Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Today both principal candidates for the November election were speaking publicly about what each was planning to do in order to save the economy. Do you think that the person who is a dyed in the wool Republican is going to give Senator Obama any credence in what he says and proposes? Likewise the Obamaite will have heard Senator McQuain's proposals and found very little if any items of credibility.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
When Father Harry Cronin, a Holy Cross Father – sorry Notre Dame fans about yesterday’s disappointing loss – wrote the following words in a reflection on part of the Pauline reading we have in today's Eucharistic liturgy, I was stopped. His words are these: "When we allow ourselves to be poor as Jesus was poor, there will be a change in our hearts. For the first time in our lives, we will be truly able to embrace."
In the letter to the Philippians Paul wrote these words that brought Fr. Cronin to make the previous statement: "My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Ch 4, v 19).
There isn’t a tv station, a radio station or a newspaper that is not reporting that we are frightened, we are pained, we are somewhat confused by the current financial realities enveloping not only ourselves in the USA but our sisters and brothers throughout the world.
So what is it about the "riches in Jesus Christ" that we are to share? We know that Jesus was not a wealthy man. Quite the contrary. Remember his words while out preaching: I don’t have a place to sleep. And we know that he was also a man who had contempt for riches. And, ultimately, he died naked and poor. He was a man without any hope.
Today many are forced to abandon their homes, many have lost jobs and health care is a major problem for our elderly — and this is not a political speech, rather it is a reality of the new kind of being poor.
I have noticed that when people are in trouble, yes, they turn to their bibles and God. But I also notice that when they greet their friends with a hug, a warm embrace, it is so much more meaningful than when all seems to be just fine. Why the difference? Why is an embrace so much more meaningful when there are challenges out of the ordinary invading our existence? I suspect it happens because those in need have come upon a kind of freedom they may not have known before.
The freedom of the embrace comes from an awareness that another person is truly needed and appreciated ... not to provide financial solutions but, rather, to be a rock in the midst of a storm, to be a promise that all is not loss, that friendship and love are worth so much more than the "things" of this world.
When we embrace God, which happens when challenges are painful, we have to be free. We cannot be held back by "things of the world." This is the freedom that St. Paul refers to as the riches of Jesus Christ. Perhaps when struggling we find ourselves "wealthy" in a way that we may have forgotten ... wealthy in the love and support of Jesus Christ. And this is truly God’s gift of freedom.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Today I am beginning a sharing of the insights of Fr. Basil Pennington, OCSO (Trapppist) regarding prayer. This diversion from the daily readings rises from the daily Eucharistic Liturgy readings of the last several days. One of the themes has been the matter of prayer. Remember the words of the apostles to Jesus: "Teach us how to pray." Fr. Basil, fulfilling a promise, published in the year 2000 True Self, False Self.
As mentioned the liturgy's readings have brought us face-to-face, once again, with the reality of prayer. What has become a model in learning how to make our prayer meaningful since the apostles asked to learn how prayer could be meaningful is the journey of self-discovery. For prayer to become the joy and goodness so often described by many saints, there is at some point in time the realization that I have to come to know who I am to be truly happy and at peace with myself.
It is in coming to God in prayer that I come to know myself and it is in coming to know myself through prayer that I come to know my God.
Through the regular practice of prayer, I peel away the many protective shields I have constructed since the days of my youth. Through the patient practice of prayer, I am able to discover a genuine and fulfilling relationship with God because I have come to understand my true self. With that discovery I can become aware of the truly awesome gift of being who I truly am. It is this gifted awareness that brings me to understand and buy into the sentiments of St. Augustine who said "The glory of God is the person fully alive." Isn't this remark so similar to our own sentiments today when we might say, "The glory of every parent is a child fully alive, living out all that was hoped for, being a person of goodness and love"?
And, to be honest, are there not many of us who have at different times in our lives wondered if we ourselves were truly living a life that is fully alive? This is why we need to know the meaning of prayer.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The words Jesus uses to teach praying -- what we call the Lord's Prayer --- are much more for us than learning to recite words. Jesus links his hearers to what seems critically important to prayer's beginnings --- forgiveness of those who have need of our forgiveness.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Today's Pauline reading brings us to a virtue that has become a part of so many lives in the last five years: Afghanistan, 9/11, Iraq, financial disasters. In his words to the Philippians from his prison cell, Paul writes not so much about the torture he has endured. Rather it is about his hope and trust in Jesus Christ that is the driving force in his life.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God."
This is genuine hope. There is not the slightest hint in Paul's words that there is only emptiness. There is no inkling of despair. In his second encyclical, titled "Saved in Hope," Pope Benedict was very direct: "a distinguishing mark of Christians " is that we believe that our lives "will not end in emptiness."
The other readings today are stories about hopes that have not been realized and walls that have been broken down. However, we should note that the same stones became the foundation for the cornerstone of a new building. These are words of a realized future. Indeed, all of us can live with the hope that we always will have a new future when our worlds collapse around us.
What we witness in the death of the vineyard owner's son is not immediate retribution. No! What we have experienced is the death of God's son as the foundation for the the beginning of a new life, a new future. God the Father has used the seeming failure of Jesus' mission as the beginning of a new Church.
The challenge before us is simple: do you truly believe God brings about new life for us when our hopes are dashed, when our expectations fail? When you experience failure or failed visions, do you believe God takes your weaknesses and renews your strength through his strength?
I know we live in very difficult financial times. I know many feel there might not be a tomorrow. Some know there definitely will not be work. Some know there will be no new car for a while. Some know the long-planned vacation will not happen. Despite all of this, I believe what Pope Benedict wrote in the hope encyclical: "God is the hope that surpasses everything else." And I know this is the time when many Americans are turning to their God. Any priest or counselor will tell you this: when the going gets tough, tough believers take their bible, their prayer books, not their guns, in hand and seek to renew their hope based on the promises of a loving and giving God. With the psalmist, King David, we, too, can pray:
Once again, O Lord of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right had has planted
the son of man who you yourself made strong.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Today's www.usccb.org/nab reading is worth marking for days when you feel you have been abandoned, when the world is overwhelming, when darkness is thrown over your day.
Job shares his recollection of God's words to him. Our Creator reminds Job of the marvels of creation. In taking a moment to consider these gifts to us, there is for us the opportunity to enter a genuine intimacy with God.
There are several items on my bookshelves that have been gifted to me by friends. Every now and again I stop and look at the gift for a few minutes. It brings me back to wonderful moments with the friend who gave the gift. Yes, it is a de ja vu experience but the moments are a refresher to my spirits because I am reminded of the love and care someone has for me.
In particular I have a small Goebel figurine of the Good Shepherd that was given by the parishioners at Mother Seton parish to my Mom when I celebrated my 25th ordination anniversary. When Mom had to move to Carroll Manor, she made it clear that the statuette should be on my shelves. So, as I hold it in my hands, I think not just of an image of the Good Shepherd but of many realities: first and foremost, I recall the way Mom shepherded my Dad, my siblings and me; then I think of her and how much I miss her moments with me in the later years of her life; then I think about the incredible gift of priesthood and my role in shepherding the people of God; and, finally, I am brought to God with so many thoughts I just don't know where to begin ... I just sit and imagine "how good is the good God", as Julie Billiard, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame du Namur, used to say.
The same can happen to anyone who takes time to think of the greatness of the Lord in all that he has created for humankind. Just looking at the picture above, the "Grand Canyon of Hawaii," reminds me of God's power and care for the earth and the gift of enjoying the beauty of his creation. Looking at it for a time, I find myself in conversation with God. There is that intimacy that can happen with my Creator.
I invite you, again, to mark the Job selection for future reading. I promise you this: if you begin to use these words for your prayer, you will not feel that God is far removed from your heart and your life.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Just a few days ago, we celebrated the feast of three archangels. Today the Church call to our attention the Guardian Angels. Why feast so similar, so close to one another? Is there a message? Give attention to the last verse of the responsorial psalm.
As I mentioned on the archangels day, perhaps we have allowed this extraordinary gift of God to slip beyond our attention more often than not. Today we live in a world that is hardened by so many almost inhuman challenges. Is it a wonder that so many people feel that religion has so little to offer them? The hearts of these probably wonderful people have become so hardened.
As the gospel reminds us there is a singular gift in being somewhat like a child. In Jesus' times children ranked lower than animals. They were little more than a nuisance. But their ranking in the society did not stop them from being trusting, hoping and loving. They may have been put down by society but they continued to be what God made them to be.
I believe when Jesus said "whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me," he must have been sharing the experience of the openness and trust of a child when he or she meets someone who accepts the child with love and care.
Look at most of our children today. Very few have had the unfortunate experiences of a hardened heart in their early years. This is the gift that they offer you and me today.
And it might just be that these little ones are expressions of the guardian angels to whom God has entrusted our care.