Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pentecost: Change and Empowerment

From the time many of us were children, we learned the petition "Come, Holy Spirit, ... renew the face of the earth."  Even today this petition is not unknown.  So what is it that we are asking?  Do we fully understand what the early Church was asking when the apostles and their successors were invoking the assistance of the spirit of the Holy Spirit?  Listen to what the Lord has said to the prophet Joel:

Thus says the LORD:
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions;
even upon the servants and the handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth,
blood, fire, and columns of smoke;
the sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
at the coming of the day of the LORD,
the great and terrible day.
Then everyone shall be rescued
who calls on the name of the LORD;
for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant,
as the LORD has said,
and in Jerusalem survivors
whom the LORD shall call.

What Joel was told to preach, when considered carefully can be both frightening and something to run away from.  The "spirit" of the Holy Spirit as understood by our earliest Church ancestors was for the spirit of change, the spirit of empowerment.  This is what God wanted in the Church from its beginning ... like Jesus who came among us to bring the changes needed in humanity and who tried to empower those who would follow him in doing the Father's will.

Many today would want no part of this message.  Some might say it is just for the few, for the prophets -- who always had a hard time spreading the Good News.  But God makes clear, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for all of us.  It is not solely for those who have completed Leadership 101.

Those who accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the Spirit, are usually men and women who are alive with their faith.  They are passionate about the mission of the Church.  In a way they can be likened to a ram rod force that barrels through closed and bolted shut gates of the fortress of Barriers and Boundaries!

What the "spirit of the Spirit" seeks to fulfill in and through our lives is the process of building one community.  St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, describes a challenging moment.  After hearing the preaching of the apostles following the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Cornelius, a pagan, a Roman soldier, gathered his household and asked to be born in the spirit of the Spirit.  He was someone who was so different from the followers of Jesus.  But his action to petition entrance into the community of those who had been empowered by the Holy Spirit 
made clear what change this empowerment would mean.  Division would be removed:  no longer would there be a difference between Jew and Greek, between slaves and free people and so forth.  The spirit ruptured the close-mindedness of those who were disrupted by change.

How would our contemporaries deal with a world that does not include nationalism, racism, sexism, class bias or religious bigotry?  Most likely we can answer that question with a simple sentence:  Just look around!  How strong has been some of the reactions to a President willing to dialog with the religious factions that are creation so much havoc in our daily lives.  There is an answer to how frightening the empowerment and change of the spirit of the Spirit can be.

Look at the reality of capitalism in our nation, in the world.  It is a reality that pits ideas and powers against one another.  What would our world be like if dog-eat-dog capitalism collapsed completely and we lived in the experience of collaborative capitalism where the well-being of all humanity became the operative?  Imagine if all businesses worked with one another rather than against each other.  Just feel the resistant energy of such an idea if it you were to bring it into a discussion of your friends today.

What if we began to preach and to live this reality:  the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit are not the private property of anyone but powers God give to everyone for the good of all!!

Come, Holy Spirit,
enkindle in us
the fire of your Divine Love!!

And Tomorrow?

When the Church begins Evening Prayer this afternoon, we will have crossed the bridge from the Easter Season into the continuation of Ordinary Time. Another Lent and Easter experienced. We move on into tomorrows. Read St. John's closing remarks to his gospel.
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
Perhaps we might begin a serious of "what if" questions, wondering about how things would be if different events occurred. "What if there were tape recorders?" "What if there were secretaries?" The reality is simple: There were not.

Like Peter in today's gospel: what's the future hold for us? Throughout every Easter Season we walk through St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles experiencing the rocky beginnings of the early Church following the Ascension of Jesus Christ. Like any good leader, Jesus knew these wondering moments would be a part of the early days of the Church. So, he tells Peter who was wondering what was going to happening to St. John, the gospel writer, not to worry. The future will be cared for by the Father. His answer to all those early concerns was simple yet so challenging at times: "Follow me!"

That is our mission even today: "Follow me." God will take care for tomorrow. Our mission is to live in the present moment. Am I living out in my life what Jesus taught as the will of the Father? That should be our concern. Although we live in a highly technological society and culture where knowing what is next is important and has serious consequences, we an make the future by living out God's will for us today.

There are many streams to cross, many roads to carry us forward. But we have the best set of directions in just two words: "Follow me."

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Feed my Sheep" - Always Do Good Things!

John 21:15-19

Today's gospel reading is ripe with thoughts and directions for all of us in our contemporary experiences of life. Let's begin with the verses that Jesus address to Peter about the end of his life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go."
How many times have we heard these words or read them? What do they say to us about our experiences today? How about this? I was drawn to considering a personal experience that many have encountered of late: the day that I had to move my mother to a nursing home! What an experience of pain for me. What a moment when Mom felt the world was ending: instant death would have felt so much better.

Then to the three times Jesus asks Peter if he loved him. Every time I find myself confronted with a challenging moment and I would prefer doing something else, I am then being asked by Jesus, "Do you love me?" If I really love my God, then Jesus' response is so direct: then, go about the task and see this as feeding my sheep, tending my lambs.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, in his newest publication, Excuses Begone!, relates the story of a fictional character in ancient Chinese literature. A monk, named Birdsnest because he meditated each day in a tree, was famous for his "spiritual direction." One day a government official came and shouted to Birdsnest that he wanted to know what all the wise ones had taught. Eventually the monk descended and answered the gentleman: "Don't do bad things. Always do good things."

The official considered his trip to the monk a waste of time. "I knew that when I was three years old." Then Birdsnest smiled and replied with his own great wisdom, "Yes, the three-year-old knows it, but the eighty-year-old still finds it very difficult to do."

This is what Jesus is asking us each time we find ourselves about to give in to temptations, to ignore the needs of others, to let laziness keep us from what we should be doing: "Don;t do bad things. Always do good things." We know that taking time for some prayer, time for being present with the Lord, letting him speak to us can be a challenge in a very busy world. When we have that feeling calling us to prayer, begging us to find some quiet, it is the Lord speaking to us: "Do you love me ... more than whatever seems so important to you at this moment?" And when we do take the time to listen, to let the Holy Spirit work within our hearts, then we always hear Jesus' words: "Feed my sheep!" Then we are called to action.

Publish Post

Thursday, May 28, 2009


(R. Charlebois, artist)

In today's gospel somewhat hidden in Jesus prayer for us is the request that we be granted to graces needed for a genuine metanoia, a genuine transformation. He is praying not just for those with him in his ministry for us, those who believe in him through the words of his colleagues, his apostles and disciples.
"I pray not only for these but also for those who will believe in me through their world, so that they may all be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you ... and that the world may believe that you sent me."
As we draw closer to Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, the celebration of the birthday of our Church, might we not as ourselves what this prayer of Jesus means for me today. It is a call for unity. How today am I to bring about the oneness that Jesus prays for? Are there genuine ways that just one person can effect the unity that Jesus petitions from the Father? If we believe each of us can bring about unity, we will find the ways that are present in our lives.
"And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me...
How do we engage those whom we find difficult? How do we engage those who have different ideas than we cherish? Just listen to the so-called "debates" that capture much of today's daily news. More than a few of the talk radio shows and some of the cable TV stations seem to thrive on serious division, almost hatred against those who think differently than one who might be a Democrat or a Republican ... party doesn't seem to matter. How easily can a person become enspirited with the same demons of hatred or serious distrust!

How will those who commit themselves to the pro-life position advance the cause that is so vitally important? Will it be through acrimonious barbs being thrown at those who cannot see the light? Where is the transformation that Jesus is praying for in the "attacks" that have filled airwaves and printed words?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Courage: A Prayer for Us -- Wednesday

Again, in the readings, we share thoughts from Jesus and St. Paul about the obvious impending deaths. They are praying for those near them as well as all who have followed. What does it mean for us?

A parent whose nine children are now in their 50s and 60s used to gather them together at different times to teach them some of his values. This father was a man of genuine faith and trust in God. He made his prayers for his children very real in his "teaching moments" with them.

Mr. Alan Dorhmann, a man, even though, dead "spoke" much to me in the stories he told his children. He told them that God has reserved burdens for the HERO, not the usual hero. God, he taught them, had reserved burdens for the HERO inside each of us, especially the HERO who CHOOSES.

The HERO is the person who has made sacrifice a part of his/her life, giving up the need to be RIGHT. A hero will stand up for those who stand beside them especially when it is inconvenient and costly, especially to friendship. The HERO lets nothing stop doing the RIGHT thing. The HERO will never sacrifice the TRUTH. "A hero will carry the full weight of God's true power in the choice they make to lay down the things of this life, so that another may keep those very same things.... The truth of the HERO is made in the image and likeness of God.

While this is a story for a father's children some fifty years ago, perhaps more today than then, these insights are what I heard Jesus saying as he prayed: "Holy Father, keep them in your name so that they may be one just as we are one.... Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth... so I sent them into the world." (today's readings)


The reflection today comes from a book that I am currently enjoying. Written by Mr. Dohrmann's oldest son, a special friend of mine, Bernard Dohrmann, the book is entitled Perfection Can Be Had! If you have teen-aged children, it might be a very practical summer read for them ... it speaks of passion, mission, dedication, greatness, community. It is how one man's life has changed the lives of many people.

Monday, May 25, 2009

And My Future?

Tuesday's readings are an invitation to consider what we think about the time when we know that we are approach death. Paul and Jesus are confronted with the reality that there lives were in danger. Without doubt they would encounter situations that lead to their deaths.

We can be like Paul and Jesus. We can go about our work, our mission, our vocation entrusting all that we are and all that we can be to the hands of God. Or, like some, we can worry ourselves sick about it.

Today we honor St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorian Fathers. He was a man of simplicity, teacher of young men, great love for his neighbor, and a man with a genuine sense of humor. He is know for his wisdom about worrying too much and too often about the end of our earthly lives: "a joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one."

The message from Philip: don't take yourself too seriously. It is the beginning of the summer season for so many ... longer hours of daylight, a time for being outside, a time for friends, a time for our own R&R whether we go away on "vacation" or whether we remain at home on "staycation." Use the summer as a season of coming to know yourself better, reading, some extra time just sitting by water ... be it one of the many DC fountains, the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic Ocean ... these are God's gifts to each of us just to abstract ourselves from the hectic world where we ply the day.

Set yourself as the sailboat above ... on your own lake ... with God's beauty for your watching ... listen for the whispers God will offer you just as you hear the water of fountains, watch the gentle flow of the rivers, enjoy the refreshing sounds of waves on the Bay or at the Ocean. These are God's gifts to you ... use them, enjoy let, let them speak to you with the words of God's love for you. There is no doubt that you will find God in these waters.

psalm 23 Memorial day tribute

Nothing Else Need Be Said

Ascension Sunday

Remain In Me

These three words we have heard several times during the later days of the Easter Season. For me they have particular impact as we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. "Remain" is a word that speaks of a reality that has already existed. It is different than "come in and stay." "Remain implies that I am encouraged to continue on in a particular state of being or particular place.

From time immemorial, you and I, we have been in the mind of God. We existed in God's world, God's mind. He has forever had plans for each of us. Even before our most distant relatives came to be, God knew that each of us would have a day when we were to leave that mind of God to become one of his creations. It is as if we were in the eternal world of God and he said to us "today you will be born on the earth with my hope that you will live out your life as I have planned it for you."

"Remain in me" Jesus says as a reminder to us that we continue to be the creation that God wants us to be. Ours in the challenge in this world when we are apart from God's kingdom, his intention for us, existing in a world where sin and grace are realities. "Remain in me" is Jesus' reminder to us to continue to do all we can to continue that awareness of God's will for us.

As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus, ours is the call to renew our intention to be what God wants us to be, to renew our intention to strive to follow in the footsteps of his Son, Jesus, who completes his time living among us as a man and as the Risen Lord Jesus.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Humility: Know-It-All's Downfall

In today's first reading, we encounter both an experience of genuine humility and sensitivity.

An renowned speaker, Apollos, and a scripture scholar, was plying his trade in Ephesus. His topic: Jesus. His personal experience seems to have been only the baptism of John.

Priscilla and Aquila listened with attention and then took him aside to further his understanding of the Way of God.

The example of sensitivity: Priscilla and Aquila take Apollos aside rather than challenge him publicly about the insufficiency of his awareness that Jesus is the Christ. He is the way to know the Father.

The message to us today: we know so much especially in these relatively early days of learning from the computer's opening up so much to humankind. Even the computer can teach us so much about God that we may not have known. Yet, there will always be the need for us to come to the Lord with humility ... to learn more about God and his relationship to each of us and how we respond to his love and care for us.

We may have an incredible amount of knowledge at hand today but there will always be those realities that God wants to share with us personally ... if we are humble enough to know that He is calling out to us every day. Hearing the Word of God in our hearts and accepting what God is saying to us requires great humility ... it is the admission that "I am not in charge of everything!"

Our life is somewhat like the picture above. We need to walk some of our days in freedom from all the distractions that block our coming to know God's voice for us. Remember: God's voice is not a blaring: It is a whisper. Like Apollos, we have to be strong enough to listen.

Friday, May 22, 2009



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Contemporary Martyr: Healing a Divided Mexico

For Thursday, May 21, 2009
What Makes a Saint?

Persistence on a mission. Love of God's people. Love of God. Dedication to the baptism that is ours. On fire with a genuine love of the mission because it serves the well-being of others. Paul was not afraid to take on the people in the synagogue who turned against him because of his preaching and teaching. That was almost 2000 years ago.

In the year two thousand, Pope John Paul II brought to the world, especially the once divided Mexico, a man few knew beyond the places of his missionary endeavor. He gave his all to strengthen the faithful not only in living their faith but in speaking out for it. Mexico was in the 1920s strongly anti-Catholic. Fr. Christopher Magellanes, along with 21 diocesan priests and 3 laity, were executed for speaking out against the prejudiced government. Fr. Christopher also founded a seminary and help some of the villagers in his part of Mexico get property to build a dam to guarantee water and power for the villages nearby.

What Paul and Fr. Christopher teach is simple: the cost of being a genuine follower of Jesus Christ may even be your life. Most of us today would not expect that such a martyrdom could happen today in North America. Many never expected that in 1927 when two dozen faithful followers of Jesus were executed by order of a "civilized" nation!!!

We are not called to such a sacrifice. Yet, we are called to speak out at times in support of our Church and what Jesus has taught us. We might ask ourselves if we know when we could speak out but just don't have the guts to do it. If that has happened in our lives, we might ask the Lord to forgive our failure to defend the faith and the graces to be stronger if other occasions occur when we should stand up for what we believe.

Today's Readings

St. Luke recounts an experience of Paul where he comes upon a shrine "to an unknown God."
He, being the preacher that he was, immediately tells the people that he will tell them who God is and what God is.

We, too, some would say that ours is also a time for teaching what we know about God. Today we honor St. Bernadine of Siena. He, like Paul was a preacher who knew his God. So, there is a question in my mind: "What would Paul and Bernadine be preaching were they to be walking the streets of Washington or any city today?"

Without doubt in my mind, I believe they would surely have become involved in the serious issues that are dividing Catholics around the world but especially in the USA. No doubt they would have become involved in the recent acrimonious remarks made by many regarding the visit and honoring of President Obama at Notre Dame. Even though we have passed the event several days, debate and meanness seems to continue.

What would Paul and Bernadine have addressed? I honestly believe they would not have allowed themselves to get tangled in the web that many Bishops and laity found themselves. I believe that the two saints would have addressed the Ten Commandments, in particular the Fifth Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Sometime, when you can, read the Acts of the Apostles and learn how the people of the early Church handled disagreements. Read St. Paul's various letters and see how he handled serious disagreements, especially with St. Peter and the issue of circumcision.

In short these men of stature would not have fallen victim to squabbling. Openness. Patience. Willingness to listen to another person ... not so much as to find a compromise of murder. That cannot be done. Rather, listen to how the sharing of ideas or emotions can easily lead to the unearthing of deep feelings that can lead to great moments of teaching. My father used to remind me and my brothers when we were arguing or beating up on each other that one small cup of honey would draw more bees that a full barrel of vinegar. Condemnation, finger pointing and such will never open another person's heart to hear the word of God. Read and hear the words of author David Gibson published in Sunday's Washington Post.

A century ago, the church was deeply divided over Pope Pius X's campaign against "Modernism," which was a catchall for anything Rome deemed suspicious. When Pius died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical calling on Catholics "to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith."

"There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism," Benedict XV concluded. "It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname.'"

If the Catholic Church had a bumper sticker, that could be it. And it means that the real dilemma for American Catholics today is not whether Notre Dame is Catholic, but whether we are.

Mr. Raymond Arroyo of EWTN was commenting that 54 or so American Bishops had written to protest the "honoring" of the US President at Notre Dame and that such a number should be of significance for Catholics. A question that comes to mind that was not asked of the EWTN Commentator: "And where were the other more than 200 American Bishops?" Perhaps they understood the mind of Pope Benedict XV! Perhaps Benedict XVI also has followed the mind of his previous namesake!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Today's Readings

Let's look at the jailer in the first reading today. Imagine his feelings when he awakened and saw all the jail cell doors opened. Immediate reaction? "I'm in serious trouble." He assumed the prisoners were gone. But, to his surprise they were still in their cells. Notice how the fear took over.

How about ourselves? Are the moments in our lives when fears take over? Fears that make it impossible to fully relate to a loving and forgiving God? Are there fears that make conversation with God difficult or impossible?

Often times these fears are raised by a failure to trust God fully. Consider those who have not used the healing Sacrament of Reconciliation because of fear? Because of embarrassment? The refrain in the Psalm is helpful: "Your right hand save me, O Lord." There it is again. In the 138 Psalm we read "When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me."

So, the message today might well be as simple as "Do not not fear." How often Pope John Paul II delivered that message to us. Do not be afraid ... set out into the deep was his message to the disciples. It is that same message to us each day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Helping Hand: Lydia of Philippi

First Reading of today's liturgy

In today's world the example of Lydia might well bring to mind how each of us serves or can serve our local church that exists in our parishes. There are so many different ways that we can provide avenues for ourselves and others to encounter our God in our parish life. Lydia, with her household, after hearing Paul and his friends preaching the Good News, wanted to be baptized. After the baptism, Lydia made her home available to the itinerant preachers.

How can I open my heart to assist the Pastor fulfill his charge to be a good shepherd among and for his parish, your parish? There is no Pastor who can fulfill his duties without help from parishioners. There is so much more than finances that will make a parish become a home for followers of Jesus. Today's Pastors in almost every parish are charged with extraordinary burdens. He is expected to be a managerial wizard, a financial expert, a community organizer, the collaborator with a principal in running a school, a vibrant preacher, a comforting source to the troubled, the sick, the dying, and, oh yes, in the midst of all of this, your Pastor is supposed to be a man of prayer. He cannot do it alone. Those who help a Pastor may not realize it but their contribution of time, talent and treasure so often save a Pastor from major mistakes, embarrassments and failures as a man, as a priest, as a man of God. Lydia is a model of a vocation of service to the servant of God. Your Pastor is like most of us ... even though he may at times be a challenge. He can fail, he can err, he can sin ... like most of us. But, like Lydia, all of us, even a Pastor's brother priests, can be a support, a helper in his mission, his vocation. If through no other way than prayer, start offering a prayer or two each morning for the man who has been entrusted with the care of your parish. In time you will be so grateful that you took those few seconds to remember your Pastor and his associates, if he is fortunate enough to have them to assist him.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sixth Sunday: The Passion of Commitment

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one" (Jn 17:15).

We live in a world of contradictions. Especially we are often confronted by the challenge of good to evil and evil to good. All we need to do is look carefully at what happens each day. Just listen to news reports, which might best be called "hatred reports." Humankind is at war with itself. As Jesus prayed to his Father: "keep them from the evil one." He calls us to recognize that there is the reality of a genuine evil among us, an evil force, an evil power.

God created each of us with a specific intention, a distinct purpose in life. His intention for us can be clearly seen in what stirs genuine passion in our minds and souls. Recall Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II: each of these soon-to-be saints was alive with a passionate love for God who created them and, as well, with a passionate desire to help others struggling to do the will of God. A Dr. Martin Luther King, A Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a Dorothy Day were driven by genuine passion to improve the lot of every person in this world. They, too, were confronted by the challenges of evil in our world. They did not let that power extinguish the flame of passion that took their intentions to a higher degree each day.

God touches all of us regardless of who or what we are. "God," as St. Peter once said, "shows no partiality." And catch this in other words from this very human but enlivened preacher: "Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him." These words could offer hours of prayerful reflection.

And what does it mean to us? Use the gifts God has given to make the world a better experience. Us your power not to suppress but to express the wonders of God's creation. Use your talents not to put others down but to enrich the lives of others. Use your wealth not solely for yourself but as a means to free others from the burdens that trap them. Use your love to open up the hearts and souls of those frozen in paradigms of fear.

Jesus did not ask the Father to take them and us away from a world where evil would exist. Rather, he prayed that God would protect them and us from the evil that does surround all of us. Just as Jesus was missioned by his Father to the world, Jesus entrusts to each of us a unique mission -- to go into the world showing no partiality but living out the passion that captures our hearts, living out Gods intention for our lives.

So, where is your path leading you? Do you see your passion?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord (Ps. 89)

Today's Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 89)

Again let's reflect on the responsorial psalm. "For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord." Yesterday we considered praise and thanks. Today this psalm calls us to think about "for ever." Surely these two words will conjure up many thoughts among you, faithful readers.

But first consider the account of Sts. Paul and his companions who were in temple and were invited to speak "a word of exhortation" to the worshippers. This is where Paul truly steps into his preaching role. But, we might ask, "Where did he get all of this learning, this faith?" Let us make an assumption: Paul was impassioned with a love for Jesus Christ. "For ever" had begun in his life. No doubt he was on fire because he had managed to sped some time alone reflecting on the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Each day there is so much that takes up our time. Abbot Christopher Jamison, OSB, speaks about the challenges that modern society bring to anyone who seeks to be alive with Christ. How can I be alert to the movements of the Holy Spirit in my heart when I am running from one thing to another? Well, perhaps one single question might initiate a marvelous retreat that leads me to a more conscious awareness of Christ present in my life, in my world each and every day. If I am not aware of his presence, the Psalmist's words, "For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord" will not mean much to me.

That one question is this: "Did Jesus Christ call you?" From the time of your conception, and even before that in God's mind, Jesus Christ wanted you to be one of his followers. But this is a question few of us consider. "Of course he did," you might reply. Then a second question: "How have you responded or acknowledged that call?"

Abbot Jamison puts a verse from St. Matthew's gospel to the soul searching an answer to the first question. "Anyone who find his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it." Wow! Most of us today would probably respond with disbelief: "What does Jesus mean? In our world, our culture? Lose my life? What's God thinking? I'm no monk or nun?"

To be able to "sing the goodness of the Lord," a challenge that St. Augustine, when bishop, put before his priests. It is a challenge to all of us today. Surely we do not have to have a good voice! But we can sing the goodness of the Lord when we are genuinely aware of God's goodness to us. We will learn this if we take some time each day ... just a few minutes ... to recall how "good the good God" ( Bl. Julie Billiard, SNDdeN) is to us.

Each of us has to have a retreat house, a retreat spot, even if it is simply in the mind. For most of us it has to be a place that exists in a part of our daily work-a-day world. As one daily Mass attendee who has a very busy schedule at work and at home said, "coming to Mass each day just makes all that I do have so much meaning. I can have those very private moments listening to the Lord speak to me. It is a gold mine I do not want to lose."

Business has become an endemic in our lives. It is a disease we seem to accept as a fact of life. Yet, if a doctor told you that you had cancer, would you sit back and accept that verdict as a fact of life about which you could do nothing? Hardly!

So, let us "for ever sing the goodness of the Lord" by finding our own retreat place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

God, let all the nations praise you!

Praise God! Give thanks to God! So many times each day, if we are attentive, we can easily find reasons to praise God, to thank God.

The day my mother died I was a little more than upset that I had not been called ahead of time when there were clear signs that something unusual would happen. As I drove to the nursing home where she was, I kept saying to myself, "Why, why didn't she answer the phone calls the night before as I drove home from burying my closest priest friend in Philadelphia. I called her fifteen times as I drove south on I95. I just wanted to talk with her about the funeral of my friend.

When I arrived at the nursing center, I met with the nurse who told me the most incredible events that happened that day. Throughout the day my Mom went about the ladies on her floor "thanking them for being such wonderful people" and telling them "I won't be here tomorrow." She knew the nurse told me. It was so clear that she knew it would be her day to meet the Lord -- to tell him what she had been waiting to do for some years.

When I went to Mom's room where she was lying on her bed, I encountered nothing but peace. All I could do was thank God for the moment. I couldn't be sad. She had already met her God. All I could do was praise the Lord that Mom had such a wonderful day. The nurse told me that in mid-day they were talking and as she was leaving my Mom's room, with all the elegance in the world, my mother stood up -- not a usual event without help near the end -- and "hugged me so hard" as the nurse said and the said to the lady, "You have been so caring. I love you intensely. You made my life so much better. And what has happened to your face?" The nurse responded "Nothing Mrs. Jordan, just not wearing my glasses at the moment." Then Mom said to her: "Oh, that's not what I mean. You face is radiating beams of light and sparkle especially from your eyes." The nurse told me at that she had to run from the room, she knew what was happening. God was speaking to Mom through her.

I can never thank God enough that my Mom's last day on this earth was like that. Every time I pass flowers like that pictured above, I think of the gifts that God gave Mom and me. We used to leave the nursing home just to ride around the city to see the flowers. She loved blooming flowers. And how she loved to ride on 16th Street at this time of the year because it is abloom with praise to the Lord in the beauty of his creation.

Any you? Do you stop and consider the many ways that you can thank God, that you can praise God? Just be simple and ordinary. There are so many ordinary moments each day that could be reasons for thanking and praising God.

With every flower, with every garden ... Thanks God ... and thanks Mom. Now you know what so often I use pictures of flowers before each of these reflections.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Alive with the spirit of Christ Jesus

Acts of the Apostles 11:19-26

The first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles draws attention to the "son of consolation." Barnabas, considered to one of the Twelve by some or as one of the seventy-two disciples by others, was a strong preacher of the life and gospel of Jesus Christ. He linked with St. Paul and the two great preachers work among the Greeks and other Gentiles in the area of Antioch. Barnabas is recognized as a man who brought many to the Christian faith. Apparently Barnabas is responsible for bringing the convert, Paul, to the fullness of his ministry in serving the Christian community in Antioch. It is clear from Acts and other historic documents that the Church would be somewhat different were it not for the thrust of Barnabas in his preaching as he traveled my roads bring Jesus Christ to so many people. With Paul, Barnabas endured much persecution for his efforts to spread the gospels.

Barnabas is a model to us today because like him, if we ourselves become alive with the life of Jesus Christ and his ministry and teachings, we can draw others to Christ and the Church. Barnabas was a man whose life exemplified his beliefs. The saint whose feast day will be commemorated on June 11th is a marvelous model for men and women today in a world that needs to know Christ Jesus. The photo above speaks of an invitation to travel, to walk a path. Barnabas, along with Paul and Acts author, St. Luke, to walk the path of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Good Shepherd Sunday

St John's Gospel - Chapter 10: 11-18

Most Christians feel comfortable with the idyllic presentation of St. John’s gospel story about a truly concerned shepherd. We call him the good shepherd. There shepherds who were more concerned about themselves than the flocks entrusted to their care. It is to these men, the Pharisees, that Jesus spoke so forthrightly when he said: “I am the good shepherd.” These are five words that reveal much about the mission that God the Father entrusted to Jesus. They are Jesus’ words to humankind about his role for humanity. His description of himself to the Pharisees was a challenge to their protesting that they were not spiritually blind leaders of the people. That was then. Today Jesus’ words are a challenge to each of us.

Jesus’ words are a reminder that we are particularly blessed to be children of a loving and protecting Father because his mission was to teach us that it is the love of the Father for us that empowers us.

If you watched the Kentucky Derby yesterday, you saw a spectacular event: a horse and its rider were one chance out of fifty to win the race. The jockey, Calvin Borel, was empowered by a love for racing and winning. It was that power that enabled him to come from far behind to be out 18 other horses by a significant distance. Borel was, in a strange way, the good shepherd who loved his sport and used that love to empower his drive to bring home the roses. His love for challenge each race offered him enabled him to come from so far behind and find the way along the rail to the space that opened up victory for him and his horse. As a jockey, through many hours in training not only his horse but himself, he became a good shepherd for his horse.

God has empowered us with his love for us. We have to know this and embrace it. We need to possess an awareness of this God-given gift every day. It is this understanding that gives us the power to become truly holy men and women. But, just as in horse racing, it takes time and practice to achieve the goal. We must be patient. We must listen to God’s voice when it tries to lead us where God wants us to be. We have to spend much time with God’s Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And, at the same time, we must recognize that God’s love for us is God’s love for others in and through us. We are to be shepherds, leading other to live in the power of God’s love.