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Can Your Heart Hear?

November 25, 2016

Yesterday we spoke of Saint Francis and poverty and humility.  To grab ahold of our yoke, in submission to God.  It is poverty that we let go of our treasures and it is humility to not ask for payment.  It is Love, the mutual othering of society; I shall wish you well, with all my strength, heart and soul, and desire nothing in return.  That’s love!  You must surrender yourself.  Now, let’s examine the next step: adoption and circumcision.

Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”  They haven’t quite figured out the dynamic here, between John the Last Prophet of the Old Testament, and the Messiah revealed in the New Testament.  It is a Transfiguration.  Luke frequently writes of the Fatherhood of God, and here we can almost see Jesus smiling as he says “Father.”  “Hallowed be your name.”  In an amazing act of mutual love, Jesus is loving the Father in return.  God manifests his holiness and sanctifies his name in Jesus!  Remember, yesterday, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son”?  Why?  Because they have had mutual love for each other for all time, and even before time!  And now Christ is revealing the Father to us, by letting us know him; we are children of God.  It is this adoption that the disciples were called to, and that we are called to each and every day.  “Your Kingdom come” God.  Not our Kingdom, but God’s, which we attain by righting ourselves and allowing the adoption.  Father Benedict writes of this, “The first and essential thing is a listening heart, so that God, not we, may reign” (Jesus of Nazareth, p.146).  The more we adopt ourselves to the Father, the more we rely upon him for our daily sustenance, the closer we are adopted to the Kingdom of God.

In the Letter to the Galatians, Paul writes of the issue of circumcision.  He and Peter were at odds whether the Gentiles should be circumcised.  Paul argues successfully, “that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the Gospel.”  How often do we find ourselves here!?  Paul called Peter out.  And the Galatians all exhaled.

Remember, Jesus called us to what?  Mercy, not sacrifice.  To achieve mercy, we must circumcise our heart.  We must cut out those portions that do not align with God’s will for us.  Is he talking about cutting out all things enjoyable?  No.  Again, Father Benedict, “there is also the ideology of success, of well being, that tells us, ‘God is just a fiction, he only robs us of our time and our enjoyment of life.  Don’t bother with him!  Just try to squeeze as much out of life as you can’… It is only when you have lost God that you have lost yourself.”

And so Paul shows the others it is not a physical circumcision that aligns ourselves to the Father, and it is not a dietary circumcision either.  But the food we need for our sustenance is Christ, that is our daily bread – the Eucharist – and by cutting away the hindrances of our heart, we can now see that we are called to give bread to others as well.  And so we learn that the Kingdom of God – is participatory.  It is making a conscious decision – day after day.  Until He comes.

 

Love, Papa

October 5, 2016, Wednesday, Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14.  They recognized the grace bestowed upon me.

Responsorial – Psalm 117:1bc, 2.  Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

Luke 11:1-4.  Lord, teach us to pray.

Brother Sun

November 25, 2016

I am certain that each and every one of us have all felt weary and burdened at one time or another.  Here, not only is Jesus inviting the weary and the burdened: but reminds us that he is one of them!  The fierce interpretations levied out by the Pharisees and scribes, handing out the “yoke” of rabbinical Law, are oppressing the poor of the day.  This is why the Lord is constantly reaching out to them.  Pope Francis himself has been stirring up controversy by condemning the perpetuation of social strata and injustice levied upon the poor.  In our country, many discussions center on the elite 1%, and the 99% who are struggling.  Even our own heritage from the turn of the 20th century advocates with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  A century later we might argue that golden opportunity seems only for the privileged few.  Agree, disagree, it is not what matters here.  Only taking up the Lord’s yoke matters.  Why?

Because the yoke Jesus refers to is submission to the reign of God.  By submitting, it is taking on not more burden, but actually making it easier to bear the burdens we already have; a yoke is an instrument for two to work – we are one… and Christ Himself is there with you to lighten the load.  Why?  Well, he tells you in His Gospel – “… no one knows the Father except the Son AND anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”  Francis was one of those to whom God was revealed.

In his forty-four years, he certainly traveled widely, and accomplished much.  One of my favorite stories is when he traveled to talk to the Sultan of Egypt, during the Crusade.  He was granted an audience with the Saracen, attempts to convert him (and succeeded some accounts say), and then goes on his way.

because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

He was not terribly literate, writing three circulars all on the same thing: one to all deacons, priests, and bishops, one to all those in consecrated life, and one to the laity, on the proper handling, storage and disposition, of the Eucharist.  It is said that when walking by the outside of a church, because of the blessed sacrament, he would fall on his face, and shout, “Adoramus te, sanctissime Domine Jesu Christe” – “We adore you most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches in the world, and we bless you; because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.”  With this, St. Francis began the earliest form of what we would call now adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  And really it goes hand in hand with today’s Scripture.  We are to take up that yoke – with Christ –  and with faith, realize the lightening of one’s burdens.

When we submit to the will of God, we maintain faith, and are released from our burdens, in order to discover it is easier to live under his will than to reject it.  St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

 

Love, Papa

October 4, 2016, Tuesday, Memorial Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

Galatians 6:14-18.  I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.

Responsorial – Psalm 16: cf. 5a.  You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Matthew 11:25-30.  I am meek and humble of heart.

Which Way to the Truth

November 25, 2016

Paul, lays it out there, doesn’t he?  No halfway about it.  When he is invited to speak, he does not hold back.  He tells Antioch all that has happened, that God raised Jesus from the dead.  And he reminds the people it was all told by the prophets.  In this, the wisdom of the Lord is shown: Paul’s reputation as a learned man is brought to bear – on the Pharisees!  And, so, on through Asia and into Europe he goes.

And then we hear Jesus reassuring his disciples.  He has washed their feet, and instructed them do likewise for one another.  To live a life of service and to love one’s neighbor as yourself.  Now he is reminding them that he has to go.

He begins with reassurance, “do not let your hearts be troubled.”  Well, Peter, he frequently stumbles, Andrew tries to bring answers that seem a little too simple, Philip asks lots of questions, Thomas – the twin – he doubts, and Judas? He betrays… and they are all… us.  So Thomas, the doubter, counters with, “We do not know where you are going and we do not know the way.”  Thomas and his friends do not know what is to come to be, but the Lord is going to show them – and us – how to get there.  Jesus says I AM.  Ego emi.  Simple language?  No.  Remember, the Temple Guards heard ‘I AM’ in the garden of Gethsemane – and fell in fear to the ground, trembling in fear!  (Can you imagine sitting around this table?… Because we are!)

So, the first is the way.  In order to get to the Father, we must follow the way.  Which means, we must apply Jesus to our lives.  In order to get to him we must take these teachings and apply them to our everyday actions.  We must surrender our old ways in order to do this.  And it’s hard!  Very hard.  Our frailties have a long and hard hold on us.  I was watching Family Feud with my daughter, and one of the questions was, “A place where you find hypocrites?”  The Number 1 answer, of course, was in a Church!  It’s true, right?  But that’s alright; that’s why we come.  To listen and to learn.

The second is the truth.  We must take the teachings of the Lord and lead others to him. How?  By living a life that is identifiable to others as being a disciple.  Last week I mentioned “they will know we are Christians by our love.”  We will lead others to him by the love we show to one another; yes, even to those who profess to do us wrong.

Lastly, the life.  We need to always keep sight of the reason why behind it all.  And that is to spend an eternity with God.  Our ultimate goal.

All the tools we need for this are in Scripture.  And in Church teachings.  In the Catechism.  The right way is never the easy way.  No, it is guaranteed never to be the easy way.  But nothing ever worth doing was going to be easy.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Love, Papa

April 22, 2016, Friday, Fourth Friday of Easter

Acts 13: 26-33.  God has fulfilled his promise by raising Jesus from the dead.

Responsorial Psalm 2: 7bc –  You are my Son; this day I have begotten you. (Ps 2:7bc)

John 14: 1-6.  I am the way and the truth and the life.

 

 

 

Resuscitation

November 25, 2016

Ezekiel has had one heckuva week, but this, in particular, is a very vivid prophecy.  On the surface what do we see?  Bones laying around, coming to life.  That’s fairly unusual.  But the image the prophet is establishing isn’t that God can do all of these things; God is God – he can do as he pleases; of course he can do these things.  But, rather that God is willing to do these things, in fact he is promising that he will do it.  The exiles will once again live in the land of Israel.  Mind you, things are pretty bleak in Babylon right now.  He wants them to take heart, have faith, and know beyond doubt – that God loves them.  “Can these bones come back to life?” “Lord God, you alone know that.”  Of course, they will.  By God’s promise, there is now hope.

And so, I love you.  And you.  And you.  Why?  Because God wills it!  His promise is a promise of restoration, and the only requirement is to have hope.

Along comes the Lord in Matthew; he just took the Sadducees to task and now he is working the Pharisees over.  A scribe wants to test him, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  Ezekiel prophesies it.  All we need to do is love God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.  And he’ll be faithful.  He will bring us resurrection – all we have to do is love him back.  That is the great point, isn’t it?  How do we love like God loves us?  So Jesus tells us: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We have had this discussion: Who is my neighbor?  The answer was brought in Luke’s Good Samaritan.  It was found in the Shema, yes, but Jesus gives equal weight to the second: loving our neighbor.  Once again I look to St. Thomas Aquinas.  Love is willing the good of the other as other.  Remember, anyone can love their family member.  And surely, even love their friends.  But how about a stranger?  Wishing good for the other person as an end, not as a means, with no expectation for themselves.  How about an enemy?  Yes!  Talk about no expectation of a return.  That’s love!  Years ago, as the Archdiocese was recovering from the child sex abuse scandal, and the Bankruptcy that was the solution, I heard an Archbishop Vlazny stun the crowd of worshipers at the Cathedral on an Emberday, that in order for the fix to work, we all had to pray for the victims, yes, but also the perpetrators of these heinous acts!  The response, literally, was an exhalation – everyone stunned, letting out their breath.  But he’s right, isn’t he?  That is love.  That is loving like God loves us, with all of our faults.

The Lord adds one more emphasis: The whole law and the prophets depend on these two things.  The law – the Pentateuch – the Torah – and the Book of the Prophets, which make up Jewish Scripture – depend on this.  By saying the second is like the first Jesus gives value to good works: to love God, and to love neighbor.

I recently had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine, and I told him it all boils down to this: Christ compels us to love God, and love our neighbor; two things.  Everything works after that.  He said, but I don’t believe in God, but he does believe in loving other people and doing good, and I told him that’s ok: because by loving others and doing good that is all God wants from us in the first commandment.  You are covered, I told him.

So let us go forth and be known by our love.

 

Love, Papa

August 19, 2016, Friday, Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 37: 1-14.  Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  I will bring you back from your graves, O my people Israel.

Responsorial – Psalm 107: 1.  Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting.

Matthew 22: 34-40.  You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.

Conviction

November 25, 2016

Could we be convicted of being a Christian?  If we were hauled into court and accused, could we be convicted of being a Catholic Christian?  Certainly a good standard to hold up.  I think of the hymn, “And they’ll know we are Christians, by our love.”

I had a friend – a Four Square Protestant – press me for an answer as to why I was Catholic.  Surely it didn’t matter much, which denomination.  I told this friend, ‘because of John Chapter 6.  Read it and re-read it.  Jesus meant what he said, and said what he meant.’  “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life.”  And remember, the thought of eating a man’s flesh is repugnant to the Jews, and drinking any blood is forbidden under the Law.  So much so that a man’s wife becomes unclean for giving birth and coming in contact with blood from the birthing (even the Mother of God).

John uses earthy wording here: Flesh vice bread, as Paul and others had used.  And not just to eat, but to gnaw, or to munch.  So the fact that disciples, weak in their faith, were muttering in tomorrow’s reading, “This saying is hard; who can accept this?” (John 6:60) makes it crystal clear – the language Christ used left them with no doubt.  And they walked away. But, where else shall we go?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church would come forth and emphasize to us from Lumen Gentium, that the Eucharist was the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324).  And Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI would echo this by simply stating, “Without the Eucharist, the Church simply does not exist.”

Saul, persecutor of this upstart cult, and a zealous murderer, is brought to the ground, humbled, and made an instrument of the Lord.  Those who doubt, doubt.  Those who embrace truth, bring forth the truth.

But, the single most important thing to remember of this week, certainly today, is this: The Lord has set the Eucharistic theme, he has set the bread of Himself to the table for all those that would believe in him; for all of us who would believe in Him and the One who sent Him.  The Evangelist Mark lends his verse today as well, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”  By participating in the Mass and accepting the grace and taking in the nourishment of the Eucharist, we must, and we are dismissed from here every time for this very reason, to go forth and be that manna for the many that are still in the desert.

And, by the way, my friend did go back to John Chapter 6 with fresh eyes, called me up from the East Coast and said that they were starting RCIA upon their return, which they did.  Thanks be to God.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Love, Papa

April 15, 2016, Friday, Third Friday of Easter.

Acts 9: 1-20.  This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles.

Responsorial – Mark 16:15. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

John 6: 52-59.  My Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink.

Dwelling in the Tombs

November 25, 2016

Once again, I am cleaning my desk, and find a stack of Reflections needing posting.  So here are some offerings for you to contemplate this Thanksgiving weekend, as Advent gets set to begin.  And then I will be changing up things a little, as I gear up for a future endeavor.  More on that later.  Thanks for your patience and love:

“Legion is my name.  There are many of us.”  And so are our sins: there are many.  So are our failings: there are many, also.  At first glance, Mark has us seeing the triumph of the Lord over the demon.  Scholars tell us this is one of the most difficult miracle stories to interpret.

So what is Legion?  Again, scholars suggest it could represent the Aramaic for soldier.  And aren’t we also battling constantly with society’s rules, and ourselves.  We hate our weaknesses – and we love our weaknesses.  We reject our sins – and we thrive in our sins.  We as humans, steeped in our original sin, are constantly fighting with ourselves.

So Jesus comes to the Gentile land of the Gerasenes.  And what does he do?  He justifies the man, this outcast.  Here was a man, so overcome with his sins, so overtaken by Legion, that he could no longer be restrained by any chain; nor did he need to be restrained – he dwelt in the tombs; so dead in his sinfulness was he.  In fact, he was so overcome by the demon that night and day held no difference between tomb and hillside.  And so it is when we are overcome by the poor choices we make in life.  When we reach that bottom, we can see very little except the evil that has overtaken us.

The crowd comes, the Gentiles, and immediately look in horror.  So immersed in their own bad choices, they would rather remain in the tomb than to step out into the light of salvation.  Too bad.  And isn’t it like today’s world.  We know the right answers.  We know what we are supposed to profess, yet it is difficult.  Today’s relativistic society has many convinced that it isn’t a matter of life’s importance that is a problem, but life’s inconveniences that are the problem.  When our elderly and infirmed are enough of a problem, we devise euthanasia as a solution, and in doing so rob them of the dignity of redemptive suffering.  When we no longer want our babies, we stand behind the false nobility of fighting overpopulation.  When medical procedures cost too much, we just need to stop funding them. And on it goes.  These are not surprise stories, we only need to listen to the voices of our Shepherds – our Pastors and Bishops – to get the truth.

So we are faced with our choices.  These Gentiles embrace the unclean swine – unclean by 1st century Judea’s standards – and reject the Messiah.  The message is lost.  Or is it?  In our Year of Mercy, we see the Lord is indeed merciful even to the demon, and allows him to stay in the region.  But Jesus also knows that evil cannot exist by itself, save a foothold in the good; and allowing the demon freedom, it self-destructs.

To this man, the Lord says to go home to his family, and tell them all he has done for him.  Like the Woman at the Well, he allows him to get a head start and proclaim the Good News.  More mercy.  This is in stark contrast to the Jews he touches with miracles – the blind, the leprous, the unclean.  It is almost such they need to come to their justification, individually.  Like David, in the first reading – a pre-figurement of Christ walking up the hill to Calvary.  The King accepts Shimei’s taunts and missiles, only because he has come to the realization that it just may be that Shimei is only following God’s instruction.

If only we could learn from David, and get society to follow instruction as well.

 

Love, Papa

February 1, 2916, Monday, Forth Week in Ordinary Time.

2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13. Let us take flight, or none of us will escape from Absalom. Let Shimei alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.

Responsorial – Psalm 3:8 – Lord, rise up and save me.

Mark 5:1-20. Unclean spirit, come out of the man!

 

Revelation

November 30, 2015

It is a cold, windy, very blustery day in Oregon.  The skies have been blue for sometime now, but the clouds and ocean air are starting to encroach.  I took an extra day of vacation time this Thanksgiving in order to shuttle my daughter and her family to the airport, and then step back and reflect.  There is much that has been said.  There is always much left unsaid.

I am so overjoyed with the news: That her little family will be growing; I am to be a Grandparent again.  He is a good and honorable man.  Her son is growing ever so smart and tall; the life they have made has allowed my grandson to really flourish.  I am truly proud of him.  And of her: she is a terrific parent.  Far better than I ever thought myself to be.

So I returned home from the airport, brewed a tea – thank you Barry’s for your Classic Blend! – toasted a piece of bannock with some apricot preserve, and put on a pot of Stumptown for the “late” risers.  Sitting in the darkened house at the morning Angelus, watching the hinting tease of a rosy sunrise, I felt opened to this particular poem from Robert Frost:

We make ourselves a place apart

Behind light words that tease and flout,

But oh, the agitated heart

Till someone find us really out.

 

‘Tis pity if the case require

(Or so we say) that in the end

We speak the literal to inspire

The understanding of a friend.

 

But so with all, from babes that play

At hide-and-seek to God afar,

So all who hide too well away

Must speak and tell us where they are.

One can love the still, silent darkness of the pre-dawn, and also love the bustle of the noonday sun.  To grab the promise of a sunrise, and feel the lover’s touch of sunset.  To be happy over a moment, or a memory, and at the same time, be saddened by a memory.  Or a moment.  My daughter calls me dramatic.  Perhaps.  I prefer complex.  I understand my self, certainly – there are a handful who I think really do.  And I have compassion for those whose grasp comes up short, though by no fault of their own.  But I have difficulty understanding those who fail to see the human condition for anything more than that which they wish it to mean.  Their arguments are specious.  One should always allow their comrade to sample trust, and try to explain oneself – if they choose.  But take hope: like a warm down comforter, all can be unified by love for one another.

The sun is coming up.  Time for another day.