Posts

Showing posts from April, 2014

When God Sleeps

Image
Epic fail. It didn't work. He's dead at only 33. His own disowned him. Betrayed, his friends abandoned him. What a waste. Everything the Lord did in his life on earth was meant to be a kind of catechism for us. His every divine word but also his divine actions were an answer to the mystery of human life for us; after all, he came to teach us how to live. "Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself, and makes his supreme calling clear." (Gaudium et Spes, 22) The birth in poverty. Jesus the toddler. Jesus the teenager. The blue collar work. The callused hands. The hidden years, all 18 of them. The lack of formal "education" and having anything written down for posterity. Then the false accusations. The criminal's death. The awkward silence of Holy Saturday. But we know now he was waiting. In silence. For a Jew, three days meant the soul had definitely left the body. He was dead. The "prayers" of the embalming perfumes set in, and soaked his dead …

The Naked Christ

Image
"It's scandalous to see this nearly naked Christ," some critics said, as the story goes, when an initial draft of Ford Madox Brown's Christ Washing the Feet of Peter was viewed. Brown lived through the majority of the 19th century as an English painter in a Victorian climate, where the sight of a woman's ankle might be seen as improper. It's ironic to think that those whom Christ stripped himself to serve would be scandalized, not by his act of love, but by his physical appearance. When Peter was scandalized, it was because of his interior unworthiness. The Victorians were shocked by his exterior "impropriety."  What does this tell us? It tells us that we have issues, in every time and place, with the realm of sexuality and the body. Deeper still, with the realm of trust and vulnerability, of which nakedness is the physical sign. Nakedness is a spousal call to see the other, to enter into the vulnerable mystery of the other.  And it tells us that the…

The Clarity of Christ, the Muddiness of Man

Image
"So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”" - John 13
When I was "discerning" my vocation I was an expert in mental gymnastics. I could think myself into a million different moves, different scenarios, in and out of twists and turns, yet ironically ending up in the same place every time. In my starting position, on the mat. 
Gathering information is great. We all need to do a little recon now and then in life before a major leap. Like Caleb and Joshua in the book of Numbers, we gather our intel on our expedition into Canaan. But when they reported their findings, and spoke with their own clarity about the move (essentially they were the only ones saying "Let's do this!"), the muddiness of mental gymnastics began. The others spread discouraging reports "Well, uh, they're uh... giants. They'll eat us. Yeah. We need to reconsider this."
"Caleb, however, quieted the people before Moses and said, “We ought to go up an…

Our Tangible God

Image
As Passion Week continues to unfold, let's pay attention to the exquisite details of the gospels: the whole drama of emotion, the full gamut of fear and faith, cowardice and conviction. This is the long awaited confrontation of the incarnate God and His rebellious creatures. This is the centerpiece of the triptych of human history: our redemption pulsating like a jewel of red fire between the two pillars of our origin in grace and our destiny. Our challenge is to stand in the gap, allowing Our Lord to right our wrongs in and through His sacred flesh. His body and soul. 
"Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships. But if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true, a love capable of delivering the bliss that it p…

Perfecting Our Passion

Image
Today the Passion narrative was read at Mass for this Palm or Passion Sunday. My thoughts always turn to those brilliant scenes in the film of the century, The Passion of the Christ. This still frame takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus, Peter, James and John spend an anxious hour of prayer, anticipating a new Passover. Temple guards approach with weapons and lights. Masterly woven together, three figures move past each other like dark threads in the cloak of the night: Peter, Judas, and a temple guard. Peter stands still, Judas is retreating, and the temple guard is pressing forward to lay hands on the Christ, the Son of God. All three have a passion that intertwines their destiny, but it's misdirected so that the result will be a frayed and inconsistent stitch.  
Judas' passion is for money (we know he stole from the communal stash), for success, and for the earthly power and authority he thinks Jesus can win for this rugged band of fisherman. 
The temple gua…

Stretching Our Hearts

Image
Pope Benedict once wrote that "Man was created for greatness - for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. (St. Augustine said) “By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him]”. Augustine refers to Saint Paul, who speaks of himself as straining forward to the things that are to come. He then uses a very beautiful image to describe this process of enlargement and preparation of the human heart. “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God's tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?" The vessel, that is your heart, must first be enlarged and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste."

"This requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which w…

Unconnected Instants

Image
We just left a wonderful little soirée for my mum, who just completed a whopping 32 years working for Deborah Heart & Lung Center in historic Browns Mills, NJ! An incredible achievement in this age of restlessness. The crowds of friends who came out to celebrate her showed gratitude and love for that dedication, and I saw some faces I haven't seen in decades. Some of them 30 years! (including the babysitter whom I once shot rubber bands at from the hallway, in my PJs, 'cause she brought her boyfriend). 
My mom's an amazing lady. And she has a heart of gold. And she so deserves this time of rest. I don't want to say she'll keep busy, because that's a thing we often say in a negative way as if the silence after leaving the working world is a scary thing that one has to incessantly fill lest we feel alone. No. Mom will fill it quite adequately, I'm sure, with good, creative, reflective rest and fruitful human activity. 
Now a quick jump to a divergent strain…

“Santo Subito!”

Image
The average wait to see him was 13 hours. The line was over 3 miles long. Over 150 cardinals concelebrated, 700 archbishops and bishops were present, and 3,000 priests participated.

It was the largest gathering of statesmen in human history. It was the first time an Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church had attended a papal funeral since the Great Schism of 1054. 159 foreign delegations were in attendance, as were 10 kings, 5 queens, 3 princes, 59 heads of state, 17 prime ministers, 10 presidents, 8 vice presidents, 12 foreign ministers, 24 ambassadors, general directors, secretary generals or presidents of international organizations, 23 delegations of Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches, 8 Churches or ecclesial communities, international Christian organizations, and Jewish delegations.

More than 3 million pilgrims came together in Rome for the funeral of Blessed John Paul II on April 8, 2005.* And the people cried “Santo subito!”

Loosely translated, it means “saint him now…

"You are Trying to Kill Me"

Image
"But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God..."
- John 8:40

I've always been fascinated by the two extreme reactions of people towards Jesus: adoration or desecration. Absolute wonder and awe that sought only to touch his hands or a blinding rage-filled hate that would drive a nail through them. 
Dr. Peter Kreeft wrote in his stellar book Jesus Shock:"Those who meet Jesus always experience either joy or its opposites, either foretastes of Heaven or foretastes of Hell. Not everyone who meets Jesus is pleased, and not everyone is happy, but everyone is shocked." 
I've been following the Sr. Jane Dominic ordeal with a similar fascination. This dear sister came and proclaimed a truth about human sexuality in light of the plan of God for our joy. It was a young audience at Charlotte Catholic High School and time was very limited for such an intense topic. Granted, it needed time to breathe, time for questions and explor…

Why Jesus Lets Us Die

Image
In an incredible gospel story for this Fifth Sunday of Lent, Jesus allows his friend to die, then begin to decompose in a tomb for nearly a week, before he takes any action. Why?

The story builds with a momentous slowness, layered with a variety of characters, details, and all of the pathos, anxieties, and questions that human suffering punches into the heart when death occurs. But Jesus stays right where he is, for two more days. He does nothing. Removed from the situation. Why? It's certainly not apathy. It's not laziness. I think it's Divine Mercy.
"Lord, if you had only been here." "He healed others, why not his friend?" "See how he loved him." "Lord, surely there will be a stench."
Imagine how Jesus must have felt taking all of that in; all the doubt, fear, misplaced pity, and the ignorance of his true identity and power. But he takes it all in, and on himself, allowing the crushing weight of death to sink into his own heart, his lis…

Countdown to Canonization!

Image
The great approaches! Come over to @TOBinstitute and follow our Countdown to Canonization pics as the day approaches!

"You Fill Up My Senses"

Image
"God wants to reach us where we are, beginning with our senses, for it is he who created them and implanted them in us as our road to him... Like the sage in the parable, God never tires of bringing out of the treasure of his own Being (for what other treasure does God have?) the most unexpected gifts, whether in gold, stone, or humble wood." - Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis

Holy Parenthood!!

Image
In the midst of this morning's whirlwind of activities in preparation for a "normal" day, as Seth obsessed about his cars, delayed brushing his teeth, taking his inhaler, and eating "at least three grapes", Clare went from sweet to sour in seconds over which coat to wear, finally screeching both "I can do it ma'SELF!!!!" and "Do it FOR meeeeee!!!" and Sheila climbed up on top of the Cinderella chair and pulled down and scattered across the floor the "secret-box-for-tiny-toys-that-Sheila-could-swallow", I had this thought: 

If the morning ritual of preparing children for the day were fully embraced by moms and dads and lived with the heroic virtue it calls for, then all of purgatory could be emptied, our own hearts instantly sanctified (a kind of microwaveable mysticism), the eschaton hastened and salvation history brought to an abrupt but happy close in a matter of minutes. There. Done. Kick in the Nunc Dimittis chant cause this…

Meeting John Paul II

Image
In October of the Jubilee Year 2000, a World Mission Congress was held in Rome. Hundreds of missionaries and mission educators from around the world gathered in the Eternal City to celebrate the fundamental call of all Christians: to be the soul in the body of the world. To breathe a spirit of peace and humanity in an age increasingly foreign to kindness and selfless love. I was part of a delegation of over 20 young adults from across the USA. 
The Congress closed on World Mission Sunday, October 22, with a Jubilee Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II. As a remembrance of those first missionaries, the Twelve Apostles, twelve men and women were chosen to receive a new commission for a New Evangelization. We received a simple cross, woven by missionary sisters, from Pope John Paul II himself, and he commissioned us "to bring Jesus back to your country." I was given the amazing and unexpected grace to be selected as one of those twelve souls, representing the United States of Am…

The Conscious Uncoupling of Love from Sacrifice

Image
Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, whom I do not know personally and don't have any authority or desire to judge, having their own back-stories, needs, and wounds (just like me!), are “consciously uncoupling" from their marriage. 
This phrase I feel I can objectively judge. 'Cause it's goofy. 
Their advisors, Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami, are telling them lovely things like the following to anesthetize the event of a divorce lest it sound and feel like they are in fact divorcing:
"To change the concept of divorce, we need to release the belief structures we have around marriage that create rigidity in our thought process. The belief structure is the all-or-nothing idea that when we marry, it’s for life."
Yes, God forbid we have rigidity in this life, something like a promise or vow for instance that would be our best word that we will stay, remain faithful, stick to the beloved like in that movie The Notebook. Seriously, rigidity is for things like concr…