Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Universality of Redemption

In the first reading, Isaiah 49:1-6, we are presented one of the oracles about the Suffering Servant.  We are called to consider the extent of the Father's will, his care.  It is a reminder of the universality of God's forgiving love for all humankind.

In this part of of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks, as usual, for Yahweh.  His mercy reaches out "to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel."  Through the suffering and teachings of his Son, the Father was assured that "my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

During these final days and hours of a sacred week, we can see that these pain-filled days demonstrate the supremacy of our God.  During these days what we are considering yet again should bring us to recognize the power of God.  The Father's will, his plan for our redemption, is not disturbed or destroyed.  Jesus fulfills what his Father's love required to lead you and me to our salvation.  Even the treachery of a close associate, truly a betrayal of trust, cannot alter God's plan for redemption.

This bring a reality we should accept in faith:  do we ever doubt that our sins cannot be forgiven by the Father?  Do we ever fail to see our own personal relationship to this week, to these sacred hours?  Indeed there may have been Judas days in our lives when we walked away from the Lord's table.  Despite our failures, we know there is an Easter morning .... for all humankind.  This reality should bring us to speak to God with words we may not use during the course of the year.  Every minute of this week should be a reminder that Jesus suffered bitterly for each of us sinners that God's forgiveness would lift us up.
Crucifix that hangs above the altar in the church
Jesus the Divine Word Parish
Huntingtown, MD
Commissioned by the founding Pastor
Fr. Roger Soley
Photographer:  Ms. Peggy Arnold

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where are the Palms, St Luke?

In the preliminary gospel for the blessing of the palms the Church includes a short gospel pericope (Lk 19:28-40) that describes the beginning of the most famous "colt' ride ever made by anyone.  Jesus sends two disciples into a village to fetch a colt "on which no one has ever sat."  They returned to Jesus with the animal.  The disciples put their cloaks on the animal's back and helped Jesus to mount. Let me bring your attention to the next verse in the Lucan text.  "As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road."
You might ask, "Where are the palms?"  This is significant.  Luke's life of Christ does NOT mention palms at this event.  Why?  A person's cloak is much more valuable than palm branches.  A person's cloak was quite significant to the people of Jesus' times.  Wherever a person went, the cloak can with him/her.  Even the poor possessed a cloak.  It was a protection against the weather. So, why the cloak and not the palms?

The people spreading their cloaks along the road way to Jerusalem were giving their most prized possession to Jesus as an expression of recognition.  They used their treasure to recognize "all the mighty deeds they had seen."  They gave their prized possession to symbolize a letting go of themselves to be graced by what Jesus had been teaching them during his public life.  These poor people had come to a better understanding of the love of the Father for themselves that Jesus ahd shared with them.

What can we see in this significant sacrifice?  We should try to see what St Luke wanted others to understand about what would unfold for the people, indeed for human kind.  Here was the beginning of the final act of the life of Jesus..  From the poverty of birth in the Bethlehem stable to the beginning events of the passion and death of Jesus, Luke is reminding his readers and hearers that the Son of God laid down his divinity to bring God's children to reconciliation with his Father.

Today when we reflect on this particular entrance into Jerusalem, we might look at our interior lives to see more clearly if there are particular "cloaks" we might hesitate to lay down so that Jesus may enter our lives more fully.  What can we remove from our daily lives that will remove any roadblocks from Jesus' coming into our hearts?

It is easy to pull a palm branch from the tree and wave it in jubilation.  But how challenged we can be if we remove four our lives that which prevents our experiencing the compassionate love of the Father.  Luke's gospel, as presented, could well be your defining moment as a true follower of Jesus Christ.  What is there that I can "take off" and put before Jesus to assure him and yourself that your Baptism and Confirmation have a genuine consequence in your life?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dangerous Modern-Day Exiles

The first reading in today's liturgy is a reminder to us that God desires that his family be together, not divided and dispersed.  He will do all he can to bring his people together.

It is no different today.  Some of the sons and daughters of God have gone off to lands of their own choosing.  Drawn by the power of sin, the allurements of Satan, some have split off from the grace-filled kingdom of God on earth.  Ezekiel's prophecy is a reminder to us that it is God's will to have his sons and daughters alive, well, excited, creative, and serving in his kingdom on earth.  For what purpose?  To prepare themselves for his kingdom in heaven.

No person, following serious reflection and discernment, would want to be exiled from God.  Yet there are times when the flavor of Satan's ice cream is so much sweeter and comforting.  This is when exile really does not seem to be too difficult.  Surely I wish for the kingdom of God but not so strongly as to desire it no matter the cost.

And where are these lands of exile today?  First and foremost, following almost 38 years of hearing confessions, it is so easy and thrilling to rent a few acres in the land of pornography.  Or perhaps there is a wonderful tour guide who wants to lead you through the enticing back roads of cheating on a spouse.  Then, too, there are the broad vistas of unethical business practices that fatten the wallet.

These destructive excursions away from their Creator God.  These are escapades that destroy personalities, break apart good marriages, totally confuse young children when divorce occurs, when one parent hasto move away for a new job at special housing village -- a prison or jail.

Just as God did all he could to build his notion after their times of exile, he wants today to listen to his speaking in our hearts.  Follow my son!  Listen to him!  If you are in an exile moment in your life, look at a crucifix like the one pictured above.Jesus is reaching out to you, calling you to return to him and the Father.  Are you strong enough to take his hand?  This is what your Lenten exercises have been doing for you -- building your strength to pull yourself up to be with Jesus not only in his suffering but in his rising to new life as well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

From Wishing to Desiring: Friday, March 27, 2010


One week from today:  Good Friday.  Lent will have concluded.  We might inqure of our hearts and minds:  "What has been the message God has left for me to understand?"  The three readings present for our prayerful consideration three "giants" of the bible: Jeremiah, David and Jesus.  In these readings are instances when truth is important, when discernment is critically important.  In each of the encounters, we read how each of these men demonstrated their commitment to a pledge, a promise.

What have you learned about yourself during this Lent?  What has God asked you to change in your day-to-day living?  Was/Is it so difficult that you turn your attention away from his suggestion?  Is it too much for you at this time in your life?  Or is it a challenge that you feel you cannot achieve on our own but one that you have the strongest desire to achieve?

We have, at one time or another, no doubt, heard speakers refer to moving ahead to achieve the seemingly unattainable by use of phrases like "burning bridges behind us" or "setting fire to the boats after all were ashore.  These phrases were meant to encourage.  With bridges and/or ships destroyed, there was not alternative:  forward into the battle!  These examples speak of having a "burning desire" to accomplish a change.  To accomplish what God asks of us is to go beyond "wishing" to do God's will to "desiring" to fulfilling his wishes for us.  To succeed in actualizing God's will in my life is nothing less than making what God wants of me nothing less than an obsession.  Just think of the lives of the saints:  the will of God was the goal they sought to achieve.

Tomorrow I will share with you six steps, easy steps, that can help anyone take genuine desire for going God's will and making it a reality in life.  Today, however, attempt to draft a single sentence that expresses what you have learned as God's will for you at this time.  Try to have a sentence ready from tomorrow's six steps.  It might make reflection more meaningful.

Annunciation: Day of Discernment

In the small chapel where I pray, there is above the altar a picture somewhat similar to the scene above. The Annunciation is indeed a day when we honor Mary as well as her Son, Jesus Christ.  On this day, we believe, the Son of God and Mary, both, accepted the will of the Father.  Mary would become the mother of the Father's son; the Son would become man to atone for all the sins of humankind past and future.
One might consider how swiftly Mary responded to the angel's message from the Father:  "Mary, God wants you to become the mother of his son.  You will will him Jesus."  Could anyone doubt that fear and anxiety abounded in the room where Mary was praying?  A simple angelic statement; a world turned topsy-turvey.  What was this young girl to do?  The "public relations" issue necessitated by the Jewish laws regarding such a premarital situation surely frightened her.  Did she talk to her mother and father?  Did she seek out the feelings of the man she was to marry, Joseph?  One commentator raised an interesting question:  Did all of this take place at one moment or did Mary take some time to "discern" the will of the Father for her?  Interesting question, isn't it?  So often we just take this momentous event as happening all at once.

While we might focus on Mary on this day in Lent, there is an opportunity for each one to consider how God has been offering moments of grace during the season for each person.  Lent, as most people come to know, is a time of discernment.  What "signs" or "graces" has God given during these special days of prayer?  Have the "sacrifices" or additional devotional practices adopted for this season opened my heart to the "angel" God has sent to me during these Lenten days?  Have I thought of Lent in this manner?

Photo:  www.marypages.com

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lift high the cross! Proclaim the love of Jesus Christ.

As we draw nearer to the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) and the conclusion of Lent (Holy Thursday) there are "heavier," more serious words for us in the readings for the daily liturgies.  In the gospel words from St. John, Jesus again confronts the Pharisees and their sin.  Again we hear Jesus telling them "I AM."  He is not the God or Messiah of yesterday.  Nether is he the God or Messiah of what will be.  He is our God, our Messiah, in the present.  He is with and for us in the here and now, at this very moment.

The recent week has been frightening .. at least for me, here in Washington, DC.  Bitterness, hatred and vitriol have once again managed to take over so many minds and hearts for display to our nation and the world.  The words, the signs and the actions of national leaders and protesters of so much have demonstrated what is truly an evil spirit that has captured so many hearts, mind and tongues with highly caustic criticisms and downright insulting treatment of other human beings.  More than a few people proved once again that racial hatred is far from buried.  As I listened and watched the behavior of too many "fellow citizens," this thought came to mind:  Is this not like the experience of Jesus when the angered crowd shouted at him, "Crucify him!  Crucify him!"  

Has our national outburst of mistrust and condemnation forgotten the cross of Jesus Christ?  There is "the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces" (Pope St. Leo the Great).  Let us come before the cross, lifted high with the very source of all forgiveness, the true love of Jesus Christ for every person.

Perhaps our nation's waging two wars simultaneously, perhaps our nation's loss of a true sense of value of all life, perhaps the loss of a genuine sense of dignity -- all these and many other sad and painful realities in our advanced (?) culture -- have brought before us the challenge to open our heats and minds to the cross of Jesus Christ.  What value does it speak to you in this very moment?  Can you see all those who are the victims of insult, bitterness and genuine hatred hanging on the crucifix?

In a most unusual presentation of the crucifixion presented above, Jesus reaches out.  During a homily, a three year old girl who had noticed this particular artistic expression of the death of Christ for the first time, spoke out to her mother in a voice loud enough for many to hear:  "Mommy, mommy, look!  Jesus is reaching out his hand.  He needs us to help him!"  Those words could not be truer today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

That Light in the Darkness:

"Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil, for you are at my side.." (Ps 23:4)

The accusation and conviction of Susanna in today's gospel as well as the charges against an unknown woman in yesterday's gospel are reminders that events can occur in one's life that cause helplessness.  While "transparency" has become a word abused or misused as often as "awesome," there continue to be times when your life or my life can be turned upside down, inside out.

It seems, in those circumstances that helplessness surrounds us.  During two of winter 2010's snow storms in the DC area, many people were left marooned on the island of their homes.  They were trapped:  electricity was a hoped for return or repair each hour for several days;  roadways especially on side streets were impossible.  What were we to do?  Imagine life without TVs, computers, telephones, cars locked in garages, driveways or frozen along the curbs?  These were simply inconveniences when compared to personal difficulties many face or live with each day.
Psalm 23:4 can remind us of the footprint in the sands pictures.  Our God does not abandon us..  Neither did he leave the unknown woman nor the distressed Susanna to undergo the death of stoning.  "Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil, for you are at my side."  How helpful these few words can be for those who have had to take on the care of a loved on afflicted with serious illness.  How comforting for those who cannot find employment.  And how soothing for a dedicaegd spouse or parent when addiction takes up residence in the family abode.
Surely there are dark valleys on our road map of life.  It is so important for you to remember that whatever "evil" weighs heavily upon your heart and soul.  God has promised to walk with you.  He "refreshes" your soul.  To those heavily burdened now, don't give up.  Let God east your pain.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Fifth Sunday: When Will Stone Throwing End?

John's gospel (8:17) you can read these words:

Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to through a stone at her.

Jesus wrote these words in the sand to challenge the Pharisees' attempt to trip up Jesus when they encountered an adultress.  What is the significance of what Jesus was conveying to the Pharisees?

During the last year we have experienced a dramatic increase in the exchange of demeaning responses or charges against individuals who think differently.  Throughout the health care discussions have we not encountered bitterness, hatred and belittling that truly is an embarrassment to a civilized society.

As you listen to members of strong, outspoken groups, the kind tv camera men seem to like filming, the kind that new services and pundits seem to favor because there is something captivating when hatred is on display, what do you think?  You are presented with more than disagreement.

Too many stones are being thrown at people who think differently.  Unfortunately many of those stone throwers also proclaim their faith in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Imagine what that same Jesus Christ would say or do were he present such hateful attacks are aimed at another of God's children.  Such hatred destroys any credibility in the hearts of these stone-throwers.

It is very easy to condemn the Pharisees in today's gospel.  But how can we praise or even tolerate such verbal stone-throwing in our society today?  Have we not evolved into men and women who are so much stronger and more principled?

Jesus died because sinners needed redemption.  So, there is one question before you today:  How do those who fire these verbal stones, these belittling stones, these hurtful stones justify their actionsin light of the words Jesus wrote in the sand?

We must pray for a return to civility between those who disagree in public and on public broadcasting media.  What we have seen in the last year on our tvs cannot but have some impact on our younger people.   Who will be the objects of their hatred?  Pray that those who have brought such damage come to see their failures.  Are not these examples of hatred little more than a continuation of what Jesus saw in the law of the Jewish people to stone to death an adultress?

Who would want to be a part of such a group?  Count me out!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Guardian of the Redeemer: Joseph, Noble Son of the House of David

Guido Reni Gallery

Pope John Paul II wrote in Redemptoris Custos (The Guardian of the Redeemer, 1987that Joseph "remained faithful to God's call until the end" (par 17).  Today's busy people, living and working in a complex society, may not look upon Joseph as a man who carried many burdens.  He is seen as the one who took Mary to Bethlehem, Egypt, Jerusalem and surely other place.  He was the man who had to face the dilemma brought about by the Jewish laws about a betrothed woman who became pregnant through infidelity.  Such a woman would be condemned to death by stoning.  What was he to do?

How many fathers and mothers have had to deal with the surprise" pregnancy of either an unmarried daughter or her boy friend?  Of course there are no worries about physical stoning.  Perhaps more painful is the hurt created by the stones of embarrassment and gossip.

God spoke to Joseph through dream  In a dream he leaned what his mission and his life would become.  When the angel appeared in the first of several dreams, he was told what he was to do.  The angel did not ask if he would consider doing what God wanted.  From the time when he awoke from his dream, he did not question the message as St Matthew recorded, "... he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home."

Joseph's love for his wife was extraordinary ... it had to be because of the graces granted to him to care for Mary and the child Jesus.  Could there have been a greater example of "complete self-sacrifice"?  This was the manner whereby this skilled carpenter "... gave her  a husband's 'gift of self'.'"

As a brother, a a friend or a model, Joseph comes to each of us.  We need the graces of fidelity to our vocations, our works and our families that strengthened Joseph each day.  How strong was this very quiet man?  Listen to some of the titles attributed to him in a Litany to Saint Joseph.  He has never been a man without the heavy burdens of others' needs.

Noble Son of the house of David; Light of patriarchs; Husband  of the Mother of God; Guardian of the Virgin; Foster father of the Son of God; Faithful guardian of Christ; Head of the Holy Family.  Add to these responsibilities the following:  Pattern of patience; Lover of poverty; Model of workers; Example to parents; Guardian of Virgins; Pillar of family life; Comfort of the troubled; Hope of the sick; Patron of the dying; Terror of evil spirits and Protector of the Church.  In addition to these "duties," Joseph was chaste and just, prudent and brave, obedient and loyal.

"Joseph, your heart must have been pierced when you thought you would have to quietly send Mary, your wife, away!!  How deep was your joy, though, when an angel brought the directions God wanted you to follow.  Hear my voice today and the emotions of my heart:  intercede for me, for all, to share the graces of God to enable me, and us, to be "faithful to God's call until the end."

Surely a Heavenly Encounter! Msgr. Louis B. Quinn, RIP

Most Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington have known or known about a very quiet man who packed a great amount of power as any Rector of a Cathedral would.  Many would have known the man who hosted Presidents, a Pope, Supreme Court Chief Justices, Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Monsignors, Priests and Deacons as well as many Religious priests, brothers and sisters and countless laity.  So "quiet," was Monsignor Lou Quinn that it was impossible to find a picture of the man even with the help of Google!!!  The mosaic above of St. Matthew watches over the altar where Monsignor Quinn and many other good priests have brought the Eucharist to those who came to worship the Lord.

Shortly after 4:00 PM, today, March 18th, a day between the celebration of Sts. Patrick's and Joseph's feast days, Monsignor completed his mission on earth, his dedication to the Catholic Church in Baltimore and Washington.  For the last several weeks a man who always gave time to visit, not just drop by, so many who were hospitalized, was himself the man who was visited by his brother priests and friends at Sibley Hospital.

I will put my law within them, I will write it on their hearts;
then shall I be their God, and they will be my people.
Jeremiah 31:33

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
Let perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Who is God for Me? for Thursday 3/18/10

St. Ignatius was a Christian like many others whose life has very few secrets.  Most who know of Ignatius and his life are well aware of his cavalier way of living prior to his conversion.  We might be able to say that he had his days "apart" from God.

While the Old Testament folks had Moses, the New Testament people had and continue to have Jesus.  And while not walking the face of the earth today, in the ordinary way, he uses the season of Lent to draw us closer to himself and to the Father.

We know from the first reading that God was very close to doing away with the people of Israel because they had too many days and ways apart from him.  In their difficult moments they gave into the adoption of false gods, even to worshiping a "molten calf."  Were it not for Moses, the story would be very different.

When we encounter Jesus each day, we cannot overlook who he was while on this earth:  the Son of God.  At the same time, however, we also know that during his lifetime on earth and since then there have been many false gods and many molten calves.

During this week before Palm Sunday we have an special opportunity to use a truly Ignatian practice of asking questions of ourselves and our relationship to God. The first question might well be this:  "Do I realize that the season of Lent is a time for me to take off the rose-colored glasses and to examine  my own devotion and loyalty to God, the Father?"  Ignatius would also ask this question:  "How many are the molten calves that you have developed that "reduce" God's presence in your life to little more than an historical character?"  And another question:  "How strong is my acceptance of this God in my life and what he asks of me?"

Throughout this annual forty-day retreat might we not profit immensely if we confront ourselves with these question as well as another one along with a supposition:  "If I were to experience a moment when God would appear before me, how would I react?"  "What could I say about the strength of my belief in him?"  What would he say to me about how I have lived my life thus far?"

Too often you and I can become so involved in our works and other distractions that Jesus and his Father are really not important.  Ignatius spent about three years trying to answer these questions in his own life.  Forty days of Lent are not a lengthy "retreat" compared to the Master Retreat Master of Loyola.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Lenten Staircase

The staircase you have just encountered -- not a shamrock or something covered in green -- leads us to our Father.
"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes."
This is the the long range goal during Lent.  We know that is a personal challenge ... to grasp fully the achievement at the top of the stairs.  We "celebrate" death and promised resurrection from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.  It is the same each year.  What or who is different?  It is you; it is me.  You are not, I am not the same person ascending the stairs this year that climbed them last year.  We, each of us, was a different person twelve months ago.

While all of the sons and daughters of Erin may be raising a glass to honor their beloved patron today, all of us might lift a prayer of gratitude to the Father and Son for the gift of new life.  It is the new life given to each of us in redemption, in reconciliation.  This is the same new life that captured a young Patrick who then brought an entire nation up similar stairs!

Interesting Health Care Split: CHA vs USCCB

While all of the cable news stations are caught with no other news topic than the current Health Care issues before the United States Congress, so it seems,  the same issue has brought forward an interesting set of statements from two leading American Catholic organizations:  Catholic Health Association and the Bishops' Conference.  Let me begin with an introduction of the two organizations.  Ladies first, Your Eminence, please.

For many years, Sister Carol Keehan, DC (Daughter of Charity) worked as President at Providence Hospital in northeast Washington, DC.  In that role, Sister Carol stood out as one of the leading Catholic Hospital administrators in the USA.  It was no surprise when several years ago she was elected to serve as President of the Catholic Heath Association (CHA).  Yesterday, Sister Carol announced that the CHA could not support the position presented by the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Francis Cardinal George, OMI.

What else is the role of the President of the USCCB but orchestration, bringing together the many cardinals, archbishops and bishops in the United States into one major opus?  Whispers in the Loggia's picture of Chicago's Lawrence Welk has always been a favored photo of the Bishops' "leader of the band."  Imagine had his family name been "McNamara"!!!  The smile and setting do reflect the warm personality of this leader.

In a lengthy statement released yesterday concerning the Conference's position regarding the current bill before the House of Representatives,  Cardinal George concluded with these words:

Two basic principles, therefore, continue to shape the concerns of the Catholic bishops: health care means taking care of the health needs of all, across the human life span; and the expansion of health care should not involve the expansion of abortion funding and of polices forcing everyone to pay for abortions. Because these principles have not been respected, despite the good that the bill under consideration intends or might achieve, the Catholic bishops regretfully hold that it must be opposed unless and until these serious moral problems are addressed.
In a statement Sister Carol expressed the position of the CHA as follows:
“As I watched our president present his plan to pass the health reform legislation, it was clear this is an historic opportunity to make great improvements in the lives of so many Americans. Is it perfect? No. Does it cover everyone? No. But is it a major first step? Yes.”

“The insurance reforms will make the lives of millions more secure, and their coverage more affordable,” she continues. “The reforms will eventually make affordable health insurance available to 31 million of the 47 million Americans currently without coverage.”
Sister Carol who has always been perceived as a deeply committed woman of the Church as well as a religious sister genuinely concerned for "the least among us," especially the vulnerable among us, in particular vulnerable women.
“CHA has a major concern on life issues,” she adds.  We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage."

"There is a requirement that the insurance companies be audited annually to assure that the payment for abortion coverage fully covers the administrative and clinical costs, that the payment is held in a separate account from other premiums, and that there are no federal dollars used. "

For more information and links to these documents check the list of links posted in the upper left side of the blog in particular the following:  Whispers in the Loggia, The Catholic Culture and (probably later today) the USCCB.  You will find coverage on these sites.

Sister Carol Keehan, DC from St Thomas (University) Magazine (St. Paul, MN)
Cardinal Francis George, OMI From Whispers in the Loggia

Waters of Restoration

Today's First Reading Ezekiel 47:1-9

This photograph should recall the words of Ezekiel, "and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the the temple toward the east ...."

The three readings from today's liturgy are reminders of the healing powers of water.  From the temple to the raging seas to the restorative waters of the Bethesda pool, the readings take up to an awareness that God is ever present to bring us healing, to restore us both in body and soul when there is a need. 

The gospel reading, the well-known Bethesda pool healing story, reminds us that there is more often than not a responsibility each of us has to seek our own healing when it is that is necessary.  Miracles do happen but more often than not, we have to ask for those special graces to bring about a needed restoration.  I have used the word "restoration" because it does remind me of the up-to-date hardware stores that actually find a home in malls, Restoration Hardware.  Walk into the store and you find quite a variety of items to restore your home at an upscale price!  But if you do walk through one of these contemporary operations, you are reminded of the many areas in a home that may (or truly may not) need sprucing up, in need of some restoration.  Just as Jesus said to the sick man at the Bethesda pool, "Do you want to be well?", the salesperson in the store will ask you "Can I help you (make your home better)?"

From the days of our baptism when we first encountered the "waters of religion," through those moments when our lives may have been like raging seas, to the moment when we sensed that God was knocking at the door of our hearts and souls, the waters of God care have been made available to help us restore ourselves to the self that down deep each of us wishes to experience.

And so it is with this season of Lent.  We are given so many different streams of purifying graces, waters that heal our souls.  Then, at the end of the Bethesda pool story we hear what Jesus said to the healed man when he later met him: "Look, you are well; do not sin any more so that nothing worse may happen to you."  The same message is given to us ... each time we complete the Sacrament of Reconciliation."

Your sins are forgiven now.  Go forth from this moment of restoration and don't sin any more.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Lent A Celebration?

Reading the first bible verses today from Isaiah,  would you think that you were in the season of fasting, sacrificing, penance?  It does not strike me that way.

While the Passion and Death of Jesus were painful for him, what he suffered is a cause of genuine celebration ... a celebration of thanksgiving for the gift he has given to each person:  the forgiveness of one's sins.

While we celebrated Laetare Sunday yesterday, a special day of rejoicing, a day to remind us of the outpouring of Jesus love for each of us, the Church carries that theme over in today's reading.

Indeed even at this point of the Lenten journey, we can quietly life up our hearts in thanksgiving to Jesus for what he did for us.  Our rejoicing today helps us, hopefully, better understand the gift and the suffering.

If anyone of us was being invited to a very unique and special celebration in just a few weeks, preparations would already be underway in our lives.  There would hardly be a day when we did not speak about the event, the people we might hope to meet.  Surely we might be sharing the good news with friends and family.
And, so, the question:  have you had any similar thoughts about the big event coming in just a few days:  the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?  I wonder how many Roman Catholics have spoken to others of whatever faith or even our own about what a great day is soon to be upon in ways that related directly to the religious aspect of the event, the day of salvation.  Surely Easter meals, baskets, childrens' events are topics we hear now.  But what about the major reason for this season?  Is it a part of who I am?

Read the next posting as well.  Thank you.  Good to be back with you.  I know you did not loose your faith simply because this blogger was out of computer range for the last three days.


Beaching on Grand Cayman Island
Yours truly has returned from a delightful, relaxing, enjoyable, restful week on Grand Cayman Island.  Thanks, not to my retirement income, but to my brother Jack.  We truly fraternal time.  We did not cruise there.  This was the daily scene, however.  Cruise line ships came to the George Town harbor each day.  Passengers were ferried ashore for the usual six or seven hour time to spend money!!!  Grand Cayman Island is a laid back experience ... but let me assure you that it is not inexpensive ... at least from my perspective.  The water was, for the natives Caymanians, a little cool.  But, coming there from DC and our winter, the water was wonderful.  I was tempted to go swimming with the dolphins, the sea rays, parasailing or jet skiing --- until I checked out the prices.  None of what was just mentioned was under $140, with jet skiing for one hour listed at $289!!!!  Remember the value of the American dollar against the Euro!!!!  The Cayman Islands are a part of the BRITISH West Indies.  Being of 75% English brought no relief!!!!  

I arrived in DC late Friday evening -- airline traffic was a mess because of the N'easter.  Saturday morning I was off to DC to be with my sister and brother-in-law who sponsor a fund raising event to fund the purchase of smoke detectors for off-campus housing as well as for local fire departments to provide the items for those in poorer neighborhoods.  A number of other relatives came from Calvert County and PG County to enjoy the soaking that the NYC skies provided during the 24 hours away.

So back at home.  Blogging under way.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Find A Place to Read: Thursday, March 11, 2010

Let's continue one aspect of yesterday's posting:  the duty to be teachers of the Commandments as well as what we are called to believe and practice as members of the Body of Christ in the Roman Catholic Church.  
At a time when John Paul II issued a new Catechism for the Catholic Church; a time when the American Bishops published a new catechism for adult American Catholic.  Here are two question with revealing answers.  Did you purchase either of these catechisms?  If you did, have you ever read the volume or any part of it?
Jesus spoke to the Jewish people often.  His words and works testify what the Father wanted him to proclaim, to teach, to speak.  Most theologians believe that Jesus, during the 40 days in the desert, came to understand his mission from the Father.
We are no different:  the teachings of our Church have been taught us so that, fortified with graces from our Baptisms, Confirmations and other sacraments, especially our frequent reception of the grace-renewing Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, each of us can proclaim the works the Father has entrusted to us.  Carrying his message to the world and to others AS WELL AS OURSELVES, is not the sole duty of those in the clergy or religious life state.  It is a responsibility of every baptized person.
During the remaining days of Lent, let there be some time to study anew at least some of the contents of the new catechisms for adult Catholics.  Without our own understanding of the articles of our faith, how else can we bring what we value to others?  Surely this is a challenge for all of us and, dare I say, for those of us who are older.  As one comedian was want to say:  ""It just ain't the same now as it was when we was kids."
So, if you can, find a tree.  Better yet, if you can find a tree near Caribbean waters, like above, take some time to reflect on a few of the articles in the catechism.  You will learn much and partake of the joy of peace and quiet.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who among the people of the worlds is there who is not happy to know he/she will be "called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:19b).  How many of this mass of humanity are daily aware of the membership fee to gain entrandce to this kingdom?  You can provide the response to this question.

In the first part of the same Matthean verse, Jesus tells us what the admission standards is:  "whoever does and teaches them."  And what are the "them: that those whowant in have to do and teach?  One word answer:  the Commandments.

Relkigious practice in daily life has to be a living out of the Commandments.  This is what Jesus is teaching the crowd during this part of the Sermonon the Mount.  A read of the entire 5th chapter of the Matthean gospel would surely be a worthwile investment of 5 - 10 minutes.

Ours is a duty both to live  and to teach the Commandments.  How oftendo you remember this by trying to teach others, especially within our families, the message and value in the Commandments.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bet You Did Not Know These Two Items

Sunday's Old Tesament reading about Moses and the burning bush had two elements that are unknown by many Christians.  Recall how Moses approached the burning bush, Yahwey spoke to him. The great leader of the Isrealites was to remove his shoes before speaking with God.  This probably did not mean much to most of the hearers this past Sunday.  Does it have a specific point we might consider.  Yes.  The traditions of the times demanded that anyone approaching a person of authority was to remove his/her sandals or shoes. It was to be a sign of respect for the authority of the individual about to be met.  The one wearing the sandals was to be recognized as the one in charge, the one with the control.  The one invested with a very distinct authority.

If you have a small prayer space that you use regularly, try removing your shoes or slippers before entering your sacred space.  If you are aware of this Old Testament practice, you might sense an unusual awareness of humility, of your human nature before the divine.

The second issue that might not be fully understood:  why didn't the flames consume the bush?  Likewise Old Testament times maintained that any of the gods who visited someone or something usually destroyed that person or thing ... like it was evaporated.  Our Creator God did not allow the material of the bush to burn so as to demonstrate that he is a God who wants to be with his people, that he will not destroy those with whom he speaks.  He is teaching us that Yahweh is a caring, a loving God

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Alone on a Hill - March 8, 2010

No prophet is accepted in his own native place. (Luke 4:24-30)

In the lives of any person of commitment to specific values, there will be moments when that commitment will demand absolute trust.  This is what happened to Jesus in the Lucan story cited above.  Jesus was preaching in his own temple.  He ruffled the feathers of those who were snuggly fitted into their own protective nests.  They turned on him and wanted to stone him. What a price for commitment.

During the years that I worked closely to Pope John Paul II, there were times when he made decisions that would have earned him the "most unpopular" award from the world.  However, he marched forward.  Throughout his entire life there were moments when he had to stand against emotional, physical, theological and philosophical tsunamis!  He stood tall and alone ... like the pictured tree above.

What was it that enable this man from Poland to be so strong?  How was he able to withstand the threats of the Communists, the challenges of his state government and at times the minds of eminent theologians?  The answer to these questions is simple.

He trusted in God.

Our experience of life is no different.  And why should we think it should be different?  A genuine follower of Jesus Christ will be called to trust in the Father rather than the promises of a materialistic world.  How often are faithful Christians asked to endure cynical charges of "closed mindedness"?  When speaking out for moral and ethical values based upon the gospel way of life, is it unheard of that ridicule will be thrown down on the pathway of justice?  Let it be said again:  Being a true follower of Jesus Christ in our world is a most challenging way of life.

Yet the rewards are real.  Banking on Jesus Christ and his teachings will make an individual among the richest people in the world.  What?  Read that again!!  Yes, because those who follow the Lord Jesus will be given the kingdom of heaven!  Can a world of injustice, hatred, belittling others and on and on, can such a world promise you a heavenly kingdom?  Can it promise anything beyond that next minute?  Hardly.

In your prayer today, open your heart to the Lord Jesus and listen to him speaking to you.  Pray for the grace to be strong, to be trusting in God because it requires of you a strong commitment to what is truly challenging.  To be a follower of Jesus, to be the tree that stands alone against any storm will demand "all my liberty, my mind, my memory and my will."  Words from the Jesuit "theme hymn."  Only thy love, thy grace on me bestow, possessing these, all riches I forego."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How Srong Must I Be? 3nd Sunday of Lent 2009

Hieronymus Bosch

Without any doubt the most challenging durty in life -- for a spouse, parent, son, daughter, sibling or true friend -- is initiationg action against that loved onbe where he or she is unable to put life uinder control.

What is the strong action doing?  Tkaing the most severe of measures to prevent what could be a final act of self-destruction. 

Is it easy?  Even for the hardest-noser among us, it is most painful ... regardless of what might be said.

What is the reality?  It is a living out of the most difficult call to self-sacrifice just as Jesus himself did for you and me, for all sinners, for all who were struggling with being a good person.  Taking such challenging action against the loved one is nothing more than living out what Jesus taught:  love one another, just as I have loved you -- no matter what the price!

Consider what you may have done or are currently doing with another loved one?  How did you or will you prove your love for the one in genuine free-fall. 

While praying today, let us not forget to pray for those we know and those we don't know who are being challenged by spouse or child with additions to drugs, alcohol or pornography.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A True Christian Challenge: March 6, 2010

Our lives are filled with many walkways ... many moments when we are faced with decision making.  In today's gospel, once again we encounter the well-know story of reconciliation and forgiveness --- the Jesus told story of the "prodigal son."  Most Catholics, no doubt, given the time could tell the story if asked.  However, there are a variety of questions that can be asked by anyone who reads and rereads the words of Jesus hoping to be stopped by an aspect of the story that seems new.  Let me propose the following for your Saturday prayer.

The father forgives his son.  We know that Jesus, along with the Father, has forgiven us for the times we have turned away from our Father.  So what might be a point not usually considered in most presentations of this gospel story?

How many times have you personally said to one or more people three words that can have significant meaning or can be little more than just a template response: "I am sorry."?  The reality is this:  those three words a slippery mechanism for getting through a difficult moment.  What happens after these words are spoken to another?  Can I not ask the question:  "How serious is my sentence?  How genuine am I in what I am saying?"  We might say that sentence so often that within a few moments or hours the sentiments have been wafted away in even the slightest breeze.

To say "I am sorry" is but the beginning of a journey between yourself and whomever it that is hearing the sentence.  Three words can hardly retore the trust and confidence that an action may have undermined.  Trust is not built upon the whisp of a breeze.  Trust is truly rebuilt when the heart undertakes a serious effort to restore trust in a relationship.  The prodigal son was saying much more than "I am sorry."  He comes home to his father with more than three words he hopes will reopen doors.  His testimony seeking forgiveness is more than a moment of truly significant father-son embrace.  The son openly admitted his failures, yes.  However, he was also making a firm pledge to give himself back to his father even as one of the father's hired hands. 

For each of us Lent and this particular gospel afford each of us the opportunity to evaluate (a) our seeking forgiveness from anyone we may have offended and (b) seeking from the Father a forgiveness for those times when we may have offended God.  Take time to determine your personal attitude toward forgiveness.

Wireless Connection Available: Postings will continue

While this collection ofd palms is not located where I am at the moment, it is a picture that was taken in the Fall of 2009.  The number of pictures is limited as my stash from my primary computer has not been transferred to this mini computer.  However, I am grateful that there is a wireless service available.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Dear Reader:  I regret that I will not be able to be consistent in presenting you reflections for the next few days ... I will be away until Tuesday, March 16, 2010.  I will attempt to secure computer access while away.  If I do, you will receive postings.  If not ... sorry.  Thank you.
Fr. Milt Jordan

Taking Up Residence in Your Heart

Government of California photo

What you are looking at is dangerous.  It is something akin to the slugs that populate our yards at different times of the year.  This is a nudibranchia snail.  It is a snail without a shell.  It is poison because of some of its victim's innards and because it will eat alive whatever swallows it.  But, as some would say, it is beautifully colored.  There are many different varieties of these sea creatures.

Once swallowed and brought into another creatures body, it begins to each, to slowly devour the creature that swallowed it.

So what's the purpose here for us today?  Are there weaknesses in our lives that have taken over our spirits; taken over our freedom?  Are there immoralities that eventually do us in?

Today's gospel story about the rich man who "dined sumptuously each day" while others around him were starving, is story about weaknesses taking over ... gluttony!  This story also reminds this blogger of the way a major immorality of our times truly consumes the lives of its users:  pornography.  It is very much like the nudibranchia snail.  Once it takes a part of a person's life, once it becomes an addiction, a person's life is ruined.  A very good friend was "caught" in his workplace viewing porn.  After some investigation of the "office computer," his employer discovered his habit, his addiction.  Because of the nature of his employment, his contract was terminated.  His family was devastated.  Fortunately his wife was a much more noble than himself and helped him secure the help he needed.

If we look into our own lives, we should take time to guarantee ourselves that we are not providing some nudibranchia snail a comfortable residence.  There are more than a few "bad habits" we might
look at to determine if they or any one is eating us alive.

Moral of the story:  watch carefully what you let take up residence in your heart!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Can I Be A Servant?


Through Isaiah God speaks again this time to the people of Sodom and Gemorrah, to those whose sinful ways are well known and who fail to be a source of goodness to others.  The directions given in the days of Isaiah weigh in heavily in our own times:  let goodness replace what is not goodness.  Justice toward all should be the goal before you.  Don't allow the helpless go unheard.  In essence our concern for others is couched in this sentence:  "Come now, let us set things right."  A simple sentence but seven words for God expressing his desire for humankind to make certain that goodness and justice reign. 

In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 23, verse 11, Jesus says "The greatest among you MUST be servant."  Notice, please, the intensity of verb:  it is not "can be, should be.  It is a form of the very expressing an obligation.

A teachers' mentor of some years in the classroom shares with new teachers the best ways to make each day in the classroom an experience of genuine happiness both for the teachers and the students.  What is so evident in her guidance is her genuine satisfaction that serving new teachers, and even some longer in the profession, with her personal gifts and skills can ultimately change many lives, many families.  This teacher mentor is the genuine servant, giving her remarkable talent to others.

And you?  Are there ways and gifts for you to share with others?  If you list two or three, you have a treasury you can use to make the gospel words a reality in your family, at your office, your business, your life!  What are these gift?  Grab a pen, write them for yourself and put that little piece of paper that holds a large vault of value in a place where you see it often as a reminder.  We are, all of us, called to be a servant to others.  Each of us, from our hearts, can give birth to words and sentiments that express care and love 

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Rewarding Discovery

Last year there was  a story circulating in the local news media about a young man who came upon a bulging wallet while walking to the Metro and his daily journey to his work.  Cautiously he opened the wallet to discover a sizable amount of money.  With the discovered treasure in his pocket, he continued on.  All day he would pat his trouser pocket to assure himself he had not lost his find.  Throughout the day he imagined how much easier his life could be if he kept the money.

Later that same evening, as he began his journey home, he began to think about the wallet's owner.  He found himself wondering what would happen in that person's life after losing the wallet.  Continuing on he passed the Metro station entrance, heading to the address that was on the driver's license also in the wallet.  Imagine the emotions as he spoke to the owner saying, "I found your wallet this morning.  You'll find nothing missing from it." 

Who was the man who found the treasure?  That really does not matter.  Rather what were the principles that motivated him to return his discovery?  What were the moral and ethical principles that he had established in his conscience?  Surely self-interest was put aside so that he could return what he had found to its owner.

And what would you have done?  Is your foot on the right path?  Walk in the shoes of the young man as he eventually returned to his home.  Imagine his thoughts:  I could have paid a number of our bills!  What a vacation we could have had!  Or, as he put his head upon his pillow that evening, he must have given thanks to his God for the grace and strength to do what was just.

It is never easy to take a first step in the best direction.  Yet the rewards are remarkable.  The cynic, the self-centered person would judge the young man a stupid or crazy.  The young man, however, went top sleep knowing he was a better person for his decision.

What are the principles that guide your life?