Posted by: matt25 | July 27, 2020

A Child’s Treasure

I sat down at the keyboard to put down a few thoughts about the scriptures for Sunday’s homily (7/26/20 17th Sun in Ordinary Time A) and the “A Child’s Story” just poured out of me.

Reading 1~  1 KGS 3:5, 7-12, Responsorial Psalm~ PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130,  Reading II~  2 ROM 8:28-30, Gospel~  MT 13:44-46 (44-52)

If you want to hear the homily, here is a link to the recording of the 8 am Mass.  The text of the story, and shortened version of the homily follow below.  https://youtu.be/ZBbkK5beFDM?t=679

Once upon a time, there was a village on the estates of the High King.

In this village, in the North Eastern area of the village, quite close to the Royal Forest, a child named Filius was playing and digging next to his mother’s garden.  She was with his father, in the front of their home, which was the finest bakery in the village.

It had already been a great day, because he had found 3 worms, 2 beetles, and an ancient bottle, made of glass that was a blue so deep it looked purple when held to the light.  Suddenly, while looking at the deep blue world around him through the glass, he saw the sun reflect off something still mostly buried at the edge of the area he had been digging in.

Curiosity immediately grabbed the attention of his young mind and he began digging furiously with his bare hands until he uncovered it.  He had no understanding of what he had found but, he immediately knew that it was to be the newest and most important treasure in the collection of treasures that was in the wooden box under his bed.  Even better than the blue bottle!  This was the best day Filius could remember in his young life!

It was round.  It looked like a great big coin with the raised image of a key on one side, and a picture of the king’s castle on the other.  It was attached to a chain and he put it on over his head like a necklace.  He laughed with joy as he saw it hung all the way down past his belt buckle.

Filius ran to the bakery to show his parent’s his new treasure.  They tried to ignore him because they were negotiating with the bricklayer to build them a new oven.  Theirs had developed cracks and was beyond repair.  Without the new oven they would soon lose their ability to run their business and feed their family.

The bricklayer shook his head, refusing the best offer they could make to him, and turned to leave.  Filius’ father yelled, “wait”!  We can also give you the gold coin around our son’s neck!  Filius couldn’t believe what he had heard and began to cry as he slumped to the floor clutching his treasure.

Just then the King’s carriage came to a stop in front of the bakery and the King came in.  He ignored the adults and walked over to Filius.  He knelt next to the boy and dried his tears with a fine silk handkerchief.

He spoke in a voice that was as deep as the ocean, and as warm as a sun-dappled meadow in mid-summer, “Whatever is bothering you boy, be at peace.  Because you have found something that will cause great joy throughout the land!  You are wearing around your neck the amulet, which was forged as a gift for my grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s, father.  It has been lost to my family for many generations and is more precious than anything else in this world to your King.

Because you have found it, I give it to you to keep as long as you live, and to pass on to your children, and their children forever.  But to make this gift to you, I must also do one other thing.  I must adopt you as my son so that it remains forever in the family to which it belongs.  You and your parents shall live all your days in the castle and know the love and protection of your King.

What does that child’s story have to do with today’s Gospel?

In our Gospel reading from Mathew we come near to the end of Chapter 13 that we have been reflecting upon for the past 2 Sundays and we have heard many parables about the kingdom of heaven:

A sower went out to sow and the seed fell on many kinds of soils,

weeds are allowed to grow with the wheat until the harvest,

a tiny mustard seed grows into a great bush,

and yeast leavens the whole batch of flour.

Today we hear about a treasure buried in a field that a person finds and OUT OF JOY, goes and sells ALL he has and buys that field. Similarly, a merchant is searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells ALL that he has and buys it.

What is this treasure that is worth more than everything else in our lives combined?  It is Jesus Christ himself!  It is our salvation!  Nothing in this world or life is worth more than that.  Like a pearl that is slowly built up around a single grain of sand over time, our salvation is found in our slowly, one day, one hour, one moment at a time, in each decision, using our free will to choose to follow Christ and be conformed to his image.

It is seeking the will of God and not our own will. It is putting other people’s needs in front of our own.  It is in working for a more just and equitable society.  It is in respecting all life from conception to natural death.  It is in giving of our time, talent and resources to the work of God in his Church.  It is in prayer and devotions.  It is in reception of the Sacraments, especially and frequently Eucharist and Reconciliation in which we are set right again after we have chosen poorly. It is embracing the crosses of our lives with love and carrying them as we offer our suffering up to be combined with the suffering of our savior on the cross to which he was nailed for us.

Let me leave you with a question,

Do you accept the great treasure of our salvation like a child, who knows it is the greatest treasure in his life?

Or

Do you accept it as a great treasure but, a treasure that you are willing to trade away for the things of this world?

Posted by: matt25 | April 21, 2020

We Are Dawn

“The dawn intimates that the night is over; it does not yet proclaim the full light of day. While it dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it holds both of them, the one mixed with the other, as it were. Are not all of us who follow the truth in this life daybreak and dawn? While we do some things which already belong to the light, we are not free from the remnants of darkness. In Scripture the Prophet says to God: No living being will be justified in your sight. Scripture also says: In many ways all of us give offense.”

From the Moral Reflections on Job by Saint Gregory the Great, pope

Posted by: matt25 | April 21, 2020

Facing A Pandemic: With Mom

Although their respective feast days were celebrated in December, I was drawn to reflect on this exchange between Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Posted by: matt25 | April 21, 2020

Facing A Pandemic: Without Fear

Those who have been my friends for many years, might’ve heard me say something like this, “Anything you cannot avoid in life, you might as well look forward to. That includes death and taxes. That said, I am not in a hurry to die. As far as taxes go, I’m still working on that.”

Well, none of us was able to avoid this pandemic and neither would we have looked forward to it, but we can look forward to coming out of it. As one of those who has underlying conditions, I have wrestled with the possibility that my personal coming out of it could be through the doorway of death. You know, that thing I can’t avoid but, am not in a hurry to experience. In fact I pray that isn’t my path out, even as I pray for the souls of those who have already died, and for a great outpouring of grace to those who suffer grief, as they mourn not only a loved one’s passing but, having been deprived of the opportunity to be by their side, and further robbed of the ceremonies and rituals that bring the living comfort in their mourning.

By no means minimizing the gravity of this very real and heart wrenching pain, I was drawn to this line of meditation while listening to a talk called “The Fourth Cup” by Dr. Scott Hahn. Taken out of context I heard him ask this question and answer it, “What is the mortality rate of human beings? 100%. None of us gets out of here alive.” That caused me to remember my touchstone affirmation, I am not afraid to die but, I’m in no hurry either.

So during this pandemic, and after it is over, it seems to me that we should live in peace, not in fear. To live, is to be present in events that are beyond our control. The only thing we can control is how we respond to the circumstances of the moments in which we draw breath. We must live in a way for which we will have no regret, as if each day is our last, even as we continue to plan for the days that might still be ours for years to come.

May the peace that passes understanding, and that the world cannot give, be with us now and at the hour of our deaths. Amen

Posted by: matt25 | April 12, 2020

Facing A Pandemic, With A Song on Easter

This morning I did something I had never done. I try not to be distracted by my phone at meals but, I started to listen to Pandora on my phone as my wife and I shared Easter brunch together. It was another thing, among many, that are different than usual this year.

I believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding me to many of these moments. I believe that is what happened when I spontaneously decided to look up the lyrics to the third song we listened to, “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns. I found a powerful message that is especially profound in this pandemic. Here are the lyrics:

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

During this pandemic, throughout the Easter season, and every day of your life, you are not alone, you are not unloved, so let God hold your heart, and face the storm in His arms.

Happy Easter!

Posted by: matt25 | April 5, 2020

Facing A Pandemic, Without Our Palms

When I was not yet in school, our nation faced the Cuban Missile Crisis. I don’t really remember that, but I do remember how it changed things. When I was in school a couple of years later, we had regular air raid drills, hid under our desks, and saw signs in the stairwell that led to the basement which promised the protection of a fallout shelter.

Those memories are nearly 60 years ago but, just this week, one of my insurance business partners said we have been through 9/11 together and now this COVID-19. This caused me to reflect on a major positive event that happened when I started in insurance, it was the birth of my youngest daughter. That led me to to further reflection on how the birth of her older sister accompanied my move from being employed, to being self employed as a realtor, and how both of their births accompanied major changes in my life. Their births not only marked those events, they also changed me. The daily habits of my visible life changed as did my interior life. I was deeply and profoundly changed in my heart and soul. I cannot express how grateful I am to God for that.

Today is Palm Sunday and we have a COVID-19 pandemic which has changed the daily habits of our visible lives. As Christians we cannot gather for worship. We cannot receive palms and process as we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. We must find new ways to celebrate a more private observance of Holy Week and the Sacred Easter Triduum. I can’t help but wonder if there might be, though the grace of God, some deep and profound gift available to us, for which we will be forever grateful.

I found a clue in today’s Office of Readings and a sermon by Saint Andrew of Crete, bishop (Oratio 9 in ramos palmarum: PG 97, 990-994), which says in part…

“In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself… So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him.”

I never thought about it like that. It was always enough for me to enter in to the sacred memory of scripture without making that leap. Of spreading my life before him. St Andrew goes on to say…

“We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.”

Today, I found a new depth of meaning in my heart and in my soul, for Palm Sunday. Today I changed my visible habits of celebrating by having a living branch blessed as I watched a livestream Mass. And I am grateful, even as I long for the day when we can once again worship together.

Posted by: matt25 | March 30, 2020

Facing A Pandemic, The Lie Exposed

The current situation of a world wide pandemic has revealed a truth. Something that only the most obstinate would deny. Your life, your decisions, your actions matter. You are important and you can make other people’s lives better or worse by what you choose to do.

Contrast that to the message that the mainstream media of modern culture and society relentlessly sent for years through the news and entertainment prior to the pandemic. Your life has no purpose in the grand scheme. It doesn’t matter what you do, so do whatever you want. Whatever makes you feel happy is fine. The individual reigns supreme and there is no responsibility or valid reason to hold to antiquated ideas. There is no objective truth, no code of morality, no shared spirituality, no greater purpose, no meaning for your life, that is more important than the desires of your flesh.

Of course not everyone bought in to that message, but as a nation we did. Look at the fruits of that acceptance. You could list as well as I the number of ways that our civilization is in regression toward chaos and barbarism. Then along comes a microscopic virus which reveals the lie. We do need each other. We do have a responsibility to each other. There is meaning and a purpose for our lives that transcends our individual appetites.

Today it strikes me that we have forgotten our story. A story that we are all a part of by virtue of the gift of our life. From the beginning of time, to the end of time, we are part of the story of humanity, and we have a role that we are created to fulfill. Will you choose to recover your place in that story, or will you choose to deny your place. Will you choose a heroic purpose filled life, or a life without purpose beyond self-interest?

I will leave you with this quote to contemplate if your thoughts are even somewhat alligned with mine. “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted by: matt25 | March 17, 2020

Facing A Pandemic , And Lessons to Remember

I don’t need to tell you about the COVID-19 pandemic. It is in the news every day, and life is drastically changed. Sports, concerts, bars, schools closed, even churches in whose services we seek comfort and strength during a crisis are restricted. In the case of my Catholic diocese, no public masses may be celebrated through the rest of Lent, Holy Week, the Sacred Eater Triduum, and into the Easter Season.

So, how are we to respond? Some are panicked and hoarding supplies. But, this only makes things worse. It is better to buy a reasonable amount, and leave enough for others thereby reducing shortages and panic. Some think they can ignore the public health guidelines about social distancing, also making things worse. I may have been guilty of that a week ago, but no longer as I have been forced to compliance by a a bout of pneumonia that makes this cornavirus a deadly threat to me. Social distancing will slow the spread and hopefully alleviate an overwhelming number of patients needing care simultaneously, overtaxing our health care system and crippling its ability to provide care to many of those in need. So don’t panic, wash your hands, and practice social distancing, but what else? Are there some lessons we may have forgotten?

This is not the first pandemic the world has faced, what are some lessons we had learned which now need to be remembered? One simple one I read about was learned from the the Flu pandemic of 1918. Get some fresh air and sunshine. Rediscover your porch, go for a walk, look for signs of spring. Find the presence of God in the unfolding of new life. In those signs find the secure source of all true hope, and do not let worry and stress undermine the efficacy of your immune system.

What about a spiritual lesson that goes a bit deeper? One that may lead us to having a healthier outlook in a world that knows it can’t avoid suffering, yet constantly tries to at almost any cost. This is a lesson that is hard to learn, and perhaps only possible to fully embrace through the gift of faith, yet it must be taught. I had been reading a book which I set aside as life became too busy, which I picked up again today. This is the very first thing I read.

I hope to explore this a bit more in another post after I wrestle with it myself. But right now, I need to rest. Don’t lose your hope or joy in the face of uncertainty, find comfort in them. Peace be with you. <><

I recently heard a talk by Fr Michael Gaitley in which he spoke about three great acts of Divine Mercy which have great significance in each of our lives. A request to those who have studied Latin. Please have mercy on me for mentioning a Latin phrase which I believe I mispronounced.

https://soundcloud.com/deacon-matt-hens/aka-divine-mercy-sunday-2019

Posted by: matt25 | March 25, 2019

Stop, Look, and Listen

When I was a child and had to cross the street, my mother taught me to stop, look, and listen so I would make the right decision about what to do. Nothing was more important than that, in that moment. Of course I also taught that practice to my children precisely because it is important, and now they teach that practice to their children, because it is important.

In a similar way, because it is important, the Church teaches us to practice the devotion of Lent, preparing ourselves for a deeply profound remembrance of the Passion of our Lord Jesus. We began by reflecting on how Jesus’ spent 40 days in the desert with prayer and fasting to face the temptations that he would have to overcome in order to one day cry out to the Father in the garden, “Your will, not mine,be done!” So we journey in small ways with prayer, fasting and almsgiving to face the temptations that we need to overcome in our lives so that we may hear and answer “Yes!” to God’s calling in our lives.

How appropriate it is then, that we remember today the Annunciation Of The Lord, when Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”, when she said “Yes!” to God’s calling in her life.

Our mother is speaking to us in this solemn day of remembrance to stop, look, and listen. Seek out the quiet in your own life where God can speak. Make the effort to overcome the distractions of constant activity which prevent your spirit from hearing what God wants to say to you. Create the space to hear the voice of the Lord, and “harden not your heart”. Then you like Mary may be able to know what God created you for, and choose to say yes to God’s calling in your life. Nothing is more important than that. Nothing can give you greater joy.

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