Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 27 - The Feast of the Heart of Jesus!

Art courtesy of Sister Doris Klein, CSA

The story is told that once a young boy was about to have open-heart surgery.  To prepare him the surgeon said, “Tomorrow I will look at your heart.”  Smiling, the boy interrupted, “You’ll find Jesus there.”  Ignoring his remark, the surgeon continued, “After I have seen your heart I will try to repair the damage.”  Again, the boy insisted.  “You are going to find Jesus in my heart.”

The surgeon who had suffered losses in his own family and was still in pain from a failed marriage, felt very distant from God. He replied in a chilling tone, “No, what I’ll find is damaged tissue, constricted arteries, and weakened muscle.”

The next day he opened the boy’s chest and exposed his heart.  It was worse than he expected – a ravaged aorta, torn tissue, swollen muscles and arteries.  There was no hope of a cure, not even the possibility of a transplant.  His icy anger at God began to surface as he thought, “Where is God? Why did God do this?  Why is God letting this boy suffer and cursing him with an early death?”
As he gazed at the boy’s heart, he suddenly thought of the pierced heart of Jesus, and it seemed to him that the boy and Jesus shared one heart, a heart that was suffering for all those in the world experiencing pain and loss; a heart that was redeeming the world by love. 

Struck with awe at such goodness, such redemptive, unconditional love, tears began rolling down the surgeon’s cheeks, hot tears of compassion for the little boy.  Later, when the child awoke, he whispered, “Did you see my heart?”  “Yes,” said the surgeon.  “What did you find?” the boy asked. The surgeon replied, “I found Jesus there.”

The heart can be understood as a physical part of each of us – that hidden yet vital organ that circulates the full human blood supply three times per minute and whose hundred thousand beats a day are often taken for granted.  The heart is the very core of a person.  When that very center is deeply affected, one’s whole way of thinking about the world, one’s whole way of feeling it, of being in it is profoundly altered.  As in our opening story, the doctor experienced a conversion of heart – a healing from heartlessness to heart-fullness. And the child – who was all heart and shared in the heart of Jesus – had a heart filled with redemptive and unconditional love.

Today’s feast is the celebration of the “enlarged heart” of God as it was enfleshed in the heart of Jesus through the womb of Mary – a heart filled and overflowing with unconditional love and mercy.

Today is not necessarily a feast of our devotion to the heart of Jesus, but more it is a celebration of God’s devotion to us by offering us a heart of love beyond our comprehension, a heart of love beyond any Hallmark card expression, and a heart full of love that is unfathomable. Our God’s love is tender; Our God is totally in love with us, and desires to be of one heart with us.  For as John writes: God is Love!

As we celebrate this feast today of God’s love for us it was different in the Middle Ages – as the devotion was not to the heart of Jesus but to the wound in the side of Jesus.  In later times, especially rising from the visions of St. Margaret Mary, the focus shifted more to the Heart of Jesus.  In the writings of Margaret Mary, she describes what happened one day as she was praying when she received a vision of Jesus:   “For a long time he kept me leaning on his breast, while he revealed the wonders of his love and the mysterious secrets of his Sacred Heart. Till then, he had always kept them hidden; but now, for the first time, he opened his Heart to me.”

Margaret Mary continued to describe in her writings how Jesus revealed his heart as a heart on fire with love as he said: “My divine Heart is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you (Margaret Mary), that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning love any longer.”  She then reveals what followed. “Next, he asked for my heart. I begged him to take it; he did, and placed it in his own divine Heart.  He let me see it there – a tiny atom being completely burned up in that fiery furnace.  Then, lifting it out – now a little heart-shaped flame – he put it back where he had found it.”

In our Gospel today, Jesus reveals to us that his heart is humble and invites us to find rest within his heart.  Jesus lived love and mercy throughout his ministry as he encountered the least, the last, and the lost.
In Scripture we find a number of examples of how his love was lived out. . .
• Let the children come to me . . .then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them
• At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them.
• Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they received their sight.
• (Rich man) Jesus looking at him loved him.

So what is the good news for us today?
Let us through our prayer in these final hours of retreat imagine ourselves resting in the heart of God hearing the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our own prayer.
 (Nouwen)- “when we come to hear the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our prayer, we realize that God’s heart embraces all the sufferings of the world.  We come to see that through Jesus Christ these burdens have become a light burden which we are invited to carry.  . . It is in the heart of God that we come to understand the true nature of human suffering and come to know our mission to alleviate this suffering not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus.”
For God’s heart goes out to us and God’s  love is always there for us – so let us meet God heart to heart in these final moments of silence and solitude.

Closing: Reflections from Macrina Wiederkehr’s experience of the heart of God in her prayer . . .

Like lightning at dawn – the All-Powerful One came
electrifying, energizing, frightening, shattering, crashing into my morning prayer!
Totally unprepared for this kind of interruption,
I froze on my knees both in wonder and terror.
There was no morning silence left,
no comforting darkness to enfold me
only those flashes of light that make hiding impossible.
But this? Oh, this was awful!
God stood there with terrible, penetrating loving eyes, saying only:
Your love is too small!

Standing that close to truth felt uncomfortable, unbearable and I tried
to hide my face the way I often do when truth gets too close.
I tried to hide the pieces of my terribly divided heart. 
But then the lightning came again.
And God was standing there even closer than before
Holding the pieces of my heart with such tenderness
still saying, Your love is too small.

I took the pieces back with reverence
My tears proclaiming the truth of all I felt.
There was no pressure, no force
just the God of morning asking for my love.
And now, every time I see those flashes
in the northern sky I hear again, a voice
saying simply, Your love is too small.
And I weep; I weep at the possibility of who I could be.
(From Seasons of Your Heart)

Art by Joseph Fanelli (1993)

John the Baptist's Birthday Celebration June 24

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.”

Today, we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist, whose witness and voice called his hearers to a baptism of repentance and to recognize the “more beyond” in his prophetic message; the “more beyond” restrictive rules, regulations and religious customs, the “more beyond” predictable practices, and certainly the “more beyond” an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!
From the beginning of his life to the end, John the Baptist was a living witness to God’s unconventional and unpredictable ways of acting.  Elizabeth, his mother, was “more beyond” the age of childbearing when she conceived.  Her relatives and neighbors rejoiced at God’s intervention on her behalf, but they had very definite ideas about how things should go after that.  Religious convention prescribed how the rite of circumcision and naming were to proceed.  

Here in our Gospel, all of Elizabeth’s family and friends gathered around her for the purpose of circumcising the child.  But they also decided that her newborn child would be named Zechariah, Jr. after his father.  And then in this awkward moment, Elizabeth’s voice is heard in the wilderness of promise and possibility, and she says: “No, no, the child’s name will be John” … which translates, Yahweh is gracious. 

These people are faithful Jews, good people and lovers of God.  But at this moment, God is about to reveal a mystery that has never so much as entered their minds or hearts.  God was preparing to do something new.  Something “more beyond” their imaginations.  God and not social convention was to give John his name. 

Perhaps the miraculous and unusual circumstances surrounding John’s conception, birth, and naming are clues as to God’s plan for this child who will be a prophet – one chosen to be voice and heart, call and sign of the God whose design for the world is justice, compassion, forgiveness, love and peace.

In every age God sends prophets to remind us how God desires to be involved in our lives.  Prophets do as much as they can to carry out their purpose, which is to interpret the will of God and to proclaim it to the people.  They stand in our midst and tell it like it is, speaking disturbing words that people don’t like to hear.

We might ask  . . . Who are those in our time who have been called to be the prophetic voices to speak disturbing words that people don’t like to hear?
  • Let us remember, Bishop Oscar Romero:   He wrote . . . “Do not consider me, please, an enemy; I am simply a pastor, a brother, a friend of this Savadoran people.  One who knows their sufferings, their hunger, their anguish.  It is in the name of these voices that I raise my voice to say: Do not idolize your wealth!  Do not horde it to let the rest die of hunger! I speak in the first person, because this week I received notice that I am on the list of those who are to be eliminated next week. But let it be known that no one can any longer kill the voice of justice.”
  • Sr. Dorothy Stang : a Notre Dame de Namur sister, who worked among the peasant farmers in the Amazon and who was assassinated in February 2005.  In her journal she wrote, “O God, we have given all.  I have even sacrificed my home, country, family, my trust, to work among your people. God, my lover and Creator, I love You but I don’t understand why they (ranchers and military) seek to destroy our simple life-joy-caring among the people.  I never came to create hate or division but to build love, confidence and caring among a beautiful abandoned people.  Does this have to be part of life’s struggle?”
  • Finally, John Dear, a peace activist, who had at one time been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  His challenge to us all is to be contemplatives of non-violence, be students, teachers and visionaries of non-violence, be activists of non-violence, and be prophets of non-violence and stand publically for peace.
So what is the Good News for us today?
Let us be open to the graces of these powerful readings.
Let us be open to risk the “more beyond” our comfort zones so that we, too, can be voice and heart, call and sign of the God who unsettles us.
Let us pray for all who are called in our time to be prophetic and speak words of challenge that people don’t want to hear.
And let us pray that John the Baptist will intercede for our world today so that we, too, will choose to live “more beyond” violence, greed and power and truly live peace, be peace.   

Friday, June 20, 2014

Welcome Summer!

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan,            
and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of              
up and down,
who is gazing around with her enormous complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,                                       
how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Fire Rainbow Cloud, Delray Beach, FL -Photo by Ken Rotberg

The Avowal ~ by Denise Levertov
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit's deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

God speaks in unexpected places. . .

The Auction
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art.  They had everything in their collection from Picasso to Raphael. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, “Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart, and he died instantly.  He often talked about you, and your love for art.” The young man held out his package. “I know this isn’t much. I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.”

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. “Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.”

The father died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. “We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?” There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, “We want to see the famous paintings.  Skip this one.”

But the auctioneer persisted. “Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?” Another voice shouted angrily, “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!” But still the auctioneer continued, “The son! The son! Who’ll take the son?”

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. “I’ll give $10 for the painting.” Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. “We have $10, who will bid $20?” “Give it to him for $10.  Let’s see the masters.” “$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?” The crowd was becoming angry. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. “Going once, twice, SOLD FOR $10!”

A man sitting on the second row shouted, “Now, let’s get on with the collection!”  The auctioneer laid down his gavel. “I’m sorry, the auction is over.” “What about the paintings?” “I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!”

(Author Unknown)

Be ready for the God of surprises . . .

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Pondering . . .

An offering from Gerald May:
Peace is not something you can force on anything or anyone... much less upon one's own mind.
It is like trying to quiet the ocean by pressing upon the waves.
Sanity lies in somehow opening to the chaos, allowing anxiety, moving deeply into the tumult, diving into the waves, where underneath, within, peace simply is.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Spirit Energy . . .Fiery Presence!

Photo courtesy of Doris Klein, CSA

Spirit! Power and Passion of my being,
press upon my heart your profound love.
Move through the fragments of my days;
Enable me to sense your fiery Presence
consecrating my most insignificant moments.

Spirit! Source of Vision, Perceptive Guide,
permeate the moments of my choices
when falsehood and truth both call to me.
Turn me toward the way of goodness,
so that I will always lean toward your love.

Spirit! Blessing for the heart grown weary,
encircle me with your loving energy,
empower me with your active gentleness.
Deepen within me a faith in your dynamism
which strengthens the weak and the tired.

Spirit! Breath of Life, Touch of Mystery,
You are the ribbon of inner connection,
uniting me with the groaning of all creation.
Because of you, my life gathers into a oneness.
Keep me attentive to this interdependence.
Fill my being with a constant compassion
and a deep hope that knows no bounds.

Spirit! Dwelling Place, Sanctuary of Silence,
You are the home for which I deeply yearn.
You are the resting place for which I long.
I find both comfort and challenge in you.
Grant that I may keep my whole self open
to the transforming power of your indwelling,
that I may ever know the blessing
of your tremendous companionship.
- Joyce Rupp/Out of the Ordinary

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Dad's Day Reflection

A Box Full of Kisses!
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.                                            

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Touched to the core . . .

I am touched to the core
with a presence I cannot explain
A loving plan enfolds me
Someone is always believing in me
calling me forth, calling me on
I am standing in grace
filled with mystery
touched with the eternal
I cannot get away from goodness
I think we name you God.
You surround me like a gentle breeze
My idols live on in my life
My inconsistent values stay
My immaturity walks besides me
My sin is ever before me
Your love for me stays the same
I tremble in the face of such graciousness
Your reverence for me astounds me
You breathe out hope
and I catch on …

Macrina Wiederkehr
Seasons of Your Heart

A Journey of Miles

A Spiritual Journey

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

~ Wendell Berry ~



Several Times in the Last Week
by  Hafiz

Ever since Happiness heard your name,
It has been running through the streets
Trying to find you.

And several times in the last week,
God has even come to my door –
Asking me for your address!

Once I said,
I thought You knew everything.
Why are You asking me
Where Your lovers live?”

And the Beloved replied,
Indeed, I do know Everything –
But it is fun playing dumb once in a while.
And I love intimate chat
And the warmth of your heart’s fire.

Maybe we should make this poem into a song –
I think it has potential!

How does this refrain sound,
For I know it is a Truth:

Ever since Happiness heard your name,
It has been running through the streets
Trying to find you.

And several times in the last week,
God has come to my door –
So sweetly asking for your address,
Wanting the beautiful warmth of your heart’s fire.

I Heard God Laughing –
Renderings of Hafiz
By Daniel Ladinsky

Monday, June 2, 2014

Welcome to Summer!

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan,            
and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of               
up and down,
who is gazing around with her enormous and                  
complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly   

washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,                                       
how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~ Mary Oliver