Monthly Archives: February, 2013

A Snippet of Henri Nouwen

For those of you that can or cannot come to Book Group tomorrow (7PM in the Rosa Library) on “Here and Now: Living in the Spirit”, please catch a glimpse here of this wonderful writer. He has such wonderful insight!

Scripture Commentary for Sunday, 2/24

2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

Let us pray:

Lord, open our eyes to see your glorious presence

shining-forth in our sometimes hum-drum, sometimes tragic lives.

Open our ears to your voice that calls with love.

Open our hearts to receive and to give away . . .

for you are the glory hidden in our everyday lives.

Fill us with your Spirit as we plow through the dark earth of our existence.

We place in your hands all our fears, needs, joys and blessings.

It is good for us to be here – in your company . . . Amen

1st Reading – Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18

This Abram becomes Abraham. He is a wandering, desert nomad.

The word righteousness means to be in right relationship with God.

What does it mean to you that Abram’s faith was counted as righteousness?

From John Kavanaugh, S.J.:

Lent and this reading remind us that we often settle for too little, expect too little of ourselves and of God. In the promises that God made to Abraham there is challenge. Abraham had to look far beyond himself, to the sky and the stars – and to an imagination that could trust in a future beyond all his reckoning. At this time Abram had no land, no descendents. He had to trust beyond this present emptiness. As all the readings today will tell us, there is someone other than ourselves whom we must listen to , trust, obey. This is where faith begins. (http://liturgy.slu.edu./2LentC022810/theword_engaged.html )

From Celebration, March 1998:

This strange ‘ceremony’ that seals this covenant with God is derived from the manner in which such covenants (agreements) were sealed in ancient times. It was called cutting a covenant (berit karath). According to this ancient ritual, animals were sacrificed and divided. Then, the contracting parties stated the terms of the agreement and swore the allegiance while standing between the slaughtered animals. This meant that they would accept a similar fate if they did not live up to this agreement or covenant. Thus, it is very important that in making this covenant with Abram, God did not require him to walk through the midst of the slaughtered animals. He was put into a trance (a divinely-induced sleep), while God alone passes through the sacrifice: God will not demand Abram’s life in the case of a broken covenant. God’s agreement with Abram is purely gratuitous, a gift, given only by the mercy and transforming power of divine love. In the midst of the darkness, there was a fire-light. Abram was to trust this divine promise and care, even amid what seemed to be insurmountable circumstances and fearful darkness.

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2001 and 2007:

Many saints have said that when they went looking for God, they found darkness instead. St. John of the Cross called this experience the “dark night of the soul.” Abram also experienced a deep darkness. It was probably not a pleasant place to be – sitting in the desert hour by hour watching five animal carcasses wondering what he was doing trying to save them from the birds of prey. In the presence of such death, he must have wondered about his own. He must have missed his wife, Sarah, his own tent, the warmth and comfort of home. Then, it says that he fell into a trance that plunged him even deeper into a terrible darkness. But then — light, heat, searing flame! God’s presence came scorching through the darkness; God’s glory passed through the carcasses forever pledging God’s faithfulness. When we find ourselves in a dark night of doubt, may we remember Abram who became Abraham, the one of faith who became the father of many.

2nd Reading – Philippians 3: 17 — 4:1

This is written probably when Paul was in prison.

How does knowing this affect our understanding of Paul’s words?

What meaning does this reading have for you?

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2001 and 2007:

When Paul talks of the “enemies of the cross” he is warning the people of those who would come to take their faith in Christ away – those religious leaders who still insist on being saved by religious, ritual law – dietary laws (“their God is their stomach”) and circumcision (“their glory is in their shame[ful parts]”. They are so caught up in the letter of the law that they miss its spirit – that which gives life. Jesus had said the Sabbath and the laws of religion were created to assist us – to bring life not division.

Today, perhaps, there is another way to understand the ‘god of our stomachs’. Could we see this as a symbol of our yawning hunger for acquisition of every kind? We want, we desire, we wish, and we yearn. We window-shop, surf the Net, and dream of something more . . . greed can often feel like need, but is it? Augustine reminds us that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.

May we find ways this Lent to be hungry for the living God,

the one who can satisfy us with real food . . .

The Gospel – Luke 9: 28-36

God’s voice tells us to listen to Jesus.

How do you try to listen to Jesus in your everyday life?

How does this story of transfiguration speak to you this year?

Note that just before this passage in Luke’s gospel Jesus is sharing with his disciples about the difficulties that they will be facing when they get to Jerusalem – and that following him entails carrying a cross . . . Then, after this transfiguration Jesus comes down from the mountain to face a young boy with an evil spirit. Jesus drives the evil away – but again reminds his disciples that suffering will also come.

How does all of this speak to you about God? About life?

Note that Moses, the great law-giver, and Elijah, the great prophet,

are with Jesus – what meaning do you see in this?

How might we live this story in our own lives?

William Barclay makes much of this phrase: “when they were fully awake they saw His glory.” In life we so often miss things because our minds are asleep. What are some things that keep us from being fully awake and aware?

Prejudice is one. We may be so set in our ideas that our minds are shut – shut to others and to God’s ever-surprising ways.

There is also mental lethargy. Sometimes we are just unwilling to engage in the “strenuous struggle of thought.” Yet, Plato said that “The unexamined life is the life not worth living.” We must not be too lazy to ‘fight’ our way through our doubts, questions, and fears. May we let life with its sorrows and joys, loves and needs awaken us to all that the Lord wishes to show us!

(Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 125-126)

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2001:

This story can help us ask: where would you expect God to be: in the brilliance or in the shadow? Actually, God is revealed in both. God’s glory can be seen in the light, but God’s voice is heard clearly in the darkness. Think of how often this is true in our own experiences of life – birth, beauty, illness and grief . . . God is with us in the light and in the darkness . . . may we have eyes that truly see, and ears that hear . . .

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year C, 135+:

In Luke’s story, Jesus went up the mountain to pray. Prayer is a regular occurrence in Jesus’ life in this gospel; he prays before all the important events of his life. He also takes Peter, James and John with him, just as he will do in the agony in the garden, another time of prayer and decision. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, the headquarters of religious power and authority. If his mission is going to try to bring about the needed change, he must go to this place of power and bring his message of God’s love, which is freely given for all. What does God want him to do? In his apprehension, he seeks God’s presence. He turns his face to God; God’s light shines forth in him and through him. But when he comes down from the mountain, there will be another time of darkness and decision. In the garden, he will again give himself to his Father’s will. What does that mean? God could never have willed Jesus’ death. His death was murder; God does not will murder. However, God did will Jesus’ faithfulness – in the midst of this horrible darkness and suffering. His faithfulness leads to his death, a death that is the result of his whole life and ministry. But, his death does not end in death – but through death comes resurrection – for Jesus and for all who follow him . . .

Why is remembering all these stories so important?

“Remembering for Israel and for us is a special kind of remembering. It is a remembering that looks to the stories of the past and brings them into the present as a living reality.” This kind of remembering is called anamnesis. “The covenant made with Abraham is an ongoing, living covenant . . . The Eucharist is a living memorial, an anamnesis of the new covenant” through Jesus.

(Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year C,135)

It is a remembering that asks us for our interaction, our commitment, our repentance, and our openness to God’s forgiveness and mercy.

It is our way of living Psalm 27. Jesus’ transfiguration – in all its glory – cannot erase the stark reality of self-offering. Simply put, glory only comes through embracing the passion . . . Baptism is our covenant with God; it is an enactment of Jesus’ death and resurrection as we are plunged into Jesus’ dying and rising in the baptismal waters. It is not just a ritual we perform, but a pledge that we live out the rest of our lives – to live our commitment to love in the ‘good times’ of glory and the ‘bad’ times of self-giving. (Living Liturgy, 2004, 74)

From “The Word Engaged” by John Kavavaugh, S.J., http://liturgy.slu.edu :

Lent prods us to repentance. Right from the start we are told: ”Repent and believe the Good News” or the older one, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Lent is uncomfortable; it tells us that there is something wrong with us. I am not okay and neither are you. We are insufficient. This life is not enough. This is not easy stuff in a world full of excuses and plea-bargains.

The most we want to admit to is making a mistake or having a behavioral problem. We often do not like the old song “Amazing Grace” that calls us wretches, reminding us that we are lost and in need of being found – that we are blind, and in need of sight. And, we know that Lent will end with a story of cataclysmic failure: betrayal, brutality, cowardice, and degradation.

Yet, the crucified one rises; his wounds become glorious. The meaning of Lent rests upon such a transfiguration of our minds and hearts – a dying and rising from the ashes. It calls us to believe there is something, Someone, for us beyond the stars and the everlasting hills . . . Like Paul, we are called to stand firm – not on ourselves, but in the Lord.

Let us pray:

O Lord, help us to ‘make time’ to be with you.

Be our Hound of Heaven, calling us to yourself.

Help us to silence the voices of noise and confusion,

of self-satisfaction, laziness, and fear.

May we be aware of your powerful presence

as we begin each day –

and in the darkness of each night,

may we trust that you are near.

May we hear your voice from deep within . . . Amen.

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1st Sunday of Lent Year C

We recently had a day of spirituality for the priests of the diocese to help us prepare for Lent.  And our facilitator asked each of us at the table to make comments on a sheet of paper with this Gospel upon it.  The wisest thing written on my sheet was sadly not mine.  It said, “Jesus chooses engagement over ease.”  Isn’t that something?  The opposite of ease in this case is not difficulty, but engagement.  The Devil constantly asks Jesus to separate himself out and away from others.  Having fasted for forty days, the Devil suggests to the very hungry Jesus to command the stone to turn to bread.  Surely, he could.  Then the Devil asks Jesus with a simple gesture towards him, he would hand over all the kingdoms of the world so he could reign as befits a king.  And although…

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Dental Mission Trip 2013 to San Agustin, Mexico

Please watch and be amazed at the work of the Spirit!

Scripture Commentary for this Sunday’s Readings

1st Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

Let us pray:

Now is the time, Lord.

Send us to the desert of our longings and needs.

Penetrate our hearts with your Word.

Help us to fast from anything

that overstuffs, distracts, deadens us.

Exercise our souls; smooth out the rough spots.

Strengthen our sagging, sluggish spirits.

Stretch us with your goodness and love.

Give us a ravenous hunger for your presence.

Fill us with the same Spirit that filled Jesus.

This Lent, let this be.  Amen

 

Consider how these reading occur in the desert…the quiet, the barren, the emptiness…

 

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 26: 4-10

One of the greatest gifts the people of Israel have given the world is their assurance that God’s love is active in our lives – even in the negative times – even in our limitations.  How is this reading reminding us of this truth? 

 

From W&W, Birmingham, 125:

This was part of a liturgy of thanksgiving.  The people offered their prayers and thanks for the first fruits of the harvest.  How might this reading remind you of Eucharist?

 

The exodus proved that God was in relationship with a people.  The desert and God’s plan for Israel were intimately bound together.  Connected with this is the oldest ‘credo’ of ancient Israel.  It is a profession of faith rooted in the saving acts of Yahweh, their God.

  1. Yahweh established the southern kingdom of Judah.
  2. The Lord God delivered Israel out of bondage, forming a people in the desert.
  3. Yahweh gave them possession of the promised land.

 

2nd Reading: Romans 10: 8-13

Faith needs to be both deep within our hearts AND spoken out loud by our lips.  What did this mean to these early Christians?

 

To be ‘justified’ means to be in right relationship with God. To trust that our God claims us as his own – even though we do not deserve this. This free gift of God’s acceptance is just that – free, unwon, unmerited. In Jesus we find a God who assures us that his justice is filled with love. It is in responding to this love and acceptance – faith – that we find true life and power – a power that can live even beyond our own handicaps and deaths. (John C. Dwyer, The Lost Gospel of Paul, 43+)

 

From W&W, Birmingham, 126:

Paul’s message is clear:  in order to become transformed, all one needed to do was embrace the message of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit, then would slowly begin the process of transformation.  Jesus proves this in the Gospel reading!

 

Paul insisted that Jesus died once and for all people.  It was a complete act of gratuitous, unmerited, unconditional love.  The response to such love can be nothing less than the complete offering of one’s entire life to the God who loves so greatly.  Human being s are justified by faith, not be observance of the law or by their own merits.  It was a difficult message to accept.  Justification through the law was ingrained in the people’s consciousness and history.

 

This is seen in Vatican II!  “Following the desire and command of Christ, the Church makes a serious effort to present the Gospel to the whole world so that people can share in God’s love.  Everyone who is baptized is charged with this mission.  The Church works and prays diligently with great hope that everyone in the whole world will ultimately join together as the People of God, “  (Vat II in Plain English: The Constitutions, p. 38).

 

The Gospel: Luke 4:1-13:

Jesus said that “One does not live by bread alone.”  For what do you hunger? How do these things nourish you?

 

The Greek word for ‘to tempt’ – periazein – means to test more than it means to entice someone to do wrong. How is this meaning important here?  In Jesus’ day, devils were ‘seen’ everywhere. Today, we might understand evil and sickness differently. How can this story of wilderness and devils speak to us today?

 

Jesus left the desert convinced of three things:

  1. His power is for love; it is not to be used for self-satisfaction.
  2. He is called to serve, not to be served.
  3. He will not bargain with evil, even if it means suffering.

(From Mark Link, S.J. “We Believe in Revelation: Preministry of Jesus,”, 1989, Tabor Publishing)

 

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

During Lent we can remember that in a desert we are in a place of isolation and desolation where we need like Jesus to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit – we cannot rely on our own means to overcome the problems we face in a desert. Like Jesus, we can find God’s Word to be a source of wisdom and strength. Because of this, Lent can also be a springtime of renewed relationship with God – a time to allow ourselves to be warmed and strengthened by God’s Spirit.

In our desert of ‘daily demands’ and pressures we will find new ways to open ourselves to God’s power which will help us to ‘take up the cross’ of daily living as we attempt through acts of kindness, justice, and encouragement to ‘lay down our lives for others.’

 

Here is a great truth: what we call temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to help us conquer sin. It is not meant to make us bad, but good – not to weaken, but to strengthen, to refine and to purify. Jesus’ time of testing took place in the wilderness, an area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea called the Devastation. It stretched over 35 miles by 15 miles – a place of yellow sand, of crumbling limestone, of scattered shingle. Contorted strata, warped and twisted ridges, jagged and bare rock ran in all directions. It glowed with daytime sun and heat; it chilled at night with darkness and cold. It was a place of ‘aloneness’ and danger: a testing place. And Jesus was tested right after his baptism – right after the powerful joy of hearing, “You are my Beloved.” His call to react to all of this was the Spirit driving him into this desert. It seems to be sort of a law of life that just as we come to a high point in our lives we can then nose-dive into danger. Also – we should remember that we are often tempted – tested – through our gifts. If we have charm, a gift for words, a vivid imagination – these talents can also lead us to problems: false pride, sensations, lies and excuses. Jesus, too, was tempted to use his powers for ‘showing-off’ in stead of showing forth God – for compromising with evil rather than trusting in his Father’s love. Jesus was tested as we are. Jesus was strengthened to turn away from the path of sensation, self-gratification, and compromise.  As he will ultimately do on the cross at the end of his life, Jesus puts his life into the hands of his Father. (Wm. Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: the Gospel of Matthew, vol.1, p. 62-70)

 

The Spirit prompted Jesus and provided the scriptures that Jesus needed to combat his enemy.  The word is the weapon but the Spirit engages in the battle  (W&W, Birmingham, 130).  How might scripture be a weapon and the Spirit do battle in your life?

 

Let us pray:

Lord, help us this Lent

to dig through our sands of sorrow, disillusionment, fear, and lies

to find your land of milk and honey.

Strengthen our weak wills.

We starve for the fullness of your Spirit.

O Jesus, give us soul-food as we enter these days of fasting.

Open our ears and whisper your desert secrets to us.

Guide us, please.   Stay always close by us – with open arms.

Let us proclaim with our lives that you are Lord.

You have risen from the dead –

and at your call so shall we. Amen.

(paraphrased from “Prayer Path” – http://liturgy.slu.edu)

 

 

 

Deacon Tom’s Homily: 2/3/2013, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My sisters and brothers, the life of a prophet is a tough life.  Jeremiah was not scared in vain.  Just as people wanted to kill Jesus in today’s reading, they always wanted to get rid of prophets because prophets spoke the truth.  Today we see how Jesus confronts the people almost without words; he calmly walks among those who wanted to pull him and throw him down the hill, and goes on his way, fearlessly.

Perhaps the situation is unfamiliar for us.  But we have heard of people in Central America, Africa, and Asia who have been killed because they spoke the truth and struggled for justice.  We might also find it hard to believe that things like that could happen to us in this country.  Today’s gospel, however, has something to say to our lives.

Have we never been afraid to say the truth or to defend justice because of fear of being rejected, laughed at, or retaliated against in our work, school, or in our neighborhoods?   The scene of the gospel today has real people threatening Jesus.

We need to think a little bit further about who or what seems to be threatening us.  What or whom do we have to confront?  Because it might be that sometimes we don’t even see or realize the threats around us, and, without realizing, we are being led to behaviors that do not really agree with our Christian values.  I am sure you have heard the expressions, “Everybody does it,” or “Everyone has one,” or “Why can’t we have all the things that our neighbors have”?  TV programs and commercials might be pushing us into spending beyond our means or into thinking that faithfulness in our marriages and relationships is not really all that important.  On the other hand, our desire to always have more and more could lead us to less than honest practices at work and even in our daily life.  And why, because everyone else is doing it!  Are we aware of those pressures on us?  Do we confront them honestly?  Are we, like Jeremiah, afraid that people might laugh at us, reject us, or persecute us because we are going against the grain?

How do we help our children to think critically about what is going on around them and to keep our values and traditions?  As a family, how do we help one another to resist these pressures in our ordinary lives?

Friends, Jesus walked calmly among the people who threatened him.  He knew that God’s power, as had been promised to Jeremiah, was with him.  We can be sure that that same power will protect us.  We are not likely to have to confront others violently: we need simply continue on our way firmly and with the certainty that God wants us free, free to do good each and every day.  And why?  Not because everyone else is doing it.  But for the simple reason that through our own Baptism we too became prophets and we know that God is with us.