Readings: Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thess 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-36
It’s always good to periodically remember that the whole scope of the Old Testament and the People of Israel is based on the promises of God: Abraham is promised a land and a people; the people are later promised a just shoot of Jesse, who would become a Messiah, as spoken through the prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading. The people’s response to those promises is to hope in their eventual fulfillment. Those are the dual engines that drive the Old Testament motor: the promises of God and the people’s hope for their fulfillment. That sets the background for the New Testament, which is also built on promises and hope. Jesus
promises the Kingdom of God; Jesus’ Resurrection is a promise to us of our own future resurrection. That is what ultimately we hope for.
When you think about it carefully, hope is one of the greatest driving forces in the Christian faith. Advent is the season to focus on hope. We focus through the lens of the Old Testament hope for a Messiah. From there we broaden out into much greater hopes—the hope for salvation, for an intimacy with God, for a love of God and for the other smaller hopes for our lives—for health and friendship and safety for our families.
Hope as a virtue fascinates me. I first got interested in it when I was doing my doctoral research. One of the writers I was studying was the Jesuit, Fr. William Lynch. He had written a very powerful book entitled, Images of Hope. His ideas were considered groundbreaking and insightful, not by theologians, but by psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Fr. Lynch was writing from a unique background and perspective. He himself had once been hospitalized with an acute case of schizophrenia that required months of treatment. He was only able to recover from that by recapturing a sense of hopefulness in his life—a sense that there was something positive to hope for. He describes in very poignant and eloquent words how much a sense of hopelessness lies at the source of so much mental illness. There were two key insights that dominate his observations about hope. The first is that true hope is a cooperative venture. You can’t escape from hopelessness without somebody else’s help. Hope always involves more than one person. True hope is a shared venture. His second insight is that true hope is only achieved through images and the use of the imagination. Because the most important step in once again achieving mental stability and health is through the individual’s construction of a new self-image, and that requires the use of one’s imagination and the unique images it shapes.
Those two insights might help us in our celebration of the season of Advent, which we begin today. To foster and nourish our own hopes, especially our spiritual hopes, let’s do it in conjunction with community and friends. Let us enter more fully and more alertly into our community prayer in this season. Secondly, let’s allow our imaginations to play a little more than usual during Advent. Advent as a liturgical season has some rich symbols: the Advent wreath, the O Antiphons, the feasts of Sts. Nicolas and Lucy and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and of course the glorious music of the Advent season. Let’s let our imaginations play a little more than usual to savor this season to the fullest.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Readings: Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thess 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-36
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Sing and play music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Can we ever give God enough thanks? My mom used to tell me...because her mom used to tell her...that God will not be out done in generosity. Just try to be more generous than God and see what happens! The older I get the more I understand these wise words from these very wise women in my life.
I have so much to be thankful for. God has blessed me abundantly with a wonderful family, a holy Benedictine Community, loving and supportive friends and the best ministry a person can have...teaching God's beautiful children about our rich Catholic faith. Thank you my sweet heavenly Father.
Soon my family will be traveling to Wyoming to be a part of my brother Paul's Ordination/Installation of Bishop for the Diocese of Wyoming. I cannot even begin to imagine what this life will be for Paul. But I'm thankful to God for his willingness to say "Yes" to the call. I'm thankful for the role model that Paul is in my life and the lives of so many other people.
Recently, I read a book...that I highly recommend...called, Called to be Holy. It was written by Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Reading the book deepened my desire to answer that call to holiness and to live it more honestly and vigilantly. I thank God for the gift of holiness and for the many people God has given us as role models of holiness. We never have to do it alone. Again I thank God.
During this day of thankfulness, take a few quiet moments with God and tell God thanks for the many gifts you are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I thank God for each of you!
Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love!
(Today's Responsorial Response)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Christ the King - Nov. 22, 2009
Readings: Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; Jn 18:33-37
The feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to be a counter-force for the secularizing trends in modern society. It was originally celebrated on the last Sunday of October. But gradually people realized that the themes associated with Christ the King fit much better into the eschatological overview of this season right before Advent, and so in 1969 Pope Paul VI moved it to the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. He also made it into a Solemnity. One of the themes connected with Christ the King is the theme of judgment. For the king judges everyone. In Matthew’s Gospel there is that great passage on the King of Heaven judging all the peoples of the earth and dividing them into the accepted and the rejected, those who go up and those who go down, the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46).
Last Sunday the main theme was "death," and remembering our own future death. In the framework of the last things after death comes judgment. Judgment is almost a scary word just by itself. The very word makes us uneasy. For my mother one of her biggest fears is that people will talk about her and judge her. How often we wince when we hear a judgment that someone has made about us that’s so much different from how we see ourselves. The reason we fear judgment so much is because—deep down—we know how much we do it to others. We know how little evidence we often have and how much we presume that someone is doing something just to irritate us. The even deeper thought that God might judge us in that way is truly a scary thought.
Let’s take a look at judgment in its biblical sense. Judgment happens because we have made a covenant with God. That covenant first began between the Lord God and the People of Israel at Sinai. It continues between God and each of us in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. God promises us salvation and eternal life and we promise to God to love and care for each other. Judgment is merely the assessment of whether we have lived up to that promise. In one sense it’s not really God who judges us, but we who are judging ourselves. Our actions toward one another are our passing judgment on ourselves.
Judgment, first of all, implies that we take responsibility for our own lives, that we manage and direct our actions according to certain norms. That’s all part of becoming a mature adult in society. There seems some evidence that it’s getting harder to accomplish in our society. An article in last Thursday’s USA Today on anger management suggests that it’s becoming a serious issue for many people. Whenever we hear the theme of judgment mentioned, we shouldn’t first think of how God will judge us, but how we are judging ourselves by the management of our own lives as mature adults and believing Christians.
When we do think about God and judgment, we should take heart. For Scripture tells us that God is far more merciful than we can imagine. When Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive even up to seven times, Jesus replies, "You should forgive up to seven times seventy times." That reflects the boundless mercy of the Mystery of God. The Christian theme of judgment is the meeting of two absolutes: on the one hand, our own responsibility in the covenant of faith; on the other hand, the infinite mercy of God. That’s why, whenever we consider the theme of judgment, all we can say is: "Lord, have mercy." That’s the whole message of the feast of Christ the King.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Love is a big part of life! Everyone needs love. If people don't have love, they don't have Christ. Always be true to yourself and God. Never lie. Love is all of your surroundings. Love is in friendships. Love is in a family. Love is every where. You always need to share the love you have. (Madison B.)
If you don't have love you gain nothing. Love is patient. You need to have patience to have love. Love is not pompous. You should not be pompous. If you really have love you would show it. Showing it is the best way to teach it! Love never fails. (Ashley P.)
God is love. Without His love, all of us would do wrong. That's not what love is about. Love is not rude. Love never fails. Love is like a family that helps another family with troubles. A mom taking care of her son after he fell off his bike and giving him a kiss is an example of love. A man and a woman taking a chance on love...
Love is kind and patient. Love is something that never gives up. Love never ever fails. Love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things. God is love. Love is caring. Love is sweet. Love is trustworthy. Love is all these things and more.
Love, love cannot be directly named. Love is many things. Friends and family share their love. Love is when the person next to you cheers you up when you are having a bad day. When your brother or sister gives you a hug when they wake up. Love, love cannot be directly named...Love never fails!
What is love? Love is something you don't mess with because, God gave it to us. We can use it in the right way if a relative is injured or is sick and they can't talk. God is nothing but love. God is not mean or bad. God can only love because that is all He is made out of!
Love is being kind to someone. You love your parents, grandparents and God. You can love everything that God created. God loves us all and we love God. When we love someone...the love never fails. It is like a mom touching her children at night and telling them that she loves them. It is like a dad who takes his child to a game and he tells him that he loves him. God is love!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Readings: Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-18; Mk 13:24-32
In today’s readings and the readings of the next two Sundays (Christ the King and First Sunday of Advent) the main theme turns to the "end of the world" and the last things. Actually this can be broken down into three distinct elements: cosmic events which foretell the end, the great tribulations which immediately precede the end, and the appearance of the Son of Man or some such divine figure, which actually is the end of all things. These topics were frequently thought about, written about and talked about in the hundred years before Jesus’ birth, during his life and for years afterwards. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that they show up in the Bible. They usually recur in times of great stress and suffering.
During the second and third centuries, when Christians were undergoing persecution by Roman authorities, these themes continue to appear in Christian literature. Liturgical historians even hypothesize that there was a time of the year (usually in November) when these events were commemorated liturgically. These three current Sundays are a remnant of that commemoration. But there are many other times in Christian history when these themes dominated people’s religious imagination. I’m always fascinated whenever I visit the historical Shakertown settlement in Kentucky. (It’s southwest of Lexington and a wonderful place to visit.) In all the rooms of homes there’s a row of wooden pegs on the walls about four feet off the ground. Every night before retiring the rooms had to be cleaned, swept and all the furniture hung up on those pegs. Because tonight might be "the night" when the Second Coming of Jesus occurs. They needed to have their house and their life in order. That was on their minds all the time. It was an incredible motivation for their thoughts and actions.
I doubt if most of the members of the mainline Christian churches give the Second Coming that much thought anymore. It’s more likely they go to bed wondering what challenges are going to come tomorrow, but they don’t have any real doubts that tomorrow will come. The Second Coming is sometime way in the future, too far for me to worry about. But I wonder if there is something of lasting value that we might glean from reflection on these topics: the cosmic events, the great tribulations, and the coming of the Son of Man. Don’t read too much into this. It’s clear if we read the whole of Mark’s chapter 13, the main intent is clearly to defuse people’s concerns about these things and to encourage an attitude of patient endurance to the here and now. Still the events of "the end" do merit some attention.
The fact remains that the Second coming of Christ will occur individually for each of us. We will all die. Perhaps these three Sundays are a way of reminding all of us of that. St. Benedict says that we monastics "should keep death daily before our eyes." I have my doubts of all of us do that. People’s days are just too busy to bother with that. The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner wrote a very insightful little book, On The Theology of Death. He writes that the task of every Christian is to turn his or her death into an imitation of the death of Christ. We should be doing that throughout our life. Every pain or injury we suffer is one of those events that "foretell the end." Every major disease or serious physical ailment is a "tribulation that precedes the end." And to finally accept our own death as grace-giving will be "the Second Coming of Christ" for us. These are just some thoughts for this season that reminds us of "the end of the world" and the last things.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I have yet been able to thank God enough for the gift of being a teacher. If my Benedictine Sisters didn't have to eat, use electricity, etc. I would insist on teaching for free. I can't think of any other ministry I could possible do that would draw me deeper into the heart of our sweet Jesus...again I say thank you! I want to share with you the fruits of my 6th graders' Lectio experiences. We prayed with the text from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Enjoy!
Love is when a mother delivers a baby and holds it in her arms. Love is when a father teaches his child to ride a bike. Love is when someone finds their other half, and decides to spend the rest of their lives together. Love is many things. What I really think love is...is the little miracles and acts done by people that choose to do them out of the love in their heart.
Sometimes we hear so much about love that we forget what love is...but God is love. The only true way to know what love is...is to believe in God...God will always show you. You have love when you do not brood over injury, get jealous, or have a quick temper. Love has many powers including kindness, patience...LOVE NEVER FAILS! GOD IS LOVE!
Love to me means something like my family. Sometimes we get along...but sometimes we don't. But, when I need my family I know that LOVE never fails! Love is always in my heart when I need it. Love is in heaven, our minds and in everyone. Love is God. God gave us his only son to die for us...not a fast death but a slow and painful death...Jesus did this for everyone. God is Love!
Love is when parents give time to their child or children. When they teach them how to do the things they need to do. Love is kind...it is also respectful.
What is love? Love is devotion in loving God. Love is helping others when they need help. Love is the money you give to the one on the sidewalk who is in need and you don't even know them. GOD IS LOVE!
Love is a great thing! Love to me is a family, with hopes and cares. It is also like a child finding a new best friend. Two people who decide to spend their lives together. Love is when people help each other through struggles. Love is everything, but, mainly, God and all the good people do and say every day. Love is true because it never fails!
Love is kind and patient. It is not jealous. It is something special...it never fails. Love is not rude. I think love is the best feeling you can have. I feel it when my dad comes home from work and I give him a big hug. It is a good thing that a husband and wife share. It's that one special moment when a bride walks down the aisle with her dad and they hug right before her dad places her hand in the hand of the groom. The dad lets her go with tears of love and joy in their eyes. That is what love is.
I may not be patient all the time...but love is patient. I know my parents are love because they taught me all things. They are patient with me when I don't understand something. They never let me fail...like love never fails. My parents believe in me...so does love. LOVE NEVER FAILS!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Readings: 1 Kgs 17:10-16; Heb 9:24-28; Mk 12:41-44
The main subjects of today’s first reading and gospel passage are poor widows. That may seem an unusual subject to reflect on, but perhaps this is a timely moment to do it. Poverty is becoming a huge subject in our national consciousness now. Especially as more and more Americans slip toward the poverty level, and a great number of those are poor widows. It’s possible that we are at a great turning point in our country’s history. The ample prosperity we enjoyed in the late 1980s, the 1990s, and the first half of the present decade may be gone forever for several future generations of Americans. A front page article in last Tuesday’s Indianapolis Star noted that half of all American children are now growing up on food stamps. That’s not likely to change soon and it will have huge social consequences in coming years. Coping with poverty or even a significant downsizing of life is becoming a major challenge for many people.
I’m sure all of us know individuals whose lives have been drastically affected by the financial downturn in our national economy. A lot of people are no longer able to live by the standards they had become accustomed to. That’s a critical moment for them. And we need to help people work through that moment by means of a religious perspective. Because, on the one hand, lowering one’s standard of living could very easily lead to discouragement, depression or to anger and rage. Sadly, we’ve seen too many examples of that lately. But, on the other hand, it could become a very positive reorganization of one’s life around new goals and that’s where a religious faith can help.
I think one of the keys here is learning to appreciate simple joys, the kinds of things we usually pass by as we seek after ever more grandiose thrills. We have to truly revisit and take up again the words of Jesus: "Consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field." Maybe we can’t take that trip to Florida anymore or even that weekend at King’s Island, but we can learn what joys there can be in a hike at Eagle Creek Park or a visit to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Somewhere along the way we might even discover that appreciating the simple joys brings even deeper fulfillment than the grandiose thrills. I remember a young couple I knew who both had excellent jobs; they had put off having children because they wanted to travel and do things. Then unexpectedly she got pregnant. After their child was about a year old, the husband told me: "I can’t believe the joy there is in getting down on the floor and just watching your child crawl around. It’s better than any of the trips we took." He was learning to appreciate the simple joys of life.
If we are going to help people with the downsizing of their lives, we have to know what it entails. Ironically we should have an inbuilt process for that, because as consecrated men and women we take a vow of poverty. But I think sometimes we go about understanding poverty in too narrow a way. We think of it solely in terms of what we give up, what we have to do without. We can, however, also think of poverty positively: as learning to appreciate the simpler joys of life. The joy of a beautiful autumn day, a shared friendship, a glass of wine (moderately priced, of course), a walk outdoors with an elderly parent—appreciated in the right way these all can be expressions of our vow of poverty. Learning and appreciating those simple pleasures might help us to genuinely minister to people who are struggling with the downsizing of their lives. It’s going to be an issue for years to come. The poor widow of today’s gospel is still with us many times over.
Friday, November 6, 2009
When I went to the soup kitchen, I first met some nice people. They told us what we were to do. Nick and I served the orange juice and Deven served the desserts. When we were all ready to go, we said a prayer then we opened the door for the neighbors. When they came in they all had good manners. They said, 'Thank you.' Even though two of us were serving the drinks it was still pretty hard-working, we even ran out of orange juice. Thank goodness we still had cranberry juice. One guy was talking about the UFO...the balloon that they thought had a kid in it...they also thought it was a UFO. They were funny. The guy that talked about the UFO came to Nick and I and said, 'So you want to be a rockstar?' He said it in a joking manner. We also said a prayer with them. One of the neighbors sang a song. He was very good! Finally, it was time for everyone to leave. We cleaned up, said our good-byes to the kitchen members, got in the car and talked to Mrs. Buckley about everything that had happened at the kitchen. (Tristan M. 8th)
Going to the Cathedral soup kitchen meant a lot to me. Some of the neighbors seemed sad. While we were serving them, one of them stood up and started to sing grace. I started to feel sad for them. The people were so poor. They were hungry and they were homeless. They were all happy that we cared about them. Nick and Tristan gave them drinks. I served the donuts. It felt good to make the neighbors happy! (Deven L. 8th)
When I was on the way to the soup kitchen I was a little nervous. I didn't no how the neighbors were going to act toward us. When we got to the kitchen it was real small and dirty. Then we started to work. (Nick K. 8th)
Sunday, November 1, 2009
All Saints - Nov. 1, 2009
Readings: Rev 7:2-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12
On this feast of All Saints, let’s instead think of some particular saints. I have in mind two recently canonized saints, Fr. Damian De Veuster, the leper priest of Molokai, and Jeanne Jugan, the foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Both were raised to sainthood this past October ll. As Pope Benedict said in his homily at the canonization mass: Both of them showed outstanding commitment and love towards less fortunate groups of people in our world, the outcast lepers and the forgotten elderly poor.
Fr. Damian didn’t go to Hawaii originally to serve lepers. He went to do missionary parish work. It was only when he was ministering in Hawaii that he learned about the wretched leper colony on Molokai. They lived in truly appalling conditions: they were just dumped there, and occasionally some food would be dumped on the shore. There was no organization at all. Fr. Damian was moved to go and minister to them and eventually died a leper himself. But what a tremendous amount of ministry and social order he was able to bring into the leper colony. Truly an amazing figure. Jeanne Jugan, from an early age, seemed to have a heart that was sympathetic to the elderly poor. That was certainly unique in the society she lived in—and still is. One day as a young woman walking from her work back to her apartment, she met an old homeless woman. She was moved to take the woman to her apartment, put her into her own bed and Jeanne slept on the floor. Soon she had gathered several other old women to her apartment. She dedicated her life to serving them, and soon was joined in the work by several other young women. Thus was born the Little Sisters of the Poor, a remarkable group of caregivers and ministers.
These two saints show us one of the essential and valuable aspects of Christian holiness, a loving and ministering care for the poor and helpless of this world. In this they truly fulfilled the example that Jesus himself gave. It was not for themselves that they lived, but for those who were neediest in our world. They dedicated their whole lives to this end.
On this feast of All Saints, their example should cause us to reflect upon the saints we know, those who give their whole lives in the service and care of others who are needy. Whenever I think of people I know who are saints, my mind turns immediately to two husband and wife couples. Both couples have adult children who are severely mentally handicapped. They are giving their whole lives to make sure that their children will be provided for when they are gone. Their whole lives are put into this effort. I recall one especially poignant moment when I was talking with one husband and wife some months after their daughter was born with a severe case of Down’s syndrome. They were telling me how drastically their lives had changed with the arrival of their daughter. All their plans for their retirement years—the trips they had wanted so long to take—would likely never happen. But they had made their peace with that and lovingly committed the rest of their lives to ensure the safekeeping of their daughter. I thought to myself, "That’s heroic sacrifice. That’s the holiness Jesus exemplified." Although I doubt they would see it that way themselves.
Today let’s take some time to reflect on the living saints and we know and have known. Let’s pray for them and the gifts they so graciously share with others and have shared in the past.
Each month, Anne, a lay apostle, receives a message from Jesus. This is the message for November. To read more about the locutions Anne receives from Jesus and His Blessed Mother click on this link: Direction For Our Times.
My dearest apostle, how pleased I am with your efforts. Shall I tell you all that pleases Me? I am pleased that you accept My words and welcome them into your heart. I am pleased because as you welcome My words into your heart, you welcome My graces into your life. Many come and go in My service. But you do not do this. You remain in My service. It will take eternity for Me to show you My gratitude. When I say service, you no doubt think practically. You think of work, of heaven’s work, which includes the tasks that you complete for Me and for others in My name. This is good. I so badly need those who are willing to work for Me. But when I say service, I want you to also think of love. You see, we need bridges built that will transport God’s children safely into My heart. But the invitation to cross the bridge from isolation to the love of God will be extended through your love, through My presence in your heart. My love will flow out from you to others and they will find out that the wounds they suffer are vulnerable to love. Wounds melt away when they are exposed to love. Love, rooted in Me, is always selfless. It is quiet rather than boisterous. It waits patiently, willing to accept suffering for the greater good of the soul in front of it. The greater good will always be reconciliation with Me but this reconciliation between the Creator and the created is deeply personal and takes place in the privacy of the soul. Dearest children of God, you have been chosen to accept My love and to use that love to draw others back to Me. I am watching closely as you struggle for greater holiness. I am watching closely as you advance. I am with you in your own suffering and I allow loneliness for every serving apostle because it is only through this loneliness that you understand how badly you need Me. Your loneliness then becomes a heavenly port in a storm of activity through which you draw graces down into the world. You see that you suffer. When you return to Me forever, you will see that your suffering, accepted in My name, advanced not only My intentions, but yours. Be at peace, little apostle. I am involved in all that occurs in your life. I am with you. I will not leave you.