Thursday, July 31, 2008

St Paul: Why Suffering in Love? August 1, 2008

Chapter 1, Verse 29
This comes from God,
for you have been granted the privilege
for Christ's sake
not only of believing in him
but of suffering for him
as well.
Just a few seconds of thought and you might ask "How can a loving God's Son be a cause of suffering for me because I believe in him?" You might as if this is really a reward?
I say to couples preparing for their marriage "Do you really love Mary?" and "Do you love John?" Usually after a tender look to each other there is a response such as "Of course." Or a simple but firm "Yes, yes." Then, after what is sometimes an uncomfortable pause, I say "Well let me tell you this: your love for each other is going to bring you suffering." Imagine the reaction from each of the parties. After asking why, they learn what I hope will always be with them in many years of a happy marriage. Marriage is the most difficult of vocations especially in our times and culture. Why? Economic stress; learning to surrender much personal independence and freedom; enduring the rough days of raising a family; and accepting each other's idiosyncrasies -- especially in the later years of life!
What Paul is teaching us is (a) suffering is an integral part of loving; (b) believing means we in effect are willing to accept a way of living that is based on the teachings and life of Jesus Christ; and, (c) a Christian, a true follower of Christ, is willing to give oneself totally to Jesus.
How does Paul come to this? We are called to believe that the reason there is a Bethlehem is because Jesus accepted the Father's will to become a human being to give his life for our salvation, our redemption. God's gift of redemption would not be gained by Jesus' simply giving up his divine life to accept the limitations of human life. As well the love for the Father's will and for us sinners bring suffering because crucifixion and death were part of his love. Perfect love could not be shown to a sinner in a fuller expression. Jesus knew that his love for us would be affirmed by his own suffering and death. This was the environment of his journey.
We should understand Paul: "we have been granted the privilege for Christ's sake not only of believing in him but of suffering for him as well." (New Jerusalem Bible) We don't have to seeking suffering. If we say "I believe," we can expect suffering to be a part of belief which is our expression of love to God. Recall what Peter said when asked by Jesus "Do you love me?" Peter responds, "You know everything, Lord; you know I love you." Immediately the suffering mission was awarded to Peter when Jesus replied "Feed my sheep."

Today, in the first reading, listen carefully to a story you have heard many times. The phrase "he tried again" is important. It is message God gave to Jeremiah as well as to Ignatius of Loyola.

Knowing the pottery process is important. When an object has been made but fails to please, the potter begins a serious program of renewal. The artist destroys the attempted work by squeezing it together into a lump. Before spinning the wheel again the artist flattens the mass of class with heavy pounding that is severe. Why? To remove the almost invisible air bubbles. Once finished, the formation process begins again. Something somewhat different is created ... never exactly the same as its predecessor. But the clay is not lost.

Ignatius Loyola, like Jeremiah, had to be reformed, shaped anew. The air bubbles of sin and mistrust had to be removed from their lives. For Ignatius the pounding was being hit by a canon ball, a shattered knee, several operations and a lengthy hospitalization. Suffering greatly and at times severely to atone for his sins, he accepted all of this, allowing God to remove the air bubbles from his life.

Today we might ask ourselves at least two questions. Do I see myself as clay in God’s hands? Do I need to allow God to remove the air bubbles of a particular sin from my life?

It is through prayer that we answer these questions. For in prayer we move away from kidding ourselves, no easy move. Fr. Henri Nouwen describes the process well. Prayer he wrote, "leads us from false certainties to true uncertainties, from an easy support system to a risky surrender, ... from the many safe gods to the God whose love has no limits."
Ad majorem Dei gloriam!
For the greater glory of God!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Papal Vacation Has Begun: July 30, 2008

The Internet has everything! Pope Benedict XVI this year has returned to the Alpine village of Bressanone. This is a picture of the once Cardinal Ratzinger, brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger and an unidentified third party strolling in Bressanone several years ago. Brother Georg and the Pope vacation together regularly so that the two priests can spend time sharing their musical talents. Msgr Ratzingner was formerly the director of the choir at the Regensburg (Germany) Cathedral. One might suspect that the only lacking with be Julie Andrews who, with the brothers Ratzinger, could make the Bressanone hills come alive with the sounds of music!

Abandoned, Alone: Reflection: July 30, 2008

In the words of Jeremiah today we hear of one man’s struggle to believe God’s promise to stand by him because his efforts to respond to God’s call result in strife and contention. Suffering aloneness can open awareness of God’ great love for us.

Yesterday we heard words about Martha’s complaining to her dinner guest, Jesus, about all the work she had to do. Today we witness Jeremiah’s complaining about the consequences of the prophet’s mission entrusted to him. Words that once were a source of confidence and satisfaction had become a thorn in the people’s hearts and great unrest in his soul. He was suddenly standing in a "treacherous brook." Of course he, like Martha, complains to the one who has a special relationship to him.

God replied to the prophet’s complaints. He called him to repentance because of his lack of trust: "Repent. I shall restore you and you will become like a brass wall." Return and I will be with you is the promise.

Who is there who does not run into feeling abandoned by friends or by God? Events or the words or actions of friends and loved one’s might overwhelm us. Indeed there may be a time when God seems to have gone out of our existence. Isn’t it the natural reaction in such moments to abandon those friends, loved one and even God? We are hurt because we feel the painful loss of a genuine support.

In such moments we are tested. In those painful times we are challenged to examine our hearts. So often these moments are a sign that we have become distracted. The late Fr. Henri Nouwen’s words give us a solution. "The mystery of God’s presence can only be touched by a deep awareness of his absence. It is in the center of our longing for the absent God that we discover his footprints, and realize that our desire to love God is bring out of the love with which he has touched us (Words of Hope and Healing, p 9).

Like Martha and Jeremiah, we, in our feeling of aloneness we have an opportunity to experience the reality of God’s love for us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI: Books About the Pope

While Pope Benedict XVI most likely will not have the years on Peter's throne that John Paul II had, there are already several publications about the man who seems to be showing the world a different side of his personality.

On June 9, 2008 The (London) Times On Line provided a list of several books in an article, "The Best of Benedict: a selection of papal biographies.." The article can be found at Times On Line.

So for some summer reading that is a little different from usual under the sun reading, you might find an interesting option. Any one of these books would most likely make you stand out among those reading in the sands!!

The Service Model: St. Martha --- July 29, 2008

Today I think back to my earliest years. Communications and travel were very different than they are today. Then the community was the neighborhood; today the neighborhood is the world. What was so far away now is "just up the road."

Today we are often called to serve more than the aging relative or the sick neighbor. Today our outreach is called for those whose language and culture we might not understand. With the click of a computer mouse we can watch on our computers the terrible natural disasters and even the destruction of war in places far away in travel time but now technically seconds "just up the road."

While we may feel the same "burden" that Martha grouses about, St. John’s letter reminds us that we have a calling to love one another. This is a genuine debt that we carry because we ourselves have been the object of another’s love or care or forgiveness. Our Creator God loved each of us. He fed our ancestors in the desert, on grassy plains, by a well and so on. But more than that our God gave us his Son to be our nourishment, to guide us when we have been lost and to give us when we are in need ... because we, too, have asked for his help. And he answered us.

Martha gave herself to others. Ours today is also a vocation quite similar because we too are the object of God’s love. Service to others is, perhaps, the reality of a rainbow: your service is the pot of gold for others!
Photo: From collection of Josiah Newton Covert

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Other (Petrine) Charism: July 28, 2008

Welcome to the University at Tubingen, Germany ... the school of many scholars, a number of them in theology and church history. Many Christian and Catholic scholars studied and taught at Tubingen. Among them these known theologians: Karl Barth, Dietrich, (Cdl) Walter Kasper, Pope Benedict XVI, Hans Kung. Recently, 2007, a recently retired Professor Emeritus, Martin Hengel produced a "slim volume" entitled "The Undervalued Peter." Hengel sifted through he letters of Paul and the gospels to develop a more informed understanding of Peter. In particular, Hengel focused on the early decades after the first Easter Sunday.
Dr. Hengel sees that Peter was not focused ONLY on a mission to the Jewish people as one might understand from the following words from Galatians 2:7:
On the contrary, when they saw I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised.
Rather, again as Fr. Byrne noted, Peter was the leader of a mission rather extensive in scope. The Gentiles found Peter's mission appealing. The Australian scholar is of the opinion that if Prefessor Hengel's investigations are correct, the difficulties between the two early Church leaders, especially at Antioch, became visible in two rival missions that created tensions in some of the cities of Asia Minor where each was proselytizing.
Byrne says that "while open to the Gentiles, the Petrine mission would represent the kind of closer continuity to the Jewish heritage, notably the Torah, that ultimately emerged in the gospel of Matthew."
Both of the saints experienced martyrdom in Rome, bringing an end to their missions. After a time, however, the words in Luke-Acts related each apostle's role in the Evangelist's writings. Luke repositions Paul more to the center -- where Peter stood. This positioning certainly would not have set easily with Paul. Fr. Byrne calls this the taming of Paul!
This ends the reflections on the charisms of Peter and Paul. Hopefully Fr. Byrne's insights and the works of contemporary scholars has helped you come to appreciate an aspect of Peter and Paul that does have some significance but which is not too publicized except in scholarly circles. But these charisms are important for the Church in understanding how it came to where it is today. Pope John Paul II once remarked that the Church has to breathe with both lungs --- Peter and Paul!

Where is my treasure? Reflection, Sunday, Jluly 27, 2008

How often does this kind of thought enter your mind and heart: "I wish I had ....(whatever)? From today’s readings we have much that can help us understand how we might fill in that blank. The wisest person was Solomon ("and after you there will come no one to equal you [I Kings 3:12]) who, when asked by God to request something of him, responded "Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people (remember, he was to succeed his father, King David) and to distinguish right from wrong." How many of us would have put wisdom at the head of our list of wants? Perhaps at this moment in our national economic struggle and our days of discernment prior to casting a November vote, we should be making a Solomon-like response.

The gospel today speaks to us about finding a treasure. Jesus offers several descriptions of treasures that he likens to the kingdom of God. He is teaching his listeners that the greatest treasure we can seek and find is the kingdom of God ... not in some after-life but in our very midst. He tells the hearers that he will help them (and us) find it because it is God’s plan for the world, for you and me. "Seek (it) and you will find (it)" Mt: 7:7.

The genuine "proof in the pudding" is what we find in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ great teaching moment on the mountain when he said, "Where you treasure is, there also will you heart be" Mt 6:21.

When frustrations and disappointment take true joy from your heart, call to mind what treasures have taken over your heart. Is it the wisdom you truly need? And, lastly, recall Paul’s words in the second reading, "... all things work for good for those who love God."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Perspective on Paul: Saturday, July 26, 2008

Romans: 11:25-32

So that you may not claim to be wiser than your are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a harden has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

Our of Zion will come the Deliverer;he will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

So what is the New Perspective on Paul that has stirred the waters of Catholic-Jewish relations? Again, as Jesuit Father Byrne writes in the article cited earlier, it is "basically a revolt against (this) long-standing caricature of Judaism purportedly based on Paul. The great apostle had to deal with a "legalistic pattern of religious behavior where one attempted to gain salvation through 'doing the work of the Law' rather than relying, in faith solely on the grace of God."

Dr. Sander (initiator of the New Perspective") demonstrated that legalism was not the basis of Judaism. That it is a religion based on covenant and its response to grace. The earlier interpretation of Paul's feelings of dissatisfaction toward Judaism was not the cause of the great conversion on the Damascus road. Rather it was Paul's personal discovery of Jesus Christ.

What bothered Paul, as other scholars teach, was not the problem with "the works of the Law ... per se" but with particular aspects of Judaic religion such as circumcision, the keeping of the Sabbath, and dietary regulations. Fr. Byrne sees Paul's writings and sentiments as opposition to "an inflated sense of Jewish identity" and an effort to force Jewish ritual requirements on the people who converted from the Gentile world."

Scholars see the New Perspective as a charge against the core of the Reformation (the Pauline charism). Byrne describes it as "Gospel over against law, faith in God's grace against reliance upon human works. What the work and subsequent discussions and writings make clear is this: "we can never invoke the name of Paul in support of the old caricature of Judaism" (again salvation through work of the Law rather than relying on God's graces).

"Justification by faith alone" has lost much of its thrust as the central point of Paul's teaching. Now there is the opportunity to understand Paul in a way that "is congenial to Catholic tradition" says Fr. Byre.

On Monday, a look at Peter's charism ... so we can further understand St. Paul

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Petrine/Pauline Charisms today: Reflection July 25, 2008

As indicated in the last posting dealing with the Year of Paul, the two charisms -- of Peter and of Paul -- have had an impact in the lifetime of many alive today without their even knowing it!

Fr. Bryan Byrne, in the article cited previously, noted that the Pauline charism gather much impetus during the time of the Reformation. You might ask "What?" During that period of European history, the sixteenth century, religion was much more than a personal decision. Religion had become the foundation of society. It was a time when Christian humanism became very evident in communities. There was an effort to take the impact of the Renaissance and bring it to life in the reformative actions and thinking. There was a spiritual revival in mysticism most prominent in Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In all that was happening was the vision, the hope to improve life. In a way we see in this historical period the surge of the Pauline charism -- "the challenge ... to traditional understanding and practice" that is likewise spurred on by the enthusiasm and challenge experienced in missionary activity.

The Church, clearly threatened by the Reformers' activities and movements that brought about division, turned to the Paterine charism to restore control and the preservation of tradition. In the 1870s the Petrine charism reached it resurgence with Rome's "definition of papal primacy and infallibility ...." This took place during Vatican Council One! The Petrine charism, it can be said, again repressed the spirit of the Pauline charism in the decades to follow. Then there came another Vatican Council, the second one.

Fr. Byrne noted that Vatican Council was the effort of the Catholic faithful trying to revive the spirit of the first great missionary of our Church, Paul of Tarsus. Many of us can recall the turmoil, the division created by the various consequences of the newer, freer Vatican Council. Priests and religious departed the Church; laity moved to mainline faith practices. The decrees of Vatican Council Two were too much for many. The new spirit, the fresh air that Pope John XXIII had brought into the Church, frightened many -- so called "liberals" and "conservatives" alike. All of this occurred when society was itself in turmoil and the revolutionary days of 1960s.

Caught in the struggle between the two charisms and the second pontifical leader of Vatican Council Two was a small man, a delicate man of Italian diplomatic heritage, names Giovanni Montini. He was elected Pope during the Council and chose the name Paul VI.

Most Catholics today wonder what happened to Vatican Council Two. Today, so it seems, many Catholics have departed from the Church and many are questioning why they remain in the Church. Clearly the thrust of Vatican Council Two can be said to have lost its energy, its thrust. Perhaps one of the blessings that our Church can embrace during the Year of Paul is the "chance to redress the balance."

Most Catholics without doubt would hardly see the struggles that led to the repressions expressed in the decrees of the Council of Trent and the weakening of Vatican II as the struggle between the charisms of our Church's earliest and primary pillars, Peter and Paul.

American scholar, E. P. Sanders initiated a flow of scholarly study and discussion. Sanders writing has prompted what is called the "New Perspective on Paul."

So, what has this to do with our daily prayer? Know Paul's writings and what he is teaching. It is important. From Paul we can get a hint of the way Paul heard the voice of God. It is a reason for our trying to perceive how the Holy Spirit was touching the mind and heart of our first century missionary. Tomorrow we will look at what the New Perspective has stirred up in scriptural study especially as Paul's writings impact relations between Catholicism and Judaism.

Source of Living Water: Reflection: July 24, 2008

Jeremiah’s imagery at the beginning of the 2nd chapter of his writings calls to mind Adam and Eve but easily can be applied to ourselves. It is another picture of the spiritual journey we, as sinners, follow.

We begin our journey, our relationship with God, mindful of our own dedication and efforts to follow the Lord, living as he has called us. Then, at some point in time, each of us encountered our own moment when we bite into that infamous apple. That was the moment when, as Jeremiah writes, "You entered and defiled my land, you made my heritage loathsome. "

God charges Jeremiah to write, "Two evils have (they) done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; they have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water." The broken cisterns are the idols we have built for ourselves. This is one way that God sees our sinfulness.

He uses the image of water because water is so essential for life. It is a wonderful image to draw us back to God when we consider his own description of himself: "the source of living waters."
How often we see advertisements offering a "fountain of youth" to extend our lives. The responsorial psalm gives us a clue that offers more than youth, it is the gift of life: "With you is the fountain of life, Lord." This is where we repair the broken cisterns we have brought in our lives to quench a thirst that takes us away from a God that has given us so much.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In the mind of God: Reflection, July 23, 2008


Yesterday we considered Micah’s question: "Who is like God?" The answer? I am made in the image of God. Today, the prophet Jeremiah gives a further insight into who we are: there was divine activity in each of our lives even before conception. God knew each of us. He had a plan for you and me even before birth. From all eternity you and I had a place in God’s mind or, we might say, in his intention. He knew precisely when we would become a part of his world. We have been and are a part of God’s plan for the communities where we live, where we work and wherever we live out our life’s journeys.

Before we were born God in his infinite and divine wisdom had dedicated each of us to be, as was Jeremiah, a prophet or as mentioned earlier this month, an apostle. We were appointed to a specific spiritual mission for our God. If we take time to nurture this concept, time to let God speak to us about our mission, we might be frightened by the magnitude of this reality. It says, in essence, none of us is "just here" to take up space.

We cannot be overwhelmed or frightened by what is awesome. Just as God replied to Jeremiah’s fright and hesitation, God replied to any doubts we might have in living out what God wants us to be, to do. Don’t forget: he has promised his support. "Do not fear. I am with you."

Just as a child becomes like his or her parent through days of growth and formation, so too, is our God ever present to us. Our task is first and foremost to be open to God’s voice that we find in and through the words of scripture and the lives of saints who were, remember, men and women like you and me.
St. Bridget married and gave the world eight children. She heard God’s voice for her life. After raising her children and her husband’s death she founded a religious order of women, the Brigittine Order. Her primary message was this, again a note of perseverance as noted about Mary Magdalene: endure whatever suffering might come to you for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pope's Words in Australia

Seemingly, another successful national tour for Pope Benedict XVI. Home to Castel Gandolfo for a few days of R&R.
For those who would like to read any of the public remarks of the Holy Father and to catch up on some the of pictures of the event, click on to the Whispers in the Loggia Link to the left of this posting. Editor, Rocco Palmo, once again, has provided his readers with up-to-date accounting of the papal visit.
The Holy Father said: The principal actors on the stage over these last few days, of course, have been the young people themselves. World Youth Day is their day. It is they who have made this a global ecclesial event, a great celebration of youth and a great celebration of what it is to be the Church, the people of God throughout the world, united in faith and love and empowered by the Spirit to bear witness to the risen Christ to the ends of the earth.
What a way to bring to a conclusion another WYD that will not doubt result in much healing, a renewed interest both in vocations to priesthood and consecrated life as well as laity participation in the Church's future. Pope Benedict left the continent with "...And as I bid you farewell with deep gratitude in my heart, I say once again: May God bless the people of Australia!"
And, for sure, the Church universal should be saying, "God bless you, Holy Father."
Photo: Mark Baker, through Whispers in the Loggia

Monday, July 21, 2008

Who is like God? Reflection: July 21, 2008

An Updated Reflection
In today’s first reading it is important to catch the prophet Micah’s question: "Who is like God?" Mary Magdalene is a model of one persevering in the search. Micah is telling the people that God is a God of mercy who forgives sins but also removes the guilt sinners might carry. For anyone carrying sins in his/her heart the picture Micah gives us is reassuring: God is a compassionate God who tosses our sins to the bottom of the oceans. Our God is compassionate: he grinds our guilt into the earth.

Micah’s question remains: "Who is like this God?" We might respond: "There is no one like him, of course." However, there is: perhaps a surprise. You and me, we have been made in the image of God: we are called to be like God.
How can this be? Through being willing to forgive others; through being slow in letting anger take over immediately in unpleasant moments; through being joyful in extending forgiveness to someone; through grinding down any grudges growing in our hearts.
Today’s feast honoring Mary Magdalene, should recall her perseverance. Pope Gregory the Great noted Mary did not recognize the Risen Jesus when he called her "woman" but only when he called her "Mary." This one word in effect was saying "Recognize me as I recognize you. I do not know you I know others. I know you as yourself."
This is truly a part of the challenge of our spiritual journey: to persevere in efforts to be like God. Saints, once sinners, a la Magdalene, should help us, strengthen us and, and when asked, intercede for us before our God.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Charisms of Peter and Paul: July 21, 2008

While the jubilee Year of Paul focuses upon the tent maker, has it ever made you wonder why neither Peter nor Paul has a feast solely for himself. Since the days of the fourth century our Church has yoked the two proto-martyrs together. Jesuit Father Brendan Byrne, professor at the Jesuit Theological College, Melbourne, Australia, raises this question: "Is it just historical accident or has it in fact bequeathed to the Church two distinct charisms? (The Tablet, July 12, 2008, p.16)
This blogger had never recognized the possibility or perhaps the reality. S0, Father Byrne's article -- presumptive of contemporary awareness of theological investigation -- presents an interesting picture of the two charisms or the two characters, if you will! He suggests that the Peterine charism should be presented as the standard bearer for "unity and continuity with tradition, and the faithful preservation and transmission of the tradition." Most would readily agree that (a) this is a good description of the Church that prevailed after Vatican Council I and (b) that may be returning front and center at the current time.
The Pauline charism can be understood as "the more outward-going missionary impulse, and the prophetic challenge to traditional understanding and practice that the experience of mission constantly raises." With these two different directions perhaps we can see Holy Spirit efforts in the fourth century! Surely the two positions face one another in a "state of tension." And, there is no doubt had these two powerhouse figures not been yoked together there most likely would have been an out-of-balance situation in growing Church.
As Fr. Byrne noted, Paul despite his "prophetic challenge" style, had a great love for the Church. This was evident in his effort to raise funds for the "mother community" situated in Jerusalem. The irony here might be that the annual international fund raiser to support our Holy Father's charity works each year is designated as "Peter's Pence" without any reference to Paul's development skills!
The driving force behind the gathering of bishops and cardinals in Rome for Vatican Council II seems to have been a "recapturing on the part of the Catholic communion of the Pauline charism. Keeping the two charisms together became the challenge for the heart and mind of Pope Paul VI. More on this in Friday's blog.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sunday Reflection: July 20, 2008: Room for Everyone???

Put God's mercy and God's justice on the scales. What happens?
Today’s gospel, Matthew 13:24-30 offers each follower the opportunity to look within. What Jesus is preaching is what makes the spiritual journey so difficult for some, so hopeful to others. In short, Jesus is teaching again and in another way that God is a God of mercy. Our God is a God of patience. Unfortunately, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that God’s ways and our ways are not always in sync and so challenging.

Jesus is attempting to explain to his followers what the meaning is in Luke 15:2 and Matthew 9:11. How could he befriend those who were known sinners and then share a meal with them as well? At times he reprimanded some because they lived the laws to an extreme and were very proud of their efforts. At other times he tolerated those who ignored the laws and seemed to have little interest in keeping the laws.

For the Jews of Jesus’ times this was a genuine challenge. Why? Because, as pointed out by scripture scholar Marion Soards, an expert of Pauline theology, "Judaism rested on the twin pillars of election and atonement" (The Apostle Paul, p. 16). God chose Israel as his chosen ones. To them he gave the Torah, the "law as the norm for Israel’s response to his divine election" (p. 13). A faithful follower of the Torah believed that he would be rewarded by his/her following the law and that he/she would be punished for disobedience to the law" (p.13).
The description of a farmer’s handling the weeds that had grown up with the good seeds, removing them from the same garden or field, made perfect sense to the Jewish people. It is a natural follow through of living the two pillars. But Jesus’ description of a farmer deciding to wait until the harvesting time stands as a surprise. And this experience is not different in our Church today.

Jesus is teaching a tough lessen to the purists among the Jews as well as the purists, the formalists, among us today. God is seen in the analogy of the patient farmer. God would in his time decide when the separation would be made.

This is a reality in today’s Church for so many Catholics. Some among us, faithful followers for sure, find it so difficult to accept a Church that has sinners both public and private. Some among us are surely saints. Others among us without doubt are sinners, folks who might not be producing a passing grade on their spiritual journey through life. Jesus could teach this because he knew that in the kingdom he was preaching, his Father’s kingdom, and, we can say, in the Church today, there is great space. There is room for saints and sinners.

Imagine, if you can, what our church would be like if sinners were dismissed, thrown out, because of public serious sin. Imagine, imagine this: we might not have had an Augustine; we might not have had an Ignatius Loyola. These are just two of the "greats" who have made our Church what it is. Might not one think even of the great apostle, Paul?

Too often in our Church today there is the experience of nailing a sinner to the cross and then dumping that person on a garbage heap. "Away from us, you sinner!" This is the easy way to resolve a problem. Toss it; it will not bother me any longer.

Why else would Jesus direct us not to separate the "true believers" from those so often called hypocrites? Listen carefully: "Pull us the weeds and you might take the wheat along with them." We are challenged not to forget that God’s mercy has more weight on the divine scales than does the justice of God!!!

Almost all of us experience this in our family lives. Most priests, no doubt, hear these words from folks who learn that a priest might have an errant sibling or parent: "Father, every family has someone like that." It is so difficult for those who struggle day after day to live a good life to believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection serve humankind as the two pillars at the entrance to the Father’s house FOR EVERYONE. And everyone includes the weak, the annoying, the embarrassing, the imperfect, THE SINNER. Egads! What a Church some might say!

The ultimate consideration of the reality of what Jesus is teaching and the reaction of some to it might be this: If the Church of Jesus Christ were as purified as some might like, hope for or actually think it to be, would there, could there, be a place for me?

Charity is no easy virtue, is it? Following Jesus what Jesus taught is truly painful at times, is it not?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
(Ephesians 5: 13-14)
For the human mind, human understanding, to deal with our faith, with the mystery of God, we have to make a shift from what might be called thinking directly on the subject to a thinking by analogy.
To bring our minds to dealing with mystery, we hear again and again about the "light" of faith. We know that it is from our experiences that we came come to some understanding of God and the mystery he is to and for us.
For example, it is our human experience of love that enables us to elevate our thoughts to God's love for us. It is our understanding of divine love that draws us ever closer to holiness.
Of course it is the human experience of a human being who happened to be at the same time Son of God, that greatly assists us in understanding what holiness can be for us. We have come, just as Paul did, to know of Jesus as holiness itself. For us to know this human Jesus is to again have the experience that leads us to a stronger relationship with God, the Father and the Holy Spirit.
It is knowing or experiencing Jesus as man that we come to find in our lives the light of Christ, the source of vision, of light in our experience of faith. At the same time it is in the knowing of Jesus, the man, that we are invited on a unique spiritual journey of knowing ourselves and the mystery that we are. We don't walk an easy journey in our lifetime when we are moving ahead without a genuine relationship with Jesus. Closely related with Jesus, trusting his teachings and his personal conversations in our heart, we learn so much more about ourselves. Again, he is the light that makes who we are visible to ourselves.
Imagine all of the "idols," all of the "theories," all of the "inventions" we experience in our lifetime. Do these realities bring us a deeper awareness of why God made us? Paul's insight is a great light. He came to see the light in his lifetime -- the light that in Jesus we come to know who we truly are.
As we begin this jubilee journey, assisted by the words of Saint Paul, see in these reflections an assistance to each person's personal journey toward the ultimate goal --- being with God. Let these insights and reflections serve each of us in deepening our understanding of God's presence in our lives.
Jesus, draw me into a deeper share in your risen and glorified life.
May my faith in you enable me to see that everything
that happens to me in this world
is meant to lead me
to your glory.
Insights and prayer from John Janaro, "Praying With St. Paul,"
professor, Christendom College.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Jubilee Year of St. Paul -- Inaugural Reflecton

On June 28th, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, at Solemn Vespers celebrated at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall initiated the year-long jubilee year marking the 2000th birthday of the Saint. The year of Pauline study and prayer will conclude on June 29, 2009, the actual day assumed to be Paul's birthday.

At Vespers, Pope Benedict XVI reminded those present that Paul is much greater than a biblical personality of the New Testament. The Pope stressed that Paul was and continues to be a "teacher, an apostle and a herald of Jesus Christ."

Why a Jubilee Year? Besides the 2000th birthday celebration, His Holiness hopes that the year of a study and remembrance of the apostle and his writings will result in a "strong signal of Christian unity."

As anyone might sense from a reading of Paul's letters and the Lucan Acts of the Apostles, "repairing divisions is an urgent task." Paul understand our Church to be "the body of Christ" not another gathering of people.

Benedict is more concerned about what "the teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth" is bringing to our contemporary Church than to focus on historical events that are, in the Holy Father's words, "irretrievably passed." Benedict, the theologian, hopes that we will reflect upon how Paul's words served the development of theology.

Further, the Holy Father said of Paul, "His faith is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. His faith is the impact of God's love on his heart. And so this same faith is love for Jesus Christ."

About Paul: Not one of The Twelve, this apostle was born in Tarsus which is modern Turkey. Scholars and historians estimate the year to have been 8 AD. He was brought to Rome Later, while in a prison in Caesarea, while writing his letter to Philemon, he attempted to secure a hearing before Nero who was in Rome. Paul was brought there where he was eventually martyred for the faith in the year 67 AD. His remains were found in a marble sarcophagus in the area beneath the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul. Inscribed on the side of the marble sarcophagus were three words: Paul Apostle Martyr.

With this posting, Prayer on the Hill inaugurates what will be a Friday, Saturday and Monday presentation of reflections about St. Paul and his writings during the Jubilee Year.

Photo: Rembrandt

What's Happening in Australia with WYD and Pope?

World Youth Day Events
For an wonderful accounting and reporting on Pope Benedict's activities
as usual
visit on of the best Catholic blog sites
The Holy Father's talks to date and other commentaries
from Rocco Palmo.
Several pictures that might stir up our own young people!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just a picture of what is happening "down under" at the World Youth Day celebrations. There's a full moon here tonight ... must be the same in Australia!!!" Seems Il Papa is having a good time away from Rome or simply because he is on vacation! One might ask, "Professional Good Humor Man?" or "About to Direct Traffic?"

Photo: Courtesy of Whispers in the Loggia

Finding a Home: July 17, 2008 Reflection

Today, I am concluding what I hope will be the first of a number of mini-three-day retreats during the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday reflections. I will endeavor to use a topic from the texts of the readings from the liturgies of the weekly readings for those three days. The theme for each of the three reflections will focus upon journeys ... our own spiritual journeys throughout our lifetime.

Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays will be reserved for reflections on the life and teachings of St Paul. As you may or may not know, Pope Benedict announced that beginning June 29th just passed the Church would be celebrating a special Jubilee Year in honor of the great Apostle, Paul, from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009.

Thus far this week we considered worrying, preoccupation and the challenge of a 24/7 attitude allowing something or someone to carry us all over the place except being at home with God. Perhaps the first two days can be summed up with these words: "I have an address but cannot be found there" (H. Nouwen, Making All Things New, p 13). The thoughts of the previous days make clear that much of our time is taken up by distractions and necessary work that we feel spiritually empty.
Jesus, addressing the other side of our daily experiences, continually tries to call us to a genuine spiritual life that will be beneficial. Once we experience the inner freedom of an Apostle and confess to our homeless meanderings and how they have disheveled so much of our daily lives, we lay the foundations for a home where we find peace.

Perhaps these words of Jesus may be a fitting conclusion to the three reflections: "Do not worry.... Set your hearts on his kingdom first ... and all these other things will be give you as well" (Luke 12:28-31).
July 17, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Abandonment: Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Today the response between the verses of the 94th Psalm is important: The Lord will not abandon his people. How can we fully understand our relationship to God who never abandons the people he loved into creation when our lives are so filled with other relationships -- people, things and work


Ask a senior citizen the meaning of "24/7." Most likely you get a face staring in wonderment. However, many 21st century workers see "24/7" as a fitting description of who they are. Those three numbers might best describe the way of life for many. In just three weeks, I have learned that most who work on this famous Hill wear the 24/7 pin on a jacket or blouse. Today most Americans are described as busy people. For so many it is difficult to think of oneself beyond an occupation.

Expectations and preoccupations are the beams of the crosses many carry today. Work, work and more work. Each evening, as I walk around the front of our church, I notice how many lights burn in the office buildings on the Hill. I marvel that so many can find the time to be present for the noontime liturgy so regularly.

To understand completely that God will never abandon us demands of us real inner freedom. How can we trust any moment when work and preoccupations weigh down 24/7? How can we come together in the fullest spirit to experience the presence and promise of God ... be it Father, Son or Holy Spirit?

We can discover the richness of God in our lives only when we afford time for ourselves to be with him. Fill a life to the max with the spirit of 24/7 and we prevent the freeing Spirit of God from finding even a small corner of the heart. Usually we turn to what is not good for our souls.

It is so difficult for contemporary man and woman to abandon oneself to God. It can even be frightening because we know we have to face our true selves. We cannot possibly understand that divine love when living a 24/7 existence that is truly not who we are.

Canonization of Blessed John Newman?????

John Henry Cardinal Newman

It was reported today in England that the Holy See has requested that the remains of the Cardinal be exhumed and moved to a more suitable location. This is interpreted by English Catholic authorities as a sign that a known miracle attributed to England's most well-known convert soon might be raised to the altar of the saints. Many secular universities and colleges provide NEWMAN centers for Catholic students. These locations are named after Cardinal Newman.

The following is from, "Britain's No.1 quality newspaper website:

Vatican asks for Cardinal Newman exhumation on path to sainthood
y Caroline Gammell
Last Updated: 11:45AM BST 15/07/2008
The Vatican has asked for the exhumation of the body of the Church of England's most renowned convert to Roman Catholicism as part of his progression towards sainthood.
The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman was buried in a small cemetery in August 1890 and Rome now wants his remains to be moved to a marble sarcophagus in the Birmingham Oratory.
The move, which is expected to take place by the end of the year, would enable people to pay tribute to him more easily and is part of the process of creating a saint.
The procedure has to be approved by Birmingham City Council and the Ministry of Justice, which was accused of "procrastinating" over the issue, but is expected to be rubber stamped in the next few weeks Catholics hope that Pope Benedict XVI will issue a decree declaring Cardinal Newman as Blessed in December, which would pave the way for beatification next spring.
The final step would be for the Cardinal to be canonised as a saint.
Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, said: "One of the centuries-old procedures surrounding the creating of new saints by the Catholic Church concerns their earthly remains.
"These have to be identified, preserved and, if necessary, placed in a new setting which befits the individual's new status in the Church.
"This is what we have been asked to do by the Vatican with regard to Cardinal Newman's remains, which have lain at Rednal since his death in 1890.
"We hope that Cardinal Newman's new resting place in the Oratory Church in Birmingham will enable more people to come and pay their respects to him, and perhaps light a candle there.
"Many will surely wish to honour this great and holy man."
Cardinal Newman died in Edgbaston, on Monday 11 August 1890, aged 89 and his funeral was held in the old church a week later, on Monday 19 August.
More than 15,000 people lined the route to the Oratory House at Rednal, situated on the outskirts of Birmingham, where he was buried in the small cemetery along with deceased members of his community.
His new resting place will be in a sarcophagus in Memorial Church, opened in 1907, on the site of the old church, next to the Oratory House.
The Vatican has forbidden the announcement of the removal of Cardinal Newman's body until after the process has been completed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

St. Bonaventure, OFM: July 15, 2008

Born in the Tuscany region of Italy, Bonaventure became one of the pillars of the Catholic Church at the University of Paris in mid-thirteenth century. He graduated from the University in the same class with Thomas Aquinas. The two became outstanding spokespersons for the Church, dominating theological and moral teaching and preaching. Franciscan, Bonaventure was noted for his skill in bringing faith to reason. Bonaventure and his classmate were in time recognized as genuine mystics.

The reading from Isaiah, 1:10-17, for today's liturgy speaks to the issue of trusting God's will and his promises. One of Israel's weaker kings, Ahaz, was warned by Isaiah to trust God in the face of threatening and more powerful kings. Israel and the holy city Jerusalem would be protected.

In the Matthean gospel for today's liturgy, 10:34 - 11:1, Jesus reprimands the towns that had not repented of their evil and immoral lives despite the "mighty deeds" he had done in the towns. Jesus reminds his hearers of the infamous Sodom and Gemmorah. He remarks that if the good done in cities like Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done in Sodom or Gemorrah, he knew they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. What he is teaching is that the pagan population will fare better with God's final judgement than the three cities mentioned. Why? Because the pagan world was not blessed by the preaching and teaching of Jesus about the compassion and love of God.

What is the message for us today? We know we live in a culture, a society where everyday living of the faith does not exist. We are the living curators of so much wisdom from theologians and prayerful saints as well as the decades of wise teaching from our Church. All continue to call us to trust in God's mercy and support especially in movements of moral and ethical battles. If we cannot trust in God's promised care, especially in moments of trial and temptation, we might ask is "What will be our fate?" Do we actually believe that God will not react? How long can a people play off against his promised support and compassion?

Where can we find peace of mind to listen to the calling of the voice of God?
Fr. Henri Nouwen, "Making All Things New," p 13

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha: July 14, 2008

Kateri Tekakwitha
1656 - 1680

  1. At the age of twenty, Kateri, despite partial blindness and other physical deformities that came with small pox, was baptized a Roman Catholic. Her mother was an Algonquin Catholic Indian who died when Kateri was a child in the small pox plague.
  2. Keteri's family refused to accept her Catholicism and relationship to Jesus. As the Bishop of Ogdensburg, NY wrote, "... Kateri became the village outcast." On Sundays, because she would not work, she was not given any food. In the village even the children would tease her. She was told that she would be tortured if she did not abandon her faith.
  3. At the age of twenty, she fled her relatives and spent two tortuous months traveling through difficult terrain to get to the Jesuit mission at Sault Saint-Louis, located outside Montreal. There she did much to help others, teaching and praying. She was a strong devotee of Eucharistic Adoration.
  4. Her health, never good, deteriorated rather quickly at the mission. She died on April 17, 1680 at the age of 24. Supposedly her last spoken words were "Jesus, I love you."

In the gospel reading for this celebration we read words that so fit the life of this young woman who gave so much of herself because of her conviction that Jesus was her Lord: "whoever loses his (her) life for my sake will find it." While not martyred, Kateri suffered greatly in giving her life to the missionary work of her faith.

Truly she has to be considered one of the early North American apostles. She lived the gospel as she had been taught it. Her life is a marvelous model for young people today who are often caught up with men and women of courage and daring.

While we live in very different times and circumstances, the Church gifts us with the lives of many saints and heroic women and men. Kateri was the first Native American to be Beatified.

No doubt she would be a very happy young woman today to see that concern that has recently developed for the environment. The Catholic Church has designated this young woman as the patroness of ecology and the environment.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend Reflection: June 12-13, 2008

We are experiencing in our nation at this point in its history what might be called "the greening of America." Many see it as an the result of waste and failure. It is very much like the waste and failure story of today’s gospel reading as well as the story of the life of both Jesus himself and the prophets of old. Perhaps, as well, the national greening experience will ultimately become the success that followed the waste and failure of the Sower in the gospel story.

The well-known story of the Parable of the Sower was used by Jesus to teach his disciples about the difference, the tension, between what the traditional teachings of the Pharisees and the new teachings he was bringing to them. Jesus was not suggesting a turning away from God but, rather, a calling to turn to God, hearing and seeing his teachings grow in their relationship with him. Yet, despite his goodness and the seeds he was planting, there were those in charge planting the seeds for his removal from the scene. But Jesus turns to parables to help his followers because they are easy to apply to daily life. He often presents the parable models in the hearing of the Pharisees. However, he was experiencing the reality of waste and failure. The Pharisees "just did not get it." Their hearts were hardened by selfish, self-aggrandizing needs to control even people’s learning about Yahweh.

The Sower parable relates how much waste and failure the farmer experienced in his annual planting. As well it reflects Jesus’ own experience as a teacher, as the Father’s messenger. Crowds followed when he was providing meals in the fields or working miraculous cures. Yet as his fame and message became more widespread and more threatening to those who wanted power, the seeds of hostility were being planted. Ultimately, waste and failure would succeed in his conviction and death. We might say that his work to bring about the growth of the kingdom of his Father was like most of the farmers’ efforts to produce a good crop.

It was a story of waste and failure ... but only until the end. Some of the farmer’s seeds – his hopes for a bountiful harvest – are spread upon soil that has been well-prepared for a successful crop. At the end of the parable Jesus teaches that the usual 20% return on the farmer’s investment exceeded that amount by as much as 100%.

Jesus is teaching that apparent and almost certain waste and failure are do not always win. There can be an abundant harvest. He was as certain of God’s power, his presence, as expressed in the first reading from Isaiah: My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

The story of apparent waste and failure and the plentiful harvest, thanks to God, is an expression of encouragement where there is seeming failure and defeat. Jesus was bolstering his followers as well as ourselves. Daily we might struggle against an evil or weaknesses in our lives that choke our spiritual journey. Getting up from repeated failures to overcome something that separates us from our God becomes more challenging. We can question why our crop of holiness seems to be both difficult and so minimal.

Jesus’ message to the disciples and us is clear: sow the seeds of a spiritual life in every part of your life and let the growth be in the hands of God. Be trusting: God will produce a definite harvest in your life; one far greater than you might expect because the harvest depends upon God.

As one spiritual writer expresses it: Don’t focus on the hardened soil, the soil overgrown with weeds or thorn bushes. There you turn inward. Rather focus on the good soil that is under God’s control, God’s care. There you will experience an extraordinary harvest.

Prayer on Capitol Hill

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reflection: July 11, 2008

In today's gospel Matthew records Jesus' continued teachings to the apostles ... and what he offers is not a piece of cake, a bowl of cherries. You will be "in the midst of wolves" Jesus is warning his apostles. It is more so today than in the first century.

Interestingly, Jesus also suggests that an apostle must be "shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." That was the way he worked his ministry, especially in many instances where he stood in conflict with the infamous "scribes and Pharisees."

Today the Church celebrates St. Benedict. Recall he was born in Italy in the late 5th century, did his studies in Rome and then took on the life of a hermit outside Rome in a cave on a hillside in the village of Subiaco. Eventually he moved to the now famous Monte Cassino, south of Rome, and one of the major victims of American bombs during WWII. (The rebuilt monastery is today a major tourist site along with the cemetery adjacent to the monastery where many of the Polish troops involved in the war are buried.) Benedict is buried there beside his twin sister, St. Scholastica. Back to prayerful thoughts.

While at Monte Cassino, Benedict composed a Rule which brought about his repute as "the father of Western monasticism." Perhaps this composition can be likened to Ignatius Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. The two stand as pillars of modern spirituality.

As some Benedictine writers proclaim, Abbot Benedict insisted that his subjects realize how important words that we speak can be not only for ourselves but for those whose minds hear our spoken words. How fitting the responsorial psalm (51) as a choice for today's liturgy: "My mouth will declare your praise." It is a part of the invocation that begins the daily celebration of the official prayer of the Church: "Lord, open my lips and my mouth will will declare your praise" (51:17). Clearly and with some strength the person in prayer, especially those who realize their role as a messenger of God, realizes that his/her words can turn peoples' lives. Hosea's prophetic words in the first reading speak about the significance of what we say. The prophet, speaking for Yahweh, tells a repentant Israel the importance of God's presence in their lives for it is from him that they come to know what to say to others, "... because of me you bear fruit" (51:9).

So, as 21st century apostles, especially directing our own missionary efforts to those "faithful departed," we must not forget that what we say should come not from our personal thinking but from the voice of God that speaks to us in our prayer. What we can accomplish as apostles comes to us from a generous God who gives us the wisdom to be "shrewd as serpents and simple as doves." It is this gift promised us that should make us realize that our missionary work is singular effort. Let us go forth with conviction, with Blessed Assurance that Jesus and his gift of the Holy Spirit will be ours.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

REFLECTION: July 10, 2008

Read carefully Jesus' words in today's gospel. His speaks to his closest associates about the role of an apostle. His words are driven by the same kind of care for a child of God recorded in the first reading from the Book of Hosea.

Very few can simply drop daily obligations to become apostle-like missionaries. But to be a genuine 21st century apostle requires personal spiritual formation ... a challenge not beyond us. To be a successful messenger of God, we need to be first men and women of prayer. The first apostles had a virtual Gospel in the truest sense present with them when they were with Jesus. We come to know God's message through our prayer, through reading both the scriptures and other spiritual reading and through sharing our faith with others and through the Eucharist.

The mission that falls upon us today is to reach out to the lost sheep of our Church as mentioned in yesterday's blog. There are so many Catholics who have left the Church. Perhaps there is hardly a family that does not have a member separated from our Church. Perhaps we can designate this group as the "faithful departed." Their situations, each of them unique to the individual, usually come about through painful moments or, unfortunately, from weak formation in the faith.

The question for us today is this: Do I stand by and accept the loss of so many Catholics who have found a reason to depart from the Church for one reason or another? To answer this question in the negative means that we, like the apostles, have to know Jesus and what he taught and what his Church has taught us through the almost two centuries since the first Pentecost Sunday. We have to know where the Church is today and what is meaningful. It means that we have to be models of faith following ourselves. We have to share with others why the Eucharist is so significant in our lives. We have to be able to share with others what a sacramental life can be. We have to share with them the joy that our faith brings to us.
When you hear friends of other faiths speaking with excitement about their churches, their faith communities, how does it make you feel about your own? What does it ask of you? This is what being an apostle means today: being alive with the Holy Spirit; being excited about the goodness that exists within our faith.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Reflection: July 9, 2008

The opening words of the first reading speak of both the goodness and potential of God’s people that are a caring and healing power for God’s people.

The faith gifted you in your baptisms empowers you in your daily lives. I suggest that your faith can be likened to the "luxuriant vine" that will produce much produce if it is nourished well. A group as large as you are is a potentially incredible power for our Church, for society. Despite personal failures – which ironically become for many the key that unlocks the door of personal conviction – you are the vine that can offer fruit to various communities because, if you want, you are open to the unique experiences of God’s graces. Happenstance is not what brings you to God’s presence in Eucharist so often. It is because God has seen grace and goodness in you as the potential for drawing many others to Christ Jesus. This is truly a challenging and even a frightening thought. Do you believe me? I hope so.

Each of you has been chosen by God – again regardless of past failures or sins – to be like one of the apostles who names are recorded in the gospels.

You share in an extraordinary gift each time you gather round this church’s altar. Here you seek not just the grace of God but the face of God ... for yourselves and for others in your communities who are seeking to know a loving and caring God.

When you leave St. Joseph’s Church today, don’t forget this reality: you go forth as an apostle, as God’s messenger. You are his 21st century apostles and he is sending you to the lost sheep of our Church. You are the hearts and doors that can open a whole new experience of faith, grace and peace for others. Your life, your witness, your conviction empower you to be the voice of God to cure every disease and every illness that challenges others. Please, never forget your role as chosen apostles.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reflection: July 8, 2008

Apologies for not posting for the weekend or Monday: computer challenges. Operational again.

Today there is a very short line in the Responsorial Psalm Psalm 115, v 8 for today's liturgy that provides anyone serious about his/her spiritual journey food for thought or reflection: "their makers shall be like them." How does this relate to us and our lives today? What's it about? What is being made?

The 115th Psalm directs its readers to consider the impotence of idols, as the Revised Standard Bible "titles" the theme of the psalm. So when's the last time you have heard the word "idol" if you have not watched "American Idol"? It is not a word we bring to the fore too often. The Psalmist is writing for his times about those who were abandoning their Yahweh belief for idols of silver and gold, the works of human hands. It is these "idols" that " were crafted by the departed faithful. It is these idols that "have mouths but speak not; ... have eyes buy see not; ... have noses but smell not" (verses 5-6).

The psalm challenges us to look inward, to discover what idols we might have made for ourselves in our own times. We are challenged to look at what "things" or "relationships" that we place on pedestals for our adoration. It is these idols that can easily make us like themselves.

It can happen at times that deep within our hearts we feel the searching call brought about frustration, loneliness or depression. Why am I not happy? Why am I not at peace? Why does God not answer me? Why has he abandoned me?

Our contemporary culture and lifestyles so easily lead us to idols that seemingly satisfy our needs ... at least temporarily. Hosea, in the first reading today, speaks a warning: "When the sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind ...."

Some of our contemporary idols might just be our own jobs which seem to be almost 24/7 for so many people. The "job" becomes one's total life or at least most of it. Likewise many have placed the beloved "computer" on the idol altar, spending so much time with the machine that was designed to afford us so much free time!!! Again, another idol, one often related to the computer is pornography ... which is like fish hook well baited and floating past a lonely or disturbed heart.

Concluding, recall again the words above, "their makers shall be like them." Each can ask "Am I someone who has created an idol or two in my life ... an idol that separates me from my God and so often from my family and true friends?

"I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;

I know my sheep, and mine know me."

John 10:14

Friday, July 4, 2008

Reflection: Independence Day, 20

This morning, listening to music for the day --- John Philip Sousa, Paul Simon, the Boss, and other artists --- and surrounded by buildings that speak loudly of our American heritage, the struggles that bought our freedom, the adventure of a George Washington pushing out to the West even beyond Mount Vernon, there is genuine emotion. Again, almost childlike, I am eagerly awaiting the orchestra leader to raise his baton to initiate the 1812 Overture and the beginning of the booms that will fill the airs of this capitol city tonight.
At the same time, while doing some spiritual reflection, I read a section of , the well-known beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes . Reflection on these words on this celebration of our nation's birthday, my mind pulls up from the marvelous gift of memory so many different speeches and stories of great American women and men who have lived one, some or all of the injunctions that Jesus is teaching his followers. For us today the challenges seem great in so many ways. So many Americans are hurting; unfortunately young people are dying in a questionable war --once again; almost daily we read or hear stories about children who are continuing to suffer abuse, even almost daily the cruel beatings and death at the hands of deranged minds; elderly are suffering in many aspects of their supposed years of gold; marginalized folks are forced to questions the stripes of Old Glory and the freedom she promises; and obviously many other sad and painful realities in this land of beautiful, spacious skies.
Yet, as our nation's skies will be filled with extraordinary explosive color designs marking freedom and national pride, there are almost countless examples of success and goodness that mark the streets and lives of every city and citizen of this land of ours. Let not the excitement and celebration distance us from the harsh realities around us but let not the harsh realities hinder our reveling in the successes and dreams of our nation --- because we cannot stop now. Change has always been the mark of this nation whenever there has been failure or weakness.
And as every politician will say today and everyday of his/her political life, let our lips resound with the petition that is truly a genuine American prayer: "God, bless America."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reflection: July 3, 2008

Doubting Thomas
The readings remind us that the Apostles provide a spiritual home – a place where we are formed by their wisdom and activities.

St. Thomas is a man with whom most can readily identify. He is contemporary despite almost 2000 years. Questioning, doubting: he is like a magnet that attracts us. Paul writes about the "Church" as a building and even more than place it is a person, Jesus Christ. The Church he says is built upon prophets and apostles with Jesus as the capstone.
Thomas helped the Church add more people in his missionary work in India. The adage, "Small beginnings can yield sensational results" easily reflects Thomas’ works. His argument with the other apostles after missing Jesus’ appearance to them easily makes him the patron of "seeing is believing." And when Jesus did appear to Thomas, the world would hear the shortest sentence of heartfelt conversion: "My Lord and My God." A true transformation: from strong, adamant doubt to genuine belief.
And for us? Doubt is not a stranger in most people’s spiritual houses. Our Church today is people with believers who have some doubts, some questions. The contemporary world has formed most of us into proof seekers.
The Church and all that it teaches is rooted in Jesus. Is it our challenge to have an open mind and heart to come to know what Jesus teaches. Like Thomas we should bring our doubts to him and be open to his response.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July 2, 2008 Reflection

July 2, 2008 --- Faith from the Heart

From the readings of today's liturgy, we might listen for the message from Amos, the prophet and Jesus about how a follower is called to live life.

The last part of today's may provide a clue for us as the grace we might bring to our prayer today. I believe Amos and Jesus are teaching that the life of a follower, the life of a Christian, is quite dicey at times. It is so easy to allow some external activities become our faith. Burnt offerings were the fare of the day in Old Testament times. Great solemnities marked the faith life practices of the people. Amos, speaking for Yahweh, is quite clear: "I spurn your feasts.... I take no pleasure in your solemnities." Cereal offerings and stall-fed peace offerings meant nothing. Justice and goodness were the gifts, the life that God called for as a sign of faith.

And we can ask today "What does this mean today for each of us?" Perhaps the final words of the responsorial psalm are a clue: "Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your moth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?"

The challenge put before us is a reminder that our faith, our genuine practice of faith comes from our heart ... a faith that is lived out in goodness and justice. When the people heard how Jesus had drive evil from the lives of the demoniacs, they came to seem and "begged him to leave their district." It is very easy to recite prayers, to attend a Mass, but true discipline brings with it our personal efforts to welcome Jesus into our hearts and consequently into the goodness of justice that should be the goal of our lives.