Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday: 12 30 09 Wrapping Up Those Resolutions

There was a phrase in the gospel that Deacon Chester read that I would use to begin this reflection: “There was a man, Simeon ... awaiting the redemption of Israel.”

At this time of the year, radio and TV commentators are focusing on the past year, the past decade, the first of the new century as well as the year ahead of us.

We, ourselves, can look to the future as well. Many are planning resolutions for the year ahead. Let me assure you these will not work as
most of us may have experienced in years past once we have passed day three of the new year. What happens to us?

Each of us was always in the mind of God. We can not say when we arrived there because we know but do not understand divine time ... where
there is no marking of time.

Here’s an example I use with school children ... no offense to adults! Imagine an opened box ... the top lids are opened wide. On the right side on top of the lid is the time where we are in God’s mind. One day he says to each of us, “I am going to enflesh you and send you down into the box ... which represents the earth. There you will be accompanied by an Intention that I have for you. Your duty is to discover this intention through the gifts I have given to you: your personality, your skills, etc. You will have this intention with you all your life. But do you know it?

How can I know it? Well, it happens this way, God entrusts you with the intention and a particular Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who will be your power in the world. The Spirit will be your guide, he will inspire (enspirit) you.

This means you need a true spirituality ... every day trying to be aware of God’s relationship to you. The Church offers us the various season of the year to come to know God and how he is trying to work with us.

In the relationship you come to know the intention, the power. However, if we are not connected to God by a genuine spirituality, you will never succeed in accomplishing the resolutions you feel you need to make in the beginning of a new year. It just will not work.

So, back to the beginning. Making new year’s resolution? Remember they will not work unless you allow the power that God entrusts to you in the intention that he has for you in this work in the box that I described earlier. So, to make a new year’s resolution work, get inside your heart. Listen to the Lord and what he and the Holy Spirit want you to do, his intention for you. When you are linked to that intention, the Spirit’s power will enable you to accomplish your goals.

I will be out of computer capabilities until New Year's evening. Let us pray that God will bless all of in our efforts to make the new year a time when we are more aware of the many ways God shares his abundance with each of us.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tuesday, 12 29 09 PREPARATIONS

Well another Christmas is beginning to blur. New Year's Day is only hours away. TV and Radio as well as newsprint are pointing to hopes for the new year.

Our spiritual lives are worthy of review. Like the picture to the left, it happens that our spiritual lives can become somewhat blurred. Most individual, if honest, will 'fess up to the weaknesses that occur during a previous year. The intention was there ... but as we look back, perhaps we hear our inner voice: "It just wasn't strong enough." I know that any resolution or plan will be successful only if my intention is strong and deliberate.

One of the preparatory thoughts you might try to "wrap you brain around" as some have called the effort to get into our deeper selves, is to realize that looking simply at personal growth is insufficient: you need to know well your spiritual orientation. Without it, most likely, all the plans, all the resolutions will wash out to sea.

It is a looking into ourselves, looking into our spiritual lives that we bring ourselves to know not just the Holy Spirit but the power of the Holy Spirit. In dealing with this Person of the Trinity, we are not doing something. We are experiencing the presence and power of our Creator God.

Take a few moments, in darkness to be alone with one burning candle. Stare at the burning light for a while. In a short time your mind will have taken you from the surroundings to another place, to a space where you are with the Holy Spirit, where you are able to discern: and what should I seek to achieve in the year ahead. In the silence, listen. You will hear of voice in your heart. Again, it will be the power of the Spirit calling and leading you on your journey for the newest decade of the 21st century.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Monday: Holy Innocents Feast Day 12-28-09

The third day after Christmas, the birth of the Jesus child. Three days and feast days that commemorate martyrdom: St Stephen and Holy Innocents. What does the Herod-driven massacre of boys two years and under speak to us? More than 20 centuries later the massacre and damage has not ended ... to the contrary it has become a global scandal. Rare is the edition of a major newspaper that does not report evil inflicted on young people: abduction (and usually sexual abuse), physical and sexual abuse, starvation, various forms of torture, and even slaughter. Yes, slaughter when children are treated like animals.

The modern "innocents" are reminders that evil of tortuous pain is alive and well in villages, cities, states, and countries through the world. For us in the USA this can be no cause of pride in our "sweet land of liberty," the wealthiest nation on the earth.

The abuse and death of a child touches countless people not just one family. The abduction and murder of an eleven year old girl at Christmas stunned many in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Imagine the fears that must exist in the hearts and minds of many of our young people who hear radio and TV reports about children being harmed. Mustn't they look at many adults with leery suspicions? What an existence.

Can we not use the annual commemoration of the Holy Innocents to raise awareness of this prevalent evil in our generation? We, as a people, must be more than "stunned" by such events, such evils. We march each year in January to protest the legalization of the taking of the lives of young unborn children. What can we do to protect the young, born children in our society?

What does society think of itself when scenes like that above, posted by Burca Alice Larisa on her blog, are a reminder that such joy, such simplicity, such innocence is no longer safe in the world.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Today we celebrate a feast that may have lost significance because of it repetition and its nearness to the birth of the Christ child and New Year's Day. In this last year, fifty-one Sundays have passed us and our families. What were the top ten events in your life? Consider than for a moment. Is any one of those events related to your family? Let this feast be a signal for us to stop, look at and consider our families.

It is from our families that we receive our earliest education. Again I turn to my first grandnephew. There were more than a few who were trying to help this 9 month old wonder learn how to walk., teaching him balance and confidence. Hopefully those same "family teachers" will be there as he grows older to teach him how to respect others, how to know right from wrong, how to maintain religion in his life, how to have a sense of justice. Everyone one of us who are his cousins, his uncles, his aunts, his parents, grandparents, etc. etc. -- we, all of us, have a responsibility because Joey is now a part of our family, our clan. Family is a sacred bond that links us to a remarkable assembly of very different individuals.

As we draw closer to New Year's Eve and the efforts to select sensible and reasonable resolutions for the new year, look at your family first and foremost. Consider what you can do to repair wounds that might exist between siblings or other relatives? Consider what you might become for the teenager who is having a hard time adjusting to one of life's most challenging times of growing up. Consider the family members who have become the "seniors." Their lives become a new challenge every day as society and its way are passing by so swiftly.

There is nothing more rewarding, nothing more satisfying to know that you are a member of a family that strives to incorporate all the relatives into one unique collection of men, women and children who have a sacred bond that is summed up in four words: "This is my family!" And your pride in your family will only be equal to the amount of time and love you put into its success. Be a source of love, a source of joy, a cause of laughter to and for all of them. What will happen? Your life will be so much stronger. You will have so much satisfaction. And, assuredly, you will realize that you have an incredible source of strength should you ever need it.

Saturday 12 26 09 ST STEPHEN, MARTYR

What kind of martyrdom do most contemporary followers of Jesus endure? A reasonable question on this feast day! Even more reasonable when you consider the following words from today's gospel: "You will be hated by all because of my name" (Matthew 10:22). These words are a warning from Jesus to his disciples.

Yesterday my grandnephew was the star guest at a family gathering at the proud grandfather's home. Only nine months old, Joey stole everyone's attention. He is the most recent birth our our family following a ten-year hiatus of new arrivals into the family except the newer "in-laws"! Everyone had to take a turn holding Joey. How many times could "Be careful. Watch him!" be heard in the family room where we gathered to celebrate another child's birth some two thousand years ago -- surely the only birthday celebrated around the world since his birth. This is the child whose name, whose later teachings would and continue to demand witness.

It was witnessing to this child that would produce genuine martyrs throughout the centuries. His message to the world would lead men and women, like St. Stephen, to die witnessing death ... and that same belief will continue in our times and even afterward.

How does the birth of Jesus call you to witness his message -- to yourself? to your family? to your friends? and to your community? Does another celebration of the birth of the child, Jesus, have any impact upon your thinking, your prayer? What sacrifices does your commitment to him and his message have in our life?

Stephen, being stoned by unbelievers, called out "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Am I strong like him to stand for the message this same Jesus brings to me in my world today?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

This is the day when the night was so singular: "Once in Royal David's City." It is a unique moment not only in each Christian heart but in the hearts and minds of many others.

What does it mean to me? This is what each of us should be asking ourselves: "What does the birth of Jesus some 2000 years ago mean to me?" Putting aside the Jingle Bells, the Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, I truly need to know how this sacred night has impacted my life.

As a priest, my heart is filled with the many friends of mine who are hurting at this very moment: a cousin who has not been able to find employment; a brother and sister for whom health is a challenge; a priest-friend who has been unjustly accused of misconduct; a lady who is trapped by immigration laws; the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families painfully suffering their absence, especially their children and many others.

As well, my heart is filled with much joy as I think about those who have achieved some successes; a community of unique friends that I have begun to work with; an elderly neighbor who told me how grateful she is that there is another Christmas in her history; a friend who now must be relieved that she will have health insurance; a niece who has so wonderfully made the transition to high school life.

I was so delighted to be able to celebrate Christmas vigil with my family and close friends yesterday evening ... it truly was a children's liturgy. Likewise I was so blessed to be concelebrating Mass at my second home, St. Jane de Chantal parish as well as at my last post as a Pastor, Our Lady of Victory Church.

So what is all of this about? I share the pains and joys that all of us encounter each day. However, on this special day, do not these ordinary events, these challenges and these moments of abundance have a much deeper meaning as I place myself just outside the simple, smelly stable where the Son of God rests in the loving embrace of his mother and under the watchful eyes of his foster father. As I look upon Jesus, the newborn child, my hearts bring to him, even in these early moments of his life, my thoughts of petition and gratitude.

As I look upon this child, I know something about myself that is truly an abundance that can only be attributed to his love and care for me and all of us. I know that this is truly the Christmas gift I long from deep within my heart.

I pray that you are with me as well in these thoughts. May your Christmas Day be a moment of abundant love from your God and your loved ones.

Christmas Eve -- 2009

In a study and reflection on John 3:16, perhaps more recognized within the confines of a sports arena during the last decade or two, author and pastor, Max Lucado, penned these words: "At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable."

On Christmas eve, when we find some quiet time to contemplate the "reason for the season," perhaps a few moments watching Mary can offer us a meaningful way of understanding the magnitude of the moment.

Surely the classic artwork does not picture for us the truly extraordinary venue in which this young girl gave birth to the Savior of humankind. We should try to separate our mental imagery from modern depictions. Imagine what most today would call a miserable place to be born for anyone let alone the Son of God! As Ignatius Loyola would say to us, try to imagine, to sense the smells of the stable -- far from the perfumery world we have come to know. Imagine the coldness of the place: did Joseph bring the animals closer to Mary and her newborn? Imagine the loneliness of the countryside: no one was immediately present but Mary and Joseph when the child Jesus entered the world. Imagine how grateful Mary must have felt when several shepherds came upon the most unusual site which they may not have understood at first.

To you women reading this blog, what do you think Mary was thinking during the first hours of her child's life on earth? To you men reading these words, how do you think Joseph felt having to bring his wife into such a setting to give birth?

Christmas Day can have genuine significance for you if you let your heart and mind wander with these two questions? And, men and women readers, step into each other's thoughts for a few moments, try to think what Mary and Joseph must have felt and thought.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday: Fourth Week of Advent = No Ordinary Night

It is coming soon ... perhaps sooner than many would like. But the birth of Jesus Christ came to our world to sanctify the ordinary. Just consider for a few moments what the life of Mary and Joseph was during the few days that precede the actual birth of Jesus Christ. There is everything so ordinary about this long heralded arrival of a Savior.

Consider the preparations that are made when the Pope or the President of the USA plans to be present at an event. Nothing ordinary in these moments.

Yet, the Son of God, whose birth had been spoken by prophets, comes to our earth in a most ordinary manner. Missing were any medical personnel -- whatever that might have been in Jesus' time -- not in attendance were other royalty or specialists of every kind. CNN, FOX, MSNBC and the regular TV stations were -- thankfully -- were not involved.

So ordinary was Christmas eve and Christmas morning that a pregnant Mary and a concerned Joseph could not land a room anywhere along the way. Silk sheets were not used to comfort the newly born Son of God: try hay or straw or some stable rags that the young couple gathered together to use for the birth of their son.

We often speak about the simplicity of the birth of God's son here on our earth. However, when we stop to reflect on the kind of circumstances that surrounded the birth of Jesus, the simplicity should call out to us to understand what Jesus is teaching all generations.

What does his simple birth speak out to you? God spoke to the shepherds before anyone else -- even before he spoke to theologians, kings, legislators and so forth. Again, what does the simplicity of the night we hallow each year speak out to you?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday: Perfection through Imperfection

We are one novena away from Christmas Day. The Church shares with us a selection from St. Matthew's gospel that puts forward the genealogy of Jesus. We have read it or heard it many times. There were fourteen generations between Abraham and David, another fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian exile and a third fourteen generations from the Babylonian exile to the Christ. But included within these generations leading to the birth of Jesus there is a remarkable fact that most people pass over without any awareness. That fact is simply this: included in the generational lines are five women!!! Yes, women!!! This is a most extraordinary fact for the times in which St. Matthew was living. As we know, women did not count for much.

These five women -- Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary -- are not ordinary women. They are women who brought their offspring into the world through an "irregular" relationship with the father of the child except Mary who gave birth through an irregular most manner.

What was the purpose of St. Matthew and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in revealing these facts for us? Perhaps the answer is not so simple. God uses those who reflect that not all people called to serve God are perfect. Whether a prostitute, a foreigner, a woman married to another man or like Mary, pregnant before her marriage to Joseph, these women served God's plan for the birth of his Son.

We might, at times, wonder if God feels we are worthy to serve him in our chosen way of life. If we have sinned in ways that lead us to feel that God may not want us to be important people in his modern day kingdom, we might consider for a while this reality in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Son of God.

If we are God's creations, just as these women were, we are good. We are blessed with abundance of grace even though there has been slippage in our lives. We have to believe, we have to trust: God forgives and God uses us as his messengers in our times. How many of the saints we honor today have revealed to us their infidelities, their failures? Yet, we celebrate their goodness.

Let us repeat to ourselves the words of the Opening Prayer of the liturgy today: "May we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our human nature."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday: 12-15-09 Can You Believe It???

Those who are parents and those who have taken care of younger people know well something of God's care for all of us. When a young person fails, she/he is not tossed out with the trash. Parents know they cannot do that. The young person is their flesh and blood.

We are in a similar situation with God. We are "children of God." We know from countless citations in the bible that we daily live under the protection of God through the care of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit is God's "blessed assurance" that he will never abandon us. We often speak of our "guardian angel," another sign to us that God does care

Here's a thought that is truly astounding if we take a moment or two to let it sink into our hearts and speak to us: Jesus Christ paid such a price for our salvation and redemption that God could not take care of us. Can you imagine God not caring for you when he knows well what his Son would endure throughout his life but especially at the end for YOU, for YOU?

You might imagine this: there is an invisible tattoo on your body that reads "God made me. I am his."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday: The Authority Problem

The chief priests and elders put a question before Jesus that is not a stranger to us in our Church today: "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority." It is also that same question which, either directly or indirectly, is put before parents by their teen-aged "prodigies." Perhaps it is basically a question that can be expressed this way: "Why do I have to look up to others?"

There are many "hot buttons" in our faith experience today for a variety of topics that relate to our daily lives. Surely the respect for authority in our Church today is very different from what it was in the 1940s and 1950s. Likewise for civil society the challenge to authority is stronger than ever.

So, what should we consider this morning ... it's morning where I am today. In the Church we have to address in an open and honest manner this question: Where does this authority come from? Well, Jesus does not allow himself to be trapped by those confronting his power. Today, we have to look at what it means for us to proclaim, "Yes, I am a Roman Catholic." How do I respect the teachings of the Church? Am I open to dialog with others? And, even we must ask if the local Church leaders are willing to listen to those who have great difficulties accepting Church teachings. These are not easy questions. But, faithful Catholic, you are challenged by them each day of your life.

Any looking up requires stretching!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

3rd Sunday of Advent: Gaudete!!! Rejoice!!!

No! This blogger is not really way south of the border. One of the pictures that is embedded in my computer. But it seems to match the spirit of Gaudete Sunday.

In the gospel for today's Eucharistic liturgy you will hear or read "His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his bar, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Words from John the Baptist.

These words should be a cause of the joy the Church wishes us to share as we draw closer to Christmas Day. The words are a reminder that this is a time of joy: in our times of worries and problems, we have a Savior who has come to bring us new life.
This is the joy of the Christmas season. All of us, no doubt, have issues in our lives, our own wheat and chaff, good and bad. Gaudete, while intended to be a "day of relief" during the days when Advent, like Lent, was a time of severe penances and fastings, was establish to afford people a "break." It has become a day reminding us again of the joy that should be at the base of our hearts ... a joy brought by the Child Jesus at his birth.

The responsorial psalm reminds us that "God indeed is my savior." And, truly, we can be confident and unafraid. As the Psalmist wrote: "Cry out with joy and gladness for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Spirituality?

For the next nine days POTH (Pray On The Hill) will be reaching you from the west ... near the desert where some bare hillsides and simplicity speak out because they are not overwhelmed by too many other realities of God's creation.

Today's first reading about Elijah from the Book of Sirach, brings to mind what most people find themselves considering at different times of their lives: realistically what is spirituality? Where can I locate this "whatever" that I know that I should have? Today's world would ask where it can be purchased. It can be purchased but not with the "coin of our realm."

Elijah was a prophet, a man with a burning desire to serve his God. He was a man who felt an inner voice, a spirit, leading him, driving him, calling him to a mission. Recall the times you have read about the purpose of intention in the postings of this blog. Before we were born, we were in the mind of God. He chose each of us to assist him by entrusting to each of us a singular mission. Some might be the firebrand-type like Elijah; other might be more contemplative after a time of conversion like St. Augustine. It is our challenge in life to discover and to fulfill that mission entrusted to us. It is the inner-me, the inner voice that develops a sensitivity to what is around us, what needs there are around us, what beauty there is in the world we see through our eyes.

How do you know that the picture above, taken from the files embedded in this computer, is a presentation of beauty? Some might say "Look at the dislocated rock." Others might stare in awe. There is no beauty in the picture itself. What makes the picture strong is the spirituality in your heart, in your soul that you bring to your looking at the "misplaced rock" or an awesome sight.

Our challenge during the days of Advent -- and we now have come half-way through the pre-Christmas season -- is to become more aware of our own spirituality. By our growing a stronger spirituality, we become more open to what we see or hear in our world. We become more sensitive to people, their problems, their needs and the abundance that they do not realize God has given them and ourselves.

There is, I believe, no spirituality in the scene above. It is a rock, a creation in God's nature. However, it's power is simple: it can trigger your spirituality, you sensitivity to what you encounter. Imagine what our cities where there is much crime could be like if there existed a
genuine interest in a positive, not so greedy, not so possessive, spirituality. Yes, there can be a negative spirituality ... one that has been won over by the power of evil.

So, our Advent time is a chance for us to further strengthen our spirituality. Think about Elijah and how he listened to the spirituality that the Holy Spirit was stirring in his heart. Then ask yourself, "What is my spirituality? How much do I perceive goodness, beauty and love in the things and people I encounter each day?

Friday, December 11, 2009

A True Challenge to Your Beliefs

In the gospel today you will find what I believe to be a real challenge to your faith. You might also call it a genuine test of the strength of your beliefs. We Catholics say that we believe this or believe that. But when push comes to shove, we frequently end up feeling that we have failed.

" ... among those born of women there has been none greater that John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Do you believe this? Do you truly know what it is that Jesus was saying to the crowds?

Why do I ask these questions? For this reason: do you believe that you are greater than John the Baptist? Do you believe that there is an extraordinary grace about yourself that has been given to you by God? Greater than John??? Why not? Did he experience the event of the Passion and Death of Jesus? Was he aware of the Resurrection? Did he have the benefit of all the saints and the writings of the Church to guarantee what you have become aware of during your life time?

Hopefully you see that we are so blessed, so filled with abundance by God. It is that abundance that provides extraordinary powers to you. Surely, they will not

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Marian Reflection: December 8, 2009


On this special day, did you know that this song existed? It is a very moving reflection on the role of the Mother-of-God-to-be composed and presented by gospel singer Mark Lowry. You can find it on the Internet through most of the search engines. I used Google. Hearing it sung is powerful.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear,the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb---.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great--I--- AM---.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent: Second Sunday -- 2009 -- By the Fire

Where I live at the moment provides what I consider a luxury -- a real fireplace. Recently I purchased what turned out to be a trunk-load of firewood. As I piled the logs near the fireplace, I could only think of evenings before the fire. It was for me a moment of joy because I knew this pile of logs would be keys that would open up a part of the inner me.

Living alone, I have other luxuries: quiet, on interference and time to watch the myriad flame patterns leaping from their imprisonment within the logs. The striking of one match would set these millions of flame-patterns free. As the flames grow stronger each evening, I can almost play with the sound of the crackling from the supposedly dead wood. In my mind I let that noise be the squeaking sound of the sixty-eight year old doors to my inner self being pushed back as I enter into the presence of my soul. And I realize once again that it is I who has to take the time and effort to open the doors and take a seat to share thoughts with my soul ... and, of course, with the Triune God.

St. Paul's words from today's liturgy, Philippians 1:9-11, brought to mind the evenings by the fire. The picture above was last evening's fire. As I watched, I found myself about my relationship with God during this Advent season. How was God speaking to me? It seems so much easier to hear God sitting in the quiet and crackling of burning wood.

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ... in knowledge
and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value ....
(St Paul)

During these Advent days, so often so filled with distractions, activities and obligations to families, friends and the need among us, we are at the beginning of a new Church year and on the threshold of another calendar year. Yet where do most people find their "fireplace moments"? Clearly it is challenging to so many to find and treasure these reflective moments. Today's gospel also calls us in the words of St. John who baptized Jesus to private soul moments: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Saturday: First Week of Advent - 2009

We know that Advent is a season for waiting, a season in waiting. Yet, I suspect, no matter our ages, there are moments when we catch ourselves saying, "I can't wait until ...." Who has instructed us about how we should learn the waiting game, as some might name it? How difficult it must be for those who are seeking to return to the work force, for those struggling for survival. Surely waiting is painful for them.

Then there are those who say to themselves, "I can't believe God is taking so long to stand beside me. How long do I have to wait to get through these difficult moments?" Although God may seem to be distant and not present to these good folks, we have to have both the faith and trust in God. God has not forgotten those beaten down. He has not forgot to reach us how to get through the waiting period. He has suggestions.

The gospel for this Saturday, Mark 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8, contains what Jesus tells his disciples to do in order to make the best of waiting times. He does not suggest spending hours in chapel or church -- as some might expect. He does not discourage that, however. His directions to his disciples are a clue to us. God does not expect us to become couch potatoes in our waiting times. He tells the disciples to get about the work of the kingdom: "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons." Remember the next sentence: "Without cost you have received; without cost your are to give."

In moment of waiting get involved in helping others. The time will fly.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Friday: First Week of Advent -- 2009

Let the shadows be forsaken:
The time has come for us to waken
And to the Day our lives entrust.

Return to a principle of psychology which St. Bernard, a genuinely holy man makes so evident long before the great minds of science described it. The reality is the truly powerful tool available to each of us, free of any charge. Autosuggestion: an influencing of one's own attitudes, behavior or physical condition by mental processes other than conscious thought.

St. Bernard wrote these words in an Advent sermon:
One who loves (God) will keep God's word ....
I have hidden your word in my heart so that I man
not sin against you.... Let it (God's word) enter into your heart,
your very being, your whole way of life.
Feed on goodness, your soul will delight in its riches.

Advent season the beginning of the Church's calendar year, offers an opportunity especially to establish, to rebuild or to strengthen one's spiritual life, one's spirituality. And it is precisely the practice that strengthens the subconscious into a more permanent state of awareness -- autosuggestion -- that will draw us ever closer to God, to a worthwhile existence and ultimately top a heartfelt peace in the heart:

Can you not ask this question: "Have I become so busy in whatever I do with the hours of each day that I give God hardly a thought in my awakened hours. While you may not be a monk or a cloistered sister, recall the tradition that continues in monastic or convent life today. At several times the tradition that continues in the cloistered life continues on today. Several times during the day these vowed religious stop their activities to pen their hearts to their creator God in quiet reflection or recited psalms and prayers. What are they doing? Simply stated: these men and women who have personal challenges like most people are building up their interior spiritual powers . They are strengthening the muscles of their inner selves so that a good response will come to moments of challenges. They are training their subconscious to respond as they wish in circumstances. They must, like you and me, see to it that they can respond to as they wish in circumstanced they meet. Like you and me, they want to lives that are peace-filled; like you and me they want to be happy.

Are you honest when evaluating your spiritual life? Do you even give this a thought beyond once or twice a week? You might consider following the following during these first weeks of the new Church year that can lay a stronger foundation for a real December 31st set of resolutions.

How often in my day do I take just three minutes to speak to God: (1) on the way to work; (2) at the end of your lunch break; (3) on your way home; and , (4) just before ending the day? Notice this: 3 minutes times 4 specific times results in 12 minutes of prayer and spiritual body building without any sweat or fees. Can you do this? How many excuses can you make to the contrary? Are you proud of this? It's Advent time: "Come, let us worship the Lord, the king who is to come."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thursday: First Week of Advent 2009

Wake, awake, the night is dying,
And prophets from of old are crying:
Awake, ye children of the light!
Lo, the Dawn shall banish sadness,
The Rising Sun shall bring us gladness,
And all the blind shall see aright.
(The Liturgy of the Hours, Vol 1, page 125)

On Tuesday evening President Obama expressed to the entire world his vision, his plan, for bringing an end to the American war in Afghanistan. Throughout the previous month and particularly for the next several days, the news media and the pundits will shape for us and the world their interpretation of the President's messages about Afghanistan as well as the special meeting to address the lack of jobs in the most advanced nation in the world.

We who daily recognize and experience pain and frustration because there has been the loss of so many jobs, because our younger Americans daily walk in harm's way on two war-fronts, some never to return home alive, because we personally or in the lives of family members or friends see some aspects of an inefficient health program, because many cannot afford or suddenly lose health insurance, we must be questioning the care and concern God has for us and has seemingly given up.

In these days of Advent, perhaps our limited personal funds may be creating more time to consider the place of God in our personal and national lives. The author of Isaiah 26:1-6, today's first reading at the Eucharistic liturgy, may open the minds and hearts of those willing to continues their trust in God.

But during these days of crisis perhaps, just perhaps, we, as a people, might begin to sense that it is a terrible experience of greed that has brought us to our current discomfort and pain. Why else would a loving, caring God, humble "those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down"?

Preparing for Christmas should be more than presents and parties, shopping and extravagances. Preparing for the birth of the Son of God should bring us to an effort to purify our hearts and soul.

Hear the word of the Lord, all you nations
Proclaim it to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday: First Week of Advent 2009

Then cleansed be ev'ry heart from sin,
Make straight the way of God within;
O let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there.
(The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume 1, page 121)

As I was slowly reading the words of the gospel (Mt 15:29-37), I was suddenly aware, perhaps in a way like never before, that I was listening to the very tender, loving voice of Jesus Christ. It was as if I were sitting there with the mountain-side crowd.

After coming back to the world around me, I wondered what this insight from the Holy Spirit might have to do with Advent. Surely I realized again I was experiencing the grace of abundance. Not only was I participating in a watch of what Jesus was doing -- curing those with serious physical maladies as well as providing a meal for those around him. I was also hearing and sensing the sensitivity of the God-man whose birthday we celebrate in just under four weeks.

We are invited during this and every Advent season to stop and listen not only to homilies, religiously-based Christmas carols or many stories that grasp our hearts but especially to the words Jesus speaks. How much more meaningful will the celebration of his birth will give to me on December 24 when I celebrate Mass because his words on the mountainside so captured my heart and soul. There with those who must have had hearts so stuffed with hopes of healing, I experienced the tender concern of the Son of God.

So, if you can, read the gospel -- slowly -- and remember you are not simply reading an evangelist's words. You are hearing the spoken words of Jesus Christ! Is there any wonder, then, that the bible is such a sacred book?