Friday, September 19, 2014

Mary Magdalene


From the Hermitage


Dear Friends,

Today's gospel from St. Luke puts before us, again, a New Testament saint of the earliest days of the time of Jesus.  It is St. Mary Magdalene.

There have been some controversies about who this woman was.  In our Roman Catholic tradition, Pope St. Gregory declared that Mary, from the town of Magdala, a seaside town, was indeed the woman from whom seven devils had been driven, she was also the women at the well whose sins were forgiven and, of course, the woman who first ran to the tomb of Jesus.  In the eastern branches of the Catholic Church, there are three different feast days for three different women as described above,

Regardless of the difference of opinion between the two different stories about one Mary or three different Marys, what is helpful to us today and every day is what Mary Magdalene's life and character signify for us.  To cite a professor of law, Dr. Pat Borges, at Creighton University:  In any event, I find the story of Mary Magdalene uplifting.  No matter how humble our origins, no matter how scandalous our pasts, it is never to late to let Jesus into our hearts and be saved.

I draw your attention to this saint today because in a writing for the Knights of Columbus in early summer, my theme focused on Mary Magdalene.  To my surprise there were several very strong affirmations by my Brother Knights that this woman was their saint of choice.  And these men were quite clear in their reasoning.  It is the thinking of Dr. Borges above that these men replied.  Willing to acknowledge their humble origin as well as their status as sinners in their past, these men expressed how important St. Mary Magdalene had been in their lives, in their effort to allow Jesus into their hearts.

Does this Mary, Mary of Magdala, have any place in your heart?  She is surely a model for those seeking comfort on their journey of faith.  This Mary surely is a gift we can give to those who are seeking to finding a new relationship with Jesus Christ. 

St Mary Magdalene, pray for all of us who have sinned.  Seek for us the graces that strengthen us to let Jesus into our hearts.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Most Influential Voice

From the Hermitage

“A friend is more to be longed for than the light; I speak of a genuine one. And wonder not: for it were better for us that the sun should be extinguished, than that we should be deprived of friends; better to live in darkness, than to be without friends” 


Dear Friends,

Are ears are always filled with a variety of sounds.  Perhaps the loudest sound that penetrates the ears is the sounds of silence.  Yes, not sound but soundS!  Perhaps there are times when the sounds of shame become a din.  It is the din of shame that invades the heart and mind seeking to find some hope-for moments of peace.  Perhaps it is the sounds of shame that silence so difficult for contemporaries of the modern world.  So strong, or loud, is this din that NOT heard is the voice of the  God. How many moons have passed overhead as regret and shame have prevented hearing the soothing whispers of the Triune God.  It is often the message of so many saints that the words of Jesus are like a medicine that removes the ear wax of shame that deafens.

The saint we honor today, John Chrysostom, was a renowned preacher.  His words were an invitation to his listeners who were in need of healing.  For him, all of us should realize a genuine dependence upon God, the God whose love cost him his greatest possession -- his only Son.  The saint sought to lead his hearers to God by removing all the clutter that amassed around them.  So often the trinkets of a culture prevent the most influential Voice from being heard.

In the gospel today we read these words of Jesus:  "...for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."  When all that the ears can hear are pain and sin, God's words are lost.  His suffering and death cannot break through to heal the soul.  What is needed?  Discipline!  In our contemporary world so often fills our ears with a wax that blocks our hearing God's loving words.  Do we consider his words the most influential or has our society done so much to interfere with our hearing God?

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wasted Words!

From the Hermitage

Today's Gospel

Dear Friends,

Jesus could not be clearer:  gossip is the act of judging other!  It is that simple.  How easy it is to point this fault out in the lives of others!  Just think for one minute:  how many acts of judgement have you made already today?  "Look at the way she is dressed!"  "Why does he always have to act so silly?"  "Don't these kids have parents to teach them how to be have  ...  especially in church or at the grocery store?"

Why do we become involved in this "sport" so easily and frequently?  Including myself, how difficult would it be for us to attempt a refrain from gossip/judging others?  Try it for just one day or even one hour.  We feel the need to do?  Why?  So often getting involved in this sport is a way of feeling better about ourselves: "Thanks be to God I am not like so and so who ....."  Pope Francis spoke about gossipers and rash judges as hypocrites!  Further he said their is no innocent gossip!  Think about that.

When I was a youngster, I recall so well the many times my grandmother Jordan, a very strong and active Methodist woman and wife, would not hesitate to stop my grandfather if he was doing a gossiping job on someone.  "Okay, Ned," she would say, "time to stop your talking that way about ...."  That surely is a practice unknown and much less practiced in our culture today.  I remember a neighbor, my piano teacher, who overheard an unkind remark about another neighbor, turned to me and said, "Now, Milton, what you heard said just now is not the way Catholics are to behave toward each other."  I am afraid my teacher would be appalled by today's conversations.

It is through personal, private prayer with Jesus that we overcome such a daily practice of wasting so many words!  In our prayers we should let the love God has for us be our concern!  Let God love us and I am sure we will not have time to be gossipers or judges of others!

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Crosses We Carry

From the Hermitage

"If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."


Dear Friends,

Today's Responsorial Psalm brought to mind other words used by Jesus:  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Our greatest gift, that which surpasses all the successes that we may have enjoyed or are seeking to achieve, is the gift of our salvation.  From a cross on a hill the very Son of God gave up his life and all the crosses he had to carry during his lifetime on this earth for you and for me.  At that "It is finished" moment, all of our sins, especially those hidden sins that weigh so heavily up so many of us, the totality of our sins were forgiven.  A question:  do we take that forgiveness seriously?  Many times, as a confessor, I have heard these words: "Father, I have a difficult time living with an awareness and belief that my sins are forgiven.  How do I know that Jesus has forgiven me?

Let me suggest that we call to mind the one disciple of Jesus that we know very well.  His name is Peter.  He was the chief of the disciples.  Yet, recall just a few of the times he failed Jesus.  More than once he found it hard to believe what Jesus was saying or doing.  Peter tried to talk Jesus out of the journey to Jerusalem and the cross.  Peter fell asleep while Jesus was suffering in the garden.  Late on Holy Thursday evening, Jesus did not stay with Jesus during his trial and he even denied knowing Jesus.  And Jesus hid behind closed doors while his friend was pouring out the last few ounces of his blood rather than being there with him, his mother and other disciples.  Yes, Peter is an example of the extent of God's mercy, his forgiveness.  There is nothing that God will not forgive as long as we take up our crosses and follow him.  Likewise, we should not forget the man who became one of the greatest preachers in the history of our Church, Paul!  Yes, Paul!  We know how much evil he perpetrated against the Christians.  Yet, like Peter, he knew that Jesus had forgiven him.  Jesus forgave them as he forgives us today.  Jesus is the source of salvation for us.  But here is the question, the big question:  ARE WE READY TO ACCEPT FORGIVENESS?  Are our hearts hardened?  Do we find it difficult to take up the crosses that come to us in our lives and follow Jesus?  Some say that following Jesus is so very dangerous especially in our times.

Consider the cost of being faithful today.  Martyrdom used to be a reality in ancient days.  No longer.  How many are robbed, beaten, raped, executed, murdered, decapitated--all because they refuse to abandon their allegiance to Jesus Christ.  And such crosses are not just in foreign lands.  How many people are ridiculed, especially young college students who stand up for their Christian faith?  Especially the men and women in the business world who struggle to be honest and ethical.  Especially those parents who struggle to teach their children that being a follower of Jesus will never, never be a perpetual piece of cake.

In the last thirty years or more "take up your cross and follow me, if you wish to be my disciple" has become so very real, so very widespread.  However, we know from many examples in the New Testament where Jesus was very clear:  those who live as the Father wishes will one day be with him in his heavenly kingdom.  But be sure of this:  our crosses will never be heavier than the crosses that Jesus carried throughout his life on this earth.  Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it!


Friday, September 5, 2014

Something Old, Something New

From the Hermitage



Dear Friends,

Something old, something new.  In today's gospel Jesus is speaking about the challenges change make for human beings.  The Son of God came to this earth to teach us what the Father wished we would learn.  He uses two examples, very brief parables, in today's gospel reading.  To explain his mission, Jesus talks about sewing a piece of new material to a much older piece of material.  When washed, of course, the new material will pull away from the much older material, causing a tear, and thereby ruining the older material.  Jesus offers another example to help his hearers understand his mission.  In his days wine was saved in what we would call pouches that were made of animal skin.  Over time the skin softened.  If new wine was poured into the pouch with older wine, the strength of the new wine would tear the wineskin.  New wine was to be poured into new wineskins.

Today, the new material, the new wineskin we might call our journey into the New Evangelization.  Yes, here we are dealing with something new and something old.  This journey requires of us to learn something new using some of the older learned materials to bring us forward in understanding of how the Church hopes to help us strengthen our personal faith as well as recall to the Church our sisters and brothers who have allowed themselves to leave our Church or who have themselves become less fervent in the practice of our faith.

While addressing the matter of trust, my thoughts yesterday gave some attention to those who have not been like the fisherman, Peter.  There are among us today perhaps too many who set themselves up as the judges of what is right or what is wrong.  In many of these instances, the contemporary cultures around the world have been like the new wine poured into the old wineskins of our faith.  The result is that there is loss ... loss of the wine that is the some in our faith communities.  Some of the mores of the contemporary scene are like the new cloth used to patch the old cloth, causing a tear in the material.

Today what may seem to be something new in our Church, especially in the implementation of the New Evangelization is, in my opinion,  not so much something so new that it tears away out the very cloth of our faith but that which tries to assist us renew and fortify our faith.  It is a thought worthy of some prayer and consideration.  In essence what may seem new might well be just an effort at learning once again what it was that Jesus taught during his lifetime among humankind.  Recall words from the liturgy:  "At the Savior's command and formed by divine teaching we dare to say. ... Our Father ...."  The New Evangelization is indeed an effort to use the teachings of our Church and the words of Jesus to know our faith.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt