Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015!

Faithful Companion, in this New Year we pray. .
•To live deeply, with purpose,
To live freely, with detachment,    
•To live wisely, with humility,
To live justly, with compassion,

•To live lovingly, with fidelity,
To live mindfully, with awareness,

•To live gratefully, with generosity,
And to live fully, with enthusiasm.

•Sacred Mystery, waiting on the threshold of this new year,
You open the gates and beckon to us.    
•“Come! Be not wary of what awaits you
as you enter the unknown terrain,
Be not doubtful of your ability to grow from its joys and sorrows.

•I am with you.  I will be your Guide.  
I will be your Protector. You will never be alone.”

Guardian of this New Year, we set aside our fears, worries, concerns.
We open our lives to mystery, to beauty, to hospitality, to questions, to the endless opportunity of discovering the Holy One in our relationships, and to all the silent wisps of wonder that will draw us to Your heart, O God.

•We welcome Your unfailing Presence and walk with hope into this New Year!

 (Paraphrased from Joyce Rupp)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Endings and Beginnings . . . let us pray!

End of combat in Afghanistan, let us pray to our God.
Assassination of NYPD officers  Raphael Ramos and Wenjian Liu,      
let us pray . . .
Babies shot and killed in Milwaukee, WI, let us pray . . .
AirAsia jetliner 8501 missing, let us pray . . .
10 years after Tsunami, let us pray . . .
Ebola in West Africa, let us pray . . .
Climate change/Global Warming, let us pray . . .
Racial unrest, let us pray . . .

Lord, make us instruments of your Peace
In a world all too prone to violence and revenge,
We commit ourselves to the Gospel Values of
Mercy, Justice, Compassion, and Love;
We will seek daily to promote forgiveness and healing
in our hearts, our families, and our world.

Where there is hatred, let us sow Love;
Where there is injury, let us cultivate Peace
Fear and distance prevent people from recognizing all
as brothers and sisters;
tensions lead to violence and mistrust;
We will strive to honor the dignity that God places
in each and every human person.

Grant that we may not seek to be understood as to Understand;
To be loved as to Love
Our failure to understand the other can create exclusion
in all its negative forms –
racism, marginalization of those who are poor, sick, the immigrant;
it can also create situations of domination, occupation, oppression and war.
We pledge to seek the way of solidarity,
to create hearts, homes, and communities
where all people will experience inclusion, hospitality, and understanding.

For it is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned
And in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Let us Pray:
Lord God, create in us:
-the Capacity to hear and understand the voices of those who suffer from
every form of violence, injustice, and dehumanization;
-the Openness to receive and honor people from other cultures, languages,
religious traditions, and geographical regions;
-the Creativity to explore new ways of communication and dialogue through
music, poetry, performing arts, and the mass media;
-the Audacity to undertake the building of communities of forgiveness, healing,
and reconciliation.
To God who is above all and in all are the glory and the honor. Amen

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A New Year . . .

The Welcoming Prayer (by Father Thomas Keating)

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it's for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God's action within. Amen.

 Standing at the Gates of the New Year

 Sacred Mystery,
 Waiting on the threshold
 Of this new year,
 You open the gates
 And beckon to me:

“Come! Come!
 Be not wary of what awaits you
 As you enter the unknown terrain,
 Be not doubtful of your ability
 To grow from its joys and sorrows.

 For I am with you.
 I will be your Guide.
 I will be your Protector.
 You will never be alone.”

Guardian of this new year,
 I set aside my fear, worries, concerns,
 I open my life to mystery, to beauty,
 To hospitality, to questions,
 To the endless opportunity
 Of discovering you in my relationships,
 And to all the silent wisps of wonder
 That draw me to your heart.

 I welcome your unfailing Presence
 And walk with hope into this new year.

From: Out of the Ordinary by Joyce Rupp

Turning Points

Time turns
taking us
where we would
not choose to go.
we pass a point
we will never pass again.
Turning points interrupt us . . .
there must be some mistake!
Looking back we see them
for what they are:
bittersweet raw reality
breakthrough to beatitude
bedrock that gives us courage
to give ourselves away.
The less we struggle with turning points
the greater the strength
to return and turn again. Author unknown

Lessons on Life

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.
When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no it was covered with green buds and full of promise.
The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.
The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life.
He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.
If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall.

Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.
Don't judge life by one difficult season.
Persevere through the difficult patches
and better times are sure to come some time or later   
Author Unknown

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Light looked down and saw darkness.
“I will go there,” said light.
Peace looked down and saw war.
“I will go there,” said peace.
Love looked down and saw hatred.
“I will go there,” said love.
So God,
The God of Light,
The Prince of Peace,
The King of Love,
came down and crept in beside us.

(Rev. John Bell)

It is the Season of Gladness

I’d like to share with you two selections from authors who speak to us of this holy feast of Christmas that we celebrate this evening.

In her Christmas poem, Amazing Peace, author and poet Maya Angelou offers to us her poem as a gift for people of all faiths and encourages us to celebrate and embrace the promise of hope, peace, and unity during this holy season. I present a small section of this poem. . .
Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes and lightning rattles the eaves of our houses. Into  this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters.  Streaming lights of joy,  ringing bells  of hope. We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.  It is the Season of Gladness ~  a halting of hate time.  At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Promise of Peace.

Writer and storyteller, John Shea tells us what Christmas is all about through the eyes of a child.  And so he shares this story: 
“She was five, sure of the facts, and recited them with slow solemnity, convinced every word  was revelation.  She said, ‘They were so poor they had only peanut butter and jelly  sandwiches to eat and they went a long way from home without getting lost.  The lady rode a  donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady.   They had to stay in a stable with  an ox and an ass, but the Three Rich Men found them because a star lighted the roof. 
 Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them.  Then the baby was borned.   And do you know who he was?’  Then her quarter-shaped eyes inflated to silver dollars . . . as  she continued.  ‘The baby was God.’   And she jumped in the air and whirled around . . . which  is the only proper response to the Good News of the Incarnation.”

Yes, it is Christmas time; it is the Glad Season time; a halting of hate time and an awakening of peace time.  It is a time when truces are called, old hostilities are set aside and the night sky is scanned for some sign of a star coming to rest over our homes, -- over our world.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus the Christ; we celebrate the Promise of Peace.  We celebrate this awesome mystery; an incredible, unfathomable, infinite kind of Love that is difficult to wrap our minds around, much less our hearts! 

We, too, need to consider transforming our eyes to silver dollar size and jumping in the air and twirling around because we have heard the Good News!

Our God has truly entered the human condition, a human condition that is not all clean and lovely, warm and welcoming as Christmas cards would have us believe.  As one author reflects,
“Our secular, consumer society has usurped much of the wondrous mystery of it all from under us. Have we not, as well, sanitized the whole scene?  Have we not softened the rough straw with Downy,  sprayed a fragrance to cover the smells of the animals; silenced the cries of Mary in childbirth; tranquilized Joseph in his fear as he heard the first cries of this baby boy?

Jesus came into the world to homeless refugees, into abject poverty, on the outskirts of a brutal empire.  Christmas celebrates not just the birth of a baby meek and mild, but a life of one who was perfect and total Love, perfect and total nonviolence, perfect and total peace.  

Jesus was Word Incarnate whose words took flesh as well.  His words were of compassion, healing, encouragement, and empowerment.  Jesus not only spoke of a God of mercy and forgiveness, but also extended that forgiveness to all whom he encountered. 

Jesus not only spoke of God’s Reign of justice, but also stood in solidarity with the poor and the outcasts.  He not only spoke of a God who longs for our wholeness, but also touched a leper so that his skin would be made clean; he even stooped to straighten the woman bent over by the law.  And to the hungry crowd, he fed the bread of compassion and truth to satiate their emptiness.

Truly the nonviolent Jesus was a presence that disturbed.  He was the thunder in the mountain passes.  Into this climate of fear and apprehension our God entered.  Jesus taught by his way of life - for Jesus was the Word that both stabilized and destabilized; that comforted and discomforted. He was Wonder-Counselor, the Prince of Peace who filled our world with majesty, mystery, and meaning.

A life of peace is both an inner journey toward a disarmed heart and a public journey toward a disarmed world.  However, we are not to lose heart. “We were made for these times,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  “People everywhere are concerned and deeply bewildered about the state of affairs in our world.  Ours is not a task of fixing the entire world all at once, (she continues) but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.  Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.”

Choosing to live a life of peace is a difficult balancing act between the inner work and public work, a high wire trapeze walk that requires calm, patient, step-by-step mindfulness and heartfulness toward a specific purpose, hope, and vision.  

Yes, we are made for these times, and as a people, a church, a nation, a world, we need generous, creative, imaginative people whose zeal can be ignited by the vision of a daring and not quite rational undertaking. 

In our nation of abundance, let us not forget that 16 million children live in poverty and 1.3 million public school students are homeless.  And in comparison with other industrialized nations, we have more high school dropouts, more violent crime among youth, more poverty among the elderly, more medically uninsured citizens, and the widest gap of income between the rich and the poor. 

Unlike the little girl in our initial story, we need to recognize and address the real facts that call us to ponder the scarcities and the inequities of our social system.  Yes, we are made for these times – and we must dare to become imaginative, creative, and generous so as to confront the dark forces that keep our minds and hearts hostage.

Yes, now is the time for hope to be born again in the faces and hearts of our children and where we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us as pillars of passion, heralds of hope, and voices with vision, where it will spread around the earth, brightening all things.

Yes, we are made for these times and we are called, invited, chosen, and challenged to not only speak peace but BE peace.

We are made for these times to stretch out and to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.  Together, let us look at our world and speak the word Peace aloud.

Together, let us commit ourselves to listen carefully as it gathers strength. We will hear its sweetness.  It will be loud; louder than bombs.  It will halt all hate time.

Together, let us see, acknowledge, and honor each other, and then ourselves, looking into our hearts with the knowledge that to find peace, we must first find God.

Together we will say without apology or any hesitation:
Peace, my friend; Peace, my sister; Peace, my brother; Peace, my neighbor. Peace to all who are strangers. Peace, to all the least, the last, and the lost.
For at this Holy Moment; at this Holy Instant, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ; it is the Season of Gladness, the Season of Amazing Peace!
(Based on Lk. 2:1-14) Christmas Eve 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Word was made flesh . . .

Storytellers speak of a custom in the Middle Ages.

At that time, monks and most of the populace could not read or write, but every morning in monasteries and chapels many of them would meet around a Bible.

It would be opened, and in silence they would wait for the Word to be spoken and read aloud. The one who could read would slowly tell the story of God’s words in the world, reading a single passage clearly so all could hear. He would finish, stand in silence before the book, bend in homage, and then back away from the stand with the book, standing at a slight distance.

After a period of quiet, he would approach the book again and read the same passage. He would do this again and again, until all had departed and there was no one to listen to the Word of God.  Each monk or visitor left when they had secured what they needed to reflect upon for the day.

The Word invaded their minds, hearts, and bodies, and they took it with them into their work, study, and interactions, as well as their prayer.  With the Word within them, they were ready to live in the Spirit and let that Word transform their own flesh and blood.    
(Re-told by Megan McKenna)

May we be filled with the Word and live in the Spirit!


A Christmas Blessing . . .

Poem: "Christmas blessing" by Joyce Rupp

May you give and receive love generously.
May this love echo in your heart like
the joy of church bells on a clear December day.

May each person who comes into your life
be greeted as another Christ.
May the honor given the Babe of Bethlehem
be that which you extend to every guest who enters your presence.

May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul.
May it be a foundation of courage for you
when times of distress occupy your inner land.

May the wonder and awe that fills the eyes of children
be awakened within you.
May it lead you to renewed awareness and appreciation
of whatever you too easily take for granted.

May the bonds of love for one another be strengthened
as you gather around the table of festivity and nourishment.

May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust
this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day.

May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart
and visit the One who offers you peace.

May you bring this peace into our world.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Welcome Winter . . .

The Agreement
As the Earth revolves around the Sun, we travel in an endless circle of Endings and Beginnings: end of Autumn–beginning of Winter; end of the longest nights–beginning of longer days; end of one cycle–beginning of the next. Winter Solstice is a pivotal moment, a touch-point in time: a betwixt and between. ‘Tis the final death knoll of the past growing season while holding the kernel of birth of the new. It heralds the return of the Light that tiptoes imperceptibly toward Spring. It disregards the petty or profound differences of the Earth’s human inhabitants. Instead, it reminds us of our Connections:
That we are bound together by the same seasons,
 The same Light,
 The same feelings of grief and pain,
 The same celebration of joy and peace,
 The same yearning for Love in all its forms.
 It is a place in Time of Agreement.

(Ulu Ola)

A Winter Solstice Prayer
The dark shadow of space leans over us. . . . .
We are mindful that the darkness of greed, exploitation, and hatred
also lengthens its shadow over our small planet Earth.

As our ancestors feared death and evil and all the dark powers of winter,
we fear that the darkness of war, discrimination, and selfishness
may doom us and our planet to an eternal winter.

May we find hope in the lights we have kindled on this sacred night,
hope in one another and in all who form the web-work of peace and justice
that spans the world.

In the heart of every person on this Earth
burns the spark of luminous goodness;
in no heart is there total darkness.

May we who have celebrated this winter solstice,
by our lives and service, by our prayers and love,
call forth from one another the light and the love
that is hidden in every heart.
by Edward Hays from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Glad Tidings

God is soaked
in our world.
God’s Spirit
lives and breathes
in and though
all that is.
We are lost
only when we
do not understand
that God
is already with
and in
each one of us.
Our task is recognition
of God’s initiative
to be at home in us . . .
of God-With-Us.
Then we cannot but
be glad.

Author: Edwina Gateley

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Christmas Poem . . .

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem
By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.

Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Remembering Sandy Hook . . .

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel D’Avino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Poem: For a Parent on the Death of a Child by John O’Donohue

No one knows the wonder
Your child awoke in you,
Your heart a perfect cradle
To hold its presence.
Inside and outside became one
As new waves of love
Kept surprising your soul.

Now you sit bereft
Inside a nightmare,
Your eyes numbed
By the sight of a grave
No parent should ever see.

You will wear this absence
Like a secret locket,
 Always wondering why
Such a new soul
Was taken home so soon.

Let the silent tears flow
And when your eyes clear
Perhaps you will glimpse
How your eternal child
Has become the unseen angel
Who parents your heart
And persuades the moon
To send new gifts ashore.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thank you for your presence. . .

Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most—Peace.

prayer - maya angelou

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Star - ing You!

Unfoldment is the gentle whisper
of Infinite God guiding you
It is the silent knowingness of how to act, what to do.

The action comes from the message
far and deep within,
Only you can recognize it if you are mindful as you go in.

The tendency to direct your own course and make a human choice,
Disregards the essence of unfoldment delivered from the inner voice.

The difference from intellectual reasoning and unfolding deep inside, 
Is the security of conditioned thought
not the trust of your inner guide.

I know it may seem difficult to make sense of this at first,
Free your mind of conditioned patterns, allow yourself to thirst.

Open yourself up freely to the meaning of all that you are,
Feel yourself; indulge in the moment’s brilliance,
you will reach far.

Do not be afraid of the gloriousness
that is a part of you -
Allow yourself to experience the present,
a vision clear and new.
It is trust and patience in the unfolding process here on earth,
Guided through the ethereal heavens planted in your soul at birth.

Yes, you can acknowledge the grandness
of all you truly are,
Believe, have faith, release the doubt,
reveal YOUR radiant star.

When it is unfolded unto you,
follow the lead of the Light,
You will be humbly awakened,
embracing inner peace and
inner sight.

(View from the Mountaintop – Lee Ann Fagan Dzelzkalns)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

BE -attitudes!


Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves; they will always have entertainment.

Blessed are those who can distinguish between a mountain and a molehill; they will save themselves a lot of trouble.

Blessed are those who can rest and sleep without looking for excuses; they will become wise.

Blessed are those who are intelligent enough not to take themselves too seriously; they will be appreciated.

Blessed are you if you can look seriously at small things and peacefully at serious things; you will go far in life.

Blessed are you if you can admire a smile and forget a scowl; your path will be sunlit.

Blessed are you if you can always interpret the attitudes of others with good will, even when appearances are to the contrary; you may seem naive, but that is the price of charity.

Blessed are those who think before acting and who laugh before thinking; they will avoid foolish mistakes.

Blessed are you if you know how to be silent and smile, even when you are interrupted, contradicted or walked on; the gospel is beginning to take root in your heart.

Blessed are you especially if you know how to recognize God in all those you meet; you have found the true light, true wisdom.
- Fr Joseph Folliet  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Resources

Ignatian Examen for Advent

The Grace of Gratitude
I speak from my heart telling God why I am grateful,
being very particular and naming specific things:
gifts, people, events, blessings
How do I wait with gratitude?

The Grace to See
I walk with God through the experiences of my day
(or past year) giving thanks where I have grown,
and noticing where I have stumbled.
Where do I need the gift of light?
How do I wait with a discerning heart?

The Grace of Freedom
I ask for the grace to awaken my memory to anything from
my day (or past year) where God is inviting me to greater
freedom and peace.
I spend some time listening to my heart.
How do I wait in peace… in silence… listening?

The Grace of Mercy
I ask to feel hope, knowing that God will always give me
forgiveness. I ask God’s mercy in personal words that come
from my heart.
How do I wait in hope and with trust this
Advent Season?

The Grace of Transformation
I listen to my heart for invitations to change the way I pray,
live, work, love, play, relate, serve, or define success.
What deep desire within me is waiting to be
uncovered, discovered, or recovered this
Advent Season?

I pray the Our Father that God’s Kingdom reign in my life.

Examen adapted by William Watson, S.J.
Advent Reflections

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Certain words are employed so often during our liturgical seasons that they can easily be ignored due to overuse. ‘Waiting’ is one of these words. It may also be difficult for us to sense how the people of old waited for a savior. It’s quite another thing, though, if we are in the midst of a struggle or a situation where we are currently waiting for something painful to change.

I know many people who are waiting. Some have cancer, and are waiting to die. There’s a family waiting to be healed of the pain they all experienced when one of their little girls was abused by a family member. Another person is anxiously waiting to hear if he has the job for which he was recently interviewed. Yet another waits to know if she will have to move away from her home in which she has lived for 30 years.

What does this waiting have to do with longing for God’s coming? When we wait in tough times, we are in a special God-moment. We know we can’t ‘go it alone.’ The One who came into this world is our Peace-bringer. As we wait, we turn to our God and cry out for Peace to come and enfold us.

Source of Peace, bring your serenity and inner repose to those who wait to be relieved of their pain and struggle.” 
 Taken from Inviting God In, by Joyce Rupp

An Invitation . . .
“When the time comes, I ask you to take up your position for prayer (and sitting is usually best for most of us) and then, having asked the help of the Spirit, to be content to wait patiently, expectantly, lovingly, longingly. Try to realize that this is all you can do for yourself. God must do the rest. See yourself as the parched ground looking upwards waiting patiently for the rain to fall. You can only wait.” (~ Br. Roger of Taize)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent Listening

God is the Friend of Silence
We Need to Find God,
God Cannot Be Found in Noise and Restlessness.

God Is the Friend of Silence.
See How Nature . . .
Trees, Flowers, Grass
Grow in Silence.

See the Stars, the Moon and Sun . . .
How They Move in Silence.
The More We Receive in Silent Prayer,
The More We Can Give in Our Active Life.

We Need Silence to Be Able to Touch Souls.
The Essential Thing Is Not What We Say,
But What God Says . . .
To us and Through us.

All Our Words Will Be Useless
Unless They Come from Within.
Words Which Do Not Give the Light of Christ . . .
Increase the Darkness.
-Blessed Mother Teresa 

A Native American and his friend were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhattan. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, the Native American said, "I hear a cricket."

His friend said, "What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!"

"No, I'm sure of it," the Native American said, "I heard a cricket."
"That's crazy," said the friend.

The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed.

"That's incredible," said his friend. "You must have super-human ears!"
"No," said the Native American. "My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you're listening for."

"But that can't be!" said the friend. "I could never hear a cricket in this noise."
"Yes, it's true," came the reply. "It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you."

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.
"See what I mean?" asked the Native American. "It all depends on what's important to you."
- Unknown

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

+ + +

“God’s message is not written out in starlight . . . rather it is written out for each of us in the humdrum, helter-skelter events of each day . . . Who knows what God will say to me today . . . Not knowing is what makes today a holy mystery as every day is a holy mystery.”  
(Frederick Buechner ~ Listening to Your Life)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Candle Light

The Story of the Four Candles

The Four Candles burned slowly. Their ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak...
The first candle said, “I Am Peace, but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit."
Then Peace's flame slowly diminished and went out completely.
The second candle said, "I Am Faith, but these days, I am no longer indispensable."
Then Faith's flame slowly diminished and went out completely.
Sadly the third candle spoke,
"I Am Love and I haven't the strength to stay lit any longer.
People put me aside and don't understand my importance.
They even forget to love those who are nearest to them."
And waiting no longer, Love went out completely.

Suddenly ... A child entered the room and saw the three candles no longer burning.
The child began to cry, "Why are you not burning? You are supposed to stay lit until the end."
Then the Fourth Candle spoke gently to the little boy, "Don't be afraid, for I Am Hope, and while I still burn, we can re-light the other candles."
With shining eyes, the child took the Candle of Hope and lit the other three candles.
Never let the Flame of Hope go out. With Hope in your life, no matter how bad things may be, Peace, Faith and Love may shine brightly once again. (~ Author Unknown)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Winter Blessing

A Winter Blessing

Blessed are you, winter, dark season of waiting,
you affirm the dark seasons of our lives,
forecasting the weather of waiting in hope.

Blessed are you, winter, you faithfully guard a life unseen,
calling those who listen deeply
to discover winter rest.

Blessed are you, winter, frozen and cold on the outside,
within your silent, nurturing womb you warmly welcome
all that longs for renewal.

Blessed are you, winter, your bleak, barren trees
preach wordless sermons
about emptiness and solitude.

Blessed are you, winter, you teach us valuable lesson about waiting
in darkness with hope and trust.

Blessed are you, winter, season of blood red sunsets and star-filled,
long, dark nights, faithfully you pour out your beauty.

 Blessed are you, winter, when your tiny snowflakes flurry through the air,
You awaken our sleeping souls.

Blessed are you, winter, with your wild and varied moods,
So intent on being yourself, you refuse to be a people-pleaser.

Blessed are you, winter, when ice storms crush our hearts and homes,
You call forth the good in us as we rush to help one another.

Blessed are you, winter, your inconsistent moods often challenge
Spring’s arrival, yet how gracefully you step aside when her time has come.

            Author: Joyce Rupp from The Circle of Life         


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Advent Waiting

Light looked down and saw darkness.
“I will go there,” said light.
Peace looked down and saw war.
“I will go there,” said peace.
Love looked down and saw hatred.
“I will go there,” said love.
So he,
The God of Light,
The Prince of Peace,
The King of Love,
Came down and crept in beside us.
(Rev. John Bell)

Advent ~ by Lucy Rose Johns

“We are waiting for these aches and pains to be healed. We are waiting for the hunger within to be satisfied. We are waiting for love to touch us.
We are waiting to be understood and really listed to. We are waiting for decisions to be easy. We are waiting to be inspired to love unlovable people. We are waiting for financial cares to be resolved.
We are waiting for serenity to accept the things we cannot change. We are waiting for courage to change the things we can. We are waiting for wisdom to know the difference. We are waiting to be appreciated.
We are waiting for justice. We are waiting for the answers. We are waiting for the dawn of a new day. We are waiting for things to get easier. We are waiting for a time of rest, peace, quiet.
We are waiting for patience. We are waiting and waiting. We are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our God!”

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Gospel Reflection

Image by James C. Christensen
Gospel: Luke 17:11-19It happened that as Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”

Let us begin by pondering the question: How are the Pilgrims of the first Thanksgiving and the lepers in our Gospel similar? Well, both groups were “outsiders” and “insiders.”

The historical events leading to the first Thanksgiving celebration can sound like a mini-series for a television drama. In the early 1600s, persecution, imprisonment, and death were the punishments awaiting those who separated themselves from King James’ rule of the Church of England.  The Pilgrims found corruption and practices that were in conflict with the Bible, and they desired to escape from England and find a place where they could worship freely.  They would become “outsiders” of the Church of England.

After two other attempts, they set sail on the Mayflower in September of 1620. There were approximately 41 of these Separatists aboard, who called themselves the “Saints,” – they wanted complete separation from the Church of England.  There were others, whom they called the “Strangers.”  These were hired men, servants, soldiers, and others who wanted to start a new life in a new land. 
After sailing for 65 days, the ship arrived in November of 1620 at what would become known as Plymouth Colony. The first winter was devastating to the Pilgrims.  Many had died during the long, difficult winter.  Of the 110 Pilgrims and crew who left England, less than 50 survived the first winter.

In the following year of 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians.  Now, the Pilgrims could be considered the new “insiders,” and we could possibly view the Wampanoag Indians as the new “outsiders.”  And so, as we say, the rest is history.

In our Gospel, we have “outsiders” and “insiders” as well.  Today’s Gospel is from Luke – which is often called the Gospel of Mercy and Forgiveness.  Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem – and in a few Chapters, we will read that he is in the final months of his life on Earth. He knows all too well what it is like to be an “insider” and an “outsider.”

In this middle place between Galilee and Samaria is a borderland where lepers dwelt. Here, Jesus encounters ten men - all lepers, who, with their weakened voices, call out to him, “Master” and beg for mercy . . . they desire human compassion and dignity.
As lepers, they were rejected from society, and they could not participate in worship. They were treated as outcasts and were required to live outside the city in leper camps, forced to ring a bell or shout “unclean” to warn others to keep away as they walked the streets. These lepers were the most miserable of all people, believing that they had been cursed both by God and humankind. 

In this time, leprosy was a permanent and external condition of shame, clearly evident in the disfiguring lesions covering the victim’s skin. Because lepers could not participate in worship, most people believed that the disease was due to sins that the individual had committed. The Jewish people couldn’t imagine a worse torment than not being able to worship God – for it was the most holy act of their lives. 
These ten “outsiders”– were a band of nine Jewish men - and one a foreigner, a Samaritan – who was even more of an “outsider” – a double outcast, because he was a leper and a Samaritan.  These men would normally not be in relationship with each other, but the fate of a terrible disease forced them to band together. 

When Jesus saw them and heard their faint cry for mercy, he doesn’t tell them to go and wash in the Jordan seven times; He doesn’t touch them as he did for the single leper earlier in his ministry. No, Jesus asks them to turn toward Jerusalem and sends the lepers on their way, knowing that his word will do its work. The faith-filled lepers, who will soon be “insiders,” are cleansed as they travel to meet up with the Jerusalem CDC! (Center for Disease Control).

To understand the reactions of these healed men, we must first consider that the Law of Moses provided that someone who was afflicted and then healed of an unclean disease was to go and show himself to a priest to verify the healing. This “presentation” was, in essence, his ticket of re-admission into the Temple and restoration of his place within the community of God’s people.
The nine who presented themselves were doing exactly what Jesus told them to do – but, Jesus had a dual purpose: when the priests verified that these lepers were healed, they were unintentionally affirming the divine authority of Jesus - the one who had healed these men, and the priests would not be able to deny that. For in the cultural world of Jesus, it was believed that God alone is the one who heals.  How clever of Jesus!

So, the ten head off to see the priests. Except for one of them, who turns around and goes back. It’s the Samaritan who returns to Jesus.
As a Samaritan and an outcast, he knew he couldn’t follow the others. Samaritans worshiped on Mt. Gerazim, and Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. He had no need to be officially pronounced clean and welcomed by the priests; so instead, he confides in Jesus, giving his best offering of gratitude for Jesus’ gift of divine mercy.
The Scripture states that he is shouting his gratitude . . . his loud voice signifies his complete healing and the intensity of his praise. Jesus pronounces him healed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

He is restored to wholeness – and no longer seen as a foreigner but in God’s merciful eyes is accepted, welcomed, and loved unconditionally. Truly, Jesus’ mission was to be in towns, villages, and in-between spaces to proclaim that God is a God of mercy and compassion who loves us totally, tenderly, tenaciously!

It is written that in the ancient Middle East, to say “thank you” is to end or complete a relationship. The Samarian knew he was in the “wrong” place at the “right” time. He would not be able to be in relationship with Jesus again – the boundaries were clear.   Yet, his heart was in the right place at the right time! This Samaritan is no longer an “outsider” – now, he is blessed to be a “near” sider – he is near to God’s heart of mercy – he is near to God as disciple and friend  . . . the God of forgiveness, healing, and compassion.

This would seem like a good place to end the story. However, there is more to this story.  But what of the faith-filled nine? 
Perhaps we can find them in the final chapters of Luke’s Gospel – living their newly restored lives with their families and friends; worshiping at the Temple; having a place to call home – and no longer being “outsiders;” and, forever aware of the God with the gaze of mercy who restored them to health, to society, and to the Temple.  They now live lives of generous gratitude.
Therefore, when it came time to obtain a colt for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and the owners were told, “The Master has need of it,” these owners, once the outsiders, give in gratitude to the Master.
When the time came for the Hosanna Parade through the streets of Jerusalem, these once outsiders, now walk and run in gratitude among the people with shouts of Hosanna happiness.
And, when the time came for Passover to be prepared, the man with the water jar, once an outsider, now generously gives his upper room in gratitude to the Master.
And the rest is history, and more, much more. . .

So what is the Good News for us today?
• For Luke - Jesus is the God of compassion, forgiveness, and mercy for all people whether rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, slave or sinner, winner or loser, saint or stranger. With Jesus there are no boundaries, borders, barriers, boxes, or biases.
• Let us pray for all whom this day experience being an outsider in our church, in governments, in society, and in nations throughout our world. May the God of mercy bless them with courage and integrity to shout forth their message and find meaning in their suffering.
•  For ourselves – our community, families, friends, may God’s grace, mercy, compassion. and wisdom accompany our lives as we strive to live with purpose and in gratitude day by day.
• So let us pray:  “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melodie Beattie

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Blessing

Graphic by Doris Klein, CSA
A Thanksgiving Blessing

May an abundance of gratitude burst forth
as we reflect upon what we have received.

May thanksgiving overflow in our hearts,
and often be proclaimed in our prayers.

May we gather around the table of our hearts the ardent
faithfulness, kindness, and goodness of each person we
encounter on our journey of life.

May the harvest of our good actions
bring forth plentiful fruit each day.

May our basket of blessings surprise us with
its rich diversity of gifts and its opportunities for growth.

May all that nourishes our lives bring us
daily satisfaction and renewed hope.

May we slow our hurried pace of life so we can be aware of,
and enjoy what we too easily take for granted.

May we always be open, willing,
and ready to share our blessings with others.

May we never forget the Generous One
who loves us lavishly and unconditionally.

Let us pray:
O gracious God who so generously lavishes our lives with goodness, create in our hearts a deep center of gratitude, a center that grows so strong in its thanksgiving that sharing freely of our treasures becomes the norm and the pattern of our existence.  Remind us often of how much you cherish us, of how abundantly you have offered gifts to us, especially in the hours of our greatest need.  May we always be grateful for your reaching into our lives with surprises of joy, growth, and unconditional love.  Amen. 

 (From a blessing by Joyce Rupp)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Together We Pray . . .

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
chinese philospher - lao-tse - 6th century bce

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Investment

There once lived a rich man who had no greater desire than to do good to those around him, and especially to those who worked for him.

He noticed that one of his workmen, a carpenter, was very poor, and was struggling to feed his family. He could see for himself that the hovel in which the man lived with his wife and children was falling into disrepair, and was no longer a match for the cold and the rain that beat down upon it. He felt great compassion for the carpenter and his family, and he had an idea.

He called the carpenter to him one morning and gave him these instructions:

‘I want you to build me a beautiful house,’ he said. ‘I want you to spare no expense, and to employ only the very best craftsmen for every job that is needed. I have to make a journey, and I will be away for a while, but when I come back, I want you to have the house ready for me.’

The carpenter was delighted to be given this task. Immediately, he set to work, and, knowing that the master would be away, he decided to make a good profit on this enterprise. Instead of hiring the best craftsmen, and using the finest materials, he cut corners wherever he possibly could. The master would never know, and he could keep the difference, and make a lot of money for himself.

And so the house was built. From the outside, it looked beautiful, but as the carpenter well knew, it was not at all sound. The timbers in the roof were weak and badly fitted. The bricks were seconds, which would soon begin to crumble. The roof titles were rejects from the quarry. The building had been carried out by inexperienced workers for low pay.

When the master returned, he came to inspect the house. ‘I have done as you instructed,’ the carpenter told him. ‘I have used the best materials and the finest craftsmen.’

‘I’m delighted to hear it,’ said the master. ‘Here are the keys. The house is yours. It is my gift to you and your family.  May it be a fine home for the rest of your life.’

And in the years that followed, the carpenter could often be heard to mutter, under his breath, ‘If only I had known that the house was meant for

me . . .’ (Author Unknown)

A Story of Sharing . . .

One morning, the sun got up in a bad mood.
‘I’m really tired of getting up every morning and giving light to the earth, day after day,’ it said. ‘I’m tired of ripening the corn and melting the snow. What does the human race ever do for me in return?’

The sun was still thinking all this over, when the rain arrived. ‘Lady Rain,’ the sun remarked. ‘You water the earth all the time and make the flowers grow. You turn the fields green, and fill up the rivers. What does the human race ever do for you in return?’

Hearing this, the rain furrowed her brow, broke out in a terrible noise and fell headlong on to the earth. And as she fell, she pounded out these words: ‘Listen, Mother Earth. You let humankind work you, rip you open, scratch and scrape you. What does the human race ever do for you in return?’

The earth turned into its own furrows and murmured to the grain of wheat, ‘Hey, little grain of wheat. You let yourself die so that humankind can eat bread. What does the human race ever do for you in return?’

And then the sun stopped shining. The rain stopped falling. The earth stopped holding the grain. Eventually, the sun became bored, because there were no longer any children dancing in its warmth and light.
The rain became saddened at never seeing the smile of the gardener in her garden.
The earth became weary at never hearing the joyful steps of laborers on her back.
And the grain of wheat began to rot in solitude.

Together, they decided to have a meeting with God, the creator, and this is what they said to God: ‘God, everything is dying in this universe that you created to be so good and fruitful. Give back life to the earth, we beg you.’

And God replied, ‘My friends, I have given you everything you need to support life on earth. Life cannot be born except of you and between you. And life will be born anew if each of you shares of its nature with all creation.  For life is born out of a sharing of life. And where cooperation is refused, life cannot be.’
(A French parable)