Monday, May 30, 2011
Blog # 146 Self-love Jesus gave as the second greatest Comandment "Love your neighbor as yourself. " That presumes we love ourselves. Through the years since my ordination to the priesthood it has always been a very special blessing to meet people on a significant level of personal faith sharing and friendship. When we share our faith experiences we share a very personal part of ourselves. It is a special joy to know and love others in an unselfish way. It should be a special joy to know and love ourselves in an unselfish way. God knows us as so valuable to Himself and loves us so deeply that He sent His Beloved Son to give His life for us as a sign of God's love for everyone. Part of the task of faith is to discover or remind ourselves of this. We are to learn to love in such a way that even we are convinced of the truth of this 'conviction' of God with regard to us personally. We are valuable to God. We are loved. Here is a prayer in response to these few thoughts. God Our Father, You give us many gifts to enjoy each day. Most obvious is your gift of nature. We do not have to look long or far to see Your handiwork and experience Your greatness. The sun, the moon, flowers birds water seeds all tell us of You, Your goodness generosity and Your love You give us Yourself, dear Lord, in prayer, in sacred places, in our faith, in Your Church, in our conscience, and in the words and wisdom of Scripture. But you give us the gift of people too - and these are among Your greatest gifts. I see all persons among Your very special gifts, O Lord. Some of them are wrapped beautifully, in kindness, generosity, patience, and love. They are attractive even when we first see them. Some are in ordinary wrappings, but they are nonetheless special to You and to me. Some persons are loosely wrapped and it is easy to get inside. Others are more tightly wrapped and more difficult to open. But the wrapping is not the gift, It is easy to make the mistake of thinking otherwise. Within each of us there is a beautiful 'image' of Yourself. I am a person; I am a gift too. A gift to myself first of all. Sometimes I ask myself if I have really looked inside the wrappings. Perhaps I have never or seldom seen the wonderful gift that I am. Could it be there is something inside the wrapping other than what I think is there? Different? More? or less? All of Your gifts are beautiful, Lord. Help me to see the wonderful beauty in them all. Help me to see myself as a gift of Your love to those around me. Then for them I would be happy to perfect myself and try to grow in holiness, goodness, patience, generosity, and love. Help me Father, to make this the task I identify and choose for myself each morning so that I can honestly be identified with Jesus in His self-giving love, throughout His life in history, and in me, but especially on the Cross and in his glorious Resurrection, throughout the time and with the unique plan and energy You will provide for me today. Amen! This is a story about four 'people' named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Blog # 145 A Goal for Life May 29, 1954 I was ordained to the priesthood in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today is my 57th anniversary. For the past two months, since my open heart surgery, I have been living at the parish rectory in the guest room. I am planning to move back to my own residence in a small house belonging to the Parish on the other side of the church parking lot. I walked over there this afternoon to look it over and was attracted to a plaque hanging in my bedroom. It was a gift to me on the occasion of my 25th anniversary thirty-two years ago. I don't read it every time I pass it by on the wall, but at least at the times I may wonder where I have been, to check on where I am, or to rededicate myself to the dream it sets before me to realize as an expression of where I want to go with the rest of my life. Its author is not identified and it is written as the words of a priest, but I think it can very well be applied to any faithful Christian or to anyone who really knows and loves the one true God the Creator of all and Who loves us all as Jesus taught us to do. Here are the words on the plaque, in larger and more attractive print. LORD JESUS, ETERNAL PRIEST, YOU HAVE CALLED ME TO YOUR PRIESTHOOD TO CARRY ON THE WORK WHICH YOU BEGAN. FIT ME, I PRAY YOU, FOR THIS TASK WITH SUCH FAITH THAT THROUGH MY VOICE EVEN THE DISBELIEVING MAY LISTEN TO YOUR WORD. WITH SUCH HOPE THAT THROUGH MY HANDS EVEN THE DESPAIRING MAY BE HELD FAST IN YOUR GRIP AND WITH SUCH CHARITY THAT THROUGH MY HEART EVEN THE DESPISED MAY KNOW THAT YOU CAN NEVER CEASE TO LOVE THEM. JOIN ME SO DEEPLY TO YOURSELF THAT NO ONE I MEET SHALL LIE BEYOND YOUR SAVING REACH. AMEN!
Friday, May 27, 2011
Blog # 144 Philip Neri Yesterday on the Church's worldwide liturgical calendar we celebrated the feast of St. Philip Neri as an obligatory memorial. Philip was a priest who died a hundred and sixteen years ago at the age of eighty. Each of the Saints listed on the Church's roster who are celebrated annually at Mass around the world had a special significant degree of holiness that was unique to him or her, but also some characteristic gift or accomplishment the Church feels should be lifted up by all of us throughout the world in thanks to God and also as an invitation and source of encouragement for us to identify and duplicate in our common quest for holiness. In this regard we identify the simplicity and poverty of St. Francis of Assisi, the innocense and chastity of Maria Gorreti, the missionary zeal of St. Francis Xavier, and the heroic unconditional love of a modern martyr for the faith. In the case of St. Philip Neri, the characteristic trait that has traditionally been lifted up for our admiration thanksgiving and sharing by way of imitation in our own daily life is the joy with which he lived our faith and which he brought to others. Particularly this year I found the life and approach of St. Philip especially attractive and encouraging in that it seemed to make the challenge of becoming holy supportive of and supported by the simple everyday experiences that we encounter in our desire and efforts to be happy and holy as well. The liturgical readings were well chosen. St. Paul to the Philippians ( 4: 4 - 9 ) " Rejoice in the Lord always!...Think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and worthy of praise."
Blog # 143 40 Days of Easter As we draw close to the conclusion of our celebration of the 40 Days of Easter it would be good to check on our awareness of the value and purpose of our extensive celebration of the Feast. As with Christmas, the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven, and Pentecost, our celebration of the life death and Resurrection of Jesus in the liturgy is an official way Jesus in the Church invites us to identify with Him in the mission given Him by the Father to sanctify the world and ourselves as individual unique Christian believers. As Jesus stayed with the disciples forty days after His Resurrection from the dead, He is doing the same for us in our annual liturgical experience these several weeks. We celebrate these forty days as the 'days of Easter' almost as though it were all one great day lived in the presence of the risen Lord. All around us the rest of the world goes secular and Easter is almost all but forgotten until it occurs again next Spring. But through the Scriptural readings at Mass and through the effect these readings can have on our thoughts and prayers, the Church hopes to help us grow in our awareness of the meaning and power of the Lord's Resurrection today. As we travel through the forty days it might be helpful to ask ourselves several simple questions about the death and resurrection of Jesus, then, in history, and now, by faith, in us today. The questions are these: Who? When? Where? And What? Who is Jesus? Who are we? When did Jesus die/rise? When in us does He die and rise? Where in history? Where in our lived experience? What happened? What did Jesus do? What happens in us through faith and Baptism? What is the call of Baptism in our life today? What was Jesus sent to say and do among us? What are we in His name called and empowered to say and do? These are significant questions. They could be the basis of significant growth in our relationship with the Lord and one another and in the quality of our personal and communitarian holiness. Let's work on them together as we continue to celebrate together the presence of the Risen Lord among us.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Blog # 142 Builders Some of us old timers will remember among the toys we used to play with were Lincoln Logs erector sets and building blocks. You start with a big box of many pieces and put them together piece by piece until you had built perhaps a bridge a house or a store. This year it occurred to me to reflect back upon these experiences from long ago and apply my recollections to our celebration of the Easter Season. Our life is something like the box of blocks Lincoln Logs or the pieces in our erector set. There are just so many pieces in our box. As life goes on we use them up. The time will come when there are no more left. Our life will be over. Applying this to the Easter Season it came out this way: From all eternity God has determined the number of years we shall live here on earth, the number of pieces in our box. We are in the process of building our unique eternal name, the name by which God will call us at the instant of our death. As it was in our building a house or a bridge, putting one block upon another, and coupling one piece with another, so it is with our life's story and the eternal name we are building as the years go on. A big difference lies in the fact as children we could take our bridges and buildings down when we were finished playing with them, put them back into our box, and use them again. In real life, however, we get an opportunity of using our years but once. 2011 will never come again. Several questions come to mind. Do I have an overall goal for my life? Do I realize the connection between all of the days and years of my life? What single thing, if any am I putting together as the years go by? Am I merely taking the pieces out of my box and setting them aside one by one rather than building something I desire and can recognize? Am I aware of a plan purpose or goal God desires for me to achieve that is uniquely mine? What is the value of this plan of God for me personally? What degree of commitment to it do I desire and experience? How does my commitment or lack of it show itself in my everyday experience of life, in the time I spend or do not spend in prayer, in my effort or lack of effort to grow in holiness, in my relationships with my family friends and Church? What heavy questions! For us who believe in Jesus there is a single answer that covers them all. The single name of every bridge and building we are called to put together is love. All creation is called into existence and has it goal one way or another in God and God is love. The full meaning of this truth is beyond the limited capacity of our human mind to comprehend. In the life death and resurrection of Jesus it was realized to the fullest extent possible here on earth. God's infinite love was limited by the humanity of Jesus,as it is in ours, but was unobstructed by His faithfulness and perfect obedience to the Father's will. Jesus was all the Father wanted Him to be. In Jesus our goal is the same, to be all the Father desires us to be.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Blog # 141 He Lives! Alleluia!! Confined to the house after the open heart surgery, I found the final weeks of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter were a different experience for me from all the others I experienced since ordination in 1954. In looking through some old files I came across an Easter greeting from about twenty years ago. On the cover of the greeting is a beautiful picture in pastel colors of a sunrise over a beautiful flower garden. Birds are singing in the trees. The words on the greeting are these: "As EASTER arrives, all the world celebrates SPRING with the blossoming of buds, the hymns of treetop birds, and nature's fragrant breezes that remind us it is a time of RENEWAL". It is a beautiful card, and that is a beautiful message, but there is much more to Easter than what it says. For example all the world does not celebrate Easter in the Spring. In the southern hemisphere Easter comes in the Fall. Though Easter comes in Spring for us, and that is a special blessing, it is not merely or mainly a celebration of Spring, as beautiful and appropriate such a celebration might be. Is it then about colored eggs chocolate candy jelly beans and Easter bunnies as well as Spring? It would seem that in what is the actual experience of many today the answer to that question is yes. With Christmas we can see a connection between the glitter the gift giving and human joy of it with the birth of Jesus. With Easter we can see a connection between Spring and the resurrection of Jesus. So with colored eggs jelly beans and chocolate rabbits. But there is also a danger of these other items overshadowing the real meaning and value of the occasions we are celebrating at Christmas and Easter. Try to give yourself an honest answer to a question such as this: Can you actually say the resurrection of Jesus has a significant bearing upon your personal identity, your everyday experience of life, your prayers, your joy? The real meaning and most important element of our celebration of Easter does not come from the fact it is Spring or that we enjoy the color and taste and sound of it, but rather because God desired to love is so much that Jesus made Christmas happen, then lived out our human experience in all of its details but sin, then told us in His blood we are worth all He had to give. That would be enough to celebrate. But it would have only brought us up to Good Friday. He died indeed. He gave His all. We love Jesus for that. But the story continues. Raised from the dead, He lives! Did you ask me how I know? Whenever I am assured of forgiveness of my sins in His Name I know He lives. Whenever I forgive someone else in His Name I know He lives. Whenever I pray or read the Bible or go to sleep or wake from sleep in His Name I know He lives. Whenever I discover in the gift of faith the meaning and value of suffering and death in His Name I know He lives. All of this is as real as Spring, as beautiful as a garden,, as pleasing as chocolate candy, and much more valuable than it all. I am writing this on the Fifth Sunday of Easter 2011. HE LIVES! ALLELUIA!!!
Blog # 140 Who Am I ? This morning, while I was reading Mark 8: 27 -35, Jesus had just cured a blind man but wanted it to be kept a secret. Then on His way to visit the villages around Caesarea Philippi he asked the disciples :"Who do people say that I am?" The answer came: "Some John the Baptizer, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." "And you", He went on to ask, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered Him, "You are the Messiah!" Then Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about Him. Next Jesus began to teach them that He was going to have to suffer, be rejected by the elders chief priests and scribes and be put to death. Peter said no to this and Jesus told him to get behind Him because Peter was"judging not by God's standards but by man's!" Peter had the right word in his response but he did not know the meaning of what he said. In this brief section of Mark's Gospel I found a key insight given by Jesus into the identity and challenge of an authentic experience of Christian life and discipleship. It has to do not so much about suffering but with our union with Jesus and one another in the new life given us in Baptism through which the question Who is Jesus? and Who am I? can be regarded as a single question Through faith and Baptism we are one with Jesus in such an intimate and profound way that our union with Him is given in the Scriptures as parallel to the union of branches on a vine and as members of a human body. ( Jn 25:5; Eph 1: 23; 5: 30; Col 1: 24; Rom 12: 4.5; 1 Cor 12: 12 - 27; Eph : 2: 16; 4: 1 - 4; Col 3: 15). It is fitting, therefore, for Jesus to ask:"Who do people say I am?", and then "Who do you say I am?" The identity of Jesus is to be, in our own personal and limited way, the identity of each branch , each member of the body. As a disciple and Baptized believer, to ask the question "Who is Jesus?" is to ask the question "Who am I?". And although Peter had the right answer to the question in the words "You are the Messiah!", what he did not understand was what it would mean for Jesus to be the Messiah and that through faith and Baptism in Jesus WE are the Messiah!" Peter eventually learned the full meaning of what he had said. But for the time being as we come upon him in the reading in Mark he is thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. In other words, as Peter rather than as Jesus. Before the cock crowed Peter would deny he even knew Jesus. Eventually,however, united with Jesus in love, Peter would lay down his life as an expression of how well he came to understand the meaning of the words we hear him speak in Mark 8. God is love. To love means to give. The more we love, the more we give. 'You cannot love anyone more than to lay down your life for them". This because in laying down our life,in dying, we give it all , we have no more to give. Only God deserves this total love . It is called worship, another word for the death of a believing Baptized Christian. Jesus was sent and came to tell us this and to live it out in His own life and death. This was the chief meaning of His identity as the Christ, the Messiah. God' design and plan for us was that through self-giving, love is born, and through love glory. Peter seems to have thought we could have glory without love and love without sacrifice. Jesus very clearly tells us this cannot be so. "If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and follow in my steps." To have it otherwise would be like trying to walk without putting one foot after the other, or a bird trying to fly without opening its wings. There is a design here, God's design. It is the truth about walking and flying and love. We readily accept and live by the truth about walking and see it clearly in the truth about flying. Let's pray and work that we might see and live by the truth about love, that we might see it in Jesus, and at His invitation and command accept and make it the truth about ourselves as His Baptized disciples. What a wonderful love-filled world our portion of the world would be! Here is how I saw it in a practical way this morning: The question Who is Jesus? comes out Who is Jesus in me? And What is Jesus being sent by the Father to accomplish in me today, right now? Do you see how such an insight is simply an application of our theology concerning our rebirth in Baptism, how it enriches our insight into our whole relationship with Jesus and produces the Father's answer to the prayer of Jesus that He would live in us? ( Jn 17: 20 - 26). With this insight firmly in place how easy it is to be confident of Jesus' presence and His love, speak to Jesus informally at different moments throughout our day, join Him in offering our love with His in worship to the Father in the Sacrifice of the Mass and finally and eternally at the instant of our physical death !