Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 7, 2019
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 Moses’ address to his people. One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message. That’s important, but we’re 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 to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own home that damage the souls of our spouses and our children.
Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.
Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person. We need to choose our words carefully. To preside over ~ take responsibility for what comes out of our mouths. To realize our 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 here. That’s a Zen word for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.
Try to get into it this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.
Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural. In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even 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. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from our problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits us via way of a cruel text message.
Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, yes, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey. He knew he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart. He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road 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.
He was a person of absolute integrity. No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.
This is the Jesus I know and love: The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my Lord, my Savior, my mentor, if you will. 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.
Now before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie singing the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.
I usually publish a blog for CARNIVAL! at this point as we are two days away from Ash Wednesday. But this is a sobering year with the coronavirus and it has taken all the fun out of CARNIVAL in both Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. No parades allowed. No alcohol on Bourbon Street!
But today is Presidents’ Day. It’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, but it originally was meant to mark George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. It’s come to honor all presidents, past and present.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
We’ve had some great ones, and some turkeys too, as some of us of various political persuasion will argue over several beers into the wee hours.
But our present times are difficult ones, with Covid 19 and trying to build back the economy. We’ve just had a transfer of power of two very different presidents and that didn’t go very smoothly. In fact there was violence involved with the attack on our beloved, sacred Capitol building on January 6th that we still have not recovered from.
Some of us, however, find some level of security in the midst of insecurity. Some of us roll with the punches better than others. We plod along not sure what will happen next. The ones who will be OK are those who are prepared. Who are always ready for life to change on a dime.
“To be at ease is to be unsafe.”
~ John Henry Cardinal Newman
Back in the fall of 2008, I had been getting to know some homeless people. I admire and respect the ones I have met because they look out for each other. My whole perspective on my own worries has completely changed as a result. It has led me to profound gratitude and real compassion. I thought long and hard what it would be like to be homeless. And then I realized there are going to be many more.
Our economy is based on the premise that we should buy, buy, buy – sell, sell, sell. It is not a godly economy. In my opinion, our present American society is not a healthy one. In order for our economy to work we are constantly prodded to buy stuff. And the more we buy, the deeper in debt we get. It’s foolish. Insane, actually. But this pandemic has taught many of us a different way. We’ve had to stay home and find our entertainments in simpler ways.
It could be a great grace; some will find God and turn to the one only God and away from the false idols of a material way and turn to a more spiritual way of life. They will have the opportunity perhaps for the first time to find meaning and love and authentic relationships. They will come to understand what life is for. Many will find Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Hopefully the uncertainty we’ve been through this past year will bring us and our nation to our senses.
What will happen next? To you? To your job? To your family?
We need to look for certainty and security on a deeper level.
It would seem that having a sense of the presence of God in our life will give us a foundation that is not so easily shaken by uncertainty. The scriptures present Jesus as the one who can quiet the storms of life (Matthew 8:23-27); He can be the Rock, the foundation on which our life is built.
Failing to accept life on life’s terms can cause anxiety and depression whereas hope takes the bite out of uncertainty. Through thirty years of learning to cope with bipolar illness I have learned to keep going . . . no matter what. I call you, my reader, to the same faith and hope and love in every moment of your life. Only God can provide the security we need in uncertain times.
Jesus taught his disciples to accept uncertainty as something valuable. He told them “Take nothing on your journey but a walking stick — no food, no traveling bag, not a coin in purse” (Mark 6: 8-9). He wants his disciples to not place ultimate security in things (a warm tunic or some coins in your purse) but to find security in a well-lived, lifelong, open and trusting relationship with God.
For years now I have been calling us to repent of our sins of complacency and greed and idolatry and lust for power and preoccupation with hate and fear and violence that permeates our society. Every day I pray that God restore our beloved country to shining beacon on a hill we once was. I just invite you, I implore you: Let us pray and restore our nation’s relationship with God and justice for all races and peoples in our land of immigrants and indigenous people.
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the sea. . . The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46)
And now, my prayer . . . .
Good and gracious God,
we come before you today to ask your blessing
upon this vast and great land of ours.
We are grateful that our republic has stood safe for 241 years now.
And so, we ask your continued blessing upon us.
Please bless President Biden and all elected and government officials
that they would have the best interests of all of the people in mind and heart.
Let there be peace at home and peace throughout the world.
For Yours, O God, is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
And now, before you go, here’s Pete Seeger and a Chorus singing “This Land is Your Land on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers, intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers and also spouses remembering their deceased loved ones, even ~ or maybe especially during this pandemic. And maybe because of it, we won’t be able to visit them!
Hallmark would encourage us to “send the very best.” And marketeers would like to get their greedy fingers on our credit cards for this one-day holiday, wouldn’t they? I don’t have a TV but I was in a doctor’s office this afternoon and saw a commercial for edible ‘floral’ arrangements’ that looked awfully tempting.
And later I stopped by the Post Office and as I was standing in line, I noticed this young black dude posting dozens of what looked like small pink cards and dropping them one by one in the mail bin. I went over to him and teased, “Are you sending those to all of your Valentines?” He turned around toward me and grinned, “I wish! he said.
But let’s go a little deeper here. What is true love, really?
I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples during my years as a priest have chosen St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.
It has to be one of the most glorious pieces of prose of all time.
Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up.
. . . . If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.
~ I Corinthians 13
You are Love itself.
We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-Persons-we-have-become.
We rejoice in them and remember them in love.
But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love that would allow us to know how to love.
Help us take your apostle Paul’s words to heart that we may truly know the true meaning of love.
May we have a heart open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.
To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.
Before you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. Click here. It’s a song I’ve always favored ~ one of my generation. I think it sets the tone for what I wanted to say here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen and have a great day! It’s a song I’ve always attributed to Our Lady.
I’ll be publishing two more Valentine’s blogs trying to unpack the meaning of St. Paul’s Ode to Love next week until Valentine’s Day Sunday, the 14th.
On this coming Monday, January, 18, 2021, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.
On that fateful day, Dr. King took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land. This man is one of my mentors. I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore. Today, I have an image of him near my desk in my home.
He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us, that Dr. King and I believe is the only way that justice and peace can be achieved. Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.
On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon. I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I sucked in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.
Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals that Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of slipping away from us. Just this week we witnessed the desecration of our Capitol instigated astonishingly by the President of the United States. Mobs of people broke into the Capitol and into the House of Representatives and the Senate chambers and threatened their members and ransacked some of their offices, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s. Their intent was to stop the certification of President-elect Joe Biden. Their insistence was the election was stolen from President Trump..
Two days ago, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 with a vote of XXX, the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment for ‘High crimes and misdemeanors”in act of “incitement of insurrection”. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to manifest injury of the people of the United States,” according to the documents of the House of Representative impeachment of Donald J. Trump.
Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned by President Trump, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, two years ago, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people.
The number of race-based killings and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
O God of Justice,
raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us and restore us to the original ideals of our nation.
Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms.
Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2021. We ask you to watch over President Trump as he leaves office that he may face up his life and it’s consequences. We also ask you bless President-elect Joe Biden and his incoming administration and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2021.
We pray to you, God, for You are the God who cries for justice for your children and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You.
We pray ~ for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL. To You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever, Amen!
May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.
They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.
Dr. King held no public office. He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.
And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.
Is there anything you are willing to give your life for?
I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes! (Or at least I hope so.)
It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here.
Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
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
Last Thursday, November 3rd, I received this email in my inbox . . .
THE FEAST OF ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
AUGUST 15th, 2020
In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared as a dogma of the church something that Catholics have believed throughout the church’s history ~ that Mary was taken up into heaven, body and soul to sit at her Son’s side for all eternity. In that document Pope Pius had this to say . . . .
It was fitting that she who carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting the spouse whom the Father had taken to himself should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow . . . should look upon him as he sits with the Father.
It seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth, nursed him, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from in body after this earthly life ….. Hence the revered Mother of God … finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from corruption of the tomb and that, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory or heaven where as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages …..
And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bring good to others [and that] in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Municetissimus Deus—The Apostolic Constitution; i.e.The Most Provident God. By Saint Pius XII defining the dogma of the assumption of the Asumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
On August 22nd, the octave of the Assumption we celebrate a minor feast ~ the Queenship of Mary. I honor her as my queen. Now this may sound a bit odd, my friends, but I take her shopping with me. I thanked her for my lovely condo. I signed the documents for the condo on August 15th, 2008, so this year I will be in this lovely home for twelve years now and when I celebrate holy Eucharist on her feast day I will thank her and our dear Lord once again.
Here’s a bit about this Feast (or Solemnity, as we call it in the liturgy.)
First of all, it’s a celebration of the body and an exaltation of womanhood.
Everyone was quite startled when the distinguished psychiatrist Carl Jung, who was not a Catholic, said that this declaration about Mary was “the greatest religious event since the reformation.”
Here’s the entire text of what he had to say. You ought to read this; what he says is truly amazing coming from a psychiatrist and a non-Catholic!
The promulgation of the new dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary could, in itself, have been sufficient reason for examining the psychological background. It is interesting to note that, among the many articles published in the Catholic and Protestant press on the declaration of the dogma, there was not one, so far as I could see, which laid anything like proper emphasis on what was undoubtedly the most powerful motive: namely the popular movement and the psychological need behind it. Essentially, the writers of the articles were satisfied with learned considerations, dogmatic and historical, which have no bearing on the living religious process.
But anyone who has followed with attention the visions of Mary which have been increasing in number over the last few decades, and has taken their psychological significance into account, might have known what was brewing. The fact, especially, that it was largely children who had the visions might have given pause for thought, for in such cases, the collective unconscious is always at work …One could have known for a long time that there was a deep longing in the masses for an intercessor and mediatrix who would at last take her place alongside the Holy Trinity and be received as the ‘Queen of heaven and Bride at the heavenly court.’ For more than a thousand years it has been taken for granted that the Mother of God dwelt there.
I consider it to be the most important religious event since the Reformation. It is a petra scandali for the unpsycholgical mind: how can such an unfounded assertion as the bodily reception of the Virgin into heaven be put forward as worthy of belief? But the method which the Pope uses in order to demonstrate the truth of the dogma makes sense to the psychological mind, because it bases itself firstly on the necessary prefigurations, and secondly on a tradition of religious assertions reaching back for more than a thousand years. What outrages the Protestant standpoint in particular is the boundless approximation of the Deipara to the Godhead and, in consequence, the endangered supremacy of Christ, from which Protestantism will not budge. In sticking to this point it has obviously failed to consider that its hymnology is full of references to the ‘heavenly bridegroom,’ who is now suddenly supposed not to have a bride with equal rights. Or has, perchance, the ‘bridegroom,’ in true psychologistic manner, been understood as a mere metaphor?
The dogmatizing of the Assumption does not, however, according to the dogmatic view, mean that Mary has attained the status of goddess, although, as mistress of heaven and mediatrix, she is functionally on a par with Christ, the king and mediator. At any rate her position satisfies a renewed hope for the fulfillment of that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest, the more so the less he sees any possibility of getting rid of it by rational means. It is no wonder, therefore, that the hope, indeed the expectation of divine intervention arises in the collective unconscious and at the same time in the masses. The papal declaration has given comforting expression to that yearning. How could Protestantism so completely miss the point?
I was amazed and thrilled when I discovered this text and again when I’ve just now re-read it. And I’ve always loved to pray and sing these words from the preface of the Mass of the day:
Today the virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and the image
of your Church’s coming to perfection
and a sign of sure of hope and comfort for your people
on their pilgrim way.
Mary is the first disciple of her Son.
She is the one who said Yes! “Be it done unto me according to Your word.”
Each of us who bear witness to Christ give birth to him in our own way.
May we honor Mary on this wonderful feast day and enjoy this late summer weekend ~ safely, of course!
Now here before you go, are some young people in quarantine singing our old favorite hymn honoring our Lady “Hail Holy Queen enthroned above” Click here. And be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.
Usually, dear friends, I interrupt my blog service until the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th. However, on the morning of the Fourth of July last Saturday, I received an email from a friend from the church I had been attending before the coronavirus stopped us from attending church. He was up in the middle of the night writing an essay about racism in America. (And when I read it there wasn’t a mis-spelling, or a grammar error; the essay was just plain compelling.
I had already posted a couple of external links on the subject on my Facebook page on racism, so he got me think—Hmmm—maybe I should write a blog or two on the subject. And so this is the result.
Many of my long-time readers may recall the story that I’ve often told that I was ordained a deacon for the Catholic Church the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. That was April 4th, 1968. I was a a seminary student at Theological College of the Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C.
At the beginning of the ordination ceremony, we ordinandi laid down on the marble floor before the bishop as the choir intoned the ancient Litany of the Saints, that particular day was mingled with the sounds of sirens wailing in the distance. I sucked in a few deep breaths and told myself I would try to follow that great man’s example and do something about racial justice.
The following month the “Poor Peoples Campaign” that Dr. King had conceived was marching toward Washington had arrived in D.C. and hurriedly constructed what was dubbed as “Resurrection City” on the National Mall. They received a permit for 3,000 folks to set up camp there. I had at times reported certain events for The Florida Catholic, the newspaper for the Orlando, Florida diocese to which I belonged. By the time I got on the Mall, it was a muddy mess. There were wooden sidewalks throughout, but I didn’t have the proper footwear to get around without slipping and sliding. I interviewed a few folks for our paper back home and went back to the seminary for a warm shower. I wasn’t particularly helpful, but at least I ventured out there where the action was.
What I propose to do here is, first share with you my friends essay. Since it’s quite controversial and he himself is a person of color I suggested to him that I not print his name so that he have no repercussions from his family or employer.
And then today also I’m going to share with you Frederick Douglas’ Fifth of July Speech. There was word today that his statue in Rochester, NY was toppled.
Next week, I will share with some external links I posted on Facebook and two statements by the Bishops of the United States.
It has been said that this movement, sparred by the death of Mr. George Floyd is the largest and longest movement in US history. Let us pray it leads to fruitful change for the better.
Here’s my friend’s essay . . .
Dear Father Bob,
Thank you for sharing your insight and prayers helping us to recognize our national sin.
However, I’d like to offer a few thoughts you might want to consider in our national discussion about racism. First, racism and slavery was pressed upon peoples of color since the 1500s by European peoples, not the other way around. So by the time the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, abject subjugation of Black people and the systematic extinction of Indigenous peoples was the norm.People of color and their families who remained oppressed under this new independence actually ved an alternate historical reality—a Declaration of Indifference.
Four hundred years later, George Floyd’s senseless death by those sworn to protect him, as they idly watched the last breath snatched from him, is our testimony of said indifference. Photographs of the last 100 years record black men hanging from trees while many watched and posed with glee. Billie Holiday recalled seeing lynched black bodies hanging in trees while touring the south subsequently writing an anthem about these atrocities—Strange Fruit An anthem that became ignored. Holiday first performed the song at Café Society in 1939.
She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece, making it a regular part of her live performances. Because of the power of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; and there would be no encore. During the musical introduction to the song, Holiday stood with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer . . . .
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop
Racism is a product of our character defects. Dr. King revealed this truth when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” When we live with a sense of entitled superiority rather than with empathy and compassion, we no longer see our brother or sister through God’s eyes, but with our own shortsightedness. Our human family on this earth becomes our “supply” and horrifically treated as such.
Racism then acts like a disease, an evil, contracted in every generation and a virus we can no longer afford. Sadly those who are plagued with this insanity also suffer the worst kind of denial. A denial that blinds us from humanity and God. ”
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1John 4:20 (NIV)
Thomas Jefferson, a well accomplished man, while pondering the Declaration of Independence and staring out the window at his slaves toiling in the fields lived in the Nineteenth Century, the Age of Enlightenment, for whom I dare ask?
In the movie, Gone with the Wind, a 1939 epic set in the Civil War era around Atlanta that pits two dysfunctional families against each other in sordid romances. There’s been a movement afoot to address the difficult treatment the film depicts of black people and the condoning of slavery.
Not unlike the dysfunctional relationships we have become all too familiar with today many of us have suffered a lifetime of harm and abuse at the hands of a loved one or others, and despite our conscious efforts we still remain unseen, unheard, and unloved.
That is what has happened with black folk who have served, first their “Mass’rs”, and then have been “put in their place” ever since, in ever nook and cranny of our country. Our nation has become—in that sense—like a dysfunctional family.
Thus, racism is a character defect that can never be improved only removed. Many a founding father’s perspective of the sacred document they helped forged, saw their own grandsons and granddaughters leading the South in indenturing slaves for their own aggrandizement. Moreover the following hundreds of years of oppressed living in black and brown communities developed their own generation’s stories. Is it practical, fair or morally acceptable to gloss over our own racism if we truly love America today or our own honor and dignity?
Finding comfort in the founding fathers wisdom, has brought us to no avail, accept for those who continue to take the life and breath from our black brother, the liberty from our black sister, and the pursuit of happiness from our black children.
Addressing racism in America, will require a bedrock honest approach to this great dilemma and perhaps we may have to admit we have reached the point of exhaustion. Have reached the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired and are willing to take fearless steps to remove our racial attitudes and the behaviors toward others that go with them? Can we find the courage to be accountable for our wrongs and humbly make amends to those we’ve harmed? Georgetown University has already taken a few steps to do that. We need a declaration that is God directed, rather than one that is politically motivated or self-referential..
May God’s Good Peace reign in our hearts through His Holy Spirit, and the unfailing Love of our Lord Jesus Christ, bring us deliverance from all evil. Help us Lord to be reconciled to You and to each other by the help of Your Holy Grace that unifies us. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.
And now I turn you to another black man of another generation Frederick Douglas
What to the slave is the Fourth of July?
By Frederick Douglass
July 5th, 1852
The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th of July oration. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom.
I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. Cling to this day – cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. With them, nothing was settled that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were final; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men.
Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. My business, if I have any here today, is with the present. We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.
Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?
I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me.
This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, is inhuman mockery. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?
Above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY.
Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery – the great sin and shame of America! I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! Had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
Americans! Your republican politics are flagrantly inconsistent. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a byword to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! Be warned! Be warned! A horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!
Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope.
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end.
And change into a faithful friend
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive –
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost.
And now, before you go, here’s a song that my friend “G” chose for us to conclude with ~ “For the One” Click Here
The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)
Sunday, June 14. 2020
Today is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.
I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe about this wonderful sacrament.
In my 50 years as a priest I must have celebrated hundreds, maybe thousands of Masses over that time. But I’d like to offer some wonderful comments from Father Richard Rohr, an author I have always appreciated for his wisdom and insight. These are from a recent book “The Universal Christ.” Father Rohr realized that Jesus did not say, “This is my spirit given for you”, or ‘These are my thoughts.” Instead he said very daringly, “This is my body,” which seemed for a spiritual teacher, a God-man to speak. And John reports many left him because of it (John 6:66).
Rohr says he has come to realize that in offering his body, Jesus is precisely giving us his full bodily humanity more than his spiritualized divinity! Eat me,” he shockingly says.
Many of the ancient religions portrayed their god as eating or sacrificing humans or animals, which were offered on altars, but Jesus is inviting us that God would give himself as food for us.
On helpful piece of the Catholic ritual is our orthodox belief in ‘Real Presence.” By that we mean that Jesus is somehow physically present in the sacramental bread. This, Father Rohr says, sets the stage for what he likes to call “carnal knowledge” of God, who is normally assumed to be Spirit. It seemed that mere mind-knowing is not enough because it does not engage the heart or the soul. Presence is a unique capacity that includes body, heart, mind and whatever we mean by soul.. Only real presence can know Real Presence.
When Jesus speaks the words “This is my Body,” Father Rohr believes he was speaking not just about the bread right in front of him, but about the whole universe, about everything that is physical, material, and yet is spirit-filled. (The name of his book , again, is “The Universal Christ”). When we speak these sacred words at the altar, we are speaking them to both the bread and the congregation—so we can carry it “To all creation” (Mark 16:16). As St. Augustine said, we must feed the body of Christ to the people of God until they know they are what they eat! And they know what they drink!
Jesus pushes it further into even scarier directions by adding the symbolism of intoxicating wine as we lift the chalice and speak over all of suffering humanity. “This is my blood.’ Jesus then directs us Drink me, all of you!’
In drinking the Blood of Christ at this Holy Meal you are consciously uniting yourself with all unjust suffering in the world from the beginning of time till its end.
The bread and wine together are stand-ins for the very elements of the universe, which also enjoy and communicate the incarnate presence.
A true believer is eating what he or she is afraid to see and afraid to accept; The universe is the Body of God, both in its essence and its suffering.
As Pope Francis insists, the Eucharistic bread and wine are not a prize for the perfect or a reward for good behavior. Rather, they are food for the human journey and medicine for the sick.
For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy and at times, and a deep affection for my Jesus.
When I receive our Lord in holy communion I pray:
Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken
and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.
As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist
may I become Your body
and Your body become mine.
May Your blood course through my own blood stream.
I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.
Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies
Let me become Your Body-broken
and Your Blood-poured-out
into a world that needs You
now more than ever.
To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise
this day and forever!
So be it! Amen!
And now. before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro Te Devote sung in procession. On this day throughout the world, it is the custom to have public processions in Catholic countrie with the Blessed Sacrament such as the one in this video. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings with the Ancient “Sequence” or Eucharistic poem included before the gospel. Click here
Richard Rohr The Universal Christ / Ch. 11 pp. 129-138 Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge /2019 / 36 Causton Street / London SWIP 4ST / Copyright Center for Action and Contemplation 2019