Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jesus Draws Contrasts

There was a great crowd and they listened eagerly. He said as he taught them, 'Beware of the doctors of the law, who love to walk up and down in long robes, receiving respectful greetings in the street; and to have the chief seats in synagogues, and places of honour at feasts. These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while they say long prayers for appearance' sake, and they will receive the severest sentence. Mark 12:38-40
Once he was standing opposite the temple treasury, watching as people dropped their money into the chest. Man rich people were giving large sums. Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny. He called his disciples to him. 'I tell you this,' he said: 'this widow has given more than any of the others; for those others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on. Mark 12:41-44

Jesus takes clericalism head on in verses 38-40. Clericalism: the rules that apply to everyday folk don't apply to deacons, priests and bishops. Clericalism is an ugly stain on the church. It makes for church leaders who are soft, lazy, entitled, materialistic, superficial... 

Notice this: In all four Gospels, it's clerics who receive "the most severe sentence" v. 40 - not prostitutes, not divorcees, but clerics! Men! Indeed, in the next gospel section, it's a woman who demonstrates the kind of love human persons should have for God. Jesus must have surprised his audience by proposing a woman as an example of how to be with God. 

Mother Teresa used to say to people, "Give until it hurts you." This widow understood that. In the ancient world the words, "poor widow" (no male siupport; no Social Security, no 401K) were an image of an utterly hopeless, lonely, miserable person. And this is precisely the one who still finds a way to give (in the world's eyes) recklessly to God.

I remember feeling sad and confounded one night at dinner in my first parish when the pastor told me that he had to start visiting the homes of wealthy people in the parish because the Bishop's Appeal had been announced. I wondered: Why does he have to go and grovel, when these people knew the annual appeal had begun? Why didn't they just send in their gift? Why didn't they value their pastor's time more, insisting on his visitation, turning him into something of a CEO or fundraiser? 

I really like this widow because she feels her religion. There are Christians who do religious things because, "I've been raised that way," or they're motivated by fear or guilt. It makes for minimalism. "It's the least I can do," some folks say. Yes indeed. But this widow - even though it's a penny - has "given everything."

When I was student teaching in the early 1970's there was a middle-aged woman in my parish named Vicki L. She slept on a cot in the back of the parish used clothing room. My priest friend met her all smiles on the street one morning. He asked, "Vicki, what are you so happy about?" and she answered, "I've just given away my last nickle."  I'm not telling anyone to copy or comment on that vignette - but I expect it has something to say to each of us. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ronald Reagan and John Paul II ~ Thoughts for Today

These days there's a great deal of conversation and debate (more than a little of it unpleasant) about immigration, refugees, who may come here, who may not.

Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan met a number of times here in the United States and in Rome. I came across two statements, one from each leader that we might add to that conversation.

"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on  rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace - a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here." Ronald Reagan ~ Farewell Address to the People of the United States, January 2, 1989.

"Solidarity means taking responsibility for those in trouble. For Christians, the migrant is not merely an individual to be respected in accordance with the norms established by law, but a person whose presence challenges them and whose needs become an obligation for their responsibility. "What have you done to your brother?" (Cf. Genesis 4:9). The answer should not be limited to what is imposed by law, but should be made in the manner of solidarity."  Pope John Paul II ~ The Church and Illegal Immigration ~ World Migration Day ~ July 25, 1995

Friday, January 12, 2018

Haiti Earthquake - 8th Anniversary

More than 250,000 people died 8 years ago today in the terrible earthquake which devastated the island nation of Haiti in 2010. How does a poor country ever recover? Here is a desperate young mother holding her little child in the rubble.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is the patronness of Haiti. In her icon the Mother of God also holds her Infant Child who looks up into the sky where angels hold the instruments of his future suffering and death. He flees to his mother and his shoe falls off. She looks at us. She knows. We pray:

O Lady,
that or hearts would be opened,
that our hearts would be softened,
that we would know real compassion.

O Lady,
may we disparage no one,
may we love people into health and safety,
may we be other-referred.

O Lady, 
may we be real pro-life people in the widest sense,
may we realize that while we can't do everything, we can do something,
may we never be de-sensitized to the littlest and the poorest.

O Lady,
that we would take nothing for granted,
that we would never look away,
that we would recognize the dignity of each human person.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Intercessions ~ Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pope Francis has said, "Many powerful people don't want peace because they profit off of war."/ We pray boldly for war profiteers./ We pray to the Lord. 

Pope Francis travels to Chile and Peru this week./ We pray for his safety/ and for the delicate mission of reconciliation he has deliver./ We pray too for those/ even among the clergy/ who resent and resist him./ We pray to the Lord.

Jesus doesn't redeem humanity only from sin,/ but from systems of unjust political,/ social and economic conditions./ May we learn the heart of God./ We pray to the Lord.

The Church returns to the liturgical time of green from now until Lent./ May we each have an experience of personal growth/ and the green-ing of faith,/ hope and love./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of the desert-monk,/ St. Anthony of Egypt./ May we learn well his lessons of humility,/ non-complaint,/ and the authentic discernment of God's will for us./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray boldly for those who are sick with power,/ whose darkened hearts complicate and burden the lives of others:/ con-artists,/ manipulators,/ panderers,/ those with secret agendas/ or who are self-serving./ We pray to the Lord.