Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hearts Healed!

From the Hermitage

Wednesday of Easter Week

Today's gospel brings us to the event that probably has a personal meaning for many who struggle to know God's will.  The two disciples walking to Emmaus because their hopes for a messiah have been dashed.  They had not yet hears the news about Jesus and his resurrection.  They were frightened by the idea that they might become victims because they had associated with Jesus.  They were good friends of the man who was put to death because his message and some actions offended the ruling religious leaders in Jerusalem.  Even more frightening  was the hurt that all they had invested in time and belief in Jesus was lost.

Surely there have been similar situations that have confronted believers.  Events have occurred in their lives that have shaken them.  "Why," they might ask. "why did I allow myself to be so blind?"  When they asked themselves that question, they too were walking to Emmaus.

Have you been on this road at one time or another in your lifetime.  Have you put your stock in another person's word or promises?  Have you invested time and talent in a project that failed?

If you have, have you been able to set with Jesus in quiet prayer to allow him to speak to your heart?  Have you allowed the Holy Spirit entrance into you heart?  Have you allowed  Him to show you what may have been a mistake on your part?  

What have you learned form some moments with God?  In many instances the deepest question is a simple one:  How can I live with myself after seeing a genuine blindness that might have occurred because you were committed to someone or to something that promised a new way of life, a new experience in goodness?

What the disciples experienced on that first Easter Sunday easily can be an experienced similar to moments many of us have endured.  If this is so, now is the time to invite Jesus to dinner for a heart to heart conversation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Never Give Up!

From the Hermitage

Easter Tuesday 2014

Dear Friends,

Listen to what the Jewish people hear from Peter:  "this Jesus whom you crucified" you must realize now that he is both Lord and Christ.  And imagine you are standing there with the people who hear this horrible words.  What do you see?  It is not the same spirit that was in the hearts of some who were calling out "Crucify him.  Crucify him."  No, what we encounter is a people who are "cut to the heart."  They seem to recognize their guilt and want to get themselves on the right way.  Peter is not angry, is not pointing his finger at them in condemnation.  No, what Peter said to them was that it was not too late for them to feel spiritual healing, forgiveness for what has happened.  Repent and you will be graced by the Holy Spirit.  At the same time Peter tells them their repentance and what they can say to their children and "to all those far off" will bring the gift of forgiveness."  Forgiveness comes from God, the Father, "to all those far off."  Peter exhorted the Jews who came to him to "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."

The message from the one who denied knowing Christ during the trial of Jesus affirms for the people and all generations to come that it is never too late to walk away from sin, to give up whatever it is that holds a person back from knowing Jesus and what he taught us.

Do you always or most often think of Jesus as dead?  Peter's assurance to all generations is that he is not dead, that he indeed has risen from the dead as he said he would.  This is the message we receive each day:  it is never too late to shed whatever sinfulness separates a God-given life from his love and care.

Did you succeed in fulfilling the hopes and perhaps promises made on Ash Wednesday?  Friends, it is never too late to accomplish what you must have considered important for your life at this time.  If sin persists, repentance will bring participation in the graces of the Holy Spirit.

The challenge for us who have so many different ways to know about Jesus -- the bible, writing that are easily had through the world wide web, simple prayer on a consistent basis, regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation -- is to never forget that it is never too late to come before God seeking pardon and reconciliation, sharing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Oremus pro invicem!  Please help me today with your prayers as I have an especially challenging mission to accomplish for someone .... And it is not easy.  Many thanks!

Fr. Milt

Monday, April 21, 2014

Time to Set Forth

From the Hermitage

Monday of Easter Week

Dear Friends,

Surely I prayed yesterday for all of us with the intention that the genuine joy in its fullest sense may have settled our hearts!  Peace and joy are the most significant gifts from the Holy Spirit for us.

Now for several weeks our first reading will be taken from the writings of St. Luke, the Acts of the Apostles.  These words and remembrances from the Evangelist may help in understanding the beginning days of this church that we call our Roman Catholic Church.  Perhaps at the outset of the Easter season taking time to read the Acts from start to finish may be what we need to seal any thoughts about post-Lent resolutions.

It is always a joy to celebrate Easter Sunday morning Masses:  the congregations are usually filled with a lively heart.  The greetings received after Mass relate a spiritual excitement.  The liturgy and the "message" in the homily along with a filled church make for a strong celebration.  People want to be happy.  Pray-ers like to celebrate not the ending of Lent but the sense of accomplishment.  Some forty days of dedicated prayer and other spiritual activities need to be concluded with joy: what is a cake without icing!

Despite the tiredness most priest experience by the time we reach the dismissal of the last Mass for the Sunday of all Sundays, there is a sense not only of "job well done by all in the parish," but there is finally a time for some quiet reflection after experiencing the power of the Sacred Triduum.

The joy experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is truly a blessing.  There were many hours of "hearing" sins, failures, disappointment, hatred, loss of control, feelings of hurting God.  Yet, so often after a few simple words, hopefully stirring up once again a realization of the gift of forgiveness, there is always a sense of humble gratitude to a loving and caring God.  It is a feeling that is heard so clearly in three simple words:  "Thank you, Father."  It is also the tone driven by a heart that has encountered a forgiving God, a loving Father.

In the days of this Easter week, join me in a daily recap of the experiences that you have felt in your heart during times of Lenten quiet and prayer.  Consider what "happened" to you as a result of your prayer, as a consequence of opening up your heart in the effort of reconciliation with God.  Examine the thoughts you might remember from the 40 days of reflection -- or whatever number of days you may have taken time to be with God.

May The Lord's presence be the gift of Easter for you again or,  perhaps, as you have not experienced it before.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Sunday, April 20, 2014

No Room for Fear

From the Hermitage

Easter Sunday 2014

Yesterday evening, in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis began his homily with these words.

"Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking for Jesus
who was crucified.  He is not here; 
for he has been raised ....
Come, see the place where he lay"
 (Mt 28:5-6)

The opening words, "Do not be afraid," were often used by Blessed John Paul II whom the Church will officially canonized one week from today.  These two Pope suffered much during their pre-papal day, usually in quiet and behind the scenes of their public lives.

As both Popes said on different occasions, Easter, this is the high point of the Gospel message the four evangelists and our Church has preached since the first Easter Sunday.  What we celebrate today is what we say so often from pulpits throughout the world:  this is the Good News.

This day and what it is stands for us as the basis of our faith, that is our relationship with God.  What is so important to realize and remember more that on one Sunday each year is that if Jesus, the Christ, were not risen from the dead, the very mission of our Church would lose its impulse, its very reason for being.  It was from that first Easter Sunday that the apostles and other disciples set out the mission of the Church.  Their message is not different today.  It has always been the same:  "Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins."  Yes, indeed he did.  But God, his Father, our Father, wanted the apostles and disciples and us to know that Jesus is the Lord of life and death."  It was the love of Jesus for the Father and for all human kind, that he willingly suffered with his love being the driving force in his very being that through his death and rising has overcome, has triumphed over, hatred,  mercy has overcome our sinfulness,  goodness has challenged evil and truth has smashed lies, and life has triumphed over death.

The message of Easter Sunday is the very reason people of every religion persuasion tell others "Come and see!"  Where there is frailty, sin and death, the Good News of the Gospel, regardless of the words used, the Good News stands as a testimony to love that is unconditional and forever faithful.  It is the message of Easter Sunday to us today to step out of ourselves to help anyone being "crushed by life's troubles, sharing with the needy, standing by the side of the sick, the elderly and the outcasts.  The message is the same in each religion:  Come and see!  See that Love is more powerful, that love gives life, and love "makes hoe blossom int the wilderness."

Let us, with our Easter joy, turn to the Lord today.  Let us seek and find Him.  Let us realize that our Father is truly "ours" and we can never see ourselves as orphans.  We can always turn to the Father who gift to us this day is love beyond all telling.

And, as we pray today, let us petition with great intensity that God will help us overcome the scourge of hunger in our world.  Let us pray that we always seek to protect the vulnerable in our societies, children, women and the elderly -- these are the vulnerable who are at time exploited and then abandoned.  Today is the day when we look everywhere to recognize the failure of our societies to overlook the life that was given to each person born on this earth.

Lord, we ask you in prayer today to help all the people of our earth.  You conquered death, now "grant us life, grant us your peace."  Amen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gift and Betrayal on Holy Thursday

From the Hermitage

Thursday of Holy Week

Dear Friends,

There are two points for your meditation on this sacred day.  For the priests of the world Holy Thursday is the commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood  The celebration of the Lord's Supper is very special to those called by God to the priestly vocation.  Today, as you allow your mind and heart to reflect on the gift of the Eucharist and Priesthood, imagine you are sitting at the table with the Apostles and Jesus hands you a piece of bread so unlike the small wafers of contemporary form.  Regardless of its form, hear Jesus say the words so meaningful:  "this is my body".  Likewise, as he hands you a cup of wine, hear these words:  "this is my blood."  

Consider how you would feel when he speaks to you.  Consider as well, what do you think Jesus would thinking?  He disregards whatever may have been sinful in your life.   He must have been aware, however, of all the good you would do throughout your lifetime.  Maybe He would think of the many times you would receive the Eucharist in your lifetime.  These may well have been more meaningful to him than the times sin may have taken some control over your life.

The second point relates to the extraordinary moment when Jesus handed a piece of the bread to Judas Isacariot.  What must He have thought?  Here I am giving "my body and blood" to this poor man who is so taken by greed that within a short time he would betray Jesus.  Yet he does not hesitate.  Likewise imagine what must have been running through the mind of Judas as Jesus approaches him and presents him with the very first Eucharist.  What was it like to accept the piece of  bread from Jesus when later in the evening he would betray Jesus;  when he would lead those given him just 30 pieces of silver to sever a friendship?

Pray on this Holy Thursday for strength when temptation tries to lead you to sin. and to realize that the Eucharist can be your support in such moments.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

One Person's Calling Fulfilled

From the Hermitage

Wednesday of Holy Week 2014

Isaiah 50:4  * The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to answer the weary a word that will waken them.  Morning after morning he wakens my ear to hear as disciples do;
Isaiah 50:5  The Lord GOD opened my ear; I did not refuse, did not turn away.

Dear Friends,

Two simple verses from one of the more powerful books of the Old Testament.  As we draw closer to the most sacred of days in our Church's year, perhaps thoughts have been passing through your heart and mind about priorities.  Hearing confessions for the last two evenings, I have been moved by the struggles men and women have to bear in today's culture, today's society.  These words from the third person to write the Book of Isaiah (yes, there were 3 unidentified writers!) reflect one man's experience of prayer.

A suggestion:  read these words several times in a rather slow pace.  Don't hurry.  And be like the author:  read and listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit in your mind and heart.  Each morning prayer is so very important.  Through the stillness of meditation and reflection, the Holy Spirit empowers us to hear, to listen "as disciples do."

Again, back to the confessional scene:  no doubt every priest who is worth his salt must struggle within his mind and heart to be the voice of the Spirit "to answer the weary a word that will waken them" to know the goodness of the Lord.  But everyone of us who tries to follow Jesus, our brother, may daily encounter others who are hurting, seeking peace, wanting God's love.  To reach out to the is one of the reasons God make the call to prayer.  Most do not have the time to go off to the desert or to disappear from the crowd to train the heart and soul to be open to the special moments of the Holy Spirit calling out.  Calling out?  Yes, inviting us to accept the Word of God in our lives.

If the good intentions of Ash Wednesday seem to have blown away like ashes in the wind, perhaps this week offers a genuine opportunity set priorities in one's life ... especially as regards our prayer life.  Just as the penitent hopes the confessor will say the right words to life a burden from his/her shoulders, so should all penitents pray daily that the Holy Spirit will enable a friend to say the right words when someone comes distraught, confused, lost, angry, unfulfilled, lonely and so forth.

As the third writer of Isaiah teaches:  "The Lord has opened my ear.  For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away."  Let the Lenten journey offer a sense of satisfaction:  consider how even the few times you may have been able to seek the God in a moment of stillness and let these be a power that enables you to be the voice of God present to those in need.  Remember: YOU ARE GOD'S DISCIPLE!

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt