Posted by: matt25 | April 2, 2014

Can I Talk to You for a Minute?

If you are a busy Christian stressed by having too much to do and too little time, this obstacle may have kept you from embracing the call of Lent. It’s okay, don’t beat yourself up. You can start today. (see Matt 20:1-6 if you don’t believe me)  The blessings that God wants to give you through your prayer fasting and almsgiving are still waiting.

Take a minute, maybe 4 if you can squeeze them in, to start.  This is not a time to pray for others needs or your own, it is a time to enter into Lent.   Sit comfortably and take a few deep cleansing breaths and then talk to God.

Tell him one thing you are thankful for. 

Tell him one thing you are sorry for. 

Then ask him to lead you to one thing he would like you to do today. 

Sit in silence, just breathe and let him guide your thoughts.  Rest in your breathing and listen with your heart.  If you feel a prompting to stop doing something (fast) or to do something that requires you to give of yourself (almsgiving) resolve to follow through.

That’s it.  Simple and quick enough that you could even do it in the shower.  Just do this faithfully each morning from now until Easter and you will be blessed immensely this Lent, even starting now.

Peace.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

planting

Posted by: matt25 | March 19, 2014

A Prayer To Saint Joseph

Peace be with you and happy St. Joseph’s day!  Let us ask the one who protected, taught and led Jesus to help us as well. 

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Dear St. Joseph, intercede with your son Jesus for us today.  
Ask him to open our hearts that we will not be too harsh toward those who do not understand as we understand. 
Ask him to open our minds that we might remember we are all at different points on the path to heaven. 
Ask him to open our lips that might unlock doors to the ongoing conversion we are all called to, through words of compassion and mercy.  
Ask him to open our eyes that we might see each encounter with a person who shares their faith with us,  in whatever form that takes,  as a blessed opportunity to share our faith with them. 
Ask him these things that we might in true humility, receive the grace to find the common ground that we share, and rejoicing in that together, build bridges to the unity God desires for his children.
Amen

Posted by: matt25 | March 16, 2014

Have You Seen A Transfiguration?

On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Catholics and many other Christians alway reflect upon the Gospel reading which is known as “The Transfiguration“. We alternate in our 3 year cycle between Matthew, Mark, and Luke but it is always the Transfiguration. This year we are in Cycle A so we hear from Matthew.

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I think there are times when not only Peter, James, and John his brother, but we as well, have experiences when the we are able to perceive a reality beyond the limitations of our five senses. We may in the moment seek to qualify it as our imagination, a dream, or something else to explain it so it fits within our construct of reality, and it may well have been that but, on some primal and elemental level, we knew it also as truth. We knew it as an experience whereby somehow through ordinary means, the divine touched us.

One poem that speaks of this is “Faith Matheny” by Edgar Lee Masters.

At first you will know not what they mean,
And you may never know,
And we may never tell you: –
These sudden flashes in your soul,
Like lambent lightning on snowy clouds
At midnight when the moon is full.
They come in solitude, or perhaps
You sit with your friend, and all at once
A silence falls on speech, and his eyes
Without a flicker glow at you: –
You two have seen the secret together,
He sees it in you, and you in him.
And there you sit thrilling lest the Mystery
Stand before you and strike you dead
With a splendor like the sun’s.
Be brave, all souls who have such visions!
As your body’s alive as mine is dead,
You’re catching a little whiff of the ether
Reserved for God Himself.

There is much to be learned from the Transfiguration accounts in the Gospels. That is why we hear them every year. But, if you experience a transfiguration of sorts in your own life, meditate upon it and seek any gift of wisdom that may be gleaned from it.

Posted by: matt25 | March 15, 2014

What’s The Point?

20140315-094126.jpg It has been my great privilege and joy to have worked in prison ministry for the last 28 years. Part of that ministry involves small group discussions about our experience of God in our lives. We sometimes share where we have been blessed and where we have been challenged. One of the issues that was explored last night was raised by a man who described how in prison it is difficult to feel like there is a purpose to his life.

The conversation that followed was wide ranging and touched on many ideas from scripture, philosophy, personal experience, and even the now disused Baltimore Catechism. We wrapped up with the idea that while all of those connections were helpful to the head, to make purpose resonate throughout our being requires following a four word track to run on, a prayer mantra of sorts for our lives, which is easily spoken but harder lived.

Trust, surrender, believe, receive.

How true that can be for all of us. We don’t have to be incarcerated to experience seasons in our lives where we just feel like saying, “What is the point?” We can all struggle with understanding things in our minds but still feeling an emptiness or pain in our hearts. It is also true that irrespective of where we live, trust and surrender are very difficult for most of us, and the greater our difficulty with them is, the more challenged we are to believe and receive the peace that passes understanding.

Our personal struggles are highly personal but are often universal as well. I will leave you with some thoughts from Vatican II that I find helpful, and a recording of that very helpful four word prayer mantra in music.

Trust, surrender, believe, receive.

From the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council. (Gaudium et spes, Nn. 9-10)

Man’s deeper questionings

The world of today reveals itself as at once powerful and weak, capable of achieving the best or the worst. There lies open before it the way to freedom or slavery, progress or regression, brotherhood or hatred. In addition, man is becoming aware that it is for himself to give the right direction to forces that he himself has awakened, forces that can be his master or his servant. He therefore puts questions to himself.

The tensions disturbing the world of today are in fact related to a more fundamental tension rooted in the human heart. In man himself many elements are in conflict with each other. On one side, he has experience of his many limitations as a creature. On the other, he knows that there is no limit to his aspirations, and that he is called to a higher kind of life.

Many things compete for his attention, but he is always compelled to make a choice among them, and to renounce some. What is more, in his weakness and sinfulness he often does what he does not want to do, and fails to do what he would like to do. In consequence, he suffers from a conflict within himself, and this in turn gives rise to so many great tensions in society.

Very many people, infected as they are with a materialistic way of life, cannot see this dramatic state of affairs in all its clarity, or at least are prevented from giving thought to it because of the unhappiness that they themselves experience.

Many think that they can find peace in the different philosophies that are proposed.

Some look for complete and genuine liberation for man from man’s efforts alone. They are convinced that the coming kingdom of man on earth will satisfy all the desires of his heart.

There are those who despair of finding any meaning in life: they commend the boldness of those who deny all significance to human existence in itself, and seek to impose a total meaning on it only from within themselves.

But in the face of the way the world is developing today, there is an ever increasing number of people who are asking the most fundamental questions or are seeing them with a keener awareness: What is man? What is the meaning of pain, of evil, of death, which still persist in spite of such great progress? What is the use of those successes, achieved at such a cost? What can man contribute to society, what can he expect from society? What will come after this life on earth?

The Church believes that Christ died and rose for all, and can give man light and strength through his Spirit to fulfill his highest calling; his is the only name under heaven in which men can be saved.

So too the Church believes that the center and goal of all human history is found in her Lord and Master.

The Church also affirms that underlying all changes there are many things that do not change; they have their ultimate foundation in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever.

Posted by: matt25 | March 14, 2014

Friday Recalls The Passion

On all Fridays, especially during Lent,  we should remember the greatest act of love we shall ever know.   When Jesus, the Christ of God, gave all to pay for my sins, and yours, that we might be saved from the eternal punishment we deserve, and enter eternal life reconciled to our Father in heaven.

Spend a moment reflecting upon this detail from Christ Crucifed by Diego Veláquez (1632) then, when your heart is ready, slowly read the except from the Mirror of Love by Saint Aelred, abbot.

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Christ, the model of brotherly love

The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one’s enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ. He who is more fair than all the sons of men offered his fair face to be spat upon by sinful men; he allowed those eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men; he bared his back to the scourges; he submitted that head which strikes terror in principalities and powers to the sharpness of the thorns; he gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, remaining always gentle, meek and full of peace.

In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.

Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity—Father, forgive them—and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?

Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgment; therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

If someone wishes to love himself he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wishes to resist the promptings of his sinful nature he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of the Lord. Further, if he wishes to savor the joy of brotherly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love.

But if he wishes to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Savior.

Posted by: matt25 | March 5, 2014

Today is Ash Wednesday

Today we mark not only our foreheads but our calendars as we begin the journey to the cross and the empty tomb. The path is well marked. Will you make the pilgrimage to Easter or just phone it in? The choice is yours. You can take the path of spiritual discipline or spiritual laziness. Which will bring you what your heart truly desires? What will you do differently these next 40 days?

Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

These are calls to humility and truth which will help us get back on track to being the woman, child, or man that we were created and called to be. This is the path to Easter joy.

Posted by: matt25 | March 3, 2014

Give It Up!

What should I give up for Lent? Perhaps I need to answer a different question first. What habit or habits do I have that are obstacles to growing closer to The Lord? Conversely what practices can I embrace which will draw me closer to The Lord?

Do I spend much too much time on things that don’t really matter? Should I fast from Facebook, TV shows, sports, video games, or other entertainments? What will I do with that time? Will I develop a focused time for prayer and reading sacred scripture? Is there some other spiritual reading that I just never seem to get to but, have been meaning to for some time? Will I make that commitment a daily reality? Will it be 15 minutes or will it be longer.

Do I have an excessive attachment to something? Can I grow in the grace of detachment as a fruit of self-discipline by giving up something that I really do not want to give up? What could be a daily reminder to me of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me? Would giving up sweets or coffee do this?

How are my relationships with others. Am I so focused on myself that I do not have the vision or inclination to help them with their pain? Should I be making phone calls or writing letters to reconnect? Should I be sending notes of encouragement? Should I force myself to be nice to someone who is not nice to me?

This will be my Lent so only I can decide. Whatever I decide will set the course for the Lent I will experience, and the Easter I will live.

Posted by: matt25 | March 2, 2014

Something To Chew On, Bad Preaching

We have all heard bad preaching and I hope most of us have heard good preaching as well. Here is something to chew on, It isn’t all on the preacher.

If you want to hear good homilies or sermons you can do something about it as well. Understand that what I am referring to as good preaching is a message that calls you closer to God. Not necessarily one that entertained you and easily held your interest.

First listen, the best message is worthless if you don’t hear it. Second, look for the part where God is speaking to you. This can happen even when it is a struggle to get past a poor delivery. Third reflect back to your preacher the part that touched you. This will encourage them in the hours of preparation that you never see. Finally; remember, share with someone, and allow yourself to be changed by what you heard.

The preacher has a full plate of responsibility and I don’t mean to minimize that but, those are the things that are on you.

Something to chew on posts are usually short and intended to stimulate your thoughts. You can enhance the process by adding your comments below.

Posted by: matt25 | February 25, 2014

Something To Chew On, All and All

My something to chew on blogs are an invitation. They raise a brief point and ask you to think and add to the discussion in comments. This is the first.

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Did you ever wonder about those 2 greatest commandments?
You know the ones I’m talking about. In the Gospel of Matthew it reads this way,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
Matt 22:36-40

ALL the law and ALL the prophets depend on these.
Now that is something to chew on. What are your thoughts?

Posted by: matt25 | February 24, 2014

One More For The Road

So much for a taste of Spring. Like an unexpected encounter with a dear friend while traveling, our bout of pleasant temperatures brought the joy of memory with it as well as the savory anticipation of our soon expected reunion which will mellow into summer.

But like the bar patron who isn’t quite ready to leave, Winter has shouted, “one for the road”, and ordered another polar vortex. Still, it is only February and it would be unrealistic and problematic for agriculture were Winter to leave so soon. There is only one thing that I am confused about. How did I live so long without hearing the words polar and vortex linked to a single definition until now?

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