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.”


Of Ghouls and Goblins, all Saints and all Souls and me and you too!

We’re talking about Halloween, on October 31st, of course, and the two days that follow it on our Catholic liturgical calendar– the Feast of All Saints on the following day and the Commemoration of All Souls– the day after that, November, 2nd. The word Halloween means the “Eve of All Hallows”—a medieval word for saint.

All Hallow’s Eve or All Saint’s Eve is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31st, and ushers in the time of the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead—all the faithful departed, especially those close to us.

Some suggest that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festival, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which may have had pagan roots and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted houses, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror movies.

In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observance of All Hallow’s Eve, included attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular.

It has been suggested that the carved jack-o’-lantern, now a popular symbol of Halloween, originally represented the souls of the dead. In medieval Europe, fires served a duel purpose, being lit to guide returning souls to the homes of their families, as well as to deflect demons from haunting any Christian folk. Many Christians in mainland Europe, especially in France, believed “that once a year, on Halloween, the dead of the churchyards rose for one wild, hideous carnival” known as the danse macabre, which was often depicted in church decorations.

In parts of Britain, these customs came under attack during the Reformation as some Protestants berated purgatory as a “popish” doctrine incompatible with their notion of predestination, that denotes that all events are pre-ordained by God.

In the United States the Anglican colonists in the southern states and the Catholic ones in Maryland recognized All Hallow’s Eve, although the Puritans of New England maintained strong opposition to the holiday, as well as to Christmas. It wasn’t until the Irish and Scottish immigrants of the 19th century that Halloween became a major American holiday and was gradually assimilated into the mainstream of American society and was celebrated from coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds by the first decade of the 20th century.

In Cajun areas, a nocturnal Mass was said in cemeteries on Halloween night. Candles that had been blessed were placed on graves, and families sometimes spent the entire night at the graveside” The yearly Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was begun in 1974 by puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee. It is the world’s largest Halloween parade and America’s only major nighttime parade, attracting  more than 60,000 costumed participants, two million spectators, and a worldwide television audience. (The image above is taken from that parade.) I saw a story in the New York Times the other day that a group was preparing a “socially distanced – scary haunted house with professional actors!” Hmmm. And I’m not at all sure what kind of children’s or adult’s Halloween festivities are occurring these days as a result of the pandemic. Well, anyway, All Hallow’s Eve is followed by All Saint’s Day—that falls on a Monday this year.

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

The Gospel for this Feast Day is from the Sermon on the Mount and the eight beatitudes   . . . .

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will  God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

I’m just going to choose a few of these and comment on them using our Presbyterian scripture scholar William Barclay as our source.

First he comments on the word “blessed.” The word blessed is a very special word, he says.  In Greek the word  is Makarios. It describes that joy which has is a secret within itself–that joy which is serene and untouchable, and completely independent of all  opportunities and changes of life. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable “No one,” says Jesus, ‘will take my joy from you” (John 16:22). The beatitudes speak of that joy which penetrates our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, which nothing in life or death can take away.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In Hebrew the word for poor was used to describe the humble and the helpless person who put their whole trust in God.

Therefore, Blessed in the poor in spirit means . . .

Blessed is the one who has realized one’s utter helplessness and has put his whole trust in God.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake.

So few of us know what true hunger or what true thirst is about. In these Pandemic times and so many millions out of work, many families have lined up at food banks. But what about poor countries?   What about counties that don’t have safe drinking water? So the hunger this beatitude speaks of is no genteel hunger but the hunger of a person starving for food.

If this is so, this beatitude is a challenge: How much do you want goodness? Most people have an instinct for goodness. But how much?

So the correct translation of this beatitude is . . .

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the whole of righteousness, for complete righteousness.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” but there’s even more to this beatitude than that. The Hebrew word for mercy, chesedh, means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their mind and feel things with their feelings. This is much more than a gesture of our pity.

 

The word sympathy is derived from two Greek words syn which means together with and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what that person is going through. So the translation of this fifth beatitude might read . . .

O the happiness of the person who gets right inside other people until he can see with their eyes, think with their thoughts, feel with their feelings, for the person who does will find others do the same for him and know what God in Jesus Christ has done!

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

This beatitude demands that every person should stop and think and examine himself.

The Greek word for pure is katharos. It has a variety of meanings, but basically means unmixed, unalloyed, unadulterated.

Is our work done from motives of service or for pay. This beatitude requires self-examination. So then the sixth beatitude might read . . .

O happy is the person whose motives are most pure for one day he will see God!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.” Their Roman neighbors asked a libation to their god before dinner. They couldn’t do that. Then Caesar declared himself a god and required obeisance by law. They couldn’t do that and faced torture and martyrdom.         Barclay vol I pp 88- 111.

Hebrew 12; 1 speaks of a great “Cloud of Witnesses”

Here are some of the amazing folk down through the twenty one centuries of the church of many gifts and talents who have drawn people the Western Catholicism into relationship with our God and with one another

Here are some of our great ones , , ,   s

 

Saint Mary, Mother of God,

Saint Michael, Archangel and mighty protector against the Evil One

Saint Gabriel, Archangel

Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, taught Jesus his trade on carpentry

Saint John the Baptist, one of my patrons (my middle name is John)

Saint Peter, the Rock on whom Jesus built his Church

Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles

Saint Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the Apostles

St. Martha offered hospitality to Jesus in her home

St. Monica prayed for her son, Augustine’s conversion

St. Augustine, the early church writer and doctor

St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, Eastern Church fathers and doctors

St. Leo the Great, early church pope and great achiever

St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism

St. Anselm, apostle to the English

St. Patrick, apostle to the Irish

St. Robert of Molesme, one of two founders of the Cistercians and one of my patrons

St. Bernard, early founder of the Cistercians, doctor and church reformer

St. Francis of Assisi (y’all know who he is, right?)

St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers

St. Anthony of Padua Master General of the Dominicans—not just the finder of lost objects!

St. Clare, followed Francis and founded the Poor Clares

St. Thomas of Aquinas, the great medieval theologian at the end of his life said God was unknowable

St. Catherine of Siena a 33-year-old Dominican third order lay woman, counselor to popes who obtained peace between warring factions and stigmatist

St. Joan of Arc who led France successfully in war against the English and was burned at the stake as a heretic because of it

St. Thomas More, Chancellor to King Henry VIII and lawyer who would not abide Henry’s divorce

St. Ignatius of Loyala, Founder of the Jesuits and his motto To the Honor and Glory of God (AMDG) (I remember putting that at the top of all my high school and college papers)

St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the orient

St. Teresa of Avila, the joyful reformer of the Carmelite order

St. John of the Cross, Teresa’s cofounder and poet

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Jesuit youth who died serving the sick during the black plague

St. Peter Claver, Spanish Jesuit priest who served the slaves in Columbia

St. Vincent de Paul who served the poor and reformed seminary education

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk maiden, converted by Jesuit missionaries in the New York region

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

St. Francis de Sales promoted sanctity for everyone in all walks of life

St. Paul of the Cross founded the Passionists

St. Alphonsus Ligouri founded the Redemptorists

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, wife, mother and founder of religious order of sisters who have founded schools of all levels up to the university level across the US and beyond.

St. John Vianney, a simple French parish priest recognized as the patron of all priests.

St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesians

St. Damien de Veuster, who spent his life helping those with Hanson’s disease on Molokai, Hawaii

St. John Henry Newman, Anglican scholar, who converted to Catholicism and founded the Oratory

St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who became a doctor of the church at age 24

St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life in place of another who had a family at Auschwitz

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) Jewish scholar, college professor, convert to Catholicism, Carmelite nun, imprisoned and sentenced to death also at Auschwitz

St. Pius of Pietrelcina, (Padre Pio) suffered from the Stigmata (wounds of Christ) for most of his life, spent many of his days hearing confessions of hundreds of penitents

St. Paul VI / St. John XXIII / St. John Paul II Popes

St. Teresa of Calcutta. (Mother Teresa) Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, received the Nobel Peace prize,

St. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador.  

And now before you go, here’s the rousing hymn, “For all the Saints”. The songs lyrics are a meditation; I suggest singing along and paying attention to the words. Be sure ton turn up your speakers and an enter full screen. Click here.

And here are the All Saints’ Day Mass readings: Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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