Sunday, January 31, 2010

Following the Footsteps of Jesus 1-31-10

A reflection by the fire on a cold, col morning!

It is important to walk through the gospel reading for this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Listen to what is happening in the temple as described by Saint Luke. Jesus is actually challenged: This is a carpenter's son, this is a young man who speaks out without any "seminary training," who is to "preach" to us? And there were most likely a number of other thoughts within the minds of the "faithful" in the house of prayer. So what does this event and Jesus' words hold for you and me?

Do you fall back from speaking out about our faith because you know you will be ridiculed or criticized because you may have closeted skeletons that others know?

Do you feel afraid to examine personal beliefs about who Jesus is and the mission that he was preaching while on this earth? Why? Perhaps if such an examination happened, the "cost" of following him might be too expensive as regards how one lives life.

So, what does this gospel story stir up in your heart and mind, in your soul? It is an event that you might consider during these weeks before we embark upon another season of Lent.

Don't forget this: as a follower of Jesus Christ, and, if you are a Roman Catholic, do you speak for you faith by the way you live, by your defending your Church when there is a need to do so, and do you take the time to examine who Jesus is for you? Again, you see, it is not easy to be a disciple of Jesus Christ if you do not have a close relationship with him! How much did Jesus fit into your life during this month of January that ends today?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"I have sinned against the Lord" 1-30-10

The part of King David's life in the current first readings models for us contemporaries the reality of the diminished moral and ethical sensibilities that can overtake even good people. The way that Nathan uses the story of the rich man's destroying the poor man's prized possession is a powerful way to have David open up his heart to his sin. If you were Nathan, in a similar circumstance, what kind of story would you develop if you were asked by God to tell someone you know that his life need repentance? None of us would like that position. However, think for a moment of a contemporary story that could be developed.

Nathan's story brought David to the acknowledgment of his sin as well as to ask the Lord for forgiveness. His words, "I have sinned against the Lord," are a powerful admission of weakness for man of his position and power.

Furthermore, Nathan's words to David reaffirm God's unfailing love for the House of David. At the same time Nathan says "The Lord has forgiven your sins: you shall not die." But because David had "spurned the Lord" there would be difficult "paybacks," as we might say, for his serious sinfulness.

Because Lent is quickly coming our way, the story of God's relationship with David can spur us onward to a better pre-Lent prep time. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is so important in our Church, yet, unfortunately not so for many modern day Catholics. Overlooked are two very powerful phrases in the rite of the Sacrament: "... for I have sinned" then the response, "I absolve you of your sins." But then there are those other words "... for you penance." More on this last phrase coming on Monday's posting.

Friday, January 29, 2010

FDR Memorial
Washington, DC

In the continuing saga of King David's life, the story in today's first reading recalls the humanity of David. Great leader, great builder, David proves that greatness can be challenged and defeated. Neither more powerful nor more numerous armies dealt him personal defeat. It was nothing less than simply looking at what was a temptation for the man. Emotional needs are terribly powerful. They can devious routes that distract an individual. They can create a new person, a new personality. David brings to mind Adam and Eve. He became the sinner whose transgressions led him to the taking not only of a woman's virtue but of the life of a loyal supporter, the woman's husband.

Is it not the same problem that we confront in our contemporary world. How public have the extramarital affairs of leaders become of late. Mistresses, fathering children out of wedlock, betraying spouses. As well, many of us are aware of extramarital trysts that have damaged so many families.

Turn to today's Responsorial Psalm (51). It is the prayer of a community for all who have betrayed others, harmed others, destroyed names and families. It is the petition of the community for forgiveness, confessing its corporate sinfulness. Is it not an expression of regret and at the same time the expression of an awareness that human nature is not easily lived. It is a reminder that humanity walks with clay feet for sure. However, there is a God of forgiveness if we trust in his mercy and compassion.

It is in our quiet time with the Lord, our moments of reading and reflecting words and stories inspired by the Holy Spirit that we can encounter pictures of our weakened humanity as well as the awareness that we have a God who walks the walk with us if we but invite him to be with us.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are You As Excited? 1-28-10

The first reading continues the account from Samuel's heart about King David and his desire to be the king who constructs not only a temple, no ordinary edifice, to the glory and praise of the Lord. The author of one of the historical books of the Old Testament recounts what David said in his prayer to the Lord. David trusted God's promise but his words seem to reveal his humanity. How wonderful (or perhaps profitable!!!) it would be if God would provide him a divine proclamation about the great temple he would build, about the significance of the family lineage, the great house of David, and the dominance of his people, the house of Israel to be forever the Lord's. He was seeking a blessing from God that would clearly set him, his house and his people apart from all others forever.

Although his goal was noble, we might stand back and wonder at such grand-standing. Yet a look at the Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 132, is worth a reflective read, especially verses 3-5 (David's words).

3 I will not enter the house where I live, nor lie on the couch where I sleep; 4 I will give my eyes no sleep, my eyelids no rest, 5 Till I find a home for the Lord, a dwelling for the mighty one of Jacob.

In this psalm, a song of ascent, used in a liturgical ceremony, the singer is asking that God send his blessings upon King David. This great King was determined to provide a suitable place for God's house among the people.

These three verses well serve all of us today as one manner of evaluating how we make ready our "houses," our hearts, to be a dwelling place for God.

"When did I," you might ask yourself, "last think about how I make ready my 'house' for my God?" As each day begins, have I made it my practice to realize what is beginning as my feet hit the floor and determine how God will be within my heart for the remainder of the day?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yet Another: It IS About US, Each of US!

Thanks to J.G. who sent this to me. Some serious thinking going on ... and what a surprise when things turn around!!! Only 1.75 minutes!!! Wednesday blog posted below this one.

Again, It Is All About Us 12-27-2010

Sanctuary, Jesus the Divine Word Parish
Huntingtown, MD
Where it is all about the people of God!

Yes, the first reading is a reminder that it is all about us, God's people. For some men or women elected or appointed to positions of leadership in the office where they work, in our local communities, our parishes or congregations, state or national governments, or our institutional Church sometimes become more concerned about the trappings of their office. Very quickly the "others" realize that the leader's primary purpose is not themselves. Too often such leaders tend to create, consciously or unconsciously, monuments to themselves. Again this kind of person could be an office manager, a new Pastor or Principal, the head of a community organization, a government official of rank or distinction.

There is something about human nature that can draw leaders away from those they were elected or chosen to serve, to lead. This is the message of God to the prophet Samuel for delivery to Nathan. Concern to build a magnificent house for the Lord had taken a primary part of Saul's life. What was overlooked was this: God's concern for brick and mortar is simple: if it helps accomplish the primary issue -- serving God's people.

This part of Samuel's writing offers 21st century leaders or wannabee leaders a genuine reality check. Which is more important: a stunning edifice or is it all about us, the people of God? Thankfully the spirit and documents of those called to Rome for the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed in our times that you and me, we are what is most important in the Church. Likewise, these same documents bring the dignity of every human being to even deeper realizations that had gradually been lost.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship 1-25-10

Crucifix at Jesus the Divine Word Parish
Huntingtown, MD

Yesterday recalling St Paul's conversion was an invitation to all of us to live out the Christian life. Today's celebration of two early Bishops of our Church, in very dangerous times, is an invitation to us to consider what the cost of discipleship is for us in the 21st Century. As Paul writes to Timothy, being a Christian will result in persecution. While persecution today may not be a threatening to one's life as it was in the earlier years of our Church, it remains a promise to us today but in different forms, in different experiences. That we Catholics are called to believe that we willingly endure the challenges our faith brings us because these moment genuinely bring us closer to the man on the cross. Paul calls these moments of challenge "hardship for the Gospel." Sharing the "persecutions" that come upon us in our times in a genuine linking us to all those who have accepted the faith and endure often-times painful consequences for saying "I believe in Jesus Christ!"

Today's "hardships for the faith" are true challenges to us to lessen or even abandon our faith. In our contemporary culture, followers of Jesus Christ throughout the world are called upon to speak out for moral and ethical values. In certain instances simply trying to live out the Ten Commandments is a cause of ridicule and torture. Speaking out for the issues that touch the very core of our shared humanity is not easy when the very value of human life is diminished. At times family member might turn away from you, someone you thought was a true friend backs away, co-workers tend to avoid conversations -- all because you stood tall when your faith was challenged.

In just a couple of weeks we enter into one of the richest seasons of our Church's calendar: Ash Wednesday, February 17th. Perhaps the invitation embedded in Paul's words to Timothy -- and each of us -- might well serve as a foundation to determining what sacrifice you can practice that will bring to you a sense of personal growth and spiritual strengthening ... especially in joining your sacrifice to that of those who have suffered much more than many of us will ever be called upon to make in our lives.

Blogging Priests Enouragment from on high!

To celebrate World Communications Day, Pope Benedict spoke out in support of the work many of us priest put forth for one another and for the people of God: a daily blog. This is a wonderful ministry that this blogger has enjoyed for almost four years now. I owe thanks to a wonderful friend, Rocco Palmo, the Catholic blogger of bloggers, who suggested this ministry to me. And, as he says about it, time, time, time ... there just isn't enough to capture all that should be shared with you, the readers of the blogs. And there are many Catholic priests and deacons (yes, thanks be to God) who have taken to the blogosphere, helping today's readers with insights and presentations about the faith, about prayer and about the "gossip" in today's Church.

Catholics take note: we are blessed to have this avenue leading us to a deeper understanding of our faith and our Church. While there are some forty or fifty thousand priests in the USA today, there is a respectable number who have taken to sharing the faith through blogs. The next thing will be the installation of large screen monitors to assist preachers homilies and to help us see the words of hymns we might be trying to sing!!! What the computer has done to our world!!!

Thanks, Holy Father. Take note: the Vatican has taken to Tweeting!!!! Imagine, all those tweeting Cardinals!!!

The following is a quote from the Holy Father's reflection.

[...] priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different "voices" provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

Today's reflection follows this posting.

All About Us Paul's Conversion 1-25-2010

Ananaias and Conversion of St Paul -- Benjamin West - 1786

Today our Church celebrates the Conversion of St. Paul. It is a remarkable moment in the history of Christianity. Some may think this day is "all about Paul." Yet today is
"all about us." How so? This story of on man's conversion is a teaching moment. All of us "thanks" to Adam and Eve, we might say, come into this world as sinners. All of us, we presume, have at one time or another found ourselves challenged by the power of the same evil spirit that had taken the heart and mind of the Jewish zealot, Saul. Today we reflect on the moment of his awakening, his spiritual healing and our own calling. This is the moment when Saul accepted the calling from God. The was the true change, the genuine metanoia.

There is much in St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles that will bring you back almost two thousand years to the moment of conversion: 9:1-22 and 22:3-16. These divinely inspired words, read slowly and reread once or twice, will be for you a moment to reaffirm your commitment to your Christian faith. If you feel that your personal spiritual journey needs redirection listen as Ananaias did to the voice of God. It was his calling to be the "missionary" to bring healing to the mind and heart of Saul and so lead him from his blindness. Let this feast day be like Ananaias to you if you need to bring yourself closer to the Lord or if you can be the "voice" of God to a family member or friend who has wandered away from the intention, the purpose that God has for you or someone else in need of this remarkable grace.

This feast is a reminder that there are basically two types of human beings: those who hear a call and filled with enthusiasm and a fired-up spirit follow the calling and those who say to themselves "not at this time" repeatedly. The Conversion of St. Paul and his life are reminders to all of us who have worn the oils of Baptism and Confirmation that we have been called from our own moments of blindness to proclaim that Jesus is the driving force in our lives.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's With Sundays? 1-23...24-2010

Christ Walking on the Water ... Amedee Varin, 1860

What makes today, Sunday, (or, for my Jewish friends, Saturday) different than the other days of the week? Some might answer "Because we have to go to church or temple. Perhaps! Perhaps we might think about the event depicted above as another possibility. Jesus had several hours earlier brought about the feeding of some 5000. He realized his miraculous activity would add to the fears the government officials had about his ministry. He sent the disciples to their boat to go toward Bethsaida. He needed time alone with his Father in prayer.

The disciples were a good distance from shore when a storm developed. They had a problem. Naturally they were frightened. Life jackets, as we know them, were not available! Likewise nowhere in scripture can you find remarks about the disciples swimming abilities! Surely they must have been praying for assistance from the Almighty God. Are we not like the disciples in this moment? Most of us are burdened with problems that build up fears in our hearts. How frequent is a priest asked at a Saturday evening or Sunday Mass, "Father, can you pray for me."

As the disciples were dealing with their problems on the high seas, there seemed to be a ghost, as the evangelists described the event, walking nearby on the water. They could not see who it was because it was night, the waves were high and the sea water was being blown in the faces. For most of the disciples a second fear arose ... the ghost!

There seemed to be one disciple not trapped by either of the fears. He seemed to be able to distinguish who the figure was. "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." We know that Peter climbed over the side of the boat and began to walk to Jesus!

Doesn't this story portray what is on the minds of many who come to church on Sunday? Like Peter, they believe in Jesus' power to deliver them from the problem(s) that weigh upon them. Like Peter and the others in their hearts they are frightened by the circumstances of their problem(s). Like Peter, some seem to be able to overcome the fear of storminess and willingly follow the solution offered by Jesus, "Come to me." Others, like the other disciples, seem to be trapped by the solution offered to them by God. There is a "demon" ( the disciples' "ghost") within their hearts that just will not be quiet. Don't get out of the boat. You will drown. Are your crazy?

When burdened and fearful, we come to God. We pray for a solution. And, true to his word, God offers us a solution. Like his action with Peter: get out of the boat and come to me! Jesus may not tell you to abandon a boat but he may provide solutions that a threatening or uncomfortable. So often the solutions do require that we change. That should not be a surprise. Many times we changed to get to where we are when we realize our problem(s). We might hear ourselves praying, "Lord, help me. Take this addition away from me." Or "Lord, grant me the strength to overcome this bad habit." Yet when we make these petitions and others like them, if we are honest, we know, too, that there is a voice deep within that replies "But not right now! Isn't there an easier thing I can do?"

Surely God know how challenging life can be for us. He offers the true solution --- on that often frightens our free spirit. Yet, Jesus does not give up. "It is I. Do not be afraid."

So, Saturdays and Sundays is indeed a special day for all of us riding the waves of life. Sundays are 52 days each year when our Catholic Church, following the 10 Commandments, offers us the opportunity to come to know the solutions especially through the Holy Communion given us at the liturgy. In the moments of quiet following the time of you communion, you can hear Jesus speaking to you: "Come. Trust me. Do not be afraid. You will find peace."

This is why Saturdays and Sundays are so important!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dignity of Every Human Being: Friday 1-22-2010

Once again men, women and young people will crowd Constitution Avenue as a part of the annual March for Life. "Constitution Avenue" the roadway that leads to the temple where the right to life, liberty and happiness is proclaimed for all people ... almost all people.
Whether a child in a mother's womb or an elderly person of grace, life, liberty and happiness are gifts and guarantees that were protected within the temple walls until 1973. It is a temple where Justices (men and women who are charged with meeting out "justice) can dictate that political campaigns can be given untold millions but where the lives of millions of unborn children are only perceived as expenses and inconveniences who do not deserve a future. It is a temple where even the lives of noble men and women who have given their lives to families and friends, nations and its needs, may one day be seen as a burden to the nation and families they served and loved.
How easily could the stalwarts marching up Capitol Hill despair. How easily could debilitated seniors fall into depression, fearing how little concern comes their way.
But in truth these victims of a peculiar temple of justice perception of life cannot despair. For centuries the dignity of human life has suffered at the hands of kings, potentates, presidents, civic leaders and each other. But those who treasure the lives of the unborn and who protect the winter years of older people should not despair, there is the promise that the dignity of every conceived child, every debilitated senior (or junior) will not be crushed nor forgotten. "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!" Our God will bring about a renewed recognition of the dignity of every human being.

In the notes appended to the Ordo of Prayer ... and The Celebration of the Eucharist (the official booklet for the Church's prayers and liturgies for each day of the year) there are the following words for Friday, January 22, 2010: today shall be observed in all dioceses of the United States as a particular day of penance for violation to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Challenge of Healing 1 - 21 - 2010

Rembrandt's Mother as Biblical Prophetess Hannah. 1631

Reading today's two scripture selections from Ordinary Time, we might ask ourselves what meaning there could be from Samuel about Saul's decision to use, or misuse, his power. How do the thought of a writer from the 11th to 10th century BC have any significance for us today?

Perhaps even more meaningful in today's culture evils exist but authorities and others know there are laws that impact our lives. The part of the first book of Samuel we read describes what we must become today. Like Saul's son, David, we must be women and men of dialog and faith. We know that evil and demons are neither scarce nor rare. We know that there are many demons that need to be removed from our culture and the way many people live. There is a genuine need to heal the hearts and souls of many.

The people of the first century realized the healing powers of Jesus, especially the driving out of demons and the healing of physical ailments and even death itself. One evil that surrounds us today that we should consider is the abuse of power -- not solely the evil misuse of political power but the abuse of power each of us can inflict upon others especially in the form of oppressive actions.

As thousands begin to arrive in the nation's capital city to speak out and to march for the right to life, we are reminded of yet another kind of healing needed amongst the people of the world. Where then do we turn. We do not have Jesus himself walking on Constitution Avenue or other streets around the US Capitol building or the Supreme Court building. His earthly presence is history. Where do his followers turn?

We should be mindful that Jesus' healing ministry was not entombed with him in Joseph of Arimethea's tomb? Like the grain of wheat that had to die to produce new foods, Jesus has seeded his mission of healing in the hearts and souls of many followers. Through the gift of pure power, freed from any kind of bias, the Holy Spirit invites you to be with him in bringing healing where there is abuse, hatred, fear, injury, sickness and the taking of life.

To each of us, as mentioned in a posting last week, the Holy Spirit has given extraordinary gifts that help bring about the removal of evil from the world. How do you accomplish that today in yourself, in your home, your workplace and among your friends? Certainly the challenge to let evil be healed through your gifted power is not easy. Yet the verse in today's responsorial psalm is a reminder of the source of our power.
In God I trust; I shall not fear.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

THe Art of Seeing 1 - 19 - 2010

The first reading of today's Eucharistic liturgy has embedded within it one sentence which could lead to a major transformation in one's life.

Not as man sees does God see
because he sees the appearance
but the Lord looks into the heart.

Although Christmas may be just two or three weeks old, doesn't it seem like we have journeyed quite a distance from our annual "O Holy Night"? What does this say about how we look at events in our fast-paced existence? Aren't there individuals whose personalities were so strong when you met for the first time during the holidays and just knew this person was going to be a best friend, a true companion on your life's journey? Today that same person has already fallen off your radar screen?

How do we see? Samuel's words are so right on for today's Christian. These words are a unique invitation for you to jump outside yourself so that you can truly see how you look upon the world you live in. As said in many previous postings, each one of us arrived in the world with a purpose, a divine intention. Your challenge today is to examine how your see, how you judge. When a man and a woman fall in love; when a man pledges Holy Orders or men and women make solemn professions; when a man or woman sees needy people and blaze a trail for them from their oppression; when parents see the struggles of their children and stand by them --- these are moments when people have been moved by seeing something deeper than what is on the surface.

To see as God sees, to judge as Jesus does this is the calling put before each person. To see as God sees is to look beyond what is just in front of you. The beauty of the body of water in the picture is made even more beautiful by the distant mountains. To see as Jesus seas is to hear the beat of a drummer somewhat different than the ordinary, to see beyond seeking self-aggrandizement, beyond seeking possessions untold, beyond a selfish amassing of wealth. To see as God sees is to see the good in the hearts of yourself and then in the hearts of others.

So, you might ask yourself these two questions: How do people see me? How do I see others?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Come, Holy Spirit, with Wisdom 1-18 - 10


Today's first reading is a section of the Old Testament that is a challenge for this blogger. Trying to understand the meaning it has in itself as well as for today has me beating my head against the proverbial brick wall!!! This is somewhat humbling for yours truly because my feeble brain cannot get itself wrapped around what Samuel was trying to say to us on behalf of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Saul's weaknesses are meant to be a call for me to share weaknesses too.

What always makes me wonder how contemps take the violence that is prevalent in the Old Testament stories ... such as this very part of Samuel's letter.

One part of the letter that is not obfuscated (like that word???) is that God prefers obedience to sacrifices. I have often wonder if this is the case since sacrifices may be challenging at a specific moment but once done they are in history. But obedience! Well, that is a subject that is not so easily said and done with. God did not say follow the commandments just once and be done with it. Not so easily done.

Today, if you will be like me, you will not spend too much time at the wall but rather try to open your heart to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit ... one of those gifts mentioned yesterday. Perhaps in those moments of quiet ... perhaps ... some keener insight into the life we are called to follow as apostles, as disciples, as followers of Jesus Christ. There is much in those five words: God prefers obedience to sacrifices!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The readings for the Sunday Eucharistic liturgy focus on beginnings ... how fitting for this time of the year. While the principal theme in the readings deals with the marriage feast at Cana, there is a gem in the Corinthian reading. Let's use this reading for our reflection today. It's one of those rainy, dreary days in DC. A wonderful day for some quiet time. A day when there might be more time for some reflection ... how fitting for a Sunday, the Lord's Day, a day of "rest."

While the gospel features the outpouring of care first of all by Mary and then by her son, the Corinthian reading focuses on the many gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to each of us. These are gifts that we have not created on our own. These are unique "presents" from the Holy Spirit to assist us in our own spiritual growth as well as opportunities for us to "regift" to family, friends and our communities. As St. Paul writes, "the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit" to each person.

Then he lists gifts that are distributed among the community. These gifts are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, might deeds, prophecy, discernment of spirits, varieties of tongues and, lastly, interpretation of tongues. Paul notes for us that it is the same Spirit that produces these gifts, "distributing them individually to each person as he wishes."

Now doubt the Spirit knew what he was doing in sharing these gifts among all of us. Imagine what it would be like if each of us possessed all of these gifts! Life would be much more tedious than it is already! But we should find it in our hearts to be grateful for the gifts that we have received.

A question arises: how often do I stop to think about these special gifts that have been given to me by the Holy Spirit? This thought leads to this question: Do I realize which gifts have been granted to me? Continuing the questions: How have I used them to assist my family, my friends and my community ... especially my Church?

All of these gifts of the Spirit form a magnificent mosaic. As a community of believers we form a "Mosaic of Faith" -- the late Cardinal Hickey's choice of a name logo for the Archdiocese of Washington's 50th Anniversary thirteen years ago.

Concluding: "What is the gift or gifts the Holy Spirit has entrusted to me?" Can you write them down? And how effective have I been in using the gift(s) to assist others? Remember this as you reflect: Jesus' gift to the bride and groom was more than a wedding gift: it was a saving moment for the couple and their families, preventing a moment of embarrassment! The event also shows us how caring and loving was the heart of a neighbor, Mary.

As mentioned: these words of St. Paul are truly a gem that radiates many shafts of light that reach to our hearts.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Breaking Loose 1 - 16 -2010

The writings of Samuel are a reminder that human nature has its good moments as well as its times of evil. Today's first reading invites us to recall and imagine the moment when Saul, the son of Kish, was anointed king. The prophet Samuel was certain that Saul was the man God wanted to be the king for Israel. For the son of Kish this would be a challenging commission from God. And he is not different than any of us.

For anyone beginning a new vocation, a new family relationship or a new job there are usually many moments of questioning and many instances of reflection upon the newness and God's purpose for the individual. What many might forget in imagining how success can be achieved is to recognize how powerful one's ego can become in new surroundings. Dr. Wayne Dyer, mentioned many times in these postings, provides a powerful description of ego: "... the part of us that has edged God out" (Excuses Begone!, p 227). It is the ego that can undermine great successes in our lives before we realize the trouble we might be in. Dyer cites Lao-tzu's insight that explains why some people always have challenges that are self-defeating habits: "As long as your shallow worldly ambitions exist, the door will not open" (p.227).

Seeking to understand the defeating ways of one's ego is at its roots an effort to understand how to connect to what is already within the soul. It is the effort to learn the principles God has given a person to be successful as the divine presence within wishes. The effort is truly an exercise in enlightenment -- that inner space where you are offered the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As we, that is each one of us, begins a new day, we have the opportunity to shed our old habits, those worldly ambitions that separate us from God -- our ego at work! Each new day we receive from the Holy Spirit the invitation to listen for divine guidance, divine inspiration and diving enlightenment. It is only in the land of ego, somewhat like the land of Oz, where we cannot find happiness or success because God has been edged out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Traps That Never Rust 1 -15 2010 Friday

Photo: Susan Ballmann

Read today's first reading (1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-20a). Imagine yourself back in the prosperous days of the 1980s and the turn of the century. It is these days that have brought us to the painful days of the last couple years. This is a torture for many families that seems to have escaped those who control much of the American fortune. Yes, I do mean the Wall Street bankers, oops, I mean manipulators! Of course the passing over of many moons and the turning of calendar pages cannot be held responsible for a reversal that has brought so much suffering to many families.

The people of Israel were growing tired of their God as we read in Samuel's thoughts. The people of the eighties also seemed to be willing to forfeit the life of a true follower of Jesus. There were so many alluring gods that attracted even many of the truly faithful. Abundance, abundance, abounding wealth, McMansions growing like dandelions, record numbers from the Wall Street daily Stock Market report --- all of these contemporary gods had begun to pull people away from their God. Greed was, like a never before seen flower, growing among us and capturing so many hearts. How many were the prophets of doom, calling all of us to be careful and to be watchful. Worldly abundance was so different from spiritual abundance. Like the people of Israel, we were duped by the attractiveness, the comfort and the power from a record high DOW Jones average and unheard of heights for NASDAQ scores. There was so much power in the wealth we had found. Who really needed a God to tell us what to do?

From the gospel we learn about another kind of abundance and the fruitful ways of living in the abundance of love. In that beautiful landscape you will not find greed. It just will not grow there. And "there" is the kingdom of God among us. There is the forgiveness of sins. On that landscape the fare for all is the same ... rich or poor ... banker or borrower: show mercy to others especially those in need; let justice direct deals within the community.

What we see is that the world of God's kingdom is a reality where forgiveness is the frequent surprise. Greed opens the wounds; love is the divine healer.

Covenant Relationship with God 1 - 14 -2010

Often we hear or think about "my relationship with God." But say or think this to yourself this morning: "my covenant relationship with God." Do the two mean the same to you or is there a genuine difference?

Change of heart is the key to any covenant between God and anyone. Throughout both Old and New Testament we encounter moments when God seems to "take it out" on some of his people. The first reading for today's Eucharist liturgy speaks about the terrible defeat suffered by the people of Israel at the hands of the Philistines. It seems that God is quite annoyed with his people. In the gospel reading for the liturgy, we encounter the leper who came to Jesus asking to be cured. His is granted his request.

Change of heart! What is the difference in the two stories? Think about "my relationship with God" and "my covenant relationship with God." Recall also that we have Jesus saying to the people on different occasions that it is not the externals that count. It is a change of heart. He asks his followers to practice mercy not make externals so important. Again, it's about change of heart.

How do I fulfill the promises of my Baptism? How do I live out the gifts of Holy Communion? How strong am I in fulfilling my pledges made during my Confirmation? Lastly, how meaningful was my last Act of Contrition? Just saying words in any devotional manner have a place in our lives. They are like the exercises that build the spiritual muscles. However, it is the determination, the change of heart, that enables the continued dedication to those exercises and the pledges and promises made.

The challenge before us today is that we not allow devotional practices substitute for a genuine living out of my covenant relationship with God. When God seems to be absent for one's life, a question is important: "What has happened to my covenant relationship with God?"

By this paragraph you might be asking "Just what is the meaning of covenant relationship with God?" Simply this: I sincerely make the effort to live the promises I have made to God. I realize this is really most important in my relationship with God. From the simplicity of childhood to the complexities of adult life, it is a true change of heart to live as God asks of us that is a response to the Ten Commandments, to the Laws of our Church and especially the voice of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

HANNAH A Model Woman of Faith 1 - 13 -10

James Tissot (1826-199209 HANNAH AND THE HIGH PRIEST

In times of travail some people walk away from God -- assuredly most of us know family members or friends who have given up on God -- while there are others who carry crosses we would not wish on anyone -- likewise most of us have encountered these noble men and women, saints in our estimation.

At the present time in our national history and consequently in our personal history many families have been dealt hands, as we might say, that seem unjust or unfair. For the wives, especially, in these difficult moments when they themselves and/or their spouse have lost jobs or seen their investments melt in the heat of recession or the greed of individuals who have marred their lives and the lives of others, Hannah, yes, Old Testament Hannah is a marvelous model. Without any doubt she can also be a model for us men as well.

Today's first reading from the Book of Samuel is witness to this woman's strength. She can be associated with three other powerful women of the Old Testament: Sarah, Ruth and Esther. In challenging moments these women did not give up on God. Hannah should always come to mind when we hear readings from the Book of Samuel. That prophet was his mother's only son, a gift to her from the Lord and to humanity.

What we should take from a reading of the first two chapters of the Book of Samuel, the story of Hannah, is that she, like so many holy women of all times, were strong women who had to endure real problems. While working in Rome some years ago and in the various churches where this blogger has served the Church, I have often looked upon the women who come to the church and spend much more than a quick "Hail Mary" before the Blessed Sacrament. What is the problem they are praying about with the God in whom they seem to have placed so much trust? Is it doubts about a spouse's fidelity? Is it about financial losses that have hurt her family and her dedicated husband? Is it the son or daughter who seem to have abandoned the faith? Is it the older parent whose life is miserable because of health issues? Is it the grandchild who has become a drug addict or alcoholic or a sex addict?

Hannah and all the Hannahs we have encountered are great teachers for each of us. They persevered through challenges. They are good women who are asked by God to carry a particular cross. They accept the invitation and do not walk away from it. They truly believe that God will help them and those for whom they pray.

So, what is all this for us? We have many great models in Scripture. Yet, are we truly aware of these sources of support and intercessory graces? In your difficult moments, did you ever think of Hannah? Did you ever offer a prayer to her, seeking her intercession on your behalf?

Today there seems to be an abundance of needs in all families. Today these circumstances offer so many of us the opportunities to become men and women of faith. How strong is your faith, especially in trying moments?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

AWAY: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday BUT, BUT, BUT

Just to let you know this: the poster will be away Sunday morning until Tuesday mid-day. Visiting a PA friend for two days.

Reflection: For me it will be to consider what a blessing the last two weeks of the Christmas season has been? Enumeration some of the blessings for yourself on a pad of paper. Take ten minutes each day and answer this question: If I knew God would be calling me home tomorrow, what would I see as the blessings that I have received? How have I thanked God for them? Do I even think to thank him for them?

Do this for each of the days Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Take it seriously?
On Sunday: what are the family blessings that I experienced during the Christmas holidays, even if I am not a Christian?

On Monday: what are the blessings that I have personally experienced in my heart for my God, my Creator ... blessings that have come to your mind independent of the familial blessings you have received?

On Tuesday: think for a while on your baptism. You, most likely, were a baby and can't even begin to imagine what happened on the day waters were poured over your head. However, as a big boy or girl at this time, ask yourself this question: Really, self, what does your baptism mean to you today? Do you really take time to consider why God made you who you are? You know you might easily have been a Muslim; a person with dark or black skin; a person with a different sexual preference than most people; a person like Patrick Hughes ( the blind trumpeter). What does it mean to YOU that God made you what you are, where you are and how you are?

Music of Opportunity

You may need a few tissues before the end of this presentation.

There may be occasions when you truly doubt your strength, your ability to accomplish a goal, to reach success. After you have watched the story of Patrick,
you can once again say this: "I have seen the reality of a God of abundance."

Surely Patrick is to be admired, respected and loved for what he teaches us. However, I also believe that Patrick's father is remarkable. From the depths of disappointment, this man has come to see that he lives on the highest peak with his family, especially his son, Patrick.

Save this presentation for a day when you feel you just cannot do what you know you have to accomplish.

Thank you, Lill, for leading me to this video. You raised me higher than I deserve.

Friday, January 8, 2010

In so many places this morning, there is the felt need for the fireplace!
Light snow here in Washington, DC.

Nearing the conclusion of the first Letter of St. John, we are truly confronted. The evangelist does not step back from what he believes. Somehow the strength of his words reminds me, please excuse the political sidebar, of both President Obama and RNC Chair, Michael Steele, and their taking for strong positions for what they believe.

Faith is what distinguishes every Christian from others in the world. John recognizes the wide gap between humanity and divinity. For him that great distance between God's kingdom and our world, our hearts, is bridged by Jesus Christ. By our coming to know the Son, we are brought closer to the Father.

It is our faith in Christ and ultimately his Father which challenges modern humanity. It is not always easy to be a man or woman committed to the faith that Jesus preached. In the first weeks of 2010, what does "faith" mean to me? Each of you reading this posting might take a few moments to inquire of yourself how real and how strong your faith is. With so much technology driving our lifestyles and actions, it is very easy to believe that we know more than the teachings of our Church. Believing in an unseen God is not easy. Believing in a Church that seeks to lead especially your moral life, your ethical life and your personal spiritual life is always a challenge.

If our faith is not strong, how can we love God or even see that God is love. Without a vibrant faith, how can we see, accept and love a Church that Jesus established simply to help us live lives that God wants his Son's followers to live? If our faith is not the foundation of who we are, what purpose or consolation can we find in hope and love?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

St. Luke's gospel recounts Jesus' reading at a temple service some words from Isaiah.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tiding to the poor.
He sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free ....
(from Isaiah 61:1-2)

These prophetic words could easily be spoken by each faithful follower of Jesus. The thoughts here continue the theme in the first Letter of St. John. Our charge by our own anointing in the

So prevalent in our culture today is the spirit of competition. What child today does not encounter countless hours of competition via TV sports contests, some "reality" shows and most recently to join the competitive arenas are our politicians, radio, TV and newspaper reporters and pundits.

Is it a surprise when we realize that we live in a nation where so much of what we do is driven by a need to beat down the "enemy" -- not terrorists like Al Quaeda, not like the enemies of our seemingly unending wars since WWII but anyone who speaks thoughts different to me. The love-one-another concept is challenged from sunrise to sunset.

Do these words taken from St. John have any meaning today? "If anyone says 'I love God,' but hates his brother [or sister], he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother [or sister] whom he has seen cannot love God whom he [she} has not seen" (1John4:19).

Loving one another will only become more challenging, more difficult as long as a negative, personally damaging competition continues to gain strength in the hearts of good people.

Another thought: can you remember those "good, old days" when the Eucharist was a significant part of many people' lives? It is the sacrament of unite and love. And is there a relationship between the selfishness associated with many kinds of competition and the diminished participation in the Eucharist? Hmmm! Interesting thought.
Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation: love one another.

No Fear In Love: 1-6-10

Again let us sit by a fire for a few minutes. In the first letter of St. John, verse 18, begins "There is no fear in love." So many times, listening to troubled souls, most priests will recognize how sinfulness can encase the heart and mind in the hardened concrete of fear. Let's examine what the apostle means.

Let's begin with this assumption: an individual has sinned to the extent that the sinful action weighs heavily on the person. First, we should recognize that peace cannot rule a heart where there is sin. There is the experience of guilt which builds a barrier around the heart and mind ... not so much the fear of punishment but the fear of embarrassment and humiliation. Fear of the encounter with one's parish priest is no insignificant reality. Why else would the penitent not want to receive the forgiveness of the Lord in the sacrament of reconciliation? What confessor is there today who would impose an embarrassing penance, a painful penance? Very few, indeed! Years of hearing the struggles of people who have not been graced by the Sacrament of Reconciliation have led me to believe this is the real reason for the fear that has captured the hurting heart.

Does this fear, this embarrassment that would keep someone from receiving absolution of one's sins, does it not speak of a true lack of a genuine love of God? The story of the prodigal son comes to mind. After some years of failure and obvious shame, he returns to his father. He realizes that reconciliation with the man who brought him into the world, the man who loves him with a love beyond description, will not result in either punishment or humiliation.

If there is genuine love of God in one's life, even though their are events of failure and sin, there will not be a fear of consequences from a God who is, as St. John, like St. Paul, says is love. Such a love in our hearts cannot exist if we do not share that feeling, that emotion with God himself ... not just every so often but every day ... every morning, (noon time??) and night.

Our lives would be very different were we to be frequent in speaking that love to God. Imagine how different lives would be, how different family life would be, even how different our communities would be if each day every person would take just three or four minutes to speak to God from the heart with heartfelt words of love! If this would happen, then the words of St. John would have much more meaning for each of us. Professing our love of God, we will be gifted with an abundance of divine love.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Little Bishop -- The Love Filled Heart 1 5 2010

St. Peter's Church -- Girard Avenue
Philadelphia, PA
The Tomb of St. John Neumann, CSSR (Redemptoris)

This is a very special feast day. For almost thirty years there was no priest closer to me than Msgr. James McGrath, priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "The good Monsignor," as Philadelphians are want to say, was without doubt my most meaningful priest-friend. Jim was the priest assigned by then Archbishop of Philadelphia, John Cardinal Krol, to be the Vice Postulator for the process of canonization for one of the Cardinal's predecessors, John Neumann. Many were the dinners or car rides when I heard about the process of Bishop Neumann's canonization. Many were the insights of a man who had come to know this saint's soul. In each priest's life, like many laity, there tends to be a habit of saving things. Perhaps we call it "clutter." Yet for the priest, it is among this clutter there is or are one or two items or experiences that change the heart. My vicarious relationship with John Neumann through a ministerially-alive priest, even until the last few weeks of his life, is a genuine treasure that will always be a part of my "baggage." So, as I begin this reflection, I give thanks to God that while preparing to concelebrate Mass for a priest I did not know but whose position in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia demanded that I be present even though only the first week of my leadership at St. Joseph's Prep School in the city of Brotherly Love, a priest came up to be as I was vesting and said, "You must be new in Philadelphia." That was the beginning of an experience that was the beginning of pulling from my heart God's calling to leave the Society of Jesus to become a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, my hometown.

The readings for the liturgy celebrating this feast of St. John Neumann amplify the drive of the Corinthian reading from yesterday's liturgy honoring Elizabeth Ann Seton. The words of St. Paul raise one question: What single word best and most profoundly expresses God, who he is? The answer is simply one word: love. God is love!

So we who seek to live a genuine spiritual life based on the gospels, the life of Jesus, we must fully understand the meaning of love and how it is lived out in our lives. These words rest on my dresser to remind me each day that God is love: "To love another person is to see the face of God." This is truly what John Neumann lived. Remember this: this bishop of Philadelphia died while walking home from making a sick call to a parishioner. He was living his understanding of what it means to know God as love, the very God he met in anointing the forehead of the person who was critically ill.

Yesterday, as I prayed with the readings for today's liturgy, a powerful thought stopped me. Who are the people in my life who truly reflect the love of God. I thought of one particular couple who always are so loving and caring .... not only for their children and their families ... but for everyone they meet. They always radiate the love of God. Again, "To love another person is to see the face of God."

God's greatest proof of his love? Look in your mind at two events: the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus. Here you find the greatest testimony of how intense, how faithful is the love of God for you. As you finish this day and every day of your life, think for just a few moments about the moments when you have encountered the face of God in others. Perhaps you could write a journal of these memories each evening. What a positive experience you would have at the end of each week. Imagine the treasury you would have at the end of just one year! And who would be the better for it? YOU, YOU, YOU!

Let me conclude with one of Msgr. McGrath's reminders: Because NEUMANN is German and pronounced NOI-MAHN, Bishop Neumann's name and the parishes that have him as their patron, pronounce the name in the German manner. When the Bishop was in Rome for the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception as dogma, the names of the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops attending were inscribed in the wall of St. Peter's Basilica. The Bishop of Philadelphia was there his name was carved in a block of marble as NEUMANN. He made a request that it be changed to NEWMAN because he had moved to the USA and had become an American!!! Thus the word NEUMAN never came from the lips of the Vice Postulator!!! He would kindly correct those who said NEUMANN, even though he himself was very proud of his mother German lineage!!! Just a little note of history.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Sorry about the delayed postings!

After several hours with
computer experts
I decided
these incredible instruments
waste more time
than ever advertised!
I turned to a monastic solution:
do it yourself!
After three non-usable days,
my Apple is smiling!!!!

Two postings
for today and January 2nd
are offered for your reflection.

By the way,
I truly wish you a new year that is filled with
good health
(some might immediately add) some wealth
and even more generosity
to those we can serve.

Onward to

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton 1 4 09

Elizabeth Seton was a model of genuine love -- for her dying husband, her children and the young people of the USA. We cannot forget the religious community (Sisters of Charity) she founded not too far from "Capitol Hill."

Today we hear the word "love" used often but in so many different way, Were I the word "love," how quickly and easily I would surrender to words like "prefer," "like," "enjoy" and other similar words that express what is not genuine love.

So, can we not ask ourselves this question: What does the word "love" mean to me? How can I make it real in my life? Test your answers against St. Paul's description in I Corinthians 13: 4-13. There you will find it mean so much more than "I love bourbon Manhattans." It has deeper meaning than "I love a good salad." Likewise it has greater significance that I love going to a good restaurant."

In our contemporary experience we have outstanding models, living models of what "love" means. St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Theresa of Calcutta, St. Maximillian Kolbe and probably many others whose way of living is a true example of what the word "love" means. Surely there are some of your friends who do their very best to make love a reality in the world.

How do I evaluate "love" in my life? Do I realize that I may have some rough edges? So often the victim of your sharpness is a person who needs true love, understanding and compassion. As St. Paul reminds us" "Love never fails." It is easy to criticize, to put down. It is so challenging to be alert and sacrificing. True love after all is said and done comes at a cost. The stained glass above is a reminder of what love can cost. If it did not come at such a price, most likely we would not talk about it.

A final question to ask yourself: "Do I know how to love another person -- not amorous love -- but the genuine love we have encountered in the lives of many saints and sinners as well?

For January 2 210

John 1: 19-28 shares with us the reaction John the Baptist's preaching and teaching bring upon someone seeking to do what God wants.

As we know, John was neither appreciated nor believed by many.

Let us stop for a moment to ask this question of ourselves: Do I realize the times in my life when I can really make a difference? This is what the Baptist was attempting to bring about in his ministry, his vocation.

We are bringing to a conclusion another holiday season that has brought us to the altar once again in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Likewise it has brought us together with family and friends in conviviality and mutual support. These past weeks have surely been a time when you and I are confronted or questioned by others who wonder about our dedication to our faith. This is always a season when we have many opportunities to speak out what "I believe" means in life.

Photo: Susan Ballmann