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Happy Valentine’s Day! True Love is faithful love ~ How do you measure up?

Flagler Beach Florida sunrise / bob traupman.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYONE!

We’ve been reflecting on St. Paul’s eloquent words about love from I Corinthians 13. And this is my final post on the subject.

Love is not pompous,

it is not inflated,

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.

Romantic love wears off in a few months.  True love requires fidelity and is long-lasting.  I often remember people I met briefly twenty or thirty years ago and there is still a place in my heart for them, even those who turned out to reject me.  And when I think of them I believe my prayer is able to touch them even now, either living or dead.

We think we know all about love. Yet Love is  an Art and a Discipline that is only learned and acquired by trial and error.  Thus, we have to learn how to love.  Or perhaps unlearn what we have learned in abusive homes  or families and find people who can teach us well.  I am profoundly grateful for the people who allowed my soul to unfold and blossom because of their love.

When I taught high school seniors (50 years ago!) I had them read two books,  Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Both books still should be required reading by anyone who wants to become a whole and healed human person.

Many of us keep focusing on finding the right object of our love.  Fromm — and Jesus — tell us that being a person who is capable of loving the stranger in the checkout line at the 7-11 or your sibling whose guts you can’t stand is the way we will learn to love.

Love is being free to love the one you’re with so you can be with the one you love.

It is just not possible to love some and hate others.  St. John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (1 John 3:15)  

And yet, in today’s America, I wonder what kind of leadership and example we are setting for our children when our political and business leaders seek to take revenge on their opponents instead of striving to be true noble patriots instead of petulant bullies. 

Love is being able to see and respond to the loving energy of the universe and spread it around instead of trying to possess it for oneself.

Love is faithfully loving whomever God puts in our life at every turn of our life’s journey. A hard task sometimes. I know.

How often we fail.  But that’s what growth in love and Christian spirituality is all about. Sometimes it requires a heroic effort and sacrificial love ~ the love of Jesus, the Love of God for us.

And so here’s my final prayer for this Valentine’s Day . . . .

Good and gracious God,

We live in a world that gives us so few models of faithful love.

Help us to learn the art and discipline of loving.

Help us to understand that we cannot love one person ~ even ourselves ~ unless we let love ~ rather than hate ~ flow from our heart to touch and heal and nourish those around us.

Heal us, Lord.

Let us trust in You for you are the Source of all Love,

Your Love is flowing like a river giving life to everything along the way,

a river from our own hearts to everyone we meet this day. 

I also ask your blessing on all married couples and those engaged to be married.

It’s not easy to be faithful in this world today.

Pour out your abundant blessing upon them in all their struggles.

Renew their love and their joy this day and all the days of their lives.

Amen.

And now before you go, wouldn’t you like to hear a romantic melody for your beloved?  Well, here’s a very unique one: Cold Play’s True Love  Click here. 

With love

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13)  Savor each line 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

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Jilted Lovers or Joyous Love?

 

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mesa verde national park of southern colorado / march 2008 / bob traupman. 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Our society finds it quite acceptable for people to hop into one relationship after another or just satisfy their needs by”hooking up”.

How many times have young people thought that this was the person of their dreams and been dumped by a rude text message ~ or done the dumping themselves?

How many marriages have ended when one spouse showed up in the kitchen and announced, “I want a divorce!”  No discussion.  No attempt to work out problems.  No mercy.  No forgiveness.   It’s over.  Done.

And what happens is that we may add one unsuccessful relationship on top of another.  As a result, our heart can become more and more wounded. And less and less trusting, less and less capable of loving .  . . unless we somehow ~ someone (Someone? helps us find a way to believe again, to hope again.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the truth and the transforming power of St. Paul’s words in I Cor. 13 we’re reflecting on in this series “What is Love?”

LOVE . . .

. . .  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.

We just have to learn to love anyway.

At least, that’s what St. Paul is getting at “Love does not brood over injuries.”

In the Art of Loving, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm’s classic book written in 1956, consider his statement that will blow most of us out of the water:

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person:  it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love.  If a person loves only one person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment  or an enlarged egotism . . . If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world; I love life.  If I can say to somebody else, “I love you,” I must be able to say”I love in you everybody.   I love through you the world, I love in you also myself”~ p. 39.)

This is, of course, is the heart of Jesus’ message, but many, if not most of us who say we’re his followers still don’t get it.

 As tech opportunities for “communication” proliferate the less we communicate.  We communicate more and more on a superficial level.  You can’t really know someone through texting or on Facebook or in an email.  A person can present a false persona. The only real way to communicate with someone is to be in their presence using all our senses.

We need to learn, once again how to come to true intimacy ~ the coming together of two or more persons who have the courage open themselves to the transformative power of love.

If you are one who seeks that, I’m with you.   That’s what my writing is about.

Tomorrow’s blog of this series will turn this subject around to consider “The Transformative Power of Love.”

Good and gracious God,

we ask you to heal the hearts that are broken.

Help us to see even in the midst of our brokenness the depth of Your Love for us.

And may we see our brokenness when we reject Your love.

We may feel we cannot take the risk to open our hearts once more.

Give us the courage and strength to stop destructive patterns that lead only to more pain.

Give us hope, Lord.

Instead of seeking to find our true love,

let us simply become persons who love —

. . . whomever we’re with,

. . . to grow in our capacity to love

so that we can reach out to the whole world

as You do at every moment,

in every time and place.

To You, God of our understanding,

we give You praise, now and forever.

AMEN!

Now I suggest you take a second look at that tree weathering the mountaintop at 8000 feet.  It has been jilted by the weather.  But it still stands nobly and proudly — broken, gnarled and twisted; it’s a fine lesson for us of the meaning of life.

And here is the entire text of St. Paul’s Ode to Love (I Corinthians 13) once again.   Savor each phrase 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,  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, but the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13

Now before you go, here’s a music video for you. Click Here.

With Love, 

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

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St. Paul’s Ode to Love ~ How do we measure up?

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.

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?

So 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 got 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

Dearest God,

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.

Amen!

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 want 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 next Friday.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

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The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple

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The  Feast of the Presentation of the Lord In the Temple ~ February 2nd, 2020.

It’s also known as Candlemas Day when there’s often a procession with blessed candles through the church, or in Latin or European countries through the streets. The sacred candles to be used at the altar for the coming year are also blessed at this time.

This is one of the old Christmas feasts as it is forty days after the birth of the baby Jesus. I’ll let our Gospel tell the story. . . .

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

(This is one of the few times that St. Joseph appears in the Scriptures. As we see here it’s his role to accompany Mary on the somewhat arduous journey to Jerusalem for the consecration of their child.)

Now here are some of scripture-scholar William Barclay’s notes on this feast day. . . .

For this first section he says, Jesus is undergoing three ancient ceremonies every Jewish boy had to undergo.

1. Circumcision. Jewish boys were circumcised on the eighth day after his birth,

2. The ceremony of the Redemption of the First Born. According to the law (Exodus 23::2) every first-born male, both human beings and of cattle was sacred to God. That law may have been a recognition of the gracious power of God in giving human life.  Therefore there was a ceremony called the Redemption of the First-Born (Numbers 18:16).

3. The Purification after Childbirth.  When a woman had borne a child, if it is a boy, she is  considered unclean for forty days; if it is a girl for eighty days. She could go about her household duties, but she could not enter the temple or a attend a religious ceremony. At the end of that time, she had to bring to the temple a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon for a sin offering. That was a somewhat expensive sacrifice, and so it was laid down (Leviticus 12:8) that if she could not afford the lamb she could bring another pigeon.  The offering of the two pigeons was technically called the Offering of the Poor.

Again we see that it was into an ordinary home that Jesus was born where there were no luxuries, a home where the cost of everything had to be considered carefully. When life is worrying for us we must remember that Jesus knew what the difficulties of making ends meet can be.

These three ceremonies seem strange to us, but all three have at the back of them that a child is a gift of God. The Stoics used to say that a child was not given to a parent but only lent. Joseph and Mary would find this out about Jesus soon enough. Let’s continue with our story of today’s feast as told in today’s gospel . . . .

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  

Now here’s what Barclay describes  the context for understanding Simeon and also Anna . . .

The Jews regarded their own nation as the chosen people, but they saw quite clearly that by human means their nation could never attain the supreme world greatness that they believed their destiny involved. But they still believed that some day they would be masters of the world and lords of the nations. They thought some celestial champion would descend upon the earth; others believed another king in David’s line and all his glories would revive. Still others believed God himself would break directly into history by supernatural means.

But in contrast to all that, there were a few people who were known as the Quiet of the Land. They had no dreams of violence and of power or armies with banners held aloft. They believed in a life of constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until God should come. All their lives they waited quietly and patiently upon God.

Simeon was like that; in prayer, in worship, in humble and faithful expectation he was waiting for the day when God would comfort his people. God had promised him through God’s Spirit that his life would not end before he had seen God’s own anointed king. In the baby Jesus he recognized that king and rejoiced. Now he was ready to depart in peace and his words become the Nunc Dimittis, another of the great precious hymns of the church.

Wait! There’s more as the gospel story continues . . .

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
–and you yourself a sword will pierce–
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

And I’ll just clarify a short note from our Presbyterian scripture scholar here about Anna . . . .

Anna too was one of the Quiet of the Land.

She was a widow. She had known sorrow and not grown bitter.

Anna was eighty-four years old.   She was old but she never ceased to hope.

It all depends on how we think about God. If we think of him as distant and detached we may well despair; but if we think of him as intimately connected with life, as having his hand on the helm, we too will be sure that the best is yet to be and the years will never kill our hope.

How then did Anna come to be as she was?

She never ceased to worship. She spent her life in God’s house with God’s people.

She never ceased to pray. The years had left Anna without bitterness and an unshakable hope because day by day she kept her contact with him who is the source of strength and in whose strength our weakness is made perfect.

And now my prayer . . . .

Dearest Lord Jesus, I’ve always loved this feast for personal reasons. 

It’s the fourth joyful mystery of the rosary that we meditate on too.

And now I ask you to draw my readers to yourself. 

Draw them into your presence.

You are the Temple. The Temple in whom we can dwell right now in your loving heart. Please Jesus. We love you!

And before you go, here’s a powerful song for you ” King of Glory. Click here.

And here are all of this Feast’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

William Barclay / the New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke / Westminster- John Knox Press, Louisville,KY 1978–pp.28-34.

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The Legacy of a martyr ~ what are you willing to give your life for?

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Today, Monday, January, 20, 2020, we 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 moment. 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 once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore.  Our Rector arranged for a lot of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore. Today, I have an image of him near my desk.

He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi. And also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us, as 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, 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. In the shadow of this man whose ideals of justice and peace and freedom I also wanted to absorb into my body and soul, I sucked in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.

Today, in this land of America, we seem to be allowing the freedoms and ideals of that other great man Thomas Jefferson that all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness to slip away from us.

Racism that was covert has reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, last year, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso last year deliberately against brown people.

And a real threat of violence is predicted for this very day in  Richmond, Virginia’s capital in a clash over gun rights by racial extremists causing the governor to declare a state of emergency.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 once again 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 2020
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.                              T
o 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.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

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The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ~ You are my beloved Son / You are my beloved Daughter

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord ~ Sunday, January 12, 2020

This feast is part of the epiphany cycle of feasts ….

It reveals a bit more of the meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, that is. our God entering our world and becoming flesh and blood like you and me.

By way of introduction, our Scripture scholar-friend William Barclay offers a short commentary on today’s Gospel story from Matthew about the Baptism of Jesus . . . .

For thirty years Jesus waited patiently for the moment to embark on his mission. He waited for the hour to strike. And when John emerged, Jesus knew it was time.

Barclay asks why should this be so? For one very simple reason.

The Jews knew and used baptism only for proselytes who came from another faith. It was natural for the sin-stained proselyte to be baptized but no Jew ever conceived of a member of the chosen people, a son of Abraham, assured of God’s salvation, should ever need baptism. Baptism was for sinners, an no Jew ever conceived of himself as a sinner shut off from God. Now for the first time in their national history the Jews realized their own sin and their own pressing need for God. Never before had there been a unique national movement of penitence and search for God. This was the very moment for which Jesus was waiting and he slipped into the line of pilgrims waiting to be baptized by John. The others there were conscious of their sin and conscious of their need for God as never before, and in Jesus baptism he identified himself with the people he came to save.

When he approached John, he objected, saying, “I should be baptized by you” But Jesus replied, “Allow it for now for it is to fulfill all righteousness.” (Barclay Gospel of Matthew – Vol. I pp.59-60.)

Pope Benedict XVI also has an interesting commentary on this feast . . . .

The Baptism of Jesus was held in great importance by the apostolic community, in that circumstance, for the first time in history there was the manifestation of the Trinitarian Mystery in a clear and complete way, but also because that event began the public ministry of Jesus on the roads of Palestine. The Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross and it is the symbol of the entire sacramental activity by which the Redeemer will bring about the salvation of humanity.

This is why the early Church Fathers have dedicated such great interest in this feast, which is the most ancient after Easter: Christ is baptized and the whole world is made holy,”sings today’s liturgy, “he wipes out the debt of our sins; we will all be purified by water and the Holy Spirit.” (Antiphon to the Benedictus) 

There is a strict relationship between the Baptism of Christ and our baptism. At the Jordan the heavens opened to indicate the Savior has opened the way of salvation and we can travel it thanks to our own new birth of water and Spirit (Jn 3:5) accomplished in baptism. The commitment that springs from baptism is therefore to “listen” to Jesus: to believe in him and gently follow him, doing his will. 

(As recorded in the “Meditation of the Day” in the Magnificat liturgical magazine January 2019 issue, p.179.)

Thus, God sent his only Son to become one with us.

What better way to do this than to show acceptance of the human condition by being baptized for the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus has no personal sin.  Yet he got in line with hundreds of pilgrims to be baptized by the prophet John by the River Jordan.

In this we see Jesus’ humility.  He is willing to accept ALL of the human condition.  He willingly presents himself for baptism.

There he is:  John at the edge of the desert, wading out into the waters of the Jordan River.

A crowd has gathered on the banks.  Jesus is among them.  He is unknown at this time because he has yet to begin his ministry.  He has chosen this meeting with the Prophet to inaugurate his own mission.

Jesus waits patiently amidst the crowd.  There’s a line of people eagerly waiting to meet individually with John. Jesus is to receive his baptism of repentance ~ not because there’s sin in him, but in order to model for us the authentic way to approach the Father.

He goes to the Baptist as a beggar because the Mystery is mercy.  Jesus surrenders to mercy by submitting himself to baptism in order to invite us to share in his relationship with the Father.

The Lord Jesus lowers himself in his baptism and, as Nothingness, acknowledges his Father so that we will never hesitate to do the same. (Source: Magnificat /Jan. 2019 issue p. 173.)

An astonishing thing happened; the two of them were privileged to a vision.  The sky opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and hover over him.

With that, a voice from the heavens said,

“You are my beloved Son;  with you I am well pleased.”

In our immersion into the waters of baptism, we are consecrated, set apart and made holy.  In Jesus’ immersion in the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the opposite becomes true.  Jesus consecrates, sets apart and makes holy the waters of baptism.  Jesus as Man consecrates the movement of divine grace that flows just as rivers flow.

Sometimes the river has abundant waters that give life to all living things that share its banks.  But sometimes the waters dry up and become like a desert.

So, too, with grace.  Grace flows like a river bringing wonderful fruit to all who drink and are immersed in it.  But sometimes grace  seemingly dries up and we live in a desert for a while.  But the river is still there, unseen; it just moves below the surface.

So we have to be willing to be immersed.  To be immersed in divine grace.  To be immersed in God.  To be immersed in love.

But that precisely is the problem.  We are scared of being immersed in love We are scared of being immersed in God.  We prefer to stand on the banks of the river and watch the waters of grace flow by, without having direct contact with it.

So this feast day is about us as well.  Don’t be afraid to be immersed in God.  Don’t be afraid to be immersed in love.

If we are immersed in God, in love, we will hear the voice of God say to us . . . .

“You are my beloved son.  You are my beloved daughter.  

Now, before you go, here’s the traditional spiritual “Shall we Gather at the River.” Click here. 

And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here

With Love, 

Bob Traupman 

Contemplative Writer

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The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Follow your Star!

The Feast of the Epiphany ~ Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Today’s feast day has several meanings.  In the Roman Church we celebrate the story of the Magi visiting Jesus and offering him gifts.  In the Eastern churches, they focus on the story of the Baptism of the Lord.  Both celebrate the manifestation, that is, the revelation of Jesus to the whole world.

St. Paul in today’s letter to the Ephesians proclaims that

“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”  (Eph. 3:6)

We focus on the story of the Magi in our celebration today.  In the Gospel of Christmas, the angels proclaim the Good News of Christ’s birth  to the shepherds, who were uneducated, poor folk.  The story from Luke indicates that the gospel is to be preached to the poor.

Today’s story is from Matthew.  The Magi are scholars and learned men.  They discern from their study of the heavens that the Messiah was to be born in their time and they would risk the search for him and offer their treasures.  The Magi represent all the peoples of the earth outside and beyond the Jewish experience.  Jesus is the Christ for everyone!

This Gospel story is about darkness and light. Brilliant light and terrible, fearful darkness.

The Magi were comfortable with the dark.  They knew how to find their way in the dark, because they could interpret the lights of the sky.  They were adventurers ~ seekers ~ explorers.

They represent all people who are at home in the world of the intellect.  All people who are willing to journey far to seek and find the truth. (Unfortunately, we live in a world where some leaders don’t bother with seeking truth.)

The Magi went out into the night following the light, the great star which marked a singular event in human history.

They stopped to see Herod, expecting that he would welcome the light.  He couldn’t; he was filled with diabolical darkness; he could not abide the light of truth.  He tried to snuff out the life of the God-Man: Jesus the Light of the world.

Herod, the guy in charge, a king, was worried about the birth of a baby.  Herod was powerful, and yet, as Matthew says, “ . . . he was greatly troubled.”

What was Herod afraid of?  He knew that Jesus was going to make a difference in his world and was afraid that a change would mean losing the power he had.  He wanted Jesus gone before any of that could happen.  He liked things just the way they were, the proverbial “status quo.”

So Herod decreed that all firstborn males under two were to be killed.   Jesus and Mary and Joseph would have to flee into the night to find a safe place in a foreign land, the land of Egypt.  And so a shroud of violence would invade the innocence of the Christmas story.  Jesus and his family became political refugees. (Remember that fact if you are inclined to quickly condemn other political refugees.)

I’d like to try to penetrate the meaning of this sacred event by sharing excerpts of two articles that really impacted my faith and understanding of this great feast.

The great 19th Century  Danish philosopher-poet and theologian  Søren Kierkegaard, in an article entitled, Only a Rumor, states,

Although the scribes could explain where the Messiah should be born, they remained quite unperturbed in Jerusalem.  They did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him.  Similarly we may know the whole of Christianity, yet make no movement.  The power that moved Heaven and Earth leaves us completely unmoved.

What a difference!  The three kings had only a rumor to go by.  But it moved them to make that long journey.  The scribes were much better informed, much better versed.  They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move.  Who had the more truth?  The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge?

What a vexation it must have been for the kings, that the scribes who gave them the news they wanted remained quiet in Jerusalem.  We are being mocked, the kings might have thought.  For indeed what an atrocious self-contradiction that the scribes should have the knowledge and yet remain still.  This is as bad as if a person knows all about Christ and his teachings, and his own life expresses the opposite.  We are tempted to suppose that such a person wishes to fool us, unless we admit that he is only fooling himself.

Father Alfred Delp, the Jesuit priest imprisoned and executed by Hitler in 1945, whom we recently quoted in a powerful Advent article before Christmas, The Shaking Reality of Advent  concurs . . .

The wise men. Whether they were really kings or just local eastern chieftains or learned astronomers is not important. The secret of these people is as plain as the shepherds. they are the men with clear eyes that probe things to the very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. They subordinated their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey the ends of the earth, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice . . . . The compelling earnestness of their quest, the unshakable persistence of their search, the royal grandeur of their dedication ~ these are their secrets.  

And it is their message for us and their judgment of us. Why do so few ever see the star? Only because so few are looking for it . . .   What are we looking for anyway? And will we find a genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us?  

Where is our desire? Where is our risk to set out to find the meaning of our life? To find Jesus at our center? Where is our yearning? Hunger?  Thirst?  What star do you follow?

And so, listen to these  powerful words  from Isaiah in the first reading:

RISE UP IN SPLENDOR, DEAR PEOPLE OF GOD, YOUR LIGHT HAS COME.

THE GLORY OF THE LORD SHINES UPON YOU.

This feast is about a light that penetrates the most stubborn darkness of our lives.

This feast brings a Light to us all, if only we, like the Magi, would seek.

SEE DARKNESS COVERS THE EARTH

AND THICK CLOUDS COVER THE PEOPLES.

Violence seems to shroud our whole planet at times.

Some of us too are swallowed up by darkness, enshrouded by night.

Some of us live in  dysfunctional families.  That too can be terrible darkness, though we may not recognize it.  We may think that yelling and screaming are quite normal.

Some of us get up and work hard, day in and day out.  Perhaps it is work that we do not enjoy, perhaps even hate.  Perhaps our spirits are far away from our jobs.  We go to work trying to eke out a living, hoping to not be enshrouded by darkness.

And we know that there is darkness in the world.  Israelis refuse to seek peace with the Palestinians.

And there’s troubles in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.  People have been displaced by the wildfires in the Amazon and in California.  Hate seethes deep in the souls of neighbors a few blocks away from each other.

BUT UPON YOU THE LORD SHINES

AND OVER YOU APPEARS HIS GLORY.

Don’t despair of the darkness, dear friends.  Know that there is a Light that can penetrate it.

There was sadness and a thick veil of darkness over my own life for many years.  I had the good sense to move to the little bit of light that I could find.

A candle flame can be as bright as a great Nova when one is looking for light.

WE need the light of God’s truth in the world today.

NATIONS SHALL WALK BY YOUR LIGHT,

AND RULERS BY YOUR SHINING RADIANCE.

And finally, dear friends, out of the darkness came the Magi bringing gifts for the Light of the World.  Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Holy Child who was the Light.

But before we can give a gift, we must ~ often in the midst of the darkness ~ open our hands and our hearts to receive the gift God would give to us.  We must first receive before we can give.

Out of the darkness of your lives, you also can find gifts to give to the Lord and your family and friends.

What gifts do we bring?

Do we bring Jesus the gift of our adoration that the Magi did? The gift of our hearts?

These learned and influential people got down on their knees before this little child.

What or who receives the gift of OUR adoration and allegiance?

The world does not know how to adore God.  We adore so many other things.  Maybe we adore a favorite movie star or our favorite sports team when they’re winning at least, or a new sports car, a new home, a gifted child of our own.

Maybe we adore our career path, willing to do whatever it takes, even as we embrace the darkness along with it.

And so, this Epiphany Sunday, I pray . . . .

Dearest Lord,

When I get down on my knees on Sunday morning,

 I’ll be humbled by this story of the Wise Men who traveled from afar                                                                                                 and fell to their knees with their gifts for you.  

Please allow me ~ allow us – to be renewed in your love this day.  

May we live in your Light and share your Light                                                                                                                                             with our families, friends and neighbors, and, indeed, all the world!  

And please, as I’ve pleaded for years and years for our country, dear Lord, 

help us to remember that it is in You we trust.

and are the source of our justice,

and the reason for us to live in civility and good will.  

Renew us in your justice, love and peace.

To You be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever. Amen.

And before you go, here’s the Cambridge King’s College singing “The First Noel”  Click here.

Further, if you’re interested in the star of Bethlehem, you might read this article “Synchronicity and the Star of Bethlehem”  Click here.

And if you’d like an extra treat, do you remember the little drummer boy? Here he he is! Click here.

You can find today’s Mass readings at this link. Click here.

With love,  

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer