Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wherever you go??? What???

"I will follow you wherever you go."
Luke 9:57 - 62

Orators and writers often remind us that care must be taken when using two particular and opposite words: always and never. One of the disciples, speaking to Jesus, uses a similar kind of word: wherever. To pledge almost carelessly to follow someone wherever the journey may lead is a dangerous first step.

Jesus seems to be mindful of the challenges such a statement would bring. He responds to the statement with another statement: the Son of Man "has nowhere to lay his head." His is a warning to all who want to follow him: take care because following me will not be easy. He did say "Follow me," testing the small band, a "mix 'em gather 'em" group attracted by his mission and personality.

Another asked if he could be temporarily excused in order to bury his father. Then with the suddenness and surprise of a boulder landing squarely in front of of him, the disciple hears the normally supportive Jesus reply. "Let the dead bury the dead." Wow! Was he tired of apostle-questions? What was the message he was trying to teach?

Think about Jesus' status at the time. The Son of God heard his Father say, "And, oh yes, it will also mean that there will be suffering, intense suffering, even death, a tortuous death." Did Jesus say in reply, "Can't I just do everything you ask but that?" What you are asking is painful, not easy. As Paul Harvey would now say, "We know the rest of the story." Never a thought given to stepping aside for a short time or seeking a change in plans.

This is what Jesus was teaching: to be a close follower demands complete focus, maximal attention, to the life he asks of his followers. "Follow me wherever I go???" Are you sure you can accept and live out his invitation? You must be strong. But I will always be with you.

How would you respond to such an invitation? How have you responded to his invitation that was given to you at your Baptism and renewed each time you have received the Eucharist? Stop for just a moment or two and consider all the particular invites you have received: daily prayer? fidelity in your state of life? Sunday obligation? Sacrament of Reconciliation? Care for those entrusted to you at home, in your families, your employees or colleagues? Single-minded purpose?


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Michael, Archangel -- Perhaps Needed Again

"and the do not help me in what is good
while they are placed on earth."
(4th Century Apocalypse of Paul)
In the "Meditation of the Day" section for today (Magnificat) the line above appears. The fourth century writing is, of course, an apocryphal writing but the quotation above captured my attention this morning. In this early Christian writing --something new to me -- St. Michael is portrayed by the author as more than "defender in battle." This archangel serves as an intermediary for those in what we would call Hell and the whole human race.
The author's insight that Michael expects us to help him in his duties in preventing evil, in doing good. Have you ever thought of this particular relationship between yourself and St. Michael? Surely those my age recall that extension tacked on the end of every Mass as we prayed for the conversion of Russia, the perceived embodiment of Evil.
But the fourth century writer has an interesting point of view: this great archangel, special to the Church, might indeed rely on each of us to help bring about good in our world, in our times. Perhaps a little reflection on this presentation, this reality, this expectation may strengthen our efforts to work harder for the community of believers: work harder in avoiding sin in our lives.
If you have the time, take a look on the Internet for some increase in knowledge and for a sign post along our spiritual journey. It can be a sign post that opens up a deeper awareness of our baptismal duties to be concerned about one another and our Church by doing good, by preventing sin.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Was Born to Climb

I am strong enough to rise above most any troubled time.
Today may be a mountain but
I was born to climb.

In earlier postings you have read reflections about God's plan for each of us -- for you, for me. Looking through the Sunday edition of the local paper, The Washington Post, I was drawn to the daily horoscope column. As usual, I read through several of the insights, predictions, etc. posted for the curious, like me, and the superstitious, not like me, I hope. As I started to delve into the readings for today's liturgy, my mind and heart were not caught by what was written. Praying for an open heart and open ears, words of s Sunday TV evangelist came to mind and did not seem to want to hear "Go away!" The preacher's words brought to mind Dr. Wayne Dyer's valuable book, "The Power of Intention."
What was the Holy Spirit preaching to me? I came to believe this: God had a plan for you even before you were conceived or born. You, all of us, need not go to horoscopes or fortune tellers to learn what is best for us.
Our times present painful, frustrating and debilitating challenges to our faith as well as to our bodily strength. They wear us down. Morale has lowered so many people in many walks of life. I speak of my own colleagues in the priesthood and religious life. In conversations with priests, young and old alike, I hear great pain, serious pain. I cannot misunderstand their signals of disappointment and at times genuine abandonment by superiors and some directions the Church is following today. If you do know a happy priest, thank God and your friend for his upbeat spirit. He may well be in a minority! Likewise I speak with parents who have children and grandchildren without employment. Again, turning to our local paper, we read that a suburban father murdered his wife, a teen-aged son and a not-quite-teen daughter before taking his own life. Friends discussed the family's serious financial straits. I speak with relatives and close friends who are pounding the pavements in search of a job with little hope there will be a discovered treasure in the sands.
To my clergy and religious brothers and sisters, to those unemployed, those despondent because these challenges a bringing dramatic changes and pressures to their lives let me write this: don't give up on your God. Again, recall that he sent you into our world at this precise time in its history with a purpose, with an intention. It is not a fortune, not a plan, not a new vocation he will give you. He brought about your birth with that original plan before you were born. His is not a future reality. It has already happened; it is in place. If we truly believe each, in every difficult moment that we are "infused," you might say, with a purpose, a plan that he wants you to bring to reality in our world.
The more I believe God has a plan for me in my retirement, the stronger my mind believes I can be a good priest, regardless of my "official status" as a retired clergyman, the sooner I can overcome any challenges that confront me. This is a truth for all of us: priests, religious and laity alike. God has promised to care for us, again, even before we were born! God did not say I will make you a blessed people. Rather through his prophets he told us "You are a blessed people."
The quote beneath the picture was given to me by a special friend, Bev, who has a deep relationship with her Creator-God, a faith much stronger than my own. She is often challenged by her Pastor because she is not always thinking and praying in the box. I thank her for her strength and for her being a true and living model of one who believes God has a plan for her and all that she does is done because she knows she is a blessed woman. Thanks, Bev, for being such a noble model ... and for climbing some challenging mountains.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

26th Sunday Ordinary Time: In Their Own Way!

Solitude by David Winston

Book of Numbers 11: 25 - 29 and Mark 9: 38 - 43; 47 - 48

The first reading and the gospel contain two segments that I cannot recall as a topic for a homily, a sermon, an article or even an address by any Pope, Cardinal, Bishop or priest I have known about in my lifetime. Let me write at the very outset in the reflection, the Holy Spirit is working in my heart because I hear his voice calling for an honest look at the issue of dissent in our Church. The same can be said about society in general as well.

Fr. Wilfred Theisen, O.S.B., in a reflection on the words of Moses and Jesus, writes that we, in our times, "have to determine honestly whether dissent divides the Body of Christ." We have t ask the question: Is dissent ad avenue of pain that helps the Body of Christ strengthen its presence in the world; does it help for growth and development?

We know from the gospels that Jesus took positions quite contrary to the Law of Moses more than once. A read of the Acts of the Apostles and some of Paul's writings make evident the division that existed in the early Church, especially against Peter's teachings. The dissenter was none other than St. Paul, another apostle. He was charged with the message of Jesus to himself directly and would not give any quarter to anyone whom he considered wrong. Hear this: "But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong" (Gal 2:11).

The history of our Church is marked by more than one or two instances of internal dissent. These painful moments, however, resulted in the correction of schismatic positions as well as in a clearer awareness of what had been revealed by Jesus. Therefore, to write off, to dismiss demands for modification or removal of what some might consider essentials of our Church may be an example of blocking clearer understanding of what Jesus taught.

We might reflect for a moment on two statistics: (1) there are 30 million "ex Catholics" in the world; (2) one in ten Americans is a former Catholic. Just in numbers what does this tell us. A parish, for example, of 800 households may well represent 3840 souls using 4.8 as an average number in each house. That "one" would be another 840 for this parish. Another significant number of people worship in our Church.

Most dissent results from change. The American people are understanding that reality these days more strongly than in many years. Both Moses words to Joshua and Jesus' to John developed because others were acting "outside the box." Both Joshua and John speak out for traditions that had become essentials in the minds of many.

Look at what Jesus and Moses were teaching: tolerance and understanding, patience and love. It was not easy. Just consider the "hot bottons" that start heated arguments today .. too often simply because someone believes his/her position is right even though the essence of the issues are not fully understood. What Moses and Jesus were using as norms deciding what was best way of acting by those outside is not easy to answer: Was it a harm to the community? Was it good for the community?

We are no different today. But Fr. Wilfred reminds us there is a path we can follow. It is in the words of Pope John XXIII who was criticized both before and after his death for initiating Vatican II ... an event whose consequences continue to divide parts of our Church we can follow a sensible path:

In essential matters, let there be unity;

in non-essential matters, liberty;

in all matters, charity.

Let us never fear an open mind, an ope heart. Never let our ears be closed to another, especially a dissenter. That man or woman is hurting: something is blocking his/her love for the Church, the Body of Christ. Just yesterday, Pope Benedict, speaking to the leaders of Czech Republic in the Prague Cathedral said:

"Jointly we must engage in the struggle for freedom and the search for truth, which either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery" (cf. Fides et Ratio, 90).

Where is the Lord God?

Zechariah 2:5-9, 14-15
"See, I am coming to dwell among you says the Lord."
Following yesterday's questions, "Who do you say that I am?", we might consider another questions raised in today's first reading from the liturgy: "Where is God in our world today?" Isn't it ironic: the more knowledge we amass, the less certain we might be about where we can find God today.
"Where?" would be your response to today's question? Where in your very busy world today would you find Jesus? Surely some might immediately respond, "Of course, he is in the tabernacles of our chapels and churches." Some might remember to say, "He's present in the words of Scripture. But how many have the time or purpose to bring themselves to a church or chapel each day? How many of us open a bible or book of prayers to wrestle with Jesus' teachings and our inner searchings?
There is an answer in this reading. "See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord." A promise that was fulfilled long before any of us were even thought about except in the mind of God.
So many events, duties and calls to help others tie up not just the minutes but the hours of each one's days. Frustration, exhaustion and emptiness might lead to a sad response: I cannot say I experience where God is.
All our activities easily become like intensely dark sunglasses that interfere with our spiritual vision. The many distractions we let control our days block out our ability to realize God's presence around us.
Where is God? A good question once or twice a day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

El Greco's Peter and Paul

Luke 9:20

"Who do you say that I am?"

Jesus asks another penetrating question not only for Peter and his colleagues but for all of us -- you and me, each of us individually, not as a group. "Who do you say that I am?" This short sentence brings to mind a word prevalent in business and politics that relates to personal practice as well as corporate image. The word? TRANSPARENCY. How honest am I with myself about my relationship with God?

We live and work in a busy world, a conflicted culture. Families are struggling, values seem to be in a flip-flop state of affairs. Where is God? Who is he? Who needs God?

What I answer to the question Jesus puts to me today is most important. My answer reveals the impact God has in my life, the impact I allow God to have in my being. My response should clearly reveal the depth of my spiritual life especially to me. It speaks loudly to me of my relationship with God.

Jesus' question serves as a "true north" on my life's compass. Do I follow the direction of the needle? Does that needle continue to bounce around, seeking the best course for me?

Does Peter's reply, "The Christ of God," mean much to me?

Come let us worship the Lord, for he is our God.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seeing God?

"And he kept trying to see him."

Luke 9:9

Yes, you have seen this photo before. Here's a challenge that could prove very interesting and rewarding. Stop someone on any street corner and dare to ask this question: "Do you see a clear picture of God at work in Jesus' life? You might ask a similar question of a friend during a conversation: "I was wondering if etc. ....?"

In the New Testament, particularly Luke's gospel, the evangelist portrays

many individuals who stand amazed and somewhat awestruck or confused. Herod was such a person. He had heard about the reports of people who spoke about all that Jesus had been doing. He seemed determined to know more about Jesus.

When Jesus performed miracles, there were those who did not believe he could have done such wonders. Other imagined him to be a powerful person but wanted to how who he was. There were those who would look at him but something within kept them from seeing God in him.

A question for you, dear reader: "In the good that you witness, do you ever stop yourself to ask if you see God and his Son at work in the person doing the good?" Another question: "Do you try to imagine how close the person you have watch is to God, to Jesus?"

Do you ever see Jesus in the good you do? Do you keep trying to see him?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Never Doubting; Always Confident

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Padre Pio

Imagine being summoned by one's boss or superior to be sent on a special assignment. Emotions and expectations are high. He instructed you to complete a specific task: go to the five accounts lost in the last five years. You mission: bring them back to the company. Don't take a cell phone nor computer with you. You are given a minimal budget. You cannot use the company credit card. Those high emotions and expectations were now on the floor. You ask one question: "How do you expect me to accomplish this task? It is impossible!" Your boss responds: "Tell those CEOs that you are sent on my behalf. Tell them I have entrusted this mission to you, the best sales person in the firm. Tell them I have charged you to explain honestly, clearly and patiently that I am working at the office with all that is in me to regain the great name we had not long ago and provide the best service to our clients. I am entrusting this to you because you are an extraordinary person. I want those CEOs to know that I am using our best representative to bring them back. You can convince them better than I can. You have that skill.

Isn't this what Jesus did with the disciples? Isn't this what God is doing with you as you seek to do his will, to follow what he wants of you? Can we not accomplish so much more when we rely not just on our own skills but on the help of the God who made us. He wants us to rid ourselves of all that distract us from the mission. Just as the optimistic boss wanted to fill his best salesperson with even more self-confidence so, too, God wants us to clear out what distracts us from letting him be our light and guide.

This was how it was for Padre Pio, now St. Pio, whose feast we celebrate today. Despite so many challenges put before him by Roman authorities, he never yielded to temptations to give up believing God was there at his side ... as was eventually evidenced.

In God's Clan

Photo: Long Term Health Care Union Website
A cousin has worked with great intensity over the last decade to discover all the roots of my maternal family. Looking at names from the past, those here in the United States as well as those in Thrapston, Kettering, United Kingdom, I find a genuine curiosity about family history. It captures many hearts and much activity ... how my grandmother's family started so far away and how my cousins and me have been given so much from past generations.
The words of Jesus in Luke's gospel, chapter 8: 21, -- one simple sentence -- give us a very clear picture of our place in the family of God. Do you ever stop to think about your place in that family? More often we think of ourselves as members of the Roman Catholic Church family or of another church community. And most often we speak of our family as that group or clan of people born of two particular sets of grandparents and our own parents. Verse 21 is significant: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act upon it."
Having family ties with Mary or those "brothers" (relatives) of Jesus is a thought that might not occur too often. Jesus' words, however, makes clear that each of us has a place of dignity in God's family. Jesus' family is more than Mary and the other relatives of his earthly family tree. My genealogy captivated cousin would say our Fisher roots are marked by journeys from England, ordinary people, who have settled in the District of Columbia area for more than 130 years. Jesus describes his family as "those who hear the word of God and act upon it." These words are both invitation and reminder that we can be members of his family.
Our efforts to fulfill the will of the Father that gives us family pride. In this divine family, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, our brother!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Healing at Jesus' house: St. Matthew's Feast

St Matthew's Cathedral -- Washington, DC (readings)

The letter of St. Paul to the community at Ephesus near the Mediterranean Sea, in particular the selection of today's 1st reading, can be seen as an amplification of the message or purpose of Jesus' discussion with Matthew, tax collectors and sinners . Matthew's words answer that many may have wondered: Jesus did bring to his home some of those who were attracted to Jesus and his mission. The text today makes clear that this part of the Matthean "Life of Christ" (the gospel) is about healing. Sinners and the notorious Jewish tax collectors must have felt what was a "calling" to the inner needs in their lives. As usual Jesus' style was challenged by some of the Pharisees -- among the town's hypocrites. Jesus does not allow their criticism go unnoticed nor without correction: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." So often sacrifice is not as challenging as is mercy or forgiveness. It is much easier to someone in financial need a contribution than it is to give someone who is truly hurting something of one's inner self, one's being. Jesus is inviting not only the sinners and tax collectors but even the Pharisees to personal healing. It is St. Paul's words to the Ephesians that paint the portrait of those who have been graced with healing. Theirs are lives of humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with others and striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit. Each of us has been invited to accept God's healing in life and to live that grace-filled life according to God's plan.
Psalm 19:3-4 says it well about those whose lives are healed, whose lives are silent witnesses to the call they have received from God:
No speech or words are used, no sound is heard;
yet their voice goes out to all the world
and it is heard to the ends of the earth.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

True Priority Questions

Today's gospel,, proposes an issue that can easily divide any group of people. What many readers of this particular gospel may see as the primary message is the issue of pride -- wanting to be number uno. The reality, however, is very different.

What Jesus' message is for all of us is a particular eye-opener. Jesus uses a child to teach the apostles to examine a cultural reality -- the insignificance of children.

Several years ago the world and the Catholic Church were rocked by the revelations about child abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. This painful reality goes back to the days before Jesus' birth. It is a horrific reality in so many different forms throughout the world today. In Old Testament history as well as other writings we learn of the cultural disregard for children. Children were often considered a burden, sometimes too costly to cared for, to be fed.

Jesus places a child before "the wanna be" attitude of some. Here he had chosen "the least" among the community (Mt 25) to teach about a poignant human horror.

Today we are witness to two realities that are related to this Jesus example. Today TV, radio, newspapers, dinner conversations and barbershop "debates" concern health care -- primarily the health care of those not children!

The questions for us are several. How do we react to Jesus' example? Of course most will speak about the care children receive. But consider some statistics at a time when the big yellow buses have returned to the roadways and countless billboards are reminding drivers to be careful especially around schools.

The youngest children are our highest number of murder victims across the land: 1.37 million abortions per year, 3700 per day ... more than were killed on 9/11!!! Why? 93% give as a reason that (a) a child is not wanted and (b) that a pregnancy and resulting child are inconvenient!!!

Think, too, of child poverty -- in this land of milk and honey! Children are about 25% of our general population and 35% of the poor population. Consider how child abuse occurs in so many different guises: pornography, kidnappings and deaths, slave trade.

So, what is in this for us today? Will our adult population speak for the some 47 million without health care? Will we become a people who are revolted by the abuse of children, young people?

Jesus taught the disciples that always evaluating priorities is a must for his followers. When will the real followers take on the care of a child in need, a child rejected? When this happens, we will know that Jesus' words, his examples were taken to heart!

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
James 3:16

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Faithful Witnesses

Luke 8: 1 - 3

Surely in our times thinking about these verses from Luke's gospel could be as dangerous as skating on thin ice. So easily could the ice give way, leaving me in icy waters -- because others may interpret my words and thoughts differently than I intend them.

In each of the gospels we learn that there were followers who accompanied Jesus. They joined him on his daily journeys for a number of reasons. They "shared in his ministry." In addition to the Twelve closest followers, there were women! Furthermore, Luke mentions 13 women who were overlooked by the other gospel writers. Immediately some may assume there feminine followers did more than cook or wash clothes for Jesus and the others. Actually these women were faithful witnesses, too. They say and heard what Jesus had done. Women were the first to find Joseph of Arimathea's tomb vacated. They were the first to announce that "Jesus had risen!" They proclaimed the reality of the Resurrection!

At the foot of the cross "All those who knew Jesus personally, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance to watch (Luke:23:49)." A number of the Twelve had fled in fear but not these ladies!

So what should we think about the women's roles? The ice gets thin again!! Not an expert on the scriptural verses about the role of women in Jesus' life, I do not write this to say or hint that Jesus' collaboration with the women mentioned by Luke should be elevated to a sacerdotal level. Whew!! The ice didn't give way! Together with the Twelve these ladies stand as a picture of how how they and others affiliated themselves and their service in the formative days of the Church. As Pope John Paul II wrote, women do have special ministries in our Church.

A lady friend I encountered on my own priestly journey said this about women and today's pastors. "Every pastor needs a Mary (yes, her name) to help him, to listen to him, to strengthen him in his vocation ... not to challenge his calling."

I can gratefully write these words: Father, I give you thanks for the many women who assisted me in my various assignments. So much more was accomplished by their insights, their patience, their charity, their efforts to make the pastor a successful leader and man of prayer. I truly believe your Son would reiterate these sentiments if he has not done so already!

Another Mystery: God's Forgiving Love

Luke 7: 36-50
Why should God forgive those who have offended him much less others? How do you answer that question? Before replying consider what God might see as offenses in our world: murder, abortion, hatred, geed that harms others, immoral behavior, theft, diluted or rejected praise and honor to himself, the Creator -- just to cite a few!
Too often, perchance, we take for granted forgiveness. All of these transgressions fall beneath the loving pardon of God. Perhaps we fail to understand the incredible mystery of his love for sinners. You might be asking, "What mystery? I know God forgives, God loves." Recall John's well-know words: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son ..." for our redemption.
Would you give a son, a daughter or a loved one as a sacrifice to pay back for the offenses of others against you? Of course not! Yet it is the life and death of Jesus -- God's gift of forgiveness -- that is the mystery. How could God elect to forgive through the suffering and death of his only Son? Does it make any sense? Really, does it? And even more incredulous: the greater the sin, the more outpoured loving forgiveness! Adolf Hiler? Osama bin Laden? African and South American Dictators? American racists? This forgiveness mystery is truly a challenge when we confront the realities of horrific and tortuous crimes. Isn't it hard enough to forgiven the relative or neighbor who may have harmed us? Imagine the more recent collection of collegiate murders, of innocent young children being abducted and killed. How do I react when I recall that God sent his only Son not to be judge but to be the one who would make manifest the mysterious forgiving love of God.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Mystery

Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion ...
Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great ...
No one can deny how great is the secret of our religions ...

1 Timothy 3:16
(three different translations)

As we grow older, mystery most likely captures minds and hearts quite differently than in earlier years. A great difference between sci-fi and technological bafflings and after-life musings is evident. "De ja vu" experiences seem more plentiful as we turn calendar pages more rapidly.

So what is it, this mystery that is more captivating as time passes? It is at the heart of St. Paul's sentence (which ever translation rows your boat) to his younger colleague, Timothy?

As we package more wisdom into who we are, we see the world and daily life in it through changing lenses. It is the wisdom that is the gift of silence, the fruit of solitude experiences.

Paul grew older and through different events . His eyes were opened by his growth in wisdom. His moments of listening to the inner voice of the Spirit as well as to the traditions entrusted to new generations by the followers of Jesus were experiences of awe and amazement.

The continuation of this same 16th verse may well be the shortest life of Christ you will ever read:

Who was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated in the spirit,
seen by angers,
proclaimed by Gentiles,
believed in throughout the world,
taken up in glory.

The more you delve into the mystery of our religion, the more you will encounter the extraordinary graces offered to us by the God of mystery. The more you encounter this mystery, you will encounter the paradox that has attracted numerous saints. The more our God opens to us a peace and inner contentment. You will gain the strength to meet the worldly mysteries that challenge the followers of Jesus Christ.

Why is there so much joy and peace in the lives of most men and women who live lives of prayer and reflection in monastic settings? Why do other priests and religious as well as laity usually return from retreats with renewed spirits? The answer is this: they accepted an invitation to encounter "the mystery of devotion," "the mystery of our religion," "the secret of our religion."

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Listen To My Words"

Mark 7: 31 - 37
How Do I Reflect God's Message to Me?

There is so much noise in our world today: horns, jet engines, traffic, TV, talk radio, rap music -- all this and more that seemingly grow louder each day. Yes, each day. For many silence has become a rewarding and true discovery. Perhaps today Jesus would say something different from what he said to the deaf man. For us to listen to Jesus in our times we need silence, opening our ears to whispers from the Lord. Certainly he would call us to become more aware of our need to listen to his words, to open our ears not to noise but to messages from the Holy Spirit.

Another season of praying. Praying On the Hill comes not from Capitol Hill. But every experience of prayer is a moment when we climb up a hill, to sit at the top freed from distractions, ready to open heart and mind to the "whispers" from our God. In the reflections that will continue, it is my hope that what I gain from my own prayer and reflection will lead you to the top of a hill that has become your private space for meeting with the Lord. Enjoy the solitude. Relish the silence. Listen, listen for the voice of God. It is this silence, this solitude that will bring peace and harmony to your heart.

Today as you are on your hilltop, pray for a cessation of the hatred that has infected so many daily experiences we witness or become involved in. No four or five weeks in our history seem to have been so charged with hatred and mistrust. Our nation truly needs our prayer for a return to civility. As mentioned in a midsummer posting, we need not worry about Al Quaeda charging against our nation. We have become our own enemy inflicting so much hatred in our communities. Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, today's liturgical feast, became a mother whose life became filled with sorrows when hatred brought death to her son. Think about how much goodness is killed by human disrespect and enmity. Surely there is not the slightest chance that the word of God will never enter hearts that are so vicious, so filled with hatred.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Returning Soon

As promised in June, Prayer on the Hill will resume on September 15, 2009 ... perhaps with a new look ... but the name will remain the same even though I no longer live on Capital Hill. Just think about sitting on top of any hill, reflecting on God's plans for you in your life that comes through the words of Scripture or other spiritual readings or reflections.

There is one item I would like to put forth at this time.

I am 68 years old. Never, that I can recall, have I experienced listening to so much evil, hatred, vitriol from people who came to Town Hall meetings. Much the sick thinking and acting has been prompted by so many talk show hosts. There is not just one: this is the group Scripture calls "legions." On my Twitter site I made this comment: We don't have to worry about radical groups attacking the USA: it has already begun with the hatred that has so divided the country during this summer. Finally some of the tv anchors have begun to recognize that it is time to cool jets ... perhaps too late but at least any attempt will be some improvement. Turn on most radio talk shows where you would expect to be helped with information you do not know. What do you hear: attacking of the President of the USA, attacking of some of the elected representatives in our Congress, attacking people who are simply trying to become better. And where is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops? Two Bishops across the land have taken stands challenging the health bill as they believe it will be.

Pope Gregory the Great spoke about the role of teachers and preachers in the church while reflecting on the writings of the Prophet Ezekiel. He said these proclaimers are called watchmen in the Old Testament. It is the role and duty of the teachers and preachers to watch for the intrusion of the "enemy" into the hearts and minds of the followers of Jesus Christ. Evil, anger, hatred are the troops of the enemy who have invaded our culture at this time.

It is sad. The picture above offers a thought: the stillness of the water in the River Seone in France reflects the flowers and buildings on a island in the river. It is a reflection of peace and calm. The river gives something to anyone thinking about how we live is a reflection to others of who we are and what we are. I cannot imagine if it would be possible to see any peace and calm in the waters of the river USA during these last days of summer. When I was studying theology, we heard a twisting of one of the lines of scripture: Look, see the Christians! See how they club one another (not love one another)!