Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jesuit History ???

While not a gospel reading or a reflection from a book I have read, this picture is genuine Jesuit history, especially in the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

Myself, Fr. George Bur, SJ and Fr. David Sauter, SJ. are together for a 50th Jubilee Celebration for the Jesuit priests of the novice class of 1959. Fr. Bur invited me to join with my former classmates.

The history lesson: we three have carried to title, President, St. Joseph's Preparatory School, Philadelphia, PA.

Yours truly was the first of the three to lead "Prep." Fr. Sauter, a man of steel, succeeded to serve for 21 years -- surely the guarantee of a one-way ticket to heaven and possibly one reason that Dave has remained so thin. Then, two presidencies later, Fr. Bur assumed to leadership.

What Jesuit noviceship class can boast that three of its members were so much a part of one President's office?

Thanks, George, for inviting me to join with you and the others of our noviceship class celebrating, hopefully, our own advancing in wisdom, grace and certainly age.

Sunday's Gospel -- Abundance of Trust

In today’s gospel (Mk 5:21-43) we encounter another example of a person’s faith in Jesus Christ. A synagogue official, Jairus by name, went down on his knees and bowed low to Jesus’ feet. Certainly this was an act of humility. But more important, this was the conviction of one father who was willing to do anything to save his daughter who was critically ill. “Come lay your hands on her.” Jairus truly believed that Jesus would cure her simply by putting his hands on her.

Notice this: immediately Jesus “ ... went off with him.” There was no question, no evaluation, no effort to know how good or bad Jaiirus was. He was asked for help, so Jesus went immediately. Then, as the group was heading to Jairus’ house, what happened? Bad news is brought to the crowd: the little girl had succumbed to her illness. Now there was no need for Jesus to continue to Jairus’ house. But Jesus was on a mission to teach all of us as well as those who had seen the faith of a distraught father.

“Do not be afraid: just have faith.” Three simple words: just have faith. Just have faith. These are the words that Jesus gives to you and me every day, in every circumstance where we cannot solve the problems or the challenges that lie before us.

No doubt there are so many of us that carry burdens we cannot solve of our own power or ability. Sometimes we just don’t have faith. Perhaps we might initially bring a problem to God but because there is no immediate solution, we weaken, we almost give up completely on God.

We need keep this story of Jairus in our hearts at all times but especially when we are overwhelmed. As a priest, I have encountered so many individuals who ask me “Where is God when I need him?” Perhaps the individual would better resolve the problem if there was a different mindset: “Why can’t I trust that God will help resolve the challenge before me?”

Let the experience of Jairus be for us an example of trust, a genuine act of faith in God. If we truly trust in him, he will bring about what we need. He will sayi to you and me: Trust me. “Do not be afraid: just have faith.”

Today the Church asks us to help the Holy Father in his efforts to be able to offer assistance to those who seek his assistance. The Peter’s Pence collection is a means by which the Pope can help those who come to him in their difficulties which make life seem so burdensome. In a way it is your helping the Church answer the calls of the needy who are trying to believe that God will come through with help for them in their needs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sacred Space: Saturday's Reflection: Trusting God

The photo: simply to offer a cool refreshment on this hot day.

Today's gospel present us with another example of an act of faith. This time it is a Centurion. He approached Jesus. His servant is seriously ill. In his words, the Centurion was asking for Jesus' healing help. True to his mission Jesus tells the man, "I will come and heal him." Immediately the man makes Jesus know that all he has to do is "speak the word." The healing will happen.

In the near future we will be changing the words we recite just prior to the beginning of the Communion Rite section of the Mass. The "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, only say the word and I will be healed" will be changing backwards to what it was when many of us were just growing up in the Church.

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only come under my roof." This will be the retroed phrase. Regardless of the liking or disliking of the phrase, what is important is our understanding of what is going on. Under my roof means into all that I am. We are saying that we are not worthy to share in the meal. We are a sinful people. We are broken. We need healing. But Jesus wants us to come to him, to let him come to us. It is his mission to us.
In the home, it is the kitchen that is the gathering place for many of us. In the church, it is the table of the Eucharist where we gather. In a home the most important thing is to make sure that is is filled with love. It is the table of the Eucharist where we come together to partake of the love that God gives us. He gives us himself to be our food, to fill us with his love. Just as "Food has been and always will be an important part of bringing people together in search of God and enlightenment" (Back to the Family, Art Smith -- a wonderful new cookbook with meaningful reflections from the chef himself.), so, too, it is the Eucharist, the food from heaven that draws us around the altar to find God and our own enlightenment.

Building My Own Trust

Surely today's gospel story is well known. What does it mean for you even though you have heard it many times? What does it speak to you about yourself ... more than it does about the leper seeking the healing touch of Jesus?

Recall these two facts of community life at the time Jesus was going about teaching. First, a leper was first and foremost an outcast of the community. He/she was forbidden mingle in the community of healthy people. His asking Jesus to heal his body was a wrong! Perhaps it was for this reason that the leper asks Jesus "if you wish ... you can heal me." He had crossed the social barrier. Second, for Jesus to speak with the leper and to touch him was also a moment that was frowned up by the community. As some would say, this is a radical break with the rules of the road.

The leper's request of Jesus is simply this: a genuine act of faith. Consequences, hopes and fears had to be alive in the leper's heart. Nevertheless, he was strong enough to ask for the healing.

And you? And me? What should we glean from this event for our lives? How strong is my faith? How many times do we just try to accomplish things on our own ... without any recourse to Jesus? If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that it is only when we are in a fourth down and inches to go to win a football game, only then do we start the petitions to the Lord.

Perhaps our modern way of doing things has forced us to construct our own walls that keep us from turning to the Lord from the outset.

Can you let the leper be a teacher, an instructor in your life? Jesus offers us that opportunity once again. He surrounds us with so many opportunities to let him help us. Yet, we are like the whitish line in the gorgeous lake waters I once discovered in Canada. Just look at the lake for a few moments: see how the calm and peaceful blue wants to take over the independent streak of clouded water.




Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Everyone who listens"

Today’s gospel contains three words that serve as a beginning to my thinking today: “Everybody who listens ...” How many are the experiences of listening that I am about to encounter? Working at my computer, I have already had to listen for some signals; also I hear the air conditioner. Just before starting some reflecting on the gospel, I heard voices on a radio telling me how to dress for today’s weather. In just a short time my phone will undoubtedly ring. About to set out for a daily walk for my health, I will hear horns, cars driving by, some people talking as they walk to work. And on and on ... we are surrounded by moments that make us listeners. By the end of this day I will have listened to a large number of people ... I will be driving to Philadelphia to celebrate the 80th birthday of a friend, Dr. Rocco Martino.

So, I think it safe to say that we are all of us who have good ears are listeners. We listen to so many different kinds of noises and words. The moment that does make me stop is this: as the gospel says, Jesus “spoke with authority.” His teachings, his words we may not hear directly but we know that he speaks to us each day. Because he speaks to our hearts, there is the chance that we might not listen, we might not be able to hear, we might not recognize his “voice.”

The challenge in our speedy society, in our sound inundated world, is that we can so easily not hear the one voice that speaks with authority to our lives. It is in prayer and reading, in reflection and quiet, that we have the opportunity to turn off the world of noise and voice to listen in peace and quiet the voice of Jesus Christ ... who speaks to our hearts to help us, to teach us, to guide us but most especially to teach us of God’s love for us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Name Is Important To Me

Strange picture for the feast day of a special person in our Church's history, don't you think? Yet, a name is so important as is made evident in both readings for Mass today.

We learn from both Isaiah and Luke that a name impacts people. The people were stirred up when they learned that the child of Elizabeth was not only a rarity coming forth from parents who were so much older but that the name the mother chose was not his father's nor any relative's name.

John is a name rendered as "Yahweh has shown his favor." This is significant if you think about John's vocation ... the one who will announce the Lord Jesus, the one who will baptize the Son of God. Consider this name in relation to the Son of God, Jesus, a name meaning "Yahweh saves."

The Rolodex is pictured because it serves as a reminder to all the people we know or have to know in our work, our families, our contacts. And each name is linked to a person and each of us most likely thinks of the name of each of those people in a unique way. The name carries with it a personality, a gift that God has given that person for us to think about when we mention the name. In our populated world we usually speak of the person by first and family names. To say "George Washington" is more than to utter two words: we speak history with these words. "Barack Obama" again speaks of history but contemporary history and the energy and drive of one man striving to accomplish goals.

So, what do people who have their Rolodex before them think of you when they say your names? A little time spent pondering this reality might lead you to thinking about how you reveal God's intention in bringing you into this world, at this time and in your vocation.

On the lighter side, there is a website that can offer a little fun finding the meaning of one's first name, like "John" the Baptist's first name ... "Yahweh has shown his favor."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Harmony and Sacrifice

Today's Readings

The first reading today could easily be rewritten in terms of many different kinds of personal relationships: family, work, office, organizational and religious. What is at issue in the first reading from the Book of Genesis is the value of harmony, the matter of collaboration, the willingness to sacrifice personal wants for the greater good.

Kinsmen Lot and Abram are in a situation where the land just is not large enough for the herds each of these men owned. The herdsmen who worked for the two were arguing ... the Hatfields and the McCoys are prefigured here!!! So, the senior relative, Abram, offers Lot the option of separating to different parts of the land, giving Lot the choice of which part of the land he wanted. Lot chooses what "looks" like that part of the land that looks better than the other. Abram, obviously a good man, agrees rather than continue to strife that existed. Lot moved eastward while Abram remained in the area where they had settled. One chose the expectation of a land of plenty while the older and perhaps wiser opted to remain in what might not appear to be the "richer" property. Ultimately, as often happens, the one who chose the shining, sparkling, promising land found himself in challenging countryside. Abram chose what was left to create harmony. Abram chose what many would have refused. He wanted peace more than apparent prosperity, more than having it his way.

The gospel fits well with the first reading, almost like pieces of a puzzle that make a whole, that create a good picture. Jesus is teaching that the way to what is valuable, to what will ultimately bring happiness to life is what might seem to be a constricted way, a life that asks for sacrifice. But, as Jesus teaches, this is what will bring us to finding and being able to lead a life that is peaceful, satisfying and rewarding. This is the result of making a sacrifice to achieve harmony, this is the result when we see that what we "would love to have" might be the sacrifice to guarantee us the life we want to live. Sometimes just having it our way is traveling down the wide road whereas it is the narrow road, the (temporarily) demanding way, the sacrificing personal wants that leads us into our own paradise.

For peace and success in human relations there is at times the need for sacrifice ... a giving in to others that ultimately results in more than was expected.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cost of Judgement

Today's Gospel

Making a judgment is not as easy as some would like it to be or believe it to be. While Jesus warns against making judgments, what me means should be considered. No one of us from the smallest toddler to the centenarian is free from making judgments. Our daily lives are filled with the need to pass judgment upon actions and upon people. So, what's the story? Parents have to make judgments about their children, about how to run their homes, about their children's schools and friends, discipline, vacations and how much TV or Internet time is reasonable. Young adults or even older adults have to face vocation decisions and judgments. What job is best for a person? Who is the better candidate for the position in my office? And on and on. We are a decision making people. Our world, our lives demand it. What does Jesus mean?

The meaning in Jesus' advice to us is found in the word "condemnation." Don't condemn without investing time, patience and kindness. Examine your judgments: "Do I know all the facts, all the history in a person's life?" If you were being judged, would you not want every item, every fact in your history brought to a judgment against you? Secondly, when judging another person, freedom from personal prejudices cannot be overlooked. We see examples of this is so many instances in our American history: "Coloreds use rear of the trolley" was a sign in the trolley car that I used when a young person here in Washington. How many clubs proudly boasted "men only" signs? "Irish need not apply." "Illegals get out." "Roman Catholics not hired." Just a number of signs that remind us that freedom from prejudices is a challenge throughout history. It is a part of our very make up to feel the need to give preferences.

Lastly, there is the most difficult reality that faces anyone making judgments: Am I good enough to make judgments? Am I really qualified to pass judgment or condemnation on another human being? It is the challenge to remove that splinter from our own eyes before we condemn others.

Today, I ask you to remember in your prayers the St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill parish's Thomas More Society that will be gathering for Mass today. It is his feast day, celebrated perhaps with more impetus in England than in the USA. Thomas More was born in 1477. He was a family man: a wife, son and three daughters. He became England Royal Chancellor. While in that position he authored books on good government and defended the faith. Because he refused to sign the Act of Succession, he was taken to prison. Because he opposed the marriage of King Henry VIII, More, along with John Fisher, was beheaded in the summer of 1535.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Second Sailing!!!

Reflection from St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill
Deacon Gary Bockweg

Other boats were with him.

And Jesus saved them all.

Most mornings, my friend Dave stops by his neighborhood McDonalds.

He joins some other retired friends for a cup of coffee and a little conversation.

Another fellow, Larry, often joined the group.

After being absent for a couple weeks, Larry stopped by their table one morning.

He said he’d been in the hospital.

And added, You won’t be seeing me much anymore, I’m going away soon.

Dave was pretty sure he meant he was dying.

But he asked anyway, Where you going Larry?

Larry said, I’m going to Hell.

He didn’t say it like he was trying to make some kind of a joke.

He said it like he meant it.

And he turned and left.

All that day, Dave was haunted by those words.

So that evening he called Larry.

He asked him if he was serious.

Larry said he was.

Dave told him how sad he felt to hear him say that.

And assured him that no one has to go to Hell.

Larry said that he really did.

He’d done some awful things in his life and it was too late to make up for them now.

He was resigned to his fate.

They talked for quite a while, and Dave finally convinced him that it wasn’t too late.

He told Larry that Jesus saved us all, and that he wants us to join him in Heaven.

And he led Larry in reciting the Sinner’s Prayer.

A prayer where you ask Jesus to forgive you and you promise to follow him in the future.

As it turned out, Larry’s future in this life was only a few more weeks.

But he spent them in contrition and thanksgiving and peace.

As you might have guessed from that unfamiliar Sinner’s Prayer,

Dave’s not a Catholic, he’s an Evangelical Christian.

And as he told me this story over breakfast one day, I had to think,

You’re a better disciple than I am.

Or at least a better evangelist.

Our Gospel today tells us that

Other boats were with him.

And Jesus saved them all.

Some disciples were privileged enough to be in that same boat with Jesus.

And when he calmed the sea they were right there to see him do it.

They knew that it was Jesus who saved them.

Those in the other boats didn’t know precisely what had happened.

They knew they were being tossed about in a dangerous storm.

And that it suddenly ended.

But they didn’t know how that came to pass.

All storms eventually come to an end.

Perhaps this ending was just unusually sudden.

Perhaps it was just a lull, and they would soon be tossed about again.

Maybe some were close enough that those on Jesus’ boat could shout to them.

And tell them that they were indeed now safe, and that it was Jesus who had saved them.

Maybe word passed from boat to boat.

But most likely, some didn’t get the word until they reached the very end of the voyage.

These different boats are not unlike the different groups among the People of God.

There’s a Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, The Light of the World.

It describes the People of God and speaks of their salvation. (Ch II, 14-16)

It says that,

At all times and in every race

God welcomes all who fear Him and do what is right.

But He wants to bring men together as one people.

A people that acknowledges Him and serves Him.

All are called to be part of this unity – this People of God.

And all who strive to live a good life are part of it.

Or at least related to it in some way.

Catholics are fully incorporated into the People of God.

We’re the privileged disciples right there in the boat with Jesus.

Baptized Christians are described as closely linked.

Their boat is right beside his.

Others are described as related in various ways.

Jews still have their covenant with God.

Their boat is nearby.

Mohamedans adore the one true God, the God of Abraham.

Their boat is not far off.

More distant, but still within the voyager group are the boats of

Those who acknowledge the Creator,

Those who seek an unknown God in shadows and images,

And even those who have no explicit knowledge of God.

Lumen Gentium goes on to address the good news of salvation.

It says that salvation is available to everyone in any of those groups.

So long as they do strive to live a good life –

In accordance with their conscience and what has been revealed to them.

It also highlights that one most reassuring, most hope-building truth –

God wills that everyone be saved.

We all have some concerns or fears regarding salvation.

If not for ourselves, then for some family member or friend.

Or even for people we don’t personally know.

But so long as they’re onboard one of the boats, they’re not in the most grave danger.

Those in the gravest danger are those who have fallen overboard.

Those who aren’t striving to live a good life.

We want to help them, but we’re not always sure how to go about it.

We’re not sure we’re up to the task.

But, our privileged position in Jesus’ own boat

Gives us the solid base we need.

We can reach out and help them.

Maybe by just providing a good example for them.

Or by praying for them.

Or maybe by taking some more direct action.

Like Dave did for Larry.

It’s important that we do our part.

But it’s also important to remember –

Especially when we’re lacking the confidence to act –

That ultimately, it’s Jesus who saves us all.

The Perfect Storm:

Mark's gospel, 4:35-41, is an account of a "perfect storm." The account of the disciples frightening adventure on the Sea of Galilee serves as a wonderful lesson about our dealing with suffering. Perhaps the picture above, frightening as it is, might bring to mind a phrase that we literally carry around with us in pocket, purse or wallet: "In God we Trust."

In Mark's account, the wave are bringing water into the disciples' small boat. The waters are rough and the friends of Jesus are terrified. Yet, the man to whom they had entrusted themselves lay asleep in the boat. Where was his concern for them at this near-death moment? The words spoken to Jesus when he awoke say much: (1) we are frightened; (2) we are sinking; (3) what are you going to do? and (4) why have you let this happen to us?

These are familiar thoughts and actual words we use today when confronted by events such as the loss of a job, the sudden death of a young person or a loved one, the seemingly never-ending suffering of a parent with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease. These questions, these realities speak of the challenges that confront our faith at different times in our lives: "Where is God when I need him?" Confronted by suffering moments in life, we can either believe and trust in God or ignore and question whether God truly cares or has interest in our suffering.

Jesus' question to the sea-and-wind-buffeted disciples should not be quickly forgotten: "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" He says the same to us when we elect to look upon Jesus as little more than a preacher who could produce a good sermon with some memorable (hope causing) remarks.

Believing in faith is not something we accept as handed on by parents or other teachers. At its root, believing is giving complete trust to someone we have come to know through study and prayer ... study and prayer. When we have come to know Jesus, to know and love God as the source of all good that can be in our lives, we can then say "In God I trust." It makes eminent sense that we not trust God in the face of suffering, fear and loss if we have not come to know and understand him as friend and creator, as the one always present to us.

Fr. Jonathan Morris, writes we "Catholics, Orthodox Christians and traditional Protestants" can learn much from our Evangelical friends and their relationship with Jesus.

He is a living person with whom we an form a personal relationship and through whose suffering, death and Resurrection we have been save from sin and death and given the opportunity for eternal life and the plentitude of happiness' (The Promise, p 40).
When confronted by painful realities on life's journey there is one question: "Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" If not, then you are looking at Jesus as nothing more than the dispenser of "get-well passes." It is no wonder then, that one might question God's goodness when tragedy, loss and paralyzing physical or emotional illness beat against the sides of our boats!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Heart of Enthusiasm

Again we focus our hearts and minds on a simple, young woman, who may not even have been fifty years old when her son was publicly humiliated. We look to a woman whose heart was clearly captured by a simple divine request: “Will you be the mother of the Son of God?” This was the divine plan for this young lady that was always in the mind of God.

What is there that strengthens a person who has been given extraordinary challenges throughout her entire life? Imagine the enthusiasm that must have given her the energy to raise a young child who was not ordinary child ... and she knew that reality.

Have you ever considered Mary’s life in light of a simple but powerful word: enthusiasm? A 19th century writer, Anne Louise de Stael, gives a clue that might open up a better understanding of Mary: “ ... enthusiasm signifies God in us.”

What we should gain from a consideration of Mary and enthusiasm is a further affirmation of her son’s words “with God all things are possible.” All of us have, at one time or another, met a person who is alive with a special spirit (Spirit?) that provides so much strength. There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome. Just think of the many instances in Mary’s life that we know about from Scripture that would have stopped an ordinary person. She was never blocked because she was always responding to the message of the angel, Gabriel. She was a woman, a mother, who knew what her vocation in life was. She was always responding to what Dr. Wayne Dyer describes as “answering the highest part of you, or the God within.”

As you reflect upon Mary today, let her enthusiasm, her drive, her passion become a new-found spark to enkindle in your own heart the gift of the Spirit that God has had in mind for you since before you were conceived and born. Let that Spirit (spirit?) grab your very being and set you on fire with a drive that will overcome any challenge, any difficulty that life may put before you. Mary kept many things in her heart. Let her spirit give you a daily vitamin to live God's plan for you in each day of your life!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Removing Dividing Lines

A busy posting day, this Feast of the Sacred Heart, this inauguration of The Year of the Priest, this week of the Summer Bishops' Meetings. Since this blog originates on Capitol Hill, no doubt the words of the American Bishops formal statements, especially on major issues, might be of some interest. Again, thanks to Rocco Palmo's Whispers in the Loggia for the following text.

JUNE 18, 2009

On behalf of the United States Catholic Bishops, gathered in San Antonio, Texas, at our annual spring meeting, I would ask President Barack Obama and congressional leaders of both parties to work together to fashion and enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the end of the year.

It has been clear for years that the United States immigration system requires repair and that reform legislation should not be delayed.

We urge respect and observance of all just laws, and we do not approve or encourage the illegal entry of anyone into our country. From a humanitarian perspective, however, our fellow human beings, who migrate to support their families, continue to suffer at the hands of immigration policies that separate them from family members and drive them into remote parts of the American desert, sometimes to their deaths. This suffering should not continue.

Now is the time to address this pressing humanitarian issue which affects so many lives and undermines basic human dignity. Our society should no longer tolerate a status quo that perpetuates a permanent underclass of persons and benefits from their labor without offering them legal protections. As a moral matter, we must resolve the legal status of those who are here without proper documentation so that they can fully contribute their talents to our nation’s economic, social and spiritual well being.

Only through comprehensive reform can we restore the rule of law to our nation’s immigration system.

We urge President Obama and congressional leaders to meet as soon as possible to discuss and draft comprehensive immigration reform legislation, with the goal of making it law by the end of 2009. The Catholic bishops of our country stand ready to assist in this effort.

For more information on the Bishops' annual Summer Meeting, read the work of Rocco Palmo's Whispers in the Loggia.

Begin the "Year of the Priest"

Today we begin a year-long journey for the priests of the world ... all the priests --- parish priests, religious order priests, missionary priests, teaching priests, contemplative priests, priests who work in offices related to so many different missions and especially the elderly, retired priests who are spending the final years of their lives praying for the Church, their final assignment.

I invite and petition all who read this post today to join me today and each of the next 364 days offering a prayer, no matter how short nor long, for the men who have "heard the call" to serve the people of God through a priestly vocation.

A Prayer for Priests

Lord Jesus Christ
our great High Priest
continue to bless our brothers
who are giving their lives
for the service of your people.
From sunrise to sunrise,
from north to south, east to west
your priests have one mission:
to bring your love
to all they serve
through their priestly ministries.
Fill them with the joy
of your Holy Spirit.

Feast of the Sacred Heart

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has had strong roots in the Society of Jesus. Several Jesuits served as Spiritual Directors for a Visitation convent in Paris. One of these was Sister Margaret Mary Alocoque. Today Jesuit Father Roc O'Connor, Rector of the Jesuit Community and member of the Campus Ministry team at Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, has studied the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart that he been written by St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. This Visitation sister lived in 17th Century Paris. What she composed seemed so different from our world experience today.

He felt drawn by the Holy Spirit to "recompose" the Act. It is presented here for your own reflection and prayer. Fr. O'Connor uses the Eucharistic Prayer as a model for his construction of the prayer. Further he writes: "The structure of this prayer comes from the Jewish tradition of blessing before meals: Praise for creation, thanksgiving for redemption, and petitions. It proves my thesis that Jews and Baptists bless God; Catholics bless things."

Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Great and worthy of all praise are you, God, creator of heavens and the earth!
How glorious is your name!
At the dawn of time as your Spirit hovered over the waters,
all life poured forth from your creative Word –
The sun, moon, and stars join in the chorus of praise to you.
All the birds of the air, all fish of the sea, and all creeping things adore you.
Women, men, and children bless your name in countless languages throughout the earth.
You indeed are the Fountain, the Source, the very Wellspring of Life!

We do well always and everywhere to offer you thanks, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
How glorious is your name!
In the fullness of time, Mary received the joyful proclamation of overshadowing love from your messenger, Gabriel.
The Word humbled himself, taking on human form, indeed the form of a slave.
The waters of birth and the waters of the Jordan give you thanks.
We remember with gratitude Jesus’ death, descent among the dead, and rising to life.
As his heart was pierced, he revealed the mystery of Love Outpoured.
When he breathed his last, he handed over his Spirit.
Countless men, women, and children have been brought to Life through your Gift.
May this same Spirit make of us an everlasting gift to you.
You are indeed the Spring that waters the New Creation by your Spirit.

With a grateful heart, I join with all disciples to offer all my life to you.
As you have given to me so generously, I return to you all I have and all I am.
You, our Triune God, are the Center, the Foundation of all there is.
What else can I present to you, my all, who have given all?
From now until my final breath, I surrender everything to the service of your Reign.
How glorious is your name, O God, through all the earth!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

10th Anniversary of the Death of London's Cardinal Basil Hume

The following words, penned by Cardinal Hume in 1994, a genuinely human and compassionate Benedictine monk who was elected a Cardinal to serve the Archdiocese of Westminster (London) continue to be strong reminders of the challenges we confront in our modern world. Thanks to for yesterday, the words are available to us. I suggest a read of the entire homily given at the anniversary Mass might be a source of calm, a source of inspiration. See Whispers

To go in search of God requires effort and a measure of self-discipline and self-denial. The voice of God does not speak dramatically, as in a hurricane, or an earthquake, or a fire, but calls to us gently in the very depth of our being. To hear the voice of God demands some solitude, silence and stillness. In our society today there is too much noise, both around and within us, and the quiet voice of God becomes stifled. But in a moment of gentle stillness, God not only reveals something of himself, but he transforms us, too. So if God exists, it is the most fundamental truth of all. It changes everything. It cannot be both true and not matter.’ (‘The Hinterland of Freedom: Morality and Solidarity’, The Month, March 1994)


Jesus' words, especially the closing words of today's gospel, are important and challenging. We are, all of us, sinners. So easily are we distracted from our resolutions our promises to remain faithful to our God, our resolutions not to sin again. When we take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we realize how blessed we are by God's forgiveness, his love for us. It is truly a moment of peace and returning calm. Or do we?

The challenge for many today is how not to act as if sin was not a part of our lives but so obvious in the lives of others. Perhaps we focus more on the sins in the lives of others. We see in them a self-righteousness. We can easily see how distant they seem to be from an openness to the mystery of God's love. They seem seem to judge others in black and white verdicts ... so differently than God seems to judge us with the color grey.

Jesus invites us to live with true pardon: not just his pardon but our pardon of those whose words or deeds may have offended us. Jesus' challenge: let goof the unforgiving feeling; put to rest the sharpness of resentment; deflate the heart filled with anger. This is no easy dare when anyone becomes the object of another person's sin in their lives.

When I can see myself and my sinfulness in those who have hurt me, maybe then for me there will be the opportunity to realize all the more how much God loves me and wants me to forgive others.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

That Cheerful Giver

Today's first reading from St. Paul contains one of the better known phrases from the great preacher and evangelizer's quill: " ... for God loves a cheerful giver."

What Paul has in mind for his readers is how important it is for us to create in our hearts, in our lives, a larger space for God's life and love. We can create that room by giving away a portion of our time, talent or treasure to others ... and doing so with a genuine sense of joy. Don't most people have a true happiness of heart when they give a gift to a loved one or a friend for a birthday or other special event? What is the source of that happiness that comes to the giver? It has been said that happiness is "an infallible sign of the presence of God."

God himself is the greatest of givers. Every grace he gives is truly his love for us to share. He chooses to love our world through the goodness of each of us.

Be a cheerful giver at home, in the office, in the shop or on the road ... at least once today and savor the moment. Take a few seconds to say to yourself, "Heh, self, I have just been an instrument in the hand of God for our world." Furthermore, recall that God has sent each of us to this earth with a purpose, with an intention. Your cheerful giving make real God's plan in your life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Love those I don't like? Am I willing to try?

We have heard it time and again: "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Yet, for many people changing directions is not easy. In an open and calm sea, there is no trouble. If there is a reward for making a change, most will usually try to alter their ways. But to attempt to change my may of being ... that can be a genuine challenge.

If genuine dislike or hatred exits between yourself and another person, what do these words of Jesus mean to you? Do they have any power in your heart? Probably not. It is easy to make excuses as to why a change cannot be made.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to be willing to change, to be willing to put aside our our pride. This is not easy. The seeds of mistrust have deep roots. If we don't have the willingness to rid our lives of the destructive way of living, our lives will always have that miserable corner of existence. Yet, when we seriously take on the effort to remove the separation that our mistrust may have created, we will encounter God.

One Day At A Time: Blog Visitations Counted

Doing a little testing for a few weeks. How many folks visit Prayer on the Hill each day? So, the postings for each day will be what you see. and you can also see the counter for the visits to the blog. To get to previous postings simply click on the home page BLOG ARCHIVE for the current month. There you will find all the previous blogs, etc., etc. Or simply click on to the "Older Posts" near the bottom right of the main page.

Have a good week. May the Lord bless your week with his graces. And don't forget the most important event of your day yesterday!!! Do you remember???

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Body and Blood of Jesus Christ: Corpus Christi

Let us consider the last two weeks or the last month of our lives. What would you consider your most significant moment or events of that time period? Yesterday, at St. Joseph's on Capitol Hill there was a funeral. A man of some fifty years had died. He left the request that his funeral be celebrated at the church he had known as a young boy, an altar server. A large number of his friends and classmates from his early years at St. Joseph's School -- when it existed -- gathered. Several men commented how important and significant it was for them to be gathered together. Two weeks ago, I celebrated with my high school classmates. We had graduated 50 years ago. I will not forget the reunion with a fellow that was my trolley car and later auto companion on our daily ventures to Gonzaga High School. And just two evenings ago I rejoined with the Jesuits who entered the Society of Jesus 50 years ago. Both events we significant moments I know I will not forget for the remainder of my life: "Remember the time we got together for our fiftieth???"

It is an interesting venture to walk through the halls of the Capitol Building not as a tourist but as an observer of humanity, being attentive to the expressions one easily overhears from the younger tourists. Excitement abounds when a Senator or Member of Congress passes by and says hello to them. "He shook my hand!" Earlier this Spring, I had to smile as I listened in Union Station to a group of young ladies, obviously on their Senior trip to DC. Apparently they had been somewhere in the city when President Obama was driven by where they were standing. "He waved at me. Did you see that?" There journey to Washington will always be remembered by that moment.

Several days ago, while having lunch in the Dirksen Senate Office Building dining room, I watched as former Senator Trent Lott walked through. The adults were no different than the younger Seniors! "I finally got to meet someone who is famous," I overheard.

So, let me ask a question or two. Did anyone include in the list of important moments or events of the last two weeks or month this kind of statement: "I received Jesus Christ in the Eucharist at Mass last Sunday"? What is your reaction to this statement? Quite honestly, I would wager this: few, if any, thought about that event.

What should this say to us? One of the greatest moments in our lives is the moment or are the moments when Jesus Christ is given to us in communion. The Son of God. The Savior of the world. And how many forget that personal and special moment -- even an hour later?

Many recount meals as great moments of reunion, of being with loved ones and friends. Each day from this altar and in every church throughout the world there is for us a most memorable moment: I have just received the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Not just a piece of bread, not just a sip of wine. Jesus Christ came to me with all that he is. So much more than a wave, a handshake or the exchange of a few words. The Son of God himself came to me. Does this make a difference in my life? Is the Holy Communion I receive today an event I will allow to make my life different? That is what it's about!

Friday, June 12, 2009

God's Involvement in Pain & St Jean M Vianney

Today's reflection is more informational that prayer based. However, what is to be presented here is surely material for prayer.

It is no unusual experience except for a newly ordained priest to be asked a question like this: "My nephew has cancer and is expected to live only a few months. How can God let this happen?" Likewise there are questions about the elderly: "How does God let this happen to my Mom? She has been so good to so many people throughout her life. Now she doesn't know us or who she is? Where is the love of God for Mom?"

A friend recommend a book to me recently that she had just finished reading. The title is "THE PROMISE." A relatively young priest has written this book. He is Father Jonathan Morris, a member of the Legionaries of Christ. You may have heard him on the Fox Cable News Station where he offered his knowledge as the religion analyst. For those who encounter questions that challenge the illness or death of a loved one, Fr. Morris has some wonderful insights. It is a book written for the average Mary or Joe ... no deep theological meanderings.

The second point of today's "reflection" is about an extraordinary priest ... Fr. Jean Marie Vianney, the famous Cure d'Ars. The seminarian who seemed to have little acumen for the philosophy and theology presented to him and his classmates. Many of his faculty were not in favor of his being ordained. But God knows who the real PhDs are!!!

On Friday, next week, June 19th, Pope Benedict will lead evening Vespers at the Vatican in the presence of the remains of the Saint as he inaugurates the Year of the Priest. During this year, the Holy Father will formally proclaim St. Jean Vianney to be the Patron of All the World's Priests not just parish priests. The 19th of June the year will be the Feast of the Sacred Heart, also a feast day to celebrate and pray for the Sanctification of Priests.

Surely this special year will be a grace-filled boon for the many priests who continue to strive for holiness in their lives. In the Fall of this year, it is my intention to initiate a "program" for my brother priests that will involve a blog, a podcast, a website, and after a year or so several talks throughout the country. Today's priests, especially the ones you encounter in the confessionals, at funerals, at weddings, in the pulpit each day or each Sunday a magnificent men. They are truly dedicated to the extraordinary vocation of serving God's people 24/7. As the number of priests continues to decline, as the number of older priests increases, the burden on many priests, especially Pastors, grows heavier. In many places of this nation there are priests who serve as Pastors in two or three parishes simultaneously. They are most grateful for the help of the Permanent Deacons and the many men and women who assist them in bringing communion to the sick, in teaching CCD programs, RCIA programs, ... you name it and your Pastor probably has someone or two or three helping him.

During the Year of the Priest, how blessed we priests would be if all our parishioners and friends took it upon themselves to recite the prayer that has been drafted for us throughout this year. The following are a few inspirational thoughts from St. Jean Marie Vianney that might lead you to remember your parish priests, the priests who taught you, the priests you count among your friends and especially those priest who carry heavy burden because of the shortage of priests we are facing in our country.

And the following is a prayer that I offer to my brother priests and religious for our own growth in spirituality and perfection as God's messenger to his people today. Bring this "Year of the Priest" to your Councils and you will, I am sure, walk away both humbled and exhilarated by the love and support you will find in those who work with you in your parish or your mission. A priest friend recently spoke about several financial difficulties that would be taking place in the lives of some of the priests in his archdiocese. He told me that the outpouring of care and love from those who were with him almost brought him to tears. He went back to his quarters and simply prayed words of thanksgiving. We priests can very easily lose awareness of the love our people have for us because the demands of our office have become what they are today. Thanks, brothers, for all you do.

A Priestly Prayer
As the Church celebrates the Year of the Priest
June 19, 2009 through June 19, 2010
Loving God, you called me to the priesthood.
Faithful God, you sustain me in my vocation.
Help me live a priestly life,
throughout this year and all my days.
Keep me faithful to your will
and to my ministry in word and sacrament.
May your peo
ple find the presence of Christ
in my steadfast witness to the Gospel
as I serve them and guide them.
I pray in the name of Jesus Christ,
and through your Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.
Copyright © 2009, J.S. Paluch Co., Inc.
All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barnabas: Apostle of Encouragement

Today's Readings

Our understanding of the very early years of the Church has been enriched by the life and dynamism of Sts. Paul and Barnabas. They stand as a rainbow of hope to the early Christians and to us today still. These two giants of their times are responsible for the strong foundation of our faith.

Barnabas is a model of stewardship. He was recognized for his generosity in helping the community. He also helped the apostles, financially supporting their evangelizing works. It was Barnabas who introduced Paul of Tarsus to many of the original apostles as they were beginning their missionary activities. Eventually the P and B Team, Paul and Barnabas, became well known for their preaching and teaching about Jesus Christ. In St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles, chapters 11 - 15, this dynamic team is mentioned fifteen times.

When Barnabas became "Barnabas," abandoning is birth name of Joseph, it was not surprise that the other apostles had dubbed him with the new name. He was indeed a "son of encouragement" to all he met and to all he helped.

Today there are many men and women who are suffering because of financial downturns. Could there be a better model for us than Barnabas for us to become a people of encouragement to those hurting so badly?" And, in a time when immorality and unethical practices challenge our young adults as well as our older folks, we can be a people of strength and support in these difficult moments. We can encourage them as well as ourselves "to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart." Today we can be men and women who can encourage so many who find their faith challenged by the experiences in their lives.

In your family, in your community, in your place of work -- are there not many opportunities for you to be a modern day Barnabas? Take a moment and look around!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Law and Spirit


How different the scenes above. Yet, each presenting the message or will of the Father. The difference between hard, cold stone and the compassionate love Jesus not just for the young but for all ages. Both fulfilling the Father's will to teach humankind of his "law." We know the tablets were given to Moses by God and we know that Jesus was given to us by his Father. While both are guides for us, the compassion Jesus used throughout his life in teaching, consoling, guiding and building draw more attention than two tablets of stone with sacred words.

It is so much easier to follow what the Father asks of us when we come to know it through the voice and life of another human being like ourselves. As strong as the Constitution of the United States might be when it is printed on parchment or in a small pocket-size booklet, it takes on life when we watch the Legislative and Judicial Branches of our government tackle the issues that impact our society today. We see the members of those to branches of our government struggle with issues of law and life. They make clear that as strong as a law might be, its success is serving society come when it is a lived experience in the lives of the people.

For us the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Jesus and those who follow him will be stronger than any written document or words etched in stone. God calls us to live lives of grace -- graces that enable us to live lives that make real the two great commandments which sum up all the 10 Commandments.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Paul is a faithful as God's sunrise!

Today's first reading shows us that Paul, too, had times when he could not meet his scheduled meetings and appointments. Seemingly, he had promised the people of Corinth that he would visit two times: both on his way to and back from Macedonia. A change of plans resulted in his not showing up on the the return.

That resulted in a public mistrust of the great preacher and writer. Not one to sit silently by, he retorted that his love and care for the Corinthians was as consistent as was the love and care that God the Father had for them. They should trust, Paul tells them, because he had been anointed by the Father. Likewise he was gift by the Holy Spirit in his heart with wonderful wisdom.

Turn to the gospel. We can say that Paul in his determined manner was salt of the earth and light of the world. And this is what we might consider quietly today: am I salt of the earth and light of the world to my family ... my spouse, my children? Am I the salt and light the nourishes those who work with me? Am I God's instrument today?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday: Late Posting

Today's Readings

We are nearing the conclusion of the Pauline Year. Now for the next two weeks we will be reading and hearing words from the great preacher's Second Letter to the Corinthians. The First Letter to the Corinthians dealt with community divisions, moral disorders and abuses. In the Second Letter Paul is somewhat on the defensive to protect his ministry and to substantiate his authority as a preacher of the word.

The second letter begins with an outpouring of encouragement to the people. Paul speaks of afflictions that anyone has to endure in life. He writes to encourage. He reminds them that God the Father of Jesus Christ is the "Father of compassion and the God of all encouragements " (v 3). It is to God the Father that they should turn to partake of the consolations he offers us. It is the same consolation we should be able to share with those who are bearing the burden of afflictions in their lives.

Paul assures the Corinthians it is this same consolation e has enjoyed during the trials that have afflicted his life that he wants to share with the them. These very inflictions are what unites the apostle with them.

It is the same identity that comes from Jesus in the gospel reading, the most well-known words of Matthew's rendition of the Sermon on the Mount. Here we encounter Jesus' genuine encouragement to those who have suffered afflictions.

Consider how Paul and Jesus call us to recognize how God is so wanting to bless us in whatever struggles that have to endured. Hopefully the Holy Spirit leads us to a greater openness and awareness to be messengers of encouragement to those who are weighed down. Be a beacon of hope as St. Paul strove to be to the Corinthians.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What is so much a part of your faith that you may take for granted? The answer is a very simple one word response: mystery! Throughout our tenets of faith, perhaps more than any other practice of religion, we encounter so much mystery. Just recall for a moment a few mysteries we cannot fully understand that are "pillars of our faith" that we live with each day: the virgin birth, the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine; the crucified and dead Jesus raised from the dead; the same Jesus' appearance to his disciples; the several accounts of miraculous events --raising Lazarus from the dead, water changed to wine, a few loaves and fish multiplied for thousands; this same Jesus is God's only Son; and the feast we celebrate today, the Holy Trinity. Is there any religion so rich with gifts, these and other realities for us, gifts that remain mysteries?

Moses, blessed by singular moments with Yahweh throughout his years of ministry to the people, reminded them that they themselves were brought forth in mystery. There was no other god who was so powerful, so giving, so caring. This is the God of besides whom there is no other. This is the God who commands they must incorporate in their lives. These are the ways of life they must teach their children.

After some centuries the needed and hoped for Messiah is born. No ordinary kind, this messiah is the Son of God. So filled with mystery was his life, is it at all surprising that his disciples doubted at times? Even being with Jesus for three years did not completely erase some doubts that seemed to linger in their hearts and minds. Even when the God of Abraham, Moses and the other prophets gifted the disciples with the Holy Spirit, was this not a moment of mystery for them?

St. Paul, himself blessed by several appearances by Jesus, reminds those who accept the Holy Spirit in their lives, that our God of mysteries is not a God who sees us, his creations, as slaves. We are his children. We are his heirs -- all that we have comes from Him.

There on the mountain top, as described in Matthew's closing words of his "Life of Christ," his gospel, we, the sons and daughters of God, we are given the great commissioning: "Go ... make disciples ... baptize them ... teach them to observe all I have taught (you)" and never forget "I am with you always."

You and I, all of us are children of God, living our lives of faith in mystery. Like the disciples on the mountain, there are for us as well moments of doubt because our analytical minds are challenged by the great gifts we call mysteries and because we have to live with the reality of another mystery we call Original Sin. Yet would we love our God, would be trust our God were he like any other kind, any other earthly power? There are no genuine mysteries in their "kingdoms" -- perhaps only "secrets" that lead us to mistrust and dislike. Our God, our faith -- these are true mysteries that bless us, give us strength and gives each of us the ability to know "I am a child of the One, True God."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Empowered by God's Intention

Before human beings began to measure time, each of us was a thought or an intention in the mind of God. As time progressed, this same God gave a gift to the world: you. That intention became a reality. You became a shareholder in his creative power. You and I, we can bring about marvelous happenings when we allow ourselves to be a manifestation of God's love.

Consider the continuing saga of Tobit, his blindness and the return of his newly married son, Tobiah. Returning with his bride, Sarah, Tobiah, also accompanied by his companion (angel) Raphael, immediately addressed his father's blindness. First, he breathed heavily over his father's eyes. Why? He was mindful of his won power as a created child of God. Next, he rubbed fish gall on his father's eyes. Lastly, he himself peeled away the blinding cataracts from his father's eyes. The result? "I can see you son, the light of my eyes."

God has empowered each of his creations to be of service to others. All of us come from God to bring about good for others who may be blinded by the eg0-created cataracts that blind seeing and living God's intentions for the world. When we take the time to contemplate the reality of God's creative power within us, when we are strong enough to see the Raphael companions God puts into the various journeys of our lives, we can reach out to others to help them remove their blindness. We must first, however, make certain that we allow ourselves to be open to see that God has given each of us a purpose, an intention to be fulfilled in our lives on this earth.

When Mary was praying, contemplating the creative wonder of God, an angel appeared and her world was flooded by God's creative Spirit. Her openness ultimately was the medicine that would open the eyes of the world to her Son, Jesus.

Each time you partake of the Eucharist, you open yourself to the creative power of God. Your communion is a fellowship with Jesus Christ for your own awareness of God's gifts to you and an empowerment to help him remove the blindness of our times.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tobiah Model: Faith, Hope and Charity

The scriptures for today's liturgy are well suited for married couples.

Today's readings link together well. What man today would marry a woman who had been to the altar seven times only to experience the death of the husband before their marriage was consummated? Very few, if any, I suppose. Well Tobit's son, Tobiah, married Sarah even after he learned about those who had gone before him. He trusted God. He had a genuine faith that led him to believe God was calling him to this marriage. For anyone deciding to marry, great faith and trust in God in needed. Great trust and faith in the person who will become a bride or groom is essential. Those who have been married for many years will attest to the need of faith, especially during those challenges that come into a married life.

The responsorial psalm speak about fear of God. This should be understood as a kind of awe of God and his power, his goodness. From this experience of awe of God it seems natural that the heart might move to hope. Surely for someone planning to marry and for those who have married, hope is always needed. Each partner has to hope that what he/she does will be for the good of their marriage. Hope is not just a one-time experience. Hope is a life long experience. We, single or married, we all know that we have to hope that what we are doing in and with our lives will be what is best for ourselves and a spouse if one is married.

Lastly, Jesus speaks about the great commandment: love one another. Surely this is the pinnacle of married life. Without love how can any marriage survive? Without a genuine love of God how can a marriage be blessed through its own ups and downs?

Let today be a moment for married couples to recall that faith, hope and love are very much a part of marriage. For those of us not married, let us pray for our married relatives and friends that their days together will always be blessed with faith, hope and love.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

And Who Was Charles Lwanga???

Today our Church celebrates the memory, the commitment and the sacrifice of 22 young men who served as pages in the court of the King of Uganda in the mid-nineteenth century. When the king wanted the young men to become the object of his sexual desires, they refused. Their denial was brought on by the commitment to their new found faith. Their profession of faith earned for them a 40 mile march to the site of their death. The king had a large fire built and the young men were placed in the fire to die.

Today we really have little need of another computer expert, or another major league sports stadium or even another financial expert. No! What we need today are men and women firmly committed to their faith.

Where are the contemporary martyrs who stand firm for the values of life from conception to death? Where are the contemporary martyrs who refuse to become victims to immorality and unethical practices that are so bountiful in our land?

These young martyrs speak to us of the challenge of faith and at times how difficult that commitment might be. When we might find ourselves tempted to give in to anything that is not good for us or our society, remember Charles and his colleagues. They are relatively modern examples to us, genuine models for all of us especially the young adults among us.