Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Happiness Attacks


Saturday morning happiness attack.  As I started my morning walk, I turned and looked at the Lake and there was this graceful visitor with the morning sun on his neck. 
Reflecting on the Transfiguration of Jesus, Sr. Melannie Svoboda writes about "happiness attacks" that she has had throughout her life (Give Us This Day, August, pp.70-71)  "God's presence in our lives is often hidden.  But at particular moments, God's beauty or goodness or love breaks through our everyday."

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wisdom


Wisdom's ways are pleasant ways
and all her paths are peace.
(Proverbs 3:17)

                                                                           

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What's It Like?!


The Reign of Love is like:
    a farmer who throws seed every which way.
    wheat and weeds being allowed to grow together.
    a small seed that grows into a large bush.
    yeast making flour rise.
    buried treasure.
    an especially valuable pearl.
    a net that catches every kind of fish.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The Reign of Love


In the Gospels of Mark and Luke Jesus talks about the "Kingdom of God."  In Matthew's Gospel he talks about the "Kingdom of Heaven."  Because Matthew is a Jew, he substitutes "Heaven" for "God," but the phrase in all three Gospels points to the same Mystery.
Before we began using the three year cycle lectionary in the 70's, every year the Gospel used was almost always Matthew's, so we most often heard "Kingdom of Heaven."  This led most of us to think that Jesus was talking about the place we go after dying.
The Greek word "basileia" refers, not to a place, but to the act of ruling.  Instead of "Kingdom" many modern translations have  "Reign of God," "Rule of God," "Dominion of God."   Jesus is talking about God's act of ruling us and our whole world.
Since I often substitute "Love" as a name for God (1 John 4:8,) I come up with "The Reign of Love."
In Luke 4:43 Jesus says, "I must proclaim the Good News of The Reign of Love."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Scribe Become Disciple


Interior of St. Brendan's Catholic Church in Elkins, WV.

"Every scribe that has become a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasury new things and old things. (Matthew 13:52)"  Many think that this sentence is a self-portrait of the author of the Gospel.  From this passage and others it seems that the author of this Gospel is a Jewish scribe who became a follower of Jesus.  The first part of the Greek verb that is translated "who has become a disciple" sounds like "Matthew."
The author wants to assure his readers that a Jewish Christian treasures the old, his Jewish heritage, and the new, the teachings and life of Jesus.  St. Brendan's Church, a glorious example of a modern church, has stained glass windows from the old church installed in some of its large clear windows.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Saint Mary Magdalene


Through the centuries Mary Magdalene has gone from being called "The Apostle to the Apostles" to being depicted as a penitent prostitute.  There is no scriptural basis for the latter, but in John's Gospel the Risen Jesus sent (apostle means "someone who is sent") her to tell the other apostles that he had risen.  The passage in John (20:11-18) is my favorite Resurrection story.  It has a beautiful, personal feel about it as Mary comes to recognize the Risen Christ in the way he speaks her name.
Pope Francis has recently raised her July 22 feast to the same level as the other Apostles.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Unexpected Beauty


Last evening after the sun had set, everything looked very silvery as usual.  Then, unexpectedly, the color in the clouds began and grew more and more beautiful.  From the dock I received this special color on the ripples of the lake.  Beauty will save the world.
(Clicking on the picture enlarges it to reveal more beauty.)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Come and Rest


"Come to me.  Learn from me.  And I will give you rest," invites Jesus.
The rest Jesus gives comes from assimilating his attitudes, indeed his very person.  Jesus lives in us and shares with us his goodness, his gentleness towards people, his heart given in obedience to his Father.  What an effortless way to live!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

United


Early morning light promises

In July's Give Us This Day this prayer seemed exactly what we needed for our celebration of Independence Day.  It has steered me in a direction for my homily different from what I had been considering.  This is just the beginning and end of the prayer by Jane Deren:
God of all, you challenge us
to be a unified national community.
You call us to move beyond
partisan politics
so we may create
a vision of the common good
so sorely needed by our country....
God of all, bless our nation at this time
and open the way to unity
so we may follow your call.  Amen


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

Ascension


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

Anti-climax



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

Paraclete


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

Reach


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

Stillness


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

Warning


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

Palms


A still morning by the Sea of Galilee.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Abandoned


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.