Saturday, June 24, 2017

To care and not to care

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks
Our peace in your will.

These lines from T.S. Elliot's poem Ash Wednesday have helped me enormously since I first studied him in the seminary.  I don't want to be indifferent.  I pray that I will care mightily.  At the same time I don't want to be always upset about something beyond me.  So I pray to care and not to care and find peace in God's will.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Solstice

This morning's sunrise seemed designed especially to celebrate the summer solstice.  A friend told me a few weeks ago that the word comes from the Latin "sol" meaning "sun" and "sticere" meaning "to stand still."  The sun stops and seems to begin moving in a different direction. The earth stops tilting toward the north and begins tilting back towards the south.  I wonder how far back our human ancestors observed the regularity of this event.

Monday, June 19, 2017

More Than Many Sparrows

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? 
And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing....
No need to be afraid;
you are worth more than many sparrows." 
Matthew 10:29-31

Yeh! I know they're not sparrows, but where I live they are more plentiful than sparrows.  I'll sell you 70 for a dollar!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Clearly a Meal

Frequent Communion began to be encouraged during the 20th century.  Children could receive First Communion at 7 instead of 12 or 13.  Fasting from midnight was no longer required.  To help the Eucharist look more like a meal, the Second Vatican Council decreed that the altar be clearly a table, with the priest facing the people. The language was changed to English.  Active participation of the faithful was encouraged by praying together and singing together and most of all by taking Communion every time they came to Mass.
In the early 1970's the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) was moved from a Thursday to the first Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity.  The name was changed to The Body and Blood of Christ.  The three year cycle of readings focused on the Eucharist as meal.  In John 6:55-56 Jesus says, "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

No More a Meal

By the end of the first millenium ordinary Christians no longer understood the Eucharist as a meal.  Mass had become for them an opportunity to gaze on the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.  The Mass had become the special preserve of the priest, something he did for the people while they looked on.  It was in Latin and the priest prayed it with his back to the people. 
In the 13th century the elevation of the consecrated host was introduced into the Mass and a separate ceremony which came to be called benediction developed.  Christians had come so far from thinking of the Eucharist as a meal that the Fourth Lateran Council in that century made it a law that people had to receive Communion at least once a year.  That was also the century in which the Feast of Corpus Christi was established.
Change was a long time in coming.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dancing Universe

I just finished a retreat with several priests.  We based the retreat on Richard Rohr's The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation
In the beginning was the Divine Relationship.  We might think of the Trinity as a Square Dance in whom we are all included.  Some early Greek Fathers called The Trinity Perichoresis, "Dancing Around."  This Relationship knows us and loves us and keeps all creation in Dance.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Divine Dance

God is a perfect communion of Three,
a divine circle dance of gracious, unearned Love. 
God is not just a dancer;
God is the dance itself. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Air, Breath, Spirit, Wind

The Hebrew word ruah and the Greek word pneuma can both be translated as any of the four words in the title (think pneumonia).  If there were no wind, these people could have the best equipment in the world but they would not be having fun.  Our vocal chords are silent until we send some breath over them.  All we have are dying embers until we blow them into flame.
In The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-13 it's as if the Spirit has been building and building for fifty days since the resurrection of Jesus until finally It blows through the room where the Apostles are gathered, filling them, fanning their dying embers into wild fire, blowing over their vocal chords and enabling them to speak in many different languages to the crowd that has been attracted by this Mighty Wind. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

God is everywhere

The Advanced Catechism printed in 1901 asks, "Where is God?" and answers, "God is everywhere."   Once as I stood in our front yard when I was 6 or 7 and looked out over the valley and the hills and the sky, I remember thinking that all that was God and I was in God.  As I grew I more often thought of God as "up in Heaven," as did everyone I knew.  Even now on TV whenever someone talks of God, they look up.  That view may have worked for many people before space travel.  In our time this is a God who is easy to dismiss.
Now, more than ever, we have to take seriously our childhood answer, "God is everywhere."  We can find new images and metaphors in our modern view of the world that enable us to imagine where God is.  I find it very satisfying to imagine God right here but in another dimension invisible to us.  A Presence in us and around us that is personal, that knows us and loves us graciously.

Monday, May 22, 2017


The moment Jesus rises from the dead he is in the eternal world.  Like sunlight moving through the fog, the Risen Christ appears to his disciples off and on.  It's as if he can't say goodbye.  He has lived with these men and women; and, as a full human being, he has grown to love them.  There comes a day when he no longer appears to them. In the Spirit of Love he moves within them so that he can continue through them to touch others with his love.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Celebrating a 55th anniversary seems anti-climactic.  A 50th is the big deal.  55th?!  You still hanging around?! 
We cut that tree down.  We thought that was the end of it.  Look at all those new little signs of life sprouting out of it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


The word "paraclete" is one of the few words in  the New Testament that many translators simply  reproduce in an English sounding word.  It means something like "a person who stands alongside another."  Comparable English words might be advocate, intercessor, counsellor, protector, support.  In John's Gospel as Jesus bids his disciples farewell he says that he will send them "another paraclete" (14:16,) implying that he himself was the first paraclete.  In meditating on the Holy Spirit and on Jesus, I find it rewarding to consider them in each of these roles in my life and in the life of  the Church.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I shall make you a light to the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
This verse from Isaiah (49:6) is one of several in the Old Testament that clearly expresses God's will for universal salvation.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Room for Everybody

We believe that Jesus died and rose for the whole human race.  Jesus says "I am the Gate" (John 10:9,)  "I am the Way" (John 14:6.)  Science fiction might say "Jesus is the portal."  The point is that in rising Jesus makes an opening into the eternal world.  We used to say "opened the gates of heaven." That opening is wide enough to let the whole world through.
We are Christians, not so we will have an exclusive right to heaven, but so we can tell the whole world that Jesus loves us all and makes our lives right now worthwhile and wants every human being to be with him in eternal joy.
(clicking on the picture enables you to appreciate the newly arrived barn swallows)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Baffling Love

How baffling you are, oh Church,
and yet how I love you!
How you have made me suffer,
and yet how much I owe you!
I should like to see you destroyed,
and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal
and yet you have made me understand sanctity.
I have seen nothing in the world more
devoted to obscurity, more compromised,
more false, and I have touched nothing more pure,
more generous, more beautiful.
How often I have wanted to shut the doors
of my soul in your face, and how often
I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

No, I cannot free myself from you, because
I am you,
although not completely.
And where should I go?

(Carlo Caretto, The God Who Comes)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Care for the Poor

The "Hellenists" were Jews from outside Palestine.  They had their own synagogues in Jerusalem and used the Greek translation of their Scriptures.  The "Hebrews" in their synagogues used the Hebrew translation.  The Jews who became Christian continued in similar separate communities.  Luke describes tension developing between the separate Christian communities over the daily distribution of food.  (Acts of the Apostles 6:1-8)
Besides noting that the Church experienced tensions from its very beginnings, it is also worth noticing that caring for the poor had already become an essential ministry of the Church.  We can point with pride to the saints through the centuries who were famous for their care of the poor.   With the coming of democracy people began to see  this as a government function, as well as a Church ministry.  Caring for the poor is not just a political issue but a moral obligation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Farewell Promise

A stenographer would have been needed to take down everything John has Jesus say in his farewell address to his disciples, chapters 14-17.  As Matthew does in the Sermon on the Mount, John has gathered in these chapters, not only what Jesus said at the Last Supper, but also teachings from other times in his life.  Jesus seems suspended between heaven and earth, which gives the sermon a timeless character. 
He starts with what has become a famous line, "In my Father's house there are many mansions."  He tells his disciples that he is going to the eternal world to prepare a place for them and will come back to take them there with him.  This promise takes the edge off his departure and has been a comfort to Christians down through the ages whose loved ones have passed to the other world.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Speaking of Intimcy...

"My friends tell me that I have a problem with intimacy, but they don't really know me."
(a quote from a TV comedian that I kept on the wall near my desk for many years.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Human Intimacy

I am inclined to think that as we grow in our ability to be intimate with others, we are able to grow in our intimacy with Jesus.  I hope all of us have experienced the joy of feeling deeply understood by another human being and of coming to understand them in very deep way.  Usually it happens between husband and wife.  There are also a few others who come into our lives with whom it happens.  We feel inclined to get to know them better and to let them know us better.  We feel closer to them than to our other friends.  We are thrilled that someone could know so many of our faults and still love us. 
Jesus knows our name and we recognize his voice and enjoy a most intimate relationship with him.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Trinity Praying

All Christian prayer is in the Holy Trinity.  We begin "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" and we often end "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit."   The Spirit within us unites us to Jesus as Jesus offers himself in love to the Father.  God is Love coming, going, remaining.  "You are Love with Whom I love You."  This eternal Flow is going on within us and within the entire universe.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What is Truth!

There is only one version of the truth.  It is especially crucial now that we learn how and where to find it. 
Hannah Arendt was born a Jew in Germany in 1906.  She escaped the Holocaust and became an American citizen.  She died in New York City in 1975.  A pertinent warning from her: "The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Intimacy with Christ

The sheep hear the shepherd's voice
as he calls by name those that belong to him
and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own,
he walks in front of them;
and the sheep follow him
because they recognize his voice.
(John 10:3-4)

Jesus seems to be referring to sheep mingling in the same fold, but belonging to several different shepherds.  Each shepherd comes to the gate and calls out his sheep by name.  They follow his voice.
Jesus speaks our name in a way that shows he knows us intimately.  He wants us to get to know him so intimately that we recognize his voice in our hearts as he tells us of his love.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Life to the Full

I have come
that they may have life
and have it to the full.

These words of Jesus in John 10:10 seemed a good accompaniment to this May Day sunrise.  I was awakened by a pink sky a little before six and hurried out in shorts and bare feet to "receive" pictures of a sky and lake colored by the sun before its rising.
The Risen Christ within us wants us to have a full life lost in God and in the glorious beauty of our world.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dan Berrigan: Witness

The morning dew calls our attention to spider webs woven on weeds.  (click on picture to enlarge)
Dan Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, died a year ago tomorrow. By extravagant actions, he called our attention to the immorality of the Vietnam War: "Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper (draft cards) instead of children....We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.  For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children."  He inspired me and many others to take part in protests, though less extravagant ones.
When Jesus tells us at the end of Luke's Gospel, "You are witnesses to this," that's what he's talking about.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Suffering Messiah

This morning's cross.
The two disciples on the way to Emmaus tell the stranger who joins them on the road that the Cross has dashed their hopes that Jesus was the Messiah. The unrecognized Risen Christ uses the Jewish Scriptures to show them that "the Messiah should suffer before entering into his glory."  Sometimes what we want Jesus to be blinds us to who he wants to be for us.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Lead us to your stillness
and grasp us by your love.

(Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today's Catholic
  Liturgical Press)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Good Enough

Mark's chapter 16, verses 9-15, part of the so-called long-ending, is never read on a weekend, but it has an worthwhile message for us.  The disciples don't believe Mary Magdalene nor the two disciples from the country when they tell the disciples that they have seen the risen Jesus.  Jesus  himself appears to them and reproaches them for their unbelief and stubbornness.  Immediately after that he says, "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation."
It is both startling and encouraging that those who have just been scolded for their lack of faith are now entrusted with preaching the gospel to the whole world.  A great way to show us that God's grace, not human effort, is the most important element in spreading the Good News.  Anytime we are tempted to pat ourselves on the back for being one of God's chosen, it's humbling to know that God will work with just about anything.  Anytime we are inclined to beg off because we haven't got what it takes, it's good to know that God accomplishes salvation despite human weakness.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


When we were in Galilee we went out on the Sea of Tiberius in a replica of the kind of boat that Peter, James, and John used in their fishing business (one of them in the lower right hand corner is wearing a baseball cap.)  John, in the last chapter of his Gospel (21:1-8) tells us that even after encountering the Risen Jesus, some of the disciples went back home to their fishing business, a good warning to us readers that a move from belief in the Risen Jesus to action based on that belief cannot be taken for granted.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gettin' Dark

Remain with us
It is nearly evening
and the day is almost over.

The two disciples had lost hope and were on the way back to Emmaus.  They are so heartened by the words of the stranger who has joined them on the road that they beg him to join them for dinner.  They recognize the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:13-35.)  We can make their prayer our own whenever we feel the darkness closing in on us. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fresh Faith

Neither Mary Magdelene's report of seeing the Risen Christ nor Peter's seeing the empty tomb brings the disciples to believe that Jesus has risen.  Their witness, however, did prepare the disciples to believe readily in the Risen Christ when he appeared to them on Easter evening (John 20:19-31.)  Thomas, who wasn't there that first evening is even more incredulous than the others had been. When he does come to faith he exclaims it in titles higher than can be found in any of the four Gospels, "My Lord and my God!"
John concludes the passage by telling us his readers that he has recorded these signs "that you may have faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this faith you may have life in his name."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Abundant Life

As I was checking out at the market Wednesday before Easter this lily caught my eye.  There was only one bloom on it, but it looked promising.  Without losing my place in line, I stretched over a table and caught hold of it and slid it to me. Each day a new bloom kept opening up.  Last evening when I leaned over near it to pick something up, the fragrance was grand.
The lily is a symbol of the abundant life the Risen Jesus shares with us.  Our name for the day of his resurrection comes from Eostre the pagan goddess of the dawn and of fetility. Lilies, like eggs and bunnies, were symbols associated with her. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunrise

We live in the resurrection's new creation.  This is the source of our Easter hope.  We are raised with Jesus beyond the troubles of this world, beyond the whims of politicians and the vicissitudes of history.  Evil no longer has any real power over us.  We don't pretend that war and genocide never happen, we don't close our eyes to prejudice and discrimination.  But because of the radical transformation that the death and resurrection of Jesus makes in each of us and in our universe, Easter graces us with untouchable hope and floods us with a joy so deeply felt that nothing on the surface of this world can reach it.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday Watch

I am sure God is here,
right beside me.
I cannot be shaken.

So my heart rejoices,
my body thrills with life,
my whole being rests secure.

You will not abandon me to Sheol,
nor send your faithful one to death.
You show me the road to life:
boundless joy at your side for ever.

(Psalm 16:8-11, ICEL translation)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good? Friday

Not a sorrowful day.  A triumphant day!  That's why on this day for centuries we have used John's Passion account.  From beginning to end Jesus is in charge, "I lay down my life and I take it up again; no one takes it from me."  Suffering and evil have no real power over God's Son nor over us whom he has made God's sons and daughters.  That's why this Friday is "Good."  We have a savior we can count on. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The most beautiful?

Beauty will save the world.

I have received so many gorgeous sunrises and sunsets from Mother Nature, that yesterday I couldn't make up my mind which was the most beautiful.  This autumn sunrise from several years ago comes close.  It came to mind while I was walking this morning.  I was able to find it in ten years of pictures because I named it after one of my oldest friends who was visiting at the time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

10 Years Old

I told people that this blog was ten years old today, but when I went back to the beginning I saw that I had begun it on April 9.  I jumped through the entries for the ten years and made some observations.
As many readers tell me, the pictures are great.  They are so often grace that I talk about "receiving" them rather than "taking" them.  I couldn't pick out the most beautiful, but the one I remember best is July 31, 2007, and the most astonishing one was September 29, 2014.  "Beauty will save the world."
The first entry was about joy, the infallible sign of the presence of God.  On May 31, 2007, I was already repeating "Be Still" and ignoring that advice by writing longer and longer entries.  Contemplation as an important theme began to show up in July of that first year.
I wrote about dimensional ways of thinking about heaven on December 16, 2011 (though I found a reference to it in an old homily written in 1970.)  By December 31, 2013 I was writing that we must be a mystic or nothing, and on November 19 of that year I wrote about the Cosmic Christ.
As the entries began to get shorter I find on November 26, 2016, "Love Who love us thank You.," a prayer that I had begun to use several years earlier when I survived a heart attack.  On April 11 of this year I wrote about the other world's being woven into and through this world, a notion that has enriched my thinking since I read Anam Cara in 2004.
I thank God for my years in retirement here on the Lake and for the blessing that this blog has been for me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fused Worlds

"The eternal is not elsewhere; it is not distant.  There is nothing as near as the eternal....The eternal world and the mortal world are not parallel, rather they are fused....woven into and through each other."  John O'Donohue, in his marvelous book, Anam Cara,  points out how important this notion is to Irish spirituality.  I find it very helpful in meditating on Easter, the Risen Jesus moving easily back and forth between these fused worlds.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Other World Breaking In

Only in Matthew's account of the empty tomb (28:1-5) is there a great earthquake and an angel like lightning rolling the stone away from the entrance.  He means to show us that Christ's resurrection is  earth shattering.  It is not just something that happens so that you and I can go to heaven.  It is heaven breaking into our world and gradually transforming the human race and all of creation into something good and true and beautiful.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hold Us Close

We pray, "Melt our hearts like April snow" (with apologies somewhat to Johnny Mathis.)

Saturday, April 8, 2017


A still morning by the Sea of Galilee.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Spring or winter?!
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!" cries Jesus from the cross in Matthew's Passion Account.  Matthew reports the words also in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, the way Jesus would have prayed Psalm 22 by memory during his lifetime.  The psalmist describes the horrible things that are happening to him, but in the last verses he expresses his trust in God and concludes:  "My soul lives for the Lord!  My children will serve, will proclaim God to the future, announcing to peoples yet unborn, 'God saves.'"
We must not use this expression of hope at the end to tone down the raw aloneness of verse 1.  This psalm on the lips of Jesus (and in its Old Testament usage) concerns real suffering, real abandonment, and real death.
Jesus within us enables us, whatever our passion, to cry with him these words of abandonment.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Obedient to Death

Plum blossoms on an untended tree in the neighborhood.
To look even more closely at the meaning of the Christ's Passion, we choose to use St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians 2:6-11 as the second reading for Sunday.  Though he was God Jesus emptied himself and God filled him up.  "Flesh and blood, he humbled himself, obeying to the death, death on a cross."   Matthew's emphasis on Jesus' choosing to do the Father's will is reinforced.   "For this very reason God lifted him high." 
(quotes are from the 1995 translation by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Humble King

The Mount of Olives was the first place we visited in the Holy Land.  Jesus came from this direction when he entered Jerusalem riding an ass.  The tombs in the foreground would not have been there nor the gold dome of a mosque which was built much later.
The ass was an ancestor of the present day donkey, an appropriate animal for a humble king.  In Matthew's Gospel (and in Mark's) this is Jesus' first time in Jerusalem.  His reputation has preceded him.  Matthew says, "the whole city shook."  The verb he used in Greek is the same one used to indicate the effects of an earthquake.
(clicking on the picture enlarges it)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Asking God

Another early spring flower clinging close to the ground while today's wild lake splashes near them.
We learn what's necessary in prayer by listening to Jesus in the olive grove.  We may beg God with all our heart to spare a life or heal a heart, but Jesus shows us to ask always with the understanding that we only want it if it is God's will.  Prayer helps us to line up our will with God's will.  It's a hard lesson to learn when someone we love is threatened. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Your Will Be Done

Georgia O'Keefe's Black Cross, New Mexico.
Suffering and death have no value in themselves.  The Gospel writers spend very few words describing the pain  that Jesus experiences.  They have much more to say about its meaning.  That's what we spend time with in our prayer.
Matthew stresses Jesus' obedience to his father's will.  In the olive grove Jesus prays, "My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me.  Yet not as I will but as you will."  Matthew is the only Gospel writer who gives the words that Jesus prays the second time.  It's as though in the meantime Jesus realizes that his death is part of his father's plan.  "My father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, your will be done."  Those last words are in the prayer that Jesus taught us to say to our father.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Made a Home

This up and down winter has had an effect on my houseplants.  The miniature tangerines are looking good.  Just under them an impatience plant still blooming from last summer.  In the foreground a "Christmas" cactus that has never bloomed this time of year.
The readings for this weekend reinforce the theme of resurrection and new life.  Through Ezekiel (37:12-14) God promises, "I will put my breath into you and you shall live again."  Breath and Spirit translate the same Hebrew word.  In Romans 8:8-11, St. Paul says, "The Spirit of God has made a home in you."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Holy and Infinite Mystery

The Christian of the future will be a mystic
or he will be nothing at all.

I have often used this quote from Karl Rahner who died on this date in 1984.  He did more than any other theologian to bridge the gulf between Catholic theology and the modern world.  Rahner believed that all human existence is rooted in the holy and infinite mystery of God.  By nature, we are created with an openness to God.  Deep within ourselves we can meet the Divine.

(Robert Ellsberg, from his book Blessed Among Us, from which excerpts are used in Give Us This Day: Daily Prayer for Today's Catholic)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Resurrection and Life

Today it's forsythia's turn to help us think about the new life that the Risen Jesus shares with us.  Before Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44) he tells us the point of the story:
I AM the resurrection and the life:
whoever believes in me,
even if he dies, will come to life.
And everyone who is alive and believes in me,
shall never die at all.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"The Jews"

8 degrees yesterday morning, so I put off my walk until afternoon when it was 42 and sunny.  And there they were, shy and sticking close to the ground, the first sign of spring in our neighborhood:  colt's foot. 
In his Gospel John often uses the term "the Jews" as shorthand to refer to the enemies of Jesus.  John himself is a Jew and most of the community for whom he is writing are Jews.  So he's not condemning the Jewish people.  He's saying in effect, "They think they're the real Jews!" the way we might say of someone whose politics we disagree with, "They think they're the real Americans."  John's usage in no way supports the anti-Semitism of Christians in the past or the present.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Catching Sunrise

This was intended as a picture of the little ducks called "buffleheads."  They are barely visible, but what I like is the unintended sliver of the rising sun along the point.
St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians 5:8-14 helps us to reflect further on the light theme in the Gospel about the man born blind.  "Christ will shine on you....Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."  Even it's just a little sliver.