Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What is This Light?

From the Hermitage

... the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Dear Friends,

Our faith ancestors, the Apostles and their disciples, continued to live on in what they had learned from Jesus.  St. John speaks of this enthusiasm, this belief, this dedication, as "living in the light."  For the advocates of Jesus' mission, also the Father's mission, simply attesting to the light was only a part of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.  

Living in the light is no different today!  In the reading from Acts of the Apostles today, St. Paul recalls the experience of those dedicated to the Risen Lord Jesus.  Although placed in jail by the High Priest and his friends, miraculously the bonds of jail were released for them by an angel.  Rather than run away the freed company returned to teach and preach.  They are examples of courage.  Let me quote a lawyer from Omaha, Nebraska:  "courage is fear that has said its prayers!"

Today there are many would be followers of Jesus who are confined in jails of different kinds.  Indeed some are jailed because of their support for social justice, their commitment to those seeking to be the individuals God wants them to be.  There are others who find it very difficult, if not almost impossible, to surrender to God's will for us.  

Looking at our own lives and how we are living or at least wishing we were living the life of the light, some are confronted by the satisfaction derived from the sins that are so difficult to toss away.  Self-knowledge requires much courage, truly "the fear that has said its prayers."

As we move from the torture and death of Calvary Hill, we who have been baptized into the light are called to confront those fears that our society and  our passions that have more control over us than the light.  To live and to proclaim "I am a follower of Jesus Christ" requires genuine courage.  I seek to live as Jesus' mission demands of me."  These are proclamations that require much prayer and conviction.  This light is a way of life that can only succeed with knowing what life God wants of me.

So, living with the light, living with the Lord Jesus:  what does it ask today?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

To Love the Lord Jesus Christ

From the Hermitage

Dear Friends,

In reflecting upon the activities of the Apostles and other disciples as described in the writings of St. John, proposed for our liturgy today, I was called by the Holy Spirit to words of a man who was my Superior General when I was a Jesuit.  Blessed in a special way by God, I had several occasions to spend time with Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ.  Words that he spoke, off the cuff as we say, to a group of religious women, came to mind.  Let me share those words with your this morning.

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

How many times these words have come into my mind!  Again this morning.  They speak so clearly of one of the most powerful experiences a human being can have and share ... falling in love.

Recall, if you will, how your heart, your mind, your everything changed when you found yourself in love.  Love can be the controlling reality in your life.  Obviously what the Apostles and many early disciples discovered was a definite love for Jesus and from that a love for the mission they shared as preachers of the life they shared with a man who taught them so much.

Whether married, or married once before, whether a widow or widower, whether a husband or wife together raising a family, whether a man or woman who as been smitten by another, read and re-read Father Arrupe's insightful reflection on what it means to fall in love and the many ways being in love can change your life.

Then, consider your relationship with God, especially Jesus Christ.  For sure the Apostles and disciples of Jesus had the advantage of living with and working with Jesus during his years of teaching and preaching.  But we are graced by God to know so much about Jesus, so much that can ignite the fire of love within our own hearts if we allow that to happen.  Recall Jesus' meeting with the Apostle Thomas who could not believe what the Apostles told him after Jesus' first appearance to them:  "You believe, Thomas, because you have seen me and touched my body.  Blessed are those who have not seen but who believe."  

Have you ever had the feeling of being in love with Jesus Christ?  Has a love for Jesus ever gotten you out of bed in the morning, determined what you will do with your evenings?  I do not know your answer but I do encourage your knowing the last sentence.

Fall in love, stay in love and it will decided everything.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Being Reborn? What?

From the Hermitage

Sacred Scripture

How has this story of Nicodemus and the challenge to be "born again" impacted you?  Do you wonder if Jesus is joking?  Did it strike you as totally senseless to encourage someone to be "reborn"?

Well, for a few moments, stand before a mirror -- at least sometime today, stand before a mirror and ask who is this woman, this man I am looking at?  If God were behind the mirror, looking at me, what and who would he see?   What would he see that is more than skinny, overweight, dark skin, light skin, white hair, black hair, red hair, no hair or just a little hair?  How about the successes, the failures, the disappointments, the dedication to causes, the family produced, the life partner?  It truly is important to recognize who and what all these beneath the skin realities had done to make us who and what we are.  And all of this is to be reborn?  Imagine what some of those present with Nicodemus would say: those who think it impossible, absurd or again, perhaps a joke?

Changing the past, changing all those realities that formed us, is as unrealistic as jumping back into Mom's womb.  So, what God sees is what we are giving him whenever we encounter him.  But it is the invitation that Jesus delivers in our mail every day whether email or snail mail.  He invites us to become what God wants us to be.  Perhaps the question might be:  are you kidding me?  How can I remake what has been made over the years?

The real question?  How can I become what God intended if I am not that already?  Well, there is an answer.  Spiritual rebirth, what we are considering, is the providence not of another degree, not a change of occupation etc.  It is the providence of the Holy Spirit and water!  Yes, Spirit and water!  The water of baptism!  It is the Spirit and the waters of baptism, a new baptism, that can remake what we present as ourselves at this point in our lives.  This can be quite frightening:  imagine me changing at the age of almost 73.  I am not 37!  How can this rebirth happen?  Where can it happen?

What Jesus assures you and me is this:  Be not afraid!  Be not afraid as Saint John Paul II said so often.  Jesus is calling us to a new world so frequently.  It is a new world:  a world beyond our previous experience.  It is a world where the Holy Spirit offers us liberation for the past for the excitement of the future.  So be sure:  it is frightening.  It's back to the diving board!!!  If we hope to achieve a true freedom in our lives, we must trust.  A small word but a word that challenges us in so many way ... unless we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us where God wants us, to guide us to a personal spiritual rebirth.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday

Jesus, I Trust in You

(photo from St. Joan of Arc Parish)

Dear Friends,

After many years of listening to the struggles in the hearts of many penitents, I know the graces of this particular day of celebrating the mercy of God abound for every sinner.  At the same time I have come to recognize that the way we have learned about sin, forgiveness, confession etc. is too often wrapped in guilt.  So tight was God's mercy wrapped that many fail to understand fully the abundant love and kindness of God.  For many mercy has to be bought.  It is not there for us unless we throw ourselves on the sword of our own inability to accept the reality of divine mercy.

No doubt admitting to sinfulness is difficult.  Why?  Because, I believe, we have missed the real meaning of divine mercy.  How many times did we hear the words "Do not be afraid." come from the lips of St. John Paul II!  Many times.  He was man who was so closely linked with God in understanding how intense God's love for us was and forever will be.  Today pray to this new saint for a deeper understanding of so great a mystery and gift.

For many accepting God's forgiveness is difficult.  Why?  Again, because do not understand God's mercy.  Jesus taught us the answer:  "God has forgiven us."  Repeat:  God has forgiven us!  His words were not "God will forgive you."  Quite a difference, isn't it?"  In our growing up we learned so many ways of wrapping up God's forgiveness.  We seemed to make it His mercy so mysterious that we had to punish ourselves just to get a peek at it.

Recall, if you will, the time the Risen Christ questioned Peter about his love.  "Do you love me, Peter?"  Three times Jesus places the question to him.  What is missing in Jesus' acceptance of Peter's honesty about himself, about his love for Jesus:  "You know that I love you."  Jesus does not question Peter about his failures, does he?  Not once.  He just wants to have Peter say it:  Yes, Jesus, I do love you!  How difficult that must have been for Peter.  Yet, what was Jesus response to Peter statement of his love for him?  "Feed my lambs; feed my sheep."  Jesus entrusting to Peter awesome responsibilities.  It was not something like "Now face your sinfulness and ask for my forgiveness."  Not at all!  Peter, I am entrusting to you my lambs, my sheep.  To you I give the keys for my church!
Again, without any extraction of sinfulness, Peter is given divine mercy!

Stand on Calvary and hear what Jesus said to his Father as he neared his final breath:  "Father, forgiven them."  Even before those who brought about his death realized their faults, he has forgiven them by asking the Father's forgiveness.  

And recall another moment:  "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven."  Jesus did not say, "Their sins will be forgiven."  THEY ARE FORGIVEN.  You live under the compassion of  DIVINE MERCY.

Let me share words from a Jesuit priest writer:  "The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not to wipe away our faults.  It is to make us more loving....  It is to show we believe that the wrongs done can bury us in shame, but we choose another option; they will make us more honest to ourselves and humble to those around us."  These words can help us better understand the reason behind Jesus' talk and questions with Peter.  This insight of the priest teach us again the awesome gift of Divine Mercy.

Again let us pray today to St. John Paul II to intercede for the graces to set ourselves free from wrapping God's Divine Mercy so tightly that we prevent ourselves and others from knowing and sharing the greatest gift of God to each of us sinners.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gone Fishing!

From the Hermitage

Friday of Easter Week 2014

Dear Friends,

Let me share with you words from a communications expert who wrote a reflection on the two readings chosen for today’s liturgy.  Read the thoughts  of this woman before perusing the writings of St Paul and St John.

Both of these accounts tell me wonderful things about our God:  God has a sense of humor, cares about our basic needs (such as breakfast and walking}; knows things we can’t (where schools of fish are lurking); and, most of all has a very simple plan for salvation.  I repeat:  I am entertained, captivated and comforted all at once. 

This professional writer and marketing expert made me stop and consider how I present my own reflections.  Perhaps there is too much academia “lurking” in my style.  Certainly I don’t often, if ever, present events in the gospels or any scripture as entertaining, captivating [maybe sometimes this does happen] and comforting.  And why not?

Today’s expert brought me to do more than place myself at the scene (a la St Ignatius of Loyola’s directions in the Spiritual Exercises).  Perhaps, if we preachers and even our laity, in our homilies and our conversations, attempted to related the humanness of Jesus, just perhaps an undisputed change might happen in our own lives as well as those we preach for or those we simply talk with in our daily lives.

Imagine this:  I am walking through the aisles at Costco and meet a parishioner.   After the “I didn’t know you shopped at Costco’s.” the conversations always turns to the “how’s this” and “how’s that” conversation.  What would the parishioner say or feel if I began with “I am so fine, Mary.  But I am really excited because I was reading St John’s gospel story about the time Jesus prepared breakfast for the apostles who were getting ready to come back to shore because fishing had proven fruitless that morning.  And he even told them were the fish were lurking!  And he even laid out a simple plan for our salvation.  As I said, when I took the time to listen to what Jesus had been saying to the apostles and watching in my mind all that happened that morning, wow, I felt so good.  This is the kind of Jesus all of us need to know.  Okay, enough from me.  It's time for me to go fishing!”

Even more astounding, imagine saying the same thoughts while talking with the ladies in the beauty salon or if any man would say the same thing at the barbershop.   And "omg" [Oh! My God" as the text messages might read!!] what would happen if anyone shared such enthusiasm about reading a part of the gospels while having dinner with the family?

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Why are you amazed at this?"

From the Hermitage

Thursday of Easter week - 2014

Dear Friends,

A question:  How sincere are many, perhaps most Christians, particularly our sisters and brothers of the Roman Catholic religion, in their understanding and practice of hope, of genuine trust that petitions for themselves or other made to God will be granted by him?

The story, related to humankind by St. Luke in the scripture verses of Acts of the Apostles, chapter 3, verses 1-26, is an instance of one's man's faith in God and another's conversion to belief in Jesus Christ, instilled in the man's heart by Peter and John.  Apparently for many days and perhaps years the crippled man would be taken to Solomon's Portico to beg alms from those at the Temple.  When Peter and John saw the man, Peter said to him: I have neither silver or gold but what I do have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazorean, walk!"

And then it happened:  Peter gave him "his hand to life him up and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.  He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them ... praising God."  It was a miracle!  It was a man's faith and Peter's belief and trust in the power of Jesus, the Risen Lord, that brought about the miracle.

To the Jewish people who rushed Peter and John in a state of utter amazement, Peter asked, "You, Isrealites, why are you amazed at this?"

Genuine faith, that is a genuine belief in the Son of God  that was in the mind and heart of three men (Peter, John, and the crippled man) God used to teach those who were in the Temple that day that it is our faith in Jesus Christ that can bring about the miraculous.  It is this faith which can be more powerful, at times, that the powers of doctors and medicines.  A person's surrender to the will of God often times makes the cure of seeming impossibility a reality.

If we Christians are truly committed to God's will for us, our willingness to surrender all we want or the way we live, perhaps we would encounter for ourselves and others the power of God's miraculous intervention on behalf of our petitions especially for others.

Just a thought:  do I really believe in Jesus Christ? [pause for an answer] and the teachings of his life?  Do I surrender my sinful ways to live my life as God wishes?  Am I willing to examine my faults and sins and then sincerely make the effort to abandon them?  Do I allow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church empower me to be his messenger, his bearer of remarkable deeds?

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hearts Healed!

From the Hermitage

Wednesday of Easter Week

Today's gospel brings us to the event that probably has a personal meaning for many who struggle to know God's will.  The two disciples walking to Emmaus because their hopes for a messiah have been dashed.  They had not yet hears the news about Jesus and his resurrection.  They were frightened by the idea that they might become victims because they had associated with Jesus.  They were good friends of the man who was put to death because his message and some actions offended the ruling religious leaders in Jerusalem.  Even more frightening  was the hurt that all they had invested in time and belief in Jesus was lost.

Surely there have been similar situations that have confronted believers.  Events have occurred in their lives that have shaken them.  "Why," they might ask. "why did I allow myself to be so blind?"  When they asked themselves that question, they too were walking to Emmaus.

Have you been on this road at one time or another in your lifetime.  Have you put your stock in another person's word or promises?  Have you invested time and talent in a project that failed?

If you have, have you been able to set with Jesus in quiet prayer to allow him to speak to your heart?  Have you allowed the Holy Spirit entrance into you heart?  Have you allowed  Him to show you what may have been a mistake on your part?  

What have you learned form some moments with God?  In many instances the deepest question is a simple one:  How can I live with myself after seeing a genuine blindness that might have occurred because you were committed to someone or to something that promised a new way of life, a new experience in goodness?

What the disciples experienced on that first Easter Sunday easily can be an experienced similar to moments many of us have endured.  If this is so, now is the time to invite Jesus to dinner for a heart to heart conversation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Never Give Up!

From the Hermitage

Easter Tuesday 2014

Dear Friends,

Listen to what the Jewish people hear from Peter:  "this Jesus whom you crucified" you must realize now that he is both Lord and Christ.  And imagine you are standing there with the people who hear this horrible words.  What do you see?  It is not the same spirit that was in the hearts of some who were calling out "Crucify him.  Crucify him."  No, what we encounter is a people who are "cut to the heart."  They seem to recognize their guilt and want to get themselves on the right way.  Peter is not angry, is not pointing his finger at them in condemnation.  No, what Peter said to them was that it was not too late for them to feel spiritual healing, forgiveness for what has happened.  Repent and you will be graced by the Holy Spirit.  At the same time Peter tells them their repentance and what they can say to their children and "to all those far off" will bring the gift of forgiveness."  Forgiveness comes from God, the Father, "to all those far off."  Peter exhorted the Jews who came to him to "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."

The message from the one who denied knowing Christ during the trial of Jesus affirms for the people and all generations to come that it is never too late to walk away from sin, to give up whatever it is that holds a person back from knowing Jesus and what he taught us.

Do you always or most often think of Jesus as dead?  Peter's assurance to all generations is that he is not dead, that he indeed has risen from the dead as he said he would.  This is the message we receive each day:  it is never too late to shed whatever sinfulness separates a God-given life from his love and care.

Did you succeed in fulfilling the hopes and perhaps promises made on Ash Wednesday?  Friends, it is never too late to accomplish what you must have considered important for your life at this time.  If sin persists, repentance will bring participation in the graces of the Holy Spirit.

The challenge for us who have so many different ways to know about Jesus -- the bible, writing that are easily had through the world wide web, simple prayer on a consistent basis, regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation -- is to never forget that it is never too late to come before God seeking pardon and reconciliation, sharing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Oremus pro invicem!  Please help me today with your prayers as I have an especially challenging mission to accomplish for someone .... And it is not easy.  Many thanks!

Fr. Milt

Monday, April 21, 2014

Time to Set Forth

From the Hermitage

Monday of Easter Week

Dear Friends,

Surely I prayed yesterday for all of us with the intention that the genuine joy in its fullest sense may have settled our hearts!  Peace and joy are the most significant gifts from the Holy Spirit for us.

Now for several weeks our first reading will be taken from the writings of St. Luke, the Acts of the Apostles.  These words and remembrances from the Evangelist may help in understanding the beginning days of this church that we call our Roman Catholic Church.  Perhaps at the outset of the Easter season taking time to read the Acts from start to finish may be what we need to seal any thoughts about post-Lent resolutions.

It is always a joy to celebrate Easter Sunday morning Masses:  the congregations are usually filled with a lively heart.  The greetings received after Mass relate a spiritual excitement.  The liturgy and the "message" in the homily along with a filled church make for a strong celebration.  People want to be happy.  Pray-ers like to celebrate not the ending of Lent but the sense of accomplishment.  Some forty days of dedicated prayer and other spiritual activities need to be concluded with joy: what is a cake without icing!

Despite the tiredness most priest experience by the time we reach the dismissal of the last Mass for the Sunday of all Sundays, there is a sense not only of "job well done by all in the parish," but there is finally a time for some quiet reflection after experiencing the power of the Sacred Triduum.

The joy experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is truly a blessing.  There were many hours of "hearing" sins, failures, disappointment, hatred, loss of control, feelings of hurting God.  Yet, so often after a few simple words, hopefully stirring up once again a realization of the gift of forgiveness, there is always a sense of humble gratitude to a loving and caring God.  It is a feeling that is heard so clearly in three simple words:  "Thank you, Father."  It is also the tone driven by a heart that has encountered a forgiving God, a loving Father.

In the days of this Easter week, join me in a daily recap of the experiences that you have felt in your heart during times of Lenten quiet and prayer.  Consider what "happened" to you as a result of your prayer, as a consequence of opening up your heart in the effort of reconciliation with God.  Examine the thoughts you might remember from the 40 days of reflection -- or whatever number of days you may have taken time to be with God.

May The Lord's presence be the gift of Easter for you again or,  perhaps, as you have not experienced it before.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Sunday, April 20, 2014

No Room for Fear

From the Hermitage

Easter Sunday 2014

Yesterday evening, in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis began his homily with these words.

"Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking for Jesus
who was crucified.  He is not here; 
for he has been raised ....
Come, see the place where he lay"
 (Mt 28:5-6)

The opening words, "Do not be afraid," were often used by Blessed John Paul II whom the Church will officially canonized one week from today.  These two Pope suffered much during their pre-papal day, usually in quiet and behind the scenes of their public lives.

As both Popes said on different occasions, Easter, this is the high point of the Gospel message the four evangelists and our Church has preached since the first Easter Sunday.  What we celebrate today is what we say so often from pulpits throughout the world:  this is the Good News.

This day and what it is stands for us as the basis of our faith, that is our relationship with God.  What is so important to realize and remember more that on one Sunday each year is that if Jesus, the Christ, were not risen from the dead, the very mission of our Church would lose its impulse, its very reason for being.  It was from that first Easter Sunday that the apostles and other disciples set out the mission of the Church.  Their message is not different today.  It has always been the same:  "Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins."  Yes, indeed he did.  But God, his Father, our Father, wanted the apostles and disciples and us to know that Jesus is the Lord of life and death."  It was the love of Jesus for the Father and for all human kind, that he willingly suffered with his love being the driving force in his very being that through his death and rising has overcome, has triumphed over, hatred,  mercy has overcome our sinfulness,  goodness has challenged evil and truth has smashed lies, and life has triumphed over death.

The message of Easter Sunday is the very reason people of every religion persuasion tell others "Come and see!"  Where there is frailty, sin and death, the Good News of the Gospel, regardless of the words used, the Good News stands as a testimony to love that is unconditional and forever faithful.  It is the message of Easter Sunday to us today to step out of ourselves to help anyone being "crushed by life's troubles, sharing with the needy, standing by the side of the sick, the elderly and the outcasts.  The message is the same in each religion:  Come and see!  See that Love is more powerful, that love gives life, and love "makes hoe blossom int the wilderness."

Let us, with our Easter joy, turn to the Lord today.  Let us seek and find Him.  Let us realize that our Father is truly "ours" and we can never see ourselves as orphans.  We can always turn to the Father who gift to us this day is love beyond all telling.

And, as we pray today, let us petition with great intensity that God will help us overcome the scourge of hunger in our world.  Let us pray that we always seek to protect the vulnerable in our societies, children, women and the elderly -- these are the vulnerable who are at time exploited and then abandoned.  Today is the day when we look everywhere to recognize the failure of our societies to overlook the life that was given to each person born on this earth.

Lord, we ask you in prayer today to help all the people of our earth.  You conquered death, now "grant us life, grant us your peace."  Amen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gift and Betrayal on Holy Thursday

From the Hermitage

Thursday of Holy Week

Dear Friends,

There are two points for your meditation on this sacred day.  For the priests of the world Holy Thursday is the commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood  The celebration of the Lord's Supper is very special to those called by God to the priestly vocation.  Today, as you allow your mind and heart to reflect on the gift of the Eucharist and Priesthood, imagine you are sitting at the table with the Apostles and Jesus hands you a piece of bread so unlike the small wafers of contemporary form.  Regardless of its form, hear Jesus say the words so meaningful:  "this is my body".  Likewise, as he hands you a cup of wine, hear these words:  "this is my blood."  

Consider how you would feel when he speaks to you.  Consider as well, what do you think Jesus would thinking?  He disregards whatever may have been sinful in your life.   He must have been aware, however, of all the good you would do throughout your lifetime.  Maybe He would think of the many times you would receive the Eucharist in your lifetime.  These may well have been more meaningful to him than the times sin may have taken some control over your life.

The second point relates to the extraordinary moment when Jesus handed a piece of the bread to Judas Isacariot.  What must He have thought?  Here I am giving "my body and blood" to this poor man who is so taken by greed that within a short time he would betray Jesus.  Yet he does not hesitate.  Likewise imagine what must have been running through the mind of Judas as Jesus approaches him and presents him with the very first Eucharist.  What was it like to accept the piece of  bread from Jesus when later in the evening he would betray Jesus;  when he would lead those given him just 30 pieces of silver to sever a friendship?

Pray on this Holy Thursday for strength when temptation tries to lead you to sin. and to realize that the Eucharist can be your support in such moments.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

One Person's Calling Fulfilled

From the Hermitage

Wednesday of Holy Week 2014

Isaiah 50:4  * The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, That I might know how to answer the weary a word that will waken them.  Morning after morning he wakens my ear to hear as disciples do;
Isaiah 50:5  The Lord GOD opened my ear; I did not refuse, did not turn away.

Dear Friends,

Two simple verses from one of the more powerful books of the Old Testament.  As we draw closer to the most sacred of days in our Church's year, perhaps thoughts have been passing through your heart and mind about priorities.  Hearing confessions for the last two evenings, I have been moved by the struggles men and women have to bear in today's culture, today's society.  These words from the third person to write the Book of Isaiah (yes, there were 3 unidentified writers!) reflect one man's experience of prayer.

A suggestion:  read these words several times in a rather slow pace.  Don't hurry.  And be like the author:  read and listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit in your mind and heart.  Each morning prayer is so very important.  Through the stillness of meditation and reflection, the Holy Spirit empowers us to hear, to listen "as disciples do."

Again, back to the confessional scene:  no doubt every priest who is worth his salt must struggle within his mind and heart to be the voice of the Spirit "to answer the weary a word that will waken them" to know the goodness of the Lord.  But everyone of us who tries to follow Jesus, our brother, may daily encounter others who are hurting, seeking peace, wanting God's love.  To reach out to the is one of the reasons God make the call to prayer.  Most do not have the time to go off to the desert or to disappear from the crowd to train the heart and soul to be open to the special moments of the Holy Spirit calling out.  Calling out?  Yes, inviting us to accept the Word of God in our lives.

If the good intentions of Ash Wednesday seem to have blown away like ashes in the wind, perhaps this week offers a genuine opportunity set priorities in one's life ... especially as regards our prayer life.  Just as the penitent hopes the confessor will say the right words to life a burden from his/her shoulders, so should all penitents pray daily that the Holy Spirit will enable a friend to say the right words when someone comes distraught, confused, lost, angry, unfulfilled, lonely and so forth.

As the third writer of Isaiah teaches:  "The Lord has opened my ear.  For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away."  Let the Lenten journey offer a sense of satisfaction:  consider how even the few times you may have been able to seek the God in a moment of stillness and let these be a power that enables you to be the voice of God present to those in need.  Remember: YOU ARE GOD'S DISCIPLE!

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Priorities!

From the Hermitage

Sacred Scripture

Dear Friends,

Another New Testament story as we begin the most sacred of weeks and liturgies in our Roman Catholic Religion.  It is also the week that brings us face to face with the most sacred moments for us in our relationship, our faith, with Jesus.

As our 2014 Lent is ending, consideration of our "performance" is present in the minds of those who have seriously worked at deepening their faith, strengthening their commitment of the Jesus message that has been presented to us throughout the days of Lent.  Perhaps this consideration of "how we did" can help us look more clearly at either the need for or the use of our priorities.  The comparison between Mary and Judas is a call to understand priorities. 

Mary's action, washing the feet of Jesus with very expensive oils, is criticized by a man we might designate even at this moment in Jesus' life, as a hypocrite.  Judas' concern for the poor:  Is it real?  This though may have come to your mind in reading the first reading today.  Certainly his performance on Holy Thursday evening, would lead us to so think about him.

Therefore, this is a time to consider our priorities.   What have my prayer, my quiet reflections, my sacrifices during this Lent:  What has all of this taught me about myself.  Of course a part of this evaluation might have become a genuine look at priorities.

May the days of this Holy Week be for you, my friends, a time of sincere conversation with Jesus about your life and your effort to establish or to fortify your resolutions you feel are necessary in  your life.

Let this week be days of some quiet, some peaceful moments with The Lord Jesus be it in a church or chapel or in the universe-chapel (nature) or your favorite place to find an opportunity to visit with Jesus.

Do my priorities help me or have I lost them or ignored them?

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Suffering Servant

From the Hermitage

A Sunday of Palms

Dear Friends,

The words of Isaiah in the first reading may well help us more easily open our hearts to one of the passages known to Scripture scholars as a Servant Song.  In this Isaiah text we are brought to focus on the "Suffering Servant."

Isaiah endeavors to teach that the mission of a servant is to suffer on behalf of others.  The servant is clear:  because he was bent on obeying what Yahweh expected of him, he was humiliated,  insulted and beaten.

I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my fact I did not shield from buffets and spittings."
(Is. 50:5)

Have you ever stopped to ask why this or any servant need to endure this kind of treatment?  "Why?" you might ask.  "Why would God need to have such pain inflicted upon the servant."  We do believe our God is not vengeful.   How many times in the bible have we read that our God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Psalm 148:8).

This Suffering Servant story could easily be seen as negative but in the bible God is always faithful, a notion, please note that God never tires or back away from relationships of giving time and again.  A recognized scholar, Professor Jurgen Boltmann, found through his prayer that "God is the same God all the way from promise to fulfillments" (Theology of Hope, 112-120, 143-148).  God never stops loving us (Hendrikus Berkhop, Christian Faith, 128).

But what if the prophet was writing in fact about Jesus Christ -- who live more than half a century before Jesus?  Is Jesus the scapegoat to bear the anger of God for our sins?

What we are actually confronting in the suffering of Jesus?  It is, in fact, a part of the mystery we call faith (our personal relationshiop with God).    It is the God who never ceases to give us his love and is the same God who suffers greatly for us in the Passion.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Faith Challenge

From the Hermitage

Friday of the Fifth Lenten Week

Sacred Scripture

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, on a sudden impulse, I went to see a new movie that may not attract many viewers.  It is somewhat revolutionary.  It is, however, stirring and successful, at least as I am concerned, in making me think about God in our world today.   The title of the film?   God Is Not Dead.  It is the story of a freshman college student who dared to take on a brilliant teacher who demanded that students taking his course first draft and submit a statement:  God is dead.

What was so forceful occurred in the movie when the student, the only one who refused to submit the required state of disbelief and who was required to defend his belief that God was not dead, spoke so strongly that he drew into a heated debate the obnoxious professor.

I was reminded of a Tom Cruise flick in which the actor played the role of a military lawyer challenging in a court room rebuttal a highly decorated senior officer.  It was an intense scene.

Likewise in the faith movie:  the debate between teacher and student was intense.  The young student who studied as a professional to align his rebuttals to his professor spoke with powerful, respectful words that countered the atheistic position.   As the acerbic contest ended and the student called for the professor-required vote of the others in the class, we viewers watched the powerful impact that one person can have.  One by one the members of the class stood and, in essence, made their profession of faith.

Now, reflecting on today's gospel, read these words of a Jesuit leader of prayer and reflection on the final verses of today's gospel [Living Space...Sacred Space].  His thoughts bring to mind what this challenge of faith is for us today.

On the other hand, while Jesus was being attacked by the leaders of the Jews, many of the ordinary 
people continued to seek him out. Jesus had gone back across the Jordan (a safer place) to the spot where John the Baptist had baptised and given such strong testimony to Jesus. Many people came looking for him there. They could see, as the Pharisees could not, a clear distinction between Jesus and John: ,“John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true. And many there came to believe in him.” There are many who reject Christ and his message today but let us pray that we may have open minds to believe the many signs by which God reveals his love to us each day.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Price of Freedom

From the Hermitage

Wednesday of the 5th Lenten Week

Dear Friends,

Recently there has evolved debates over what some have referred to as a return to slavery.  They speak about the tampering with the right to vote procedures in our states.  It is interesting that we can speak out when civil rights are denied.  It is a return to days of our past when slaves were not given a right to vote.  I wish to address the issue of slavery as Jesus speaks about it in the gospel story we hear or read in today's liturgy.

Without any doubt if the question is put before us today, "Do you believe that the truth that Jesus teaches us about life will set us free from slavery?" this would raise a question in many minds?  "What slavery?"  Most of us do not feel that our lives are lived in slavery.  What kind of slavery is Jesus mentioning in his words?

Another question:  "Are you committed to Christianity?"  "Of course, I am!"  That would be the response of most Christians in our world today.

In the Catholic Church, we profess our faith on a weekly basis -- that is those who weekly make every effort "to keep holy the Sabbath."  But how many Catholics have abandoned ship because they have felt the way of our Church in today's society is a return to a slavery.  Those who have taken a leave of absence, so to speak, say that the rules and expectations of our Church are suffocating and interference with true, personal freedom.  In a way these individuals, with the best of intentions, do not feel ready to sacrifice their freedom for what the Church teaches is the way to eternal happiness.

Often in these postings you have read words such as these, "Being a Christian, being a follow of Jesus Christ is no easy task!"  Let those words resound today.  Why is it that being a follower of Christ, being a Catholic is no longer an experience of freedom, of liberation?  As mentioned yesterday, to know Jesus is to know God!  If we truly believe that, why is it difficult to believe that in what God asks of us, just has he has asked of all who have ever lived on the face of this earth, we will find genuine freedom?

That last question is for each of us to consider seriously as we move closer to Easter Sunday.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Knowing One Is To Know The Other

From the Hermitage

Tuesday of the Fifth Lenten Week

Dear Friends,

Let us take a few moments to examine our personal relationship with God.  TO do this begin with an understanding of the gospel reading for today, John 8: 21-30 the story of Jesus trying to make clear to many then and now who He truly is.

His words make clear that He is not of our world.  He is one who comes from the Father.  He is one with the Father.  To know Jesus is to know the Father.

We hear these words so often, do we not?  Perhaps that frequency makes it more difficult in our lives today.  During Lent we do have the opportunity to take time to deepen our awareness of this Jesus truly is.  

What does it mean to me, to us, that this Jesus is the Son of God?  How do I live my life so that it makes manifest my, our, realization that ours is a unique gift.  This Jesus is the one to who I owe my new life when it come.  His sufferings, his pains are an insurance policy for those who want to be welcomed into the heavenly kingdom.  

Coming to know more and more about Jesus as we grow older each day is for us something like unwrapping a gift at Christmas or on a birthday or special anniversary.  

Today, let us take some time to be in Jesus' presence, just looking at him, just imagining his love for each of us.  It is a gift that makes us beneficiaries of the greatest gift in the world, our salvation.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Price of Trusting

From the Hermitage
5th Sunday of Lent

The Raising of Lazarus - Rembrandt

Dear Friends,

Before reflecting on the gospel, consider just for a moment the significance of the first reading.  One might think Ezekiel was speaking for Yahweh about individual or communal resurrection.  Not the case.  Some consider it a foreshadowing of such resurrections, like Lazarus'.  Ezekiel is speaking for Yahweh about the creation of a new Israel as the Jewish people were making their return to their homeland.

Now to the remarkable experience enjoyed by the sisters and friends of Lazarus.  All of us, no doubt, know the story.  We have heard it or read it many times.  So, today we should be asking ourselves what does God want us to take from this the last miracle recorded in St. John's gospel.

In the first place, we might ask ourselves, as we look at the Rembrandt painting above,  if this miracle action of Jesus is helps us believe in Jesus' promise of the resurrection for all of us who believe.  That is the purpose of the event according to scripture scholars.

To draw from the story the graces that God wishes for each of us today, we should use the Ignatian method of prayer:  place yourself in the scene ... hence the painting above.  But first we should think about Mary and Martha and what they were facing.  They knew that Jesus was a good friend of Lazarus.  Jesus was only two days away and must have known that Lazarus was quite sick.  Why wasn't he with Lazarus at the time he died?  And as they tidied up the house to receive guests who were coming to offer condolences, they must have expressed to one another and close friends their disappointment that Jesus was not around.  It must have hurt them to know that it would be a couple of days before he would get there.  And why, why couldn't such a close friends who had worked so many miracles, why would he let his friend die?  Why?  Perhaps each of us has had those moments when a loved one or a close friend has died, especially a younger person who should have had many years more to live out his/her life.  Why?  Surely they must have been waiting to ask Jesus why he was not there to save their brother.

Jesus, obviously knew what would be happening to Lazarus.  So, at least I try to ask this question:  not why but what is it that Jesus is teaching not only Martha, Mary, the disciples and other friends of Lazarus and his sisters but each of us in today's world.  What good, we ask, can there be for us if God does not save someone I or you love dearly.  

Each time that I am driving to Lewes, Delaware for a visit with my brother who does not seem to be able to overpower the diabetic neurapothy that is preventing him from being able to walk.  I have the same thoughts that others have when a loved one is not able to overcome a debilitating situation.  All the medicines in the world, and none seem to be working for Jack.  And what does this mean for me?

Riding back to Lanham on Friday of this week, passing through a goodly number of farms in the flatlands behind the busy ocean shores of Delaware, I engaged in some frustrating words with the Holy Spirit.  The road I was traveling was so peaceful yet in my heart and soul there was much frustration. Before returning to the urban rush on Route 50, leaving the idyllic pastures of farmlands just beginning to turn green, I thought of the patience that God was asking of me.  I told my brother that he should be grateful to God for these days because they are a reduction of purgatorial pains!  For me, though, it is learning even at this age that trust in God is always going to be a challenge for me regardless of my age.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to teach Mary and Martha and the others.  Trust in God!

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Thursday, April 3, 2014

At Once!

From the Hermitage
April 3, 2014
Thursday, 4th Week of Lent

Dear Friends,

We are drawing ever closer to the sacred days of the season.  Surely, if you are like me, the intentions I set before myself at the beginning of Lent, have had their good days as well as other days.  What I have come to realize is that some of what I thought would be a noble practice were really not avenues that would lead me to a closer and more significant relationship to my God.  What God really wanted me to do, that which would bring me to a deeper understanding of what a God-priest relationship can be, became evident in do much to care for my very sick brother.  God continues teaching me that His ways are what He expects of me during this season of continuing self-discovery.  My absenting myself from watching two or three of my favorite TV shows lacked an emptiness, failed in bringing me closer to God.  Yet, the many trips from Lanham to Lewes, Delaware and the hospital and rehabilitation centers, being present during the daytime hours when loneliness and fright made life painful and somewhat scary for my brother brought me so much closer to God.  There were more than a few genuine God-priest conversations and reflections driving back and forth.

Yesterday, as you may recall, I was captured by a comparison of the two faces in the Michelangelo painting of creation.  The face of God and his reaching out to Adam with all the energy possible showed me how much God cares for me and you and that he stretches out to reach us.  In the very first words of today's first reading, "Go down AT ONCE to your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved.  They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molted calf and worshiping it,... God is disturbed and worried about his people.  He conveys this paternal care in these words to Moses.  When one of their children seems to be in trouble, going about life the wrong way, usually one parent says to the other that there is something wrong and that they must do something about it to save their offspring from danger.

Let today's readings help us use these final weeks of Lent to make real the discovery of the inestimable worth of God's love for us.  He always stretches out to reach us.  He is immediate in his concern for us especially when we allow molten calves take over our hearts and distance ourselves from the love and care of our God for us.  Let these final weeks of Lent 2014 be for us a period of time when we do all we can to reach back to the stretched out hand of God, when we can open our hearts and souls to experience the AT ONCE-ness of God's care for us.  This is why we have a Lent!  This is the call to us to use these days of special prayer and reflection to open up in our hearts the reality of God's love and care for us.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Just a Little Patience

From the Hermitage
April 2, 2014

Dear Friends,

It is my hope that you will have the time to read the three readings the Church has given us for this Wednesday in the 4th week of Lent.  Throughout the readings you will find references to the mercy of God.

Consider the painting of The Creation of Adam by the renowned artist, Michelangelo, that is reserved in the Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican.  Look carefully at the stretch that God is making to the hand of Adam who does not seem to be trying as hard to reach God.

The Creation of Adam - Michelangelo

Isn't it strange how we, children of God, can allow ourselves to grow angry with God.  Even in very difficult situations that we encounter in our lives, we should not allow the mercy of God to be forgotten.

As I struggle with the challenges my brother is encountering at this point in his life, I know the pain that he feels every day is severe.  Despite some drugs, he feels the pail in his foot.  It makes standing so difficult.  What is God allowing the to happen?  On bad days my brothers groans with phrases such as "Let me roll over and die.  Let me get out of this life."  That is genuine pain.  Some in this situation would be angry at God.  Some would criticize God's mercy as being unreal or only for special people.

At times I find myself becoming somewhat angry with my brother and his temporary failures to fight the good battle.  And then there are those moments when, like my brother, I become frustrated with a nurse or two because there is not instant service in response to the button pushed to call a nurse.

The words in the readings today are truly a challenge for modern society.  We have become a society that expects instantaneous response to our expressed needs (thanks to our computer science).  Reread what God says about his mercy and all that he will give to us.  We have to be more actively involved that Adam.  See how God is straining to reach Adam.  Adam seems to be sitting there just waiting for God to react.  Are we like that with God?  This might be a topic for some serious reflection and prayer as we make our way closer to Easter Sunday. 

Do I allow impatience to be a major power directing my life?