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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.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reflection for July 28th, 2013

By Sharon Nelsen

Don’t you love the dialogue, the back and forth, the bartering of man with God that Abraham drawing nearer to God, initiates with the question, “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? And, in all boldness, Abraham concludes with a declaration: “Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”

That passage in Sunday’s reading from Genesis is another development in the dialogue with Adam and Eve, (Genesis 3.9) in which God initiates the conversation with his question, “Where are you?”  Humanity, created in Love by Love is not afraid to tell God they are afraid. 

Rather, it seems, dialogue with the Deity has a positive effect, according to the psalmist: “When I called you answered me; you built up strength within me.”

It would seem that God wants a great loving relationship with each person and with us collectively as church:  “even when you were dead in transgressions…he brought you to life along with him.” (Colossians)  Life is brought to us through the word.

By the time we arrive at the great intersection of time, God is speaking face to face with all of us in the fully human, fully divine, Jesus, who not only instructs us as to how to pray, but gives us another impetus to persistent dialogue in the story of the man who bothers his bedded down friend for bread so he can feed his late night unexpected guest.

In case we still haven’t grasped that we do have “permission” to address I AM in all circumstances, Jesus gives us pre-dialogue instructions that are for “everyone.”
“Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

In the event that we would suppose that Our Father God is like us with a list of caveats and exceptions, Jesus challenges us to, in the very least, think of God as being as helpful as flawed humanity:  “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?”

It is clear that our tradition forms and fosters us to be in dialogue with our Creator.   Though we accept that tradition intellectually, when we are faced with one more challenge, we might be flooded with emotions, run desperately to the door and pound, hoping for a “solution.”

And therein is our the conflict:  We are looking for answers and Jesus is promising “How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”  When we are looking for answers, usually we have assessed the situation in our terms, come up with a list of possibilities, and in, in a sense, we are asking God to “pick one.”  We are still in control; we know “what’s best” generally, just not specifically in this situation.  We are not dialoguing with God, we are demanding.

So how do we move from helter-skelter demanding of solutions to authentic dialogue with God?  Honesty is a good beginning in any relationship.  Yet, our true feelings might surface before our true thoughts and we are not comfortable being honest about our feelings, especially when they are churning rapidly and sporadically through us and we can’t quite name them.

Am I able to move this messy me, this wildly upset person pounding at the door desperate for answers, into honest dialogue with God?  Am I able to say or scream out my pain, my conflicts, expose my chaotic self?

Jesus promises us that the “at least as good as one of us” God will hear us and will send us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate, the Divine Power who activates our  gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude knowledge, piety, and awe of God.  What more do we need? 

What might block us, even as we accept God’s gift of the Holy Spirit as the “answer” to our prayer, is the false belief that now it is our singular mission, we have to do it all by ourselves.  Would a good parent expect each child to have all of the talents and gifts of the family?  Would any parent knowingly burden their child with problems beyond the child’s capabilities?  The “at least as good as one of us” God has empowered all of creation, and gives us each other so that we can work together, sharing our gifts to bring health, wholeness and healing to each situation, each relationship  set before us.

This is indeed Good News!  Being able to talk things over, letting go of our agendas as we move into deeper dialogue with our Creator, our Father, our Friend, our Love, might transform us just a bit and subsequently the world in which we live and move and have our being. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Lord's Lifeline


A Reflection on Luke 11:2-4 

By: Larry T. 

When one of the disciples approached Jesus and asked, Lord, teach us to pray, Jesus knew the reason for the request. With the foreknowledge of God and with the insight of His own humanity, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer.  

2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3Give us each day our daily bread
4and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”
– Luke 11:2-4 (N.A.B.) 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church introduces us to the Lord’s Prayer this way:
The traditional expression “the Lord’s Prayer” — oratio Dominica—means that the prayer to our Father is taught and given to us by the Lord Jesus. The prayer that comes to us from Jesus is truly unique: it is “of the Lord.” On the one hand, in the words of this prayer the only Son gives us the words the Father gave him: he is the master of our prayer. On the other, as Word incarnate, he knows in his human heart the needs of his human brothers and sisters and reveals them to us: he is the model of our prayer. - C.C.C. 2765 

Worldwide, it is estimated that as many as two billion Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians who share in the celebration of Easter read, recite, or sing the Lord’s Prayer in hundreds of languages on a typical Easter Sunday. Even though theological differences and various modes of worship divide Christians, the Lord’s Prayer unites us. 

While it has its place in our liturgy, it is worth reflecting on the value of the Lord’s Prayer to us personally because it is one of the spiritual lifelines that Jesus provided for us. Many of us will cling to this lifeline in the face or imminent danger or death. Soldiers use it regularly.

The Allied invasion of Normandy which took place on June 6, 1944 is a classic example. By 6:30 a.m. a line of Higgins Boats (landing craft) faced the six mile wide expanse of Omaha Beach. At exactly 6:36 a.m. the boat ramps dropped and soldiers of the U.S. Army jumped off into choppy 45 degree water that was anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. Those soldiers who managed to make it to shore faced withering German machine gun and sniper fire, but by nightfall, the Army had gained a toehold on the beach and its immediate vicinity - the cost was 3,000 dead, missing, or wounded.

Eighteen year old Private Jack Wiggins was in the first assault wave. He managed to crawl out of the water onto the beach, and as he stood up and started to run forward he was hit in both legs with machine gun fire – that was the end of the battle for him. He recovered from his wounds, stayed in the Army, and went on to fight in the Korean War. By the time I met Jack in 1964, he was a Master Sergeant. We roomed across from each other in the Non-Commissioned Officer’s quarters so we naturally became friends.

One Saturday morning, following a five mile run, Jack noticed me studying those faded, but still nasty looking scars on his legs. “Larry, that’s what happens when you get hit by a German machine gun.”

“Which battle?”

“Omaha Beach.”

“Jack that must have been a wild ride in on the Higgins boats.”

He lit a Pall Mall cigarette, took a deep drag, and exhaled. “Yeah, the ocean was rough and the wind was blowing like crazy. We were bouncing all over the place. A lot of guys jumped into water that was over their heads and drowned once their gear got water-logged.”

“What were you thinking on the boat ride in?”

He took another drag on the Pall Mall. “Well, I double checked my gear for the umpteenth time then started praying the Lord’s Prayer over and over until the ramp dropped. Every Christian, and even some atheists, did exactly the same thing; I could hear them.”

“Jack, I’ve never seen you go to church on Sunday.”

He grinned. “Larry, maybe after we’ve won this Vietnam War that’s coming up, I’ll retire, buy a nice little house with a white picket fence, and have time to get to church every Sunday. In the meantime I will pray the Lord’s Prayer before every battle – if there’s time that is.”

I wonder how many Christian and non-Christian soldiers, in desperate of reassurance reached out for Jesus’ lifeline and recited the Lord’s Prayer before they climbed out of a foxhole and charged the enemy. I wonder how many died with the unfinished prayer on their lips. I wonder how many German machine gunners and snipers on Omaha Beach were also sustained by the Lord’s Prayer as they waited for the Americans to hit the beach.

We don’t have to be soldiers going into harm’s way to reach for Jesus’ lifeline. Many of us in the face of imminent danger or death will resort to the consolation of the Lord’s Prayer. For example, I have another friend who is recovering from open heart surgery. When I asked her which prayer she recited before the anesthesia did its work, she said. “Larry, it was the Our Father.”

This Year of Faith is intended to be an opportunity for us to turn back to Jesus so that we might enter into a deeper relationship with Him. In doing this we might reflect on the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, its everlasting impact on humanity, and marvel at God’s wisdom and love for us.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Are You a Jackass?

(a reflection on Luke 10:38-42)
by Deacon Paul Rooney

Today I want to share some thoughts with you about Martha and Mary, featured in our Gospel this day, and one aspect of the story that relates to our own personal spiritual journey.

But before I get there, I want to alert you to the fact that I will be using a dictionary word that might sound bad, one that sometimes has bad connotations (depending entirely on how you use it).  However, I assure you that I will be using it only in a Good sense, and I will be quoting a Pope who also uses it in this same good way.

First, I have a Question for you.
Have you ever reflected on the truth that "Discipleship" really translates into the need for you and me to become "a Disciple for others"?  Yes, we are disciples of Christ.  But HE devoted his life to Others; that is the same mission WE have as baptized Catholic disciples of Christ.

But before we can do that, we have to become "Intentional Disciples" — meaning followers of Jesus who have a living, personal relationship with Jesus, and who order their lives based on that decision to follow him.

So how do we go about acquiring such a personal relationship?  The process is simple.  We have to be formed and fed by Christ, and only then sent to carry on the mission of Jesus.

It is this exact sequence of things that matters: formed, fed, and then sent.  Sure, we can do all kinds of good things in terms of help for the poor.  But if it does not flow from our Christ-center, then it is nothing more than secular humanism, just good deeds that have No reference to our faith life, and may even deny or reject the need for Christian faith and our Duty to respond to the needs of others.

So first and foremost, we must be formed by Christ.  We need to sit at his feet daily, and let him teach us with the inspired words of Sacred Scripture.  After our faith has been formed, we are then strengthened and fed by the Eucharist at this altar.  Only then are we able to go out in the name of Christ, sent as Intentional Disciples to carry Him to others.

Now, fast-forward to Martha and Mary.  The gospel story is very clear about which one of the sisters chose to be formed first by the word of God, and which one chose to skip the formation and just get busy with good works.  We all have a bit of both Martha and Mary in us; but which one tends to dominate our life?

We really and truly need this continuing formation in God's word.  Only then can we become little donkeys, and carry Jesus to others.  If we ever think we do NOT need this daily formation in God's word, it is a danger sign pointing to a big Ego and the vice of Pride.  I like to use by analogy a quote from Pope John Paul I.  He was Pope for only 33 days, dying in 1978; but one of his comments stuck with me:

(I Quote) "I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: If that little creature, hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had begun (jackass that he was) to bow his thanks...how much laughter he would have aroused! Don't you act the same." (END Quote)

Hopefully we ALL desire to be "little donkeys," little jackasses ready to carry the precious cargo of Jesus' word and Jesus' peace to Others.  And hopefully we will ALL see the prior need to be formed daily by God's word, before any ministry to others can be effective.
Jesus himself told us that Mary had chosen the better part.  She sat at his feet to be formed by his word.  We need to do likewise.  Why argue with the Boss?
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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Who is my neighbor?

 A reflection on the Gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By: Judy Morss

Who is my neighbor?

Our first reading for this Sunday is from Deuteronomy 30:10-14.  Moses is finishing his giving of the laws and customs that the Hebrews must follow in order to belong to God.  Moses' words are words of comfort.  He says, "For this command I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you.  It is not up in the sky...nor is it across the sea... No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."

What a perfect prelude to our Gospel of today -- Luke 10:25-37.  We all know the parable of the "Good Samaritan" who stopped to tend the injured man lying by the side of the road on the way to Jericho.  Others had passed him by, but the "foreigner, the unclean man" stopped and made sure the injured man received the care he needed.

The scholar who was testing Jesus restated the law saying "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."  As Moses said, this command is not mysterious or remote.  Yet the scholar persists and asks the key question "And who is my neighbor?"

That is a question we need to consider ourselves.  It is so easy to be consumed with what is going on in our own lives.  We are busy with our day to day issues, taking care of those things that seem to be so important to us.  And indeed many of these things are important. BUT, do we take heed of those around us? Do we notice those around us who are "robbed"? Those who need a kind word, a smile, a hug, a prayer, financial help, spiritual sustenance?  Sometimes it is easy for me to "not hear" that request for help, to delay a response, ignoring or postponing what I should do.
The question "And who is my neighbor" is not to be taken lightly.  Rather we are to "Go and do likewise." What we do may be big or small, difficult or easy.  The important thing is that we do something.  It is for each of us to recognize that "neighbor in need" and do what we can to be the hands, feet and heart of God.

May we each be a blessing to one another!


Monday, July 8, 2013

The Lord is King

What does it take to awaken awe and wonder of the Lord? What keeps you from running to all the petty little idols surrounding us that promise so much, but rob you of your eternal inheritance?

public domain via wikipedia

The Lord is king, let the earth rejoice, let all the coastlands be glad. Cloud and darkness are his raiment; his throne, justice and right. A fire prepares his path; it burns up his foes on every side. His lightnings light up the world, the earth trembles at the sight. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord of all the earth. The skies proclaim his justice; all peoples see his glory. Let those who serve idols be ashamed, those who boast of their worthless gods. All you spirits worship him. Psalm 97:1-7

That is part of Psalm 97 and according to my Divine Office app this psalm foretells of worldwide salvation; that all nations will, one day, believe in Christ. One of the things that I love about praying the Divine Office is how the readings help to stir up wonder and awe. Even when my personal prayer is dry, the Psalms that are prayed in the Office always lift up my heart with wonder, if even for just a moment.  I cannot ponder them enough.

As our contemporary culture continues to embrace materialistic philosophical views of the world, I love being reminded, “the earth rejoices and the coastlands are glad.” I love how the phrase: ‘cloud and darkness are his raiment ‘increases my wonder for the mystery that is Our Lord. It both establishes God’s absolute authority over all, and reveals how those shabby, materialistic philosophies are blind to the great transcendent dignity of man.  Because in each of us is the divine image.

To reduce our humanity to biological chance goes against everything that we are naturally oriented to.  The ancient pagans were much wiser than we are in our present technologically advanced age when they saw divinity in the sun, the moon and the stars.  They may have missed the mark in their worship, but our lot in life -- with everything around us reduced to only what can be quantified and measured -- is so much more demeaning to our true nature.  We are no less blood thirsty than those who sacrificed humans on altars to false gods; we sacrifice our children in abortion for comparatively petty comforts for heavens sake!
In the movie The 13th Day , which tells of the appearance of Mary to three children in Fatima, Portugal, there is a scene near the end in which the sun appears to be falling down upon the earth and all the people gathered at the site to witness the promised miracle are screaming and running for their lives.  Where are they running to if the sun is falling from the heavens?   But an elderly woman, who seemed angrily doubtful just before the beginning of the apparition, fell to her knees exclaiming “God, how great is your power!”  It sends chills down my spine and brings tears to my eyes. The power, the might, the gentleness, the love.  The cosmos rejoices, and we simply acknowledge Him and wonder!

It is fitting that this revelation was brought by Mary, whose humility enabled her to be the Theotokus: God bearer.  She has no power to save herself, she receives His power.  God has created us to receive His power, we must begin to have an inkling of the magnitude of that gift, and the humility to empty ourselves of vain, materialistic idols -- especially the idol of self, for we cannot save ourselves from destruction and futility anymore than we can outrun a falling sun -- so that we can be awakened to His mighty presence and allow His image to re-create us. That is your inheritance.

public domain via wikipedia

Peace and Grace to all
Heidi Knofczynski

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rejoice, Your Names are Written in Heaven

 A reflection on the Gospel for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”  And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that  your names are written in heaven.”  (Luke 10 17-20 Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)
This reading begins with Jesus sending seventy-two appointed disciples on a mission to proclaim Him in advance of His coming.  These missionaries were to expect hardship, and rejection.  They were being sent like sheep amidst wolves, but His power and authority would be with them.  To hear and receive these chosen disciples was to hear and receive the Lord, and to reject them was to reject God.  Jesus is God-with-us; Emmanuel.  He has humbly taken on our humanity to gather us into His kingdom, where  “You will see and your heart shall exult, and your bodies shall flourish like grass; The Lord’s power shall be revealed to his servants, but to His enemies, his wrath.” (Isaiah 66:15)

And when the seventy-two return to Jesus they joyfully tell of how even the demons were subject to them when they spoke in His name.  But Jesus tells them not to rejoice in their success, even though they are truly wondrous and astounding, he tells them to rejoice because their names are written in heaven.  They are to find their joy in their relationship with the Father.  Is that where your peace lies?  Does it rest in the fact that you are called by name to be with the Lord in heaven?

Monsignor Pope in his thorough reflection on this Gospel writes this about this joy that Jesus is giving them:
“They (the seventy-two) have the joy of success that day.  There will be other days of rejection and even martyrdom.  That’s why Jesus counsels to have a deeper source of joy; merely that they have been called and have their names written in heaven.”
To have our joy and our peace rooted in our relationship with Christ is to have treasure in heaven.  I myself have always felt like an outsider, no matter how long I have belonged to a particular group. I suppose it is because I am a bit on the introverted side, but I am sure that many others know what I am talking about.  I have a really hard time feeling like I belong.  It can be dangerous, I have at time been very vulnerable to clinging to friendships that have been destructive.  This is why it is so important to keep proclaiming Christ's Good News, and so urgent.  There are many who cling to a sense of belonging – to whatever group or situation they have become comfortable with -- to their own ultimate destruction.  They need laborers to bring them the healing and peace that is not of this world, but is from where they truly do belong, heaven.  We all need to be freed from the idols that we cling to so that we can answer His call and know that our names are written in heaven.
There really are no sweeter words that one can hear, words that assure you that you are called and that you belong!

May His peace rest upon all of you!

Here is a link to the rest of Monsignor's reflection, I guarantee that you will be blessed by reading it!