Friday, January 31, 2014

Miserando atque Eligendo!

Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him!

Dear Friends,

The  Latin phrase is from the coat-of-arms of a pope who has captured the attention and admiration of so many people of our times, Pope Francis.  Reading the account of King David's dalliance with Bathsheba, the Pope's motto came to mind.  These words come from a sermon delivered by 18th century writer, the Englishman, Saint Bede.   This holy man used these words to describe Jesus' encounter with one of the tax collectors of the town, another man who became a saint, Matthew.

As most of us who hear confessions know, sin sometimes becomes a heavy weight in the heart and soul of the sinner.  Perhaps this is the experience Bede confronted in his dealings with a sinner.  Regardless of the actual event, "miserando atque eligendo" are three powerful words that remind us that our God is not only a merciful dispenser of forgiveness but one who sees deeply into the hearts of sinners and knows the potential implanted in each human being.

Despite his immoral behavior David possessed a sincere desire for a true reconciliation with Yahweh,   Likewise Matthew, apparently a tax collector no different from the others of his profession, moved to an awareness of his " professional" sins, was filled with an awareness of Yahweh's mercy.  Likewise God chose him for work that would bring many from sinfulness to living the life of Jesus.

If you ever become burdened by sin, remember "miserando atque eligendo."  When God created you, he entrusted much to you.  We certainly will not be a king or a queen.  But we can be the recipient of the remarkable and peace-filled gift of forgiveness and lead others to know a loving and caring God.

God be with you and let us prayer for on another.

Fr.  Milt

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Successes for What?

After Nathan had spoken to King David, 
the king went in and sat before the LORD and said, 
“Who am I, Lord GOD, and who are the members of my house, 
that you have brought me to this point?

Dear Friends,

These words from 2 Samuel 7: 18-19 bring to my mind and heart what it is like to sit in silence before The Lord.  Here David is reflecting on his successes and what the prophet has told him about God's plans for him.  So, I ask myself "What is it that God has promised me for time in my life?  This is a question each of us has to ask of ourselves:  "What are my accomplishments intended to be for me to carry out God's will for my life?"

It is one thing to recognize my achievements and successes.  It is very different for me to discover why God gave my so many graces in my life.  I have to be careful:  God did not give me successes to hide them.  Each of them is meant to be an instrument we place in God's hands to serve others.

A noble follower of Jesus is not simply to be a person of goodness.  Our giftedness from God is meant to be graces that enable us to be evangelizers!

Don't allow God's plans for you to be frightening.  If you let weaknesses hold you back, remember St. Paul's words:  in our weakest moments God achieves the most in us.

God be with you and let us pray for one another.

Fr.. Milt

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Soil of the Soil

Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. 

Dear Friends,

The soil needed for growth of the small seed was insufficient.  I don' t believe I myself have thought too often about the " depth of the soil" in my spiritual life."

So what makes the right amount of soil?  If I need to repair a lack of soil in the yard, I make a stop at a nursery or a store like Home Depot.  But where do I get the soil to to give the needed depth to my spiritual life?

Well, to be honest, my immediate thought is to find something that requires "doing."  The rosary.  Stations of the Cross.  Indeed such devotion ale are good starters.  However, doing these activities does not afford what might be best:  sitting in quiet with a scripture verse or story like what is inserted above. 

Even a short time with Jesus, considering the state of my soul, my relationship with God.  This is when I take the soil I have in my spiritual life and increase it, till it and quietly allow it to nurture who I am.  This is more difficult than a rosary, the stations, or reading from a book of prayers.  Isn't it?

Yes, devotionals can help your soul but their strength comes especially when they are built upon a relationship you have with Jesus in personal prayer and reflection.  We need to put aside the "driven" culture we have accepted into our lives.  We need to let some honest "laziness" open our hearts to God!

God be with you.

Fr. Milt

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What Shall I Build With a You?

Dear Friends,

     During one of my consults with a Trappist monk who is also a priest, we discussed just how challenging it is for us to discover what it is that God wants from each person in his/her life?  The Samuel reading for today's liturgy reminded me of my conversation.  

     Today most of us have come to recognize that we are gifted with more than one specific talent or skill.  But what is it that God wants us to build for himself with our talents?  How do I best serve God in the circumstances and situations that are the venues in my life?

     The little part of the world that I find around me needs me especially as God wants me.  How much peace and strength do I bring to myself and others when I understand God's will for me!

     David thought Yahweh expected him to "build a house," with lumber etc.  It took some time for the great king to realize that God wanted him to "build a house," a house built with people.  God wanted David to establish a dynasty, that kind of house.  Would we ever have had the Book of Psalms had David insisted on being the builder of God's temple?

      Am I building the kind of "house" God hopes I will realize as his will for me? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Psalm 89

Dear Friends,

A short letter with focus on what you should know about King David.  How often we hear about this earthly King, this man who composed for us so many insights of God's relationship to his people.

Davis was appointed God.  We learn this through the writing of prophets.  In 2 Samuel 5:1-7,10 we read about the term of office David had.  He began at age 30 and ended his rule of the Jewish people when he was 70 years old.

Think of these words to David that God has spoken to each of us in many and varied ways.

R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.

Trusting in God!  You begin a new week.  Remember these words from Psalm 89.  Let them open your heart to a week building a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ, our King.  He calls to us in these days of ours to bring his message, his love to those who have turned from him as well as to those who do not know of his goodness and care.

“I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him, and that my arm may make him strong.”

You are no different than David.  Meet Jesus again today.  Let him take your hand with your trust!

'Til the next time, God be with you
Fr. Milt

Sunday, January 26, 2014

3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

All that we read from the daily Mass lectionary's selections point us in one direction:  God calls each of us to be messengers of the gospel.

During my annual retreat which just ended, my director, a trusted man of God, spoke with me about my life and how I use my talents to be God's messenger.

There are so many people hurting in our communities today.  How do I, how do you reach out anyone go those folks?  Do I truly care about any of these folks?

In my life I know that many think "He is a priest.  He is close to God.  He does not find himself 'hurting.'"  My friends there is no priest who is not challenged by the realities in our Church and/or society today.  Who lights up our world?  Hopefully most of my brothers see that it is in serving the needs of God's people that there is an answer, there in. Sunrise each morning.

Today's responsorial psalm is a marvelous little prayer that can guide us through the day.  But never forget being a light to others brings the SON into our lives.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Second Sunday Ordinary Time: Do I/We Really Care?

The reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary time will be presented in the Ignatian style … as you found last week’s reflection.  Several people contacted me and appreciated the traditional Jesuit practice of presenting talks with the three point practice as has been the Jesuit tradition.

The First Point.  Christians are called to become a light for the whole world.

— the frequent message of Pope Francis.
— not a new message:  Isaiah, in the first reading, shares his vision that the Jewish people were to become a light to the world.
— the reason for this challenge to us:  to let all the world know that God gave us his Son to bring about salvation for everyone.
— in New Testament times there was a similar voice calling the people with the same message:  John the Baptist
— his message again, the same.  The one who baptized Jesus, the same Jesus the people would see walking and talking with the people, dining out with some of the people, healing many, this man Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  His is a universal message.
—- does any of the above impact your life?  Does it impact the world in any way today?

2. The Second Point.  Is there reason to hope, to think, that God’s will can be accomplished in our world THROUGH our efforts even though we are but a small number of people in the world?  A series of questions follows:
—  are the Christians in our world interested in Jesus Christ or even the Gospels? 
—  are YOU genuinely interested in Jesus Christ or the Gospels?
—  How many Catholics have a bible in their homes that is regularly used?
—  Why is membership in all the main-line churches declining each year?
—  Is a genuine personal relationship with the Lamb of God of any value to you and your brothers and sisters of the Christian faith?
—  When Catholics say “I believe ….” each Sunday in the Profession of Faith, the Creed, does it mean anything or is it just another routine prayer said each Sunday?

3.  The Third Point.  What do the answers to these questions signify for you and me?

—  to be a true believer today, to believe beyond mere repetition of words that we can be like a torch that lights up the area around us, wherever we might be, giving true witness to Jesus Christ in the presence of others.
—  When others come upon us whether family members, friends or colleagues or even those who do not know us, do they think or say, :I am in the presence of someone , like John the Baptist, who has not difficulty in speaking aloud about Jesus Christ?  Do I give others my witness that Jesus is very important to me and how I live my life?
— Do others speak of me or you as a person who adopts the values of Jesus Christ in my or your life?
—  Without Jesus Christ do you have a faith to declare, a Lord to follow?
—  We must begin in our homes, with our families, to teach that the Lamb of God we profess whenever we attend a church service is truly someone of immense value to us?
—  We need to remember an old adage:  “Actions speak louder than words.”

—  Perhaps each week every genuine follower of Jesus should develop an examination of the days of the prior week with one question:  Have I tried to bring Jesus to the world?  How?  Did my life proclaim Jesus Christ is my Lord?

Please note:  Today, Saturday, I leave for my annual retreat
at the Trappist Monastery in Spencer, MA.  
Would you offer up a prayer or two for me during the week of this retreat?
I promise that I will do likewise for all you who read this blog.
It may happen that I do not get a reflection prepared for next Sunday.
I will not be returning to Lanham until Tuesday, the 28th.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Baptism of Jesus: Defining Moment

Today, for your weekend reflection and prayer, let me suggest you consider all or one particular point I am suggesting.  It is the truly Ignatian style of meditation: using three points (not necessarily having to complete all three in your prayer time) and concluding with a time of personal conversation with God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today’s readings are as follows: 
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; (2) Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3;13-17

First Point:  Defining moments in one’s life:  experiences that provide clear visions of what life should be at a particular time in one’s history.  For a few moments, recall (and perhaps worthwhile to list) significant “defining moments” in your life.  Perhaps you have seen your life’s mission in the following:  a decision to marry a particular person; learning of a first and/or subsequent pregnancies and the birth of a child and later children; facing a terminal illness in one’s self or another; a major promotion at work;  assisting and offspring, relative or friend who reveals to you his/her homosexuality; the loss of a marriage partner to death or divorce, etc, etc, etc.  What context did your defining moment(s) give to your life especially if they occurred unexpectedly?

Second Point:  Jesus’ “defining moment” occurred at the River Jordan.  Recounted by each of the four evangelists is the baptism of Jesus by his cousin, John, also an itinerant preacher.  Jesus’ request to John to perform the ceremony of his (Jesus’) baptism is a signal to us that his Jesus’ public life would be marked by actions that are humble and unexpected.  Allowing John to baptism him, Jesus affirms John and his mission.  Do not overlook that our Sacrament of Baptism is the moment of one’s acceptance into the mystery of our life as a child of God.  Has your own baptism or the baptism of your child(ren) or the time of your accepting the role of Godparent been one of those “defining moments” in your life?

Third Point:  Life is filled with the routine … from the moment of awaking each day until the beginning of regenerative sleep at day’s end.  Some times this pattern of sameness allows us to overlook God’s gift of a “defining moment” and its consequences in our lives.  Someone might ask for help, especially someone who has, perhaps, been distance from you.  You may see a young person hurting him/herself and your heart moves you to talk sympathetically because you may have been in the same spot once in your life.  We must be aware of the deeply powerful spirituality of moments like these.  Can you recall similar moments in your life?  Have you wondered why you saw such a moment?  When moments like these bring either confusion or lack of clarity, it is the time to stop and listen for the voice of God, the Holy Spirit working in your heart.  It is the same God who spoke to Jesus as he experienced his moment of Baptism.  It is the voice of God to Jesus that all in his life would be directed by the Holy Spirit.  This same Holy Spirit, in these defining moments, is offering guidance.  We might ask “Guidance for what? or Guidance where?”  Defining moments are  powerful moments calling us to learn what God longs for and desires to be present in our lives.  It is in these moments that we must realize that these moments are meant to give us assurances of God’s abundance of love which he wishes to shower upon us.

Now time for some quiet and personal prayer.   Conclude with an Our Father or Hail Mary. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Octave of the Nativity and Solemnity of the Mother of God

While searching my heart for thoughts to share with you today, I found myself digging in reflection gold mines for help.  We have so many different feast days honoring the Mother of God, what can be said on January 1st that might capture my heart and mind for you.  Lying in my bed very early this morning - a sign that I retired before Americans celebrated the first midnight of the new year here on our eastern shore - I continued to dig in my heart and mind.  It was still very early when I decided to go to what I consider the “Creighton 911 for Preachers”, the Jesuit University’s “help” line for those seeking insight into the readings and feast for each day.  It was there that I discovered gold, genuine spiritual gold  Let me share with you this gift.

The writer, a woman, wife and mother, one-time teacher and now administrator, presented magnificent thoughts for this day.  I am sure that her words will be spoken throughout the English-speaking world today by preachers who turned to the Creighton University’s On-line Ministries.  Because I did not seek the author’s permission to print her name, let me share some of “Mary’s” (the author’s baptismal name) thoughts that stirred my heart.  You may wish to read her reflection in full. If so, you should Goggle : Creighton University Daily Reflections and move to the January 1st reflection.

“Mary” begins by calling us to notice:  “… this is a great way to start our New Year!  We continue to celebrate the Incarnation, the Word Made Flesh, Jesus, and we honor Jesus’ mother, our Blessed Mother.”

Moving forward “Mary” says boldly: “We need this woman — throughout the year!”  Right on “Mary!”  She calls us to consider the very many honors and prayers that are brought to the Mother of God not just today but everyday  since that day when Mary said “Fiat”, let it be done.  Consider the many novenas, rosaries and the Church’s proclamations (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption) that affirm for us that she is Queen of Heaven.  With a real sense of conviction, “Mary” assures the reader that Mary does listen to us when we pray to her.  And this contemporary writer assures us that Mary, Mother of God, is “Advocate, Mediator, Guide, Role Model, Comforter, and always a real Woman (italics mine), Mother and even Sister and Friend to us throughout our lives” even at the final “hour of our death.”

Throughout the year we honor Mary with several feasts days.  Today, however, our honor is given to her as Mother of God.  And author “Mary” writes: “I notice today that her Motherhood is the heart and reason for all our attention to and claims on Mary throughout the centuries.”  Think on this for a few moments during the day.

“Today’s Mary” proclaims “We need this woman!”  Furthermore, she notes, it is our very human nature that demands “a womanly figure to honor and pray to.”  Isn’t this a reality that has been lost to a degree in our times and Church?  There is “a basic human need across time and culture for a motherly female figure.” 

And what is it that all children, like ourselves, need: “… Mother, Mediator, or Queen — and also for a real woman who is personal, intimate Mother, guide, model and friend.”

“Today’s Mary” calls to mind for us that scripture texts used in the liturgy for today’s feast where we read “Mary kept all these things, reflection on them in her heart.”  That is the model we might follow not just today but daily:  taking the time to use Sacred Scripture as a source of inspiration and guidance from the Holy Spirit and time to have a “coffee chat” with the Mother of our God.

So, as we begin a new year, as we seek to adjust to saying two thousand fourteen or to remembering to put the numbers 2014 on checks or at the top of letters, let us turn to Mary for ourselves and for other sinners as we pray Mary’s prayer “now and at the hour of our death.”  And so, let me conclude with “today’s Mary’s” final sentence in her reflection:  “We need this woman now, each day, and to the certain end of ‘now’”.

As you know it is not part of my usual writing to quote one person so extensively.  The reflection I discovered on my dig early this morning was so powerful for me that I felt the need to share many of “today’s Mary’s” thoughts with you.  This Creighton University woman certainly opened up my sleepy eyes and mind to an extraordinary perception of Mary, Mother of 

God!  And so, I say, “Thank you “today’s “Mary,” for your gift to all who read your heart and soul today.  You have brought this priest to realizing how much Mary is needed in his life!