Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday: The Truth Can Pinch

Today's gospel reading, Luke 4:16-30, recounts a poignant moment in the public ministry of Jesus.  It isa moment that has also had its presence in the life of each man or women who has accepted the Christian faith.  In the account of Luke the young man, Jesus, stood up in the temple on a Sabbath and put his message clearly on the line. To the surprise of all the worshippers, Jesus spoke about words from Isaiah.  At first the hearers were "amazed at the gracious words."  Gracious, that is, until he began to speak about the poor, the captives and the blind.  Then these hearers became the enemy.  They reacted with little appreciation .  This was not the kind of messiah they expected or wanted.    He was no strong victor king.  Unfulfilled  expectations led them to reject his teaching, his interpretation of Isaiah.  And why?  They were confronting the truth that all Christians have encountered:  we are not able to tell God how to run his life ... and ours!

Yes, this message touches all who have come into the world and have opted to follow Jesus.  How many have come to the moment when there is a difference of opinion with the Commandments or the teachings of a particular Church's guidance?  Moral and ethical directives pinch.  Acceppting others as they are, as God has made them, is a clothing that does not always fit.  And these are just a couple of the challenges.

And where are you?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

22nd Sunday: The Marvels of Humility

While we celebrate the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, I do wish to incorporate some of the writings of St. Augustine, son of St. Monica.  Their personal feast days were yesterday for the faithful Mom and today for the errant son who became an extraordinary Bishop in the Catholic Church, St. Augustine.
    The readings your heard today revolve around the virtue of humility.  Those who were here two weeks ago may recall my reflecting upon the humility of of Mary, Mother of Jesus.  She knew well what true humility was: recognizing the talents and gifts of God and using them for the good of others. This was so clear in Mary’s prayer, The Magnificat.  I link Mary and Augustine because both recognized what true humility is about:  not hiding one’s talents under a bushel basket!
    Augustine was a man of genius.  Most likely he would never have been proposed to a Pope to become a bishop in today’s Church.  The vetting process would, most likely block his recommended appointment.  How much Christianity would have lost!
    Augustine recognized his weaknesses, his failures for sure.  This became evident in his writings in The Confessions.  At one point in his life he realized and accepted his sinner-status and turned to God.  As some of our brethren in different faith practices would say:  “This man of great intelligence and equally as blind to his Creator God had a moment when he accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into his heart.”
    This saint wrote these words he prayed to Jesus:  “You ovecame the weakness of my vision ... and I trembled with love and dread.  I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and for distant from you...”  He commented he had heard these words from “on high”:  “I am the food of grown men; grow then, and you will feed on me.  Nor will you change me into yourself like bodily food but you will be changed into me.”
    This “change into me”:  is this why so many people shy away from humility?  Are they frightened that God will take over in their lives?  Perhaps, as we grow older, we might recall frequently cited words from this unique saints writings.
    “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you. . . .  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched you . . . .   You were with me, but I was not with you. . . .  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness . . . and you dispelled my blindness. . . .  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
    Perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus is calling you, me and many others to a genuine humility that will help us find the life that we want to have for ourselves.  It is the humility that will lift our hearts and mind to a new reality that God want us to have.  

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday: How Difficult Respect?

Today's radio and television -- especially news and political commentary programs -- have brought so much pain and failure upon the American cultural scene.  As posted during the days of the 2008 Presidential Campaign, underlying respect seems to have lost its place in society.

Imagine what St. Augustine would have had to endure if he were appointed a bishop today and his background were no different!

Likewise consider how people would treat St. Monica who was so public in her support of her son despite his youthful frivolity.

Surely Monica would be considered as foolish for her intense efforts through prayer to bring Auugustine back to God and the Church.  Many would laugh at her!

Nevertheless she was strong enonough to live out the beliefs of her faith.  Despite the odds she faced, she did not yield to critics and nay-sayers.

Monica could well be a model and patron for us today as we struggle to prevent the negativity that is dished out so easily.  She loved her son but she also respected him and did all she could to renew his faith.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday: And Where Do We Meet Jesus?

Each day, so it seems if we are careful to look, there are countless moments when we meet our God.
This entrance to a reflection garden speaks to me, at least, of welcome to peace.  It is very difficult not to find God here.  Let me share the full picture with you and you will see why.

Much more like what you would expect.  Stepping on the welcoming stones has you "walking on water," the water of a fish pond.  And well might you say, "It is easy to meet God here."

I would agree with you.  But here is a beginning.  Think of the abundance of encounters.  Very much like the spaces between words and musical notes provide us with the time to delve more deeply into our hearts to create masterpieces of writing and composition, so, too, do the spaces between encounters with the many people we meet daily and throughout our lives.

This morning I spoke with a "young" lady whose husband is currently hospitalized and too weak and too advanced in wisdom and grace for doctors to safely operate on his body to make him better.  That "young" lady (truly young at heart) shared the pain she was having because should could not be with her husband at this time due to her own surgery two weeks ago.  What a sacrifice this is for her!  Yet, at the same time what a moment of extraordinary graces.  These days of separation surely are a grace-filled time in her life.  No doubt she is  praying for her husband.  No doubt she is also recalling so many wonderful moments together in their many years of married life.  She is meeting Jesus in the space between her being present with her husband.  No doubt he feels that same pain of the empty space in his hospital room where she would normally be were she strong enough to be with the man of her life.

We meet Jesus in the strangest of people, places and things.  Ours is the challenge to recognize in the spaces between these encounters whether it be between being with a loved one, or visiting a favorite "retreat spot" like that above or a treasured art work that is housed in a museum you might visit regularly.  Jesus is there in those spaces and there, most likely, you encounter the best meetings with him because there is not interruption in your conversations with him.

Jesus is there with you dear "young lady" as well as with your "young man" in the space between your being together moments.  And, of course, many now are praying for both of you.  See what an empty space can produce!!!

Mother Teresa Stamp -- Thanks Whispers in the Loggia

And just imagine all of the moments of encounters with spaces that Mother Teresa experienced.  She saw the spaces and knew precisely what to do:  get into those spaces and let God do the work!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wednesday: St Paul on Writing

This greeting is my own hand, Paul's.
This is the sign in every letter; this is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

In this text from Paul's letter we learn much about St. Paul ... and what he might be teaching us today!  Of course writing letters today would not be the same as St. Paul composed his letters.  Most of us would be typing letters from our computer(s).  The written letter may soon be a document of the past.  Today the quick answer, the abbreviated form for words, the very impersonal dominated our communications.  However, there is, I believe, an invitation in these three sentences of St. Paul to hand write a letter.

This calls to mind my Dad's first cousin.  She is 91 years old.  She lives alone in Norfolk, VA.  She has an adopted daughter who lives in a special residence because spinal meningitis has created limited skills.  My cousin is active in her Methodist church congregation.  Her age, she says is catching up with her.  You would know it when you are with her.

During a recent visit she told me how much she treasures letters that come to her form some of my first cousins and the telephone calls from the "church ladies" she has known through the years.

Where are you going with this? I hear you asking me.  I suspect you know.  However, let us see.

Paul's words lead me to suspect that it was his handwriting  of his many letters that helped him understand the value in that form of communication.  Writing on a piece of paper, I believe, causes the author to open up his/her mind much more so than when working on a computer. What you are reading is a second version of this production.  This kind of writing allows the Holy Spirit to get into my mind.  I suspect St. Paul had the same experience.  My experience:  every homily that is first written by hand then brought to the mighty computer is usually much better than the first draft.  

In writing there is a space between the written words where there is the opportunity for new thoughts to jump in.  There is the story by a classical musician who state emphatically it is the rests, the long notes and the short notes that create music.  Imagine this:  usually we sing along with lad-de-dah and not dahdahdahdah.  There is space between the dah!  It is just one sound.

So, what is the message?  Take a little time to do some writing and bring St. Paul's ending as your closing ... you will knock the socks off your friends or relative.  You will surprise them ... and hopefully yourself and you find that your message becomes something very different than a quickly typed letter.  You may find that you actually enjoy the time writing and allowing the Spirit to find a space between your written words where he can further strengthen your writing, your message, your love for someone else. 

Tuesday: Dedicated Apostle, Bartholonew

After reading  Paulo Coelho's, The Alchemist, the words of today's gospel for one reason or another recalled a sentence that the author puts forward more than once:  "Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also!"

Clearly the apostle, Bartholomew, was a man of commitment and purpose.  He was a person, like so may today, on a journey, a spiritual discovery, somewhat like Santiago in The Alchemist, seeking to unveil his purpose, his mission in life.

From the Scriptures we do learn that Philip was the "alchemist" in Bartholomew's life.  His searching led this native of Cana in Galilee to become, in a way, "born again."  He encountered Jesus and knew this man was indeed the way, the truth and the life.

While the feast day, as with the feast days of the other apostles opens our minds to role the apostles served in the foundational years of the new Church, we might ask ourselves about our commitment to our Church.

Do we have the same spirit, the same "energy" demonstrated by the apostles as they travelled to many places to establish or strengthen the Church"  Surely our local churches are burdened by a diminished participation.  Likewise, there are teaching we are called to hold a truths, as doctrines of our Church that are rejected or ignored.  And where are we in being genuine apostles for our Church today?

Having mentioned Coelho's The Alchemist, I would also like to mentioned Dr. Wayne Dyer's latest revelation of his own self-discovery, The Shift.  These two books are good reads and bring the reader to a serious examination of "Who and I?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Recent events in our country directed toward individuals nationality background or religious preference have brought to the table of many dining rooms, lunch rooms etc. discussions about who or what a person was or is or can become.  Most people we meet in this country today, we assume, are Americans.  We recognize, however, different skin tones, eye shapes or accents and immediately suspect that man or that woman is not an American.

For whatever reason someone asked me, not too long ago, if I was a convert from Judaism to Catholicism.  Of course I was perplexed because most people ask what part of Ireland does my family claim as the place of roots.  Quickly in the conversation, I learned the question was driven by my first and last name:  Milton and Jordan.

Yes, some of my friends are named Milton and except for the few who are not "black skinned," the others do tend to be of Jewish extraction.  Then I recalled for the inquisitor that there was an English poet of the 17th century:  John Milton.  Furthermore, I know that my family name springs from a Norman family who predecessors had battled in the  Crusades.  Like many Crusaders, they came back to England carrying water from the River Jordan that was used to baptize the next child.  Many of those children were baptized with the name of Jordan.  So, does the circuitous beginning of my family (3/4 from England and 1/4 from Germany disqualify my American citizenship?  Should I start carrying citizenship papers?

Likewise, had I been a convert from Judaism, would have to tell the US Government that I am not an American, even though I was born in Washington, DC?  I have traced the Jordan who came from Normandy in its English days by way of  property ownership in Northern Ireland granted because of participation in the Norman Invasion back to 1634 or there abouts here in the southern country of Henrico, Virginia.  And, as I recall my history of this country, those who became American on July 4, 1789 were imports, interlopers, from other nations.

After listening to a research scholar who was speaking to the issue of Muslims in our country and was asking if there was Muslin blood in his body, he replied that it was but that since he was born in this country he never considered himself anything but an American.  He was somewhat surprised when he was asked the question.  It was a fact he never seriously considered as a problem.  The response led me to wonder how teen-aged children of Muslim families feel today as their hear so many condemnations and disparaging remarks about their heritage.  Every single American has the responsibility to accept those who had come to our 50 states or who spring from the people who arrived with the pilgrims or afterward.  How painful the insinuations or direct put downs must be for younger people striving to be noble people in this country.

Can we not see the hypocrisy when religious beliefs are so challenged in a society which so often refuses individuals the right to express religious beliefs in our own school and governments?  What is tolerance?  Where is understanding?

So what does it mean to be an American when my relatives lived in the deeper parts of Virginia before the Declaration of Independence and a Constitution?  What does a mean when a person living in the USA says his family comes from Nazi German family?  from a Japanese family whose relative flew a Kamikaze plan against the US Navy at Pearl Harbor?  from a North Korean family whose relative was involved in the Korean War against the USA?  from a North Vietnamese family whose brother engaged in killing American troops?

These questions do require serious reflection, patience and genuine listening to the Holy Spirit in prayer at this time in our history.  Sit yourself along the shoreline pictured above and let your heart and mind open up as you consider these words from today's first reading:  "I come to gather nations of every language: they shall come and see my glory." And ponder the gospel reading as well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday: Those Dry Bones

Recall how vividly Ezekiel described the destruction that came upon the lives and communities of the Jewish people.  Here in truly poetic imagery the prophet speaks of the consequences not so much in absolute finality.  Rather he presents a picture of complete and vital restoration.  The climactic moment occurs when Ezekiel follows God's directions and implores the Holy Spirit to bring a new life into the rebuilt drying.

When there are moments in the struggles of life, turn to these words of Ezekiel:  Chapter 37:1-14.  I have no doubt that very few turn to these words in times of trouble or pain.  Yet in these words we encounter a vivid picture of hope.  It is an artistic expression of God' fulfillment of his promise, his covenant always to be with us.  Ezekiel is reminding the Jewish people that when sin of any kind has dried up our very being, when God's love has been removed from our lives by our self-centeredness, we are always free to invite the Spirit's breath of new life that is given to the person asking God's forgiveness.  These words are a painting of God's forgiveness to us, his standing by his promise to be ready always to come back to us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just Imagine!

Imagine, if you will, the terrible history the Jewish people had to endure when natural disasters, invading armies, internal deceit, immorality, etc., etc., that have been described by the prophets, especially Ezekiel whose writings we are reading at the present time.  What must a prophet think as he looks at the horrible reality that has befallen the Jewish people primarily because of individuals sinfulness of one shade or another.

Now imagine if you witnessed the Jewish people when they heard the words of Ezekiel that we read today.  After all the doom and gloom, what a reaffirmation is given to the people and to each person who seeks to follow Jesus Christ.  Through the words of Ezekiel we are witnesses to the  promised fulfillment of God's promised words and acts.  As we are gifted with an assurance that God will cleanse us from our own sinful ways. These assuring words from God should stir up wonder and  gratitude in our own souls and hearts.  What a marvelous way to experience the reaction of a God who has been offended by sin.

Imagine how you would feel if you have a major medical issue and a doctor hands you a pill that will "you give a new heart" and "place a new spirit within you".  Or consider this:  you have serious difficulties that weigh heavily upon you and you meet a holy person who says, "I will pray that God will remove the stony feelings and give you a new spirit."  In just a few days your life changes and you don't know why.  You don't?  You're missing the boat if you don't know why!

Surely such is what happens each time we seek God's loving forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We truly become a new people, each of us, individually!   So, let us pray today that whenever our hearts are distant or stony, we will remember that God will regard us with a new relationship.  His is the glory.  His is the Kingdom.  And he always brings you back to it.


Just imagine the feelings of those soldiers on the last armed vehicle that crossed through the gates from Iraq into Kuwait this evening.  Perhaps there may be a similar feeling as the Jewish people returned to their land, war ended.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday: How do I Reach Holiness?

It's early in the morning.  The thoughts today are prompted by a conversation with a friend:  "Come on!  Tell me how to become holy.  Is it really possible in this life we have now?"  Kinda loaded isn't it?  Yet, without any doubt it is how some truly feel.  Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote these words which may help open up come thinking about how we reach holiness.
All of my life I wanted to be somebody.
Now I am finally somebody ---
but it isn't me.
What we should find in this thought is this:  Have I allowed a variety of distractions prevent me from becoming my real self, the self that God sent into the world?  It is so easy for us to be captured by our needs.  These are those feelings, those pressures that completely blur our seeing God's plan for my life.  How many times have we allowed selfishness the permission to lock my mind and heart from seeing how I best can serve God and those who come into contact with me?  How many times has a felt need for greater successes and recognition shackle my mind heart, preventing me from being strong enough to dispel those feelings that prevent me from letting God be the power that drives me onward?

We will never come to understand holiness and what that means for our lives as long as we have become the servants of masters who are just another expression of our egos.  Our personal ego is usually a tough task master:  it demands much from a commitment to it.  In many instances we do not perceive that our egos are the power behind the throne that prevents allowing my mind and heart and soul to live life as we truly want it to be ... where there is a sense of peace, a genuine contentment.

Today, take a few moments of time, as precious as it is, to look at the two primary reasons you are doing what your are doing.  First you would have to know what these two primary reasons might be.  It may demand more than just a few moments; it may demand more than a few days of investigation.  But until anyone of us has taken the time to understand what it is that drives us, that creates a genuine lack of contentment, we will never achieve the true understanding of who I am.  That, then, is the key that opens the door to my understanding of who I am.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


First, let me begin with something of an apology.  To you faithful readers, I regret that I have not been as faithful as I should be with the postings to this blog.  However, upon recommendation from my doctor and many who know me well, I am trying to get into retirement.  As usual, I extended myself trying to be all things to all that came to my phone or email.  I found myself truly overworked and not enjoying retirement at all.  So, I have begun slowing done and doing things I want to do.  One of the results has been my weekends have begun to stretch from Sunday after a parish Mass until Wednesday morning when I return from visiting with some of my family.  I am feeling much better now and will continue to reduce the other events that have taken up my physical and psychological energy.  I am sure you can understand.  I am listening to my body and my soul!  So, that is what has been the reason for the sporadic attention to the postings.  By the beginning of September, I will be on a more consistent schedule.  To those who have been able to reach me, I am grateful for your interest and concern.  For those who cannot reach me, I know your support is there now that you "know the rest of the story."  So, let's turn to today's reflection.

Did you ever wonder why this Marian feast was positioned in the middle of August?  Perhaps two realities my offer one possible reason:  (1) by August 15th, at least in the USA, most people, that is those with student-children, have had a summer vacation and are refreshed and (2) the middle to the end of August stand as a threshold to a new (academic) year that regulates so many lives.  So, we stand refreshed and knocking at the door!  So what should we take from this feast day that will make us somewhat different than we were about two months ago?

This feast offers us consideration of a virtue that can strengthen us as we walk into a new "year."  What is that virtue?  One that most would not expect:  TRUE HUMILITY.   This is what we can gain from a feast that invites us to know more about the mother of Jesus.  In Mary's prayer --- not the Hail Mary, by the way ... that is our prayer to Mary --- the Magnificat, we hear Mary's humility expressed magnificently!  Some might consider the words "generations will call be blessed" lacking in humility.  But the next part of the sentence speaks why these words are not prideful:  because the Lord has done great things for me."  It would be almost prideful if Mary did not acknowledge the greatness that had been entrusted to her; that it was not her doings that made the greatness but rather the act of God the Father.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you might be a good parent, a good administrator, a good artist whatever it is that you are.  Pride comes into the picture when we think that we made ourselves great and fail to recognize that it was a gift of God planted in our being.  It has been up to each of us to know what greatness God has implanted in us and to make it become what God had in mind for us.

This is the gift of know how Mary prayed and what impact it can have in our lives.  So, as we move from vacation time back to what we usually do, let us petition the Mother of God to intercede for us to have the graces of knowing and remembering how God has made us great.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friday: The Promise that Won't Go Away!

Ezekiel's message is ever so clear for the people of the 21st century:  despite whatever sin there may be recorded in an individual life, God says "For I will re-establish my covenant with you."  Through the spoke world of Ezekiel, the God who created each human being stands firm in his covenant relationship:  "I will forever remain true to you"  This God of ours promises each of us his pardon "for all you have done."

Are we nothing less than extraordinarily blessed.  Regardless of one's sins, either their severity or number, God promises "I will remember the covenant I made with you."  This is the message of hope for those who genuinely struggle with certain weaknesses and/or sins.  How important is this promis to those who bring their sins to the Sacrament of Reconciliation!  Every confessor has encountered the penitent who speaks of the firm decision to back away from a particular sin only to discover how the strong spirit of evil can smash that firm intention not to sin again.

Let all of us remember that while the humanity in us can so easily bring us, almost consistently, to failure, we cannot overlook that which is stronger than the power of evil:  God does not abandon us.  He does not give up his love for us and our efforts.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thursday: What's in the Mime for Me?

If you read slowly through the 12 verses of the first reading for today's liturgy, you may wonder what Ezekiel's prophetic words and his peculiar actions might mean for me today?  It is an honest question but a necessary question if you wish to try understanding why God so inspired the prophet to write as he did.

Ezekiel is told by God to perform a mime for the people.  It is strange for them ... because it speaks of loss, of blindness, of failure, etc..  Ezekiel is teaching that their King, Zedekiah, will be blinded and taken along with the people into exile in Babylon.  We know from history that this happened when King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and forced the people into exile.  The blindness of Zedekiah represents the blindness of the people to God's will for them.
For us today this part of Ezekiel's writings serve as a reminder to us that we need to have eyes and ears to hear the Word of God that is spoken to us ... perhaps in strange and unexpected ways.  It is a signal to each person today to consider carefully how we are living our lives in light of God's will for us.  It is so easy, unfortunately, for us to fall into a blindness where we neither see nor hear the will of God for us.

This reading challenges us to pray to God that we might have eyes and ears that enable us to know where it is that God is calling us.  Again, this is not always easy because we entered this life of our with the reality of Original Sin in our very being.  It is so easy to say, "Of course, I want to do the will of God with my life for him."  However, each of us knows well that at the same time the power of evil is both strong and conniving and we have weaknesses.  We need to pray each day "Lord, open my eyes and ears to know your will."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wednesday: Where is God in My Life?

So often we are tempted to forget how important God is in our lives.  And so often this forgetfulness may occur because we fail to truly understand and believe how closely God is related to each one of us from the moment we are conceived until the moment we pass from this life into that place we call God's kingdom.

Dr. Wayne Dyer, one of my favorite writers and thinkers, tells of an ancient tale of a young boy.  He lived in a small village.  Clearly the boy had extraordinary perceptive powers.  He was living tranquility.  Even the wise men of the village sought out his wisdom.  In trying to learn more about God, one of the tribe's elders ask the boy "If you tell me where God is, I will give you an orange."  Without any delay the boy replied:  "I will give you two oranges if you can tell me where God is not!"

We are a "chip off the block" you might say.  We are not simply human beings.  We are men and woman, surely human in nature, but men and women who have within us, something of the divine.  We do not think of ourselves in this manner too often ... it is frightening, isn't it.  Yet it is certainly a reality that can make our relationship with God and even ourselves so much the stronger.

If a person goes to the ocean and carries a small bucket out into the water and then returns to the shore with a full bucket, what does that person have in the bucket?  It surely is water but not just any bucket of water.  It is a bucket of ocean water.  Is it any less ocean water because the quantity is small compared to the vastness of the ocean?  Hardly.  It is a bucket of ocean water.

Are we not a creation of God's mind and God's "handiwork"?  When we are born, can we not say that we have come from God through the cooperation of our parents the the natural birthing cycle? Is there not something of the divine, then, within each of us?

So why is it so difficult for so many to fail seeing God's presence first and foremost in ourselves, in our very being?  Give some thought to this.  It is truly a refreshing insight.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sunday: What is Better Than Our Faith?

Yesterday's blog posting brought forward a major question that focused on the strength of one's faith.  Today, the readings explode that question with words and thoughts that force a deeper examination of personal commitment to the faith.  It is the faith professed at every Sunday liturgy in the words of the Creed we recite as well as each Easter Sunday and every time we participate in a Baptism rite.

Do we have the faith of an Abrahan and Sarah?  Which was?  Principally a trust that God would fulfill his promise to them: they lived in the promised land; a long-desired child came in their advanced age; and that same son was given back when God tested their faith.

So why do we live in what seems like a never-ending and ever-deepening recession?  Why is the lack of money mow so much the cross we are made to carry?  Why is deprivation of "the good life"?  Why does God seem unconcerned about today's worldly mess?

Our Church tries to teach us that we need the faith of Abraham.  When some reject that course of action, that proposed journey of faith, can we not ask this question:  And where have greed, infidelity, stepping away from God brought our world, our nation, our families, our personal lives?

True faith requires of us today that we see beyond having material realities controlling our lives, our cultures.  We need to return to a lifestyle where what we do, what we say, what we teach others are based upon and spring forth from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Our grand challenge today is to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, one who openly professes a strong faith.

Saturday: My Faith Today

Perhaps a read of these two "moments" could stir up a genuine personal response to the question "How strong is my faith TODAY?  Habakkuk, the prophet, challenges God because he is annoyed by the violence and grace injustices  that are happening in his times and before.  Why has the great God allowed these travesties to happen and then continue?  A look at our world today might well bring us to demand the same question of God.  Armies, gratefully, are not invading our land but what about the other destructive forces we see around us?

There is the (1) the destruction by nature that has washed out so many people' lives; (2) severe and unusual heat that has taken many lives and melted away many plans; (greed) and carelessness that have oiled the Gulf of Mexico and many components of our ecological world, ruining many natural processes, debilitating many employments, creating many homes locked in poverty; (4) local, state and federal governments scarred by scandal and injustices;  and, (5) the many places in the world where violence and war have leveled homes, towns and buried so many futures.

Jesus encounters an obviously faithful man in the gospel.  He is disappointed that the disciples could not cure his impaired son.  The father hears Jesus' words of exasperation:  "O faithless and perverse generation ....  How long will I endure you?"  How long can he put up with them?  However, he cures the son because of the father's faith.  The disciples then ask "Why couldn't we drive the evil spirits, those demons from the boy?  Jesus answers directly and simply:  "Even you have so little faith!"  And he assures all those hearing him speak that faith, even the size of the tiniest seed, the mustard seed, could move obstacles.  "Nothing is impossible for you."

So, we are confronted boldly as well:  "what is the content of your faith?"  How strong is the relationship between you and your God?  How free is your life of the sins, the injustices, the greed, the hatred that diminishes the power of your faith?  Could it move the bolder in the picture above???


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Friday: The Transfiguration of the Lord

The Transfiguration by Raphael

To celebrate the Transfiguration is not easy for most contemporary Americans, Catholic or not.  Mystical experiences are not one of our daily concerns or experiences.  We are a "here and now" people.  Mysticism is different.  It demands a movement from the business of the moment to something or someone outside ourselves, the exigencies of the moment or the environment where we might be.

Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus as he climbed Mt. Tabor.  Little did his companions expect to be witnesses  of a miracle.  Even more stupefying was the reality that the miracle was done to Jesus.  It is this event that is described by St. Thomas Aquinas as "the greatest miracle."

When the disciples awoke, presumably from their siestas, they were quietly overwhelmed by what they were privileged to see.  As Luke comments "becoming fully awake they saw his glory."  As well, they saw two men standing with him, Moses and Elijah. At one point a cloud descended upon "them."  Scholars are not certain whether it was an all-inclusive cloud or one that covered only Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Once in the cloud "they" hear the voice of God:  "This is my chosen Son; listen to him."  After these words only Jesus was visible to them.  St. Luke comments that after this "they fell silent."  Obviously the disciples were stunned.  There were silent -- even the impetuous Peter.  It seems evident that they understood the need to remain silent -- lost in wonderment.

Can you possibly enter into the mystical moment we are celebrating today?  Take a few moments to understand it, to "get into it."  It is a gift.

Today is also the anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI.

Trusting with the Power of Nothingness

Once again we might imagine Jesus speaking in these words:  "Do you understand; do you believe me -- I will always be with you."  These words could well be what the Holy Spirit had planted in the minds and hearts of Jeremiah and Matthew that we encounter in today's readings.

Are there not times when hope and confidence wane in your heart?

You have hear and read the word "covenant."  How meaningful is that word in your heart, your operative thinking vocabulary?  It is, as presented in Jeremiah, an astounding reality.  "I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts."  Well, it seems that Yahweh was quite serious about the word:  writing it upon our hearts!

The "covenant" relationship has been with each of us since the day we were conceived.  It is a reality we didn't worry about while we were in the "nothingness" of our being, still within the mind of God.  But on the day you were conceived, it became the agreement between you and God who was sending you on a unique mission.  It continues until the day your return to the "nothingness" from which we came to be with God in our truly "spiritual nothingness."  Hence the picture taken by an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WEDNESDAY: When To Be Strong

When you read or hear the gospel for today's liturgy, the chances are that the story is so well-known, that a very important aspect of what Jesus was doing may either be diminished or simply overlooked.
Mom Canaanite comes to the disciples and Jesus.  She has every reason: her daughter has been captured by a demon.  She seemingly pesters the disciples who plead with Jesus:  tell her to go away, she is really bothering us and we know she is annoying you.

Nevertheless, the woman, truly a mother seeking a cure for the daughter she obviously loved, would not be turned away.  She persisted in asking Jesus "Lord, help me."  Now Jesus knows she is a Canaanite woman ... not a part of the Jewish community.  Jesus is stern, telling her if he cured her daughter it would be as if he were taking food from the children at a dinner table. He had come to "feed" the Jewish people and their needy.  That reply did not stop Mom Canaanite.  Even the dogs get scraps from the table she reminded him.  She would not step down.

When Jesus heard the words, "Lord, help me!" he was stunned:  this was indeed a woman of strong faith.  Obviously she had heard Jesus or heard about his amazing care and power.  This was the key that opened the door to her daughter's cure.

Many times we come before Jesus with similar words:  boiled down they are the same word's the Mom Canaanite uttered:  Lord, help me.  However, we come from a culture that has grown accustomed to rapid fire response.  Weeeeeeeeellllllllll, it just doesn't work that way most of the time with Jesus in responding to our petition, pleas and other bargainings.  Sometimes we have to be strong, just as the Canaanite woman was.

Today we honor St. John Mary Vianney.  The name Mary stops a number of people.  An old tradition that parents gave Mary's name as a "middle" name to their children.  In religious orders both men and women take the name of Mary as a part of their name.  In "ancient days" when a Jesuit novice pronounced his first vows in the Society of Jesus, his vow formula would contain his name but with the addition of "Mary" in the title.

Now John certainly was a young man who must have prayed and prayed to Jesus for help.  John and academics, as we know, were oil and water.  They just did not mix.  As priests will reflect:  dthose written and oral examinations throughout the course of studies leading to the priesthood were not always a piece of cake.  But we knew one thing:  beat down the doors of heaven, petitioning everyone from God the Father down to the least know saint:  help me please.  This must have been the common prayer for John who was a known poor student.  His ordination was ever in doubt.

Why did he struggle so long?  Could it not be that his petitioning was recognized in spades!  Shortly after his ordination the word spread:  there is a man of compassion and understanding.  This is a holy man in the Vianney parish.  He is so strong in helping everyone.  Lines of penitents stretched for miles at times and people came seeking peace of mind and heart.  Surely John's petitioning had a diamond-like reward:  he had come to know the human heart and soul.  He could bring sinners such much people ... most like so much more than his academically inclined classmates!

Like Mom Canaanite and St. John Mary Vianney:  be strong.  Speak back to God, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit.  It is the only way you are really going to know yourself ... through divine not academic testing!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday: There Is Always the Virtue of Hope

The two readings for today's liturgy do have a common thread.  While Jeremiah does not hesitate to remind the people that the sins of the past both their own and their predecessors brought about the circumstances that have been so painful for the "chosen" ones.  Yet, it is also in the words of this same 30th chapter that the prophet initiates words of genuine hope for the suffering people.

In the words of Jesus presented to us by Matthew, we watch a group of frightened men trying to make their way through the huge waves of a stormy sea.  In a strange event Jesus appears but is not recognized by the disciples until he says "ego eimi" -- It is I AM.  Immediately they called out your are the Lord.

Immediately, so it seems, the waters calm, the waves rest.  There is peace on the sea.  Peter, impetuous as usual, leaves the boat to go out to Jesus, not Peter the swimmer but Peter the man walking on the water ... until he began to fear, losing his confidence in Jesus.  Jesus obviously grabs his hands and together they walk on the water to the disciples.  Imagine how stunned they must have been.

A true challenge to us today is to trust in Jesus as object of our hope.  He is the one who will lead us to the Father.  He is the one who will grab our hands when we feel that we are drowning.  It is that experience many of us may encounter when the circumstances of our lives seem to be taller than six foot waves, beating against our own boats.

These readings invite attention to how much we trust God.  Both readings offer us the "blessed assurance" that Jesus indeed is mine when I trust in him.  Many of us do not see the actual sunrise each morning.  However, we are usually aware of the brightening of the day because somewhere behind the trees nearby or the buildings around us there is a new day, a new sun.  For us there is both the invitation and the affirmation to experience Jesus present in our lives.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Monday: What comes with abundance?

Let's continue with the words of Jeremiah presented in the first reading.  There is a dispute between Jeremiah and another prophet, Hananiah.  The argument arose because Hananiah was teaching what Jeremiah and the other prophets did not teach.  Hananiah tells Jeremiah in the presence of the priests and people that he will bring about peace to the land.  He will bring back the people who had fled the kingdom of Judah for Babylon ... the Babylonian Captivity!  He would break the back of the cruel Nebuchadnezzar.  For most his words were a welcome message that peace was coming back to their lives.  Yet that promise contained no call to repentance and holiness of life.   For the writers of the prophetic period essential to the healing of the people, necessary for the restoration of the kingdom of Judah and the Temple in Jerusalem was the reality of repentance and a serious effort to live a life of holiness.

Jeremiah tells Hananiah in front of the priests and people that "from of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied war, woe and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms."  The promise of peace would never be fulfilled as long as the people were not encouraged to repentance and holiness.

So it for us today.  Jesus Christ brought about the feeding of the 5000 men and all the women and children with them.  He is a symbol of genuine abundance.  However, as Jeremiah might have said were he alive when Jesus was preaching:  you cannot continue your lives of sinning if you wish to share in the abundance that I wish to bring to you as a gift from my Father, our Father.

For Jeremiah, Hananiah had been on the "banquet circuit" preaching "rebellion against the Lord."  And as Jeremiah writes:  "The Lord has not sent you and you have raised false confidence in this people....  For this says the Lord, I will dispatch you from the face of the earth, this very year you shall die...."  And in that same year some three months later Hananiah died!   Ooops!