Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuesday: First Week of Advent -- 2009

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
(Liturgy of the Hours, hymn for Morning Prayer, p 122)

Prepare for the "advent" of Christ in the fullness of his mystery, his coming in glory at the end of time. What does "the end times" mean for you, for me? How often do I seriously reflect -- for more than a fleeting moment -- on the end of "my time" on this earth? You were born with a God-gifted purpose that will not last forever. Each of us been allotted only a portion of whatever time God has given the world. Advent can be a wonder-filled season especially when we reflect on the abundance of love God share with us in the love of our families, the friendships of others who give so much of themselves to us, the world of "things" God has enabled others and ourselves to make for our well-being, the world of nature that so often lifts us from our sometimes closed minds to the awesome, yes, awe-producing power and beauty of the created skies, sunsets, mountains, streams, flowers, sunrises and on and on. The greatest gift is the coming of Jesus to you because his birth is God's pledge to you that his Son will be your redeemer, your savior.

Will you allow the Spirit of the Lord to rest upon your during these Advent days? Are you strong enough to bring a certain discipline (yep, that word!) into these four weeks of Advent? What discipline? The effort to give to yourself the time to share one part of each "advent" day with your inner spirit, to learn to know that you can be so filled with joy on Christmas day because you have opened our heart, your spirit to the Spirit and his guiding voice to you as you prepare yourself as a gift to God when he comes to you at the end of your time.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Monday: First Week of Advent - 2009

Today we here Jesus starting fresh ... calling some of his band of followers. Isn't this what Jesus is saying to us at the beginning of each Advent season: look who is inviting you to walk with him.

You initiated another Advent yesterday. The question today is this: Did you write down for yourself in specific terms what it would be that you would do to make this Advent season different? Different in what way, you might ask?

Like resolutions that are made on December 30th or 31st, unless you take the time and planning to be specific, when you are two or three days from the day you made a resolution, the grand idea that you had will be so far away you might not remember it.

Today, write down in simple language and with specific words what you want to do to make this Advent so special for yourself. An example might be this: To better celebrate Christmas this year, each day of Advent I will read to myself on several occasions my hope for the season: My goal for this Advent is to set aside ten minutes each day, in a quite place, to see myself fulfilling a resolution for the month. I will take the time to read the gospel reading of the day four times, each time very slowly. Then for five minutes I will sit in quiet ... letting the Spirit speak to me from the words I have just read ... and I will write down one sentence that sums my thoughts.

Photo by: Suebeeduebee

First Sunday of Advent

Light a candle ... the journey begins!

Today we begin a very special journey, one that we have traveled a few times or perhaps, like myself, more than 60 times. It is very special because it is a journey that runs parallel to a journey that is always running the traveler to ragdom! The travel that the Church offers us today and for the next four weeks is an experience of "heart and soul" conditioning. The Church offers you the opportunity to make Christmas 2009 the best Christmas yet!

Advent is a time when you can you can grab the hand of your soul for the journey. In doing that you will find yourself not just walking but actually sensing your spirit flying far above the "rat-race" condition that easily can overtake your heart, soul and mind.

Christmas truly loses -- it continues to be a celebration of longing -- when Advent means little or nothing, if is lost in the modern madness of a very secular month of Christmas shopping and other pre-Santa arrival activities. Imagine what Christmas would be like, if the Church continued Ordinary Time until Lent. Remove the Christmas hymns and leave only Jingle Bells and other secular songs: what would be lost? December would not be December.

Today we begin the re-celebration of the coming of a Saviour into our lives. It is a Savior who has come, is coming to us in this very liturgy and will come tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrows. Today’s Advent inauguration gospel speaks rather harsh words and image interpreting the signs of the times. Like Lent, Advent is a time for us to look at the signs of the times in our hearts. Unfortunately for many, this search is run over by the search for best buys, for the best parties, the best gifts ... the best of everything but except for the best gift that we have been given.

In psychology class or your own reading you may have learned about “autosuggestion.” It is a law of nature -- for what is good as well as for what is destructive. Remember it deals with repetition. Say something to yourself or others often enough and you will believe it and live it. During Advent, tell yourself each day that you live in abundance and your life will be plentiful for you and others. Tell yourself each day over and over that that you cannot spare the time for any spiritual efforts during December and you will achieve that reality: you will be something of a spiritual failure. Tell yourself you are a horrible sinner: you will go down in defeat, ending your life in emptiness, misery and distress. Listen to this poem (author unknown but provided by Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich):

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll, you’re lost,
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a person’s will --
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got be be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster (man)
But soon or late the one who wins
Is the one WHO THINKS (S)HE CAN!

This is the message I hope you can strengthen in your lives during this season of Advent. May your ADVENT this year be four weeks of genuine awareness of the abundance that is God’s intention for you, for each of us. Let your abundance be the best gift that you share with one another, with your family, other friends and, wherever possible, with those who don’t realize how much abundance God has given to them. This is a magnificent journey, isn’t it? May you enjoy every day of it. Amen.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank You For Keeping Me Posting


The good Lord gives each of you abundance.
Today join me in thinking
"I am so blessed by God."

As you look at the produce of our harvest season,
know this:
While we celebrate Thanksgiving Day annually,
every day can be a thanksgiving day
to look upon the friends around us
is to look upon the face of God.

Despite hard times that you might be enduring
remember this:
each challenge you encounter
is but the key to success
never let a challenge overwhelming you
give thanks to God
for what he has entrusted to you
you are his promise
of love and care
to all who are with you
to all who rely upon you
to all who enjoy you

Let us give abundant thanks today
and every day

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What am I called to be?

Variety is the spice of life ... you've heard that at least once in your lifetime. Today the Church celebrates the life of an extraordinary priest ... especially for the people of Poland. St. John Canty, a native of Krakow, Poland, was a very bright, scholarly priest. However, what made him so strong and so admired during his priesthood was his humility. Truly this John was a humble priest. And what made him such a model of humility? The answer is simple yet so very difficult for most people to live.

He realized what he was called to be.

That is the challenge for each one of us. The picture is part of the spice rack from a local Capitol Hill store. It reminds me of all of us ... we have a place, we have a role that has been given to us by God. The challenge, however, is for us to discover what seems to be among the greatest mysteries in each person's life.

When baptizing a newborn or even one that is a year or two old, I have this thought as I am pouring water -- and for me it is always a pitcher-full: what will this child become in his/her lifetime? Will he/she be famous or infamous or just a truly humble person? Remember this: true humility is not hiding in the corner. True humility is learning what it is that God has planned for you. True humility is accepting the vocation God wants you to follow and then living it to the fullest not just for yourself but for others as well.

So, on the day before we celebrate a day of national gratitude and the "official" beginning of the holiday season, you might consider St. John Canty and what he models for us: he knew what God wanted of him and desired nothing more. Does this resonate with me and my life? Can you see yourself on the shelf in the picture above? Do you recognize where you fit it God's plan?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eagerness for the will of God!

In the closing prayer from yesterday's Divine Office, the Office of Readings, there were a few words that continued to spring to my mind throughout the day and even this morning.

Increase our (my) eagerness to do your will

In particular the word "eagerness" captured my attention as I read the prayer and as I considered the words of the petition: I cannot say that I think of doing the will of God with "eagerness." I know I try to live my life with attentiveness to the will of God. I also know that even as I grow older, I find myself discovering how the will of God manifests itself in different ways that I have never considered.

With the sentiment of the petition, look at the picture ... from a Nevada site. There are at least five layers or levels that go out from me and you, the viewers. The upfront greenery to the far distant mountain range. These levels do offer me this thought: Attention to the will of God in my life, probably in your life, deals with levels. Some days the will of God is right before me and I want to go up to it. Then there are days when I can hardly see the will of God for myself.

The photo does offer a wonderful moment or two of opening up in prayer to the will of God.

Monday, November 23, 2009


The pathways we walk at this time of the year are often strewn with the produce of all the trees that give us shade during the summer months. This week, Thanksgiving week, is a time of remembering all those people and events for which we should be thankful. We have benefited from what these folks or events have provided for us.

A genuine challenge would be to take a little time to think back on those quiet people, those less blessed that you are, those most people don't recognize, who have done something for you during the last year. Wouldn't your Thanksgiving celebration be so much more meaningful?

As a priest, I know that my life has been blessed by so many people who go out of their way to help me in different projects. Likewise I have encounter some who are just "getting by" who leave something for me. Or the young kids that still drop me a hand drawn picture of whatever ... so often an altar or a cross. Also I think of several street people that I used to encounter while living at St. Joseph's Rectory. Each time I would see them there would be not a word of "can you help me?," but words of greeting and wishes for the best of the day. So often I was the recipient of all they had to give! I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit has opened my heart and eyes to see these exchanges of gifts.

This is what Jesus is teaching you and me in today's gospel. These words in Luke 21:1-4 have been the underlying inspiration for so many movies, books and sermons. During the next few days, stop, look and listen: not for a train but for those grace-filled moments, so often happenstance events.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Week

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Our Kind of King

Today we celebrate "Christ the King." How many of the OT Jewish wanted a king, a victorious king! How many of the NT folks who followed Jesus say in him a kingship, an opportunity to share in his authority and power! In their hearts the beat was to a different kind of kingship -- far, so very far from what Jesus came to preach and to be.

The picture proposed for Christ the King, at least for me, is what I imagine and hope Jesus our King would be. His is truly a kingship like no other experienced in history. Unlike all those who have ruled with kingly power, his kingship continues even today. Unlike those before and after his time on earth, Jesus' authority and power were so different. The kingship of Jesus, the Christ, is a life of service to all people, especially to the poor -- of whatever brand of poverty -- and the needy -- again of whatever brand of need.

To be sure, Jesus' brand of kingship fails the wants of the proud, the pompous and the haughty. Our king is truly branded when he feeds the hungry, when he protects those ridiculed or mistreated. The life of Jesus Christ, the King, is not one of trumpeted politial accomplishments. The life of the Bethlehem baby is, rather, the outstretched hand, the shoulder-comforting arm, the teared face when a friend dies, the patience when a colleague fails. He is the king who gave "his life as a ransom for the many."

"Hail, Redeemer, King divine."

How wondrous these words proclaiming his kingship is of God!

Photo: Simon Downy

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Unhappy is the land that has no heroes...
Unhappy is the land that needs a hero."
(Galileo, a play by Bertold Brecht)

The first reading in today's Eucharistic Liturgy brings us to consider one of the heroes of the Jewish faith in the time before Jesus was born. This is the story about Mattathias and his five sons. Distraught because enemies had taken over Jerusalem. Sacrileges abounded in the city and in the most sacred of places, the Temple in Jerusalem. "Her temple has become like a man disgraced ... we see our sanctuary and our beauty and our glory laid waste" (vv 8-13).

The story today took place around the year 167 BC. Because Mattathias loved his Jewish faith, he moved his sons out of the Jerusalem area to settle in Modein. There he could continue to worship as he believed ... until the king's officers moved into Modein to "organize the sacrifices" to different gods and idols. In the chosen selection of the Book of Maccabees for today, we read of the efforts to get Mattathias and his sons to give up their faith.

Today there are so many different challenges to Roman Catholics especially in our American homeland. In the city of Washington, DC, Catholics are faced with a decision by Church leaders (authorities). The City Council of the nation's capital city are debating a resolution to approve same-sex marriages. The Catholic Archbishops and a number of other faith leaders, especially in prominent African-American churches have spoken out against the possible affirmative decision of City Council. In response to the possibility, the Catholic Church leaders have made public that such an action would result in the ending of many relationships with the city. These relationships basically are those city contracts with the Archdiocese where social services are provided for many of the city's poor and elderly are assisted. As one would expect in today's society, the fabric is one of many colors, like Joseph's coat. Several Pastors, in conversations yesterday, said that they have been pummeled with calls by and meetings with parishioners. Some are angry with the Church, some threatening to hold back fulfilling pledges to a major capital campaign of several years ago, some saying this might be the straw that breaks the camel's back requiring a move to another faith and, of course, those who see themselves as champions of the faith.

Being a Catholic today is not easy for everyone who says "I am a Catholic." Those who maintain a very strong position supporting the Archdiocese's actions as well as those who challenge fighting the city on the backs of the poor and needy each see leaders in their particular stance at this time.

For a Catholic in our city these days, there is a genuine need for much prayer and reflection. For our leaders both Church and civil, there is great need for dialog and prayer as well. For all of us from Washington, DC or elsewhere, it is a time for reflection and prayer.

The photo above is that of the smallest National Cemetery in the United States. It is the burial ground for those Union soldiers who died at the battle of Ball's Bluff, located in Leesburg, VA. The cemetery overlooks the Potomac River. There at the site, just outside the walls surrounding the 50 some entombed loyalists is a marker in memory of the first and only US Senator to have died in battle but who is buried in the Presidio, in San Francisco. The following is from the U.S. Senate Records:

Senator Killed in Battle
October 21, 1861
Senator Edward Dickinson Baker, veteran of the Mexican war, well-known lawyer and orator, and confidante of President Abraham Lincoln, answered his country's call to battle in 1861. Leaving the Senate Chamber behind, Baker led his troops into the Battle of Ball's Bluff and became the Senate's first and only sitting member to die in battle.

So today being a Catholic in the city of Washington demands extraordinary strength. Are we unhappy because we have no heroes or unhappy because we need a hero?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday: The Awesome Human Creation

Today, I strongly encourage the reading from the II Maccabees book from the Old Testament used in today's liturgy. It was composed around the end of the second century before Christ. So it is significantly ancient! This particular "story" should impact every adult human being that ever asks, "Where did I come from?"

The particular account reports admirably about an unnamed mother who "saw her seven sons perish in one day" (v. 20). The words ascribed to the mother whose heart was "fill with a noble spirit" (v. 21), present a courageous mother who encouraged her sons to remain true to "the law given to our fathers through Moses" (v. 30) -- i. e. not to eat pork. The king, Antiochus, had ordered the arrest of the seven sons and mother because they refused to break the law, to eat pork. It was the kings way of attempting to break down the Jewish religious practice.

This particular section of the OT writing also prsents an extraordinary account of a seven-times mother's understanding of the truly almost unbelievable experience of pregnancy. As one Benedictine monk, Wilfred Theisen, himself a physicist, wrote "In fact, when we reflect on all of the miracles that Jesus worked, even raising Lazarus from the dead, we must conclude that pregnancy is a greater wonder than any of our Lord's miracles."

The mother's words, you would suspect, were composed by someone in whom there was embedded a genuine spiritual cosmology. The mother's words present a woman's view of the creation of a child in a mother's womb: "nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed" (v. 22). Further, she adds, "... it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man's beginning ... " (v.23).

In short, then, the words should bring any reader to pause in wonder adn genuine awe at his or her own very being. How did I get here? How was it that two of the smallest biological elements came together and made me, made you? This brave mother's words "... it was not I who gave you the breath of live ..." (v. 22) should strengthen our own respect for every pregnant woman. She is not simply another woman with a protruding stomach. Within her very body, the expecting mother makes ready, with the power of God, to give the world not simply a biological wonder but indeed a human being created by God. A pregnant woman is a sacred being: she is truly a very special temple, carrying within her "a greater wonder than any of our Lord's miracles."

And the newborn pictured above? Let the proud uncle share with you my nephew Joey's firstborn just minutes after arriving among us in August.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Friday: Embarrassment of Holiness??

During a recent conversation two people were talking about others not present at the table. It was a most unusual conversation. All that was shared was the goodness that filled the lives of people they were discussing. Again it was a most unusual conversation. I tried to imagine the reaction of those not present had they been present to hear the praise and admiration being heaped upon them.

How enjoyable is it to hear someone praise work that you may have recently done? It would be satisfying at the least. What further satisfaction there would be within your heart if someone comments privately to you that your efforts for a recent project made all the difference in the world. Likewise, how good you would feel if someone told you, a single parent, that your teen-aged children were genuine models to younger children. There could be similar examples of your successes.

Most people, it seems, find adulation and even genuine thanksgiving difficult to accept. There seems to be a true embarrassment, perhaps true humility, in such moments but down deep there is a good feeling. Read through the Psalms and you will find God praising good works.

But how often does being told you have a genuine holiness in your character happen? How often do we speak about others and their holiness? These circumstances seem to be a challenge to most people. Why?

Holiness is a personal status. When is the last time you asked yourself, "Am I holy? Am I striving to be a holy man, a holy woman"? An openness to holiness in life might be a help to others. How many fathers take the time to share with a teen-aged sons their own personal struggles with growing in holiness? I would imagine these young people would think their dads had lost it if they heard them say something like, "You know criticizing you comes easily at times. But I want you to know this about your dad. Each day I struggle with being holy. Each day I have to bring a close to another 24 hours asking myself how good I have been to your mom, to you and your siblings and to the boss in my office. That kind of "examination" each evening as I sit in 'my chair' is a test to see if I am being holy ... as I promised when your mother and I were married. Let me tell you what I imagine my journey to holiness is. Junior might likely want to run away. Today's readings from the liturgy reflect models of holiness.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

For Monday: The Graces of Happenstance!

Happenstances can alter your life ... if you are wise enough to take the opportunities these events offer. Today's gospel records such an event. True happenstance = being in the right place and at the right time. Surely the blind man sitting along the Jericho road found out what happenstance could become in his lifetime. Image the reaction of those who refused to help him get to meet Jesus and those who did get him close to Jesus when Jesus said your faith has brought you healing. Surely there has to be mixed emotions.

Now think back into your life: how many happenstances have been put on a platter before you but were rejected because "I am too busy"? Bishops and Pastors take note!! Or how many happenstance instances were there when you felt no desire to try an help the person seeking assistance." These were rejections to people who needed your help, your guidance, your willingness just to be the ear that refused to shut down when there is an uncomfortable feeling. These turned out to be moments when the happenstance was rejected and a brighter day, a sense of relief, an inner joy was blocked by your response.

Probably more often than not we reject happenstances that could possibly lead others to Jesus Christ himself. Perhaps there would have been a moment when Jesus would have said to that person ... your faith has saved you. Would you want to meet God who would ask you why you didn't reach out to the person who had great need?

No doubt that happenstance can easily be judged as God helping you discover his plan for you at this particular time, in these particular circumstances.

And remember this: happenstance demands a very definitive boldness and vulnerability. Are you strong enough to recall at the end of each day how you house have been set up so that you can respond affirmatively to the happenstance moment!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Reflection: Boldness of Hope

Readings for Sunday

As priest, I have personally as well as in the lives of others experienced the need to see through the eyes of hope solutions to moments of suffering and collapse. These are the moments when my spiritual life is challenged by laziness or succumbing to distractions; moments when God's care is questioned; moments when a personal kingdom has collapsed.

Where do we turn? Some turn to alcohol, tobacco. Others get hooked on narcotics. There are those who turn to bitterness or anger. Unfortunately some just give up. Yet, there are countless expressions and examples in both the Old and New Testaments that provide the way to relief, the escape from the heavy cross of frustration. The message is both simple and, at the same time, so terribly demanding: trust in God! If you turn away from this answer, you might be admitting it truly is "terribly demanding."

Throughout the same Scriptures there are many descriptions of pain and anguish. Often times the pangs of giving birth are used by Jesus, the Evangelists and others who have authored Letters or Books in the Bible. Whether we turn to these authors, only a portion of the world has ever experienced giving birth to a child ... the wonderful mothers among us. My paternal grandmother in the course of her life, delivered two children whose heads were crushed during the delivery process. One boy was 18 pounds and another delivery, a girl, was 17 pounds. You mothers surely grimaced when you read those weights! Nonetheless, the birth of a child with all of its preliminary pregnancy discomforts as well as the serious pain during delivery becomes insignificant as soon as a nurse or doctor place the newborn in the loving cradle of Mom's arm.

From every experience of collapse or pain, we are given a gift It is a new beginning, a new horizon. It is the promise and experience of such an advent that reassures us that God is present for us. This is why we hope. This is why we are called to believe that there are times when we cannot resolve the collapse, the anguish, the loss without trust in God.

For human nature to hope beyond all else is truly boldness. Int he very act of hope, I surrender. There is in the profession of hope a surrendering to a power greater than the self. To hope in moments of economic loss, during days of conflict and battle or within the painful anguish of personal failure, to hope in these moments is a genuinely audacious act. There should not be surprise in finding hope always incorporated with two other virtues, faith and love. Why? To stand before the act of believing, the act of loving, the act of hoping we are standing at the threshold of surrender! We are brought before the God who created in need of his care. Is this not the reason we light a candle when there is need in any kind of darkness?

"Lord ... you it is who hold fast my lot."
(Psalm 16:5)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why is a sunset or a sunrise so captivating, so magnetic? Why is the smiling and giggling of a newborn baby so uplifting and inspiring? Is there something in me or you that is attracted by or drawn to so many marvelous creations in our world?


In today's first reading from the Book of Wisdom, there is a clue:

From the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.

Think about it for a moment. There is something within that brings us to the created world around us: we, too, are among God's great creations. For me it is very difficult to understand those who profess that they are atheists. Seeing God in the skies on a clear night is an experience that immediately draws me to ask, "How did you do that, God?" Pictures that modern technologies have brought to us from outer space, far, far away from our planet are truly awesome. To see a newborn panda bear and to know that it will be as large or larger than the mom trying to hold the tiny creature in her paws makes me wonder about the greatness of the God who makes this happen.

To be honest, I feel sorry for the atheist. Look what is missed. Look at the joys, the inspiration, the imagination about the power and love of a God who does all this for you and for me.

And you? Do you react as I do upon seeing the picture above? It surely brings me to God in a unique way. What a gift he has given me! I hope you share in it as I do.

Sorry this is so late today. Dealing with notification of my cousins about a cousin's former husband who died of liver cancer last evening. Pray for Jim, if you would not mind.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not taking time to understand the gift of wisdom is very much like the title of a recent publication, Three Feet from Gold. Remember: our God-given purpose comes with a unique aide: wisdom. Earlier this AM, during a Mass which was attended by a third grade class, I ask the question: What is wisdom? Interesting insights from a three year old mind: "to be wise", "to know what you are doing", "to know what is right ... and what is wrong."

The first reading today is a very clear expression of what this God-given gift is. It is a way of understanding "... and I will always be with you." While God gave each of us a mission while we are living on this earth, he may not have instilled the mission within our minds and hearts in a forceful way. We can live our life as we want, that's our free will. However, God does not send us on the mission without a game plan if we take the time to learn it, take the time to find it, take the time to understand it.

I found these words this morning from The Awakening Day website and I believe their message is worthy of a few moments reflection especially "knowing yourself is true wisdom." And, as we all know, not always and easy task. But the grace of wisdom is there for us as we dig for our own gold.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Born before the waves of Vatican II lapped the shores of your life? If so, no doubt, you can surely remember how teachers, preachers and parents -- many of them, not all -- tried to teach us something contrary to what Jesus taught. You must surely be thinking now? The answer: to build a life that was grounded on a strong and confident love of oneself was sure to lead us to destruction!

And what was Jesus teaching throughout his lifetime that was contrary to not loving yourself and being strong in that kind of love? What Jesus taught was that love of oneself was without any doubt the foundation of of a good spiritual life. If you take a few moments to let your mind and heart be with the Holy Spirit as you consider that love of self is so critically important, perhaps your heart and soul will find genuine peace and strength. Maybe you will end up saying to yourself, “Yes, yes! I am that God created being and I love myself because ‘self, you were God’s gift to me and to the world.’”

Self esteem is truly a grace that God offers each of us. It, also, is a key to our success if it is a love that brings us to a genuine sense of gratitude both to God and to those who are part of our lives. Stop and consider this now: Without a genuine self-esteem, a balanced love of oneself, without this none of us will be able to fulfill the life God wants for and from us.

Why was Jesus frustrated by the [nine lepers] who did not return to thank him? It was not their failure to express their gratitude. Rather it was because the nine had lost out on sharing in the great gift of gratitude. What a peace and joy there is in the life of the ones who know every day and in so many ways that there is the opportunity to express heartfelt thanks.

Do you think this is “way out there?” Listen to these words that are in the Responsorial psalm for today Eucharistic Liturgy:

“I said: You are gods, all of you, sons
(and daughters) of the Most High.”
Psalm 28

Don’t lose a grasp on these words, words from on high, as we say: you are beautiful and you are handsome. And God said that about you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Attitude is more important than aptitude."

In the sales world the phrase above is used in many training workshops. It is a sentiment good for each of us today, especially in a world of stress, a time of crisis, on a hopeless day. It is a statement we can use to evaluate our own spiritual life. This simple sentence can be used to discern why my Creator God has me here on this earth at this time.

We use the word "attitude" in many ways. However, today I hear it more often than not in this sentence: 'He/She has a real "attitude" problem. Ask yourself this question: What is the meaning of this sentence, this sentiment for me? Let me help with the answer. Is it not an expression of a person's reaction to or handling of the "cards that have been dealt" in his/her life or the people encountered each day?

Doesn't the attitude I manifest in every situation reflect the values I carry within my heart? Each of us is "here on a mission from God." Each of us also has an attitude toward how I live and work in that mission. Whether in an office, a classroom, on a job site, in a hospital, even while using public transportation, what is the attitude I make known in how I react to situations or other people?

Aptitude is not THE key to success for sure. Is it not the attitude or, better yet, is it not the passion that is the fire in my belly that can lead me to live in the fulfillment of God's plan for me?

A few words from the Responsorial Psalm in today's Eucharistic Liturgy might give you some thoughts:

The Lord has eyes for the just and ears for their cry ...
the Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
(Psalm 34, 17 and 19)

Oh, the models above? Two friends who may now wish
they had never visited me in those uniforms!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

St Joseph's Church on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

There are those who question why the universal Catholic Church celebrates the dedication of a building, albeit a church. And, quite honestly, it is a good question. Let's look at this picture of a beautiful church where this blogger celebrated Masses for the last year. It depicts a beautiful building, a very clean, neat and polished edifice. But there is something about this picture that tells us why we celebrate the dedication of a church. Your answer? Read the words of a Preface Prayer us for the Celebration in a Dedicated Church. Here you may have an inkling to the answer.

We thank you now for this house of prayer in which you bless your family as we come to you on pilgrimage. Here you reveal your presence by sacramental signs, and make us one with you through the unseen bond of grace. Here you build your temple of living stones and bring the Church to its full stature as the body of Christ throughout the world ....

Here at St. Joseph's Church, as in any Catholic church or chapel, there is profound mystery not solely in the presence of the Eucharist but in the presence of the people and clergy. So we celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome for several reasons: (1) it is the mother church in Rome (not St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City); (2) it is the official "cathedral" of the Holy Father; (3) it is a reminder that our churches are the places where we build community, the body of Christ; (4) it is the locus for the celebration of most sacraments in our Church. In essence, a church or chapel is a unique place where the community of believers gathers to celebrate their faith, to build strength as the people of God.

So, the first reading today, from Ezekiel, is a symbolic presentation of the church as a grace-filled experience for believers, all those who are touched by the "waters of grace" throughout their lives.

This celebration of the dedication of a church so far removed from most people's experience is simply a reminder that all of our churches are indeed holy places where we join ourselves with one another and the whole Catholic Church. It is in and through these sacred edifices that we, the "living stones ... bring the Church to its full stature as the body of Christ throughout the world."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday: "... from her poverty, has contributed all she had"

hard times that weigh heavily upon so many -- how many millions are now unemployed?? -- has there been a day in your life when you had no roof over your head? when you did not have food to eat? when you did not have clothes to wear?

A very special lady in my teen-aged years, Estelle by name, now already some years again with her Creator God, shared a moving story about her younger days. She was a farmhand's daughter in North Carolina. When Christmas morning came, she would know that her parents had been able to save some money when there were two oranges in the Christmas stocks for herself and her siblings. Two oranges: that was Christmas! But these were truly formative years and Estelle treasured what she learned. She learned to be grateful to God for what she did receive.

As she grew older, she moved north. She married and birthed two wonderful children. Her husband, who also struggled to gain a college education, long before the colleges became a way of life, became a successful man. Theirs was an upper middle class family in the '40s and '50s. However, she realized that as painful as the tough road her parents walked, she learned that giving was always important.

As her family began to grow, Estelle continued to practice what her mother taught her: sewing. It was the only way that she and her siblings had clothes. Her mother would tailor the material into shirts, blouses, trousers, suits and even overcoats. This was her teaching moment to her family: even though your father may have a decent income, you should remember it is just too easy to spend on yourself. We need realize that we have to have some funds to help others.

Estelle recalled how on one occasion when someone mentioned that so smaller children were "rag-tag clothed," one of Estelle's children reminded her that they had some clothes that no longer fit them because they were getting taller. Could we give those clothes to help? Indeed they could because what Estelle made lasted, and lasted. What a joy it was to know that her children had learned that giving of what you have is so important. She was so proud of her children. She never spoke a word about how good she was in teaching them how to give.

Many are the avenues to give of ourselves , to give beyond the little extra that might be available. What we give when it truly "costs" a little comfort or some easy living is so much more than giving what really does not mean much to us.

Thanks, Estelle. Keep sending those messages from your heavenly home where I am sure there are more than two oranges!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday: How Many Does It Take????

How many people does it take to make YOUR Thanksgiving Dinner????

St Paul's words of gratitude to a variety of people, as he concludes the letter to the Romans, is a reminder that scarcely a moment occurs without different people involved out front and behind the scenes. Health care is foremost in many discussions this morning, especially on Capitol Hill. Behind the members of the House of Representatives, behind surgeons, school principals, firefighters, police officers, EMTs, yes, even behind pastors and the writers of blogs stand many who work in a wide variety of ways to accomplish a common mission. This is what Paul recognized in these final verses of the Romans' letter.

Paul's words are a message of hope shining out to each person: you are not insignificant. There are many people who assist in whatever needs you may have or have had. Earlier this morning I read about a man who had a knee operation, as did a close friend of mine just last week. Both of these men mentioned the first names of almost 15 people each man came to know by name as well as the unnamed behind the immediate care that was given.

It is easy at times to think "I am just a nobody." How important can one person be if the total community is in the millions? Do you really want to know? Well, in the mind of God, you are a very unique individual, you are special. Imagine, if you have the time, all those who were involved in your birth: from the moment of conception until ... well, until now, until this very moment that you are reading these words. This community of your personal support staff is the team God put together not solely to care for you. God put "your team" together and will continue to build it until you die when another team takes over ... praying for you and all the souls of the faithful departed!

God has gathered "your team" so that you could discover and fulfill the mission, the purpose, the intention, he had for you when he brought you into this world. Now, really, isn't this an awesome thought, a genuine truth? Is there any other reason than this that would bring the writer of the psalms to give us these words: "I will praise your name forever, Lord"? This man got it!

And you? Have you ever included "your team" in your prayers of thanksgiving? Just as the picture puts before you two of the many that put together a large family Thanksgiving Dinner each year for each person who shares the table. Why? Because YOU are important.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday: Considering REFORM

"You are Peter and this rock I will build my church." We remember these words of Jesus. What can we glean from Jesus' words and actions? Some might have thoughts of majestic construction. Indeed others might think of genuine reconstruction, rehabilitation. By selecting Peter, Jesus is teaching us that the community of the Church would never be perfect. Peter was known as a leader but also as a sinner. Thus Jesus was offering a reminder that all of Jesus' followers would also be followers of Adam and Eve. We would be a people in need of more than repentance. That "more" would take up the hearts and efforts of some to be reformers. Ignatius of Loyola, in the Spiritual Exercises, offers a meditation on Two Kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of evil. Through a reflection on the contest between the divine and what we might call evil, Satan or sin, we reflect on a very human reality: the need for repentance, yes, but more importantly on the need for reforming our lives. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reflects on his own life: I am a sinner and I will always be a sinner, tempted by the not-so-good kingdom. Repent, I will. Yet, so often I find myself in need of forgiveness for the same faults and sins.

Perhaps we might more often recall Peter and his days of weakness as a reminder that humanity will always carry the cross of human weakness, of a tendency to sin.

Let us use today as an opportunity to examine our lives, to discover that we need in our lives more than repentance. Each of us can visualize in my heart and mind where my life needs serious efforts at change and rebuilding the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of goodness. In that experience I will discover again my sins but at the same time that my God is a God who forgives and that out of my effort to reform, I will have drawn myself so much closer to the love of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday: And Who Is It I Have Judged?

Today's readings should lead readers to consider how judging others might be cross in their lives. Paul reminds us that each of us will come before God to account for the actions in our lives. Likewise Paul reminds us that God did not appoint anyone of us to be the judge of others. It is his prerogative -- thanks be to God!

At the same time the gospel recalls the comforting story of the good shepherd who trusts the flock will stay together while he goes in search of just one of the sheep that has separated from the flock. Luke's account of Jesus' words to the challenge of the Pharisees at the dinner with Jesus reminds me of Paul's reminder: how easily people judge others.

In our society today it is so easy --and so frequent-- to condemn those who just do not meet my personal standards. Throwing the darts is a genuine sport when the bulls eye is on another person's back, isn't it? How do I treat the teenager who is pregnant and so frightened? Who will support her in the journey to birth rather than abortion? How do I treat the young adult who has come to realize the he is gay? Who will stand by him in the moments when family and friends ridicule or attack his reality? And what about that bag lady on the corner every morning? Who reaches out to her? Do you ever think this: "There, but for the grace of God ... go I."

What must the artist have had in mind as he depicted Jesus as you see him in the picture above? Do you think this might be how Jesus would take some of his time to reflect upon those whose openness to lost individuals is minimal.

This thought also crossed my mind as I reflected: How can the fallen return to the Lord when criticism and condemnation rain down from those who proclaim to be true Christians? Reminds me of a remark a friend once made years ago: "See the Christians and how the club one another!"

Photo: Simon Dewey

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

For Wednesday: Grab a Cup and Examine A Little

Today our Church celebrates the feast of one of the "greats" whose lived largely contributed to the building of a strong, well-educated clergy. St. Charles Borremeo. If you are reading this blog, you should read a brief but full account of this unique individual's life and value to our Church. It is worth the read.

The readings today call us to take a few moments to examine our own lives just as did St. Charles, St. Paul and Jesus himself. You and I, each of us is called to a vocation of service by our baptism. Your service, my service, may be very different. However, the Church, as we know, is built with many different living stones. St. Paul in the section of Romans we read today (13:8-10), teaches that should not allow ourselves to "owe nothing to anyone," except our love. In his mind and heart this very act of loving one another is a fulfillment of the law. Recall, it is the second part of what we hear called the greatest commandment: first, love God; second, love one another.

It is through our time in prayer that we have the opportunity to come to a deeper knowledge of who we are. Each person as a child of God, as you have read in these reflections, comes to this earth with an intention from God. Like Paul, like Charles, we can, in our prayer, discover what God hopes we can become.

Charles Borremeo came to see his vocation as a ministry to the Church is two specific ways: (a) service to the poor and (b) providing the means for priesthood candidates to be well-educated and formed in the spiritual life.

And you? How do you see God's intention for you in relation to your service to the Church, to the people of God? The picture above is an invitation for you to sit with your inner self for a while in consideration of this question: do I understand what God's intention for me is? Am I using the gifts, the talents that God entrusted to me as a human being, as his creation in our world and this time in its history? Do I know what those gifts are?
"Blessed is the man who is gracious and lends to those in need."

Monday, November 2, 2009

For Tuesday: Paul's Challenges!

St. Paul continues to lead us to a closer relationship with God. His vision, his words are avenues to a closer union with God. Be good the the needs of those who seek to be holy. Bless those who persecute you. Rejoice with those who celebrate; week with those who mourn in tears. Treat all alike.

Do all of this and you will be a saint? Is that why there are so few considering the totality of humanity? Who can achieve these goals? It is hard to go out of our very busy ways to be a true Christian, especially to those whose way of life is wrong or displeasing. As well, it is a true challenge to forgive.

But we can achieve these goals: Be fervent in spirit. Persevere in prayer. Exercise hospitality. These are Paul's directives to those seeking to be true followers of Jesus Christ.

Can you examine your life in the last several weeks and determine if you have followed his charges or at least one or two of them? It is so much easier to do their opposite. But the reality is this: this is how we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

For MONDAY, All Souls Day 2009

In Saint Paul's letter to the Romans, one of the readings included in today's Eucharistic liturgy, we have an opportunity to consider, once again, the remarkable love of God for each sinner.

We might think for a few moments about the consequence of God's love for us. His love is so strong, his love is so personal, that we are granted forgiveness for the sins in our lives. We at welcomed to his heavenly kingdom despite our failure to love him and one another as the two greatest commandments call us to live.

Today we begin a month of remembering those who have died before us. Not a time for just remembering, but a full month of praying each day that God gives to those who have died the fullness of the redemptive promise guaranteed to each of us through the suffering and death of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Why the need for our prayers? Atonement. We are called to atone for the sins of our lives. And how many sins may there be for which we did not make atonement. An interesting read is to Google "Purgatory Catholic Church." Read especially some of words of the great saints in their teachings about indulgences. Important is to remind ourselves again why "indulgences" have a place in the theology of sin.

During this month let us help those who have died and not fulfilled their obligatory atonement for the sins in their lives by offering our prayers and explicit sacrifices for the atonement of the sins of those who are still awaiting that fullness of Jesus' redemptive act of love, his death.

Pope John Paul II included these words in a Wednesday Audience, August 4, 1999: "For those who find themselves in a condition of being open to God, but still imperfectly, the journey towards full beatitude requires a purification, which the faith of the Church illustrates in the doctrine of "Purgatory." The Pope continued on to say that "Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected. Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church's teaching on purgatory. The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence. Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection ...."
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