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

Saturday, January 31, 2015


A Reflection on Psalm 95:7b-9 N.A.B.

By: Larry T

Scripturally “hardness of heart” can mean imperviousness to God’s revelation (Exodus 7:13, Mark 6:52) as well as willful resistance to signs of God’s presence (Mark 8:17). Those who harden their hearts refuse to see, hear, or acknowledge God’s attempts to communicate with them.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
 – Psalm 95:7b-9 N.A.B.

Will we hear God today? Maybe. At some point on our spiritual journey, like young Samuel, we have to familiarize ourselves with the Lord’s way.

1 During the time young Samuel was minister to the LORD under Eli, a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent.
2 One day Eli was asleep in his usual place. His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see.
3 The lamp of God was not yet extinguished, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was.
4 The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
5 He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So he went back to sleep.
6 Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But he answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
7 At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
8 The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
9 So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
10 the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
- 1 Samuel 3:1-10 N.A.B.

And if we want to hear him we have to listen intently because God doesn’t yell, as evidenced in the First Book of Kings, he whispers:

11 Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
12 After the earthquake there was fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
13 When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”
- 1 Kings 19:11-13 N.A.B.

How hard would it have been for me to hear God while I was watching the broadcast of the New England Patriot / Indianapolis Colt game? Was watching that game a bad thing? I hope not! How hard is it to hear God during a frantic work day? How about while I’m reading the daily news or checking text messages?

Will I hear the Lord in the tranquility of an hour of perpetual adoration? How about during the serenity of contemplative prayer? While reading Holy Scripture? Praying the rosary? Maybe. But if I don’t unplug from the world and set time aside for Him, I will never hear Him. 

And if I do feel a nudge steering me in one direction or the other, how will I know if it is truly the Lord? I will know that it is Jesus when I am being guided into somehow contributing to the spread of His Kingdom.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Listen and Ponder

A reflection by Sharon Nelsen

The first word of the Rule of St. Benedict is “Listen!” After more years than I care to reveal, I still wonder if I am hearing God, and so much so that this anonymous saying I picked up somewhere and saved because it spoke to me, I still hear sometimes as an admonition/encouragement:

"Do not undermine your worth by comparing yourself to others.
It is because we are different that each of us is special."
It's only too common to go back and compare oneself with others though in princple we believe that each one of us hears God uniquely.
“The essence of Christian faith is a living relationship with God, a relationship inaugurated by Jesus and presently available through His Spirit.” (John Shea, An Experience of Spirit -Spirituality and Storytelling p 6)
I think that all of us truly crave a living relationship with God and a deep desire to hear and to ingest the word God speaks to us; hearing it with my ears—the ears of my heart; respecting the way my mind understands the word at the time; acknowledging the way I feel upon hearing that word, and then holding it, pondering it, and allowing it to stir my hidden unifying center, my soul.
“If we could divest the term soul of the dualistic overtones and false competition with body, its more powerful meaning might emerge. Soul is the ultimate source of all human activity. It is the hidden, unifying center of the person...When God stirs the soul and the soul responds, the soul speaks the experience.” (Ibid., p 49)
  • I understand “God stirs” as God speaking
  • The soul responding means to me that my deepest self is hearing what God is speaking
  • The soul speaking the experience is the action I take in agreement with what I have heard.

In the beginning of Chapter Three of Exodus, Moses first sees a burning bush. When he turns aside to take a closer look, asking himself “why does the bush not burn up?” he is evidently ready to listen for he hears his name “Moses! Moses!” and answers, “Here I am.” In First Samuel beginning of Chapter Three, a voice is heard but not recognized because At that time Samuel was not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.” But Eli, a seasoned listener, understands and teaches Samuel how to respond to the voice he hears, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Listening is an ear open to truth, truth that can be spoken to me in varied ways. Whether in scripture, through other writings, through the spoken words of others to me or to another, or in the silence of my hidden, unifying center, I hear God's word in my own unique way.

High above my thoughts are the Lord's thoughts, yet, through Jesus, God has stooped to share His Thoughts with us. Can we not do the same with each other? Recently, about a dozen of us gathered after mass in Father Flanagan's tomb area to pray with four women who were struggling with terminal cancers. We praised God in song, there were a few spontaneous prayers, and then one woman said, “I keep hearing the song, 'We Shall Overcome.'” After a pause, I said, “Let's sing it.” As we sang the song, we received the image of the good cells overcoming the cancer cells just as the efforts for total racial integration had overcome the evil of racial segregation in our country. It was a powerful, comforting and encouraging image for all of us and it came about because one person trusted what she heard, and another confirmed that indeed, she had heard the Lord.

The psalmist tells us that God's priority is that we listen to Him, desire to follow His Way and respond to Him.

Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.” (Psalm 40.7-8)
Somewhere along the way, along with body and soul being divided into separate categories, Catholics learned that God only speaks to certain “certified” persons: saints, clerics, and that person I know who is so much holier than I ever will be. We need to believe first that God wants a personal, living relationship with each one of us, as well as a collective one through Holy Mother Church, and secondly, we need to relearn how to listen to God. This kind of listening involves:
  • Recognizing and acknowledging our emotional responses to what we hear; 
  • Letting the core of what we hear settle into our heart--treasure it, take care of it, keep it alive! 
  • Trusting in the Lord, the Giver of the word who will not lead His Beloved astray. The word of God that says, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let it not fear.” (John 14.27) and see also John 20.21. 
One sign that we have heard God's word to us is that we receive that gift of Peace promised by Jesus. It is not the peace we get from being satisfied, nor is it a peace that means we have no more challenges, nor is it always a peace that immediately surfaces. But God's Peace eventually brings us power over our fears; it deepens our trust in God, trust in God's promises, trust in God's word to us, trust that God will not lead His beloved astray; it reassures us that all works to the good, even the suffering, unpleasant things, faults, weaknesses and tragedies; it helps us remember that God is with me making all things new, desiring only our good and sending us the assistance we need to do the work He is calling us to do.

Mary listened. She heard God's word spoken to her through the Angel Gabriel. She went through the steps of thinking, acting, and feeling and then she pondered—what stirred her soul she pondered until it radiated out so that she was able to live out the word in God's peace.

Listening bears its fruits in pondering. Pondering the word we hear is letting that truth saturate our soul. Like Mary we can develop the habit of pondering:

  • Think – use our mind ultimately, and before acting. When we have thought about something, clarified it, we are free to respond--even spontaneously! Our thought is not to lead us to this perfect pre-made thing to say, but to the true, God-appropriate thing to say at the time. No script needed!
  • Act – to act means to do something. In learning how to ponder, to act is to develop habits of recognizing our true emotional responses, treasuring what we have heard, and trusting that God will not lead us astray. These kind of habits can grow, crowding out futile habits. 
  • Feel – often, feeling can come first, or seemingly not at all. When I have an emotional response, I recognize and name the feeling-- name my true response and accept it. When I am in a situation and I sense something is affecting me but I can't name it, go deeper. Look for it. It is there--I have just learned to put a lid on it. There is a feeling response to everything—seek and you will find. 
  • Ponder – Once we have accepted and recognized our thoughts, acts and feelings, we are ready to ponder, to let the truths gleaned from thinking, acting and feeling seep into our soul. (Brooding that can lead to grudge-bearing, happens when we ponder without recognizing our thoughts, acts, and feelings.) 
In holy pondering we go over the thoughts, relive the feelings, examine experiences and possibilities, accept all of our thoughts and experiences, hand them all to God as the fragment of truth we have to offer and then ask to receive the whole truth—God's thoughts, God's ways.”But when the Spirit of truth has arrived, he will teach the whole truth to you.” (John 16.13)

Is it any different that God came to earth as a human (creature) and that God comes to us again and again in words that stir our souls? Listen, accept the word that we hear, then ponder it and live in the Peace that Jesus gives us.

God says, “I will help you as you ask, each time, each event, each need, to use your talents and time to the fullest. I will help you to remember to seek my wisdom; to desire to choose what is life-giving; to keep the eternal perspective as you live in the confined quarters of time and space; to believe that I can do and will do the impossible; to rejoice always because my Word, my promises are true and endure forever; to adopt and nurture my thoughts and my ways; to delight in expressing what you hear; to move forward through your fears and blockages, especially those associated with sharing your soul, and, to praise Me in all things.”

And how will God help us? By communicating with us, speaking to us in myriad ways. Our part is to listen, think, act, feel, ponder, share, give thanks, and always praise the One who made us so wonderfully in His image and wants to constantly stir our soul--to be in living relationship with us.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


(a reflection on Mark 1:7-11)
- by Deacon Paul Rooney

          The Christmas officially ends today with this celebration. I have a special love for this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, because of its great theme of salvation. I have had the privilege of baptizing all of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and many others. To be the celebrant at Baptism is always a special joy for me!
          Baptisms are exciting!  They tell us something special about each one of us.  We humans are not just "monkeys without tails," running around the house.  No, we have been given a very special dignity by God.  We know that is true, because Holy scripture tells us that we become God's sons and daughters through baptism.  Not only that, but Jesus himself told us that "unless we are born of water and the Spirit, we shall not enter into the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
          Baptism is not only a Sacrament that brings us into the church family; it is also a very intense, personal thing.  Here is the way one ten-year-old girl defined it:
"Sacraments are what you do in Church.  What you do at home is something else.  Cooking and sewing and running the sweeper and eating and sleeping and praying and scrubbing yourself -- those are not sacraments.  When you are little and ugly, somebody carries you in to the church, and you come out a beautiful child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of heaven.  They pour water on your head, and that's a Sacrament."(1)
          I like that!  From ugly (= a life without Jesus) to beautiful (= life with Jesus).  That says it all, doesn't it?  Baptism is a sign and seal that we are in truth children of God.  Baptism tells us who we are; and that is terribly important to understand.
          You heard what happened at the baptism of Jesus.  A voice came from heaven, one that said: "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased."  Well, through the sacrament of baptism, Jesus comes to dwell within us.  But the story doesn't end there!  Now He asks us to act like real family members.  And members of His family are called to act in only one way: to love God, to love each other unconditionally, and to forgive each other unconditionally.
          But still the story doesn't end there, either.  Because of baptism, the Evil One has lost his place in our lives.  And now he will try to destroy our identity as God's holy children.  so he will begin his efforts to make us doubt God's love for us..  He will lie to us; steal from us; tempt us; and do everything he can to complicate our spiritual journey.
          At Mary Our Queen parish we offer a spirituality program called "Unbound."  It is just one way that we can learn to react forcefully to Satan's attacks.  Certainly the Sacrament of Reconciliation forgives us of all of our sins; that is guaranteed!  What is not guaranteed is that Satan won't come right back into our lives through that unlocked revolving door.  We all need to learn how to shut and lock that door of access to our hearts, to slam it in Satan's face.  And we do that by learning how to forgive, renounce, and take authority over all evil spirits and break the power of their influence, as soon as we become aware of them.
          Over eighty folks are taking the current seminar "Unbound," and we will be offering it again in  the Spring.  So our hope is that everyone who can, will register for that spiritual program next time that it is available.
          You and I are sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.  Do not let Satan steal your precious identity!  Use the Holy Water fount when you enter and leave the church.  It is a reminder of our identity!  Keep a good supply of Holy Water in your home, and use it daily!  As St. Teresa of Avila, a great Doctor of the Church teaches us, and I quote: "From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight, and prevent them from coming back again.  They also flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue." (Ch. 31, Autobiography.)
          To conclude: We are not monkeys; we are children of God, members of God's holy family.  So act like God's kids, kingdom kids; and use the sacraments and sacramental that he has provided for us to engage in spiritual warfare, and win! (+)
           Deacon Paul Rooney
           Mary Our Queen Parish, Omaha
(1)Adapted from a lost quote by Jerry Fuller (2000?)