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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lord, my heart is not proud

  Psalm 131 : Receiving the Kingdom like a child

LORD, my heart is not proud;

nor are my eyes haughty.

I do not busy myself with great matters,

with things too sublime for me.

Rather, I have stilled my soul,

Like a weaned child to its mother,

weaned is my soul.

Israel, hope in the LORD,

now and forever.

courtesy of wikipedia commons; public domain

Sometimes I read this Psalm 131 and I feel great peace and trust.   Sometimes I think, yeah, easy for King David to say, he has the Lord's blessing, he is King and loved by his people.  He accomplished great things, and pursued great marvels.  I am nothing like that, but I want, I want, I want.  And that is when I take my eyes off of the Lord and focus on myself.  But in His great patience He waits, and soon I return, realizing that in all he did, King David had a heart for God. Only in resting with Him and then receiving His grace will I truly be able to see that my wants all are fulfilled in Him.  Even in my daily tasks, like feeding a little two-year old boy lunch and putting him down for a nap, if it is done with a heart for the Lord, it is truly a task great and marvelous that is laid out just for me.

Childlike faith is the key.  Humbly accepting the tasks that God has laid before you, not without zeal or passion, but without grasping at honor and earthly glory (and running back to His mercy when you realize that those desires have crept into your motivation for serving God).   All reward is sought from the Father.

And God places examples of this childlike faith before our eyes all the time; because He is a Father, and He knows we need encouragement.  Last fall as I was waiting for my preschool daughter’s dance class to start I was entranced by a vision of childlike discipleship.

My daughter and another little girl were busy running, leaping and twirling around the gymnasium where the class was to be held, when the baby brother of my daughter’s friend, who was crawling around the floor, shot a glance at his mother, and then with great determination, began to stand.  All at once his mother and the two little girls were cheering him on.    He was wobbly, and he was not really sure what to do, but he had his eyes fixed on his mother who held out her arms encouraging him to take a step.  Which he did, to the cheers and clapping, twirling and jumping of the little girls.  But he was all about his mother, his eyes were sparkling and determined as he  focus on her and took another wobbly step in her direction.
The girls continued to demonstrate their proficiency at bipedal movement all around him, but it did not distract him from his task. He was not overcome with prideful self-awareness at his shaky steps while they twirled around him, he was progressing in the task appropriate to him at his age and physical development.  He did not measure his achievement by theirs, he took encouragement from their cheers but directed his full attention to his mother who received him with joy and love as he fell into her arms.  His smile was ecstatic!

It felt for a moment like a vision from heaven.  As I read this psalm I recalled this vision, and I also thought of the distracted and distorted wants that are often revealed in my heart.  Only when one stops grasping at things that are, at that moment, too sublime, or lets go of a self conscious awareness of the abilities of those around them, and simply focuses on the Father, can he or she proceed in the Spirit in task that was placed before them at that moment and take joy in the love of the Father, not worrying about what those around are called to do, or whether anyone notices what is being accomplished.

This is the only way to really progress authentically in the Spirit in the unique way God has intended for you and you alone.  It is the only way to proceed without soul-killing pride and self-consciousness blunting your zeal and diverting your passion.  But, when you focus on the one who will sustain you in all things, when you rest in Him receive His grace and then respond in His Spirit your passion will be tremendous, your zeal will be contagious and your reward will be great, for it will be from Him in whom all desires are fulfilled.

How do you receive and then allow the Lord's grace to flow through you?  Do you accept His yoke through yielding to His Spirit in prayer?  Do you respond to the Lord’s promptings, seeking forgiveness when you fail and when you succeed do you seek approval and greatness from God alone?  When we do we can proceed in the Spirit in great matters or in small matters with His peace, because it is in Him whom we trust will give us all that we could ever hope for, always falling into His arms for refreshment. Oh Lord, my heart is not proud.....

Peace and Grace to all,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I Only Saw The Gold.

        Jesus said to the Pharisees: "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table." (Luke 16: 19-21a)

        Thus begins this Sunday's gospel, The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. It is a familiar story. Both men die, Lazarus ascends to the bosom of Abraham, the rich man to suffer the torments of hell. The rich man asks for a drop of water, then, being denied, asks for Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his five equally selfish brothers of the horrific fate that awaits them should they continue their self-centered ways. Abraham tells him: 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.' [The rich man] said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'" (vs:29-31)

         Much more than the evangelist's Mark, Matthew, and John, Luke chose to relate the Jesus stories concerning poverty and wealth. Right from chapter one, Mary, in her Magnificat, introduces Luke's audience to a God of inversion, a God who turns things upside-down, a God whose thoughts are not our thoughts.

                                       " He hath put down the mighty from their seats,                                                                                     and exalted them of low degree.
                                         He hath filled the hungry with good things
                                    and the rich he hath sent empty away"  (Luke 1:52-53)

            In his book about the world before and after Jesus, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, Thomas Cahill writes: "Luke sees Christian life as an alternation of two activities, prayer and kindness, each feeding the other. The plight of those in need sends one to prayer; prayer strengthens me to help those in need. But for Luke, there is one thing that can make a Christ-like life impossible....For Luke, looking squarely at the insidious temptations of Greco-Roman society, the one thing that can make a Christ-like life impossible is wealth."

             Repeatedly, (Luke 6: 20-25; 7:25; 11: 43; 12:15; 12:16-21; 16:13; 16:19-31; 18:9-14; 18:24) Jesus warns his listeners about the dangers of wealth, position, earthly power, and the trappings of status. There is a story about St Thomas More berating people who cared much about the elegance of their clothes: "How many a man is proud of the woolen cloak on his back, not remembering that it was on a sheep's back before it was on his."

              But why did Jesus find riches a problem? It beat's being poor, doesn't it? Jesus knew that riches leads to pride, the replacing of God with oneself in one's heart. We too often measure ourselves by what we own and how much money we make. Consequently, we measure the worth of other's by the same yardstick. The rich man in the parable cares only for increasing his pleasures and his wealth. The word of God doesn't reach him; the seeds of eternal life are strangled and choked beneath the care he is required to give to the maintenance and increase of his goods. It is clear, Cahill points out, that Jesus "...saw personal wealth as the preeminent blindfold to spiritual sight. [The rich man] is blind to his true responsibilities." His wealth makes him indifferent to the needs of the poor man at his door.

                Still, what can possibly be good about poverty? Fr. Thomas Dubay, in his book, Happy Are You Poor, points out, "The value of negative things derives, must derive, from something positive, something they make possible." Like silence clears the way for contemplative prayer, the lack of wealth makes possible something that constant concerns over material goods and riches make impossible. It can prepare us for God's Kingdom. We free ourselves from the worries and anxieties that accompany riches. When we choose to serve God instead of mammon, we detach ourselves from earthly pursuits, humble and grateful for everything we're given, and open to share it with those in need, knowing that everything is a gift from God.

                  There's an ancient story from China which tells how even the poor can lose sight of what's important when they get entrapped in the pursuit of riches. It's called Dreaming of Gold. It goes like this:

                  There once was a man in Chi who was obsessed with gold. But he was so poor, that he was never able to amass more than one gold coin, old and shabby and clipped about the sides. This man arose from his bed each morning thinking about gold and then went to bed at night to dream about it. But no matter how hard he tried, he could never earn any more gold. He went around to every rich man's house and asked for work. But the only work that he was given was menial and extremely badly paid. He tried to gamble with the rough men outside the wine shop but lost almost every time, until he had lost even his one shabby piece of gold.

                    One day he got up at dawn, got dressed and set out for the marketplace. He went over to the stall that dealt in gold, snatched up a great gold bar and ran off down the street. In his haste to get away he ran right into the constable and was dragged off to prison.

                      At his arraignment the judge asked him, "What do you think you were doing stealing someone else's gold right in front of so many people?"

                      "When I took the gold," he replied, "I did not see any other people. I only saw the gold" (emphasis mine)

                      Thus do we all often lose sight of what is really precious in our lives by only concentrating on what we wish were so, instead of what is.

                        Fr. Dubay concludes: "Having wealth is damaging to the pursuit of the Kingdom because the very having does something to one's inner life, one's very ability to love God for his own goodness and others in and for him. This must be at the core of why Jesus proclaimed that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven."



a reflection on Luke 16:19-31 (gospel, 9-29-2013)
       - by Deacon Paul Rooney

Lazarus and the rich man has always been a sad gospel story for me (Luke 16:19-31).  My heart cries out for those who walk a path that leads away from eternal life, rather than toward eternity with God.  Some hearts are very hardened, especially on the dignity of life issues; other hearts just seem to pick and choose from Holy Scripture whatever fits their chosen lifestyle, and ignore the rest of the revealed truth that points to their sinfulness.  Still others look the other way rather than meet the eyes of the beggar holding a sign on the corner.  Under these circumstances, all we can do as Christians is try to set a good example by clinging to and living the truth revealed by Jesus our Savior, and intercede for those who suffer (without knowing it) from hardening of the hearteries.

The focus of this gospel story is on the ease with which riches can harden one's heart, if we are not aware of and avoid that consequence.  Jesus spoke elsewhere of the camel unable to go through the eye of the needle, because he knew from simple observation the way some hearts lust after money and the vices that follow its pursuit.  The rich man must have been aware of poor Lazarus sitting outside his gate, since he passed Lazarus every day when he entered or left his estate.  Also, he recognized him in the after-life and even called him by name.  What hurts the most about this gospel story is the gross indifference of someone who is able to help.  Such indifference leads immediately to a deadly blindness about the harm they are causing others not through acts of commission, but through acts of omission.

It is a good time and opportunity to check upon our own compassion.  The poor are all around us, and Jesus tells us that they will always be with us.  So how is that observable fact affecting your choices?  The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians to exercise responsibility toward their brethren, both in their personal behavior and in their solidarity with the human family (Catechism #2831).

Let me share a true personal story with you.  My granddaughter went to the Social Services office a couple of weeks ago to see if she could get some assistance for their newborn daughter.  While they were there, a homeless man in the waiting room recognized her.  Apparently, not too long ago, he was holding a sign on a corner of a busy street which said "homeless - please help."  My granddaughter thought to herself that she would begin to pray for him.  Then she thought, prayer won't fill his tummy right now!  So she went home, made him several peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, added a couple of Snickers bars and a bottle of water; drove back to where he was, and gave the lunch to him.  At that time, he was really touched by my granddaughter's kind gesture, and he told her so.

Fast forward to yesterday.  He recognized her in the waiting room.  He stopped her and told her that he thought it was really special what she did when she brought him sandwiches; but now, to see that she was in need herself, well, it made her gesture all the more meaningful, he said.

My granddaughter had met her Lazarus, and had responded to the gospel's ethical demand to love one's neighbor.  "By their fruits you shall know them."  Who is your Lazarus?
- Deacon Paul Rooney

Photo credits:
Lazarus at the gate: http://www.rapturechrist.com/laz.htm;
Hardened heart: http://www.barbdahlgren.com/wp-content/uploads/Hardened-Heart.png

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Praiseworthy Steward

The Dishonest Praiseworthy Steward 

A Reflection on Luke 16:1-8a 

By: Larry T 

I have always been bewildered by The Parable of the Dishonest Steward. On the surface this story is loaded with contradiction and mixed messages. A rich man found out that his trusted steward had been squandering his property, so he decided to summarily fire the rascal. He called the scoundrel in, let him know that he was getting the boot, and demanded a final accounting of his property. The alarmed steward called in his master’s debtors and instructed them to revise their statements reducing the amount of debt owed to his master – an underhanded trick which would seemingly cause even more loss of property. And the rich man praised him for it? What?? 

Jesus was, and is the unparalleled master of first telling a story, then making a point. But what was His point? Getting to the moral of this story required some research. Since this parable doesn’t appear in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John there isn’t much written about it in the way of interpretation. 

But there is a footnote in the Catholic Study Bible that is helpful. It states: Verses 8b-13 include several originally independent sayings of Jesus gathered here by Luke to form the concluding application of the Parable of the Dishonest Steward. So the original story started on verse 1 and ended with verse 8a. Sure enough, verses 8b through 13 have a similar theme, but lack interconnectivity.  

8b“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
9I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.
11If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?
12If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?
13No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Original wording can sometimes shed more light on a subject, so I decided to look for an earlier Greek to English translation. The following account is from the Interlinear bible. 

1 And he also said to his disciples, A certain man was rich, and he had a steward, and this one was accused to him as wasting his goods. 2 And calling him, he said to him, What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward. 3 And the steward said within himself, What shall I do, for my lord is taking away the stewardship from me? I am not able to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I will do, that when I am removed from the stewardship, they will receive me into their houses. 5 And calling to him each one of the debtors of his lord, he said to the first, How much do you owe my lord? 6 And he said, a hundred baths of oil. And he said to him, Take your statements, and sitting, quickly write fifty. 7 Then he said to another, And you, how much do you owe? And he said a hundred cors of wheat. And he said to him, Take your statement and write eighty. 8a And the lord praised the unrighteous steward, because he acted prudently. – Luke 16:1-8a Interlinear Bible 

Ah! In verse 1 the steward was accused of wasting the rich man’s goods, not necessarily dishonesty. And in verse 8a, the steward is unrighteous. What’s the definition of unrighteous? In most instances these words are used either in the Old Testament senses noticed above or with a transformation through some specifically Christian idea. Thus “righteous” means “innocent.” (Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.) So, the steward was guilty as charged; he had squandered the rich man’s goods.  

But was the steward dishonest? Maybe. Getting to the point of this parable requires some understanding of Palestinian customs of the time. Rich people customarily employed managers (agents or stewards) to oversee their property, and to act on their behalf. These agents were paid a commission on business transactions. The steward was not guilty of dishonest dealings with the rich man’s customers; he simply instructed the debtors to remove his commission from the amount owed to his master. The steward hoped this act would ingratiate him with the debtors so that they would treat him with kindness after his stewardship was terminated. The rich man saw wisdom in this act and praised the steward for it. 

Going one step further I found that Saint Asterius of Amasea, an early Church Father, preached a sermon on this parable. The following is an excerpt from his homily. 

Now if we carefully compare what the dying man experiences, and what the man who is cast out of his stewardship endures, we shall find that the end of each one of us is like that of a steward. For the dying man turns over his control of affairs to others, just as the steward does his keys; the latter on being cast out of an estate, the former on being cast out of the world. Deeply grieved, the steward retires from his own labors----from the estate rich in vineyards, gardens, houses. What then do you think the dying man experiences? Does he not bewail his possessions? Does he not piteously survey his house as, against his will, he is torn from it, and forced in spite of his attachments, to go far from his treasures and storehouses? And when he comes to the appointed place, when he hears the words, "Render the account of your stewardship, show how you have obeyed the commandments, how you have treated your fellow servants, whether properly and kindly or, on the contrary, grievously and tyrannically, smiting, punishing, and withholding the alms that mercy dictates," then if he shall be able to render the master gracious, by showing that he has been a faithful servant, it shall be well with him. But if he cannot thus render him gracious there will remain for him not simply beating with rods, or the dark prison, and iron fetters, but fire unquenchable and eternal darkness, never illumined by a ray of light, and gnashing of teeth as the Gospel has plainly taught us.

But what can we say concerning the remission of debts which the unjust steward contrived, that he might through his fellow servants secure relief for himself from the hardships of his downfall? For it is not easy to convert this into allegory consonant with Scripture, but after long reflection something like this occurred to me: All of us who busy ourselves about the rest to which we are destined, by giving what is another's, work to our own advantage; now by what is another's I mean what belongs to the Lord. For nothing is our own, but all things belong to him. When, therefore, any one anticipating his end and his removal to the next world, lightens the burden of his sins by good deeds, either by canceling the obligations of debtors, or by supplying the poor with abundance, by giving what belongs to the Lord, he gains many friends, who will attest his goodness before the Judge, and secure him by their testimony a place of happiness. Now they are called witnesses, who have secured for their benefactors favor from the Judge, not because they inform him of anything, as though he were ignorant, or did not know, but in the sense that what has been done for them relieves those who have helped them from the punishment of their sins. – Saint Asterius of Amasea 

What is the point of this parable? Maybe Jesus was telling us that the rich man in the story is the Father; all earthly property is rightly His; but He has no use for it. He makes us temporary managers of some of it. At the appointed time, He is going to ask us for an accounting of what He entrusted to us and how we made use of it. Now there is a sobering thought! When that time comes will I be able to hold my head high and give the accounting of how I used His property to further His Kingdom, or will I be drowning in fear?


Friday, September 13, 2013

Within Your Wounds Hide Me...

"Within Your Wounds
Hide Me..."
- a Reflection on "The Exaltation of the Holy Cross"
by Deacon Paul Rooney

Everyone is familiar with the great contemplative prayer that we call the Anima Christi – "Soul of Christ."  These are the opening words of a famous prayer from the 14th century; the author's name is uncertain (but the prayer is sometimes attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola since it is included in his Spiritual Exercises).  Many of us pray this beautiful prayer immediately after receiving the body and blood of Christ at Mass every day.  Here is the prayer (taken from my copy of the Spiritual Exercises, Ganss translation).
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Do not allow me to be separated from you.
From the malevolent enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me,
and bid me come to you,
that with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.

But what does it mean when we ask Jesus to hide us "within his wounds"?  Why do we make that request?  There is great food for hours and hours of meditation here, both on the words and on the painting itself (by Fra Angelico: "The Deposition").  I thought I would share with you some of the fruit of my own meditation, on today's Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 2013.

First of all, I have set aside all of my previous thoughts on the meaning of this sentence.  I used to think it meant "Lord, save me from the Evil One; he doesn't want to look at your redeeming wounds, so hide me there and I will be safe from him."  Oh, was I poverty-stricken in my thoughts!  Then the Lord came to my rescue.  When I told my wife Patricia that I had always wondered what St. Ignatius (the attributed author) really meant by this sentence, she suggested that I read a slim book called "Anima Christi."   It was written by Mother Mary Francis, PCC – the Abbess of the Poor Clare monastery in Roswell, New Mexico. (The picture above is from the cover of that book.)  I love to read, meditate and reflect on contemplative literature, and I only have one word to describe this little gem of a book: Wow!  That recommendation from my wife was a gift from the Holy Spirit!

My renewed meditation took me down a different road – the road traveled by Abbess Mary Francis.  When I started writing my thoughts, I discovered that my reflections were really hers, not mine.  So any good that follows below I attribute entirely to her, with deep gratitude.  The less-than-good is all mine.  (I also recognize that reflections can take many paths, and hers is not the only one.  As she herself says, there are "immense riches" to explore in this prayer, as God leads us.)

The painful wounds inflicted on the innocent Jesus were absorbed by him out of total love for us.  Love comes from the heart, we are fond of saying.  But that, too, reveals a mystical truth: all love comes from God, who is love.  When the sacred heart of Jesus on the Cross was pierced by a lance, blood and water flowed out – for centuries a vivid symbol of the birth of the Church from the side of Jesus.

When we ask Abbess Mary Francis about the phrase "hide me within your wounds," she tells us that (for her) it does not mean we seek to find safety therein.  Rather, it means that we are offering to become the soothing medicine, the spiritual ointment that brings healing to the mystical body of Christ, the Church.  Love accepted from Jesus always evokes a response in us; we want to become involved, to become "wounded healers," if I may borrow that phrase from the psychologist Carl Jung (made popular by Henri Nouwen in 1972).

We cannot ask to be hidden, "sealed off from being wounded ourselves."  Instead, by offering ourselves to serve the wounded mystical body of Christ, the Church, we agree to become bearers of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that St. Paul talks about so eloquently to the Galatians (5:22-23).

What about our own flaws?  Well, first we take those flaws to Jesus on the Cross, and give them to him!  In other words, we offer him all within us that is not acceptable as a healing agent, for his disposal.  Then we can take what is left in our hearts, and bring that Christ-life to others by serving them unselfishly.

The Cross is the sign of our salvation.  It speaks to us of the anima Christi.  I hope you will join with me today, and spend quality private time at the foot of a crucifix.  Speak to the wounded heart of Jesus from your own wounded heart.  Ask him what he would like from you; then open the ears of your heart to hear his answer and respond!

- Deacon Paul Rooney

The Call From Narnia

A reflection on Narnia, everyday life and God's call from eternity.
By Heidi Knofczynski

CCC 30, “Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.” Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, “an upright heart,” as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.

"It started out as a feeling,..." 

Our family recently watched Prince Caspian on our weekly movie night, and I guess I was in one of those nostalgic moods, because as I was watching the ending, and as the theme music was swelling, I was transported back to my childhood days.  Days when I deeply longed to find the portal that would take me to Narnia, or some other wonderful world.  A place where I could not only see wonders, but be a part of them.  A place I was certain existed in my heart, though I had no way to access it.

and then turned into a quiet hope..."

Then came Junior High, and it was in that time that I learned that what I really should long for was to be popular and to not make a fool of myself.  (In Junior High you make a fool out of yourself by divulging that you have spent more than a few afternoons sitting in your grandmother's closets --she had the closets with the best prospects for adventure-- hoping beyond hope that a door would open up on a world where heroism and valor, beauty and great love were things that could be attained in actuality and not just in the imagination.)  Very quickly I moved on to more rational, down-to-earth, and attainable pursuits. I focused my longings, even my spiritual ones, on things that could be found "under the sun." These worldly things pretend to be just as wondrous and, all to often, seem to be all there is to satisfy deep longings.  They stifle the call of eternity. Then adulthood comes and duties and responsibilities shrink our hopes even more.
I have seen the business that God has given to mortals to be busied about.  God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.  Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 

"which then turned into a quiet thought..."

How quickly timeless yearnings in our hearts are diverted!   I know that much of our daily life is made up of mundane and often dreary duties, (I am doing laundry and changing diapers as I am writing this so, believe me, I know!) but even in the midst of this concrete, material world every one has moments when you know there is something more.  What do you do when that little feeling of God's wonder and mystery tugs at your soul?  Respond to it!  Even for just a second acknowledge that you are being called to place you deepest hope in eternity, to hunger for it -- to believe in it!

"which then turned into a quiet Word..."

I may have stopped searching in closets for Narnia, but I am grateful that I never completely could shake the feeling of being out of place in this world, or else I may have ignored my longing for that wondrous world.  Because occasionally that yearning becomes a sharp pang, a joy unfulfilled, calling me toward it, but remaining just outside of my grasp.  All I have to do is sit in my backyard and hear the cottonwood tree whispering in the breeze and see it’s leaves magnificently sparkling in the sunlight and I feel that I am sitting on the edge of a profound assembly. Like that tree and all of nature are hearkening to a call, a call that I feel but I cannot hear with my ears. For a moment I am lifted up in spirit to a place where time does not hold me captive and wonders are poured out eternally.
My backyard cottonwood tree
The heavens proclaim your wonders, O Lord; the assembly of your holy ones proclams your truth.  For who in the skies can compare with the Lord or who is like the Lord among the sons of God?  Psalm 89 

"And then that Word grew louder and louder..."

But just as quickly I find that I am still just hoping, yearning, hungering and mourning -changing diapers, doing laundry, worrying about this, that and everything else under the sun.  Was that a siren song I was lost in? There is a real pain in re-entering the world under the sun when you can feel such wonders at hand. Maybe that is why, as our movie concluded, I could hardly hold back my tears, as the High Kings and Queens of Narnia went back through the door back to their ordinary, anonymous lives. No longer known as kings and queens, no longer fighting great battles or rejoicing in their victories.  No longer in the presence of Aslan. They are caught back in the quickly flowing time of this mundane world.

 "until it was a battle cry!" 

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor,for the Kingdom of God is yours.  Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.  Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Luke 6: 20-23
How wonderful the sound of Jesus’ words are! He is answering the unanswered pondering of the preacher in Ecclesiastes who has nowhere but under the sun to place his hopes.  His words reassure us not to ignore the eternal yearning in our hearts, they are His call.  His battle cry alerting those who hear them to fight the false hopes of this world and look to Him for true hope. Eternal hope. You and I are being called to the great assembly that rejoices in Him as He rejoices in you!  Let it grow into a battle cry that each one of us proclaims!

How is God calling you?

Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example
for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. 
To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God,
honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17

The sub-headings for this post were taken from the first verses of the song "The Call", by Regina Spektor.  The song can be found on the Prince Caspian soundtrack.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Do You Trust Him With Your Death?

A (better late than never) reflection on the Gospel for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary time.

Sometimes it feels so easy to claim that you are a disciple of Christ!  And then you go to Mass and hear these words coming at you.
If anyone comes to without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
If you are lucky, you will get a strong homily that will not shy away from some of the harder, more mysterious words of Jesus.  Even so, you still have to surrender to these words; you have to trust that Christ knows what your discipleship should look like better than you. I am not innately that strong or courageous.  I know there are plenty of little comforts that I cling to that do not allow me to carry my cross and follow Christ, but I cannot let go of them because they help to cover over the nagging knowledge that I am nothing.  I know there are many legitimate concerns and obligations that I have; many people that I love and who depend on me for something, which gives my life meaning. But even those are passing in this world.  They will not have eternal meaning unless I surrender to Jesus.

The truth is we are all dying, and there is nothing we can do about it, though we try.
For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.
Do you trust Him with your dying to the little gods that distract you from the vanity of this life?  If you do, He will break them, destroying their power to stifle your love for those whom God placed in your life.  Even if your “gods” are your children, or your spouse, He will restore the order of your love so that you can draw your love from His everlasting living water, not from your own stagnant and diminishing well water.  But it is a dying, and it is not easy.  The cost will be high.

Like Saint Thomas More, whose love and fidelity to Christ cost him his earthly power and friends.  He was eventually imprisoned and forced to be separated from his beloved family and finally he was beheaded, because Jesus came first. Because he trusted Jesus with his death.

Execution scene from the film “A Man All Seasons”

Let’s pray for each other to surrender to His will, and love with His love!

Peace and Grace!

Monday, September 9, 2013


- a reflection on Colossians 2:6-15
by Deacon Paul Rooney

Some of you who know me well already know that St. Paul's letter to the Colossians is one of my favorite letters.  Whenever I use it for lectio divina, I always think of that old song, "June is busting out all over" – because that is what happens in my heart!

When I taught Colossians in the Omaha Catholic Biblical School, I always told the class that if I had to pick just one epistle of St. Paul to use to evangelize my own teenagers and my fellow-workers, then this would probably be the one!  Of course, I’d have to paraphrase it and use modern lingo, but the principles are clear.  I find St. Paul's letter to the Colossians to be a mini-catechism, and perhaps my most favorite of all of St. Paul's letters.  It is a call to cling to the gospel truth, the message of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Nothing else matters; all else that opposes His message is a lie.  In one way the Letter is rather dry reading; but if you try to get inside St. Paul's head, the message can become exciting.  In a quick summary, here is what Paul is saying to the Colossians:
- Let the gospel become embedded in your daily life;
- A new lifestyle is demanded if you embrace Christianity;
- You must bear fruit, i.e., share unconditional love;
- Be joyful and thankful, for you have been saved by Jesus Christ!
- Discover in Jesus what "becoming fully human" means.

So in today's reading (Tuesday, September 10), St. Paul says in part: "So...walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (v. 6b-7).  I personally like to call this Letter to the Colossians "my tea bag way of life."  Just like St. Paul suggests, I want to become "steeped" in the gospel words of life and become one with Jesus, just as a tea bag is steeped in hot water until the tea becomes one with the water.  It is the only way to avoid false teachings, especially the subtle undermining of the gospel truth that pervades the various means of communication in our society.  He died for you and me, to bring this truth to us out of a heart overflowing with love.  Now he wants you and me to pass on that truth and love.

I think the image says it all.  It is our call: become steeped in Jesus Christ!

- Deacon Paul Rooney