Friday, March 27, 2009

Vatican II Insights: 4WL

Today's Readings
Gaudium et Spes, nn. 37-38

The Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world offers thoughts we might recall as we stand just two weeks before Good Friday.
When the scale of human values is out of balance, "when evil is mixed with good, individuals and groups consider only their own interests, not those of others," the world fails in its mission to be at one with one another.

The true Christian, indeed the genuine Catholic, believes that all "all human activity, in daily jeopardy through pride and inordinate self-love, is to find its purification and its perfection in the cross and resurrection of Christ."

The Word of God, Jesus Christ, revealed to the people and us that God is love. Furthermore during his lifetime he taught that "the fundamental law of human perfection, and therefore of the transformation of the world, in the commandment of love." This love is a goal we seek not in great things alone but also in the ordinary experiences and circumstances of life.

Christ, although crucified, dead and buried but also risen from the dead and having ascended to heaven to be with God the Father and the Holy Spirit continues to be present and working among us through the power of the same Holy Spirit. We know, too, that this Holy Spirit brings to us many gifts that we invited to use to bring all that we are and have as an acceptable offering to God.

Two weeks from the day of our redemption, we might look to the crucified Lord Jesus, asking the grace to never let self-love become so strong as to smother our love for one another. Jesus died not just for me; he died for all humankind.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another moment of choice: 4WL

Today's Readings

Much food for thought and prayer if you slowly and carefully read and re-read today's gospel. Jesus, it seems, has had enough of the opposition to his good words from some Jewish people. In particular his good name was attacked for telling the cured paralytic man to get up, pick up his mat and go on his way. That simple suggestion contradicted one of the 39 laws regulating Sabbath work! Imagine what that law would create in our culture!!!

What seems evident after musing over the various "witnesses" Jesus calls to his defense -- John the Baptist, Jesus' miracles, the words of his Father, and the Old Testament writings -- is that this particular group of Jewish people had become victims to allowing their egos to dictate how they acted. In particular, it would seem, this group was caught by one of the ways ego takes away genuine freedom: "I am what others think of me." The opposition to Jesus' "authority" by these folks reflects an inner emotion gone awry. Their reputation is at stake. What would others think of them if they did not challenge Jesus' directions to the cured paralytic? Why wouldn't a cured man not pick up his mat and head for home, jubilant that now he could walk?

What does this part of John's gospel speak to us? Are there moments in my life when what others think of me becomes the determining factor in what I say or do? Speaking out against abortion? Speaking out for those condemned to die? Speaking out for the destitute who need support? Speaking out for those who just do not fit into the box that most would have for them?

Remember these severe but sad words Jesus spoke to the opposition: "But you do not want to come to me to have life." Spare me from ever allowing Jesus to say those words to me!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Today's Readings

On this Annunciation Day we experience Jesus in a human way, initiating the power of his own intention to accomplish the will of the Father. In words from St. Paul recounting Jesus' words that "I have come to do the Father's will," Likewise we celebrate Mary's fulfillment of God's will for herself. In saying "Fiat voluntas tua" (may your will be done), Mary is acknowledging the power of intention that exists in the world for herself. In the instance of Jesus and Mary bother were not confused by problems with ego identification.

For the human race, however, making the power of intention a grace that is operative in our lives, we need to adopt the process presented by Dyer. It is an interesting four-step process that involves the following: Discipline, Wisdom, Love and Surrender ... all of those "easy" challenges in life ... that enable us to let go of any hold our egos have over us.

When we learn something new, we are requested to adopt new practices that come about only through Discipline, the discipline of letting go. The second step or stage is Wisdom. This is the wonderful grace that enables us, along with Discipline, to add focus and patience to what we are about on our journey of faith. Thirdly, to achieve the power of intention we need to incorporate a love: loving what we do and doing what we love, as Dyer would express it. Lastly, the fourth step, is an invitation to Surrender. Having determined to adopt a new way of thinking, focusing on what it means for us and then loving and doing it, we surrender and egotistical control it might have over us.

We are invited to allow the same power that turns acorns into trees, blossoms into apples and the microscopic dots into humans" to become the power that leads our hearts. This is the process that allows us to take hold of the power of intention that can make our lives so much stronger and that can bring us so much closer to understand the love of God for us. It is that same understanding that Jesus and Mary had for themselves and their desire to to the will of God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What is holiness? A Lenten Reflection

Often, usually in a confessional situation or a counselling session or even at a cocktail party or a cookout, a question arises: “How does someone really become holy? What’s holiness all about, really?” So, today, since we are just passed the mid-way point of Lent, let’s take a look at what this “placeless place” is about.

First, to begin getting into holiness it is important to have in your head and heart a sign of what holiness is. You ask yourself what is it that you wish for yourself. You have to have what spiritual writer Don Nichol has described as a “sign.” You need a sign that is going to link you to God. The Muslims turn to the east, toward the face of God. But we can say that wherever you look, if you are aware of your intention, you will find the face of God.

A painting that had its own rebirth a few years ago because of the writings of Fr. Henri
Nouwen, is Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” Among the reminders to me of God’s presence is that touching scene. It is often described as the gospel within the Gospel. It is a perfect representation of Jesus’ mission, his fulfillment of God’s intention for him.

If that
Rembrandt work of art could come alive, if the prodigal son would stand up and face us, what would we see? Most likely a very tired young man. Most likely a young man whose face is lined by the pains of his previous lifestyle. What we would be seeing is the cost of holiness. The cost of holiness! In Little Gidding T.S. Eliot uses a very few words to describe the cost of holiness:

“A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything.)”

Eliot shares his soul. Before one comes to the end of life, everything has to go. When that happens, would you be poor? Not at all. What would be left is holiness. It is like the person starting a business: he gives up everything to make it work. Just think of the person who is holy. So often you are dealing with someone who “has all that is needed.” Holiness is the treasure. But it is a treasure that costs “not less than everything.” And what is “everything”? When you stand face-to-face with any one of those demons that keep you from God, when you discover that it is what you must let go, then you know the cost of holiness. Great cost, yes. However, think for a moment: it is also a great freedom.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Paralyzed Man-An Acorn? 4WL

Today's Readings

First, notice how John's writing carries with it words of Jesus that reflect the "medical malady because of sin," mentioned earlier, notion prevalent at the time. When Jesus later saw the healed man, he said to him, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." Scripture scholars maintain that the directive, "do not sin anymore" refers to something of an admonition. The sin John speaks of is the "sin of not believing in Jesus" (The New Jerusalem Biblical Commentary 61:75).

How can this event and some of Dr. Dyer's reflection on intention might provide a new insight into our faith, our belief in God and the power that he has given to his creation. A man paralyzed for at least 38 years can teach us something of this power of intention and God's creation.

Dyer maintains that everything and everyone "has intention built into it." Break open an acorn. What do you find? Certainly nothing like the 40-60 foot tall oak tree. Yet, we know the intention given that acorn by its Creator will result in the forest giant. Those inner elements of every acorn will fulfill their purpose or intention sprouting a root, sucking up life and energy from the earth. So, too, with you and me and the paralyzed man at Bethsaida's pool.

The same intention source that developed the mighty oak has given us access to intention. "In the moment of our conception ... life in physical form begins, and intention directs the growth process." We can ask about its moment of starting. In that very moment of conception what we will become in intended. The marvel of it all is that there was "no particle at the source." Our Source, which is the intention that God had for us from before we were initiated into our life's journey, is the divine energy that is invisible and responsible for us. This, too, may be made clearer. Often we say in God's world there is no time and place as we think as humans. In our limiting human experience, we try to make God's power and energy gift as coming from "the placeless place," we call intention, God's intention. It is that "intention" that made you and me grow, to become who and what we are.

A question Dyer puts to us: "So, if intention determines everything in the universe and is omnipresent, meaning there's no place that it's not, then why do so many of us feel disconnected from it so frequently? And even more important, if intention determines everything, then why do so many of us lack so much of what we'd like to have?" My question to myself and you: Isn't this the story of the paralyzed man? Do we not recognize or realize the great power of intention within us? Maybe we have not understood this unusual reality from our trying to know God and his power he had as well as his love for us. The paralyzed man didn't know the power of intention given to him by God, the power to be what God intended for him. Do we?

Holy Spirit Power: 4WL

Today's Gospel Reading

"When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death."

The study and reflection on the reality of intention in our lives done by Dr. Dyer (see yesterday's reflection), is an avenue toward developing an unusual manner of knowing more about our Creator God and his power in our lives. As noted yesterday, Jesus' mission, as we call hi purpose on earth, his sole intention was to do the will of his Father. Call anyone of his actions a healing, a curing, a giving, a teaching -- whatever he did was an expression of his fulfilling his mission. Perhaps his entire human experience among those who came to know him can be described or viewed as a "never give up" life to do his Father's will.

One man who entire body of writing might pose some difficulties to us and our belief system did write two sentence that an hep us open up a deeper understanding of the mystery of God. These two sentences can help us grow in our relationship to the power of the Holy Spirit within our daily experience of living, in our "making a connection to divine intelligence and genuine possibilities," as Dyer wrote. The two sentences are taken from The Active Side of Infinity, a work of Carlos Castaneda: "Intent is a force that exists in the universe. When sorcerers (those who live in the Source [here understand God] beckon intent, it comes to them and sets up a path for attainment, which means that sorcerers always accomplish what they set out to do."

Can we not say that when we pray to God and express our "intentions" are we not calling upon what we have come to believe as God's power to help us achieve what we would like to accomplish or see fulfilled? Was this not the experience of the "royal official" in today's gospel reading? Was not the intention of the dying son's Dad to do what he could, to beckon a power beyond himself to cure his son? Isn't the action of the pain-filled heart and mind of a loving father an expression of the power of his intention coming to fulfillment? Consider all those actions where people cane to Jesus for healing or help. Each of them was empowered by an intention seemingly beyond themselves. Each was driven to achieve a goal -- usually for another person. Their individual will power was insufficient. None of those who came to Jesus had been able to accomplish the healing they saw needed in another's life. But the intention was to seek a cure. They were reaching out to and with the power of intention. Some 20 centuries ago, Patanjali --[(fl. 150 BCE[1] or 2nd c. BCE[2][3]) is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice, and also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a major commentary on Panini's Ashtadhyayi]-- wrote these words: "Dormant forces, faculties, and talents come alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be." He saw that there was a grace, a power far greater than ourselves that lay dormant within us. It is that grace, that power of the Holy Spirit, that power of intention, that inspires us.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Healing--Intention: 4WL

Today's Readings
One of the most powerful or formational readings to have an influence in my life is entitled The Power of Intention. Those who have followed these reflection may recall remarks about the book several years ago.
The author is Dr. Wayne Dyer. My copy of the book is heavily marked with notes, underlines and the yellows of underliners. Today's gospel brought to mind Intention.

From the outset of the gospel selection today, Jesus' words express what Dr. Dyer has put into print. May Jesus' words fostered Dr. Dyer's depth of thinking in this matter. When Jesus and his followers walked passed a man born blind, the disciples asked who if his parents were to be blamed for this because of past sins? A natural question for the people of Jesus' time. But Jesus immediately responds that his parents' previous lives had nothing to do with the disability. Rather, Jesus says "... it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him." Too often the significance of these words are too quickly passed over by readers, hearers and preachers. Why? Because few have an understanding of "intention" as a power that exists in our world, in our experience every day.

The mentality in Jesus' time toward a child born with a disability was a sign that God was taking revenge on parents and grandparents for whatever sins there may have been in their lives. Were that true, it seems, all of us would have been born with one kid of disability or another because of the reality of original sin!

Jesus' intention here and throughout the gospels, throughout his life is to teach us that he came into this world with one intention: "to do the works of the one who sent me."

Dr. Dyer suggests that we imagine intention not as something we might do but rather as a power or force that "exists in the universe as a invisible field of energy." We might ask this question: "Have I ever experienced intention as a power in our world quite similar to the power of love? I suspect most will answer affirmatively. Love is a reality we cannot touch, we cannot buy even though many believe that it can be bought.

When a person feels inspired, we stand in awe. We step back and give a right of passage. That inspired person (in-spirited says Dyer) knows what we might all the Holy Spirit working within!

All of us have that Spirit within us. It is the spirit and power of intention. It was the spirit, the driving force of all that Jesus did in his preaching, his teaching. He was on fire with intention -- doing the Father's will.

Let's close with one question: "And you?" Have you ever considered that the power of intention existed before you were born? It was. Look at your relatives and friends who have died. Look at history. The power of intention continues today. In our times and days of crisis do we turn to this power of intention as a source of energy, as a source of doing the Father's will?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Am Where Do I Stand? 3WL Saturday 21 Mar 09

Today's Gospel

The gospel experience of two men recognized in the local community can serve as a representation of two spirits, two opposing powers that challenge each of us every day. No matter who we are, no matter what position or station we might have in a family, a community or in society --- we are men and women who are daily challenged by two spirits whether we are aware of those moments or not.

During Lent we are encourage to pray ... to pray more than devotional verses or compositions. We are called to a prayer of reflection. How have I lived my life as a follower of Jesus Christ? How have I lived the Ten Commandments, the laws of our Church?

The gospel describes the reality of genuine pride and arrogance that can capture the human heart. Jesus chooses a well-recognized individual in the communities, the Pharisee, and the not-so-respected Tax Collector. Hmmm? Sounds familiar to us in today's economic mess!

The Pharisee is portrayed in a way that many people act when they feel they are better than those without ... without a good education, without money, without a home on the "right side of the tracks," without the proper documentation both in the southwest and the northeast, without professing the same beliefs, without giving support to the same ideas.

The pride and arrogance of the Pharisee is easily understood and quickly passed over. The humility, or as some might think, the daring of the Tax Collector causes some discomfort to those who truly reflect on the scene. Does the shoe fit you? That's the question Jesus is asking in this story. This is the purpose of "Lenten prayer."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Half Way: 3WL 20 Mar 09

Today we might find ourselves in a quandary. Half of the 2009 Lenten season is history. In one sense we are at the pinnacle. Many might be led to evaluate the first 20 days (Sundays are not included in the counting). How well did I live out my Lenten resolutions? Is it too late to start doing something sacrificial for Lent now? Others might see the mid-point as a plateau where a breather is in order before beginning the continued climb of the second half of Lent.

Others may understand the uniqueness of the gospel reading. It is the only day of Lent when a selection of Mark’s gospel is included in the readings. And how appropriate a reading it is: Love your God and your neighbor. And isn’t this what Lent is about?

At this mid-point, what we should examine is how we can continue to strengthen our love for God and one another. This is the wonder of Lent. Surely we may have reason to atone because we have not been saints! But it is the effort we put forth in show our love for God and one another that make Lent a treasure time.

How many are there around us who are yearning for others to accept them? How many are there who just need a few words of encouragement to keep them on the pathway to God? How many are caught up in struggles where they feel alone and without support?

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

St Joseph

It was St. Bernadine of Siena who, in speaking about St. Joseph, said that "Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand." Nothing could be truer about St. Joseph. He was chosen as the man to watch over the Father's greatest treasure, his Son, Jesus Christ, and Joseph's wife, Mary, the mother of the Son of God. It was this man, Joseph, that we honor today, especially in our parish on Capitol Hill. Joseph was that good and faithful servant.

For us today, we can look to Joseph, as one person put it, and see the "can-do" saint. Joseph is the model of the silent listener. Not one recorded word in the Bible from his lips. But he was a "listener" of remarkable skill. Four times an angel spoke to him and four times Joseph immediately took on the task. Challenging and questioning the task, despite the difficulties associated with it, was never a reality for Joseph.

We know the legend: ask for something from St. Joseph and surely it will be granted. From one who has heard many stories, take this word of advice: be most careful what you ask for from this saint ... because you are going to get something in return!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fulfillment: 3WL Wednesday 18 Mar 09

Today's Readings

In today's gospel we encounter one of St. Matthew's favorite words: Fulfill. For this Evangelist the word contained a treasure-house of experience. Matthew saw in this word the fullness of completion. Clearly it was a word that was the object of much of this Evangelist's prayers. He uses the word at least eight times. It is a word that expresses a person's bringing to perfection a duty, a hope, a way of life.

Of course, during this Lenten season, we consider how Jesus fulfilled his mission with his suffering and death on the cross. Also Matthew writes about the Annunciation and informs the people that angel's direction to Mary that the child would be names Jesus to "fulfill" the words of the Isaiah: " ... and they shall name him Emmanuel."

For us today, what significance can this word have, especially during this Lenten season. For me it is during Lent each year that I sense the opportunity to bring to fulfillment again the vows of my baptism and my sharing in the redemption of Jesus Christ.

And you? What might this word mean for you during the season of Lent?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tall Tales and Subtle Truths: St Patrick's Day 2009

Fitting Thing 'Tis
A Parade for Patrick

Having just returned from NYC, perhaps second to Boston, in its revelry to honor the patron saint of Ireland, I feel up to my eyeballs in green.

Unless each of you forgives your brother and sister,
the Father will not forgive you.

Perhaps a few moments of reflection on the life of the man who brought the faith to the Emerald Isle may make the celebrations of the day and this evening more meaningful.

Patrick was according to most who have searched the facts of his life spent at few years in what is now Ireland as a slave, herding sheep. Following a dream's bidding, he escaped the land. Seemingly, Patrick studied theology in France, was ordained a priest and ultimately a bishop. In another dream he heard the voices of the Irish people calling him, so the legend goes, to return to them, to bring the faith to them. This he did and began his "parade" through Ireland. He brought many to the faith. He built a number of churches.

However, ask anyone "wearing the green" today when Patrick was born or died, and you most likely might hear a bit of Irish truth ... "well now, seems to me, wasn't he runnin' 'round to good, old sod a long time ago? Yep, 'tis it: a long time ago!"

Patrick's missionary work took place in the 5th century. Most historians consider 460 AD to be the year of his death but most are uncertain as to the year he was born.

For we who profess the Catholic faith, today is a day when we look to a saint who can be an excellent model for us in our days. Missionary. Surely all of us can be missionaries without leaving our country, our state, our city or even our family. So many are alienated from our Church. So many have abandoned a genuine practice of our faith. And what do we do about it? If we find St. Patrick's day and all the celebration that surrounds it, perhaps we might drink in not just his ale but his spirit.

Perhaps a reading of Patrick's life, might well give support and comfort to those who come to our shores seeking freedom and independence. Perhaps, just perhaps, St. Patrick might easily become a model and a patron for ALL immigrants who come to these shores of ours, whether in the Northeast or the Southwest!

Let today be a day when we add to our Lenten resolves the effort to do what we can to bring back to the Church and to the practice of our faith those closest to us who have abandoned any practice of faith. Perhaps a paragraph from The Breastplate of St. Patrick ... a prayer attributed to the saint ... might give us some resolve that lasts. "Google" the prayer!

I arise today
through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me,
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ to shield me today....
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Having read over that second paragraph -- actually the 7th strophe of the hymn-- I now have an insight into the words of several Irish born friends who seem to incorporate the word "Christ" in every sentence they speak!!! Maybe I have looked askance at the true Irish missionary spirit!!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, from one who recently learned that there was a person of green who hopped the fence and married into the English roots that are part of my mother's family's background.

Monday, March 16, 2009

All or Some? 3WL 16 Mar 09

Today's Gospel

Prejudice. Take a look at the several definitions in any dictionary. The meaning is clear: words or actions or thoughts against someone, a class of people or even an idea. With this thought in mind now recall the most sacred moments in the Eucharist when Jesus' words are repeated: "take this all of you ... and eat it; take this all of you and drink from it ... it will be shed for you and for all. Jesus speaks without prejudice. He does not say "for some of you" nor ""many of you." He is clear: ALL.

The examples that earned his rejection from the temple affirm his meaning. "All of us" does not cut the mustard. "All of them," -- the outsiders, the foreigners, the non-Jews, the Gentiles -- this was prejudicial action for Jesus. Elijah saved a starving widow in Zarephath while many Jewish folks were going through a terrible famine! Elisha healed the Syrian, Naaman, of his leprosy while so many Jewish went without healing. Lastly, as we know so well, Jesus was nailed to a cross with his arms outstretched and hanged for three hours before he died not just "for some" but for "all humankind."

Stand before the man or woman dying of AIDS; stand before the man or woman who is the Pro-Choice Activist; stand before the man or woman or child who lives and possibly works among us but has no citizenship --- and say to them "Jesus did not mean you when he used that word "all." Do we understand that Jesus' use of the word "all" includes the sinner as well as the saint? Jesus had no time for the sin but we know he loved the sinner because in the sinner he saw the possibility of redemption, the fulfillment of what would be his final act of love.

What does this mean for me, today, in our world? Are there not moments when "exclusion" because of another's belief or position become more than "rejection"? Exclusion becomes the reason so many people are challenged when condemning the sin. So often the sinner is condemned as well!

For Catholics in particular, does the phenomenon of "talk radio" not pave the pave to genuine hatred? Hmm? An interesting and challenging thought: Has "talk radio" not become "hate radio"?

Belated Sunday Reflection

Deacon Gary Bockweg's Sunday Homily

You can see some pretty amazing things on TV.
I didn’t actually see this on television.
But I was walking through the drugstore
And I saw a section with a sign that said “As Seen on TV”.

And there were some amazing products there.
One that caught my eye was a package that showed
The bottom of a pair of feet.
And on each foot was a wide strip of pure white cloth.
As I read the box I learned that these were magic foot pads.
The description on the box didn’t actually use the word magic.
But that’s the only word to explain how these pads could work.

The pads are treated with special herbs, and minerals.
You put them on the bottom of your feet when you go to bed.
And while you sleep, they cleanse all the bad—stuff—from your system.
Toxins, pollutants, chemicals, metals.
The pads draw it all right out through your soles.

Well, that’s one method of purification or detoxification or cleansing.
And if it really worked it would be a most convenient and effortless method.
But I’m pretty skeptical about that.
I googled the magic pads and found ads for dozens of other products.
Pills and potions and elixers;
All guaranteed to effortlessly cleanse impurities from the body.
Some of those might actually have some degree of effectiveness.
But if we’re serious about getting good results
We’re going to have to invest real effort.
Like physical exercise and a healthy diet.
Purification and cleansing requires our direct effort, action and commitment.

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus taking action to purify and cleanse the temple.
There were improper elements there – right inside the temple walls.
Things that didn’t really belong there.
Toxins that were polluting the spiritual environment.
Things that were draining away the proper energy and life of the temple.
So Jesus cleared them out – cleansed the whole temple area.

This was certainly a Jesus of action.
And not the kind of action we’re accustomed to seeing—but extra-ordinary action.
He’s not patiently teaching and healing.
He’s shouting and swinging a whip and flipping over tables.

After he’d finished, the people questioned his authority for those actions.
And asked for a sign to prove that he had that authority.
As Paul said in our second reading today,
The Jews always demanded signs.
And this time Jesus gave them one.
But not one that provided immediate proof.
He said, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
The Jews didn’t understand that, and they mocked him for such a foolish statement.

But as we know, and as St John makes clear.
Jesus wasn’t talking about the temple building.
He was describing himself as a temple.

That same description applies to all of us as well.
We too are temples.
Jesus told us that he would send his spirit to dwell within us.
That makes us temples of the Holy Spirit.

But we’re all temples in need of some purification and cleansing.
And there’s no effort-free purification method.
Nothing that will magically draw all the toxins and pollutants from our souls
While we sleep.
To drive out the pollutants, we need to take direct action – like Jesus did.
And if we’re serious about getting good results, we have to invest real effort.
So what can we do?

As Lent began on Ash Wednesday, we heard the Gospel according to Matthew.
And there, Jesus spoke of actions that can help us to become more perfect temples.
The three acts of piety: Alms giving, prayer and fasting.

Today is just about the midpoint of Lent.
A good time for a progress check.
Maybe we’re already well on our way in preparing
For the gifts of Good Friday and Easter.
If not, it’s time to take action and begin making a real effort.

Lent is a time for not just ordinary action, but for extra-ordinary action.
Extra commitment and extra effort
In our alms giving, our prayer and our fasting.
Because, even when we think we’re well prepared,
We know that we’re never fully finished.
We always have more work to do,
Cleansing and purifying our temples.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Blogger Absence

Blogger Absence

Fund Raising Function
Returning to Post
March 16th

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fasting and Finding: (2WL) Thursday, 12 Mar 09

Take up your cross, let not its weight
Fill your weak spirit with alarms;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Shall brace your heart and nerve your arm
(Charles William Everest 1814-1877)

Today's Gospel

Are we, as a Church, as a nation, as an individual, are we genuinely moved by the needs of the poor and hungry of the world, our nation and our cities? A recent study of the hunger cross that exists in our times notes that currently some 854 million men, women and children go to sleep each evening not with a satisfied stomach but with the discomfort of hunger pangs.

The gospel today presents to us a rich man and a poor and hungry Lazarus. It is the story of just one man, lying at the rich man's door. In the mentioned hunger report there are data that the 854 million hungry standing in a line would wrap Planet Earth three or four times! Our patience is tried when we have to join the line behind five or six heavily laden carts at a Costco! Imagine how many people just in Washington, DC form a "Lazarus Line" each day under an overpass, outside Union Station, on a downtown corner -- almost all suffering, many poorly fed.

The leading advocate for the poor and needy tell the Pharisees a story about the poor, the hungry in the gospel. It is Jesus speaking to all generations -- because the poor you will always have with you! Jesus uses Abraham to deliver his message: "remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented."

When the rich man seeks to have Jesus allow Lazarus to visit his brothers with warnings, Abraham reminds him that the "greats" of the Old Testament have spoken so many times about the need to care for the poor and hungry. And as a reminder to all future generations, Abraham mentions that even if someone would rise from the dead, they would not listen! We have Jesus preaching to us: do we listen?

And the rest of the story? Well, consider how in our own days anorexia is recognized as a disease that changes a person's personality, a person's mental stability. If that happens to those who have access to food, could it not be a sign to us why so many of those who make up the Lazarus Line are emotionally challenged? Some fast during Lent, seemingly fewer than in days past. Yet there are many who do not have the luxury of choosing to fast not just during Lent but throughout the year. They do not have to give up! They are unable to experience their own personal freedom and strength because they live with hunger.

Lent does teach us how much we really need and how much we really don't need. Perhaps Lent can teach us that we can share our surplus with those in the Lazarus Lines of our cities!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Christian Leadership? 2WL Wednesday, 11 Mar 09

Take up your cross, let not its weight
Fill your weak spirit with alarms;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Shall brace your heart and nerve your arm.

(Charles William Everest 1814-1877)

Today's Gospel

Let us begin with a question: Do Christians, particularly Roman Catholics, see other Catholics, other Christians who have been "anointed" with particular leadership roles as men and women who lives are easily recognized as models of service? In particular those men and women elected by the citizenry to serve in the House of Representatives, the Senate or the Executive Branch as well as those chosen by the Catholic Church to serve as priests, bishops or Cardinals --- are these women and men recognized by the people as good leaders? Are these same people marked by the key characteristic of leadership --- men and women genuinely concerned about how they serve others? Are we who hold such offices genuinely alert to the challenges that position, power or prestige place before us each day of our lives in whatever "office" it is that we seek to lead? Are we the kind of people who look back to yesterday to make sure the "service" is the mark of our leadership? Are we the kind of people who look to today's opportunities to serve those in need? Or, upon honest reflection, do we allow pride, arrogance and gain damage whatever efforts we put forward to serve others?

While these thoughts seem directed only toward government and church leadership, those who work with any of these "leadership" folk also share the duty to be men and woman of the genuine service character. How easily we can turn from the persistent paranoid who hounds the boss. How easily we can attempt to make the way for only the "special" people to have access to the boss. How easy it is to hide that which sometimes seems so very difficult from those who need to know what is true.

Jesus is the pre-eminent leader of the Christian world. He has demonstrated for all of us the kind of leadership we should seek to have as the mark of a career when he washed the dirty and smelly feet of the disciples before the Holy Thursday supper. Do we look at our Church and State leadership and see the same kind of dedicated service to others?

All of us might ask ourselves today these questions: "How is my life marked by this Christ-like service to those in need?" Is this a hard question that demands so much self-awareness and honesty? You can bet on that! How is your life marked by Christ-like service?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Being Overbearing: Tuesday: 2WL, 10 Mar 09

Take up your cross, let not its weight
Fill your weak spirit with alarms;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Shall brace your heart and nerve your arm.
(Charles William Everest 1814-1877)

Today's Readings

In the New Testament writings the words "Scribes" and "Pharisees" are no stranger to our ears. However, who these characters are might well be strangers. Like the terms Republican and Democrat, these words designate people but many do not know that actual meaning of the words and their use.

Intellectual leaders
Stressed study, the knowledge of religious regulations
and learned arguments.

Professed belief in the resurrection
Emphasized ritual purity, tithing
and strict observance of the Sabbath

In today's gospel reading, Jesus is seen presenting to the people who these characters are and what they do to the people. He criticizes their imposing heavy legal and ritual burdens upon the people -- usually not themselves! Both groups attempted to draw too much attention to themselves and sought ways to be honored.

What these characters attempted just don't fit into our culture and time, we might think. However, might we not ask this question: "As you read the definition of the two classes of men, what did you think?" Did you almost immediately think of people you know, superiors who direct your lives, bosses who do not want you to forget their position? Did you think, perhaps, just perhaps of course, that you might be incorporated into the "spirit" of these two kinds of people?

What Jesus said that cannot be overlooked is this: "The greatest among you must be your servant." Oops! There Jesus goes again: ruffling the feathers of some of us, no doubt!

Another person who reflects on the Eucharistic Liturgy readings suggests that these two characters are the founders of the S&P Syndrome! The what?? The Scribes and Pharisees Syndrome!

Sorry there was not reflection yesterday. This writer was busily involved in the funeral ceremonies for a dear lady who was with her family like extended family to my family. Please remember in your prayers Gen Hubbard Barnard.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Not Giving Up on our God: 2nd Sunday of Lent 8 Mar 09

Don't Quit

Today's Readings

It is a challenging story, this event in the life of Abraham and his son. No different is the Transfiguration event in the gospel we read today. The more we advance in our modern world, the more difficult it is to grasp the reality of the Abraham story. What parent today would give a second thought to a God asking that a child be offered up in a sacrifice such as happened to Abraham. He, above all else, was a man of genuine faith. In today's culture, no doubt, he would also be considered, perhaps by many, as out of his mind. He made no protest to God's "command" that he take his son's life. Blind obedience, perhaps. Most would counter with "Crazy!"

So, what is the purpose and the message of this particular Old Testament event? We might even ask, "Does it have a real purpose in our very modern world?" Why would God "order" a faithful man to go so far as to take his son to a distant place, build an altar of sacrifice, and be poised to plunge a knife into his son's body? This is a loving God?

What we might ask ourselves is this: How do I react when I find myself in circumstances that demand sacrifice in my life? Can a parent identify with this event when he/she learns his/her only son is being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan? Probably some can.

Today all of us encounter circumstances that test our fidelity to God: circumstances that are genuine sacrifices that on the natural surface seem senseless. Perhaps the current economic depression that has eaten up so many employments will drive many away from God. Certainly the attendance at Masses and other devotional activities has not shown a marked increase. Some, unfortunately, have walked away from God in anger and frustration.

Today's horrific and terminal diseases like AIDS or cancer are perceived by many who want instant cures to be signs that God really doesn't care about his people. Today's frequent family challenges brought about by so many different kinds of addiction -- alcoholism, drug misuse, and among the newest forms of addiction, Internet pornography -- have become reasons for many to ignore God and his graces.

All of this might be reduced to two questions: First, if my life is so damaged by any or several of these ills, how can I believe God loves me? Second, in times when prosperity of whatever kind abounds, am I faith-filled enough to remember to give credit and thanks to a bountiful God? St. Paul's words in the second reading today remind us: "What do you have that you have not received?"

Not trusting in God's love and forgetting his gifts to us are surely avenues that lead to the loss of one's faith. The Abraham event and the life of Jesus Christ himself are reminding to us that in moments of severe challenge and in abundance we should not give up on nor forget our God.

For this poster, the picture became a moment of recalling two thoughts: in the middle of the "coldest" of circumstances God's love flows through. And secondly, even challenges can become sources of beauty if studied peacefully and carefully.

Important Notice

To Help You Smile
This Saturday Morning

A Capitol Hill Rumor
Due to financial constraints at this time
impacting the lives of almost everyone,
the Light at the End of the Tunnel
is being disconnected!!!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

How Deep This Reconciliation Business: Friday 1WL

Therefore we pray you, Lord, forgive;
So when our wanderings here shall cease,
We may with you ever live,
In love and unity and peace.
(St. Gregory the Great)

Today's Readings

In the gospel today we might be brought to this thought: offending others, including ourselves, are most often actions that spring from a violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments.
Think of this: anger is often the cause of serious abuse. Most murders arise from anger.

Think of this: how many are the ways that lead to immorality or, as said so often in the confessional, sins of impurity? The ever present 6th Commandment! Conversations, movies, books, TV shows, magazines, the Internet. Yes, we are surrounded by challenges to a good moral life ... and not just teenagers! The basic question could be: How strong is the beast in our hearts? What beast? The beast called lust!

A major challenge to many today is the privacy that the Internet affords the world. Pursuit of pornography on the Internet, for example, has become so easy today. Unfortunately, this practice has cost individuals their jobs. And this immorality challenges both heterosexuals as well as homosexuals: it is a threat to the mental health of all.

Recently noted: Fr. Spitzer's words. "... violence begets violence, vengeance begets vengeance, resentment begets resentment...." Immorality begets immorality. Immorality begets servitude. Immorality begets isolation.

Shouldn't this make all of us more aware that the roadway to the suffering the immorality brings has many pathways that lead to the roadway ... just seemingly not-so-serious temptations that eventually lead to hurting ourselves or others.

Spitzer also points out in his book that there are four levels of happiness in a person's experience. Eventually one will become the dominant and the others recede or are ignored with the dominant becoming the person's personality. Can we not say that immoral activity can ultimately become a person's private personality ... that can lead to the destruction of a marriage and serious damage to others in the family? Immorality becomes not so much the great enjoyment of physical pleasures but of a very heavy cross begotten originally by something that might have been described as "that really isn't all that bad."

Oh, how painful human nature can be if we are not ever vigilant!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Difficulty Praying? Thursday (1WL) 3/5/09

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.
(A 1st week reminder)

Most ask this question: "Why is prayer so difficult?" Consider, if you will, two modern technologies: the remote control (for tv, radio, fans, whatever) and the computer. We have become partners with these items. Each of these has taught us about remarkable achievements in our modern times. Type a few letters on a keyboard and within a few mini-seconds you can be speaking with and watching a relative in Hawaii! Or how easy and quick it has become for us to checkout several hundred tv stations while sitting in a chair opposite the tv. Technology has made us people who expect instantaneous action. We have become victims of teasers. Who of us can produce most of the dinners and desserts that are "made from scratch" in 30 minutes regardless of the way Emeril, Rachel or Paula might teach us.

However, prayer, even prayer made from scratch, takes time to be productive. Prayer will grow more difficult as we become more fitted to instantaneous activity in our daily lives. How many times have you thought: this is a terribly long traffic light -- what's the matter?

Prayer is very much like a seed. When planted in some soil, even the largest bulb does not sprout up in a day. Nature needs sunshine, rain, time. Prayer needs dedication, fidelity and patience.

When you pray using simple, recitative prayer, how long does it take to say the Our Father, for example? Do you find yourself tripping over the words because you are reciting the words so quickly? Thank you modernity!!! Again, prayer needs dedication, fidelity and time!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spreading Forgiveness: Wednesday, 1WL, 3 Mar 09

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.
(A 1st week reminder)

Today's Readings

Remember Jonah? Probably the story of the "whale" comes to mind. Actually, according to the Scripture scholars, it was not necessarily a whale. In one of the shortest OT books, only four chapters, Jonah does not mention a "whale." For him it is a big fish. Unfortunately most readers and tellers of OT stories, take the bait and talk about the supposed whale element of the story. Not the purpose of the story, my friends.

What we don't want to miss is the style of preaching Jonah offers. Read carefully, the Book of Jonah puts forth a petulant and confused prophet. Have you heard that before in any discussion about Jonah? Probably not. He is recognized among the people of his time as the Prophet of Doom and Gloom. What he sought to remove from the scene is clear: "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." It was the city/town of Nineveh that he wanted leveled.

So Prophet Doom and Gloom sets out announcing what he believed to be the message of God. Obviously he was determined to see the people there fail!!! (Ooops! Sounds too familiar these days, doesn't it???? Maybe we have not progressed all that far!!!) But, to his surprise and disappointment, the people and the king truly heard his message. Repentance took place. You would think that the prophet would have been jumping out of his pulpit! Not so, Jonah! His intention was undermined.

So, what's the purpose of the story here? Think back to Jesus' words after his teaching the disciples how to prayer ... forgive others. The theme continues here for our Lenten consideration. God's mercy is all encompassing. It is our challenge to forgive. God's love is offered to everyone regardless of how we might think about those in need of forgiveness. Again, remember the sentiment of Fr. Spitzer's prayer: "God, you are the Judge; I leave it in your hands." The "big sin" that we can easily buy into is determining that we are the Judge!

Thought for the Day: Wednesday, March 4 2009

If the measurement of true wealth is friendship,
and I believe it is,
then thanks to you,
I am a very rich man.

Composed by a parishioner/friend
Scott Fraser

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday: 1st Week of Lent (1WL) Forgiving

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.
(A 1st week reminder)

Today's Readings

Yes, Lent is a time for penance and sacrifice. However, prayer is also a very important part of the Lenten season and the spiritual activities that give renewal on the journey toward Easter. The principal purpose of more prayer is to assist those truly serious about strengthening a God-relationship.

Some may feel that the simple recitation of a few familiar prayers each day can bring about the desired God-relationship. Take note: this practice may help but it is not enough. Building any relationship with another person or with God is serious business. Just as in human relationship building, developing a strong God-relationship requires that obstacles that block better interaction be removed or lessened. In dealing with the God-relationship the goal for a strong prayer life is to remove those obstacles (sins) that block openness to God's graces. Yet there are some who would ask this kind of question: "If prayer is one of the pillars of a spiritual life, isn't an Our Father and/or a Hail Mary sufficient? I leave the serious praying to the men and women who live in monasteries." Well, of course it is not enough. It is no more enough than a once a day telephone call to another person with whom you might be trying to build a relationship. Imagine how successful a young suitor would be if the young lady he is trying to win over heard these words once or twice a week: "Hi, how are you? I hope all is well. My boss is really keeping me busy. My apartment surely keeps me on the run. I'll call you tomorrow. Take care." As Paul Harvey would say with his infectious laugh, "Well, now, you know the rest of the story."

Well, in building a strong God-relationship, we have to remove the sinfulness that clutters our hearts and minds. One kind of prayer that is necessary to unclutter our lives is the prayer granting forgiveness to those who have offended in any way. Oops! How does this pardoning business creep into prayer? The answer: today's gospel. Read it carefully, especially noting how Jesus adds a few words after what we traditionally consider the "end" of the Our Father prayer, the prayer he taught us. "...but deliver us from evil." He does not add Amen after the word "evil." Rather, he continues: "If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Mt 6:15).

Jesus calls us to forgive -- one of the most frequent callings from Jesus in the four gospels. Repeatedly Jesus puts before his disciples the challenge to forgive, to do away with grudges. Did you ever consider why beyond the usual "Oh, it's the right thing to do" response? Why? Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, currently President of Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, gives the answer: "Because violence begets violence, vengeance begets vengeance, resentment begets resentment, and the cycle will continue and grow so long as one of the offended parties does not let go."

Without forgiveness in our lives prayer is stymied. Fr. Spitzer recommends a prayer, a very short sentence, when we find ourselves angry with another, when we cannot find room in our hearts for forgiveness: "Lord, You are the just Judge; You take care of it." Imagine what life would be like if people were willing to pardon: "forgiving eventually turns into forgetting."
(Spitzer, Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday, First Week of Lent (1WL)

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.
(A 1st week reminder)

Have your Lenten resolutions remained strong after these first few days of Lent? Someone said that the good intentions have already fallen by the wayside. A response might easily question how intense the resolutions might have been: perhaps too intense! Most cannot become the strongest person overnight. The readings from today's Eucharistic Liturgy provide 20, yes, 20 ways you can adopt practices throughout the Lenten Season. Perhaps taking just one, two or three of these recommendations may be much more profitable.

Don't forget this: Lent is a season calling us to holiness not to become body builders! The 20 suggestions in the Leviticus and Matthean readings are just what we need for Lent: road signs along the journey to Easter. These suggestions are not momentous feats. However, they do become like the bricks a masonry worker uses to build a wall: one brick on top of another and then another or top of another and so forth. It is how we learn. It is how we grow. A personal trainer in a gym usually does not start the beginner on heavy weights or a lengthy number of repetitions for an exercise. It is gradual. It is the way to construct a strong wall, strong muscles, and a strong will. Just one or two of these suggestions might be what you need to make a difference in your life. Indeed, just one or two of these recommendations might be all that God is asking of you at this time in your life. Lente! Lente! Slowly! Slowly!

Isn't it more rewarding to adopt an almost insignificant practice and to complete the time of Lent rather than take on what might be almost impossible challenges and then not finish the Lenten season doing anything but feeling disappointed in yourself? A long sentence ... but one that might provoke some serious thought to those who find the Lenten sacrifices "just too much." Note in the words just beneath the cross: And humbly follow after me. Maybe that might be the genuine penance for many of us: just doing the simply, almost ordinary thing ... but finishing the challenge. Keep going!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Sunday of Lent: The Annual Contract Review

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.
(A 1st week reminder)

The grace or the insight that we seek today is an understanding of and living in a covenant with God. The first reading of today’s Eucharistic Liturgy expresses the covenant relationship between God and ourselves. It is not a promise of loyalty or fidelity for a season such as a sports figure makes with a team. It is his promise to true to us for another season. The reading reminds us that we are called to a response that is embedded in our baptismal promises to follow the ways of the Lord. It is in our mutual covenant that marks an unusual, yet permanent, relationship. Ours is a divine-human personal covenant unlike the player-team-league relationship. Ours is a relationship we can easily take for granted -- one that we might easily relegate to the back burner.

However, the Lenten season is a reminder that God was and continues to be the first actor in this divine-human pledging. He made the first step in reconciliation with sinners, pledging his fidelity to the eight people who were saved from drowning by being aboard the ark of Noah. They were saved from the horrors of the then-known world-wide flood. God’s pledge reached forever forward as a multi-generational promise to be with his people. This brings us into the promise, covenant relationship, through our baptism. As a seal of his promise to humankind, God made real on his pledge by bringing his Son to our earth and by his suffering and death. What he asked of your and me was and continues to be is fidelity to our baptismal promises. And, we might ask this question of ourselves especially during this Lenten journey we embark upon each year: what are the baptismal promises I renew so often each year? How faithful am I to my pledge?

Recently on this blog you were introduced to several of the statues that remind me of the “team” that supports me in every season. Again, look at the sports model, since it seems to be the strongest national diversion from the challenges of life. In our nation’s capital city alone, how prominent are the caps, jackets, t-shirts, sweat shirts, individual favorite team player posters? They abound! Even our automobiles become traveling billboards, reminding others of a personal covenant, a personal relationship with the “gods of the gridiron or (baseball) diamond or the ice or the courts or the fields.” Did I miss any team? In many ways the statues and our religious items are similarly reminders of another team that has a perpetual contract with us --- the community of the saints! Remember them?
Just as sports paraphernalia remind us of a special relationship to a team, God chose the rainbow as a permanent reminder of his fidelity to each of his creations. It is a contract that never needs renewing. It is always present to us. God chose a rainbow as a sign to Noah and his seven companions.

As we start out once again on the Lenten journey that serves to remind us of God’s fidelity to us in his Redeemer Son, ask yourself about your contract with God, your fidelity to your baptism contract. You know how easy it is for all humankind to pull out of the contract with our God for what appears to be a better offer! When you see a rainbow, when you see the colors of a rainbow, recall how bless you are by God’s fidelity to his contract with us while at the same time examining how faithful you have been to your promises.

This Lenten journey is a time when we pray:
“In this time of repentance
we call out for your mercy.
Bring us back to you
and to the life your Son won for us
by his death on the cross.”
(Alternative Opening Prayer from today’s Eucharistic Liturgy)