Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sunday Intercessions ~ Fourth Advent

As winter begins we pray for self knowledge/ where we are feeling cold or frozen about ourselves or our relationships ./ For hearts to be enlightened and warmed by Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

The Jewish People celebrate Chanukah these days - their own feast of light./ We ask for the strengthening of Jewish-Christian relations/ and for the conversion of anti-semitic hearts./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray in the holiday time for the homeless,/ the friendless and all who might feel there is no cause for hope or joy./ We pray to the Lord.

As we prepare to celebrate the feast of God becoming one of us as a little child,/ we pray for the world's children - mindful of the terrorized children of the Middle East./ For their peace,/ good health and protection./ We pray to the Lord.

For those with whom we will share visits,/ gifts and meals at Christmas./ For the safety of winter travelers./ For anyone who is away from home this holiday time./ We pray to the Lord.

Grant a change of heart to those who do menacing/ terrorist and violent things./ Give us all that new heart and mind to be good stewards of the earth which we so often treat badly./ We pray to the Lord.

Give gifts of mercy,/ healing,/ joy and fullness of life to all throughout the world who have died this past year./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Parable of the Seed Sower

Van Gogh ~ The Seed Sower

On another occasion Jesus began to teach by the lake-side. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he had to get into a boat on the lake, and there he sat, with the whole crowd on the beach right down to the water's edge. And he taught them many things  by parables.
As he taught them he said: Listen! A sower went out to sow. And it happened that as he sowed, some seed fell along the footpath; and the birds came and ate it up. some seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil, and it sprouted quickly because it had no depth of earth; but when the sun rose the young corn was scorched, and as it had no proper root it withered away. Some seed fell among thistles; but the thistles shot up and choked the corn, and it yielded no crop. And some of the seed fell into good soil, where it came up and grew, and bore fruit; and the yield was thirtyfold, sixtyfold, even a hundred fold. He added, "If you have ears to hear, then hear.' Mark 4: 1-9

IN THE FIRST VERSES we see that a large and eager crowd has gathered to hear Jesus who uses a boat as a pulpit to avoid being pushed into the water by his fans. These happy listeners are a contrast to the little group of suspicious investigators who, in the previous verses, have come down from Jerusalem: religious headquarters. Some people still do this when they write complaint letters to the bishop, papal nuncio or directly to the Pope. 

Notice that Jesus sits while teaching which means that he teaches with authority. Mark gives us lovely details: the people are pushed down to the water's edge. Hold the picture mindfully and you're meditating. Maybe the people want to be able to hear better. No sitting in the last row here! And St. Mark tells us that Jesus taught the people many things. Jesus isn't stingy and never like a teacher, parent, doctor or cleric who's always in a hurry.

Jesus gets our attention, "Listen up, everyone!" Good teacher that he is, Jesus uses parables which are picture stories. Parables deliver a new perspective, causing people to question what they think they're so sure of. If I'm going to follow Jesus I've got to be ready for a new way of looking at things. I shouldn't be so sure that I know what God is about or up to!

The seed is God's Word. Big churches usually have pulpits that are elevated above the congregation - even many steps up so folks can see and hear better. Stepping into that kind of pulpit I always think of the seed sower walking through the field and while wearing the seed bag on the left side he/she digs into the bag and pulls out fistfuls of seed, throwing it in a splaying motion while walking. Seed thrown everywhere!

Notice this - there's nothing wrong with the seed - the problem is the ground which receives it. Notice too that most of the seed is wasted or lost, for one reason or another it simply doesn't produce. Footpath. Birds. Rock shelf under the shallow soil. Scorching sun. Thistle-weeds. But God isn't discouraged! Instead God celebrates wherever the seed-word is fruitful! 

What's the fruit God is looking for? Maybe the Mass Preface for the Feast of Christ the King tells us: A kingdom of truth and life: a Kingdom of holiness and grace: a Kingdom of justice, love and peace. The parable invites me to think about my own life and why perhaps so much of God's Word fails in me or my family. Name it!

But Jesus knows human nature much better than we often do. He ends the parable by saying, "If you have ears to hear, then hear." If! Jesus knows well that we are each conditioned differently, that some people are simply not receptive, while others might be superficial, still others are distracted or pre-occupied. And even in those who ARE open, inviting and receptive to God's Word, there are degrees or levels of fruitfulness or effectiveness (thirty, sixty, a hundredfold). I'm left to ask, What do I want for myself?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Snow on Snow on Snow

WHEN I STARTED TEACHING in New York City in January of 1974 I made a promise to myself that whenever it would start to snow, and a student would call out in excitement, "Look, it's snowing!" that I would not respond in a way that would stop the enthusiastic delight. Rather, that I would share their joy and allow for some moments of wonder. For heaven's sake, we were in Harlem - if there was ever a place that needed some moments of wonder!

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed." Albert Einstein

A recent newspaper article about a Cosmology conference began with the question, "What creativity brought forth a trillion galaxies?" Indeed and we might ponder, what creativity brings forth the seemingly endless diversity of  snowflakes?

Snowflakes are not frozen rain - that's sleet. Snowflakes rather are water vapor droplets that have condensed and frozen into ice around a dust particle or pollen high in the atmosphere. This becomes the "seed" from which the snowflake will grow. That much is known. What happens next depends on the temperature and to a lesser extent how much humidity is in the air. Those fluctuations bring about the endless branching or growth of the snowflakes while faceting creates the flat plates between the branches. That endless and often very subtle differentiation of each snowflake, believe it or not, remains a mystery.

When sunlight strikes accumulating snow, the collection of many snowflake branches and facets breaks up the light, sending it in all directions, resulting in the white appearance that so delights us. 

If I were a teacher today each student would have bits of dark wool and magnifying glasses at the ready. When it snowed we'd reach out the window to catch snowflakes on our wool and then make quick examinations (before melting could steal away the moment) to see the uniqueness of the flakes we caught. Snow on snow on snow - wonder on top of wonder on top of wonder

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sunday Intercessions ~ Third Advent ~ Gaudete

Pope Francis has called the Church a "house of joy."/ Grant this to be so in our world of loneliness,/ pain and hatred./ We pray to the Lord.

The singing of the Advent O Antiphons begins on Wednesday - first calling Jesus the Wisdom of our God Most High./ We ask to be shown the path of knowledge - God's way of justice,/ compassion,/ and mercy./ We pray to the Lord.

This Sunday's liturgical color is rose/ a color taken from the dawn sky:/ In Christ there is a new beginning./ We pray with those who long to begin life again after sickness,/ war or disaster./ We pray to the Lord.

In the time of winter darkness and cold we pray for those who lack the necessities of shelter,/ warmth,/ food or friend./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask to be kept from a spirit of discontent and ingratitude./ Grant us to live Mary's way of awe before God's active presence in our own lives./ We pray to the Lord.

Our country suffers an insatiable thirst for drugs./ Give us a national and cultural sobriety/ born of satisfied hearts and a desire to serve./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have died since last holiday time to enter a heavenly life of joy in the Holy Trinity. We pray to the Lord.