Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sunday Intercessions ~ The Presentation of the Lord

Blue Bird ~ Tyler Arboretum ~ Media, Pennsylvania

In the new month of February/ we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for the blessings of good health,/ peace,/ growth in goodness and healing./ We pray to the Lord.

The Winter Olympic games at Sochi begin shortly/ but terrible terrorist threats are being made./ We pray for the protection and safety of athletes,/ tourists and visitors./ We ask for the turning of violent hearts to peaceable living./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday is the Feast of St. Blaise the early 4th century martyr-bishop of Armenia./ Throats are traditionally blessed./ We pray for good health and safety,/ and blessings for those who care for the sick or who research cures./ We pray to the Lord.

The winter has been very hard on many people./ We pray for those who are suffering  the lack of those things we need for life and well-being:/ shelter,/ food,/ employment,/ clothing and friendship./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis and President Obama will meet at the Vatican in March./ We ask for fruitful blessings to be born of that meeting/ as they discuss global poverty and the inequality of persons./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for children everywhere./ We entrust to God's kind mercy the children who are sick or afraid,/ and pray for the strengthening of those who have entrusted to them the care of children./ We pray to the Lord.

Soon/ in the smallest of increments/we will be able to detect  the lengthening of the day./ We ask for the inner light of love/ which translates into the practicalities of new understanding,/ cooperation and justice./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have died to enter the fullness of God's Kingdom,/ and for the forgiveness of the global sin which creates death in genocide,/ abortion,/ created famine,/ neglected disaster and war without genuine peace efforts./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"...and the swallow a nest..."

How lovely is thy dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My spirit longs and pines
for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my flesh give a shout of joy
for the living God!

Even the wren has found a house,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may put her young.
Even thine altars, O Lord of hosts,
my king, and my God.

Psalm 84: 1-3

The psalmist is singing about his delight in the enormous and beautifully decorated temple in Jerusalem - God's house containing the Ark of the Covenant on Mount Zion. When we go to one of these great American warehouse stores today, containing over a million products (the thingdom come!) often we see and hear noisy sparrows that have somehow gotten in and made themselves at home. The temple in Jerusalem had many openings and apparently swallows built mud-nests against the high walls near the altars where they raised their families.

The psalm-singer isn't giving us a bird study or trying to charm us, but giving an image of the soul - joyfully delighting in God, finding security in God, taking pleasure in being near God, entrusting to God what's most precious to us. 

As a boy growing up on Long Island in the 1950's and early 60's, I recall my father taking me one Sunday afternoon for a drive out east along the Sunrise Highway and our visiting the small the wooden churches each village had, some time before the population explosion which required the building of new mega-churches. The churches were all dark, except for the vigil lights which still burned after the last Mass: the smell of wax and the moment when the flame jumped from the wooden stick to the wick of the candle in the blue or red glass, the little glow at the end of the stick after it was blown out, the whiff of smoke and then the silent prayer which acknowledged an invisible world. "...even my flesh gives a shout of joy..." All sufficiently soul-impacting that it's easily and clearly remembered more than a half century later.

In a book length interview Pope Benedict shared that on the day of his ordination to the priesthood, upon returning to his sanctuary seat after the bishop ordained him, a lark flew into the cathedral and sang and sang from the rafters above. The pope didn't make too much of it, but he did say it seemed to be a lovely sign, "You're on the right track." 

I imagine everyone has some memory of experiencing a particular joy and pleasure in God. We might take a few moments to gratefully acknowledge and ponder it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"...and the rocks for the coneys."

The trees of Yahweh drink their fill,
the cedars of Lebanon which he sowed;
there the birds build their nests,
on the highest branches, the stork makes its home;
for the wild goats there are the mountains,
in the crags the coneys find refuge.

He made the moon to mark the seasons,
the sun knows when to set,
You bring on darkness, and the night falls,
when all the forest beasts roam around;
young lions roar for their prey,
asking God for their food.

The sun rises and away they steal,
back to their lairs to lie down,
and man goes out to work,
to labor till evening falls.

How countless are your works, O Lord,
all of them made so wisely!
The earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:  16-25

These nine verses come from the much longer psalm 104, happily musing on God's creation - so alive and wondrous. The verses are full of lovely images: the young lions ask God for their food by roaring, the sun has its own mind and knows what it has to do, storks build stick-nests on the highest branches of the trees.

We're so in danger of losing this mysterious intimacy with God's creatures - trudging off to work in our cars, to hermetically sealed and climate-controlled offices. Remember Joni Mitchell's 1970 hit song Big Yellow Taxi:

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot.

They took all the trees
Put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and half just to see 'em.

Don't it always seem to go...

Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees,

Don't it always seem to go...

The plants and animals are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, largely due to habitat destruction. The sad thing is we aren't paying it much mind, so long as there's at least one elephant left (if even cloned) to take our kids to see in the zoo. 

Anyway, this psalm translation uses the word coneys for small mammals that live in groups on the mountain. One bible note calls them mountain mice. Perhaps they're what we would know to be rabbits.

The mountains would have been an unexplored frontier in the ancient bible world. Today our frontier is outer space. Who knows what we'll find there someday. But the psalm-sense is that even in the un-explored places, God has made animate and inanimate things for God's own delight. And God provides what the creatures need: dew on the morning grass to drink, the green vegetation and a place to escape from the enemies in the sky - whether it's the scorching sun or the hawk. And we're to share that delight!

But we also might see this refuge among the rocks as an image of Christ the Rock (1 Corinthians: 10:04) - Christ, to whom we can fly in times of danger, sorrow, over-whelming challenge or trouble, where the spiritual enemy to despair lurks. Christ, when life seems too much to bear.

And oh, here's a final thought. The little rabbit in the mountain crag might call to mind the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6: 5,6.

And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites, they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward, But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

I dare say, if this rabbit had a door to her private room here, she'd close it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sunday Intercessions ~ Third Sunday in Ordinary Time


We pray for all who are struggling this winter here and elsewhere,/ for those who lack food,/ friendship and proper shelter./ We ask for the softening of hearts to help those who are forgotten./ We pray to the Lord.

Each January the Church prays for the protection of all human life./ We ask for a national conversion which recognizes each human person as a thought of God,/ a heartbeat of God./ We pray to the Lord.

We all know people who have particular struggles,/ burdens and problems to bear./ We ask for them to be blessed with  gifts of courage,/ strength and endurance./ For the troubled country of Syria./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who despite their best efforts/ are still finding it difficult to secure work or to make ends meet./ And that we would be grateful for the work we have to do./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the men and women who are members of the armed forces,/ boldly asking for that world peace which would allow soldiers and sailors all around the world/ to return home in happiness and security./ We pray to the Lord.

As we approach the altar we pray for priests:/ for young priests and elderly priests,/ for priests who are tired,/ sick,/ unhappy,/ damaged or in any kind of trouble./ For the renewal and up-building of the priesthood in every place./ We pray to the Lord.

We hold our families in prayer now/ asking for restored health and consolation for all who are afflicted with sickness,/ sadness,/ trouble or anxiety./ We pray to the Lord.

We call to mind those known to us who have died./ We pray for deceased clergy and members of our parishes/ asking for their fulfillment in Christ./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Feast of Agnes ~ Virgin-Martyr

TODAY IS THE FEAST OF SAINT AGNES. This image is titled: Saint Agnes in Prison Receiving From Heaven the Shining White Garment. It was painted by Frank Cadogan Cowper in 1905.  Agnes is one of dozens of third and fourth century girl-saints collectively called the Virgin Martyrs. Some of their names are listed in the Roman Canon of the Catholic Mass: Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia. There are others too, like Dorothy, Catherine, Barbara, Eulalia, Euthalia.

As celibate men largely manage the saints, the Virgin Martyrs have lost their spiritual power, reducing them to defenders of purity-chastity. It isn't really about that. As a Church we have allowed them to become something like mascots: defenders of military branches, sources of specialty foods, fabulous tales that are supposed to reveal God's favor, and patrons of virtually everything. None of it has anything to do with Christ. That's the problem.

The long and short of it is: in their ancient world all marriages were arranged. Like it or not, you were told often at a very young age who you'd marry. And so Christian girls, who were frequently converts, were told they would have to marry pagan men. They refused knowing that to bear children would mean having to dedicate them to an emperor who considered himself to be a god.

A young girl can display a tremendous resolve and so the court trials reveal the girl standing in her Christ-conviction: her family, spurned lover and government enforcers on the other side increasingly furious at being undone by a girl who would save herself if she only did what she was told to do.

The girl, often just pubescent, was sent to a brothel or jail. Eventually, those with the power to punish would shut her up by attacking her mouth, teeth and tongue so they wouldn't have to listen to her Christ-testimony anymore. She'd first be made into damaged goods and un-marriageable in every respect  removing her breasts, raping and decapitating her. Often the betrayer was the fiance in a sick alliance with the girl's family.

The point isn't the chaste protection of virginal purity. The point is: "Jesus Christ is my God and there'll be no other." One poem or hymn speaks of a girl-martyr as possessing a manly strength. Not at all. She had her own strength, a strength very many men,  including men among the clergy, could learn from.

You cover your senses
with the presence of God,
holy martyr ~
the robe-bearing angel
to dress you in brightness.

A dove flew from
your severed head,
the yielding of your
which we can only
think to snare and tame.

O Agnes,
ferocious in your girl-truth,
as in your open hands,
open stubborn hearts.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

God's Visitation

Witch Hazel in Snow

THE WORD VISIT COMES FROM THE LATIN visitare: to go to see. And visere: to behold. And yet again videre: to see, to notice, to observe. 

I like to behold the best. When I was a new priest on Long Island in the winter of 1980, I received a flyer from The Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay - a kind of heads up not to miss the outdoor winter events that might be overlooked in the cold time. "Come and see the Witch Hazel tree that's due to bloom in January."

As a young boy, planting a purple Columbine with my mother in the sandy Long Island soil delighted me. And I remember the happy discovery of a Jack in the Pulpit blooming in the wooded area behind our house. The idea of a tree blooming in January intrigued me, and so I set out.

It was a typical Long Island winter day: low sky, damp and gray with some snow cover. Following the little map offered at the gatehouse, I made my way around the trails until I found it. The tree was young, not yet six foot tall, but fully branched and indeed, (I could see even from a distance) it was covered with yellow flowers. Stepping closer, the air was filled with its perfume. Garden books and catalogs describe the scent as heady and intoxicating. I might as well have been standing with Moses before the Burning Bush. Thirty-four years later the memory of this visitation comes to me every January.

Perhaps we are losing our sense of visit or visitation because of the quick and often surfacey communicating that occurs via technology now. But not too long ago our lives were filled with the pleasures or requirements of visiting:

  • We might visit someone in a nursing home. Older folks lament not being visited. People are too busy.
  • Catholics over 50 will remember phrases like let's visit the church or visit the Blessed Sacrament.
  • The Sunday visiting of relatives was once an important aspect of American culture.
  • A nun would receive people in a visitor's parlor.
  • Years ago we might pay a visit to a neighbor or
  • Visit a funeral home - paying our respects.
  • Do we use the phrase visiting a website?

But now stepping into Ordinary Time (what used to be called the Sundays after Epiphany) we've completed the time of celebrating God's Visitation in Jesus of Bethlehem.  There are two lovely verses found in St. Luke's Gospel that call this to mind:

At the circumcision of his son, John (the Baptist), Zechariah spoke this prophecy: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited his people and set them free and he has established for us a saving power..." (Luke 1:68)

And after the raising of the widow's son at Nain, "Everyone was filled with awe and glorified God saying, 'A great prophet has risen up among us; God has visited his people,'" (Luke 7:16)

But God visits still and not just in church. We might be on the look out! Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote: 

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Intercessions ~ Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Winter male Cardinal

As we move into the Green Time we ask to take nothing for granted/ but to see God's presence and purposes in what is routine,/ tedious and everyday./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for those who guide us in the common life of faith./ We pray for the pope,/ for bishops,/ priests and deacons,/ and for all who minister in the Church around the world./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray that our homes would be places of peace,/ growth in goodness,/ reconciliation,/ hospitality,/ prayer and generosity./ And for the safety of winter travelers./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember the people for whom we have promised to pray:/ the sick at home and in hospitals,/ the unemployed and those away from home,/ those in mourning or stressed marriages,/ those who have received bad news,/ family and friends facing particular struggles./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Incarnation/ God has taken on a mortal body which is needy and frail./ We pray for those who are most vulnerable in the world:/ the baby in the womb,/ the children who are forgotten,/ the elderly and the poorest who are left untended./ We pray to the Lord.

In the new year we are aware of continuing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians/ and wars in Syria,/ Nigeria,/ Sudan,/ Congo,/ Iran and Afghanistan./ We ask for the warming of hearts frozen in hatred and confidence in weapons./ We pray to the Lord.

We prayerfully entrust to the kind love of Jesus/ those who are near and dear to us who have died./ And for those who were very young,/ or who died in wars or by other violence,/ or because they were forgotten./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Keep Me Safe..."

Communion of the Apostles

THE PRESENT TRANSLATION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL with which we started to pray the Mass in Advent of 2011, includes beautiful new translations of the private or secret prayers the priest prays before he receives Holy Communion

The Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.
The Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.

The previous  translation said, "The Body of Christ ~ the Blood of Christ, bring me..." But the word custodire, (from which we derive the words custody or custodian) conveys more a sense of protection and care. 

The priest is praying  to be protected from the dangers that can assail him from within and without. We can all pray these little lines in a dangerous world. So I'm asking to be kept safe while on the road or in the air, and from angry people and their assaults and traps, from the new wild west of the Internet...

But notice that the prayer asks to be kept safe for eternal life. That's a prayer that has heaven in mind; that I would be safeguarded from anything that would cause me to lose the Holy Spirit, as the monks say.

Keep me safe from pretending.
Keep me safe from an unwillingness to accept help.
Keep me safe from unbelief.
Keep me safe from wild fears and imaginings.
Keep me safe from thinking I'm indispensable.
Keep me safe from being obsessed with my work.
Keep me safe from living in the past (however difficult that may be).
Keep me safe from interrupting others.
Keep me safe from bragging.
Keep me safe from beginning every other sentence with "I" or "My".
Keep me safe from not listening.
Keep me safe from negative exaggerations.
Keep me safe from attention seeking.
Keep me safe from withholding praise from someone else.
Keep me safe from thinking I am not loved.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The River Of Jordan

WE MIGHT REMEMBER THE LINE from Joan Baez' song: "All My Trials, Lord," ~ The River of Jordan is muddy and cold, it chills the body but not the soul.  Here's a picture of the River Jordan. The lush green bank and the river's turn makes the photo attractive, but the river itself  (more like a stream) is disappointing. 

The Jordan is a shallow river, 156 miles long. It only reaches any real height during the months of January to March. Climatologists and even the locals acknowledge that it shrinking due to climate change and that so much of the water is drawn off along its route for irrigation purposes. For a very long time, perhaps the better part of its history, sad to say, the river has been polluted by raw human sewage. Still wondrously, it remains home to over 500 species of birds. That last bit was God's wonderfully bright idea!

Today most of the river is off limits to the public, the rest is open only to the military in that bloodied part of the world torn up by terrible conflict, tension, violence and death. Not a good advertisement for religion, I'm afraid. 

The Jordan of Jesus' Baptism becomes an earth-symbol then. It's into such a world as this the Christmas carol says that God has entered in Christ. Even the muddy water becomes symbolic. Christ didn't step down into Vitamin Water, filtered water, softened, chlorinated, ionized, treated, infused, flavored, glacier-melt water - but the muddy water of the twisted Jordan.

Hearing the news coming out of the New Jersey Governor's office gives us a window into how muddy and twisted the world can be. Or the murky church-world of locked drawers and confidential files that allowed so much sex abuse to continue, or the dark underworld of selling girls for sex at the football games our country adores. Or the organized crime-world Pope Francis knows about and wants the Church to stay clear of. God has come into that world.

God comes into the created world to reclaim it for God and begins by stepping down into and reclaiming the water - and we're made of water! God is reclaiming us.

Ribboned in the waters of the twisted Jordan,
you left the imprint of your feet
along the mud-banks.

Take us by the hand now,
O Christ our God,
gently escort us out
of our polluted minds
our militarized hearts,
that we would join you in the freshness
of your renewing visitation.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Intercessions for the Feast of the Lord's Baptism

The Jordan River entering the Sea of Galilee

Pope Francis has announced that he will make a pilgrimage to the Middle East this Spring./ We ask the blessings of safety as he travels/ and for his presence and message to advance the most recent initiatives for peace in the land where Jesus was born and baptized/ We pray to the Lord.

During that trip to the Holy Land/ Pope Francis will meet with Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Constantinople./ We ask for that meeting to be received joyfully by the Christians of East and West,/ and for the healing of ancient divisions - a new unity of love./ We pray to the Lord.

In  his Jordan River Baptism,/ Jesus stepped down into the water/ and God began to reclaim and sanctify anew all of creation./ We ask to be good stewards of the earth-paradise given to us/ and for a new reverence for the essential gift of water./ We pray to the Lord.

In his Baptism/ Jesus joined sinful humanity at the river bank./ We pray for our consciousness to be raised,/ so to become aware of the greater sins of the Church,/ the nation and the world./ And for our personal transformation away from entitlement,/ waste and greed./ We pray to the Lord.

We stand in the prayer of friendship with the many who are sick,/ cold,/ hungry,/ alienated or afraid./ We ask for the blessing of consolation/ found in being lifted up and helped./ We pray to the Lord.

And finally we remember the dead/ asking for them the forgiveness of sins/ and entrance into God's land of light,/ healing and wholeness./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Merton's Epiphany

Portrait of Thomas Merton

The word epiphany means manifestation. The expression "I had an epiphany," means I had a great and important realization or enlightenment. The Feast of the Epiphany links three manifestations of divinity in Christ: The magi following the star to Bethlehem, the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River and the first of Jesus' signs at the Wedding at Cana. The epiphany is the realization of who this is who is being shown to us.

We mustn't confuse a real epiphany with serendipitous events or coincidences that might even appear to be wondrous: "I was late and got a parking space just when I was starting to feel desperate." "It rained all week and then the sun came out for the kids' wedding day." "I asked for a sign and a white dove landed on the railing by my door." 

Epiphanies are God-showings for the expansion of our hearts, the changing of our minds, the birthing of something new in us, a personal transformation that may take my breath away.

The monk-author, Thomas Merton writes of having a profound religious experience on the sidewalk, the likes of which he never had in the monastery. This is an epiphany!

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race...there is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God's eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all of the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.

         Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, New York: Doubleday 1966

We need a make-no-mistake-about it global epiphany!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year and Every Five Seconds

Here's a picture of Sydney Harbor at midnight December 31, the first to welcome the New Year. The pyrotechnic show lasted twelve minutes and cost 6.8 million dollars to pull off. That same night there was a UNICEF info-mmercial telling us that a child dies of hunger somewhere in the world every five seconds. And so during the 720 seconds it took to blow up 6.8 million dollars of fireworks, 144 children died of hunger somewhere in the world. Similar spectacles circled the world as the clock struck twelve: Dubai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Berlin, Paris, London...

But I thought  London's explosions, which rained down edible confetti on the revelers and filled the air with the scent of fruit, to be the most troublesome in the world where a child dies of hunger every five seconds. Does the world have a right to  these kinds of displays in the face of this statistic?

Someone said, "It might be impossible to find the end of the thread that leads to the people who authorize, sign off on, create and fund these global New Years events." That shouldn't prevent us from asking, "Does the world have the right to this kind of extravagance?"

Some people will say: The priest is a kill-joy, no fun, doesn't understand that corrupt governments cause hunger, doesn't understand economics or the World Bank, that the poor countries shouldn't be having babies, that the cost of global fireworks would be a drop in the bucket to solve the problem, there's always been world hunger.

But should a TV commercial be begging for quarters to feed the world's dying children while we spend billions on pyrotechnics, wars, sports stadiums, player contracts and space explorations? A six billion dollar project has been announced to establish a space station on Mars; the project getting underway in 2018.

Someone might ask in return: "If we have to question the moral rightness of New Year's Eve celebrations and war preparations and sports - then what about taking a vacation, going to a restaurant, buying a new coat, owning a camera, sharing a bottle of wine, owning a second pair of shoes or a vehicle?" Well yes, I suppose. If we're paying attention, we all have to ask ourselves probing and maybe uncomfortable questions. But we might begin with the cultural practices that are most glaring - most obvious. And somehow I see the issue as having spiritual significance:

Do we remember the Book of Exodus Bible story about the ancient Israelites being freed from Egyptian slavery by God's hand. That they were led through the Red Sea and into the wilderness where God fed them with manna-bread from heaven. And they were satisfied for awhile but then began to grumble, complaining to Moses and wishing they could return to Egypt where they had leeks and cucumbers to eat.

They were satisfied - but only for awhile. We can well imagine that next year's displays are already being imagined and created, to be even more satisfying (and more expensive) than this year's. Edible confetti! Can it get any better than that? The new manna-bread!

Human consciousness is very low much of the time. A homeless woman froze to death in Rome and a new bronze statue of Jesus the Homeless was recently placed near the Vatican Radio Tower to remember her. In ROME of all places! There's a superabundance of empty rooms in Rome's convents, monasteries and rectories. There's an army of young and strong religious men and women who are studying in seminaries, novitiates and colleges all around Rome who could be out in shifts every winter night scouring the streets looking for someone - likely mentally ill - who needs to be picked up and taken in. The last thing Rome needs is another statue. The pope has echoed this in saying, "When the stock market loses two points it makes the news, but when a homeless woman freezes to death, it's not reported." 

A child dies of hunger somewhere in the world every five seconds.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Intercessions for the Feast of the Epiphany

Star of Bethlehem

The guiding star originated in the East./ We pray for Eastern Christians who are often persecuted for Christ:/for their strengthening,/ freedom and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

When the magi arrived at Bethlehem/ they found Jesus, Mary and Joseph./ We pray for the up-building of families everywhere,/ mindful of families where faith has been lost/ or where there is addiction,/ violence and financial struggle./ We pray to the Lord.

The star of Bethlehem signifies Christ's royalty./ We pray that we would claim Jesus Christ anew as Savior and Lord./ We pray to the Lord.

The magi discovered the Child called Prince of Peace/ in that part of the world which is often at war./ We pray to discover how we might be peace-makers/ and for global leaders to be given fresh energies to the creation of peace./ We pray to the Lord.

We pause to pray for the many people entrusted to our prayer./ We remember the sick,/ the un-employed,/ the elderly,/ the children,/ the dying/ and for their salvation./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for loved-ones who have died./ We pray for the faithful and the not-so-faithful departed,/ and that with them we would behold the face of God in Christ-Jesus./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Do not be frightened..."

Here is a last piece of the Nativity Icon that we have not yet referred to - the singular angel with news for the shepherds:

"Do not be frightened, for I bring you good news of a great joy that is to be felt by all the people, for today in the town of David, a Savior for you has been born who is your Messiah and Lord. And this will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped up and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11,12)

"...that is to be felt by all the people..." We can well imagine then that the message is delivered to us too and for all the world, not just the Christians. I want to feel it!

"...Messiah and Lord." The title Messiah means the great king - greater than David and Solomon and all the rest - who would lead the people to freedom, healing and wholeness. But Jesus seems to have changed the meaning of the word and the expectation. It isn't political but personal and interior: inner freedom, inner healing and wholeness. 

Lord is an Easter title for Jesus. And so already in the Christmas story, we are getting glimpses of the Resurrection story which frees and makes whole!

'Do not be frightened!" Seemingly aware that humans are so prone to fear, as angels arrive to deliver messages from heaven they always introduce themselves with the kind and thoughtful injunction Not to fear. Indeed, the Gospel of Christ is wrapped or book-ended with Not to fear - as Mary is greeted by Gabriel in the Annunciation and the myrrh-bearing women of Easter morning approach the empty tomb. 

Striving to live in goodness today....Do not be afraid!
Troubled by too much or unnecessary guilt...Do not be afraid!
Filled with self-doubt...Do not be afraid!
In life's heaping up of losses...Do not be afraid!
Unrelenting worries about the past...Do not be afraid!
When the plans crumble...Do not be afraid!

Beginning a New Year, 
I send a blessing to folks everywhere 
who have shared in the pondering of the messages
sent out on this blog in 2013. 
God be with you!