Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
We’ll take a deeper turn in this Advent blog beginning today.
As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up and enriching somehow.
It’s bringing me a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature.
Also an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that’s occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to God once again.
That, ongoing dual process ~ “a kind of coincidence of opposites” ~ sin and grace ~ dear friends, is always what gives meaning and joy to my life.
The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.
To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our maneuvering ~ scheming ~ elbowing for status or power or success or prestige. Or any of the things American society tells us we’re supposed to “have or or possess ” to make us happy.
The wise person realizes they won’t!
Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about . . .
He was a pretty successful preacher. People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive. People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.
But he didn’t let it go to his head. He realized what his role was. He was just the “advance man” ~ the Messenger of the Son of God. And he was content with that.
He knew who he was. He didn’t want to be the star. Even though many thought he was “The Man.”
The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:
“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
My spiritual director at the time reminded me to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.
I was a young, cool, creative priest. I was a rising star. I thought I was pretty hot stuff.
A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”
But God had other plans.
Today, I’m just a little guy, content with a tiny flock to care for, and to write a little blog few know about.
Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.
And so today I pray inspired by the one who was content to live in the wilderness . . .
Jesus, You are the light of my life.
Without You I would be nowhere. Nada. Nothing.
And that’s fine with me.
I want You to be in all my relationships,
in all of my writing,
You help me to be humble, Lord.
You cast me down and raised me up again.
You chastise me; You heal me.
With St. Paul, You’ve helped me realize in the midst of my brokenness,
it was ~ and is ~ You who make me strong.
Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good
if I allow You more and more to increase
and allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.
To be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.
So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life.
And yet, You have surprised me ~ delighted me ~ ravished me with Your love.
And you know what?
There, I found You!
You raised me up! You drew me to Yourself!
You bound up my wounds! You clothed me with Your LOVE!
What a joy!
And now I’m eager to share Your Love.
To help others know that You love each and everyone ~ no matter what.
But You want us to love You in return.
Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.
Let me never ever forget that. No matter what.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
In the coming days I’d like to have us take a deeper look at the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy ~ mucky ~ crazy human race as it appears in Matthew’s and Luke’s stories of how God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us. That story ~ even if you just accept as a story ~ has much to teach us. Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level.
Here is an inspiring YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece sung by Josh Groban. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Prepare to be goosebupped!
And here are today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Homeward and westward bound, on Oakland Park Boulevard is usually a quite uninteresting experience. But once in a while — if one is Aware enough to notice — good things can happen. A photographer knows that you have to be right there with slit-second timing to catch the right light on your subject. Photography is about dancing with the light and the shadow, whenever and wherever they seem, um, unusual. I love to capture such images that invite introspection and reflection. (or at least to try because this photographer also has Parkinson’s; the sometimes unsteady hand results in sometimes quite unique images I captured this particular moment on March 30, 2009 at 7:02 pm. My iphone was nearby; I was probably listening to “Us and Them” on the same device; this Pink Floyd favorite times perfectly to get me home from downtown if I leave after rush hour. I steadied it firmly on top of the steering wheel. The rays of the sun pierced the clouds above and sent a single glance toward us drivers on the ground.
Was that Awareness just for me? Or did others experience it too? Are we (am I?) ready to “catch” beauty on the fly or on the “drive-by”? Ready for the natural world to dialogue and dance with us? Ready when it desires to reveal itself? To surprise us / lift us out of ourselves / connect us with something beyond our self inflated (or deflated) worlds? This, of course, wasn’t the most awesome sunset I’ve ever experienced. (I do like to experience them rather than just observe them.) And surely a couple of green lights, and incongruent light poles made for a less than idylic image. Nevertheless, it lifted me out of my homebound / self-bound thoughts and feelings (whatever they were) into a moment of connection and contemplation with that little part of the cosmos that one humble / connected man, Francis of Assisi 900 years ago greeted as a Person: “Brother Sun.”
Just a thought: There’s beauty everywhere in every place at every time for those who have eyes to see. How ’bout you?
priest / writer
Today (Sunday, June 14) is our Roman Catholic feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate we give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.
I’d like to pause to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe — or say we believe — about communion.
It is stumbling block for many – not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their life into common-union.
And, um, I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.
And I’m not so sure the church gets it because with an all-celibate, all-male clergy, there will be fewer and fewer priests which means that there will be fewer Catholic communities that will have Mass.
As for me, I crave the holy Eucharist. It would be very hard for me to live without it.
Here’s what I believe and (try to) live:
Communion means union. Closeness and intimacy with our Lord.
And with one another.
In other words, communion is love.
But do we really believe? Do we want to accept the implications of that closeness?
Do we want to be transformed by Jesus’ love?
Do we want to live in common – union with our brothers and sisters?
In the South sixty years ago black folk had to sit in the back of the Church.
Is that communion? Is that honoring the Body and Blood of Christ?
Isn’t it a lie to receive communion and not want to live in common
with all God’s children? How dare we!
It is given to us so that we might become that gift for others.
To become the Real Presence of Christ in the world.
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
be honor and glory and praise
this day and forever!
So be it! Amen!
priest /writerPhotos taken from my Mass of Thanksgiving for the forty years of my priesthood May 24, 2009 and over Fort Lauderdale.