Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Father's Day Story . . .

A Box Full of Kisses!
Author Unknown

The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper.  Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.”

The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside?” The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They’re all for you, Daddy.”

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness.

Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept the gold wrapped box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

(Author’s comment):
In a very real sense, each one of us, as human beings, has been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses . . . from our children, family members, friends, and God.  There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than this.         

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Threshold of Vulnerability . . .

To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you, one for which you had no preparation. This could be illness, suffering or loss.

Because we are so engaged with the world, we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are. It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly.

Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced. Especially at such times we desperately need blessing and protection. You look back at the life you have lived up to a few hours before, and it suddenly seems so far away.

Think for a moment how, across the world, someone’s life has just changed – irrevocably, permanently, and not necessarily for the better – and everything that was once so steady, so reliable, must now find a new way of unfolding.
(Author Unknown)

Monday, June 10, 2019

Ordinary Time Ponderings . . .

In 2007, the film, The Inconvenient Truth,  aired and starred former United States VP Al Gore which told the “unbelievable” facts about climate change and specifically global warming.  In the film, Gore reviews the scientific evidence for global warming, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future. In one particular scenario, he presents the film footage of his presentation on this subject to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and he also brought in climate scientists to authenticate his findings. He thought that once legislators heard the compelling evidence, they would be driven to action.  Not so.  Some listened, some became skeptical and others shirked it off.  It was simply viewed as an inconvenient truth.

In the Gospels, we are presented with numerous episodes of Jesus’ power over disease, demons, blindness, fevers, the sea and sin itself.  As we read between the lines, we discover Jesus, too, was an Inconvenient Truth  for both the religious and political leaders of his time. Their economic and religious interests were threatened by him, and they were often rebuked for their hypocrisy. He moved to the “margins of society” and hung out with those who were “outsiders.”  He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; he healed women, touched them, raised them up, and freed them from demons and patterns of life which restricted them. He challenged everyone to become light and salt; to forgive and love their enemies, to ask, to seek, and to knock on the door of God’s heart; to walk through the narrow gate; and that when they fasted or gave alms that it would not be done for show; that they would give away their extra cloak, go the extra mile, and bend and wash each other’s feet.Truly, he was an Inconvenient Truth.

At this time as I write, we, as caretakers of planet Earth, are experiencing fires, along with other climate issues, such as, floods, drought, and extreme heat. Seems that global warming, which in the recent past skeptics made efforts to discredit, now scientists’ truths about our climate are being heard; a noticing is happening and countries the world over are taking steps to slowly remedy these large-scale planet issues. 

So what is the Good News?
We are all called to listen to the falling leaves, to the melting glaciers, to the gasping of earth from our greedy clutching, and to the sacred voices of nature crying out their lamentations. We are all called to listen to our souls, to the souls of one another, and to our Mother Earth.

So - May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deep in our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that we will work for justice, equity, and peace. Let us do as much as we can to take up the challenge to be prophetic voices in our church, our government, and the world, and to speak for the least, the last and the lost so that all that is scattered may be gathered, healed and treated justly. And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in the world, so we will do the things which others say cannot be done.   Finally, may we ask for the graces we need throughout this week to create a climate change of hope and peace in our world as we entrust our lives to the One who is the Way, the Life and the Inconvenient Truth.
(Previously posted)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ablaze with the Spirit . . .

Image by: Doris Klein, CSA
(previously posted)

It is said that at one time Rabbi Lot went to see Rabbi Joseph and said, “Rabbi, as much as I am able, I practice a small rule of life, all the little fasts, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible, I keep my thoughts clean.  What else should I do?”  Then the old Rabbi Joseph stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like the torches of flame.  And he said, “Why not be turned into fire?”   (From the Desert Fathers and Mothers)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Spirit and God’s unrelenting, never-ending, eternal invitation to us, much like that to the early disciples, to become People of the Flame!  For they became on fire with the mission of Jesus and set the world ablaze with their message of God’s love by their bold witness of life! These followers of Jesus were given the power promised by Jesus to further the reign of God.

We have today in the first reading, the story of God’s astonishing revelation of the Spirit in which Luke gets our attention through the images of a sudden, cosmic, divine event abounding with a strong driving wind and flames of fire that rest upon all those gathered in the upper room.  For Luke, Pentecost happens sometime after the Easter appearances of Jesus and his ascension.  It is on the Jewish feast of Pentecost that the Spirit descends upon the disciples in a dramatic, mysterious, and powerful way. They experience a strong wind blowing through the house, are touched by flames of fire, and begin to speak in other languages. There is a radical transformation in the disciples . . . from fearful, unbelieving people, to courageous and bold women and men with a mission. 
Throughout the rest of the Chapters in Acts, we will hear stories of their conversion of heart again and again. They will preach about God's love, uniting them in mind and heart to other Jews, Arabs, Cretans, Gentiles, and those beyond the borders and boundaries of their limitations; and all will understand. This is the mission of God’s Spirit . . . to unite and bring together people of every nation and language.  Now the Spirit's language unites the hearts and minds of the believing community.  It is not bound by any limitations. The fringes of faith are flung open, unrestricted by language, culture, or ethnicity. Every cultural expression is able to find the divine. No one who loves God can be excluded; for the gifts of the Spirit are diverse, and we share in the mystery of Pentecost when we celebrate each contribution with gladness and gratitude.
John, in our Gospel, brings us back to Easter night, when the frightened disciples are huddled in the upper room; the risen Jesus comes to them through locked doors and speaks the language of the Spirit to them.  He greets them . . . breathes the breath of God upon them and blesses them with peace, comfort, and forgiveness. He does not hold them captive with such words as, “Where were you when I needed you most”?  Instead, Jesus offers them healing and peace in the midst of their fear and turmoil from the post-traumatic stress of the past days in Jerusalem.

Jesus, knowing their doubts and insecurity, reveals to them the wounds in his hands and side.  There can be no doubt: it is the crucified Jesus himself, risen from the dead.  As their fear changes to an unspeakable joy, Jesus again wishes them peace and the life of his Spirit, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

He goes on to say, “Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven…”  This is no mere authority of the law in which people are declared free of guilt.  It is much more than that.  The disciples are being given the power to bring people back to God, to reconcile those who have become separated from their God, and to discern which people are not yet ready for reconciliation. And, then he declares their mission, the same as his own: continue doing what he did – the celebration and expansion of God’s reign.

So what is the good news for us today?
Pentecost is the feast that calls us to be willing and courageous to become people of the flame.  We all are people of the Spirit filled with gifts that the “world needs so desperately . . .wisdom for a world searching for meaning,  knowledge, and understanding for a world seeking truth and insight, healing for a world torn apart by violence, and the gift of discernment for a world in need of direction and inspiration.”
So, let us ponder these closing thoughts, as we reflect on our call to become people of the flame:

“To live a life of the Spirit takes all the life we have. To live a life of the Spirit takes the heart of a hermit, the soul of a mountain climber, the eyes of a lover, the hands of a healer, and the mind of a rabbi. It requires total immersion in the life of Christ Jesus and complete concentration on the meaning of the Gospel today.” (Adapted/Joan Chittister – Fire in These Ashes)

So what else should we do?   Why not be turned into fire?

A "Spirited" Prayer . . .

Come, Holy Spirit
Replace the tension within me with a holy relaxation,
Replace the turbulence within me with a sacred calm,
Replace the anxiety within me with a quiet confidence,

Replace the fear within me with a strong faith,
Replace the bitterness within me with the sweetness of grace,
Replace the darkness within me with a gentle light,

Replace the coldness within me with a loving warmth,
Replace the night within me with Your day,
Replace the winter within me with Your spring,

Straighten my crookedness, fill my emptiness,
Dull the edge of my pride, sharpen the edge of my humility,
Light the fires of my love, quench within me the flames of envy,
Let me see myself as You see me,
that I may see You as You have promised
And be fortunate according to Your word,
 “Blessed are the pure of heart,
                    for they shall see God.”                          

Image by: Doris Klein, CSA

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ascension Day - an "Uplifting Feast"!

The story is told that in Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries. 

Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth.  Thus their motto was ‘Ne Plus Ultra,’ which means, ‘No More Beyond.’  The word being torn away by the lion is ‘Ne’ or ‘No’ thus it reads ‘Plus Ultra.’ Columbus had proven that there was indeed ‘more beyond.’ 

In the same way, our readings today, proclaim that there is ‘more beyond.’  The Ascension is part of what we call the Pascal Mystery.  There are 4 interrelated parts: suffering and death, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. 

These sacred events are closely interlocked as one reality.  As the resurrection proclaims that Jesus is alive, the Ascension asserts that Jesus has entered into glory.  In this celebration of the Ascension, we are invited to let go of our linear thinking and stand in the space of accepting and embracing Mystery. 

Jesus did not ride up into the sky in Shepherd 1.  For we know that heaven is not a place but a relationship with God – Jesus is totally and forever reunited with God.  Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Spirit form a ‘seamless garment’ so to speak, one single movement - the passing of Jesus through death to life!

Today, on the feast of the Ascension, we remember, we celebrate, and we believe - the more beyond.  The more beyond pain and suffering; the more beyond doubt and death; the more beyond grieving and loss. 

We are invited into embracing the mystery which Jesus reveals is an intimate forever, eternal, everlasting, never ending, timeless, priceless, unconditional love relationship with our God in which Jesus will be with us until the end of the age.

Jesus promised that we would never be left alone.  The Ascension of Jesus was not the end of his presence with us, but a new way of being intimately present.  As St. Augustine writes, “You ascended before our eyes, and we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts.”

The four gospels do not end with Jesus’ absence, but with his continuing presence.  Mark writes that Jesus was taken up into heaven and then adds “the disciples went forth and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message with signs.” In John, Jesus is saying to Peter and to us, “Follow me.”  In Matthew, he does not mention the Ascension.  His Gospel ends with Jesus saying, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And in today’s Gospel, Luke ends with Jesus ascending into heaven in order to send the promise of the Spirit. 

And Jesus continues his presence with us in Eucharist, in the Scriptures, in our assembly here, and in our hearts.  Through us and in all believers of this Mystery, Jesus continues to heal and to comfort, to forgive and to include.

It is in all hearts of believers of this Mystery, that beyond this space of bread and wine, Word and ritual that his love and compassion continues to be found. We are not to stand and stare up at the clouds but to risk entering into the uncertainties of life, and to truly see God’s presence in each other, in the eyes of the poor, the marginalized, and in the needs and hearts of the "last, the least and the lost."
Ascension tells us that if we’re looking for Jesus, we need a new way of seeing, a new way of following, for the Paschal Mystery belongs to each of us. "Its footsteps are traced in our lives as we negotiate the physical, psychological, and spiritual challenges inherent in our human journey."

So today, let us pray in this liturgy that we will be open to the graces of these powerful readings as we seek to find Jesus in all hearts, especially in this time when we find ourselves living in a Good Friday world with great chaos, fear, and violence.
And so we pray:
  • May we have the courage to be witnesses of Jesus’ message for we have been given a Spirit of wisdom and knowledge;
  • May we embrace the mystery of this feast so that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened and know the surpassing greatness of God’s power for all who believe. 
  • And finally, may we truly and intimately know the hope that belongs to God’s call now and into the more beyond!