Thursday, March 27, 2014
The Lake on March 22 two years ago, the same day I took yesterday's picture of an abandoned yard in our neighborhood.
I prayed today with St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (5:8-14.) The darkness and light theme goes with the Gospel of the blind man's healing. Paul says that once we were darkness and now we are light. On our own the human race could not get out of our sinful condition. Now because of Jesus we are completely the opposite of what we were. So he tells us to live as children of the light, "Rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you."
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
A neighbor's yard March 22 two years ago!
Robert Frost's Birthday (1876-1963) One of my favorite poets.
I have often stopped by some woods and recited these lines out loud and added to the beauty:
"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
I suppose I don't have so many miles to go before I sleep as I did when I met this poem in 1954 and wondered then what lie ahead.
From the poignant poem The Death of the Hired Man:
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in."
"I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve."
Another that has echoed down through my years:
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Memories of this winter's vacation still brighten my days.
For Scripture Prayer today I used John 9:1-41, the story of Jesus' healing the man born blind. It prompted me to think about how my relationship with Jesus develops gradually as I come to know him better and love him more deeply.
One thing I hadn't noticed about this familiar story was that this blind man doesn't ask Jesus to heal him. As he does in his relationship with all of us, Jesus takes the initiative. With his own spittle and some dirt Jesus makes mud and puts it on the man's eyes. Since he sends the man to wash it off in the pool of Siloam, the man doesn't get to see Jesus. He has only heard his voice as Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."
Just as his healing didn't happen all at once, neither does his understanding of Jesus. In answering a series of questions, he first merely describes what Jesus has done for him, then he calls Jesus a prophet, then he tells the Pharisees that Jesus is from God. Finally the man sees Jesus. Jesus has come looking for him and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. When the man asks who that is, Jesus says, "I AM HE." The man, now fully cured of his lack of understanding, says "Lord, I believe," and he worships Jesus.
We can never know Jesus completely nor can we ever love him enough. Like all the healthy relationships in our lives, our relationship with Jesus must grow and develop. We come gradually into the light of Christ.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
A neighborhood iris from long ago.
For Scripture Prayer today I used Romans 5:1-8. The human race is at peace with God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is pure gift (grace.) We have done nothing to deserve it.
While we were still in sin Jesus died for us. He always takes the initiative.
Paul assures us, "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." The verb "poured" made me think of the gushing spring within us that Jesus talks about with the woman at the well. We celebrate free and abundant new life on this first day of Spring!
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Small waterfall near the bottom of Spring Lick.
The story of Jesus talking with the woman at the well (John 4: 5-42) has always held a great appeal for me. This morning in prayer I asked myself why. I think it has to do with the casual approach Jesus makes to this woman. It reminds me how easy he is with me as well, and with anyone he chooses to approach.
It is so attractive in him that he doesn't make anything of the woman's loose behavior. He mentions it and it's forgotten. Neither he nor his disciples nor the author of the Gospel feel any need to revisit the issue and make sure the woman cleans up her act. Jesus uses her and any of us, no matter what we may have done, to call other people to him. We can be sure that he will also deal with all of them with the same non-judgmental attitude. He accepts us as we are and loves us into the persons we could become.
The life Jesus gives us is as abundant as water gushing from a spring.
Monday, March 17, 2014
I'd like to say that this picture was taken in Ireland, but the only pictures of Ireland that I have are on 35 mm slides. This was taken in a lovely spot on a Blood Council (don't ask) pilgrimage to St. Vincent's in southwestern Pennsylvania.
I took time today to read parts of The Confession of St. Patrick, written by himself. A great example of God's writing straight with crooked lines. If Patrick had not been kidnapped from the coast of Briton by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland, he would never have become the great apostle of Ireland and my family would not have been Catholic and I would not have become a priest.
Another good that came from something bad. A friend to whom he had confided some big failing as a young teenager betrayed his trust later in life and endangered Patrick's work as a missionary bishop. This is what may have prompted Patrick to write his Confession, describing all the good things he had done by the grace of God. Otherwise he may never have written anything about himself.
After an experience that turned out very different from what I expected I heard Don McClean sing,
"All roads lead to where I am, and I believe I walked them all no matter what I may have planned."
Friday, March 14, 2014
Flowers from another year that might urge Mother Nature towards Springtime.
I wonder if what most people find attractive about our Holy Father Francis is that he thinks and acts like someone in the "2nd half of life."
A few years ago our support group for our annual retreat used Richard Rohr's thought provoking book Falling Upwards: a Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. He quotes Carl Jung: "What is a normal goal for a young person becomes a neurotic hindrance in old age." Rohr shows how people in the "2nd half of life" are able to let go of attitudes and behaviors that have become hindrances and develop new ways of thinking and acting that are more appropriate for older persons.
God is no longer clear and definite. God is Mystery but more intimate.
Boundaries are no longer clear and definite. Our concern is not who must be excluded from our group, our church, but how we can include as many kinds of people as possible. We stress likenesses rather than differences.
Our attitude toward law changes. Rohr says, "Law is still necessary, of course, but it is not your guiding star, or even close. It has been wrong and cruel too many times." We become, therefore, much more understanding and forgiving.
This extremely simplified description of Rohr's "2nd half of life" person sounds like our Holy Father Francis whose most distinguishing virtue, I think, is mercy.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I know I decided to use some colorful pictures to scare away winter, but I was cheered by the morning sun reflected in this ditch where for the first time this year water was running freely. Later I saw robins, a blue jay, and a cardinal singing his heart out.
With our Holy Father Francis' anniversary of election coming up Thursday, I've been reading a lot about him. America begins its March 3 editorial, "In the Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis proclaims that the church must be a place 'where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.'" His intention is to include rather than exclude. Not a small remnant of the faithful, but Joyce's "Catholic means here comes everybody."
In his August interview he said, "The church that we should be thinking about is the home of all, not a small chapel that will hold only a small group of selected people....Instead of being a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads,
that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent."
Our Holy Father Francis insists, "The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives." A welcome thaw is underway.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Wash away my sin, cleanse me of my guilt....
Creator, reshape my heart, God steady my spirit....
Save me, bring back my joy, support me,
strengthen my will....
I offer my shattered spirit;
a changed heart your welcome.
In your love make your people lovely.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
A favorite memory of springtime.
2nd Corinthians 5:16-6:2 proved fertile reflection for today's Scripture Prayer. The last part of it is used as Ash Wednesday's 2nd reading, but I found it helpful to back up a bit. St. Paul says that God "reconciled us to himself through Christ." Then he says that that message of reconciliation has been entrusted to us. God is not holding our sinning against us. In Christ we start over no matter what we may have done.
"We are ambassadors for Christ," Paul says, "for God is making his appeal through us." God is always yearning to have a deeper relationship with us. We let God draw us into a deeper relationship. That enables us to go out as ambassadors to let others see what that means for us and what it could mean for them. Reconciliation is never just for me as an individual. Once we experience it, reconciliation becomes our ministry.
Monday, March 3, 2014
I think I'll stop the snow pictures. Maybe the gods of winter think that they are some kind of tribute, praying for more. So here's a bright gift from an iris farm in Oregon.
I used Ash Wednesday's first reading, Joel 2:12-18, for Scripture prayer today. Through the prophet God says, "Come back to me with all your hearts." It's more of a demand than an invitation and it's addressed to all the people. Communal penance is what Ash Wednesday is about. As a parish, a universal Church, and all Christendom, we mark our foreheads with the Cross of Christ. Our sinning affects the whole people. It is as a people that we turn back to God.
God tells us to make sure that this is not just external show but involves our whole heart: "Tear your hearts not just your clothes." We let God break open our hearts and flood them with a Love that becomes our own and carries us back into God.