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.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Thoughts on HOLINESS

Easter Thoughts on
(A reflection on 1 Peter 1:14-16 and Matthew 5:48)
by: Deacon Paul Rooney

This lengthy reflection is an unfinished Easter meditation on “holiness.”  It is unfinished, because it calls for your own reflection as well as mine, and it is a concept worthy of a long weekend Retreat, and a lifelong pursuit!  We are all called to holiness.  We are all commanded to be holy.  For each one of us, holiness itself is unfinished business.  It is not just an ideal; it is not out of our reach.  And sometimes we overlook the simplest tools that the Lord gave us for our journey, such as ordinary (?) sacramentals.

You know, I always “tear up” during Holy Week and the Easter joy
that follows.  He died for me!  I can never get my arms completely around the concept of such an incomparable offering by our God of Love!  But it does make me want to get my arms around the offering itself—or better, the offering Himself—Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  He has taken the cruelest instrument of torture known to mankind at that time, and transformed it into an instrument of grace!  Because of his sacrifice, we are
justified by faith in Him and faith in His Resurrection—He IS Risen—and now as His disciples we are called to live out that faith and pursue holiness.  One cannot gaze upon the crucifix, with love and thanksgiving, without telling our Beloved that we desire to be transformed into His image of holiness.

Reflect with me.  Holiness.  Now, think about it: do you think you are holy?  Do you think you are a saint?  If you do not think so, why not?  I am certain that you do not dare to approach Holy Communion with mortal sin on your soul; so all that remains to be dealt with as we approach the celebration of Eucharist are our venial sins and imperfections and undesirable tendencies.  Yes, we still have imperfections; yes, our disordered passions need to be bridled, tamed and re-channeled when they arise; and yes, the tendencies to sin remain with us.  As our Catechism teaches, there is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (CCC 2015).  But even the holy men and women whom we call “saints” had these imperfections and tendencies and struggles.  Yet we call them holy, do we not? (The word “saint” in Latin means “holy.”)  As a “for instance,” sometime check out these “top ten saints for sinners” for encouragement.  In any event, we must all beware of a false humility that comes from refusing to recognize our true self, made in God's image.

So perhaps we could continue our post-Easter journey of faith back to God, accompanied on our faith-walk by Jesus, by beginning to renew our understanding of sacramentals as a valued weapon in our spiritual battles.  I suspect that a lot of Catholics have become absent-minded about the cleansing power available to us with the proper use of these special gifts. Let’s listen to Msgr. Matthew Mitas regarding several of these possibilities:

“Since the sacramentals, when properly used, have the power to remit venial sin, the sign of the cross, being a sacramental, when made by someone with a penitent heart and true contrition for his sins, can take away his venial sins.  Since it's good practice to receive Holy Communion as worthily as possible, the Church provides us with many ways to be cleansed of venial sin even during Mass before Communion: the blessing with holy water upon entering church, the penitential rite, and the "Lord, I Am Not Worthy." And the faithful reception of Communion itself remits venial sin(Msgr. Matthew Mitas, St. Louis Archdiocese; emphasis added).

Now, that gives us much more to reflect upon!  If you are free from mortal sin, and are cleansed of venial sins at Mass (assuming you had the proper disposition at Mass: being attentive, participating fully, desiring this cleansing, and desiring to avoid even venial sins in the future), and have Jesus dwelling within you and walking with you on your journey: what makes you think you are not holy?  We have been justified by faith (as St. Paul teaches), sanctified by baptism, cleansed by the Sacraments and sacramentals.  Why do we resist accepting our call to holiness and the grace of holiness we have been given?  Do we really understand that when the ritual of Mass concludes, we are sent forth to live out our holiness and thereby be a witness to Jesus Christ?

Let us not underestimate the power of the sacramentals, which were deliberately used by all the saints!  Only the action of the Holy Spirit can bring about personal sanctity, through these Sacraments and sacramentals; and attaining it requires our full cooperation.

Please take these words of St. Paul to heart: “To the church of God...to those sanctified [made holy] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...” (1 Cor. 1:2).  He is talking to you and me, not just the Christians at Corinth!  This is one of the main reasons that we all need to have Spiritual Directors.  Like Michelangelo working with a plain block of marble and seeing its hidden potential within, a Director can see the hidden potential within a soul—it’s capacity to become a saint—and help us to see that same potential.

May God bless each one of us, as we renew our Easter journey in the power of His Resurrection, and renew our faith in Him!

Easter Joy and Blessings to all!
Deacon Paul Rooney

(P.S.  Be sure to fill a large container with the new Easter holy water, and take it home to use liberally every day!  Every day ask the Holy Spirit to transform you into the image of Jesus.  Bless yourselves, bless your kids, bless your homes, and remind family members to use holy water daily.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Approaching the Throne of Grace

Good Friday, March 29, 2013

Brothers and sisters:  Since we have a great high priest who has has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.  So let us confidently approach the the throne of grace for timely help.

In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered  prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.  Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

 May all the graces that are pouring out on this sacred day be received by all who approach His throne of grace!


Hebrews 4:14-16 5:7-9

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why Are You Still Sleeping? A Palm Sunday Reflection

A reflection on Palm Sunday's Gospel of the Passion of the Lord

March 24, 2013

Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.”  After withdrawing about a stone’s throw  from them and kneeling, he prayed saying, Father, if you are willing to take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”  And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.  He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.  When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief.  He said to them “Why are you sleeping?”  Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.”  Luke 22: 39-46

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

I am completely overwhelmed by the readings for this Sunday.  They are rich, but so familiar, that it takes quite a lot of readings to settle myself down into prayer.  Since the readings are so familiar every distraction claims priority in my ill focused mind.   The words “Why are you still sleeping?” keep echoing back to me.  Sleeping?  Me?  
“Why are you still sleeping?”

Don’t you love the persistence of our Lord when you have allowed a smidgen of His word to penetrate your heart?  Yet, much like the befuddled, grief stricken apostles, I have no idea where I am being led with this question.  It is much easier to fall asleep, to complacently put aside His request for my attention rather than allow His word to unsettle dormant desires in my soul.  I like feeling like I have everything under control.  But when you let the word of Jesus echo in your heart and mind, you will soon feel a stirring in your soul; the troubling of sleepy, complacent waters.  And yes, you will find that all is not well there, you need Him, desperately.   Persist, be brave and keep praying!  Because you and I are needed when the hour of darkness falls on us in our own time. 
“Why are you still sleeping?”
The call of Christ to awaken in each of us the desire to cultivate a heart of unceasing prayer is becoming more and more urgent.  Maybe I am feeling this way because recently, at a Lenten retreat, I was struck by an image a gentleman shared with us.  He received this image during our meditation time.  At first he had been a little distracted by the fast paced music that was playing quietly in the background, thinking that it was not very “Lenten”.  But he persisted in his prayer and soon enough he settled in and could see in his mind Jesus walking very quickly with His disciples following behind.  The man caught up with Jesus and asked him why He was walking so fast.  Jesus replied “because there is not much time.”  It sent chills down my spine.

Or maybe it is because our new Pope Francis has, like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, pinpointed spiritual poverty as the prevailing sickness of the wealthier nations of the world.  And it is a sickness that has left us sleepy and complacent as objective truths are replaced with the dictatorship of relativism.  We are being enslaved by our baser desires, and many of us are not in the least bit aware of it. The farther we go down this path the harder it is to desire truth - to seek it out with the energy and fervor that are needed to stay awake and endure in the dark mysteries of life, and we have already progressed so far down this path as a culture.  The words of Jesus in the gentleman’s meditation “there is not much time” fall even harder on my heart after I hear this.

Why are you still sleeping?”

  Remember the C.S. Lewis quote that I used in my post on John 6 last summer?  It was a quote, spoken by an elderly Christian man as they await a decisive battle against evil, from his book That Hideous Strength:

Have you ever noticed,.....that the universe, and every little bit of the universe, is always hardening and narrowing and coming to a point?....I mean this,....If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family- anything you like- at a given point in its history you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and that there's going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and codices are even more momentous.  Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse:  the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing."  Pg.280-281

 In our distracted, social networked, trans-gendered, create- your- own- truth world the time we have to reach souls is diminishing fast.  We are entering into a time where straddling between faith and culture will no longer be possible.  Are we doing enough?  Are we giving our young ones, not just words of truth, but a living relationship with Truth Himself? Are we teaching our own little ones how to pray more deeply and more intimately with Christ, so that their love for their Lord will override the incredible pressure to side with a culture that increasingly cannot acknowledge objective truth, and is, in fact, hostile to it? If not we need to wake up, and we need to wake up now.  If we cannot teach our own children that Jesus wants you to persist in prayer, through all the struggles and through all the grief in our lives, how in the world are we going to be light for those who lurk in some of the darkest shadows of despair? And, again, the pervasive and growing hostility to our faith, as well asl the ever-present distractions that surround us, make these outreaches even more urgent!

“Why are you still sleeping?"

One way to help us to awaken those around us who practice our faith, but may not live it intentionally, is to teach about prayer and to let every one know that it is in prayer that we learn to love Jesus with passion and with courage! It is in prayer that we begin to discern His voice, and as we persist through our distractions and through our sleepiness, we will begin to know that He is always intimately present. We really need to let the Spirit into our imaginations and let Jesus show us how we are written into His story. To give to one another the courage to cry out to Jesus like Bartimaeus did, persistently.  Or to run the gauntlet of accusers -- those 'voices' that discourage us and would keep us from seeking out the Lord --  like the sinful women with the alabaster jar; so that you can weep at His feet and receive His tender love and forgiveness.  We need to give our young people the inheritance that is theirs by their baptism. They are sons and daughters of the Father.

If you have perceived that persistent call of Jesus, to awaken your soul to prayer and to help others awaken as well , as always He does not leave us orphaned and alone.  There are growing ministries responding to this call.  One that I participate in that has focused on reaching out to our children is One Heart ~ One Fire Ministries.  

Peace and Grace to all of you!

Here is another link, to an article written by Matthew Archbold on the National Catholic Register.  Again, I can her His voice:  "Why are you still sleeping!"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, 2013

 By:  Judy Morss

The Gospel according to John 8:1-11
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

The basic story tells of the Pharisees and the Scribes scheming against Jesus. They hoped to trap Him into responding "yes or no" to their question of how to deal with the adulterous woman. With either answer Jesus would be in trouble, with the Romans or in violation of the Covenant. Jesus surprised them all, by going to the heart of things. He responded with love, forgiveness and reconciliation. In telling the crowd to throw a stone only if they were free of sin, Jesus reminds us that we are all sinful. What a scary, negative comment -- even if it is true. HOWEVER, Jesus then turns to the sinful woman and asks her who remains to condemn her of sin. When she responds, "No one sir," Jesus tells her that he also does not condemn her. In fact he sends her back into her community with love and forgiveness. Her responsibility is to "go and from now on do not sin any more."

Particularly during Lent, we are often mindful of our sins and of our need for Reconciliation with God. I am reminded that the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) is very similar to what we have just read. Often we are our own accusers and find it difficult to believe that we can truly be forgiven for our sins. We are too deep in that sinful habit, are embarrassed to face our sinfulness, and think that our souls just can't be made clean.

It is important to note that when the adulterous woman was brought before our Lord, he lowered his eyes so as not to look on her shame. Instead, his divine love enveloped her. Jesus not only scattered her accusers with their silent examination of their own consciences, he then offered her divine forgiveness and love. He did not excuse her sinfulness, but rather cleansed her soul and offered her the opportunity to begin again.

Just as the adulterous woman was forgiven and sent back to her community whole and ready to change her life, so we can leave the confessional and return to our community whole and ready to change. The true love of Jesus is always healing and forgiving; we just need to ask. The special grace that we receive though the sacrament of Reconciliation will help us.

In peace and love,


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Entering Promised Land/Prodigal Son-Reflections on Readings for Fourth Sunday of Lent 2013

The Sunday readings today can be found in their entirety on the USCCB website.  Take a few minutes to read them if you have not already.

In the first reading, as the Israelites enter at last into an agricultural area where they are able to eat regular produce rather than what they they were given in gleanings in the barren desert, the Lord says "Today I have taken the shame of Egypt away from you." In Egypt they had been slaves; now they are no longer a slave people, but an independent people group moving from being nomads to settling down in a more fertile environment.

In the second reading, in which Paul is writing about forgiveness, he states that the Lord does not count our trespasses against us, and that he has entrusted to the apostles the message of reconciliation through Christ. Christ's message of forgiveness helps us to deal with the shame of sin, the slavery of sin, so we can put our mistakes in the past and work toward changing our lives today to be more in tune with God and one another. Forgiveness fosters a more fertile environment in our souls and in our relationships.

In the Gospel, which has two parts, the first Jesus welcomes and eats with sinners. Second, the famous story of the Prodigal Son who is forgiven completely by his father after living a life of dissipation. Both speak of eating with sinners, not just eating with them, but feasting with them. This is not the awkward dinner table when a partying uncle comes home and makes references to a life that makes Grandma shudder, and everyone is silent and cold. The Prodigal son's brother almost made it that kind of dinner, but dad headed off that disaster before the dinner bell rang. This is the family feast when the partying uncle comes home grateful for the stability of his family roots, and everyone is glad to see him and they talk about family vacations when they were kids and you know that even though siblings have different life stories we are all in this together.

Do you see a connection between the readings? There are many I am sure, but the connection that I see between the three readings is this: God is more than ready to take away our shame.

This is a perfect set of readings for this season of Lent, when we are particularly focusing on working on overcoming our shortcomings and sins, taking our sins to the Lord in personal and formal Confession/Reconciliation. It is of great comfort to know that the Lord is so ready to receive us back. The question we can ask ourselves is whether we are ready to receive others back so graciously? Nothing is more enjoyable, nothing more takes away the shames of life than "killing the fatted calf" (the golden calf of our inappropriate judgments of others) and sitting down to eat and talk to people about life and how good God is in the land of his promise of never-ending love for the human family.

Peace and Love,

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Will The Catholic Please Stand Up?

A Reflection on the Gospel reading for Sunday, March 3, 2013

Posted by: Larry T

This Sunday we find Our Lord responding to questions concerning the slaughter of a number of Galileans by order of Pontus Pilate.
1 At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
2 He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
3 By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!
4 Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them —do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
5 By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
6 And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
7 he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’
8 He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
9 it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
– Luke 13:1-9 NAB

In the parable of the fig tree Jesus teaches us about responsibility and hope. Allegorically who planted the tree? God. Who does the fig tree represent? Me. Who is the gardener? Jesus. Do I have a responsibility to bear fruit? Yes!  

Are my branches withered, lifeless, and useful only for firewood or are they fully leafed and sagging under the weight of figs? I think I have both types of branches. How many ways are there for a Catholic to bear fruit? The list seems endless, but one sure way is to live my faith. 

When we see a man wearing a yarmulke (skull cap), we know that he is of the Jewish faith. If we see a woman clad in a full length burqa, we know that she is Muslim. A Pennsylvania farmer plowing a field with a team of horses is probably Amish Mennonite. But how can you recognize a Catholic when you see one? On Ash Wednesday when we see someone with an ash cross on their forehead are they Catholic? Not necessarily. Is a professional football player making the sign of the cross in jubilant celebration of a touchdown Catholic? Maybe. When we see a family in a restaurant making the sign of the cross and praying for God’s blessing, we know that they are Catholics. 

We distinguish ourselves by living our faith and by following Church doctrine. When we hear a fellow Catholic say, “we don’t know when life begins,” we know they are ignoring the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.
– CCC 2270

To support same-sex marriage is the say that Holy Scripture is outdated and superfluous. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: 

God himself is the author of marriage. The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator – CCC 1603

If one of our acquaintances said, “I’ve never heard him use profanity.” And another of our associates said, “He’s a Catholic –they never curse or use profanity!” How great would that be? If a colleague said, “She doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage or abortion.” And another one of our friends said, “She’s a Catholic - they don’t believe in either of those things!” Would our Lord’s face crease in a smile?

The Lenten season is an opportunity to examine my life, and recognize that even if I haven’t borne fruit to my potential yet, I still have time to do so. That is the message of hope that is in this gospel reading. But God doesn’t yell directions to His people; He speaks in whispers.

11 Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
12 After the earthquake there was fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
13 When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”
- 1 Kings 19:11-13 (N.A.B.)

I have to turn off the television; I have to remove the iPod earphones from my ears; I have to power down the computer; I have to listen intently in silence, otherwise I will never be able to hear Him.