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.

Friday, August 30, 2013

You Are God's Chalice

"You Are God's Chalice"
by: Deacon Paul Rooney
[a reflection on Luke 14:7-14,
22nd Sunday Ordinary "C"]
All of us have all heard the old expression, "if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours."  It's current meaning is a rather simple one: you do me a favor, and I'll do one for you in the future.  I don't know if it is true or not, but I'm told that it might possibly have its origin in the navy slang or jargon.  In the English Royal Navy during the 17th century, if you were a sailor or seaman and became drunk or disobedient while on duty, or simply showed up late to your ship, the punishments could be quite severe.  One punishment would see the offender tied to the ship’s mast, and then be flogged by another crew member with a leather lash (known as a "cat o’ nine tails")Well, sailors being sailors in those days, their behavior led them to earn this punishment quite often!  So it didn't take crew members long to strike up a secret deal between themselves!  They would promise each other that they would deliver only light lashes with the whip, just barely ‘scratching’ the back' of the offender.  That would be their insurance policy: in case they ever got a similar punishment in the future, they were to be treated the same!(1)

In today's gospel [Luke 14:7-14] we hear about a more "subtle" and different  type of back-scratching going on.  The rich religious leaders are inviting only other rich religious leaders to their banquets.  That way the invited guests would become obligated to scratch the host's back in the future with an invitation to a "pay-back" banquet.  That's the way it worked in that so-called "honor and shame" society; everyone was selfishly seeking more honor.  They even scrambled in a rush to get the seats closest to the Host - - kind of a rich man's version of "musical chairs"!  If you got a good seat, it was more honor for you, and less honor for someone else...or so they thought.

Jesus, of course, sees a teachable moment in just about every human situation.  This one is certainly no different.  He was probably only invited because the Host expected him to be the night's entertainment, if he would perform a miracle for them.  As you might expect, Jesus not only challenges the people in their behavior, he also challenges the system that encourages such a disordered approach to life.

First, let's look at the system.  It is pretty obvious, isn't it, that it is based on self-seeking?  It is all about class discrimination, as well as reciprocity or "back-scratching."  Nothing in that gospel scenario even hints of Christianity, of the virtue of self-giving, of generosity.

Then look at the behavior of the Invitees.  Like you, I've been to large dinner parties or banquets that start out with cocktails and conversation.  Everyone is standing around talking; but it usually becomes pretty obvious that a few folks spend the entire pre-dinner time "maneuvering" or "jockeying" themselves into a position to secure a table very close to the head table.  Nothing seems to change over the centuries, does it! J

So what can a Christian take away from this banquet story in the Gospel of St. Luke?  Well, we Irish have a saying for everything.  Here is one that seems to apply to daily behavior:  "Do the best thing right now; our lives are brief, but you're dead a long time."  The "best thing"?  Well, how about an example...  About a dozen years ago there was a movie called "Pay It Forward."  It was about a young school boy whose homework assignment was to come up with an idea that would "change the world."  His idea was to repay a good deed with new good deeds done for three new people.  When his idea was put into action, it brought immediate change: in his family, and in a widening circle of recipients of the good deeds "passed forward."

Our lives are indeed brief, and we will indeed be "dead a long time," so to speak.  So we need to put our Christ-life into action, and we never do it alone!  (This is one reason that parishes like ours are promoting "Small Faith Communities" so strongly; it is one way to stay connected, and to "pass forward" what we are learning on our own individual faith journeys.)  It takes humility to be a self-less and generous Catholic; it takes humility to share our faith journey with others.  But this is what we are all called to do.  No one sits at the heavenly banquet table without humility, faith, and right-living.  And no one sits there without a "full chalice."

You see, by faith we are a connected people, connected by love.  The first sinners in The Garden rejected God's love, and turned inward.  God sent his Son to turn that around.  Now he wants us to continue his mission, to become
Intercessors for others, apostles for the physically and spiritually poor, crippled, lame, and blind (Luke 14:13).  There is a beautiful definition of an apostle that I love (from Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey), and I quote: "An apostle is a chalice full of Jesus that pours out its overflow upon souls.  Be full of Jesus, full of Divine life, and you will be apostles."(2)  This is our call and our mission!  As St. Paul would say to the Colossians, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church" (Col. 1:24).  When you pray the Morning Offering every day, it begins with a desire to join our prayers and sufferings for others to the cross of Jesus.  Our chalice is filled to overflowing when we ask the Lord to "inflame our hearts with the fire of divine love."  And then we pour out that chalice in our intercessory prayer and suffering for others.

Above all, remember the Good News: the love of Jesus is total and unconditional.  There are no strings attached to his love, no back-scratching motives!  He desires that each believer become an apostle, a chalice to be poured out on others and consumed by others.  And that gives us all Hope and Faith in His mercy and loving forgiveness!  So like St. Thérèse, ask the Lord to fill your chalice to the brim!(3)
                                                            - Deacon Paul Rooney
(3) See "Story of a Soul," p.180-181; translation by John Clarke OCD; ICS Publications, Washington, D.C., 2nd ed., 1976.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

“Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality”


The title of this post is a quote from the third chapter of Wisdom, and it is fitting that Saint Bede the Venerable used it in his homily of St. John, you can read it in the Office of Readings for the Memorial of the Beheading (or Passion) of John the Baptist. As I was reading thorough Saint Bede’s homily today this paragraph just stopped me in my tracks.
“There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him.  His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, only that he should keep silent about the truth.  Nevertheless, he died for Christ.  Does Christ not say:  “I am the truth”?  Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.” 
Things have not changed have they?!  Usually we are not asked to outright deny Christ, we are simply expected to be quiet about Him.  However, do not be surprised if our silent compliance leads to the demand to deny Our Lord explicitly.  Which makes today a good day to ask for the intercession of Saint John the Baptist, for the wisdom to know when to speak, and the courage to follow through.  The concluding prayer for this powerful Memorial is:
O God, who wills that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both in his birth and in his death, grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, one God for ever and ever. Amen

I pray that all of us grow in the courage to place our hope in the immortal Truth, who is Christ.

This post is also featured on Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Psalm 139

The readings for the last week of August have featured Psalm 139, a Psalm that I love.  It is especially valuable since the Gospel has been Matthew 23 where Jesus declares “woe to you scribes and Pharisees”, and the first reading has included Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians in which he explains his motives for his ministry.

The contrasts could not be more stark, Paul is firm in his proclaiming the Good News; he is seeking to please God and not men. So he endures the rejection of many and the frailty of the communities that he is ministering to with love and with honesty.  He allows the Lord to search his heart, to probe his motives so that he does not try to accomplish God’s work through deception, through flattery, or that he is not merely seeking praise and attention from other men.  His love and his motivation are from God, with whom he draws his strength from an ongoing and intimate relationship.

The Pharisees use the law to bolster themselves, to solidify their power, neglecting the weightier things of the law:  Judgment, mercy and fidelity.”  Jesus' words cut like a knife through the exterior delusions of sanctity to reveal that they are filled with “evildoing and hypocrisy.”  They are not motivated by love of God, though they claim they are, and may even believe they are.
Admittedly, I am inclined to think of all of the “Pharisees” that I could hurl Matthew 23 at, but listening to Sister Anne Shields’ reflections on these passages cut me short on that little (hypocritical) indulgence.  “You can’t judge that (hypocrisy) in others, you can only judge it in yourself.”  I need to allow Him to examine me, to probe me, to reveal the wounds and the darkness that ever so subtly corrupt my intentions to serve Him. Only when I submit to His judgment - His diagnosis of the pathological conditions in my soul, if you will -  can I receive His mercy and healing and have the obstacles to my own fidelity removed.  Only then can the disparity of “intentions of the heart and our external thoughts, words and actions” begin to be unified and whole.

This is why praying Psalm 139 is so wonderful.  We are drawn deep into the mystery of God , who loves us;  who is ever renewing - in spite of the darkness that is revealed, in spite of the hypocrisies, wounds and fears that are so deeply hidden in the dark interiors of our soul.

I have reflected on this Psalm before, and I don’t think that I can express how it speaks to me any better than I did then:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Repent, for the powers that would enslave you have no power over Him. Repent, for God has never left you; though it may be too dark for you to see Him, He sees you. His hand is upon you! Do not be too proud to allow Him to show you your darkest sins, they are not dark to Him. He knows what they have done to you. Do not be afraid to reveal your most depraved desires or your most wretched fears, he is greater and stronger than any of them.  He can retrieve you from the Sheol in your soul that imprisons you.  Do not be afraid of the chaos sin has stirred up, for His Spirit is with you, encircling you and His mighty wind blows over the dark and formless wastelands in each of our souls, reforming and renewing them. Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!  His light will illuminate the way.
In allowing the Lord to probe and examine me what is still amazing is how often I operate - even in the good things that I do, like going to Mass, or volunteering my time - out of corrupted motives. The genesis of the motive may well have been pure, but somewhere in my wounded heart it is altered.  I really do not like to have these things revealed.  Yet, if I do not allow God to penetrate and probe those motives, I can be easily diverted from the whole Truth.
Look at our culture.  Look at how quickly we can be diverted from even the most basic concepts of human dignity by cloaking our reasons for supporting evil in works of charity, or words of equality.  Abortion anyone?  Same-sex “marriage”?  When we lose touch with the transcendent, yet powerfully intimate presence of God, individually and collectively as a culture, we lose touch with tho One who can direct our passions authentically, with strength and love.  Look at Miley Cyrus, look at how quickly an inborn desire to be known and loved by God is corrupted into a vulgar and debased just-look-at-me desire! When you witness that type of debauchery in action, you begin to understand what the Psalmist says:  "Do I not hate those who hate you?" 169:21

But the the Pharisees go wrong here, not because there is nothing to hate in those who pursue corruption and evil doing, but because they seem to love to hate it, out of a corrupted sense of honor. How easily hatred of evil becomes prideful!  How easy it is for our motives to be corrupted! We must be careful to allow the Lord to shine His light on our hatred. So that we hate the evil and destruction that is done to the souls around us; so we feel tremendous sorrow because of it; so that His love fills us and flows outward to those who have been so damaged by this fallen world; our own love and charity could not possibly be enough.

Immediately following His dire "Woes"  to the Pharisees Jesus expresses His deep sorrow at the destruction that will be wrought upon Jerusalem, and for all those who wander away from the road of eternity.  Those who have chosen to hate God's ways.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!" Matthew 23:37

For all the Miley Cyrus’ in the world, each of us must allow the Lord to probe us, heal us and fill us with His perfect love; so that we can truly pray for these souls, and without hypocrisy proclaim God's law and cry out to those who dwell in darkness.  We need to be like Paul,  so we can authentically and lovingly minister in the depraved and weak world that we live in. Because even those who are so horrifically deformed and corrupted by evil can be touched by His light is an authentic way. Even they can be re-formed in His mighty spirit.  Even Miley and praise God, even me.
God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns.  Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin and guide me on the road of eternity."  Psalm 139 New Jerusalem Bible

Peace and Grace to everyone!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Door of Humility

 A Reflection on Luke 13:22-30

By: Larry T 

One of the highpoints of any Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land has to be the tour of the Church of the Nativity. Located in Bethlehem, in the Palestinian territories, it is built over the site considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. The church was originally commissioned in 327 A.D. by the emperor Constantine and his mother Helena. The original structure was burned down and destroyed during a revolt between the Jews and the Samaritans in 529 or 556 A.D. The current basilica was rebuilt in its present form in 565 A.D. by the Emperor Justinian I. 

In modern times visitors enter the basilica through a very low door, called the Door of Humility. The church features a magnificent gold plated icon of Mary and the infant Jesus. The interior of the church is dimly lit by high windows and a complex array of chain hung ornate gold and silver lamps, mostly oil but some electric. The original Roman style floor has been overlaid with marble flooring, but there is a trap door which opens up to reveal a portion of the original, amazingly intricate, 4th century mosaic floor. The Altar of the Nativity, adorned with a white silk altar cloth, accompanied by red oil lamps, and tall white tapered candles is unquestionably the focal point of the church. Directly below the Altar is the fourteen-point silver star which marks the traditional spot believed to be the birthplace of our Lord Jesus. For pilgrims the climax of the tour is to crawl under the altar to touch or kiss the star or to reach through the hole in the center of the star to touch the earth below.  

The original main entrance into the reconstructed church was a pointed arch Crusader style doorway tall enough for a mounted horseman to pass through. The doorway eventually had to be made smaller to prevent carts from being driven in by looters and to force even the most important visitor to dismount from his horse as he entered the holy place. Dismounted pilgrims continued to enter the church with their horses, camels, and donkeys so the gateway was made even lower and narrower so that large animals had to be left outside the basilica. This spared the church from the damage, noise, and odor of the animals. The pointed Crusader arch can still be seen above the current door.  

In the reading for this week Jesus talks about striving to enter through the narrow gate.

22He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
23Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them,
24“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.
25After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’
26And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
27Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
28And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.
29And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
30For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
- Luke 13:22-30 N.A.B. 

What does it take to enter through the narrow gate? Jesus tells us that the way through is not by belonging to a particular race or specific group of people, but by leaving behind that baggage which will prevent us from passing through it. Like early pilgrims who wanted to worship in the Church of the Nativity, we must choose between leaving our livestock outside and entering the holy place through the Door of Humility, or being stiff-necked and passing by it.
Peace to All

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Setting the World on Fire with His Eternal Love

A reflection on the Gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time,  
August 18, 2013
By Judy Morss

What is the outcome of our faith decision to walk in the way of Jesus?

Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain

The Gospel reading for this day is taken from Luke 12:49-53.  This reading is the continuation of the Gospel chapter we have been reading for the past few weeks.  Jesus has already told his followers about the dangers of greed and how we must always be alert and responsive as servants of Jesus.  We don't know when He will be returning, but we MUST be ready.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

A quick reading of this passage froze my heart and my senses!!! Jesus is here to be a source of division??  What can this possibly mean and how should I react to this teaching?  Then I carefully reread what Jesus said and prayed over it.  As usual, I called on the Holy Spirit for guidance.  I remembered that often Fire is a symbol of God's presence and His love.  So that led me to think that Jesus is wishing that the earth was ablaze with His love.  What a beautiful thought.  Then the question becomes, how can that happen?

As His followers we must help to make it happen. Jesus invites us to open ourselves to faith in Him.  It is not enough to follow Him from a safe place with minimal commitment.  Instead, Jesus must become first in our lives. Loyalty to Jesus is of greatest importance. If we have complete faith in Him and in His plan for us, then our life in the "real world" becomes not only bearable, but blessed. Faith is not easy. As Father Gillick, S.J. said, “It is hard to move outside the city-walls of our senses and the security of those walls; trusting, walking into the dark, going without knowing are tremendous violations of our present-day culture."

When we are outside of those walls and behave and move in ways that are not in sync with our highly secular world, we will surely encounter that division Jesus talks about. In spite of what is going on around us, even within our families and friends, we are called to embrace Jesus in faith. The faith-decision to walk in the ways of Jesus will help set the earth on fire with Jesus' love.  I long to see the world blazing with His eternal love.

May we each be a blessing to one another.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Dormition of Mary

Just wanted to share this lovely photo taken in the Holy Land.  I believe its from the Church of the Dormition in Jerusalem.  Every time I comtemplate this photo I always think of St Therese's way of spiritual childhood.  Mary is so small wrapped in white garments in Jesus' arms!  Its also unique as most churches in the Holy Land have Mary holding or standing near a infant or child Jesus.  Enjoy! 

A Reflection on the Holy Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Judy Morss

Wikipedia commons, public domainWe are so blessed by the gift of the Rosary given to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Praying the rosary takes us into a contemplative prayer, which requires tranquility of rhythm or even a mental lingering which leads us to meditation on the mysteries of our Lord.  When I pray the rosary, I begin each decade by first thinking about the specific mystery associated with that decade.  Those five mysteries, the Joyful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries take me through the Gospels in such a meaningful way.  The Joyful Mysteries begin with the mystery of the Annunciation; what a blessing for all of us that Mary said YES!  We have a Savior and she bore that Holy Child.  The Glorious Mysteries begin with the Resurrection of our Savior and close with the Crowning of the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven.

As I have been thinking about the Holy Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I find it so perfect that the mysteries of the rosary begin and end with her.  The first of all the mysteries remind us of the humility, obedience and faith that Mary held in the depths of her soul.  In spite of all her questions and perhaps fears, she said yes and bore our Savior.  The last of all of the mysteries is also about Mary.  We are reminded that after her death on earth, she was not only assumed into Heaven, but was also crowned as Queen of Heaven.  We can surely trust in Mary's intervention.
On a more personal level, I find that especially when I pray the rosary alone in an atmosphere of quiet, my mind, my heart and my soul make a journey that is difficult for me to describe.  I am in the world, but not really in the world.  I am in a very special place; one that I rarely find in our crazy world of rushing, doing and worrying. 

I have had medical problems for several months now and have had to undergo many tests.  Some of which have been painful or very confining in nature.  In order to stay calm, I have been reciting the rosary during these tests.  I have had doctors and nurses comment on the regularity of my breathing, my low blood pressure, etc.  It would seem that the calming effect of the rosary has its physical ramifications.  It's a blessing to have ten fingers!!!  I can use them to keep track of my prayers, when I am not able to physically have my rosary in my hands.
The Rosary is such a powerful sacramental.  On this Holy Day, I am especially grateful for the gift of the Rosary and the places it can take me.

With peace and gratitude,


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Lessons in Faith

 This Sunday's  readings all approach the subject of faith:  that gift from our loving Creator which allows us to love, trust, hope in things unseen and act courageously as we follow Christ and witness to a new life in Him.
  The stories of the OT show God to be a caring and compassionate being, who actively guides and directs history from the start.  He is not a god who hangs in out in the clouds, always at a distance, but makes His presence known in concrete and personal ways.  One important means of realizing God's care and compassion was fulfillment of the oaths or promises which God made to His people through history.  In our first reading, Wisdom 18:6-9,  the Israelites have "knowledge of oaths" or understand God's promises, which lead them to trust and have courage, even in the most trying of circumstances of captivity.  They believe in God's ability to deliver them out of Egyptian slavery and so await and plan for the Passover, ready to "put into effect the divine institution."  Their acts of faith and trust culminate in a sacrificial meal, then a journey to freedom on an unknown path.  In Lumen Fidei, (pg 46, para 35), the Popes write:  Religious man is a wayfarer; he must be ready to let himself be led, to come out of himself and to find the God of perpetual surprises.

   So our journey in life is the place where we find God's loving hand acting, guiding, directing and testing within the plan of our lives.   We respond by faith, accept the challenge with trust and love, then God who loves us unconditionally supports us along the way.   From Lumen Fidei, pg 31, para 26:  Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love. Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge which faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes.

   My own journey of deeper faith started when I began to study the Bible.  Before that I really didn't know God, His love and certainly didn't have that "personal relationship with Christ," so frequently taught in homilies today.   But through coming to know salvation history and God's great love for me and all humans, a passionate faith (love, trust, belief...) blossomed in me, which continues to influence my journey.  (Please see the I Thirst Prayer for You Prayer at www.mcpriests.com, to get an idea of God's great love for you!). From other wise women and men, I've come to see how daily bible readings, prayer and meditation can provide answers to the questions of daily life.

    The second reading, from Hebrews 11, illustrates Abraham response to God's challenges as he uses eyes of faith, to trust and courageously journey to new, surprising vistas, becoming an example of faith for future generations.  God sends Abraham on a journey to a foreign land...Abraham trusts and obediently goes.  God promises numerous descendants, despite Abraham being so old he's "as good as dead." We know God's intervention succeeded in creating offspring for elderly Abraham.  Later, God tests Abraham's fidelity when He asks that his son be given in sacrifice.  Abraham perseveres in this most difficult task, nearly completing it.  Through all this, Abraham's faith and ability to act remains unshakeable.  Perhaps, as we persevere through life's challenges we come to know we lack nothing as God reveals himself dwelling within our "tents," providing the grace sufficient for each day. The author of Hebrews correctly described Abraham in saying, "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.  Because of it the ancients were well attested." (Heb 11:1-2)

    Hebrews 11 goes on to account other great patriarchs of faith, who, like Abraham did not "receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth....seeking a homeland....But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. " I don't know about you, but I've been feeling like an alien in a foreign country for awhile.  This unsettled feeling perhaps might be explained by these words in Hebrews; the journey in this life is just the beginning.  It's a road to greater love, faith and hope in God, in a person named Jesus and ends in His city, the new Jerusalem and with the coming of His Kingdom.  So I believe, hope and pray that this unseen dream comes true.  St Augustine's famous words that our restlessness ends when we rest in God sheds light on the endless earthly discomfort.  Lumen Fidei is also very reassuring, " ...who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb11:6).  We can see from this that the path of religious man passes through the acknowledgement of a God who cares for us and is not impossible to find.  What other reward can God give to those who seek him, if not to let himself be found?" (LF pg 45, para 45)

   In Luke's Gospel, chapter 12, Jesus reminds us not to worry, not be anxious and to have no fear as the Father will take care of all our needs.  Further in chapter 12, our Gospel reading this Sunday (Luke 12:32-48) Jesus states this heavenly reward, the kingdom will be given to us by the Father, who is pleased to do so. We can have so much faith in this that we should "sell everything and give alms," storing up treasure in heaven by our earthly actions helping build the kingdom.   Our heavenly reward is inexhaustible--it doesn't decay and can't be stolen.   These are amazing words which challenge us to work tirelessly for the kingdom laboring on God's plan, sharing our all (for all good giving and every perfect gift is from above Jas 1:17)

   Jesus' parables (Luke 12:35-48) reveals the divine perspective on what we humans need to accomplish in life.  We are called to prepare and persevere like Abraham:   be vigilant awaiting the master's return, ready to open the door at his knocking.  We need to know the master's will, having eyes of faith and ears which hear, so our preparations and actions are aligned with the Master, like the prudent and faithful servant.  This directive is where we use those precious gifts from God to buildup his kingdom on earth.  Interestingly enough, much of life seems to be a discovery of ourselves and our giftedness, which frequently changes with the passage of time.  I guess we just need to act with love and compassion in tune with the heart of Christ, no matter the situation or time.  Jesus didn't let up with his challenge to us, as the last line of this Sunday's reading demonstrate:  "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” 

   Thank God for His daily graces otherwise how could we live up to God's expectations at all?!  Some days, I think I need to leave it all to God, awaiting His lamp light on the path (which sometimes is just hitting my toes and not on the curve in the road 10 miles away--ok, I mean living day by day with the grace that's sufficient for that day).  Our parish priest wisely pointed out that the manna in the desert came daily without fail but it wasn't something they could store up or save until the next day.   Grace is kind of like that too and it helps us in our life of faith providing for our daily needs--from the book, Forming Intentional Disciples, by Sherry Weddell:  St. Thomas Aquinas taught that grace heals the soul by helping us recognize the good while empowering us to desire the good, do the good, persevere in the good, and reach glory.  

    In summary, my simple description of the journey of faith includes:  learning to love God and neighbor, following the examples of love, belief, and trust carved out by Jesus and the OT fathers of faith, learning to surrender to God all daily needs, knowing He will provide what is truly necessary, and hoping in the reward of eternal life.  

    May God bless you with a strong faith,
          provide for your daily needs, 
               all through His abundant love, grace and mercy.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Interval

I am re-posting this reflection (originally titled "Arise Lord") because today's Gospel is Matthew 15: 21-28 , and also because the first reading tells us of the Israelite's, whose fear of the Lord was not as great as their fear of the inhabitants of the land that God had promised them. Because they did not trust the Lord, because they choose to listen to the voices of men and not God, God created an interval of 40 years for them to wander in the desert.

As I noted in the reflection there is a danger in this interval, a danger that we do not order our desires to God's will.  Yet, today's Psalm says that during that interval, Moses stood in the breach between God and His stiff-necked people. Interceding on their behalf and praying that these Israelites learn to trust and take courage in the Lord, whose mighty power and great love delivered them from Egypt. 

We too are called to intercede for those who have not yet learned to trust in God's power. We also must thank God for those who have stood in the breach on our own behalf.  

I have just finished reading Brave New World, in which a couple of quotes, for some reason, brought to mind Jesus and the Canaanite woman.  Then I came across a poem by T.S. Eliot, and I found myself trying to ponder them all at once; I was groping for a connection between them.  Does anyone else have problems like this?   It is really unsettling, and, from my point of view, distracting.  Why couldn't I calm my mind down? Even my prayer time was cluttered with these thoughts, and it was difficult to persist.  I could not escape these distractions through prayer, they intensified.  Clearly, I was making too much of these things.  I was not able to let them go even for the Lord during prayer.  And He was silent.

Later, when I was busy picking up my house while listening to Mumford and Sons I found that my distractions were following me.  I picked up one of my husbands Popular Science magazines, and while Mumford and while  Awake My Soul was playing in the background, I read that someone, somewhere is working on a face recognition feature for our TVs.  Imagine!!  As soon as your TV recognizes your face it will suggest shows that it knows you like.  No more channel surfing to give you a clue that the TV may be a distraction from things of higher importance.  TV will instantly soothe over all unsettled feelings, and all of your more transcendent “distractions” will fade away.  My "distractions" seemed to be coalescing into something more, and it occurred to me that maybe they were not distractions.  Maybe they were a prayer rising in my heart.

"Awake my soul!  You were made to meet your maker" 

In Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World  the Resident Controller of the Western World explains to young students why they are so lucky to be living in the modern world:

“Stability,” said the controller, “stability.  No civilization without social stability.  No social stability without individual stability.”

The tradeoff for this stability is love.  How it is accomplished is by eliminating families, and by the conditioning of all peoples, beginning at their test-tube conceptions, to be happy only in the certain castes they have been predestined to. Solitude, which can awaken a soul to a yearning for love, is eliminated thru constant socialization, through passionless promiscuity and, when the human soul overcomes even these distractions, there are side-effect free drugs to quell the stirrings of transcendent desire. They are etherized to deep feelings, good or bad, through the instant gratification of all their conditioned desires.

“Feeling lurks in that interval of time between desire and its consummation.”

“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is tormented by a demon.”  But he did not say a word in answer to her. 

Right after I read this I re-read the T. S. Eliot poem: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  No wonder the powers-that-be in a Brave New World feel that they must eliminate the interval between desire and its consummation!   Only in the solitude of that interval can the beautiful yearning of the poet, and the lover, be discerned. In this time the desire grows, and the impulse to satisfy it becomes more desperate.  In the pain of that yearning one can realize that he has been living life etherized on a table, or that he has measured out his life in coffee spoons.  One can begin to discern what he truly desires.

Yet, it is a dangerous interval. The pain can provoke rage and despair, addiction and hatred -- instability.  It is worse for us in our post-Christian culture, which gives us so little strength for persevering in virtue, because it gives us so little to believe in.  As we progress in our (seemingly) orderly and safe society, we will need to provide a means to distract individuals from these intervals.  As Prufrock ends, you feel he has given up; to afraid of his own desires to push through the angst, the fear, and the impotency of a culture that loves very little.

“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons."

Ah, but if one perseveres in discernment this interval of solitude can also pierce one’s soul with the awareness that he belongs to Someone who is beyond the vanities of this world, and you have an irreplaceable identity in Him!  The depth or our pain has its fulfillment not in numbing distractions, but in a joy that at present you cannot contain.

Arise Lord, let not the voices of men prevail.

Here again is a dangerous moment, because sometimes when I cry out to God, He is slow to respond. And I have been conditioned to instant gratification! I sometimes feel that I am being ignored.  Like the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel, sometimes the Lord allows an interval between the professed desire and its consummation:

And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is tormented by a demon.”  But he did not say a word in answer to her.  His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”  He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  But the woman came and did him homage, saying, Lord, help me.”  He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done as you wish.”  Matthew 15:  22-28

But the woman, because of the great love she has for her daughter, perseveres.  She does not refuse to recognize the faults she brings with her, but lays them at His feet as well.  In the interval of time between the plea of the woman for her daughter and Jesus’ final words Jesus has drawn from her tremendous courage, trust and love.  She may have come only for healing of her daughter, but she surely left with a passionate desire for Him.  Her humble faith in Him brings the light of Christ to the dark recesses in her soul and she receives His love and healing in greater abundance, and so does her daughter.   When I hear Jesus say “O Woman”  I hear more than just a pat on the back  or a way-to-go affirmation.  I hear Jesus pouring out his great love for her, because she is now able to receive so much more of it! He has lifted her up in dignity and in her identity by allowing the interval of solitude to increase and refine her desire. What might have happened if she listened to the voices of the men around her?  What might have happened if she never experienced those moments of fear, anger, humiliation?

Arise, Lord, let men not prevail!

In case you may be wondering what Mumford and Sons song I was listening to:

Awake my soul.  For you were made to meet your maker. 

Push through the temptation to let the voices of men distract you from the solitude that reveals the depth of your need, and the intensity of your desire for God.


It seemed to sum it all up for me.
Peace and grace,

This post can also be found on:

Friday, August 2, 2013


by Deacon Paul Rooney
- a reflection on Luke 12:13-21 (Aug. 4 gospel)

Jesus tells a story today about a man who had so much wealth accumulated that he decided to build bigger barns just to hold it all and have room for more.  The bad news is that this man was one-dimensional; he paid no attention to his soul, devoting his time only to his bodily comforts and increasing his earthly possessions.  God calls him a fool, because the man will not live to enjoy any of his hoarded wealth, nor had he stored up any treasure in heaven.  In fact, one could speculate that his inattention to his soul might be leading him to an overly-hot afterlife.

Avarice or greed shows up in many forms.  It can be an accumulation of real estate; a desire to expand a stock portfolio; bank accounts at home and overseas; a collection of antiques or collector's items; even a desire to have more power and control.

In any event, when the buildup of goods or power becomes disordered, it becomes one of the Seven Deadly Sins we call Avarice.  It is a disordered passion since it is directed toward some good which may be lawfully acquired, but it has been pursued with unreasonable eagerness or without reference to God.  Such is the case with our gospel person's life that we are reflecting on today. 

It is so easy to point the finger at the rich man, tearing down barns to build bigger ones so that he can acquire still more possessions.  But wait a minute: are we forgetting the BBC Battles going on in our own home, in our own consciences?  Are we perhaps guilty of focusing too much on our Bank accounts, our Basement stockpiles, and our groaning overstuffed Closets?

This is a True story: years ago, I knew a man who worked for the same company as I did.  He bragged about having 365 dress shirts in his closets!  Now I ask you, how much is "enough"?  Do we really need a new shirt for every day of the year?  How about our own closets.  Is one closet enough for you?  How many shirts (or dresses, ladies) do you have, or how many pairs of shoes?  How many boxes do you have in the basement that you have not even looked into in, say, the last five years?  Could this gospel story today be about us?  Oh yes!

"Desire" is one of the eleven "passions" we all have, and it can lead us astray if we permit it to do so.  Bad passions cannot be entirely subdued here on this earth, but they must be mortified and thus rechanneled to duties of virtue.  Mortification is all about regulating and ruling our passions, our evil inclinations, and our disorderly self-love.  The rich man in our gospel story is an example of someone with a disordered passion.  Mortification, like Penance, is a useful means of cleansing the soul from past faults. But it's main purpose is to safeguard us from sin in the present and future, by lessening in us the love of pleasure (of many kinds).  It is not a "negative" thing!  It is getting rid of "self" in order to allow Jesus to live His life in us, and to enable us to share His life fully.

The key is to rechannel our disordered passions and make them work on behalf of virtue.  For example, this disordered passion of "desire" that the rich man has: he needs to reflect on the truth that created things cannot satisfy his soul; only a personal relationship with Jesus can do that.  Furthermore, he needs to deliberately turn his disordered desire for "more" into a desire to help others.

So maybe we want to take another look in our Basements or Bank accounts or Closets, and see if we have been closing our eyes to a common but deadly disordered passion.  Always remember the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.  Behave accordingly and engage in acts of mortification.  As strong as our passions are, they can be "starved into submission and conquered."

          Many Blessings to you on your spiritual journey!

+     +     +