Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Canticle of Brother Sun

One of the most beautiful prayers is one written by an itinerant preacher in the 13th century.  His name was Francesco Bernadone.  The world now knows him as Saint Francis of Assisi.  This prayer, considered to be one of the finest pieces of medieval poetry, was written over a period of years.  As Francis' frail body began to fail in the summer of 1226, he would request that his brothers would sing the Canticle to him to give him comfort.

On this, the feast of this humble man from Assisi, I give to you the masterful prayer from a mind untied as closely as any mind could be with God.  

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor, and blessings.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through Whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful, radiant with great splendor,
of You, Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather's moods, 
by which You cherish that You have made.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise you, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.

We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


With the feast of St. Francis of Assisi just a couple of days away, I found something of interest that I thought I'd like to share with you given, especially, that we are now in the height of the political season.  Political discourse has, as we all know, reached levels of depravity and vitriol that are abhorrent.  Candidate ads are not dedicated so much to what the candidate's vision for America is rather than how evil and distrustful their opponent is.  

Two years ago, an organization known as FAN (Franciscan Action Network), introduced The F.R.A.N.C.I.S. Commitment to Civility in Discourse.  It is a guideline to civilly discussing the day's issues with others who do not agree with us.  I offer this to you to prayerfully consider this method and see if it makes any difference in the nature of any discussion you may have.

Each verb begins with a letter, when taken together, spells out the name FRANCIS, whose death we celebrate tomorrow evening and feast we celebrate on Thursday.

"I commit to:

FACILITATE a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that all dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.

RESPECT the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view.

AUDIT one's self and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions.

NEUTRALIZE inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.  

COLLABORATE with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.  

IDENTIFY common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.

SUPPORT efforts to clean up the provocative language by calling policymakers to their sense of personal integrity." 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Padre Pio's Prayer

On September 23, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. Padre Pio, a Franciscan priest who lived during the twentieth century.  He was a remarkable mystic who bore the wounds of Jesus Christ for over fifty years.  He spent nearly every waking hour either in prayer or hearing confessions.  A remarkably common man, one of his legacies is the prayer that I offer to you below.  It is a prayer of pleading, gently reminding us of our need of the Lord's presence in our lives.  Contemplate and take it into your heart and it will go with you every moment of every day.

"Stay with me, Lord, because I need to have You present so as not to forget You.  
You know how easily I abandon You. 

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak, and I need Your strength so as not to fall so often.  

Stay with me, Lord, because You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor.  

Stay with me, Lord, because You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.  

Stay with me, Lord, so that I can hear Your voice, and follow You.  

Stay with me, Lord, because I desire to love You ever more and to be always in Your company.

  Stay with me, Lord, if You want me to be always faithful to You.  

Stay with me, Lord, because my soul is so poor that it desires to be for You a site of consolation, an abode of love."

Saturday, September 29, 2012

They Were Amazed!

Saturday's Gospel is a very short story.  It's not a story, really, just a snippet of one, but it is, nonetheless, filled with meaning.  The one thing that jumped out at me the most was the verse, "They were all amazed at his every deed."  (Lk 9: 43)

The Apostles had been with Jesus for some time.  They had witnessed miracles.  They had heard Him forgive people's sins and tell them that their faith had saved them.  They sat at His feet as He taught the multitudes and in even more intimate settings when they were the only ones with Him, soaking in all He taught.  They saw Him leave them in the evening, often to climb a hill or mountainside to pray all night long.  They had seen Him walk on water and calm the storm.

He told them who He was.  They heard the words, witnessed His deeds, and saw the reaction of the crowds as He taught.  Yet, somehow, most of the time, they could only see the man, not the Son of God.  They knew He was extraordinary, they knew He was virtuous, they knew He was very special, but they were still amazed at the things He did.

We who profess our belief in Jesus have the advantage of twenty centuries to understand just Who He is.  And yet, we, too, stand in amazement at the things He continues to do.  We may not personally witness miracles as did the Apostles, although they do continue.  However, we are witnesses to His mercy and love. We are the benefactors of His infinite love for us when we go to Him in sorrow and true repentance.

Every day, all around us, there are events taking place that seldom, if ever, are noticed.  Yet, these can be considered as miracles as well.  The change of heart in a son or daughter who declared one day in the past that they did not believe in all this ridiculous religious stuff because it was all pretty little stories empty of any meaning and based on some fairy tale god.  The businessman who appears to be quite successful, yet, who is wildly addicted to narcotics decides that these drugs are destroying his life and, so, he turns his life over to God.  These are but two examples of modern day miracles that happen but we fail to notice.  They seem to be such natural occurrences.

Yet, one wonders how many lives Jesus changed through these very same kinds of miracles without one of them being recorded in the Gospels.  That doesn't make them any less of a miracle.  Just not publicized.  Jesus changed hearts wherever He went because of His attention to detail.  The details of people's lives were important to Him because all were and are important to Him.  He listened intently.  He spoke honestly and with authority.  He loved genuinely.  And, yet, the Apostles were amazed!

Again, isn't that how we are?  We are astounded every time we recognize the action of Jesus in our lives as if we had never heard of it before or experienced it in our own lives.  We wonder at who this man is.  And we wonder if we aren't deceiving ourselves, finding someone that we very much would like to have in our lives but doesn't exist.

Faith is the key here.  If we but have faith in our Lord, our amazement will turn into sheer delight in knowing that Jesus works in all good things.  We would be able to recognize Him more clearly in the events of our lives and clearly be more willing to worship Him through lives dedicated to the Father's will.  We would be more charitable toward those in need who are around us.  There are those who are impoverished in terms of lack of possessions, but others are in need who have lost heart because of the way life has battered them about.  There are those who reach a point of emptiness because of their pursuit of worldly goods and fame only to be left hollow and a sense of nowhere to go because they have achieved all they wanted from life.  And then, Jesus comes into their lives, usually through another person.

In one way, we should be amazed at his wondrous deeds.  They are not human but divine.  They are beyond our comprehension.  And, yet, so often we are the instruments of is wondrous deeds.  His miracles are worked through us, we who believe in Him as the Son of God, Savior of the World.  Recount what He once said, "What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me."  (Mt 25: 40)

And so, when we begin to fully realize the real miracle of Jesus, of His unending love for us, we then, become truly amazed and no longer confused.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Prayer for Friday

Here is a simple, yet, beautiful prayer that reminds us that Jesus is here to help us in all things.  This is especially to remember on Fridays, the day when Jesus gave us our freedom and salvation through His Passion and Death.

Jesus, help me, your servant,
whom you redeemed by your precious blood.

In every need let me come to you with humble
trust saying,


In all my doubts, perplexities, and temptations,

In hours of loneliness, weariness, and trial,

In the failure of my plans and hopes,

In disappointments, troubles, and sorrows,

When I throw myself on Your tender love,

When I feel impatient and my cross is heavy,

When I am ill and my head and hands cannot do their work,

Always, always, in your joys or sorrows, in falls
and shortcomings,

-John A Hardin, SJ

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"And He Kept Trying To See Him"

In today's Gospel, taken from the ninth chapter of Saint Luke, we see Herod trying to figure out who Jesus is.  Some of his "learned" priests were saying that this Jesus was john the Baptist raised from the dead.  Others claimed Jesus was Elijah or one of the ancient prophets.  None of their answers satisfied him.  He simply could not understand who this Jesus was and he tried, in vain, to see Him.

Are we so much different from Herod?  We know Who Jesus is because the Church throughout the centuries have taught us Who He is.  We call Him the Son of the Living God.  The Son of God.  Or, even the Son of Man, plus several other titles.  Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we are seeking the true identity of Jesus.  Do we really know Who He is?  Oh, we do have all these titles that we have assigned to Him, but do we really know Him?

How often throughout the day do you stop for but a moment and say a little prayer of thanks for the life you have even if that life is not anything close to perfect?  We presume we know Who Jesus is and we tuck Him away in the recesses of our minds and hearts until Sunday or an emergency in our lives, whichever comes first.  We act as though we have faith, but, isn't it true that we, like Herod, would give almost anything just to see Him, experience Him personally in our lives.

And, yet, if we were truly believers, wouldn't it be easy to see Him any time we wished?  He, Himself, has told us that He is in the poor.  How many times have we passed a homeless man or woman without giving them a second thought?  Yet, there stands Christ.  How many times have we visited a relative or friend in the hospital, said about four words and then began the big countdown to the appropriate time to make our exit?  Yet, there, in that hospital bed, lay the Crucified Christ.  How often do we look at other people as little more annoyances who get in our way on the road and slow us down?  Yet, behind the wheel of the car that seems to be going about thirty miles under the speed limit, there is Christ.

The point is we, unlike Herod, already know Who Jesus Christ is.  He is the Son of God.  The Savior of the world.  And he is already visible to us if we but open our eyes and look.  Our eyes of faith, that is!  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Take Nothing For the Journey

"Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic."  (Lk 9: 3)  In the Gospel for Wednesday, Jesus is sending His Apostles out to distant towns and villages to proclaim the good news of the gospel.  He instructs them to take absolutely nothing along with them except the clothes on their backs.  They are to take no walking stick, a necessity in the days of foot travel.  The food they were to eat to sustain themselves must be from the kindness of the local population that they meet along the way.  Money is forbidden as well.  They aren't even allowed a changed of clothes.  

Think of how we today prepare for even just an overnight trip.  At least one bag is mandatory to accommodate a change of clothes.  Then there is toothpaste and a tooth brush.  Usually, there are other things that we slip into our bag like a book or other reading material we may be enjoying at the moment.  None of us would think of going somewhere without at least these kinds of things.  Many of us take more just in case something happens.

But Jesus tells us that our journey homeward to His Heavenly Father must be made unencumbered.  He knows that our nature is such that if we do take anything along with us, we will be distracted by whatever our bags contain.  If we harbor a grudge in our hearts, eventually, we will begin to think about that grudge and the actions that led us to developing this.  Long ago hurts may surface and preoccupy our thoughts and time, realigning our focus from where it should be, namely our relationship with God.  

What exactly does it mean to make our way back to God without any possessions?  It means that we must keep ourselves free of sin.  We must be always on watch to guard against even the smallest of distractions lest we lose our way to heaven.  This represents a real challenge to those of us who claim to follow Jesus.  It means that we must make amends with all those whom we may have hurt over the years.  It means that we must forgive those who have injured us throughout our life.  This may not be very easy since some people have been grievously hurt by others through nearly every kind of abuse you might be able to think of.  

We must travel with nothing, nothing, that is, with the exception of the love of Christ in our hearts.  Jesus encountered plenty of hate long before He was put on trial and crucified.  There were those who followed Him all throughout His ministry who sought to destroy Him by proving that He was a fraud.  There were others who said nothing, but quietly harbored the desire to see this itinerant preacher dispatched quickly and quietly.  Yet, He always maintained his focus, that being the will of His Father.  He never allowed anyone or anything interfere with that.  Neither should we.

We must always keep our minds and hearts turned towards the Father.  We must always seek forgiveness for those moments when we have allowed ourselves to be distracted from this goal.  One sure way of seeing to this is living our lives in the light of love rather than the shadow of hate, fear, and anger.  We must live as Jesus did, with complete faith and trust in the Father of us all Who, after all, created us out of nothing else but love.  Therefore, our inheritance is that of love and if we use this gift everyday, we shall make our way back to our Father as Jesus wished, unencumbered.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cardinal Dolan's Benediction At the DNC

What follows is the text of the prayer offered by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.  Here is a man of faith unafraid to face the party which promotes abortion, gay marriage, and a whole host of other things that the Church teaches against.  It took great courage to pray in this way before the delegates who, only days before had eliminated God from their platform.

With a “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,”  let us close this convention by praying for this land that we so cherish and love:
Let us Pray.
Almighty God, father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, revealed to us so powerfully in your Son, Jesus Christ, we thank you for showering your blessings upon this our beloved nation.  Bless all here present, and all across this great land, who work hard for the day when a greater portion of your justice, and a more ample measure of your care for the poor and suffering, may prevail in these United States.  Help us to see that a society’s greatness is found above all in the respect it shows for the weakest and neediest among us.
We beseech you, almighty God to shed your grace on this noble experiment in ordered liberty, which began with the confident assertion of inalienable rights bestowed upon us by you:  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Thus do we praise you for the gift of life.  Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure.  We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.  Strengthen our sick and our elders waiting to see your holy face at life’s end, that they may be accompanied by true compassion and cherished with the dignity due those who are infirm and fragile.
We praise and thank you for the gift of liberty.  May this land of the free never lack those brave enough to defend our basic freedoms.  Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty:  the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our Founding. May our liberty be in harmony with truth; freedom ordered in goodness and justice.  Help us live our freedom in faith, hope, and love.  Make us ever-grateful for those who, for over two centuries, have given their lives in freedom’s defense; we commend their noble souls to your eternal care, as even now we beg the protection of your mighty arm upon our men and women in uniform.
We praise and thank you for granting us the life and the liberty by which we can pursue happiness.  Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God.  Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.  May we welcome those who yearn to breathe free and to pursue happiness in this land of freedom, adding their gifts to those whose families have lived here for centuries.
We praise and thank you for the American genius of government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Oh God of wisdom, justice, and might, we ask your guidance for those who govern us:  President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all those, including Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, who seek to serve the common good by seeking public office.  Make them all worthy to serve you by serving our country.  Help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself. With your grace, may all Americans choose wisely as we consider the future course of public policy.
And finally Lord, we beseech your benediction on all of us who depart from here this evening, and on all those, in every land, who yearn to conduct their lives in freedom and justice.  We beg you to remember, as we pledge to remember, those who are not free; those who suffer for freedom’s cause; those who are poor, out of work, needy, sick, or alone; those who are persecuted for their religious convictions, those still ravaged by war.
And most of all, God Almighty, we thank you for the great gift of our beloved country.
For we are indeed “one nation under God,” and “in God we trust.”
So dear God, bless America.  You who live and reign forever and ever.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Wedding

A wedding took place today.  Not an unusual thing to have happen on a Saturday afternoon!  But this was a very special wedding for my wonderful brother-in-law Tom Smith took for his bride a very lovely Barb James.  I was honored to have been asked to perform the duties of lector during the Mass.  

One of the readings Barb and Tom chose was taken from Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians.  In the particular passage chosen for the wedding, we hear Paul describe what love is and what it isn't.  Read this slowly and let it sink into your consciousness.

"If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."  (1 Cor 13: 2-7)

Most of us profess to love someone or something.  We throw the word "love" around very liberally and in doing so we have diluted its true meaning.  Saint Paul knew the difficulties of love.  He knew the true test love is and also knew that in order to succeed, we must turn over complete control to the Living God.  

As Barb and Tom set out on their married life, I ask God to bless them with daily reminders of the beauty of love between a man and a woman.  It is a love that reflects the love that God has for all of us.  

To those of us who have been married for some time, I challenge you to read and absorb the definition of love as outlined above.  Look at your own marriage and see if love is alive and vibrant based upon Paul's description.  Over the years it is so easy to become complacent about love that we take it for granted.  But there is no room for complacency in love.  Renew your marriage and your marital commitment to each other by looking at each element of love and refocusing your attention on that part of love and see what happens.

Above all, let all of us who have chosen the married life as our vocation, be reminded that the only truly successful marriage is one that is based on the love of God as the central focus of the union.  It may not make some days easier, but it will most certainly lead to the peace that God had always intended for us.

To Tom and Barb, may your love be always as fresh and alive as it is today, your wedding day.  May you grow old together with dignity and grace.  May you never take each other or the love that you have for one another for granted.  It is the greatest gift you have received this day and, unlike all the other gifts you receive on this day, will last for an eternity!  Happy Wedding Day!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A New Start

Some time ago, when I first began this blog, I said that I would post something on a daily basis based either on Scripture or a feast on the Catholic calendar for that particular day.  Well, needless to say, I didn't follow through with this.

I could offer all sorts of excuses like no time or too tired or there was really nothing to write about.  Yet, these are just excuses.

When it comes to the practice of our faith, excuses don't count and neither should any excuse be used to explain why I haven't written in this spot on a regular basis.

That is changing.  Beginning tomorrow I will begin posting thoughts, observations, reflections, or inspirational material daily.  My faith to me is a precious and wondrous gift to my life.  It has seen me through nearly everything you might be able to imagine.  When the world seemed to have abandoned me, my faith, God, stood by me.  When there were times that it seemed like the best thing to do was to give up or give in, God was there.  He sustained me in my darkest moments because, among other things, God is Divine, Eternal Hope.

This hope is not the wishful thinking type.  It is the promise fulfilled by Jesus on the Cross Who saved us from eternal damnation with no contact with God--ever.  There is simply no greater a nightmare in human existence than eternal separation from the Creator.

And so, please join me on my daily journey through the days we are given as I share with you the faith that has come to be the bedrock of my life, the faith which allows me to come to know God, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Love that binds them, the Holy Spirit.  Catholic or not, it is my hope to stir your imagination, your curiosity, and your faith as we take a Daily Journey with Jesus in our lives.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today, on the Catholic liturgical calendar, the Catholic Church celebrates the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It is a day in which we recall the enormous infinite love that Christ has for each and every one of us.  It is a day when the Gospel of Saint John recalls the moments immediately after Jesus died when a Roman soldier pierced the Savior's side and immediately blood and water poured forth.  This became symbolic of the love that Jesus manifested by dying on the Cross.

Jesus had a broken heart.  His heart broke because of our sinfulness, our complete disregard for the Father's will.  On one level, He must have been stunned at the level of disrespect all of humanity shows the Father through our sinful nature.  He was the model of following God's will, seeing it everywhere and finding it in every aspect of life.  He taught us that through prayer and fasting, we may be able to discern the Father's will in a clear manner that would lead to our following it with more ease than we can imagine.  Often, in the gospels, we see Him going off by Himself to pray.  And this was not just a minute or two during the day to utter a Psalm or two.  No!  When Jesus prayed, He often prayed for hours, many times foregoing sleep to pray all night long.  He did this to achieve full communion with His Father and He also did this as an example for us all.

How many of us can actually say that when we pray, we could go on for hours?  Many of us feel proud of ourselves if we're able to achieve fifteen minutes of uninterrupted prayer in which we're able to fully concentrate?  Yet we must remember that Jesus was just as human as we are.  He had the same human limitations as we with the exception of our sinful nature.  He even had the same temptations that we experience.  Why is it that we cannot follow Jesus' example in prayer?

Jesus loved us fully with His human heart.  His Passion, Death, and Resurrection were all done out of His deep love for each and every one of us, even the worst of us!  He gave Himself up for each one of us.  It was not just something that happened to Him.  He chose to die even though it was completely unnecessary for Him to do so.  He took upon Himself the sins of the world.  He became guilty of each sin that we commit during our lifetime so that He might offer Himself up to the Father in reparation for our offenses.

"See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are."  (1Jn 3:1)  It is in this selfless act of dying that Jesus reveals His Sacred Heart, the well-spring of God's love for humankind.  That heart, burdened with our sinfulness, was opened by a lance which in reality is symbolic of the sins of mankind.  The Blood of the Lamb poured out on man so that we may be washed clean.  "Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends."  (Jn 15:13)

How do our hearts measure up to Jesus' Sacred Heart?  Are we willing to actually die for someone we do not know?  Are we willing to become guilty of another person's crimes?  No one is that generous, yet, because Jesus became one with the Father through His sacrifice and great love in His heart for both the Father and the human race, He was more generous than we could possibly understand.

Jesus gave His Sacred Heart for us and to us.  It is the reason for His choosing to die for our sake.  Without that Heart, we would have had no recourse for the forgiveness of our sins.  There would be no reason to hope, no reason to have joy in this world because our fate would have been one of darkness.  But because of the generosity of that Sacred Heart, our future is nothing but joy and light!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"We Should Believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ" (1 Jn 3: 23)

Believing in the name of Jesus Christ really doesn't take that much if we think about it.  Believing in the name, quite simply, means that we believe in the Person of Jesus Christ.  We believe that He is truly the Son of God and that He came to rescue us from the bondage of sin.  We believe that He is the anointed one, the Messiah.  In believing these things, we accept as truth, all of the teachings that He gave us.

But there is more to this verse than the line quoted in the title of this piece.  The rest of the verse challenges us to "love one another, just as he has commanded us."  (1 Jn 3: 23)  Loving those who we close to us is quite easy.  This demands nothing from us and there is no redeeming quality in this.  (cf Mt 16:26, Mk 8:36, Lk 9: 25) Where the real challenge comes in is when we are expected to love those with whom we have problems or those who have hurt us or violated us in any way.

How do we go about loving those whom we perceive as our enemies?  It is not easy.  It is within our nature to at the very least avoid those who have hurt us.  We run from them when we see them coming.  It is built into our DNA to preserve ourselves at any cost.  There are times when it is necessary to defend ourselves from harm.  But we must also have the willingness to reach out to those who have not treated us very well to, at the very least, forgive them.  Jesus Himself demonstrated this while He was suffering on the cross.  "Father forgive them; for they know not what they do."  (Lk 23: 34)

This is the difficulty of Christianity.  In the past there has been much bloodshed prompted by those who professed to be Christians.  They wielded the word of God as a sword, destroying enemies and people all in the name of the Lord.  But Jesus from the cross tells us that we are to conduct ourselves differently.  With one word he could have easily brought down the Roman executioners and released Himself from the cross in a triumphant display of power.  That is what most people expected the Messiah to do.  However, Christ's way was the way of humility. 

It takes a great deal of humility to forgive.  When we forgive, we swallow our pride.  We recognize that the need for mercy is far greater than the need for vengeance and retribution.  When we forgive we elevate the transgressor along with ourselves.  We seek peace and offer to work to maintain that peace.  We may be persecuted or ridiculed for our actions because our society calls for vengeance.  It is more in a mode of an eye for an eye than love one another.  As Christians, we must counter this by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We must be willing to call from our lives as Christ called from the cross, "Father for give them; for they know now what they do."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Show Us the Father and That Will Be Enough For Us"

How many of us, at one time or another, have yearned to see God?  I would imagine that if we were all honest with ourselves we could easily say that all of us have wished for even the quickest glimpse of the Father.  After all, our lives are a journey back to Him. 

The Apostle Philip, one of those who shared the Last Supper with Jesus, asked this question.  Jesus must have certainly been frustrated by this comment.  You can hear His tone in His answer.  "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."  It isn't like Philip and the other Apostles hadn't heard this before.  Time after time Jesus told them that He and the Father were one."  (Jn 14: 9)  In a few short hours, He would prove His love for them and for all humankind by dying on the cross and rising three days later, all as a sacrificial offering to the Father.  Every Apostle except one, would abandon him and cower in the very room in which this conversation was taking place.  Even when they saw the Risen Christ, they still did not get it.  They still did not understand that every time they looked upon Jesus, they were looking upon God.

How much different are we from them?  We look for signs of God and, not finding them, we begin to doubt.  We pray for some indication of Him, some glimpse of Him in our lives.  We pray.  We wait.  We search and come up empty.  Frustration sets in and the disbelief arises in our hearts.  Once this happens, our will begins to supersede His.  And sin enters our souls because we do not have enough faith to believe.  And, yet, we are blind.  And in our blindness, we become callous and cold, withdrawing from the world, from others, and sadly, from Him.  At this point, we lose ourselves.

Like Philip, we are looking with human eyes, eyes that are fixed solely on mortal images.  We do not see God because God is not visible in the mortal world.  There are reflections of Him.  The majesty of the mountains.  The vastness of the sea.  The night sky with it's enormous array of stars and planets.  He is reflected in the smile of a baby and in the aged eyes of a grandparent watching that baby graduate years later from college.

These are all valid reflections of God presence in our world and in our lives.  But they are not God.  God is, however, visible through spiritual eyes, through the eyes of faith.  If we listen carefully to Jesus, we find that God is not of this world.  That we already knew.  But He goes on to tell us that now that we have become His followers, we, too, are not of this world.  (cf Jn 17: 16)  We are of the spiritual realm of existence while alive in this mortal world.

The vision of God begins, then, with faith.  We must first believe in God, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit.  But it does not end there.  We must then practice that faith.  We must exercise that faith so that it grows strong.  We must witness with our lives to the world that Jesus is Lord and that we do believe in Him.  We must reach out to others in love, mercy, and compassion.  We must become the Lord to all who are in need.  This can be done in any number of ways from prayer to community involvement.  But one thing is certain, if we do not practice our faith, it will wither and die and then it will be impossible to see God.

The effect of practicing our faith is that we begin to see Christ in everyone and in everything.  Even at times when it seems like God is far from us, quiet and unresponsive, He is there.  He is in the tragic accident that happened down the street when a neighbor's home burned to the ground killing their only child.  He is in the eyes of that detestable person who seems to go out of their way to make our lives miserable.  He is in every other countless human moments that may suggest there is no God at all.  When we begin to see this, we begin to see God.  When we reach this point, we can know that the Holy Spirit has inspired us and has given us a spiritual vision that spurs us on to greater faith.

This does not come easy!  Philip was still looking to see God even though for three years he had stood in front of him, teaching him and showing him the way of the Father.  The Master is still with us, standing before us in all who are in need or distress of any kind.  You see, we have seen the Father after all!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Good Friday.  The holiest Friday of the year.  Today we commemorate the brutal Passion and Death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  There is so much that can be said about this day.  So much that can be learned from it.

For a moment, however, I would like to view Good Friday not from our perspective, but from that of God's.

Traditionally, on the night of Good Friday, Catholics gather to remember the Lord's great sacrifice.  During this most solemn liturgy, the reproaches are recited.  These remarkable utterings come from God, expressing His feelings at the moment His only Son is dying for our sins through crucifixion.

"My people, what have I done to you?  Or in what have I offended you?  Answer me.

What more should I have done, and did not do?

I led you out of the land of Egypt, and you prepared a cross for me.

I opened the Red Sea before you, and you opened my side with a lance.

I gave you a royal scepter, and you have given me a crown of thorns.

With great power, I lifted you up, and you have hung me upon a cross.

My people, what have I done to you, or in what have I offended you?

Answer me.!"

In these brief, beautiful, yet, stark words, the feelings of our Creator, God, are summed up in terms that we mere human beings can relate to.  Our God has done everything for us.  He has given us everything.  He has shown us that through His Son's death on a cross, we have eternal life, and, yet, we still sin, still deny He even exists.  We fight among ourselves about what His will is for us, all the while ignoring the one image, the Holy Cross, that carries a message for the ages that if we but follow His holy will we will triumph.

What do we continue to do to God through our sinful behavior?  Why do we continually turn our backs on Him to follow our will, a will that is flawed with the stain of sin?  Why do we not have the kind of mature and lasting faith in Him after He showed us how much love He has for us by giving up His only Son so that we might live?

Today we walk with the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ.  He was brutalized for us.  He was nailed to a cross and hung in bitter agony for three hours while the world passed by, barely pausing to gaze upon it's very Savior.  Those who did pause, mocked Him, made fun of Him, taunted Him.  Then, they went about their business, not giving Him another thought.  And, yet, He died for all!  

Let us pause on this holiest of Fridays.  Let us pause in solemn remembrance for the sacrifice that was made for us on this very day.  Let us pause to remember that our sins made this sacrifice a necessity.  But let us also pause in thanksgiving for a God "Who gave His only begotten Son so that we might live."  (Jn 3: 16)  This is the day of our deliverance and as the sun sets this evening, and we recall our Savior's lifeless body being placed in a tomb, we remember His promise to rise in three days.  We now await, with great anticipation, the completion of our Redemption, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ!

In remembering the reproaches quoted above, we now add:

"My people, look what I have done for you!

I have given you life through my Son!

Come, worship Him, and enter My Kingdom!"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Eyes of Christ

I am spending my afternoon in a rather unique place that many of you have never visited.  And you can be glad for that!  You see, I am in a chemo room at a hospital with my wife Joan who is undergoing chemo for a recurrence of breast cancer. 

The room resembles a forest of metal trees, only instead of leaves, plastic bags, filled with cancer combating medication, hang, slowly dripping their contents into the patient.

The room is filled with an interesting assortment of people.  One is very talkative, friendly to all and not afraid to speak her mind on anything.  One sits near me with her grandson.  He is about twenty years old and filled with the energy and idealism of youth.  Grandma listens patiently to his ramblings, but she is not sold on his offerings.  Another is reading a thick book.  Is it a text book?  Is it something religious?  Whatever it is, it must be very interesting because her gaze has been firmly fixed on the page.

Yet, all of these patients, here because cancer is attacking their bodies, have one thing in common.  They are all frightened in one way or another, even though few would ever admit it.  One way of telling this is by looking into their eyes.  You can see the fear there.  In some, it is barely detectable, but it is, nonetheless, there.  In others, the fear is very present and they try to cover it up with light conversation or serious reading.  It is a marvelous collection of people from all walks of life with this one thing in common: they are all fighting for their lives.

Another thing they have in common is that if you look closely, you will begin to see the eyes of another.  Look into their gaze and realize that what you are seeing are the eyes of One Who has suffered unspeakable brutalities not because of a physical disease, but because of a disease called sin.

Jesus Christ is present with those who are ill or are suffering in any way.  He understands physical suffering having been crucified on cross for an unspeakable amount of time.  He knows the agony of those who suffer emotionally because he, too, suffered the loss of good friends because of who he is.  After all, one of his closest followers betrayed him and turned him over to the authorities who condemned him to death.

When you come to see Jesus in the eyes of those who suffer, you gain a new respect for the person.  We are all unique and not one of us is free of worry and anxiety and trembling fear about something in our lives.  We just become very adept at covering it up.  But Christ knows your heart.  He knows the hurt, the pain, the devastation that all of us have experienced at one time or another.  In these moments, if we but surrender these things to him, he will help us carry our cross and ease our burden. But it isn't easy.  It takes faith and faith takes hope and hope requires love.  If we all step out of ourselves unselfishly, we can come to see these things and then experience Christ in the eyes of another.