“Where is the Newborn King…?”

On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”

We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.

There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.

I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.

The Long Drought

My New ComputerIt has been several months, since last my fingers touched a keyboard for this blog. Now that I have something to say, my laptop will not load the WordPress page for it. So I am using my IPhone, and my thumbs this morning.

It is safe to say that current news involving the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is beginning to wear me down. Living in the Boston area, the so called epicenter of the crisis, I have struggled to be both a faithful Catholic, and a supporter of accountability. I, perhaps foolishly, thought that, at least in Boston, we had begun to turn a corner and begin to rebuild the community.

Then came the report of the Pennsylvania grand jury, and other reports from other cities, states, and overseas. The amount of news of the inability of the Pope and bishops to get a handle on the situation was another blow to my “spiritual” gut.

Perhaps the among the things that has kept me from drowning in a sea of depression has been my interest in Church history. I am well acquainted with both the glorious and inglorious moments in the life of the Church. We are a world-wide community of both saints, great and small; and sinners. Many of us are to a lesser or greater degree, both. And there have been dark, indeed, some very dark moments, that the Church has risen up from and shined.

Another saving factor has been my prayer experiences. Moments when the Holy Spirit breaks through my shell of indifference and depression; and the Light of the World blazes forth within! There are moments when I am joined with others in worship, when the Presence of Christ is felt deep within me.

There will more dark moments in the life of the Church that will be revealed. We need to be open to those moments, move through the pain, sense of betrayal, and doubt. As we seek healing for ourselves; we need to be healers and reconcilers for others.

We need to hold on to that faith, and believe in the promise Jesus Christ made to the first disciples, and to us, that the powers of Hell will not prevail against His Church!

Enders Island Chapel

Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola – A Reflection

St. IgnatiusThe story goes, that when I was born, my father put forward an unusual name for me.  He had been a recent graduate of Boston College, an institution founded by the Society of Jesus; also known as the Jesuits.  He had been impressed by these priests and brothers; so much so, that he wanted to name his first born after their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola!  My mother, being of strong willed Irish-Italian stock, basically said: “No way!”

A compromise was struck, my baptismal name was given as “Francis,”  after St. Francis Xavier, SJ, one of the original members of the Society.  My connection with the Jesuits was renewed, when as part of my Deacon formation, I and my classmates attended annual retreats at Campion Hall in Weston MA.  It is a Jesuit run retreat center, as well as a retirement home for their members.  So I began to learn more about the saint, whose name I almost inherited.

St. Ignatius was born in the Basque country of northern Spain.  He originally was raised to be a soldier of Spain.  At age 30, he was seriously wounded in a battle defending a town against an invading Spanish army. One of his legs was broken by a cannon ball, and he was brought back to the family home.  During his recovery, he read the only books available to him; a life of Jesus Christ, and stories about the saints.  Reflecting on what he read, he had a conversion experience.  He dedicated his life, body and soul to Christ.  The path that he took to reach this point, he would eventually create The Spiritual Exercises.  It is a blueprint, a process to help a spiritual director guide a person into a closer, more intimate relationship with God; developing an attentiveness, an openness, and responsiveness to God.

When he was studying at the University of Paris to become a priest, he was also guiding some of his classmates through the Spiritual Exercises.  Inspired by what they experienced, six of them, along with Ignatius, decided to form a company, a society, dedicated to serving the Church, under the direction of the Pope.  Thus was the Society of Jesus formed.  Since that time, Jesuits have traveled the world; as missionaries, educators, writers, parish priests and spiritual directors.  One of St. Ignatius’ spiritual sons would be elected as head of the Catholic Church, our current Pontiff, Pope Francis.

St. Ignatius, has been recognized as more of  a founder and organizer of a powerful religious community; and not so much as a mystic, except perhaps within the Jesuit communities themselves.  That has been changing, more diocesan priests, religious, and laypersons have taken the Spiritual Exercises, and it has enriched their spiritual lives.

Prayer for Generosity

Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

 

 

“So They Went Off And Preached Repentance” – 15th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Jesus sends out the TwelveAmos 7: 12-15

Ephesians 1: 3-14

Mark 6: 7-13

“Jesus summoned the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.”  (Mark 6: 7)

So began a different role for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  He sent them out to proclaim that a new day was dawning.  They went throughout the countryside, calling people to repent, to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God.  And they healed the sick, and freed many from the demons that possessed them; signs that the power of God was at work in the land.

In today’s Church, we need to recognize that Jesus Christ is calling us to likewise be proclaimers of the Good News. By our words, by our actions, by the example of our very lives; we reveal the love of God at work in our world. When we share how God has healed us, comforted us, guided us along the right path; we proclaim his goodness. When others witness how we care for friend and stranger alike; they see the love of God at work in the world.

This requires that we be continually open to the love of God ourselves. We must continually seek his guidance, his help, especially during times we falter. We are at our best as evangelizers, when we show our struggles, as well as our successes.

So we go forward, as spreaders of the Good News of Jesus Christ. May we bring back a bountiful harvest.

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.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist – June 24th

Nativity of John the BaptistIsaiah 49: 1-6

Acts 13: 22-26

Luke 1: 57-66, 80

 

 

 

 

 

“In those days, Paul said:

‘John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am?  I am not he.  Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

‘My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.'” (Acts 13)

On this day, Catholics, and Eastern Rite Christians celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  We remember the birth of St. John, we remember what his role in salvation history was.  There are theologians who describe him as the bridge between the Old Testament times and the New Testament times.  He is considered the last prophet of the Prophetic Age of Israel.

We do not much of his history; we can suspect that he spent time in the desert, fasting and in prayer.  Some scholars theorize that John may have had contact with the Essenes a Jewish ascetic community.  At some point, the Holy Spirit called him from the desert to the Jordan River, where he began to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, and the Kingdom of God.  He called the people to a life of repentance, symbolized by them receiving baptism in the waters of the river.  It was on the Jordan River, that he encountered the promised Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.  And though he felt unworthy, he baptized Jesus, so that all things would be fulfilled.  After this meeting, John continued preaching and baptizing.  He would call out Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, about his lifestyle, and especially his marriage to his brother’s former wife, which violated Jewish law.  St. John would pay with his life for being so outspoken.

When we were baptized, we became members of the Body of Christ; as such, we share in his life as priest, prophet, and king.  Focusing on our prophetic role; we are called to proclaim the Good News, either by our words or actions.  As prophets, we are to speak up for the poor, the persecuted, and the refugee; and speak truth to power.  As St. John the Baptist was moved by the Holy Spirit, so we also be open to the promptings of the Spirit, and be true prophets to our world.