“Omnipotent, most holy, most high and supreme God; all good, supreme good, total good, you who alone are good; we give you all praise, all glory, all thanks, all honor, and blessing and every good. So be it. So be it. Amen.”
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 ultimate 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.
“Someday,” is a word with many uses. It is used by those of us who prefer to put things off; “Someday, I will learn to paint.” Someday, I will lose weight.” “Someday, I will become that better person.” Life challenges us to not wait for someday, but to begin now to be all we can be.
In the life of faith, also, we use the word: “Someday.” How many of us make promises to God? That someday, we will have a deeper prayer life. That someday, we will become better Christians. Jesus challenges us to begin today; that “someday,” becomes “now.”
So the year 2016 is past, the year 2017 has begun. The world, our country has been afflicted by violence whether by state sponsored or terrorist sponsored attacks. Many times the violence has been random. The call of “Peace on Earth; Goodwill to all!” seems to ring hollow during this holiday season.
Our country has been through the most raucous presidential election season, since the early days of the Republic! And it has revealed that there are deep divisions in our nation. The concept of civil discourse and debate seems to have flown out of the window. And we have elected a person as President that many do not respect; that others are a little concerned about his style of governance; and what it portends for the next four years
While engaged in Morning Prayer, I came across this verse from Psalm 42 “Why are you downcast my soul; why do you groan within me? Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.” This will be verse I think will become my new mantra for this coming year.
On New Year’s Eve, I joined my wife at a worshipping community she goes to; and participated in a Burning Bowl ceremony. We were invited to write down on a slip of flash paper, something negative we wanted God’s help in taking away from us. We then placed the slips in a bowl that had a small fire; which consumed the petitions. It was very moving.
The year of 2016 has been a year of some changes for me personally. I finally found employment at a South Shore company; starting in January, 2016. So I will be entering my second year of employment, and it has been good. The commute is long, two hours to and back; using commuter train and subway. I am always telling people that at least someone else is doing the driving.
In September of this year, I will be entering my fifth year as an ordained Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot believe that much time has passed. I have been assigned to three Beverly, MA, parishes; where most of my work has been liturgical, assisting at 5 of Masses celebrated in two of three parishes. It seems a lot; but I have experienced spiritual aid, that helps me perform my sacred duties well. The Deacon has several ways of service he offers to the Church; a service of Worship, service of the Word, and a service of Charity. I am still reflecting and discerning what that means in my daily life. What role should daily prayer, daily reading, and meditating of Scripture should have. I am not where I think I should be. Maybe, this New Year, I will find some guidance; and perhaps some improvement.
A New Year begins, a year of fear, a year of anxiety, but also a year of hope, a year of change, and a year of trust in the Lord.
I have recently looked at the WordPress Insight page for this blog. It shows the number of times I have posted this past year. Looking at it has been very depressing. There have been months with very few posts, some months where I did not post at all!
I began blogging some years ago, first using Blogspot, then moving over to WordPress. My wish, my hope, was to be able to share my views on the world of the Catholic Church, locally, nationally and internationally. I wanted to share what was happening in my own spiritual life, and spiritual insights about the greater world. And I set the goal of trying to post at least a few times a week. And for the most part I was able to keep to that schedule. Even, when I was laid off, I tried to keep on posting.
Now, I am employed again, but the commute to my new job is two hours to; and two hours back. I am usually not home until 8:30 PM, if I am lucky. And sitting at the computer sometimes is the last thing I want to do. And now, I have the WordPress app on my smartphone, and I have actually posted using it. But is uses a lot of data! And my plan does not have that much.
Of course, the main reason I have not blogged much this year, is that I no longer have the same enthusiasm for it. It is rare for me to be inspired to sit in front of this cranky laptop, that has a cursor with a mind of it’s own; and produce something that people would be interested in reading. And I still like reading others people’s blogposts, for the insights they offer, or just the joy of reading good writing.
Maybe I will rediscover that old enthusiasm again, some day. What I need to do is to open to those moments, when a spark of inspiration ignites within me, and gets to to sit down and write.
The parish in which I serve as a deacon has been blessed with a strong attendance at our Sunday services. However, a good number of our congregants are getting on in years; there will come a time when they will no longer be with us. And I do not see many young people joining us. This situation is becoming common throughout this country; this is true in Europe. There has been a call for a “New Evangelization;” but what does that mean?
There is already out there a plethora of programs, “how to” books, DVD’s and CD’s; all offering an approach that is sure to draw new members. Most are based on experiences of pastors, lay teachers, and other speakers. And many of them are fine, and may offer a short term solution. However, no approach will offer long term success, if it does not awaken a passion for God; a passion for the Word and Sacrament; a passion to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, right here,right now. To ignite that passion, and more importantly, sustain it; we must open ourselves the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Have a passion for reading and meditating on Scripture frequently, let it speak to us, let it excite us, let it inspire us. Then, be passionate in prayer, both as an individual, and as part of a worshiping Eucharistic community. Because, only in Christ, will we experience the great love of the Father for ea h of us. Only in Christ, will we find the strength to change our lives. And through the Holy Spirit, will we receive the grace which set our hearts on fire.
It is then that we will have the passion to go out and “make disciples of all nations.” However, most of us will not be called to preach with words, but by actions. Like Francis of Assisi, we must have within us, a passion for healing the sick; giving care to those stressed out by life; welcoming the stranger. In other words, we must be passionate about giving mercy to a suffering, alienated society. We may be called in many different and various ways to do this; we may not be very good at it at first, but it only takes small steps, that will grow into bigger steps.
The first followers of Jesus, inflamed by the Holy Spirit, were passionate for living and proclaiming the Good News. And they drew thousands into the faith. Let us have the courage to become flame, to become passionate for Christ; and see what miracles we can achieve!
This post illustrates how stumped I am! The WP Daily Prompt for yesterday, Sunday, was “Stump;” today is Monday! I fully intended to write something; God knows there was enough ideas, with it being 9/11 yesterday; the Sunday Scripture readings; the news! But the thought of struggling with a cranky laptop, or an ancient desktop (we are still using XP!), dampens my enthusiasm. Right now, I am typing this on an IPhone (Thank God, not a GalaxySE; do not want to lose fingers!), and my thumbs are not trained for this. Well, right now, back to the real world of work; and hope to do better tonight. Maybe.
The tragic events of the past few weeks, give the impression of a creeping darkness enveloping our world, our country, our communities, our very lives. And we appear to be powerless to beat it back.
The darkness of terrorism is creeping into our world; whether individual acts of terror, like in Orlando, Florida; or the organized terrorist attack at the airport of Istanbul and the restaurant in Bangladesh. Violence is casting a pall over the world. And it is causing another type of darkness to grow and spread; the darkness of fear and intolerance. We have politicians painting one ethnic group, one religious group, as the breeding ground for terrorists, and calling for denying them the human rights that belong to every human being. We see citizens attacking both immigrants and native born, all because of the faith they subscribe to. We see fear mongering, name calling, and personal attacks becoming standard practice among our politicians; and causing a darkness to creep into our political process. And the darkness is creeping into the hearts of all us; as we see a world plunging into chaos. The stress of daily life, in uncertain economic times, is putting out the light of hope; leaving depression, sadness, darkness.
In times such as these I find my hope in words that, though written thousands of ago, still have the power to move my heart, to set my heart aflame:
“In the beginning, the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.” (John 1: 1-5)
In Christ, when I; when any of us, encounter Him in Word and Sacrament, hope can rekindled in our hearts. And if Christ can enflame our hearts, we in turn must share that flame of hope with others, and dispel the darkness.
There is story about a Desert Father, one who spent most his life as hermit, who was approached by a disciple for guidance. The disciple had been fervent in prayer, diligent in fasting and meditating on the Scriptures. He wanted to know what more he needed to do? The Desert Father raised his hands over his head, and spread his fingers. Each finger became a tongue of fire. He said: “You can become flame.” When we have an encounter with Christ, we are called to share that experience with all those we come in contact with. We are to share the light of Christ; we are to become flame and light to the darkness around us. Let us burn with the fire of Christ.
Kissing your feet with all the love I am capable of, I beg you to show the greatest possible reverence and honor for the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things, whether on earth or in the heavens, have been brought to peace and reconciled with Almighty God (cf. Col 1:20). (St. Francis of Assisi, Letter to a General Chapter. Omnibus of Sources)
Times that I have lingered. Before I continue on, a point of information for those who are not Catholic. The Church teaches, and Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is truly present, and remains present in the Bread and Wine, the moment the priest repeats Jesus’ words: “Take and eat; this is my body,” and “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant,…” (Matt 26: 26-28) At the end of the distribution of Communion, any remaining consecrated Wine is consumed; any remaining consecrated Hosts are placed in a container, called a ciborium, and placed in a tabernacle.
As a Deacon, I assist at two Masses on Sunday morning. After the first Mass, I get everything set up for second Mass. One of my responsibilities is to check the ciborium, to see if I need to set out more unconsecrated hosts for Communion. I open the tabernacle; look into the ciborium, then close the tabernacle. It is at that moment that I may just stand there, because I am aware of a Presence, of Christ’s Presence. I cannot describe the experience, I just know, and that I do not want to leave the spot. Eventually, after a few minutes, the Lord lets me go, and I go on with my work.
I believe that God is always asking us to linger for just a moment, and be open to His Presence. Sometimes, we stop and open our minds and hearts; sometimes we let the anxieties, the cares, and the distractions of this world get in the way. We rush about, here and there, doing this or that. If Christ was to knock on the door of our heart, would we linger?
In my troubles, you cleared a way;
Show me favor, hear my prayer.
Know that the Lord works wonders for the faithful;
the Lord hears when I call out.
Tremble and do not sin;
upon your beds ponder in silence.
Offer fitting sacrifice
And trust in the Lord.
Many say, ‘May we see better times!
Lord, show us the light of your face!’
But you have given my heart more joy
than they have when grain and wine abound.
In peace I shall both lie down and sleep
For you alone, Lord, make me secure.”
(Psalm 4: 2, 4-9)
WordPress.com has a blog that offers a “Daily Prompt,” to help bloggers come up with ideas for a post. The one for May 19th, 2015, was “State of Your Year.” I am responding to it today.
What is the “State of My Year?” One could say it has been a mixed year so far, full of ups and downs. In January, I was laid off from my job. And I have found that the world of job searching, has changed a lot since I was last laid off from a position, over twenty years ago. Before, it was printing up a stack of resumes, getting a pile of envelopes, rolls of stamps, and mailing those resumes to potential employers, with a well crafted cover letter. Now, everything is online, job boards, recruiting agencies, even the company’s human resource department, it is all online. You are either uploading your resume to an application website, or e-mailing it as an attachment. There is rarely a telephone number, let alone the name of a person you can call to follow-up with. I applied online dozens of times over the past four and a half months. No takers yet; a least a few companies sent response e-mails. Now my previous employer provided me with a very generous severance package, but that will soon be coming to an end. Things may be getting a little tight soon. Am I worried? Yes, I am. Am I in despair? No, I am not!
The reason why is reflected in the above Pslam, I trust in the love of my God, and His care for me, and my loved ones. It does not mean that I expect some miracle (though that would be very nice.) But I know that in my experience of the Father’s presence in my life, I am not alone. I know that whatever the burden I may be carrying, Jesus is helping me the load. That no matter how dark or stormy it may get, the Holy Spirit is within me, bringing light, bringing hope, and bringing peace. And I know that through others, God is helping through this difficult time.
One of the highlights of this year came at the Easter Vigil, where I assisted as one of the Deacons. The church was almost pitch black, when the Pastor lit the fire, and lighted the Easter Candle. As my fellow Deacon and I process down the main aisle, the flame was shared with the congregation, each person lighting their candle. The church had hundreds points of light, which dispelled the darkness. I was given the role of chanting a great Easter hymn, “The Exsultet!” I had practiced singing this hymn, with varying degrees of success. But now, in that pulpit, as looked out into the church, I began to chant: “Exult, let them exult, the host of heaven…Be glad, let earth be glad as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King,…knowing an end to gloom and darkness.”
The Easter story, the Easter season speaks of hope, speaks of the love of God, which dispels all anxiety, all fear, and all darkness. Soon Christians will celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came in tongues of flame, into the hearts of the disciples in Jerusalem, and into our hearts today.
I do not know what the rest of this year will bring, but I know we will get through it okay.