Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy 74th!


Celebrating my birthday today with a blizzard continuing outside. Wrote my funeral arrangements yesterday. You never know!
Yesterday and Monday I am doing a presentation on contemplation. This Sunday's Gospel is the Transfiguration of Jesus, which Luke presents as a prayer experience. At a friend's recommendation, I began today to read Richard Rohr's The Naked Now about the urgent need for contemplation.
Even in grammar school I would sometimes sneak off to the church for a "visit." In high school I experienced guided meditation. Then I found making the Stations of the Cross privately a contemplative experience. I started reading a passage of scripture and talking to God about it. In 1980 I began doing "Centering Prayer," which has become the mainstay of my life. Contemplation has become even more a part of my life since I retired. There are all kinds of ways to do it. I think everyone can.
In the last century the great theologian Karl Rahner said, "The devout Christian of the future will either be a 'mystic'...or he will cease to be anything at all." The future is now.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Transfiguration, Kitchen


I took time this morning after breakfast to reflect on the Transfiguration in Luke's Gospel (9:28-36.) Luke describes this event as a prayer experience. Blazing light transfigures Jesus as he shines with the Divine. The cloud continues to emphasize the Mystery. We cannot nail down light or cloud. We cannot hold God. Our only response before the Almighty can be silence.
Jesus takes the disciples and us up the mountain to pray. There is nothing for us to do but let ourselves be drawn into Mystery.
When I opened my eyes the bright sun was blazing through the window and transfiguring my kitchen into the Divine.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Contentment in the Snow


Since I made that Lenten resolution on Ash Wednesday to stop complaining about the snow and make the most of the extra solitude that snow offers, I have been remarkably more content. There is no more anxiety about trying to get away from these temperatures and this drifting. Just a willingness to take what comes and let it make me more aware of God's presence and love.
That doesn't mean that I won't continue to find God, also, in pictures like these glorious orchids. I took this picture several years ago at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silent Poem


The poet Mary Oliver suggests,
"...that you sit now
very quietly
in some lovely wild place, and listen
to the silence.

And I say that this, too,
is a poem."
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Come Back to Me


Snow continues. I did my usual 2 mile walk this morning, as much out of curiosity as desire for excercise. While I am out I am awed by the size of the drifts and lifted by the beauty of scenes like this. The lift lasts for a while after I get home but as the day goes on things seem to get flatter.
Because of the snow there were no Ash Wednesday Masses here, so I took some time here at home to sing the hymn, "Come Back to Me" and reflect on the reading from Joel 2:12-18. The reading stresses the same interiority that the Ash Wednesday Gospel stresses. God calls us to come back with all our hearts. God is calling us back, not as individuals, but as a people. "Blow the trumpet. Call an assembly. Gather the people." This struck me as especially poignant today when the people cannot assemble.
It occured to me that an appropriate Lenten penance might be to stop complaining about the snow and make the most of the solitude it imposes.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Thirst for God


A few minutes after I got up this morning I saw this herd of deer across the frozen lake. The temperature was zero. The snow on the lake was probably three or four feet deep. I suppose the deer are searching for water and food.
About fifteen minutes later when I started to pray some psalms, the first one for Monday morning was Psalm 42 which begins, "As a deer craves running water, I thirst for you, my God; I thirst for God, the living God." Further along the psalmist prays, "The deep roars to deep; your torrents crash over me. The love of God summoned by day sustained my praise by night."
There have certainly been times in my life when I have been as desperate as these deer, when I have yearned to feel God's presence and care. I pray the psalm for those who may still be experiencing this thirst.
There are many times now when I feel God's love crashing over me in torrents. I pray the psalm in gratitude.
Later when I went out for my walk I noticed that the tiny stream, which throughout all this bitter cold weather had continued to flow, had finally frozen. But when I stopped and listened in the silence that snow often creates I could still hear a trickle of water. I wished that I had some way of calling the deer across the lake to slake their thirst.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010



I saw the movie, The Song of Bernadette, when I was about seven. I think it was the first that I had heard about the appearance of Our Lady to this young girl at Lourdes in France. The movie made a deep impression on my developing religious imagination. It has stood the test of time. I watched it recently and was perhaps even more impressed with the kindness of Our Lady and with Bernadette's faith and determination in the face of official Church opposition.
I tend to be very sceptical. I would probably have been one of the last to believe the poor girl. At least I would hope that I would finally have come to believe. Even though we can't go chasing after every crying statue, we must know that God is full of surprises and be open to the possibility of that "other world" at times breaking through into ours in extraordinary ways.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heaven Here


The very first poem in Mary Oliver's aptly named book, Evidence, is called "Yellow":
There is the heaven we enter
through institutional grace
and there are the yellow finches bathing and singing
in the lowly puddle.
It seems to me that more and more people are writing and talking about the age old conviction that God is in everything and everyone and every event. I suppose that I would say that this is at the heart of my spirituality. True, God is beyond creation as well; "out beyond the searching of the farthest star" was the way it was put in a hymn I remember from childhood. But it is the world around us that makes the Almighty accessible to us.
In a poem later in her book Mary Oliver says, "Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed."
I know that this is not a finch. I don't know what it is. I heard its pretty song in Mexico and finally got a picture.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blessings and Woes


The beatitudes that Jesus pronounces in Luke 6:20-26 are quite different from the more familiar ones in Matthew's Gospel. The most noticeable difference is that there are only four and they are accompanied by "woes." Those in Matthew are usually treated as prescriptions for a happy life in union with God, a kind of New Testament Ten Commandments.
Luke, on the other hand, integrates beatitudes better into his narrative by continuing themes from Mary's hymn when she visits Elizabeth and from Jesus' first sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth. He presents Jesus bringing good news to people already poor and hungry and grieving and pushed to the margins of society. Jesus isn't prescribing anything for them to do. God will bless them with a reversal of their luck. God will gather them into a lasting, loving embrace. They will become the in-crowd.
If there is anything prescriptive in Luke's passage, it is the "woes." Jesus warns the rich and full and happy and well thought of that they risk becoming self-satisfied and content with things as they are and fail to see the need for growing in their relationship with God. They could become the outsiders.
Jesus is not encouraging us to make ourselves poor and hungry and sad (one of the major themes of Luke's Gospel is joy.) Jesus is warning us that by having enough we may stop at that and and fail to run the risks needed to grow in our relationship with God.
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Sunday, February 7, 2010

By the Grace of God....


Plowing out begins. I didn't think this little machine could do it, but it did.
Isaiah, Paul, and Peter didn't think that they could do it but they did. The readings for church today, which many of us could not get out for, express their weakness and God's power.
Isaiah (6:1-8) is overwhelmed by the holiness of God and protests that he is unworthy to be God's prophet. With a glowing ember God purifies his lips. When God asks, "Whom shall I send?" Isaiah humbly replies "Here I am. Send me."
Paul (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) protests that he is the least of the apostles since he persecuted the church of God, but he concludes, "By the grace of God I am what I am and God's grace in me has not been in vain." From my young days this verse has been a favorite, convincing me that God can use me to do God's work no matter how weak and unworthy I may be on my own.
Peter (Luke 5:1-11) is so undone by the miraculous catch of fish that he throws himself down in front of Jesus and says, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Jesus answers, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." Luke concludes the passage, "They left everything and followed him."
God has particular things that God wants each of us to do. We discover this by looking honestly at what we like to do and what we can do. "By the grace of God I am what I am."
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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Surf and Snow


This picture of our entrance onto the beach at Puerto Morales, down the coast from Cancun, is a striking contrast to the view out of my back door here at home this morning. While there I took long walks in the surf mornings and afternoons and swam in the Caribbean. Yesterday morning I did my usual walk here just as the snow was starting. I thought how much I enjoyed both. I do love the snow and the sea and find God's wild variety in each. At the beach there was the sound of the waves and a stiff wind. Here there is no sound and no wind. There I passed people and lots of activity. Here I passed no one and everything is still.
Snow was so deep this morning I didn't even try to go for my walk
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