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, December 31, 2011

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and me!
 Luke Knofczynski

Since it is still Christmas we still have our decorations up and Christmas music is playing throughout our house. There are abundant platters of Christmas goodies placed out and the kids are enjoying their annual feasting on the chocolate ornaments that have replaced the little Nativity storybook ornaments that were read and hung on the tabletop Advent tree. And, we are all still pondering the story of Emmanuel.

If your Advent was like ours it was busy, hectic and messy!  All of the Advent devotions done with the kids seemed chaotic and disorderly. It was very often the antithesis of quiet reflection!  Still, the Christ child came quietly and silently into the chaos of the entertaining, decorating, traveling, cooking, et cetera.  And because he comes so quietly into the celebrations, we are invited to step back, if only in the depth of our heart, and like Mary reflect.

The readings for the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God include the story found in the Gospel of Luke 2:16-21:

 "The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  When they say this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the had seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by an angel before he was conceived in the womb."

And we are to ponder not in befuddled arrogance, demythologizing the story into oblivion, but in pure hearted wonder and awe, like Mary.  Looking at the frail babe in her arms, pondering his miraculous conception and all the gracious signs that the Lord had given her so that she could continue forward in her great Fiat!  What great wonder must have stirred in her heart.

  I know there are many who study scripture who have taken the prophesies of -and the Gospel story itself - of the virginal conception and birth of the messiah apart; only to put it back together entirely devoid of wonder and awe, and entirely barren of the life it is intended to give.  When I hear these theories I immediately think of the Parable of the Sower.  The birth of the Savior has been stripped of it's fertile soil, and it cannot be planted deeply, and repeatedly pondered. Whatever grace it bestows will be taken away as soon as the dryness of ordinary life returns.

There is still hope!  The miracle of the Incarnation and the miracle of conceiving life everlasting where there should be none or where the soil is dry and hostile, is always being cultivated in the hearts of those who ponder, like Mary.  Purity of heart can begin to be restored in one who ponders the story of the Nativity of Christ!  Life can be regenerated in hearts like mine, hearts that have a tendency become slaves to fear and cynical in our weaknesses or in reaction to the hurtful actions of others. They are regenerated when we receive and reflect on the message of the angel and trust it to be so.

Allow yourself embrace the miraculous conception of the Lord so that you can be a child of Mary, who bore the Savior in humble trust! Imitate her reflective heart and receive the Spirit of his Son so that we all may cry out Abba, Father, and be freed from the tyranny of cynicism and the slavish spirit of this world!

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 26, 2011

We All Experienced His Spiritual Presence

Greetings and Merry Christmas to all who read Journey To Wisdom!  Sharon Nelsen is sharing with us some of the materiel that she has been privileged to see as the cause of Father Flanagan is poised to begin the next phase:  

"after more than ten years of working with Father Flanagan's boys and hearing so many stories of transformation, we are moving from the groundswell into the next phase of sainthood process. Our postulator, Dr. Andres Ambrosi, will be taking the cause to our Archbishop Lucas in mid-January of our New Year. If the Archbishop accepts the cause, the Diocesan Phase begins and Father Flanagan receives the title of Servant of God as the investigation of his life story proceeds. The following article is a one page piece written by our good friend and Boys Town boy, Stan Struble. Stan's perspective inspires us as church to think about considering miracles of the heart and mind as possible criteria in the sainthood process. Please feel free to share these sites and attached material with your families and friends."  Sharon Nelsen

We All Experienced His Spiritual Presence
            —Stan Struble, Class of 1968

Stan Struble, Director of the Alumni, wrote this letter to teachers in the recently published teaching resource unit about Father Flanagan, “A Saint of Our Own.”
I am writing to share information that is essential in understanding why the Home’s alumni believe that Father Flanagan should be canonized.  As a graduate and long-time employee of Boys Town, I have come to know many, many former students and employees from all generations, including those who knew Father Flanagan and those who did not.  Strong tangible lines link us because of commonalities and shared experiences.  The Home has weathered World Wars, depressions and recessions, changes in curriculum and staff, as well as the tumultuous transformation of America’s families and cultural values.  Yet Father Flanagan’s spirit and work has endured, strong and undiminished, under the inspired leadership of the Home’s Executive Directors. 

Father Flanagan’s genius and spirituality are as viable and relevant today as they were in 1917.  The miracle of Boys Town is that our Founder created a place that provided exactly what children require in order to become good citizens.  You see, no matter how hard the staff works, no matter how well they counsel or role model, it’s still up to the individual child to make the transformation.   There’s no magic pill or bullet.  Only the child can make the decision to heal from their abuse and neglect.  No one can do the hard work for them.   Herein lies the miracle and genius of Father Flanagan.  All Boys Town alumni know that Father Flanagan built this place just for them.  We all experienced his spiritual presence and healing in some way, whether in church, school or on the gridiron.  His spirituality and mission continues to resonate individually within each new generation. 

For many hundreds of years ‘miracles’ have been viewed solely within the context of inexplicable medical cures.  As our knowledge of science has grown, we now know that many ‘miracles’ are now quite easily explained; not all, obviously, but many.  And some miracles can best be explained as unnatural events that occur naturally.  Whether through ignorance or fear, the mind, that entity most important in governing our being, has never been viewed as a bodily organ in need of healing except within a biological context.  In retrospect, sitting here in the 21st  Century, one can only speculate on why such a narrow definition of ‘miracle’ has been used to demonstrate holiness. 

Miracles occur every day at Boys Town—some small, others huge—but ‘miracles’ nonetheless.  Unless you’ve been the victim of spiritual neglect, or chronic physical and emotional abuse as a child, you can’t truly appreciate the difficulties and barriers in becoming emotionally healed.  It’s a process that requires a very special place, committed staff, and a spiritual font to nourish and heal the mind.  Through Father Flanagan, all three have became an integral part of Boys Town.  It’s the type of miracle that goes unrecognized and unappreciated except by those of us who know what the alternative would have been; frightening to realize how badly our lives might have turned out, and awe-inspiring to know that only a miracle could have saved us...Father Flanagan’s life was divinely inspired; he was selected by God for a very special mission: to bring help, healing and hope to children and families; ‘miracles’ of the heart and soul are as rare and real and relevant as ‘medical miracles’.

NOTE; This article was in our Winter 2004 issue of our Father Flanagan newsletter.   Stan works in the aftercare program at Boys Town. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas at Father Flanagan's House

A Merry Christmas from Sharon Nelsen:

Greeting you with Father Flanagan's words, "Hello Dear," and some words from the writings of Jim Takahashi about Father Flanagan (I'll say a bit about my connection with Jim later:)

"When I arrived at Boys Town, Father Flanagan came up and greeted me, he hugged me, he was very, very loving. All the people in Nebraska were wonderful, we had friends who were Italians, Germans, all nationalities, and they didn't care what nationality we were. I was the supervisor of the grounds. I contacted many of the people I knew from the detention camp in Los Angeles and told them to come to Boys Town. With all their families, about 20 people came... My wife Margaret, was very popular with the boys, because most of these boys had no idea what a true mother was like, either. She would hug them, and boys need that. Many of the boys acted so tough, like they didn't care at all, but they all cared. They all wanted to be near Father Flanagan. Father Flanagan called everyone "dear," and he was a real father to each boy. He had candy in his pocket at all times, and he would hand this out to the kids. I never heard anyone call men "dear" like Father. Father Flanagan made you feel like you were his favorite, everyone was his favorite. He was radiant, you would look at him and just love him... When I returned to Los Angeles in 1947, I started landscaping and cutting trees in the San Fernando Valley. I have been a landscaper and gardener ever since. I specialized in building Japanese gardens for people.."
I began working on the Father Flanagan cause for sainthood in 2001. Going through documents in the Hall of History was part of my work. When I came across this story of the Takahashi family, I realized this was Leona Takahashi's Dad. Leona and I had been classmates at Los Angeles Catholic Girls High School for four years. I did not know then that she had lived at Boys Town during the war years. The Takahashi family had to leave their home in Los Angeles and were detainees at Santa Anita Race Track stables when they heard about Fr. Flanagan's invitation to come and work at Boys Town. Leona's mother took the girls and new baby brother on the train to Omaha. Jim drove a truck carrying their possessions, and drove straight through from Los Angeles to Omaha as he feared for his life at any stops on the route. I think of the Takahashi's and their struggle whenever I walk beneath the sturdy, mature oaks Jim planted around the main historical area at Boys Town.

I send you this story at Christmastime, because, after more than ten years of working with Father Flanagan's boys and hearing so many stories of transformation, we are moving from the groundswell into the next phase of sainthood process. Our postulator, Dr. Andres Ambrosi, will be taking the cause to our Archbishop Lucas in mid-January of our New Year. If the Archbishop accepts the cause, the Diocesan Phase begins and Father Flanagan receives the title of Servant of God as the investigation of his life story proceeds.

Father Flanagan transformed lives and systems. In the early 1900's, he accepted boys of all races and creeds. This fact alone raised a clamor of opposition, so much so that he was motivated to move "way out" to Overlook Farm, which is now the National Headquarters of Boys Town. But the greatest transformation is the personal transformation each child who becomes part of the Boys Town family experiences, and how all of us are transformed in hope renewed by one person's efforts to do something about an unjust system.

If you'd like to know more about our work, you can check out our website, www.fatherflanagan.org where much of the material is available for downloading. Also, Father Flanagan's residence at Boys Town is decorated as an Irish Christmas and you might enjoy viewing that on the you-tube site http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWhBhBcvkaI.

At this blessed time of New Life, John and I remember with gratitude the gift each of you are to us. Our prayer is that your hope, too, is renewed by the example of one person's conviction to do what he could to help transform the lives before him.

Christmas blessings of Hope to each of you and to all of your "dear" ones,

John and Sharon

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Canticle of Hannah

The readings for yesterday's Mass were about Hannah offering her little Samuel to Eli. This is one of those stories that haunt me all day.  I keep thinking about it and a question keeps rising from my soul:  "what are you asking of me Lord?"  I realize that I have no heart to receive the deep profound grace of God if I cannot entrust to the Lord all that I hold most dear.
1 Sm 1:24-28

In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull, and ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy's father had sacrificed the young bull, 
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
"Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD."
She left Samuel there.

What are you asking of me Lord?
That last line is a difficult one for me to read.  I can't imagine taking my three year old daughter and placing her in the care of someone else and leaving! Can you see why this haunts me with the question "what are you asking of me?" I am not capable of that level of sacrifice, and why would the Lord ever need such a heart wrenching act? It seems cruel to separate a young child from his mother, (and if you have read the whole story you know that Eli did not do such a great job with his own sons)! Who is this God whose holiness is so awesome that such a sacrifice is warranted, and how can He ever heal the devastating heartache of a mother who no longer has her child to hold?  My soul cries out for an answer.   I know that I can never fully understand the ways of God here in this Valley of Tears,  but these readings keep whispering to me.  Though my heart breaks for Hannah and her little Samuel, I am seeing that God can be trusted for He is forging the path back to Himself, and He is the refuge for the brokenhearted.  Hannah has put all of her trust in Him, she holds nothing back.  

Open your heart to His majesty!
 This child, Samuel, factors big in salvation history and is close to the Lord in a mysterious way! He listens and hears the Lord, maybe it is because he has learned from his mother that the unfathomable God is to be entrusted with everything we have, and our hearts should always be listening for His gentle calling.  In the end it is my fear of pain as well as a superficial understanding of things that are holy and sacred that prevents me from hearing this passage, and what it has to ask of me.  And I am being asked in this reading to open my heart and trust in the mysterious majesty of God!  For as the readings continue we see that God's power works from generation to generation, and that He never forgets or overlooks the little ones, who have no where to go and no one they can completely trust.

Withhold nothing from God!
The Responsorial Psalm is taken from Hannah's canticle to God after she has left Samuel at the temple, and Hannah's canticle foreshadows Mary's, who will also suffer the loss of her son.   Neither woman lets the anxiety, or the pain of this world harden their hearts and so dampen their joy at being blessed with a child.  They do not protect themselves from loss by loving less, or holding back anything from God.  Their lives are an offering to God and their hearts are always in trusting prayer.  They understand that all that they have is God's and that nothing can be withheld from God.  They trust in The Lord who fulfills His promises to even the lowly barren woman, or a poor maiden of Nazareth.

 Luke 1: 46-56:
Mary Said:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant,
from this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him 
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy.
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."

Rejoice in His redeeming mercy!
The sorrows and sacrifices of this world should always whisper to us "in the beginning it was not so".  They can reveal to us that we are indeed souls in exile; we are separated from the  Heavenly Bridegroom.  They should focus our hearts on the journey to God, if only we can trust that when the Lord casts down the pride in our hearts, He will not forget us!  If only we can allow his redeeming mercy to scatter the attachments to materiel things or even to the idea that we have more that just superficial control over the events of the world.  If we do not have these things sent away from our hearts we may not realize that our hopes for things eternal are withering, and our fears of the unknown future will consume us!  We will settle for so much less than what God has in mind for each one of us.  We have to learn to allow God to let us hunger for what is truly lasting!  And trust in His faithfulness in filling the empty.   If only we can endure and help others to endure as well, so that someday we will see with pure eyes that the longing we so often ache with will have its true and lasting fulfillment. It is in that longing that we should rejoice in his redeeming mercy, as a mother longs for her child or a bride for her bridegroom, because the longing is an sign of a place where it will be fulfilled.

God is faithful in all that He promises!
 Hannah understands, the sorrow of leaving her son should reveal how profoundly sorrowful our lives are without God's fruitful grace in our soul!  Her trust in the Lord makes straight the way for God's salvation for generations to come!  God is the one who will sooth all of these sorrows.   Mary understands. She does not reject what she does not fully comprehend.   She does not hide away from the pain and sacrifice she will watch her son go through, she loves deeply and her heart is pierced deeply.  There is nothing superficial or lukewarm about these women.  Their sorrow is deep, but their everlasting joy is deeper still!  And what is brought forth from these women of faith are beautiful songs that reveal God's fidelity down to the last generation!

What is God asking of me?
He is asking for me to trust in Him in sorrow and in joy.  To extend my hope from just the here and now into the future.  To cast down the envy and pride that keep my hopes from the heights of heaven.  To seek the Heavenly Bridegroom in whom all my longing will be fulfilled!

Grace and Peace to all!



Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Advent Journey

Advent is the liturgical season that precedes and prepares for Christmas. It is a season of hope and of longing, of joyful expectation and of peaceful preparation. As we continue on our Advent journey, we prepare for the coming of our Lord. Part of the preparation is reconciliation. The following is taken from a Communal Reconciliation Service. I hope you find the meditations helpful to your personal journey.

Liturgy of Asking Forgiveness

We come now to ask the Lord of justice for His forgiveness. We ask in the name of Christ who is the light ofthe world. Let us listen to our hearts.

"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

God promised through Isaiah to be out everlasting light. How have I been a light, or a ray of hope to my family, my friends, those I work with? How have I protected my darkness so that no one can get in?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

God promises to make us radiant in the Light of Christ. Do I allow my values and desires to be formed by the Gospel? Have I used my light to work for justice and act with compassion? Have I been hope for those around me?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

Jesus tells us to care for the needs of the poor and one another. How do I share God's goodness with others? How do I fail to care for the poor and those in need?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

We have been seeking to be Christ for one another and for the people with whom we journey on the path of life. How have I made ready the way for Christ to come to birth in this day and in this place? Have I neglected to go beyond myself to point the way to Christ?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

God calls us to build up Christ's body, the church. Is Christ resent in my life, in my relationships with others? What in my life cries out for redemption? For new life? For what am I most grateful?

Jesus, fill us with your light.
"Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, has come to thee O Israel."

Let us pause for a quiet moment .......... .let us think of what we most want to bring to our God.

An Act of Contrition
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help, To do penance, to sin no more,
And to avoid whatever lead me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ sufferedand died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy. AMEN

Isaiah 63: 17 "Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your way, and harden our hearts so that we fear you know? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage."
64:7 "Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands."

Peace and blessings to you through all this Advent journey

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whose Lordship are you under?

For the most interesting talk on Advent click on the link to the Aggie Catholic blog and watch Father Robert Barron give a brilliant talk on Advent!  You will have to ask yourself after: Whose Lordship am I under?

Aggie Catholics: Fr. Barron - "Advent is a Preparation For a Revolution"

Peace and Grace

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete Sunday!

Wayne State College Madrigal Choir singing Gaudete

1st Thessalonians 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters;
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks.
For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise the prophetic utterances.
Test everything, retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy,
and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it. 

May all of you who read this blog continue to joyfully prepare for the coming of Christ!

Peace and Grace,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nick speaks to the Children of St. Patrick's!

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, and the children at St. Patrick's school received a very special treat, but it was not in their shoes left out by the fireplace!  St. Nick himself visited them at their school to tell them all about who he is, and why we honor him!  Here is that  special presentation, written by Sharon Nelsen:

St. Nicholas (Fourth Century) (Feast Day December 6)
Saints for School Masses, Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Written by Sharon Nelsen

St. Nicholas

In the Fourth Century, I was appointed Bishop of Myra, the capital city in Lycia, which is a province of Asia Minor.  I loved my people and they loved me which might be why so many legends have arisen about me.  This does not mean that the stories about me are untrue, just that they became more exaggerated as they were told and retold through the centuries.

What is important to me and to you is that we share with others from what God has bestowed upon us.  When my parents died, they left me a fortune.  I was determined to share that fortune with others and very soon an opportunity arose, which has become the story about me that has inspired gift-giving at Christmastime throughout the world.  The story is about how I helped a poor man in our city of Patara:

This man had lost all of his money and he had three daughters of marriageable age.  In our times it was up to the father to find a husband for his daughter, and to give not only his daughter to that husband, but to give a “dowry” of money with her.  This may sound odd to you, but in my day, when one more person was added to the household (and the daughter always went to live with her new husband’s family) someone had to pay for her food and clothing—which is why the father provided a dowry.

If the father of the bride had no money or goods to give, no dowry, his daughter had little chance of marriage and most probably would end up on the streets when her father died.

Little did I realize that when I threw the first bag of gold through the window of that poor father’s house, I was beginning a tradition!  I had managed to leave the first two bags of gold secretly, but when I crept by one night and left that third bag of gold, the poor man saw me and overwhelmed me with gratitude.

The word spread and probably because my Feast Day is so close to Christmas Day, giving gifts became associated with the Birth of Jesus.  Today in many countries, gifts are given on St. Nicholas Day, or in January on the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the gifts the Magi brought to the newly born Savior of the world.

Gifts can be things, but they can also be the giving of our time to be with someone, to help someone or simply to make someone’s life better because we let them know we care about them. 

One of the gifts I gave the church was my presence at the Council of Nicaea in the year 325. I helped the council declare what we believe about God and His Church, so now, as you recite the Nicene Creed together at Sunday Mass, you are proclaiming the truth.  And truth is the best gift of all.

Today, my prayer for each of you is that you will share always from the truth of your time, your talent, and your treasure with those the Lord sends to you throughout your life.

  St. Nicholas, pray for us;        

  St. Patrick, our parish patron, pray for us;                                  

 All holy men and women, pray for us.

Copyright 2011, Sharon Nelsen

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Joseph's Annunciation

My favorite St Joseph picture from the Holy Land!
St Joseph's Annunciation event as depicted from St Joseph's Church in Nazareth.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Light a Candle, Jesus is Coming!

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
 Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.
As they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing the spoils.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.
From David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which confirms and sustains by judgement and justice,
both now and forever."  Is 9:1-2, 5-6

Advent is here, and hopefully we all are getting into the mindset of watching and waiting for the coming of Jesus!  Our household has a few Advent traditions that are surprisingly powerful! At dinner we add the lighting of the Advent wreath and a Scripture reading to our mealtime prayer. In the evening we again light the wreath and  have special readings and hymns around it.   We also read short Nativity related stories. I say that it is surprisingly powerful because the atmosphere is often less than reflective, it is more of a three ring circus!
 The baby is fascinated by the flame of the candles and we need to be vigilant so he does not set himself on fire.  The three year old and five year old fidget through passages of Isaiah, waiting for the short Nativity stories they read from tiny ornament-books that are then hung on a tiny Christmas tree near our prayer area .  The children are also biding their time until the candles are blown out.  Who gets to place the ornament on the tree and who gets to blow out the candles are of great importance, and woe to my husband and I if we have not made clear whose turn it is beforehand (this happens way more often than it should)!  After the little book is hung on the little tree we sing a verse of  O Come O Come Emmanuel, and this step cannot be skipped no matter how late it is!

It is very easy for me to believe that these rituals are unnecessary and burdensome while I am dealing with fidgety, tired and sometimes bickering children. The younger ones don't yet understand some of those fancy and archaic words from the prophets! But this is Advent, the season where we are told to watch and be prepared for the coming of the Lord, who came to us so long ago in the most unexpected way.  In fact, often when I have been graced by a powerful encounter with the Lord, it has come upon me in mundane, unexpected and ordinary ways;  moments when I have endured in what, at the time, felt like meaningless and uninspired duties or prayers.

And every year as Advent approaches the kids become excited for the rituals and the readings.  They associate the complex passages from Isaiah, or the Advent stations from the Magnificat, with  the eager and joyful expectation of Christmas!  They do not understand it all with their intellect yet (and who of us does fully understand the magnitude of the Incarnation?).  However, they are beginning to develop the wonder and awe at the Lord's coming at Christmas, which with persistence and endurance will transcend the gifts and decorations, and open their eyes to the coming of the Lord in other ways!

 In fact, the Advent prayers and readings we have done year after year have rooted the wonder and awe at the coming of Jesus as a baby more deeply into my children's memories of past Christmases than the actual receiving of the presents from Santa that they so joyfully wait for!  And this creates a deeper yearning for Jesus' presence in all aspects of life!  Maybe they will not so easily overlook Jesus' presence in the poor, the hungry, those who are afflicted or who are outsiders!

 So let us joyfully light a candle! Jesus is coming!

Peace and Grace,


I was just reading on the blog Conversion Diary about epic Advent failures!  I just had to add, that even in our failures to cultivate an Advent devotion that becomes a cherished tradition, the effort to show our children that the joy of Christmas is Jesus can be a seed planted in their hearts. They will still learn that the excitement around Christmas is only superficially about presents and Santa, and Christmas will always, even in times that are sorrowful or difficult, have a profound and mysterious joy to it.  Some of my epic failures in Advent devotions have come up in conversations years later, and I have found to my surprise, that at least one on my kids was impacted by it in some way;  in some way it began to root inside their heart that they deeply desire the Advent of the Lord!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Could there be greater blindness...?"

In the gospel for the Feast of Christ the King (Matt 25:31-46), both those who are saved and accursed ask the same question: "Lord, when did we see you...?" Apparently, Jesus had appeared to them in ways that they did not recognize Him: as hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, imprisoned and as a stranger. How were they expected to see Jesus in such misery? They recognized Him now, "...all the angels with Him, [sitting] upon His glorious throne, and all the nations assembled before Him." (v.31-32) But as an unemployed, homeless accoholic? A single woman with six kids living out of her car? You gotta be kidding!

Since the beginning, failing to see Jesus was pretty commonplace. In Luke 2:7, it was the innkeeper who only saw a poor Galilean couple, the lady ready to give birth any moment. Was there really no room, or did the innkeeper decide that Mary and Joseph were only fit for a stable?. Maybe the innkeeper thought it would be a better idea to save his rooms for a higher class visitor. The disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) had no idea who the stranger was who walked with them until he revealed himself in the Breaking of the Bread. Mary Magdelene, who was so close to Our Lord, failed to recognize him at the empty tomb (John 20:14-16); the disciples, when Jesus called out to them from the shore, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" (John 21:4-7), did not know who he was.

In his book, "Abandonment to Divine Providence" Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade wrote: " 'Truly', said Jacob, 'God is in this place and I knew it not.' (Gen 28:16) You seek God, yet He is everywhere. Everything proclaims Him; everything gives Him to you. He walks by your side, is around you and within you; there He dwells and yet you seek Him. What you are really seeking is your own idea of God...vainly striving after sublime ideas. But God will not come to you clothed in them."

The life of Our Lord was full of clues of where we could find Him. He was with the outcasts, the sinners, the misfits, those not fit for decent society. He is among those suffering, those in need. That's where He's always been seen. God, without fail, comes to us in ways that we can reject Him.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic, The Little Prince, the author writes:
It is only with the heart
That one can see rightly
What is essential
is invisible to the eye.

Jesus is essential. He is the "one thing" necessary that Mary has chosen and that her sister, Martha, has failed to see. (Luke 10: 38-42). "Could there be greater blindness than to believe what we believe, and yet live as we are living?", asked the 16th century spiritual writer, Louis of Granada. "Is it not a blindness equal to madness...to be wholly regardless of God...to desire that all we possess should be good, except our own life?"

Jesus told us how to gain eternal life. In Luke 10: 25-28, the scholar of the Law asks Him that very question. And the answer is, quite simply, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Then the Lord said,"...do this and you will live."

So it's about love. With Jesus, it's always about love. We need to open the "eyes of our heart" We need to grow in God's love and see His Presence in everyone, especially in those with whom He always identified, those who are suffering, those in need. God is love. And knowing that, St. Augustine wrote:
"They that have love are born of God; they that have not love are not. This is the great dividing mark. Have what else you will, if this one thing you have not, all is to no purpose. If you lack all the rest, have this."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fear of the Lord

November 13, 2011 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for this Sunday make me think of the term “Fear the Lord” or “Fear of the Lord.”

Our first reading is from the Book of Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31.
When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands.She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

In this reading from Proverbs, the characteristics of a worthy wife are described. This woman brings goodness and love to her husband and to those around her. She cares for all those who need her and can be praised for her work. But her fear of the Lord is the most important reason for praising her. The capstone of her life’s work is found in that fear of the Lord.

Psalm 123 expands upon the concept of fear of the Lord and describes some of the blessings given by the Lord to those who fear Him. If we fear the Lord, we will do our best to walk in His ways. Just as the woman described in Proverbs is blessed because of her fear of the Lord, so the man described in this psalm is also blessed.

R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.
Behold, thus is the man blessedwho fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:may you see the prosperity of Jerusalemall the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Finally, in our Gospel for today (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus tells His disciples a parable about a man who entrusts his servant with talents, each according to his abilities. Upon the man’s return, he rewards or punishes these servants based upon their actions with regard to the talents which they were given. The master rewarded those servants who added to the number of talents they were given and punished the ‘useless servant’ who did not add to the talent he was given.

Jesus told his disciples this parable:"A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one -- to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money.After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.'His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters,I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.'Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.Come, share your master's joy.' Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plantand gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.' His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

In all three of these readings, ‘fear of the Lord’ leads to an increase in grace and blessings from God. The worthy wife continues to be blessed as she lives her life in accordance with the Lord’s will. The blessed man described in the Psalm also receives an increase in grace and blessing as he lives his life following in the ways of the Lord. Finally, the two servants who work to live up to the responsibilities given them also receive an increase in grace and blessings (talents).

Thinking about these readings led me to wonder about the third servant, the man who buried the talent given him. When the master returned, servant could only give back the single talent he had received. This “wicked, lazy servant” had made no effort to improve and grow. As Dom Vonier wrote, “The more a man has, the more God will give him, because there is nothing that pleases God more than to enrich his creatures, and whenever he sees a man making good use of his gifts, He pours more and more upon him with lavishness which is astonishing (Magnificat, Nov 2011).

As I look at how I live my own life, I begin to question myself. Do I truly fear the Lord? Do my daily actions reflect that fear? Or do I just float along, day after day, being content with where I am? Where is my desire to improve and grow? Do I consistently conduct my life in a way that reflects my fear of the Lord? Does the Lord say to me “Come share my joy?” Or am I often a “wicked, lazy servant?” This week’s readings have forced me to re-evaluate how I am living my life, and that kind of reflect is always a good thing. Spiritual growth never occurs in a vacuum.

Peace and blessings, Judy


Sunday, November 13, 2011


I heard a remarkable homily this morning that was particularly moving. Father spoke about how the things we do in our lives each day—the ordinary, everyday things—can, if united with the Sacrifice of Jesus, save souls. It is not only our sufferings united with the Sacrifice of Jesus that can be redemptive, but also, the routine happenings that occur as we go about our daily lives. These are some of the insights I got from his words.

The gospel (Mt 25:14-30) referred to the parable of the talents which showed that it is possible for one to lose his soul. Nevertheless, the act of redemption is ongoing and we have the opportunity to be a part of this redemptive act.

Since Jesus is “out of time,” that is, not within the limits of time, that He takes all our offerings, and applies them to souls for their salvation. Since He is not within the confines of time, Jesus takes our offerings to save even a soul that died “400 years ago"or, perhaps, a soul that is in need of being saved centuries in the future. Mothers who scramble to get the kids out the door and to school in the morning, who endlessly do laundry, fix meals, help with homework, clean the home, comfort a child, and, on top of that, get themselves out the door to their “other job!” Fathers going to their work places and confronting the stress that comes with ongoing problems at work, just getting to work in traffic, sacrificing mowing the lawn instead of watching a football game (maybe!)—all can be done in the spirit of an offering in union with Christ’s sacrifice. For that matter, everything we do each and every day from brushing our teeth in the morning to kicking off that second shoe before bed at night can be offered to Jesus for the salvation of souls. Children and youth can do their duties and obey their parents without grumbling, while offering it all to Jesus with love. Even their homework, their sports activities and their play time can be beneficial in saving souls if done as an offering to Jesus.

Mass is the central axis of the world. All the world revolves around the altar of Sacrifice where, at each Mass Calvary is brought into the present. When we are present at Mass, we are, in effect, “outside of time” and participating in the Sacrifice of Calvary. The meaning of Mass is mission. It is the mission of Jesus to save souls. When we unite ourselves with His Sacrifice and receive him in the Eucharist, we are to go out to the world and” give ‘em heaven!” We are to do our part in saving souls by living our lives—all that we do, everyday—in union with the Sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus.

In forming the habit of doing all for Jesus, we become acutely aware during the day that He is with us, in us and ever so close to us. An intimacy develops that helps us to “pray without ceasing” as Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians. This prayer does not have to be an action, but by loving Jesus with our whole hearts and doing all for Him, can truly be an ongoing prayer, not only of love, but also, of redemption.

Morning Offering:
O Jesus,
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Remembering

by Sharon Nelsen

“Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her and found by those who seek her.” 

As I journey through the “fading away” years of my life, I am more aware of the desire to pass on a heritage that does not fade.   During the month of November, I am caught up remembering all of those who have completed their earthly sojourn and “faded” into resplendency. 

I want to remember as God remembered Abraham and saved his nephew Lot from death in Sodom (Gen. 19.29); as God remembered Rachel and rescued her from the humiliation of infertility (Gen. 30.22) and how God remembered His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and saved Israel from enslavement to Pharoah.  (Exodus 2.23-25)  I hope for remembrance that is more than an intellectual concept; more than extraction of an entry from my brain;  I want to remember in the fullness of action as we do in every Eucharist we celebrate in remembrance of Jesus who tells us “as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13.15b).

Biblical remembering is durable because it carries the acts as well as the thoughts of loving kindness into each new generation.

As my family gathered to celebrate my husband’s birthday this month, I wanted to add to our usual ritual which was for each person at the table to voice a quality they perceived in the birthday person.   After the sharing and grace, the dinner is carried in from the warming oven and the meal continues.

What my husband and I decided to do was to name a particular quality, gift, or virtue we experienced in each grandparent, each parent, and in each sibling who has died.  As we named the attribute, we shared how we have lived out that same quality—how we “remember” in the fullest sense.

Our oldest son remembered that when he was nine years old, his paternal grandfather, who made the cross-country trip to visit us annually, had sat with him and taught him how to watch a baseball game on television.  This was amazing news to both my husband and myself and certainly shed light on the way our son gets into a televised game and inspires all of us to “participate.”    He remembered that both of my parents always included the children in the family games;  they found a card game or a board game that they could enjoy with all age levels and that was the after dinner ritual when we visited them.  Our son lives out that same family-building attribute—forming in the process avid and skilled game-playing grandchildren.  He taught his children how to count by playing card games with them.

The story telling went on and on through the meal which was an answer to prayer for me.  It is a beginning ritual that we will continue as we gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas and for future family celebrations.

As I think about remembering, I think about three ways to remember:  1) I developed a gift and I tell you about it;  2) I developed a gift and I give you the benefits of that gift;  3)  I developed a gift and I teach you how to develop your gift as I pass the fruits of my gift on to you, my beloved.

How do we pass on wisdom?  We remember our own family story and live it as we tell it so that our own future generations inherit an ever-stronger foundation.   We acknowledge that all good  education, all good catechetical teaching, all good rules and disciplines of religion flower from real, tangible, healthy heritage—loving kindnesses that do not fade because they are rightly remembered.

Copyright 2011, Sharon Nelsen

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday's (11/13) gospel reading of the Parable of the Talent's (Matt 25:14-30), speaks to me about how we are to use God's gift's to us. Too often I compare what other's have to what I've been given. This account reminds me that it's not how much, or even what I've been given that's important: it's about what I do with it.

Jesus, speaking to his disciples, tells them of a man about to leave on a journey. He has entrusted his servants with his possessions, or "talents" "each according to his ability"(v.15). After a long time, the master returned to settle accounts with them. The servant who was given five talents made five more, and was rewarded by his master. The servant who was given two talents, also doubled his master's treasure and was rewarded appropriately. But the servant who was given one talent, had, out of fear, buried his in a field. Consequently, he was only able to return the one, since he had not attempted to produce fruits, even from the little he was given. The master was livid with anger. "You wicked and lazy servant!," he exclaimed. Then he "cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness: there men will weep and gnash their teeth"(v.30)

The Navarre Bible says that a talent was not a coin, but a measure of value worth about one hundred pounds of silver. The Dictionary of the Bible says a talent was a weight measurement equal to about 6000 drachmas. But whatever it was, it is undeniable that talents had value, and it was a responsibility given to his servants to take these talents and show an increase with them.

None of the three servants received the same amount. But each was expected to use what was given them, and bear fruit. In the same way, we are given gifts, skills, abilities, "talents" from God at Creation. These gifts, uniquely different from one another, are not to be "buried in the ground"(v.25) and returned to Our Lord unused. In Mark 4:21, Jesus asks," Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket, or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?"

In the 14th century, St. Catherine of Siena had powerful mystical experiences of God. She related what He spoke to her in her classic work, The Dialogue. In it, God says to Catherine," For I could have supplied each of you with all your needs, both spiritual and material. But I wanted to make you dependent on one another, so that each of you would be my minister, dispensing the graces and gifts you have received from me (emphasis mine)....I have made you my ministers setting you in different positions and ranks to exercise the virtue of charity....All I want is love...If you are bound by this love you will do everything you can to be of service wherever you are."

We should not be surprised to see that our talents are to be used to serve others. It is no coincidence that this parable falls immediately before Jesus's account of the Final Judgment. Then, we will realize that what we have done, or have failed to do for the least of our brethren, will determine our fate. Our love of God, or our neglect of Him are reflected in how well we have used his gifts, if we've used them at all.

The Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, wrote in his book, New Seeds of Contemplation", "My own individual destiny is an encounter with God that He has destined for me alone. His glory in me will be to receive from me something He can never receive from anyone else because it is a gift to me which He has never given to anyone else and never will." (emphasis mine)

Though uniquely given to us alone, our "talents" are not for us alone. We are called to empty ourselves of them as humble ministers in service to others. And in the end, all we will have of our time, treasure and talents is what we have given away. Then with hope in Our Lord, we shall be invited by Him to "Come, and share in our Master's joy!"

God’s Use of Fire

                                By Pat Scholl

Fire has been called the “ultra-living element.”  Gaston Bachelard’s Psychoanalysis of Fire points out this unique “lifeness” of fire:
"It is intimate and it is universal.  It lives in our heart.   It lives in the sky.  It rises from the depths of the substance and offers itself with the warmth of love.  Or it can go back down into the substance and hide there, latent and pent-up, like hate and vengeance."
Bachelard’s definition is expressing the emotions that fire can be used within us but it can also express God’s power and presence.
In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God in Genesis 3:24 . . . drove the man out, placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.  We cannot hide from God nor think we are better than Him.  Then, Moses was called by God to lead His people by appearing within a flaming bush . . . the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed (Ex 3:2-3). 

It appears that God’s emotions were taxed with His chosen ones – the Israelites coming out of Egypt.  He did not guide them along a direct path from Egypt to the Promised Land but instead he took them by a longer route to avoid fighting with the Philistines. He did not want the Israelites to face war because they might change their minds and returned to Egypt.  Therefore, God  gave them a physical sign –  a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire so they would know day and night that God was with them on their journey (Ex 13:20).  God’s appearance to Moses and the people on Mount Sinai. . . . . descending on it in fire (Ex 19:18) . . . the Lord looked like a consuming fire (Ex 24:18) . . . the Lord spoke to you out of the fire (Deut 4:12; 36).  God was always present to guide His people.  The prophets of Israel expected God to appear . . .  as a glow of flaming fire by night (Is 4:5), the Lord is coming with fire . . . bringing down his anger with fury and his rebuke with flames of fire (Is 66:15), and seated on a throne flaming with fire (Dan 7:9-10). 

Fire symbolized worship of God in Israel’s temple.  The fire on the altar was to be kept burning to remind the people that God was always present (Lev 6:12-13).  Also, fire was used to burn incense or make offerings (Lev 6:14-15).  God’s servants is described in terms of fire in Psalm 104:4 . . He makes wind his messengers, flames of fire his servants. .  and in Hebrews 1:7.   In Judges (13:20) . . .”He comes as an angel that ascended in the flame on the altar.”  Elijah, on Mount Carmel, challenged the people to follow whoever was the true God by saying . . . “you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord.  The god who answers by fire – he is God” (1 Kings 18:24).
Although God’s answer by fire was positive acts, there were times when His manifestation in fire, or the use of fire, was used as a correction or destruction of evil, such as, Sodom and Gomorra where He rained down burning sulfur on them (Gen 19:24); then, “Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail and lightning flashed down on the land of Egypt” (Ex 9:23).  It never is good to “complain about hardships in the hearing of the Lord . . . (especially if He hears you) . . . fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp” (Num 11:1).  God punished the clan that stole items from the destroyed city of Jericho (Josh 7:15). 
Fire is a symbol of God’s anger . . “how long will your jealousy burn like fire” (Ps 79:5) . .or . . “how long will your wrath burn like fire” (Ps 89:46).  Fire will be used to punish sin and evil in the future (Deut 32:22).  If we walk by our own light and reject God’s, we become self-sufficient, therefore, “torches you have set ablaze . .you shall receive from my hand and will lie down in torment.”  God will bring down his anger with fury and will execute judgment upon all men and many will be slain by the Lord (Is 66:15-16).  Also, evil powers will be destroyed by fire at the end of the age (Dan 7:11; Mal 4:1).  Jesus told that fire of judgment will fall on the earth and its wicked people (Matt 3:11-12; 13:37-42; Luke 17:29-30).  Final judgment of evil includes punishment by fire (2 Pet 3:7) which is pictured in Revelation (8:7; 9:18; 11:5;14:9; 19:20;20:9-15).

Fire is used by God to purify his people.  Purifying or testing is experienced by facing life’s trials.  Trails refine our character . . . we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance . . (Ps 66:10-12).  We are important to God and he will summon us by name and give us him name (Is 43:7).  In the future, God’s judgment will also purify God’s people by fire. . . “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zech 13:9).  In 1Cor 3:12-15 “. . . his work will be shown for what it is, . . . it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”
In the New Testament, the most important aspect of fire symbolized the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions.   John the Baptist baptized the people with water but he said . . . “after me will come one who is more powerful than I . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt 3:11).  Baptism was an outward sign of commitment but to be effective an inward change of attitude had to happen, thus by the work of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2, Feast of Weeks (also known as Pentecost) all had gathered to celebrate when “suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enable them” (2-4).  Here, tongues symbolize speech and the communication of the gospel.  Fire symbolizes God’s purifying presence that burns away the undesirable elements of our lives and sets our heart aflame to ignite the lives of others.  The NT continued the OT theme of fire as a symbol of divine judgment by mentioning fire of hell (Matt 5:22; 13:50, 18:8; Mark 9:48; Jude 7; Rev 19:20). 

Churches around the world continue to use fire as symbolizing God’s presence.  Candles represent the presence of God.  In John 8:12, 9:5), Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.  In Catholic churches, a Sanctuary Lamp burns eternally outside the tabernacle where the Eucharist is kept, signifying the divine presence of God.  An Eternal Light (Ner Tamid) hangs above the ark in every Jewish synagogue.  It is often associated with the menorah, the seven-branched lamp stand which stood in front of the Temple in Jerusalem.  It is equivalent with the continuously-burning incense altar that stood in front of the ark in 1 Kings 6.  Fire throughout the Old Testament guided and directed God’s people with Him at the helm leading to the fulfillment of Jesus in our lives.  Jesus is our “lifeness” and He shines His light on us freely. 

Bachelard, Gaston (1938). The Psychoanalysis of Fire, symbolism.org/writing/.../page2.html
Life Application Study Bible, New International Version (NIV), published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and Zondervan.
Hahn, Scott, Catholic Bible Dictionary, pp 287

Copyright 2011, Pat Scholl

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Readings for the Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sunday, November 6, 2011)

The readings for today make me think of the times we are asked to watch and wait for something to happen, someone to call, someone to come to us. It is so hard to just sit still and wait. Most people that I know are people of action; happy when they are doing something, not just sitting.

Our first reading is from the Book of Wisdom 6:12-16.
"Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,and she is readily perceived by those who love her,and found by those who seek her.She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,for he shall find her sitting by his gate.For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,and whoever for her sake keeps vigilshall quickly be free from care;because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,and graciously appears to them in the ways,and meets them with all solicitude.
As Wisdom speaks to us, she is telling us of the wonderful gifts she has for us. If we seek her, we will find her. If we keep vigil for her, she will come to us. She seeks those who are worthy of her and her gifts. What could possibly make us worthy of the gifts of Wisdom? As we continue to ponder the reading for today, that answer may become clearer. "

Psalm 63 reminds us that we do indeed seek God and in seeking Him, we will find Him. Our souls thirst for Him. God is with us; we see His power and His glory and feel His kindness. Our response must be to bless Him, praise Him and ponder on Him.

"My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.O God, you are my God whom I seek;for you my flesh pines and my soul thirstslike the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuaryto see your power and your glory,For your kindness is a greater good than life;my lips shall glorify you.R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.Thus will I bless you while I live;lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.I will remember you upon my couch,and through the night-watches I will meditate on you:You are my help,and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God."

Finally, in our Gospel for today (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus tells His disciples a beautiful parable about watching, waiting and being prepared.

Jesus told his disciples this parable:"The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.'While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply,'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

Many commentaries tell us that “the wise maidens represent all those who possess the ensemble of virtues which characterize a complete Christian life. The burning oil lamps which they carry…symbolically portray Christian wisdom.” The oil that the five wise maidens have brought with them represents their personal virtue. Jesus is the bride groom for whom the maidens wait. W hen He arrives, he ushers them into the feast, those who waited for Him, sought Him, and sought His wisdom.

When I ponder all of these readings, I am reminded how important it is to “stay awake and be ready.” We need to focus on being Saints in the Making; always waiting for God in our lives. It is easy to look for God in our lives when things are not going well for us. We can recognize that “I need God; I cannot do this alone. I cannot discern what I should do; what is of God and what is not.” It may be more difficult to see God in our lives when things are going smoothly. We enjoy that feeling of contentment and happiness and it is easy to simply accept it rather than look for the source of these feelings.

God is always with us; sometimes we just don’t see Him in our lives because we are not wise enough to always watch and wait for Him. This week, I pray that we all receive the gift of watching and waiting for God and His Wisdom. He is near; we just need to seek Him.

Peace and blessings, Judy

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Feast of All Souls


By Dolores T. Sambol


How does one describe something that cannot be seen, cannot be touched, makes no sounds, and yet is said by some to be a part of every human being that ever existed? What is this “something?”  This something is called our soul!
I believe I was near a soul once. While working in a hospice unit and giving a patient his bath, something strange happened.  I had to turn him on his left side for about three minutes.  The patient had always been lucid and talkative, but he became very quiet. When I turned him back, he was smiling.  He said, “It was really nice looking down on you as you worked.  The sky was so blue.  I enjoyed every minute of it.”  Two days later my patient died and I believe he died for a few minutes the day I took care of him.  While I did not see anything, I truly believe his soul had left his body for a few minutes.
Let us go searching and try to find out what this “soul” is all about.  First, let us go back in history, second let us review the Bible and then after these investigations, we need to know what our modern-day world has decided about the meaning of “soul.”
The earliest known mention that I can find about the soul appears in The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc (pg 1083). Supposedly around 1380BC, a list of Aran gods was formed between the Hittite emperor and the king of Mitanni. At this time there were many gods.  Then around 1083 BC, a reformer came along named Zoroaster.  Zoroaster was a wise priest of that area that founded the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. While Zoroastrianism did have many gods, “it does represent and original attempt at unifying … one supreme god,” In Zoroastrianism we find a fight between good and evil and man’s free choice. And we find in this belief that because man has a “capacity of free choice, he does so with his soul and body.” In history, the word “soul” seems to come alive.
Time marchers on and we find in Search for the Soul, Search of the Unknown,   “a balding and venerable philosopher…Socrates”. The year is 399BC in Athens and we find Socrates is condemned to death.  His community thought he was corrupting the youth with his philosophy of life.  On the day he was to die, it states “a young Athenian aristocrat named Plato” listened to Socrates.  Socrates talked about an afterlife and was “convinced that death was just the release of the soul from the chains of the body.”  Thus the existence of a soul began to surface again and Plato ran with it. According to the article, “Plato…taught his disciples mathematics and the natural sciences—but philosophy, including arguments for the immortal soul—was the centerpiece of study.”
Plato had opposition from his former student, Aristotle.  Aristotle’s belief was that everything living has a soul--trees, animals, etc.  His philosophy “sees the body and soul as one.”  At first, the existence of a soul was just part of a religion.  Even today, as in the time of Plato and Aristotle, confusion exits.  The Bible, that is said to be the most published and read book in the world, may have an answer. Let’s check.
In the Old Testament in Genesis 2:7, “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.”  So here we have an inanimate form that comes to life because God wills it.  Here are two separate parts, the clay form of a body and the separate form, the invisible breath of God that makes that form alive.  Is that breath of life also our soul?
In The Dictionary of the Bible, many references are taken from the Old Testament that denotes the separation of the soul from the body.
1.      In the Bible, Wisdom 3:1, “but the souls of the just are in the had of the Lord, and not torment shall touch them.” This verse does touch upon the after life, as these souls were those of martyrs. 
2.      In  1Kings17: 2, Elijah prays, “…O Lord, my God let the life breath return to the body of this child.” 
3.      In Ezekiel 18: 20, “only the one who sins shall die.”
Again in Dictionary of the Bible, we find specific references taken from the New Testament.
1.      In Luke12: 22-23, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you wear.  For life is more than food and body more that clothing.’  Is not Christ speaking of the soul in heaven after death? 
2.      In Matthew16: 25-26 we find these strong words of Jesus, “For whoever wished to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life.” 
3.      In Mark8: 36 we find, “what profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
4.      The strongest words come from John12: 25, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
While it seems perfectly clear after reading ancient history, and the excerpts from the Bible concerning the resurrection of Christ in regard to our soul, one would think that the belief in a soul existing after death would be no problem.  However confusion exists.
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language describes the soul as, “the principle of life, feeling thought, and actions in man, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body…the spiritual part of man as distinct from the physical.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “in sacred scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, which is of greater value to him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: ‘soul’ signifies the spiritual principle in man.”
A summary of the early beliefs and from the Bible of events that truly happened, one might state, “It is evident that we have a soul!”  However, the search for the meaning of the soul is still up in the air. In Newsweek: “Body and Soul-Far from Heaven,” the article states a belief in a soul that “after death a soul returns to earth in another body.” Is this what the present day scholars call immortality of the soul?  Would Socrates laugh? What would Plato say?  What about the writers of the New Testament? These questions are still one of the biggest faith issues of our day just as they were centuries ago.  However, there is some good news.
In articles in Newsweek, “Science finds God”  and “How the Heavens Go,” we find that after centuries of debate over the essence of the material body, and the question of the existence of a its soul after death, is being looked at through a strong microscope.   And at last, “religion and science are beginning to talk,” to each other.  The article tells us that scientists, after trying to duplicate a world and man by their own hands and failing, are beginning to believe that the world did not just happen and that there may be a higher power. Also, Pope John Paul II, when studying evolution “endorses evolution as part of God’s master plan.”  Here two great powers are coming together.  I have my own thoughts.
The experience I had years ago is still strong in my memory! While I could not see it, I believe my patient’s soul left his body. My soul-searching is over and I believe we all have souls.  While the existence of one’s soul is truly accepted by many today who have faith in God, there will always be those who are soul-searching.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.   “Zoroastrianism and Parsiism. ” The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Vol.29, fifth Edition, Printed in USA, Vol.29 Pge1083.
Russell B. Adams   “Mysteries of the Unknown.” Search for the Soul, Time-Life Books Inc.1989, Pgs, 42+50.
Stephen J. Hartdegen O.F.M., S.S.L. and Christian P. Ceroke S.T.D. “Genesis 2:7” The New American Bible, The Catholic World Press, November 7, 2000.
John L. McKenzie, S.J.  “Soul,” Dictionary of the Bible.  A Touchtone Book published by Simon and Schuster. 1995. Pg836-839.
Jess Stein (Editor in Chief), “Soul.”  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language. Random House Inc. 1969, Pg. 1359.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Imprimi Potest). “Soul (No. 363)” The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Liguori Publications, 1994.  Pg. 93.
Liza Miller.  “Body and Soul--Far from Heaven.” Newsweek. Newsweek Inc. New York, NY.  April 5, 2010. Pgs 55-57.
Sharon Begley.  “Science Finds God,” Newsweek.  Newsweek Inc. New York. NY,July 20. 1998. Pgs 96-51.

Copyright 2011 Deloris T. Sambol