Friday, February 27, 2015

COURAGE

Jonah 3:1-10; Ps 51 A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not Spurn; Luke 11:29-32

"When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil ways, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them..."

Remember the Serenity prayer.

God give me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference...

This is an abbreviate version.  But the second line is important.  Courage to change the things I can.

The people of Nineveh found the courage to change.  This is what God saw.  The whole town was courageous.

This is a good grace for us during the season of Lent as we try to make changes in our life.  We should pray for courage and then act courageously especially infesting and abstinence.

The greatest change should take place in where we look for happiness.  We have been duped.  We have given our souls over to a counterfeit love.  Lent invites us to rediscover our first love, or rather first lover in God himself.

Where do we invest our time, treasure, talent.  These are the places courage must illumine so that changes can occur.

Lastly, Pope Francis had a tweet out for lent:  During Lent, find concrete ways to overcome our indifference.

The people of Nineveh were no longer in different.  They finally became aware that their life is exposed, totally opened to he gaze of another.  We too must learn to embrace this reality.  Nothing is hidden before God.  All is open to him.

We need to learn to stand fast, resist, point out, recognize those things that are not good for anyone.

Learn to be shocked by things people say without tolerating it.  Learn to be in awe of God's action and presence in the world.  Learn to be sensitive so that evil in any form can be stared down and stopped from spreading forth.

This requires courage.  Courage to change the things we can.


PRAYER

Isaiah 55:10-11; Ps 34 From all their distress God rescues the just; Matt 6:7-5

"In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  This is how you are to pray."  Insert the Our Father here.

Here are few words from St Josemaria Escriva

"When you pray, pray slowly.  Consider what you are saying, to whom it is being said and by whom.  For that hurried talk, without time for reflection, is just empty noise.  And with St Teresa, i will tell you that, however, much you work your lips, I do not call it prayer."

Slow down.  Let the words echo upward and inward.  There are better words that God wants echoing in his hears then the words of his son pressed upon our lips:


Our Father.....who art in heaven.... Hallowed be thy name..... Thy kingdom come...... thy will be done..... unearth as it is in heaven....Give u this day our daily bread....forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us....lead us not into Temptation....but deliver us from evil...

Slowly!  Thoughtfully!  Carefully! The words of the prayer are like healing balm for our souls.

In answer to the question why pray St Josemaria Escriva has this to offer, "That is why we go to pray: to become a bonfire,a living flame giving heat and light."

Friday, February 20, 2015

BRIDEGROOM

Isaiah 58:1-9; Ps 51 A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn; Matthew 9:14-15

Bridegroom.  This is the identity Jesus calls his own in today's gospel.

"Can the wedding guest mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."

There is something lovable about the image of bridegroom as the paramount identity of Jesus.

Bridegrooms are ready and willing to give of themselves.  They are willing to risk all for the one they love.  They are eager and determined and joyful about the prospect of being tied down to one woman for the rest of their life.

Bridegrooms are mysterious creatures that are all in all the time.  They keep nothing back for themselves. They love their bride.  They think she is the best there is or ever will be.

They stand erect eager in anticipation.

All of this describes Jesus in his relationship to us.

He is eager for us.  He loves us.  He has shown himself willing to lay down his life for us. He risks everything for us.

Jesus is all in all the time, always and forever, true.

We fast so that we can imitate his desire, to reciprocate his desire, to hunger for him as he hungers for us.

Jesus shows us the proper way to fast with his life.  He lives out fully what Isaiah describes as essential in getting it right: Set free the oppressed, break the yoke, sharing your bread with hungry, sheltering the oppressed an homeless, clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own.

The last one is a summary of all of them: not turning your back on your own.

There is a good lenten task for us as we seek to reciprocate the love of the bridegroom.

For whom have we turned our back if it not be Christ himself in disguise.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

LED

Deuteronomy 30:15-20; PS 1 Blessed are they who hope in the Lord; Luke 9:22-25

"The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for." 

These words are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  They hit home.  They help illumine the words from the gospel today, 

"If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose himself."



There it is.  The meaning behind the 40 days.  We have let too much get in the way of discovering our true worth.  We have settled for less.  Material things have become that which we worship and adore. 

It is time to clear the stage.  Start fresh.  Ponder a new.  

We must deny ourself, that is the body always wants more than it needs and its needs are always self centered.  We cannot seek our self in love.  We must be stretched. 

We should heed the warning of Moses in the first reading, "If you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore  and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the journey to occupy."

We have been led astray.  We have adored other gods.  Our hearts have faltered. 
Even when we are self determined we are being led astray.  The truth is we must learn to follow.  We are created to follow not to be self sufficient, not to go out on our own.  

Now we must turn around.  We must let ourselves be led back where truth, goodness, beauty await.  It is arduous.  The cross is heavy.  But the goal is Christ himself.  There we shall lose and save our life simultaneously.  Each step back our life becomes more visible, more real, more alive. 


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

THE GRAND OPENING

JOel 2:12-18; Ps 51 Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned;  2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

So what is all the fuss about this season of Lent.  I mentioned today at the Prison that Lent wasn't an exercise in will power though it is about training our will.  Rather, it is about becoming better lovers, better givers, and more compassionate.  As I mentioned this to the brothers in white (inmates), i was told by one of them that we should be that way anyway and all the time.

It is true we should be.  But as we know that is not the reality.  So we have a time to refocus not as individuals but as a community, not as community in a city or state or country but world wide.

Imagine all of us together re-centering our life on christ.  There should certainly be a shift, a tremor felt around the world.  A new kind of quaking will occur over the next 40 days.

And how does this grand scheme begin.  Here are the opening lines of the the season of Lent, our opening prayer for this journey that unfolds for 40 days.

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Campaign of Christian service…battle against spiritual evils with weapons of self-restraint.

There it is.  This is what all the fuss is about.  We would foolish not to be attentive to what is at stake.

A campaign of Christian service that is service rooted in making Christ more present in all we do: it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

Then we are told that we are armed with weapons of self-restraint.  The more we conquer evil within pin us the more goodness there is in the world.  The more we deny our selfishness the more space we create for Christ to shine forth.  The weapons of self-restraint allow us to direct our will by the grace of god to want what eh wants.   Imagine if all of us around the world began to want what God wanted, truly and sincerely not perverted as we see on TV with these militant groups killing people, they give love a bad name certainly.

We are reminded that the true enemy is the spirit of evil not our brothers and sisters. Yet, sometimes evil takes up home in our brother and sisters as it does in our own flesh, heart, and mind at times.

The campaign of Christian service must push on.

Let the opening prayer set the tone for these 40 days.

GET YOUR ASH IN GEAR

Here is a bit from southern fried Cathoilcism blog

What is Lent?
Lent is a time when all throughout the Church prepare to celebrate Easter through penance, prayer, fasting and alms-giving. Traditionally, the season of Lent lasts forty days (not counting the Sundays of Lent), from Ash Wednesday until the Easter Vigil (the night before Easter Sunday). The word Lent is from an Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." Observance of Lent can be traced to the earliest days of the Church, when Christians willingly joined catechumens (those seeking baptism) in a period of intense preparatory prayer and fasting in the weeks before their baptisms, which were performed during the Easter Vigil, in the pre-dawn hours of Easter Sunday.

What is the point of Lent? Is it biblical?
The point of Lent is that it is a time of prayerful reflection and conversion (turning away from sin and back to God). In imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who spent forty days fasting and praying in the wilderness before beginning His public ministry (see the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke), we spend the forty days before our annual celebration of the Lord's Resurrection (i.e. Easter) in fasting, prayer and sacrifice. The number 40 is important in the Bible because it symbolizes preparation and renewal. For example, Noah spent forty days and forty nights in the ark (Genesis 7:412178:6) and Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai when receiving the Law from God (Exodus 24:18Deuteronomy 10:10). 

Do I have to "give something up" during Lent?
It seems that everybody - even those who know the least about Catholic Christianity - knows that Catholics traditionally give something up during Lent. In fact, it becomes a ridiculously common question for Catholics to ask one another "what did you give up?" during this season. Truth is, you are not required to give up something for Lent. What you are required to do, is to do penitential acts - making temporary sacrifices in an effort to draw closer to God. For many people, they may willingly give up something that they enjoy as a penance during Lent. This is certainly a good practice. For others, however, they may choose to do penance by setting their alarm extra early to get up and pray every morning, or by setting aside extra money each week for the poor or the Church. If you haven't decided what to do on this front, might I suggest that you pray and ask God what penance(s) He would have you do during Lent?

What about meatless Fridays?
You have a lot of leeway on your personal disciplines during Lent, but Fridays, however, are a different story. Whether you realize it or not, every Friday of the year is supposed to be a day of penance for Catholics, so Lent isn't all that different. Yep - that's not just a "pre-Vatican II" thing - current church discipline actually requires that on every Friday of the year, according to canon law and in recognition of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, you should either refrain from eating meat or do some other penance (such as praying the Stations of the Cross, saying extra prayers, or some other offering). On the Fridays of Lent, however, you don't have a choice: you are obliged to refrain from eating meat. The cool thing about this is that this is a communal discipline: in other words, while abstaining from meat on Fridays may or may not be difficult sacrifice for you, personally, the cool part is that we're joining the worldwide Church in a very ancient Catholic discipline.

Why do we eat fish on Fridays?
You certainly don't have to eat fish on Fridays. You could simply go vegetarian each Friday. But the point is refraining from eating meat. Eating fish is allowed on Fridays because, due to longstanding tradition, fish is not considered meat. The fish is an ancient Christian symbol and eating fish (and other seafood) on Fridays has long been allowed. Of course, if eating seafood is actually a treat for you (and you know who you are!), you might strongly consider skipping proteins altogether on Lenten Fridays. After all, the point of a discipline like this is penance not decadence. 

What are "days of fast and abstinence"?
During the Lenten season, we are encouraged to fastpray and give alms (money to the poor), seeking to amend our Christian lives - the three traditional disciplines of Lent. But on two days in particular, the Church requires that we all fast and avoid meat. They are: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On these days, Catholics should fast (eating only one small meal, if needed). If they do eat a small meal, it should be meatless.

Are the Sundays in Lent part of Lent?
Many people ask if they can "cheat" on the Sundays of Lent? In other words, they want to know if they have to practice penance on the Sundays of Lent. Well, technically, Sundays are always a celebration of Jesus' Resurrection - sort of "mini-Easters," if you will - so Sunday is never officially a day of penance. In fact, on the Church's calendar, the Sundays during Lent are called the Sundays in Lent instead of the Sundays of Lent. So, it is really up to you. Lent is a season geared towards doing penance and turning towards the Lord. If you feel that you are "cheating" on your penance, then you shouldn't do it. Follow your conscience.

A SEED OF GOODNESS

Genesis 6:5-8;7:1-5,10; Ps 29 The Lord will bless his people with peace; Mark 8:14-21

"When the Lord saw how great was man's wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he made man on earth, and his heart was grieved..so the Lord said, "I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created, and not only the men, but also the beasts and the creeping the things and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them.  but Noah found favor with the Lord."

These are the opening lines from today's first reading.

God is aware of the evilness that has befallen man by man's own doing.  God's good creation has succumbed to the evil intentions of man's hearts.

This sounds like a precursor to a hollywood drama about the end of time.

How often are we confronted with the real possibility that we are our own worst enemies?

Think about the planet of the apes, the original.  The scene at the end of the movie where the man and woman realize they have been on earth the whole time and that the destruction to earth was a result of their own folly.

There is a bit, a glimmer of hope that swells up from within the stench of corruption.  God aware of the evil is on the look our for hope and goodness and he finds it in Noah.

A seed of goodness remains, a seed from which restoration and healing will sprout forth.

Where do we see that seed of goodness today?

We do not have to look beyond our own lives.  We, each of us, have received the spirit of God animating our life.  We bring that goodness to the front no matter the evil that befalls the world.  We are the light in the darkness.  The glimmer of hope is always within our reach for it is the reach we bring into the world around us.

God recognizes what is right with the world and it is Noah.  Do we recognize what is right with the world when we look int he mirror?

A seed of goodness has been planted in each of us.  That seed of goodness has been watered by the grace of God that comes to us in the sacraments.  We need to unleash the goodness within, for it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives with in me so saith St Paul.

We turn to the gospel.  Jesus asks a very poignant question to the disciple and to us, "And do you not remember..."

Who often do we not remember what God has done.  Like the disciples we forget how God multiplied the little we offer into so much more.  We are always  focussed on what God has done lately and we lose sight of how he has cared for us daily.

And do we not remember?  Perhaps this season of let will be a time for us to remember!