Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Intercessions ~ Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Observing Ash Wednesday this week,/ we ask for ourselves and all the Church,/ a Lenten time of renewal and growth./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis said this week:/ "One group of individuals cannot control half of the world's  resources./ We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs."/ May we experience a change of attitude,/ from indifference and fear/ to one of justice and fraternity./ We pray to the Lord.

This week/ regulations protecting the nation's rivers and streams from coal dumping and runoff/ were rolled back./ Our lives were formed in water;/ are essentially made of and sustained by water./ It was in baptism waters that we met Jesus for the first time./ We pray to reverence and safeguard/ this most precious gift of God./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who live in ruined parts of the world,/ where there is no delight,/ no safety,/ no sense of hope and future./ And that we would take nothing for granted./ We pray to the Lord.

An historic Jewish cemetery was desecrated in Missouri this week./ Grant this country a new heart,/ freed of anti-semitism,/ racism and every kind of bigotry/ Console those who are grieved by violence and hatred./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those countries caught in power struggles/ where there is no will to peace./ For our families and friends,/ for the protection of children,/ the sick,/ the weak and the vulnerable./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On The Road To Jerusalem

On the Road to Jerusalem ~ James Fairman (American 1826-1904)

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, Jesus leading the way; and the disciples were filled with awe; while those who followed behind were afraid. He took the Twelve aside and began to tell them what was to happen to him. "We are now going to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be given up to the chief priests and the doctors of the law; they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the foreign power. He will be mocked and spat upon, flogged and killed; and three days afterward, he will rise again." 
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said, "Master, we should like you to do us a favour." "What is it you want me to do?" he asked. They answered, "Grant us the right to sit in state with you, one at your right and the other at your left." Jesus said to them, "You do not understand what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" "We can", they answered. Jesus said, "The cup that I drink you shall drink, and the baptism I am baptized with shall be your baptism; but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant; it is for those to whom it has already been assigned."  Mark 10:32-40

Maybe James Fairman had these gospel verses in mind when he painted this picture titled: On the Road to Jerusalem. This Jerusalem road is not an easy way - notice in the bottom right hand corner there are some folks resting under some shade trees. We can imagine the happiness travelers felt coming around the bend and seeing Jerusalem off in the distance. Maybe we've heard the Negro-Spiritual: Oh, What A Beautiful City.

They were going up to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way. Jesus is going to do the work he has to do. Notice he not being taken there by others, but he's leading. He's in charge and doing first what we must do.

The disciples were filled with awe. Awe is an emotional word - something is too wonderful for words. The beauty, the glory, the wonder is beyond descripton. Awe is a word we might use to express an experience of God - a kind of bow-down word. But then...

while those who followed behind were afraid. Strange. It seems there are two groups going along with Jesus. Who are these people who are just following behind? And why are they afraid? Are they afraid for Jesus? Are they afraid for themselves - that they know Jesus has enemies which might spell trouble for them. Or maybe, St. Mark is giving us a heads up - that when we hear Jesus teaching in the next verses we might feel our own fear.

"The Son of Man will be given up to the chief priests..." This is called the Third Passion Prediction. Jesus knows. And isn't it interesting that in very plain language, Jesus has told the disciples what's going to happen to him. There's the bad news and then Easter's good news. Yet when the tomb is found empty and the women relay the angel's message, they don't believe. Of course, we understand, we know how we are.

Then James and John appraoched him and asked, "Master we would like you to do us a favor..." Pretty incredible, isn't it? Jesus has given them earth-shaking news, horrifying news, and they're asking favors for themselves! Maybe it was just too much to handle and so they clumsily change the subject.

They want prominent places (to sit in state with you, one at your right, the other at your left). They want power places. It's like manipulating for a cabinet post, hoping to be made a monsignor, climbing the social or political ladder. Pope Francis told a group of cardinals: "Scarlet means service, not power." 

Jesus said, "You do not understand what you are asking?" He is going to Jerusalem to empty himself in the ultimate service and they don't understand the implications for themselves. Indeed, even after having been with Jesus for three years, come the last supper, and there's no servant to wash feet at the door, Jesus waited until the middle of the meal to see if the apostles would serve each other with basin and towel. They don't, and so he gets up from the table and shows them one last time how service is done. We can get religion very wrong.

"Can you drink the cup?" Sounds Eucharistic. At Mass, the bread is broken, passed around and given away. The cup is passed around and emptied. That's terrifying if I understand the implications for myself. Do we think of this as we walk the Communion line?

"We can!" James and John answer. They sound very sure of themselves, don't they? But then they'll run away from Jesus in the Gethsemane Garden. I've seen militant Catholic websites: Fight The Good Fight For Orthodox Catholic Teaching! They sound very sure of themselves. As if they somehow have it over James and John.

Here is the centerpiece of Jesus' teaching. These two boys are looking for posts in Jesus be Jesus' counselors, his consultants, his spokespersons. But Jesus will have none of it. Rather: the great ones are the ones who serve. We're invited to share in his service by learning compassion, which is to identify with others in their suffering and struggle. Even with those who are far away.

I can't think of the last time I heard a TV news item about Africa. It's as if it doesn't even exist, only our political primaries, our elections and the subsequent chaos. Serving is the doing of good deeds, the simple and God-pleasing Corporal Works of Mercy, yes, but beyond that, service is justice. Justice is a game-changer. "If you want peace, make justice happen," Pope Paul VI said when he visited the United Nations in 1965.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Paramythia Mother of God ~ The Comforter

I've snuck in,
drawn near at night,
a cyber visitor,
an online pilgrim,
visiting the chapel-home
your Vatopedi sons have prepared for you.*
Rejoicing in your dignity,
they call you Abbess!

Someone has left two candles behind
I'm presuming to light,
but all the more my inner being lit up - 
so glad for the solitude with you
and your boy in his silver robe.

Oh Paramythia,
loving Mother-Consoler,
who do I know needing comfort tonight?
The UNICEF children of the television plea,
and their brothers and sisters,
withering in squalor,
hidden in fear.
Comfort them.

And their parents...
Oh, the fearful mothers running,
hoping to survive the sail-away
from the hateful menace,
and the panicking who are told to 
turn around,
go back,
You're on the next flight out.
Comfort them.

Console the bent ones
who get no bathroom break,
who pick the lettuce,
the grapes,
the strawberries
and cabbages,
who wear hooded shirts to conceal their faces
for fear of being returned to their fearsome land.
Comfort them.

And the ones who clean the toilets
and change the beds they could never
afford to sleep in
for even a night,
the ones who wash the dishes,
who breathe the demolition dust.
Comfort them.

And Paramythia-Mother,
now I must ask you to do something
against your nature,
but would you dis-comfort us?
Discomfort us in our indifference, 
expectant entitlement.

Discomfort the politicians  and the churchmen,
the ones with so much power,
the clubs of billionaires,
the corporate boards,
the media moguls,
the investors and inventors
and the people we call stars.

Discomfort the men who love to wear decorations
and costumes of distinction and gradation:
buttons and ribbons,
badges and crowns, 
feathers and medals, 
veils and rings.
Discomfort them.

And discomfort
even those who live (they think) 
on the lower rungs of our country.
Discomfort us who have so much,
yet still complain so much.
Discomfort us in our pettiness, 
small thoughts, 
so-smartness and shopping.

And now I'll simply sit here some moments,

near the lamp which holds an eternal flame.
Perhaps the young monk will come in from 
his disturbed sleep
to refresh the oil 
which keeps the flame alive,
and who will no doubt ask you, 
for love to be refreshed in his heart.

* Vatopedi is one of the twenty monasteries on Mount Athos which is a mountainous peninsula in North East Greece. About 2000 monks live on Mount Athos

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Intercessions ~ Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Tuesday is World Day for Justice,/  which is fair mindedness,/ and respect for each human person./ We ask for the spread of justice,/ bringing about a peaceful world./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter./ We pray for Pope Francis/ who is Peter's successor,/ asking for him,/ good health,/ safety and blessings upon his world ministry./ We pray to the Lord.

There are twenty-seven million slaves in the world,/ including our own country./ We ask for enlightenment,/ and for people everywhere to enjoy freedom/ and the recognition of their God-given dignity./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the many whose lives are disrupted by fires,/ floods,/ storms,/ wars,/ famine and wide-spread disease,/ and strength for those who generously and bravely help./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for our families and friends all that is good,/ mindful of the ones who are struggling spiritually,/ emotionally,/ financially,/ or in their relationships./ We pray to the Lord.

Lent begins in ten days./ We ask for a Lenten time of human growth,/ following Jesus in his bright rising./ We pray to the Lord.

Grant comfort, healing and strength to those in hospitals,/ nursing homes/ or who are left untended./ For those who are disabled or whose illness is chronic and painful./ We pray to the Lord.