Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family

By Sharon Nelsen

Luke sees importance in this story about the Boy Jesus and gives us the viewpoint of three different sets of characters to ponder:  1)  Those in the Temple who heard him and were “astounded at his understanding and his answers;”   2)  His parents who were  astonished, and who said to him.  “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety;” and 3) That of the Boy Jesus who asks, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

When I reflect on those learned men in the Temple who were astounded, I find it astounding in the first place that any group of adults were giving up their time to listen to a boy barely into manhood, much less reflecting on what he had to say.   It’s like a group of university professors intently listening to a high school freshman explaining topics in their field of expertise.  And yet, apparently, the learned men were captivated by this budding rabbi.

As I reflect on the words that another astonished person, the Boy Jesus’ Mother, says to him I think about the expectations we parents have that our children will continue doing what we have taught them to do and our initial disappointment when they take the initiative in modifying  any of our traditions.  Mary’s question certainly reveals her parental viewpoint:  You were not where you supposed to be, and this action on your part has caused your Father and I “great anxiety.”   But Mary and Joseph’s “great anxiety” needs to be regarded in their culture—a young Jewish male apparently on his own in a Roman ruled society.

They realize the implications of a boy his age being anywhere alone in Jerusalem.  What probably was very fresh in their memory of what it was like to live under Roman occupation was a major incident that occurred when Jesus was about ten years old.  A band of Zealots, objecting to a census ordered by the Roman emperor, broke into the armory at Sepphoris, about two miles from Nazareth, and started a revolt.  The Roman’s Twelfth legion, led by the Governor of Antioch, in the north, defeated the rebels. They crucified 2,000 of these Jewish revolutionaries on crosses lined from Sepphoris to the Sea of Galilee.  There is no doubt that Jesus, perhaps with some of his younger cousins, saw these men dying on crosses less than five miles from their village of Nazareth.  Certainly, the adults knew the situation and all of its implications.  After his Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish boy was considered a man of Israel and he could be recruited by the rebel army of Zealots at that age.  And, by himself in Jerusalem, without his father, if he had been caught, he could have been arrested by the Roman soldiers for wandering away from his caravan under suspicion that he was a revolutionary.

The great question of the Boy Jesus, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” is not a sarcastic, “smart mouth adolescent” response, but more of an inquiry.  His parents know he is of age and as a man of Israel could go alone into the Temple Court of the Israelites, where Jewish men would come and recite the great Shema, Israel—“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One.”   That they know.  But, as young Jesus learns, they don’t fully understand His mission.  Jesus experiences that integral part of growing up-- the realization that your parents not only do not know everything, but that you might be beyond them in knowledge and understanding in a particular area.

Here are a few of the many revelations I grasp in this story:  1) For the Temple personnel, unable to negate the wisdom and understanding coming from this young teacher, they see contrast in their own perceptions of the Deity;  2) For Mary,  “who kept all these things in her heart,”  there is the same realization of waiting for full understanding of who her Son is, that came upon her with Elizabeth’s greeting, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1. 40) and again from Simeon in the same Temple when he told Mary that “this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted…” (Luke 2.34);  and 3) for the Boy Jesus, he experiences a confirmation of his teaching ability in the fact that he is able to astound a gathering of learned adults in their own “classroom.”

In the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, we reflect on the joy every parent separated from their child experiences upon reunion.  That is one level, but in this story, the dialogue would suggest that the “finding” is second to the “revelation” that Mary and Joseph experience as to the particularity of the gift of this son, Jesus.   And, they are challenged to adjust this discovery with their parental role. 
The text reveals to us a mutual understanding on the part of Jesus and his parents:  No matter how gifted he is, no matter how much he has astounded his parents and others, he is not yet prepared to encounter and deal with the adult world.   The peasant parents understand that being astounded can be a long way from acceptance. 

Apparently, Jesus respects his parents wisdom above all else –popularity, audience, even his own recognized ability to teach adults—for ”He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”

Luke concludes his brief story:  “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”

I tell this story frequently at Boys Town’s Dowd Chapel in front of the Tableau of the Boy Jesus Teaching in the Temple.  When we have seventh and eighth grade students on a Father Flanagan pilgrimage, I ask them as they gaze upon the Boy Jesus teaching astounded adults, “How many of you know more than your parents do?”    The usual response is a group of lowered heads and shuffling feet.  Then I say, “Well, Jesus did too.  And what do the scriptures tell us?  That he knew he was not ready to engage the adult world; he needed more guidance, experience and formation from his parents.  And so He went back home and learned from them.  And that is why, as brilliant as you may be in your studies, on the computer, or in sports or musical accomplishment, you need the guidance, love and expertise of your parents and teachers so that you, too, are prepared to fully enter the adult world.”

And Father Flanagan always says, “Amen!”

Feast of the Holy Family

I love the passage from today's 1st reading in Sirach (3:2-6, 12-14) which encourages good and healthy family relationships.   I encourage you to spend a few minutes prayerfully reflecting on the passage below.    

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother's authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
--a house raised in justice to you.

What do you see in the passage?  What "touches" you?  I especially love the tender care that adult children are asked to have for their elderly parents in the last verses, though this could apply just as well to taking solicitous care of the very young or others with special or extraordinary needs.    Attached to these verses are promises of long life (Ephesians 6:2 mentions that the command to honor one's parents is the first commandment with a promise) and a sort of "cancellation" of the debt of your sins.    In other words, this passage helps me to  recall that taking good care of your family and neighbors is a good thing, and the author is expressing the oft-experienced reality that there is a special blessedness which comes with loving actions toward those who deserve our consideration and respect.    Often that blessedness and freedom comes from the attitude of our own hearts.  When we look with reverence to those in our lives, our parents, our guardians and teachers, our children, friends and other community members who we know are cooperating the best that they are able to make this world a loving, abundant and safe place to live, we are suddenly filled with the grace of a grateful heart.  Shall we read the passage one more time?

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother's authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
--a house raised in justice to you.

Let's take a moment to thank God for the people in our life who have guided us in the past and are guiding us today, and if we are ourself a mother, a father, teacher, a caregiver,  ask the Lord for the grace to lead with consideration and respect for the dignity of those who are in our care.  

May God Bless you and all of your holy families!

Peace and Love,
Gazelle Johnson

Monday, December 17, 2012


(a reflection on Luke 1:39-45)
by: Deacon Paul Rooney

God’s word in Holy Scripture this 4th Sunday of Advent is so rich in spiritual blessings!  Above all, the gospel (Luke 1:39-45) speaks to me of the precious gift of Humility.

Look what happens when one is filled with the Spirit of God, and is aware of that blessing!  The Blessed Virgin Mary has just said her “YES” to God, believing and trusting in Him, and humbly surrendering her will to His will.  So now she goes “with haste” to serve others!  Jesus, even though still within her womb, touches her heart to reach out to her elderly cousin in her time of need—the aged Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.  Mary is always listening, tuned in to the desires of the Lord, and she responds accordingly with loving service.  Like all deacons, I have dedicated my life to serving God and his People; but I recognize my limitations and flaws, and I sit in silent awe and admiration at the true humility displayed by this “Archdeaconess” of service, the Mother of God!

Think about what has happened here.  God did not choose a prominent, high-society woman to become his instrument for the dawning of the age of the Spirit.   He did not look for a strong-willed, highly intelligent palace maiden.  Instead, he chose a humble, loving, and dedicated girl who freely submitted her will to God’s will.  This girl was to become the doorway to the redemption of the world!

Elizabeth’s unborn boy leapt in the womb upon hearing Mary’s voice, and Elizabeth immediately calls Mary “blessed.”  Yes, Mary is indeed blessed—not because of her talents and skills, but because of the great things God is doing in her.  Without humility, she would not be called “blessed.”

We need to learn from Mary, our spiritual Mother.  She chose to be a handmaiden of God, a slave, a deaconess, and this choice came out of her humility.  She was confident in her own self-knowledge, recognizing that in contrast to God she was nothing and deserved nothing.  So she simply adored Him, and trusted totally in Him.  Her subsequent life would be “hidden” in the ordinariness of daily life.  But her message to us rings through the ages, and echoes in our hearts daily: “Do whatever he tells you.”  Listen to Mother Mary; trust in her intercession, for she is indeed our spiritual Mother.  Above all, learn humility from her, and accept “what is” in your life.

Where do you think Jesus learned how to become humble, and how to teach others to become willing servants of anyone in need?

I believe that both Mary and Joseph had a lot to do with that servant-development in the human nature of Jesus!  Joseph is always the “unsung hero” in the history of the Holy Family.  We always focus on Mary and her humility, and rightly so.  Yes, most of us pay lip service when we honor Joseph.  But do we ever take time to reflect on his part in the early upbringing of his foster son, Jesus?

Pope Benedict XVI captures it well with this observation (in 2009): Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of such astonishing news” that the Holy Spirit was the cause of the child within Mary’s womb.  Trust flows from humility, from a recognition of one’s position before and dependence upon God; such was the trust and humility of Joseph.  One more comment from Pope Benedict deserves mention: “If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for having drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an example and model of love for him.”

Part of a prayer that Patricia and I always pray together every single day of the year includes this line: Let the family of the Holy Trinity pervade our family with its tender, warm, loving presence, so that our family may recognize and manifest that love in all our relationships...St. Joseph, patron of family life, pray for us!”  I would like to offer that complete prayer for your consideration as an addition to your own shared family prayer.  What more can we ask for than to have the life of the Holy Trinity within us!  And the witness and example of the Holy Family is our model for practicing the virtue of humility – a very precious gift indeed!

We pray: Mary and Joseph, please pray for us that the Holy Spirit grant us this very precious gift of humility, manifested so perfectly in your son Jesus, as well as the perseverance to live out this humility in our daily lives!  Help us to know our real selves and our proper place in relation to God.  Strengthen us with your prayers to be obedient to His will at all times. Amen!

* * *

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reflection for the Third Sunday in Advent: Gaudete Sunday

Reflection by Judy Morss.

December 16th is Gaudete Sunday. This is Sunday of Rejoicing. We wait in joyful anticipation -- Jesus is drawing near and we are asked to open our hearts to the joy God gives us and to let that joy radiate from our hearts. Our joy comes from the Father's mercy; He celebrates our return to Him and forgives our sins. Not only that, but His presence will be with us to the end of time. He never moves away from us, even if we move away from Him.

Gospel: Luke 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
"What should we do?"
He said to them in reply,
"Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise."
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
"Teacher, what should we do?"
He answered them,
"Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."
Soldiers also asked him,
"And what is it that we should do?"
He told them,
"Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages."

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
"I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

As I read the gospel, I was struck by a vision of all these people from different walks of life crowding around John the Baptist. When they heard him proclaim that the "The Christ" would be coming, they wanted to know what they needed to do in order to be ready for that coming. Just as we often do for a special event, we focus on what we will wear, what we will say and how we will conduct ourselves in order to impress others.

What a surprise it must have been to hear John tell the people that the way to prepare was to free themselves from "self" and focus on leading a life of bearing witness to the joy of obtaining salvation as we travel down the road with Jesus. It is easy to get so involved in our daily lives, that we don't take the time to become deeply involved with our Lord and Savior. May this be a week of deepening involvement with our good and gracious God. Be open and receive all the gifts He has for us. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pondering Mary

O Mary, most perfect ponderer and manager
 Of life's suffering and pain,
Show me your key to dealing
 With all loss or gain.
What thoughts you held,
 What psalm you reviewed,
 What helped you most
 To make it through.
You lived poverty, exile and shame, 
 Yet handled stress well.
What did you ponder,
  What prayers did you tell?
 O sweet Mother help me experience this grace,
 So I may have the peace of Jesus
As I run this race!

"My heart was not my own
It belonged to my Son.
I followed his lead
 Until his battle was won.
With Him inside me and beside me,
I lived only for Him.
I loved as I laughed with joy,
Loved as I cried about sin.
My whole life I spent pondering
The greatest love,
A heavenly gift of the Father
From way far above.
Who existed before, forever
And then
Decided to come
To make ransom for men.
One who could pay back
Our debt for all crime,
To wipe our slates clean
Time after time.
With enduring love
And selfless grace,
My Son came to be
And we looked face to face.
My eyes never wavered,
My ears always open,
To whatever He did
And to what was spoken.
My pure focus:  Jesus
My redeemer and Son,
The fruit of my womb,
For everyone.
When God's love is the center
Of all that you do
The rest of your life
Can only be right and true. 
So look on my Jesus,
Invite Him in,
Follow His ways
And you will win."

Poem by Janet Goodwin
on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Advent
Readings:  Baruch 5:1-9, Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11,  Luke 3:1-6

I used to love to write long in sightful reflections
But now no end in sight
Of the daily chores

So I’ll make a Scripture sandwich

Reading I
Every mountain made low
Every valley made high

Reading II
Filled with the fruit of righteousness

Every mountain made low
Every valley made full

I’ll call from the heights and see my children come
From the east
Proclaim forgiveness and the washing of hands

On this 2nd Sunday of Advent, we light the second candle of the wreath,
and wait a week for the joyful candle of pink

When I read the readings today, I could not but help of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East which has turned violent again.  I heard somewhere that someone made a suggestion that Jerusalem be made into an international neutral zone.  I think it would make a great international park.   The sacred buildings  reserved as holy places for worship.  I think we all groan inside when we see the violence, and we wait for the salvation of the Lord, the peaceable fruit of righteousness, his justice and glory forever.   The key for me today is in the second reading:  How I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus—we need to ask the Holy Spirit for true affection for one another, for true affection for all people, so that we might discern what is of value. 

Blessings and Love in Christ,

Friday, December 7, 2012

Of His Most Astounding Mercy, and Her Most Immaculate Beauty!

I love the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception!

The readings for this Solemnity start with the Genesis story which contains what we are taught is the Protoevangelium:  The first announcement of the Messiah Redeemer.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."  Gen: 3:15

In this passage we are shown that even at the moment of our most profound failures the God of the universe never abandons us.    He never gives up on us. NEVER!  It is also a passage which did not yeild its full significance until the Gospel of Christ is revealed to us. I have linked you to a John Paul the Great general audience on The Protoevangelium of Salvation, I highly encourage you to read it!  Here is a snippet:

The analysis of the "protoevangelium" informs us, by means of the announcement and promise contained in it, that God has not abandoned the human race to the power of sin and death. He wished to rescue and save it. He did so in his own way, according to the measure of his transcendent holiness, and at the same time according to a self-effacement such as only a God of love could display."

I think that the line "according to the measure of his transcendent holiness, and at the same time according to a self-effacement such as only a God of love could display." are tremendous words to ponder, and especially in light of His great gift to us of the Blessed Mother!  Those words are referring to Christ's obedient sacrifice, in which Adam's sin is undone, but that sacrifice is also reflected in the obedient fiat of Mary, who was the chosen woman to reverse the disobedience of Eve.  In my more reflective moments, I cannot fathom our God's self-effacement. God, whose power and might are so great that Moses cannot look upon His face and live, yet He wills to be born into this world of a woman, so as to lift up womanhood, in fact, motherhood (and ultimately all of redeemed humanity) to a high beauty and magnificence that cannot be contained in this world.  He then gives this woman to us to be our mother as well, and in all this she gives her total "fiat".  

Just contemplating Mary reduces me to a puddle of emotion, and I am not an emotional person, but the gift of Mary as my mother touches me - and mystifies me profoundly! Only a God of unfathomable tender mercy would know that our hardened hearts cannot withstand the love of a mother, a mother who freely, with unrestrained love and complete trust in God said yes to the Incarnation and all the sacrifice, suffering (and yes, also joy) that came with it.  She entrusted her whole self to Him in order for God's salvation for each of us to be fulfilled.

Consider this passage from Pope Benedict XVI's newest book:  Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives, as our Pope reflects on the moments after the angel Gabriel has departed from her, and of the great reserves of faith that she was gifted with in her Immaculate heart:

The great hour of Mary's encounter with God's messenger - in which her whole life is changed - comes to an end, and she remains there alone, with a task that truly surpasses all human capacity.  There are no angels standing round her.  She must continue on the path that leads through many dark moments - from Josephs's dismay at her pregnancy to the moment when Jesus is said to be out of His mind (cf Mk 3:21;Jn 10:20), right up to the night of the cross.
How often in these situations must Mary have returned inwardly  to the hour  when God 's angel had spoken to her, pondering afresh the greeting: "Rejoice, full of grace!" and the consoling words: "Do not be afraid!"  The angel departs; her mission remains, and with it matures her inner closeness to God, a closeness that in her heart she is able to see and touch,". (Pg 37 -38)

Her task was unbelievable, at times unendurable, yet she believed and endured, because she knew His love, and as our Mother she intercedes for each of us that we may be filled with that love also. She is a Our Lady, Our Mother and there is no beauty in this world, or the next, that can exceed hers.  And the Father's using her in His plan of Salvation is also a reflection on how complete His redemption of us will be.  Let me put up another passage from Pope John Paul's general audience text:

"The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by the acceptance of her who was predestined to be the mother of his Son, so that just as a woman contributed to death, so also a woman should contribute to life. That is true in outstanding fashion of the mother of Jesus, who gave to the world him who is Life itself and who renews all things, and who was enriched by God with the gifts which befit such a role. It is no wonder therefore that the usage prevailed among the Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the radiance of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is greeted, on God's command, by an angel messenger as 'full of grace,' and to the heavenly messenger she replies: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.' Thus Mary, a daughter of Adam, consenting to the divine Word, became the mother of Jesus, the one and only Mediator. Embracing God's salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son, under him and with him, by the grace of almighty God, serving the mystery of redemption" (LG 56). 
Thus in Mary and through Mary the situation of humanity and of the world has been reversed, and they have in some way re-entered the splendor of the morning of creation.

Joy!  Just think of what God has given us in Mary, just think of what it means for you and me who are individuals mired in our sinfulness, in our disordered desires and in our fears.  I believe it means that -with our daily Fiat, and our daily repentance -  our redemption will not only be a wiping out of even our worst sins,  but a complete reversal of all that enslaves us.  What ever sin that tempts you and makes you cringe in shame about yourself, will, when you give it to Him, with faith and in due time, be sanctified and reordered to serve God.  Trust Him as Mary did!  If your worst sin is cowardice, God will bring about in you a reversal and He will allow you opportunities to become courageous and bold for Him.  If it is lust, God will draw out from you the truest, most pure, devoted and passionate love of Him and of all His creation in it's beauty and power.  What astounding mercy!  What an awesome gift! But your daily repentance and your daily fiat and also your daily endurance in faith, modeled after Mary, is needed.  And Mary, in her Immaculate Conception and in her radiant and unique holiness, is the model, par excellence, of Christ's words to us in Revelation:  "Behold, I make all things new." 

Hail Mary, full of grace!
The Lord is with you!
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God 
Pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Click here for a reflection on the same passage in Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth by the most awesome Monsignor Pope

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Crumbs of Time

In 1994, I attended a seminar entitled, How to Operate a Successful Professional Speaking Business. The two presenters were very successful nationally known speakers, who made several key points, but the one that really struck a nerve was, “Are you running your business, or is your business running you?” Was my speaking business running my life? At times it sure felt that way. 

When a business owner permits the business to control his life he can become so occupied with having products and/or services, marketing them, selling them, sending invoices for sales made, supervising and training employees, paying taxes, etc., that there is very little time left for God and family. It’s such an insidiously easy trap to fall into that some small business owners work a grind of sixty or seventy or even eighty hour a week, sometimes to just make ends meets, sometimes out of habit, or for other valid or self-justified reasons. 

On an individual, more personal level, does my busy world control me, or do I control my world? Is my schedule so filled with work, answering emails, browsing the internet, shopping, cooking, Facebook, golf, exercise classes, watching television, and a myriad of other activities that I can barely carve out time for Sunday mass, much less daily prayer? How shocked and dismayed will I be if I compare the amount of time I spend browsing the internet out of boredom or staring mindlessly at the television with time spent in prayer, reading scripture, or charitable work? In my daily life does God have to settle for left-over crumbs of time? 

The gospel reading for this Sunday is from Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 (NAB):

The Coming of the Son of Man

25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
 and on earth nations will be in dismay,
 perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
26 People will die of fright
 in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
 for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
27 And then they will see the Son of Man
 coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 But when these signs begin to happen,
 stand erect and raise your heads
 because your redemption is at hand.
34"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
 from carousing and drunkenness
 and the anxieties of daily life,
 and that day catch you by surprise
35 like a trap.
 For that day will assault everyone
 who lives on the face of the earth.
36 Be vigilant at all times
 and pray that you have the strength
 to escape the tribulations that are imminent
 and to stand before the Son of Man." 

In verse 34 Jesus pointed out that anxieties of daily life can be a trap - Satan’s trap. Earlier in the gospel of Luke, He set the example for us:

15 The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments,
16 but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray. – LK 5:15-16

Jesus had a product to sell. He had disciples to train (Peter must have been a handful), marketing to look after, travel plans to make, demons to cast out, healings to accomplish, miracles to carry out, Pharisees to confront, parables to make up, and sermons to prepare and deliver. He needed to make time for the Transfiguration, and institute the Holy Eucharist. “But he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.” Our Lord always made time to pray; He was in constant communication with the Father. 

When my world doesn’t leave me time to pray, it’s time for me to slow my world down.
Blessings to All,
Larry T.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ our King

I discovered a wonderful song reading the Divine Office in Advent 2011 (sorry it took so long to post but it also seems appropriate to the feast of Christ the King, 2012! As I recall I was struck by the Old Testament reading about Hannah at the time....) The song "Lift up your heads ye mighty gates" was written in 1642, by George Weiszel, sings the praise of Jesus, King of Kings:
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates;
Behold the King of glory waits;
The King of kings is drawing near;
The Savior of the world is here!
A Helper just He comes to thee,
His chariot is humility,
His kingly crown is holiness,
His scepter, pity in distress.
O blest the land, the city blest,
Where Christ the Ruler is confessed!
O happy hearts and happy homes
To whom this King in triumph comes!
Fling wide the portals of your heart;
Make it a temple, set apart
From earthly use for heaven's employ,
Adorned with prayer and love and joy.

Redeemer, come with us abide;
Our hearts to Thee we open wide;
Let us Thy inner presence feel;
Thy grace an love in us reveal.
Thy Holy Spirit lead us on
Until our glorious goal is won;
Eternal praise, eternal fame
Be offered, Savior, to Thy Name!
I suppose the poet in me loves the way it all rhymes from line to line, yet the serious side sees the truth of the words.  As I read and pondered for this blog, given the current state of affairs here in the U. S., I realize the deeper truth of proclaiming Christ the King lies in each of us.  Will we be willing to open the portals of our heart; and make it a temple, set apart; from the earthly use for heaven's employ?  Last year in advent, I pondered readings on Hannah and how she came to open her portals for the Lord.
The first line is interesting:   Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates....not sure if gates have heads on them but my head (or thoughts) can sure act like a barrier to recognizing the presence of God and acting as his servant here on earth.  I find that too much self centered thinking closes the gate to thoughts of God.  At times it seems my mind is full of endless negative possibilities, my prayer life dries up and my whole being droops with the weight of what ifs and how comes.  Next comes the tears of anger and regret.  To me the story of Hannah exemplifies this fed up state.  In 1 Sam 1:10-11, Hannah bitterly prayed to the Lord, weeping copiously, then she made a vow, promising:  Ok, Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do no forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child....(I fill in the blank here with my latest petition!)  Sometimes I'm at the bottom of the pit and I'm just wailing out my frustration, lack of confidence, loss of patience and hope (or whatever!) from that seemingly endless pit of worry.
Why is it that we must reach rock bottom in order to call out to God for help? I suppose there's only one way to turn in the dark and that's toward the light.  Yes, contemplating the King of Kings helps me as I remember His promise to always be with us, to always love us despite our miserable condition.  He is always waiting for us to just gaze in His directtion, to reach out and make that agonziing effort to turn from the darkness and realize, the Savior of the world is here!
Once my eyes focus on the Savior I begin to recognize my Helper, the one who humbly enters our world; whose gentleness and love draws me up from the deep pit of self pity and despair.  His promise of presence halts my downward plunge.  He is waiting for us in the tabernacle at adoration. His healing touch comes through my child's laugh or a hug from those wise, older ladies at daily mass.  His presence heals us through reading scripture, praying and listening to homilies.  The ulitimate touch of the Eucharist provides the sweet balm of healing and love.  God loves us so much, if only we would gaze frequently on His most loving form on the cross, with his wounds of healing and sacrifice, we can be renewed.
In fact, I'd really like to know what's behind the saying, by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5), because this works.  God first revealed such healing to Moses while on the desert exodus from Egypt.  The people grumbled on the Exodus as their patience worn thin by lack of the basic neccessities.  They didn't like the food, the water or the situation.  Then the Lord sent serpents which bit the people and many died.  What a forsaken position they were in, but within their horrible state they realized their sin in complaining, so they asked Moses to intercede with God.  The Lord instruct Moses to fashion a serpent on a pole, then everyone who had been bitten would look upon the lifted up serpent and recover.  (Number 21:8-9)  Similarly in John 3:14-16, Jesus tried explaining himself to Nicodemus:  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life....So simple an act of faith can heal if we only we look to him with belief and trust!
When the bitterness of life has bitten us and we have nowhere to turn, we finally look to the Lord.  Hannah, in her shameful childless state, cried with deep sorrow and misery (1 Sam 1:15-16) pouring out her heart to the Lord.  Here Hannah flung open the portals of her heart, as she brought her unhappy state to the Lord for healing.  Pain and suffering bring us low, to the realization we just can't do it alone; that we can do nothing without Christ.  It would appear our willingness to offer these unsolvable problems to the Lord is the first step in being made anew.  Old Testament writings confirm this:  For God searches out the abyss and penetrates the heart; their secrets he understands (Sirach 42:18).  He creates a new heart and renews our steadfast spirit.  He restores the gladness of salvation and upholds our willing spirit (Psalm 51: 12, 14)  A renewed Hannah, can then set her temple apart for heaven's employ, promising her child would be given to the Lord for all of his days.  She leaves the temple refreshed and regenerated, and so adorned with prayer and love and joy, fulfills her promises when the Lord answered her prayer.  St Paul summarizes it well in Philippians 4:6-7, Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make you requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Just Give It Up to Jesus!!!
I love the thought of being "in Christ Jesus!"  This must be the abiding in Him part of the poem:  Redeemer, come, with us abide; Our hearts to Thee we open wide; Let us Thy inner presence feel; Thy grace and love in us reveal.  Certainly, the abiding in Christ is a key element in a keeping an even keel in life, and I'm just now investigating its truth.  At first thought, I'd resented the fact that God had control over everything, like goodness--why does God have all the stock in that?  The only thing I had was my sin and my will to choose.  It appears that God offers us so much more when He is in control, when he is King of our lives.  We have that share of His life and love, given through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can experience true peace, love and hope not just for ourselves but within the greater community.  This must be the part of the poem where, O blest the land, the city blest, where Christ the Ruler is confessed!  O happy hearts and happy homes to whom this King in triumph comes!  To ponder God is like looking out at the ocean--a beautiful, deep and unending mystery, yet living His life within His domain brings benefits most people seek with great passion.
In summary, this quaint old fashioned song is the answer to story of our life!  The poem reveals our  Redeemer who is just waiting around for us, knocking at our gate.  We need to lift up our head, shake open our mighty barriers to recognize Him.  He's humble, holy and will show up in our time of need, but we have to be willing.  The promise of blessing, happy hearts and homes comes to those who confess his Lordship in life.  With our repentance and turn to our Lord for leadership, we can confidently open the portals of our heart, so he can remove the junk and replace it with grace and love.  In turn, we adorn our temple with prayer, love and joy, setting worldly cares aside and let heaven set up residence inside. (oops I'm starting to rhyme!)  The Holy Spirit leads the effort, where we journey with patient endurance doing heaven's work of love.  Finally, when we (the abiding parties and I or you) get to the goal, we'll be singing eternally, praising and worshiping our Lord for eternity!  Sounds like a wonderful plan to me!  I think this is the whole concept of Christ the King in a nutshell (or a song!)
Many blessings for a rich Feast of Christ the King
and a wish for you to open the gates of your heart
so the love and peace of Christ may be yours forever! 
Janet Goodwin         


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Let Your Joy Shine!

 The readings for this Sunday, the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary time, are pretty dramatic.  They are leading us to the end of the liturgical year, and so we look the the end of time, and to the return of Christ the King, which is next Sunday's celebration.
In those days, I Daniel, heard this work of the Lord: "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people;  it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.  At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book .
"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.
"But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."  Daniel 12;1-3
Are you prepared for times of great distress and upheaval?  No..... in spite of a my disappointment in the election and the Mayan 2012 prediction of the end of the time, I am not prophesying the end of the world.  I keep in mind always the final words of today's Gospel:  "But of that day or hour, no one knows."  However,  since we do not know the day and hour, or even our individual day and hour, we must always have our faith and hope fixed on Jesus, who shows up the path of life through the dark valleys we will encounter.  Because He has forged the way through death.  In fact, though these readings bring to mind the ultimate futility of this world, reminding us of our present darkness and our looming doom, the Church is calling us to rejoice!  When that time does come our King is coming to gather us to Himself!
Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwell secure, for you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your devout one see the pit.  You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence.  Psalm 16: 9-11
As I read, prayed and re-read these readings a person kept emerging in my mind.  The saint Maximilian Kolbe.  I think of him because he died in Auschwitz with a group of others chosen to be starved to death in a horrible underground bunker.  It was a punishment inflicted on prisoners of Auschwitz whenever one of them escaped.  Designed to be produce a distress unsurpassed so that prisoners would be very motivated to prevent any other escape attempts.  But with Maximilian Kolbe in that  bunker, instead of the usual loud and horrifying suffering and pleas for help, they were led in singing hymns and prayers.  Maximilian encouraged them by giving them hope in the eternal inheritance of Christ our Lord, and in the everlasting beauty of their heavenly mother Mary.  He brought the joy of heaven into that awful place, and like a star shining brightly he lead those poor souls to justice.  That is what the Lord will do for each of us if we pray for the faith to hold fast to Him. 

It takes a profound joy, rooted in faith to be a light in the dark.  We need to be realistic about our passing  world, and we need to transmit the joy of our confidence in our Savior, who through His sacrifice leads the way through desolation and despair.  In His presence there is abounding joy, contagious and overflowing to those who wish to receive it. This joy does not mean you will be immune to suffering; I am not suggesting for one minute that the pain and suffering of Maximilian and the others was any less horrible than it had been for others, but faith in the eternal joy of heaven allowed them to endure in their suffering with a abiding hope and an inspiring courage.  This faith means that in suffering, and times of distress you can be a light to others.  Pray always for an increase of faith in Him, and love for all you meet, so that your joy can shine like the stars.

Oh, and here is another person that radiated the joy of the Lord, this is an admittedly light-hearted video that I found while reading Simcha Fisher's blog over at National Catholic Register. All of my friends have agreed, that like Simcha, first they hated it, thinking it a flippant video of our beloved Pope, then they loved it, because it overflows with the love of Christ and the joy of Blessed John Paul II!  

Peace and grace to all of you!  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day is Here!

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord; All the families of nations will bow low before him. For kingship belongs to the Lord, the ruler over nations. All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the Lord; my descendants will serve you. The generation to will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.Psalm 22:28-32
Election day is here!  Don't forget to bring you faith with you to the polls! Please remember the vital importance of religious liberty which is seriously threatened!  I have included some links in this post that may be of interest to you as we prepare to go to the polls tomorrow.

A message from Archbishop Lucas

Public Witness and Catholic Citizenship, by Archbishop Chaput

Video of Religious Liberty by Archbishop Lori (there are many good videos in this link, so check them out!)

USCCB page on religious freedom

USCCB's First American Freedom

Democracy and the Gospel of Christ  by, William Doino Jr. First Things blog: On The Square

And finally a YouTube link to an short video on what is at stake in this election:

Jesus is our Lord and our King!  Above all else, it is in Him alone in whom we place our trust for our final hope, there is no elected official who can usher in the Kingdom of Heaven; that can only be accomplished through Him!

May God's grace and peace accompany you to the polling places today!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bastions of Faith

To daily mass, to worship the Lord they come, the elderly, some with gnarly hands, clicking canes, rattling walkers, shuffling feet, swaying unnaturally because of worn out hips and knees. 

To daily mass they come, to worship the Lord, an occasional young mother with her shiny faced, bright eyed little ones. 

Nothing will come between them and their Lord. 

First they worship God at daily mass, then in spiritual love they greet each other with smiles talking about aches and pains, or the weather, or seeking prayers for those in need. In the same spirit those who can no longer drive are sometimes given rides to church by those who can, and after the worship service some will gather at the nearest coffee house for more fellowship. Overlooked, but by God and possibly their pastor, these bastions of faith are ideal examples of this Sunday’s gospel reading. 

28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”
29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
- Mark 12:28b-34 (NAB)

The Pharisees, Herodians, and scribes had been asking Jesus trick questions in the hope of getting Him to respond with something they could officially charge Him with, but at this point the score was Jesus – 4, Pharisees and Herodians – 0. The scribe in verse 28 seeing how well Jesus had answered them, and decided on a different approach – test Jesus’ knowledge and understanding of scripture.

What began as something of a test concluded in verse 32 and 33 with the scribe’s observation of, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”,
and in verse 34 with Jesus responding, You are not far from the kingdom of God.

The scribe acknowledged the wisdom of Jesus’ answer, and Jesus acknowledged the scribe’s true grasp of the commandments. Imagine the great joy of our God when His people worship Him with all their heart, understanding, and strength, and love their neighbors as themselves, and do not simply offer burnt offerings and sacrifices as obligated by Church law.