Reflecting Reflections – Day Six

Living Faith

Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.’ Isaiah 30:20-21

We are challenged to always follow the Lord’s way, especially in times of difficulty. In these times, when the wind is fiercely in our face, we struggle and battle to get through it on our own. But the Lord is telling us to lean into him by simply turning our back to the wind, and feeling him behind us, pushing us along, ever so gently.

Henri Nouwen

It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to the end.  Deuteronomy 11: 12 (NIV)

Both Henri and Pope Francis speak eloquently of how we are brothers and sisters with all of creation. How do you care for and reflect the beauty and majesty of God’s creation?

Magnificat

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity. Matthew 9:36

God bends down to care for the lowly. He sees and cares for all of us. He seeks to transform us in and through his love. In this way, he became human and came to us, in love, as a child in need of love. Who are you reaching out and loving today?

The Word Among Us

Go to the lost sheep. Matthew 10:6

How many are lost in this world? What are they searching for? Where can they find true happiness? These real questions are surrounding so many in this world. Today’s reading is asking us to both tell our story of our joy and happiness, and to also be that example of Christ love to others.  

Give Us This Day

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. Matthew 10:37

Jesus is not only calling the disciples, he is calling us! To do God’s work, we must be open to being guided and nourished by the Spirit of God.

In a world that is despairing, in a world where violence and hatred have reared their ugly heads, what work are we called to do so that the love of God reigns? What preparation do we need to bring healing to a sin-sick world? Through prayer and being open to the Spirit, we are being prepared for the work of making a better world.

Richard Rohr

Love is the outflowing way that we must relate to God and to everything [because everything flows from God] and the outflowing way we must relate to each individual person.

Practicing Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence expands our realm of conscious freedom to choose love. God cannot and will not give us any gift that we do not want and freely choose—usually again and again.

Reflecting Reflections – Day Five

Living Faith

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself. Genesis 3:9-10

We just finished taking our second graders through their first reconciliation. It is always a beautiful time as you watch them go through the natural hesitancy and fear as they are unsure of the how they will ‘perform’ in the process and no matter how much you remind them of the love that will be displayed by the priest, fearful of having to tell someone they sinned. Isn’t the behavior of Adam very reminiscent for today’s adults? Don’t we shy away from reconciliation because we have a hard time acknowledging our failures in front of someone else? We have to stop hiding and believe in the grace that awaits us in reconciliation.

Henri Nouwen

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Revelation 21: 1 (NIV)

Our final homecoming involves not just ourselves and our fellow human beings but all of creation. The full freedom of the children of God is to be shared by the whole earth, and our complete renewal in the resurrection includes the renewal of the universe. That is the great vision of God’s redeeming work through Christ. Does God’s promise of a “final homecoming” for you and all of creation give you hope?

Magnificat

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. Luke 1:38

The Gospel shows us the Blessed Virgin as a perfect model of purity, humility, candor, simplicity, obedience and lively faith. Following her example of obedience to God, we can learn to serve delicately without being mindless. In Mary, we don’t find the slightest trace of the attitude of the foolish virgins who obey thoughtlessly. Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn’t fully understand and asks about what she doesn’t know. Then she gives herself completely to doing the divine will. The Blessed Virgin shows us that obedience to God is not subservient.

The Word Among Us

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:3

Holy Scripture very often invites us to praise God our Lord. This is not a matter only of verbal praise as our actions should prove that we mean what we say. St. Augustine affirms this: “He who does good with his hands praises the Lord, and he who confesses the Lord with his mouth praises the Lord. Praise him by your actions.” What better example do we have today than Mary. She shows us humble trust in God yet a willingness to question Him. We see a reflective heart that embraces God’s answers wholeheartedly. We don’t see perfect peace, but we do see perfect faith.

Give Us This Day

God has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

There is truly so little historically that we know about Mary. But what we do know about her life was the purity of her consent to the will of God. How much more would we need to know from her life than that? How many of us would give anything to be half as capable as the Blessed Mother is serving God in this way?

St John’s Abby

Otherwise, you might yield to grief, like those who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

The young are shocked by the death of people their own age in accidents, from suicide, even from cancer. The elderly hear daily of the deaths of people they’ve known. Grief at such deaths is only appropriate. Those who have no hope of eternal life certainly are in a different situation than the believer. But for the believer, too, hope in the resurrection cannot simply erase the loss we feel. While we celebrate funerals full of hope and even joy in the resurrection, we cannot bypass the time necessary for grief. Beliefs do not simply obliterate emotions.

Reflecting Reflections – Day Four

Henri Nouwen

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let the one who hears say, “Come!”  Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 (NIV)

One thing we know for sure about our God: Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead. God is life. God is love. God is beauty. God is goodness. God is truth. God doesn’t want us to die. God wants us to live. Our God, who loves us from eternity to eternity, wants to give us life for eternity. How can you give your full ‘yes!’ to God’s love today?

Living Faith

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Matthew 7:21

Did you ever wonder who Jesus was talking about? He is speaking to those who say or do something in the Lord’s name but their hearts tell the Lord something else. If we publically profess our faith in the creed but our hearts have never been truly given over to the Lord and that intimate relationship established, then our profession of Jesus as Lord is not a true submission to his lordship and our relationship and profession are out of alignment.

Magnificat

Thy will be done.

Thy kingdom come as if he didn’t come. But the kingdom of God has come, since you have obtained his grace. For he himself says: The Kingdom of God is within you.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. By the blood of Christ, all things were pacified both in heaven and on earth; heaven is hollowed; the devil is cast down. He turns there, where the man also is whom he deceived. Thy will be done, that is. let there be peace on earth as there is in heaven.” – St. Ambrose

The Word Among Us

The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Psalm 118:27

Light gives us insight. If we are irritable with someone and possibly hurt them, the light of God can show us the root of that irritation and also show us the pathway of love that may have been hidden but now changes the way you look at that person. What has the light of God shown you in the areas of those you may have hurt? Advent is a wonderful time to seek reconciliation.    

Give Us This Day

The Paradox and the Promise

Advent reveals our search for Jesus. We all receive the Word, sometimes with deflecting hearts and hardened attitudes. Jesus invites us to be humble enough to accept the rock-like nature of love, forgiveness, and peace. This is the promise of Jesus, the paradox that forms our lives. We are to become humble believers in Advent. When we follow out of our need and longing, we are certain to find our way to the manger again, where hope for our lives becomes a sure thing.
Fr. Ronald Raab

Richard Rohr

[We need] a Christian identity that is both strong and kind. By strong I mean vigorous, vital, durable, motivating, faithful, attractive, and defining. . . . By kind I mean something far more robust than mere tolerance, political correctness, or coexistence: I mean benevolent, hospitable, accepting, interested, and loving, so that the stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view. —Brian McLaren

How can we learn to draw from the deep aquifer, the common Source of Love for all religions, without denying the goodness of our own small spring? This is the marriage of unity and diversity.

Reflecting Reflections – Day Three

St John’s Abby

“God heals the broken-hearted,
and binds up all their wounds.
God fixes the number of the stars;
and calls each one by its name.”
Psalm 147

As we often struggle with resolving life’s difficulties, we seem as Christians to ignore or disbelieve the words of the psalm that God truly carries about our individual lives. How can a God of such immensity really be concerned about me and my worries? But the incarnation tells the true answer to that doubt. The existence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God in human flesh, tells us that God does care about our problems. Turn it over to Him, place your cares and worries at the feet of the Lord.

Henri Nouwen

“Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.  This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”  Isaiah 25: 9 (NIV)

In the transition from earthly life to eternal life, the whole concept of time becomes mute. beyond death, there is no before or after, no past or present. The resurrection of the body is separated from time. For us who still live in time, it is important not to act as if the new life in Christ is something we can comprehend or explain. God’s heart and mind are greater than ours. All that is asked of us is trust. When it comes to matters of life and death, do you find comfort in knowing that “All that is asked of us is trust?”

Living Faith

“Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?’ “Seven,’ they replied, “and a few fish.’ ” Matthew 15:34

A beautiful thought today: do we practice the reliance on Jesus that the early disciples did? The disciples provided a small amount of fish and bread and Jesus miraculously multiplied them to feed the thousands. What small and insufficient thing can we offer Jesus that we will trust Him to work miracles within our lives?

Magnificat

My heart is moved with pity” Matthew 15:32

“Remember that I raced in love to be close
and found you and put my bleeding arms around you;
and now I feed you,
now with bread that is me and wine become me,
and we are so close now;
don’t try to imagine, just remember,
in all your time now
this is my body my blood,
my life my soul my breath,
my pure love that will never die,
And it is all
in human hearts (yours)
from human words (mine).” – Fr. Harry Cronin

The Word Among Us

“How many loaves do you have? Matthew 15:34

An interesting aspect of the reading today details the disciples bringing their resources to the Lord and he did wondrous things with them. And just as we gather today at Mass, the Lord does not desire us to merely be spectators. We can come hungry for His Word and thirsty for His touch. Do you know that when the offertory is brought forth, its intention is to represent the real needs of those gathered? We should actively participate in bringing our gifts and needs to Him during the offertory. Then after Jesus has transformed the gifts, we can come to the altar and receive more than enough to satisfy us.

Give Us This Day

“I do not want to send them away hungry” Matthew 15:32

“Maybe we think that Jesus didn’t really multiply the fishes and loaves; he just inspired the people to share the food they’d brought. We like to explain the Bible away, to turn every miracle into metaphor, draining the Scriptures of their power and meaning.  The point isn’t to reduce the idea of miracle, but to expand it. The point isn’t to drain the Bible of its power, but to show that this power is present in our time, too, in every moment.

In Jesus, the difference between matter and spirit has been forever transcended. What’s miraculous isn’t the walking on water, but the water itself, the lake, the Sea of Galilee, thirteen miles long and eight miles wide, with the sun rising over it in the mornings, and every lake . . . because God is everywhere, lovely in ten thousand places. The miracle is life itself, the ordinary.” – Deacon Chris Anderson

Richard Rohr

As Thomas Merton reflected, “We are already one.” We just need to start becoming what we already are. —James Finley

God is otherness and diversity, a pluriformity. The basic problem of “the one and the many” is overcome in God’s very nature. God is a mystery of relationship, and the truest relationship is love. Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them. While these two tasks seem initially like opposites, and impossible to reconcile, oneing is God’s essential task and the goal of all authentic spirituality.

Reflecting Reflections – Day Two

Henri Nouwen

“Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit” Luke 23:46

Letting go of someone we love can be incredibly painful. How do remain faithful to His will and yet understand at a certain point it’s time to let go and let God? We will be faced in life with one of the toughest decision ever, to say: “Do not be afraid … I love you, God loves you … it’s time for you to go in peace. … I won’t cling to you any longer … I set you free to go home … go gently, go with my love.” Saying this from our heart is a true gift. It is the greatest gift love can give. But it’s hard, really hard, It’s only through the strength I receive from Him that I have the courage to be this messenger.

Living Faith

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Isaiah 11:1

The imagery suggests the need for a new beginning, to spring from the very origin from which David and his dynasty arose. That beginning is found in the birth of the Jesus. He is the hope we have been waiting for. Is there something in your life that seems dried up? Think again! Look at all of the enemies of your hope and then rejoice in the life that is to come.

Magnificat

“Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Luke 10:21

The transformative nature of coming to Christ is a wonderful picture of how we obtain that childlike nature. The cruelly voracious individual is made meek, the angry man into gentleness, the fierce into mildness, the proud is now humble, and the annoyed is now pleased. Help me Lord to incline myself towards you today that I might be all that is good and gracious in the childlike.

The Word Among Us

“The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.” Isaiah 11:2

This reading brings back the words of Confirmation and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am particularity drawn to the gift of Fortitude or Courage. The dictionary defines courage as the ability to confront fear in the face of pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Christians identify courage as the virtue of fortitude, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church says “enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.”

When Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out for the poor of El Salvador, he knew he was putting his own life in danger, and he was strengthened by the courage that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. What are we challenged with in our lives? How can we call upon the gift of courage to strengthen our faith in stepping out to serve the least, the lost, and the forgotten?

Give Us This Day

“The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them” Isaiah 11:6

As Pablo Picasso wisely remarked late in his life, “It takes a long time to become young.” As I recently witnessed the first steps of our first grandchild, I was amazed at the wonderment that filled my heart as I watched his joyful bounding in the garden. Three days into the season of Advent and our readings remind us of the need to recall our child nature. To once again be led by an unflinching and unwavering trust in the Lord. Let us, with childlike wonder, embrace the unconditional love of God.

Richard Rohr

“Putting on the mind of Christ” . . . [is] what we are actually supposed to be doing on this path: not just admiring Jesus, but acquiring his consciousness. Cynthia Bourgeault

When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition. There is a point of convergence where we meet each other and we recognize each other as seekers of awakening.

In Scripture St. Paul writes, “May the mind that is in Christ Jesus also be in you” (Phil 2:5). This is the truest depth of our Christian tradition, what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are called to recognize, surrender to, and ultimately be identified with the mystery of God utterly beyond all concepts, all words, and all designations. This is our destiny.

Reflecting Reflections – Day One

As we begin a new liturgical year, I begin a new effort to share my reflective thoughts from the daily practice of reading spiritual and devotional texts and the corresponding impressions gained in the hope that some may enliven your day.

Henri Nouwen

“The knowledge that Jesus came to dress our mortal bodies with immortality must help us develop an inner desire to be born to a new eternal life with him and encourage us to find ways to prepare for it.”

Isn’t this the conversion of life we speak of? Isn’t this the focus of our mission efforts – to accompany others in their seeking a new life in Christ? Jesus makes this a very simple truth, either you’re for him or you’re against him. Our discipleship should be one of living the light of his love that draws the lost to seek the reason for our hope.

Living Faith

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” Mt 8:8.

I am a point in my life when death is closer – for me and those I love. I have watched close friends go through the pain of faithful prayers for healing not being answered with the continuation of life. But was the prayer answered? Was the prayer answered in a way that our loved ones suffering ended – but only with their passing from this earthly existence? How does this affect my prayers today for those needing the Lord’s healing touch? Is my faith strong enough to believe in what I cannot see? Do I trust that in all things He is there?

Magnificat

“Lord, I am not worthy”

It’s a challenge that continues to raise its spiritual head in vocational service, the self-induced shackles of unworthiness we often face in the interaction with the miseries of life. The meditation from Archbishop Luis Martinez encourages us to fight the good fight: “Our miseries are no obstacle to Jesus’ repose in our souls, for in his merciful love he takes the sins of the world as he accepted the straw of the manger . . . our miseries give a fragrance of earth to the place where Jesus rests. He loves this fragrance . . . let nothing deter the soul then from inviting the divine Spouse to rest within her.” Let us rest in the tender, caressing love of the Lord.

The Word Among Us

“they shall beat their swords into plowshares” Is 2:4

What are our swords? Maybe not a metallic object this verse embodies but an even sharper one – our tongue. Have our words fostered peace and grudges? Do they uplift or tear down? Advent is a time of hope, faith, joy, and peace. What a wonderful path of grace and mercy is found in reconciliation. This is a path that will allow us to surrender our behavioral swords that hurt others so we can take steps towards making peace in our relationships.

Give Us This Day

“Truly, I have not found such faith in Israel” Mt 8:10.

Archbishop Oscar Romero speaks directly to the focus of our Christian lives – a heart and action for the least, the lost and the forgotten. Speaking from his city of San Salvador, he said, “I know that the Spirit is not the monopoly of a movement, even of a Christian movement; of a hierarchy, or priesthood, or religious congregation. The Spirit is free, and he wants men and women, wherever they are . . . I know that some people come to the cathedral who have even lost the faith or are non-Christians. Let them be welcome.” Shouldn’t that be the daily message in every church and home?

Richard Rohr

“The Perennial Tradition includes truths within Catholic, Franciscan, Episcopalian, Calvinist, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations and orders. It also embraces wisdom within Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.”

Martin Luther King noted, “If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

Thomas Merton challenges our thought of singular truth as he repeats the statement of the great Doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, “if it was true, it was always from the one Holy Spirit.” Merton warned us that religion could not survive if it remained “clannish.”  We need to remain open to the truths of life. Doesn’t loving one another dictate a need to listen to them? This practice would seem to be in line with Christ’s command to “love our neighbor.”

Brokenness

When love is torn and trust betrayed,
pray strength to love till torments fade,
till lovers keep no score of wrong,
but hear through pain love’s Easter song.

When Love Is Found

We completed a two-part homily series on Marriage this past weekend and I was taken back by a particular verse in a song we sang and how it spoke in such a piercingly beautiful way to the challenge of marriage and the evolving nature of our lives as couples.

Take a moment and reflect on that verse and remember that true healing comes from the Lord.  I invite you to view the video adaptation of Casting Crowns song Broken Together.


God and Community

Life is more than just us. Individualism, while not bad in and of itself, misses the essence of what love was created to be lived in – community. God is a flow of living relationships, a trinity, a family of life that we can enter, taste, breathe within, and let flow through us.

Scripture says, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in them.” Too often, we miss what that means because we tend to romanticize love and can easily miss the sense of what this text means. It might best be rendered this way: “God is community, family, parish, friendship, hospitality and whoever abides in these abides in God and God abides in him or her.”

God is a trinity, a flow of relationships among persons. If this is true, and scripture assures us that it is, then the realities of dealing with each other in community, at the dinner-table, over a bottle of wine or an argument, not to mention the simple giving and receiving of hospitality are not a pure, secular experiences but the stuff of church, the place where the life of God flows through us.

God can be known, experienced, tasted, related to in love and friendship. God is Someone and Something that we live within and which can flow through our veins. God is a flow of relationships to be experienced in community, family, parish, friendship, and hospitality. When we live inside of these relationships, God lives inside of us and we live inside of God. Scripture assures us that we abide in God whenever we stay inside of family, community, parish, friendship, hospitality – and, yes, even when we fall in love.

This has huge consequences for how we should understand the religious experience. It means that in coming to know God, the dinner-table is more important than the theology classroom, the practice of grateful hospitality is more important than the practice of right dogma, and meeting with others to pray as a community can give us something that long hours in private meditation (or, indeed, long years spent absent from church-life) cannot. Finally, importantly, it tells us that, God is community – and only in opening our lives in gracious hospitality will we ever understand that.

(Adapted from excerpts of Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Finding God in Community, 2001)

Strengthened in Stillness

Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:11)

In the noise and distractions of everyday life, we can find it difficult and uncomfortable to be in silence. Fr. Ron Rolheiser notes “Achieving stillness seems beyond us and this leaves us with a certain dilemma, we need stillness to find God, but we need God’s help to find stillness.”

The disordered world continues to challenge faith. We seem to either see God as distant in chaos or in chaos choose to distance ourselves from him. When we find ourselves feeling distant from him, it is at this moment we should find a place where we can be still in silence.

Fr. Rolheiser tell us that silence creates the space for itself. “Sometimes when we feel powerless to speak words that are meaningful, when we have to back off into unknowing and helplessness, but remain in the situation, silence creates the space that’s needed for a deeper happening to occur.”

In that moment of stillness, I have found comfort in reflecting on the words of this prayer:  “Lord, still my heart so that I may know that you are God, that I may know that you create and sustain my every breath, that you breathe the whole universe into existence every second, that everyone, myself no less than everyone else, is your beloved, that you want our lives to flourish, that you desire our happiness, that nothing falls outside your love and care, and that everything and everybody is safe in your gentle, caring hands, in this world and the next.

The Better Part of Us – The Reason for Hope

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)


Again . . . we are inundated with horrific pictures of the senseless loss of life. How in the midst of this carnage can we possible have any hope? It is often in the pain of life that an indelible aspect of our better nature pours forth. In the moments when our survival instincts kick in, an amazing other response occurred. A love of others, an effort to care for those less fortunate, a seeing beyond one’s self interest propelled countless stories of heroic action.

While my vocational call compels me to speak to the hope I carry in the One Truth that is the source of all love, I forever hold on to the knowledge that in our most challenge times, the better part of what we have been created to be comes forth. This will forever give me hope that we can become a better people, a better community, and a better nation.