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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, January 26, 2013

Reflections on the Readings for Sunday, January 27, 2013

By Sharon Nelsen

As I reflect on today’s readings, “rejoicing” and “joy” leap out encircling me with waves of wondering:  What exactly is rejoicing”?   Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always, again, he says, rejoice-- knowing undoubtedly from his own experience that this is a difficult concept to grasp—again, I say, rejoice! 

Rejoicing appears to be an attitude, not a feeling.  What is this attitude and how is it formed?  It is an acknowledgement of God’s goodness and rightness that is reflected in all of God’s “laws” given to guide our feet on the way to peace.

Nehemiah tells the people this after they have listened to the law of the Lord being read to them all day,
“Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” (Nehemiah 8.10)   “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” sings the Psalmist in Psalm 19, verse 9.  Nehemiah and the Psalmist both remind us that rejoicing is about knowing that who we obey and what we follow in the Lord is the best, is the good, is that which ultimately will bring all fulfillment, even victory, and the feeling of joy.

Rejoicing is not only a stance we are invited to take, but if we take that stance, have that attitude, we will have the strength we need to face that which we need to face, including the suffering:  “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. “  1Corinthians 12.26

In that sentence, Paul brings attitude and feeling together.  Suffering hurts!  It ain’t suffering if it doesn’t hurt!  But suffering, like honor, is passing.  Suffering is pain.  Honor feels good.  Just go through it, endure it, ride it like a giant wave knowing that whether pleasant or unpleasant, scary or delightful, suffering and honor are moving us to the safe haven shores of God’s Kingdom.

All of this is a prelude to the mission of Jesus (From Luke 4. 16b-21)  who tells us that we have been set free of no-end-in-sight-ever suffering!  We are no longer captive to the rip tide of one-bad-thing-after-another.  God’s way (what is acceptable to God) is here!  Jesus unites concept, attitude, law, teaching and the feeling of joy when he proclaims: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  No wonder he had to sit down!  He probably would have levitated out of their sight, so filled with joy was Our Dear Lord in knowing and proclaiming that the Father has immersed him in a wonder-filled mission: Kingdom-bringer!  The time is now; now is the acceptable time!  The Kingdom is here! 

Paul must have swam in that one awhile, for he is able to proclaim in another letter: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake...” (Colossians 1.24)

What I realize happens within me, is that as I truly move into an attitude of rejoicing, as I take the stance of rejoice in the Lord always, I am able, eventually and in some areas, (I honestly need to qualify) to feel the emotion of joy, an emotion which gives me energy, the desire to jump a bit, the readiness to go for it at last!  I pray that we continue to move from rejoicing in the good law of God to rejoicing in the God of Love whose law of Love is written on our hearts.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"...the cluttered house that hides the Holy One."

      While channel surfing early on a Saturday morning, I came across an infomercial for  "MyPillow." As the camera panned the enraptured audience, I wondered how much these people are paid to sit through, and act interested in the presentation. Do they get cash? A free pillow? Then I thought about how much I was being paid to watch this, and over my lifetime, thousands of additional hours of worthless programming. Time lost to me forever. This brought to mind my favorite saying of rabbi Abraham Heschel: "Living is not a private affair of the individual. Living is what man does with God's time..."

     These thoughts resonated with me when I read this Sunday's letter from Paul to the Corinthian's. He writes:

         "Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, variety of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes." (1Corinthians 12:4-11)

       In author J.K. Rowling's magical world of Harry Potter, "muggles" were those people unaware of the power and the gifts within them. Like the Corinthian's, and, too often, myself, muggles are preoccupied with the mundane and profane, the hustle and bustle, buying and selling, work and play of their everyday lives. 

       Dave Pruitt, in his book, "Reason and Wonder", tells of an awkward teenage girl named Jeanne, who used to walk with her dog around Central Park in New York. On two occasions, she nearly knocked over an elderly gentleman. The old man offered to walk with her. So, for more than a year, Jeanne and the old gentleman met several times a week in the park. Jeanne called him "Mr. Tayer" because she could not get the first part of his long French name.

       Jeanne felt Mr Tayer's unpretentiousness and childlike wonder transformed the most ordinary experience-like stumbling upon a caterpillar-into a moment of enchantment, as she recounts:

       "Jeanne, can you feel yourself to be a caterpillar?"

       "Oh yes," I replied with the baleful knowing of a gangly pimply faced teenager.

       "Then think of your own metamorphosis," he suggested. "What will you be when you become a butterfly, une papillon, eh? What's the butterfly of Jeanne"?...

       Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Mr. Tayer was the way he would suddenly look at you. He looked at you with wonder and astonishment regarding you as the cluttered house that hides the holy one. I would tell my mother, "Mother, I was with my old man again, and when I am with him, I leave my littleness behind."

       Years later, Jeanne was given a copy of the book, "The Phenomenon of Man." And she discovered that "Mr. Tayer" was Jesuit priest, paleontologist, author and mystic, Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Jeanne of this story is Dr. Jean Houston, world renowned protege of Margaret Meade, and a founder of the human potential movement. Houston's chance encounter and subsequent meetings with "old Mr. Tayer" changed her life as no other event ever did. "I leave my littleness behind," she remarked, "because he saw God in me and I had to rise."

     I need to remind myself that the Divine Presence within Dr. Houston, and the first century Corinthians Paul is addressing, is also within me and all of us. In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke10: 38-42), Jesus tells us the way to Himself. Martha, who is burdened by doing all the housework while her sister Mary sits at Jesus's feet, complains to our Lord:  

         "Do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

      The "one thing" was simply this: Mary was, in love and humility, present to Him. She was open, receptive ,in the moment, in a state of complete silent surrender to Our Lord. When Paul writes that "the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit" I think he means not only for the good of the community, but for the development and manifestation of my very being, my very soul. I am created in God's image and likeness, a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I am responsible for seeking the Divine, hidden in plain sight within me. And I must use "God's time" wisely, awaken my caterpillar self, and be a living, breathing icon, witnessing to God's immeasurable love and kindness.       


Friday, January 11, 2013

Holy Trinity in Our Lives

A Reflection on the Holy Trinity

Posted by: Larry T.

My thirty-nine year old daughter wrapped her email up with, “Dad I’ve been attending a class at our church and I’m having a real problem understanding the Holy Trinity. Can you help me?”
I instantly flashed back to religion class - to an incident that took place fifty years ago - when my classmates and I had been mercilessly pelting Sister Mary Rupert with endless questions concerning the Holy Trinity. We were all shocked when she finally exclaimed, “People it’s a matter of faith! Accept it, End of discussion!” 
The Three Persons of the Trinity are at work in this Sunday’s gospel reading (January 13th, first option). 

15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.
16 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.
21 After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened
22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:15-16, 21-22 N.A.B. 

We hear the voice of the Father and see the Holy Spirit in the form of the dove descending on the Son in verse 22. 

I resisted the urge to repeat Sister Rupert’s answer to my daughter, and chose to quote one of the venerated fathers of the Church, Gregory Nazianzen (330-390 A.D.): 

The Old Testament announced the Father openly and the Son more obscurely. The New made the Son manifest and alluded to the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit is in our midst and he declares himself to us more openly. For it was unsafe, when the Father’s divinity had not yet been confessed, for the Son to be announced openly; nor, when the Son’s divinity had not yet been admitted, to impose the Holy Spirit as a kind of heavier burden, if one may speak in such a fashion, lest some of us might, as if weighed down with too much food and with eyes weakened by the sun’s rays, be unable to grasp even what lay within our powers.  

Next I steered her to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 

When we pray to "our" Father, we personally address the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By doing so we do not divide the Godhead, since the Father is its "source and origin," but rather confess that the Son is eternally begotten by him and the Holy Spirit proceeds from him. We are not confusing the persons, for we confess that our communion is with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, in their one Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is consubstantial and indivisible. When we pray to the Father, we adore and glorify him together with the Son and the Holy Spirit. – C.C.C. 2789 

I wrapped up my response with a flourish quoting Cyril of Jerusalem (circa 318-386 A.D): 

For our salvation it is sufficient to know that there is a Father and a Son and a Holy Spirit – as our Church has always taught – it’s a matter of faith.”  

Does that sound a little like Sister Mary Rupert’s exasperated exclamation? 

My daughter’s next letter began, “Dad, just saying that it’s a matter of faith is a non-explanation. Isn’t there something more?” She had been hoping for something more concrete.  

I reminded her, in my next letter, that some of the ways in which we personally experience the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity is by seeing the Father’s presence in the world He created, benefiting from the Son’s redeeming work (reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist), and reception of the Holy Spirit at baptism and confirmation. She hasn’t mentioned this subject again, and I pray that God has given her the grace necessary to accept the Holy Trinity as taught by our Church.  

We cannot fully comprehend the Holy Trinity because to do so would be to understand the very essence of God - something that is not possible for human beings. 

We can accept the Holy Trinity as a matter of faith in two ways: 

First, we can reason that because of Holy Scripture the early Church fathers professed it, and it became Church doctrine, and must be true. Also because Sister Mary Rupert said so, and she was never wrong! This act of faith might not be pleasing to God.  

Second, we can also accept, with humility and reverence, the truth of the Holy Trinity which God has made known to us through Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition of the Catholic Church, and be alert to the workings of the Three Persons of the Trinity in our daily lives. This degree of faith would be pleasing to God, but requires the gift of His grace because we cannot reach this level of faith on our own.  

God’s gift, to those who seek to understand Him and His workings, is the gift of grace through which He reveals more of Himself to the seeker.




Saturday, January 5, 2013

An Epiphany

A reflection on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Opening prayer for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord:
May the splendor of your majesty, oh lord we pray, shed its light upon our hearts that we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home.

Having just returned from visiting my family in Minnesota I must say that as I pass through the shadows of this world I stumble quite a bit!  Especially around my extended family!  How is one to be a light to others when one spends so much time stumbling over personal ineptitude and in-eloquence.  I do not know how to  respond to hot button moral issues, like "same-sex" marriage or cohabitation - issues that hit very close to home for several of my family members-  without stumbling into to cold superiority, or succumbing to moral relativity!!!  If  I finally muster the courage to say anything, in my effort to navigate somewhere between both extremes, my words come across as weak and confused, too spiritual to be practical, too vague to be understood!  So mostly I shut up, and pray silently for light.  But I always feel that I ought to have done more.
Even as I despair of ever serving my Lord in courage and in truth,  as well as in compassion, the light of the star that guided the wise men to Truth Himself is once again brought forth in the liturgy of our Church.  And the message is to keep following, keep praying, to keep adoring, to nurture an interior awareness that all creation is in some way revealing the Mother and her Son, and to allow the majestic beauty of the Nativity of our Lord to draw me out of myself, deep into His Spirit. Just in pondering the Nativity, particularly as I listen to some of the beautiful and sacred hymns of Christmas, all my frustrations and anxieties over my family disagreements, wash away, all of my personal struggles and failures with disordered desires become a bit more ordered.  

In fact, what is illuminated is that my anxiety is caused by my pride.  A pride that will not bear the misguided accusations of being uncaring or unkind or hateful.  My pride that bristles at the attempts by a few family members to bait me and others into a discussion that will only cause discomfort and embarrassment to other members of our family. My pride that would love to find the right words to put them in their place, or to lead them to the light...except it would be my light and not the splendor of His majestic light.

And once I step out of the shadow of my pride I can now perceive an interior light:

  "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there be any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4: 8-9 

I know that is not one of the readings for this Sunday, but, for me, it was like the star of Bethlehem, directing me to let His light shine through me, through focusing on the goodness in even those who oppose me.  Doing this protects me against trying to illuminate truth (or rather, cut down my enemies) through my fancy words or my forceful arguments.  It does not mean that I do not defend truth, or hide my faith away. If I must defend truth with arguments and debates, I will be guided by the light those inspired words of Saint Paul.

  And somehow I am strengthened with these thoughts and now I can simply serve Him in love and endure with Him in the shadows of the world.  I can bask in adoration of the little child who has come for me.  I can be drawn into His heart by the beauty of His Mother. If others have not yet perceived the light, if they have not yet perceived a desire for God in all of their deepest desires, than as the Magi left Herod in his darkness to  rejoice in and follow the light, I must continue on to follow God, and trust that God does not intend to leave anyone in darkness who is truly searching for the light.  Maybe they will follow.  Maybe their hearts desires will be revealed as they step into the splendor of His majesty.

Come and adore Him.  Be drawn unto Him by His light!.  

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  You light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory.  Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.  Raise your eyes and look about you; they all gather and come to you:  your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.  Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be brought to you.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord!  Isaiah 60:1-6 
Merry Christmas!

Oh!  And just for fun, because this made me laugh: