Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Healing the Demon-Seized Boy

Raphael ~ Section of The Transfiguration

This painting is part of a much larger and well-known painting of the Transfiguration by the Renaissance artist, Raphael. The larger piece is of the Apostles, Peter, James and John, over-whelmed by Christ's brightness on the mountaintop, with Moses and Elijah in conversation. We find this little sub-scene at the bottom of the image: as Jesus and his friends descend the mountain, they meet the father of a demon-seized child, hoping for the boy's release. 

It is a very moving scene, isn't it? The dad's face is full of anxiety and anticipation as he holds up the boy who is flailing about. Is that the boy's mother, who points to her son, looking to Jesus, expectantly? Other stressed-out relatives and neighbors surround the desperate family, calling out for Jesus to help. Here is the Gospel account.

When they came back to the disciples they saw a large crowd surrounding them and lawyers arguing with them. As soon as they saw Jesus the whole crowd were overcome with awe, and they ran forward to welcome him. He asked them, 'What is this argument about?" A man in the crowd spoke up: "Master, I brought my son to you. He is possessed by a spirit which makes him speechless. Whenever it attacks him, it dashes him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes rigid. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they failed. Jesus answered: "What an unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long must I endure you? Bring him to me." So they brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw him it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, "How long has he been like this? "From childhood," he replied, "Often it has tried to make an end of him by throwing him into the fire or into water. But if it is at all possible for you, take pity upon us and help us." "If it is possible?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible to one who has faith." "I have faith," cried the boy's father; help me where faith falls short." Jesus saw then that the crowd was closing in upon them so he rebuked the unclean spirit, "Deaf and dumb spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never go back!"After crying aloud and racking him fiercely, it came out, and the boy looked like a corpse; in fact, many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up. Then Jesus went indoors, and his disciples asked him privately, "Why could not we cast it out?" He said, "There is no means of casting out this sort but prayer."  Mark 9:14-29

As Jesus and the disciples arrive at the bottom of the Glory-Mountain the waiting crowd surges towards Jesus. "Runs forward" the gospel tells us. And they were "overcome with awe." And they "welcome Jesus." Can you feel the excitement? It makes me wonder if Jesus is still shining as he was at the top of the mountain or was there some remnant of his white-brightness that stuns the crowd. The attractiveness of Jesus. 

The father describes what's going on with the boy: it dashes him to the ground.  Poor boy. Poor parents who have to watch their children suffer. So many children suffer around the world. while their powerless parents can only watch and weep. But interiorly, can you name a time in your own life when you felt dashed to the ground?

Then there is this conversation the father and Jesus have about believing. I think the exchange is light-hearted; Jesus isn't being stern or indignant. "If it's possible," the dad asks with great courtesy. "Sure it's possible, if we believe," Jesus says. Sounds like Angel Gabriel in the conversation with Mary at the Annunciation: Sure it's possible! 

And Jesus doesn't reprimand because the dad admits faith is sometimes challenged or in short supply. We can imagine how vulnerable the parents felt - their child so tormented for so long and with no solution in sight. Jesus understands this and gives the gift of healing.

Then, when the boy is freed but left so weakened and down, people think he's dead, Jesus lifts the boy up, taking him by the hand. This is typical of Jesus all throughout Mark's Gospel accounts. Jesus, lifting up humankind. A hint of resurrection. How tender and solicitous. 

And Mark tells us that Jesus raised the boy to his feet. Can you name that place for yourself - when you were down-for-the-count and heaven restored you - put you back together or back on your feet? It's very wonderful.

Then finally, Jesus goes indoors and speaks to the disciples privately. Some folks only attend to the Gospel in the past tense. But the wonders of Jesus are for you and me as well, and NOW. Indoors means in our own interior lives - privately and personally. We don't even have to imagine what he said to them. What matters is what Jesus says to us. Each of us. Anything come to mind?

Friday, September 23, 2016

When Feeling Troubled

Christ-Teacher in Glory

This prayer comes to us from the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. The monastic community of Bethlehem prays the blessing at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer. We might use it for ourselves and our families when feeling burdened, tired, heart-broken, sad or anxious. We might also pray the blessing over the world when we hear troubling news from far away and we don't know what else to do.

O Christ our true God, risen from the dead,
through the prayer of your all-holy and all-Immaculate Mother,
elevated soul and body
into the Glory of the Three Divine Persons,
by the power of your glorious and life-giving Cross,
by the protection of the holy Angels and Archangels,
through the prayer of the holy prophet
John the Baptist the Forerunner,
of Saint Joseph,
of the holy apostles,
of the martyrs,
of the holy monks and nuns,
be pleased to pour down your mercy upon us and save us,
for you are Good and You love mankind. Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Intercessions ~ Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Native Asters ~ Early Autumn

At the start of a new week/ we pray not to be overcome by challenges or adversity/ but that each day we would discover how to fulfill God's purposes./ We pray to the Lord.

Receive the prayers we make for the members of the Church around the world,/ that Christians everywhere would serve God truly and devoutly,/ in safety and in peace./ We pray to the Lord.

This past week at Assisi,/ Pope Francis met with religious leaders from around the world to talk about and pray for peace./ We ask blessings for this effort./ And that we would be peace-makers./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who are having surgery this week,/ for the elderly,/ the chronically sick and those who care for them./ We remember as well,/ that in so much of the world there is no place or personnel to care for the injured,/ the frail and the dying./ We pray to the Lord. 

Thursday is the Feast of the Archangels Michael,/ Gabriel and Raphael./ We ask heaven to protect us from evil and danger,/ and that with angels/ our prayer would be strong in praising and thanking God./ We pray to the Lord.

For our families and our friends,/ we ask the healing of old wounds,/ addictions,/ money problems,/ resentments and anxieties./ Give new life,/ joy and hope to families which are dysfunctional or broken./ We pray to the Lord.

For relatives and dear ones who have died,/ remembering too the many who die each day by murder,/ suicide,/ untreated disease and war./ And that we would each be given what we need for our own salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation...

Praise the Lord, all nations,
extol him, all peoples,
for his faithful love is strong.
and his constancy never-ending.

That's all there is to Psalm 117 - just two verses. "If you've got gratitude, you've got the whole of the spiritual life." We complicate it of course, but really all we need to do is to strive after an ever-deepening gratitude.

I've heard there are Orthodox Jews who practice One hundred blessings a day. We know the little formula at Mass (borrowed from Judaism): "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness..."

And we can take that invitation to conscious gratitude with us all day, beyond the bread and the wine:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness there is:

my first conscious breaths of the day,
that my heart beat through the night,
these morning meds,
this glass of water,
my shower and my teeth (real or false)
my morning coffee,
that I was taught how to read,
this Gospel page,
this technology by which I communicate,
the smell of just cut grass coming through the window,
and the morning fog,
the person who crafted my eye glasses,
the sound of summer insects,
and the music of birds,
that I will see friends today...

There's 15 right there. We get the idea. Carry on...!