Thursday, December 28, 2017

Overheard at Christmas Mass

"For those of you that are disappointed that you didn't get a present you really wanted ... don't worry about it ... IT ISN'T YOUR BIRTHDAY!"

I hope you all had a very Blessed Christmas!  Sending you my prayers for a very Holy, Peaceful 2018!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Running Towards Him and Taking it Slow

Hi Everyone ... my apologies for not posting for a bit.  Thank you all for your well wishes during this time.  

I witnessed two different actions at Mass this month that really made me think.

The first action happened right before the Readings.  The church I was at has a practice of calling up all the kids in attendance before the first Reading.  The priest gives one of the children a big book of readings, and that child leads the procession out of the church and to the classrooms where they learn the Gospel in their own terms.  Now, normally, the children are reluctant to be the "book carrier".  For one, it calls attention to them, and they are usually quite shy.  Second, the book is rather large for them and, I imagine, not the easiest thing to carry a decent distance.

But on this day, a lad who looked to be all of 5 years old, came sprinting to the priest to grab the book ... and then proudly held it high over his head as he attempted to proceed back down the aisle.  (He didn't make it far before he had to get some assistance carrying it, but it was definitely an A for effort!)

That action had an immediate impact on me.  What if we all "raced to God's word" as quickly as that little boy did??

The second action that gave me pause was at a different church the following week.  I don't know about churches near you, but when most of our priests perform the Consecration, they hold the body and blood up in the air for about three to five seconds.   Ten at the most. The priest that was residing over this particular Mass held each in the air for a full sixty seconds!

I must admit, relative to the normal actions, those sixty seconds felt like ten minutes.  And what felt a bit awkward at first, turned into something quite beautiful.  

I wondered to myself ... shouldn't we always take an extra minute or two to fully reflect on that most beautiful part of Mass?

God Bless all of you. 


Monday, July 24, 2017

Overheard: Wheat, Weeds ... and Cookies?

This week's Gospel reading included the Parable about the Wheat and Weeds.

At the end of the parable, of course, the harvesters collect the weeds and tie them together to be burned, and the wheat is put into the barn.  

The distinction is quite obvious to the harvesters. But note that the slaves are instructed not to try and pull the weeds out themselves.

Perhaps there is a message in there that we are not try and determine who is "good" and who is "evil".  God is the only one that can, and He allows them to remain until He comes again.  

As I reflected on that, I realized that we constantly try and label people as "good" or "evil" ... "right" or "wrong".  But how often do we really know?  How often do people change?  How often should we be holding up a mirror instead?

It reminded me of the Cookie Thief Poem, attributed to Valerie Cox:

A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book, but happened to see,
That the man beside her, as bold as could be,
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,
Which she tried to ignore, to avoid a scene.
She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
As the gutsy “cookie thief” diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye!”
With each cookie she took, he took one too.
When only one was left, she wondered what he’d do.
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other.
She snatched it from him and thought, “Oh brother,
This guy has some nerve, and he’s also rude,
Why, he didn’t even show any gratitude!”
She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
Refusing to look back at the “thieving ingrate.”
She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise.
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!
“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair,
“Then the others were his and he tried to share!”
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!

Hmmm ... all of a sudden I am hungry for some cookies.  

(Remember, no judging me!)

God Bless you.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

It's All Greek to Me, Part II

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.       - John 14:16

I learned something new recently about this encouraging statement by our Savior.  

When I have read this passage before, I have always interpreted it as God was going to send us a different Entity.  Meaning, Jesus was there at that moment He was speaking to the disciples, and then God was going to send the Holy Spirit .... Someone very different than Jesus.  Why else would he say "another"?

That interpretation was in conflict with my belief in the Trinity, of course, and so there was a bit of an irreconcilable difference in my head.  

Until I learned a little Greek, that is! 

The English language has multiple definitions for another.  For example, a restaurant might tell you "Sorry, we are booked this evening ... please come back another day."  In that scenario another means a completely different day.  In contrast, one might say "That was delicious, I'll have another piece of that cake, please!"  In that scenario, another means more of the same.

Well, the Greek language uses two different words.  Allos, meaning the same kind, and heteros, meaning a different kind.  

The Greek word used in John's passage above is allos.  Thus, Jesus is telling his disciples the Lord is sending another Helper just like him. The Third Person in the Trinity!

God Bless you, and prayers that the Holy Spirit continues to strengthen us.

Monday, April 17, 2017

He Bows His Head, as if to Kiss You

A Glorious and Blessed Easter to all of you!

I came across this wonderful reflection from St Augustine of Hippo about St John's Passion, and wanted to share.  I can assure you I will not look at the cross the same way again!
As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection. 
He bows his head, as if to kiss you.  His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption.
Ponder how great these things are.
Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.
Ponder how great these things are, indeed.

God Bless you!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Looking at Lazaruz Through A Different Lens

When I get to a Gospel reading that I have heard many, many times - especially one that has a pretty clear message like today's Lazarus story - I try and find a new perspective.  

I usually look at the Lazarus story as a microcosm of our larger Faith story.  Jesus raises a man from the dead, much like He will be raised from the dead shortly thereafter.   His Apostles and other followers start to believe even more after watching the unthinkable happen right before their eyes... much like millions more will over the centuries that follow. Jesus talks about walking in the Light - a metaphor for all of us to follow the path that He illuminates for us.

And so on and so forth. 

Today I looked at this passage through a different lens - time.  

One of the things that struck me today was that both Martha and Mary say the same thing to Jesus ... basically that "if only You had been here our brother would be alive".  

In their view of the world, Jesus was not there when they wanted Him to be.  He was "late" by their clock.  Likewise the near-term outcome was not what they wanted either.  In their all-too-human plan, Jesus is with them when Lazarus falls ill and prevents him from dying. 

(On a side note, twice in this reading John tells us that Jesus was "perturbed".  That word really struck me.)

Jesus knew that not only were they going to get the outcome they wanted, but because it happened on HIS time, and not theirs, there would be an even greater good. They - like us - were thinking much too myopically.

In God's plan, this was a moment in time that could not only bring those present closer to Him, but one that would resonate for eternity.  

I hope you are having a Blessed Lent.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Serving Two Masters: A Sports Analogy

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us we cannot serve two masters.  

We must love one and hate the other.

This can be hard to explain or understand in a world that is not so easily seen in black and white.

One analogy that I came across tries to explain this in sporting terms ...

Let's say you live in Chicago.  You have two baseball teams you can root for ... the American League White Sox, or the National League Cubs.  (This analogy works for many cities and sports by the way... in England, for example, you could have Manchester United vs Manchester City in soccer/football).  

Some fans will tell you that you can root for both hometown teams, especially since, in the baseball example, they are from different leagues.  They argue that they can watch both teams compete, and root for them against whoever they are playing.  This would sort of equate to us saying we can serve both our material lives and God equally at the same time.  

On the flip side, some fans will argue you absolutely positively cannot root for both teams.  You must choose one, or the other, and throw all of your passion, loyalty and love behind that one team. 

Let's go back to that first example, though - the fan that says they can root for both teams.  This might be true for most of the season.  But what if the White Sox and Cubs both made it to the World Series and had to play each other?  (Or when Man U and City play each other for the Manchester Cup?)  Wouldn't that fan then have to ultimately choose one?  To love one and thus hate the other?  And what about when the two teams are playing a game at the same time?  How does the fan choose which team to watch?  He/she either chooses one, or splits his/her attention ... and thus does not give their entire self to one or the other.

While this analogy is not perfect, I think it does help explain that when we think we can serve both masters (read: root for both teams), we end up, at best, only giving a piece of ourselves.  

And we all know that God deserves all of us.  Not just a piece!

We need to be more like the fan that knows this is not possible, and chooses one team to serve for with all of his/her self.  

God Bless you.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

World Marriage Sunday Humor

Today is World Marriage Sunday, and I came across this little joke in a few different places:

A little girl, who was at her very first wedding Mass, whispered to her mother, "Why is the bride dressed in white?"

The mother replied, "Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life."

After pondering that for a bit, the girl asked, "So why is the groom wearing black, then?"

All in good fun, of course!  My prayers go out to all the married couples reading, as well as those who have been married before, or are about to be married this year!

God Bless you.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Take This Post With a Grain of Salt

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells his followers that they are the "salt of the earth". 

He then reminds them that if salt loses its taste, it is "no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

Now ...  I'm no salt expert ... so take the following with the proverbial grain of it: 

Back in Jesus' time, salt was quite valuable.  Obviously, it was used for seasoning.  But it was also used for wounds and for preserving food.

I recently learned, however, that salt could also be quite evil to agriculture.  In fact, conquering tribes would often salt the land of the conquered ... thus ruining any current crops and sometimes preventing future growth as well.  

So which kind of salt are we?

The kind that tastes good, preserves God's word, and cleans spiritual wounds?

Or the kind that has no taste, that increases blood pressure, and prevents others from growing in Faith?

God Bless you, and may you be the salt of the earth and the light of the world!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sharing a Post: A song saves that lives

My blogging friend Victor at Time for Reflections has a beautiful post about a song that has saved many babies from abortion.

Today, on March for Life 2017 day, I thought it would be a very timely post to share with you.

Please pray for the unborn, and any mothers or fathers struggling with their decisions.

God Bless you, and thank you Victor for sharing this with us.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What the Heck is Zebulun?

I love this weekend's Gospel where Jesus calls His first apostles.  I have always been impressed with the decisiveness that they dropped what they were doing to follow Him.  

But every now and then I remind myself to focus on all of the words in the Gospel, and every so often I dive into something I don't know a lot about. A word, person, or place that I just gloss over because they just become "words on paper" to me.

Matthew tells us that Jesus went to live in Capernaum, the region of Nebulun and Naphtali, and then quotes Isaiah who calls the people there "people who sit in darkness".  

I realized I knew something about Capernaum, but zilch about Nebulun and Naphtali.  

Well, to be accurate, I had forgotten everything I knew about Nebulun and Naphtali from the Old Testament.

So here is the brief overview ...

Nebulun and Naphtali were two of Jacob's twelve sons.  They settled into an area in northeast Israel.  Those areas and tribes were named after them, and the area became full of "pagans", and the Jewish laws and customs became diluted over time.  In fact the area was known as "full of darkness" for this reason, especially when compared to the holy city of Jerusalem.  They were also some of the first areas that faced attack from armies like the Assyrians. 

So the fact that Jesus chose this area to shine His light is quite significant.  He could have chosen the grand city of Jerusalem, with all its leaders and affluence.  But instead he chose the darkest of areas, and lived among the lowest of people.  (Also important to note, is that Jesus left the small conservative village of Nazareth to preach in the more populated and diverse crossroads of Capernaum.) His followers were people that, because of the Greek influence, were perhaps more open to new ideas.  But they were still looked down upon. 

But not by God.  

He showed them the Light before many others.  And in doing so, He gave them the chance to follow It.  

Which is how we arrive at the usual theme of this Gospel ... that seeing the Light is wonderful ... but not enough.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John took action. They followed Jesus, and helped Him bring Light to the poor, sick, forgotten, and hopeless.  

A nice reminder for all of us ... that our roles, too, include stepping out of our comfort zones and shining Christ's Light into the Zebuluns of this world.

God Bless you.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Transfer of Power

In case you have not seen a newspaper, or been on the world wide web at all, over the past year, we have a pretty significant transfer of power happening this week in the United States. 

That transfer, so far, has been ... not so smooth.  Both current and elect seem to be ridiculing one another at every turn, trying to bring the other down or at least keep public opinion on their side.

Which is why our deacon, this past weekend, reflected on St. John the Baptist.  He commented on how hard it must have been for John to decrease, while allowing Jesus to increase - even for someone as Holy as a Saint.

After all, John had many, many followers ... that came to him in the wilderness and praised him often.  

And yet, when our Savior arrived, John "transferred" quite seamlessly to Him ... and ended up dying alone.

It seems like such a sharp contrast to what is happening in the U.S. - and other parts of the world - and is something I probably take for granted without thinking about how hard it must have been for John.  

Please pray for peace in our world, and God Bless.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Random Musings from Christmas Season

As we celebrate the Epiphany, and close out the Christmas Season, there have been some random thoughts crossing my mind ...

We hear much about the shepherds and wise men visiting the baby Jesus.  But what about the relatives of Joseph in Bethlehem?  Did they spend time with the Holy Family?  Every day?  Did they clear space for them in their homes immediately?  Or did they think they were just crazy?  And how about the people of Bethlehem?  Surely they heard the commotion, and were told what was going on.  How many of them believed?  How many of them took the opportunity to gaze upon the Face of God?  And how many went about their merry way, oblivious to the Gift in their midst?

Speaking of the wise men ... and the star they followed ... I realized at Mass that today there are millions of stars that can lead to Jesus ... us.  The problem is some of us don't shine as brightly as we need to to get people to follow us.  

I wonder if anyone found it odd that one of the gifts from the wise men was myrrh.  Why give a child something that is more common for the dead?  (Although I am reminded of the saying that from the minute you are born you are constantly one step closer to death...)

What about Mary's family?  When did they receive news of Jesus' birth?  Did they make the journey to Bethlehem to visit Him?  

I imagined the birth of our Lord happening in today's day in age.  So many things would have been different.  For example, on the plus side, the world would have been able to watch His arrival because someone in Bethlehem would have captured it on their cell phone.  On the downside, social media probably would have made it very easy for Herod to find the Holy Family.  

I still can't believe how fortunate we are that God chose to come here in human form, and all of its constrictions, and suffer for us.  His love is incomprehensible. 

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas season.  God Bless you and your families.