WISE AND OTHERWISE

By Father Jim

May 27, 2018

Blessings and woes

We are all familiar with the Beatitudes, or “blessings,” that the Lord lists in Sunday’s Gospel passage.

For those who are trying to remain faithful to the Lord but who are experiencing difficulties, it is very comforting to hear that there will be a reward in heaven.

Following the Beatitudes, however, Jesus provides a list of “woes.” One in particular sticks out: “Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.”

We could interpret this only literally, and think that Jesus is just speaking about food. But if we think of this on other levels, then we can get a spiritual insight.

Our society has become so busy and so secular that there is hardly the time or the space anymore for many people to even think about God. Despite all this activity and material wealth, many people feel empty inside. If we are filled — that is to say, if we have not left room for God in our lives — then we eventually will be hungry.

But if we have been striving to have God fill our hearts, and have been making honest efforts to do this, then God will “fill our cup to overflowing.”

Our society has a way of trying to fulfill every physical hunger we can think of, but only God can meet our deep spiritual hungers.

May 20, 2018

Come Holy Spirit, send out from heaven the rays of your light.

Come, Father of the poor. Come giver of the gifts: Come light of hearts. Encourage our best. Be our spirit’s guest.

When things become heated, be our sweet coolness. When we are working, be our rest; when we are in sorrow, be our inner peace. Light most bright, enlighten the hearts of your faithful. Without your power we can do nothing, and nothing is right. Wash what is sordid, water what is arid, cure what is sick, bend what is rigid, warm what is chilling, correct what is devious. Give to the faithful to those who trust in you, your seven holy gifts. Give them virtue’s reward, give them salvation at their end. Give them never-ending joy. Amen.

Scripture tells us that God’s Spirit can enable people to even speak other languages — at Pentecost for instance. This usually what comes to mind when we think of “speaking in tongues.”

The phenomenon of a kind of “holy babbling” or praise also is part of the Spirit’s working for many persons of faith. But think of this, too: A person who is filled with the Spirit can speak several languages that are ways of witnessing to Christ.

To “speak” the language of humility, poverty, obedience to God’s Word, the language of patience with others, of care and sensitivity to others needs. Can we not consider these languages of the faithful person, prompted by the Spirit of God?

Language comes alive when it is translated into action and deeds. So often we become bloated with words. Do not forget the fig tree that was cursed by the Lord when he found that it bore no fruit, only leaves.

May 13, 2018

May the Month of Mary 

May is one of those months that we focus devotion on Mary, with her many titles — Mother of God, Tower of Ivory, Lady of Perpetual Help, etc.

We seldom think of Mary, however, as Mother of the Word of God.

Jesus is God’s Word become Flesh — Mary is mother of that Blessed Word.

How ironic that we usually think of Mary as the woman wrapped in silence, keeping everything in her heart, not saying much. How could Mother of the Word, remain silent?

When we survey the Gospels, we find that the Blessed Mother often spoke and her words carried weight. She interrogates the angel Gabriel, asking how she will have a baby. She speaks in poetic verses when greeted by Elizabeth, her cousin. It is Mary who speaks up and asks the child Jesus who had left Joseph and Mary for three days in Jerusalem. “My child, why have you done this to us?”

Mary is the one to talk up the need for Jesus to work a miracle at the wedding in Cana. “Son they have no more wine.” She must have spoken to Christ upon the cross those three hours for He spoke to her while dying for us.

Tradition tells us Mary prayed with the early church at the first Pentecost. Mary, whom we honor during May and October, was a woman of silence, sorrow and contemplation, but also a woman of words, joy and action.

She was a woman of the Word who gave her word “Yes” so that the Word could become flesh and dwell among us.

May 6, 2018

Babe Ruth is one of the most famous names in American sports.

A memorable time in Ruth’s personal life was a cold December night in 1946. He explained why in an article in Guidepost Magazine. He wrote:

“(Even though) I drifted away from the church, I did have my own altar, a big window in my New York apartment overlooking the city lights. Often I would kneel before that window and say my prayers. I would feel quite humble then. I’d ask God to help me … and pray that I’d measure up to what he expected of me.”

On this cold December night, however, Ruth was in a New York hospital, seriously ill. His closest friend, Paul Carey, was at his side.

After awhile Carey turned to him and said. “Babe, they’re going to operate in the morning. Don’t you think you should see a priest?”

Ruth saw the concern in Paul’s eyes, and for the first time in his life he realized that death could strike him out. So he said to Carey, “Yes, Paul. I’d appreciate your calling a priest.”

That night Babe Ruth spent a long time talking to Jesus with the priest’s help. When he finished, he made a full and humble confession.

After the priest left, the Babe said, “As I lay in bed that evening, I thought to myself what a comfortable feeling to be free from fear and worries. I could simply turn them over to God.”

April 29, 2018

The Value of a Smile

It costs nothing but creates much, it happens in a flash, and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

It enriches those who receive without impoverishing those who give. None is so rich he cannot get along without it, and none so poor but it is richer for its benefits.

It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business and is the counter-sign of friends. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged or stolen.

For it is something that is no earthly good to anyone until it is given away.

The ABC’s of Christian Behavior

• Act instead of argue.

• Build instead of brag.

• Climb instead of criticize.

• Dig instead of depreciate.

• Encourage instead of envy.

• Fight instead of faint.

• Give instead of grumble.

• Help instead of hinder.

• Improve instead of ignore.

• Join instead of jeer.

• Kneel instead of kick.

• Love instead of lampoon.

• Move instead of mold.

• Nuture instead of neglect.

• Obey instead of object.

• Pray instead of pout.

• Qualify instead of quit.

• Rescue instead of ridicule.

• Shout instead of shrink.

• Try instead of tremble.

• Undergird instead of undermine.

• Vindicate instead of vilify.

• Witness instead of wilt.

• Excuse instead of accuse.

• Yield instead of yell.

• Zip instead of zigzag.

April 22, 2018

Sometimes, when people in church are sprinkled with the holy water when the priest walks down the center aisle, reactions can be various.

Some look forward and arch toward the blessed water; others look puzzled; some react by trying to duck and avoid it.

Baptism and each time we are blessed with baptismal water calls us to follow the Lord’s ways in holiness of living and some degree of discipleship. Some embrace this, some aren’t too sure and still others seem to duck and hide.

Baptism is the sacrament of belonging when we begin to be named as Christian, belonging to Christ and of course belonging to each other in the household and community of the Catholic Church.

In so many ways belief does not lead to belonging, rather the other way around. Many will say that when they avoid being there, for whatever reason, with the worshipping community, then even the commitment of believing can begin to erode and even be erased as time goes by.

The importance of baptism in the life of the individual and the community of the faithful cannot be overlooked. It is about a second birth, taking the plunge with Jesus, a cleansing or redirection away from the original sin and natural selfishness we’re all born with.

But also, and just as important, is understanding and cherishing baptism as the way that we come to belong to the Good Lord and to one another in the adventure of our faith. We are each unique and singularly graced, and none of us is exempt from the demands of baptism, even though we might try to duck.

And the otherwise …

A police officer went up to a street musician and asked, “Excuse me, sir, do you have a license to play that violin in the street?” And the violinist answered, “Well, actually, no.”

“In that case, I’m going to have to ask you to accompany me.”

“Of course, officer,” was his reply. “What would you like to sing?”

April 15, 2018

In a chamber of the catacomb tunnels under ancient Rome, where pagans buried their own during Caesar’s time, sayings engraved upon the walls are of gloom and despair.

The pagans left epitaphs of bitterness for the “gods” and cynical remarks.

Nearby are other chambers where the early Christians entombed their dead, including men, women and children who were martyrs to their faith. In these catacombs we find on the walls etched sayings that proclaim joy and peace and victory with Christ. Because of Easter’s message those Christians decked out their underground cemetery with signs of gladness, not despair.

A saint once said Easter’s message is deeply personal because it has to do with the new life and resurrection of your body — it doesn’t get much more personal than that.

Your response is to be just as personal, to put your faith and deepest trust in a personal Lord, not following just a spoken creed or set of rules, but relationship with the person of the Risen Christ.

May Easter and the entire season of Easter’s 50 days reaching to Pentecost, bring to you and those who mean much to you, blessings and renewed hope and faith.

April 1, 2018

Easter season invites us to rejoice and be glad.

Despite all the beauty and freshness that fills this church, maybe the Risen Christ seems hidden from our eyes, gone from our lives. Maybe it is sickness or injury, or failure, or family difficulties, or some great need or loss that renders us unable to find the Lord Jesus where we think he should be.

Maybe as we survey the landscapes of our lives this Easter, we don’t know where he can be found. And so we say what Mary Magdalene said, “We don’t know where they put him.”

When she said these words, she was thinking that the “they” were somebody, one or more persons, who had stealthily removed the body of Jesus.

But for us, the “they” might be things that remove Jesus from our sight: sadness, anger, pain, frustration. These are the “they” that seem to prevent us from finding the Lord.

Where is Jesus this Easter season?

Exactly where he was during His earthly life — with us in our anxiety, suffering and fear. By His Resurrection, Jesus becomes present in the hearts of all who believe in Him. This is where the risen Jesus wants to be: one with us, eager to do good for us and heal us of every illness of body, mind, soul and spirit.

This is where God has put Jesus — at the very heart of our lives, at the center of the universe, of human history, of our personal story, of human hopes, of God’s plan for this world, or God’s love for each of us.

For the risen Christ, who “is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:17) is the same Christ who lives in us, the members of His body, those who share this life and love.

March 25, 2018

Now we cross the threshold and enter into the life-giving days of Holy Week, we do this not separated as individuals but as a parish and faith community together.

Of the three great days of the triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening — Holy Thursday has a special solemnity and evening peacefulness about it that makes it so spiritually rewarding.

The mass of Thursday night recalls the origins of the Eucharist and inspires us to serve and care gently for others as Jesus did when he washed the feet of the Twelve.

Since the celebration of Holy Week and Easter bring new life to the household of the church, it is a blessing that each year it takes place in a very real and broken world. It is right that we see signs of hope all the time. It is all right to smile—to celebrate not only springtime but the spring cleaning of our lives in the Spirit.

Welcoming new Catholics to join the assembly of our faith, those adults being baptized, receiving the Eucharist and Confirmation, always is a wonderful part of the breath of the spring season.

March 18, 2018

Lent is a time for the renewal of faith and a time to learn again the deeper truths of a good, blessed and educated life.

How do you know whether or not you’re educated? Here is a quick quiz from a Chicago professor to help you find out. A “yes” answer to every question indicates that you’re educated.

• Are you public-spirited?

• Are you a friend to the weak?

• Can you make friends and keep them?

• Can you look an honest person in the eye?

• Is there anything to love in a small child?

• Are you in a relationship with your Maker?

• Can you see beyond the stars in the night sky?

• Can you be optimistic amid life’s drudgeries?

No matter how educated you are, your education never is complete. Keep striving to be all that God made you.

“The knowledge of the wise will increase like a flood, and their counsel like a life-giving spring.” (Sirach 21:13)

And the otherwise …

One Easter Sunday morning as the minister was preaching the children’s sermon, he reached into his bag of props and pulled out an egg. He pointed at the egg and asked the children, “What’s in here?”

“I know” a little boy exclaimed. “Pantyhose!”

March 11, 2018

Fasting (going without food for some period of time) and abstinence (going without a certain food) have an important place in our customary Lenten practices.

Both also have done much good in bringing people closer to the poor and to Christ who feeds us with his very own presence.

Yet  in our contemporary experience of Lent, perhaps we can broaden our understanding of fasting from something solely concerned with food to a sacrifice of anything that harms others, the world or us.

Let’s fast from rudeness in the mall parking lot. Let’s fast from gossiping at work. Let’s fast from procrastination. Let’s fast from laziness. Let’s fast from quick temper. Let’s fast from self-righteousness.

Put another way, fasting of this sort allows us to take on the burden of loving more completely for 40 days, thereby developing new patterns and habits close to the heart of Jesus. A fast like this will make this year’s Lent a success and future Lents a springboard for being a better person and making a better world.

March 4, 2018

During Lent, we are asked to let go of habits that get in the way of our ability to love God, ourselves and others.

Through almsgiving, we come to see others as God sees them — as worthy of our love and sharing.

Here are several personal invitations to wake up your spiritual life and put more meaning in your daily living:

• Eat light: Cut back on the size of your meals today (and each Friday during Lent). Recognize your hunger as an expression of God-hunger. Give the money saved on food to charities that feed hungry people.

• Be a Simon the Cyrenean: Simon helped carry Jesus’ cross. Offer to help a neighbor, family member or co-worker with a tough chore. The help can be physical, emotional or spiritual.

• Worship with friends or family: Be attentive to the songs, prayers and readings. Discuss the sermon after the service.

• Avoid gossip: Avoid situations that tempt you to talk negatively about others. When talking about others, say nice things or nothing at all.

• Send a message: Write a letter to someone from whom you’re estranged, seeking to re-establish your friendship. If you need to, apologize and ask forgiveness. If appropriate, offer your own forgiveness.

• Share a meal: Make a meal and bring it to a shut-in neighbor or friend. Or invite someone to a meal at your home.

• Rise and pray: Get up a half-hour early today and spend the time in prayer. You can meditate, write in a journal, say memorized prayers or read the Bible.

• Be complimentary: Compliment someone on a job well done. Look around your life for an unsung hero and thank that person for his or her diligence, competence and dedication.

Feb. 25, 2018

When we consider, during Lent, those things that harm our faith, or stand in the way of becoming more like the Savior, we usually consider at first those very personal “sins” of ours.

It’s fine to exercise that kind of inner inspection and taking an honest look at spots, even sins of the church, as a whole. Our collective prejudices, injustices and sometimes the hurdles of red tape or obsolete traditions shut people out of, rather than welcome them into, life within and among the people of God.

A man of great spiritual fame, Gandhi of India once named some social sins that any society or community should reflect upon. Even for a church such as ours it is good to think bigger, especially in the culture and nation in which we live.

Here are Gandhi’s social sins:

• Politics without principle.

• Wealth without work.

• Commerce without morality.

• Education without character.

• Science without humanity.

• Worship without sacrifice.

Lent is a time to ask, “Where do I stand before God?” Lent is a time to reflect on the eternal life to come, that everything passes away except the love, faith and good deeds we have accomplished.

Speaking of life and eternal life — a verse on a tombstone read as follows:

“Remember man as you pass by, as you are now so once was I,

As I am now some day you will be. Prepare yourself to follow me.”

Feb. 18, 2018

Most of us pick something to “do” or to “give up” during Lent, probably because this is how we were raised.

Maybe in the past we haven’t made a conscious connection between our Lenten practices and how they help us to relate better to God and our neighbor.

Why not try something this year to make the connection clearer, such as fasting from a particular activity or food, and then making use of that time or money to promote something worthwhile? For example, watching less television in order to spend more time in prayer and talking to family members. Or taking the money that would have normally been spent on desserts, and giving it to the poor or another cause.

Whatever we do, we should keep in mind Psalm 51, which tells us that a contrite heart is the best sacrifice we can make to God. This should be our ultimate goal, because unless our hearts change (or we are at least trying to change them with God’s help) then our Lenten observances won’t mean much.

Do we really think the Lord is impressed that we can go without candy for 40 days if our hearts remain closed to Him and to others?

Feb. 4, 2018

Guidelines for Sane Living

 1. Strike a balance between work and play — between seriousness and laughter. Go to church regularly and also to a ballgame.

2. Stick with the truth, even if it makes you look or feel bad. Falsehoods are like wandering ghosts.

3. Forgive your enemies as part of the price you pay for the privilege of being forgiven. Realize you are sometimes a pain in the neck yourself.

4. Walk. Get lots of air and sunshine, and occasionally get some rain or snow in your face and some dirt on your hands.

5. Talk through your troubles and mistakes with someone you trust — and your dreams too.

6. Don’t underestimate the ability of God to straighten out a situation even when you can’t and give God a little time.

7. Fall in love with life — children, older people, middle-agers, sports cars, the theater, music, books, hills, the sea, the Bible — with everything except money.

And the otherwise …

After Mass, the priest looked blue and despondent.

“What was your sermon subject that it took so much energy out of you?” his friend asked.

He replied, “I tried to tell them that it was the duty of the rich to help the poor.”

“And did you convince them?”

“Only half. I convinced the poor!”

Jan. 28, 2018

The Value of One Parishioner

Ten little parishioners standing in a line; one disliked the pastor, then there were nine.

Nine ambitious parishioners offered to work late; one forgot her promise and then there were eight.

Eight creative parishioners had ideas good as heaven; one lost her enthusiasm, then there were seven.

Seven loyal parishioners got into a fix. They quarreled over projects, then there were six.

Six parishioners remained with spirit and drive. One moved away, then there were five.

Five steadfast parishioners wished there were more. One became indifferent, then there were four.

Four cheerful parishioners who never disagree, ’til one complained of meetings, then there were three.

Three eager parishioners! What did they do? One got discouraged, then there were two.

Two lonely parishioners, our rhyme is nearly done. One joined a sports team, then there was one.

One faithful parishioner was feeling rather blue, met with a neighbor, and then there were two!

Someone has said that we are God’s gift to us, and that what we become is our gift to God. It is true that God gives you and me the lumber of our lives, and offers to help us build from it a chapel of love and praise.

And the otherwise …

A pastor asked a little boy if he said his prayers every night.

“Yes sir,” the boy replied.

“And do you always say them in the morning, too?” the pastor asked.

“No sir,” the boy replied. “I ain’t scared in the daytime.”

Jan. 21, 2017

A much loved preacher of God’s word for more than 50 years once was asked what inspired him and gave him the key to insights into the ways of God.

The preacher responded that two precious images always were in his mind and heart as he tried to help others with his preaching and teaching over the years. These two images would help anyone who had lost hope or thought all was lost, or anyone who thought that God was not aware of their personal situation or life.

First, if all you see is gloom and dark clouds, an impossible situation or despair, think of this: Often when taking off on a plane flight you see clouds and rain and gloom above, then once in the air and elevated high above in the blue sky and crystal air, you realize the sun was shining up there all the while.

God reminds us the sun is there; we just need to be lifted up a bit to see it.

The second image is to see the whole world through the eye of an astronaut. If the entire planet and globe of the earth can be held within the eye, even just one eye, of the astronaut, then certainly each of our little lives can be held within the eye and mind and heart of the God who loves us.

Jan. 14, 2018

Some people make New Year’s resolutions. A few keep them, most forget them. Simply do your best to live justly, showing mercy and compassion, being kind and gentle, healing and forgiving.

  • Seek out a forgotten friend.
  • End a quarrel.
  • Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust.
  • Write a letter to someone far away.
  • Share some of your little treasures.
  • Give a soft answer.
  • Encourage our youth.
  • Manifest your loyalty in word and deed.
  • Keep a promise.
  • Find time for little ones.
  • Forgive an enemy.
  • Listen.
  • Apologize if you are wrong.
  • Be understanding.
  • Examine your demands on others.
  • Think first of another’s needs.
  • Be kind, be gentle.
  • Be deserving of confidence.
  • Show your gratitude.
  • Go to church.
  • Welcome a stranger.
  • Visit someone confined to home.
  • Gladden the heart of a child.
  • Take pleasure in the beauty of the earth.
  • Be a good steward of the creation around us.
  • Speak your love. Speak it again.

Jan. 7, 2018

What to thank God for in the new year

Just this once, O God, I’d like to come to you with no problems, but to simply say “thank you.”

• For forgiveness when I fail.

• For the sheer joy of sleep when I’m terribly tired.

• For the justice of Your laws, when men are cruel.

• For the growing remedies to good health, when I am ill.

• For the nurture of new knowledge, when I make a mistake.

• For the simplicity of orderliness, when I face confusion.

• For the joy of helping others, when I see people in need.

• For the assurance that You have made a place for each of us, when I feel inadequate among my peers.

• For the fun that refreshes, when everything gets too serious.

• For the renewal moments of silence, when I am dizzy being busy in a going world.

• For the confidence of friends, when loved ones do not understand.

• For the healing love of family, when my friends hurt me.

• For Your presence, when I am very lonely.

• And above all God, I thank you for the worthwhileness and fullness You have given to this world of yours.

Dec. 31, 2017

This is supposed to be a season of peace and even good will. Everyone is for peace, no one is against it.

But when people say they want peace when they try to sleep with a loud party going on next door, they really want quiet.

Some say they desire peace. When worried about paying bills, they really want prosperity. Waiting to hear the results of a biopsy, when people say they want some peace, they mean good health.

True peace is not the absence of what’s wrong – it’s the presence of what’s right.

The Prince of Peace is Y’SHUA/JESUS (Isaiah 9:6). In Jesus is lasting peace.

 True peace is not the absence of what’s wrong — it’s the presence of who is right – Y’SHUA. Recent violence and continuing cheapening of humanity in entertainment point to the urgent need for true peace rather than chaos and violence. How about eliminating violence in what you consume — on cable TV, movies at the cinema, your own language and attitudes. After all, the image of a sleeping child held in the embrace and peace of a loving mother with a bright star hovering overhead still is the centerpiece of the season.

Dec. 24, 2017

I wonder what God wants for Christmas.

Something that you can’t find in a store. Maybe peace on Earth, no more empty seats in church

might be what’s on His wish list.

I wonder what God wants for Christmas

What do you give someone Who gave His only Son. What if we believe in Him like He believes in us.

I wonder what God wants for Christmas.

What might put a smile on His face. The devil given up in the chase might be what’s on His wish list.

I wonder what God wants for Christmas

What kind of gift from you and me – more sister, more brother, more lovin’ one another.

Yea. I wonder, I wonder what God wants.

By now we ought to know what God wants for Christmas.

Dec. 17, 2017

Hope is a big word and a driving force during the days before Christmas.

Hope for a good Christmas, for peace among families and nations. Hope for postcard-perfect scenes of snow, but not blizzards to deal with.

Jesus is the Lord of Hope. The Lord wasn’t a pessimist or an optimist — optimists arrange reality saying things will get better while pessimists say things probably will get worse.

Jesus speaks about hope that is not based on chances things will maybe get better or worse. His hope is built upon the promise that, whatever happens, God will stay with us at all times, in all places.

Maybe that’s why God was born into a specific place at a definite moment and time. Our God is not removed from us, but with us. Emmanuel means just that — “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

So no matter if your Christmas this time around ends being mostly joyful or if it is a bit on the blue Christmas side, what matters is that God remains near us and among us.

Listen for that angel’s voice filling the winter sky saying, “do not fear,” with hope in your heart prepare for Christmas and greet others saying “Merry Christmas” and call each decorated tree by its real name — a Christmas tree. Leave the word “holiday” for a long weekend camping trip at the beach. 

And the otherwise …

Bulletin blooper: “Sarah remains in the hospital and needs donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of pastor’s sermons.”

Dec. 10, 2017

Advent is a time of longing for Christ our Savior, a time in which we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus.

We look forward to the celebration of Christmas, the commemoration of Jesus’ birth, but we also look forward to the promise and hope of heaven, which we want God to teach us to love.

The longing for Christ causes us to want things to change for the better. We want God to find us blameless on the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ. With Isaiah’s words in mind: “Would that you might meet us doing right, we ask God to increase our strength of will for doing good.”

 Advent, then, is an expression of our faith in the possibility of a better world. We don’t have to be at each other’s throats. We can “do right” in the areas of race relations, family obligations and personal responsibilities.

We can “do good” to the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and to all our brothers and sisters at home and abroad. We can become blameless, beacons of social justice, examples of faith and love, peacemakers.

Maybe then God lets us do what we want to do, including wandering from him, until we at least want to want him. Maybe we will find him when we can cry with the Psalmist, “Lord, make me turn to you!”

Dec. 3, 2017

Besides the spiritual preparations that we do as Christian men and women, we also join many others in our culture’s preparations for Christmas.

We hang up lights inside and outside our homes, we wear red and green, we decorate with evergreens.

Take for instance our hanging of lights. Yes, they look nice, but why hang them now in the early winter? Could it be that during this darkest time of the year those of us who live in the northern hemisphere must find a replacement for the light that we are missing? Perhaps it is a sign that even in darkness our light will shine out.

Whatever the reason, we feel reassured and gladdened seeing the light shine. It is a sign of hope in the darkness. These are signs of hope for us.

Hope is something everyone needs to live. The hope for the coming spring makes the winter more bearable.

Nov. 26, 2017

Next Sunday, we begin the Season of Advent.

As Advent overwhelms us, there begins preparation for Christmas and all those things associated with the holidays. The facts and figures about these holidays are fascinating: shoppers will spend $450 billion, the postal service will print 3,746 billion stamps and handle 99.5 million packages. Nearly 1.2 million letters will be sent to Santa (mine included), 43 million Christmas trees will be purchased and so on.

But what about Advent itself — four weeks for God’s people to sort out and be clear about what we are waiting for, ultimately, and who are we waiting for.

Advent is kind of a confession, if we wait for Emmanuel, then we are not yet fully with God. If we are waiting for Jesus, it admits we still need a savior. If the mighty are too exalted, then it confesses the hungry and needy still stand unheard at the door.

In this beautiful and wondrous season of Advent, our admission is that we need to be made over anew through the good tidings of God’s word to us.

Nov. 12, 2017

How not to grow old

Youth is not entirely a time of life — it is a state of mind.

It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of imagination. It means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of appetite for adventure over loss of ease.

Nobody grows old by living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the spirit back to dust. 

Whatever your years, there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what is next, and the joy of the game of life.

You are as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber, so long as it receives messages of beauty, cheer and courage, so long are you young. 

When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then and only then have you grown old.

Nov. 12, 2017

How not to grow old

Youth is not entirely a time of life. It is a state of mind.

It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of imagination. It means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of appetite for adventure over loss of ease.

Nobody grows old by living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years might wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.

Worry, doubt, self distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the spirit back to dust.

Whatever your years, there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what is next, and the joy of the game of life. You are as young as your self confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber, so long as it receives messages of beauty, cheer and courage, so long are you young.

When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then and only then have you grown old.

Nov. 5, 2017

Because November is the month of All Souls, it may be of some value to consider the current trends in dealing with the commending, honoring and praying for those beloved among us who pass away.

In some cases, certainly not all, the trend to delete the Catholic funeral Mass, calling hours at a funeral home and the increasing preference for cremation seem to foster the approach of “making it all easier for everybody.”

It especially makes things easier for members of the family of the late practicing Catholic, who are not into the practice of a faith.

While childbirth is messy and baptism is wet, there is an odd desire to disconnect with the body of the deceased at their passing. We seldom even use the words died or dead anymore — folks just “pass” and we celebrate their life.

Someone has said the way we carry out our responsibilities to the bodies of the dead is a clue as to how we treat the bodies of the living.

Although cremation is allowed and has been for several years in the Catholic church, many of the clergy will admit that cremation following the body present at the funeral Mass, is much preferred. We believe the corporal body, baptized and anointed, has been a temple, a dwelling place for God’s Spirit — a small box or porcelain jar at the actual funeral Mass could convey a weak symbol.

Having the evidence of death present for several hours at a funeral home visitation, placed before the altar in church for the service, finally the journey coming to the place of burial causes us to face death in the face — in order to proclaim again the power of God over death’s sentence.

Maybe our attempts to make things easier for everybody at the time of the “passing” of a loved one is a symptom of our culture’s intense wish to avoid even thinking about death for the faithful Christian, death is but the journey —the moment that brings us to life that is eternal.

What the Vatican says

The Vatican has issued a document on christian burial and cremations stating: “The reservation of the ashes of the departed in sacred places ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which in eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has, too, passed away. Also, it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. The ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.

Oct. 29, 2017

God of the seasons, there is a time for everything: there is a time for dying and a time for rising. We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of Autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green, letting go of what has been. We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk. Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground, our lives have their own patterns. As we see the patterns of our growth, may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights, there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives. We always need to recognize your power-filled presence. May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain, may gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender. We must wait for the harvest in faith and hope. Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

God of geese going south for another season, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and vision.

God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing white designs, may your love keep our hearts from growing cold in the empty seasons.

Oct. 22, 2017

“What’s Good for the Geese”……

It’s autumn. The air is cool, leaves are falling from trees and high overhead geese are honking.

Looking up, you’ll see that they’re flying south in the famous “V” formation.

But why do they fly in that pattern?

Scientists believe that they do it to help each other. When one bird flies at the tip of the “V,” it cuts air resistance to those flying behind it. It’s harder work for the leader to fly in this position but easier for its followers. Of course, it would be difficult for one goose to be the leader over a migration that might be many hundreds of miles long.

Geese take turns, however, so that no one is pushed too hard.

Every congregation has its leaders — hard-working men and women who organize activities such as church school or a Thanksgiving food drive. But because what they do is time consuming, it’s unfair to sit back while the same people work so hard year after year.

Why not take the lead yourself in some major church project this year? After all, what’s good for the geese (in this case) should be good for the Christians.

And the otherwise …

A well-known priest arrived in town ready to make a masterful speech at a church observing its anniversary. On Friday a young reporter interviewed him. The priest told the young man many of his finest and most humorous stories.

“But don’t print these” he admonished. “I plan to use them in my sermon Sunday.”

The reporter agreed and in the Saturday afternoon paper his write-up of the interview concluded: “The priest told a number of good stories which cannot be repeated.”

Oct. 15, 2017

October serves as a colorful and refreshing seasonal way-station between the extremes of summer past and winter to come.

Dazzling foliage abounds, flies and mosquitoes all but disappear, and there’s a crisp bite in the air that cries out for sweaters and jackets.

Yes, the days grow shorter, yet we experience, in the words of writer Maxine Kumin the “briefest and most beautiful moment of status — every day is more precious than the preceding. Dusk comes earlier in sharper air. The horses’ coats thicken, blurring their summer sleek outlines. Everything proclaims: We are reluctant. We are ready.”

That seems the story of our lives: reluctant and ready. Let us count our blessings today, knowing full well that dusk comes early.

Oct. 8, 2017

The comedy writer Woody Allen once said, “I’m plagued by doubts, especially about God. If only God would give me some clear sign, like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.”

Even though many people have doubts and refuse to practice a faith, many still do remain faithful and have a sincere respect for church and the church’s priests.

One of the most helpful influences in persuading someone to return to the weekend Mass and our traditions is the encouragement of another person, relative, friend, schoolmate or a priest.

There is a renewal in America of those looking for some deeper meaning — the spiritual dimension of life. One person said, “I always loved the sense of peace I felt when I went into the church. I wish I had handed onto my children a more intense hunger for it all. To practice faith gives structure and ritual to our beliefs and a way to think about the great and really important issues of life.”

Another person comments, “Going to church did not solve life’s problems, but it gave me a sense of living in a larger context … being a part of something greater than what I could see through the tunnel vision of my little personal existence.”

A priest’s greatest joy is to help someone come home to the church.

Oct. 1, 2017

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them: work, family, health, friends and spirit, and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You soon will understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it would bounce back, but the other irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They never will be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life. How?

• Don’t undermine your worth by comparing yourself to others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

• Don’t set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

• Don’t take for granted things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would life, for without them life is meaningless.

• Don’t let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.

• Don’t give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

• Don’t be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us together.

• Don’t be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

• Don’t shut love out of your life by saying it is impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give it; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly, and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

• Don’t run through life so fast that you forget not only where you’ve been, but also where you are going.

• Don’t forget that a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

• Don’t be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

• Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.