Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

At Capernaum, A New Kind of Teaching!

THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH of the late 4th century Capernaum Synagogue built over the remains of the 1st century Synagogue of Jesus. The Marcan Gospel scene, Chapter 1: 21-28 took place here.
They came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he went to synagogue and began to teach. The people were astounded at his teaching, for, unlike the doctors of the law, he taught with a note of authority. Now there was a man in the synagogue possessed by an unclean spirit. He shrieked: "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I  know who you are - the Holy One of God.?" Jesus rebuked him: "Be silent", he said, "And come out of him. And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry left him. They were all dumbfounded and began to ask one another, "What is this? a new kind of teaching! He speaks with authority. When he gives orders, even the unclean spirits submit." The news spread rapidly, and he was soon spoken of all over the district of Galilee.

The people sensed that Jesus taught with authority. That might better be translated authenticity - that what Jesus  preached came from his own inner experience of God, that he wasn't just repeating religious formulas like their own lawyer-preachers. The quality of preaching today needs a serious reform. It's no secret that people leave the Church and search elsewhere because the preaching at Mass is so often abysmal.

A grandpa took his grandson to Mass one Sunday - a young boy whose parents were not church-goers. On the way back home the grandfather asked the boy, "So what did you think of Mass?" And the boy answered, "The man up front talked a lot." Some preachers think that effective preaching means long preaching.

Some preachers don't know how to address a Sunday congregation without using religious or theological language. Other preachers think that homily time is catechism class and that God's Word is well presented if the people know their dogma. Protestant ministers often string along Bible quotes while Catholic preachers quote saints, popes and bishops - kind of pulling out the big guns to authenticate their message. Some preachers never speak a controversial word because they're afraid someone won't like what's said and make a report to the bishop or withhold a  donation. 

I think the needed preaching reform might begin with each one asking "Do I love Jesus - really love Jesus - as he is discovered in no other book than the Gospels?"

We might notice too that the demon  knows who Jesus is already: "I know who you are, Holy One of God." We'd expect the evil one to divide the people with a lie, but here the unclean spirit can't help himself. Overwhelmed with the truth of Jesus, he blurts out that Jesus is undeniably God's Holy One. He knows his time is up, that Jesus has the power. Isn't it interesting - the unclean spirits know who Jesus is - but we often don't.

Lastly, the demon uses Jesus' name. It's a power play - kind of like my mother sternly calling me Stephen Peter when I was a boy in trouble. We're all divided people. We've got a foot in both worlds: heaven and earth. We're each still taken by, obsessed with, or compromised by some earthly way. It takes great personal insight and a deep truth to know and acknowledge this.

Will I let Jesus have the power? What would change in me - my relationships, my family, my nation, the Church if I (we) gave Jesus the power which rightly belongs to him as God's Holy One? Don't think of how others would change, only myself.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Intercessions ~ Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul

In today's Gospel, Simon Peter calls the Risen Jesus Master./ With Peter we profess a repentant love for Christ/ and accept from Jesus the work he invites us to do./ We pray to the Lord.

The Mass color today is red - a color of martyrdom./ We pray for the Church where it is hated and for the consolation of those who quietly or secretly suffer:/ the sick,/ the heavily burdened,/ and those grieved by war,/ disaster or any kind of deep sorrow./ We pray to the Lord.

It is a dangerous thing to be a child in the world./ We pray for children wherever they are threatened by harm or rejection,/ and for them to be returned quickly to safety and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

Recently/ after a time of joint prayer with Israeli and Palestinian leaders,/ Pope Francis planted an olive tree./ We ask for the little tree to grow and become fruitful/ along with the peace desires of nations./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the people and lands of Kosovo,/ Kuwait,/ Kyrgyzstan,/ Lao,/ Latvia,/ Lebanon,/ Lesotho and Liberia - with an especial remembrance of the children and the poor who live there. We pray to the Lord.

As the United States will soon celebrate Independence Day/ we thank God for his kind mercies/ and ask for our country/ inner freedom from a love of violence,/ overstated pride,/ selfishness and the hatred of those who are different./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust to the kind promises of Jesus those who have died - mindful now of those who are from among our own families and friends./ And in a solidarity of heart,/ we intercede for those unknown to us/ those who have died even faraway./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jesus Forms His Team: During the World Cup

THIS WONDERFUL PAINTING was created in the 14th century by the Italian artist, Duccio di Buoninsegna. It is titled, Christ Calling the Apostles Peter and Andrew. The Gospel account is found in Saint Mark 1: 14-20.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: "The time has come; the kingdom of God is upon you; repent, and believe the gospel."
Jesus was walking by the shore of the Sea of Galilee when he saw Simon and his brother Andrew on the lake at work with a casting net; for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men." And at once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little further he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in the boat overhauling their nets. He called them; and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, they went off to follow him.

The word proclaiming matters. It's not that Jesus is just talking about the kingdom of God  or teaching it quietly. He's announcing it! Remember the image of the medieval emissary who comes with a scroll to deliver an urgent message from the king? He stands where the whole populace will hear, unrolling the scroll and shouting out, "Hear ye! Hear ye!" 

And what Jesus is announcing is Gospel = Good News! Mired in media reports of false imprisonments, another war involvement, government instabilities, kidnappings, increasing global dangers - doesn't the world need some good news. Jesus has it: We're not living in get ready time, but the time is come ( NOW) - God's rule is fully here in the words and deeds of Jesus!

And Jesus says, "Come with me." He's forming his team. He's doesn't keep anything for himself but shares all he has. Come with me also means Jesus shares what he does. He wants us to join him in catching people for what's true. And what's true isn't the promises made on the labels or commercials of twenty competing tooth whitening products, or the reports offered on a dozen competing news stations, or the stances of politicians who hate each other's party agenda, or the opinions of a dozen "stars", or the books written by six different experts on the same subject.  But God's truth.

Notice too that these newly called disciples leave everything, including father, to go off with Jesus. There are Christians who do this literally: they own nothing and see their families very seldom. When Father Damian of Molokai left Belgium for Hawaii he waved from the ship knowing that he would never see his parents again.

But for most of us while the "dropping everything" is something else, the cost may be as dear. Jesus wants us to know the adventure of being his fellow travelers, (Come with me.) And good travelers learn to travel light. So the question is, "What do I need to drop so to be more free to accept the invitation of Jesus?"

  • most people need to drop resentment which weighs down the whole culture.
  • The nation's needs to drop its addictions
  • We might need to drop pride, which acts like it knows everything.
  • The need to drop the frantic pace and  frenzy which prevents an interior life
  • The need to drop the obsession with fun which keeps us superficial (the shallow shoreline)

In Buoninsegna's painting Peter and Andrew are plain workmen - hauling in the net not far from shore. Jesus is dressed in royal colors - his dark blue and gold trimmed mantle indicate he's not just a friend come to wave from the shore, but a God-man with a call, an invitation, a message from heaven. Wow! What about it?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ: The Little Bit

FOR THE FEAST OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, we might recall the scene in the 6th chapter of St. John's Gospel. A very large crowd has gathered at Tiberius following Jesus at Passover time. Jesus tests the disciples as to how they will feed so many people.

Then there is verse nine, which I see in numerous bibles is translated: Andrew said (to Jesus) "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and a couple of fish, but what is that among so many people?" But the New Jerusalem Bible has, I think, a better translation, Andrew said, "Here is a small boy who has..."

In the Jerusalem Bible translation Andrew is introducing Jesus to the boy, who is small, who we might refer to as a little boy. He is not a teen-aged boy, but a little guy. Everyone has something to do with and for Jesus. Everyone has a bit to play in the story of Jesus working out his promises in and for the world today.

But there is more. This little boy has a little bit of food to share, and when it is given willingly and utterly to Jesus, a wonder happens. In the 1960's and 70's it was all the rage to say the multiplication of the food happened because Jesus convinced everyone to share what they had brought with them. That's not a miracle. Any good motivational speaker can easily convince a crowd to share. That explanation leaves heaven out of the story. Let's be bold and believe - Jesus fed thousands with a little - miraculously.

At Mass, after the Homily, Creed and Intercessions, things get under way at the altar, and a procession forms, great or small, wherein people bring gifts to the sanctuary. Of course, it is the bread and the wine. But this bread and wine is just a little bit. The hosts are small, the wine is just a sip. But the priest receives them happily and makes the simple prayers of offering:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness there is bread - there is wine - to offer..."

And God accepts the simple gifts and transforms them, returning them to us, having made something new of them - life-giving and overflowing in every respect. 

Some priests disagree, but I think the Offertory (or Presentation of the Gifts) is still a good time to consciously make an offering of myself - in spirit standing next to the small boy of the gospels, standing in the little bit of who I am and what I have to give to Jesus:

  • the little of bit of my energy
  • the little bit of my talent
  • the little bit of my consciousness
  • the little bit of my creative possibilities
  • the little bit of my accomplishments
  • the little bit of my time and resources
  • the little bit of my patient and understanding
  • the little bit of this day

And I may offer as well all the ways in which I have come up short - Jesus accepting it all with gratitude. But as I give it, I am to give it like the boy, gladly, willingly and with the desire to let God do with it as God pleases.

It would be a silly to imagine the boy thinking, "I hope Jesus knows what he's doing and doesn't just use my bread and fish to feed his close friends." Perhaps the boy already knew something of Jesus and stood there full of anticipation, wide-eyed and trusting, knowing he'd have an amazing story to share with his family when he got home later that day.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Intercessions ~ Feast of Corpus Christi

The purpose of our lives on earth is union with God./ We ask for a renewal of faith which recognizes this God-intimacy in the Reception of the Body and Blood of Christ/ under the veil of bread and wine./  We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi/ we remember Jesus chose to stay with us as food./ We pray for those who have inadequate or no food - especially children./ And for the first world to stop wasting food./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the safety of summer travelers and vacationers./ We ask for the summer months to be a time of restoration and renewal - mindful of those who get no time away./ We pray to the Lord.

We are in the time of the World Cup in Brazil./ For the safety of athletes,/ spectators and organizers./ And for the happy and full realization of the blessings received when hostilities are put aside and games are played./ We pray to the Lord.

In the month of June we pray for those who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for good health,/ safety,/ peace and well-being./ We pray to the Lord.

Remembering in our Mass-prayer the lands and peoples of Italy,/ Jamaica,/ Japan,/ Jordan,/ Kazakhstan,/ Kenya,/ Kinbati,/ North and South Korea./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have died since last week in wars,/ disaster,/ famine or by neglect,/ grateful to God for his kind mercies and for the gift of eternal life./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Prayer to Calm Hateful Feelings

Nicodemus reveres the Heart of Jesus

WE THANK YOU, O Master and Lover of Humankind, Ruler of time and Giver of every good thing, Who destroys our walls of hatred and grants peace to the world. Instill in me a love for You and fear of anything that would take me from You and confirm me in love for other people. Extinguish every dispute and banish every temptation to bitterness and contentious disagreement. For You are our Peace and to You we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

A slightly adapted Eastern Christian Prayer

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A New Litany In The Month of the Sacred Heart

Heart of Jesus, Heart of God
Heart of Jesus, God's own radiant heart
Heart of Jesus, who cares that I exist
Heart of Jesus, calling us friends
Heart of Jesus, salvation from our un-doing

Heart of Jesus, God's kind disposition towards us
Heart of Jesus, over-sized to contain the world
Heart of Jesus, God's mercy taken flesh
Heart of Jesus, alive and dynamic
Heart of Jesus, inviting, Do not be afraid

Heart of Jesus, God's practical kindness
Heart of Jesus, un-deserved gift
Heart of Jesus, who calls forth what is best in us
Heart of Jesus, of our relational God
Heart of Jesus, God's marital intimacy

Heart of Jesus, home of divine promises
Heart of Jesus, channel of mercy
Heart of Jesus, display of divine compassion
Heart of Jesus, forgiving of our folly
Heart of Jesus, divine sensitivity

Heart of Jesus, judgment and mercy co-existing
Heart of Jesus, our rescue
Heart of Jesus, who sees what is good in us
Heart of Jesus, mercy for the demon possessed
Heart of Jesus, compassion without our asking

Heart of Jesus, in our global affliction
Heart of Jesus, offering, That you may have joy
Heart of Jesus, we await your pity
Heart of Jesus, the opening of God's kindness
Heart of Jesus, reaching where we do not see

Heart of Jesus, inviting us to new awareness
Heart of Jesus, for those we do not love
Heart of Jesus, amidst the wars and hatreds
Heart of Jesus, in our wounds and regrets
Heart of Jesus, where we fail each other

Heart of Jesus, our liberation to love
Heart of Jesus, in our human dilemma
Heart of Jesus, in our sickness and self-loathing
Heart of Jesus, in our addictions and alienation
Heart of Jesus, in our inner land of shadows

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Intercessions ~ Sunday of the Holy Trinity

On Trinity Sunday we ask that as we are drawn into God's inner life/ we would find not only God/ but each other/ and all the world in its poverty,/ need and weakness./ We pray to the Lord.

June is the month honoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus./ We pray to know the loving kindness of God in Christ/ and to allow ourselves to be changed and evolved by that love./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust the children of the world to our prayer as they face perils in so many places./ We ask for the movement of hearts which will make the care of the world's children a priority of love./ We pray to the Lord.

This past week kept the anniversary of D-Day which began the Liberation of Europe seventy years ago./ We pray boldly for an end to wars/ and for our own inner liberation from anything that would prevent the full realization of God's rule in our lives./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray to be careful stewards of our planet/ using its resources wisely and justly/ and guardians of the animals,/ plants,/ water and air/ as these are God's gifts to us./ We pray to the Lord.

We continue to pray for the nations of the world,/ today praying for the people and lands of  Iceland,/ India,/ Indonesia,/ Iran,/ Iraq,/ Ireland and Israel,/ We pray to the Lord.

And finally we pray for those who have died,/ calling to mind that so many die violently,/ suddenly,/ alone or without remembrance./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Evening Prayer ~ Fourteen Angels

WE KNOW THE STORY of Hansel and Gretel (re-created as a short opera by Engelbert Humperdinck in 1893) The family is desperately poor and mother has come home with a pitcher of milk. Overjoyed, the brother and sister sing and dance, the pitcher is knocked over and the milk is lost. In a fury the mother sends the children into the woods to collect wild strawberries.

Neither is paying attention to the time,  how long they've been gone or what path's been taken. They suddenly become aware of how late it is, that it is getting dark and the forest is now alien. Tired and sure they'll not find their way back home, they settle down to sleep under the trees next to each other. But first they sing their Evening Prayer, inviting angels to watch and protect  through the night - fourteen angels to be exact. They are not disappointed as a winged and mystic company gathers around them.

We can pray the prayer as well, mindful of the symbolic themes, naming for ourselves:
  • Our own inner poverty and littleness
  • Human brokenness
  • The lost path
  • Vulnerability in what we would call deep darkness
  • Our fatigue and fears of the unknown
  • The nearness of evil (the witch lives nearby)

When at night I go to sleep;
Fourteen angels watch to keep;
Two my head are guarding;
Two my feet are guiding;
Two are on my right hand;
Two are on my left hand;
Two who warmly cover;
Two who o'er me hover;
Two to whom 'tis given;
To guide my steps to heaven.

Sleeping softly, then it seems;
Heaven enters in my dreams;
Angels hover round me;
Whispering they have found me;
Two are sweetly singing;
Two are garlands bringing;
Strewing me with roses;
As my soul reposes;
God will not forsake me;
When dawn at last will wake me.

We can listen to the prayer sung right here in both English and the original German.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Pentecost Gifts

This is a detail of El Greco's painting of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles tells us "They were gathered..." It doesn't say the twelve apostles were gathered. So who is this on the right - next to Mary? El Greco has taken the liberty of including a woman disciple!

The lesser god, Prometheus, stole fire from Zeus on Mount Olympus and gave it to the humans who he hoped to make more comfortable. Zeus was furious when he saw the dinner fires of the humans burning in the evening, but his bad temper was lessened when he smelled the nice food they were preparing.

So Prometheus invited Zeus to come down the mountain for a roasted dinner letting him pick his meal from one of the two piles he had prepared. Unbeknownst to Zeus,  Prometheus had hidden the best part of their roasted meat under bones, while hiding the leftover and unwanted scraps under blobs of fat. Later, having chosen to eat from the pile that was covered with fat instead of bone, he learned he had been tricked, punishing Prometheus and the humans severely.

But all of that is over and done with now, because God has come into our world in Jesus, who is pure gift. We've had to to steal nothing from God - there is no jealous and punishing anger. God is only too pleased to come to be with us and to do for us what we need.

I contemplate this mystery in silence.

And when the gift of God's spirit comes down at Pentecost it comes with this sign:
"And suddenly there came from the sky a sound like a violent blast of wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Act of the Apostles 2:1,2)

We are reminded of God exhaling his breath into Adam the clay man and animating him - making him a living being. (Genesis 2: 7). And in sending God's own Spirit to be with us, even interiorly, we are being re-created - made into the new kind of human person we have seen in Jesus Christ.

I make a deep interior reverence before this mystery. 

Wind is active air. It is the opposite of stagnant air, air that is so calm it has become dull, perhaps even foul. Wherever there are human beings there is the tendency to live in and breathe and even create the conditions for this inert "air". The individual, the family, the church, the nation, the globe becomes toxic.

I implore a new visitation of the Spirit which is like a blast of air.

Ezekiel called the wind from the four directions (chapter 37) to make the land of dry bones to be alive again. I pause to consider where this regeneration is most needed in my experience today.

~ Silence ~

"And they saw tongues like flames separating and settling on each of them." (Act of the Apostles 2:3)

Do we notice that the wind enveloped all of them at once, but the fire, while its source is one and the same, individuates and hovers over each of them in their uniqueness, which El Greco has so aptly depicted - each face in his painting is highly individualized.

Individuation is not pop psychology - it is spiritually essential. Individuation is the process by which the individual in the course of his life is pressed to realize his innate capacities to the full and become what he/she has it in him/her to become. 

Fire is an ancient symbol for the destruction of evil forces. Don't we need to consider that today? And fire was a symbol for purification - a destroyer of pestilence. But the need for purification is interior. It is primarily about our intention in acting. 

Where might I ask to be purified? 

Fire is an image of spiritual enlightenment and zeal, intense charity. It is related to the virtue of hospitality as the place where guests gathered was around the hearth (fire place). 

We might pause to pray for an increase of human warmth which is the inviting of friendship - that when speaking, the Christian might stop for a brief moment to ask, "Did I just speak a word of friendship or division?"

But fire can also be hard to control; it can be dangerous and destructive. The apostles asked Jesus if they should call down fire on those who were not with them. Jesus would not hear of it. Ah then, perhaps dangerous or destructive to some yet-to-be surrendered part of my life or the life of my family.

I make an interior bow, asking for my conscience to be informed.

Fire is like a ray of light, a flash of gold, a bolt of lightning. The earth is born of fire. God manifests himself by fire and lightning as the Pillar of Fire leading the Ark of the Covenant through the wilderness, or while Moses encountered God in the Burning Bush or as he received the Commandments on Sinai.

I might recall a personal manifestation of God
which was like fire.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Intercessions ~ Pentecost Sunday

On the Feast of Pentecost we pray for the Church and its unity./ We ask for the Church to be a bold witness to Jesus-Risen/ the victor over fear,/ exploitation,/ violence,/ pessimism and alienation./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost we pray for our families,/ asking the Holy Spirit to restore us where we are separated from each other./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost we pray for those who are Confirmed this year./ We ask the Spirit of Jesus to build them up in faith,/ prayer,/ and an eagerness to serve./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost we ask the Spirit of Jesus to melt what is frozen and to warm what is chill within us;/ to transform the Church where we need to learn mercy,/ compassion and love./ We pray to the Lord./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost we pray for the lands and peoples of the world,/ remembering today:/ Guyana, Haiti, the Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong and Hungary./ We pray to the Lord.

On the Feast of Pentecost we pray for those who have died/ asking for them to follow Jesus into the Kingdom of refreshment,/ light and peace./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Synagogue Evening Prayer

THERE ARE GOSPEL SCENES where Jesus is present in the synagogue, the local meeting house of the Jewish community: a place for study, prayer, court and communal gathering. By contrast, the temple was the singular house of worship in Jerusalem where sacrifices took place. Below is a Jewish Evening Prayer prayed in the synagogue. Perhaps Jesus would have heard and prayed a prayer like this:

Grant, O eternal God, that we may lie down in peace, and raise us up, O Sovereign, to life renewed. Spread over us the shelter of Your peace; guide us with Your good counsel; and for Your Name's sake, be our Help. Shield us from hatred and plague; keep us from war and famine and anguish; subdue our inclination to evil. O God, our Guardian and Helper, our gracious and merciful Ruler, give us refuge in the shadow of Your wings. O guard our coming and our going, that now and always we may have life and peace. Blessed be the Lord, Guardian of His people Israel forever. Amen.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

In the Room and Days of Waiting

THIS IS SAID TO TO BE THE ROOM of the Last Supper but also the Upper Room of Pentecost. The land site may have some historical connection to those events, but the room itself dates much later to the middle ages - arches such as these had not yet been imagined in Biblical times. No matter really: what signifies is what comes to heart and mind. The prayer prayed in this room grows out of waiting.

The disciples gathered here after Jesus had ascended to glory. Physically gone from them, they must have missed him terribly, recalling the depth of relationship they had shared the night of his arrest, the night before his death.

And in the silence and conversation of those days in the upper room they must have remembered the words Jesus had spoken while he walked with them:
"I tell you truly, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices: you will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy." 
" are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you. (John 16:20-23)
The apostles waited in this place from the Ascension to the Pentecost:

Name your upper room:
  • The place of fear for the unknown.
  • The place which longs to return to what was.
  • The place of deeply felt and perhaps shared prayer.

Name your upper room:
  • The place which hopes for a bright future.
  • The place which aches to be healed.
  • The place which awaits resolution.

Name your upper room:
  • The place which awaits God's revelation.
  • The place of fragile insecurity.
  • The place which doesn't do well in alone-ness.

Name the upper room:
  • The place which wonders if it was all worth it.
  • The place which prays to be able to trust.
  • The place of fond remembrance or bitter regret.

Now pray...