Posted by: matt25 | April 26, 2015

Wake, Listen, Choose, Follow, Love

Originally delivered as a homily on”Good Shepherd Sunday”, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, I think this recording is universal in the sense that it’s message not restricted to that day but. will hopefully give me pause to consider any time I listen to it. Perhaps it will for you as well.  God bless you as you listen, and always.

A homily is meant to be listened to rather than read but I have included a written version below that more or less tracks with the recording.  I do recommend reading the Scriptures which inspired it prior to listening.  You can find them here: Fourth Sunday of Easter.

The Good Shepherd by Daniel Bonnell.

The Good Shepherd by Daniel Bonnell.

One week ago at this very moment I was in prison.  I was in prison on an ecumenical retreat to help the men incarcerated there to come to know and to have a personal relationship with their good shepherd. I wasn’t consciously thinking about preaching my Homily this week, and yet in a very real sense that is what I was doing from Thursday to Sunday.  Don’t worry I promise not to preach to you that long, an hour and a half tops!  I promise.

Along with the rest of the retreat team, I invited those men first to think about their own lives, to understand more clearly the nature of the sinfulness that causes them to think they cannot ask God for forgiveness and then to understand that like the prodigal Son they could always, always, always, come back to the forgiving Father.  It is the same message that Pope Francis tweeted two weeks ago. “The Lord never tires of forgiving us.  It is we who get tired of asking for pardon”

We asked them to make a decision, to make a good faith effort to do that and to embrace the rest of the retreat with an open mind and heart.

That is where we started on Thursday and then through all of the talks and meditations, through the informal conversations and in breaking bread together, we invited these broken and flawed human beings to understand that we too were broken and flawed human beings; that we too were prisoners, spiritual prisoners to our own sins, just like they were but, with one vital difference. We had turned to the Father already.  We had asked for and received forgiveness.  We had responded to the call to forgive others and to love.  Following the model of Jesus that we recalled on Holy Thursday in the washing of the apostles feet, we had come to share with them that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  We had come to model Christian community to them and to empower them through the grace of God to do the same.

We were talking to those men about the cornerstone upon which they must build their lives. We were talking to them about listening to the voice of their Good Shepherd. We were talking to them about what is fundamental to being a Christian. How could they be followers of Jesus, unless they figured out first what voices they had been listening to, and second learned to recognize the Master’s voice so they could choose to follow him instead?

And I have continued to reflect upon that all week long. As I have for many years and will continue to do so for all of the days and years that I have remaining. Why must I do that?  Why must you also do that?

Because God created us for a purpose.  We are called by virtue of our baptisms to carry on the mission of Jesus himself, to bring about the reality of the kingdom and to be a healing touch in the lives of others so that they may do the same.  We are called to be in the deepest of friendships with Jesus and to share the way, the truth and the life of that friendship with all of the people that God places in our daily lives.

Simple, but not easy.

There are literally thousands of voices competing for your attention, and most of it happens when we’re on autopilot.  Therefore we have to learn how to actively listen for the voice of God.  We have to tune in to the divine frequency, and sort out all the static and the other stations that come into our hearts on the frequencies of the world.

It isn’t easy because we live in a world filled with voices that compete for our attention and time; voices that call us to our responsibilities at work, at home, and at school, voices that call us to our recreational activities, fun and relaxation. I am not saying that these voices should be ignored but, we must remember they are not the Master’s voice and must be in harmony with his voice if we are to joyfully dance to the tune they sing.

It isn’t easy because there are other voices that call to us to participate in things that we know we should not.  There are voices that make us slaves to bad habits and addictions.  There are voices that tell us we are not loved or lovable; or that there are others who should be objects of our hatred.  There are voices that tell us we aren’t attractive enough, smart enough, good enough, that we have failed before and can’t succeed now, and we shouldn’t waste our time trying to follow the Master’s voice.

Is there a thought in your mind right now which says you are not capable of this?  Is a voice telling you a reason you can’t hear or follow the Master’s Voice.  Is there a voice that tells you that what I am saying isn’t true?  Acknowledge that voice exists and give it to God.  These voices we must learn to hear, if only so that we can lay them at the foot of the cross and let the blood that was shed for us wash us clean of them.

Let me now invite you to think with me about our own lives, to understand more clearly the currents that we follow in the river of life and how they either help or hinder us from our purpose to live as saints in the world.

I ask you to decide with me, following the example of inmates who were on retreat, to make a good faith effort to do that, and to embrace the rest of the Easter Season with an open mind and heart which will bring us to the upper room at Pentecost, as it brought them to a new life in Christ last Sunday.

Between now and Pentecost let’s ask ourselves daily what voices we have been following.  Let us examine our day when we lay down at night and ask God to reveal that wisdom to us.  Let us ask ourselves how much time did I give today to God and how much did I give to the world?  If we want to be able to hear the Lord’s voice we have to set time aside to listen.  We have to wake up and stop living on autopilot!  We have to know who we are listening to!

We have to grow closer with the Good Shepherd who guides his flock every day, not just on Sunday.  So come to him in prayer in thanksgiving, for others as well as yourself, and especially for those who are the most difficult to love.  Embrace the sacramental life with joy, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation.  Reflect on the scriptures every day for they are the very voice of the Good Shepherd and the Gospels are the cornerstone on which we must build our lives.

You have a decision to make. Every moment of every day in every circumstance you have a decision to make.  Choose to follow the Good Shepherd as his disciple.  Live joyfully as a saint in the making, secure in the promise of the resurrection.  Then help someone else in your life do the same.

Become an intentional disciple of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, doing our Father’s will all day every day in and out of season.  Now is the kingdom. Now is the day.

Posted by: matt25 | April 15, 2015

Dreaming on A Wednesday

I read a post by Deacon Allen Tatara today and it got me thinking about dreams.  Here is a prayer he included:

Prayer for Dreamers 

God of our waking and our sleeping,
in every age,
you have spoken to your prophets
in dreams and visions
and have promised that
our sons and daughters shall prophesy
through your Spirit.

Through the dream of young Joseph,
you saved your people from famine.
In the visions of King Solomon,
you blessed your land with wisdom.
Because of dreams,
elder Joseph acted quickly
to protect your only Son from harm.

And through the revelation announced to Mary,
you brought forth a new King and a new dream
for all the world.

Bless those who continue to see you in dreams.
Open their ears to hear you in their visions,
loosen their tongues to speak your word,
strengthen their hands to respond swiftly in action,
and embolden their hearts that what they hear in the dark
they may proclaim in the light.

Make us all dreamers who tirelessly pursue
the vision of your Kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

~Diana Macalintal, The Work of Your Hands

I often will have the distinct understanding that one of my dreams is a manifestation of something very real in the spiritual realm; sometimes from God, sometimes not. Of course sometimes I have no sense of any meaning of my dreams at all.

I read a book some time ago, unfortunately I cannot remember the title or the author,  and it spoke of the history of dreams in the Bible as well as in the history of Christianity.  I remember one point in particular about trying to make sense of your dreams.  It was suggested that you keep a pad and pen near your bed so that you could write down your dreams immediately after you wake up.  You have to write it down immediately because the details fade quickly.  I tried it for awhile and it was  very interesting.

I think I will try it again.  No time like the present, maybe I’ll take a nap.

Posted by: matt25 | April 11, 2015

He Never Said To Keep It To Yourself

Here is the thing that I am getting from today’s Gospel reading.  I am supposed to GO!   

 

In order for me to have religious freedom, I must be allowed to go into the marketplace as a Christian and speak my Christian viewpoints without being bullied by the politically correct police.  If I speak aloud a different view than what you believe it is not hate speech, it is love speaking.  Try to accept that; even if you think that I am wrong.  

Posted by: matt25 | April 8, 2015

Not Just Any Old Wednesday 

It is Easter Wednesday.  Have you moved on from Easter already or are you still embracing the events that changed everything forever?

“Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
Luke 24:25-27

Yes we need to work and deal with life and its challenges but, let your heart never stop burning within you!  Let your mind and your very life be drawn always out of the mundane and toward the eternal.  Let your joy be your strength and take others with you.  And when I forget, take me too.

Hearts On Fire - Romantic Art By Sharon Cummings Painting

Hearts On Fire – Sharon Cummings: Painting

Posted by: matt25 | April 6, 2015

Why Do Catholics Do That?

Originally delivered as a homily on Good Friday, I think this recording is universal in the sense that it’s message in not restricted to that day but will hopefully give me pause to consider any time I listen to it.  Perhaps it will for you as well.  God bless you as you listen, and always.

(  A homily is meant to be listened to rather than read but I have included a written version below that more or less tracks with the recording.  I do recommend reading the Scriptures which inspired it prior to listening.  You can find them here: Scripture Readings for Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion )

Let me begin as we may begin all good things:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  (Amen.)

A friend of mine, whose father died this week, said this on Facebook this morning:

“Dad went home to be with the Lord.  We are very sad right now but, we know how blessed we are to have had him in our lives.  He was truly a silent hero;   always helping someone out and doing for others without any attention to himself.  I love you, Dad.”

She also said that they were glad that he was free from suffering now.  But for those of us who have not yet gone home suffering is a part of life.  We all live that.  In my own family we have been touched by all kinds of suffering.  We have known the touch of illness from the common cold to bone cancer, interpersonal suffering from harsh words to divorce, psychological or emotional suffering from uncertainty to suicide, and I am sure your family’s list, as well as my own, goes on and on.

It is our faith which is our life-line in all kinds of suffering and death.  And today on this Friday our faith calls “Good”, it is suffering and death that sets the stage.  And so it had to be for the spirit of glory to be seen as the curtain parted.  Today, in a special and deeply profound way, we open our hearts to a contemplation of suffering willingly accepted for the sake of love.  Suffering which, another took on to save us from eternal suffering.

“Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, by his stripes we are healed”.[i]

Today is the 2nd part of the Sacred Triduum, three calendar days that are at the same time a single and unified liturgical day, in our celebration of the Paschal Mystery.  Suffering and death, embraced by love, have set the stage for the 2nd Act.  But in Act 1 it was prayerful obedience which set the stage.  Jesus begged the Father to let the cup of suffering pass by him, but said finally ‘yet, not as I will, but as you will.[ii]”, which is what He taught us to pray:  “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”.[iii]

The master and teacher, who is a model for us in the washing of each other’s feet is also our model in prayerful obedience through which.  “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”[iv]  So our holy obedience, modeled after our Lord’s own example, is a part of our baptismal call which we hope to follow;

in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It is very unusual for me to make the sign of the cross during my homily, so in this setting it is something that has stood out.  But I am guilty of doing it often with little attention or thought, so that I render it as a mere bookend to my prayer.  I invite you to make it a prayer that we can pray together now.  Please join me as we pray together slowly and from the heart:

In the name of the Father

And of the Son

And of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

In a book by St. Francis de Sales called “The Sign of the Cross” with the subtitle “The 15 most powerful words in the English language” he begins by explaining that the Sign of the Cross is a Christian Ceremony that represents the Passion of our Lord by tracing the shape of the cross with a simple motion.

He concludes his book with a chapter filled with examples of the power of this Christian ceremony that we know so well.  Here St Francis tells us:  “The cross has great power against the enemy for two reasons:  the one is that it represents the death of the Savior, which this proud being hates and fears¸ the other is that the Cross is a brief and powerful invocation of the redeemer that can be employed on every occasion suitable for prayer”.

The Sign of the Cross is not a bookend to our prayers.  IT IS A PRAYER!

It is a prayer which is central to our faith.  It is a prayer which we renew in our hearts on Good Friday, and a prayer which carries us in our suffering, as Christ carried our sins in His suffering.  The Sign of the Cross gives us a frequent reminder, hopefully many times each day, to embrace our faith if we make that sign thoughtfully and intentionally.

Do you user 3 fingers and contemplate the Holy Trinity?  Do you use 5 and contemplate the wounds of Christ?  Do you use it as a simple way to open your heart?  Perhaps as a parent you trace it on your child’s forehead as a blessing, in the way that Father Charles blesses us before we are sent forth to be Christians, “little Christ’s” in the world.

The blessings and graces that can flow from this simple motion are as deep and as varied as the mystery it represents;   the mystery of the sacred Triduum, the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

As you come forward today to reverence the cross, my prayer for you is that it will be a profound experience of the love that you have for God, and the love that God has for you.  A love that gives meaning to our suffering, and promises us that we need not fear suffering or even death; because Good Friday cannot be separated from Easter Sunday, and we cannot be separated from the love of God.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

[i] ISAIAH 53:5

[ii] MATT 26:39

[iii] MATT 6:10

[iv] HEREWS 5:9

the-sign-of-the-cross

Posted by: matt25 | March 9, 2015

First Things First in Prayer

People pray.  To the life of anyone who believes in God, I might contend even for anyone who thinks there “might be” a God who exists, this is true.  For some it happens only rarely when life is threatened, and for others it happens constantly throughout the day, every day.  Gramma was in the latter group.

I remember our family visits to the home where my father grew up in Buffalo’s old First Ward, and being impressed with hearing part of my grandmother’s routine of prayer.  Any sentence that came out of her in conversation might end with the phrase, thanks be to God.  Whether she had said Grampa had gotten over a cold or that a batch of still warm cookies were waiting for us on the table, it might end with “thanks be to God.”

Gramma Hens was a pretty smart cookie I think.  She knew that life was hard.  She raised eleven children during the Great Depression.  Through it all she had developed an attitude of gratitude in her relationship with God that extended into every nook and cranny of life.  This was so ingrained in her being that her prayers of thanksgiving were not reserved for times when she was praying, instead all of the activities of life became opportunities for times of prayer.



My grandmother's painting of her backyard.

My grandmother’s painting of her backyard.


Perhaps we should learn from her what should come first in our prayer.  Before we ask for anything, even it is an unselfish intercession for someone else, even if we are painfully aware of our own turning away from relationship with God, no matter where we are on that spectrum of, I believe in God to I don’t know what I believe, perhaps we should start with a thank you.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about this morning as I sipped my coffee, thank’s be to God.

Posted by: matt25 | March 4, 2015

We must cherish human life from beginnin

We must cherish human life from beginning to end, from conception to natural death. http://ow.ly/JVZG4

Posted by: matt25 | February 23, 2015

Christian Self Help, Ltd. Jesus Christ Founder & CEO

What follows is my homily for the 1st Sunday of Easter, Cycle B.  A homily is meant to be listened to rather than read but I have included a written version below that more or less tracks with the recording.  I do recommend reading the Scriptures which inspired it prior to listening.  You can find them here:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022215.cfm

I hope you are blessed by listening.  Happy Lent!


Once upon a time there was a man who decided to go out into the dessert.

He thought to himself, I don’t really mind going into the desert because I won’t be able to eat much so I can lose some weight. Yeah that’s actually a good idea, that way I will look better in my bathing suit this summer.  I won’t be able to watch television in the desert, but that’s okay, I should really make better use of my time. I watch way too much TV and there is nothing good on anyway, that goes double for the time I waste on the computer. You know, I can probably think of good reasons on how to improve myself by giving other things up as well. This whole desert thing will be a nice 40 day self improvement program.
Do you know who that man was? That man’s name was Jesus, and he founded the company CHRISTIAN SELF HELP, Limited. And now you know…. The rest of the story!

Of course, that isn’t what happened at all, but sometimes that is what I seem to reduce my Lent to.  I decide to give some things up, or to do some extra things for Lent, which is a good thing to do, and the wisdom of our faith calls us to do it.  But what is in my heart? What is my motivation? I might, if I am honest with myself, answer that it’s really mixed bag of little something spiritual, with a healthy dose of self improvement thrown in. It works out that way because I am focused on a Lent that is about me and about how I can make myself into something better.

Maybe I should take a closer look at what the story of Jesus really is. His story is in all of today’s readings. In our reading from the 9th Chapter of Genesis, three times God says he has a covenant relationship with Noah and all his descendants, and with all living creatures. When Jesus became man he entered our side of that covenant.  As we sang our psalm the refrain was “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” Jesus is the Way & the embodiment of love & truth in keeping the covenant .  From Mark’s Gospel we hear that Jesus was driven into the desert and tempted by Satan. Then Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming: “This is the time of fulfillment. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” He went into the desert, not for self-improvement, but to be formed by God through victory over temptation and suffering. To be formed to do the Father’s will.  And From 1st Peter we heard how Jesus suffered his Passion and death so that he could lead us to God. To the God who gives us the sacrament of baptism which save us through power of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Let me try that story telling thing again, I promise it will be better!
Once upon a time God cleansed the entire earth and entered into an unbreakable covenant with humanity and all living creatures. In the time of fulfillment, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. He went to the desert to fast and pray to allow God to shape him to God’s purpose. He faced temptation and overcame it. He invited others to Repent, and believe in the Gospel. Never turning away from the covenant with his Father in heaven; he healed, and taught, and told his disciples what the kingdom of heaven is like. Always, giving of himself to others he finally gave all, and suffered death, death on a cross, in order to lead us to God. Through his passion, death, and resurrection we have the gift of baptism which saves us now. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

In light of this “revised telling of the story of Jesus” how can I revise the story of my Lent?  Like Jesus I must choose to go pull away from the normal bustle of life, go into a desert of sorts, because I am in a covenant of love with God.  Following Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life, I will seek to embody love & truth.  As Jesus did, I must confront the temptations which call me to a self-serving life rather than a life the life God created me to live. By the saving grace of my baptism, and the other sacraments I must achieve victory over them. I can’t do this, but God can.

The three pillars of Lent that we are invited to embrace are fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. I could rethink the three pillars of Lent as statements of action ad reason:
Fasting; I remove some of the things of this world to make room for heaven to grow in me.
Almsgiving; I do good works, or give of my time or money; for the sake of others and as a tool of God’s mercy.
Prayer; I spend time praising, thanking, and listening to God; because God is in a covenant of love with me.

Jesus’ story is our story.
Here at the beginning of Lent, let’s go to the desert to fast and pray to allow God to shape us according to God’s purpose rather than our own. Let us keep the covenant and open ourselves to truth and love. Through the power of our baptism let us draw others to God and the Good News of the Easter we are preparing to live.

Finally I think I may need a little reminder everyday of how I want the story of my Lenten experience to unfold, so I think I will sing a little each morning as a way to remember.

Day by day, Day by day
Oh Dear Lord, Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

Posted by: matt25 | February 12, 2015

Without Shadows

There is a flame burning
Sometimes low or bright
Casting light and shadows
Round and about and through

But the corners
Stubborn, stuck, corners
Refuse easy surrender
Demanding self determined darkness

The corners too respond
When I bring the flame to them

And corners
Stubborn stuck corners
Respond to the light
Without shadows

– Matthew Hens

IMG_0520

Posted by: matt25 | January 25, 2015

Get Out of Town!

Here is something to chew on, if someone accomplished a great good for your community why would you ask them to leave?

Matt 8:28-34 (NABRE)
The Healing of the Gadarene Demoniacs.
When he came to the other side, to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.

Here we see that Jesus removed an evil from this community yet they “begged” him to leave.

With all that Jesus has done for you, are there “districts” or parts of your life that you exclude him and your relationship with God from being a part of?

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