Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Take A Minute Meditation

For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace; 
the mountains and hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field
shall clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12

Sunday, October 22, 2017

It's not really about the coin

A number of Pharisees and men of Herod's party were sent to trap Jesus with a question. They came and said, 'Master, we know that you are an honest man, that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you, and that you teach the way of God in all honesty. Are we or are we not permitted to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor? Shall we pay or not?' He saw how crafty their question was, and said, 'Why are you trying to catch me out? Fetch me a silver piece, and let me look at it.' They brought one, and he said to them, 'Whose portrait is this? Whose title?' 'Caesar's', they replied. Then Jesus said, 'Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and pay God what belongs to God.' And they were amazed at him. Mark 12: 13-17

The Bible is often used by people to defend their own likes and dislikes. Sometimes people ignore biblical scholarship because it might steal away from them some treasured belief. It might deny them their "right" to be angry or even hateful. This Gospel account is an example of that. There are Christians who think Jesus is teaching us to pay our taxes. Still others say that Jesus is teaching Christians about tithing to their church. It's not that at all.

"Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and pay God what belongs to God." The real question is: What belongs to God?" I do. I belong to God. I bear God's image. And Jesus is insisting here that God have what belongs to God. 

And what might we look like if we understood this about ourselves AND about every other person on  this planet? For starts:
  • All the arguing would stop, because God doesn't argue.
  • The planet destruction would stop, because God is a creator.
  • The disrespect would stop, because God has breathed God's life into us.
  • Justice and the common good would really matter to us because we are all God's dear children.
  • We would be spiritually wide awake, because God doesn't sleep.
  • And the child-killing wars, war-preparations and weapon-sales would stop, because even though in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) God can be a buster, wiping out whole cities and armies, God changed that MO in Christ who heals, blesses, forgives, embraces, feeds, consoles, lifts up, restores...

The little coin belongs to Caesar because it bears his image. And I belong to God (and you, and you, and you, and you) because we bear God's image.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Give purpose,/ joy and comfort to those who are despairing,/ or who feel no purpose in their lives,/ who may even be thinking of suicide./ We pray to the Lord.

Bless Pope Francis as he seeks to teach the world/ that holiness is the brightness of God's love,/ and that love is never idle/ but must accomplish wonderful things./ We pray to the Lord.

Bring to sobriety and clarity/ any who suffer from mental illness/ or who feel their lives have been claimed by darkness./ We pray to the Lord.

Guard the children being raised in unbelief./ Bless parents and guardians with gifts of patience,/ wisdom,/ light-heartedness and strength./ We pray to the Lord.

Offer heaven's light to politicians,/ where they have forgotten the common good,/ where they have placed party over country,/ where they take bribes,/ blame,/ lie or pander,/ where their votes leave people anxious and pained./ We pray to the Lord.

Again we pray for those suffering from the violence in Las Vegas,/ or in states afflicted by hurricanes and fires./ And may we never forget that in other countries/ this kind of loss and sorrow is felt everyday./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

O Jesus, I Have Promised

The text for this lovely hymn was written by John E. Bode (1816-1874). The tune was composed by William H. Ferguson (1874-1950) to celebrate the Confirmation of his son and daughter in 1866. The hymn is described as a "warm and personal expression of Christian commitment giving musical expression to St. John's Gospel 12:15-26 where Jesus says, "If anyone serve me, let him follow me, and where I am, there shall also my servant be."

One critic writes that the hymn is too personal, failing to mention  our membership in a larger Christian community and that the verses do not reflect that God has known us long before we have known God. But I would say it is unfair to expect a hymn, or poem, or book to say everything.

Let's contemplate these faces of Jesus as we listen carefully, and enjoy the gifts which poet and composer have shared with us. Oh, that our hearts would be changed for knowing and following Christ.

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end:
Be thou forever near me,
My Master and my friend; 
I shall not fear the battle,
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway, 
If thou wilt be my guide.

O let me hear thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self will;
O speak to reassure me,
To hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
Thou guardian of my soul.

O Jesus, thou hast promised 
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in glory
There shall thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my friend.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Byzantine Prayer of Thanksgiving After Holy Communion

Byzantine priest at Communion

Here is a very beautiful prayer that can be prayed after receiving Holy Communion - beseeching the God of our personal and communal transformation. Notice the words fire and burn appear a couple of times: "You are fire and burn the unworthy," and "Burn up the thorns of my sins."  There are more than a few Christians who love this kind of talk. They have in mind a fiery God who is perpetually in a bad mood and angry with a world he regrets having made. They imagine God reserving his blue flames for those who are not like them. How tiresome. To be sure, God is fiery, but God's only fire is love. I didn't make that up.
"Come Holy Spirit, 
fill the hearts of your faithful
 and kindle in them the fire of your love..."

Here's the Post Communion Prayer:

O You who give me willingly Your flesh for food, You who are fire and burn the unworthy, consume me not, O my Maker, but rather pass through me for the integration of my members, into all  my joints, my affections, and my heart. Burn up the thorns of all my sins. Purify my soul, sanctify my mind; strengthen my knees and bones. Enlighten my five senses. Establish me wholly in your Love.

And what would we look like if our five senses were enlightened  by the fire of God's love? And what would we look like if God's fire of love got into even our joints?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Monday is World Food Day./ The world is on the move because of conflicts,/ political unrest,/ changing weather and food shortages./ We pray not only for the hungry world,/ but for the world of plenty./ May we be the creators of  that justice which leaves no one without food and potable water./ We pray to the Lord.

At Mass today/ St. Paul writes to the Philippians,/ "I am able to do all things in him who strengthens me."/ That we would be spiritually awake,/ and sufficiently still within ourselves,/ to know what it is God asks of us each day,/ and the willingness and generosity to do it./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the babies who will be born this week/ may they be welcomed and loved./ For the children who are born already addicted,/ or born into poverty or chaos./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the grace to change our minds about someone this week./ For gifts of perseverance,/ patience,/ and a teachable spirit./ We pray to the Lord.

For the state of California where vast and destructive fires are burning./ For the strengthening and protection of the brave people who fight fires./ We pray for those who have lost everything./ We pray to the Lord.

We remember in our prayer those who are ill,/ in chronic or debilitating pain./ For those who struggle daily with permanent handicaps,/ and those for whom there is no cure./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Elder Joseph ~ Thoughts on Love and Intercession for the World

Elder Joseph (1897-1959) was a Greek monk and spiritual father to the small monastic community of Little Saint Anne's, Mount Athos. There are many books about his life and spiritual teaching, but here is a reflection he offered about intercessory prayer for the world and its power to call forth love. Perhaps you feel powerless before the many troubles and dangers of the world. Every Thursday the post here offers intercessions that may be used in anticipation of Sunday Mass. Of course, they may be prayed any time.

Elder Joseph used to tell us that the experience of love for one's neighbor is revealed to the person who prays in truth, and more specifically, "When grace is operative in the soul to someone who is praying, then he is flooded with the love of God, so that he can no longer bear what he experiences. Afterwards, this love turns towards the world and humankind, whom he comes to love so much that he seeks to take upon himself the whole of human pain and misfortune so that everyone else might be freed from it. In general, he suffers with every grief and misery, and even for the animals, so that he weeps when he thinks that they are suffering. These are properties of love, but it is prayer that activates them and calls them forth. This is why those who are advanced in prayer do not cease to pray for the world. To them belongs even the continuation of life, however strange and audacious this may seem. And you should know that, if such people disappear, then the end of this world will come." Recollection of Elder Joseph of Vatopedi Monastery 

In the world today it wouldn't be surprising to hear someone object, even among Catholics: "Oh, this monk is just too much; so extreme - taking upon himself the whole of human pain and misfortune, suffering with every grief and misery even for animals, keeping the world in existence if intercession disappeared." But I would add, the whole world is a place of extremes.

  • An individual might be extremely rude, dishonest or unkind.
  • The Weather Channel talks about extreme weather.
  • We see extremes in sexy entertainment. Too much!
  • There are athletes, executive or "stars" who are paid extremely    high salaries.
  • We might say that an out-of-control persona is extreme.
  • We might think taxes or a workman's bid to be extreme.
  • Maybe we know someone who is extremely funny.

But why are all these extremes acceptable or "just the way it is," but a monk's insights about the depth of love intercessory prayer can elicit from a human heart - that's naive, unrealistic, extreme?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Psalm 77 ~ Remembering God's Favors

The psalmist seems to be all over the place here in Psalm 77. As we pray through the verses, notice the great shifts in energy or mood. In a heartbeat he transitions from sleepless worrying and lament to proclaiming God's wonderful deeds. This kind of tension is seen in many psalms, but we'll notice that no matter how deep the psalmist's despair may be, the psalm always ends with a tender reaffirmation of faith and hope in God's goodness and care.

Verses 1 and 2:  Right from the start we feel the psalmist's tension. We can relate. The first verse is in the future tense, "I will cry aloud," "God will hear me."  Then in the second verse he quickly shifts to the past tense, "I sought the Lord," "my hands were stretched out." The psalmist is also something of an insomniac - anguishing through the night. Maybe his troubles press on him so deeply he doesn't even want to hear a word that might help to make things better. 

Verses 3 and 4:  This fellow is in a bad way. He tells God he is feeling restless. We can imagine him in the night with his eyes wide open. He feels as if he's fainting inside. Words don't even adequately express what he's feeling. Ever experienced anything like that? Ugh!

Verses 5 and 6: What beautiful words he uses to describe his inner life: consider, remember, commune, ponder, search. These are soul-words. And with the psalmist, I can consider the "days of old and the years long past." What has upheld me and brought me to today? Maybe I can tell of something wonderful having happened to me over the years that I could never have dreamed of - something I might consider a great blessing and a sign of God's closeness through the worst of it.

Verses 7, 8 and 9: These verses feel like what's called a dark night of the soul. All consolations have left him. He can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the present moment he feels abandoned by God. He knows that God grants favors, is full of loving-kindness, and compassion, but now he worries that God might even be angry with him. Poor fellow. We might know this place or someone close who suffers this way. 

Verses 10 and 11: In these verses the psalmist is having a real heart-to-heart with himself. What a struggle! He says to God, "Maybe you're not omnipotent after all." Then he shifts again, remembering all God has done for him and his people. He's very fair with God: calling to mind God's wonders of old and meditating on God's mighty past deeds. 

Verse 13: "Who is so great a god as our God?" Notice he says "our God." He recognizes he's not alone but is part of a larger community. We might shout-out confidence that God will see the Church through difficult times, where there is scandal, indifference, persecution, divisions and closures. I'm remembering that as a boy, one of the first things I learned about God came off of television: God is good; God is great... That was the way the Romper Room Gace Before a Snack began.  I never want to forget that.

Verses 14 and 15: This fellow seems to acknowledge that there are other gods, but only his God works wonders. Of course there are other gods; we create them all the time. Anything that we think is really supreme or first or matters the most. Remember the monk who went into one of the well-known stores with the million products for sale: "The THINGDOM come" he called it.

Verses 16-19: Here he celebrates the manifestations of God through the power of nature: the ground being shaken, the torrential rains, the turbulent sea, the crashing thunder, the whirlwind. We've largely lost this sense, living in climate controlled spaces, never touching the soil, observing the remaining wild places only through a calendar page, magazine, TV documentary or movie. I'm wondering, if the "ground being shaken" might be a poetic reference to our own personal inner ground being shaken - a personal upheaval, where some person or event shakes us to the core, after which everything is changed for us. God can be there.

Verse 20: And then, after all the inner grief, tension and struggle to believe, the psalmist falls into the hands of God who he likens to a shepherd, so gentle, aware, sensitive and protective. The Christian sees an anticipation of Jesus who knows the sheep by name. Let's run to read where Jesus tells us about these things: John 10:1-21!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday is the feast of Saint Pope John XXIII who said,/ "The true and solid peace of nations consists not in equality of arms, but in mutual trust alone."/ May the leaders of the nations understand./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask blessings for the heroes and Good Samaritans of this past week in Las Vegas,/ the first responder teams and rescuers,/ hospital staff,/ blood donors,/ grief counselors and helpers./ We pray for the healing of the many injured and those who mourn the loss of loved ones./ We pray to the Lord.

May our nation go beyond, condolences, "thoughts and prayers"/ and be brave enough to address the serious questions concerning mental health care/ and the epidemic of gun violence afflicting us./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for anyone in pain./ For those awaiting a diagnosis or an operation,/ who are nervous,/ worried or afraid of the future./ For those who feel they can no longer cope./ We pray to the Lord.

Take from us the unteachable spirit which will not learn,/ the ungrateful spirit which does not think to offer thanks,/ the unhappy spirit,/ unsettled and complaining./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who died this week,/ who await your compassionate word of forgiveness/ and the joy of heaven's welcome./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It is the Feast of Saint Francis

El Greco ~ St. Francis Before the Crucifix
Today is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi who died in 1226. The prayer below is usually attributed to Francis, and even if he didn't really compose it, the thoughts are surely his. It is a good prayer to pray at the start of each day.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, let me sow pardon;
where there is discord, let me sow unity;
where there is doubt, let me sow faith;
where there is despair, let me sow hope;
where there is darkness, let me sow light;
where there is sadness, let me sow joy.

O divine master,
grant that I may not so much 
seek to be consoled as to console; 
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are 
  born to eternal life. Amen

Could I add a little nuance to the phrase, "That I may not so much seek to be loved as to love." There's nothing wrong with hoping to be loved. Many people in the world are loved by no one; their pain is very deep. Conversely, there are some people who love themselves so much. It can be very unattractive. But everything must be kept in balance. Wherever we experience the love of others - we pray to be deeply grateful and humbled. To be loved is a very great gift and a wonderful sign of God's love for us, as we are God's own dear children.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mother of God ~ Joy Of All Who Sorrow

This is the chapel of the Mother of God ~ Joy of All Who Grieve, or Joy of All Who Sorrow. The chapel was built to house an icon with the same title and to memorialize the tragedy of 1972, Svetlogorsk, Russia, when a military plane crashed into a kindergarten school. We live on a dangerous planet; grieving is all around us. To grieve is to feel a deep sadness over loss. Grief is to suffer heart-ache - a broken heart.

But look, the chapel door is open! We are invited to enter, to approach the icon with our heart-concerns, our awareness of and sharing in the grief of others.

Look carefully at the six scenes depicted to left and right. There is an endangered ship, a whole community behind brambles or wires, (are they martyrs?), the wounded, the elderly, even a soldier with a cane (is this a wounded veteran?), an angel escorting a procession of small children wandering in wilderness, and mothers carrying lifeless infants.

Then yesterday, the tragedy of Las Vegas, and I thought of George Harrison's 1973 post Beatles song, Give Me Love (Give me peace on earth). The song is a pleading prayer, asking for divine help.

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul.

O my Lord
Please take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Won't you please
Oh won't you

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me from from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Feodorovskaya Mother of God ~ In the Thicket

The story goes that on August 16, 1239, Prince Vasily was hunting alone in the forest when he came across an icon of the Mother of God standing upright in the thicket. When he reached out to touch the image, it disappeared. Awestruck, he told the people of the city of his discovery and they returned with him to the exact spot in the forest where they found the icon as he had. Overjoyed, (who wouldn't be) they transported the icon to the Cathedral of the Assumption. The icon is still revered even to today.

These legends surrounding the discoveries of icons all begin to sound alike after you've read three or four of them. That doesn't matter, in each there is some word or phrase that seems to jump out to offer us some spiritual insight. 

The prince found the icon in the thicket. A thicket is a dense growth of bushes or trees, thorns and brambles. Small animals hide in the thicket or like the ram in the story of Abraham getting ready to sacrifice son-Isaac, we can get caught in the thicket. Jeremiah the Prophet (4:7) tells us that danger can lurk in the thicket. 

The lion is up from his thicket
the destroyer of nations is on his way,
he has come from his home
to reduce your land to a desert;
your towns will be in ruins, uninhabited.

Like forest and fog, sometimes the thicket can be an image of our personal or communal inner state. Prince Vasily perhaps reached out to heaven from the thicket of what, we don't know: his vanity, pride, power-quest, anger, selfishness? We can come before the icon of the Feodorovskaya Mother of God here, from the thicket of our own inner emotion, where we might be stuck or hiding. Or perhaps we sense something dark or dangerous lurking within. Pray we know ourselves well enough to identify it. Then our prayer can be real, coming from a felt place.

Mother of God,
appear before me in the thicket of my emotions,
my anxieties,
my exhausting need to control,
my rambling and fruitless thoughts,
my inappropriate attractions
and the desire to possess.

Mother of God,
find me in the thicket
where negative belief lurks -
that comfortable religion of
judging and
pronouncing and 
Unleash a love in me
that takes the world into my heart,
wishing only wholeness,
salvation and good 
for each.

Father Stephen Morris

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Prayers for the American Territory of Puerto Rico 

Wednesday is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi./ We ask to live the words of his prayer:/ Lord, make us instruments of your peace,/ where there is hatred may we sow love./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the poor,/ storm-battered island of Puerto Rico,/ and for all those throughout the Caribbean who are heartsick with struggle and painful loss./ We pray blessings for all who are generous helpers./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask blessings for our families and friends,/ mindful of those with health concerns,/ who struggle with depression or addiction,/ financial or relational problems./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray again for our country,/ fractured and divided,/ lost in bitter partisanship and culture-war arguments./ We pray to understand that our job as Americans is simply to do good to other people./ We pray to the Lord.

For the children we know and those we don't know./ For the children who suffer trauma and loss,/ who are without food,/ medical care,/ education,/ clothing,/ security or love./ We pray to the Lord.

May Christians see their Sunday worship as an invitation to personal and communal transformation./ Inspire those who no longer worship or whose worship is weak and distracted./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Psalm 103 ~ God's Limitless Care for All of Creation

Click on the wild fall asters above - the field flowers mentioned in psalm 103. Some thoughts about the psalm's verses follow.

Verse 1: The psalmist begins with the little phrase, Bless the Lord, my soul. To bless means to extol, glorify, acclaim, celebrate, tell out! He's talking to his soul - his inner life, the center of his spiritual energies. Then he invites this invisible interior life to delight in God: calling to his energies, his breath, his knowledge and creativity, his powers of imagination, even his sighs.

Verse 2: Let us not forget God's benefits. The Latin word bene means good. Don't forget the many hundreds of good gifts given to me this day: this cup of tea, this breath of air, these hard working eyes, this fresh taste, this returned smile...

Verse 3: God forgives and heals. The psalmist uses the word infirmities, which is sickness. But sometimes the sickness is emotional or spiritual: sick with anger,  resentment, complaint or negativity. Sometimes a whole family can be sick, or our lineage.

Verse 4: Israel didn't have a well defined sense of the afterlife. But for the Christian, perhaps this verse hints at Easter. "God redeems your life from the grave." Or maybe "grave" is used poetically to express the deadly things that can befall us on earth - the serious matters that can harm us, like the litany of addictions that are common today.

Verse 5: God renews our youth. I knew an elderly French nun whose convent was seized by Hitler's Black Shirts during the Second World War. The nuns had to sneak out at night to find something to eat. But she never soured and always kept a happy heart - joyful, awed and youthful.

Verse 6: God executes righteousness. There are Christians who love this word righteousness. I wonder if they think it means that God is like an inspector general. They hope God's righteousness is going punish all the people who are not like them. How we burden God with our own agenda! The second half of the verse tells us what it really means: God is on the side of all the world's people who are ripped off, pushed aside and ignored. There are billions of them. 

Verse 7: God has revealed God's self to Israel throughout their long history. But you have a story, and I have a story too. And God is no less revealed through our own personal stories.

Verses 8-10: God is patient, like a mother who teaches her child to walk. What a delightful thought! God isn't an angry accuser. How did we ever get that so wrong - this idea of God "upstairs" filling out his report card, angry red check-marks on his clipboard list! This is called negative belief. Someone long ago invented negative belief because it's easy to control and manipulate people if they're afraid. 

Verse 11: Fear God? St. Antony of the desert said, "I no longer fear God, but I love him." I fear only what can take me away from God.

Verse 12: God doesn't hold onto our sins, nursing a heavenly grudge against us, but hurls them as far as the east is from the west. Very neat!

Verses 13-14: The psalmist tells us twice that God's love is parental. God remembers that we are fragile and vulnerable. Think of how a good parent holds a newborn.

Verses 15-16: We come and go - like field flowers that last only a short time. As a seminarian I used to cut grass in a huge cemetery with graves going back into the 1800's - graves no one had visited in a very long time, the glorious headstones so worn, the names and dates erased. 

Verse 17: God's kindness is extended to children's children, the psalmist says. God knows our lineage, the people we have descended from and those who will come after us. God has called each of us into existence and brought us to today!

Verse 18: Notice how the psalmist fine-tunes his thoughts: God's commandments are not something we think about, or memorize, or even pray about but something that we DO

Verse 19: God's kingship is first. We're reminded of the prayer Jesus taught us: "Thy Kingdom come (but what does that mean?) Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In seminary we often sang the hymn, The King Of Love, My Shepherd Is.

Verses 20-22: We might imagine these verses are a great chorus of praise, the psalmist summoning all the angels and all of God's visible and invisible creation - this last call to hear God from our very deepest interior place. God, who is full of hope for us, and who holds us so carefully and closely.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ancestral Healing

Then Jesus began to talk to them in parables, "A man once planted a vineyard," he said, "fenced it round, dug out the hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to some farm-workers and went abroad. At the end of the season he sent a servant to the tenants to receive his share of the vintage. But they got hold of him, knocked him about and sent him off empty-handed. The owner tried again. He sent another servant to them, but this one they knocked on the head and generally insulted. Once again he sent them another servant, but him they murdered. He sent many others and some they beat up and some they murdered. He had one man left - his own son who was very dear to him. He sent him last of all to the tenants, saying to himself, 'They will surely respect my own son.' But they said to each other, 'This fellow is the future owner - come on, let's kill him, and the property will be ours!' So they got hold of him and murdered him, and threw his body out of the vineyard. What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard is going to do? He will come and destroy the men who were working his vineyards and will hand it over to others. Have you never read this scripture - 
The stone which the builders rejected, 
The same was made the head of the corner;
This was the Lord,
And it is marvelous in  our eyes?"
At this they longed to get their hands on him, for they knew perfectly well that he had aimed this parable at them - but they were afraid of the people. So they left him and went away. Mark 12:1-12

Jesus is up against religious leadership here and he is telling them this parable-story to let them know that he knows what they're up to. The parable begins, "A man planted a vineyard," which is to say, God gathered a people, Israel, who are uniquely his own. The story contains wonderful detail reflecting God's care:  the vineyard has a protective fence, an in-house wine-press and a watch-tower.

But God expected that in time this people would be fruitful in justice. Instead, the tenants (Israel) turned on God and abused the leaders God provided to secure them. And then the story becomes particularly sad, because the owner (God) not allowing his plan to be frustrated or utterly thwarted, sent servants - prophets - one after another to secure this fruit of justice. But prophets make people uncomfortable and are more often than not, likely to be exiled, abused, killed.

Jesus is saying to his religious listeners: "Murdering God's prophets is in your lineage." We all have a lineage. We all come from a long line of ancestors. We all have a family story that goes way back in time. Some of it we know about, other aspects are lost to time. This parable caused me to think that our own family-story needs to be healed. Some of the dis-ease or the historical wound influences how we are as family even to today. In every family-story there are accounts of:

child abuse
sex abuse
domestic violence
drug addiction
the bad spirit of ancestral:
racial prejudice,
negative complaint

Victorious Christ ~ San Damiano ~ Assisi

What is there to do? I'd suggest consciously bringing it to Mass, and at the consecration and elevation of the bread and wine say, "Jesus please, your mercy, heal my family." You see, the stretch of Jesus reaches not only into the four directions, north, south, east and west, but also into time - past, present and future. We can entrust every wound to Jesus' timeless, healing, self-gift. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We pray for the many millions of people suffering heartache this week/ following earthquakes,/ repeated hurricanes,/ floods,/ fires,/ wars and terrible violence./ We pray to the Lord.

The political scene in our country is troubling:/ self-veneration,/ the seeking of power and fame,/ hyper-partisanship,/ the blatant despising of others,/ narcissism and menace./ We pray for a national conversion./ We pray to the Lord.

Autumn has begun,/ and the trees will drop many thousands of leaves./ May we drop resentment,/ willful ignorance,/ selfishness and superficiality./ We pray to the Lord.

May we be freed  from the spirit of guilt,/ which freezes past moments of regret,/ which easily becomes our point of self-identification/ and keeps us weak in serving Christ./ We pray to the Lord

We pray for the healing of those who are raised in humiliation and shame./ For families where old wounds are kept alive,/ where there is bitterness,/ sickness or dysfunction./ For those who are loved by no one./ We pray to the Lord.

Wednesday is the Feast of  Saint Vincent de Paul,/ the 17th century priest-patron of charity./ Bless us with generous hearts,/ may we be a church that welcomes all,/ that refuses no one./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Psalm 65 ~ A Psalm of Worship and Wonder

Gathered around the glorious temple with their fields and flocks, this psalm suggests that Israel has settled into an agricultural way of life. We can also hear the psalmist taking delight in God while standing in the midst of wonder and seasonal beauty.

Verse 1: The psalm begins with praise: "God, you are God!" Then the psalmist immediately references vows. We're not sure what he has in mind - perhaps just the keeping of commandments and the heart-to-heart covenant relationship Israel has with God. Catholics talk a lot about vows: wedding vows, priest vows, nun and monk vows, private vows...But before any of that, there are our Baptismal vows. Do we even know what they are?! 

Do you renounce Satan?
I do.
And all his works?
I do.
And all his empty show?
I do.
Do you believe in God...
Do you believe in Jesus Christ...
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit...
I do.

Verses 2 and 3: The psalmist seems to think that the reason we go to God is to get freed of sin. There's so much talk about sin. I grew up being taught that sin was around every corner. African Americans believe that a miracle is around every corner. Their discipleship is full of expectation and delight.

Verse 4: "Happy are they whom you choose." People will ask a priest or nun, "When did you get the call?" God calls or chooses all of us, not just those in "religious life." We're all called to a life of soulful spiritual awake-ness and faith in action. And this God-call is very satisfying, the psalmist says.

Verse 5: Now there is shift and the psalmist starts to sing of God's wonders. How God delights us - right up to the edges of the earth. He likely thought the earth was flat and had margins.

Verse 6: And God has made the strong mountains, putting them in place. Now, it's easy to take a mountain down. Instead of mining into the ground beneath the mountain, we blow it up and take what we want. A mining company claims to be able to destroy and remove a mountain in two years. Gone forever.

Verse 7: The translation we've heard here refers to the clamor of the people. The Coverdale translation speaks of the chaos of the people. Take your pick. But whichever word we prefer, we need God to fill us with peace, inside and out, and to heal the deep fractures and hurts.

Verse 8: Dawn and dusk, sunrise and sunset are given happy voices! And God's people tremble before God's signs, not for fear but for wonder. Lots of people in our fast-paced, hectic, techno-world have forgotten wonder

Verse 9: Here is a whole verse just about the plentiful gift of water. But some nations are greedy and they dam up and exploit the rivers, polluting them and deflecting the greater volume of water for themselves, ignoring the needs of those down stream. Or we rollback water protections, leaving communities vulnerable to every kind of water-bearing waste. A Buddhist mountain-top monastery doesn't use chemicals for cleaning because they know those chemicals will wind up in the water supply the people depend upon at the base of the mountain. Think of the people in Flint, Michigan.

Verse 10: God is called a provider in this verse. God provides, but human greed causes sickness, weakness and death. Justice is needed more than charity. Justice realizes and acts out of the deep awareness that on planet earth, we are all in it together. 

Verse 11: God drenches, smooths, softens, blesses. How attentive God is to his creation. How tender!

Verse 12: The psalmist sings of God's goodness. When I was a boy I was made aware of God righteous anger, God's punishing justice, God's sadness, God's disapproval and indignation. But in Christ we see God's goodness: God's patient kindness, God's reach, God's compassionate eyes, God's maternal, inviting and life-awakening voice. 

Verse 13: God is even aware of the animals grazing on the wild fields. But we have chopped down the forests and destroyed the habitats where the animals live. The orange and black Monarch butterfly was abundant when I was a boy. Now it is near extinction because the fields of milkweed, off of which it feeds on its long annual migration to Mexico and back, have been paved over with cement, blacktop and malls.  Then the psalmist says the hills are clothed with joy. And he says this without ever having seen the magnificent autumn-colored hills of this country's north east.

Verse 14: The psalmist has used the word joy three times in his psalm. Creation is so alive it seems to express emotion. The Coverdale translation says the hills laugh and shout. And if the hills and meadows can be joyful, how much more might we. A young African-American woman, who had lost everything in Hurricane Harvey, was having her hair done by a volunteer beautician in the shelter where she had found safety. When the beautician twirled her around in the chair at the end to face the mirror, the girl beamed ear to ear and said to the camera, "This has made my day." 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mother of God Who Dries Tears

Forgive us, O Lady
for seating you on a throne
when you'd more likely prefer
the simplicity of your Nazareth home,
where you'd sing songs to your Golden Boy
and bounce him on your knee. 
You know, we're always looking for some new way
to express our affection for the two of you. 
But I notice  as well you hold a tear-drying napkin,
the final swipe at
the guilt we bear -
the frozen, past moments,
which your son wipes away.

Father Stephen Morris

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Florida Flamingo Rescue

Pope Francis has said this week that DACA is a pro-life issue./ May we understand and embrace with increasing depth/ the meaning of the words pro-life,/ and so share the mission of Jesus./ We pray to the Lord.

In todays' Gospel,/ Jesus calls us to the radical forgiveness of others/ as the distinguishing mark of discipleship,/ and the principal work of all humankind./ May we learn his lesson well./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for the millions of people impacted by hurricanes throughout the Caribbean Islands,/ Texas,/ Florida and beyond./ For those who rescue and help,/ for those who work to preserve community in these damaged areas./ We pray to the Lord.

As there is a new moon this Wednesday,/ may we discover something new about ourselves,/ about God,/ other people,/ about the care of our planet./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist./ May we love his Gospel and live Christ's Sermon on the Mount/ which Matthew has preserved for us./ We pray to the Lord.

The Jewish New Year Feast of Rosh Hashanah is celebrated this week,/ beginning a ten day period of prayer/ introspection and repentance./ May we live self-examined lives/ embracing of change/ as God invites./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Prayer For Anytime - But Especially In Autumn

Bend Oregon Aspen Grove ~ Mike Putnam Photography

O Jesus, make us young again,
young at heart,
for all the world, Jesus!
Fill us with delight
and awe and wonder
before everything that is
beautiful, good and true.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Father Pedro Arrupe's Prayer

The Centurion at the Foot of the Cross ~ The Passion of the Christ

Father Pedro Arrupe (1907~1991) was the superior general of the Society of Jesus, SJ (Jesuits) from 1965~1983. Here is his meditative prayer, Teach Me Your Ways.

Teach me your way of looking at people:
as you glanced at Peter after his denial,
as you penetrated the fears of the rich young man
and the hearts of your disciples.

I would like to meet you as you really are,

since your image changes those with whom
   you come into contact.

Remember John the Baptist's first meeting with you?
And the centurion's feeling of unworthiness?
And the amazement of all those who saw miracles 
   and other wonders?

How you impressed your disciples,

the rabble in the Garden of Olives,
Pilate and his wife

and the centurion at the foot of the cross...

I would like to hear and be impressed

by your manner of speaking,
listening, for example, to  your discourse
   in the synagogue in Capharnaum
or the Sermon on the Mount where your audience
   felt you "taught as one who has authority."

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Monday remembers the events of September 11, 2001./ We pray for a safer,/ more peaceful world,/ strength and healing for those whose health has been compromised for their recovery work./ For those who died that day;/ for those who mourn./ We pray to the Lord.

Millions of people have been impacted by the recent hurricanes,/ Harvey and Irma./ We ask the blessing of endurance for those whose lives have been effected,/ and for those who rescue and help in any way./ We pray to the Lord.

We pray for families today/ where there is sickness,/separation,/ the pain of losses/ the struggle to come up from under disaster./ We pray to the Lord.

In all the national talk about DACA and immigration reform,/ we often cite that we are a nation of laws./ May we not forget that God is God/ and that the heart of God takes precedent in all things./ We pray to the Lord.

Our relation to the earth is damaged with all the nuclear bomb tests,/ the rockets hurled into the oceans,/ the practice drills that blow up mountains,/ trees and animals./ May we learn to reverence the planet-gift God has given us./ We pray to the Lord.

There are also historic floods these days in Niger,/ Yemen,/ Sierra Leone,/ Nepal,/ India,/ Pakistan and Bangladesh,/ all countries without FEMA and reconstruction monies./ Disease follows floods./ We ask for the conversion of hearts to justice./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Into the hands of Jesus ~ A Prayer of Surrender

Trip Advisor: Cathedral Notre Dame d'Amien

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius we find a prayer commonly called the Suscipe. It is a prayer of surrender, asking God to receive all of my self. It begins, "Take Lord, receive..."

Older Catholics might be familiar with the daily prayer of self-gift called A Morning Offering. Folks in AA often pray what is called a Third Step Prayer: "O God, I offer myself..."

But when I stumbled on this photograph of the bound hands of Jesus found in the Cathedral of Notre Dame d'Amien, France, I thought to write/pray my own. There's nothing wrong with praying memorized prayers or prayers found in books, but I want to be sure that I feel something, so here I've composed my own surrender-prayer, focusing on the hands of Jesus as we imagine them to be in the Gospel scenes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I surrender all my anxious fears and enervating fantasies, 
all my past with its wounds, mistakes and wrong turns. I surrender my health concerns and the days of my aging, my relationships and anything about my life that I hope will be strengthened or healed:

I place it all in Christ's swaddled hands at Bethlehem,
Christ's work-a-day hands at Nazareth,
Christ's shivering hands at the River Jordan,
Christ's weathered hands in the temptation-desert,
Christ's gift-bearing hands at the Cana wedding,
Christ's silencing hand over the tumultuous sea.

I surrender any knowledge I possess, my skills, abilities, accomplishments and any exercise or insistence of my will that may secretly seek to control today or tomorrow:

I place it all in the hands of Christ raising up the little girl,
the hands of Christ calling the apostles ashore,
the hands of Christ touching the funeral bier,
the hands of Christ taking hold of Peter's mother-in-law,
the hands of Christ giving sight to the blind man,
the hands of Christ opening the deaf man's ears; loosing his tongue,
the hands of Christ summing Lazarus from the stone tomb.

I surrender anything I own or do that I unconsciously think identifies me, any power or notoriety I possess, my disappointments and every poisonous resentment:

I surrender it all to the child-gathering hands of Christ,
the bread-breaking, wine-passing hands of Christ,
the foot-washing hands of the teaching Christ,
the rope-bound hands of the imprisoned Christ,
the cross carrying hands of the condemned Christ,
the nail-gashed hands of the Good Friday Christ,
the Thomas-touched hands of the Easter Christ,
the radiant hands of the cosmic Christ.

Father Stephen P. Morris

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Prayer at the Start of School

Pencils perhaps are kind of passe, but this picture with it's stand-out red pencil made me think of my thirteen-year-old friend, Katie, and the standout poem-prayer she wrote for the start of school. Parents and grandparents might care to share it with the young people they know.

O Lord,
I thank you for the great things you have given me over this past summer.
I pray that in this school year, I will spread the message of Jesus through my actions and my words.
I pray that I will grow as a person, and as believer, and that I will learn many new things, especially about my faith.
I hope I will build better relationships with my friends and my peers, and that I will grow closer to God.
I pray that I will make a change for the better in my community and the world.
I pray that even though I am young, I will see that I have the ability to make a positive impact.
I pray I will always be kind and accepting of others, have courage in myself and faith in Jesus.
Allow me to never take school for granted, and help me to see the opportunity to learn not as a burden, but a gift that many children will never get.
I pray this school year will be filled with blessings, for myself, my family, my school and the world. Amen.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Intercessions ~ Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

We pray for those suffering losses,/ pain and heartache following Hurricane Harvey this past week,/ We pray for first responders,/ rescuers and helpers/ and for all those who extend themselves in friendship and charity./ We pray to the Lord.

Great divides exist in our country along political,/ economic,/ cultural,/ racial and religious lines./ We pray that this terrible storm will bring about a new national unity/ through service and the support of others./ We pray to the Lord.

Pope Francis begins an Apostolic Journey to Colombia, South America this week,/ which has suffered fifty years of deadly violence./ We pray for him/ as he invites that nation to take first steps into reconciliation and peace-making./ We pray to the Lord.

Monday is Labor Day./ We pray for those whose work benefits us in any way./ For those whose work is dirty,/ dangerous,/ unjust or exhausting./ For anyone who is out of work./ We pray to the Lord.

Friday is the Feast of Mary's Nativity./ We pray for the little children of the world,/ mindful of those traumatized by war and disaster/ the children who have been failed by adults/ or victimized by injustice./ We pray to the Lord.

Again we pray for students and teachers returning to school these days./ We also ask for ourselves the blessings of strong faith,/ patience,/ endurance,/ courage and joyful hope./ We pray to the Lord.