Suffering = Dignity

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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14th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
Occasionally, there is an idea that I find very bad and I often find it is supported by a short, supposedly pithy statement that infuriates me. And when that happens I feel the need to rant for about eight minutes and that is why I am so happy I have a homily to release that energy. Thank you!
The very bad idea is euthanasia or physician assisted suicide that ends a life before natural death. My opposition to euthanasia, which of course the Church strictly opposes, is based on theological, moral, philosophical and practical grounds. The phrase that upsets me and is used to defend euthanasia is “Death with dignity” and its acceptance is disturbing and underlines a far wider issue.
It has been my responsibility and my honor to stand by many dying people. I have seen people die suddenly and peacefully. I…

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July and Jesus’ Parables: The Good Samaritan

Opening Prayer

Teacher Jesus,

Thank you for this time together.

We gather so we may learn from you,

so that we may practice what you teach.

Help us to hear your words, and hear each other.

Lead us to put your words into action.  AMEN

How do we approach a parable?

  1. HISTORICALLY: What is behind a parable?  How does it fit into the teaching of Jesus and later into the teaching of the early church?
  2. LITERARY: How is the story put together?  Where does it focus our attention?  How does it compare to other stories in Jesus’ time?
  3. AESTHETICALLY: How do we respond to it personally?  Does it evoke conversion in me?

The Good Samaritan  (Luke 10:  25 – 37)

  1. HISTORICAL
  • The lawyer: In the Mediterranean world questions are rarely perceived as requests for information.  The hope is that the person who is asked a question will not know the answer and be shamed by ignorance.  Jesus responds in a consistent way-insulting his questioner!
  • The victim: Since the man is stripped and left half-dead, his ethnicity cannot be identified.  Helping him carries a risk.
  • The priest: If the victim is dead or non-Judean, the priest would be defiled by touching him and have to return to Jerusalem for purification  (Leviticus 21:1-3).
  • The Levite: He may have seen the priest’s reaction and so didn’t want to insult by stopping.  And Sirach 50:  25-26 calls Samaritans degenerates, so perhaps he thinks he’s doing what he’s supposed to do.
  • The Samaritan: Generations of hatred have been built between the Jews and Samaritans.  He is an unlikely character for the story, for the lawyer would have thought the choices would be priest, Levite or Judean lay person.  What do I do with a hated enemy?  The Samaritan takes great risk that the victim may hate him upon wakening; the oil and wine he uses may be considered unclean.  Or if the victim dies, his family may come looking for him  (Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, p. 109-111).
  • Consider Luke’s audience too. This is a Christian community that has people from lots of different backgrounds.  They may have lots of questions about who a neighbor is too.
  1. LITERARY

The story is designed to provoke anxiety over whether or not the man will be rescued.  But the long-standing hostility between the two groups might still make it difficult to imagine being aided by a Samaritan.  The reversal in this story’s plot really takes place because of that identification with the victim.  It leaves us with many questions, (Perkins, Hearing the Parables of Jesus, p. 120).

Luke’s writing often features doublets, two passages that match each other and clarify each other.  See verse 28 and 37.  Both are versions of, “Go and do likewise,” (O’Collins, Following the Way, p. 118).  They highlight that Jesus wants us to hear what he says and then do it.

  1. AESTHETICALLY

Personal cost and personal risk belong right in the story Jesus told.  The good Samaritan’s kindness cost him some oil, wine, clothing and money – as well as the loss of time caused by the unforeseen break in his journey.  The bandits could still be around too, so there is the possibility of danger (p.119).  It begs us to consider at what cost are we willing to help?  Are we willing to break down divisions to help our neighbor too?

Who is Jesus in this story?  He is hospitable like the innkeeper, saving others at all costs like the Samaritan and a victim in how he was left to die on a cross (p. 121).

Israel has been anticipating a messiah.  In fact, favor and expectation were at a fever pitch around the time of Christ.  Due to the political and economic difficulties of the times, the messiah became an expectation of their own fashioning.  The awaited messiah had been reduced to hopes for a victorious warrior who would crush their enemies.  Luke’s Jesus shattered this illusion.  Jesus was not that kind of messiah.  Destruction of Israel’s enemies was not part of Jesus’ plan.  In listening to this parable, hearers are forced to ask:  If the old structures are no longer adequate, then, who is in and who is out?  Who is first in God’s reign?  Who is my neighbor?  All are equal before the eyes of God.  All are deserving of the same love that God gives to all people  (Birmingham, Word & Worship-Cycle C, p. 424).

Some questions to reflect upon…

Is this a criticism against the clerical? 

What do you think the victim did when he got well enough to realize what had happened?  Did he leave and go on his way to Jericho?  Did he wait until the Samaritan returned in order to thank him?  What did he tell his friends?  Did the incident have any effect on his views of Samaritans later?

What can be said of the innkeeper?  He trusts the Samaritan and follows his request despite being a hated outsider

What Good Samaritan stories do you have to share?

Closing Prayer.

O God,

To love you is our destiny and life itself.

Open our hearts to all who need our concern and help.

Help us to minister to those who do not belong to ‘our’ group,

And make us always compassionate

to the wounded and suffering.  AMEN

What is in a name?

Fr. Bob’s homily June 24…

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Nativity of John the Baptist 2018
“What is in a name?” Shakespeare wistfully wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Of course the irony is that these are the words of Juliet and it turns out that if the names are Montague and Capulet, a name means everything. So it is in the story of John the Baptist.
Think of all the startling events that make up the birth of Jon the Baptist. The archangel Gabriel visits Elizabeth and tells the barren older woman that she will give birth to a son. Her husband Zechariah is struck mute for not believing this word. The Virgin Mary comes for a visit and John leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth at the presence of Jesus in Mary. Yet, what really knocks their socks off is that John’s parents agreed on a name?
Names meant more then…

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Name, By MariAN Brinker

“It’s spelled M-a-r-i-A-N because I’m a girl.”

“What? Marion’s a boy’s name?”

“Yep. It’s John Wayne’s real first name as a matter of fact.”

For millennials I should name Suge Knight, founder of Death Row Records. For the evangelicals I could name Pat Robertson, whose given name is Marion. Most male Marions are from two to three generations before myself like Mr. Robertson and Mr. Wayne.

What I leave out is that modern day preference for spelling seems to be “O-N” no matter one’s gender.

So goes my usual explanation of my name.

Marian is an adjective that stands for all things relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Raised a Roman Catholic, my name could have inspired me to Marian Devotions but, alas, my prayer life
is more spontaneous conversations in my head or pleading for answers or outcomes while attending mass. I wish I could have stuck with the rosary. I said many decades and visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio several times while waiting for the birth parents of both my children to select Adam and I as parents. I got the children, but raising them often means needing stress relief—something the rosary recitation could bring. I’m not a
believer in miracles per se, but I believe the more petitions one sends heavenward, whether personally or intercessory, leads to what our predominantly secular society deems as “good karma” happening.

As for following in the footsteps of the Virgin Mary, I fall way short. If, at 14ish, God had told me to bear his son, I’d say Yes out of fear of lifelong reparations for a negative response rather than faith. The trip to Bethlehem literally carrying Jesus on a donkey would have resulted in poor Joseph spending the trip home a victim of passive aggressiveness. If my adolescent son had stayed back at the Temple in Jerusalem while I commenced traveling on quite a way home
to Nazareth…. I would have been visibly fuming mad even after he told me he was doing his father’s work. Jesus would get an ear full all the way home. It would have been all about my feelings rather than his awakening to his call. I think, the closest I’d come to Mary is at the Wedding in Cana… I’d definitely request his miraculous powers to refill the pitchers with wine; I’d think of how much money the guests spent on gifts and not want to disappoint. I don’t
know how she bore witnessing her son’s crucifixion. That would break me. No, I don’t think being named Marian inspired me to be anything close to Mary.

I know my dad wanted me named after his mother. I have many qualities in common with my Nana. But my mother only relented to my name because it actually was her aunt’s name too, and she got Carroll as my middle name—another nod to her family lineage. I never knew my great aunt well, but I knew of her. She was the polar opposite of her sister, my grandmother.  And, the most we have in common is similar tensions between sisters.

Are name choices really reflections of parents whims more than what we become? I liked that my name made me unique in my generation. There was never another Marian in my class—
possibly none in any of my many schools. My first job at the local nursing home serving up pureed food on trays was the first institution that had FOUR Marians including my boss and myself. Marian was so old fashion, it worked as labels often do. That is, I tended to appreciate learning from the past and having old fashion values. I was never in a rush to take on most fads, quite content with what life had given me.

When the Atari craze broke in the 80’s, I played maybe three games of asteroids, found it utterly confounding, moved to pong, found it utterly mind numbing, and crawled back up on the couch with a book under an afghan crocheted by my Nana. She’d given me a historical novel based on the life of Sacajawea. I savored all 1000 plus pages of details, especially when ask to dust. To my mother’s disdain, I’d point out the fact that Native Americans found white
settlers obsession with cleaning absurd. “Dust returns.”

Despite being a buser, I’d choose to walk home from school in the two weeks at the start of school and end of the school year. (Those being the only two one wasn’t risking dying of frost bite in Vermont.) When given the chance to exercise, one should always keep mind and body sound. The worst word I ever used in my house was “sucks.” My mother relentlessly tried to rid me of this vulgar habit. We said “number one” or “number two” in our house if we needed to discuss our bathroom feats. My physics teacher was forever unable to praise my knowledge of his subject area, but in the class of nearly all smart aleck boys, he said he really admired that I never resorted to coarse language; I used witty zingers to deflect their verbal exasperation at my mindless questions or ignorant guesses at his questions directed at my eyes lower, hand not raised personae. Coarse language is a sign of a lack of vocabulary development was my mantra.

When it was time to drive at age 16, I bid my time making sure I mastered hill starts, two point turns, and lane changing on that one major highway 10 miles up Mill Hill from our village. I was to be a proficient Vermont driver, not an eager one. I was a bit naive. When I still hadn’t bought my first beer two months after turning 18, I huffed at my neighbor’s exasperation, carefully drove down to the convenience store with his money, bought a six pack, handed him
his change, the beer, and sent him on his way home. “Now can you just leave me alone?” I proclaimed before doing what was more important in life. I probably went back to studying for my finals for some time before I realized he didn’t turn 18 until November.

Uniquely Marian or not, you’re more than just your name.

July and Jesus’ Parables: An Intro and The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Opening Prayer

Teacher Jesus,

Thank you for this time together.

We gather so we may learn from you,

so that we may practice what you teach.

Help us to hear your words, and hear each other.

Lead us to put your words into action.  AMEN

What is a parable?

  • Greek parabolē, meaning set aside, parallel with or compare with one another (Young, Jesus and His Jewish Parables)
  • Stories and sayings of Jesus, whether they are allegories, anecdotes or riddles
  • A sort of code language for speaking of divine matters in terms that the unenlightened may not always comprehend (Powell, Introducing the New Testament, Powell, p. 87)
  • Jesus calls our attention to details of human life and behavior that we often overlook.
  • Jesus’ teachings were not recorded. They were passed on by telling and re-telling until they were finally put into written collections  (see the chart on “Parables in the Gospels”).  Oral transmission of stories characteristically adapts the story to the changing circumstances of the audience.  Important to keep in mind!
  • Guidelines for our own attempts to live out Jesus’ vision (Perkins, Hearing the Parables of Jesus, p. 2-3)
  • They are often incomplete, allowing us to fill in the blanks and live out the story.
  • They can apply to everyone.
  • Most of his stories reflected himself, his character, his life and work. He uses pastoral and rural imagery because that’s what he saw and knew.  Parables are word-pictures  (Fichter, Many Things in Parables, IX-X).

How do we approach a parable?

  1. HISTORICALLY: What is behind a parable?  How does it fit into the teaching of Jesus and later into the teaching of the early church?
  2. LITERARY: How is the story put together?  Where does it focus our attention?  How does it compare to other stories in Jesus’ time?
  3. AESTHETICALLY: How do we respond to it personally?  Does it evoke conversion in me?

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector  (Luke 18:  10 – 14)

  1. HISTORICAL

Tax collectors were contemptible at the time.  As they collaborated with the authorities of the Roman Empire, they were considered disloyal traitors.  They often extorted more than was legally due  (O’Collins, Following the Way, p. 139).  Who might be an appropriate replacement today?  The setting is the temple, the common place of worship.  Perhaps Jesus himself came upon a similar situation and is using it to tell this story.  A Pharisee is a prominent position and prays in a stance of eyes and hands toward heaven.  His practice is to pray at mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  The Hebraic law orders a fast only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, but, supposedly for the conversion of sinners, the Pharisee fasts twice a week, customarily on Mondays and Thursdays.  His fast is rather strict, from food and drink  (Fichtner, Many Things in Parables, p. 127-128).

  1. LITERARY

Notice the parallelism:

  Pharisee Tax Collector
Posture Standing before him Standing at a distance, would not lift up his eyes to heaven but beat his breast
Prayer God, I give you thanks that I am not like the rest of men, thieves, unjust, adulterers, or like this tax-collector.  I sat twice a week, and pay tithes on all that I own. God, Have mercy on me, a sinner.

 

  1. AESTHETICALLY

Jesus is friends to all.  At first glance, it may seem Jesus is always “hanging out” with sinners and tax collectors (i.e. Zacchaeus).  But Jesus also hangs with Pharisees (i.e. Simon).  Perhaps we can see ourselves in both of these men?  Let’s look at each of them:

The Pharisee has vested interests in the inferiority of others.  He stands, not with others but by himself to pray.  He never gets around to admitting that he needs anything – even from God.  He has tight control over everything.

The Tax Collector implores for divine mercy and finds acceptance from God.  His stance assumes that he feels he barely has a right to be there.  He hopes God will hear his prayer despite his sins.  He is an illustration of humility  (We will come back to this word!).

Some questions to reflect upon…

Is the Pharisee harsh and lacking in compassion, or is he a product of what society has taught him?

The Pharisee says he is grateful to God…is he?  Is the Tax Collector?  How might gratitude be a factor in this parable?

If someone were to listen in to your prayer, what would they hear?

What might this parable teach us about God’s judgment?

What might this parable teach us about labels?

Being right with God is a matter of justification in this parable.  Is the Tax Collector justified simply because he puts faith in prayer?  What about the restitution to all the tax payers he defrauded? 

Is it true, as is often said, that God answers all prayers, though not always in the way we hope for?  (Perhaps we ARE our prayer.  Prayer before God, in the house of God, is revealing of our true selves.  Whatever there is of fakery, hypocrisy, pride of life, self-reliance, it emerges in prayer.  Every true prayer requires something of the Tax Collector spirit, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” (p. 130).

**Here is what Joan Chittister has to say about humility  (Illuminated Life, p. 55 – 58):

Humility enables me to stand before the world in awe, to receive its gifts and to learn from its lessons.  But to be humble is not to be diminished.  Indeed, humility and humiliations are not the same thing.  Humiliations degrade me as a human being.  Humility is the ability to recognize my right place in the universe…I am not everything I could be.  I am not the fullness of myself…I am only me.  I am weak often, struggling always, arrogant sometimes, hiding from myself most of the time, an always in some kind of need.  I cover my limitations with flourish, of course, but down deep, where the soul is forced to confront itself, I know who I really am and what, on the other hand, however fine the image, I really am not.  Then, the Rule of Benedict says, we are ready for union with God.  The Rule of Benedict has 4 dimensions of humility:

  1. Recognize the presence of God in our lives.
  2. Recognize the presence of God in others.
  3. Let go of false expectations in daily life.
  4. Receive others kindly.

Once realistic about the self, the mind is free to become full of God.

Closing Prayer.

O merciful God,

Take from us all self-serving vanity

and self-congratulatory pride.

Give us the courage to face our sins and our daily need

for your compassion.

Make us cry our constantly,

“Be merciful to me, a sinner.”  AMEN

Walking by Faith

Father Bob’s homily 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle B

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11th Sunday of Ordinary Time B
I have been walking a lot lately, mostly on Route 7 and Union Street and I have noticed that I walk with my head down and I am not sure why. It could be that I am looking for potholes on our sidewalks. It might be that I am reacting to the Mets season and I am doing a sad Charlie Brown walk. But what I really think is that I am having a hard time just carrying this big noggin. You know how some people carry weights when they walk? My equivalent is just keeping my head up. The result however is that I have bumped into three runners and a sign post. I am learning the need to walk by sight and not by faith.
And so it seems to be with the walk of life. We like to see where we…

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Fear, Shame and Blame

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…

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10th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
The readings this weekend point clearly to sin so it is time for me to give the Fire and Brimstone homily I have been waiting eleven and a half years to give. (Someone clapped when I said that at the 4:30 mass which I thought was weird.) Yet, I probably should talk about sin more and it is not a current a conversation in our lives, but it seems that our lack of discussion has not led to less sinning so let’s get into it with the Fall of Adam and Eve.
Today we hear the less well known second part of the story. We all know what happened in the first half – through mastery of language and psychological manipulation, the serpent finally seduces Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. Then Adam sees Eve eating the fruit and thinks: hungry, good, eat. Men……

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11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

Let us prayerfully reflect on this poem by Joyce Kilmer:

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

What do you find meaningful – helpful—insightful when it comes to trees?  Have you ever had a favorite tree?

1st Reading – Ezekiel 17:22-24

Ezekiel’s allegory of the cedar tree is one source for the imagery of the mustard bush in the gospel reading. The cedar stands for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy after the exile. The shoot or twig (see Isaiah 11:1) refers to a descendant of Jehoiachin, the last Davidic king before the exile. The beasts and birds represent the nations of the earth. This indicates that the prophecy expects the kingdom after the return from exile to be more than just the mere restoration of the status quo before the exile; in fact, it is to be the realization of the messianic kingdom. It is therefore legitimate to say that this prophecy finds its ultimate fulfillment in the kingdom of Christ, of which the church on earth is a foretaste. (Reginald Fuller, http://liturgy.slu.edu/11OrdB061712/theword_indepth.html )

The cedar forests of Lebanon enjoy the unique distinction as the oldest documented forests in history.  The cedars made a special contribution to the development of the Phoenician civilization by providing the timbers with which they developed their famous sea-going merchant boats -thus becoming one of the first, if not the first, major sea-going trading nation in the world.  The Phoenicians transported the cedar to Egypt, until Egypt conquered Lebanon and gained direct access to the forests, which were highly prized for building temples and boats.  Later the Babylonians took a similar interest in the cedars and obtained them for use in building the fabled city of Babylon.  The expansion of the Roman Empire into Syria and Lebanon had a detrimental effect on the cedars until the Emperor Hadrian installed markers around the boundary of the remaining forests and declared them as Imperial Domain.  In modern day Lebanon, the legendary cedar is still revered and remains prominent in the minds of all Lebanese. The cedar is featured on the national flag, the national airline, Government logos, the Lebanese currency and innumerable commercial logos. (http://www.shoufcedar.org/)

2nd Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

For all his yearning for the life to come, Paul does not despise this life.  He is, he says, in good heart.  The reason is that even here and now we possess the Holy Spirit of God, the first installment of the life to come.  It is given to the Christian to be citizen of two worlds; and the result is, not that he despises this world, but that he finds it clad with a sheen of glory which is the reflection of the greater glory to come  (Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series, p. 205-6).  Isn’t this hopeful?  We must look for the good.  Life is in the decisions we make.  Right now.  We must live in the present, but with a foot in the future, knowing we are accountable for our actions.  What we do makes up who we are, and affects others around us.  Does this stir something up in you?

The Gospel – Mark 4: 26-34

From John Kavanaugh, S.J. — Life is slow and subtle. Love takes time to show and grow. In life, little acts count. In fact, that is what a life is all about, a long parade of moments deceptively inconsequential. Children grow before our eyes. But they age imperceptibly. We recognize growth only after it has happened. The full truth of the child is seen after the child is no more. Life, like faith and love, resists most measurement. As it develops, it is rarely noticed. We seem not to do these things by sight. Our changings are unmarked as they happen.

This is why, perhaps, a daily examination of our awareness can be so life-enhancing. Examination applies the lens of believing to the blur of the daily grind. It is to notice in faith. It is to pay attention lovingly, gratefully. Like sowers, we scatter our activities, our tiny acts of faith, flung out far and extravagantly, some taken by the wind, all landing somewhere. We sleep our nights and do our days, and the growth takes place. We may not even be conscious of the flowering.  (http://liturgy.slu.edu/11OrdB061712/theword_encountered.html  )

How would God let us know we are loved?

Fr. Bob’s Corpus Christi homily…

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Corpus Christi B
How would God let us know we are loved? He chose the best possible way in sending his son, an incarnation of the Word now taking flesh. It is in this way that Jesus becomes the translator of divine love, bringing into our daily lives and promising a future far beyond it. But as the threat grows to his own brief life, Jesus needs another way to speak perfectly of God’s grace, a way that will outlive his time on earth, a way to sustain this moment of love and self-donation forever.
How would Jesus let us know that we are loved? He would do it with his friends, those who followed him and witnessed tremendous deeds of power, who heard stunning and beautiful words; those who had journeyed, laughed and cried with him and now grow fearful as the specter of death casts its shadow upon…

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10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

Gospel Reading:  Mark 3:  20-35

From R. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 408-409:  Today’s reading includes a concern and lack of understanding of Jesus’ family, further incomprehension from his opponents in a double accusation, Jesus’ response to the accusations of the Jews and finally a return to Jesus’ family and a response to their charge.  It is all in the context of the crowd pressing in on Jesus and his disciples, leaving them little room to even eat.  The statement that Jesus’ family thinks he is mentally unstable is not found in the other synoptic Gospels.  What does this passage stir up in you?

  • Jesus states that internal division leads ultimately to the downfall of a kingdom, a house, or Satan. If Jesus is an agent of Satan, then in his working to cast Satan out, they are at cross purposes.  Satan is doomed to fail.
  • What is unforgivable is to call the work of God evil or to call an emissary of God an agent of Satan. It is to call light darkness.  To do so is to reject the reign of God and thus by one’s own decision to move oneself to an unforgivable position.  Yet all sins can be forgiven, even the one here cited, with repentance.  What Jesus does here is underscore its extreme seriousness and the unlikely chance of reconciliation [because of our own rejection].  John Kavanaugh SJ says, “The sin against the Sprit occurs when I say, ‘I refuse to acknowledge that I need forgiveness.’ I refuse to be forgiven.  I refuse to believe that God has answered.  I refuse to believe even that there is good, for it is only another face of the evil I believe in,”  (liturgy.slu.edu).
  • When Jesus refers to his “global family”, He is referring to the new order which goes beyond that of the flesh.

From T. a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ:  “I fight within myself and become burdensome to myself, while my spirit desires to soar and my flesh is earthbound.  Oh, what do I suffer inwardly when in my mind I behold heavenly things and a great multitude of carnal thoughts soon enters my soul!” (p. 175)…AND THEN…”It stands in a man (woman) offering all his (her) heart wholly to God, not seeking himself (herself) or his (her) will, either in great things or in small, in time or in eternity, but abiding always unchanged and always yielding to God equal thanks for things pleasing and displeasing, weighing them all in one same balance, as in His love,” (p. 143).

The Examen can help us discern when we have internal division.  We review our day to reflect on where God is by  (Taken from http://www.ignatianspirituality.com):

  1. Ask God for light: I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.
  2. Give thanks: The day I have just lived is a gift from God.  Be grateful for it.
  3. Review the day: I carefully look back on the day just completed, being guided by the Holy Spirit.
  4. Face your shortcomings: I face up to what is wrong – in my life and in me.
  5. Look toward the day to come: I ask where I need God in the day to come.

Reading 1:  Genesis 3:  9 – 15

A question being asked here is:  How does sin come into our life?  Innocent-seeming, a mere suggestion or conversation that soon develops legs – and lies – and walks away with our whole future.  Sin is clever that way.  It asks us simply to say no to God to believe a lie, rather than the truth of God’s Word.  Once we’re willing to do that, anything is possible  (Exploring the Sunday Readings, 2/05).

From John Kavanaugh again (liturgy.slu.edu):  All the goods of the earth were made to look tarnished by the deceptions of the serpent.  The only imposter presented as the most desirable good was the rejection of God’s will in denying our creatureliness.

In other words, we were made for good!  God intends good for us, not bad.  We need to be open and see outside of ourselves (our ego) at the good God is trying to work in us.  It will never work if we remain self-sufficient.  We must need God.  And needing God requires vulnerability…something very hard to grasp sometimes.  As a matter of fact, we don’t grasp it at all.  We unclench our fists and let God happen in us.  Henri Nouwen says, “…to be the way without being ‘in the way,’”  (Reaching Out, p. 108).

Reading 2:  2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1

Paul reminds us of the good news:  everything indeed is FOR us…in abundance…overflowing!

This reading reminds me of a Mary Oliver poem, “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?