Beautiful People, like Cindy?

Can you distinguish between the real and the unreal / the true and the false /  the True Self from the false self .

In the first reading the Lord teaches Samuel, his prophet not to judge by appearances, but to SEE BEYOND / to see into.

“Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance

but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:10.)

We need to realize that “t’is ever thus!”  We must not allow the hypocrites — or as I call them the “lipocrites” — to blind us from the beauty that is available to anyone who does have eyes to see.  

No!  Don’t excuse yourself from finding God or love or a loving community of faith just because there are some who don’t get it.

Jesus healed the blind man;

he let the sensuous woman wash his feet with her hair;

hung out with sinners and the tax collectors whom the lipocrites got off on thinking they were  better than;

told people to “Love one another as I have loved you”;

let the youngest disciple lean on his breast during the last supper;

kept his mouth shut when he was accused;

and, most importantly, simply did what his Father told him to do: be obedient (stay on message) until the very end.

And they killed him for that.

Just remember, if you choose to preach this gospel,

if you tell people to see the beauty — the Christ —  in the person in front of you,

whether that one  be a  bag lady / homosexual / fallen down drunk / drug addict /

mentally ill, crazy man / Muslim / Republican / Democrat / Jew / Catholic / atheist /

pro-lifer / pro-choicer / Martian / immigrant / anybody who thinks differently than you,

they may will crucify you too or  cast you out of their life,

stop their ears to anything you say or do —

just as did with the guy in this Gospel story John tells so dramatically today.

God sees differently, you know.  He doesn’t divide.  God unifies.

God made us all as his children.  God sustains all of us in the present moment.

God loves us all.  No matter what.

All he wants us to do is accept his love.

And so, ask yourself, dear friend, can you see your world  and the people in it —

family / friend / foe — with God’s eyes?

Can you see yourself with God’s eyes, my friend?

Many people think they’re a piece of junk and so they pretend to be somebody else.

But God made you just as you are.

He wants you to See YOURSELF as he sees you.

When you can do that, then you will change.

The good in you will increase; the not-so-good will fall away

because God himself will do the transforming.

The man who was blind was able to see that.

That was the second gift of sight Jesus gave him –

not just the ability to see trees and people and flowers

but to See with the eyes of the heart.

Why?  Because Jesus did more than give him his sight.

He Touched him!

He drew him close!

He treated the man as a person!

And that, very simply, is all Jesus wants US to do:

Treat one another as PERSONS! Someone just like you.

Try it today.  With your honey who treated you like vinegar this morning.

Your hyper kids.  Your nasty neighbor.  Your lousy boss.  A bedraggled stranger on the street.

That’s the message of this gospel story.

Lord Jesus,

You are truly My Light.

You help me see the beauty in myself and all around me.

My life and my world are SO different because of You!

I love You.  I delight in You.

I never know what to expect when You’re around.  I can SEE!

You have given me true sight,

the ability to see into things.

To have the courage to look at My Reality — good and not-so-good.

To see the beauty in the people in my life instead of their faults.

And I praise You  for you have given me the ability to use the awesome gifts  

our  heavenly Father has granted me so that I may help others see beauty as well.

I want to help people see their own beauty!

To call it forth from them.

To walk around this world and See the beauty our Father has created all around me.

I love You, Lord.

You are My Light!

I believe that You truly are the Light of the World!

And St. Paul in today’s second reading sums it up:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead,

and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:8-14.)

Now here’s Joe Cocker singing “You are so Beautiful” Click here. I always think of Jesus when I hear it.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Story of the John 9 was taken excerpted from William Barclay’s  the Gospel of John ~ Volume 2 / Revised Edition                                 The Westminster Press / Philadelphia, PA 1975

A thirsty man meets a thirsty woman

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The Third Sunday of Lent (March 23, 2014)

We’re in an important series of Sunday scriptures used to help catechumens (those preparing to meet the Lord in baptism).  In using this series of three stories (1st) The Woman at the Well, (2nd) The Man Born Blind (next Sunday) and (3rd)  The Raising of Lazarus, the Church all through its history has asked John the Evangelist to interpret  for us how he sees Jesus and his significance for us.

This Sunday’s gospel has Jesus and his buddies passing through Samaritan territory.

Why not take a moment to read the entire fascinating story?   (JOHN 4:1-42)  To get back to this page, on the top of your computer screen, click on the < arrow pointing to the left. and it’ll bring you right back here.

Jesus was on his way to Galilee in the north of Palestine from Judaea in the south.  But he had to pass through Samaria. You need to know the Jews and Samaritans had a feud that had lasted for centuries.  

Jesus and his buddies came to a town called Sychar. The hour’s about noon and Jesus is tired, hot, dusty, sweaty (I presume) and thirsty.

He sits down by Jacob’s well but has no bucket; the cool stuff is right down there but he can’t access it.  

Along comes a woman with a bucket and he’s about to break all kinds of taboos:  One, Jews don’t associate with Samaritans as I said. Two, men don’t speak to women in public. She is shocked by his shattering both of these impenetrable barriers and is quite flustered. And three, she’s not exactly a woman of high moral standing.

He soon puts her at ease by asking her for a drink; as the great Teacher he is, he reverses the symbol and says he will give her “living waters so she will never be thirsty again.”

She’s intrigued and begins to relax into his accepting, easy manner. (We forget that He was probably a handsome 31 year old.) In fact, she quickly feels such total acceptance that she trusts him to touch her ~ on the inside.

The conversation cuts to the quick very quickly. Jesus says she has had “five husbands and the one she’s living with now is not her husband.”

Jesus has a true pastoral manner that, very sadly, so many of my friends who have left the church did not receive from a priest or their family or a community when they needed it the most.

One of the new “Mysteries of Light” of the Rosary  has us meditate on “the proclamation of the kingdom.” At some point, I realized that I must learn how to proclaim (share ) the Good News not over the heads of masses of people but to share it as Jesus did here in a stranger’s town ~ one person at a time.

I ache inside when I realize so many have turned a deaf ear to the church because we priests and bishops often do not match our words with the lives we lead or because we use harsh and condemning words that push people away and cauterize their souls instead of drawing them close. Pope Francis is showing us that too.

Through my own life experience I have learned to do as Jesus did with the woman at the well. He befriended her first.  He treated her as a person. He spoke kindly. He did not condemn her but in revealing his own vulnerability (his own thirst,) he brought her up to his own level.

In my videographer’s eye I can  see the two of them sitting close to each other on the wall of the well, gently conversing as Jesus listens to the story of her brokenness. Now that’s the way — the only legitimate way, in my eyes — to preach the gospel — in mutual regard and respect, in mutual vulnerability.

If we keep yelling at people in harsh words we will be just tuned out.  St. Francis of Assisi is known to have said, “Preach the gospel; when necessary, use words.”

We have a beautiful truth to share — the sacredness of all life and the sacredness, the holiness of the ground beneath our feet — but we can only get that message across when we get down with people’s hurt and need, without judging; to cry with them and hug them instead of yelling at them. Jesus would never do that!  The only people he yelled at where the people who justified themselves and condemned others.

I repent of the times that I have been harsh with others.  And those times have been many. And I pray that, day by day by day, Jesus, the gentle One, would help me to be more and more gentle and nurturing and respectful to those I meet whose lifestyles and values are different from mine.  For I know that if I want to have any influence on them, I need to let them get close to me and let them know that, despite everything, they have a place in my heart.

The story of the woman at the well ends by telling us that this wonderful human being in Whom-God-shown-through (Gospel of the Transfiguration — Second Sunday of Lent) broke down the wall of prejudice and hostility between Jews and Samaritans so dramatically that the whole town welcomed him and he and his buddies stayed for two days.

Now THAT, dear friends, is the Jesus I know and love.  And want to be like.

Lord Jesus,

I give thanks that I have had mentors who drew me close

in whose loving embrace I received non-judgmental love

and through whose example I myself desire to love without judgment.

In my own thirst to receive the faith of those I meet and care for

may I always bring them to You, the spring of living water

so that the water you give them “will become IN THEM

a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.”

So be it! AMEN!

Here’s Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Waters Click here.

Years ago when I first heard this song, I thought Jesus was / is the bridge!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

I’ve been to the mountain

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The Second Sunday of Lent

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

For the full text of the day’s Mass readings go to the link provided here.  When you are ready to return to this blog page, click on the little arrow (<) on the top of your computer that points to the left.

Click here for the Mass Readings, if you’d like to read them.

It’s is a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

Peter, James and John are genuinely high in this morning’s gospel story.  First, they’re on a mountain – that’s high already, and secondly, they see Jesus transfigured before them in dazzling glory. This is a wonderful spiritual high , lest you get the wrong idea.  For Peter, James and John, this is as good a high as it gets – seeing the Son of God in his true glory.  They’re blown away.

Peter, speaking for all of them, wants to stay there, at least, a good while longer.  But it doesn’t happen.  They have to come back down from the mountain.  We might say they had to return to reality, but that’s not accurate.  The vision of Jesus in brilliant light was reality too.  It wasn’t imaginary; chemicals didn’t artificially produce it.

We experience wholesome highs, too.  A particularly rewarding achievement, an especially fulfilling moment in a relationship ~ a time when, for whatever reason, the world is bright, life makes sense, and most of the pieces of our lives fit together.

It can happen in our spiritual life, too.  A retreat or some other spiritual experience can send us soaring.  At such moments, we may feel the immense joy of God’s love and affirmation intensely.  But the experience inevitably fades.  We “come back to reality.”  But, again, that’s not accurate.  The spiritual high was also reality; it becomes folded into the rest of our life, like salt that enlivens the taste of food.

Imagine that you are in Jesus’ company, along with Peter James and John as they are climbing the mountain.  You are about to have your own mountain top experience.

Perhaps you’ve lived in a valley all your life or are pretty much confined to the view that four walls bring you.

In the valleys, your view is limited; you cannot see either the sunrise or the sunset.  On a mountain top, your horizon gets expanded.  You can look far into the distance and see the sunrise if you are looking east, or the sunset if you are looking west.  Life in a valley can be boring, dull, monotonous.  Life as viewed from a mountain top can be exhilarating and exciting.

You may never have a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even ONE mountain top experience  ~ one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.  I remember one I had in 1976.

I was making a private retreat.  My retreat director assigned me a scripture on which to meditate.  I was to take a full hour to reflect on the  account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert from the gospel of Mark.  Nothing came the first time.  Nor the second.  The third one was the charm.   One brief experience (it lasted only about 15 minutes) has changed my relationship with Jesus forever. 

I had the experience that Jesus was quite close to me; in the meditation I got close enough to wrestle with him.  Yes, wrestle with him!  If that happened in my mind’s eye,  then it was and is possible to think of myself very often as that close to Jesus.  (I felt quite certain that I did not conjure it up because I never would have dreamed of myself in that situation with our Lord.)

How about you ~ have you ever had a peak experience?  Have you had more than one?  Then you understand what I am talking about.  You know that such moments can be life-changing.

What does it take to have a peak experience?

It can happen just in the faculty of our imagination ~ that special place inside us where we can be led to  new and wonderful things, things never seen before.

It requires openness ~ a sense of adventure, a willingness to leave our comfortable place to climb a mountain.

Now imagine that you are accompanying Jesus and Peter, James and John as they climb the mountain . . . .  And you see Jesus become radiant.  Dazzling.  Incredibly beautiful in his appearance ~ his face, his hands his hair, his robe.

And then hear the Voice from above proclaim to you and the others:

“This is my beloved son.  Listen to him.”

How would you feel?  Would you be  afraid?  Would you be filled with joy?  Would you fall to the ground in worship?

Let’s focus on one point of the story.

Jesus received a tremendous affirmation from his heavenly Father who was heard saying,  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.”

This was a moment of affirmation for Jesus.  Surely he needed it; he could feel the weight of his mission upon his shoulders.  He had an intuition that his life would enter upon tremendous suffering and death.  He also received affirmation from Peter James and John, and they, in turn, were affirmed that their choice to follow him was essentially correct.

How about you — how often do you receive affirmation?

How often does your spouse praise you for something that you did or for who you are?  How often do your children praise you?  Probably not very often. How often do you sense God is affirming you?

Affirmation is very important.  It was important for Jesus; and it is important for you and me.

Athletes get lots of affirmation and praise especially the ones who get gold medals but maybe not so often for the rest of us.

I used to receive a lot of affirmation when I was in a parish.  These days my dog Shoney gets all the praise and attention.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

I pray for God’s affirmation for each of you.  Hear him say: “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter. “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter.

Now give someone a really good affirmation this afternoon.  And, before you go, here’s our traditional Catholic hymn Holy God We Praise Thy Name as you’ve never heard it before. Click here. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Fidelity of Jesus

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The First Sunday of Lent ~ The Fidelity of Jesus (March 9, 2014)

(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: One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

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.

You see, dear friends, in this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer is: 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 ~ church leaders, or any one else in authority.

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.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

The Jesus I know and love

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the first reading, Moses says:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. 

Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him”

(Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Now here are my thoughts on Mose’s address to his people.  One often hears the word’s Choose Life as a Pro-Life message; that’s important.  But each of us are invited to choose life again and again, every day.  This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and extricate ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within the walls of our own home that cauterize the souls of our spouses and our children. Choose Life this day in the way you speak to and about everyone you meet today.   Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person.  Choose your words carefully. Preside over / take responsibility for what comes out of your mouth; realize your words create life or death.

In today’s gospel, Jesus says,

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me. 

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?  

(Luke 9: 22-25)

My reflection: Jesus gives us a koan ~ a Zen word  that denotes a riddle that often takes a long time for us to get it.  Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Repeat it often until you get it.

It’s So counter-cultural.  In our society people do everything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. They even have numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check  for diabetes.  And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. We might be tempted to do this by running away.  A quicky divorce or a cruel text message to dump a girl friend who no longer suits you.

The Cross of Jesus is all about commitment. Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face immense suffering on his journey.  He knew  he would make people angry by telling the truth he saw in his heart.  He knew that it would lead him to death every step of the way up to Jerusalem. The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to. Jesus  accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.

Jesus did a brand new thing.  His message was that his Father-God embraces every person without exception.  His message was that He, Jesus, transcended the Law; that the only law was to love.  This went against the grain of those who saw him as a threat to all they knew.

In the desert, Jesus made a firm commitment to BE the truth that he saw in his heart no matter what.  Jesus embodied that highest moral standard: to commit his life to justice and love, no matter what it cost him.  His mission was very simple:   Stay on message, no matter what.    He was a person of absolute integrity.  No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.

Very sadly, many in the church say that they believe in Jesus but are quick to condemn, quick to hate.  If you are one who has been condemned by the church or treated hatefully, I,  for one, ask forgiveness from you for I know Jesus would never want that for you.  And I ask for forgiveness and change of heart for those who do the condemning and the hating.

Finally, I  would like to be in solidarity with so many of us these days who have crosses to face that are profoundly difficult. Let us help each other to bear the cross we must carry.  But remember, the key is acceptance.  Acceptance ~ the willingness to be nailed ~ is the secret to your recovery.

This is the Jesus I know and love:  The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my hero.  I would like very much to be like that.  How ’bout you?

Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus’ forty-day retreat into the desert, (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer


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Dear Friends,

Ash Wednesday is upon us once again.

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 we made an ash-heap of our life?

Are we sitting in an ash-heap?

Is there nothing but ruin, smoldering embers around us?

If so, do we despair?

Or can we dream of re-building?

Whether or not the answers to these questions apply to us literally, it’s important to humble ourselves before our God.

It 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 found one by the Rock group Rev Theory in their song The Fire. 

Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics; they seem to know something about the questions I just raised:

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

[Chorus]
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?
Tonight.

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 make a U-turn.

Turn around and head in a different direction.

Get going again.

CHANGE, so you don’t “keep doing the same things expecting the same results” ~ as they say in A.A. 

Or just renew and deepen our commitments. Or just deepen our fervor.

I kinda chuckle at Catholics who show up on Ash Wednesday, get a smudge of ashes on their forehead without the slightest intention of doing what the rite symbolizes:  CHANGE.  They just don’t get it.

And don’t just give up something for Lent either. 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 you ~ and me 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 2014.

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.  

With love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer  

For Thursday ~ The Jesus I know and Love

Carnival

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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 on Ash Wednesday when we Catholics fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays 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.

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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.

Dear Lord,

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.

Amen. 

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. It’s not ~ um ~ exactly R rated.)  

With love,  

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer