Saturday, August 8, 2020

God, where are you? My Blog for the weekend of August 9

 God, where are you?



Imagine you are watching a movie.  The sound-track similar to this past Tuesday’s storm. The wind gusts and whips through the trees.  Rocks hurtle down the side of a mountain.  You are startled by a sound, the likes of which you’ve never heard before as the ground splits in two. 

  

The readings for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time contain multiple cataclysmic events.  What makes these stories unique is the manner by which God comes to Elijah and Peter.  Between them they experience  rock-crushing winds, an earthquake, fire and a tempestuous sea.  But God is in none of these.  

After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. 

1 Kings 19:12

This sound; often described as the “still small voice,” has been the subject of study, speculation and prayer for centuries.  


At the heart of this church musician’s reflection lies the difference between cacophony and theophany.   A cacophony is a harsh discordant sound.  A theophany is God being revealed to humanity.  


The following quote by the contemporary christian composer and singer Steven Curtis Chapman captures it well.  


“Satan is screaming lies over us all day long. And God whispers the truth in a still, small voice. So often the voice we listen to most is the one we hear loudest.”

                   ― Steven Curtis Chapman,

Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story

Someone once said, “you get better answers by asking better questions”.  Perhaps this week, when life’s struggles come our way, we can invite the still small voice of God to come to us by changing our question from “God, where are you” to “What are you calling me to do, Lord?”

Getting ready for the reboot,

Bruce 


Friday, July 24, 2020

Wise as ___________________.


I give you a heart wise and discerning………
1 Kings 3:12


The words above are part of God’s blessing Solomon as he granted his desire for wisdom.  Five quick facts about Solomon:

  1. He  was born about 1000 years before Christ.  
  2. He is the son of David, the great King of Israel and Bathsheba.  
  3. His Hebrew name “Schlomo” means peaceful.  
(Consider the similarity between it and shalom.)  
  1. He was crowned King at the age of 20 by the prophet Nathan who gave him the name Jedidiah which means “beloved of God”.  
  2. His crowning achievement was the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.

The following verse tells of Solomon’s asking God for wisdom in this week’s first reading.
The Lord was pleased by Solomon’s request.  So God said to him: Because you asked for this—you did not ask for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies—but you asked for discernment to know what is right— 1Kings 3:10-11

What is wisdom?   
Wisdom is one of those qualities that is difficult to define—because it encompasses so much—but which people generally recognize when they encounter it. And it is encountered most obviously in the realm of decision-making.    - from Psychology Today

Why is wisdom important?  
Our moral life “is sustained by the gifts of the Spirit”  
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church #1830 *
         * Wisdom is the first of seven gifts of the Spirit listed in #1831.

What is the practical application of Wisdom?
This is why we must ask the Lord to gift us the Holy Spirit and the gift of wisdom that teaches us to see with God's eyes, to feel with God's heart to speak with God's words! - Pope Francis “Reflections on the Holy Spirit”

Two areas for further exploration
  1. The Power of Vulnerability 
The Holy Father’s words “feel with God’s heart” provide an excellent segue to Brene’ Brown’s work in the wisdom of “whole-hearted” decision making.  

  1. Ambiguous Loss
Although Psychologist Pauline Boss coined this term to deal with unresolved loss well before the Covid 19 pandemic, it provides an excellent framework for dealing with the ongoing void that began in mid-March.  Here is a link to an updated conversation between her and Krista Tippett in the latter’s podcast titled On Being 

My Outshot
Rather than find solutions, the wisdom of both Brown and Boss centers on thriving in the midst of the unknown.   Sound advice for this time of Covid.  Sound advice for life.

See you soon,

Bruce

Changing Sides

Changing Sides (or) Breaking the Streak
I have never based a Liturgical Note on the writings of St. Paul because what we hear at mass:
  1.  is only a snippet of a deep philosophical argument
  2.  doesn’t relate to the other readings
  3.  contains densely worded run-on sentences 

The streak is over.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”   Romans 8:18
Most of what I know about Paul comes from the story of his conversion on the Road to Damascus.  (Acts, Chapter 9) Don't feel bad if you can't recall much.  It is proclaimed in church once every three years, on the third Friday after Easter.  

Rather than repeat the story, I offer Paul’s description of himself.  It is taken from his testimony before Ananias, the High Priest and Felix, the Roman Governor.  Paul is on trial for preaching about Christ and has spent the last 2 year in jail.

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. (Jerusalem) At the feet of Gamaliel (an esteemed Pharisee) I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.  I persecuted this Way (Christianity) to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.”    Acts 22: 3-4

The Saul who was a driving force in the martyrdom Stephan and countless unnamed Christians has changed sides.  

His sword has been replaced with something more powerful. 
“To know (Christ) and the power of his resurrection and [the] sharing of his sufferings…”  Philippians 3:10  

The one who caused paralyzing fear among the Apostles is now calling then to hold fast to the promise of Christ.  

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”  Romans 8:18 

These words have brought me comfort and hope.  I pray they bring the same to you.

See you soon,

Bruce

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Who REALLY matters

Who REALLY matters?

Note:  This liturgical note is not a political commentary.  It is a question formed from Jesus’ words in the gospel for Sunday June, 28th.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me
is not worthy of me;
                                                            Matthew 10:37

What is your response to this question?  “Who Really matters?” 

Consider your answer.  Don’t worry, no one is going to judge you.  Now consider this follow-up question:  How much time did you take between reading the question and moving on to this paragraph?    The answer to this second question leads to or perhaps proves my point regarding how we receive and respond to information.   

We are spoon-fed “facts” by the loudest voice in the room whether they are Google, Wikipedia (or worse yet) The National Enquirer or anonymous message boards.

Don't blame the media.  They have simply responded to our demand to “bottom line me” by turning articles and newscasts into bullet-points and sound-bytes.  

It’s even in the language we use: 

At the end of the day.……
Basically………..................

It’s also in how our responses:  

like - like - share - love - swipe left - swipe right - smiley face

Note:  For those of you who are not online much, this describes what people are doing on their phones all the time. The dash (aptly named) represents the time between each image they are seeing, judging and commenting upon.

Let’s circle back to the gospel.  What really matters?  Part of the answer lies in something I was taught in elementary school:  The answer is not always as important as what is gained from the time and effort taken working it out.  At the end of the day ya gotta show your work.

Basically, it what Jesus said:

   ….whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Matt. 10:38

See you soon!  (Yay!)

Bruce

Thursday, June 11, 2020

What is the Eucharist? Blog for the Solemnity of Corpus Chriisti


“We can boost our immune systems 
by strengthening our social networks and decreasing stress.  
                                                                    Jane Mc Gonigal

The fact that Jane Mc Gonigal is a designer of alternate reality games may lift an eyebrow, but her point remains well taken.   As someone who has struggled with eczema his entire life, I have first-hand knowledge:  Stress attacks the body at its weakest part.   

If you find this to be an unconventional way of beginning an article on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ - welcome first-time reader.  Perhaps glancing again at the picture at the top of the page will help you refocus.  Young hands, neatly but not overly manicured holding a carefully broken host and a glimmering gold chalice.  

While the next picture, Christ hanging on the cross formed out of multiple pictures may be less conventional, it is certainly not controversial.  What caption would you use?  I’ve decided to use the words of a Nigerian preacher who chose the Ukraine as where he would spread the gospel message.
“Every Christian has their place in the body of Christ”
                             Sunday Adelaja

Consider a more traditional representation. “Calvary” was painted by Maerten van Heemskerck, a 16th century dutch painter who spent a portion of his life in Rome.  In addition to Jesus we see the two thieves who were crucified with him.  The unnamed one on his left and Dismas on his right.  Do you remember Jesus’ response when Dismas asks Jesus to remember him?  Did you know that Dismas was named a saint?
            “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 
Luke 23-43

The commentary of Miroslav Volf, a professor of Theology at Yale is a bit dense but worth our consideration.  Here is a paraphrase. 

Christ on the cross: 
*           identifies God with the victims of violence (and)
*           identifies the victims with God, 
so that they (the victims) are put under God's protection   
and….. given the rights of which they have been deprived.

Here is my takeaway:  
  1. Like Dismas, we all receive our identity from Christ.
  2. Each of our pictures make up the Mosaic known as The Body of Christ.

Even the weakest members of the body.

The sinners striving to be saints as well as the saints whose sins have been justified by faith.

All who suffer because of violence. Those who protect the victims - and those who are victimized by the protectors.  They must not stand alone and they do not stand alone.  Because the body of Christ stands with them. 

Missing you,

Bruce

The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother. He must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. The burden of men was so heavy for God Himself that He had to endure the Cross. God verily bore the burden of men in the body of Jesus Christ. But He bore them as a mother carries her child, as a shepherd enfolds the lost lamb that has been found. God took men upon Himself and they weighted Him to the ground, but God remained with them and they with God. In bearing with men God maintained fellowship with them. It was the law of Christ that was fulfilled in the Cross. And Christians must share in this law. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Saturday, June 6, 2020

Trinity Sunday

In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit…..




On Sunday nights b.c.* I would religiously tune-in to a radio show and podcast called  “Bullseye”. Its creator and host; Jesse Thorn interviews personalities in arts and culture.   While I like the show, my favorite part comes at the end.  No matter how much of the show I miss, I tune in just to hear Thorn’s clever sign-off:

“And I think that’s about it….  
Just remember: all great radio hosts have a signature sign off.”

The recent gospel readings could be considered Jesus’ sign-off.  Some of these come directly from a portion of John’s Gospel sub-titled “The Farewell Discourse”.  Jesus speaks about the relationship between Himself and the Father.  Here is a portion.  The setting is The Last Supper:

Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?   Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”   John 14:8-10

I see a connection between the content of Jesus’ farewell and today’s Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity. 

We are Baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We have been taught from childhood to bless ourselves and to do good works in the same three-fold name.  

The Trinity plays a prominent role in liturgy.  It is found in the Opening Greeting and Final Blessing.  We affirm it in the Creed.  The Trinity can also be seen in the form of many prayers and reflections.  

Unfortunately, trying to understand the Trinity is as futile as asking Jesse Thorn what exactly is his signature sign-off.  

Again, from the Jesus’ words at the Last Supper:

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.  John 14:19-20

Here are two things we can conclude:

  1. The trinity is about relationship; specifically the unique relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

  1. We as Christians are inextricably bound to God by our relationship with Jesus.

Next week’s Liturgical note will take a look at the implications of these two conclusions.

Missing you,

Bruce

PS
You can find a 12-15 minute recorded Livestream that gives more of the scriptural background for this Liturgical note on Facebook, Youtube or the St. Mary’s Parish Website.  Look for  Ready2Receive for Thursday, June 4th.  If you can’t find it, send me an Email.

* b.c. (before covid)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Pentecost from a father’s perspective

And when he had said this, 
he breathed on them and said to them, 
Receive the holy Spirit.  
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, 
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
John 20:22-23


Over these past week’s I’ve been keeping my finger on the pulse of my 21 year old daughter.  Like each of us during this pandemic, she experiences ups and downs on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Like many of her peers in the Class of 2020, she feels the frustration and futility that are inextricably bound to the joy of theri personal achievements.  

Alessandra did it right.  Graduating on time from a 3 ½ year program.  Renting an apartment in the city.  Obtaining her first two jobs in her field of stage management.  Now quarantined with her mom and sister in New Jersey she patiently listens to fatherly advice which is more often than not deep and philosophical.  Lucky for me, my daughter has turned into a thoughtful and sensitive young woman.

So what does this have to do with this week’s gospel?   Let’s take a look.  

It’s the night of the resurrection and Jesus finds the disciples afraid and locked in the upper room. 

[Jesus] said to them again, 
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
* And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 
““Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, 
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

When they receive the Holy Spirit apostles go from being 12 scared men locked in a room….. to…... well…...being the APOSTLES.  

What causes this transformation?  (You may want to take a second and reread above.)

I see it as the Holy Spirit giving the Apostles the ability to forgive.   This gift released them from feelings of fear and failure and gave them the ability to boldly move forward.  

The Spirit offers you and me the gift of forgiveness.  A gift  to change how we interpret the events of our lives and to reimagine our future.  

What a wonderful gift.  Exactly what this father wants to give his daughter for her college graduation.

Come, Holy Spirit,

Bruce

God, where are you? My Blog for the weekend of August 9

  God, where are you? Imagine you are watching a movie.  The sound-track similar to this past Tuesday’s storm. The wind gusts and whips thro...