Monday, April 30, 2007
Just a Little Gem from Clive Staples
It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. 'Look out!' we cry, 'it's alive'. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back - I would have done so myself if I could - and proceed no further with Christianity. An 'impersonal God' -- well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads - better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap - best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband - that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ('Man's search for God!') suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
- C.S. Lewis, from Miracles
Thursday, April 26, 2007
When Dating Gets Real - For the Young and "Old"
So who is God? Ultimately the One whose love is the seed of all loves. If that's the case, how could we not have Him as a part, and, indeed, the heart, of all our relationships, especially the ones that have the spark of love in them? If we keep God (a.k.a. Love) out of our relationships, then what are they based on? Startling News All that is good, true, and beautiful participates in God. When you see a great movie that moves you, and you talk about it, you're sharing in God. When you go to visit your boyfriend's sick grandfather, or go to Mass on a Sunday with your girlfriend (a great idea) you're living in God. When you walk in the fields together and you're struck by the beauty of creation, you are both sharing in the beauty of the Creator. If you're an honest seeker of the good, the true and the beautiful, then you already have God at the heart of your relationships. The next step is naming this — acknowledging Him — not being afraid to admit that He's the One you want at the heart of your dating. (It's a great way to clear away superficiality and pettiness, trust me.) Letting God into our dating is a real adventure. It keeps things real, and wakes us up to the miracle of our uniqueness — the uniqueness of everyone, every shade and texture on this coat- of-many-colors that is the human family. That is not easy, especially for teenagers with the weight of peer pressure bearing down. But we must look into each other's eyes. We must return to that innocence and openness that we had as children, looking, seeing, receiving the gift, not grasping at it. If we see dating as sharing in God's gifts, then life will become that adventure. There's a line at the end of Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God." Wow. Take that one to the dating scene. Make respectful love the first move, not lust, and you'll find God in the center of that relationship. Let the journey begin.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The Miraculous Staircase
"Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction. When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1898, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel. Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, who came in answer to the sisters' prayers.
The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and has no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction."
- from www.lorettochapel.com
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The Faithful Traveler website!
Feast of the Conversion of St. Augustine
Some time in the year 386, Augustine, his mother Monica, his son Adeodatus, and several friends, were spending time in Cassiciacum, a small village near Milan. While outdoors, Augustine heard the voice of a child singing a song, the words of which were, "Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it." He thought at first that the song was related to some kind of children's game, but could not remember ever having heard such a song before. Then, realizing that this song might be a command from God to open and read the Scriptures, he located a Bible, picked it up, opened it and read the first passage he saw. It was from the Letter of Paul to the Romans. Augustine read: Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. -Romans 13: 13-14 Reading this scripture, Augustine felt as if his heart were flooded with light. He turned totally from his life of sin. He was Baptized by Ambrose during the Easter Vigil April 24, 387. His friend Alypius and his son Adeodatus were Baptized at the same time.
Later, reflecting on this experience, Augustine wrote his famous prayer: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. He went on to become a powerful influence on the spirituality and theology of the Christian Church."
- Taken from: http://www.midwestaugustinians.org/saints/s_augconversion.html
This Will Never Happen Again
Is that cool or what? Worth staying up to experience? That's another question!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld
Monday, April 23, 2007
The Wait of Glory
Saturday, April 21, 2007
On This Earth Day Weekend
How could we not feel surrounded by the love of God who opens before us the book of nature and invites us to read there the signs of his presence and tenderness? Far from daily life, which is often frantic and unfortunately sometimes alienating, in this delightful mountain spot we have the opportunity to rediscover the grandeur of God and man in the beauty of creation, and we are invited to achieve a fuller harmony with the Artisan of the universe. - Pope John Paul II
A Video Tribute to Pope John Paul II
Friday, April 20, 2007
Extremists Threaten Church in Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Iraq, APRIL 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Christian churches in Baghdad have been forced to remove crosses as threats from Islamic extremists cause pressure to mount. Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since the start of U.S. security operations. Nearly 200 people were killed in a string of attacks in Iraq's capital. Meanwhile AsiaNews reported new threats to Christians. The churches in the Dora region, a Christian quarter of Baghdad, have received threats from an unknown Islamic group, which warned: "Get rid of the cross or we will burn your churches." Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told AsiaNews: "In the last two months many churches have been forced to remove the crosses from their domes. "In the case of the Church of St. George, in Assira, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: They climbed onto the roof and ripped down the cross." Bishop Warduni added that "in the Chaldean Church of St. John, in Dora, which has been without a pastor for months, the parishioners themselves decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated threats." The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul has received the same threats but so far has withstood the intimidation. Ultimatum AsiaNews reported that the same unknown Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: Convert to Islam or die. - www.zenit.org
------------------------- God bless the lovers of Christ in this region and may He give them the courage they need to be faithful to that cross. Crucified Love is the only way to truly win hearts. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. May this crucified love melt the cold hearts of their aggressors!
Empty. . .
Then alone, we are hollow.
Empty as the heart of a mountain,
rough-hewn by the cuts of sin and sorrow.
Sitting in our stone-carved solitudes, clattering, words falling like rocks, who does not ultimately long to be filled? To be answered?
We come of age and reach that "cross"-road where a choice must be made. A turn to the right or the left, a turn within or a turn without.
Do we believe? Is there a hand reaching into our wounded sides to touch our trembling hearts? Will it take hold of our fear and pour it out? Is this a hand we can trust?
Will we take it or will we fear again what this pierced hand holds out to us?
Will we run from Crucified Love?
Running will not heal the hurt. We must put aside the pills and ask for no more substitutes. No more Babelling Towers that rise up to our own hollow heavens. We must turn back to Love.
Love that was born in a cave in the earth.
Love that was buried in a tomb in the earth.
We find Him suffering too, scoured and scraped clean by sorrow,
our sorrow, all sorrow, heaped up and balanced on His back.
Didn't we notice He was there?
In the classroom, in the alleyway, on the gallows, under mortar fire and in the ocean deep and cold? Where else would Love be?
All death and sorrow has been swallowed up in His death.
All tears and madness are consumed in His dying.
All tombs will someday be empty because of Him.
So let's come before Crucified Love and weep; then let's peer inside and see.
Until we recognize Him in all of this, we are in the dark, alone, outside an empty tomb...
struggling to make sense of ourselves without Him.
Seeking the living among the dead.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
"Pearls Before Breakfast"
I think many of us are hungry these days. We're fed so much garbage from our fast food culture. A friend of mine sent me an article from the Washington Post that for me was a total confirmation of these thoughts and inklings. The article (attached below) absolutely confirms what many feel is an illness, a malignancy, a cancer of the modern mind: that loss of a sense of wonder. An ignorance of beauty.
The Washington Post pulled off this incredibly sobering stunt a few months ago. The full article is here, with video clips from the hidden camera: http://tinyurl.com/29k6hu
The short of this very long article (so worth the read) is that we are moving too fast, living too fast, and passing by beauty sometimes without a second glance. In the case of this story, many of us are not only NOT stopping to smell the roses, but we don't even remember what a rose is anymore!
Joshua Bell, one of the world's great musicians, was asked to slip incognito into a D.C. Metro station during the morning rush hour, open up the case of his violin, and play some of the world's most beloved classical music of all time for the masses. The point? Would the people notice? Would beauty stop them cold, or would they coldly pass beauty by in the rush to "other appointments"?
Shakespeare once wrote that it was "strange that sheep's guts should hail men's souls from their bodies." Do they still? Can music still calm the savage beast in us and raise our minds to what is above?
I'd love to know your thoughts on this one! So read on!
I'll close with a favorite poem of mine. I was introduced to this one by listening to Bishop Fulton Sheen, who often quoted it in his talks. I think you'll see the parallel when you read the article. For what is the sound of music, even the most beautiful, when we discover that the Musician Himself has been with us all the while?
"When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.
- G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)
Amazing Saint of the Day
Blessed James Oldo
You’ve heard rags-to-riches stories. Today, we celebrate the reverse.
James of Oldo was born in 1364, into a well-to-do family near Milan. He married a woman who, like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of plague drove James, his wife and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague, James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth.
He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients.
James Oldo was beatified in 1933.
The death of those we love brings a troubling awareness of our own mortality. James had that experience when he gazed into his friend’s grave, and it brought him to his senses. He determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. Our time is limited, too. We can use it well or foolishly: The choice is ours.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Professor Liviu Librescu was 76 years old, a Holocaust survivor and a professor of engineer mechanics at Virgnia Tech. The Jerusalem Post reports:As Jews worldwide honored on Monday the memory of those who were murdered in the Holocaust, a 75-year-old survivor sacrificed his life to save his students in Monday's shooting at Virginia Tech College that left 32 dead and over two dozen wounded. Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter, who had attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived - because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad - also an Israeli - told Army Radio. Several of Librescu's other students sent e-mails to his wife, Marlena, telling of how he blocked the gunman's way and saved their lives, said the son, Joe. "My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out." At least three professors were among the victims. This morning on CNN, I saw one young man relate how he and a classmate pushed a table against a classroom door, barring the gunnman who was trying to enter and firing shots through the door. The reporter asked him, "How does it feel to know that some people are calling you a hero." The young man, who had been speaking calmly up to that point, bowed his head, choking back emotion. "I'm just glad I was able to be there," he murmured.
Monday, April 16, 2007
For the Souls Lost Today....
I don't know when the madness of violence will end. It is nothing short of domestic terrorism. I think we need to come home, to draw in all the sons and daughters of America, to sit at home and be with one another; heal our own wounds before trying to heal the wounds of the world. Our wounds run so deep.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord,
And let perpetual Light shine upon them.
May their souls
And the souls of all the faithful departed
Through the mercy of God
Rest in peace.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Paintball is .... Fun?
Yesterday, in an effort to celebrate this life-changing, grace-filled event wherein Joe will give himself and at the same time paradoxically find himself in marriage, committing to a sacramental communion with another human person, imaging the union of Christ and the Church in a real and mystical way, we decided to shoot paintballs at each other for 3.5 hours in Phoenixville.
Yup. We figured this was a "manly" activity worthy of Joe, who is a LionHeart of a soul. I tried to convince the boys that we should splash blue paint on our faces beforehand, and wear kilts like in the movie Braveheart... FREEEEEDOM!!!!!
Anyhoo.... before the Bachelor Party Dinner and high stakes poker began yesterday evening, a small band of brothers (4 of us who did not get the memo on the hazards of this "sport") gathered before the blue glow of the Internet at Joe's place. We typed "paintball" in the address bar and in 2.7 seconds, a whole new world of adventure and hideous pain opened up before us.
BELIEF: "Paintball is safe, fun, and inexpensive."
FACT: Paintballs are shot at your body and HEAD from semi-automatic airguns at roughly 200 miles an hour by perfect strangers who have "Paintball ROCKS" bumper stickers on their large camouflaged trucks. These people sprinkle paintballs on their cereal every morning.
BELIEF: Paintball is "an action game that is played by all walks of life."
FACT: Paintball is WAR and played mostly by teenagers who have been trained by Rambo himself and other special forces icons from our nation's history via very realistic video games.
BELIEF: This will be fun for Joe and quite a break for us all. A little fresh air and good times... good times.
FACT: I am completely exhausted and have muscle aches where I do not have muscles. Our activity served only to convince me that the expression "mind over matter" is like saying "cheese over planet earth."
Before each game, the referee (who wore a helmet and pads all over. Hmmm, curious...) would shout "Left side ready! Right side ready! Game starts in 10 seconds!!!!" They said this creates an eerie silence wherein we stare across the field of concrete bunkers or trees or large inflatable thingees, respectively, and get an "adrenaline rush." I would affirm that.
I will now describe my death-defying experiences of yesterday as a series of storyboards or sketches for your amusement, and as a warning to you. Take heed people. Take heed!
+ I'm crouching beneath a wooden bridge, in mud. Paint pellets whiz past like angry bees. The flag I need to capture is within reach. I toss up my hand for the prize and a splatter of pain ignites on my naked hand. In the distance, a 12 year old squawks victoriously from behind a concrete cylinder.
+ Leaping for life through a tangle of fallen trees, thorns and mud, I nearly lose a shoe before reaching a wooden door resting on a tree. Pellets pound and spray on its opposite side, knocking like the Big Bad Wolf. "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!!!" I toss my life to the wind and run, spitting paintballs at my "friend" Joe, my old housemate, my comrade for nearly ten years... and the groom-to-be. "EAT THIS!!" A paintball lands squarely in the middle of his mask, right between the eyes. His plastic face-shield looks like a breakfast of eggs, sunny side up.
+ With laser precision, Bob hurls a pellet at my gun hand and I drop it nozzle first in the mud. Anthony tore his flesh on a slab of concrete. I nearly shot a referee. By day's end, Bob's sweater looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. And then Joe sweetly ended the last round with a victory by reaching our "dead zone" unscathed!
+ I have welts the size of Rhode Island. They formed, curiously, an exact replica of the constellation Orion, the Hunter. The funny thing is, I felt more like the Hunted.
In all seriousness, it was a great day. Would I recommend this activity to others? HECK YES. Just be sure to take off work the next day!
FROM ERIC SIBLEY'S WEBSITE
Paintball is an action game that is played by all walks of life. It is game where people are shooting a soft-shelled paintball that breaks, causing a mark on an opposing player. When a player is "marked" by a paintball, that player is out for the game. The rules section will help you to see the basic rules that are used by almost all fields. Paintball is played in wooded areas or on fields filled with giant colorful inflatable obstacles. Many people call what is used to shoot people a paintball gun, but as this sport tries to become more mainstream, there is a movement to call it a "marker" as it helps make the game seem less violent. You don't have to be rich to play paintball. If you want to go out for a first time then you can just rent equipment and have fun....
Friday, April 13, 2007
I Wanna Live Forever!
Sounds like Christian zen, doesn't it? To be still in the midst of restlessness, silent in the clamor of noise, anchored in the midst of life's storms. Well, Grasshopper, where is your heart in all of this?
St. Teresa of Avila, one of the Church's greatest superheroines, is singing us a mystical lullaby in this quote. She's trying to sooth our troubled hearts, give us confidence in the Father's love and faithfulness. And we know this tune: Life fades, God remains. We experience at least the first half firsthand; things "pass away" all the time. Everything is dust in the wind, as Kansas once sang; from the flowers of the field to the friends we grew up with. Nature herself is constantly changing clothes, and the children of the earth are rising and dying over and over again.
We know too that we should have a certain detachment from this passing world, even from our very selves, because we too our passing. But watching persons and things "fade" is not easy! We want to live, life is good!
So the thoughts about passing are thoughts we usually pass on. Even though we see, hear, read about and experience the Big "D" (death) every day, we still try and escape it, repress it, hold it back. Especially in our youth, we feel that we will somehow be able to elude it. We believe almost subconsciously that we will be the exception to this rule that's written in our collapsing cosmos (ooo, there's a cheerful image).
"Fame! I wanna live forever! I'm gonna learn how to fly... HIGH!"
These are some old school lyrics to a song whose refrain still echoes in every new generation. Now, some would propose that this desire to slip away from the cold grasp of death is just a biochemical reaction to the ultimate threat. We are shoved into a corner and so we try to dream our way out. It would be "nice" if my heart could go on, so I'll think happy thoughts and make a "happy place" with clouds and green grass and all my loved ones waiting there for me. Some would say it's a fantasy and nothing more.
Some believe we should just suck it up and face a cold dark universe armed only with this present moment. Some say we should have our feet squarely planted here and now and not in some castle in the clouds.I think, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that maybe it's both. Even as I watch things pass away, I have this sense deep down that I will remain, be reborn, be rekindled... How do I know? Where will the reanimating spark leap out from as it did in animating Adam with an immortal soul? From God's Finger, or more to the point, from the pierced hand of Christ. My new life too will leap from the empty tomb. What happened to Christ will happen to all of us; the sorrows, yes, but the glory as well!
This tomb of His is empty, not because we feverishly clapped our hands in the hopes that this fairy tale would come true. But because it is true. And so for us in the end, death cannot stop true love; "all it can do is delay it for awhile." We've been announcing our faith in this final victory for millennia, every Sunday, with millions of people throughout the world. It's from the Apostle's Creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen."
It's that biggie at the end there, the part about the body rising again. The author J.R.R. Tolkien once whispered this wisdom through his kingly and Christlike character, Aragorn; "In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory..." The hobbit-hero Samwise the Brave felt the same surge of faith in the midst of his trials, and in looking up from the very Land where Shadows lie, he saw a star eternal, inspiring and unchanging....
"The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.... Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep and untroubled sleep."
With confidence, with deep faith, and with an undying hope, let's face our own shadows and the passing trials of this life. For even now the Son is rising...
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Ten Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection
Diatoms and the Divine
One of the many examples Dubay gives as a way of getting us to open up and say "AWE" is that of the diatom; these are mind-blowing microscopic one-celled plants. They are at the very heart of the ocean's food chain, and have been called "perfect architects." They may well be one of the most important plants on Earth. Ever hear of them? Me neither.
They come in about 25,000 different species and manufacture through photosynthesis possibly half of the oxygen you and I are breathing right now. They shape for themselves little cathedrals in the forms of pin-wheels, stars, and spirals, and like snowflakes, no shell is the same. Thomas Dubay writes of a man named Richard Hoover who had the opportunity to view a slide of over 4,000 diatoms mounted by the German microscopist J. D. Miller: "Four thousand shells in a space the size of a postage stamp! I sat transfixed at the microscope all afternoon."
And this little factoid kiled me: "Diatoms that live in topsoil can be dried up for decades in a desiccated sleep and then leap to life again when exposed to water. Hoover tells of studying a diatom collection in Antwerp, Belgium: 'I added water to diatoms that had been dried on paper in 1834. I was astounded when they began to swim—revived after nearly 150 years of slumber.'"
Wow.... if that can happen to a one-celled organism, what can the water of grace do to a soul away from the sacraments for years? What can a little prayer poured over our hearts by someone awaken in us? Wonders will never cease!
Image of living diatom courtesy Virtual Foliage at the University of Wisconsin. Electron micrograph of Odontella taken by Karen Wetmore at UCMP.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Whom Are You Looking For?
Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he had told her.
- John 20:11-18
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Who's the Man?
I saw a billboard for this movie while waiting for a train. There he was, "The Rock" looking righteous and rough, with the wooden beam resting ominously on his shoulder. Now is this the man? Muscle-bound, merciless with his enemies, trading an eye for an eye, and a punch for a kick? Is this what we're encouraged to become when times get tough, when the other team scores, when someone steals your parking space?
Coincidentally, the day I saw the poster of The Rock and his trusty wooden weapon, previews for "The Passion of the Christ" were out; it was set to release at the same time as "Walking Tall." Here I saw a vision of another Man, looking ridiculed and beaten, with a wooden beam resting ominously on his shoulder. He had entered into a town that could also be called a 'cesspool of corruption.' He too decided to take the law into his own hands, literally and figuratively. The law said death was the penalty for sin, but instead of dishing it out, he took death onto Himself. With the weapon of the Cross, he faced down the Devil and beat death at its own game.
This Man, who had every right to deal out justice to the nations (since He was and is the Just One), instead took the hits for us, laying down His life. What a paradox, what a total reversal of what we'd expect. Which way is the more manly way? Which path is the more difficult one? Which man was more effective in his mission against injustice?
Isn't it ironic that the day the world was asked to choose their answer, these two visions of man were both physically present? On Pilate's left in that stone courtyard was Barabbas, a revolutionary, a fighter who had killed for his cause, and on Pilate's right was Jesus, a revolutionary who would be killed for His cause. "Bar abbas" is Hebrew for "the son of the father."
And which son did they choose? And which Son will you choose?
Pontius Pilate himself tried to show us the answer, as he pointed to the wounded and broken one to his right; "Behold the Man!"
Friday, April 06, 2007
Why This Friday is So GOOD
"What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.
Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.
The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise. ‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.
‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden. ‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image. 'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one. `I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.
‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God. "The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."
- author unknown
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Only Jesus Himself could have thought of this gift. Catholics believe (and this is apostolic baby!) that the Eucharist is not a little trinket or a keychain that says "Jesus loves you" - it's not just a memory or a symbol, like a painting of Him or a crucifix - not a little photo album of snapshots from the old days of miracles and wanderings and teachings from Galilee. It's.... Him, in the FLESH. When we open up the present of the Eucharist, surprise! It's His Real Presence!
This gift is so real, so present, that I fear many of us might be afraid to open it.
The Eucharist is such an expensive, exotic, exorbitant gift that sometimes I think we don't know what to do with It... Him.... this gift! "Wow... thank you. Thank you, thanks..." And we put this gift in a safe, dust-free place in our heads or hearts (or on a shelf in our churches) and we move on to the next thing.
The Eucharist is scandalous love. The Eucharist is crazy. As the saints and mystics have told us, It is love to the point of folly! I believe that's why we either get it or we don't. We're lost in this love (like the Air Supply song) or we're embarrassed by it and feel like we'd rather just say "amen" and scurry back to our pew and read the bulletin or something.
Now sometimes the love of my wife completely overwhelms me. What did I do to deserve this much attention, this much devotion, this much care and concern? I'm just a goofy guy from New Jersey! Then I sit back and say, "Thank you... thanks... for loving me, even in all of my unloveableness." Other times, I just sit back and wonder. Love is a crazy thing, isn't it?
When I sit down and think about the Eucharist.... oiy! I once heard a kind old priest on a retreat talking about some topic of faith. He said "Don't even get me started on the Eucharist! You'll have to get out the mop and clean me up off the floor!" Wow, that guy was in love. Even after so many years of service at the altar, he was IN love. Because the Eucharist IS Love. Love magnified and multiplied. Love dropped like an atom bomb or blossoming like a supernova in the center of our being. When we get it, we can't resist It. Worries and fears of worthiness are blown away, and we enter into the burning love of the Father and the Son; we're caught up in the dance of the Holy Spirit.
Tonight we can hear, in a thousand churches, the Heartbeat of God. And if we're ready, if the heart is washed in the showers of Reconciliation, and the table cleared of clutter as best we can clear it, we can enter into this embrace. Let's not turn away in shame or embarrassment thinking His Love is too much or our hearts are too distracted. Tonight, He beckons us to come and eat.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me."
- Revelations 3:20
The Hand of Hope
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The Battle Between Light and Darkness
"When the traitor exits the Upper Room, darkness penetrates his heart - it is an internal night - discouragement grows in the spirits of the other disciples - they too go toward the night - while the shadows of abandonment and hate grow darker around the Son of Man, who prepares himself for the consummation of his sacrifice on the cross... In the coming days, we will commemorate the supreme battle between Light and Darkness, between Life and Death."
Isn't this the dramatic struggle at work in every human heart? We should ponder the power of our choices in this light. We have this incredible freedom to be heroic or hedonistic, selfless or selfish! We can be like Judas, or as faithful as John.
The Pope went on to speak of us all who have "our own 'night,' of our sins and responsibilities." If we want to draw graces from these days, he said we should "bring light to our hearts, by way of this mystery, which is the center point of our faith."
The Easter mystery of death and sin's final destruction in Jesus! Freedom is near!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
The Heart of Things Hits the Airwaves!
We're airing every Tuesday evening from 5pm to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time, on 800 AM if you're local to the Philadelphia region, or live from anywhere via the internet at www.catholicinternetradio.com
No podcasts or MP3s yet, so you'll have to tune in sharp. Prayers are appreciated.... Peace!
Monday, April 02, 2007
Leaving Egypt Forever
Who likes reading/ discussing/ hearing about the war in Iraq every day? Suicide bombers? Sitting back with the paper and discovering that people are still being victimized and horribly victimizing others? Who would enjoy hearing another tale about the wealthy and powerful who are still trying to get wealthier and more powerful-er... at the expense of the poor?
Anyone care for more violence on television before 8pm? Who believes we need another show that glorifies lust in the place of love, promiscuity over devotion, and marital infidelity as opposed to a lasting faithfulness?
No? You're done with this scene? You've had enough? Me too....
If it feels like 400 years of slavery to you, slopping through the mud of the media with this fallen nature of ours and you'd like to break away from sin to a Promised Land and hear some good news for a change, then take courage and lift up your heads. Change is a'comin'. But it will take work, and these 40 days of Lent were just the beginning...
The Early Church Fathers (these guys were the Catholic All-Stars) always saw Egypt as a type or shadow of our slavery to sin... Moses was a type of Jesus, and as Moses led the People out of Egypt, so Jesus leads us out of our addiction to self and selfishness. Finally, we can enter into the holiness (a.k.a. wholeness) of God and our true destiny! Real freedom, hope, joy, justice! Woohoo! When we’ve made this solid turn towards Him - metanoia, a.k.a. conversion - and followed, then we can experience that sweet honeymoon the saints talked about. But we have to make the turn. We have to step out in faith. We've got to leave the slavery of Egypt.
If we're committed to this work of getting out of Egypt, then we'll need to buck up and make it past the honeymoon to where the real journey begins. We have to walk through the desert for an undetermined period of time with no clear knowledge of where we'll rest or what we'll eat. Now won't that be fun?
Ah, but this desert of Lent has been the key. This is our detox time, where the poison is worked out of our systems, and we sweat out sin in our own personal Gethsemanes. This is the gymnasium of the soul and of the body. Then just when we think we've hit the Wall and can go no further, we'll look back and see Egypt coming after us (and guess who Pharaoh is a type of, by the way?). It's at this point that we'll hear Jesus say the craziest thing in the world, the last thing we think anyone should say when the chariots and charioteers are barrelling down at us and there seems to be no escape route for us on the road to holiness.
Stand still? No way... We feel the pursuit of sin. The ground is trembling. I can't do this. It’s the residual effect of our selfishness... called concupiscence. This is the whisper of the preciousss... and the Gollum in all of us doesn't want to let go.
"In great fright they cried out to the LORD. And they complained to Moses, "Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? Why did you do this to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, 'Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians'? Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.""
Did you ever look back and think "Man, those Israelites were whiners!" But WE are their spiritual children! When the water gets choppy, and the winds blow, don't we often take our eyes off of the prize, like St. Peter in his walk on the water? We can chicken out too! But it's in this moment especially, when all the world seems to be falling apart, that we must look to Jesus.
"But Moses answered the people, "Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today. These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still."
Keep still.... This was the dying wish of Pope John Paul II for the Church. This was his last piece of spiritual advice to the world before he went home to the Father's House. He said "Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of "doing for the sake of doing". We must resist this temptation by trying "to be" before trying "to do". (Novo)
Hmmm.... And his secret for our wholeness in the days to come? What to do when we finally get the courage to be still?
"To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “program” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization." (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)
Look at Him. Even as Pontius Pilate cries out this Good Friday "Ecce homo!" Then, especially then, in stillness let us "Behold the Man." Our leader and the perfecter of our faith. He can take us from death to life, through the waters of a Red Sea that pours from His sacred wounds. All for love, all for us... to free us from the captivity that has held us captive for so long! What will happen if we can do this? If we can look away from ourselves, our worries, our fears, and just look up, look and see and drink in the vision of Jesus?
"Ecce homo! Behold the Man!"
Stepping into Holy Week
The events of Palm Sunday leading up to Easter Sunday hold within their precious hours all of the seeds of all of the greatest stories. There is faith and there is doubt, trust and betrayal, courage and cowardice... amazing love and blinding hatred. There is the shocking horror of an innocent man's death and the unexpected brilliance of Him coming back to life. And what is most beautiful about this story and the events of this week is the fact that they are true. Christianity is the hope that's rooted in real history, the fairy tale that is factual. The blossoming of all the sacred art and music and poetry and people and prayers that have stretched up and into the sky over these 2000 years all trace their roots back to these days of Holy Week, and into the turbulent soil of southern Palestine.
So let's sit still for some time this week. Sit back and crack open the Gospel of John. Take the scriptures to a quiet, out of the way place and get into this story; in a chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, on an old farm road as the sun is setting, in the backyard as the spring wind comes whistling through the trees. Let's take and read like Augustine, tolle et lege, as if for the first time to this ancient story. And let's see in it our own story. Let's make His Passion our passion.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
April Fool's Day
But such also is the folly of Jesus, who presses on against all reason and his disciple's warning cries. This Palm
Sunday is our April Fool's Day, for Jesus comes heedless of the threat of death, knowing full well that the religious leadership of his day despises him, cannot understand him, and feeling jealous of his fame is already plotting to kill him.
He rides on. Like a fool, he moves through the crowds, passing through their hollow hosannas, through the pale gleam of this spotlight. Towards the olive press that is Gethsemane, towards the crushing blows of the whip and the hammer that will literally carve from his body a Masterpiece of Love.
In the immortal words of the old song "Wise men say only fools rush in...." And that rush into danger and death can only be blamed on love, for he "can't help falling in love with you..."
This love of Jesus is a holy madness. His love leaps into the lion's den, into darkness. His love risks all, gives all to find all, to free all from bondage. The question for us is: Will we follow him all the way? Will our love share in this Love? Or will we back away into the shadows, afraid to appear the fool, mumbling to the crowds "I do not know the Man"?
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