Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"I hate ...."

Please read beyond these words today.  The first reading, words from the prophet Amos are significant.  Remember as you read:  from the prophets and the apostles we learn what God wants of us; how we should live our lives.  Amos 

When I was a child, my parents would cringe whenever any of their children would say "I hate  ... (this or that or, worst of all, another person."  To this day I sense the same cringe when someone said "I hate ...."  Even to hear "I hate vegetables" brings to mind that awareness of what I learned many years ago.  So, today, as I read again the words in the Book of Amos, "I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the Lord."  What could bring God, the creator of all that has, is and will be, to say those words to Amos?
Well do I recall my grandmother's teaching us that, if anything could be designated as hated, it could only be what was evil.  She must have heard or read this part of the prophet's words:  "hate evil and love good."

What is so evil that Yahweh would use the phrase "I hate ... your feasts"?  Recall that in Old Testament times most feasts were occasioned by a religious event or an agricultural achievement determined to bring praise, gratitude or petition to the Lord.  Yahweh could not accept all that was being offered to his name because the ones making the offerings did not have pure hearts.  They were duplicitous.  They prayer and celebrated with those "infamous" forked tongues.  Somehow in the relationship formed with Yahweh, with people or with all of God's creation there was infidelity.  What God "hated" was deceitful prayers and offerings.

What can we say about our times, about the lives each of us lives, especially if we are individuals who attend Mass regularly, offer prayers and at the same time are not faithful in our relationships with God, our families, ourselves, our neighbors and the earth entrusted to us by God?  And whoever said that being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ would be easy?  Remember Peter and Paul:  how costly was their faithfulness!!
Throughout the year our Church celebrates the lives of men and women who have made a difference in the life of the Church as well as in their own lives.  Too often we simply say to ourselves, "Just another feast day!"  That phrase can said another way: "The Church's efforts in honoring the saint(s) of the day does not mean that much to me or to us today."

Honoring Peter and Paul today we are reminded that these early "First Fathers of our Church were called to endure difficult days, periods of imprisonment because they were not afraid or ashamed to speak out, to profess their belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Each of the saints, it seems, was an individual who had experienced the compassion of the man who was perfect.  Isn't the person who has acknowledge his or her failures so much the stronger?  These saints realized their lives were different because the man Jesus, the Risen Christ, had suffered and died simply to remove the burden of guilt in their lives and to atone to the Father for them.  They believed that they were empowered by the redemption that God had given them because of his Son.  So powerful was this realization they they could not be silent.  Praised be Jesus Christ!  This was the mission that took over their lives when, in their minds and hearts, they unlocked the gift of this awareness.  In realize their human weakness, a new strength, a new purpose formed their future days.

Like Peter and Paul, you and I, we may come to realize that we have been imprisoned by an addition to a favorite sin be it a minor or major failure in our lives.  That very addition usually becomes the reality that impedes our being the apostle we were called to be in and through our baptism.  Just as Peter and Paul were born again with new powers of preaching and teaching, so, too, are we set free from what shackles us from being the power, the spirit of redemption, that God wants of us.  Acknowledging our sinfulness, our status as sinners, empowers us.  Such an action should not put us in shackles.  Believing that Jesus Christ is our Savior, we, like Peter and Paul, should become women and men who are charged with the wonder and excitement of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Teach Me How To Pray


Many priests will share stories about the challenges everyone confronts in their experiences of prayer.  Many people relate how prayer seems to be a difficult reality.  This is true for almost every person whether married or single.  An honest priest will also share that they, too, find themselves on the same search at different times in their lives.

During my days as a Jesuit novice, learning about prayer was a primary goal.  It was in those formative years that we were taught one particular spiritual practice that ultimately became a sure way of learning about prayer.  The exercise, designed by St. Ignatius Loyola, for his Jesuit communities and for men and women making the Spiritual Exercises, had a specific intention that many of us novices did not see as a method of learning how to pray.  The specific exercise is named the Examen.  It is the shortened name for an Examination of Conscience.  Today many would see it as a preparation for confession.  It was much more than that.

The Examen consisted of five steps that ultimately brought an individual much closer to God.  Who wouldn't grow in a personal relationship with God when twice each day the individual takes fifteen minutes to be with God going through five distinct activities included in the Examen.  We novices quickly learned that the Examen was much more than thinking about what "sins" we had tallied since the last time we made an Examen.   Looking at the five steps in this spiritual activity, you can easily see how these fifteen minutes are an opportunity to grow one spiritual relationship with God.  Anyone who can remember the five steps of the Examen and practice the exercise at least once each day will soon feel the desire to speak out loud, "Heh, this praying business is not so difficult.  Why didn't someone teach this years ago?"  Ignatius was a wise priest and leader of a community of male religious.  He was known to say often that the Examen is the one prayer in the daily life of the Jesuit that should not be omitted.  What Ignatius said a few centuries ago is, perhaps, more important today than in his time.  So, what is this wonder "test" that makes prayer so easy?

1.  You ask God for his grace to make these moments alone with him a genuine experience of prayer -- both talking and listening between the person and God.  This is what should be done as anyone begins a time of prayer be it the Examen or a regular time of prayer.  This first step truly brings a person into contact with God at the outset.  Just time asking God for his graces to open the mind and heart.

2.  Consider the abundance that God has poured in your life since the last Examen.  This abundance can be any moment or person that has brought happiness into your life in the last few hours.  The resolution of a personal dispute or annoyance with another person, a telephone call from a friend whose voice always brings peace, or simply walking into an air-conditioned building on a torrid summer afternoon or even how good an iced tea or iced water drink makes one feel so much better on a summer's day.  Then stop and, as Ignatius would say, "savor" the moment, "savor" the feelings that you may not have given much attention in the past.  Don't rush passed these moments.  Talk to God about how good these experiences are for you.  Thank him for these special moments.

3.  Bring to the screen of your mind the events of the last few hours.  At this point you focus on what you did that made you feel God's presence or where you sensed you turned aside from God a little.  It may be difficult at first but in this step we should seek to find hints of God's being  present with us in the last few hours. 

4.  In this step you ask the God you have engaged in this prayer exercise to forgive whatever sins or faults you have recalled since the last Examen.

5.  Finally you continue your dialog with God and ask for the graces to live your life in God's loving care.  You recognize how God has tried to be with you during those hours and how you may have acted in ways that puts some distance between you but not having asked forgiveness, you seek the graces to move forward for the rest of the day or the next day mindfully living in God's graces.  Then Ignatius recommends we conclude the Examen with an Our Father prayer.

Simple?  I think so.  A challenge?  I know so.  What you have done in this exercise is to have taken what had been your recent realities and turned them into genuine prayer with God.  You have unlocked what many thought was an experience only for saints.  You have initiated or you continue a genuine experience of prayer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

For You and For Me

We read this sentence from Isaiah in today's gospelHe took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.  We need to ask the Holy Spirit to open heart and mind to understand fully what Jesus was enduring.  Furthermore, we need to understand that this one sentence should be read as a statement of our personal relationship with Jesus, the Suffering Servant.

All humankind has sinned.  You and I, we are sinners.  We should not and cannot fail to keep this reality in our minds not as a cause of guilt.  Rather, we should see in this both a call to gratitude and to a determined effort to control the sins in our lives.  If we are honest, most have a sin or two that is or are, we might say, a favorite(s).  We, each of us, have an evil path we choose to walk.  It is for this, for us sinners, that Jesus came to be among us, to take away this very sinful habit.  This is the true weight of his cross that he carried for me,  this is the pain of the various tortures he endured for me,  this is the death that he accepted for me.  For me, the sinner.
From this we should learn that the death of our soul is not the end for which we were created.  Rather, Jesus endured our human frailty that we might forever have the life for which God created you and me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Modern Call to the Prophetic Life

Again, I share with you words of Pope Benedict XVI provided by Dr. Rocco Palmo, editor of Whispers in the Loggia.  The last several days the Prayer on the Hill reflections have drawn attention to the role of the prophet ... the one who listens.  As the Pope said, " ... formed internally by the Holy Spirit ...  Welcome with an open heart ..."  These two phrases point out the importance the the Church's leadership not only in Brazil but throughout the world the importance of being a "listener" not only to councils, not solely to advisors and colleagues, but to the source of all wisdom, the Holy Spirit, and, please note, to those who knock at the door, those who speak the word of God to all human hearts.  These words of the Holy Father are indeed words that should be heard by all those who are privileged to wear a Roman Collar as well as the men and women who work with Bishops and Pastors in bringing the message of the gospels to God's people. 

The governance of the bishop will be pastorally fruitful only if 'it is sustained by a good moral credibility, one which derives from the sanctity of his life. This credibility predisposes minds to welcome the Gospel he announces in the church and even the norms he establishes for the good of the people of God.' Therefore, formed internally by the Holy Spirit, may each one of you be 'all things to all,' proposing the truth of the faith, celebrating the sacraments of our sanctification, and witnessing to the Lord's love. Welcome with an open heart the many who knock at your door: guide them, comfort them along God's path, seek to lead everyone toward that unity in faith and love of which, through the will of God, you must be the cornerstone and visible foundation in your dioceses.
--Pope Benedict XVI
Ad Limina Address
to the Bishops of Brazil (East Region II)
19 June 2010

The daily reflection is posted below this entry.

A Powerful Teaching Moment: Babylonian Exile and Captivity

The Babylonian exile.  We have heard this phrase used often in sermons and some bible classes.  But when did it occur?  How did it happen?  What can we learn from it?  In the first reading for today's liturgy, 2 King 25:1-12, we read a very brief synopsis of the events.  The very heart of the Jewish faith, the very strength of the Jewish people was brought to a seeming end by the invading Babylonian kings over a period of several years.  The Jewish people were broken.  Their spirit was dashed.  What had happened to Yahweh's promises to them?  It would do all Catholics and Christians, especially, as well as others of different religious faiths, to read this historical summary.  Maybe read these verses two or three times.  Plant them in your mind and heart -- to know well a poignant moment in biblical and Jewish history and to experience something of the people's sense of loss.

"The captivity and subsequent return to Israel and rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple are pivotal events in the history of the Jews and Judaism and had a far-reaching impact on the development of Jewish culture and practices (Wikepedia)."  Click the provided link to view a portrait of this historical moment provided in a calendar of the events by Wikepedia.  It will afford you a better sense of the Jewish suffering and rebuilding against all odds.

The issue of importance for us today?  Sense the resulting strengthened faith and the stronger, more determined hope of the Jewish people.  God had promised so much to the Jewish people in Jerusalem.  They marched from the hopes and dreams into a captivity with one over-riding sentiment:  despair.  Yet, it was during these years, as we know now, that they came to know Yahweh was not a God for them only in the Jerusalem Temple.  He was Yahweh with them everywhere.  A new religious experience was developed through the exile and captivity

We might recall these terrible years as we ponder our own modern-day captivities:  a nation imprisoned by two wards helping other nations, a nation terribly reduced by economic greed and now a portion of a nation chained by "black gold" gushing from the bottom of the sea.  Then we might ask ourselves this one question:  Do we have the resilience, the strength that rebuilt the shattered Jewish nation?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prophetic Model: John the Baptist

Yesterday, you read about a powerful woman, a prophetess, Huldah by name.  Her openness to Yahweh's voice changed the lives of the people of Judah.  Today, we celebrate the birth of another prophet, an extraordinary spokesperson for the Son of God.  John's openness to God likewise changed many lives as he spoke about one whose sandals he felt unworthy to unfasten.

Irene Nowell, OSB (Benedictine) noted that a prophet -- and a prophetess -- have a primary purpose for humanity.  He/she must attune the heart and mind to the skill of LISTENING.  Sister Irene noted that a prophet has to be a good listener because the role of prophet is to bring God's Word, God's will, to the people.  Imagine what governments would be were leadership, like the kings and others of the Old Testament leadership, attuned to listening to the wisdom of  prophets and prophetesses.  Imagine how much more respect there might be for our Senators and Representative if the American people knew that these congressional leaders sought assistance in listening to the movements in their own hearts.  No time for CHurch-State or ballot box or poll issues here today!  

Marie Boulding, another Benedictine scripture scholar and author of Expositions of the Psalms, reported that John, according to St. Augustine, was a man of happy heart primarily because "he was constantly" listening.

As we might easily find imagining how government - and even Church - leadership might listen beyond polls and election results to the movements of God's voice speaking to them, we cannot overlook our own lives.  Yes, many of us can be used by God to be prophets, spokespersons for his Word, his signals to us.  We cannot be true prophets if all we do is point fingers at others.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Wise Advisor: Little Known Prophetess

Photo from Rick Willoughby

There are among us very reliable resources in good friends and wise advisors.  Today's first reading would never lead you to the typical "wise advisor," the behind the scenes font of wisdom and support.  There is an omission in the presented text about Huldah, a little know prophetess of the Old Testament.

It was this woman who read the book of the law found during temple renovations by the High Priest Hilkiah.  The discovered book became the backbone of the Book of Deuteronomy.  Hilkiah had taken the book to King Josiah's secretary and read it aloud to him.  The content of the book greatly disturbed the king.  In these words the king felt he had discovered by the Lord God had visited such destruction upon the people of Judah.  Predecessors had not followed stipulations of covenants made with Yahweh.  So angered by by his ancestors' failures to live up to covenant agreements, King Josiah ordered the High Priest to take the book to someone to consult God for him and all of Judah.

Hilkiah and others went to the prophetess Huldah.  She became the voice of God of Josiah and the people, ultimately earning for them Yahweh's forgiveness.  The prophetess reported to Hilkiah that God would not allow the kingdom to be further damaged by conquering heroes.  Josiah's disappointment with his ancestors and their behavior, saved the nation from further losses.

Receiving this promise through Huldah, Josiah read the book to all the people and led them in a new covenant agreement with Yahweh.  They promised to fulfill the "ordinances, statutes and decrees."  In doing this, they renewed the terms of the earlier covenants made with their ancestors.

For us, the "missing verses" in the presentation of the reading, offers us the opportunity to recognize the role that women did offer communities in Old Testament days.  Strong women spiritual advisors saved the day for Judah!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Philly's Newest Auxiliary Bishop -- A Lawyer

Congratulations to Bishop Elect Michael Fitzgerald.  Announced in Rome today, 6 AM USA time, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Michael Fitzgerald to be another of the collectibles in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hierarchy.  Just two weeks ago, Msgr. John McIntyre, Cardinal Rigali's secretary, was appointed an Auxiliary Bishop for Philadelphia.  This blogger has worked with both "Elects."  Happiness is in the heart.   Msgr. Mike has been "Officialis," for a number of years ... caring for the canonical affairs of the Archdiocese, especially the marriage cases.  The newly chosen must be the cause for dancing in the heavenly hallways today:  my closest priest friend of all days, Msgr. Jim McGrath, formerly "Officialis" in Philadelphia, would often speak of Mike as one destined for the episcopacy without any doubt or hesitation.

Let us pray for both of the newly chosen priests from Philadelphia as they begin a life style that will surely be the greatest challenge of their lives.  At the same time, these announcements of "election" are always  an opportunity for us to pray for the other priests, the ones who work day after day in parishes, hospitals, schools, retreat houses and the like.  There isn't a day, even on a day off, when the burdens of the office weigh heavily upon the good priests who serve the people of God.  Don't forget to thank the priests you know in your parish who strive, despite human weaknesses at times, to be the faithful caretakers of their flocks ... you, the faithful people of God.

How Strong Is My Faith

Is there any proof in our world to validate Jesus' words that the road to life is narrow?  We look around ourselves.  Imagine that only a few make it through the narrow gate to reach the reward of life.  What happened to the promised land?

Was Jesus not seeing the realities that we would encounter in our world today?  Look at the large number of 4 and 5 bedroom "MacMansions" that have only one or two inhabitants.  A fire chief friend of mine from a large south eastern city recently told me that his city, only a decade or two ago considered a city with a superabundance of poverty, it is the Lexus auto dealership that sports the largest number of sales for the last three years.

Is this a sign that the narrow gate does not seem to apply to most or is it that the reality of a truly Christian life has changed in the minds of many to include great abundance?  The saints we honor today were men who were not poor.  So why do we honor a 4th century man, Paulinus, and 15th century John Fisher and Thomas More?  

These men, not suffering poverty, were strong believers in the gospel.  They were men who were willing to stand up for the faith that had been handed on to them.

So, what is the real difference between this narrow road and the seemingly preferred wide road?  Those who opt for the wide ride and all that it brings for them find themselves challenges by so many distractions that seek to pull them away from their faith.  It is truly the strong person who maintains his/her commitment to the faith, the the baptismal promises that were made for them probably as children but then renewed annually as adults.

Our concern today is this:  don't let the trappings of our modern world devalue our faith.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Albeit ancient, the reading from the Second Book of Kings offers thoughts that are quite suitable for our contemporary circumstances.  We read an account of the happenings in the kingdom of Israel after God had chosen the people to be his chosen ones.  The account brings our focus to the failure of the people to live up to divine expectations.  It demonstrates, perhaps in its own way, the burden and the glory for those who are God's chosen ones.

We are God's chosen ones present in a world that is torn between God's powerful presence and Satan's cunning challenges.  The Book of Exodus, 19:1-5, makes clear how God wanted his people to be fully human and happy.  He promised always to be with us if we follow his commands to us.

Like the Israelites, our contemporary world has followed other "nations."  We have bought into ways of life that pull us away from where God wants us to be.  This reading surely reaffirms that living the Christian life is never an easy reality.  Every day in our world puts challenges before us to  give into the the ways of life that divide us from God.

The Church honors the memory of a saint whose name is not unknown in this nation's capital city:  St. Aloysius Gonzaga.  Surely as those who were familiar with this 16th century young Jesuit, the patron of the Jesuit high school just a few block from the Capitol building, recognized a holy young man.  However, even as Cardinal and Saint Robert Bellarmine (SJ), his spiritual director noted, his practices of penance and rejection of the ways of the world in his time, was far beyond what almost all humanity could not endure.  In today's world, Aloysius would most likely be considered somewhat "weird."  We can look beyond his extremes.  We can see a young man whose heart was directed toward God; a young man who wanted nothing more than to be with the Lord and to arrive before him with a heart as close to perfect as possible.

Surely most of us cannot be an Aloysius in today's world. However, we can look at our lives to discover what separates us from God and at the same time discover what can bring us back to him. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Best Paced Learning -- 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Some of us might recall the words of a Nat King Cole song, "Summertime and the living is easy."  We are in the season when we try to slow down.  We are in several weeks that can be a period of "slow learning."

We are fortunate during June, July and August.  We have the opportunity to put aside the "need for speed" that seems to dictate how we live nine other months of the year.  Summertime and Mother Nature try to slow down our pace in a nice, relaxing way.

Imagine some of the significant moments of past summers:  a well-prepared meal that brings so many together; those talks with a close friend that might continue until midnight (at least in our younger days!!!);the extra evening light and warmer temperatures that permitted delightful evening walks alone or with friends or family.

I would like to suggest that Mother Nature uses the summer months to reach us that not everything we encounter in our lifetime has to be rushed.  Summertime can teach us that if we take the time that seems extra, there are some realities that cannot be fully understood or learned at top speed.  Treasures we can come to know and understand demand a relaxed time to digest and learned.  An apple taken from the tree before it is ripe, will always challenge the stomach!!!

What Paul and Luke are seeking to implant in our minds and hearts are not speedily captured.  Paul's words that "In Christ there is neither Jew or Greek, slave nor free, male or female; for you all are one in Christ" are just about 2000 years old ... and we have not mastered the message yet!

The realities Paul was teaching could not be learned in one class, one summer, nor one lifetime.  How long did overcoming slavery require?  Even Abraham Lincoln's desire is not yet fully alive in our land.  Even with all the knowledge on the face of the earth combined has not yet stopped the erupting oil tapped at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

One theologian, dealing with the reality that speed and learning cannot be put together, said "Nothing really significant can be accomplished in a single lifetime, and that is why we are saved by hope."  Even today, as a Church we continue to grow ... we have not reached the view of Jesus, Paul or Luke!

In the gospel it is clear that the disciples would love today's fast-paced world.  They wanted the Jesus Kingdom ASAP!  They wanted Jesus to show the enemy that he was the conquering hero the next day.  These followers were fast-tract colleagues, not content with a "slow as you go" learning experience.

What I hope you and I can learn from these thoughts is this:  coming to understand fully all that our Church is, all that our faith is teaching us, these can be be described as slow learning.  When you think about it, such a train ride might not be all that bad!

The Way To Conquer Worry

In today's gospel, Jesus speaks about one of our human nature's most ordinary pains:  worrying.  How many times when growing up, did you you hear a parent say, "Don't worry about that"?  Yet, how many times during our lives has worry become a cross we so easily allow to happen?

No doubt there are many people day seeking a return to employment who worry about their future.  In our coastal southlands many worry about the ability of scientists and engineers  to control the bleed of an oil reserve beneath the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  There are serious issues in  people's lives today that are not easily set aside as if nothing were happening.

What Jesus is saying to the disciples in Matthew 6:34-34 is truly a challenge.  He is saying more than "Don't worry."  He is saying to us "Trust in me."

There is a difference between "worry" and "concern."  It would be difficult to believe that Jesus is giving all of us directions not to be concerned about our lives and our responsibilities.  What he is trying to teach us is that we must not allow "worry" to become a master in our lives, a controller that makes living almost unbearable.

Trust me!  Trust me!  This is his message to you and me today.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Where Do I Seek Peace of Heart and Soul?

Today's gospel reading immediately brought to mind the more than a few boxes of "treasures" that seem to be so necessary, so required.  Each time this vagabond has moved, he has promised himself to rid the cluttering objects from closet, basement or attic.  Yet, there seems to be something so magnetic about  the thought/feeling, "things I MUST have."  It seems to be a part of me.  As I drive through city, suburbs and more rural area, a relatively new reality has become a part of the scenery:  the storage house.
Who is there who doesn't allow that same thought or feeling to take over?  Today with so many malls, so many shops, are we not the object of so many SALE TODAY experiences.  We store up so much "stuff."  Some might be honest and refer to it as "junk."  Of course excuses abound when we begin to think about ridding ourselves of these things that take up space, require time to clean or move from one corner or shelf to another.  Drive through a suburban neighborhood and notice how many folks have to park their cars outside the storage room ... oops, I mean the garage!!!

I cannot be speak about my "best sister" as we, her siblings, call her.  The "best" because she is our only sister!!!  However, she is known among her family and some of her friends as "Queen of the Dump."  There is not a week when she does not make the trip to her storage house ... the local collection center.  Once I asked her to assist me clear out some of my belongings.  Of course she volunteered but when she was brutally honest about what had to go, I withdrew the request!  Chicken!  Yes!

So, as I read this gospel today, I thought once again about a decision that has to be made.  As a priest, there are so many "gifts" that have arrived over the years.  Books no longer needed line too many shelves.  I think about those days when I lived in the Jesuit communities and we struggled to live the vow of poverty ... one of the great gifts of religious life!

Today, now a diocesan priest, the "vow" of poverty does not continue in my life.  Would that I could be serious about the "spirit of poverty" in my living quarters!  My sister has a large house but clutter does not exist and the house stands out for its lack of clutter.  The items she does display etc. stand out in their own beauty, not mixed in with so many other items.

The treasures we really have to store up are those we treasure in our hearts:  friends, relatives, conversations, dinners together, trips together, sharing in the joys of family and friends.  Moments of solid often open up door ways, not to closet overflowing with "things" or "stuff."  Rather it is to the goodness God has put into our lives.  

The picture above reminded me of that treasury we can have in our hearts.  Mom or Dad is tearing apart some of the fruits of a fishing expedition.  The two young ones wait, knowing that the care of a parent is soon to be experienced in a filling way.  Out there is God's nature, watching the event with a camera, it becomes so easy to sense the real treasures we should be storing in our hearts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hidden Joys

Apologies for today's late entry:  once again computer difficulties where I live.

In today's gospel, Jesus repeats a reminder or admonition, "And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."  Rarely does he repeat the same words in one "teaching session" with his disciples.  Therefore, as any teach would indicate, we should take some time to determine what Jesus means.

In the reading Jesus is teaching the disciples about the abundance of true joy that comes to those who performs acts of love, acts of caring, especially when there is no desire to recognized for the good work that is performed.

Most parents might teach their children that it is good to help others.  However, not going out of our way to help others with any seeking any recognition for what we might do, will result in so much satisfaction.  Imagine Mother Theresa and all that she did that none will ever know.

Each of us in our lives have met men and women, even young people, who have an innate love of helping others and never thinking about any recognition.  These are truly happy people.  These are genuinely blessed human beings.

So, during these summer months, there seem to be so many different ways we are given to reach out to others to help them in their particular need ... even if it is just helping get ready for a family picnic.

Today consider how much your life can change if you trust what Jesus is teaching:  The Father will provide the reward you should receive and abundantly so.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Thoughts for today can be found several postings down the page.  Your blogger is trying to bring some thoughts about what is happening in the Church at the moment ... especially for the city of Washington, DC.

The Rising Leader of the East Coast's Most Southern Archdiocese

Here in the nation's capital city, simmering on the back burner, awaiting it turn for the presidential agenda, is the matter of "immigration."  Surely this topic will be a subject of much meditation among the American hierarchy gathered on Florida's western shores for the annual retreat.  Hopefully prayers for a "miracle" in the Gulf of Mexico will be whispered during the times of prayer and worship.

On June 1st, the Archdiocese of Miami celebrated the "installation" of a new meteor, so it seems, Archbishop Thomas Wenski.  A native son to the land of sand and orange groves, Abp Wenski wasted no time in bringing the rubber to the road, building a bridge between his southeastern archdiocese and the west's Archdiocese of Los Angeles and it well-know star and dedicated immigration sponsor, Cardinal Roger Mahoney.  Through the goodness of Whispers in the Loggia, the following is a copy of the new Archbishop's recent words on the immigration issue.  The simmering may soon become a boiling pot!  Washingtonians might take note of this Church leader's bold leadership.

There was an Irish author, James Joyce, who in speaking about the Catholic Church said that “the Catholic Church means ‘here comes everybody’.” Now, I am not sure that he meant this as a compliment but he did understand what the word “catholic” meant. The word comes from the Greek and it means “universal”.
We Catholics believe that when Jesus was born as a man in Bethlehem he came not for just one people but for all peoples, all races – of all times and places. While Jesus’ mission was first to the lost sheep of Israel it was not to be exclusively for them. Jesus would tell his Apostles: Go out into all the world and preach the good news.
This would be something that the Jewish people would find difficult to accept. They knew themselves to be God’s Chosen People – and indeed they were, and they still are. But in choosing the Jews, God in no way meant to disparage or belittle those who the Jews still call the “goyim” – or the nations. Indeed, the election of the Jews was not a put down for those who were not Jews – for in choosing Israel as a people peculiarly his own, God wanted them to be “a light to the nations”, a light that would lead them to the knowledge of the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were elected by God not to be against the world but to be in a special way for the world.
The good news of salvation is “catholic” for all peoples. If Salvation is “catholic”, then the Church which Jesus founded to preach the good news of salvation must necessarily be Catholic as well. If the Church is the Father’s House, then all those who are God’s children through baptism should feel at home in their Father’s House.
Today the presence of so many ethnic groups that form part of our Archdiocesan community should show that all can and do find a home in the Catholic Church. Our diversity of languages, cultures, and races gives witness to the “catholicity” of the gospel message of salvation. This diversity does not divide the Body of Christ – it enriches it. Our unity is not founded on race or language or nation of origin – rather it is found on Christ. We acknowledge one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
The Church is the Israel of the New Covenant – and we are a chosen people as once the Jews were chosen: to be a light to the nations. We live in a divided world and what divides us is not the diversity we see around us. What divides us is sin. If we are to be a light to the nations we must model what a reconciled world looks us.
This was the mission of Jesus who though he was the only begotten Son of God became our brother: he comes to make us members of God’s family: sons and daughters of one Father reconciled to God and to one another through Jesus Christ in the gift of His Holy Spirit.
Our world today is increasingly globalized: Pope Benedict XVI said that globalization has made us all neighbors but it has not made us brothers. It is the Church, the Church that is Catholic – that brings into its communion people of every race, language and culture - that must teach the world how to live as brothers and sisters.
Part of the globalization we experience today is the fact of migration. In a globalized world, goods and merchandize (sp?) made in one continent are bought and sold in another, half a world away; information and money can cross borders in an instant; and, in a globalize world, people also increasingly move across borders – often in dramatic ways.
The Church teaches us not to fear the migrant – and the Church warns us not to mistreat the migrant. In a way, just as we call Jesus the King of Kings, we can refer to him as the Migrant of Migrants as well. In becoming a man like us, he “migrated” from heaven. He became a citizen of our world so that we in turn might become citizens of the world to come. And those who will enter into his heavenly homeland, will do so because, as he himself will tell us: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me”.
So we can draw a parallel to Jesus’ coming among us as man and a newcomer’s arrival in a strange land – in this way, perhaps we can contemplate the face of Jesus in the visage of the immigrant.  The divisive debates on immigration reform, too often immigrants – especially the undocumented -are demonized, seen as threats, and not as our brothers and sisters, or even among the “least” of his brothers and sisters.
Xenophobic politics that focus on the “illegal immigrant” as a problem obscures the human face of immigration. Dramatic, “get-tough” arrests of poor low wage workers will not solve our immigration crisis. In fact, such actions often engender more confusion and bitterness. The real problem is not the immigrant but the broken system that cynically tolerates a growing underclass of vulnerable people, outside the protection of the law.  Their labor is needed yet the present immigration regime does not provide them or their employers with the necessary avenues which would allow them to access the system and become legal. No human being should be reduced to being a “problem”.  Such reductive thinking demonizes the “illegal immigrant” and ultimately dehumanizes us all. 
Like the immigrant who arrives to our land, the Eternal Son of God through his Incarnation pitched his tent in our midst.  And like Jesus who was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn, today, even while they toil as jobs that Americans can not or will not do, immigrants hear again what Mary and Joseph heard in Bethlehem two millennia ago: there is no room in the inn for you.  And like many of you here today, Jesus too was a refugee, a political refugee forced to flee from the despotic tyranny of King Herod.
This is why the Church will continue to speak out on behalf of migrants everywhere. We speak out in defense of those, especially the young, who are trafficked across borders to be exploited in the sex trade. We will continue to advocate for a just and equitable reform of a broken immigration system that continues to separate families for unacceptable periods of time and that provides no path to citizenship for millions who work in jobs that otherwise would have gone unfilled. We will defend the rights of refugees and asylum seekers for a safe haven from persecution and violence. And, thanks to our Catholic Charities, over the years thousands have been successfully resettled here in South Florida and across the United States to begin new lives. And, because every child of God should feel at home in his Father’s House, as a Catholic community we will continue to assure that – in our pastoral care and outreach to the newcomers among us – we will speak their Mother’s tongue.
The newcomer –regardless of legal status – is a human person, he is a brother, and she is a sister with a claim on our solidarity.    And because of that solidarity we must build not walls but bridges.  
As I said earlier as Catholics, if we are to be a light to the nations, we must model what a reconciled world looks like. We have to show that diversity enriches the Church and does not divide her – for our communion in Christ is greater than anything that could ever divide us. I want to encourage all of you – and all our ethnic apostolates – to contribute your gifts and your experience of the faith with your fellow Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Miami. St. Paul, the great apostle to the gentiles, brought the good news to all the nations. And as he preached to them he refused to impose on them the ways and customs of the Jews; he did not ask them to change their culture or their native tongue; he only asked that they change their hearts.
In a world of broken promises and fragile hopes, may this local Church in its wonderful diversity of cultures and languages be always a beacon of hope, a light to the world. By modeling what a reconciled world could look like, we can – with the help of God’s grace – show those whom globalization has made neighbors how to live as brothers and sisters.

Do we not have to open our eyes to see that our shores and our borders have become sacred grounds?  Sacred grounds, indeed, because today these lines in the sands and waters have become today's Ellis Island!  "Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor."  What does it mean to us today?  

NEW LEADER At The Catholic University of America

The following was "borrowed" from the print of the leading Catholic American blogger, Rocco Palmo:

A source tells NCR that the CUA Board selected John Garvey, currently Dean of the Law School at Boston College. Garvey will take over the leadership of the nation's only pontifical university from Bishop-elect David M. O'Connell who will be ordained Coadjutor Bishop of Trenton on July 30.

...the president-elect will be formally presented at a 10am press conference in the Great Room of the Brookland campus' Pryzbyla Center -- the same venue where Pope Benedict addressed the nation's Catholic educators in April 2008. A meeting with the university community has likewise been scheduled for 10.30.

As a song goes, "Where have all the flowers gone ..." here in the nation's capital, we Catholics and other religious brethren might be asking, "Where have all the priests and religious gone ...?  Now the three Roman Catholic higher education institutions have laity at the helm!  We have witnessed the success of a laywoman and a layman at Trinity College and Georgetown University ... with no little success.  President-elect Garvey will be arriving with much recognition and success from Boston's Jesuit seat of higher education, Holy Cross College .  Most may immediately think of the land of famed quarterback, Doug Flutie.  As well others in our city may also recall Fr. Robert Drinan ... one of the new President-Elect Garvey's predecessors in the Dean's chair at the Boston College Law School.

As Whispers in the Loggia bannered:  "Eagle to Cardinal."  Maybe the new leader at CUA can bring as well a surprise to the quarterback position of the Cardinal's football team.

Is It Easy To Be Perfect?

St. Matthew presents us with a sentence in today's gospel that may seem impossible.  Sure, it would be wonderful to be perfect.  Didn't all of us long for seeing an "A -- well done!" written by a teacher on an examination or term paper?  Don't most of us hope to be recognized with high praises for completing a task.  But!  Do we even stop to consider being perfect like our heavenly Father (5:28)?  Can you hear yourself saying "Sure.  Sure.  Me be perfect as God is perfect?  What's the joke?"

When we take the time to examine what makes me who I am, when I take the journey to consider the soul that is mine, I am actually challenging myself to see how far from perfect I might be.  Am I not looking at what I might need to accomplish to be perfect like God is perfect?

First, let's consider what it means to say that God is perfect.  By being completely God, by being all and everything that God can be, our heavenly Father is perfect.  So, then,  in what does the challenge for human being to be perfect consist?  Is is the perfect exam, the perfect term paper, the perfect evaluation by a superior?  Probably NOT!  For human beings to be perfect means to be as fully human as you can be.  It is reflecting on my personal humanity, my way of living out the challenge to be a fully human as can be that I that I seek to see if I am living my life in the image of God.  The more I live my life in the image of God, the more I, the human being trying to be fully human, stand in the likeness of God ... being fully who I am, fully who God created.

When you think of God, do you not think of God as giver, as lover?  Isn't that the perception that each human being has of God?  God is all-loving, all-giving?  Am I not challenged, then, to live as his creation in an all-loving, all-giving mode?  Is human perfection anything less than being all-loving and all-forgiving?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How Difficult Sharing Can Be

Today we encounter a rather unknown character of the Old Testament in the first reading.  His name is Naboth. Somewhat tragic figure, Naboth owned a piece of property that Ahab, the king, wanted.   However, mindful of his own ancestral ownership of the property, Naboth refused to give or sell the property to Ahab who become depressed.   So much so was that ill feeling, that his wife, Jezebel plotted to have Naboth killed in order for Ahab to have the property.  In time Elijah came to Ahab and told him of the terrible destruction that would come upon him and his kingdom because of Naboth's murder.  Immediately Ahab began a severe program of making atonement for the actions of his wife in arranging the death of Naboth.  God spoke to Elijah and told him to tell Ahab of God's plan to redirect his anger toward Ahab's son.

So what's it all about?  WHat should we take from this reading today?  We might ask ourselves what we have been given by God that is a true personal treasure ... just as the property was worthy so much more as an ancestral gift than the actual value of the property?  Some of us might think about a object of value.  Others might think of the human treasury in friends.  Would we easily give it to another person who might ask of it or who would try to "steal a friendship?"Giving up a possession, even a friendship, might be somewhat easier if we realize such a gift was from God and that sharing it would have great value because of we were gifted with that possession or friendship by God. 

The Pain of Genuine Forgiveness

Today’s gospel (Luke 7:36 -- 8:3) presents to all human beings, regardless of one’s faith practice, a genuine challenge that may be among the most difficult.  Recently, I encountered a genuine experience of what Jesus was trying to teach to those attending the dinner at the Pharisee’s home.  We face the reality of forgiveness in a world that has become prone to finger pointing as soon as there are failures, losses or disappointments.  Not only in governments or communities, but also in families and in individual lives to  “forgive and forget” seems to be impossible.

A very popular novel, The Shack, a parent, the father, experienced the tragic death of a daughter.  Unable to deal with the pain in his heart, the father pointed his finger in blame.  He pointed toward the heavens.  Isn’t this the reaction of so many when we cannot control a situation that is painful and beyond our direction.  It is even more difficult when we personally cannot bring about retribution, punishment, especially for an evil done that impacts one’s life.

In our experiences and in the experience in The Shack of the father who lost a daughter, we turn to God.  More often our words or actions point to God and demand that he punish the person who brought about the pain or evil.  The father wanted to know why God was wringing judgment from the life of the perpetrator of the crime that took his daughter’s life.  The author puts these powerful words on the lips of God, responding to the Father’s anger.  “I don’t need to punish people for sin.  Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.” (Now pay attention.)  “It is not my purpose to punish; it’s my joy to cure it.”

Sin is its own punishment:  what a powerful statement that we often pass over.  In the dispute I was asked to mediate, I could not but see so clearly the hatred that had built itself a mansion in one of the arguing party's heart.  For almost ten years that person had let anger and frustration fester in the heart.  Only in the meeting which was to focus on a very practice issue, did the buried hatred for the others bubble to the surface.  Suddenly the discussion became heated argumentation without openness of heart and ears.

It was clear that the bitterness that filled the heart had been devouring the very soul of the party who carried such a heavy cross for so many years.  When I asked if forgiveness of the other's action of five years prior could be forgiven, I was told “Yes, I can forgive him.  But I will never forget.” 

Well, we might have said “case closed.”  Those few words made clear that the challenging party really did not want to forgive; did not want to forget.  The mistrust and hatred in the heart was so serious that in all reality, forgiveness was about as real my building a spaceship. 

When we fail “to forgive and to forget,” we are making clear how difficult it is to forgive, for sure.  But at the same time we are saying that we are not accepting God and his promises.  In failing to forgive, we are making ourselves better than God.

From the moment of our conception and birth, we have been entrusted with the maxim:  “love one another.”  Nowhere do we find that maxim translated as “love one another only if it is easy.”  God’s plan for us is to exercise, as he did and continues to do with all sinners regardless of the sin or crime, every effort to show our love to one another just as he has shown love and forgiveness to us.  Why can we not trust that God will do what is best for all of us?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today, as we think about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, call to mind that this Jesus loved us as the sinners we would be.  His love was so real that he was willing to die for us even before we were born.

Think of this:  we might not have this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus had the Son of God not accepted the Father’s invitation for him to take on our human nature.

Think of this, too:  Jesus not only came to live among us to save us but he suffered terrible humiliation and pain to bring about the fullest of redemption for each of us who would ever walk the face of the earth.

All that you and I endure, except sin itself, Jesus understands through his living the human experience.

So, as you look at the artist’s rendition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, isn’t it a moment to express most sincere gratitude and humble realization of the abundance God has poured into your life?