Readings: Sir 3:2-14; Col 3:12-21; Mt 7:2-23
About two weeks ago my niece, Melissa, had her third baby—a little girl named Ally Rose. In the days following the birth all kinds of pictures appeared on her Facebook account showing a smiling mother and father, the new baby, and her two older brothers, ages two and four, totally entranced with the newest member of the family. The little boys were exploring her fingers, toes and ears. They were pictures of family togetherness at its finest hour. But hearing confessions, as I have often done in this past Advent season, shows another picture of family life. That picture shows the struggles and temptations of people to remain faithful to their promises to each other; it shows the effort needed to regain an honest communication; it shows the difficulty of extending forgiveness as well as asking for forgiveness. This second picture gives ample evidence of all the stresses on family life. The feast of the Holy Family was meant to encourage families of all kinds, including those who are struggling.
The feast of the Holy Family is a relative late-comer to the Church’s Liturgical year. It seems to have originated in Canada in the 1880s or 1890s. Its express purpose was to support and encourage struggling families who were continuing to emigrate to Canada from all over the world. As always, immigrants then had to encounter many challenges to move their families and find the necessities of life to maintain them. Pope Leo XIII liked the feast and in 1893 had it inserted into the Church’s Liturgical Year.
I think it’s important that we should see and understand this feast in relation to struggling families as well as happy families. Too often the feast gets made into some unreachable ideal; that winds up causing more guilt than anything else. It’s instructive that the gospel passage for this feast relates the story of the Flight into Egypt and all the attendant reasons surrounding it. The life of their child is being threatened and so this young couple runs away to another land. They faced a dangerous journey with many hardships. We can only imagine the fears and worries they had in undertaking this trip. There must have been many hardships: coming to a strange place, where people spoke a different language, trying to find a suitable place to live and work that would support them for as long as needed. The Holy Family endured many stresses and dangers in becoming the Holy Family. That was one of the primary reasons why this feast was begun.
In fact, this day would be a good occasion for us to remember the approximately 220 million people who are immigrants in the world today. I took the occasion to look up some information on the International Organization for Migration’s website. That intergovernmental organization was begun in 1951. It seeks to provide just policies for the treatment of immigrants in all countries. The need is overwhelming, and they admit that their efforts meet all sorts of obstruction from various countries. Many reasons drive immigration: the need for work, fleeing from war or oppression, the need for food, the need for housing or education. There are a lot of immigrant people in this world who need all the encouragement and help they can get.
The example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph having to flee for their lives into a foreign land tries to give strength and courage to millions of today’s immigrants. But we are the ones who should examine ourselves to consider the kind of welcome, support and help that we give to newcomers in our midst—they are reflections of the Holy Family in our midst today.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Readings: Sir 3:2-14; Col 3:12-21; Mt 7:2-23
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Readings: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-4; Jn 1:1-18
There are two levels of meaning in the Christmas story. The first is the story of Jesus’ human birth; this is recounted in the Nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke’s gospels. They tell of the trip of a young couple to Bethlehem in Judea, finding lodging only in a stable where the young woman gives birth to her first child. The second level of meaning comes from John’s gospel, especially in the passage we just heard. This gospel tells us that this is not just a human birth like any other; this is a divine event. The very Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. This small, seemingly insignificant child reveals the glory of the Mystery of God. This is value beyond all telling. This is the greatest event that could ever happen.
Our task is to hold those two levels of meaning together and intermesh them. Now the first we can easily understand and handle. Everyday—somewhere in this world of ours—there are still young women who are giving birth in stables or even worse dwellings; there are young couples having a child in poor circumstances. We can understand that. The second level of meaning is a lot harder to encompass and much more difficult to relate to the first level: that this humble birth is actually THE message that the Mystery of God, the source of all creation, wants to tell us. That message is contained in this small child’s birth.
The only way to combine these two levels of meaning is by an act of faith. The intellectual distance between the two levels of meaning can only be spanned by an act of trust that is infused with love. The very meaning of Christmas sees the birth of Jesus Christ as a free gift of God’s love, although the full depth of that love would not be revealed until Easter and the Resurrection. It is the act of love which holds together the two levels of meaning in the Christmas story, an act of love that becomes an act of faith.
Faith stands as the hard thing for many to come by today. An intriguing article appeared in last Monday’s USA Today newspaper (Dec. 20, 2010, A1). It said that 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, but only 60% see a religious meaning in the day. For one in three Americans Christmas is a yearly occasion to visit the family, exchange gifts with friends, to eat and drink...often to excess. Nothing more. Even for those for whom the day does have a religious meaning, the exact content of that meaning is not always very clear. People get no help from the general culture. Christmas in United States society is increasingly becoming a secular holiday. Fewer and fewer crib scenes are evident. They have been replaced by Santa Clauses, who are everywhere. Advertising programming never uses a religious carol. The advertisements hint openly that it’s almost an obligation to give gifts. Of course, that’s something driven by pure commercialism. The very definition of a gift is something that is freely given.
Our challenge this Christmas is to appreciate and proclaim the Christian faith dimension of the feast. The first faith dimension affirms the intrinsic and ultimate value of each and every human person. The proclamation that the very Mystery of God became flesh in a small child, born to relatively unknown parents in an out-of-the-way part of the world testifies that every human being has ultimate worth in the eyes of God....and should have in ours as well. The second faith dimension of this feast is the primacy of love over everything else in our world. It is the love of God that bestows the very gift of God’s presence in the birth and life and death of this little child. Every single one of us is loved and valued in God’s eyes. That’s what we proclaim this Christmas feast. Let’s celebrate it!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Readings: Is 7:10-14; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24
In this last week before the feast of Christmas the gospel passages at mass will recount all the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. They are stories that most of us have all heard many, many times. But they are worth re-telling each year. I think it’s important for all of us to remember that each and every year there are some members of our Catholic community who are hearing the stories for the very first time. For them the manner of telling the stories proves extremely important. The Catholic priest and writer, Fr. Andrew Greeley, has stated often that the most important theological teaching moment in the entire Catholic tradition happens when a mother takes her young son or daughter up to the Christmas manger for the very first time. She points out the baby Jesus lying in the manger and then she points out the baby’s mother, Mary, looking carefully and lovingly at the child Jesus. And she says, "That’s the way God loves each one of us—like a caring mother." That’s a powerful thought. Scenes like that will happen all over the world this Christmas season. They will happen in parishes all across this city.
That’s one of the most telling reasons why we, who have heard the Christmas stories so many times, need to hear them each year with renewed reverence. In so doing we contribute to the general reverence surrounding those teaching moments to the little ones who are learning it for the very first time. We don’t just hear the surface story, but we look for the deeper meanings within them. The older we get the more we need to do so.
Why do we need to look for deeper meanings the older we get? Simply because each year the weariness of life wears us down a little more. It does so for all of us. And if we let that go unchecked, it can bring us to the point where we doubt just about everything. Believe me, as someone who has given retreats all over this country to religious communities of men and women, to diocesan priests, to lay men and women—I can assure you that I have met a lot of people in each one of these settings who have been worn down by the weariness of life. It just crept up on them. Many times they never saw it coming. Then all of a sudden one day they realized that they didn’t believe in anything any more.
To prevent this from happening as we grow older, it’s necessary to cultivate anew each year a sense of "being surprised," an enthusiasm and excitement at the feast. One of the best ways to cultivate this sense of being surprised is by committing ourselves to someone or something passionately. And passionately is the key word. If we are passionate about some subject or person, we open our senses up to the unusual. We increase our capacity to be surprised. I was genuinely surprised this past week when I heard for the very first time a new Christmas carol that I hadn’t known about. It’s called "the first Canadian Christmas carol" or the "Huron Carol." It was written by one of the North American Martyrs, St. Jean de Brebeuf, in the Huron Indian language. You can look it up on the Internet. There’s one site that even gives some singing versions of it: first in its original Huron language, then a French translation, and finally an English version. That was something I found very, very exciting about the feast this year.
The readings we heard today also reflect a real passion. The prophet Isaiah writes with passion. St. Paul is always passionate. The Evangelist Matthew passionately proclaims that "God is with us." This Christmas many small children will passionately revel in the mystery and joy of the Christmas season. Let’s join them this year.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Working at the soup kitchen was really cool. It wasn’t very hard work but I could tell it meant a lot to the people there. Most of the time I was doing jobs that was in the back, like carrying boxes and things like that. I served in the front, too. Everybody looked really happy. None of the people that came to eat were mean or bitter. Everybody seemed to know each other. It seemed more like a place to hang out with friends than a soup kitchen. Everyone said thank you and didn’t complain about the food. A lot of people used a lot of sugar on their cereal. I found out that they were probably dealing with an addiction. Almost everyone took some food with them when they left so they could eat it later. That just shows how hard it is to get a meal sometimes. I learned that I’m really lucky to have a house and a meal to eat everyday.
My reflection on the Cathedral Soup Kitchen, wow so much to say. Well, the first thing was that it was so much fun. I have never enjoyed volunteering as much as I did last Friday. Everyone there was just so nice. I can’t wait to go back again next year. To be honest when I first arrived I was pretty nervous. But I got over that really quick. All the volunteers helping simply welcomed me in like a family member. They were so nice. After we said a prayer Mark, Chandler, and I were assigned jobs to do. I was assigned to pass out watermelon. I’m not much of a watermelon eater but pretty much everyone there loved watermelon. Some people took at least 3 to 4 pieces at a time but later on put the extras in a bag for later. I think it is sad that there has to be people living on the streets and being homeless especially in this type of season. At the soup kitchen they had breakfast between 9-10 A.M. and just seeing people getting their food and asking me how I am with smiles on their faces was great. Everyone got along great. People were joking and laughing while eating and having a good time. At one point we ran out of coffee and one of the men eating breakfast volunteered to help carry the empty can out to get a new one, which was really nice to do. When I left the soup kitchen I felt so good inside that I had done something really good for someone, and lucky that I don’t have to worry about that kind of thing in my life.
My service at the Cathedral soup kitchen was just how I had expected it would be. I have been to a soup kitchen before and it was very similar to the one I went to with my family. It felt really good to help people that are in need. I am so glad that I got an opportunity to help people that are less fortunate. We often take for granted everything we have like food, shelter, and clothing. Homeless people often go without food, without a place to live, and sometimes the only clothes they have are the ones they are wearing. I feel very lucky that I got a chance to make a difference in the world.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Readings: Is 35:1-10; Jam 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11
I’d like, first of all, to reflect on the difference between the first and second readings we just heard. They are very different in style and message. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah describes how perfect, how beautiful and how ideal will be the coming Day of the Lord. For the prophets of ancient Israel the Day of the Lord was that time in the future when God would set all things right and all problems and pains in this world would be wiped away. To emphasize this the prophet uses many vivid, poetic images to describe that Day; he appeals to people’s imaginations and hopes. That why we hear phrases like "the desert will exult," the parched land will bloom," "the eyes of the blind will be opened," "the deaf will hear." Or, like we heard last week, "the lion will lie down with the lamb." The prophet is trying to get a suffering people to think of and imagine a time when God will make all things right and beautiful.
How very different is the second reading from the Letter of James. This is not poetry; this is straightforward, moral advice: "Be patient until the coming of the Lord. ...You must be patient." The author of James says that it’s fine and wonderful to have a vision of the future, of what God is going to accomplish, but you have to be ready to wait for it. It comes in God’s own time, not ours. James sounds an awful lot like Dr. Phil on television who is continually telling people "the way it is and you need to accept it." James reminds his readers that the very same prophets who proposed all those wonderful images of the fulfilling Day of the Lord were themselves examples of patience.
We should think a little about patience. By and large we Americans do not have a reputation of being a very patient people. We have been conditioned for many years by modern media and business to take a more "got to have it now" attitude. We don’t like to wait for anything, anywhere. That’s too bad. The Christian tradition has long valued "patience" as a virtue, a character strength. Patience is the ability to continue moving forward in life even while dealing with a situation we don’t particularly like. Patience is not letting that adverse situation get us down, but still being able to go on cheerfully doing our best. Sr. Barbara Reid describes it: "Patience is doing everything we can, while at the same time, relying utterly on the divine provider." (America, Dec. 6, 2010, p. 31) If we ignore the virtue of patience, it’s our loss.
Patience is necessary for personal growth to take place. Personal growth involves the development of skills There are too many people who want to develop skills and abilities right now. That doesn’t happen; you don’t learn a skill overnight. Developing an ability requires persistent effort, trial and error, learning, trying again and lots of patience along the way. The same is true in matters of living our faith. Our practice of the faith is never going to be perfect, but we need to keep trying. To do that we needs lots of patience with ourselves along the way. One way we can learn how to develop patience—this is a suggestion of St. Augustine---is by growing a garden. You can’t rush plants into growing. You must patiently tend them....and wait. Gardening and patience go together.
Patience is also necessary for personal healing to take place. We know that’s true in cases of physical healing. You can’t rush back from an injury too quickly or you might wind up making the situation even worse. Sometimes we forget that a similar kind of patience is often required in emotional healing. When someone has hurt us deeply, and then says, "I’m sorry," often it’s going to take time and patience to let that sink in. It’s not that we don’t forgive the person, but it’s recognizing that it’s going to take time and patience to allow emotional healing to occur. That can’t be rushed.
In this Advent season we would all do well to take some time and examine how we practice the Christian virtue of patience.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas. Who is St. Nicholas and why do we celebrate him as a Saint? Relatively little is known about St. Nicholas, but legends fill in the story of his true history. He is closely linked to Christmas, so it is only fitting that his Feast day is celebrated in December. His fame spread across western Europe, his figure developed into the person we know as Santa Claus, which comes from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas...Sinte Klaas. The story of St. Nicholas was first brought to America by Dutch settlers. His final transformation from bishop-saint to folk figure came in 1823 when Clement C. Moore wrote his famous poem, "The Night Before Christmas."
St. Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara of Lycia, in the country of Anatolia. His parents were virtuous Christians. Nicholas was their only child...and he, too, grew in virtue. As Nicholas grew and matured in age and wisdom he also grew in his love of God and wanted to serve God. He was ordained a priest and later a bishop.
St. Nicholas was known for his generosity. He secretly provided dowries for poor girls. He also played a role in the release of three unjustly convicted army officers. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors. In fact, sailors in the Aegean Sea customarily greet each other with: May St. Nicholas hold the tiller.
He very early became a patron saint for children. On the eve of St. Nicholas many families have the custom of hanging stockings above the fireplace or putting their shoes outside their bedroom doors in hopes that St. Nicholas would visit their homes while they are sleeping and slip a treat in their stocking or shoe. St. Nicholas NEVER failed to visit the Etienne Family. Even today, my Benedictine Sisters are visited every December 6th with treats from St. Nicholas!
I was born one minute after the Feast of St. Nicholas and the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I've always loved the name my parents gave me at birth, Mary Nicolette...in honor of St. Nicholas and our beautiful Blessed Mother, Mary. Advent is the time when we prepare to greet Christ—who came as a babe in a manger, who comes into our lives each day, and who will come again at the end of time. During this season of Advent we celebrate the feast of many wonderful saints as we wait in joyful hope for the birth of our Lord and Savior.
Today we call St. Nicholas by a different name, but one thing remains the same: Saint Nicholas, our present-day Santa Claus, is a symbol of unselfish giving...The TRUE meaning of Christmas. Let's allow the spirit of St. Nicholas to enter our hearts and allow us to have a generous spirit always looking for ways to make life a little better for those around us. Tis the season to give abundantly!
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Readings: Is 11:1-10; Rm 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12
In last Sunday’s homily I reflected on the need to "get back to the basics" in evaluating our practice of Christian faith. Advent is a good time to begin that process. Let’s take that a step further this Sunday and explore what is meant by "repentance" in today’s gospel passage. Those are ringing words from John the Baptist: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."
In its most general sense "repentance" includes two dimensions: one, a change in one’s outward behavior, and two, a change in one’s mind that impels a change in behavior. The two go hand-in-hand. We change our motives in order to change our actions. In our more common language, "repent" would mean something like, "Get your act together." Now, those aren’t words that we like to hear from a boss or a religious superior: "You need to get your act together." Even less do we want to hear them from God. However, that’s exactly what they mean in the mouth of John the Baptist. "It’s time to get your act together."
Let’s think about this a little more closely. Most of the time, unless we are a sociopath or have a criminal mind, we want to do things and live our lives in a reasoned, orderly way for our own benefit and the benefit of others. However, when times get really rushed and we begin to be stressed out most of the time, our life and actions can tend to get "loose around the edges." We cut corners to get more things into the day. We can start doing things just in reaction to someone’s else example or words without really thinking about the consequences. If we are honest, we know that in terms of religious behavior, it’s very easy for regular practices of prayer, self-control and virtuous behavior to get whittled down in the hectic pace of life. That’s especially true during the Christmas season, at least the way we observe it in this country. December can become really frantic at times. That just hastens the cutting of corners on just about everything and reacting impulsively to other’s words and actions. That’s when life become loose around the edges.
So in this Advent season we hear the clear challenge from John the Baptist: "Repent" or "Get your act together." How do we go about doing that? Well, the first thing—hard as it may be—is to slow down and give ourselves some time to do a bit of calm reflection. In that space of calm reflection we need to review our recent behaviors and actions and see if they really measure up to the kind of person we want to be. Did I really want to engage in that critical conversation that ripped apart another community member or did I just fall into it on the spur of the moment and then went along with it? Did that behavior really express who I am and the type of person I want to be? It’s that kind of self-evaluation that is the beginning of "getting our act together."
Sometime when we hear those words, "Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand," they can seem so alien to our everyday lives that they don’t make much impression on us. But they really do challenge us to explore the connections between our actions, our motives, and who we want to be. That kind of thinking is religious of its very nature. Listen to some words of Lawrence Kushner that sum up that point very nicely: " The essence of spirituality is a return to the self, a re-direction of vision of the one who asks the question, a discovery that what is sought is, and always has been, right here all along. Spirituality is personal immediacy and (at the same time) the immediacy of God’s Presence." (Eyes Remade for Wonder, p. 153) "Repent! or "Getting your act together!" They bring us face to face with the Living God. They are the examination of the close connection between motives, actions and hopes in our daily lives. That’s what we are called to do in this season of Advent.
Friday, December 3, 2010
The idea of going to a soup kitchen used to scare me, it seemed so foreign and honestly kind of frightening. But now I find that those past thoughts were completely wrong and that I should have been more open to the thought of charity. Luckily, Holy Name had provided the opportunity to go and let students help out at the soup kitchen and I decided to take it. But I didn’t think of taking it so quickly, and I’m not going to lie, the thought of acting sick crossed my mind many times, but I knew that would be completely wrong and I would be burdened with guilt for the rest of the school year. So I went.
As we were on our way to the soup kitchen that morning I grew even more anxious than I was that morning when I was getting ready for school, but as we were nearing closer and closer to the soup kitchen I calmed down a bit. Once we finally arrived we got out of the car and walked towards the building. I noticed that a man was bundled up in large amounts of old, dirty clothing sleeping on the floor. An old women that went by the name of Dr. Pike, opened the door to us and we walked down stairs into a room near the kitchen. There we had to put on hats and aprons. We then went into the kitchen and were introduced to people and the stations we were going to work at. Another classmate and I worked at a station where we served Kool-Aid to the homeless. Once everything was prepared and ready to go, people started pouring into the building…So much that I couldn’t even see over or even in between them. My partner and I started to pour Kool-Aid into small plastic cups and the thought of me spilling Kool-Aid everywhere crossed my mind as we did so. See, I am a very clumsy person and tend to run into, spill, and break a lot of things.
A lot of the people there were mostly men; I only saw about five women, and some of them looked like they didn’t even live on the streets. As I poured Kool-Aid for people few of them said thank you, but I knew by the look on their faces that they were either grateful or ashamed. But some of them weren’t even ashamed at all, actually some of them came in singing and smiling, which surprised me a bit. Eventually, the line started to go down and I could see in front of me again. People started to fill the tiny tables and started eating. Some of them sat together laughing and talking, and some just sat alone. Then a young white women got up from her table and shuffled over to where we were pouring juice, she grabbed two cups and looked me in the eyes and said “Sorry.” and then walked away. That’s when I realized that all these people who may have no job or home or food of their own are just like us. They’re no different from people we call “normal”. We’re the same. The only difference is that they are struggling harder than anyone one of “us”. This thought had stayed with me for the rest of my time at the soup kitchen.
The idea of going to the soup kitchen used to scare me, but now I find that the idea of volunteering at a soup kitchen is enjoyable and worth my time. And now instead of rejecting volunteering, I’ll be more open to the thought of helping those in need. Thankfully, I didn’t fake sick that day, because if I did I probably would have never tried volunteering afterward.
When I served at the soup kitchen I think I really got to see how life is for some people. It isn't all good like some people make it out to be. Life for some people is hard and restless always wondering when they will get their next meal. When I served at the soup kitchen I did two things. I served Kool-aid and washed dishes. I don't remember the name of the guy I was washing dishes with, but he was a very nice guy. We talked about the soup kitchen. I learned that he is from Michigan and now lives in Indiana.
The people I served Kool-aid to were really nice. They had better manners than you would expect people who are hungry. There was another guy there who volunteered his time at the kitchen. He knew almost everyone there. He joked around with them and they joked back. The people I served were also very kind. They didn't seem grumpy or grouchy, just very thankful to have a nice meal in front of them. This really made me more grateful for what I have and made me feel like I was helping people. I never felt so good about myself.
My trip to the soup kitchen really made me feel like a better person. This is all because the people volunteering and the people going there for food. The volunteers were just glad to see people helping out and the people there for food where just so kind and I just can't get over that. I would definitely go back and I advise others to go at least one time.
When I first walked in to the soup kitchen I was met with the sight of a man sleeping on the floor with about 2-3 garbage bags as a pillow, right then it hit me how homelessness affects our society. After that I was asked to put on an apron and hat. (Wow that was embarrassing, good thing Mrs. Buckley didn’t have her camera on her.) After that we were asked to wash our hands, as I walked around I saw a tiny sink in a tiny kitchen at first I thought that was for dishes but as I found out, it was for our hands! After that we were asked to put on this poly-something type of glove, when we were sent to our stations I was assigned the fruit and salad section. Usually they have a leafy salad, but they were out and they had a bunch of tomatoes so they improvised and made a brochette type salad with cheese, Italian dressing, greens, and of course tomatoes. They also had mixed fruits, and a big box like thing filled with green grapes. As I looked around in the midst of serving I noticed a lot of African-American people in the room. It made me wonder, are ceo’s firing these people because of racism? Or is because of a stereo type?
In the middle of serving I saw a man taking a lot of grapes so as I started refilling the bowls. He said “Can you give me two more bowls please?” As I was filling a plastic bag with them he said “It’s for my kids.” I froze. This man has kids living on the street?!? It made me wonder how he and his family are getting by. I gave him a whole lot of grapes. I said tell them I said hi and enjoy.” He simply replied, “May the Lord bless you.” And he walked out the door. I felt really good inside like I did something really good. Later that day, I saw a woman standing next to the fruit, trying to get some grapes. I said “Let me help you with that.” As I looked at her I noticed she had a U.S. Army jacket on. That startled me because people who risk their lives daily to protect our country shouldn’t be on the streets fighting starvation! After I was finished she said, “Thank you my God,” and that gave me the best feeling imaginable.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Each month, Anne, a lay apostle, receives a message from Jesus. This is the message for December. To read more about the locutions Anne receives from Jesus and His Blessed Mother click on this link: Direction For Our Times.
My dear apostles, together, we are making advances. Humanity groans with the changes coming upon them and yet heaven’s servants become holier and holier. The project that is your holiness is on track. Dear apostles, this is the most important thing and this should be your greatest concern. I want you to be aware of your progress. Instead of being distracted by the changes occurring in the world, you are actively participating in the changes through your personal commitment to remain connected to My will in each day. You are offering your service through your allegiance prayer and I am accepting your service and using you to teach others what true holiness looks like. From the outside, you probably look as though you are working hard. From the outside, it is probably evident that your commitment has cost you something, meaning, your own plan. You have submitted your plan to Me and I have handed you My plan in return. Accepting My plan for your life is not easy and some moments are more difficult than other moments, and yet, you continue. You strive for total acceptance of My will. This is what I am asking of you and this is what the Father asked of Me. Abandonment. If you want to learn about abandonment, simply look to My figure on the cross. My Passion offers you a glimpse of where abandonment took Me. Your joy in service offers others a glimpse of where abandonment has taken you. Please be joyful. Your joy offers the world hope. Joy is infectious. And hope is infectious. Suffering passes away and what remains is your offering. I am returning. I tell you this because it is true and I want you to be prepared and to help others to be prepared. All is well. The infant King looks out upon a world which craves Him. Bring Me to others, that they may also herald My return.
What words do you think of when you hear the names Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi, Peter, Mary, and many other saints? I know I immediately think of holiness. There are many ways to be holy. I try my best to model holiness each day because I feel that it is my main goal as a Catholic.
One way that I am similar to these saints is that I have trust in God during the rough times in my life. Just think of Mary’s deep trust when she was asked to be the mother of Jesus. Sure, I am probably not going to be asked to have a baby at the age of fourteen, and my life won’t be filled with nearly as many extreme challenges as Mary, but I still like to view myself as having deep trust in God. Another well-known saint, Mother Teresa, was kind and caring towards people all of the time, even if it meant that she would have to live a life of poverty. As Mother Teresa did, I too, try my best to show kindness to people throughout my day. When I think of people with unconditional love, I think of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis had a great love for animals, as well as people. Similarly, I try to love and comfort people who are in need of extra care. Joan of Arc was asked to lead her country in war. Wow! I cannot even imagine the braveness she must have had. Just as St. Joan of Arc was always brave, I try to be brave and have God guide me in all that I do. Last, but not least, Peter must have been confused often in his role as an apostle, as well as Jesus’ role. Despite his confusion, Peter always showed patience. Patience is very hard for me to obtain, but I hope to some day reach the level of patience that Peter displayed.
With all the great things these holy people did, it seems nearly impossible to reach the same stage that they are at. But, if I continue to model my life and actions after them, then hopefully I too, will someday reach “sainthood.”
(Lindsey C. 7th Grade)
Monday, November 29, 2010
Today our good friend, Charlie Simon was buried. The following is the homily prepared and delivered by my brother, Bishop Paul Etienne, Charlie's good friend.
Mass of Resurrection; Homily for Charles Simon
November 25, 2010; November 29 Burial
We gather today to commend to God a beloved son, father, brother, cousin, uncle, nephew and friend to many. On behalf of Fr. Barnabas, Fr. Dennis, and the faith communities of St. Paul and St. Pius, we extend our condolences and assurances of prayer to all of you in these difficult days.
We gather today with heavy hearts; grief stricken at Charles' untimely and sudden departure from this life. As we gather today, we have many questions about this mystery that death poses. It is a question and mystery that in many ways, our culture today is unable to answer; and dare I say, even unable to cope with. There are many responses which fall short, such as "Only the good die young." At face value, this sounds comforting, but it fails to recognize that many good people live to a ripe old age. It would also tend to imply that all the rest of us are somehow "bad".
Our grief today is real, as it should be. Grief is a true expression of love. It is a very physical way of expressing loss...not just of a person, Charles, but also what our relationships with him expressed - care, concern, love. What we are doing here, right now, in this space, in this Mass of Resurrection, separates us from the secular world where grief leads only to despair, because without God, the human experience is a dead end...it leads only to the grave and nowhere else.
Life lived without God, and faith in Him, robs the human person of hope, motivation, meaning and purpose. But death embraced with faith opens us up to the broad place where life begins to expand, in the person of Jesus Christ. What we do here is one of the best things we do as Church. We express our faith in Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection. The Risen Christ is the only sufficient answer to the mystery of death, because He is the only answer to the mystery of the human person; the mystery of human life. It is only in Christ that any person finds the meaning of his or her own existence.
And so we turn to Sacred Scripture to help us put our grief into proper perspective. Thus, we can say with the author of the Book of Wisdom: The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. (Wisdom 4:7) We can say with St. Paul that Charles' death was not an early or untimely death, but in the eyes and plan of God, a death that occurred in the "fullness of time". (see Galatians 4:4) In faith, death is not the end of life, not the end of all reality, but the birth unto true and eternal life. Neither death, nor life...nor present things, nor future things...will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
The loss of a loved one can be a heavy weight to bear. It is a burden the Father knew at the death of His Son, Jesus, even though He knew the tremendous gift being given for the redemption of the world. It is a burden Jesus knew at the death of his friend, Lazarus. And thus, Jesus can say in the Gospel today: Come to me, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." (Mt 11:29-30)
Once again, the message is clear; only Jesus can give us true rest for our souls, true food for our journey. He is the only one with the living water to quench our deepest thirst; light and truth to guide our earthly journey. He alone has conquered death and the power of sin. He alone holds the healing balm to ease our pain.
Our journey with Charles, and his with us, has come to an end. We thank God for the many conversations, trips and card games, Simon fests and other parties. We will surely miss the turn of phrase that only Charles could say, such as: "It sure is fun fishing when you catch fish!" or a simple "Hey ole buddy!" when he greeted us. Most of us will miss his occasional phone calls to simply say hello and touch base. We will miss his smile, his jokes his laugh and love for life. He was quite the talker, so much so that very often you hardly got a word in yourself! How many of us benefited from his helping hand and expertise in some kind of home improvement project? Who else had such a memory for names, relationships, birthdates and phone numbers?
I believe each of us manifests a unique image and likeness of Christ that only each of us in our own way can reveal. A simple passage from St. Paul came to mind the other day when thinking of Charles and his disarming personality: Have the same attitude toward all. (Romans 12:14-16) This was one of the unique ways Charles could be Christ to others that only he could be. The friendship and love we enjoyed and shared with Charles was Christ's unique gift to us that only Charles could share. That is my prayer for each of us, that we be the Christ for others, that only we can be.
As sad as we are to say goodbye to Charles, we are called at the same time to rejoice in the expanding horizon Charles now enjoys. We must not lose sight of our human origins, or our ultimate destiny; God's Kingdom. Yesterday's Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent reminds us: stay awake...you must be prepared...the Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect. (Mt 24:37-44)
In a homily on the mortality of the human person, St. Cyprian reminds us of other basic truths with regards to the Kingdom of Heaven:
Our obligation is to do God's will, and not our own.
We are living here now as aliens and only for a time. When the day of our homecoming puts an end to our exile, frees us from the bonds of the world, and restores us to paradise and to a kingdom, we should welcome it.
We look upon paradise as our country, and a great crowd of our loved ones awaits us there, a countless throng of parents, brothers and children longs for us to join them...O the delight of that heavenly kingdom where there is no fear of death.
So my friends, let us grieve in faith, but let us also rejoice for Charles that his earthly journey has reached its fulfillment and he has taken up his place at the heavenly banquet, the true home of every believer. May the remaining days of our earthly journey be a pilgrimage of faith in Jesus Christ. May we not become too encumbered with the fleeting things of this life, remembering always our true home, with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom. May we strive to please Christ in all things, and desire always His kingdom above all else.
Farewell ole buddy, good friend. You are home. Rest in peace.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Readings: Is 2:1-5; Rms 13:11-14; Math 24:37-44
The program that I am currently listening to when I’m driving in my car is one from the Teaching Company entitled, "Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century." This course describes the 20th century, the one that most of us have lived the majority of our years in, as the most bloody and violent in human history. It is a century filled with wars, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and dictatorial government persecutions that accounted for around 220 million violent deaths. The 20th century saw more violent deaths than the previous 19 centuries combined. What’s really so frightening about all this is that most of these deaths were caused by individuals who were in pursuit of creating an ideal society, a utopia on earth. Sadly, these perpetrators also believed that to accomplish this ideal society, it was necessary to use, at least temporarily, terror, including executions, as a method to this end (an idea born during the French Revolution). Most of the people who pursued this combination of utopia and terror were individuals who did not believe in God. Instead, they wanted to create a secular ideal utopia fashioned in their own image (National Socialism, Communism, etc.).
How different from that is the prophecy of Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading this morning. Isaiah also has a vision of an ideal society, a utopia, where "a nation shall not raise the sword against another." But his vision is very definitely based upon a belief in a God, who shall give us instruction on how to live: "he will instruct us that we may walk in his paths." In the passage in Isaiah right before this one (a passage we didn’t hear) the prophet spells out what those instructions from the Lord God are: "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean...cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." (1:16-17) It is precisely a society that earnestly seeks to care for the weakest among its own that is one that will come to know true peace. But this needs to be the attitude of all in society, from the leaders to the least: "seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." From all in society, not just volunteers.
This first Sunday of Advent takes us back to the very beginnings of our Christian faith as it is rooted in the moral monotheism of ancient Judaism. Many scholars and writers have often asserted that the religious genius of Judaism was its belief in and proclamation of a moral monotheism: that there is only One God and that God requires moral actions of justice and love from the human beings He creates. If we believe in this one and only God who calls us to "seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan and plead for the widow," then we are not free to create our own ideal human society in our image. Way back when I was a theology student, I remember one of the adages spoken often by my Old Testament professors: "Before you can be a Christian, you have to first be a Yahwist." That is, one who believes in the One Lord God of Israel and his moral commands to us.
Living in a religion like the Catholic faith in the 21st century can be a very complicated process. There are so many aspects and areas in the Catholic faith that we can sometimes easily get lost or be overwhelmed by trivial issues. (And there are plenty of trivial issues to sidetrack us.) There are always times when we need to clear the deck and get back to basics. Sometimes a crisis will force us to that and we have no other options. There’s also the possibility that we can to it on our own and willingly undertake a "back to the basics" look at our faith. This Advent season would be a good time for that. And one of the best places to begin would be the prophet Isaiah and his moral monotheism. During the Advent season, we might reflect on these words again and again: "There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other." (45:21-22) And what does this one God say to us: "seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan and plead for the widow."
Readings: Is 63:7-9; Col 3:12-17; Lk 17:11-19
In just about a year we will begin using the third edition of the Roman Missal. Besides the new translation, there will be additional prefaces, votive masses and saints’ days. There will also be a strong encouragement that there be more singing on Sundays and feastdays. They particularly encourage the dialogue parts between priest and people to be sung. They will repeat the suggestion that the priest sing the Preface. But, as you have perhaps noticed over the past ten years, I don’t sing the preface. I’d like to tell you why. It has a lot to do with the theme of thanksgiving, which we celebrate today.
The Preface is the actual beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, that great narration of praise and thanksgiving that, in fact, makes the mass to be a mass. The Eucharistic Prayer is the prayer of the assembled community, of priest and people together. While there are some acclamations from the assembly, the priest recites most of the prayer by himself. But he always prays in the name of the people. The congregation is to listen carefully and make the prayer he speaks into their own prayer, so that we all pray as one. That’s why it’s so important that the priest speak loudly, clearly and slowly—to allow that understanding and interiorization to take place. The Preface forms an essential part of the Eucharistic Prayer; it needs to be heard clearly. From my perspective that’s better accomplished in a recitation voice than a singing voice.
I have a second reason. Christian prayer, especially the Eucharistic prayer, is first and foremost "praising and giving thanks to God"....and that requires time, practice and understanding. Thanking God is not a natural outcome of perceiving the world with an untrained eye. We have to learn that God is the one worthy of praise and thanksgiving. The structure of a Eucharistic Prayer is a narrative, an education about God’s works. It begins with the work of the Father (primarily in the Preface), then the work of the Son (which culminates in the consecration of the bread and wine), and ends in the work of the Spirit (God’s blessings that continue in our day—the prayers for the living and deceased). Recitation of the whole Eucharistic prayer helps us to better see that progression and unity. So, while we pray the Eucharistic Prayer as an expression of our praise and thanks to God, that same Eucharistic Prayer is forming and developing an attitude of thanksgiving within us. The Prayer is shaping our minds and hearts.
It is wonderful that we celebrate the Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day. May the praise and thanks that we express here spill over into the rest of our day and the rest of our lives.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Readings: 2 Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43
Ever since it was instituted as a feast for the universal church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, the feast of Christ the King has been the topic of much heated comment. To some critics at the time it looked like the Church reaffirming its choice of monarchy as the preferred type of civil government. To still other critics it seemed a reassertion of the Church’s own style of absolutist monarchical government. There may have been some truth in those opposing views. But they were not the reasons specified by Pius XI in the encyclical that established the feast. He wished the feast rather to be a reminder of the benefits of calm order, of harmony and peace that should reign in society and that was so missing in the time Pius was living in. He was, of course, drawing on the image of an ideal king who rules with wisdom, justice and understanding—that was outdated for his time. The pope also wanted a public consecration to the heart of the Redeemer on this Sunday.
That last point brings us a little closer to the enduring value of this feast: that when Jesus Christ comes again in glory, he will judge all people and all things in the light of his own heart. That is so beautifully exemplified by the gospel passage today of Jesus on the cross with the repentant thief: "This day you will be with me in paradise." We miss the whole meaning of the feast if we get caught up in the pros and cons about whether "king" is an appropriate description for Jesus Christ or discussion about monarchy as the best form of government. It’s all about Jesus in his glorious, future coming "to judge the living and the dead." And that judgment will be according to the values shown in the earthly life of Jesus.
In Jesus own teaching, he proclaims a divine judgment on all individuals and groups. We are not free to do anything we want; all people will someday have to answer for the actions of their lives. A judgment by God is real. The early Christians handed on this belief in a coming judgment by Jesus Christ as a clear and unambiguous statement of their faith. "For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil." (2 Cor. 5:10) In addition, they believed that the criteria of God’s judgment on human life were reflected in Jesus’ human life, particularly in his dealings with other people. How people follow the example of Jesus’ actions determines the norms of their own judgment. Thus, the words and actions of Jesus become especially important in the hope we have for that coming judgment.
So I would invite you to relax, close your eyes and listen to these words of Jesus spoken to individuals in his own lifetime, words that will likely be spoken by Jesus from his seat of judgment:
"Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace." (Mk 5:34)
"Take heart! It is I; do not be afraid." (Mk 6:50)
"I do so choose. Be made clean" (Lk 5:13)
"Friend, your sins are forgiven you." (Lk 5:20)
"Do not weep. Young man, I say to you: arise." (Lk 7:13-14)
"Woman, has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you." (Jn 8:10-11)
"Amen, I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise." (Lk 23:43)
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The 6th graders and I came across a passage from Scripture...Luke 2:52...Jesus grew in age, wisdom and favor. I keep thinking about that. I think the word that strikes me most is favor. What does it mean to grow in favor? Favor of what...or of whom? For Jesus it was in favor of God and God's people...for us it is the same. Growing in age happens naturally, growing in wisdom happens as we stay open to God in our daily life experiences and being aware of God's presence in our lives as we journey towards our heavenly home. So how do we grow in favor? Another way to look at this is to ask ourselves how we grow in holiness. I asked my students this very question. We came up with a terrific list.
To grow in favor or holiness:
- Above all else we must remain faithful to our prayer life. Our prayers keep us connected to God. We take time to pray the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
- We must strive to hear God's voice in our daily lives and walk in a manner pleasing to our God.
- We seek ways to put God first, others second and ourselves last.
- We are the first to serve the needs of others.
- We stay faithful to the Sacraments and take time for Adoration as often as we can.
- We cultivate peaceful hearts and strive to be kind and gentle with everyone...even ourselves.
- We never miss an opportunity to give God thanks and praise.
- We stay faithful to the 10 Commandments.
- We live the Beatitudes daily.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Recently my students were invited to write an essay on what it means to live a life of faith. I would like to share an essay written by one of my 7th grade students. I am so blessed to have the job that I have! I love teaching...I hope my students learn as much from me as I do from them!
“Prayer Goes a Long Way”
When faced with the question, “What does it mean to live a life of faith,” my mind becomes crammed with numerous answers. To me, living a life of faith means participating fully in my Catholic religion, and helping others do the same. Also, faith is believing and trusting in God, even though he is a complete mystery. In other words, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Another way to view the term “living a life of faith” is to think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary showed great faith in God, even when she was unsure and scared at the situation she was faced with. I cannot even imagine the fright and worry she must have felt when she was asked to be the mother of Jesus. But, because of her strong faith, Mary was willing to say, “Yes.” Faith is participating fully in Catholicism and being willing to “take the first step with God.” Even when we are scared and unsure in life, God will guide us through the rough times. Having faith and living by faith, shows God that we trust and believe fully in his abilities.
Living a life of faith is very important in my life, so that I may grow closer to God, our Father. One way that I live a life of faith is that I make prayer a very essential part of my everyday life. I pray before I eat a meal, before I go to bed, and anytime throughout my day that I see a situation in need of help. When I hear any sort of siren, whether it may be a police car, fire truck, ambulance, or storm warning, I do the Sign of the Cross and say a short prayer asking God to keep everyone safe. On Thursdays, I go to adoration along with the rest of my class. During that time, I can really feel God giving his grace to those who believe in him. As long as we keep our faith in God, he will give us the graces to follow him. Saying prayers often, and always talking to God is a simple way that I live a life of faith. Asking God for help is similar to what Martin Luther King Jr. said because I am putting my trust in God, even though I cannot see him. During the rough times in my life, I know that if I have faith, God will give me the strength and courage to get through them, just as he gave Mary strength through her rough times. Prayer is a very simple way that I live a life of faith for God.
Through my prayer and the effects it has had on me, I have learned many things about God. I have learned that God is a mystery and remains unseen, but he is always standing right beside me, trying his best to help me in my times of need. I have also learned that if I have trust in God and I am thankful of his generosity, he will bless and strengthen me in return. God’s love is everlasting, and he will always listen to me with an open heart. I know that prayer helps me grow closer to God and his kingdom. Knowing these things will benefit me in the future. I can use what I know about God and prayer to help me so that in times of sorrow or in the scary times in my life, I can turn to God to guide me through them. Since God is always listening, I know that I can ask him for his help whenever I need it. Overall, praying and living a life of faith makes me feel better as a person because I know that they help me grow closer to God. Next time that you’re confused or scared, be sure to pray because it can go a long way.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
The soup kitchen was a great experience for me and my classmates. Mrs. Buckley drove Sam, Lynn and me down town to the Cathedral. When we first got there we saw a man who was sleeping on a trash bag right outside the door. Right then I thought of how fortunate I was to have a roof over my head. We went inside and got started serving. I was a little nervous at first but then I saw that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Afterwards, I was glad I went because I was helping those in need and it helped me realize and be thankful for the things that I have because some people aren’t as lucky as I am.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I didn’t know what to expect when I was heading to the food pantry. I thought I was just going to give food to people who didn’t have any, but what I really did was make somebody’s day. Some of these people didn’t have any food at all, and this was their only meal for the whole day. Others were sleeping on the ground when I walked in. I thought all the people there would be sad, but they were all happy. This surprised me very much, considering these people have nothing. This experience is an experience I won’t forget because it taught me to be thankful for what I have, and how lucky I am to have food, a house, and family.
When I arrived at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen I thought it was a good way to get out of class. I never thought I would take away from it as much as I did. The people that came through the line of food were often silent. I felt sad to see people that had to depend on others to get their food. Some of the people would be singing, others would ask how I was doing. I was happy to see people have good optimism on life even when it is difficult, scary, and sad. Every day I have bad optimism on something. How it is that fortunate people like me can be mad because I didn’t get the dinner I wanted, when people that don’t have homes can be happy with nothing? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that I will start being more grateful for the things I have and think about serving at the Cathedral soup Kitchen every time something doesn’t go my way.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Readings: 2 Mac 7:1-14; 2 Thess 2:16-3:5; Lk 20:34-38
The month of November started off as it usually does with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. Appropriately that leads into a month-long consideration of our Catholic belief in the last things, which culminates in the feast of Christ the King—that feast which symbolizes the second and glorious coming of Jesus Christ. This concludes the whole cycle of the Liturgical year which celebrates all the major mysteries of Christ’s life. Then we start over again with Advent.
On this and the next two Sundays the scripture readings will be concerned with topics of the last things—broadly considered as death, judgment, heaven and hell. But actually it includes a much broader array of topics like resurrection, purgatory, limbo, beatific vision, second coming, and so on. Today’s readings all touch upon the issue of "life after death." The reading from the second book of Maccabees (written around 150BC) is one of the earliest expressions in the biblical tradition of a belief in an afterlife. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians refers to the "everlasting encouragement and hope that God has given to us." And Jesus, in the gospel passage, speaks clearly of "the age to come" in which the "dead will rise." So the issue today is clearly that of a life after death. But what will that "life" look like?
Human beings have been trying to answer that for thousands of years. If we go back over two thousand years before Christ, we find the ancient Sumerian and Egyptian cultures expressing their belief that the future life is going to be a great deal like the present one we are living in. That’s presumably why they were buried with their favorite clothes, foods, pets, games and even servants (who unfortunately had to be killed to be buried with their owners). That was the simplest description of the future life. Later descriptions were sometimes much more extravagant. In the future life we will be like angels, or like stars in the sky, of some other fantastic concoction. This same kind of imaginative thinking continued in Christianity. The church father Origen suggested that we would all rise from the dead as little balls, because the sphere was the perfect shape in Platonic philosophy. And St. Gregory of Nyssa worried about, in cases of cannibalism, which one would get the "matter" in the resurrected life. There’s still a lot of bizarre thinking like this in some contemporary Catholic writers. They give very exact descriptions of what life after death will be like. These are usually based on a very literal reading of the book of Revelation in the New Testament and some private visions of individuals. But there’s a problem with too much exactness.
This difficulty is clearly recognized in official Catholic teaching. Consider this quote from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on Certain Questions concerning Eschatology (1979). "Neither Scripture nor theology provides sufficient light for an exact and proper picture of life after death. Christians must firmly hold the two following essential points: on the one hand, they must believe in the fundamental continuity, thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, between our present life in Christ and the future life.....; on the other hand, they must clearly be aware of the radical break between the present life and the future one...." (p. 6) So we will be able to identify ourselves, but our condition will be completely different. That’s about all we have to go on.
The prayers of the liturgy are pretty sober about expressing "life after death." I like especially the opening prayers of the last two Sunday liturgies, prayers that we heard several times during the weekdays: "May we do with loving hearts what you ask of us and come to share the life you promise." And last Sunday’s: "God of power and mercy....may we live the faith we profess and trust your promise of eternal life." That says it sweetly and sharply. We believe in a future life because of God’s promise. So when my time comes, I say: "Surprise me!"
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
When I served in the soup kitchen I went there just for service hours but when I got there I realized how hungry these people were. When I was there I learned to look past all of the bad stuff and see a person just like me. As I was serving food I noticed how polite the people were. One really important technique I used while I was there was teamwork. Teamwork was really important because if one of us messed up it was really likely for all of us to mess up. I also learned that some people are nicer than others, but even if somebody isn’t nice they are still a person.
Monday, November 1, 2010
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.
Dearest apostle, be assured of My good will toward you. At times, I see that you forget that you have a beloved and constant friend. I am a friend who never finds you tiresome or difficult. I am with you during your calm periods and during your storms. I find you a precious companion regardless of your disposition in any moment. Think of someone whose companionship you crave or whose companionship you craved in the past. Just the thought of spending time with that person could bring you consolation. With that person, you felt comfortable, safe and there was joy. You could be yourself and felt that you fit well with this other. Dear apostle, for you, I am that other. For Me, you are that other. We fit together. When you are with Me, you are with the one who completely understands you and completely loves you. My love for you is sympathetic, understanding and unchangeable. My love for you will weather any strain or pain, any mistake or any emotional storm you experience. I will never leave you. I will always love you and welcome you in My heart. Your answers and your clarity will be found with Me. Sometimes, dear apostle, you fear that I am not giving you the answers you require. This is not true. If you need an answer from Me, you will receive it. If a course correction is necessary, I will direct you to it. Your prayers are instantly at home in My heart and I rejoice that you have come to Me with these requests. It is not possible that a beloved apostle will be rejected. Do not think that I ignore your pain or that your pain leaves Me indifferent. You, dear apostle, have shown Me that you are interested in My pain which will always involve the pain of humanity. This moves My heart to the greatest generosity. I answer your prayers in a mystical way. Some day you will see that I answered your prayers in the most beneficial way possible, given the intention. Many unnecessary calamities are avoided because of prayer. The greatest mercy flows down to your loved ones through your prayers, even though you suffer terribly when you see your loved ones hurt or when you must be separated from them, particularly when you do not expect to be separated from them. I am the merciful Christ in all of these situations. Understanding will come, dear friend. Believe in your prayers. Believe in My merciful presence with you. Believe in the impact of your service and believe in the gratitude I have for you, even when you do not feel it.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Readings: Wis 11:22-12:2; 2 Thess 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10
It would be very easy to preach about the gospel story of Zacchaeus. In many ways he is among the most appealing figures in the New Testament and someone we can certainly identify with. But I’m more intrigued by the first reading we heard, from the Book of Wisdom. It’s a marvelous little meditation on the love and mercy of God.
The Book of Wisdom is part of a collection of writings in the bible that are called "Wisdom Literature." We should take just a moment to describe this type of writing, because in some ways it’s unfamiliar to us and in other ways it isn’t. Wisdom literature was a kind of writing that was widespread in the ancient world. It was found in the cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Syria as well as in Old Testament Jewish culture. The purpose of wisdom literature is practical guidance in the daily struggles and challenges of life. It’s trying to develop the art of "living well" in a world that is often conflictive and confusing. In some ways Wisdom Literature looks a lot like the advice columns in daily newspapers: Dear Abby, Dear Ann, Dear Carolyn. People have problems and they want some practical help in getting through them.
One big difference separates biblical Wisdom Literature from the newspaper advice columns. The biblical Wisdom Literature always assumes that you are dealing with daily problems in the light of a relationship with God, and that your problem has not only has a human dimension but also a divine dimension. The Wisdom writer wants to offer some suggestions and guidelines to help you cope with the particular problem you are facing in both dimensions.
What is the particular problem that our Wisdom writer is dealing with? Unfortunately, that occurs in the passages just before the reading we heard. (That’s one of the problems with Lectionary texts; sometimes you only get half the picture.) The writer was responding to a question about the punishments the Egyptians received because of their persecutions of the Hebrews (the plagues). He writes about the sins of the Egyptians, the greatest being the worship of false gods. And that God struck them down because of these sins. But then it’s like the Wisdom writer realizes that his readers might take him the wrong way and think that God will immediately strike them down for any serious offense. So that’s when he begins the beautiful meditation we heard in today’s reading. He turns it into a prayer: "But you (O Lord) have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins that they may repent. (Overlook doesn’t mean God forgets about them, but rather that he delays any action to give time for repentance.) For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made." And later: "You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and Lover of souls..." I love that phrase, "Lord and Lover of souls," and it shows up in a lot of prayers in the Byzantine tradition. So the Wisdom writer is saying: whatever you have done, God gives you a chance for repentance! There is nothing that cannot be forgiven.
This is a Christian message that needs to be given over and over. People can do some sinful and pretty stupid things in their lives....whether by bad choice, ignorance, peer pressure or something else. Later on, in a different frame of mind they realize what a mistake and horrible decision they made. They may very easily think and feel that they can never be forgiven by God. In my forty-three years of priestly ministry I’ve met more than a few who have felt like that. They need to hear that they are forgiven by God if they have true sorrow in their hearts and ask and pray for God’s forgiveness. Often a lot of these people have turned their lives around a long time ago, but in their hearts they continue to feel unforgiven. They need to hear this reading again and again: "You, O Lord, have mercy on all...and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.....O Lord and Lover of souls."
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Serving at the Cathedral Kitchen was really a great experience. I felt a variety of feelings and emotions. My mind was swirling with ideas. I felt that I was really helping these people who couldn’t live their lives otherwise. I feel that I can contribute more to the well being of society. I also felt that people can come together putting aside their differences and backgrounds and support each other. People who have never seen each other were able to come together and serve the needs of others. It really is a testament to the power of the human spirit. There were a few disputes, though, but they were easily resolved. Serving at the soup kitchen helped me realize that there are people in much worse situations than my own. As bad as I may feel sometimes, I have to remember that there are those who are even worse, just barely squeaking by. It really was an experience that I will never forget.
When we first arrived at the soup kitchen I saw a guy sleeping at the door. We entered the building and went to where we were going to serve the food. I noticed a lot of cheese, cereal and sugar. When the people came in the room to eat, most of them headed toward the soup. Many were thirsty and drank several cups of Kool-Aid. They ate cereal with what looked like a mountain of sugar on top. Three huge pots of soup were gone in no time at all. I heard a few words from those we served. It felt really good to help others in need.
The soup kitchen was an eye opening experience for me. I got to serve with my classmates, Derek, Oscar and Elliott. Mrs. May and Mrs. Buckley both drove to the soup kitchen. I rode with Elliott and Mrs. May. When we arrived at the soup kitchen we found a guy asleep next to the door. We had to wake him up so Elliott could get through in his wheelchair. Derek and I served the Kool-Aid, while Elliott, Mrs. May and Oscar served the salad. I was impressed with how well manned everyone was.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Readings: Sir 35:16-18; 2 Tim 4:6-18; Lk 18:9-14
It’s relatively easy to summarize the main themes of each of the three readings we have just heard. The book of Sirach says "keep crying out to God for our needs." The letter to Timothy urges us to "have confidence in God to bring us to the heavenly Kingdom." The passage from the Gospel of Luke advises, "Do not despise other people and glorify yourself." It’s harder, though, trying to figure out which one to accent in a homily. After some consideration I decided to go with the last one, mainly because the idea of "despising someone" intrigues me.
Maybe one of the reasons I’m drawn to that topic is because the cultural mood of our country is so much about despising others, as the current political campaign so sadly shows in many examples: there are people refusing to shake hands or walking out on a debate. But long before this political campaign began, "despising groups of people" had become a staple of many stand-up comedy shows on TV and radio—despising homosexuals, Jews, Hispanics, Catholics, blacks. The shocking surge in the amount of bullying nationwide is also rooted in seeing some other people as "despised." Now we can add the Internet to TV, radio and stand-up comedy. Of course, despising others makes any possibility of meaningful communication absolutely impossible. How did we get this way?
Let’s consider the notion of "despising someone" a little more closely. It’s very easy to say that you don’t like someone. In that case you can just avoid them at parties and so on. If you have to work with someone you don’t like, you would consider it as an irritation but you can probably put up with it. And in most cases you can even interact with them on corporate tasks. That happens all the time in businesses today. But "despising someone" goes a couple of steps further than disliking. As dictionary definitions go, they agree that "despising someone" means "to look down on someone with disdain," "to regard with contempt," "to view with scorn," "to regard as contemptible and worthless." Then another step beyond that is the intent to "irritate, annoy or even hurt," "to try to injure or thwart" the other person. Sadly, all of that is showing up in this political election and the phenomenon of bullying.
We, as Catholic religious, might disavow ourselves of any such attitudes and behaviors, but we can’t deny that we are influenced by them just by living in the middle of them. And I must say that I have detected some "despising" in criticisms that some people, Catholics or otherwise, make of the Catholic Church and its leadership in particular. Living in the culture we absorb this mean attitude sometimes unknowingly.
The real question is: how does one move from "disliking someone," which is understandable and probably unavoidable because of personality differences, to "despising someone?" One answer that I found noteworthy and provocative says that the move from disliking to despising happens because of a loss of a sense of reverence in one’s life. Reverence is recognizing and appreciating the value or goodness of a person or thing. I’m talking about reverence as a natural aptitude, not in any specific religious sense, such as a book-lover has a reverence for a rare book. Reverence appreciates and responds to innate value. The Pharisee in today’s gospel passage doesn’t see any value or good in the other people who are praying in the Temple. Even though he himself is performing religious acts, there’s no real reverence in him at all. I do feel that’s one of the reasons there’s so much "despising" in our culture today: because a lot of people have just lost any sense of reverence. So it might be good for us today to do a little self-examination on the reverence in our own lives. Do we instinctively turn to look for the value or goodness of a person or thing we meet? That’s reverence. And this natural reverence forms a foundation for a reverence toward God. It’s good to remember that.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Often I post reflections written by my 8th grade students who serve at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen. Today I am honored to share with you a reflection written by Mrs. Linda Buckley, a teacher at Holy Name. For years Linda has made it possible for students to serve at the soup kitchen. She has a passion for the poor and shares that passion with our students. Soon you will find reflections written by the students Mrs. Buckley writes about in this post. Thank you Linda for serving God and God's people so lovingly. You are a wonderful example of servant leadership!
When ordinary acts of kindness occur before our eyes they are sometimes missed. When we move too quickly we run the risk of missing our God in the midst of those very ordinary actions. Today, I just about missed our God right before my eyes! I stopped what I was absorbed in doing for a very brief moment and I saw our God! He was present in those who went to The Cathedral Soup Kitchen this morning to feed the people in our city who were hungry. Our God was right in front of my eyes when I saw Mrs. May helping Elliott pass out soup. Her undaunted spirit and her “can do” attitude gave witness to our God working through her. Elliott, doing his part to help out while passing bowls to his mom was an unforgettable image of service and a call to action. Austin being sensitive to Elliott’s needs the entire morning just about got overlooked. I just about missed our God working through Oscar when he took charge of dishing out salads and then the fruit like he had been doing it forever. I saw Dereck putting his faith into action by confidently pouring drinks and then clearing tables. It was his willingness to do whatever was asked of him to the best of his ability that I saw our Lord working in him. When it was time to return to school the boys all piled in Mrs. May’s van to ride with Elliott. Our service was completed and back to school we went. I saw our God in the midst of our students and an extraordinary woman! I just about missed it! How can that be an ordinary day?
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Readings: Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8
The great scientist, Albert Einstein, once said: "Science can tell us a great deal about the universe—how old it is, how vast it is, what laws of physics control it. But science is powerless to answer the most important question of all: is the universe a friendly (and happy) place, is it supportive of human hopes and desires?" (Harold Kushner, The Lord is My Shepherd, p. 7) For that, human beings must look elsewhere. And they have for ages, long before science came along. We in the Judaeo-Christian faith tradition look to our scriptures for the answer to the question: is the universe a friendly (and happy) place? And the answer is yes! Because it is presided over by a God who looks after us. "I will be your God and you will be my people." And how exactly does this Lord God look toward us? The 23rd Psalm gives us an answer: "The Lord is my Shepherd." There is someone who ultimately looks over me, and will ultimately care for me! That doesn’t mean that there will be no sorrows, woes or trials in my life in this world. But it does mean that we will not have to face those difficulties alone. "The Lord is my Shepherd" and will watch over me.
But how do we know this in the first place? We know it because of the "learning communities" we have grown up in: our families, our churches, our schools. They are the means that pass along to us the answer to: is the world a friendly place? They are the ones who teach that "The Lord is my Shepherd" no matter what happens. That’s what St. Paul is suggesting in the Second letter to Timothy: "Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the Sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ." These faith convictions are passed along from person to person, from generation to generation. The person to person communication remains vital in all this. Fr. Andrew Greeley has written on numerous occasions that the greatest theological "teaching moment" in the Catholic Tradition is when a young mother takes her child for the very first time up to the Christmas crib and points out the Baby Jesus in the crib and his mother, Mary, watching over him. The young mother tells her child, "That’s the way God watches over all of us." The greatest theological teaching moment in the Catholic tradition! That’s the beginning of the "learning communities" in our lives. There are many others.
Remembering a learning moment is, in a way, a time of going back to the basics, the ABCs of our life and of our faith. We need to do this at times for our monastic life, to re-visit the periods of monastic life that shaped us and that made us who we are. It’s one of the things that’s been happening to me as I am teaching the Vatican II course to Srs. Heather Jean and Anne Louise. We are going through the Constitution on the Liturgy right now and all the events that happened in the years right after the Council are making me replay those shaping events in my own life. It’s a very vivid reliving of them. The Vatican II passage that had the most powerful, shaping effect on my priestly ministry was this: "It is by the apostolic herald of the Gospel that the People of God is called together...so that all who belong to this people...may offer themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Through the ministry of priests the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is completed in union with the sacrifice of Christ." (The Ministry and Life of Priests, #2) That became my vision of priesthood....in a nutshell. The ministry of the priest, in all that he does, is to bring to completion the spiritual sacrifices of the faithful.
St. Paul is calling all of us to "Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed." It’s for each of us to examine our lives in that regard.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The 8th graders continue to amaze me with their essays on what serving means to them. I think you will enjoy reading their work as well.
When I went to the soup kitchen I was excited to go. As soon as I got out of the car I saw a person sleeping on the ground and at that moment I thought to myself, 'Wow!' I am so lucky I don't have to sleep on a cold floor every night, cold, hungry, tired and no one to be with. When I started to serve I thought the people would be mad and mean to me. After awhile, I realized that they were not mean at all. They had manners and were very polite. After serving for awhile this teen came up and asked for Kool-Aid. He said hi to Anzley and me. Anzley asked him how old he was. He responded, 'I'm a sophomore in high school.' After talking to him I heard him say, 'If you ever get into trouble and hear the police just put your hood up.' Anzley and I laughed but I wondered if that was why he was here...because he got into some trouble. I saw lots of people and the same question kept coming to my mind, Why are there 5 times as many guys than girls? I was told that many of the guys got involved with drugs. I wondered if the drugs prevented them from finding a girlfriend and meaningful employment. For breakfast we served cereal and donuts and a few other items. I noticed that those who took cereal also took a lot of sugar. Large dosage of sugar, I was told, can trick the body into thinking it is drugs. The room I served in was small. The people had little space to eat. People kept coming in and out. I was busy at my station where I poured the drinks. Many people took up to four glasses at a time. They were very thirsty. I must have gone through about 10 gallons of punch. I realized that the reason they drank so much was because this was their last drink until tomorrow. So, they drank as if it was their last drink on the Earth. After it was all over I looked around and I was surprised that these people were not scary like I half way expected to find them. They are funny, nice and great people to be around and to talk to. It would have been great to spend all day with these people just to talk to them and hear their story. This will be a time I will never forget. I can't wait until I get to go again.
My experience at the soup kitchen was an interesting one. The soup kitchen was an experience I will never forget. It really made me glad to have the life I have. While there I helped serve the food to the people. I mainly helped out with the salad station. I noticed there were a lot more men than women. It really just felt good knowing I was helping people in need. A lot of people, including myself, sometimes doubt how lucky they are. They want things that are not essential to life, such as toys. What they don't realize is that there are people out there who don't have a home, don't have a car, and don't have enough or possibly any money to support their families. There are many ways to help people. Donating to a charity and helping out at a local food shelter are just two of many ways. Doing this doesn't only deepen your faith, but it also moves you closer to God and His kingdom. In conclusion, my experience at the soup kitchen was an interesting, yet at the same time, new experience for me. It will always serve as a reminder to me to always follow God.
This wasn't my first time going to a soup kitchen but, it was my first time going to the Cathedral Soup Kitchen. When we were walking through the doors there was this guy sleeping on the ground. At that point I realized how blessed I am. Austin and I were serving Kool-Aid. Every person that walked by said, 'Thank you,' or 'God bless you.' They smiled at us. Every time someone smiled at me that made me smile, too. It was the best feeling ever to know an average 14 year old girl can make a difference in the lives of others. There was a young teenager who stopped by the soup kitchen before he went to school. He told Austin and me to stay out of trouble. I was blown away at how close in age we were. I couldn't imagine what he goes through every day. This trip to the soup kitchen made me see how grateful and thankful I should be!