Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Intercessions ~ Fifth Sunday in the Easter Time

We pray for the suffering people of Nepal

Pope Francis continues to offer prayers and hopes for the resolution of the world's bitter conflicts./ We ask for him the blessings of health and safety,/ and that we would be peace-makers too./ We pray to the Lord..

May first was the Feast of Saint Joseph the worker./ We pray that our work would be blessed,/ for those who have no work,/ those whose work helps and sustains us,/ for those whose work is dangerous,/ unfair or undignified./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Mary's month of May/ we pray for the people of Islam/ which reveres her as we do./ We pray too that we would be faithful to Jesus/ Mary's Son/ and joyful in his service./ We pray to the Lord. 

Many thousands of people have been injured or displaced in Nepal/ where a great earthquake has caused terrible destruction./ We ask for the international help these newly suffering people need./ We pray to the Lord.

The city of Baltimore has suffered fiery violence this week/ - giving expression to a tremendous discontent,/ frustration and anger./ We pray for the healing of communities wherever good order and peace has been lost./ We pray to the Lord.

We entrust our families and friends to the Lord,/ the sick,/ the world's children,/ refugees,/ couples preparing for marriage,/ the poor/ and anyone who has shown us any support or kindness./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Easter time we pray for all who have died,/ entrusting them to the Risen-Christ/ who tramples down death,/ bestowing life to those in the tomb./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pope Nicholas ~ Rooster and Pro-Life Thoughts

POPE NICHOLAS I required that all churches carry an image of the cockerel (rooster) somewhere on the church walls inside or out. The reason is debated: was he just pressing the authority of St. Peter and the Papacy? I don't know. Maybe he was honest enough to acknowledge that the Church, like Peter, often denies Jesus in practice. I say often because Peter denied knowing Jesus three times in quick succession and the history of the Church is filled with sad, Christ-denying stories.

As we see in this photograph there is a stylized crowing rooster perched on the steeple of the church which was built long after Pope Nicholas. In Europe, Protestant churches often have roosters instead of crosses atop steeples to distinguish them from Catholic Churches. That might seem a little silly. We might better consider humbly how often as Christians we act as if we don't even know Jesus: our arrogance, power abuse, greed, bad alliances, lies, even criminality. Father forgive.

But there is more, because to be real followers of Jesus, we need to learn again what mercy is. Mercy doesn't mean: "I could have you thrown in jail for your crime, but I'll spare you and have mercy." For all the talk about Divine Mercy in the Church today, I wonder if we know that mercy refers to God's kindness. It's kindness that's in short-supply. Often we meet Christians, even those who call themselves pro-life, who are death penalty advocates. That's a problem. Here's a pro-life message from 9th century Nicholas we might grow into:

So also you, having been called by God and illumined by His light, must not be eager to inflict death as before, but rather you should seize every opportunity to summon all to life both of body and soul; and as Christ has brought you to life from the death in which you were imprisoned, so you too must seek to snatch from death not only the innocent but even all the guilty.

Pro-life folks ought to be front-of-the-line advocates for prison reform. The United States comprises 5% of the world's population but 47% of the world's prisoners. Speaking with a man in jail recently he leaned over near my ear across the counter and said softly, "There's nothing happening in here to help people to reform." 

The Catholic Church in the United States once created its own massive and effective school system. Maybe we should have our own method and approach to prisoner rehabilitation, born of God's kindness. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"I like your Christ, but..."

This is Pauca Verba's 500th post!
Thanks be to God!
Thanks to followers everywhere!

This 13th or 14th century Byzantine icon of the Mother of God is of the Eleousa type, which means Mother of God ~ Tenderness. Of course, the angels (top left and right) carry the tools which foreshadow his passion, and so we might say the Infant has fled to his Mother in fear.

That fear is often quite evident in icons of this type, but not here - the Mother of God is smiling softly and lacks the pensive, faraway look exhibited in other Eleousa icons. The Holy Child isn't looking skyward in fear of the cross and nail-bearing angels but is clearly fixed on his Mother's face in a very deep and affectionate intimacy.

Mary hugs Jesus dearly to herself. The Holy Child is comfortable in his mother's arms, perhaps pulling himself close before kissing her cheek. To be sure, the icon expresses the intensity of relationship between the Mother and Christ child. 

~ ~ ~

But there is more, as Mary is not divine but she is one of us. And in this marvelous and en-spirited icon, we see God-in-Christ looking into humanity's eyes while dancing in our arms, cheek to cheek, covering us with kisses and embraces, though the worst we can do appears in the sky. 

This is the heart of our believing - the enduring and unchanging dogma. How then could Gandhi have said this of us: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Gandhi said this because the Christians he encountered were the Christians of a ruling empire. And empire, as with any institution, has as its first purpose the preservation of itself at all costs. Often the themes of empire are: disrespect, disregard, plunder, murder and massacre, oppression, condescension, exploitation, superiority and subservience. The shame of Christ's Church is very great indeed.

O Christ our Light,
let us begin again,
with you,
only you ~
who, dancing in our arms,
covers us with
kisses and caresses.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cutleaf Toothwort

This lovely, spring-flowering, native plant, nicely protected by rocks, has the curious name, Cutleaf Toothwort. The word cutleaf  speaks for itself - the leaves sharply delineated - but the toothwort part of the name? 

The roots of this plant  can be used as a treatment for toothache. Little knobs, suggesting teeth, grow along the edge of the fleshy roots. Paracelsus, a 16th century professor at the University of Basel named this plant and taught that when God put plants on the earth he graced each of them in appearance with some hint of how they might be useful to humans. 

From the start God has had us in mind and wants only what is best for us. Plants serve as companions to us on this planet where a lot can go wrong - like toothache! It seems that God has planted among us remedies for what can ail us. We ought to be more careful and considerate of the gifts.

And when I see a growing thing that is as lovely as Toothwort I think that God not only has our best interests in mind, but that God has carpeted the earth with loveliness and delicacy because God always knew that Jesus would walk here with us. 

For the gift of Toothwort 
and every green-growing and flowering thing ~
 thank you.
And where Toothwort might come up short ~ 
for the skills of my techno-armed dentist,
who preserves these aging teeth of mine. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Intercessions ~ Good Shepherd Sunday

On Good Shepherd Sunday/ we pray to know the tenderness of Jesus,/ and for our own lives to be characterized by compassion,/ awareness,/ gentle and patient love./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis has trips pending to Sarajevo,/ Ecuador,/ Bolivia,/ Paraguay,/ Uganda,/ Central African Republic,/ Cuba and the United States./ We pray for his safe-keeping and good health./ We pray to the Lord.

Last week/ seven hundred Libyan migrants drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy./ We pray for the troubled African continent/ and for the conversion for those who by greed/ cause suffering and sorrow./ We pray to the Lord.

Spiritual tensions beset us each day as we set out in prayer./ We pray to keep our hearts and minds fixed on Jesus/ and to be upheld in our love for him./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember in our prayer prisoners and for their reform./ We pray too for refugees/ and those who help people trapped in poverty,/ disaster/ and global conflicts./ We pray to the Lord.

Always we pray for the world's children,/ asking blessings for the littlest who are waiting to be born,/ sick children,/ child soldiers,/ young girls and boys who are sexually exploited or trafficked./ For those who do evil things which frighten and harm children./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have died,/ asking for them to experience an eternity of gladness before the face of Jesus-Risen./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Prayer in Difficult Times

Save us who are perishing
O Most Holy Virgin,
chasten us not according to our sins,
but as you are merciful in your
love for humankind, have pity,
deliver us from eternal loss,
sickness and necessity
and save us.

Some Christians, by choice, receive only a very little news of what is happening in the world. Some have no knowledge of what's happening at all. They say knowledge of the world's suffering steals their peace. I would say this ignorance is a luxury we cannot afford. 

I cannot imagine Jesus saying: It's best not to know about the seven hundred drowned migrants fleeing Libya for Africa. And best not to know about the raping of the Yazidi twelve year old girls and their grandmothers. You're right, be at peace and maintain your generic prayer - ignorant of the murder of the Ethiopian Christians and the wars being fought to safeguard the mines of precious metals needed for your future computer use.

This kind of ignorance makes for narcissistic religion. If Jesus went to the mountains, it was never for long. He was always with people in their pain. His expanded heart wasn't directed to the beauties of the desert or the wilderness but for the people right in front of him and those he went out of his way to find.

We might print the little Korsun icon of the Mother of God at the top of the post here and the prayer - setting it where we are sure to find it each morning. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Planting Hamamelis intermedia "Jelena"

I planted a Witch Hazel tree today with the pretty name Jelena. Here's how the  catalog describes this February-March bloomer:
This is a favorite of ours for bringing color to winter gardens. The large ribbon-like petals gleam copper orange, and in autumn, the shrub lights up again as its green leaves turn fiery shades of red and yellow.
Winters can be hard here. One long time resident told me that her family had a large Mother's Day barbecue-picnic where they kept the beer and soda cold in the snow under a tree.  

Digging a suitable hole for any tree is a many-houred task. The old saying about the soil in these parts is: For every piece of dirt there's three rocks. I used a car jack once to dislodge a boulder from the ground.

When the hole is dug and the augmented and de-rocked soil pulled back around the roots, it's time for a short prayer. Bless you, little tree. May you be safe and happy here. May you flourish according to God's design. That's a nice prayer to pray for people as well.

~ ~ ~ 

But I'm also prompted to ask myself and the readers of this post: We all plant ourselves in something. What are you planted in?

A Christian ought to be firmly planted and rooted in the Gospels. Many Christians, including clergy, are more planted in churchman-ship which is not the same as the Gospels. Churchman-ship means being busy about parochial things: church committee meetings, church finances, dogma-fighting bloggers, church connections, inside church information. For the clergy: power, recognition, clerical maneuvering and ladder climbing. 

It would require a tremendous self-awareness and honesty before Christ to acknowledge being rooted in nationalism. Nation before Christ. And it's not just politicians who are nationalists more than they are Christians. People who are plugged into certain TV and radio stations can have a bad case. Militarism often goes hand in hand with nationalism. Scary how many Christians there are who are itching to send young people to war. They distance themselves from the horror of it by the use of the casually tossed off phrase: Boots on the ground.

Or to be rooted in consumerism. Our country is all over the planet and it's not all about wanting everyone to share in our freedoms and form of government. Are wars being fought so we can secure or protect the precious metals needed for us to maintain and advance our computer and media centered life-style?

I mentioned in a sermon once that many Christians know their bank books better than their bibles. One honest fellow stopped me afterwards, nearly in tears, that he had never thought about his life that way before. 

We never have to leave our homes to spend the entire day shopping as the products sold on commercial television seem to be getting more and more ridiculous. Are diseases being invented just so we can buy the remedy? Thomas Merton wrote in the 1960's of the foolish trap even a monastery can fall into being known more for the beer, wine, cheese, jelly and vestments it produces than for the depth-holiness of its monks.

Or I can be planted in resentment, anger, addictions, projecting anxieties. I expect Jelena will flourish - blooming prettily in February-March because she's been carefully and well-planted. But how about it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday of Easter

We pray for Pope Francis as he prepares to release his encyclical on the global climate./ Already bitter voices are raised against him and what he might say to us./ For the rediscovery of docility in our often fearful and angry world./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the nations of the world and for those in government who propose to lead./ We pray for those in every society who are forgotten, of no importance,/ unsupported,/ unprotected./ We pray to the Lord.

There are presently many wars are being fought around the world,/ all of which impact terribly on children./ We pray for them: children who are refugees,/ wounded,/ fearful,/ out of school,/ damaged emotionally./ We pray to the Lord.

As human persons/ existing alongside angels,/ We ask that our worship would be authentic,/ heart-felt and free./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Easter time we pray for unity in the Church/ that we would keep our hearts fixed on Jesus-Risen/ asking to know how we might serve him truly./ We pray to the Lord.

In the Springtime of our hemisphere/ we pray for those who have no experience of joy:/ for families trapped in argument and violence,/ for the elderly who are forgotten,/ for those who are active in addictions,/ for those who suffer chronic pain or sickness./ We pray to the Lord.

And finally we pray at Easter/ for those who have died to know the joy of being greeted by the bright face of the Resurrected Jesus./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Peepers

Spring Peepers are tiny frogs no bigger than the first joint on an index finger. In the winter they don't burrow into the mud like other water-world animals, but simply find some leaves to crawl under for the duration. While they freeze solid, the natural anti-freeze they produce keeps them from exploding.

Come late April through early May they awaken, thaw and recover. Then the males start calling out with a chirping sound that grows louder and louder each evening until they've all found a mate.

There's a cow pond on the  property here that's a perfect habitat for peepers. An old-timer from these parts told me that her house was across the street from a protected wetland and there were nights when the peepers were so loud she wanted to run from her house screaming, "Shut up!"

These tiny, vulnerable frogs are real survivors - wonderful signs of being sustained and protected. We've all got survival stories to tell: 

  • I should have died that night!
  • How did I ever get through that awful time? 
  • Help seemed to arrive out of no where!
  • What a blessing!

Recalling my own stories of survival, who do I thank?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thomas Sunday

John Granville Gregory ~ The Incredulity of Thomas

Here is a contemporary depiction of Thomas and his friends examining the side-wound of the Risen Jesus. Wearing glasses and nice leather jackets, these young men are today. Jesus has a grip on the examining boy's wrist. Maybe he's saying: You can't be a sensation seeker (some religious folks are) and I won't let you go until you respond to me one way or the other. 

But poor Thomas, we're so unfair to him. We think we know or understand, our responses so simplistic and superficial, slapping on cliche-labels like: Doubting Thomas. Nothing more to say. Done deal. 

As if we'd do better than he. Thomas' friend was brutally killed on Friday and a few days later the other apostles said, "Some women of our company reported Jesus is alive." Mind you, in the ancient world a woman was never considered a credible witness. And so yes, Thomas has some trouble accepting this resurrection-news and asks for a sign.

But we constantly ask for signs and in situations not nearly as grave as the one Thomas is experiencing: Which job should I take?...give me a sign. Which boyfriend/girlfriend should I go with?...give me sign. Will I be successful in the future?...give me a sign. Are my relatives safe on the other side...give me a sign. Should I get married or should I be a nun?...give me a sign. Poor God, how we test him!

Maybe so many Christians are themselves so unbelieving of who Jesus is that they miss the fundamental faith-statement Thomas makes: My Lord and my God - and instead hone in on what we perceive to be lacking, "I won't believe unless..." Some people seem to imagine Thomas asks for the sign with a testy attitude.

Thomas wants to believe. He's full of goodwill and loves Jesus. And that's why Jesus gives him the sign of his visible wounds, unlike the Pharisees who really don't believe and don't like Jesus, to whom Jesus refuses a sign.

The wounds Thomas saw didn't cause him to believe. Thomas had faith in Jesus and touching the wounds of the Risen Christ released his powerful expression of faith. Questioning and struggling don't mean we reject belief or are spiritually defective. 

In a world such as ours today I would say, persisting in faith through the struggles and doubts pleases Jesus, who surely notices. So let's be done with this silly and unkind label we slap on Thomas and start a new trend, referring to him as Believing Thomas, and ask him for help from heaven in a very difficult world.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday in Easter Week

In our hemisphere Easter is celebrated when spring arrives: when ice melts and water flows again, when the ground thaws and green things emerge. It's the time of fragrance and fresh color. Birds return, nests are built and animals are born. Everything seems to announce with joy, I can change! People can become new!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday of Easter Week

Early Spring Marsh Marigold

Before the Easter dawn the body of Jesus lay abandoned in the darkness of the tomb. There is a great sadness in this: Jesus, who loved to be with us, was locked away. But where had he really gone? "He descended into hell," we pray in the Creed. Having hidden ourselves from God, Jesus has gone to the deepest place of human loss to find and reclaim us.

Bishop Untener asked it this way: "If my mind were a hard drive, and on the day of my death it were opened up, what would it reveal?" Jesus goes there - to that most miserable, confused, fearful, damaged place in each of us. And finding us he says, to my joy, "Here you are! I have found you! You are mine!"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Intercessions ~ Sunday in the Easter Octave

We pray for those who in the Easter time are meeting Jesus for the first time in the water of Baptism,/ asking for them to be strengthened and joyful in their new friendship with Christ./We pray for those who because of their Baptism are taxed,/ harassed,/ persecuted and even killed./ We pray to the Lord.

Globally there are reported to be almost two and a half million persons trapped in human trafficking./ Three million of them are children./ We ask for that new world where persons are safe and free./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope John XXIII's encyclical Peace on Earth/ condemned the killing of civilians in war./ We pray for non militants/ whose safety is threatened by airstrikes in many places./ We pray to the Lord.

At Easter/ Pope Francis asked us to join him in prayer for those nations of the world being destroyed by violent conflicts./ And so we pray with him for the restoration of peace in Syria,/ South Sudan,/ Kenya,/ Nigeria,/ the Republic of Congo,/ Yemen,/ Iraq and Afghanistan./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for our families in the Easter time/ mindful of those who are sick,/ anxious,/ worried,/ addicted,/ or troubled in any way./ For gifts of healing and wholeness./ We pray to the Lord.

Our poor world is burdened and weakened in a great flood of guns and weapons./ We pray for those who make huge profits in the production and widespread sale of these new gods of metal./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who have died since last Easter to know God's eternal joys/ and for those around the world who are dying today in so many invasions,/ wars,/ and awful acts of terrorist violence./ We ask for a new global regard for life./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday of Easter Week

On the night of Jesus' garden-arrest, Peter pretended not to know Jesus. Maybe he was depressed because sometime after Easter morning, Peter and his friends went back to their old job of fishing. They met Jesus on the beach where he surprised them with a great catch of fish and breakfast.

Then Jesus asked, "Peter, do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me more than all the others?" And each time Peter, undoing his earlier denials, affirmed  his love for Jesus, And with each affirmation,  Jesus gave him a new job: "Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep." (John 21:1-23) 

Of course, even though the picture above charms us (I couldn't resist its tenderness) Jesus isn't talking about animals, but people. We've all got a Jesus-given-job. Maybe I haven't had a talk with him about this in a long time. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday of Easter Week

Here is the apostle Thomas who before Good Friday asked Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"  (John 14:5) Thomas doesn't understand, so he asks a question. But as always Jesus uses someone's question to teach us. He answers, "I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) 

Often I don't understand. I don't understand  why there is such violence and suffering in the world. I don't understand how we can allow so many people to live in crushing poverty while our own country now sells an eight pound hamburger. Often people  don't understand the meaning of their lives and they search haphazardly, dangerously and superficially. 

But like Thomas, I can ask the risen Jesus any question. Jesus doesn't scold for asking. But once I have asked the question I must wait quietly, and many of us can't do that. Only then will I be able to hear Jesus' answer of presence, encouragement, invitation and love. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tuesday of Easter Week

Guards were posted outside the tomb of Jesus; the religious leaders wanting to be sure the body of Jesus wasn't stolen. Or maybe they were secretly afraid of the resurrection?  And there is something that wants me entombed as well - locked in anti-love - in the death of addiction, cravings, fears, anger and that terrible tiresome, religious pride that believes and argues: I'm right; you're wrong.

But Jesus invites me to my own personal Easter. He wants nothing more than that I would follow him through the Holy Saturday of my personal inner darkness to the brightness of Easter morning - a changed and evolved way of thinking and acting

Can I imagine giving up one old harangue, complaint or negative refrain that I keep rehearsing and returning to again and again. It's boring, worn out and produces nothing of life. Some people don't even hear themselves.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday of Easter Week

This lovely, low-to-the-ground spring flower is called Glory of the Snow. I expect it warrants that name as it blooms early, like snowdrops, and the blue set against the late winter/early spring snow must be striking indeed! The spiritual life, like the spring, unfolds gradually. We must be patient and attentive. 

And today is Monday in the Easter Octave. Easter is too big to celebrate in one day, and so it overflows into eight. This is largely lost on a culture that's on speed, but there it is, for anyone who might care. Maybe it's the Church telling us: Slow down, slow down - Oh for heaven's sake, slow down.

~ ~ ~ 

One of the Easter gospels, (Matthew 28: 1-8), tells us that there was an earthquake as the tomb was opened to show the myrrh-bearing women that Jesus was not there. He has gone through death! His rising shakes up our world. Get it?

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says things like: The first shall be last, make peace before coming with a gift to the altar, pray for those who persecute you, stop judging, own nothing, carry your cross, stop hating, the one who is greatest is the servant of all...(Matthew 5,6 7) There are more than a few Christians who have all kinds of political, social and personal opinions about everything under the sun, but they have never read the Sermon on the Mount which contains the fundamental or foundational teachings of Jesus Christ. 

Maybe they are afraid of the the heart-mind Easter earthquake which might follow.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"She's done what she could."

When Jesus was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman entered carrying an alabaster jar of perfume made from expensive aromatic nard. Breaking the jar, she began to pour the perfume on Jesus' head. Some were saying to themselves indignantly: What is the point of this extravagant waste of perfume? It could have been sold for over three hundred silver pieces and the money given to the poor. They were infuriated at her. But Jesus said: Let her alone. Why do you criticize her? She has done me a kindness. The poor you will always have with you and you can be generous to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She had done what she could. By perfuming my body she is anticipating its preparation for burial. I assure you, wherever the good news is proclaimed throughout the world, what she has done will be told in her memory. (Mark 14: 3-9)

Let's leave this woman un-named. When we force a name on a biblical character we've distracted ourselves and make the story solely about that person rather than Jesus and ourselves. 

When I was a young boy my mother had one tiny bottle of expensive perfume on her dressing table. It lasted her a very long time as she used it so sparingly, drop by drop. And here is this gospel-woman pouring a whole bottle over Jesus' head. Another gospel place says the jar contained a litre of perfume! Indeed, what extravagance. What love she felt for Jesus! 

Jesus seems to know that when he dies it will be too late in the day and the work-forbidding Sabbath will have begun, preventing the women from anointing his body properly. He allows this woman to perform that act of anointing-love in advance. 

But the men in the room get all fussed about it. They probably can't handle the depth of her extravagant love and pull out the excuse of needing to serve the poor. The feminine insight into Jesus is so beautiful. I often think men (especially clerical men) have much to learn from women in this regard. 

Jesus' response to the men is great, saying in effect: Oh calm down. Get off her back." He acknowledges her kindness, announcing: She has done what she could. What lovely words. He speaks about you too - and me!

Lots of people suffer terrible guilt fearing they didn't do enough: didn't give enough, didn't sacrifice enough, didn't think enough, didn't suffer enough (that's a big one, isn't it?) 

Sometimes it's true and we should be aware of that, but we must be careful not to spend our whole life looking back at a lifetime of regrets. At other times, I didn't do what I could or I didn't do enough is simply not true. Jesus understands, and he is clearly happy and grateful for when we have simply done, like this loving woman, what we could. 

And what about today and tomorrow?
  • I can't solve world hunger, but I can share some of what I have.
  • I can't stop all the wars, but I can do what I can to establish reconciliation and peace in my own micro-world.
  • I can't know everything that might be known, but I can do what I can to be a reader and a learner and stretch my mind and get free of old, wrong-headed, prejudiced  or useless thinking.
  • I can't reform the whole Church but I can do what I can to practice the Works of Mercy and get a new heart and new spirit.
  • I can't take in all the world's children but I can help a few who are far away in the worst circumstances.
  • I can't heal all the suffering and the tears, but I can smile at the next person I meet.
Clearly in reading this gospel we see that nothing is lost on Jesus. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

What was Francis thinking?

The dried blood of San Gennaro, has been kept in a crystal vial in the cathedral of Naples for centuries. It periodically liquifies as it did when Pope Francis recently visited Naples (an organized crime capital). The Neopolitan bishop at once took the vial from the pope's hands, turned it this way and that, proclaiming that a liquification miracle had happened.

Judge Judy says that you can never bring into the courtroom "what a person was thinking." OK. But having watched and listened to Pope Francis for two years, I'm going to venture he wasn't thinking about San Gennaro's blood while the bishop held up the vial and led the applause. Francis might more likely have been thinking about...

  • The blood of Gaza's 844 bombed civilian deaths
  • The blood of the Downs Syndrome boy aborted; the little girl    unwanted
  • The blood of the mafia-murdered
  • The blood shed by the child-victims of corporate desire
  • The cold-blood of haters
  • The shed blood of enslaved boy-soldiers
  • The life-blood drained where the Church has become moribund
  • The solidified blood of politicians and leaders who fail to    legislate for the common good
  • The bloody ground beneath the new-martyrs murdered by  terrorists
  • The blood of the rich nations dried up by greed and indulgence
  • The anemic blood of Christians who content themselves with  externals, superstition and non-reflection
  • The malignant blood of those who reap huge profits at  everyone else's expense
  • The dirty blood of those who are so eager to send other  people's sons and daughters into war
  • The poisoned blood of those who believe death is the solution to the nation's problems

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter Intercessions

At Easter/ we pray for the healing of the Holy Land wherever there is poverty,/ religious hatred,/ bitterness and violence./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the Christ of Easter to enlighten minds lost in ignorance,/ power abuse,/ lies and pride./ We pray as well for those throughout the world who are baptized at Easter./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask that very soon/ the Churches of the East and West would celebrate Easter together,/ giving the world the witness of unity and reconciliation./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the Easter morning earthquake/ to shake up the Church to become the true sign of salvation for all./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for Pope Francis as at Easter/ as he will speak a word of peace and hope to the world in its fragmentation and pain./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who live without joy at Easter:/ refugees,/ the homeless poor,/ those who are active in their addictions/ or who are suffering terrible losses./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have died since last Easter/ mindful of loved ones and anyone who is left un-mourned./  We pray to the Lord.

Many things, but not blasphemy...

Just prior to the Pope's visit to Naples, this huge billboard was put up on the side of a building featuring a bare breasted woman wearing traditional nuns headgear. Rosary-clutching hands serve to conceal her - a bit. Ross de Serra is apparently a fashion house that maybe sells bluejeans. It's hard to tell.

This kind of depiction is increasingly stupid as most nuns don't wear wimples and veils anymore, and those who would recognize the model as a nun (or even know what a nun is) are increasingly few. Some people got in an uproar about the billboard, especially in light of the pope's imminent arrival. They complained that the sign was blasphemous. I don't agree.

What then? The advertisement is ignorant, dishonest, in poor taste, a cheap shot, low-end, mindless, pandering, an icon for the money-grab, over-board materialistic - but not blasphemous. Blasphemy is a God insult. The Genesis account tells us that human persons are made in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus spent his ministry-years in the closest union with the world's suffering people: Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me. (Matthew 25)

So let's re-think blasphemy...

Bombing of Gaza - not an earthquake

Syrian Refugees

Trash City

Homeless in Seattle

God's Paradise Despoiled

Billions upon billions, upon many billions, of dollars spent on traveling to Mars and asteroids and outer, outer space... while on earth.....

And God has gone to a great deal of trouble to be with us on earth. And God became a human not an angel. So we urgently need to rethink the meaning and use of the word blasphemy. Really!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Jesus is Placed in the Tomb ~ The Fourteenth Station

The Shroud of Turin

When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre. (Matthew 27:57-60)

St. Matthew tells us that the linen shroud was clean and the tomb was new. These are signs of love for Jesus, aren't they? An executed man could not be placed in a tomb where a righteous man was already buried. So the tomb being new emphasizes that Jesus was executed. 

Some Christians have settled for a very polite, sanitized, restful religion. They've lost the sense of outrage which is at the heart of Christianity: God's edgy choice in becoming human and winding up executed. Once you get that - everything is different, even one's understanding of what religion is about.

That Jesus was executed, we might think Christians would have a particular sensitivity towards the imprisoned and especially those on death row. One could ask how a Christian can be a defender of executing people. To execute someone means we have given up on those persons and all possibility of their conversion or change of heart. Conversion begins with God's grace; conversion is God's business. 

Some people determine that certain offenders are beyond conversion. It might seem that way. But if God can effect the parting of a sea, raining bread from heaven, changing water into wine, even resurrecting from the dead - how can I say anyone is beyond God's reach to the turning of  his or her heart?

We might finally note that as Jesus was buried, a great stone was rolled in front of the tomb, to make sure Jesus was sealed in good and tight. But a great stone can be rolled over the doorway to the human heart too - keeping that heart sealed up, protected, safe and undisturbed:

  • A great stone of hate.
  • A great stone of pious indignation.
  • A great stone of stubborn pride.
  • A great stone of protected ignorance.
  • A great stone of indifference.
  • A great stone of self-serving religion.
  • A great stone of self pre-occupation.
  • A great stone of ...