Daily Prayers and Reflections from Father Tom 

Important information from Fr. Tom

Dear friends,
“I have longed to celebrate this meal with you.” Those as you know, are Jesus’ words. But they’re also mine. And those of all of us here at Saints Philip and James. We miss you! We want to welcome you home!
I/we pray that soon, very soon you’ll feel safe joining us here as we celebrate and do in memory of Him, what is the heart of our Catholic faith....celebrate Eucharist.
I do understand the real health concerns all of us have at this time of pandemic. And I want to assure you, and reassure you that we at

Saints Philip and James from the very start have taken every safety and health concern to protect us all. Sunday reservations have added much additional work to our staff  (I thank them for taking this on) and I do know that not every parish does so.....we do it based on health recommendations that this is the best way to help with tracing, should God forbid contagion occur.
Our church has remained open since the very beginning of the pandemic offering a place for prayer and quiet time with the Lord who wants to be with each of us in these very difficult times. Beginning next week, I’d like to invite you to consider coming to Eucharistic adoration asking the Lord to help us as we hopefully resume somewhat of a more regular parish life .
What have we learned through the pandemic? We need each other, and we need God. Beginning next Monday, September, the parish will offer Eucharistic adoration every Monday from 1:30 PM To 7 PM. Let’s pray for each other and for our world!
After each of the daily Masses and Sunday Masses, and all the activities that take place within our church , the church is sanitized.
These have been very difficult days for all of us. Yet, thanks to your generosity, we have been able to continue our parish mission and respond to the mandate of Jesus that we care for one another. Parish social ministry has been able to respond to the needs of many. I thank you for making that possible.
Our church is safe, our school is safe, and our religious education team has put together a wonderful online educational opportunity for all of our young people. 
I’m praying for you and ask that you pray for me and for our parish. I hope to see you soon! God bless you.
Love,
Father Tom

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DAILY PRAYERS - REFLECTIONS - AND WORDS

FROM FATHER TOM 

Our Parish Office is open for your needs - Monday - Wednesday 9 am - 6 pm.  Our office lobby is small - we request that you wear a mask and maintain proper distancing.  Other than regular operating days above - please ring the doorbell for assistance.  

 

Mass Intentions and Altar Memorials are available.  You may request in person, via phone message, e-mail, or drop your request in the mail slot at the side of our office entrance door. You will receive a call back verifying dates and times requested.  Mass Cards may be picked-up - or we can mail the card directly to the family.  You may also leave a message to have a name added to our prayer list.

Our Food Pantry, under Parish Social Ministry, is operating.  We are meeting the needs of those in our parish and community.  You can find a list of pantry items needed in our bulletin as well as on our facebook page.  If you know a family who is in need of support, please have them contact us and we will be happy to assist in any way we are able.  

 

Regular Mass schedule has resumed ... It is required that you wear a face mask when entering our church and maintain acceptable personal distance at all times for the safety of all. Please refer to our bulletin for proper procedure to receive communion.

                             Our maintenance staff is on site daily to clean and sanitize our church.  

 

We are livestreaming Mass daily at 9:15 weekdays .... at 5 pm. Saturday - 8 am and 10 am Sunday... click on the Facebook link on the opening page of our website.

 

If you are in need of a priest you may call the office and select the option for Emergency After Hours.

 

Our bulletin is going to print weekly.  The publications can be found on our website. There is a limited paper copy in church.

Our parish runs on donations, contributions and offerings made through the generosity of our parishioners. If you are able to continue financial support, offerings may be mailed to 1 Carow Place.  They may also be dropped into the mail slot at the side of the office entrance door.  You may choose to sign-up with Faith Direct, there is a link on our opening webpage.  

 

Parish Rectory Office   -  631-584-5454

General email                  info@sspj.org

Business Manager           vportanova@sspj.org

 

We are grateful for your generosity and support. 

 Click to join our Live-stream Mass and services or by following                 the facebook link on our website home page:  sspj.org

Click here for the   lLink to USCCB Mass readings- click on appropriate day.   Act of Spiritual Communion prayer can be found on our opening page

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Music for January 24, 2021  

                                                                             Gathering             –       The God of All Grace

                                                              Presentation          –       Christ Be Our Light

                                                              Communion           -        Lord You Have Come

                                                              Sending Forth        -       O Bless the Lord

                                 

                                             Permission to podcast/livestream the music in this service is obtained

                                            from OneLicense with the license # A-607678

                                                                                 **Recorded CD music is not included in this license.

J

WE REQUEST THAT YOU PLEASE MAKE A RESERVATION TO ATTEND MASS ON THE WEEKEND.  

 

While reservations allow us to monitor attendance it MORE IMPORTANTLY allows us TRACKING ABILITY which is strongly recommended by the CDC, WHO, Department of Health, and all agencies.  As we have come to learn, tracking is important to control this virus. 

We hope this eases your concerns and helps you understand the "reservation process" better.  

 

If you do not have a reservation you will be required to provide contact information prior to entering church.  As reservations and weekend attendance increase there will only be a very limited amount of open seating  for those "walk-ins".  If you do not have access to a computer or have difficulty making the reservations please call the office and we will assist you  (631-584-5454) or contact us via email at info@sspj.org  

                   

We continue to work diligently to provide a safe environment for all to worship. MASK are mandatory throughout Mass and only removed for the consumption of Holy Communion.  Our church continues to be sanitized between all Masses. We follow guidelines presented to us by CDC, WHO, Federal, State, and Local authorities as well as recommendations from the Diocese of Rockville Centre. 

Click Here:  January 19, 2021

OUR ANCHOR IS GOD’S LOVE

In the letter to the Hebrews it tells us that we can have every reason to trust and hope in God and all His promises. To be in the central place as Christ Jesus’ disciples, we do need to continually stress hope on our journey. Hope is not just like an anchor that is thrown into the sea; instead hope is like an anchor thrown ahead of and beyond us into heaven. “This we have as an anchor we have in our spirit, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner.” (Heb 6:19-20)

The hope sustaining us amid the uncertainties, difficulties, and suffering of the present time is anchored in that heaven where Jesus has preceded us and where he prepares a place for us. Our hope flows from our sharing by our lives, in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We trust that if we have suffered and died with Him, we shall rise with Him. Here and now this means that in our prayers and even through our tears we look beyond what our eyes can see and our senses can feel to the One who has overcome all this--our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Today in the responsorial psalm we acclaim, “The Lord will remember His covenant for ever.” (Ps 111)  In Jesus Christ we are delivered! With the “eyes of our hearts” we do not pray alone. We pray as your children; we receive Your grace to live and work together with our brothers and sisters, all for the coming of Your kingdom upon each of us.

In Mark’s Gospel we read about the observing of the Sabbath. Is it a burden and a chore? Or is it to refresh, renew, and support our lives? Jesus points out in other places, when He says, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” He is telling us that this commandment, and all commandments, must be understood in the light of life.  

Points to Pray and Ponder :

The Sabbath, like God himself, is a gift to renew, refresh and support our humanity. Do you help to build up the body of Christ?

Click Here:  January 18, 2021

Dreaming of a better future

One of the frequent ponderings in these first weeks of the new year, and as we look with hope toward a future beyond the pandemic, is “what will the new normal look like?”  One answer from today’s Gospel is that we cannot put “new wine into old wineskins.”  Jesus consistently invited his disciples to see and experience the world – and the reign of God – in new and unexpected ways.

It was often surprising and frequently challenging for the disciples to realize that Jesus’ invitation was to something larger than they could imagine.  In the months ahead, will we revert to our former ways of thinking and acting or will we, like Pope Francis, dream of and create a path to a better future?

Our church and faith communities, our neighborhoods, cities and country, our wounded and wonderful world are aching for a better future.  How will we respond?  Will we simply sew a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak, or will we create a new and better garment for the world?

—Bill Hobbs is the Associate Director of the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, OH.

Prayer

You call us from our settled ways, O God,
out of old habits and rutted traditions.
You call us into the land of promise,
to new life and new possibilities.
Make us strong to travel the road ahead.
Deliver us from false security and comfort,
desire for ease and uninvolved days.
Let your Word and Spirit dwell in us
that your will may be fulfilled in us
for the well-being and shalom of all.
Amen.

—Mozarabic Prayer 700 C.E

Click Here:  January 17, 2021

HE WAS THE FIRST TO ANNOUNCE

 

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist was standing with two of his disciples, and proclaimed as he watched Jesus walk by, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. John recognizes the person of Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, and with his profession of faith he invites us to profess our own faith, the faith of the Catholic Church, in the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.

 

When St. Augustine would call the people to communion, he would show them the consecrated bread and wine and say, “Behold what you are; become what you receive.” For we are what we eat! Augustine recognized the multiple presences of Christ Jesus: present in his church as it assembled to make Eucharist, and present also under the forms of bread and wine. The Eucharist then helps us to grow in holiness and wholeness.

 

In today’s Responsorial Psalm we acclaim, “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will. Prescribed for me, to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!” God, you have opened my ears, that I may hear your word, obey your will, and follow your law of love. “Behold what you are.”

 

I read in a commentary about a great scholar and physician Albert Schweitzer and he wrote this: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know--the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

“Behold what you are; become what you receive.”

Click Here:  January 16, 2021

First Week in Ordinary Time

Mark 2:13-17

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls Matthew to become his disciple.
Jesus gazed at this man and said simply, “Follow me.” Did Jesus invite Matthew because the tax collector merited it? Was Jesus responding to a request from Matthew or some hidden longing in the sinner’s heart? Certainly not. Grace, by definition, comes unbidden and without explanation.

In Caravaggio’s magnificent painting of this scene, Matthew responds to Jesus’ summons by pointing incredulously to himself and wearing a quizzical expression, as if to say, “Me? You want me?”

Matthew immediately got up and followed the Lord. But where did he follow him? To a banquet! “While he was at table in his house . . .” is the first thing we read after the declaration that Matthew followed him. Before he calls Matthew to do anything, Jesus invites him to recline in easy fellowship around a festive table. As Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis comments, “The deepest meaning of Christian discipleship is not to work for Jesus but to be with Jesus.”

Click Here:  January 15, 2021

Reflection on the Roman marble relief

 

During Roman times, many innovations came to the fore: aquaducts, concrete, bound books,

newspapers, etc… Also in the medical realm, many inventions were made. Most of these

contributions to medicine came from the battlefield. Under the leadership of Augustus, the first

field surgery units were set up, and for these, stretchers were invented to bring the wounded

soldiers to these units. The use of stretchers spread very fast throughout the Roman Empire, all

the way to the Holy Land, hence the stretcher in our reading today. Other inventions such as

arterial surgical clamps to curb blood loss or even simply disinfecting instruments in hot water before

use, were all pioneered in the first century BC. Roman military medicine proved so advanced at

treating wounds and looking after the wellness of the soldiers, that actually they tended to live

longer than the average citizen despite constantly facing the threats of combat.

Our marble relief from the 1st century BC depicts Telephus seated on a stretcher. He was an ally of the Trojans. He received a thigh wound from the spear of Achilles that would not heal until treated by rust scraped from the spear that had caused the wound. Achilles is shown here performing the treatment in this marble relief in return for Telephus’ help in locating Troy. We have all felt paralysed at times, without the strength to face a situation, or without the courage to act, because of some personal failure, or feeling inferior, or being fearful, or not wanting to face criticism… Our Gospel reading today is showing the value of our friendships. If we surround ourselves with good friends, they can be like the four stretcher-bearers to us. They can bring us to a point where they will get us back on our feet… and together with Christ, they can encourage us to ‘Get up and Walk’ again.

Click Here:  January 14, 2021

First Week in Ordinary Time.....Mark 1:40-45

Friends, our Gospel today gives us one of the great scenes of Jesus healing a leper. And as is usually

the case, it becomes an icon of the spiritual life in general.

Once in the Lord’s presence, the leper knelt down and begged him for healing. The suffering man

realizes who Jesus is: not one prophet among many, but the Incarnation of the God of Israel, the only

one before whom worship is the appropriate attitude.

In our sickness, our weakness, our shame, our sin, our oddness—lots of us feel like this leper. We feel as

though we’re just not worthy. But whatever trouble we are in, we have to come to Jesus in the attitude

of worship. He is the Lord and we’re not. This is the key step in getting our lives in order: right praise.

Consider the leper’s beautiful plea, essential in any act of petitionary prayer: "If you wish, you can make

me clean." He is not demanding; he is acknowledging the lordship of Jesus, his sovereignty.

"Thy will be done" is always the right attitude in any prayer.

Click Here:  January 13, 2021

Sharing in the suffering of Jesus

Most of us undoubtedly welcome 2021 with resolutions, goals, hopes, and dreams. We are probably anticipating some type of renewal in this new year, following our common experience of suffering in 2020. 

Simon’s mother-in-law began to serve others after Jesus lifted her up and healed her. How often are we, after enduring our own brokenness and infirmity, more able to help others? In 12-step programs, people work with sponsors- someone who has suffered like them. Who better to truly understand their pain? 

In the third week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, we contemplate Jesus’ Passion and death. George Aschenbrenner, SJ, describes this experience: “The consolation you seek comes from entering the suffering of Jesus.  The ability to get out of your own suffering and to enter his teaches a very important lesson: to enter the suffering of other people you must get free of the all-absorbing clutches of your own.”

—Donna K. Becher, M.S., is an associate spiritual director at the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality in Charleston, West Virginia.  Her training is rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.  Amen.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola

Click Here:  January 12, 2021

Reflection on the Painting

Today’s Gospel reading is an important one. It contains two truths that don’t resound anymore

in our highly secularised age: the authoritative teaching of Jesus and the ongoing spiritual

warfare. To be ‘modern’ almost means to question all authority. It is ‘modern’ to submit

everything under the moral authority of oneself, rather than submit ourselves to any authority,

such as the teaching of Christ.  Skepticism rules.

The people who were in the synagogue with Jesus noticed something different about Him. He

spoke with authority. That word contains the word author. When Jesus spoke, he spoke as the 

author of the words, the author of the Truth, and people sensed that. He didn’t just interpret

Scripture or tell nice stories, no, He spoke straight to the hearts of people as if He understood

each single one of them. It touched them, it moved them, it transformed them. That is what

true authority is, it transforms.

A good painting which depicts the second aspect of our reading, the spiritual warfare, is this

work by Gustave Doré titled ‘Triumph Of Christianity Over Paganism’. We see in the top half

Christ, bearing His cross, surrounded by angels. The angels are seen flying out, swords drawn

and shields ready, to fight the pagan evils on the earth below. Among those pagans are

recognisable gods of the Classic world, with Zeus at the centre, holding a thunderbolt in his

left hand. Pope Francis said about the spiritual warfare: “The presence of the Devil is on the

first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the Devil, with the victory

of God over the Devil.”… Our painting masterfully illustrates this.

Click Here:  January 11, 2021

First Week in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:14-20

Friends, today’s Gospel reports Jesus’ first sermon.

After his baptism and temptation, Jesus begins to preach in Galilee. The first words out of his mouth serve as a summary statement of his life and work: "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

Something that human beings have been longing for has appeared, and the time is now for a decision. Jesus’ very first words are a wake-up call. This is not the time to be asleep, not the time for delaying tactics, procrastinating, and second-guessing. The initial words of Jesus’ first sermon are an invitation to psychological and spiritual awareness: there is something to be seen, so open your eyes!

But what is it that he wants us to notice? What is this astonishing state of affairs that must not be missed? "The Kingdom of God is at hand." To my mind, the metaphor of the kingdom has a primary referent in the person of Jesus himself. Jesus wants us to open our eyes to see what God is doing in and through him. He himself is the kingdom of God coming into the world with transformative power.

Click Here:  January 10, 2021  Baptism of the Lord

OPEN OUR EYES AND FREE US                                                              

Our Christianity really is not about fulfilling all the needs that are around us. It’s not about tasks. It’s not

about getting things done or fixing things. Fundamentally, the feast of the Incarnation reminds us that

what we are asked to do is to participate in a great mystery. That is the heart of Christianity. The mystery

is to trust and to believe that God is truly in you and me. God’s task is to be the source of energy, life and

grace. He is to be the source that gets the work done.

 

In today’s readings, it is clear that the work is twofold: We are to help people to see and to help people to

be free. From the very beginning, human beings were conscious of the fact that they were unable to see all

that they need to see. They knew they couldn’t be free of all of the burdens that are part of life on this

planet. And so, they longed for someone, something to come along and to help them. That’s what the

longing for a Messiah is all about. Isaiah was one of the clearest voices telling us that there would be

someone coming to fulfill our needs. This teacher would not shout or scream because He would speak the

truth. Isaiah proclaims: This is God, who has “grasped their hand.” Isaiah also says that this is the work of

“opening people’s eyes, of freeing them from that which burdens them.”

 

We are like Christ. We are the ones who have been called by name, grasped by the hand, led to a place where

if we trust, then something marvelous happens to us. The power of God can open our eyes and free us from

the things that bind us.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder:

Do you trust and believe that you have a role that comes from your baptism, as significant as Christ’s? Jesus began in Nazareth, simply being God’s instrument of light, grace and peace. Do you trust in God’s grace?

Click Here:  January 9, 2021  

Welcoming His Visitation

As we make our way through each day, we desire to see and experience the presence of the Lord with us in the midst of the day and its many activities. We know and believe that the Lord is always present; the challenge is to recognize the ways he is choosing to encounter us.  For a variety of reasons, we can miss the signals, the signs of his presence.  In the words of today’s gospel, we miss the “time of [our] visitation.” 

Today’s passage from the Book of Revelation supplies one possible explanation for our difficulty in welcoming the Lord’s daily visitation. 

The One found worthy to open the scroll is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  The allusion, from Genesis 49,9, recalls that the messiah was expected to show himself as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, a mighty warrior. Yet, the drama of the scene from Revelation points to the surprising truth that the Lion has become the Lamb, the Lamb slain, put to death, purchasing a people by his Blood. 

Many people in Jesus’ day did not recognize the visitation of God in Jesus, because he did not come with a “roar,” destroying his enemies and creating a kingdom by brute force.  Rather, he appeared in weakness and human frailty and then died in apparent helplessness.  But he is the victorious Lamb, who created a kingdom in his Blood.  St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2, 8 alludes to this surprising appearance of the Savior and the blindness of those around him: “If they had known the mystery, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.”  The messiah, a crucified criminal??

Often enough we, too, do not see “the mystery” around us.  The Lord of glory appears in humble circumstances, in the persons of the poor and defenseless around us, in our places of personal poverty, weakness and apparent failure.  We often look for him in places of expected strength and power, according to the world’s standards, missing him where he chooses to show himself in true power. 

Let us ask the Lion who became the Lamb to open our eyes, so that we do not miss the times of his visitation this day.
 

Click Here:  January 8, 2021  Immaculate Heart Retreat Center

THE SPIRIT, THE WATER AND THE BLOOD

 

Miracles like the one in today’s Gospel seem like they are a world away from us. Mostly, we are inclined to see the miracles of the Bible as events of past times--stories locked up in history. Miracles, the way Scripture describes them, are rare among us. Our first reading of the first Letter of St. John invites us to trust that the miracles of the Scripture, though not present among us in the same way now, are locked up in the past. The world of the Scriptures is our world, too. These biblical stories are the stories for our faith and life. Jesus’ gifts of healing and life are not exiled to the pages of ancient texts. Just as Jesus gave life to the leper, God gives life to us.

 

Jesus wants us to respond to Him not merely as a miracle worker but as a God of love. Jesus does not want us to see Him as an extraordinary doctor or physician to whom we turn only when we need Him. Jesus does not want that kind of relationship with us. If we have this kind of relationship with Him on our terms only, we might be asking ourselves, “ Does God Exist ?”

 

There is the testimony of three witnesses that we heard about today in scripture…the Water, the Blood, and the Spirit. Because of the presence of Christ in Baptism and the Eucharist, these three witnesses affirm the miracle that God works to bring life to the world and in us at all times, if we are willing to go to Him for all things…

 

In today’s Responsorial Psalm we acclaim: “We are reminded that God sends forth His commands to the earth; swiftly runs His word.”

 

Points to Pray and Ponder:

We have all received many blessings from God, blessings upon which we should frequently ponder. All these blessings help us to see God’s goodness and love. Let us remember He is the Master!

Click Here:  January 7, 2021 

Thursday after Epiphany

Luke 4:14-22

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus chooses to preach on Isaiah 61 for his inaugural address in his hometown synagogue. He felt that this text summed up who he was and what his mission was.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," he declared. The Ruach Yahweh, the breath of God—this is what has seized and animated Jesus. After the Resurrection, he breathed on his disciples, communicating to them (and the Church) something of this spirit.

Animated by the Ruach Yahweh, what does he do? "He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor." The lowly hear this, those who are oppressed, the poor, the unjustly treated, the marginalized and forgotten. What are the glad tidings? That God’s love is more powerful than the powers of this world.

This is the message of Christ. Therefore, when you place yourself on the side of this power, you are on the winning side, though dark powers gather around you. It is fully expressed in the Paschal Mystery. The world threw its entire power against Jesus, and God raised him up. Nothing can overwhelm or overcome the authority of the Lord God.

Click Here:  January 6, 2021 

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another. ...
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. ...
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4 

“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  Mark 6

This is a wonderful day to ask for the grace to let God's love into our hearts and to let that love drive fear away.

Fear is so debilitating. It is especially damaging to our peace, our ability to face challenges with courage, and our ability to love. There are many things that can lead us to fear. Certainly bad experiences of the past can cause fear of the future, fear of being hurt again. Uncertainty alone can lead to fear of the unknown. We all know from experience that the longer fear has a grip on us the deeper it gets.

What is the opposite of fear? What happens when love drives fear out? Fearlessness, for sure, is one result. There is a freedom and even a flexibility and courage. To be unafraid allows us to be bold, even to take risks we never would have taken before. It allows us to be vulnerable and less guarded or defended. Peace and a calm comes, in the absence of fear, that allows us to hear better, see better, experience more fully, and to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit more freely.

John is urging us to love, because God is love. He is inviting us to remain in God's love and to let God remain in us. He clearly states the obvious, which is so difficult to let deep inside of us. "If God so loved us, we also must love one another." We can see the tragic results when we try to love God and not love our neighbor. Our credibility as witnesses of God's love in us goes out the window. We know something is wrong. Upon reflection, we may discover that at the root of our struggle to love others is our fear, our many fears.

John tells us, "There is no fear in love." God's love takes away our fear. Whatever happens to us, we are in the loving embrace of our God, all the time. John describes it as "perfect love" which "drives out fear." God's love for us is perfect - like no other love we've ever experienced. It is un-conditional. God doesn't love us only when, and if, we do this or that. God loves us because God made us; God knows our story; and God is aware of our pain and our sin. God loves us because God always wants to help us be whole and free and loving. It is how God's love works. When we let ourselves experience, feel and embrace the security of that complete love, our fears begin to lessen and melt away. We can say, "Lord, with your love, I'm no longer afraid." If we say it over and over, this simple prayer becomes liberating, empowering, and it gives us the courage to love others fear-less-ly.

In the gospel, there's a storm at sea. Pope Francis, at the beginning of the pandemic turned to this passage and reminded us that while we are all "at sea, in a storm," we are in the same boat, with Jesus. Whatever sea tosses us around, whatever storm threatens our security, whatever fear begins to take hold of us. Jesus is there to say, "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!"

Our role is to be open to, to ask for, to trust and rely on that love. We can choose to live in his love and to let his love drive out our fear. Then, we will have courage and be freer and more centered and readied to calm the stormy seas others are facing, because we know he is with us always.

Click Here:  January 5, 2021  Immaculate Heart Retreat Center

LIFE THROUGH HIM

 

In today’s reading from the First Letter of St. John we read, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us.” John teaches us that the love of God was revealed by Jesus Christ, who was sent to the world “that we might have life through Him.”

 

In the Gospel of Mark, the love of God is revealed in a number of biblical images that are taken up and “translated” into the words and actions of Jesus. In Ezekiel’s prophecy, God’s love had been depicted as the compassionate care of a shepherd. Jesus Christ is moved with pity for the people who are “like sheep without a shepherd.” Two loaves of bread and five fish couldn’t feed a crowd. Two hundred days’ wages were not enough to hire a caterer to feed the thousands. It is easy to imagine that the disciples were depleted both physically and financially. But even here, Jesus works a miracle. He takes the disciples where they are with their limited resources and turns almost no food into an abundance of food. This is how Jesus works in us, too. Jesus meets us where we are, takes the conditions of our lives as they are---even when our resources are depleted---and our Savior works through us.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

Do you feel alone today? You and I are not meant to do it alone; we are not an island. We live and do this as a community of faith. Jesus came to us with his abundance and we are fed through the Eucharist…so we “have life through Him.”

Click Here:  January 4, 2021  Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus launches his ministry in Galilee.
According to Anglican Scripture scholar N.T. Wright, when Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he was not calling attention to general, timeless spiritual truths, nor was he urging people to make a decision for God.

He was telling his hearers that Yahweh was actively gathering the people of Israel—and, indirectly, all people—into a new salvific order. And he was insisting that his hearers conform themselves to this new state of affairs.

In this gathering, he was implying, the forgiveness of sins—the overcoming of sundering and division—would be realized. In a word, the proclamation of the kingdom was tantamount to an announcement that the Gatherer of Israel had arrived and had commenced his work.

What is most remarkable about Jesus, according to Wright, is that he not only indicated this fact but embodied it and acted it out, taking in his words and gestures the very role of the Gatherer. Origen said substantially the same thing when he described Jesus as autobasileia, the kingdom in person.

Click Here:  January 3, 2021Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

John 1:19-28

Friends, in today’s Gospel John the Baptist declares that he is the forerunner of Christ.

Why, when we first hear of the adult John the Baptist, is he out in the desert and not in the temple,
where you would expect the son of a priest to be? Well, in John’s time, the temple was mired in very messy politics.
What is drawing people into the desert to see him? He is offering what the temple ought to be offering
but wasn’t: the forgiveness of sins. This was the importance of John’s baptism.

But here’s the odd thing: he did not draw attention to himself. Rather, he presented himself as a forerunner,
preparing the way of the Lord: "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize." He was pointing toward the one who would be the definitive Temple.

And therefore how powerful it was when, upon spying Jesus coming to be baptized, he said, 
"Behold the Lamb of God." No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning of that: behold the one who has come to be sacrificed. Behold the sacrifice, which will sum up, complete, and perfect the temple.

Click Here:  December 31

Reflection on the Painting

Today’s Gospel reading is the Prologue to the Gospel of St John, the first thing which one sees on

opening his Gospel. But it was the last part which he wrote. It is the final summary, placed at the 

ery beginning of his gospel. He starts with the words, “In the beginning was the Word”, therefore

ying the start of his gospel to the very start of our Bible in Genesis which says: “In the beginning

God created heaven and earth” (Gen 1:1). So John pushes his account of Jesus, the Word, back to

the beginning of time itself… before anything else had been created, Christ already was.

Our painting from 1445, by Giovanni da Paolo, shows the creation of the world. The universe is

shown as a large celestial globe, with the earth at the very centre surrounded by a series of concentric

circles representing the first four elements (fire, water, earth, and air). The outer ring holds the

constellations of the zodiac. God the Father is shown in charge of Creation, bathed in glowing celestial

light. To the right of our painting we see the Garden of Eden, with its four rivers flowing from it. The

garden's abundant flowers and fruiting trees symbolise the pure and sinless state of humanity before

the Fall. Adam and Eve are seen being expelled from the garden by an angel who has very human traits. 

‘In the beginning was the Word’  tells us in simple words that Christ was before all else came to be.

Today is the day where we can try to stretch our minds into the mystery of God, before the world was made…

Click Here:  December 30

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
    but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.

From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things,
    but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence.

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
    but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
    but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

The righteous hate what is false,
    but the wicked make themselves a stench
    and bring shame on themselves.

Righteousness guards the person of integrity,
    but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;

    another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

A person’s riches may ransom their life,

   but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.

The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded.

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction.[a]

All who are prudent act with[b] knowledge, but fools expose their folly.

A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.

A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

The righteous eat to their hearts’ content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry.

Click Here:  December 29

ABIDE IN HIM. WE OUGHT TO WALK JUST AS HE WALKED

Saint John wrote that we can be sure that we know Jesus Christ if we keep His loving commandments. We can only be sure that we understand the love that Jesus has for us if we practice that love within our own hearts. What does it mean to love someone unconditionally as Jesus loves us? First, we must try it, and then this experience will give us at least some idea of what it means in life. What does it mean to include everyone in our love, making it universal, as Jesus does? Saint John says try it, and this experience will bring clarity and depth to our understanding of the universal love of our heavenly Father.

 

It is all about a divine dignity and destiny for human beings---that is a major theme this Christmas season in the writings attributed to John. The dignity of sharing God’s life and light can only survive, if we see that same dignity in others. Without love for our sisters and brothers, our claim to this dignity is a lie. To say we know God and not keep the commandments is to lie; to claim to be in the light while hating others means we are still in darkness. Our true test of dignity happens as sharers in God’s life!

 

In the responsorial psalm we acclaim: “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!” We are called to a newness of life, singing a new song. Jesus Christ teaches us to live a new life each day and each moment with all the freshness of dawn.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

Saint John gave us this challenge today and for every day of our lives: “To abide in Him we must walk just as He walked.” Do you have hope in your life?

Click Here:  December 28

Reflection on the Painting

Because of the dramatic storyline, the massacre of the innocents has been a popular story to depict

throughout art history. I do think today’s painting is a powerful work of art, and probably my favourite

painting depicting the massacre. Most artists who depict this story render a very broad scene with

many figures: people fleeing in horror, women screaming in lamentation, Roman soldiers mercilessly

killing the new-born babies and children.  Last year we looked at such a painting by Rubens (read more).

But rather than render a wide-angle view, Cogniet paints an extremely intimate picture here. We see a

terrified mother holding on to her child, afraid her baby would get killed too. In the distance we see

figures fleeing in panic. Her bare head and bare feet make her look even more vulnerable. The muted

colours of the overall painting and the setting amongst ruins make this quite a solemn and meditative

painting.

The woman in our painting is literally cornered. There seems to be no escape. This corner is quite

symbolic. We may not be able to change the world, but we can all work hard to make our ‘little corner

of the world’ a more loving place to be. Many people feel cornered in life through financial

circumstances, work situations, family losses... all contributing to people feeling trapped. We may not

be able to change their world, but we can strive to make their ‘little corner of the world’ a more joyful

place to be… And that is exactly what the Christmas spirit is about…

Click Here:  December 27

Reflection on the Painting

Our painting today isn’t an old master painting. It was painted only in 2012

by Russian artist Andrey Shishkin. A self- taught artist, he has been painting

for over 20 years, mainly focussing on portraits. I think the look on Simeon’s

face is exquisite: we see age, wisdom, thoughtfulness, but above all, genuine

love for baby Jesus. A gentle light is emanating from Jesus, whilst another

beam of light is shining from above, illuminating Simeon’s head.

Mary and Joseph came to the temple, in obedience to the law, to present Jesus

to the Lord and offer a sacrifice according to what was written in the Law. But it

was about more than that. Behind fulfilling their duties as good Jews, there was

longing: a longing by Mary and Joseph to present Jesus to his Father, but also a

longing by Simeon to meet Jesus. Simeon longed to meet the divinity in Christ's

humanity. Today’s reading speaks to us about the longing between humanity and

divinity. The same goes for us when we go to church. We don’t just simply go

there to fulfil our Sunday duty. Our worship reveals what we value most. Going

to church reveals what and who we love. This longing, wanting to spend time

with God, shapes us into the people that He wants us to be. Longing is not a

void inside ourselves that is waiting to be filled… longing is a fullness of love

that is simply waiting to be expressed...

Click Here:  December 26

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus predicts the coming persecution of his disciples. And we can see his prophetic word realized through the ages.

Think of St. Peter himself, crucified upside down in the circus of Nero; of Felicity and Perpetua, thrown to wild animals because they wouldn’t deny their faith; of Thomas More, who resisted King Henry VIII and paid for it with his head; of Paul Miki, the Japanese Jesuit, who was crucified for announcing the Christian faith; of Miguel Pro, who was shot to death for defying a repressive Mexican government, shouting as he was shot, "Viva, Cristo Rey!"; of Franz Jägerstätter and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom the Nazi regime put to death; of Maximilian Kolbe, who died at Auschwitz, willingly taking the place of another man. And the list goes on and on.
Indeed, the martyrs have come from all corners of the world, and they have spoken Greek, Latin, French, German, English, Japanese, Polish, and many other languages besides. Friends, this, strangely, is the army that undermines the foundations of the fallen world through the centuries. This is the great fighting force that Jesus has unleashed and continues to unleash.​

Click Here:  December 25

Friends, today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. We hear at Mass one of the most

magnificent passages in the Scriptures, indeed one of the gems of the Western literary tradition: the prologue to

the Gospel of John. In many ways, the essential meaning of Christmas is contained in these elegantly crafted lines.

But today I would like to focus on how John commences: “In the beginning was the Word.” No first-century Jew

would have missed the significance of that opening phrase, for the first word of the Hebrew Scriptures, bereshit,

means precisely “beginning.” The evangelist is signaling that the story he will unfold is the tale of a new creation,

a new beginning. The Word, he tells us, was not only with God from the beginning, but indeed was God.

Whenever we use words, we express something of ourselves. For example, as I type these words, I’m telling you what

I know about the prologue to the Johannine Gospel; when you speak to a friend, you’re telling him or her how you

feel or what you’re afraid of; when an umpire shouts out a call, he’s communicating how he has assessed a play.

But God, the sheer act of Being itself, the perfect Creator of the universe, is able utterly to speak himself in one great

Word, a Word that does not simply contain an aspect of his being but rather the whole of his being. This is why we say

that the Word is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God”— and this is why St. John says that the

Word was God.

Reflect: “And the Word became flesh.” Once you believe Jesus is fully God and fully man, your worldview is changed

and you must choose to follow or to reject him. How can you spread this Christmas message, and help people choose to follow Christ?

Click Here:  December 24

FILL YOU WITH JOY AND HOPE

The proclamation of the Gospel fills us with much joy and hope on our daily journey. When the Lord comes to redeem us, He fills us with his Holy Spirit, which is the source of our joy and hope in the promises God has made. The Holy Spirit gave Zechariah a vision for his own son as prophet and forerunner who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. All longed for the time when the Messiah would come. Now Zechariah knew beyond a doubt that day was very near. Like Zechariah, the Holy Spirit wants to give us vision, joy, and confidence in the knowledge of God’s merciful love, protection, and care which all comes to us through Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist we too are called to prepare the way. Life is a journey and we need to always move towards Christ the Lord. Christ gives us the life-giving Word and Spirit. He draws all to Himself and show us His love and mercy.

 

In the Responsorial Psalm we acclaim “For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” We rejoice in God’s glory and retell the story every Christmas of His wonderful deeds. Your history is ours as well, and Your Spirit is our life. You are God and we are your people.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder:

Take a moment, in this time of year, to remember that God became one with us to show us how to live in love. In the feast of the Incarnation we celebrate the gracious gift of God in sending His Son to redeem us with great joy. Do you know His life-giving Word and Spirit? 

Click Here:  December 23

Friends, today’s Gospel tells the story of the birth and naming of John the Baptist.

This story brings John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, into focus. Both are strongly

priestly personages. Elizabeth is a descendant of the family of Aaron, the first priest of

Israel, and Zechariah was a practicing temple priest.

What’s important for our purposes is that John was of very priestly stock. He grew up in

and around the temple, acquainted with its rituals. So why, when we first hear of him in

his adult life, is he out in the desert and not in the temple?

The temple had been renovated, largely rebuilt, by Herod the Great. But Herod was a

wicked man, as we know from the Gospels themselves and from lots of other ancient

ources. He had effectively declared himself the Messiah of Israel.

John saw how corrupt all of this was, and he sensed that the true Messiah was on the

horizon. So he went away from the old temple, and he continued to act as a priest, but

as priest of a new Temple: Jesus himself, the new Holy of Holies.

Click Here:  December 20

Birth Is Just the Beginning

We must move beyond a merely sentimental understanding of Christmas as

“waiting for the baby Jesus” to an adult and communal appreciation of the message of

the incarnation of God in Christ. We Franciscans have always believed that the incarnation

was already the redemption, because in Jesus’ birth God was saying that it was good to

be human, and God was on our side.

Jesus identified his own mission with what he called the coming “reign of God.” We have

often settled instead for the sweet coming of a baby who asked little of us in terms of

urrender, encounter, mutuality, or any assent to the actual teachings of Jesus. Too much

sentimentality, or juicing up of our emotions, can be a substitute for an actual relationship,

as we also see in our human relationships. When we are so infatuated with the “sweetness”

or “perfection” of another, we easily “fall” out of love at the first sign of their humanity. Let’s not let that happen with the infinitely compelling person of Jesus!

The celebration of Christmas is not merely a sentimental waiting for a baby to be born. It is much more an asking for history to be born! Creation groans in its birth pains, waiting for our participation with God in its renewal (see Romans 8:20–23). We do the Gospel no favor when we make Jesus, the Eternal Christ, into a perpetual baby, who asks little or no adult response from us. One even wonders what kind of mind would want to keep Jesus a baby. Maybe only one that is content with “baby Christianity.”

Any spirituality that makes too much of the baby Jesus is perhaps not yet ready for “prime-time” life. God clearly wants friends and partners to be images of divinity, if we are to believe the biblical texts. God, it seems, wants mature religion and a thoughtful, free response from us. God loves us in partnership, with mutual give and take, and we eventually become the God that we love.

The Christ we are asking and waiting for includes our own full birth and the further birth of history and creation. It is to this adult and Cosmic Christ that we can say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20) with a whole new understanding and a deliberate passion. This makes our entire lives, and the life of the church, one huge “advent.”

The Christ includes the whole sweep of creation and history joined with him—and each of us, too. This is the Universal (or Cosmic) Christ. [1] We ourselves are members of the Body of Christ and the Universal Christ, even though we are not the historical Jesus. So we very rightly believe in “Jesus Christ,” and both words are essential.

Click Here:  December 18

Friends, today’s Gospel centers on one of the most beloved figures in Christian history: Joseph, the foster

father of Jesus. He’s featured in countless works of art and is prominent in the devotional lives of many.

Yet we know almost nothing about him. The scant verses here in Matthew offer the most extensive

description, yet even they reveal some powerful spiritual themes.

First, we discover Mary was betrothed to Joseph and this union had been blessed by God. But then Joseph

finds his betrothed is pregnant. Can you imagine the distress? This must have been an emotional maelstrom

for him. And at a deeper level, it was a spiritual crisis. What did God want him to do?

But then an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take

Mary your wife into your home.” He realizes at that moment that these puzzling events are part of God’s

much greater plan. What appears to be a disaster from his perspective is meaningful from God’s perspective.

Joseph was willing to cooperate with the divine plan, though he in no way knew its contours or deepest

purpose. Like his wife, Mary, at the Annunciation, he trusted and let himself be led.

Reflect: What, in your own life, “appeared to be a disaster but was meaningful from God’s perspective”

when you viewed it in hindsight and with the eyes of faith?

 

Click Here:  December 17

GOD KNEW WHAT HE WANTED

 

Today’s first reading tells of Jacob’s vision that the tribe of Judah would rule over the other tribes. Jacob was right; the dynasty of David, a Judahite, lasted almost half a millennium. But Jacob would have been astounded at God’s vision. A new and different King would arise from the tribe of Judah and the line of David, the family tree of God. This King would be God Incarnate. Even the psalmists, who painted a magnificent portrait of the King, could not have imagined how true his image was: “Justice shall flourish in His time and fullness of peace forever.”

 

God knew what He wanted. Yes, He chose the tribe of Judah, the Jews, and from within that tribe He selected the house of David. He insisted that through David and His descendants, the scepter, the ruling power, would never depart from Judah. In an eminent degree the prophecy of today’s scriptures was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, born of the house of David as the Messiah-King.

 

God not only knew what He wanted, He also knew what He was doing. He was making it clear that He alone was our Heavenly Father. He did not have to rely on mighty armies to conquer evil in the world. God made His saving power present in an infant, Jesus. God chose to pour out that salvation upon all human-kind through His Son’s blood on a Cross—an act which seems to be weakness in the eyes of the powerful. God did this because of His love for us; it didn’t happen by human efforts, but as a gift.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

Do you wonder in your heart at the loving marvelous deeds of our God? Take time to read and reflect on the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

(Matt 1:1-17)

 

Click Here:  December 16

Letting Go of Our Very Selves

 

The great task of religion is to keep us fully awake, alert, and conscious. Staying awake comes not from willpower but from a wholehearted surrender to the moment—as it is. If we can truly be present, we will experience what most of us mean by God (and we do not even need to call it God). It’s largely a matter of letting go of resistance to what the moment offers or of clinging to a past moment. It is an acceptance of the full reality of what is right here and now.

To be truly conscious, we must step back from our compulsive identification with our isolated selves. This may be the most difficult “letting go” of all, for the idea of our individual “selves” is the primary illusion of our lives. But pure consciousness is never just “me,” trapped inside myself. Rather, it is an observing of “me” from a distance—from the viewing platform kindly offered by God (see Romans 8:16), which we call the Indwelling Spirit. Then we will see with eyes much larger and other than our own.

Most of us do not understand this awareness because we are totally identified with our own passing thoughts, feelings, and compulsive patterns of perception. We have no proper distance from ourselves, which ironically would allow us to see our radical connectedness with everything else. Such radical connectedness is holiness itself.

Some degree of detachment is absolutely necessary to get started spiritually. “Detachment, detachment, detachment,” taught Meister Eckhart (1260–1328). [1]

When we meditate consistently, the sense of our autonomy and private self-importance—what we think of as our “self”—falls away. Little by little, it becomes unnecessary, unimportant, and even unhelpful. The imperial “I,” the self that we usually think of as our only self, reveals itself as largely a creation of our mind.

Through regular access to contemplation, we become less and less interested in protecting this self-created, relative identity. Please do not attack it; that’s just negative energy. When we do not feed it, it calmly falls away and we experience a kind of natural humility.

If our prayer goes deep, “invading” our unconscious, as it were, our whole view of the world will change from fear to connection, because we no longer live inside our fragile and encapsulated self. Nor do we feel a need to protect our small and fragile self.

In meditation, we move from ego consciousness to soul awareness, from being fear-driven to being love-drawn. That’s it in a few words! Of course, we can only do this if Someone Else is holding us, taking away our fear, doing the knowing, and satisfying our desire for a Great Lover. If we can allow that Someone Else to have their way with us, we will live with new vitality, a natural gracefulness, and inside of a Flow that we did not create. It is the Life of the Trinity, spinning through us.

Click Here:  December 15

A DIVINE HARVEST IN HUMAN HEARTS

God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our actions that we respect His will and do it. God offers each of us the greatest treasure possible—unending peace, joy, happiness, and life with Him in our heavenly home. We can lose that treasure if we refuse the grace God offers us to follow in His way of truth, love, and righteousness. Jesus encourages us to think and ponder about the journey we are called to be on with Him. The choices we make now will affect and shape our future. Actions do indeed speak louder than words, and when the two are in sync we call that integrity—this is what God wants of us, His children.

 

Today’s readings give us a lot of hope for those who truly hear His voice and respond to His will. In today’s Responsorial Psalm it says, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” God will accept our offerings, if we are humble and lowly, and if we open our hearts by repentance. There is always hope with our God. Our challenge is to become poor and lowly too, that we come to the reality that our only hope is in God. It is God who will heal our brokenness and forgive all our sins. The fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

These fruits are a divine harvest in human hearts! This is a great prayer of hope and comfort: At the end of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis invited us to spiritual renewal as we yearn for God’s mercy and love in our daily lives. May we do this every day!

 

Collecting Light

Across the street a neighbor strings white lights along the eaves of his house.

Across the world they sleep out in the cold, our neighbors too, wakened by gunfire.

I see the way the chickadees take turns at the feeder.

I watch a woman take her husband’s hand.

I see the way the sun will find the only interruption in dark clouds, to toss this amber light across the pines.

I watch the way a young man lifts his mother from the wheelchair to the car; the shawl he lays across her lap.

I save up every scrap of light, because I know that it will take each tiny consolation every day to mend the world.

                                                                          Deborah Gordon Cooper  

Click Here:  December 13

REJOICE HEARTILY

A man named John was sent from God. John said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,

‘make straight the way of the Lord ,’” as Isaiah the prophet said.” (Jn 1:23)

Our baptism is not just a once-in-a-lifetime ritual. Our descent into the waters of Christ’s dying, and

our rising out of their depths filled with the life of Christ’s Spirit is an ongoing event. It immerses us

continually in the life of Christ Jesus—the spiritual dimension of our existence. But Christ cannot act

in and through us unless we attune our bodies, souls, and spirits to His presence and action within us.

 

St. Paul gives us some ways to do that: “Rejoice,” “Pray.” Be grateful. Don’t put out the fire of the Spirit. Listen for the prophets among you. Be willing to try new ways of thinking and acting, and then evaluate them keeping what is good. Because of the life of the Spirit within us, we do have the inner freedom to turn our attention away from life-sapping thoughts of gloom and doom so the joy of the Spirit can bubble up. We can make choices to let go of negative or useless thoughts, turning rather to some short expressions of prayer.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

We can make it a point to remember every day to be grateful for something good---the breath of life, the chance to work, the love of a friend, the hope for reconciliation between individuals or groups. Isaiah brings glad tidings, St. Paul shouts “Rejoice!” and John the Baptist testifies to the light. Can you share the beauty and the joy of this Advent with someone today?

Click Here:  December 12

Friends, today we celebrate the great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. What followed the apparition of

Mary at Tepeyac is one of the most astounding chapters in the history of Christian evangelization.

Though Franciscan missionaries had been laboring in Mexico for twenty years, they had made little

progress. But within ten years of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe practically the entire Mexican

people, nine million strong, had converted to Christianity. Our Lady of Guadalupe had proved a more

effective evangelist than Peter, Paul, St. Patrick, and St. Francis Xavier combined! And with that great

national conversion, the Aztec practice of human sacrifice came to an end. She had done battle with fallen

spirits and had won a culture-changing victory for the God of love.

The challenge for us who honor her today is to join the same fight. We must announce to our culture today

the truth of the God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of nonviolence and forgiving love. And we

ought, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, to be bearers of Jesus to a world that needs him more than ever.

Reflect: In what ways does our culture “sacrifice humans,” either literally or figuratively? What is your

responsibility as a disciple of Christ to work to put an end to these affronts to human dignity?

Click Here:  December 11

Reflection on the Painting

Many of you will recognize today’s artwork. Whilst you may not be familiar with this very painting,

you are probably familiar with the painting style, so typical of LS Lowry. What is interesting is that

Lowry was never a full-time artist. In his early twenties, he took up a job as a rent collector, and this

would be his primary trade for the next four decades. Most of the evenings, coming home from work,

he would paint late into the night.

Not bad going, as our painting of today, sold for £1.2 million last summer. We see children playing in

front of a run-down building with boarded-up windows. Some men smoke and pass the time on the

other side of the wall, oblivious to the children’s game going on behind them. No doubt they could

hear the ‘children shouting to each other’, as mentioned by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. 

We too are often these squabbling children. We seem to be surrounded by conflict, sarcasm, negativity,

seeing who can put the most insulting statements on social media, harsh politics, etc… But amongst all

these shouting matches going on around us, who do we listen to? Is it God or is it the latest politician

or celebrity? I suspect Jesus is addressing His words straight at our 21st-century society - the squabbling

children in the marketplace, who don’t want to listen to each other. There were shouting children two

thousand years ago, and in the city that Lowry painted in the 1930s… but little has changed, we still

haven’t progressed much in always being tolerant, accepting and loving of each other. 

Click Here:  December 10

Dynamic Catholic - Let Your Soul Shine - A wave of possibility 

Click Here:  December 9

A Lifetime Commitmen

My dear friend Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I. reminds us that giving birth spiritually is a dynamic and creative process. To bring Christ into the world involves an ongoing commitment to growth, to discomfort, to love, and to surrender. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is God’s invitation to all of us.

Looking at how Mary gave birth to Christ, we see that it’s not something that’s done in an instant. Faith, like biology, also relies on a process that has a number of distinct, organic moments. What are these moments? What is the process by which we give birth to faith in the world?

First, like Mary, we need to get pregnant by the Holy Spirit. We need to let the word take such root in us that it begins to become part of our actual flesh.

Then, like any woman who’s pregnant, we have to lovingly gestate, nurture, and protect what is growing inside us until it’s sufficiently strong so that it can live on its own, outside us. . . .

Eventually, of course, we must give birth. . . .

Birth, however, is only the beginnings of motherhood. Mary gave birth to a baby, but she had to spend years nurturing, coaxing, and cajoling that infant into adulthood. The infant in the crib at Bethlehem is not yet the Christ who preaches, heals, and dies for us. . . .

Finally, motherhood has still one more phase. As her child grows, matures, and takes on a personality and destiny of its own, the mother, at a point, must ponder (as Mary did). She must let herself be painfully stretched in understanding, in not knowing, in carrying tension, in letting go. She must set free to be itself something that was once so fiercely hers. The pains of childbirth are often gentle compared to this second wrenching.

All of this is what Mary went through to give Christ to the world: Pregnancy by the Holy Spirit; gestation of that into a child inside of her; excruciating pain in birthing that to the outside; nurturing that new life into adulthood; and pondering, painfully letting go so that this new life can be its own, not hers. . . .

Our task too is to give birth to Christ. Mary is the paradigm for doing that. From her we get the pattern: Let the word of God take root and make you pregnant; gestate that by giving it the nourishing sustenance of your own life; submit to the pain that is demanded for it to be born to the outside; then spend years coaxing it from infancy to adulthood; and finally, during and after all of this, do some pondering, accept the pain of not understanding and of letting go.

Christmas isn’t automatic, it can’t be taken for granted. It began with Mary, but each of us is asked to make our own contribution to giving flesh to faith in the world.

Click Here:  December 8  

“Mary, who was empty of all egotism, free from all sin, was a pure as the glass of a very clean window

that has no other function than to admit the light of the sun. If we rejoice in that light, we implicitly praise

the cleanness of the window. And of course it might be argued that in such case we might well forget the

window altogether. This is true. And yet the Son of God, in emptying Himself of His majestic power, having

become a child, abandoning Himself in complete dependence to the loving care of a human Mother, in a

certain sense draws our attention once again to her. The light has wished to remind us of the window,

because He is grateful to her and because He has an infinitely tender and personal love for her.”

— Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation   

Click Here:  December 7  Let Your Soul Shine - Heart Alignment

Dynamic Catholic 

 Jesus heals a man, and the Pharisees, with their distorted views and misaligned hearts, can only see the miracle as a “strange thing.” It’s not strange. It’s fabulous! But to see what God sees, you can’t have a misaligned heart, mind or soul.

Click Here:  December 6

Friends, today we hear the opening line of Mark’s Gospel: “The beginning of the good news of

Jesus Christ the Son of God.” This can sound anodyne and harmlessly pious to us, but in the first

century, those were fighting words.

Mark’s Greek term, euangelion, which we render as “good news,” was a word that was typically

used to describe an imperial victory. When the emperor won a battle or quelled a rebellion, he

sent evangelists ahead with the good news.

Do you see now how subversive Mark’s words were? He was writing from Rome, from the belly of

the beast, from the heart of the empire whose leaders had killed his friends Peter and Paul just a

few years before, and he was declaring that the true victory didn’t have a thing to do with Caesar,

but rather with someone whom Caesar had put to death and whom God raised up.

And just to rub it in, he refers to this resurrected Lord as “Son of God.” Ever since the time of Augustus,

“Son of God” was a title claimed by the Roman emperor.

Not so, says Mark. The authentic Son of God is the one who is more powerful than Caesar. The opening

line of the Gospel of Mark is a direct challenge to Rome: Jesus Christ, not Caesar nor any of his

descendants, is Lord.

Reflect: How does believing that Jesus Christ is Lord affect your opinions about the leaders of this world?

Click Here:  December 5

Reflection on the Painting

Our Victorian painting today by Richard Ansdell beautifully captures the intense cold of the Scottish Highlands

during winter. The shepherd is seen on top of a moor. He probably went to the other side of the moor to get

the lost sheep. Whatever the weather, no effort was too much to bring the lost sheep back. The shepherd's

Border Collies are loyally by his side, ready to help. They just helped rescue the sheep, but they are still ready

to serve the shepherd some more, full of energy. 

Who are the ‘lost sheep’ today whom Jesus may want us to help? All of us have acquaintances, friends, colleagues

and even family members who have drifted away from or actively left the Catholic Church. We long to bring them

home. Maybe Advent and Christmas is a good time to do this? Through the beauty of the Christmas story, the

beauty of our churches lit in candlelight, the beauty of the cribs, the beauty of the Advent liturgies… maybe

through Beauty some people might be moved and their souls stirred to re-engage with their faith…. 

Probably the main obstacle for people around us to re-engage with our Church is when they see us Christians not

acting in very Christian ways towards others. Whilst the Church is indeed made up of us sinful, imperfect people

who often disappoint, we pray that we may realise that each of us are called to be a shepherd, too… to bring back

any lost sheep….

Click Here:  December 4

Friends, today’s Gospel passage celebrates the faith of two blind men. To have faith is—to use the current

jargon—to live outside the box, risking, venturing, believing the impossible. When we remain in the narrow

confines of our perceptions, our thoughts, or our hopes, we live in a very cramped way. We become closed

off to the possibility that sometimes the power of faith is manifested in spectacular and immediately obvious

ways. When someone consciously and confidently opens himself to God, acting as a kind of conduit, the

divine energy can flow.

Faith allows someone to live in detachment from all of the ups and downs of life. In the language of

St. Ignatius of Loyola: “As far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty,

honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.” Someone that lives in that kind of detachment is free, and

because they are free, they are powerful. They are beyond the threats that arise in the context of this world.

This is the source of dynamis, of real power.

Reflect: How free are you from attachments to people and things of this world? Is there anyone or anything

you believe you couldn’t “live” without?

Click Here:  December 3

Reflection on Sandcastle

Calvin Seibert, the artist we are looking at today, has been making sandcastles most of his life. I think

most of us experienced the joy of doing this when we were young. Sand, water and ‘buckets’ of

imagination made us build things just for fun… we knew that a few hours later these temporary

sandcastles would no longer exist, swallowed up by the sea… Seibert is a professional sculptor who

relishes the challenge of building temporary sand structures, inspired by modern architecture. About

building his sandcastles he says: 'Building “sandcastles” is a bit of a test. Nature will always be against

you and time is always running out. Having to think fast and to bring it all together in the end is what I l

ike about it. I rarely start with a plan, just a vague notion of trying to do something different each time’. 

In a sense what he saying is very similar to our spiritual lives: it can be a test, often events will be against

us, we have to think fast on our feet, we don’t necessarily have a plan when we start, but things grow and

shape organically, etc… But then that is as far as the analogy goes. Jesus, in today’s reading, is asking us

to go further. Reading and hearing the Word of God invites a response, an inner change, not just an outer

response. It is that inner response and growing in love for God that provides the solid foundation in life, a

foundation that can prevent any stormy seas from destroying what we have built. Building our lives securely

on Christ’s eternal, unchanging Word and rock, will make our lives better able to withstand any storm, any

rough seas, any floods…

Click Here:  December 2 

Reflection on the Medieval Illuminated Manuscript Page

Regularly I like to delve back into Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, from which today’s illuminated

manuscript page is taken. It is probably the best and most stunning book surviving from Medieval times.

Being a Book of Hours, it holds a collection of prayers to be said at the canonical hours of the day. Three

Low Countries painters, the Limburg Brothers (Herman, Paul, and Johan), all worked on the illustrations,

which are executed with finest detail. Consisting of a total of 206 leaves of very fine quality vellum, it

contains 66 large illustrations and 65 small ones. Its miniatures helped to shape the image we have of the

Middle Ages, and the clothes and vestments in particular are rendered with striking detail. 

The illuminated page illustrates today’s reading where Jesus is feeding the crowds. We see the loaves and

fish being held in front of Jesus. The Holy Spirit and God the Father are depicted above Jesus. The crowds

are patiently waiting. A miracle is about to happen. Jesus will now take what is being offered to Him,

however small, such as the loaves and fish, and will multiply it greatly. We must never think we have little

to give to Him or to others. If we use what we have for His glory, He will fill us in abundance. Therein lies

the mystery of our faith: a mysterious disproportion between what I can give and what the Lord makes of it…

Click Here:  December 1 

Reflection on the Painting

Our Gospel reading today starts with the words that Jesus was ‘filled with joy by the Holy Spirit’. It comes

straight after Jesus sent out the seventy disciples and they had just returned from a successful mission.

Jesus was thrilled with what they achieved. When we think of Jesus, we mainly think of Him healing,

preaching, casting out demons, being compassionate, loving, caring and dying for us on the cross. We

maybe rarely think of Him as joyful and happy, which of course He was. Especially during this time of

Advent, we can (re-)connect with Jesus’ happiness. 

When we see Jesus on the cross, which is probably the main image we hold of Jesus in art and in our

churches, it is too easy to lose the sense that He must have been a deeply joyous person. In him sorrow

and happiness can and do coexist. Jesus knew that the sufferings and our sorrows in this life are temporary,

while the basis for our gladness is eternal if we believe in God. For me the main learning point today is that

the joy of the disciples as they returned from their mission triggered a similar joy in Jesus. So Jesus does

not just help us to be joyful, but we can also make Him happy with our lives… He shares in our joy and

achievements.

But how can one depict Jesus being ‘filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit’? I think this painting by Danny Hahlbohm is a pretty good attempt. You may recognise the style of painting. Danny designed some of the posters for Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ film. 

Click Here:  November 30 

Reflection on the Lakeside Sculpture

Cuban-born American artist Rafael Consuegra installed this sculpture of two fishermen at Lake Onega

in Russia. It shows two fishermen ready to throw their nets into the water. The artist breathes life into

straight metal rods. So in today’s reading does Jesus breathe new life into the fishing nets of Peter and

Andrew, by inviting them to become fishers of people. He simply tells them ‘Follow me’. For Peter and

Andrew (whose feast day we celebrate today) it meant that they would physically leave their nets behind

and follow Jesus on foot wherever He went.

They left their jobs, they left their boat, they left their families, they left their plans, they left their friends…

they left their old life behind. 

Whilst Christ is not standing physically in front of us for us to physically follow Him as Peter and Andrew

did, we are called to leave things behind as well: we are called to leave behind our life plans if these are too much centered around ourselves; we are asked to leave behind our habit of doing what we just feel like doing; we are asked to leave behind friends who may not be a good influence on us; we are asked to leave behind old ways of life, bad habits…. Following Jesus means leaving certain things behind. These will be different for each of us. What have we left behind for Jesus so far in our lives? What will we leave behind

in future?… Following Jesus simply means wanting to spend more time with Him. We need to free up that time.

That is what Peter and Andrew did, so they could simply be with Jesus... We too are called in today’s reading to simply ‘be with Him’.

Click Here:  November 29  Let Your Soul Shine 

Dear Friends,

     Here’s a good way to focus during these Advent days....sign up for this free guide to journey

through Advent...today’s is good: “ check your connection “. 

Father Thomas Haggerty 

Click Here:  November 28

Reflection on the Canvas

Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with drunkenness and the cares of life’,

Jesus says in today’s reading. Jesus is talking about watchfulness, about alertness, about

being ready. We have to remember that we are in Chapter 21 of Luke. Jesus is now in

Jerusalem and in the last week of his life, surrounded by the love of his disciples. He noticed

how enthralled they and the people of Jerusalem were with the material things of this world,

or with honour, pride…. So the readings in this chapter of Luke all prompt us as Christians to

be vigilant. And how well Jesus knows us. He gives the examples of ‘drunkenness’ and being

overwhelmed with the ‘cares of this life’. We can become so focused on our daily to-do lists,

our work responsibilities or even simple things such as what is left to do around the house, that

our attention to God is given only second priority. 

One of the world’s most renowned 20th-century artists, Cy Twombly, made this giant (approx. 3 x 5 metres; 9ft x 15ft) canvas three years before his death in 2011. It features a series of hectic, soaring, swooping loops of vermilion acrylic paint. Almost like blood dripping off the canvas. Called ‘Bacchus Painting’, it evokes the bacchanalian pleasures of wine and drunkenness. Twombly’s intense brush strokes of bloody red paint also evoke violence and death, recalling the year this was painted, at the height of the Iraq and Middle Eastern wars.

Often we get stuck in the loops of daily chores, over and over again stuck in circles, repetitive, as one day rolls into the next. Jesus tells us to be on our guard. Vigilance leads to holiness, to which we are all called. 

Click Here:  November 27

Reflection on the precious stone inset Sacramentary

 

Our Gospel reading today ends with Jesus’s words ‘my words will never pass away’. Over the last few

days the Gospel readings have been warning us about the end of the world and that the world we live

in will one day disappear. However, the words of truth and life will be forever alive as they emanate

from God. Each time we open our bibles, we find the treasure of God’s Word inside. Some medieval

manuscripts also hold a true, literal treasure on the outside covers of these early bibles, adorned with

pearls, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and precious metals. During Medieval times, monks usually

produced the handwritten, often illustrated books. These could be embellished with ‘treasure binding’,

as the practice was called, where skilled metalworkers were employed to emboss patterns of silver and

gold, and set precious stones to create a lavish-looking work of art.

The example we are looking at, The Berthold Sacramentary, is named after Berthold, the abbot of

Weingarten from 1200–1232, who commissioned it. It is one of the most luxurious German manuscripts

and a major monument of Romanesque art.  Although the manuscript was formerly known as the

Berthold Missal, it is, in fact, a Sacramentary. Unlike the Missal (which has all of the texts recited by

the priest at Mass), the Sacramentary contains only those for the celebrant of High Mass. The book still

retains its original tooled metal and precious stone inset binding, which includes representations of the

abbey's patron saints (Martin and Oswald) and Abbot Berthold himself.

Not many treasure-bound manuscripts, whether Gospel or Sacramentary writings, have survived the centuries. Like anything in this world, many have disappeared… only 'the Word itself will never pass away'…

Click Here:  November 26     

As I reflected on the story of the ten lepers Jesus healed, I found myself thinking about the many times I didn’t turn around to say thank you to a friend, my parents, and God for all the graces and mercies I have received and yet to receive.  I was taught to give thanks to God for my daily bread.  I was also taught to show gratitude when I receive gifts from others, but sometimes I still forget that thanksgiving should not only be done during the moments I get what I want, but even when I don’t.  It is sometimes difficult to give thanks during moments in our lives when things aren't going according to plan, and we feel that we have been cheated or given the short end of the stick.

Many of us spend most of our lives waiting for miracles that would affirm our faith, even though we don’t say that out aloud.  We pray fervently for healing, and we look up crying and pleading, "Jesus, help me! ....  Jesus, heal me! ….  Jesus, make my life better!" and maybe that is even when we pray most energetically.  Then Jesus hears our plea…he shows up for us, we get that new house, we find that holy partner, we get that meaningful work we have always wanted, we get healed from a painful and bothersome illness, and then we walk away till next time we want something from God.  And yes, there might be some who do turn around to say, "thank you, Jesus," but what happens when we didn't get healed, we didn't get that job, house, spouse, or opportunity we longed for?  How many of us would still give thanks in anticipation of greater things to come?  How many of us would trust God enough to bless our life with what matters most and what we need, rather than just what we want in the here and now? 

If we were to make a list of all the moments, things, and people who give us purpose and give us joy, we might just find that we already have all we really need. In our waiting for our special intentions to be heard and answered, how many of us miss the greatest miracle of the day?  Yes, the miracle that we are here, and we woke up this morning when so many did not. The miracle that we have a chance to start afresh wrapped in God's warm and loving embrace. The miracle that we have yet another day for God to show us the beauty and vastness of our life.  So, have we turned around to say thank you, Lord, for a new day, a good day?

It is so easy to forget to give thanks just for the gift of a new day.  A chance to reach out to those we love, and maybe even to those who might need to know they are loved.  It is a chance to enjoy and give thanks for good food, great friends, wonderful family, even from a distance, and a chance to turn around and say, "thank you, Jesus….I am well now in more ways than one." My friends, what are you thankful for this day?  Let's name those blessings, write them down, reflect on them, remember them, and keep smiling about them because when we fill our minds and hearts with gratitude, there will be no room for worry; gratitude and worry cannot share the same space in our hearts and minds. May gratitude have the upper hand today. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Click Here:  November 25      

Reflection on the Painting

 

In today’s reading Jesus is addressing his inner circle, his disciples. He foretells what might happen

to them and to other early Christians when they proclaim the good news. But it also applies to us,

now. We are encouraged to be true to our Christian values and calling whatever the cost. Jesus

speaks of persecution and ridicule: ‘Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over

to the synagogues and to imprisonment’. The interesting two words in this sentence are ‘hand over’.

These two words appear elsewhere in the New Testament too. John the Baptist was ‘handed over’

to Herod who imprisoned and killed him. Jesus himself is ‘handed over’ to the leaders of the people

and then ‘handed over’ to the Roman authorities. Jesus says in our reading today that His disciples

will be ‘handed over’ too. By following Christ, we share in His sufferings.

At the very same time, Jesus is altogether reassuring: ‘I myself shall give you an eloquence and a

wisdom’. He promises words and wisdom that will prove irresistible to our accusers and give

amazing witness to Him. So what better painting to look at than this Ecce Homo painting by

Caravaggio, depicting Jesus, after He was handed over, now being ridiculed and on trial for his

life. On the right is Pilate, assumed to be a self-portrait of Caravaggio. Jesus is already crowned

with thorns and mockingly robed like a king by his tormentors. Only a few days ago we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King… Caravaggio’s usual dramatic light, combined with the absence of depth or background, places Christ right into the space of the viewer. Pilate’s look, whilst judgmental, is also expressing ‘look: this is what Christ did for us’.

Jesus does not promise that life will be easy for his disciples and for us. But what He does promise is that He will give us words, wisdom and courage to help proclaim the Good News.

Click Here:  November 24      Immaculate Heart Retreat

BY ENDURANCE YOU WILL GAIN LIFE

 

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) said, “Perseverance is the sister of patience, the daughter of constancy, the friend of peace, the cementer of friendship, the bond of harmony and the bulwark of holiness.” If we persevere in the daily work of faith and the coming of the Lord, every day and the end of days, will not be something to fear but a prospect we face with confidence.

 

In today’s Gospel, some of the people around Jesus spoke in glowing terms about the beauty of the Temple in Jerusalem and “how it was adorned with noble stones.” The Temple was for those people, a source of peace and contentment, such a magnificent sign of God’s Presence and such a clear sign of their fidelity to Him. But the mood quickly changes as Jesus tries to prepare them for coming events. “As for these things that you see,” Jesus says, “the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Imagine their distress as they contemplate Jesus’ words about the destruction of the Temple and those precious stones all thrown to the ground, broken into pieces. Jesus then tells them to expect other dire happenings as well. He speaks of times when “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” He speaks of “great earthquakes” and “famines” and “persecutions” and other calamities. (Does any of this have a contemporary ring?)

 

Jesus’ purpose is not to instill fear, but to inspire courage and hope. “…not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives,” Jesus tells them. In other words, if you persevere in your fidelity to God, if you persevere in your trust in God’s ultimate victory over the world, you will live.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

The Scriptures assure us that our Heavenly Father “governs the people with equity.” In the midst of “earthquakes, famines, and plagues,” we hear the call: “Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Does this bring you hope and trust?

Click Here:  November 23  

Reflection on the Painting

Jesus noticed how the wealthy people around Him were putting money into the temple treasury.

But then He noticed the poor widow who put two small coins into the treasury.  Jesus was deeply

moved by her loving generosity. He said, ‘This poor widow has put in more than any of them’. 

Jesus wasn’t interested in how much people were giving but rather in the generosity of heart with

which these alms were given. She was struggling, after having lost her husband, to make ends meet.

And yet, she wanted to give these two coins. She was driven by love and generosity. Jesus knew the

heart with which she gave these coins. He knows our hearts too, as we give and serve others. Not

one act of kindness we do in His name will be forgotten.

Our contemporary American artist, Richard Colon, depicts today’s reading in a clever way. We see scales,

held by Christ’s pierced hand. The two coins hold more weight than the riches on the other side of the

scales. Of course these scales and our Gospel reading today don’t just refer to money. It is as much about

being generous with our time, initiatives, energy, kindness, talents, and abilities to serve others. It is

generosity of heart in every sense that is being addressed here… There is a difference between simply

‘giving alms’ and fully sharing ourselves.

 

Click Here:  November 22  

Reflection on the Egyptian Obelisk

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! Christ conquers! Christ rules! Christ

reigns! Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The Church’s liturgical year

concludes with today’s feast, which was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to celebrate

the Jubilee Year and the 16th centenary of the Council of Nicaea.

Rather than choosing a painting of Christ depicted as a king, I want to look at the great

obelisk in the middle of St Peter’s Square here in Rome. It originally stood in the Temple

of the Sun in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, some 4,500 years ago. It was bought to

Rome by the mean Emperor Caligula and placed right in the middle of Nero’s Circus, an

equally unsavoury character. It was in that circus that Saint Peter was martyred, and

the obelisk may well have been the last thing that Peter saw before being killed. On top of

the obelisk there now stands a cross. In ancient times there was a gold ball representing the

sun. The sun globe is gone, the cross is in its place. Christ has conquered the pagan gods

through His cross. On the pedestal of the obelisk there is the Latin inscription ‘Christus vincit,

Christus regnat, Christus imperat’… a language of victory. Christ has triumphed by the

power of his cross. 

If Christ is King, then we are His soldiers, we are his little helpers, his servants. Here is a beautiful explanation given by Gerald Darring (St. Louis University: Center for Liturgy): ‘The Kingdom of God is a space. It exists in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every region and country that cares for its weak and vulnerable. It exists in every parish that reaches out to the needy. The Kingdom of God is a time. It happens whenever someone feeds a hungry person, or shelters a homeless person, or shows care to a neglected person. It happens whenever we overturn an unjust law, or correct an injustice, or avert a war. It happens whenever people join in the struggle to overcome poverty, to erase ignorance, to pass on the Faith. The Kingdom of God is in the past (in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth); it is in the present (in the work of the Church and in the efforts of many others to create a world of goodness and justice); it is in the future (reaching its completion in the age to come). The Kingdom of God is a condition. Its symptoms are love, justice, and peace…’

Click here - November 21Reflection on the Wall Painting

The Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary which we celebrate today

commemorates the presentation of the Our Lady as a child by her parents in the temple

in Jerusalem. Before Mary's birth, her parents received a heavenly message that they

would bear a child. In thanksgiving for this gift from God, they brought Mary to the

Temple to consecrate their only daughter to the Lord. The celebration of today’s feast is

first documented in the 11th century within the Byzantine Catholic Church. 

One of the most endearing representations of the Presentation of Our Lady is Titian’s

wall-painting at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice. It depicts the three-year-old

Mary walking up the steps into the temple. We see a little girl, painted full of confidence.

She has just walked up some steps and she looks tiny in a vast world around her filled with

officials in lavish dress. The fragile, diminutive figure of Mary walks up the steps, her right

hand managing her skirt while her left hand returns the greeting of the High Priest. Another

lovely detail is that Mary is given a full-size aura around her whole figure, rather than just a halo.

What we celebrate on this day is the fact that God chose to dwell in Mary in a very special, beautiful way. Mary, in response, dedicated her whole self to the service of God. We too, since our baptism, have been invited by God in our own unique, special way. On this feast we hear this invitation with renewed freshness to dedicate ourselves to Him, just as Mary did.

Click here - November 20

Our painting is by Cecco del Caravaggio, an early 17th-century follower of Caravaggio.

Cecco responded in his own unique style to the original manner of Caravaggio's dramatic

naturalism. None of Cecco's works are signed or dated, and therefore we don’t quite know

the full extent of his oeuvre. Among the old master painters, many if not most paintings

were left unsigned, especially in the pre-Renaissance period. Consistency, quality and

uniqueness in style were prized above needing a signature of the artist. We see Christ 

storming down the stairs, clearly annoyed at the money lenders in the temple. Our painting

captures the moment that the lenders and their clients see Jesus coming: they quickly grab

their coins from the pagan carved altar and panic sets in. 

What Jesus is objecting to is the corruption of the sacred, which had made its way into the

temple itself.  The house of prayer had been handed over to the false gods of money and

greed. Jesus challenges therefore the goings-on in the temple itself. And yes, in most of the

artworks depicting this scene Jesus is being portrayed as angry, but the root of His issue

was mainly disappointment. With one strike (literally), He re-adjusted the focus of the temple back to being a place of worship for His Father. Many times we too have entered our parish churches being distracted, almost forgetting that God is present. Today’s reading reminds us of God’s presence in our churches, especially in the Blessed Sacrament.

Click here - November 19

Our painting is by Cecco del Caravaggio, an early 17th-century follower of Caravaggio.

Cecco responded in his own unique style to the original manner of Caravaggio's dramatic

naturalism. None of Cecco's works are signed or dated, and therefore we don’t quite know

the full extent of his oeuvre. Among the old master painters, many if not most paintings

were left unsigned, especially in the pre-Renaissance period. Consistency, quality and

uniqueness in style were prized above needing a signature of the artist. We see Christ 

storming down the stairs, clearly annoyed at the money lenders in the temple. Our painting

captures the moment that the lenders and their clients see Jesus coming: they quickly grab

their coins from the pagan carved altar and panic sets in. 

What Jesus is objecting to is the corruption of the sacred, which had made its way into the

temple itself.  The house of prayer had been handed over to the false gods of money and

greed. Jesus challenges therefore the goings-on in the temple itself. And yes, in most of the

artworks depicting this scene Jesus is being portrayed as angry, but the root of His issue

was mainly disappointment. With one strike (literally), He re-adjusted the focus of the temple back to being a place of worship for His Father. Many times we too have entered our parish churches being distracted, almost forgetting that God is present. Today’s reading reminds us of God’s presence in our churches, especially in the Blessed Sacrament.

Click Here:  November 18 The Kingdom as Consciousness  From the Center for Action and Contemplation

 

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul offers a puzzling injunction to the new Christians. He writes, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Jesus Christ” (2:5). CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault explores how developing this kind of “Christ-consciousness” is the key to understanding Jesus’s teaching on the “Kingdom of Heaven.”

How do we put on the mind of Christ? How do we see through his eyes? How do we feel through his heart? How do we learn to respond to the world with that same wholeness and healing love? That’s what Christian orthodoxy really is all about. It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice. . . .

Jesus uses one particular phrase repeatedly: “the Kingdom of Heaven.” You can easily confirm this yourself by a quick browse through the gospels; the words jump out at you from everywhere. . . .

So what do we take it to be? . . . [Jesus] says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (that is, here) and “at hand” (that is, now). It’s not later, but lighter—some more subtle quality or dimension of experience accessible to you right in the moment. You don’t die into it; you awaken into it. . . .

The Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place. . . The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation—not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans. And these are indeed Jesus’s two core teachings, underlying everything he says and does. . . .

When Jesus talks about this Oneness . . . . what he more has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other. His most beautiful symbol for this is in the teaching in John 15 where he says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Abide in me as I in you” [see John 15:4–5]. A few verses later he says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love” [John 15:9]. . . . There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love. . . .

No separation between human and human is an equally powerful notion—and equally challenging. One of the most familiar of Jesus’s teachings is “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:39] . . . as a continuation of your very own being. It’s a complete seeing that your neighbor is you. There are not two individuals out there . . . there are simply two cells of the one great Life.

Click Here:  November 17 

 

Reflection on the Engraving

Usually Zacchaeus is depicted in art as sitting in a sycamore tree. Today’s print is therefore rather

unusual, and in my view a more powerful rendering of the subject. He is placed inside his own home.

He is seen pointing with his left hand to the bags of money he would have gathered as a senior tax

collector. Jesus and the tree are in the background. One hand is clutched to his chest, a sign of 

mea culpa: he wants to mend his ways. This engraving, published in 1611, is plate 3 from a book titled

‘Repentant Sinners of the Old and New Testament’. 

Zacchaeus must have been especially unpopular being a senior tax collector. However, he realised that

his life needed to change and was determined to ‘meet’ Jesus. It is particularly the words ‘Hurry, come

down!’ that Jesus shouts to him in the tree that are striking. Hurry! This is a matter of urgency. It will

not wait. Conversion cannot wait. It must not wait. Tomorrow will be too late. Today is the day. Hurry!

Zacchaeus is also called to come down. Yes, he was a small man and that is why he had to climb the tree

to see Jesus, but this was also a man who needed humility. He needed to 'come down' back to earth,

with his two feet firmly back on ground. For all these years he had been living the 'high' life, living at a

distance from God and from himself.

…and what a wonderful reward he gets: Jesus comes to his house… He also comes to our house.

But He can only come to our house if we climb down from that tree of pride… so He can meet the real down-to-earth us...

 

Click Here:  November 16 

 

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

The Kingdom Is like a Mustard Seed
Monday,  November 16, 2020

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches. —Matthew 13:31–32

 

Click Here:  November 15  

 

Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated for history a new social order. He called it the Reign or Kingdom of God and it became the guiding image of his entire ministry. The Reign of God is the subject of Jesus’ inaugural address (see Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17, and Luke 4:14–30), his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), and the majority of his parables. Once this guiding vision of God’s will became clear to Jesus, which seems to have happened when he was about thirty and alone in the desert, everything else came into perspective. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel says, “From then onwards” (4:17), Jesus began to preach.

In order to explain this concept, it may be helpful to first say what it is not: the “Kingdom” is not synonymous with heaven. Many Christians have mistakenly thought that the Reign of God is “eternal life,” or where we go after we die. That idea is disproven by Jesus’ own prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

“Thy Kingdom come” means very clearly that God’s realm is something that enters into this world, or, as Jesus puts it, “is close at hand” (Matthew 10:7). We shouldn’t project it into another world. What we discover in the New Testament, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, is that the Kingdom of God is a new world order, a new age, a promised hope begun in the teaching and ministry of Jesus—and continued in us.

I think of the Kingdom of God as the Really Real (with two capital Rs). That experience of the Really Real—the “Kingdom” experience—is the heart of Jesus’ teaching. It’s Reality with a capital R, the very bottom line, the pattern-that-connects. It’s the goal of all true religion, the experience of the Absolute, the Eternal, what is.

God gives us just enough tastes of God’s realm to believe in it and to want it more than anything. In the parables, Jesus never says the Kingdom is totally now or totally later. It’s always now-and-not-yet. When we live inside the Really Real, we live in a “threshold space” between this world and the

next. We learn how to live between heaven and earth, one foot in both worlds, holding them precious together.

We only have the first fruits of the Kingdom in this world, but we experience enough to know that it’s the only thing that will ever satisfy us. Once we have had the truth, half-truths do not satisfy us anymore. In its light, everything else is relative, even our own life.

 

Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?

Click Here:  November 15  

 

Slide Show - click above  

PARABLE OF THE
TALENTS
MATTHEW 25: 14
30

 

Click Here:  November 14  Creighton University Daily Reflection

 

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to learn patience.  So, how ironic that the parable of the persistent widow be my assignment.

I can’t think of a more appropriate lesson for us to hear today.  Think about this.  In the time of Jesus, a widow was essentially powerless.  This widow went directly to the judge for a decision…and she didn’t stop until she received a verdict.  I can only imagine her frustration, but she persisted.  I imagine this could have come with some risk.

I, like many others, have a severe case of COVID fatigue. I’m very weary of the constant chaos, bickering and unrest all over our world.  Too many people live in a constant state of fear worry and anxiety. 

  • Where will he rest his weary head after a long day searching for work?

  • How will she feed her children? 

  • What will I do if I lost my job because I had to be with my sick, aging, widowed parent or my sick child? 

  • Winter is coming, how will I keep my family warm?

  • Where will we live when there is no more money for rent?

The list can go on and on.

Is this any way to live?  I say no.  What can we do about it?  We must be patient, help each other and pray fervently.  When it doesn’t seem like our prayers are being answered, keep praying.  When hope is running out, keep praying.  When you don’t know what else to do, …keep praying.  Pray fervently and remember that Jesus walks beside us always.  His presence is persistent. Let us be persistent in our prayer.


“Don’t worry to the point of losing your inner peace.  Pray with perseverance, with faith, with calmness and serenity.”  --St. Padre Pio

Click Here:  November 13

 

Reflection on the Painting

Painted in 1570, this is the only work known to be painted by Simon de Myle, of whom we know

nothing really. The painting is signed Simone de Myle inventor et fecit 1570. Apart from that we

don’t know anything about the artist, which is interesting in itself as the painting is of wonderful

quality, skill and inventiveness of composition. We see animals in pairs leaving Noah’s ark after

the flood is over. We see birds flying out of the ark filling the skies. We even spot two dragons

flying off and a unicorn towards the front of the ship, as the popular belief amongst some people

back in the 16th century was that dragons and unicorns did exist ‘somewhere’. But as soon as we

see the animals leave the ark and being back on earthly soil, we see them picking up their old habits:

the lion is devouring a horse; a tree has been killed; a dead animal is lying in front of two women…

 

Our Gospel reading today starts with the words ‘As it was in Noah’s day…’. The people in Noah's time ignored the Lord's warning of judgment. They missed the boat, literally! And if I may further use the analogy of the boat, Jesus is telling us in today’s reading that we have to choose onto which boat we want to embark: the boat of worldly success with all its temporary joys, or the boat steered by Christ embarking for the heavens.

Click Here:  November 12

 

Reflection on the Digital Painting

Jesus says in our reading today: ‘the Kingdom of God is among you’. It is indeed among us in two ways.

Firstly, the kingdom is deep inside each of us. Each of us holds the soil where God’s Word has been sown the

day we were conceived. Through prayer and living our faith inside the Church, we cultivate that ground deep

inside our hearts, so that the seed of the Word can flourish and blossom and grow to try and reflect God’s

image into the world. Besides allowing the Kingdom of God to grow within us, we also have to work on building

God’s kingdom outside ourselves, in our communities, in our parish, in our families… to produce growth and new

life there too. As José Maria Escrivá wrote: ‘Yes, you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce

growth and new life. But don't forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it’ (St. Jose

Maria Escriva, Friends of God, 250).

Our artwork by San Francisco based artist Robby Donaghey, illustrates poignantly the flow from the interior life to the exterior life.

A bright light is emanating from Jesus’ Heart and illuminating the space around Him. The watchful eyes around Him are the lenses

through which we see the world when we nurture the kingdom of God deep inside us. 

We often look for extraordinary signs of God’s presence. Yet God and His Kingdom are to be found in the quietness deep inside us and 

outside us through the kindness, goodness and love of others. Lord, help us to be quiet, so that we may find you there. Lord, open our eyes,

so we can find you in others.

Click Here:  November 11

 

Reflection on the Photograph

Today we commemorate Armistice day. In 1918, the Allied Forces and Germany signed

the armistice at Compiègne, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western front, which

took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The very

first celebration of this date, the first Armistice Day, was held at Buckingham Palace

where King George V hosted a ‘Banquet in Honour of the President of the French

Republic’ during the evening hours of 10 November 1919. The evening included a

two-minute silence as a mark of respect for those who had died in the war and those

left behind. This would be the basis for a yearly day of remembrance, which we still

celebrate today. Our photograph was taken in Philadelphia on the very day the news of

peace broke there. It was taken on 11 November 1918, and we see crowds filling the

streets surrounding City Hall and at the centre we see a replica of the Statue of Liberty,

which was unveiled on April 6, 1918 during the Third Liberty Loan drive (a liberty bond

sold during World War I that helped cover the war expenses of the United States. In effect,

the bonds were loans from citizens to the US Government which would be repaid with

interest in the future).

Around 17 million people, soldiers and civilians, were killed during the Great War: a

staggering number. And yet sometimes it seems that the brutality of the First and Second World Wars hasn’t properly taught us any lessons. It makes us realise how now, even during these difficult times of pandemic, we have to appreciate peace. Peace is very precious. Peace gives us the space to nurture our friendship with God and live in hope. It is therefore sad that even in times of peace we see human dignity, freedom, housing… just some basic solidarity, still being denied to great numbers of women and men in our society. Whilst we pray especially today for all our brothers and sisters who have fallen during the wars, we also pray for those still not living in peace or in the dignity they deserve. May our God of peace bless them and us and come to our aid.

Click here November 10 read more   Immaculate Heart

IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THEN RECEIVE

 

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose; near restful waters he leads me.”(Ps. 23:1-2)  When we truly follow the Good Shepherd many things change in a more positive way in our lives, so that we control ourselves as models of good deeds in every respect, with integrity, dignity and sound speech to be a good example!  St. Paul’s letter to Titus confirms that by following our Lord we will live in this way “as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ.” Christ came “to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.” And when we have done all these things, “we have done what we were obliged to do.”

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

I would like to share this prayer of blessing today that was passed on to me by someone special:

 

For bringing warmth and comfort into everything you do,

For finding time to add an extra touch of kindness too,

For patience in the midst of busy hours with little rest,

For taking pride in all you do and giving it your best,

Click here November 9 read more  Jesuit 

A Light in Dark Places

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:17)

We all have favorite books and movies we turn to for pleasure and comfort. I love the Lord of the Rings films, which are based on the epic fantasy novels written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Set in the imagined world of “Middle-earth,” they tell the story of a hobbit named Frodo who embarks on a quest to destroy an evil ring. At one point on his long journey, Frodo receives an unexpected jewel from the elf queen, Galadriel. “I give you the light of Earendil, our most beloved star,” she tells him. “May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” It’s this line that resonates for me because she anticipates a time when something special will be needed for our hero to finish the difficult road before him.

I share this because it reminds me of a spiritual truth: when our own dark nights arrive, we will require gifts beyond our own personal and creative power. Galadriel puts it a lovely way: A light in dark places when all other lights go out. As Christians, we hear the promise for a similar gift beyond ourselves in both Old and New Testaments. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” And in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I have committed these lines to memory— the entire 23rd Psalm, in fact, as I can attest to the graces of knowing it by heart and speaking it aloud at hard times.

In a new book by John Anthony McGuckin about the Eastern Orthodox Church, the author laments a “profound loss of spiritual consciousness” in the contemporary world. He writes that when people used to visit Archimandrite Cleopa, an Eastern elder to whom thousands of laypeople flocked for spiritual advice in the last century, he would ask them, “What prayers do you know by heart? What hymns from the writings of scripture or the fathers are you able to sing by heart? What habitual words do you use when you invoke the presence or the guidance of God in your lives?” A practical skill we can work on as Catholics is one I admire in many of our Evangelical brothers and sisters: memorizing Scripture. Just as meaningful can be learning a favorite hymn by heart. I have memorized all the verses and the rousing refrain of “How Great Thou Art!” I thank God every time my spirit surges anytime I sing it. Scripture and hymns can work like those little fire wands we use to light candles, quickly igniting the spiritual wicks of our hearts. They are gifts that can help us see better the grace of the Holy Spirit at work: the one true light for us in dark places when all other lights have gone out.

Click here to view all reflections in this series.

Click here November 8 read more

The Transforming Power of Love

 A Commandment to Love

Love is perhaps the last thing anyone wants to be reminded of in these days following the election in the United States. Yet our resistance to love is precisely why we need to talk about it! We have strayed so far from love; and yet, love is the essence of who we are, and how we are called to treat one another.

“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet the writer of 1 John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the converse is true also: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). In the Gospel of John, Jesus takes this to its logical conclusion. He does not say, “There is no greater love than to love God.” Instead he says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends” (John 15:13). As biblical scholar Allen Dwight Callahan writes of this passage, “Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative.” [1]

The beginning and end of everything is love. Only inside of this mystery of the exchange of love can we know God. If we stay outside of that mystery, we cannot know God.

When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments; that is not what Jesus is referring to here. He speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21): “This is my commandment: Love one another” (John 15:17). He also says that the entire law and the prophets are summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another (see Matthew 22:36–40). Perhaps we don’t want to hear these commandments because we can never live up to them through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle this down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday,” so that we could feel we have obeyed the commandment and accomplished love. But who of us can say that we have fully loved yet? We are all beginners. We are all starting anew every day, in utter reliance on the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. This is a good example of “the tragic gap” that faith always allows and fills.

Click here November 7 read more

Reflection on the Painting 

Trust is essential in any relationship. If we are not entirely trusting of someone, we will never grow close

to that person and will always be on our guard. In order to engage with someone and love them, we

need to be able to trust them. And they need to be able to trust us. And so at the start of many

friendships, we share something personal with the other person and entrust them with something about

ourselves. As the friendship moves on and matures, we will share more and more with them, even

important things. So, who do we trust? Jesus is telling us in today’s reading that God is the one to trust.

No matter how much we may mess things up, or disappoint Him, He will still be there for us.

Whatever we tell Him and entrust to Him, He will never break our confidence… as He already knows

everything even before we tell Him… We want to trust God. We need to trust God. We know that.

So why do we find ourselves clinging to what we can see, feel or touch, rather than being able to let go

and fully trust in Christ, by embracing His cross?… clinging on to Christ’s cross instead of clinging to worldly

things... steady in the midst of stormy seas, as skillfully illustrated by our artist, Daniel Hahlbohm. 

Click here November 6 read more -

Setting aside time for the spiritual

“Their minds are set on earthly things,” Paul says of some in the Philippi community.

Me too, Paul! Guilty as charged! Mine is a mind almost ever-occupied with earthly

things: my next meal; the message I must return; the storekeeper who was just now

rude to me (or rude a week ago); the fatuous junk scrolling by on social media. Indeed,

even in the most solemn of moments, during the consecration at Mass, I may snap to

attention, suddenly aware that I had been carried away by some worldly preoccupation.

Does all that make me bad? No, just human. And there’s no cure for the human condition. But there are “therapeutics” to lessen the severity. You’re employing one of those therapeutics right now, dear reader, by intentionally setting aside even this minute or two to read and reflect on today’s Mass readings. Maybe you can carve out another few minutes

each day for other spiritual therapeutics: Carrying a rosary in your pocket? Doing an Examen at night? Committing to do a five-minute Bible read every day?  —Chris Lowney,

Loving God, we seek to put you at the forefront of our thoughts, but sometimes we fall short.  Strengthen our resolve to put you first, and help our actions to follow from a greater focus on you.  May we always remember that we are beloved by you. Amen.

Click here November 6 read more -Immaculate Heart Retreat

GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

 

How can a bad person possibly give a good example? Jesus obviously thought that the example of someone who is dishonest would be a perfect illustration for a spiritual lesson about the kingdom of God. What’s the point of Jesus’ parable? The dishonest steward is commended for his shrewdness. The original meaning of “shrewdness” is “foresight.” A shrewd person grasps a critical situation with resolution and foresight. Jesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial crisis. His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis through the exercise of faith and foresight. Ambrose, a 4 th century bishop said, “The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns, which last forever.” True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away.

 

Possessions are a great responsibility. The Lord expects us to use them honestly and responsibly and to put them at his service and the service of others. In today’s first reading St. Paul commented on people for whom God is non-existent, if not in theory at least in practice. He wrote, “Their only god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame.” When people make their own desires supreme, when they in effect make themselves their own god, there is no freedom for them.

Click here November 5 read more -

A DOUBLE TITLE

 

We pray today in the responsorial psalm, “Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord. Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve Him, for we belong to our God.”

 

Jesus’ parables in today’s Gospel are not talking about sheep and coins. Jesus is talking about God’s people; people who are infinitely more precious to God than a lost sheep is to a shepherd or a lost coin is to a woman looking throughout the house. We are those people. Jesus went out in search for us who are lost and brought us back home to our Heavenly Father.

 

We belong to God by a double title.   First , God created us. He gave us life, without any merit on our own. Life is Our Father’s great gift to us. Secondly , God through His Son has redeemed us. Even though we were devoid of any worth or merit as a sinful people, God looked upon us with love and chose to reconcile us to Himself. In doing so He freely gave us the means to everlasting life. Created and redeemed, we belong entirely to God, our lavish giver. What a great gift! We belong to God in the sense that as intelligent and loving beings we are responsible to Him. God has a right to our love and loyalty in somewhat the same way in which good parents and grandparents have a right to the devotion of their children.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

We have nothing to claim as our own. Everything comes to us from our God. That is why St. Paul tells us in the first reading today, “We are the circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in the flesh, even though we have grounds for confidence in the flesh.”  (Phil 3-4) Do you know that you belong entirely to God?

Click here November 4 read more -

Reflection on the Painting

 

We admire Jesus, we agree with His teaching, we glory in His love

for us, we love Him… But… we are very reticent to suffer for Him or

to accept the humiliation of the cross for ourselves… But that is exactly

what Jesus is asking of us in today’s Gospel reading.

Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) put it beautifully: ‘Many come following

Jesus who love His heavenly kingdom but few come looking forward to

suffering. Many admire His miracles but few follow Him in humiliation to

the cross. Jesus wants us to think about what we commit to when we really 

want to follow Him.

He compares our commitment to planning to build a tower. Before we build a tower, we would calculate how much it would cost, what materials we need, etc. Before we commit ourselves to a life of discipleship, we must understand and count the cost. Blind commitment that expects only blessings is of no use to God: he wants disciples who are committed and prepared to make the necessary sacrifices. 

And so our painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder shows the Procession to Calvary and the sacrifice Christ made for us. We see Christ as a small figure in the background. The crowds are more prominent. He made the sacrifice 2,000 years ago; now it is up to the crowds, us, to take up our cross too. As we do that, Mary, placed firmly in the foreground of our painting, will be there for us every step of the way too.

Click here November 3 read more - Immaculate Heart Retreat Center

GOD’S TEAM                                                                    

Many of us enjoy pro football. This rather rough game with its oddly shaped ball and complicated rules has something to teach as a specialized team sport. The player has his own talent and responsibility, and the team needs each player to do his part. Most of the focus is on the quarterback or a running back, but without a good offensive line a quarterback will never have time to throw passes and a back will never get the blocking he needs to make good gains. Nothing will ruin a team quicker than the failure of each player to accept and to do his part. It’s not about “I, me and mine” even though it has always been pretty popular with us. St. Paul’s response to this image of Christians as one Body in Christ is his Letter to the Romans. Jesus is portrayed in today’s first Reading from the Letter to the Philippians: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.” (Phil 2:7) He came not to be served but to serve; to do God’s will and not his own. Not a single one of us is insignificant in God’s plan. Rather each one of us must recognize the talent God has given us as well as our ministry in the Church and then do our best with God’s help.

 

Those people in the Gospel who were invited to the dinner gave excuses for not accepting. Resentment against anyone in the Church or jealousy over someone else’s position is also an excuse for not fulfilling our own responsibility in the Church. As a faith filled people, we are God’s team, and His will and direction are what counts.

In the responsorial psalm we acclaim, “I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.” 

 

Points to Pray and Ponder:

I bow down to You, O God, so I can do your will. Do you hear Him speak in the whisper?

Click here November 2  read more - Immaculate Heart Retreat Center

REMEMBERING AND COMMEMORATING

 

We are a people of remembering and commemorating. Within in our families we remember those on special days like birthdays and wedding anniversaries and other special events in our lives. We may remember in a simple way like a card, a note, etc.

Sometimes in life we get too busy and we might forget from time to time to remember because of family, work and other commitments. And so, we might send a belated card to let them know we forgot, but still love them.

 

Today, the Feast of All Souls is also a day of remembering and commemorating. We remember those we love who have gone before us. We commemorate them by celebrating the Eucharist in memory of them. This special Mass, by way of God’s Word that we hear and the body and blood of Jesus that we share, carries the same message to our deceased loved ones as did the special days of birthdays and anniversaries of times past. We love those in our lives enough to remember them. The Church knew how important it is to set aside days like this. And we come together to pray!

 

I frequently use at funerals today’s second reading from Paul to the Romans: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in the newness of life.” “For we have grown into union with him through death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” Our baptism, our saying “yes” to God and our faith makes us all united with Him.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

God sent His Son Jesus, so that over and over again we can hear Him tell us in the Word and the Eucharist, “I will always remember you, I will always love you.” Take a moment today to remember. May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Click here November 1  read more - 

Immaculate Heart Retreat Center 

A call to holiness…to be saints. All those people of our

past…saints, apostles and martyrs…all ordinary people like us.

And they are praying for us and we pray with them on our

journey toward God.

 

In the Responsorial Psalm we acclaim, “Lord, this is the people that

longs to see your face.” Through our baptism we are called to live

and be; we are known by our name and our Christian actions,

serving as Jesus Christ did.

 

Saintliness is unique to each person. Growth and development in unique ways are in each person. The titles that the Church gives to canonized saints, for example, “apostle,” religious founder,” “married woman,” give us a glimpse of how saintliness shaped the vocation of each saint we honor. What would we like our saintly title to be? It is not premature to consider this. In fact, today’s Solemnity of All Saints is a perfect day to do so. Why? This day is perfect for us saints-in-training or saints-in-the-making to rejoice with all God’s holy ones as we design our saintly titles.

 

Today in the Gospel Jesus gives us some suggestions. I read this in one of the commentaries and would like to share it with you for there are listed some qualities that make excellent titles for the saints. Can you hear yourself among them?

Widow, poor in spirit with Jesus.

Retired man, meek in spirit with Jesus.

Teenager, hungry and thirsty for righteousness with Jesus.

Medical professional, giver of mercy with Jesus.

Mother and father, clean of heart with Jesus.

Social worker, peacemaker with Jesus.

Labor leader, persecuted for the sake of righteousness with Jesus.

Pro Life worker, opposed for the sake of Jesus.

 

Points to Pray and Ponder :

Do any of these titles fit you? Would you like one or more to fit you? Our desire is to be “blessed” to be saints. This should be determined by what we are doing in our present, namely, living the Beatitudes as only each of us can do and letting them shape us into God’s holy ones here and hereafter. “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb.” 

Click here October 31  read more 

Reflection on the Painting

Following on from yesterday’s image of an ox, we stay in the world of animals today

and look at this lion. Jesus is talking about humility in today’s Gospel. In our painting,

we see a strong, confident, kingly lion looking up to a light shining down from heaven,

waiting to carry out the next command he may receive from his master. The artist,

Abraham Hunter, is a contemporary Christian artist who uses depictions of animals to

convey a Christian message. I personally have come across very few wildlife artists who

would use their skill in the service of evangelisation. The artist says: “When someone

looks at my paintings, I want them to feel as if they are right there witnessing first hand

what the scene is depicting. I want them to feel the peace, comfort and joy that I

experience when I’m studying the outdoors. I also want it to be a time for them to reflect on the beauty of God’s many blessings that seem to go mostly unnoticed in our busy world.”

The background is reminiscent of the Garden of Gethsemane. Like the lion depicted here, Jesus was also strong and all-powerful in accepting His fate and His Passion. In our friendship with Him we join in His strength and promise. But just like Jesus, we are called to be humble in our acceptance of God’s will. In complete humility He accepted that He was about to die a horrible death for us. 

The Bible refers to Christ symbolically as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). It represents His power, majesty, and everlasting reign. The image of a lion also reminds us of the lion in the oeuvre of C.S. Lewis, where Aslan the lion has many parallels to Jesus: powerful, yet humble.

Click here October 30  read more 

Cooperating with God’s graces

“The one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion...” Paul’s message ought to fill us with hope. Me? I believe it (sort of, theoretically), but I don’t behave like I believe it. Instead, I carry around the scrounged-up determination of that little kid who refuses to accept help and insists on getting it done all by himself. I live as if I can do it on my own and must do it on my own. Well, that attitude is admirable in a little kid assembling model airplanes, but when it comes to one’s spiritual life? There’s a fancy name for that: “Neo-Pelagianism,” the belief that we can save ourselves by our own efforts. 

Paul reminds us, in a hopeful and reassuring way, not to elbow God aside by living as if we can control our destiny and salvation. It’s God’s world, not mine. I’m not the one ultimately in control. Paul encourages me to believe that “the one who began a good work” in me will “bring it to completion.” My job? To cooperate with God’s graces. 

—Chris Lowney

Prayer

Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Click here October 29  read more 

Reflection on the Manuscript Page

 

Today we celebrate the The Blessed Martyrs of Douai College. The 158 Martyrs of

Douai were a group of seminarians who trained for the priesthood at Douai College

in France during the English Reformation. After their training, they returned to

England and were executed for preaching the Catholic faith. Their executions took

place over a period of time, between 1577 and 1680, when being a Catholic priest

was considered high treason. They gave their lives to defend and preserve what we

can so easily take for granted today: the Eucharist and the other sacraments. The

Douai Martyrs teach us about sacrifice. Eighty of them were beatified in 1929 by

Pope Pius XI. With around 2,000 registered students and several hundred professors,

Douai was the second largest university of France during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Although it was known mainly for mathematics and physics, the Faculty of Theology,

too, was an important center for Catholic scholarship. In our Gospel reading today,

Jesus was in the last stages of his earthly journey, making his way towards the

immense act of sacrifice on Calvary. The Douai martyrs joined him by their sacrifice,

traveling from France back to England knowing their own death was also imminent…

Click here October 28  read more 

Gold Ground Painted Panel

 

 

Our painting today is a panel that once was part of a predella (the base of an altarpiece), hence its elongated shape. We see Christ in the middle, flanked by the twelve apostles, each painted with their attributes. Taddeo di Bartoli was an early Renaissance Italian painter based in Siena. Like most artists at the time, he painted his figures with egg tempera on a wood panel, embellished by the gold background (fondo oro). The gold ground enhances the colours of the painted figures and make them seemingly float on the surface. The arches around the figures are achieved by incising and tooling the gold ground wood panel. In a way there is no other combination of materials (egg tempera paint and gold ground) that yields quite the same luminous results. The ever-changing light inside the church where such panels were held would make the panel radiate in so many different ways. The gold ground would also have focused the eyes of people as they walked into the church: the altar is at the centre of your visit! And at the centre of the altarpiece, as in our painting, is Christ – Christ who prayed, just like the people coming to church…

…’Jesus went out into the hills to pray’ we read the start of our Gospel passage today. He always prayed before taking any big decisions, such as appointing the Twelve Apostles. He prayed a whole night. He wasn’t looking for the perfect disciples, but probably in His prayers that night he looked at their weaknesses, their talents, their drive, their enthusiasm, their fears, their flaws, their fire… He chose the twelve trusting that one day they would bring the Gospel to the whole world… and shine, like our gold ground painting, in a sometimes dark world…

Click here October 27  read more 

Reflection on the Painting

In today’s reading, Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God is like a small lump of yeast.

If you have baked bread before, you know how much difference yeast makes. Baking the

dough without yeast would just produce a heavy, hard loaf… almost stone-like. But the

yeast makes the bread rise to its full potential: soft and flavoursome. The bread increases

in size manyfold because of the yeast: a small amount of yeast will leaven a large amount

of flour… small beginnings, but large endings… 

What better paintings to look at when talking about bread than some Dutch still lives.

Whilst at first glance they appear to be devoid of narrative, deeper meanings come to life when we analyse all the elements present in these scenes. Almost every detail stands as a metaphor. Our painting is by Clara Peeters, one of the only female artists painting at the time. Painted in 1625, the painting shows a small, delicious-looking crusty loaf of bread in

the foreground. Its sides show how the yeast has leavened the bread and made it rise to its full potential. The rest of the painting shows some large cheeses. Milk at the time was regarded as the ‘noble liquid’; think for example of Vermeer’s Milk Maid, which was painted only 25 years after our painting. The flowering artichoke and tasty-looking red cherries are reflected on the silver plate and are seducing the viewer. An eaten cherry at the edge of the table, with only the stem and pit remaining, is a gentle reminder of the transience of life. And then in the background on the left we have salt… we are called to be ‘the salt of the earth’… also an important ingredient for making bread…

Click here October 26  read more 

Reflection on the Painting

 

Whilst the main point of our Gospel passage is about the controversy between Jesus

and the synagogue leader, at its very core is the healing of a woman who was bent

over, showing His compassion for us. Looking at our painting today by Serbian

contemporary artist Milos Todorovic, what strikes us is how this woman must have

seen the world for the past 18 years. She ‘was bent double and quite unable to stand

upright’. She probably could only look at people glancing sideways, from the corner

of her eye. She could not see the world in any other way. Her illness or possession by

an evil spirit prevented her seeing the world in any other way. When Jesus healed her,

she could stand upright again and literally have a whole new perspective... on life. 

Jesus' perspective on the Sabbath day was also unique. It would be very easy to paint 

the synagogue leader in our passage as simply the ‘bad guy’. He probably wasn’t. He

probably had a lot of respect for God and his ministry. Even for the past 18 years he may have actually been the one who helped the woman in our story and gave her shelter. To tie in the healing of the woman with Jesus’ attitude towards the synagogue official simply demonstrates the essence of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus wants us to follow Him in everything and give our lives to Him, setting us free from what is holding us captive. The woman was held captive by the evil spirit, and the official was held captive by his judgement of people and hypocrisy. Anything that imprisons us has to be got rid of. For Jesus, compassion and love are paramount, trumping all other considerations...

Click here October 25  read more 

Reflection on the Sculpture

Today’s reading goes to the very heart of all Scripture. Jesus tells us what our central

duty, responsibility, and even privilege in life is: ‘You must love the Lord your God

with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and

the first commandment.’ Jesus doesn’t mention the soul, the heart and mind as if they

were separate categories of love, it is one love. But by spelling out heart, mind and soul,

Jesus stresses that we are to love God with every part of our being. The depth of our

love for God should sit in each of these areas. 

To love God with our heart means that our life revolves around Him. He is the center of

our daily life wheel. He is at the forefront of all that we think and do. To love God with

our soul means there is genuine emotion and passion towards God. This doesn’t mean

that our love for God is to be controlled by our feelings. But it is yet important to find

God in our emotional nature. And then to love God with our mind, does not just include

the intellectual life, but also a sense determination, active choice and using our free will

to seek God. Loving God with all our mind balances out our emotions and steers the

direction and path on which we walk, pursuing God. 

Our sculpture by Polish artist Xawery Dunikowski was made in 1918. We can see a certain angst in this sculpture titled ‘The Soul Escaping the Body’. The body is putting its hands firmly down to try and keep the soul inside the body. The body is fighting for life… soon after this was sculpted in 1918, World War I was over…

Click here October 24  read more 

Reflection on the Pencil Drawing

Our drawing by Australian artist Lloyd Rees shows a very mature, over 100-year-old

fig tree, maybe somewhat similar to the fig tree Jesus is talking about in today’s

reading. Drawn in 1934, it almost feels like we are looking at an old master painting.

In 2016 there was a retrospective of the artist in Sydney titled ‘Painting with Pencil’

which I think sums up Rees’ work very well. The infinite care over the smallest of

pencil lines (have a look at the houses in the background for example) shows the

artist’s skill and patience when making these drawings. 

And it is to skill and patience that Jesus is calling us in today’s reading. With us as

with a fig tree, it takes a while to produce fruit, and we have to be skilled to nurture

the tree and patient to await its fruit. Jesus tells us that God is patient with us and

always ready to give us more time. God trusts in our capacity to bear fruit. Therefore

this parable of the fig tree is a great story of hope, where the Master Gardener will

do what He can to produce beautiful fruit from every fig tree… from you and me...

Click here October 23  read more 

Refusing to live split lives

“Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Paul tells us to be humble, gentle, patient, and loving. At all times. Period. He doesn’t say: “Be gentle, patient, and loving with close friends and family, but once you go to work or shopping, forget all that stuff and do what you gotta do to survive, get ahead, or fit in.” Our culture has accustomed us to leading “split lives,” behaving one way in personal life and another way at work. That’s not Christian, plainly put. The root of the word “integrity” means “whole,” and Paul is challenging us to be people of integrity who lead whole rather than split lives, gentle and patient and loving even at work. That’s tough to do. But if I try, I may help change and redeem our broken, angry, dysfunctional workplaces and society.

—Chris Lowney, 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you call us to live our lives as you did, showing love and compassion to all those we encounter, no matter their relationship to us or their status in society.  Help us to follow your example in all that we do.  Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer team

Click here October 22  read more 

Reflection on the Marvel Comic

Today we celebrate Saint John Paul II. Born exactly 100 years ago, he is probably one of the

most compelling figures of the 20th century. Karol Wojtyla endured the loss of most of his

family when Poland was under Nazi rule and clandestinely studied for the priesthood. He

participated in the Second Vatican Council and, after he was elected pope, he became the

most widely-traveled pontiff ever. But did you know that John Paul II’s life story was the subject

of a Marvel comic book in 1982?

The comic traces John Paul II’s life from his childhood in Poland all the way up to the

assassination attempt on his life. What persuaded the Marvel executives to give the go-ahead

to a comic book about the then newly-elected pope? Gene Pelc, whose wife was Japanese, was

a Marvel representative who had moved to Japan in the 1970s in order to report back to Marvel

on how the they could adapt its products for a Japanese audience. Pelc was mainly tasked with

licensing Spider-Man to play on Japanese television. When John Paul II visited Japan in 1981, he

gave his permission to Pelc and Marvel to publish a comic, as long as a priest friend of the pope

could help steer the project. Over 1 million copies were sold. Seeing the success of this Marvel

publication, in 1984 another comic was published about Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Click here October 21  read more 

Reflection on the Painting

In our Gospel reading of today we hear Jesus calling us again to be vigilant.

The tale of the two stewards is shared with us: there is the prudent, faithful

steward and the unjust, unwise steward. Prudence is the capacity to be able

to see within a particular situation what is required and then decide to put it

into action. Jesus praises the prudent and faithful steward and even tells us

that the master of the household will wait on that wise steward. The master

becomes the servant of those who exercise prudence and faithfulness. 

 

We are all stewards. We each have to serve and use wisely the talents and gifts we have received. We don't own those gifts: they were given to us, lent to us. Only in union with Christ will these gifts flourish. When we have been given great gifts, a great deal will be demanded of us. So today’s reading is a call to individual responsibility. If we know what

has been given to us and what is expected of us, but we fall short, then we will be held to greater account, especially if our actions are unjust.

In our 16th-century German painting we see the unfaithful servant being taken away from his master, who is flanked by his dog (a symbol of faithfulness). In the background we see the faithful steward with his master. If we think of ourselves as stewards of the gifts (health, family, job, creativity, …) that God has given and realize that we will have to return all of those gifts to the One from whom they came, then we can share in the joy He wants for us…

Click here October 20  read more 

Reflection on the Painting

‘See that you are dressed for action’ says Jesus in today’s reading. He wants

us to be alert and ready for action at all times. Yes, He mentions these words

in the context of His second coming, but He also prompts us that being alert

in more general terms is part of our faith. 

When our governments tell us during these Covid times ‘Stay Home’, it is a

simple, clear message which tells the citizens exactly what to do. The

governments act almost like a parent and we just have to do what we are told

and hope that all will be well. But when Jesus calls us to ‘Stay Alert’, it is quite

different. It shifts the responsibility on to us. 

We are called to take responsibility for our own well-being and for our own souls.

We have to be alert to where we can be of service; alert to needs of others; alert to when we can speak about the things of God… simply to be alert to where God is already active around us. 

I saw this painting six years ago in London when it came up for auction, and the reading today reminded me of this image. It depicts a Napoleonic soldier, not alert, sleepy and not aware of what is going on around him. To be fair on him, he probably had a long day’s work and was simply having a rest… But as soldiers of Christ, Jesus tells us that we can’t be sleepy in our spiritual lives… we have to be ‘dressed for action’… every day…

Click here October 19  read more 

St. Isaac Jogues: A Saint for Those Who Have Been Knocked Down by Life

In 1636, Jogues arrived as a missionary in what is today Canada. He experienced starvation, illness, and torture. He was forced to watch the killing of Christian converts. He spent thirteen months as a slave before escaping to France.

He could have remained there as a living hero. Instead, he went back as a missionary.

Before returning, the Jesuits requested a dispensation from the pope. According to Church law, a priest needs “canonical digits” to celebrate Mass, and several of his fingers had been cut, chewed, or burnt off. 

The pope granted the request, saying, “It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ not be allowed to drink the Blood of Christ.”

Isaac Jogues was able to face unimaginable difficulty and martyrdom because he allowed Christ to fill him.

Even when our challenges seem minor in comparison, we can do the same.

So, St. Isaac Jogues, pray for us.

Click here October 18  read more 

Reflection on the Painting

The Pharisees set a very clever trap for Jesus in today’s reading, by asking

Him ‘Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ If Jesus advised Jews

to pay the tax, they would condemn Him for recognizing the pagan Roman

authorities occupying their land. On the other hand, if Jesus told the

Pharisees not to pay the tax, then they could have told the Romans that

Jesus was spreading civil disobedience and have Him arrested. It was a

no-win situation, but Jesus outsmarted them all. He simply asked one of the

Pharisees to produce a denarius, which would be the very coins they used to

pay the tax with. Possessing that Roman coin was in itself an admission that

they were compromised as loyal Jews… they had fallen into their own trap!

Jesus simply states ‘give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’… In our painting today

we see Caesar in full action as an emperor ruling territories. It depicts the surrender of the Gallic chieftain after the Battle of Alesia (52 BC). The Gauls are shown with long hair and moustaches. The Romans are looking on, full of confidence, arrogance and pride: they won the war. Just as Gaul became part of the Roman Empire, so were the Jewish territories, which were important to Rome, mainly because they lay between Syria and Egypt, two of Rome’s most valuable possessions.

Click here October 17  read more 

Reflection on the Painting

In our Gospel reading today there is a very powerful promise that the Holy Spirit will

teach us what we should say in moments when we bear witness to God. As a seminarian

reading this, I find it an especially beautiful promise. I think that one of the worries many

of us here in seminary have is about what we will say, preach, or tell a congregation in the

future when we stand in front of them. What should we say at a particular time? So the

reading today resonates strongly with us and is asking us to trust fully in the Holy Spirit on

our journey ahead. As seminarians we are aware that there will be times that we will have

to speak gentle words in certain circumstances and then other times words that a highly

secularised world may not want to hear, but needs to hear. We pray that the Holy Spirit

may guide and inspire us in those moments. 

Jesus is asking in our reading that at such times we offer a good testimony for Him in a clear, bold and enthusiastic way. His promise that the Holy Spirit will not desert us when we may feel persecuted is of great comfort. Like the creatures in our painting who each have their own megaphones, own voices, own trumpets, we also individually have our own voices to give witness to Christ…

As Psalm 98 says: ‘with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn -- shout for joy before the Lord, the King’. 

Click here October 16  read more 

The Spirit’s gifts

“Sealed with the promise of the Spirit,” Paul says. I heard a lot about

God the Father, Jesus, and Mary during my young Catholic life. The

Holy Spirit? Not much. Uncaged around Confirmation time, the Spirit was

then tucked back in a “spiritual cage.” That’s a pity. As I age, I realize how

desperately our society and Church now need the Spirit’s gifts. We’re like

those disciples locked in the upper room after Jesus’s ascension. We may

be unsure what to do as we face our fears and confusion about the future, for

example, or about our Church’s waning appeal to young people, or the viability of struggling parishes. We need the same courage, inspiration, imagination, and prudence that the Spirit brought those disciples. Let’s all pray: Come Holy Spirit! 

—Chris Lowney

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth. 

Click here October 15  read more here

Reflection on the Photograph

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). She was born in 1515. To place this in a

bit of a historical context, we have to remember that Christopher Columbus had opened up the Western

Hemisphere to European colonisation only some 20 years before; and two years after her birth, Luther

started the Protestant reformation; she died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent. In the

midst of these seismic cultural changes Saint Teresa was born…

 

In a man’s world around her, she was very much her own woman, entering the Carmelites despite strong

opposition from her father. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet very practical; intelligent,

yet much in tune with the world around her; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer; a pious woman, yet

outgoing and courageous. Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have

helped generations of believers. In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church.

One of the main things she taught her fellow sisters was to think and pray on their own, and to concentrate, in order to hear the Lord, on what she called the ‘Interior Castle’. She shared with them that the soul is like a diamond in the shape of a castle containing seven mansions, which reflect the journey of faith, through seven stages, ending with union with God… I am sharing with you a simple photograph of her cell... no art, no paintings, no objects... 

Saint Teresa pray for us.

Click here October 14  read more here

Reflection on the Oscar Statuette

 

The Oscar statuette is probably one of the most recognised sculptures in the world. Shortly after the formation of the

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, there was discussion of how best to  honour the outstanding

moviemaking achievements. The idea of a small trophy that could be handed to the winners was born. MGM art director

Cedric Gibbons designed a statuette of a knight standing on a reel of film and gripping a crusader’s sword. The Academy

then commissioned Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley to convert the design into a three-dimensional sculpture, and so

the  world-renowned statuette came into being. Since then, over 3000 have been presented. The film reel on which the figure 

is standing features five frames that signify the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers,

technicians and writers. It is a statuette conceived to honour the peers in the film industry.

It is a natural desire to be honoured by our peers. Whether we are academics, or teachers, or doctors, or nurses, lawyers or whatever field we may be working in, nothing feels as rewarding as when our own peers tell us that we have done a good job and applaud us for it. ‘Beware!’ Jesus says in today’s reading. He reminds us in stark words that our lives should be lived in such a way as to honour God and honour others... not to seek honour from one’s peers as the Pharisees did. 

Click here October 13  read more here

In The Company of Prayer

Lord, I rely on your light.

 

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,

but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from

within." -- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, American psychiatrist

Click here October 12  read more here

Reflection on the Illuminated Manuscript Page

 

Our illuminated manuscript page, depicting Jonah being devoured by the whale, is taken from the Bible of St John XXII. 

He was the second and longest-reigning  pope in Avignon (1316-1336). He is the pope who canonised Saint Thomas Aquinas.

We see Jonah depicted in a prayerful pose being swallowed by the whale, in front a medieval city, probably representing Nineveh. 

During the 14th century, we see many such illuminated manuscripts being produced. The production of lavishly illustrated copies

of the Bible did not end with the advent of printing. These illuminated manuscripts are beautiful, as they symbolise so vividly 

the textual literacy, spiritual devotion and rise of the material culture during the Middle Ages. These manuscripts using natural

materials, such as gold leaf, silverpoint, vellum, and bright, mineral-derived paints, required a high degree of craftsmanship.

As the materials used were fragile and war-torn medieval Europe destroyed a lot of copies, only few good examples have survived.

Jonah prayed inside the whale for help, repented, and praised God… for three days. Jesus in our Gospel reading today mentions

Jonah, to foreshadow His own death and Resurrection. Jonah emerging from the fish after three days is a parallel for Jesus

emerging from the tomb after three days... Jesus compares himself to Jonah, another sign, calling for our conversion.  

Click here October 11  read more here

Banquet of heaven 

This parable must seem scary to all of us who know in faith that we are invited to the "wedding banquet" of heaven but are often too busy with worldly pursuits to give heaven much thought, instead going our "own way." For us, this Covid-19 virus has an opportunity to, in some ways, be a great grace, calling us back to the one thing necessary in all of our pursuits. We must keep our calling to heaven before us in all we say and do, and pile up good works of compassion and caring for others, the wedding garment that the parable goes on to speak about. 

As St. Ignatius puts it, we are meant to "find God in all things." 

Prayer

Lord, I pray that I may see the grace in this pandemic. When it ends, may I not return to business as usual, but rather may I have grown more eager to adorn my life with good works, in preparation for the eternal banquet of heaven. 

—Fr. Jack Zupez, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits Central and Southern Province. He lives at Jesuit Hall in St. Louis and has served in full-time prison ministry. 

Click here October 10  read more here

October is a month traditionally dedicated to the rosary. I remember praying early morning rosaries in October at my elementary school named, fittingly enough, Holy Rosary. Like most Catholic kids, I grew up with the rosary as a normal part of my life: it was just there all the time. Once, in a fit of childish angst, probably around the age of 10, I shook a rosary

Click here October 9 

Reflection on the Painting

In our Gospel reading today we read about Jesus casting out demons. Whilst the

reading is clearly pointing towards actual demons inside some of the possessed people,

we also need to apply the reading to our own lives. Demons stand for anything that

can posses us in a violent, unhealthy way, thereby taking us further away from God.

Maybe our demons would be the obsessions that make for greed, envy, pride…. We are

invited to name our demons in our prayers and ask God for help to

overcome them.

Our large (180 × 250 cm.) painting by Swiss-English artist Henry Fuseli shows a

reclining lady literally being oppressed by a demon, whilst another demon watches on,

ready to also have a go at her. Painted in 1781, this work was executed at the height of

the Enlightenment. The painting was first displayed at the annual Royal Academy exhibition in London, where it shocked and frightened exhibition visitors. It was indeed a very avant-garde painting for its time. It is quite theatrical in style. The red drapery falling off the edge of the bed even suggests a river of blood as it might be symbolically enacted on stage in a play or an opera. The light source coming in from the right is also what would be happening on a stage. The woman, clothed in a thin white gown, stretches across a bed with her arms, neck, and head hanging off the end of the mattress. The painting depicts the drama of being oppressed by one’s demons.

As Hans Urs von Balthasar described so beautifully, Jesus invites us to live our lives as part of the Theo-drama… and move away from our own ego-drama…

Click here October 8 

Reflection on the Painting

 

Our reading today talks about persistence. Jesus says ‘persistence will be enough’.

I think all of us in our spiritual lives have struggled at times with the problem of

unanswered prayers. It can sometimes discourage us and even push some to quit

praying altogether. It can then even be painful when we hear stories of how God

answered the prayers of others, but for us it just doesn’t seem to work… or at least

we think that it doesn’t seem to work. Jesus is saying in today’s reading: persist! If

we keep asking, seeking, discerning, and knocking, we will receive plenty, but it

might not be what we ask for, or in the timeframe we ask for: God has his own plan

for us, and what prayer will do is align our will to His Will. 

The painting by Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, is probably one of his best known paintings. The watches look like melting cheese, or as Dali put it: ‘The camembert of time. Here time must lose all meaning’. When we pray we often think

too much in terms of time and what we want right here, right now. God’s time is eternal and therefore we are called to be patient, but yet persistent. 

The orange clock at the bottom left of the painting is covered in ants, symbol of decay. Another insect that is present in the painting is a fly, which sits on the watch that is next to the orange watch. The fly even appears to be casting a small human shadow as the sun hits it. 

As Dali’s watches depict, time is fluid, especially in light of God, who is beyond space and time…

Click here October 7  read more here

Richard Rohr  -   Taking a Step Towards Simplicity

As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that greater peace is in your hearts. . . . For we have been called to heal wounds, to bind up the broken, and to call home any who have lost their way. —Francis of Assisi  

Click here October 6 Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network

How to pray with the senses - to read more click above

Have you ever thought about how rushed you are through life? This rush can easily prevent us from realizing the wonders that exist in our day. Have you forgotten that you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste? Have you stopped to give a hug, to look ahead for another person, to listen without rushing, or to pay attention to textures, flavors, and smells? If we took time to admire and marvel at the world we would live more in love with the God of Life, source of all that is good, beautiful, and loving.

Today I ask that you become aware of your gaze. How do you look around you? How do you use your eyes? At the beginning of your day, be grateful for the ability to see, that images enter through your eyes and that you can recognize them. Take some time to stop and ponder what is appearing before your eyes, those objects that usually do not attract your attention.

Click here October 5

Reflection on the Painting

Our painting today is by prolific Neo-Impressionist painter, Maximilien Luce.

The softness of the pointillist style reflects the tenderness of our Good Samaritan

parable. The whole idea behind pointillism is that when you place two distinct

colours next to each other, the colours will optically blend into a different colour.

It was a revolutionary painting technique pioneered by Georges Seurat

and Paul Signac in Paris in the mid-1880s. They believed that ultimately the

viewer’s eye would blend the various colours, rather than mixing colours

conventionally on a painter’s palette. Look at the sea, for example, in our painting

composed of yellows and greens, to create the illusion of a blue sea. 

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most popular parables, if not 

the parable that speaks the most to us. Its message is simple: a call to Christ-like

love and compassion. Whilst we can have many angles to this parable, what struck

me today is that the Samaritan isn’t named. He is just known as ‘the Good Samaritan’.

That is probably when in the eyes of God we do the best worthwhile work…

when no-one sees us doing the charitable works… just quietly working away in the background. There

are many people who quietly work away for God without anyone noticing. Recently in my parish

placement over the summer, I can think of many such people who do so much for the parish, unnoticed

and discreetly working away with deep generosity of heart. They are our modern-day good Samaritans...

Click here October 4

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

St. Francis:
A Message for Our Times

Click here October 3

Reflection on the Digitally Generated Artwork

We know that Jesus had given explicit powers to His twelve Apostles, enabling them to cast out demons. But in today’s

reading we see how even the seventy-two disciples were given powers. They came back from their mission, and their

informal feedback to Jesus is: “Wow, even demons

submit to us in your name!” They rejoiced not in the fact that they themselves might have been 

regarded with admiration by the people they helped; but they rejoiced, as they saw God's powers

working through them. Their faith became very real and tangible during their mission. God’s will

was being done before the very eyes of these disciples. Also Jesus himself rejoiced at seeing God’s

will being done through the 72 disciples. We read that He was 'filled with joy by the Holy Spirit'. 

When the seventy-two came back, Jesus saw in their successful mission evidence of the defeat of Satan.

The digitally generated image of Satan falling out of heaven, illustrated here, is one that speaks to

young people. Usually these types of graphics are part of video games, and thus digitally generated

images carry immediately a sense of familiarity with young people and therefore some credibility.

These digitally generated images are a new medium that as a church we should embrace, as this new illustrative medium communicates a language that a whole new generation of youngsters connect with. Our illustration is a strong image showing how Satan fell because of pride: he desired to be God, not to be a servant of God… unlike the seventy-two disciples who wanted to serve...

Click here October 2

Today is the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels.

In conclusion, as we reflect on today’s readings, I invite you to turn with me to today’s responsorial

psalm which offers a moving image of God knitting us together in our mother’s womb.  Let’s imagine,

as God knit each of us together, our guardian angel was also there to guard and love us from the onset

of our creation.  While we journey through the pandemic and on this very special Memorial of the

Holy Guardian Angels, our faith tradition reminds us that we are never alone.

Click here October 1

Reflection on the Digital Artwork

Jesus is still sending out men and women today, every day. In our reading today Jesus didn’t just

send out the twelve apostles; no, he sent out seventy-two disciples, showing how each of His

followers has a mission and a responsibility to spread the good news. The beauty in Luke’s reading

today is how realistically he portrays what discipleship is. Life as a disciple can be a bit of a

rollercoaster. Only when we know and realise that following Jesus will be a rollercoaster with

windy roads, twists and turns, can we properly carve out space for God in our everyday journeys.

If we know from the start that the journey ahead won’t be easy, it makes it easier for us to find God

in the midst of the great balancing act we know that life and faith are. That is why Jesus is painting

the picture in today’s reading, saying how hard discipleship might be. A big reality check before

being sent on mission. 

I am sharing with you a digital artwork by Marvin Blaine, of a roller coaster, representing the ups and downs of life and of our spiritual lives. The mission we are sent out on can be a bumpy ride, but one that is filled with joy and excitement, as long as we try to stay on track…

Click here September 30

Reflection on the Watercolour on Paper

As Jesus walked his way through Israel, a whole company of people followed Him, not only the

twelve Apostles. From time to time various people would come to Jesus asking if they could

follow Him. Jesus' reply seems harsh at first: ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have

nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’. He is telling us that following him

means putting up with the hardships and self-denial that come on His path. We can't say:

When my husband gets better, then I will follow you; or when my son graduates, then I will

follow Jesus. Following Jesus is about the here and now. Today is the day.

The watercolour on paper we are looking at today by William Hunt of a bird’s nest is technically

one of the best watercolours there is. The brilliant, naturalistic colour and illusionistic precision

resulted largely from Hunt’s innovative technical virtuosity, in particular his exploration of

layering different paints, gums, gouaches all on top of each other, scraping away areas and

then adding new layers. It earned the artist the nickname of ‘Bird’s Nest’ Hunt. 

A bird in a nest may be secure, but that is not why God gave it wings…

Click here September 29

Reflection on the Painting

Today we celebrate the feast of three archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The word ‘archangel’ means ‘

high-ranking angel’—the same way that ‘archbishop’ means a high-ranking bishop for example. Saint Michael

(on the left of our painting), won the battle over Satan when Satan confronted God. His name means ‘Who is like God?’.

The implicit answer is that of course nobody is like God, as He is the greatest there is. Raphael (in the middle) cured

Tobit, the father of Tobias (whose hand he is holding) of his blindness and helped his family in their sufferings and

misfortunes. Raphael’s name means God heals’, and we see him holding in his other hand a jar of the medicinal fish

gall to cure old Tobit of his blindness. Tobias himself is holding a fish that he had caught during the journey

which would help to rid his future wife of demons. Gabriel (on the right, holding a white lily)

announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of Jesus. His name means ‘God is my warrior'. 

G.K. Chesterton wrote: ‘Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal’. I think today’s painting is a very good example of that. These three archangels were three special messengers who were sent to accomplish very specific tasks in very specific ways. We pray to them that they may help us achieve our own very specific task that we are each called to do.

Click here September 28

Jesus turned the whole social ladder upside down: humble servants were to be the most honoured; the poor were the ones most to

be served; children were the ones most to be admired for their purity of heart, etc. Jesus explains in our reading today that in the

Kingdom of Heaven, the highest rank goes to those who will serve the most.

Our reading starts with an argument between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. A childish argument. Hence,

Jesus zooms in on this childish behaviour and uses the example of a child to make His point. He points to the dependence of the

child as a model we should all live by. Like a child is dependent on its parents, we should be dependent on on God. Remember our

reading today follows on from Jesus just having told the disciples that He was going to betrayed. And now he sees his disciples

fighting for power - a very strange argument to have just after the Lord told them he was going to be betrayed. No wonder,

Jesus makes the strong point that they are called to serve, not to dominate!

Our painting is by Belgian painter, Juliaan de Vriendt. It shows Jesus surrounded by children and getting their full attention. They are not fighting for power. They are simply happy and joyful in His presence. A gentle glow is emanating from Jesus, set in front of a fruiting vine tree. The top left shows a desert-like landscape, making the point that people travelled from far afield to find Jesus. They went through deserts and hardship to be in His presence… and be joyful. 

Click here September 27

The 16th century engraving we are looking at today is very small, just a bit larger than a postage stamp. It is one of the rare

illustrations in art of our parable today. Strangely enough, this parable didn’t get depicted in art all that often over the centuries.

Maybe the reason is that it isn’t the easiest parable to grasp or even to lend itself to pictorial depictions? Jesus addresses the parable

directly to the Jewish leaders who refused to believe in Him. One son says ‘Yes father!’  when instructed to go to work in the vineyard,

but he does not go. The other son says straightaway when asked "No!  I don’t want to go" when his father instructs him, but later he

regrets disobeying his father and does eventually go to work. Jesus then asks the question ‘Which of the two sons did what his father

wanted of him?’, to which the answer is the one that went to work, no matter what either of them said. Jesus thus points the finger at

the Jewish leaders. He compares them to the bad son, saying one thing, but doing another. Their shameless hypocrisy was condemned.

The other son felt bad for having said no, repented and eventually did go to the vineyard. 

So do we make it to the vineyard? Or do we say one thing and do another? We have all been probably more like the son who said yes and then did not go to work…

Click here September 26

In our Gospel reading today we read how the disciples ‘did not understand Jesus and were afraid to ask Him

about what He had just said’. It is easy for us to maybe think that the disciples were very slow in understanding 

Jesus. But of course with the benefit of hindsight that would be an ungenerous comment to make

For all of us, looking back at our own experiences can sometimes lead to epiphany moments, when suddenly we

understand why something was said years ago, or why we had to go through certain trials. As adults, we remember

formative experiences that made little sense at the time, but now with mature eyes and a better understanding of the

world around us, those early experiences make sense and fit into the picture of who we have become.  

Our reading today gives us this sense that we are all on our faith journeys and, whilst we don’t understand certain things now, we might do so later. The disciples, even though living so close to Christ, had exactly that experience too. Think of the Transfiguration for example, where Christ’s inner-circle, Peter, James, and John witnessed something astonishing and did not fully understand what they saw. It wasn’t until after the Resurrection that they understood the Transfiguration. 

Life provides trials and experiences that momentarily puzzle us. We might well ask ourselves, as in our neon light artwork, 'What does this mean?' by Joseph Kosuth, one of the American pioneers of Conceptual art and installation art. But we must, as Peter, James, and John did, trust that God is always in charge and will reveal the truth to us in His own time. 

 

Father Thomas Haggerty

Click here    Sept. 25\Jesuit Prayer and reflection

Prayer

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire

in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,  though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton

 

Father Thomas Haggerty

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