Source of Life

In the Scriptures for this past Sunday, we read from the Book of Wisdom, that God creates life, only life. He meant for humanity to be immortal. It is only because humanity allowed evil into its hearts, that death came in.

In the reading from the Gospel of Mark; we see Jesus as the source of healing and life. A woman needed only to touch his cloak, and she was healed of her illness. Jesus restores a little child to life. And he will, by his death and resurrection, will free all from the power of death.

But death can take many forms. There is physical death, and then is the slow death of one’s spirit, one’s soul. Sometimes, the harsh circumstances of life can grind us down. So much so, that we begin to to feel dead inside to the beauty of creation; the love of others; the love of God.

It is in moments like this, that we need to turn to Jesus, through Word and Sacrament; through prayer and meditation. In encountering Jesus Christ, we encounter the healer, both of body and soul. Now this does may not mean an instantaneous healing. But if we remain open to the Spirit of Christ, working within us; we may feel a little more peace, a little more hope. And a new dawn will break open for us.

Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

img_0635On this day, the Catholic Church, and especially members of the Franciscan family, celebrate the life of St. Anthony of Padua.

In many Franciscan parishes, chapels and shrines; the friars will be distributing “St. Anthony’s Bread.” It a practice of charity, harkening back to a time when bread was actually distributed to the poor and hungry. One legend has it that a French cloth merchant could not get into her shop, because of a broken lock. She asked for help and intercession of St. Anthony, promising to give bread to the poor, in return. The lock miraculously opened, the shop was in business, and woman made good on her promise.

Since that time, Franciscan friary distribute small, blessed loaves of bread to people, as a reminder that as they receive blessings from God, they are to share it with those in need, for the love of God.

“I am the Good Shepherd” – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-05Acts 4: 8-12

1 John 3: 1-2

John 10: 11-18

 

 

 

11″I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.   (John 10: 11-16)

In today’s Gospel, we hear again Jesus describing himself as the “Good Shepherd;” and what being faithful to that description entails.  He is the one who will give up his life to protect his sheep; who will guide his sheep to safe pastures.  In turn, his sheep will recognize his voice, will follow him wherever he leads them.  And other sheep, not of his original flock, will also recognize his voice, and they will be gathered into the same flock.

Jesus, indeed, gave his life for his flock (us); by his death and resurrection, he freed us from the dangers of sin and death.  His words continue to guide us along the right path to the Kingdom of God, if we but listen to them, and act on them.  He continues to feed us with his Body and Blood; giving us the strength needed to follow him along the right paths, no matter how difficult they may be.  His Presence among us, within us; gives us the hope that we will find  a place of repose, in this life and into the next.

We also need to recognize, though, that we are all called to be “shepherds,” by virtue of belonging to the Body of Christ; and caring for each other, both friend and stranger.  We are also “shepherds,” when we, by the example of our daily lives, draw others to come and join with us in the flock; in the community of believers.

 

Communion in the Hand – An Issue Again?

Communion in the handCardinal Robert Sarah, who is the senior Vatican official responsible for the liturgical practices of the Roman Catholic Church, has stirred things up in the Catholic blogosphere.  In a forward he wrote for a book on Eucharistic theology, he stated his belief that reception of Holy Communion in the hand, and standing, not kneeling and on the tongue, is a desecration of the Sacrament.  He states that the practice helps Satanic powers disrupt the work of the Church.

Now, keep in mind, Catholics  have been allowed to receive Communion on either the tongue, or in the hand since the 1960’s.  What is important is the disposition of one’s mind and soul.  I have received in the hand, since it was allowed in this country since the 1970’s.  I have helped distribute Holy Communion, as both an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister, and as a Deacon.  I have witnessed people of faith come up and reverently receive the Body of Christ, some on their tongue and consuming it, or in their cupped hand, and then consuming it.

What amazes me, is that after all this time, this is still an issue!  Looking back, I found a 2015 post I wrote, covering basically the same ground.  I have hoped that we had learned to accept that both approaches are valid, are holy, and expresses our love and devotion for our Savior.

Happy Birthday, Father Louis

MertonWednesday, January 31st, was the birthday of a Trappist monk and mystic, Father Louis, who was born in 1915.  Most of the world will know him as Thomas Merton.  Born to a New Zealander father and an American mother; he would eventually take up residence in the United States.  While attending college in New York, he had a conversion experience, that would eventually lead him to the Abbey of Gethsemane, in Kentucky.  In 1947, he became a professed member of the Trappist community; he was ordained a priest on May 26, 1949.  The year before, 1948, he published his autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain,”  which became the most popular book in American Catholic literature.

To be honest, I have never read the book; to the best of my recollection, my earliest encounter with his writings was either his history of the Trappist order, “The Waters of Siloe,” or one of his journals, “The Sign of Jonas.”  Since then I have acquired a good size collection of his books.  He had a talent for the making what it means to be a contemplative understandable; and more importantly, achievable by us ordinary folks.  His writings continue to inspire me to at least try to deepen my prayer life.  Some attempts have been more successful than others.

There have dry periods; sometimes very long dry periods.  But when I pick up one of his books and read, I get inspired again, and try once more to live contemplatively in my daily life.  And I am not alone, hundreds, if not thousands of individuals, both Christian and non-Christian, have taken up the journey, with Merton as our guide.

Morning Prayer – From Psalm 143

Dawn BSU

At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust.  Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life.

Rescue me, Lord, from my foes, for in you I hope.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.  May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level.

For name’s sake, Lord, give me life, in your justice lead me out of distress.

(Psalm143: 8-11)

This psalm is  one of those that is recited during Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of Hours.  It is a prayer of hope, that God will be with us throughout our day, through good times, and difficult times.  It is a prayer of someone who is seeking the Lord’s guidance in one’s daily life.  No matter how mundane, how boring, how stressful our lives may be, we hope that God is guiding us.  We pray that we are open to that guidance.

Would We Prefer the Better Part or Not?

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.’ (Luke 10: 38-42)

I am sure that there are many of us, who could identify with Martha, the Martha and Maryultimate hostess. She has invited an up and coming rabbi, and his followers, to her home. She has invited her friends and neighbors to come and come and hear Jesus speak and teach. And, of course, she must make sure everyone has had their dusty feet washed; that they have a beverage to drink, and something to eat. And she is beginning to feel stretched, and resentment towards her “do-nothing” sister begins to grow. Finally, she demands that Jesus tell Mary to get off her butt and start working. Jesus makes the point that Mary prefers to listen to the Good News, and this moment will not be taken away. Mary is being present to the Lord, fully present to the Word; open to the Word, letting the Word she hears change her. Martha is allowing too many tasks preventing her from being fully present to Jesus, she is not hearing the Good News, she is not allowing it to transform her. One can imagine that as Jesus tells Martha; “…you are anxious and worried about many things, it is with a tinge of sadness. Martha is missing something wonderful.

Many of us also lead very, very busy lives, what with family issues, work issues, and social media issues. There is so much on our plates, so much, that maybe we too are missing something wonderful. Jesus, through Luke’s Gospel; is asking us to stop, be still, and open ourselves to His Spirit. He is asking us to find peace and rest in His Presence; refreshment for our souls.

And I am not saying this would be easy, to still our minds, hearts, and just listen. It takes practice; it takes discipline. And there are many different practices that can help us grow; centering prayer, lectio divina, and the Jesus Prayer, are techniques that can help us be more still, just sitting in the presence of Jesus Christ. And every experience we have, as our discipline grows more stronger, will lead us to prefer this quiet moments alone with God, more than anything else.
Prefer