Saturday, June 29, 2013

13th Sunday Ordinary Time: Free As a Bird

Free as a Bird

In the second reading from the Sunday liturgy, we are encouraged by St. Paul's
letter to the Galatians to consider the matter of freedom.  Perhaps these thoughts
of the great "apostle,' offer us food for thought as we in the USA are preparing
to celebrate our our major "freedom holiday."

Paul's letter was sent to heal some divisions that had begun to occur in the "churches"
that this ardent preacher of the Word and "founder" of churches along his peripetetic 
roadways.  In Galatia there seem to have risen some "newer" churches that opposed 
what Paul had preached on his first visit.  Somd people where leaving the teaching of
of Paul.  This was in the early years of the Church as founded by Jesus Christ.  All
of this seem to have taken place in the first century, between the years 40 and the early
50s.  So it is not surprising that Paul would address the matter of freedom.

What is true freedom for this "apostle"?  So, simply stated Paul perceived freedom 
as that personal characteristic when a person is able to demonstrate care for a 
neighbor.  When that person looks upon another person who is in need as a brother or 
sister, there is the fulfillment of the onlooker's needs.  True freedom becomes a reality
when an onlooker sees that person in need truly as his/her sister or brother.

Likewise, freedom is only genuine when a person does not live a life of unimpeded 
concern for oneself.  To be free is to be able to handle "things of the world" without 
letting them control one's life: money, property, status, success, etc..

What we can see in freedom is a genuine irony.  A truly free man or woman lives
a life that is passionately committed to caring and sharing, to a world of truth and, 
ultimately, to a life with inner peace and a genuine sense of personal security.

So, we can see in today's readings a portrayal of this genuine freedom in the lives
of Jesus and Elisha and St. Paul.  Our contemporary times have offered us examples
in the freedoms of Mother Teresa, Gandi, St John Neumann, Sr. Katherine Drexel,
Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis..  

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Power of A Leper's Belief

How many times do you think it has happened to you that you have read or heard read the story about a leper who had learned about Jesus and was completely convinced that Jesus, if he wished,  was capable of healing the terrible skin torture, Hansen's Disease?  Already 72 years old, it seems to me that it is one of those stories told to me since I was a young man.

There is no doubt in my mind that the event is truly one story that has taught me about trust in Jesus Christ.  Imagine what might happen in today's world, in our culture, if someone with an incurable disease believed that a similar event might be possible for him/herself.  But where would he/she find Jesus?  To whom could the sick person go?  Who is there today to whom a sick person can place the question "If you can, would you heal me?"

Obviously Jesus is not present among us as he was in the gospel days.  But he is among us in the Eucharist, in the celebration of the Liturgy.  We have Jesus in our own hands every time we pick up a bible.  We can hear him speaking to us in the various writings of the New Testament.  So, it is not that there is no divine presence among us.

The challenge for us today is simply this:  do I believe in Jesus and his power to heal?  Am I convinced that I can approach him today as if he is here among us as he was for the leper whose actions are his way of teaching up what it means to trust Jesus, regardless of the circumstances confronting us.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thoughts About Vacation Quiet

Father Louis, CSO
(Thomas Merton)

My solitude,
is not my own,
for I see now how much 
it belongs to [others] ---
and that I have a responsibility for it
in their regard,
not just in my own.
It is because I am one with them 
that I owe it to them
to be alone,
and when I am alone,
they are not “they”
but my own self.
There are no strangers!

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
(Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1968), pp. 153-155.

FatherLouie Blog

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Answer to Overwhelm

When you read today's gospel, do you see that Jesus summons us to be genuine people?  And we should know that our sincerity will be obvious:  if we take time to spend time addressing matters that are a part of who we are.  We will not have the need to worry about how people judge us.

The Genesis reading reminds us that a complete trust in what God has promised each of us is what we should see in Abram.  When our lives are challenged by circumstances beyond our control, we should pray to Abram to intercede for us to receive the faith and trust God provided him.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Choice Is Yours

An interesting read for the summer is some delving into the lives of Abram and Lot.  Just for the leads on Google for each of these men's names.  I surely learned more than I know I learned during my biblical studies during theology days.  It was then that most knew nothing about "search engines" such as Google.  Only the visionaries were speaking about "websites" and the mystery machine called the "computer" or this far off "place" called the "Internet."  That said, I learned, I think, why the liturgists linked these two reading together for today's liturgy.

The story of Uncle Abram and Nephew Lot can be seen as examples or models of the options that Jesus lays out for us in the gospel reading of today: the wide road and the narrow road.  Now you might have an inkling about the pictures.  But it has more to do with what the reading teaches:  choices; thus the title for this posting, "The Choice Is Yours."

When Uncle Abram came to the conclusion that it was time for Nephew Lot to leave, to be out on his own, his generous uncle offered him what seems to have been half of the kingdom.  Each of these men had possessions, herds, that seem to be crowding in on each other.  Consequently, herdsmen were often in disputes.

In short, Lot decided to take the "wide road," while Uncle Abram took whichever half Lot did not select.  Lot, it seems, was a real "city boy."  So he took what might be called the wide road.  He took the roadway that was called wide because it offered more opportunities...especially for one to fall victim to worshipping false gods.  Uncle Abram was not as "citified" as his nephew.  He took the second part which was less congested with people and not so many cities.  He found that the country life, the narrow roadway, guaranteed him a sure "highway to heaven."

We must point out that Jesus was not condemning the wide way in itself.  Rather he called the narrow road more constricted because it would be less liable to failures, to sins, to disputes, etc.  Some people can live life in the wide road but they seem to be people who well disciplined, men and women who are able to control some of the urges within us to break away from our God.

So, for Lot it was to leave near the city of Sodom, ultimately moving to the edge of the city and escaping only because and angel of the Lord took him in hand and led him away to a nearby mountain.
Abram settled west of the Dead Sea near the terebinth (a special tree that served as a road map) of Mamre.

So, the gospel story is about choices...really based on what we know about ourselves.  Abram seemed to know well himself and Lot thought he knew what was best for himself!  Again, Jesus reminds us that our choices are our choices.  But don't forget the role of the Holy Spirit in what we choose!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Birth of John the Baptist

Of course the photo is not presented to entice you to run to your kitchen and prepare yourself a wonderful bowl of soup.  Rather it is offered as an opportunity to consider the feast we celebrate today.

We know the story of John.  Cousin of Jesus.  Preached a little ahead of Jesus.  Baptized Jesus at the river.  Lived an austere life.  Eventually martyred.

But a question:  what made him to be the man he was?  What were the ingredients that made his to be as strong as he was?

Should we not consider his mother and father and the manner in which this man was taught?  Needless to say, there has to have been something about the value system that his mother and father shared and taught their son.

Perhaps we have an opportunity to consider what ingredients we brought together to make us the individuals that we have become?  Perhaps we might consider what ingredients we have added to the lives of our own families, our own children, if we are parents and all the others whose lives have been impacted by us.  Do we ever take the time to consider how each of us has a God-given role in our lives to impact the lives of others?

Regardless of our ages, as adults, like John, we have a role in each other's lives.  We can offer the ingredients that enable others to accomplish what God wants of them in his divine plan.

And we can ask ourselves this question:  just what is it God expects of me in putting together the ingredients that make a family, make a community, make a workplace, make a Church?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

12th Sunday Ordinary Time 2013

Today's first reading from the Book of Zechariah is short.  It is powerful if some understanding of the historical facts that are referenced in the recording of words from Yahweh to the prophet.  Amazing to me is this:  the prophet was recording the words of Yahweh foretelling a future for the Jewish people while at the same time recording God's words for us and so many others in our contemporary world.

The words of Yahweh are a calling to mind the sins of the people of Jerusalem, especially the leaders.  At the same time these words recall that God promised power and victory over enemies who sought to destroy Jerusalem.

Again the words foretell to people then about a messiah and his suffering and death.  We are reminded centuries later of the price that had to be paid for the forgiveness of sins.  That price was and continues to be the death of God's only Son.

In this short selection from Zechariah, we today are reminded that following the exploits of Jesus is a intense lifestyle.  Exploits are bold and daring feats.  So many of the events in Jesus' life are both bold and daring.  From the moment of the Annunciation and Mary's "fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra,"[Let your will be done in heaven and on earth], to Jesus' death on a cross his exploits were designed to fulfill the Father's will for humankind.

Today we might consider some of these exploits of Jesus:  Speaking so often about the sanctity of human life; the price that we might be required to pay to live live as Jesus and the Holy Spirit call us to live; accepting those who might be different; the teachings of our Church that are difficult and that distinguish us from other faiths; the challenge of contemporary culture to our vocation as sons and daughters of a Creator God.

In this short reading, we are reminded that God is the power that attracts us away from powers contrary to his will.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Aloysius Gonzaga [1544-1586]

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

In my mind, I suspect I have always thought the opening words of the quotation above meant much to me about my not having wealth and my not hoarding whatever I did possess.  In my early years of Jesuit formation that was not a difficulty:  we did not have much because we could not have much. Likewise I did not come from a family of wealth.  The vow of poverty was taught to us in many different ways.  I suspect that is why this Jesuit, before leaving the Jesuit order to become a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, found himself with so many "things" that  people had given as gifts.  The earlier days of formation helped us live the life of poverty:  whenever parents or friends sent gifts, a superior would call the receiver in to show him what was received so that an appropriate "thank you" note could be sent.  We knew well, if Mom or Dad had sent a wool shirt to combat the cold winters in Wernersville, PA, we would not be wearing it.  One of the brethren would be wearing it just as I might be wearing the shirt or slacks someone of my size had received.  On one occasion I went to request a pair of shoelaces for my work boot because one had broken several times and there was no longer material enough for me to tie my shoe.  When I asked the superior for a "pair of shoes laces," the superior inquired, "Did you break both laces?"  So I settled for one lace.  But in leaving his office (and clothing store!), I said the this superior, "Thanks, Father.  I suppose I am thankful I did not need to ask for a pair of shorts."  Of course the response was "Get out of here before I give you a good penance!"  Just a funny story to help you understand something of Jesuits that does not make the papers.

Back to Aloysius and the first line of the gospel quote above.  Sitting on the porch this evening, I was wondering what I should be considering as the treasures I store up.  Of course we think of "things" all the time.  Then this thought came to mind:  what are the treasures that I have as a priest?  What are the treasures that I have as a friend? a brother? a teacher?  What are the treasures that I might store up that are not things.  For me and most priests our most valuable treasure is TIME.  Taking priesthood seriously can lead to a tremendous amount of time necessary to accomplish the needs of God's people on any given day.  Because a day can be filled with countless encounters with people, time does become a priceless commodity for priests. to say nothing of the emotional energy that is necessary to help people with difficulties throughout the day.  So, for me my treasure that I tend to guard rather carefully is my time.  Again, time is costly for a person who is a true extrovert and who has no difficulty "chatting" for lengthy periods of time when someone comes seeking an ear that will listen, a heart that has to be open to the Spirit speaking through the pains or fears of another brother or sister in Christ.

So, to those of you who read this reflection, I say this:  of course I do not know most of you either by name or vocation.  I am sure of this, however:  in today's world all of us are overwhelmed by works that demand much of our time, leaving little for ourselves.  Aloysius had all the treasures a young man could want and even more.  He was of the wealthy class in Italy.  When he entered the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, he sacrificed all that a young man of nobility yearned to have.

Perhaps today is a moment in your life when you might give thought to what it is that your treasure most in your life that you might be hoarding; something that keeps you from fulfilling your vocation in this world.  What is it your are reluctant to share?  What part of your life do you fail to share with others that can be of help to them?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"...Into Penn Station"

A story most of us have heard countless times:  the first grader reciting the Lord's prayer and he says "...Lead us not into Penn Station."  We laugh but the reality is this:  the young child thought that is what he heard others saying.  What did he know about the word "temptation"?  But like the young man, we at times recite the Our Father, often with great speed because we recite it so often, and fail to hear it as it was meant to be heard.

Like most prayer, this particular prayer has some ingredients involved.  Surely we hear the words as they are correctly said.  Our mistake as adults, however, is that we may have heard them so many times that we fail to understand what Jesus meant when he was teaching the disciples how to pray.

When we pray, isn't it almost always an exercise in hope?  We hope to gain what we are asking the Father to grant us.  So often, too, our prayer to the Father is for forgiveness.  We pray with the hope that the Father will grant us amazing graces to get through challenges to our moral and ethical ways of life.

Recently, after all my years, I learned that a leg torn from the body of the star fish will grow back ... just time is needed.  All we have to do is pray "...forgive us our trespasses" and we are healed; we are regifted with God's love, God's blessings.

Likewise the Our Father is a prayer built upon courage.  Did you know that is a part of the strength for which you pray:  "...forgive us our trespasses...."  Sometimes we come to realize that what we ask is truly a challenge.  Do I recognize that I am praying to bring an end to what is sin in my life?  Mightn't that bring some to say, "Well, Father, I am not sure that I am that strong yet."  Let's be honest!

But when we pray "...that thy will be done ..." are we not surrendering what we do not need, what may separate us from God to his will?  And when we pray "...Thy kingdom come, we are not making a spectacular leap from the springboard into the pool of God's graces.  We are leaving our kingdom to become enveloped by the kingdom of God ... if we are strong enough.

So, the Our Father, recited so often, may contain many different trace.  Let us pray that we recognize the need to take the track to God's kingdom rather than to "Penn Station."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Mixtures of Prayer

As we grow older, most men and women strive to have a few good friends.  It is truly a business of quality over quantity.  In younger years the struggle is to have many friends...aides for distractions in a world of growing up.

Prayer is somewhat the same.  In reality, it seems, prayer is like the struggle with having just the right number of friends, good friend, quality friends, reliable friends, honest friends, loyal friends.  All of these components to be found in just a few friends.  This becomes a great reward when it is achieved.

Prayer is a business of personal relationships...with God the Father, his Son, our brother and friend, Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit, that sometimes elusive voice that we seem to allow to escape from our very being and then there are the saints, those we have heard proclaimed saints by our Church and those we personally believe to be with God in heaven.

Prayer friendship, like human relationships, sometimes involve many words between us while at other times just peaceful silence.  No different than a couple sitting side be each looking at the ocean or a stunning sunset.  With each of our three Person God, time alone is rewarding:  reading a few verses of a psalm; reading a few lines of a part of one of the gospels that captures our attention or simply just a thought that catches the heart while reading a book.

Today the gospel gives us food for thought.  We are encouraged to plant the seeds that grow our relationship with Jesus and ultimately to possess a better Christian life.  This relationship with Jesus comes about in ways no different from our human relationships:  a mixture of conversation stirred with some silence that is poured into our hearts.

And lastly, the gospel encourages us to consider fasting again.  Fasting and prayer:  how do these two come together and important ingredients for our spiritual life.  Fasting seems to be embedded only in the Lenten season.  What does it mean for you during the remainder of the year?

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Dangerous Wide Road

MT 7:6, 12-

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.
“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”st they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.
"Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”

Dad often taught the same lesson to me and my four brothers and sister: life is not forever.  You travel the roadway only once.  Do all you can to make it a wide road...but be sure that you don't get pulled over for doing something wrong.  When asked how wide it could be, he replied only as wide as good things, moments and achievements would allow.  I do not recall that any of us ended up in a police station or caught cheating on a test.

While seminary life and priesthood do not necessarily guarantee freedom from what we can call wrong or sinful, it did help all of us to seriously consider the values that are consistent in every state of life.

Living a life on the straight and narrow has to be a challenge to everyone.  For those not blessed with seminary or convent life, life is never easy.  How easy it might be to allow personal preferences separate us from our God as well as our families.

For all us, regardless of vocation, prayer is so necessary.  Time with God each day is the vitamin tablet that gives us the strength and courage to say "no" when "no" is the correct answer.

Times Have Not Changed

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

"Lex Talionis" was legal formula of the days of Moses.  We know it today as an eye for an eye.  Is this gospel and in particular during many moments during his passion, Jesus refuted this legalism.  When a guard spat in his face, what did Jesus do?  He sat in continued silence.  Today in similar situations, if a person does not "retaliate" (talionis), he is considered a wimp.

St. Paul experienced the same in so many ways.  Some who did not like him and his preaching successes, said many offensive things about him to the people of Corinth.

Several years ago I witnessed a man of some status confront his assistant in anger.  Upset with something the assistant had prepared for him, he tore up page the assistant had offered for reading, and tossed it at the assistant's face.  The assistant stood there in silence, picked up the shreds of paper, and said nothing.  Those who did speak were other witnesses who spoke words of admiration for his patience.  One man became a star.  Another become recognized fool.

Today there are many instances when tempers can easily flair.  Today there are times when jealousy can create another fool.  We are challenged often.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Prayers and Gratitude
to all Fathers
the Foremost Teachers in our Lives
Deceased and Living

Sunday Readings

In the gospel for today we experience Jesus having dinner in the home of one of the Pharisees.  Perhaps we might liken this to our Bishop of Rome accepting a dinner invitation to the home of one of the radical Islamic figures in our world today.  Throughout this gospel we are witnesses to a number of conversations that occur.

Let us consider the many different conversations we bring to our prayer today.  Perhaps you read this reflection early in the morning.  If so, you may not have had any conversation except with a household pet or a spouse or a child who has arisen early.  Likely your mind is recalling conversations from yesterday.  But I pose these images because in the course of a day, whenever we pray, consider the kinds of conversation experiences we have.  It is important to recognize our state of mind and heart when we begin to pray.  How challenging it is to pray if our heart has been battered or has battered another person recently.  How distracting it is to pray if there are major problems in one's life:  finances, disagreements with a spouse or child.  How unsettled is the heart if it is boiling with anger.  So it is important to reflect before beginning to pray or to attend a liturgy on what kind of conversations we have had before we try to talk with Jesus, with our Creator God or with the Holy Spirit or with one of the saints.  Jesus is God's Word, God's conversation with each of us.  To be able to converse with him, we need to know how it is that we converse with our own lives.  Conversations are the signs of how we deal with one another.

How we treat others is almost always a reflection of the "conversation" we have in our minds about others.  In the gospel a Pharisee hosts Jesus with a distinct mindset.  That is clear when we realize Simon, the host, failed to extend to Jesus the traditional practice of "washing of the feet" of the guests.  But Jesus does not fail to welcome into his company the woman clearly known as a "woman of the streets."  She realizes that Jesus had not been properly welcomed and proceeds to welcome Jesus in her own way.  Clearly her mental "conversation" reflected her awareness of Jesus' position in the community as a teacher and one who cared so much for others.  Jesus' care for this woman is a reflection to us of the "conversation" he must have in his mind with the woman.  It is the conversation that Jesus has in his mind when dealing with us ... wanting always to forgive whatever failings we may have brought to our conversation with him.

On the day when we offer words of thanks and praise for our fathers, it is a time when we might consider in our minds how we, who are men, "converse" with others.  Are we as caring and at times as gentle as our counterparts in this society, the women who are part of our lives.  The second part of the gospel story shows us how women have an innate spirit of caring, relating, comforting.  For them these are the traits and experiences that are part of life.

We men, on the other hand, have different innate feelings or actions.  Men always want to fix, to be recognized for what they accomplish, (even if it is changing a diaper!) or remembering to celebrate a spouse's or close friend's birthday or anniversary.  Men want to keep moving on to the next moment and what it holds.

Father's day is a moment each year when we men might take a moment to consider how we live our lives, how deeply we go into our selves and recognize what is more important than what needs to be fixed, or what had been accomplished.  For us men, and perhaps your might be ready to question my sanity, today we should stop to consider all of those deepest thoughts we so often find difficult to express.  These are the thoughts about living, loving, laughing ... all our deepest thoughts of caring for those who come into our lives.  Jesus the man was and continues to be the teacher of how to live life more deeply.

Dear male readers, I do hope that these thoughts are not offensive.  All I suggest is that we men, whether married or single, use this day to consider our "conversations" with family, friends and even those we find difficult to live or work with.  "What would Jesus do?"  How often we hear that question.  How often do we pull it into our manly lives?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ever Learning!

An Irish Jesuit, reflecting on Paul's life, wrote this sentence:  "Let us learn to see our weaknesses not as obstacles but as opportunities."  This sentiment seems to be rather frequent in today's world.  Perhaps we see the recognition of failures as one way of putting them aside because we can then move on.  The problem that each of us has to confront in such circumstances is to take the time to reflect, as does Paul in the words of today's first reading that is taken from the second letter he composed for the Corinthians.

Paul's return and letter to the community in Corinth were necessitated because some other preachers were condemning Paul for some of his failures and weaknesses.  So concerned that those whom he and his comrades had brought to the faith as they and the apostles were teaching might be undermined.

Paul openly admits or confesses that he as well as we ourselves must realize that we are simply earthern vessels God uses in this life.  Despite the difficulties that existed between Paul and the Corinthians because he had not returned to preach and teach in their city as he had promised, there nevertheless continued to be genuine friendship and respect for Paul among the people in Corinth.

As we look at the life of this courageous professor of the faith and model of suffering for what one believes, we should see that because of Paul's weaknesses God was able to speak to the people through Paul.  So for us:  we should make every effort to use our weaknesses not a excuses but rather as instruments for our use in seeing opportunities to better ourselves and to teach others what we have learned.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Happy Flag Day

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Man from Padua

The Spirit of The Lord is upon me.  We hear these words from Jesus.  We hear saints and sinners adopt these words.  Those among us who reach out to help, to comfort, to guide, to encourage:  these are our friends and family who are filled with the Spirit.  Maybe they do not think this is the case.  However, if we have been on the receiving end or have watched others receive help, we know those who have cared were filled with the Spirit of The Lord.

Today our Church recalls and honors a man who did not allow personal sacrifice to withhold the gifts of of the Spirit from another in need.  We do hear his name on occasion.  Let us not forget he is a capable intercession for us when we need the grace to forget self and reach out to someone in need.

Have you felt the Spirit of The Lord in your life lately?  If you might feel somewhat negligent in reaching out to others, ask St Anthony of Padua to help you gain graces from the Holy Spirit to help others.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Frequent Change

Matthew 5:17-19 brings us face-to-face once again with what most men and women have found difficult ... for centuries.  What is it?  Saint Cardinal Henry Newman described the challenge with the following thought:  to live is to change; to be perfect is to have change often.

Why is it that when change is involved in one's religion, almost any change becomes very difficult, filling the heart with fear.  And what is the underlying cause of fear, especially when we are dealing with our faith, our personal relationship with God?  Let me suggest that the answer to that question is simple:  we are afraid that the change we realize as necessary may demand of us sacrifices that could change our way of living.

Many times when thinking about making a change or being encouraged to change what we recognize is the need to put aside what has become the comfortable, the usual.  For example, why is Lent so often looked upon with a certain amount of trepidation?  How can I fast for forty days?  Do I really have to examine my way of living?  There are sinful habits that need to be changed yet I have so programmed myself to live this way ... do I really have to change?  For most of us there is need for change if we are honest with ourselves.  Not necessary major alterations but alterations nonetheless.

Today throughout the USA many Catholics are faced with what seems to be major change:  the closing of some parish schools and even the closing of some parishes.  For long-time parishioners, closing a parish is akin to a tremendous, unfair change put upon their lives.  For authorities who conclude such actions, it is not a change easily put forward.

Jesus came to the Jewish converts and told them he had not come to change the laws or the prophets.  No, his change was not to bring an end but to fulfill what the laws and prophets had encouraged the people to be.  What Jesus was teaching was a shift in understanding and living out of the laws.  He was presenting the laws with a new insight a new vision.

The efforts of Bishops and Pastors to bring the Church and the People of God to the signs of the times will never be found on Easy Street.  And we must realize that our Church would die if our leaders did not listen to the Holy Spirit who seeks to prevent our avoiding or trying to block needed changes.  We continue, I believe, to be adapting and adopting the changes the Popes John XXIII and Paul VI believed the Holy Spirit was putting before us.  In the first reading today, St. Paul is also mindful of the need to make change a regular part of our lives, as we grow, as the Holy Spirit leads us to deeper understandings of ourselves as well as the meaning of the words the Jesus has taught us in the Sermon on the Mount, which, by the way extend beyond his words of the Beatitudes.  Consider the lives of Paul and Cardinal Newman:  these men found themselves being called by God to make radical changes in their lives.  Look what happened to them:  they became saints and wise teachers of God's desires for us in our times.

Failing to accept change when we are called to it by the Holy Spirit is to become stagnate and self-righteous.  When we see change brought about by our Church and also when we realize that there is an inner voice calling us to personal change, we must believe that the Holy Spirit is calling us forth to a new way, a new practice not just for ourselves.  He is leading us to a closer life with our God and with all of our sisters and brothers in faith through the gifts of harmony and love.

It is a difficult reality for some but it is, I believe, a reality that if we do not respond to the calls of the Holy Spirit the kingdom of God will never become what our Creator wishes it to be.

Easy Times


To assist you in finding some books to consider, let me suggest two lists especially prepared for adults as well as several individual books not on the lists.

Google the following:
Paulist Press Summer Reading List for Adults
Loyola Press Reading List for Adults
Each of these printing houses offers five or more suggestions.
Beyond the printing houses, let me suggest any of the writings of Fr. Henri Nouwen.  He is a marvelous writer and spiritual guide.  Also consider reading the autobiography of Blessed Pope John XXIII, The Journal of a Soul.
For a unique way of understanding the death and Resurrection of Jesus a quick read is Resurrection, written by Dr. Rocco Martino.  If you watch any of the NCIS genre TV shows, you will find Dr. Martino's writing captivating.
More books will be suggested in the days ahead.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

A few days ago, while more than a few hundred students from Jesuit schools in Italy were present to hear a talk from Pope Francis, there was a sudden and quite surprisign turn of events.  The Holy Father started to read from a prepared text.  After a word or two of greeting, the Bishop of Rome decided to give a three minute presentation of the five typed pages in his hands.  Then, to the surprise of all the guests, Pope Francis asked the students if they would prefer that he drop the text and answer a few questions from the students.  What?  No prepared text?  No pre-sselected students or questions?  Well, that was the way it went.  And, to be sure, it was a success.

As I read the gospel selected for today's liturgies, I could not but think of one of the words that the Holy Father used in the brief summary of the typed pages.  That word was magnanimity.  Yes, magnanimity.
There could not be a better word to used to speak about the content of the gospel, The Beatitudes.

Embeded in each of the Beatitudes is the very essence of magnaminity.  It is the calling that we have as followers of Jesus Christ.  It is the essence of what it mean to have become a martyr for Jesus Christ.

I suggest this today:  read each of the Beatitudes found in the gospel reading highlighted above.  Consider, if you will, what is magnanimous about each fo those descriptions of the life of a true believer, a loyal follower.

Then, like Pope Francis and his session with the students, face this particular question:  what is it that I can understand as magnanimous about the each of the Beatitudes?  That is the first question.  The second is this:  Am I magnanimous in any, or some or all of the Beatitudes that Jesus puts before us as the characteristics of a child of God?   Good luck!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our lives are marked so often by the ordinary, the not so unusual.  Just consider the moments of the day:  nothing out of the ordinary.  "De More" the Latin phrase that means "as usual."  Could be moments of leisure, times for errands, three meals, set ups, clean ups --- perhaps boring if the same every day.  Really nothing that is a life or death matter.

Then ... there is that day when "de more" might be hoped for.  These are the days when news is not so good.  A friend dies.  The breadwinner next door get his first pink slip.  Perhaps it is a day when a doctor's news brings us to our knees.  Then there is the day when strong winds down out of the sky, like a sharpened knife, destroys everything bringing death is so many different ways.  Families and all they possess are not ruined, they are blown away, never to be seen again.

Today's readings speak of two of those most different days.  Think with me:   700 years ago there was the man, known to many as capable of making his way through those winds of life and death.  People called him Elijah.  For them he was a prophet.  He spoke truth to evil.

At a time when dryness in all of its searing pain brought death to the people of Israel.  No "as usual" days during drought.  But God led his prophet from the land to drought to Sidon to a small town, a village, the people called the placed Zarepheth.  There the Spirit led him to one of the town's widows.  Not only living with spousal loss, this lady knew the most painful death.  Her son was visited by sickness and his life was taken from him.  Where was Elijah?

Obviously the people found him and brought him to the house of death.  He went to the bedroom where the body lay in death.  Elijah lay atop the corpse three times and called out to the God who seemed to be so harsh to the widow's life.  He cried out for new life.  And yes, it happened.  The boy's body was filled with life.  The stunned mother knew what to do:  she cried out to Elijah.  She recognized in him the not just a prophet of renown but she experienced the God of life.

Now come some 700 years later to another village known among the people as Nain.  It was in Galilee.  Jesus and his small company of apostles and disciples were in the town and came upon a funeral procession.  The lifeless body of another young person was on a final earthly journey, the march marking his final day of presence among the people, his burial into another world.  Jesus sees the lifeless figure lying on a lifeless plank of wood.  He touches the body.  Suddenly the stillness of death touches the crowd.  They are almost paralyzed for a brief moment.  What was dead is now alive.  Jesus had confronted death.  "Young man, get up!"  And what must have been the paralysis of fear suddenly become a chorus of praise:  "A great prophet has risen among us."

What do these to event, separated by some 700 years, teach us?  Perhaps we do not focus upon it so easily or frequently enough:  life and death are two threads that are tied together in each day of our life, yes even in the very fabric of our own live.  And the truth be told, we our actions speak so much of life each day.  Death is a reality we push off.  Yet each day can be moments for us when even what is not so good turns to what is terrible.  The two women had that encounter.  Their only source of support in terrible times had died.  Even today for some parents the precious life of their sons and daughters are ended by drugs, by wars, by carelessness, by silliness, by guns!

Death is not the only pain or loss.  Yes, loss of employment.  "You have terminal cancer!"  A tornado visits your house for a second time.  Your teen-aged son or daughter disappears into the hallways of needles or condoms.  Life goes on ... not always to our liking.

Yet, the two widows, were they to meet you today would speak out very loudly and profoundly:  God does not abandon when life is or seems to be taken away. When all that is treasured seems lost, God's treasure house is opened.

In our society today, many shun speaking with the word "death."  We are not comfortable.  A loved one has "passed."  A neighbor has moved ... to another life.  We seem so uncomfortable around death.  Sometimes we cannot even speak the word.  But in the two stories, separated by 700 years, we see something so strong:  God touches death and life returns.  For us who believe in God, the times of death are invitations to us to speak of God of Life.  Fear not!  I am with you always ... even in those moments when death feels like a trap.  Speak out from fear and pain that Jesus Christ, our Lord, has risen from his own death.  He is our Lord of life.  Praised by our God.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

St Boniface, Martyr

To the point ... because I have just lost what I was about to post because of an electrical failure!!!!!

This first reading is somewhat complicated because there are several people who confront some of the pain of life's ways.  Tobit and Sarah: they want God to take them from this life because it is not what they wanted or expected.

What you can get from the selection are these issues.   Old age and the challenges it offers when old age moves on into many years and health is not the best through the later years.  Another reality is suicide which seems to be much more prevalent among younger men.

Our challenge is helping people is these categories:  seeing the pains of old age as not worth the effort or a thought that many future years are not worth it if the current status is an example of what lies ahead.  We can help those individuals who see no hope by taking time to reassure them of the love and care of others who wish to walk the journey of life with them.  Likewise we should make every effort to lead them to an understanding of their sufferings are united with Jesus and that he, who himself suffered so much, will always be present to us.  Words do sound easy but if there is the support and example of friends and care givers, life can take on a different style, a new way of understanding.

It might be worth looking in Google to learn about the life of today's saint, St Boniface.  He was a man who continued in a long life and even at the age of his late seventies, he set forth with a group of supporters into the Netherlands to bring the gospel of Jesus there.  And in 755, along with his colleagues, he was murdered because of his efforts to evangelize the people in one of the Netherland areas.  His life, as historians note, is a model for us in matters of politics, the Church and religion.  Historians consider his legacy stronger and more important for the nations of what is now Germany and England.

First installment of a summer reading list appears below.

Summer Reading Lists: 2013


To assist you in finding some books to consider, let me suggest two lists especially prepared for adults as well as several individual books not on the lists.

Google the following:
Paulist Press Summer Reading List for Adults
Loyola Press Reading List for Adults
Each of these printing houses offers five or more suggestions.
Beyond the printing houses, let me suggest any of the writings of Fr. Henri Nouwen.  He is a marvelous writer and spiritual guide.  Also consider reading the autobiography of Blessed Pope John XXIII, The Journal of a Soul.
For a unique way of understanding the death and Resurrection of Jesus a quick read is Resurrection, written by Dr. Rocco Martino.  If you watch any of the NCIS genre TV shows, you will find Dr. Martino's writing captivating.
More books will be suggested in the days ahead.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Model for Today: John XXIII

Yesterday, especially in Rome and his home diocese, Angelo Roncalli was celebrated as a humble man, a quiet man:  a man of peace and obedience.  Because our  readings today (  call us to carefully consider how we speak to one another, I am borrowing the following words of Pope Francis as he  spoke to pilgrims from Pope John XXIII’s home town on the 50th anniversary of the gentle pope’s death. (Translation provided by Vatican Radio and Whispers in the Loggia).

Dear friends of the Diocese of Bergamo,

I am pleased to welcome you here, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, in this place that is home to every Catholic. I affectionately greet your Pastor, Bishop Francesco Beschi, and thank him for the kind words he addressed to me on behalf of all.

Exactly fifty years ago, just at this moment, Blessed John XXIII left this world. Those who, like me, [are of] a certain age, retain a vivid memory of the commotion that spread everywhere in those days: St. Peter’s Square had become a sanctuary in the open, day and night welcoming the faithful of all ages and social conditions, in trepidation and prayer for the Pope's health. The whole world had recognized in Pope John a pastor and a father: a shepherd because [he was] father. What made him such? How could he reach the hearts of so many different people, even many non-Christians? To answer this question, we can refer to his episcopal motto, oboedientia et pax: obedience and peace. “These words,” noted the then-Archbishop Roncalli on the eve of his episcopal ordination, “are [in a way] my story and my life.” (Journal of a Soul, retreat in preparation for consecration as bishop, 13-17 March 1925).

I would like to begin from peace, because this is the most obvious aspect – that, which people perceived in Pope John: Angelo Roncalli was a man who was able to communicate peace; a natural, serene, friendly, peace; a peace that, with his election to the Pontificate, was manifested to all the world and [came to be called his] ‘goodness’. This was undoubtedly a hallmark of his personality, which enabled him to build strong friendships everywhere and in particular that stood out in his ministry as Representative of the Pope, which he carried out for nearly three decades, often in contact with environments and worlds far removed from that Catholic universe in which he was born and formed. It was in those environments that he proved an effective weaver of relationships and a good promoter of unity, inside and outside the Church community, open to dialogue with Christians of other Churches, with members of the Jewish and Muslim [traditions] and with many other men of good will. In fact, Pope John conveyed peace because he had a mind deeply at peace, the fruit of a long and challenging work on himself, an effort that has left abundant traces in [his autobiography], Journal of a Soul. There we can see the seminarian, the priest, the bishop Roncalli struggling with the path to the gradual purification of the heart. We see him, day by day, careful to recognize and mortify the desires that come from his own selfishness, careful to discern the inspirations of the Lord, allowing himself to be guided by wise spiritual directors and inspired by masters such as Saint Francis de Sales and St. Charles Borromeo. Reading those writings, we truly see a soul taking shape, under the action of the Holy Spirit working in His Church.

Here, then, we come to the second and decisive word: “obedience.” If peace was the outward hallmark, obedience constituted for [Pope John] the inner disposition: obedience, in fact, was the instrument with which to achieve peace. Firstly, [obedience] meant to [Pope John] something very simple and concrete: performing that service in the Church, which his superiors asked of him, without seeking anything for himself, with no escape from anything that was required of him, even when it meant leaving his homeland, dealing with worlds unknown to him, remaining for many years in places where the presence of Catholics was very scarce. This willingness to be led, like a child, built his priestly path, of which you are well aware: from secretary of Bishop Radini Tedeschi and at the same time teacher and spiritual father in the diocesan seminary; to [his service as] Papal Representative in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, France; [his election as] Shepherd of the Venetian Church, and finally as Bishop of Rome. Through this obedience, the priest and bishop Roncalli, however, also lived a more profound faithfulness, which could be called, as he would say, abandonment to Divine Providence. He always recognized, in faith, that through that path of life apparently driven by others, led by their tastes or on the basis of their own spiritual sensitivity, God was designing a project of His own.

Even more profoundly, through this daily abandonment to the will of God, the future Pope John lived a purification, which allowed him to detach himself completely from himself, and to adhere to Christ, thus allowing the holiness to emerge, which the Church has [now] officially recognized. Jesus tells us, “Whoever loses his life for me will save it. (Lk 9:24)” Here is the true wellspring of Pope John’s, of the peace that he sowed throughout the world. Here is the root of his holiness: in this, his evangelical obedience.

This, then, is a lesson for all of us, and also for the Church of our time. If we let ourselves be led by the Holy Spirit, if we mortify our selfishness to make room for the love of the Lord and to His will, then we will find peace, then we will be builders of peace and peace will spread around us. Fifty years after his death, the wise and fatherly guidance of Pope John, his love for the Church’s tradition and awareness of the constant need of renovation, the prophetic intuition of the convocation of the II Vatican Council and the offering of his life for its success, remain as milestones in the history of the Church of the twentieth century and as a beacon of light for the journey that lies ahead.

Dear people of Bergamo, you are rightly proud of the “Good Pope”, a shining example of faith and virtues for whole generations of Christians from your land. Keep his spirit, continue to deepen the study of his life and his writings, but above all, imitate his holiness. From heaven, may he continue to accompany with love your Church, which he so loved in life, and may he obtain for her from the Lord the gift of many holy priests, vocations to religious and missionary life, as well as to family life and for lay commitment [to service] in the Church and in the world. Thank you for your visit! I cordially bless you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Feast of Sts. Charles Luwanga et al: Martyrs

Today's gospel recalls Jesus' use of a frequent Old Testament (OT) image:  the vineyard, a representation of Israel.  In OT times Isaiah, King David in the Psalms, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Hosea employed this image to speak of the life of Israel and so often the destruction that came about because of the sins of the leaders and the people.

When Jesus brought the vineyard image in a talk with the chief priests, scribes and elders in a parable that was a challenge to them and their abuses of their authority.  Jesus modifies the OT versions to incorporate the killing of the vineyard owner's son.  Of course the authorities recognized that Jesus was directing his words to their actions.  Were it not for the lack of support among the people at that moment, Jesus would have been condemned to die.  That fate would be in the not too distant future for Jesus.

What is the message for us today in this parable Jesus presents.  It is our concern for the vineyard that Jesus has entrusted to us ... our Church.  We can consider this:  today our Church is tested in many ways.  Just consider the scandals that have beset our Church in recent years.  Consider that various societal attack on the moral and social teachings of our Church in the modern era.  Consider the numerous departures of believers from our religion to other religious practices.

If our faith -- that is, our relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) -- is strong, we should stand strong against the evils that beset our Church and challenge our faith.  It is our faith that enables us to make of our Church a reality of a good, fruitful vineyard for the Lord.

The saints we honor today are strong models not only to the people of Africa but to all believers in Jesus Christ.  It was on this day, June 3, 1886, that Charles and his companions were ordered to death by the Mwanga, the ruler of Uganda at that time, for refusing to participate in his immoral activities.

Charles was one of the 22 converts from paganism who were martyred on this day.  They were a threat to the king's rule.  Charles, sentenced to death by a slow burning to his death.  Reportedly, Charles replied that he was happy to be dying for the True Faith.  This group of converts were canonized by Pope Paul VI on June 22, 1964.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Corpus Christi 2013

Well, if you live in the metropolitan DC area, you know well that summer has arrived.  From chilly wet week just a few days ago to the fires of the sun beating down on us.  However, it is a time to relax more so that we have been resting in the last few months.
Christmas and Easter really seem so far away at this moment.   It is my belief that summer is God’s gift to us to unwind, to enjoy family and friends and to take some personal time to get in touch with God in a relaxed manner as well.  So, here is how I suggest that opportunity:  get yourself a good spiritual book that you work through during the summer.  Just a little time each day, early in the morning or in the twilight of evening time.

One of God’s plan for our summer relaxation is simply inner peace, inner calm.   The feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for the Body of Christ -- and we add Blood of Christ) does offer us a wonderful way to begin the summer days, the summer recess from our drivenness!

How many times do you hear or say “I’m too busy.”  God forbid that someone should say of any one of us that “He/she is lazy or idle.”  Haven’t we become a culture that defines ourselves by what we do?  I know that I have fallen victim to this so often when attending a social gathering, even when I am in a gathering of the more than 80 cousins that I have just in this area.  I ask people so often what is their defining occupation.  How funny it would be if, when passed the introductions and some chit-chat I would ask “What do you do for relaxation?”  “How to you spend time away from what takes up so much of your time during the week?”  Some would feel that I was intruding into their private lives; others would believe I was crazy!

We so often run from ourselves and a gnawing hunger that drives us to feeling that I have to always be “doing.”  I have been going through stages that definitely are like this as I have tried to adopt to the life of “retired” being.  Retirement has not been easy because I have not listen to the inner voice that has been gnawing away at me.

Today we celebrate a feast of Jesus Christ, our friend, brother and Redeemer.  His dying on the cross was not meant to be a permanent reminder that we have to be nailed to a cross of constant demands for doing.  He has given us in a truly mystical experience in the Bread and WIne that we share as the Body and Blood of this same Jesus.  

Rather than hunger for the “whatever it is” that drives us to constant “doing,” let this feast be the occasion that brings each one of us to realize that “whatever” that is incessant in our mind and heart can be satisfied and, hopefully, diminish by the reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, especially in the Eucharist.  Let this feast be the initiation of another kind of “whatever.”  Let it become for us the food that quiets the unrest.  Let it become the nourishment that allows us to grow in the gift of quiet reflection and prayer.  

Hopefully during these days of summer and a consideration of what we can gain from realize what the Body and Blood of Christ can do for will remove from us the constant, never ending thought or expression:  “I’m too busy.”  “I can’t because I am busy.”  Just think of the manner lost opportunities you have experience because you made yourself seem to be so important and needed in some other “whatever.”

So, in short, summer is God’s season for us to just lay back in relaxation and a peaceful coming to realize how blessed we are having Jesus as our friend and brother.  Let the Body and Blood of Jesus become for you, perhaps in a new way, that moment when you realize God gift of grace, nourishing grace:  the consecrated bread and wine that nourishes your inner being because you took time to not be “too busy;” took the time to celebrate the many gifts of your own spouses and children and even of some friends.  Having these experiences is, truly, God’s nourishing gift.

Please say a prayer for me on this occsion of my 72nd birthday and tomorrow the 41st anniversary of my priesthood ordination.  Thank you so.  Likewise, I do need to ask you to  say a prayer for me that I have success in establishing a program especially for priests who live alone in parish life.  My petition is before a private foundation whose owners are very interested in my project.  You will know when all is in order ... hopefully by the end of the summer.