Showing posts from 2020

Gospel Reflection: At the Core is Gentleness (Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30)

But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’ At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from m…

Gospel Reflection:Matthew 10:40-42

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. Matthew 10:40-42 NRSV

Earlier in Matthew 10, we see Jesus’ instructions on how to receive hospitality- we are to let our “peace come upon” the house. If there is inhospitality, “let your peace return to you.” (Matthew 10:12-13) I do not control another’s reaction or response. I can, however, control my own. I can redirect the interaction or leave it with my peace intact. Shaking off the dust (Matthew 10:140) means to let it end non-violently-without harmful words or actions. 
How to offer hospitality to others?  Jesus' words in Matthew 10:40-42 prob…

Gospel Reflection: Matthew 10:24-39

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will den…

Gospel Reflection: Sunday, May 24

Gospel John 17: 1-11 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. ‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the wo…

Learning from Easter 2020’s Silence

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  I Kings 19:1-13

If Easter sort of crashed for you, cheer up. Maybe we can learn something.  I tried but could not connect with a church’s live cast of an Easter Service this morning. I was, instead challenged to affirm Easter and worship God without. Without trumpets, and singing the Hallelujah Chorus, or Christ the Lord  Is Risen Today. Along with an Easter throng. Or without a hundred other things. 
The words Thomas Keating, that “God’s first language is s…

Stations of Light: Jesus Rises from the Dead (1)

The angel of the Lord said to the women: "Do not be afraid! I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said." Matthew 28:5b-6a.
Do you find it interesting that, even though no one saw the central event of our faith, we, like the women at the empty tomb, are still invited to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? We read it like seeing an empty tomb would have been a good thing. Jesus' total absence begins the story. It's only with the word of the angel, God's servant, that there is a change in narrative. It's an invitation to trust and rely on God's love, grace and faithfulness.

"The desire for certitude is an obstacle to launching full sail on the ocean of trust," wrote Thomas Keating. For anxious, terror-struck disciples not knowing how Jesus left the, tomb, the only way forward is to consent not to know, to trust the words of God's messenger. The voices are many who declare oth…

Easter Reflection

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the discipl…

Holy Week Reflection

“The more occupied we are with the things of God, the more likely we priests are to forget what God isall about- and the more complacent we're likely to become. That's the story of Jesus. Who got rid of Jesus? The priests- who else? The religious people. That's the terror of the Gospel, see?”  Anthony De Mello, S.J.,Rediscovering Life
Today begins Holy Week, and marks Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Believers everywhere are invited to see ourselves in the events of Jesus’ last week on earth. Much of the Passion of Jesus (his last days)included the abandonment of his closest, most beloved friends, his disciples. The “terror” that is referenced by De Mello is the honest realization that we are no great improvement on the people who put Jesus to death.We are infinitely closer to everyone we meet in the G

Waiting it out & waiting on God: (John 11)

I learned these lyrics when I sang in a Barbershop Quartet years ago: “I’m dreaming dreams, I’m scheming schemes, I’m building castles high... I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in air. They fly so high, nearly reach the sky. Then like my dreams, they fade and die. Fortune’s always hiding, hiding. I’ve looked everywhere. I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”
Disillusionment and bitterness is a tough shell to crack. And after it’s run its course, you often end up a different person than before. Your faith has been tested, from the frying pan to the fire. You have perhaps matured and deepened as a person. You know God as much in the wonder and mystery than in finely chiseled creeds of almost two thousand years ago. 
It can be disappointing to look back and realize that things were not what they seemed. In any given situation, and with any person, we see only the tip of the iceberg at best. Now we know “in part,” whether that knowledge is about ourselves, others…

Thomas Keating on Success

Jesus sent his disciples out two by two to work miracles and to preach the gospel before they were remotely prepared to do so; they were even less prepared to handle the success they achieved. When they arrived back from their journeys, they exultantly proclaimed, "The demons are subject to us in your name!" Luke 10:17). They expected to be patted on the back. On the contrary, Jesus said, "Do not get excited about that kind of success. Anybody can work miracles with a little psychic energy and the divine assistance. What you should rejoice over is that your names are written in heaven.' That is to say, "You have the destiny to enter the kingdom of God and to transmit the values of the kingdom to the people you love and to whom I am sending you." Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love, p.129 Thoughts about Success and FaithOn different ocassions, Jesus “strictly” told those who followed him not to tell anyone what miracle they had seen or witnessed (Mark 5:43)�…

Wisdom Looking Back

The right words are not always appropriate. Ecclesiastes 3 indicates "a time for every matter under heaven... a time to keep silence and a time to speak." In John's Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples,  "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." There are some things we're incapable of understanding when we first hear them. Our life experience may be so thin, or we may be so preoccupied, that we don't know hard-won wisdom when we see it. 

Which brings me to the wisdom of my Mother, who often advised me, "Don't take yourself so seriously." That advice was not easy to hear when I was younger and taking on life-changing responsibilities: finishing education while pastoring a church, becoming a husband and parent, caring for elders, growing as a minister, buying and maintaining a house, etc.! 
Through God's gift of memory, I can now appreciate the counsel to be less solemn and serious. It's taken years, but I&#…

On the Ignatian Way: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (2018)

Where to start, then? With this extraordinary pilgrimage, which was at once unbearable, delightful, challenging, painful, desperate, liberating, enlightening, sad, desolate, enriching, peaceful, agitating, tumultuous, and occasionally chaotic, but on which I learned inevitably to open myself and accept the love and the forgiveness of God and to give love in return. I experienced the freedom that comes with the simplest of human knowledge, which is to feel loved, even in our insignificance, by the greatest of all forces and loves..." --Gilliam McIlwain in Iriberri and Lowney, On the Ignatian Way:A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Saint Ignatius Loyola.
This edition is a fascinating compilation of the accounts of contemporary pilgrims on the Ignatian Way, roughly a 250 mile journey from Loyola to Manresa, Spain. It captured my attention even from the bookstore shelf. Of course the attraction of such a volume is to read about the fruit of a pilgrimage without having to walk it. A deep…

Talking to Strangers: A Review

This volume by the popular storyteller, Malcom Gladwell (2019) is not the stuff of his earlier books, such as Outliers or David and Goliath. They entertain and engage readers with fascinating, hidden and overlooked stories of extreme success (Outliers) and unlikely survival (David and Goliath).
Talking to Strangers is mostly an unsettling journey, exposing the human afflictions of deceit, gullibility, and hubris. We don't know how to interpret strangers very well, and much less than we think we do.
Why question the conventional wisdom and accepted institutional practices?? Because they often fail us to really know a stranger. One example: a computer can do a better job determining whether a perpetrator will repeat a crime than the judge, who relies on looking the offender square in the eye. 
Some "misunderstandings" lead to more tragic consequences than others. Many of the stories Gladwell tells have  terrible, hopeless endings. Even for the sake of his argument, the vol…

Monkey Brain or Mindfulness?

It was a quiet and crisp November day in rural Pennsylvania. Our retreat leader, Tony D’Souza,S.J., invited the group to try a  mindfulness practice. We were asked to be fully present to wherever we walked on the grounds, to be aware of what is, without judgment, assessment, or evaluation. 
I probably failed this exercise. I gazed at the autumnal sunset. My thoughts turned to other sunsets I had seen. No longer fully present to my immediate surroundings, I  began ranking the best sunsets I had seen across the years. Monkey brain: my mind was everywhere- except where I was standing.

A great lesson though. My default is to make evaluations and comparisons about others, myself, the world, and even what my life with God should be. Knowing this can equip me to wait out a bad day, knowing it will pass. Mindfulness can soften my quick and harsh judgments of myself and others.And practicing mindfulness can help me to experience God- without conditions or qualifications. 

Post-Truth: A Review

For its rigorous dissection, Post-Truth by Lee McIntyre, is the best book I’ve read in the last year. This volume offers so much in an economy of words.

Post- Truth is defined as the contention that "feelings are more accurate than facts" and this is used to subordinate reality for political end. p.174  "False equivalence" is the idea that there are always "two sides of an issue even when there are not two credible sides."
Included are discussions of the dangers and human costs of post-truth: the "yellow journalism" of the 1890's (The Spanish-American War), Big Tobacco's decades-long deceit, vaccines (2015), and the continuing climate crisis.

McIntyre's study is accompanied by meticulous footnotes, a bibliography, a glossary, and suggestions for further reading. I've long awaited a scholarly treatment of this subject. I recommend this book to those in search of mental clarity.