Let us give thanks for everything!

THANKSGIVING DAY 2020

In years past for my Thanksgiving blog, I made a list of some of the things for which I was thankful over the past year and have probably bored you by now with a list that hasn’t changed much at all. (I don’t tool around Ft. Lauderdale any more in my red Mitsubishi eclipse spyder convertible.)  I have a red 2011 mustang hard top instead, which I am very grateful to own along with the finance company.

So I’ve reached out to some old friends and asked them to share their thoughts with me and I’ll tell you how I know them.

 

Monsignor Jim Fetcher is the pastor of St. Sebastian’s  beachside parish here in Ft. Lauderdale and has been a friend and mentor of mine for a number of years . . .

I’m grateful that COVID-19 has given me an appreciation of people, even my “thorns,” because we’re all in this together, like it or not.” 

 

I’ve known Mrs. Chris DiComo  (and her husband Chuck) for about thirty years when I was stationed in St. Bartholomew’s parish they live in about thirty miles south of here in Miramar. We’ve kept a close personal friendship all these years . . .

“I am grateful that the Lord has seen fit to give me the strength to care for a loved one, while dealing with my own difficulties. In addition I am grateful for two wonderful sons and their wives, who are always there for me when I encounter a problem.”

 

I’ve known Mrs. Chris Lafser for about fifty years since my seminary years at Theological College in DC and then all the way through at different points and visiting at her home and watching her three children grow up. She and her husband Bill live in Richmond, Virginia. . . . .

“I am grateful for my family – For my loving husband, and my dear children, and now precious grandchildren. But for the last several years, I have been more and more aware of what a special gift my parents were.  They showed me that they loved me, shared their faith with actions, not just words, provided structure, safety and love.  They gave me confidence, encouragement, and discipline.  They were humble and kind, and exemplified hospitality and charity to all.  They were brave, and funny, fun-loving, and creative, hard working and generous.  It is because of their love that I can believe in the loving God.” 

 

I’ve known George Ducharme for sixty years now and he is one of my closest friends. We met at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut and he invited me to his home for thanksgiving because I was a Floridian and, though distance is an issue, we are as close as ever. He and his partner at Communitas, Pat Beeman, work with people with disabilities all over the state of Connecticut.  . . .

“Thank you for asking me to share a moment of Profound Gratitude!

For me Friday, August 21 is a special day for us! This day we (Pat Beeman and our Communitas Family) celebrated the stolen life of Richard LaPointe (age 74). I was his conservator till his death on 8/4/2020! Richard was imprisoned for 26 years for a crime he did not commit!  With the remarkable pro bono work of Centurion Ministries he was exonerated and freed in 2015!  He always had a smile and positive attitude for his 5 years of freedom! I am profoundly grateful to have had him in my life for 31 years!  Peace and Blessings.”

 

I’ve known Msgr. Ray East since I was in Washington, DC in the early 1980’s. He was a young priest at the time; I was 40.  I’ve always loved living in Washington. Ray and I became fast friends during that time and have been ever since. Today, he is the pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in southeast Washington across the river. Ray is black and the parish is largely a poor black parish. And he wrote this magnificent piece for us . . .

“Today, as I prepare for another funeral on Saturday, I am grateful for the MINISTRY OF BEREAVEMENT in this time of COVID19. I am grateful for God’s grace poured out on those front-line hospital personnel who hold the hands of the dying and close their eyes after their last agonizing breath. I am grateful for hospice nurses who come to my neighborhood late at night.  I’m thankful for police officers and medical examiners, and  for funeral home personnel who come to pick up the body of a loved one who has died at home.  I’m thankful for funeral directors who go the extra mile to make services affordable and dignified.

I am grateful for parishioners whose ministry involves sitting with families and patiently planning  funeral liturgies. I could not pastor without those members who are always ready to usher and read and cantor and play instruments and who clean up afterwards and get ready for the next funeral.  I am grateful for our deacon who always serves at the altar, accompanies me to the cemetery, and locks up the church after every funeral. I thank God for our Catholic Cemeteries personnel who help me find resources to bury the poor. I’m grateful for the un-thanked caretakers who dig the graves, cover them with earth and who keep the cemeteries beautiful. And finally I thank Our Creator for the bereavement ministry member, the hospice staff volunteer and the friend who calls the family a year later and asks: “How are YOU doing?”

I also asked two friends outside the United States to contribute as well.

I’ve known Marie Denis for the past twelve years or so since I’ve been living in this Condo Association. She’s a Canadian, living in Ottawa, and one of our “snowbirds”and a nearby neighbor of mine on the first floor when she comes south. My dog Shoney liked to go to her door to see what’s up.

‘’It is a pleasure to tell you how grateful I am to see two of my grand daughters with their little ones regularly. The four babies are 3 yrs to 8 weeks old. It’s a blessing for me and I thank God every day”

 

I mostly know Michael Moshe Shein, Esq. from Facebook because we’ve only met in person once outside the Broward County Jail as both of us were waiting to see inmates! Moshe and his family live in Israel but still has an office here in Fort Lauderdale. He keeps me up to date on their family Jewish customs. .  .

“B”H – I’m grateful, thank G-d to be able to connect with my friends and family worldwide through technology, even if I am not with them physically.”

 

Now there are two more.

This one is mine .  . .

“The day my little dog Shoney passed—this past May 23rd .  He shared my home and my life intimately for eleven years. If you’ve never had a furry companion, they have a way of burrowing a way into your heart. I was so thankful for the loving-kindness he gave to me all those years. His last day with us was the day before my 51st ordination anniversary so I’ll never forget him.”

 

And I leave the last word to my bishop, Bishop John Noonan of the Diocese of Orlando .  .  .

“Thanksgiving may be different this year; not having our families around us, but there is something that will never change and that is the meaning of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is recognizing God’s grace in our lives. So let give thanks to God for the many gifts, family, friends, faith, freedom, forgiveness, peace, hope, love, and more.” 

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.

He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

  And now before you go, here’s a hymn for you, “For the Beauty of the Earth” Click here. 

Advent begins this Sunday. I will publish my blog for the first Sunday of Advent on Friday. Also Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC is in Rome to receive his red hat as a cardinal! He will be the first black cardinal in the U. S. Please pray for him.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe

The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ                      King of the Universe                                                ~ Sunday November 22, 2020

Today’s feast is Good News for most of us who are weary (and fed up?) with all that’s gone down with the election and it’s aftermath and the Pandemic too.  There are two sections to my comments. First are those on the scriptures of the day followed by a reflection on the title of today’s Feast. I just did a bit of research in the liturgical archives: this feast has gotten an upgrade! Before it was just “The Feast of Christ the King.” Now it’s the Feast (we give it the fancy name of Solemnity) of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  That offers us a lot more richness for our spirituality and even our politics as you’ll see in a few moments.

In our last blog, we shared about the worldwide organization ONE devoted to caring for the poor, a humanitarian organization putting pressure on the governments of the world to do what they should be doing in caring for the least of society. 

Now here are the opening lines of today’s gospel . . . .

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. 
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome . . . .

Scripture scholar William Barclay, thinks this is one of the ‘most vivid’ parables Jesus ever told, and that his lesson is very clear—that God will judge us according to how we react to human need.  He won’t judge us by the amount of knowledge we’re able to cleverly use, or the fame or social status that we’ve acquired, or the wealth that we’ve somehow amassed, but the help we’ve given.  And he suggests that the parable describes how we should give.

Whatever we do, must be help in simple things. The things Jesus picks out—giving a hungry beggar a meal or a thirsty child a drink, welcoming a stranger or a new neighbor, cheering the sick, visiting a prisoner—are things anyone can do. These don’t require giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars or even just twenty. These are things we can do when we meet people every day.

The second point Jesus seems to make is that our giving must be uncalculating; that is, “so we could get our eternal reward” or get in the good graces of the bishop or the mayor!  Our attitude should simply be to help because we could not stop ourselves. To help as the result of a natural, instinctive reaction of a loving heart, without any calculation.

The attitude of those of those who failed to help was: “If we had known it was you we would’ve gladly helped, but we thought it was some common man not worth helping.” There are those who’ll help if they’ll get the praise and publicity, but that’s not help, it’s to pander to self-aggrandizement; it’s certainly not generosity.

*  *  *  *

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

And as we look forward to Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas—the New Year and the upcoming inauguration of our new president, this feast brings us, not just a sigh of relief from all we’ve been through this past year and, for me at least, but an explosion of new hope and wonder as we realize we the implications of living in Jesus’ kin-dom here and now!

I was blown away by the insights of famed Franciscan author Father Richard Rohr’s recent book The Universal Christ from which I unabashedly quote extensively here.

I am making the whole of creation new . . .    It will come true . . . It is already done!             I am the Alpha and the Omega, both the Beginning and the End.                                            ~ Revelations 21:5-6

Jesus didn’t normally walk around Judea making “I AM” statements; if he did, he very soon would have ended up being stoned to death. He didn’t normally talk that way. But when we look at the phrase we all love, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” we see a very fair statement that should not offend or threaten anyone. He’s describing the “Way” by which all humans and all religions must allow matter and Spirit to operate as one.

Once we see that the Eternal Christ is the one talking in these passages, Jesus’ words about the nature of God—and those created in the image of God—seem full of deep hope and a broad vision for all of creation.

The leap of faith that the orthodox Christians made from the early period was that the eternal Christ presence was truly speaking through the person of Jesus. Divinity and humanity were somehow able to speak as one, for if the union of God and humankind is “true” in Jesus, there is hope that it might be true in all of us too. That is the big takeaway from having Jesus speak as the Eternal Christ. He is indeed “the pioneer and perfector of our faith,” as Hebrew puts it (12:2).

As the “Father of Orthodoxy,” St. Athanasius (296—375) wrote when the church had a more social, historical and revolutionary sense of itself: “God was consistent in working through man to reveal himself everywhere, as well as through the other parts of creation, so that nothing was left devoid of his Divinity and self-knowledge . . . so that the whole universe was filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea”. ~ Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbe 45           

I have a note in the margin or Rohr’s book at that quote: WOW!!!

Athanasius was writing in the Fourth Century! Think about that when today we’ve seen images of  our blue planet taken from the moon; when scientists are discovering black holes and other solar systems beyond our own.  And mystics like Athanasius are still with us too!   And yet for a Christian—Catholic or otherwise—who clings only to Jesus as their personal savior in a “Jesus and me” kind of faith is much too myopic and narrow-minded—Rohr would say, and therefore missing the real depth of their faith.

As a counterpoint, he says, the Eastern church, has a sacred word for this process, which in the West we call “incarnation” or “salvation”.  They call it “divinization (theosis).  If that sounds provocative, Rohr suggests, know that they are building on 2 Peter 1:4 where the author says, “He has given us something very great and wonderful  . . . . you are able to share the divine nature!

Most Catholics and Protestants still think of the incarnation as a one-time and one-person event having to only with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, instead of a cosmic event that has soaked all of history in the Divine Presence from the very beginning.  Therefore, this implies . . .

·      That God is not an old man on a throne. God is Relationship itself, a dynamism of Infinite Love between Divine Diversity, as the doctrine of the Trinity demonstrates.    

·      That God’s infinite love has always included all that God created from the very beginning (Ephesians 1:3-14). The Torah  (first five books of the Hebrew bible) calls it “covenant love,” an unconditional agreement, both offered and consummated on God’s side (even if we don’t reciprocate)      

·      That the Divine “DNA” of the Creator is therefore held in all creatures.  What we call the “soul” of every creature could easily be seen as the self-knowledge of God in that creature!  It knows who it is and grows into its identity, just like as seed and egg.

Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without knowing the One who made us, and cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of ourselves. And God’s impossible acceptance of ourselves is easier to grasp if we first recognize the perfect unity of the human Jesus with the divine Christ. Start with Jesus, continue with yourself, and finally expand to everything else. As John says, “From the fullness (pleroma) we have all received grace upon grace “(1:16).

And for my concluding prayer this day, I rely on the wisdom of David in Psalm 37 . . . .

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.

For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and [fn]cultivate faithfulness

Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes

Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.

For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land

Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there

But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.    

When I prayed this psalm the other evening, it calmed me because of our present post-election / pre-inauguration quandary and anxiety, It was just perfect for what I was thinking and feeling. Perhaps for you as well.

I will offer my Mass on Sunday for all of you, my readers—for yours and your families’ needs and intentions, Blessings to you this day!

Now before you go, I’m offering you a choice of music.

The first is “Crown Him with Many Crowns with about 3,000 voices. Click here,

The second is “Worthy is the Lamb” by the Australian young people’s group Hilsong.  Clickhere, And here are the Mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

Acknowledgements  . . . .
William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of Matthew –Volume 2 revised edition / The Westminster Press Philadelphia 1958
Richard Rohr The Universal Christ / Convergent Books New York 2019

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer