Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Visitation:  Mary's Visit to Elizabeth
Jesus and John

Several days ago work had begun clearing out files -- real spring cleaning.  There was an unexpected ring of the door bell.  Not what was wanted ... the files had been put off for several weeks because it is a job I did not relish but suddenly was in the mood.  Opening the door there stood a woman whose name I did not know but whom I immediately identified as fourth pew left side of the church!  The way most priests think of  those whose name are unknown.  It was not a parishioner.  It was a lady who came to our church on occasion ... usually on her day of shopping because this parish is situated closer to her supermarket of choice!

I have learned years ago when someone comes unexpectedly and I find it to be an annoying interruption, I  immediately turn to the practice a great aunt, a Dominican nun, encouraged me to follow when interrupted.  She taught me "If it is a man, in your heart say 'Welcome, Jesus.'  If it is a woman, 'Welcome, Mary, what a delightful surprise.'"

Do you think Elizabeth might have had the same thought what she heard someone at the door of her home?  Surely, it seems, she was not expecting a visit from her cousin.  Read again the words of greeting the two women shared.  Maybe Elizabeth was preparing a meal for Joseph who was nearby building a cabinet or a table for someone.  Then again, maybe she was delighted to have a change of pace from a busy morning.

Despite what she may have been doing, it was clear that Elizabeth was "filled with the Holy Spirit," as St. Luke tells us.  (Mary must have shared her feelings at sometime or another with the apostles, don't you think?)  And he further tells us that John "leaped for joy in her womb."  (Again, information that might have been shared with a man who was apostle and doctor.)  If you slowly read their words of greeting, what is clear is that these two women are like many women who daily populated our pews for morning Masses:  they magnify the Lord, they rejoice in God our Savior.

This event and Luke's sharing the story provides us with the opportunity to look into the days of pregnancy of women who so often find time to share the wonders of creation that they are carrying in their wombs.  They know well despite that times of pain or discomfort, they are indeed like a tabernacle, housing in their bodies the God's gift of life.  For us who are men. especially those of us who are not husbands, perhaps this event might be for us a time to deepen our appreciation for women during their pregnancy.  Just try to imagine the conversations that must have occurred during the three months that Mary was with Elizabeth especially those talking moments between two women very different in age and experience!  Surely for us all the Visitation is one of those roadways we can walk, learning much with each step.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday of the Eighth week of Ordinary Time

"... whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all."

Today's gospel event occurred so many years ago.  Yet, even today, it seems that some things never change.  How many times have you witnessed a James and John situation that Mark relates in this section of his gospel?  How many times have you found yourself consciously or subconsciously falling into the same trap:  wanting to be recognized in such a way that it brings about power.

James and John were bitten by the power or influence bug.  No doubt most of the disciples considered themselves somewhat important because they were the inner circle!  As in the world today, those who form the "inner circle" for a person in authority or power realize they possess a definite position of power.  They can exercise a modicum of the power their leader or friend possesses because of his or her position.  It all begins in the early years of grammar school:  remember the "teacher's pet"?  As we grow older the challenge doesn't fade:  it multiplies.

Jesus uses this experience with his disciples, just as he did with the rich young man, to teach the apostles and all who seek to follow Jesus that discipleship is not easy.  He teaches that greatness - sitting next to the person of importance - is not like that in his Father's kingdom.  Throughout the ages greatness was and seems to be the same today:  having power over others, to use people as servants or slaves.

In the Kingdom of God greatness is simply putting oneself at the service of others, using one's talents and skills for the welfare of our brothers and sisters.  What Jesus was and is teaching us through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit given to each of us is that greatness is measured by the number of people we serve.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday in the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Mark 10:28-31

The Gospel today continues the event of one person seeking the kingdom of God but being stymied by his  worldly goods.  Peter speaks for the apostles again assuring Jesus that they have surrendered so much to follow him.

In essence Jesus' reply is simple:  if you give up possessions to him me, you will be blessed with an abundance of gifts.  Giving up or surrendering what impedes your experiences of your faith and the gospels of Jesus Christ results in an abundance of treasure.

What does Jesus mean with his response to Peter's statement?  Again, a lengthy statement that might be reduced to "end the controlling powers of possessions and you will experience the new resources that God will provide."  Let me share a story that might make this so very real.

Several years ago a friend called.  She was seeking advice concerning a request from her Pastor.  The good Father, clearly moved by the Holy Spirit to help the young woman follow the path that would lead to so much goodness, had asked her to consider becoming a part of the parish's RCIA program.  Her immediate feelings were to take a pass on the request because it would require her not being free when she returned to her apartment on the night(s) she would have to be with the RCIA team.  The advice was simple:  "He must trust you.  Do you think the Holy Spirit would put him on your trail if there would be disaster.  Try it.  You just might like it."

Some several months later, she called again.  "I have to tell you what has happened to me.  I gave it to the request!  It was not easy.  God did not make it easy.  The night of the sessions is the one night that was always glued to my TV!  But I accepted the invite.  Now a few months later I am elated you had good advice for me.  What a sense of fulfillment and happiness I have come to experience in being a mentor for those who are seeking to follow Jesus Christ in our Church.  I have made wonderful new friendships.  Come to know my team and the treasures they are.  The sacrifice of one special evening  has done so much for me.  I am embarrassed to think that I would have said "no" had you not given me an opening to a new pathway.  My own faith has so come alive through those seeking to have what I have taken for granted for so many years."

Enough said.  Think about this.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day -  2012

Yesterday and today have offered a number of experiences and thoughts that make moving to the gospel story about the rich young man who could not give up his possessions certainly provides a challenges -- at least for me -- in preparing these thoughts for you.  My experiences, all of them wonderful, do make clear once again, that praying truly demands some inner peace, inner quiet.  Pentecost, for me, began with the vigil Mass Saturday evening.  Yesterday was culminated with a Mass honoring the man who served as a Deacon in a parish where I first served as a Pastor.  After 24 years of service to the parish, the Deacon was saying farewell as he prepares to move to another state.  Of course it was a wonderful experience to be with the people who were so close and helpful to me during those almost nine years as their Pastor.  Yet, I did feel that I was diminishing the Deacon's day in the sun as I realized how many people made a line to see me when we were there to honor the Deacon.  He is a man who did so much for the parish during those many year.  Most specially he was instrumental in leading this Pastor to establish what has become a frequently honored and most outreaching Knights of Columbus Council.

After those wonderful moments with so many friends, I returned to my quarters and watched the Memorial Day Concert held on the West Side of the US Capitol -- until severe weather forced so many to clear the grounds although the "show went on" under cover.  What a moment to share with so many who were honoring the memory of some 42 million Americans who served in military service since the days of President George Washington (remarks by former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell).  It was on more than one moment during the presentation quite emotional.

Today we celebrate Memorial Day, recalling the dedicated service of so many men and women.  Yet, at first, it seems difficult to reflect on the gospel, the rich young man trapped by his possessions.  Yet, perhaps he is a good model for us today.  Why?  How blessed I am.  How blessed you are.  God has given us so much -- not necessarily the coin of the country we live in.  We have been given so many blessings, so much abundance.  Our celebration of the many gifts of the Holy Spirit as well as the sacrifices of so many younger men and women through more than two hundred years of service to their beloved USA can, however, be united.  Those who wore their uniforms with great pride, in many instances to their deaths, gave us many different kinds of possessions:  Moms and Dads, siblings, relatives, spouses, children, friends, careers, educational goals and personal aspirations because they valued the liberty that is the most prominent characteristic of our nation.  As an aside, it is this liberty that has our Church locked in contest with the Government at this time.

Let us try to pray with an abundance of gratitude to a God who has given us so much and for those who gave so much of themselves so we can continue to enjoy God's abundance in our country and the unselfish sacrifices of so many.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost Sunday - 2012

Today we conclude the Easter season also known as the Paschal Mystery -- from Jesus’ agony in the olive garden to the day of Pentecost.  In reality all the events of the season are one great mystery for us!
Today let us consider the power of this feast, this gift from God, presented to us by Jesus Christ.  Perhaps the magnitude of he powers given us in this gift of the Holy Spirit is of importance for all of us living in this first decade of the 21st century.
We learn that after their “Confirmation,” the apostles wasted no time in preaching the message of the Good News to number gatherings of people from many nations, languages and cultures.  Nationality or language differences did not hind them.  Gifted by the Spirit, the apostles preached in many languages -- without the benefit of Rosetta Stone!
What was clear about the happenings of Pentecost is not complicated.  The fits of the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to preach to the whole world!  God’s message was not intended for one nation or culture.  The message of God was intended to bring about a true unity under God.  This is what our Church is called to do -- particularly in our times: to preach and teach in a manner that brings people to God.  This is the mission given to each of those who were present for the Pentecost moment.  The charge is identical for each of us today:  working with God in building his kingdom on earth.  Considering this charge, we cannot overlook the other gift of that Pentecost moment: “...whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven....”  The Sacrament of Reconciliation.  For us today reconciliation with God is a necessity.  Without our own purification from sin, we cannot be true preachers of the Word of God demonstrated to others whom we might be seeking to bring to reconciliation with God by the lives we live.
St. Paul’s comparison of the human body as an example of our mission as followers of Jesus Christ should be examined: many different organs working toward a common goal.  While a body has many different parts but all work together for the good of the whole body.  Shouldn’t Christians today be more mindful of this comparison as it applies to our culture in our world today?  Do the members of the Christian religions accept equality in diversity as Jesus and Paul endeavored to teach those who wish unity with God?  Yet just look at the lack of dignity among us.  We are, all of us, equal in dignity but so different in the God-given talents needed to accomplish the goal the Holy Spirit puts before us -- unity of heart and mind.
Let us pray:  Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts and minds of those who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Yes, Holy Spirit, fill my heart and mind with your graces if there is ever a time when I cannot see beyond differences in others.  Help me to know what weakness blocks my accepting others who are different in color, nationality,lifestyle or language or natural talents and other gifts.  Never allow, I pray, a defective part of my mind and heart to bring about the end of my being a true follower of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Perhaps the words of this gospel selection are too familiar.  A second or third reading read or even a fourth travel over John's thoughts can open a newer appreciation of the divine inspiration that lead this evangelist to write as he did about a breakfast with Jesus.

Peter.  What a New Testament character.  When his name is read or mentioned, what comes to mind:  his failures or his leadership?  If he had to be quizzed three times by Jesus -- "Do you love me?" -- doesn't it reveal an awareness of Peter's prior "performances"?  Yes, Peter had "baggage" as we say today.  There were moment in his Jesus-relationship history that demonstrated his lacking a full awareness of who Jesus was.

Were Peter in business -- a major player in a significant business or even in Church administration -- would the CEO or COO be willing to continue his employment or at least his position?  We know, however, that Jesus saw Peter's limitations but realized beneath the surface there was a qualified leader.

Whether an executive or an ordinary parent or single individual, there are people whose work or performance as an employee or volunteer, relative or friend can test a trust relationship.  Despite Peter's human weaknesses and his surprising failures, Jesus trusted his potential:  "Feed my flock....Follow me."  And Peter did precisely what Jesus entrusted to him -- the leadership of his Church.

It is also important to think about Peter's response to Jesus' trust.  He must have been aware of his failures, his disappointing actions and words.  From that very imperfection Peter labored until his martyrdom to serve his friend, his teacher, his shepherd.

So, what did these words of John mean to you today ... and to the way you conduct your relationship with those who might be your employees, your volunteer workers, your boss, your children, your partner ... yes, even your pet!  That third or fourth read can open up so much material for prayer and reflection.  Go for it!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter - 2012

In verse 24 of this chapter of St. John, the Evangelist presents these words to us for our prayer:  "...that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me."  We have encountered these words several times during these final days of the Easter season readings for our daily liturgy.  Let's focus upon this attribute of our God:  He is One.  Oneness -- that gift, that state of existence that all of us consciously or unconsciously seek.  It is a part of the divine nature that has been entrusted to us when God created us: a part of the Creator's reality in his creations.  Unity.  Families seek it, nations seek it, sects seek it.  Unless I am mistaken, all religions seek unity within its membership, within its goals of being like the Creator God.

However, we must strive for a unity that does not allow for "oppressive uniformity."  This is a genuine challenge for all societies as well as religions.

When Jesus prayed, there was always the petition that we might always be one.  We might wonder at times just what that oneness is that he prayed for in his followers.  It is the oneness that is the primary characteristic of the Trinity:  the oneness of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

For all of us created by the One God who follow Jesus Christ love is an expression of the unity that is a part of our soul.  And for us to love one another means that we strive to achieve a freedom from any selfishness that acts as domination over another person.  We need only consider that unity, the love that exists in the Trinity.  Love is the very essence of the life of the Trinity.  It is this perfect love that brings about perfect unity.  The love in this model presented to us calls for diversity or multiplicity.

It is without any doubt this simple:  "Love alone unites."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
May 23. 2012
For many these final day of May and the Easter season bring with them many mixed emotions.  This month and the following month of June, perhaps more poignantly than the final days of each December mark the end of so many specific experiences in peoples' lives.  Graduations, weddings, moving from one location to another: these are just a few of the real life experiences that impact us in one way or another.  At a time with Mother Nature brings an explosion of colors to our landscapes in this part of the world, we experience the reality of separation and loneliness.  Children are saddened by the last days in one school and their many friends there.  Weddings bring some sadness as a daughter or son departs to begin a family  life with a marriage partner ... often away from one's family of origin.  And so on.  There are many tears at this time of the year.

There is one ending that occurs each year which many may overlook or simply forget.  This is the time of the year when we recall the end of Jesus' presence among his disciples and other close friends.  Even for us some 2000 years later, the Ascension and Pentecost signal a loneliness:  Jesus is no longer physically present on this earth.  We simply remember because five men have recounted his life in their writings we call the Gospels or letters of St. Paul.

We, like the disciples of Jesus, we are also followers of Jesus even though he did not physically walk among us anywhere on the face of the earth.  We are those whom he came to redeem.  We are those he tried to teach the Father's will.  The written words of four evangelists and St. Paul are the textbooks give to each of us so that we never forget what he taught and what he did for us.

When we reflect on the mystery of the Ascension and the gift of Pentecost, do we recognize his ending time on earth is but the beginning for each of his followers to accomplish a might obligation entrusted to us:  to go and announce the gospel!  So, what does this mean for you today?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter - 2012

As we approach Ascension Day and then the significant day of blessings, Pentecost, I am reminded of a few words from a motivational speaker:  "It does not matter where you are coming from.  All that matters is where you are going" (Brian Tracy).  

For a believer in the Good News the journey through Lent, the 40 days of the Easter season and then the 10 days until Pentecost Sunday is an annual experience.  A non-Christian once questioned me:  "what is it about you Christians that you have to go through these days of penance and other Easter events every year?"  For a non-believer as well as a believer it is good to hear that question.  It is good because it my bring us to ask ourselves what meaning there is for us in going through these spiritual exercises every year without missing a beat!

Tracy's thought might be a simplistic answer to the non-believer's question.  For each person these days might provide the opportunity to ponder "where I am going?"  I know that the "I am" of this year is not the same "I am" of May 178, 2011.  Certainly a year older but am I a "year better" on my spiritual journey to me the one and most significant "I AM"?

Tracy writes that the homing pigeon serves as an example to men and women who know where their goal is; who know how to make it to their one, true home --- being with the Lord Jesus.  Each year these spacial days of late winter and Spring are the days when we return to our "home."  This is why we re-celebrate each year.  What would our national spirit be if we celebrated Memorial Day and Independence Days just every ten years or only on their 25th, 50th or one hundredth anniversaries?

So, in the words of George Eliot:  "It's never too late to be what your might have been."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter - 2012

St. Paul was not afraid to face those who might not yet believe his message.  He addresses a large crowd in the very center of Greek culture, the Areopagus of Athens.  Perhaps we might liken the location to East Side of the United States Capitol.  The following words are the first part of today's first reading.

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said:
"You Athenians, I see that in every respect
you are very religious.
For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines,
I even discovered an altar inscribed, 'To an Unknown God.'
What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.
The God who made the world and all that is in it,
the Lord of heaven and earth,
does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands,
nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything.
Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.
He made from one the whole human race
to dwell on the entire surface of the earth,
and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,
so that people might seek God,
even perhaps grope for him and find him,
though indeed he is not far from any one of us.
For 'In him we live and move and have our being,'
as even some of your poets have said,
'For we too are his offspring.'

We see here the mind of the great apostle.  He knew how to be most effective -- without a degree or course in public speaking.  Up front he says to the people that he comes as a preacher to further instruct them about the Christian God.  They already know something about this God they have heard about.  Furthermore, he credits them with "your are very religious."  But he wishes them to realize that the Christian God is closer to them than they imagine.  How does he teach them?  His message is as valid today as it was when Paul spoke to the Greeks.  He walks them through a contemplation of their experience of what it means to be, to exist.  The apostle walks them through his belief that if a person would simply reason about his or her experience of human existence, there would be the realization that every human being is dependent for his or her existence on something or someone outside of or other than one's self. Paul calls his hearers and us to regularly recognize that our existence is given to us.  It is a gift.  Paul continues on by assuring them that were there is a gift, there must be a donor, a giver.  Thinking about our existence today we have to realize that all that has been given to us -- the marvels of our modern world -- may indeed have been made by human minds.  However, we have to know whence the human mind achieves all that it accomplishes.  We cannot overlook that in our own times technological achievements may have come from continual investigation.  However, all of this universe from the very dirt we walk on to the most challenging intricacies of science and nature that can build a computer or lauch space ships to apartments that float deep in outer space are gifts to us from a unique Giver who is a person we call our God.  Of course to make the leap from accepting all of these wonders as the works of humankind to another level, to someone beyond levels of reasoning requires another step.  This is the reason we pray:  that through our prayer we may come to an awareness of our blessedness, our reception of all these gifts from a God of abundance. Perhaps this is the message that we Christians fail to rely on when we endeavor to bring others to an awareness of God's greatness and his goodness to us.  Paul is practicing what the Greeks knew well:  work to a solution through the simple practice of reasoning.  However, he says let your heart and mind proceed a little further from reason to prayer.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter - 2012

Once again we have the opportunity to see an actualization of a phrase associated with Christmas and John the Baptist:  crooked lines being made straight."  In a very busy society there are so many distractions that living a strong spiritual life is so very difficult.  It is easy to fail seeing how God can take crooked lines and make them straight ... especially when it involves my own life.  Concern for the temporal problems prevents seeing hidden spiritual realities -- like the love of God for us -- no matter what the problem.  Also we find ourselves easily caught up on the dizziness of the business of the "race" that we live each day that we fail to let ourselves be the putty on God's spinning pottery table.  We become so spun out by problems that we fail to allow God to shape us into a magnificent spiritual presence that he wants us to be in our world.

Today our world often discusses values.  Naturally we find ourselves in such discussions and at times in very challenging moments.  A question arises whether we ever know how to get off the spinning wheel of society:  Do I know what my values really are?  If I look at my actions, especially when in the crunch of an emotional pressure cooker, I can get a glimpse of my true values.

The first reading, noted above, recounts a time when Paul and his colleague, Silas,  had to be very clear about their values.  This might lead us to consider how clear are the values in our lives.  At the same time the result of the earthquake and the jailer's fate show us how God can work even with those who are not as clear about their values.  The new-found faith of the prison guard might be truly surprising to to people of our modern society. Would the same rapid response and adoption of the faith Paul and Silas were teaching happen today?  My view:  probably not.  

Again our lives are so filled with distractions that it become difficult for many to see that Jesus is at the core of all the events in our lives.  Many would challenge the statement that Jesus is at the core of 9/11!  This is the modern challenge or it is the challenge for modern man: to see Jesus Christ in all we do or in what happens to us -- not that he is the cause but that he is to be found there to lead us to the Father.  Is Jesus truly the desire of my life?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I was unable to produce postings this past week due to a difficult time with bronchitis -- my first time with the infection that almost moved into pneumonia.   My doctor spoke words many of us fear:  take the entire week and don't do anything!  Rest!  Read! etc.  I tried my best to follow his orders but was not able to succeed entirely.  Now I am back on track!

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2011
Mother's Day

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves 
is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, 
for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, 
but that he loved usand sent his Son 
as expiation for our sins.

On the day we honor our mothers in this year 2012, the scripture readings for the 6th Sunday within the Easter season focus on the theme of love.  Truly a good mixing of scripture and what is celebrated in most homes.

The second reading form the liturgy is from St. John's first letter.  The "beloved apostle" writes that love is the very heart of life and the living of our lives.  Furthermore, the disciple whose writings reflect that love should be the center of life for every human being whether Christian or otherwise.

St. John would have us see love as a reality that does not happen only occasionally.  Our faith, again driven by love as have seen in the life of the man whose very name has become our mark of identification,  Christian, is also a model of the woman who very life has been love from the moment of our conception until the day she leaves to be with the Christ whose love she captured in her heart not only for herself but for all her loved ones.

Surely my mother, like all mothers, possessed natural human weaknesses at times.  But, despite these human traits, our mothers are or have been models of the way human life should be experienced to the fullest.  When you reflect upon your mother today, your grandmother even a sibling-sister, hopefully you can join me in reiterating the words of an ancient "father" of our Church, St. Irenaus: "The glory of God is a person fully alive."  I know my mother who lived for 87 years tried her best to reflect her faith as well as the God who is the true experience of love.

St. John teaches in his first letter that there is before us and with us and for us the person who may be or have been the fine example of the present of love in your life ... and for us isn't that none other than a mother, a wife or a sister?

Did you ever consider you mother to be a model of the Good Samaritan?  Perhaps we might not overlook this comparison.   Regardless of our actions either as a growing offspring or an adult child, mothers do not fail to do what ever they can to make you better when we might have become the victim of life's enemies.  Mothers reach out with compassionate love whether we are smiling, moaning, paining or tearing.  Mothers cannot help but being examples of love because what made our mothers special was the reality that only one person of the Trinity had a human mother so very much like your mother or my mother.  These are the human beings who take to heart Jesus' command: "... you must love one another, as I have loved you."  As you look back on your own life and different events, if you are like me, you can recall moments when Mom would not allow our misdeeds to block her love for us.

You and I, we love others as we do because our mothers were women empowered by the God who is love to teach you and me how to love.  When you speak about Mom today reflect on these words from an Irish Jesuit priest of our times: "To be able to reach out in love and to experience being loved is God's greatest grace."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Easter Season - 2012

Reading 1       Acts 9:26-31

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.  Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.  He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.  He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him.  And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus.  The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

If you read this selections from the Acts of the Apostles, you might sense that Luke is recording a significant moment in the history of the Church that Jesus founded upon his apostles.  In short, imagine what the Church might have been like had there not been a Barnabas or had Barnabas not been the philanthropist he was for the early Church.  Were it not for Barnabas, would Paul of Tarsus become the remarkable influence in the Church then and now?  It was Barnabas who believed in the man who had been a frightful power against the early Christians.  Why should the Christians be willing to risk placing trust in the man once was so fiercely committed against the Christians?

We might consider the event above a one-time moment in history.  Maybe so but do we not find ourselves facing similar situations in our lives today, in our Church today, in our society today?  Consider the men and women who become marginalized in our society because of their prior actions against society or individuals in a community:  the drug addict, the embezzler, the rapist, the liar and the illegal aliens.  Are we willing to offer any such person a "second chance"?  Are we willing to work with those who may have broken a trust at one time or another?  Are we open to the possibility that one act of kindness might change a life from evil to good?  Are we afraid to be a modern-day Barnabas?

The suffering and death of Jesus Christ in all of its brutality should be a reminder to all of us that the Son of God endured all of the torture of his final hours for each and every sinner.  It is Jesus who stands before his Father time and again for every sinner:  Father forgive them!  Give them another chance, another opportunity.

Take a moment to consider this:  Why would the Holy Spirit inspire the mind of St. Luke to include an account of Paul's introduction by Barnabas?  Why would Barnabas "take charge of him (Paul) and bring him to the apostles?  Why would he risk his own reputation?  Why would he take a chance on a man who had been an enemy?  Use this moment in your own prayer to ask yourself before God "Am I in any way like those who refused to accept Paul? 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter - 2012

Gospel Jn 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:"Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God;  have faith also in me.  In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way. "Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."

Fr. Al McBride, O. Praem [ the Order of Premonstratentions - original called to priests who dedicated much time "before the monstrance ] wrote this words about our world today:  "Modern culturejas become a desert scattered with the bones of broken commitments."
The dedicated monk knows much about our world today through his commitment to his God, his religious order and theology.

He sees in Jesus' words that He is not simple dealing with the truth, He is the TRUTH.  By this Jesus is teaching his disciples and us that commitment to the truth is more than an intellectual activity or way of living.  Rather, truth is the vitamin that strengthens our efforts to be necessary for commitment but for loyalty and fidelity as well.

Jesus, throughout his life, remained faithful to the promises he had made.  As the Truth, Jesus is the model for all ages to reflesh those bones of broken commitments.  Recall the Old Testament reality of those bones in the desert who were refleshed by God.  Now since the days of Jesus' Resurrection we know that he strives to help us heal the relationships that our human weaknesses have broken.

Today we might consider in prayer our own fidelity to the Lord and others.  How faithful have we been to our commitments?

Today is a moment of great joy and peace for me because one of my closest priest-friends has been reinstated to full-time ministry following bogus charges that he had abused a student some forty years ago.  My friend has been throughout his many years of priesthood a model of dedication and commitment to his vocational promises.  Today his parish will, no doubt be celebrating the "re-findings" (of an earlier police investigation) into their pastor's life by the Delaware and Pennsylvania judicial systems.  There will be great happiness and thanksgiving in Glenside, PA today!  From this we might learn the reality of the saying:  "the truth will out."  Join with me in thanking God for this brother priest."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thursday in the Fourth Week of Easter - 2012

Let me begin by asking you to read today's selected Gospel reading once or twice and rather slowly, inviting the Holy Spirit to allow you to sense these powerful words of Jesus Christ.

John 14: 6 - 14
Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him."  Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father,  and that will be enough for us."  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name,  I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it."

Having read this, can you write in a short sentence of two how Jesus' words impacted your thinking this morning?  How many times have you encountered the moment when you find yourself challenging God?  God, show me the answer to my pain, to my doubt, to my lack of love.  Philip wanted Jesus to show him the Father.  As I think about my own dealings with God, I think I ask for the universe!  My religious training, begun when I was four or five years old, some many years ago, led me to believe a simple truth:  God is a mystery, Jesus is a mystery, the Holy Spirit is a mystery.  So, how often, even today, do I find myself failing to ask God to show Himself to me?  Over the years I have learned that while our God is a hidden God, I have seen him.  Of course, not as I have seen members of my family or brothers in the priestly ministry have I encountered God.  Nonetheless, I know that I have seen God's presence in Clare, a woman who opted for a tube to feed her body.  How calmly she sat, propped up in her hospital bed awaiting the angel death to bring her to God, telling her husband and children she was in pain but that it was diminished by the expectations that she would be with God in just a few minutes.  And that is how she died ... letting me and hopefully her family get a glimpse of God in this wonderful lady.

As a priest there have been so many different "moments" when I felt that God was present in a particular circumstance.  It was beyond doubt that it was any other power working in other people before me.

And as your read these words of Jesus, did the Holy Spirit plant in your heart and mind a significant moment you had that helped you better understand what God looked like?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Easter - 2012

during our journey to Pentecost Sunday we celebrate a day in honor of

Saint Athanasius the Great

Little did I imagine that my time with Saint Athanasius in preparing a reflective presentation for myself and others would lead me to C. S. Lewis's Introduction that begins a translation of De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (The Incarnation of the Word of God) by Sister Penelope Lawson, of the Anglican Community of St. Mary the Virgin in Wantage, England.  So, you are in for a interesting ride for this Wednesday reflection.  (Tuesday's is below if you are looking for that reflection on St. Joseph, the cabinet maker.)  Let me share a paragraph written in De Incarnatione and translated by Sister Penelope and expert par exellance in Greek.

"Others take the view expresed by Plat, that giant among the Greeks.  He said that God had made all things our of pre-existent and uncreated matter, just as the carpenter [perhaps the distinction between carpenter and cabinet maker did not exist at the time of this writing] makes things only out of wook that already exists.  But those who hold this view do not realize that to deny that God is Himself the Cause of matter is to impute limitation to Him, just as it is undeboutedly a limitation on the part of the carpenter that he can make nothing unless he has the wood.  How could God be called Maker and Artificer if His ability  to make depended on some other cause, namely on matter itself?  IF He only worked up existing matter and did not Himself bring matter into being, He would be not the Creator burt only the craftsman."  Now never let it said that you have not read Athanasius!  Athanasius also challenged those who tried to establish "a creation independent of the Father out of that?

Concerning our own failures and sinfulness Athanasius penned these words:  "For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death."

So with this small amount of Anthasian theology what is important, what the saint stressed so often, is our need to listen, listen, listen attentively to the voice of God in our very being as one of His creations.
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter - 2012
The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

He is rich or poor
according to what he is,
not according to what he has.
(  Henry Ward Beecher )

While pondering thoughts about one of the truly mysterious saints in our Church who had such an important role in the history of humankind, I happened upon the word of Henry Beecher.  These are words that helped me begin to imagine what St. Joseph looked like.

Being the son of a cabinetmaker myself, and also a priest who finds several saws and other tools among the "things" that help me be a fixer and a maker, I was found in Beecher's words an immediate linking to St. Joseph.

I have know many cabinetmakers in my lifetime.  My paternal grandfather, my father, my mother's brother, several Jesuit Brothers who were assigned to the "carpenters' shops, and others who worked in my father's cabinetmaking shop including three of my siblings.  So, there is, one might say, a good amount of sawdust in my experience of life.  And it is good.

The Church celebrates this day as a reminder to us of the goodness of work, of the value of work and most specially the dignity of work.  I am also reminded of a meeting of younger priests taking place in Chicago this week:  to establish a program that will focus on the Church's teachings on labor.  Surely there is no doubt that this is a time when we can revisit the reality of work in human life.  Without work what would our lives be?

Joseph is a model of a worker:  usually a worker is looked upon in looked upon by an additional adjective.  Some a described as blue collar worker, some others are called white collar workers.  To me the primary difference is how a worker is called upon to use his/her hands and mind.  Somehow the term "farm worker" seems so very different from the terms "scientist" or "doctor" or even "priest."  Usually the word worker doesn't seem to be included with those particular vocations.  "Scientist worker" or "Doctor worker" or "Priest Worker" just do not  seem to be ways that we look at those vocations and others.

Beecher's reflection does address the many noble people who work.  It does not matter how much a worker earns or how many letters follow the surname.  What truly matters is the person's personal worth not personal wealth.  If you are reading this blog posting today, most likely you are not dressed in a business suit!  If you are a blue collar worker, you would not be reading this reflection ... at least not at this hour because you were at work or on the way by 7 AM at the latest.

What makes the worker, regardless of the color of your collar, is who you are!  There is a pearl of cowboy wisdom that well provides a universal criteria for a worker:  "The best sermons are lived, not preached."  Not a word do we have from the lips of the foster father of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Nor do we learn much about him other than the virtues he practiced in his life.

So, might we not ask ourselves today about our work, our estimation of those who work in the same vocation as you as well as your evaluation of those workers who employ their minds and hands in ways different from your own.  Do I have the same respect for the work put out each day by a pharmacists or a city worker who takes pride in the work he/she does to make their city shine?  Do I respect the worker whose salary scale is much lower than mine or the reverse?

Joseph's life is the answer: He/she is rich or poor according to what he/she is, not according to what he has.