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Friday, February 28, 2014

Poem: "Light" by Barbara Ryland

My pupils, well- dilated by the doctor,
Widen, huge black moons
Eclipsing the earth, drinking in sun.
Now everything gleams,
drenched with such shimmering white resplendence
even sunglasses cannot dim;
Piercing  white brilliance
Inflames the world,
Blinds simple sight.
Is this really the truth

At the heart of this dark earth?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Prayer: John of the Cross

God sustains every soul and dwells in it, even though it may be that of the greatest sinner in the world. This union between God and creatures always exists.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 2, 2014
Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

Last week after mass, I greeted some Jordanians who were in church to baptize their little boy. I spoke to the grandparents, picked up the infant, and started making high-pitched embarrassing baby noises like “goo goo ga jube,” “kee, kee, kee, kee, kee,” and “click, click, click.” No response. I twirled the boy up in the air and contorted my face and made more sounds and received no response. I smiled and lathered great attention on the baby and said to the father, “I don’t know how to make your baby smile.” He said, “Father, he doesn’t smile. He is Jordanian.” (It is [erroneously but] widely said that Jordanians never smile.)

Then I was sent a video filmed in Amman with people on the street dancing to a peppy song called “Happy” with the refrain “clap along.” The dance movement was often stiff and people looked very uncomfortable, but they were at least moving and enjoying themselves. It is about a people who want to move onwards and upwards through the drudgery of their day so they can enjoy the beautiful moments of life. It brought a smile to their faces. I often will attract stares from other drivers when I’m singing in my car. Wherever you are and no matter how heavy life can be, you have to smile and dance and sing.

Of course, life has its burdens and we can worry about all sorts of things. Some are worth our attention, but for other concerns that we can do nothing about, we have to lessen the drama. If we are a people who really trust in God, we will understand very fundamentally that God provides – generally for everyone, and particularly for me. If that is the case, we ought to have very few worries. In the end, all will be well. If for the moment, things are not well, then it is not the end. Keep going – onwards and upwards – as you learn to trust and wait. Be patient and trust in God. It is all about how much you are able to trust, and given our experiences in the daily world, it is understandable that our trust levels are very low.

Learn from happy people because they are the ones who trust in God. They are the proverbial wild flowers that grow and spin and radiate God’s beauty. They are the ones who have the same tragedy and disaster in their lives as we all do, but they deal with it differently internally. They know they control little in this world and that this life is God’s dominion for them to enjoy. They take each moment as a gift from God and they are grateful for the many opportunities God gives them. Tragedies and hardships are unfortunate and yet we can find God’s consolation buried within these difficulties. Life does not have to beat us down because we can still find God, still find joy, as we let our trust define our responses to life’s dealings.

Very many people ask me to pray for particular needs that worry them. I can feel the weight of these concerns as people ask me to be involved in their heaviness, and somehow I feel light because I know the people making the prayer request is searching for God. I see that they are people who want to trust more deeply and I know for sure that God is active in his or her life. Positive attitudes help us see beyond our own needs and it brings us in touch with a different plane of existing – a more fruitful, fulfilling way of living. It is a happy existence when we can find delight in all things – even when the world around us seems bleak. No one, but you, can erode your happiness. Happiness is one of the most basic choices you make as you begin each day. Just as the song says, “Be happy.” Construct the type of world you want to live in.

It helps every now and then to still yourself and to recognize you are in the presence of God. We need our alone time with God to feel God’s care and presence. God will never deny you this gift. We have to learn to let our senses become fully alive so that we feel like a little child who is newly discovering the world. Our senses are the place of encounter with God so we have to let our senses grasp the minute details of existence – the warmth of the sun, the soft kiss of rain, the notice of your favorite color, the aroma of your favorite coffee, the profound connection that comes from a simple smile. When we take in and appreciate these moments, we are very near to God. God wants nothing more from us than to just recognize the gifts that God lavishes upon us.

When we sense God’s embrace, we remember the Lord’s words from Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if should she forget, I will never forget you.” Believe what I know is true: God cherishes you more than you could know. God tenderly holds you each moment of your day and is working hard to get you to realize his extraordinary, particular care for you. God simply wants to hold you in his lap, gaze upon your face, to marvel at who you have become, and smile at you. Give God that pleasure today, and if you want to repay God in thanks, then sing your heart out, dance in great joy, clap your hands, or at least smile at one person who needs to know God has not forgotten her – through your happiness.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In his first letter, Peter rejoices in the mercy of Jesus Christ who has given us new life and hope. Because of this, we can withstand various trials and testing so that we may be proved worthy of him.  Peter tells his friends to live soberly and to set hopes completely upon the grace of Christ, who calls us to holiness.

On Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel declares the Lord’s words: “Return to me with you whole heart with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Moses sets before the people a choice of life or death: Choose life, which means following the commandments and listening to the Lord God. Isaiah outlines the manner of fasting of the Jews: to release those unjustly bound, to untie the thongs of the yoke, to set free the oppressed, to share bread with the hungry, to shelter the homeless, and to clothe the naked. He says that if people do not bully, refrain from false accusation and malicious speech, and share their bread with the hungry, a light will shine upon the community. If you honor the commandments, you shall have life and the favor of the Lord.

Gospel: A man runs up to Jesus to ask him about the way to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments and to sell all that he has and give to the poor, then to follow him. The man’s face fell and he went away sad because he had many possessions. Peter retorts that he and the other Eleven have given up everything to follow Jesus, and he asks if they will be saved.

On Ash Wednesday, Jesus cautions his disciples about displaying their penitential acts publicly to gain fame and honor from other people. He suggests that their acts become private because God will see everything that is done in secret.

Jesus tells his friends that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and raised on the third day. John the Baptist’s disciples ask about the reason for the lack of fasting of the disciples of Jesus, and Jesus replies that the assembly does not fast when the groom is with them. Jesus sees a tax collector at his post and calls him to become a disciple. People are confused that he associates with this type of people and he explains that he comes to call sinners to repentance.

Saints of the Week

March 4: Mardi Gras is your last chance to eat meat before Lent. This is the last day of Carnival (Carne- meat, Goodbye – vale). Say goodbye to meat as we begin the fasting practices tomorrow.

March 5: Ash Wednesday is the customary beginning to the season of Lent. A penitential time marked by increased fasting, prayer and almsgiving, we begin our 40-day tradition of sacrifice as we walk the way of Jesus that ends at the Cross during Holy Week. Lent is a time of conversion, a time to deepen one’s relationship with Christ, for all roads lead to his Cross of suffering and glory.

March 7: Perpetua and Felicity (d. 203), were two catechumens arrest and killed during a persecution in North Africa. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who was killed alongside her husband, their young son, and their pregnant slave, Felicity. They were baptized while under arrest and would not renounce their faith. Felicity was excused from death because it was unlawful to kill a pregnant woman, but she gave birth prematurely three days before the planned execution. They were flogged, taunted by wild beasts, and then beheaded. They appear in the First Eucharistic Prayer.

March 8: John of God (1495-1550), was a Portuguese soldier of fortune who was brought to Spain as a child. He was a slave master, shepherd, crusader, bodyguard and peddler. As he realized that he frittered away his life, he sought counsel from John of Avila. He then dedicated his life to care for the sick and the poor. He formed the Order of Brothers Hospitallers and is the patron saint of hospitals and the sick.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 2, 1606. The martyrdom in the Tower of London of St Nicholas Owen, a brother nicknamed "Little John." For 26 years he constructed hiding places for priests in homes throughout England. Despite severe torture he never revealed the location of these safe places.
·      Mar 3, 1595. Clement VIII raised Fr. Robert Bellarmine to the Cardinalate, saying that the Church had not his equal in learning.
·      Mar 4, 1873. At Rome, the government officials presented themselves at the Professed House of the Gesu for the purpose of appropriating the greater part of the building.
·      Mar 5, 1887. At Rome, the obsequies of Fr. Beckx who died on the previous day. He was 91 years of age and had governed the Society as General for 34 years. He is buried at San Lorenzo in Campo Verano.
·      Mar 6, 1643. Arnauld, the Jansenist, published his famous tract against Frequent Communion. Fifteen French bishops gave it their approval, whereas the Jesuit fathers at once exposed the dangers in it.
·      Mar 7, 1581. The Fifth General Congregation of the Society bound the professors of the Society to adhere to the doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas.
·      Mar 8, 1773. At Centi, in the diocese of Bologna, Cardinal Malvezzi paid a surprise visit to the Jesuit house, demanding to inspect their accounting books.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Prayer: Francis of Paola

You must change your life so that God, out of mercy, will pardon you. Be converted with a sincere heart. Then the peace of God will be with you always.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Prayer: Henri Nouwen

Dear Lord… there is no certainty that my life will be any easier in the years ahead or that my heart will be any calmer, but there is certainty that you are waiting for me and will welcome me home when I have persevered in my long journey to your house.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Prayer: Therese of Lisieux

Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you - for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart...don't listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Prayer: Cyprian of Carthage

Divide your returns with God. Share your gains with Christ. Make Christ a partner in your earthly possessions so that he will also make you coheir of his heavenly kingdom.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Poem: "The Net" by Andrew Rudd

From my scattering
I am gathered in.

From my grasping
I have let go.

From my anxiety
I am held

as a swaddled child.

What I hold
holds me.
What I touch
touches me.
What I love
loves me.

Captured, enmeshed,
I am free.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 23, 2014
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

Very hard sayings that are lofty ideals, but very difficult realities come down to us this week: Bear no hatred, take no revenge, cherish no grudge and love your neighbor. These are difficult sayings when someone has wronged us because we want to fight to bring about the truth. The last thing we want to do is to offer no resistance, especially when bullied by someone who is unhealthy. But God, through Moses and Jesus, tells us to be holy, to be perfect, as God is holy and perfect. This is the moment when we realize humbly that we are not God and that the swirling forces around us are potent.

Each of us has had a time when someone who is immature will pick a fight with us and will pull out all of the stops to get his way. He will lie, speak loudly, complain to the higher authorities, and stomp his feet until he gets his way all because you are telling him that his behavior is nonsense and that you want it to stop. He makes the conflict something personal because and will try everything possible to trip you up because he cannot deal with the possibility that he has done something wrong. He knows that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and if he is loud enough, someone will pacify him. Infants do this behavior early on and if the person does not grow out of his narcissistic world, he carries it into adulthood. All the higher-level reasoning in the world matters nothing to a man like this because he is acting at a child-like level and he will do whatever he can to bring you down to his level. So, I ask you, “Have you ever encountered someone in your life like this?” I think the answer is “yes.” The question becomes, “How do you deal with someone like him?”

You know it would feel good to retaliate and to give him a good metaphorical slap on the behind when you have your chance, but that is not what people of faith are called to do. Somehow, we are supposed to love this person and to take the upper road even though we know that this way leads to humiliation and persecutions. We are supposed to find a new creative way that resolves the tensions before it escalates further. We are supposed to take the senseless beatings and bruises because we are in sympathy with the crucified Christ and then we have to try to find a way to love the injured person who is beating us up. This person is living in a first half of life battle where he is searching for security, and we as maturing Christians have to do our second half of life work when we no longer deal with illusions, but we face the hard realities of life. What a strange faith we have.

We know that the road of integrity is a lonely one. While the angry immature man looks at concrete actions to tear us down, we have to keep the larger vision in mind without getting distracted by the hurtful things this man does to us. He will try to increase the drama; we must lessen it. We have to move onwards and upward through chaos and mud; sometimes the steps are slow and murky. We may be forced to react to what this person is saying to us, but we do not have to do it. We retain our choices and we know that it is much more mature to take some time to respond in a measured way after a few nights of sleep. Distance gives us perspective. We know that it stings to stand in the heart of the hornet’s nest, and while we are feeling pain, we have to look at the pain this person is feeling and have compassion upon him. Placing ourselves in a vulnerable place is discomforting, especially when we are completely in the right in our actions and behaviors, but becoming vulnerable makes us aware of the immense pain the other person is feeling. This is the moment when we can begin to love the other in the way God wants us to do. This is the moment when we feel the victory that Christ has won for us. His mercy is the enduring quality that we remember, not the senseless tragedy that precedes it.

Paul writes to the Corinthians, “If any one among you considers himself wise, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God. We have permission from God to become the fool of this world when we love another person, especially the one who deliberately tries to harm us. We realize it is not easy and that it may take us a long time to heal from the sufferings of becoming vulnerable, but somehow we do it with and for Christ and his suffering body stands in solidarity with ours. We may stand with him bloodied and bruised, but we stand with him as the victor of the world, and as victor, he begins his ministry of reconciling the broken and consoling the wounded and he asks us to join him in his work. This is the vision we hold onto; this is the divine plan that sustains us; this grace allows us to become a fool in this world because his love has the last word. The love of Christ will perfect us and make us holy. The love of Christ gives value to everything, and it bears all things well. Keep striving – onwards and upward – for Christ gives us hope.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In the Letter of James, the author says that the wise one shows his or her works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom. He writes that bitter jealousy and selfish ambition work against wisdom. All the conflicts arise from one’s passions and disordered attitudes, but Christians have the Spirit of God to guide and purify them. He warns them against making plans because no one knows when one’s life is going to end. The fragility of life helps us realize that we are to emphasize our humility in front of God and others. James implores the people of wealth to treat others respectfully and to deal with people fairly. Otherwise, they will be condemned for the injustices they sow. Do not complain about one another because you do not want to be judged in the same way you judge others. Leave the judging up to the Lord who is compassionate and merciful. Finally, he tells them to confess their sins to one another and they will receive heaving. Prayer should come to them like it did with Elijah who prayed for rain.

Gospel: After the Transfiguration, a crowd gathered around a man whose son was possessed by a mute spirit and was having a seizure. The disciples tried to rid him of the evil spirit, but they were unsuccessful. Jesus cured the boy and the man said, “I do believe, but help my unbelief.” Jesus and his disciples left from there and when they were in private, Jesus disclosed that he would be handed over, sentenced to death, and will be raised on the third day, but they did not understand what he meant. When the disciples told Jesus that they saw someone driving out demons in the name of Jesus, he permitted him to continue because they are working for the same common good. If anyone does good works, the Father in heaven will see it; likewise, if someone causes another person to sin, especially one who is very vulnerable, they will be assigned to places in hell. When Jesus crossed the Jordan River, the Pharisees tried to trick him by asking a question about divorce. Jesus replied that what God joins together, humans ought not to divide. People then brought little children to Jesus and he warned his followers not to impede their desire to get close to him. He blessed them and praised them.

Saints of the Week

February 23: Polycarp, bishop and martyr (69-155), was made bishop of Smyrna and was the leader of the second generation Christians. He was a disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote catechesis and rites for initiation into the Christian community. He was martyred in 155 and is a Father of the early church.

March 1: Katherine Drexel (1858-1955), was from a wealthy Philadelphian banking family and she and her two sisters inherited a great sum of money when her parents died. She joined the Sisters of Mercy and wanted to found her own order called the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to work among the African and Native Americans. Her inheritance funded schools and missions throughout the South and on reservations. A heart attack in 1935 sent her into retirement.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 23, 1551. The Roman College, the major school of the Society later to become the Gregorian University, began its first scholastic year with 15 teachers and 60 students.
·      Feb 24, 1637. The death of Francis Pavone. Inflamed by his words and holy example, sixty members of a class of philosophy that he taught and the entire class of poetry embraced the religious state.
·      Feb 25, 1558. St Aloysius Gonzaga received tonsure at the Lateran basilica. Within the next month he would receive the minor orders.
·      Feb 26, 1611. The death of Antonio Possevino, sent by Pope Gregory XIII on many important embassies to Sweden, Russia, Poland, and Germany. In addition to founding colleges and seminaries in Cracow, Olmutz, Prague, Braunsberg, and Vilna, he found time to write 24 books.
·      Feb 27, 1767. Charles III banished the Society from Spain and seized its property.
·      Feb 28, 1957. The Jesuit Volunteer Corps began.

·      Mar 1, 1549. At Gandia, the opening of a college of the Society founded by St Francis Borgia.