Sunday, September 27, 2009

Black Skin … “Those People”

There has been much in the “news” in recent days about who’s a racist, what they “REALLY meant to say”, what they “really DID say (only not verbally)”, and offense and defense and hard feelings non-stop. It reminds me of the games we used to play in the school yard, and the names we called each other – and how quickly we forgot them.

So it was somewhat of a relief to see that the Little House on the Prairie episode this Friday, and the Gospel this Sunday, were both on point – and talk about REAL racism. (As you remember, mom is only interested in game shows and movies with kids or animals on the television, hence my watching LHP re-runs --- but perhaps with a new insight).

This particular Little House episode centered on the rich Mrs Olsen, and her focus on things of the world, and the values she puts on things and people. The episode starts with the only black man in the town of Walnut Grove desiring to join the Christian church there. The church elders vote on membership, and Mrs Olsen (and the mousey husband she led) had always voted against admission of the man: “Let ‘Those People’ form their own church for voodoo or whatever”. Her very real racism would not be moved by any rational arguments by the other townspeople.

Later in the episode, Mrs Olsen donates money to help build a school for the blind in Walnut Grove – and a big plaque for the building with her name on it. When she goes to welcome the teachers and blind children in another town, she is surprised (and disgusted) that half are black. On the way back to Walnut Grove, Mrs Olsen deliberately stays away from the black children. And one particularly bright young man notices her animosity, and doesn’t understand. One evening he asks the Christian black man from Walnut Grove: “Why doesn’t she like me?” He responds that “she doesn’t like people whose skin is a different color.” The young blind child then innocently asks: “What is color?” The man responds that when some people look at other people, the color of their skin is the only thing they see; but you (despite being blind) are able to see people much clearer than they can.

Mrs. Olsen overhears this innocent conversation and is struck to the heart. And she sees the child for what he is: a child of God.

Later, when she returns home to her husband, she repeats the exchange’s wisdom as being her own insight, and publically chastises the remaining bigot in town, as she hugs the little black child and shakes the hand of her new, black, Christian friend. Regardless of the source of this change in her heart, her surprised husband looks up to heaven and says aloud: “Praise God”.

Praise God, indeed, for the wisdom he gives to little children.

And the Sunday Gospel I mentioned? …

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye, than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
Mark 9:47-48

I think, perhaps, it would be more likely for some to enter heaven if they were blind.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Orig: 03/12/09

It was Caiaphus who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people (Jn 18:14)

The Lord’s death was meant to be a frightening example to the Jews, to convince his followers to change their ways. It was a political ploy to convince the opposition.

How often are you similarly played? Someone important or respected does something that seems dramatic and you stop yourself, and reassess your convictions: My brother-in-law just announced that he’s gay – maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. That famous movie star says gay marriage is good – well, maybe. The president you voted for says killing human beings, embryos, is a good thing, it will save lives – well, that can’t be bad, can it? The AMA says doctors must perform abortions as part of their training – well shouldn’t they learn all types of surgery? Leaders in our states say “humanely” helping the old, the ill, or people who just want to kill themselves, to die is a moral thing to do – well, dying is such an awful thing, shouldn’t it be made “nice”?

Even in Christ’s time, this form of coercion was recognized for what it is: politics. Get the people to look at someone they respect, and change their direction. Many of the flock will be confused and follow where you want them to go. Caiaphus was the law; most people had some respect for the law. Condemn Jesus under the law, and many will go along – if the law says he is wrong, I guess he must be.

How easily are you diverted by politics? How easily are your opinions changed? Can anyone of importance sway your beliefs? How often do YOU use your beliefs and prestige to divert others – as if YOU know everything, and YOU know how their lives should be led? There are many “shepherds” calling to us today. It seems to me that there is one great difference among them: most appeal to what I want, what I think is right, or what gives ME pleasure.

Only one says: “Follow me and I will give you rest”. Do you trust in those who say: “Hey, look, you can judge for yourself what is good here,” or the one who says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He who believes in me will have life everlasting”?

In case you’re still having doubts on who to trust, a little reading may help you. It’s in Genesis, where the snake says “Hey, look, you can judge for yourself what is good here”.

It’s just politics. It’s as old as the bible. So, who will you follow? Who do you Trust?

Tell Them You Love Them ...

It's been over 3 years since my dad died, and I chanced to read this morning the note I sent out after his funeral. It was worth my reading again. Perhaps it will be worth your time, and meditation, also.

August 26, 2006

Dear Friends;

To me, you are that, in the very deepest meaning of the word. When I was lost, despairing, and often feeling alone in dealing with the affairs of my dad’s illness and death, you were there. I am sure that he IS proud of each one of you. Whether you dropped by, came to the wake or funeral, sent a card or donation, or just called – my nieces and I read every card, reflected on every visitor, spoke of your kind words – and cried. We feel so very blessed that you took the time to let us know you cared.

I want to tell you also about an event that happened last May. When I visited mom and dad, I felt compelled to spend some time one afternoon and tell dad, sincerely, how much he meant to me in my life, and how much I loved him. Oh, he knew it, but I believe he needed to hear it – and God gave me the grace and wisdom to know I needed to say it. And I believe it helped reinforce the final words I spoke to him last month as he lay dying: “It’s ok, dad. I love you, dad. Don’t be afraid.” And he went in peace.

Thank you again, for being a friend in my family’s time of grief. But it wasn’t all grief. We felt a tremendous outpouring of love for what God has given us. Family and friends. I pray that you never fail to take the opportunity to tell your family and friends that you love them. It will mean so much to them – and you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Follow Me

Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me.
“Matthew gave a banquet for the Lord at his earthly residence, but far more pleasing was the banquet set in his own heart which he provided through faith and love. Our Savior attests to this: Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

On hearing Christ’s voice, we open the door to receive him, as it were, when we freely assent to his promptings and when we give ourselves over to doing what must be done.”
From a homily by Saint Bede, the Venerable, priest

An important 2-word title again today; perhaps this might be an indicator that my thoughts are becoming more precise, and my verbiage here less? Dream on, my friends, dream on!

Today is a feast day dedicated to St. Matthew, the apostle. We spoke yesterday of hearing the call of God to us, the small, still voice in our hearts. Here today we see another aspect of the call of God: it is precise. When he calls to us, he doesn’t use a paragraph, a long explanation of WHY he is calling us, or WHAT he wants us to do, trying to convince us to turn our hearts towards his will. He just tells us. He expects that our hearts are ALREADY turned towards his will. This example explains an important point about our relationship with God: if you want to hear him, you have to have a heart disposed to do what he tells you, first.

Matthew was a tax collector, a very public job where everyone expected him to cheat people, in order to get rich himself. He was a very public sinner against Jewish laws, and so although he may have had many rich friends, he was kind of like a mobster in society – a social outcast. I think, in his heart despite all his money, Matthew was not happy with this situation. He wanted to be closer to the God of his fathers, but -- then there was the money. The temptation of the world. If Matthew had been totally happy with his job and his money, I think he would have laughed off Jesus’ call with: I have more important things to do. But he didn’t.

In my last short-titled meditation, I mentioned the phone call the nun made to me. I think on that Saturday morning, her call was really Jesus in disguise saying to me: Follow me. And I, like Matthew, looked at my job and the money and thought that perhaps this call is a better use of my time, of my life. And as a result of answering that call, I found Joy in my life that I could not have found in any job, with any amount of money. Perhaps that’s why I value the words I later heard: Thanks, Mister. Perhaps they were a response to my answering his call, a thank you from God. I’ve done many difficult but right things in my life, and I did not need any thank you’s to feel satisfied in my heart – but it’s still nice to hear the words.

Matthew’s pre-disposition to hear God’s call is something we all need to work on. Unless we have said in our heart that we are willing to following the call of God, we will not hear it. We need to work on that continuously, to recognize that being focused on the things of this world makes us less likely to be able to focus on things of the next – which are so much more important.

I reached a bottom point in my life, where I literally gave my will to God. But you don’t have to find the ability to listen to God that way. You can start by listening less to the calls of this world, the calls to get all the things there to make you happy NOW: money, power, fame, sex, and ego. You might start by not going into work on that Saturday, like I did so often, and spending more time with that spouse and children you pledged to GIVE love to. You might start by not missing the opportunity, not requirement but opportunity, to go to church on Sunday. You might start by praying each day: Speak to me Lord, I want to listen to your will. My Jesus, I trust in you.

You might start.

And who knows, at some point you might hear a call, saying: Follow me. If you do, get up and go. It’s the start of a great journey.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thanks Mister

I think everyone has some words in their memory which they will never forget. Mine are “Thanks, Mister”.

Memories are a strange thing. Sometimes we forget the names of people who are important to us – you often hear a mother of multiple children say: Cindy, Heather, I mean Kristen, please don’t do that. Sometimes we remember the most obscure facts, trivia. But sometimes we remember words which have a deep impact on our very soul.

I have friends who can recite the exact words their spouse answered in response to: Will you marry me? I have other friends who can remember the words said to them at the moment they found out about the Kennedy assassination or the September 11 attacks. And I have a few friends, like me, who can remember words which did not shock them, or move them, but really shook their souls. I think the words which shock or move us are ones which may help us live, or live better, our lives. I think the ones which stick with us to eternity are the ones which moved our souls, and changed our total outlook on life.

Mine started with a call to my work office one Saturday morning, where I was again working casual overtime. A nun who I did not know was calling to ask if I would volunteer to spend 2 hours on a Saturday morning to help fix up some houses donated to the archdiocese, so that those homes could be used to house homeless families. Alone in the office, doing work I knew was sooooooo important, I reasoned that the sister’s request for 2 hours was just small amount of my time. Besides, I was a sucker for any request from a nun; I always was.

So I and a few other volunteers began working to fix up a couple of homes. The homes were solid on the exterior, but the interior was a different story. One had bullet holes sprayed across the living room wall. Another was missing a bathtub. Both required numerous repairs and painting to make them look livable. And so we met, every Saturday that summer, for 2 hours.

The homes were quiet, as we amateurs decided what to do and set about doing it. We struggled a bit with figuring out how to repair about some plaster walls, and in particular one bedroom ceiling where the plaster had heavily fallen off the supporting wood framework. Re-plastering a ceiling, over our heads, and making it stick seemed like a difficult task. Finally, I read in the Reader’s Digest Handyman’s Book that putting wallboard over the ceiling would be difficult, but still easier than re-plastering. So we planned to do just that.

The Saturday we wallboard-ed the bedroom ceiling took longer than our normal 2 hours, and we could not stop half way. When we finally were done and were cleaning up, we were surprised to hear the front door of the house open up – we had always been working alone. In walked the nun and the family which was living in the house – much to our surprise, since we thought we were just barely getting it livable, and weren’t aware that anyone had moved in yet. The mother and 2 little boys came in, and while she introduced herself, the littlest boy raced past us and into the bedroom we had just completed.

A short while later, the little guy walked out of the bedroom smiling, and walked up to me and hugged my leg, his head not even coming up to my knee. He looked up at me, smiled, and said: “Thanks, mister. My bedroom ceiling was falling on me at night, and it woke me up some times.”

I lived in the suburbs. I worked hard. I donated much time and money to charity. But I think that was the first time I really knew the feelings of being poor, and of the little happy things in their life. I don’t think I ever even answered the little guy who spoke to me, I was too stunned. But I’ll never forget him, or what he said.

Since that day I have become involved in many charities actively helping the poor and elderly. While I love the one-to-one interactions with them, I usually found myself involved in the running of those charities – I guess God expects us to use the talents he has given us, and that’s ok. But I miss the conversations with those who were helped. Over the years, I have had many personal thanks from people who expect and are grateful for so little in life, and I have many letters and pictures and cards. But I’ll never forget the little words from the little guy which changed my life: Thanks, Mister.

God can move each of us with his small, still voice, if we but listen. And in a few rare cases, he may even use a small, still, little person. And a smile. How many Saturdays or evenings are you spending at the office, when there may be more important things to be done. Do you need a call, as I did, to listen?

Thanks, my friends, for listening to me.

The Seasons of Life

As I watch the leaves changing color outside, I look forward with dismay to the cold winter months ahead. I don’t like winter, but I know that it is a good thing. It renews the plants – and perhaps even us – in anticipation of spring. All life has seasons, periods of warmth and cold, periods of spurts of growth and periods of laxing, periods of a happy green and periods of a dull brown. What’s interesting to watch, however, with the passing of many seasons, is that all life grows – or at least it’s meant to. And it has a purpose.

I think it would be worthwhile if we thought a bit, about the lives that don’t seem to grow, or seem to have no purpose. Why not?

There are some plants which grow rapidly in the spring because they have only a single summer to grow, blossom, and spread their fruits for future generations. Then they die. These plants may seem to have not reached a maturity as other plants because their life was so short, but each did have, in fact, a complete life. Growing, blossoming, and spreading fruit for the future, they accomplished in a season what many others take many years to accomplish. There is nothing wrong with the length of a life, long or short, if it accomplishes life’s goals.

A few plants are meant to come back for many summers, but sometimes they struggle. Cold, disease, or maybe just bad soil cause them to be stunted in their growth, or maybe even not grow at all for years – but then a sudden dose of fertilizer and it’s like the difficult period never happened, as they grow rapidly, seeming to make up for the time lost. Then they bloom like you never thought they would, and they almost seem to stand out in their beauty, since we had so little expectation of them. Despite their many years of seemingly wasted existence, their final accomplishments made up for all their weaknesses – they accomplished their life’s goals, even if not in the planned or “conventional” manner. I think of people like Chuck Colson, once derided and now admired.

And finally there are a few plants look just great their whole life, growing and greening prettily every year, but they never produce a bloom or fruit. For all their growth, they produced nothing and when their death inevitably came, after a time there was nothing to suggest they ever existed. Whatever beauty they may have had, whatever superficial benefits they gave to the garden, in the end all they did was use up the nutrients of the soil. They contributed nothing.

Every human being participates in the seasons of life. Like the plants, they are meant to grow, and spread fruit for the future, whether through children or wisdom. Every human being is MEANT to exist, and each is created uniquely, with a purpose for itself – to bloom, and a purpose for the future benefit of all children of God, and most specifically for their own soul.

How long we live isn’t really important; some plants accomplish everything in a single season. It’s the same for humans, so our clinging to life and wanting to GET AND KEEP things is irrational. The very fact that we are meant to grow means that we shouldn’t be struggling to get and keep – because we out-grow things, from our clothes in our early life, to our self-perceived “wisdom” of our early years, to our very bodies in our passing to eternal life. We grow, and we leave behind some things, and get better things. Don’t be sad that some things pass by, some by physical death, some by our growing out of them. These are good things and part of our life – the winter months must come to bring a new spring. They’re not really bad. Grow in love and learning and living a good life, and your earthly life will accomplish all the goals God had set when he created you, and your eternal life will not EVER end.

I think one thing that’s difficult for us is when we contemplate death, and judgment. We may be trying to life a good life, and perhaps even succeeding, but we read in Scripture of those whose focus changes at the end of their life – and perhaps seem to merit damnation based on how their life ended. They’re like the plant that was green for seasons and seasons, but never produced fruit. Somehow, their ultimate end doesn’t seem like justice. And perhaps we worry that we too, might fail in the end. And it definitely is something to worry about. What we’re talking about here, I think, is the example of the plants which struggled for years, but ultimately produced good fruit, vs the plants which seemed to grow beautifully for years, but in the end produced no fruit. How should those plants be valued or judged?

The key point, I believe, is why those plants were created in the first place. They were created to grow, yes, but also to bloom and make a difference for themselves and the future. They were created with a purpose. I’ve learned after many years of reading and studying and pondering, that my purpose can be summarized in words I learned in the 3rd grade: Why did God make me? He made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him -- and to be with him in everlasting life. That last point is gotten to through the first three points. The first three are my “growing”, growing all through my earthly life which will help me and help other children of God, and the last is my ultimate “blooming”. That end, that ultimate blooming, is the real purpose and goal of my life, or else it was just wasted.

Looking at life that way, you can see why some plants that only bloom after many years in fact DID accomplish their life’s purpose, even if for a long time it seemed they’d never achieve it. And you can see why some plants SEEM to be accomplishing their purposes, but they fail.

Ultimately, we don’t know the end success of a life, because we can’t see its end, so our judgments of “good” or “bad” people are just interim points of reference. They are not “good” or “bad” people, they are just people doing good or bad things – for now. And they can change. They can change. It’s something we should never forget. (And perhaps we may even have something to do with their changing.)

Where we are now is what we’ve grown to now believe and do. It’s the endpoint that matters, where we are now. If we were good, but have grown to count that as waste and so do evil, God will count our good as waste also. If we do evil and then see the evil of our ways and repent do good, God shall see how our heart has grown and forget the evil. Our life is not a tally of our good vs our evil. If that were true, it would be no good for long term evil to ever repent – for it would be balanced as more evil than good, nor would it be required that long term good continue.

We grow in holiness – or evil – during our life. And there is a point at which we are at the end: the sum growth. The end of the season of our life.

May you always continue to grow in holiness during your life, and may your ultimate harvest be great. It’s never too late to change your path, to add fertilizer to grow better, to turn toward the sun. As long as we are alive we can grow in holiness, to achieve the purpose for which we were created.

It’s never too late. And don’t forget to toss a little fertilizer at your neighbor sometime. I do – or so they tell me. (smile)

It's a Team Effort

Orig: 01/09/09

My Jesus I Trust In You; I Shall Try to Live Your Trust in Me

We are the Body of Christ; we are Church on earth, that we may join and lead one another to heaven.

We often attend meetings of people on earth. I’ve attended many, most of them business meetings. My usual thoughts on “business” revolve around success and business profits – which are so necessary to enable it to continue, to enable it to benefit mankind. In general, my thoughts during these meetings are around “winning”.

Me versus the other people. I must win.

On rare occasions there are other meetings, meetings described as “team meetings”, where a workgroup is to join together for a common purpose; all to work together; all to find a solution which benefits all. I must confess, I often treat these latter meetings as the former. It’s still me against them.

As members of the Body of Christ, we must work to change this mindset. As members of the Body of Christ, we must work together now, and even into eternity. We must seek to give to one another. We must seek to give to God.

We must not forget that. As members of the Body of Christ, we must help each other now – to deserve in justice heaven – later, to be fit in God’s mercy, for heaven via Purgatory, and even in heaven as we become part of the eternal Body of Christ – deified, one with God, and one with each other.

We need to start that unification now. Now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An E-Spiration

Orig: 05/12/08

I like the bluntness of today's message.

When, a few years ago, I re-read the Spiritual Works of Mercy and the one of "Admonish The Sinner" I was struck with "And just how am I supposed to do that??" It is sooooooooooo politically uncorrect to do. And yet we must.

A lot of things in life are not easy.

Daily E-Spiration from Franciscan University

"If the best we can do for a friend lost in sin is to say, "You're really a good person," what has happened to the good news? If the best we can offer is encouragement or approval, where is the power of the cross to heal?

Being a "nice person" is worthless in hell."

Fr. Francis Martin The Life Changer: How You Can Experience Freedom, Power and Refreshment in the Holy Spirit, St. Bede's Publications


This is a hard thing to believe. That day he lost many followers
Jn 6:60-69

Did he lose you?

We spoke in the past of the relationship between Faith and Love and Trust. There are many matters of faith that are difficult, but we believe them out of Love, and trust in the one who revealed them to us. We trust him. The Trinity, forgiveness of sin, the sanctity of all life, the Eucharist, the entire Creed; all are mysteries which are too deep for us to understand, yet we accept them on faith.

Or do you?

One of Jesus’ closest followers couldn’t accept deep mysteries on faith. Thomas said – he had to see. And later both he and even 500 more saw, and the Resurrection wasn’t a matter of faith for them, they saw. Is that how it is with you; must you see; must you understand (with your pea brain) before you really believe?

Look at your family member sitting next to you. You trust them; you know they love you. Now look at someone across the aisle or across the street. Why don’t you trust them? They look similar to your family member. You know they are different, though, by how your family member has acted in the past, and how they have said and shown they loved you. Despite the fact that people may look similar, you know they are different, the exterior looks don’t tell the whole story. Can’t you look and feel the same way about that bread and wine?

He said: “This is my body”. He said he loved you. By the visibility of his Resurrection, he proved that he was God. What further must you see or understand to believe him?

There are books that tell stories of Eucharistic miracles. Very often they occurred when people expressed their disbelief in the Presence there. To believe, do you demand miracles – to make God your servant and performer before you’ll believe?

I guess I understand how hard it may be for you to accept miracles. People have challenged them or demanded them ever since Christ performed the first one, down to a challenge to him for one final one: “Come down from that cross, and we’ll believe.”

I once traveled to a place where many miracles were said to be happening. I prayed there that I might NOT see any miracle; I wanted to believe without seeing. Nothing happened there, but I have had many miracles since in my life. One was so startling that a friend asked that reporters be called and tests run to prove scientifically that a miracle had occurred. “Scientifically prove a miracle”, it’s funny to even write the words. Miracles happen and are believed in one’s heart, based on faith and trust and love.

God proved his love for me, so I can have faith in his words and his miracles. Do you need more proof?


Christians must imitate Christ’s sufferings, not set their hearts on pleasures.

What sort of shepherds are they who fear of giving offense not only to fail to prepare the sheep for the temptations that threaten, but even promise them worldly happiness? God himself made no such promise to this world. On the contrary, God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time. And you want the Christian to be exempt from these troubles? Precisely because he is a Christian, he is destined to suffer more in this world.

He chastises every son whom he acknowledges
From a sermon On Pastors, by Saint Augustine, bishop

Jesus found the value of his life when he gave it for others. That too is the real value of your life: when you choose to give it.

Do you think God put you on this earth for YOUR happiness HERE? He could have created you in heaven, not on earth! He put you here for what you can do for others, not yourself. He’ll take care of you. He put you here to be his instrument to take care of others.

It should be an honor that he trusts you so much.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The First Beatitude

How fortunate the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Mt 5:3

We may translate more graphically: ‘How fortunate those who beg for their life’s very breath!’ Thus it is that “my soul pants for you, O Lord.” (Ps 42:1). Panting and sighing for God with one’s life-breath is the whole occupation of “those of humble breath”. What Jesus here intends is an existence wholly dependent upon God’s mercy and providence. Before we can say anything we must take in breath, take in air from outside ourselves. “My mouth I opened and drew in breath, because I yearned for your commands” (Ps 118:131). We depend on God in the same way that our lungs and our voice depend on air.

To be thus radically dependent, to long for God in this way, is declared to be the greatest fortune and bliss. To cling to God with one’s whole being and have nothing to offer of one’s own is the highest fulfillment and ecstasy. Important, too, is the fact that the Lord does not “legislate” in the sense of proclaiming a new law that is then enforced and that people choose to put into practice or not. Rather, his proclamation takes the form of praises. God passes judgment upon a variety of human attitudes, and he finds these to be most in keeping with the desires of his Heart.

If the first Decalogue on Mount Sinai declared how far man is from being like God – because of the sin that continually condemns him – this new Decalogue proclaims how much man is, or can be, like God, how the unbridgeable distance between them can in fact be abolished through humility and interior poverty. But this approximation to God, this passing over into total resemblance of him, can only occur within man’s union with the God-man Jesus Christ, who is the one proclaiming the Beatitudes and who, by so doing, is inviting us to live them in imitation of himself. Here, instead of man praising God for his magnificence, it is God who is praising those who praise God with their lives, those who offer God a continual sacrifice from the altar of their spirit. The person who is “poor in spirit” is the one who unceasingly murmurs: “Have mercy on me, God, meritless though I am, you who created me from nothing” (Earnest Hello).

What is most striking in the second phrase of this First Beatitude is the present tense of the verb, by contrast to the future of most of the other Beatitudes. The expression is very strong: not only are those who have the spirit of the poor in the Kingdom, not only are they members of it. The text says unequivocally that the Kingdom belongs to them, which is to say that they are on a parity of status with the King himself. By their radical poverty of existence, they have been made royal as Jesus is royal, since he is the King who stripped himself of all things except obedience to the Father’s will.

The Beatitudes instill in us the fundamental attitude of self-forgetfulness and interior emptiness. What is asked of us is nothing less than receiving in an open and fruitful heart the grace of reconciliation with God, the grace, that is, of ourselves BECOMING the holiness of God in Christ, in St. Paul’s unsurpassable words (2Cor 5:20). This, and nothing else, is the whole content, intent, and finality of the Beatitudes.

FIRE OF MERCY, HEART OF THE WORD – Meditations on the Gospel According to Matthew, by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, PP 186-188

The Gift of Everything

Orig: 01/19/09

Perhaps I am like an amoeba. I KNOW what I want. I know. I want. And I know how to satisfy those wants – it’s instinctive.

No! I am not like an amoeba. Certainly I have evolved to something higher. I know of many more things than an amoeba; I have discovered in me many more wants; and will constantly seek in the universe to find them. My wants are not a static thing – I yearn for more, for things I don’t even know about. How can I find them?

The amoeba can’t see beyond its pond to fulfill its wants. How much can I really see, see of what there is to want out there? Whatever I have evolved to above the amoeba, whatever knowledge I have obtained, I still can’t imagine all the wants that could be fulfilled in some degree for me – I still can’t see beyond my pond, but recognizing this I still want even more wants!

What if I changed my viewpoint from an amoeba or person wanting know more, to instead some being or thing which KNOWS more and is looking down at the amoeba … What if … What if I were to look down on an amoeba in the pond, and I – in my superior wisdom – knew all that the things it could ever possibly want, need, or use, and I gave it to the amoeba! I could do that for an amoeba. What a gift! As far as it would know, I gave it EVERYTHING.

So what about my wants as a person? What if some much higher being than I, could look down on me and see and know all my possible wants and needs, and if it gave me EVERYTHING? But what of my desire to “want” more wants? What could EVERYTHING possibly be? I can’t even begin to imagine. But what if … ?

Let’s go back to the example of me giving the amoeba EVERYTHING. Why would I ever choose to focus on it, to want to give it EVERYTHING? From its lowly point of view, what must it perceive to be my reasons to do that? Truthfully, from my lofty level, I can’t even imagine why I would do that. Why would I waste the time?

Why would some much higher being than I waste the time on giving me my wants?
Perhaps I need a better analogy to understand why some being might choose to do something so “crazy” for me. Perhaps an analogy of a baby is better than the amoeba. Like the amoeba, a baby is small in understanding and has few perceived needs, and I as an adult could choose to fulfill those needs – and even some it doesn’t yet understand it needs. Why would I do that? Well, if it were my baby, because I love him. I created him. Giving EVERYTHING I had to this small being isn’t really a crazy thing to do, when you do it out of love.

So God sent His son to give us EVERYTHING, everything we could want, now and forever. Why? Because he created us, and loves us. This I can understand. What I must reflect on, however, is how great this EVERYTHING is. Like the amoeba or baby, I can’t even perceive what things exist that I might want, yet it is being given to me. EVERYTHING.

God’s gift to lowly man – a great humbling of His being – is a gift so great to so lowly a creature, in truth relatively less than an amoeba – because He loves us. And us lowly beings, what can we give in return? Nothing! Nothing which in any way could match his gift, a gift so immeasurably huge to us. All we can do is accept it, and love the giver of so great a gift. EVERYTHING. For ever.

How much He must love us.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


“Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6: 35-6
“As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
1Pet 4: 10

I met with officials of my township this morning regarding the topic of helping our unemployed, as I outlined in my meditation titled “Asking and Giving”. The concept of matching the unemployed in the community with part-time jobs made available by others in the community was well received. Actions are being pursued to try and make this happen. I wish other communities and/or churches would make similar efforts.

I read a startling fact in this morning’s Wall Street Journal: that for every job offered in Detroit there are 18 unemployed. That is a hope-draining statistic. The number of job listings in the country is at an all time low. The odds are that somewhere in your neighborhood is at least one unemployed person, and he is having much difficulty finding another job. Any job. Surely there is some job around your house needing to be done -- ask your wife or kids if you can't figure it out.

They are your neighbors. They are the ones spoken of in the commandment to “Love your neighbor.” To the degree that you have any money in the bank “for a rainy day”: it is raining for them. They don’t want charity; they want to maintain their dignity.

Go out and find them: through your neighborhood newsletter, through your church, through your local government. You want change in America? It starts with you. Don’t volunteer to help the polar bears, the coral reefs, or even to cure cancer. First and foremost, volunteer to help your neighbor.

It is not enough merely to exist. It’s not enough to say “I’m earning enough to support my family. I do my work well. I’m a good father, husband, churchgoer.”
That’s all very well, but you must do something more. Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Every man has to seek in his own way to realize his true worth. You must give some time to your fellow man, even if it’s a little thing. Do something for those who need help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For remember, you don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here too.

Albert Schweitzer

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sept 8, Feast of Mary’s Birthday

Whenever a great project breaks ground, there is a celebration by all involved. They gather to talk of the project and its benefits, and turn the first shovel full of dirt. The foundation has begun. All the announced plans will come to fruition. It is a great day.

The birth of Mary represents the first visible start of the Kingdom of God on earth. It is to be a great edifice, so great, in fact, that the entire earth cannot contain it, as the building of the kingdom extends into heaven itself. And it will never end.

Long planned for and studied in the Old Testament, the world was anxious for its start. Although it couldn’t really understand how great this was to be, not just for the Jewish people but the whole world, still the world waited longingly for its promised start. And with Mary’s birth it did.

We celebrate Mary’s birth today, but in a way her birth was ours, too. The first turning aside of the dirt – the dirt we live in, and the creating of something beautiful. It had begun. It is a day to celebrate.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thoughts on Perfection

You want to be perfect; a perfect priest, a perfect spouse, a perfect parent, a perfect child, a perfect citizen, a perfect Catholic. You want to be perfect.

You are not perfect.

You are trying. That's most important.

Even if you're only good, perhaps only fair, you want someone to think you're perfect.

God KNOWS you're trying. He does think you are perfect -- he made you that way. When all others seem to think so little of you and your efforts, He KNOWS.

The Test of True Love

A few days ago we thought about love, and what it is. We spoke of love as a giving of self, not a getting of something. We spoke of love’s intimate relationship with trust. We spoke of growing in love, constantly moving forward, ever deeper in love. Even as we finished those thoughts though, something else was nagging at my mind. And I think God bugged me about it.

I watched a movie with some friends, a movie titled “Fireproof”. It was about a troubled marriage, headed for divorce. The man was a firefighter, and he somewhat reluctantly fought for his marriage. In describing why, he spoke a memorable line: “As every firefighter knows, you never leave your partner in a fire.” That same night I watched (ta-da) an episode of Little House on The Prairie. The episode was about a farming couple who were going to be divorced. Both movies had happy endings – and I GOT the point: that God wanted me – and you, to reflect a bit on that key test of love: Forgiveness.

We previously spoke of true love as something we choose to give. As illustrated by the movies I referenced, the hardest gift to give, in love, is forgiveness. It is certainly hard to forgive the big let downs: betrayals of your love and your trust, when someone or some THING claims the love of your beloved. Sometimes, however, a lack of forgiveness is built on little things, as a couple gets into the habit of hurting and being hurt – often over the silliest things. The Little House on the Prairie episode, in fact, ended with the couple in front of the divorce judge laughing uncontrollably at how silly their arguments had been. It was only when they could see the pettiness of their fights through the eyes of others that they could laugh them away, and forgive each other. But it wasn’t easy, and their love and trust of the third partner in the marriage made all the difference: God.

When you think of marriage as not a vow between two persons, but three, discussions about forgiveness become easier. It’s hard to ask God to take your side in not forgiving your partner. It’s hard to ask God say with you, what an evil person your spouse has become. It’s hard to ask God to agree with you that the vows all three of you made should be broken, that you all don’t love each other anymore. He tends not to agree. And the reason is back to some of the basics we discussed last time, WHY he chose to love, and how we should be choosing for the same reasons. And those reasons don’t change just because one of the partners fails. We’ve failed God so many times I’m sure we’ve lost count, and so has he.

One of the ideas which confuses our willingness to forgive is the act of saying “I’m sorry”. I’ve had many a person say to me: “They were wrong. I’ll forgive them when they say they are sorry and they ask me to forgive them, and not before! Isn’t that the example God gives us when he asks us to go to Confession – say you’re sorry and ask forgiveness, and only THEN does he forgive.” Not really. Confession speaks only to one party in a falling out, the one who should seek forgiveness. But the Gospel of Matthew speaks about both parties. In chapters 18 and 28 it says if you have offended someone, you should go to him to be reconciled, and if someone has offended you, YOU again should be the one to go and be reconciled with him. You seek forgiveness and reconciliation whether you were the offender or offendee (is that a word??). That’s what love does. It gives, even forgiveness, willingly, because it never forgets why we CHOSE to love the other person in the first place – they were worth it, it being all the pains and effort which may accompany our love commitment. Forgiveness of failures is part of that commitment.

God knows lots about breaking of trust and betrayal, and he gave us the ultimate example of forgiveness. When Adam and Eve chose some THING else over God in the Garden of Eden, how hurt God must have felt. They broke their love bond with God when they chose a THING over God. Many a spouse today feels a similar thing when their loved one chooses work, or money, or sex, or pornography over them. (Pornography! It’s not even a real thing!!) How hurt many people must feel, to have their love rejected for a thing. How hurt God felt. Surely no one on earth could offer any gift to God which would satisfactorily show how much they wanted and needed to be forgiven for so grave a sin, so grave a hurt – the rejecting of God’s love. And Adam and Eve never even said they were sorry!

Of course, God found the solution to forgiving us. Jesus was given as a gift to ask our forgiveness. An offended God was given the ultimate gift possible by man, a God was given as a gift to God. The greatest man who ever lived – a God -- willingly laid down his life for all men, and their sins, to say for mankind “We’re sorry”, to ask for forgiveness.

When we are offended deeply, what sort of gift do we seek to prove the sincerity of the one who broke our trust? How much “groveling” on their part is enough to renew our trust? And if we were the one who broke the love trust, how much do we seek to “grovel”?

Remember where we started: love is freely given. And the hardest thing to give to one we love is forgiveness. They shouldn’t have to “earn” our forgiveness; it’s not about our GETTING relief from our pains, love is always about our GIVING, even forgiveness. In Confession God willingly forgives the sincere penitent because he loves him. And that is the example he sets for us about forgiveness. When our spouse fails us, when our children fail us, when our friends fail us, when our pastor fails us. Forgive, even seventy times seven. Even if they fail to ask for our forgiveness, we let them know how much we were hurt by their betrayal, and we forgive them anyway. Because we love them.

Forgiveness is not easy. Look what Jesus had to do. Was Jesus’ death the ultimate form of “groveling” for God’s forgiveness? I don’t think so. When we choose to forgive someone who sins against us, we can tell them how much they have failed and hurt us, and then we can forgive them. And they’ll know WHY we forgave them, because we love them so much. God could have just forgiven Adam and Eve’s sin, but he could never really convey with simple words WHY he forgave them. It took the actions of Jesus to show the pain of God, and the tremendous love he had to be able to forgive us. We had to know that. Jesus showed us how much we should love God, and God showed us how much sin hurts him. And yet in his great hurt, he loved us enough to forgive.

When we think about that hurt, that love, that forgiveness in love, it DOES make most of our pains seem somewhat laughable. Look at the things which have made you angry recently, made you feel somewhat less loving to your spouse, your kids, or your friend. Come on, how big a thing was it really? Do they have to die on a cross before you’ll EVER forgive them? And they should do this why? Because you’re a god??

Perhaps you need to look in the mirror more often. No god there. Just little ol’ you. Definitely someone worthy of being loved, for sure, but also someone who is capable of loving enough to forgive. That part of love isn’t easy, but then neither is putting on enough makeup in the morning to make that face in the mirror beautiful. Forgiving someone we love is applying enough “make up” so their inner beauty comes through.

Prayer of Saint Francis

This is my morning prayer each day.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light, and
Where there is sadness, 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.

May we be good servants, so that at our death He will seat us at His table, and serve us.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It Was One of Those Days

Yesterday concluded (I hope) a 24 hour period of irritating things.

I should have guessed things were on a bad track when it started withn a big mess at mom’s house. Later that afternoon I tried calling contractors to come out and look at the spreading crack in my family room ceiling, and the unquenchable hole at the front of the garage – I’ve put two small shovels of sand and filled it -- every day for weeks now. Despite the high unemployment, no one was interested in coming out and looking at things. Maybe my house will disappear into giant sinkhole. Oh well, at least the garden is going great.

During the day, I checked my email to find that I had a warning from the Internet Scam Bureau, telling me about some people who had targeted me, but that the Bureau was actively trying to prosecute them. Meanwhile, I was to not open mail from the 10 named individuals. The reason I was being targeted, the Bureau noted, was because of the $10 million in a bank account in Nigeria in my name …… uh oh. Delete!

On the way home, I stopped to pray the rosary, and the mother of one of my Godchildren called. Considering my mom’s situation, did I know much about types and costs of hearing aids? “(Your Godchild) needs a hearing aid, since the operation a few months ago was a failure.” Operation??? Failure??? The 13-year old I pray for daily needs a hearing aid???!! (I spoke politely and answered her questions, as I stifled all my “???” and “!!” ‘s.)

When I got home last night, I saw that my helper had put out the smelly garbage from my garage (thanks!) – but perhaps even the garbage men rejected the smell: the un-emptied can sat in the center of the drive. I put it back in the garage, for another week of aroma when I went out to the car. Entering the house, I heard the voice recording a message on the answering machine: “Your credit card from Bank of America has been compromised. Please call this number so we can advise you of steps we’ve taken to protect you!” … I have no Bank of America credit card. Uh oh. Erase!

Even as I was erasing the scam on the phone, the gas range began a loud beeping noise. You know, kind of like the beeping you see on the cop shows where the terrorist bomb timer has just gotten down to the last 10 seconds and begins to beep loudly and rapidly – and you wonder if there is going to be a big explosion or something. That kind of beeping started, as the display on the range flashed an error code. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I knew not to panic; there was no imminent explosion. This is the 4th time this has happened. In each of the past 3 summers, the touch screen pad on the stove has failed, requiring an $80 repair part – if I did the 2-hour repair myself, AGAIN! I hit the Stop key to cease the noise, glanced at the junk mail I had brought in, and said: “Enough of this day, I’m going to bed.”

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the stove error beeping and message doesn’t go away. At 4AM, I awoke to a loud beeping, and initial panic that the smoke alarms were going off. No, they weren’t. After I was sufficiently awake, I went down and hit the Stop key again.

I couldn’t fall back to sleep, and so I got up to read my morning prayers and catch up on some magazine reading before morning mass. And as I sat in the reading room, I realized yet another problem which had occurred during the last 24 hours. I was constipated.

Oh well, as I have said numerous times in the past, shit happens. And sometimes it doesn’t.

These are just the cycles of our lives. Don’t fret when bad news hits, even when it hits all at once. It will end. And that end is the beginning of better times. It’s happened to me; it will happen to you.

When things get bad, pray. When they get really bad, laugh. It’s really all you can do to make yourself feel better. And if you can’t laugh, then tell your friends all the bad things happening to you, and they’ll laugh – and you can’t help but to laugh with them. It’s what I do. :-)

How to Live My Life

I spent some time before the Lord tonight, and I was reading: “Joseph Ratzinger, Life in the Church and Living Theology”. The book explains what has gone on in the Catholic Church since Vatican II, and in particular what Joseph Ratzinger – a genius in our time – thought and taught during that period. It boiled things down to explain how and why he lived his life.

On the way home, in the quiet and dark of the drive, I thought about my own life. How am I living it – and why? Some friends don’t understand my compulsion to learn more, my constant reading. “That’s you, and I’m me, and we’re just different”. Perhaps. But I have a compelling reason for wanting to know more, and it’s WHAT I want to know more about and WHY that compels me. I believe it is for a very good reason.

Heaven is the ultimate unification of God and me. “We shall know him as he is”. That’s the teaching of the Catholic Church, a virtual deification of ourselves. That’s heaven. To me, it explains WHY it is a beauty beyond our understanding, but also why I so desire it. In heaven, united was God as I can be, I’ll know all of the reasons for my existence on earth – and how well I did there. I’ll know all the purposes of God, and the reason for the being of everything. I’ll know total, entire, limitless love – getting and giving it. In short, I will have no anxieties. “This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” - Jn 17:3. There will never be anything to worry about again. It will be a Joy as perfect as I can bear it. I look forward to that day.

So what of this life, now? Why not live with the anxieties of the day, and do what it takes to make them go away until then? Why not stop along the way and “smell the roses”? Why not “live in the moment” and make my existence, for now, as enjoyable as it can be. Why worry about the future, when today has enough worries of its own?

The simple, and yet complex, answer is that life is a journey, and if I don’t pay attention to how and where I am traveling, I might not get to my desired destination. Heaven is a desired, but not guaranteed destination. I can enjoy the journey, but I must not think that traveling is the purpose of my life. The purpose is the end of the traveling, the final destination.

To get there, I need first of all to WANT to get there. I am a logical person; I never travel anywhere without knowing where I am going, and why. And once I decide on a destination, I prepare for the trip, and my arrival. That’s what I am doing with all my reading and studying and attempting to understand my life’s purpose and how to live it well – to prepare for and make a safe journey, and to know and understand and love God more – to prepare for my arrival.

Look, think of heaven in terms of your perfect wedding. God, the beautiful bride, is waiting there for us, and “this is THE one”, the one who will make us happy forever. This will be the perfect marriage, the real forever. There won’t be any “and for worse”, nor “in sickness”, nor even “’til death do us part.” None of that negative stuff. THIS IS the perfect bride, waiting for us. Waiting for us to take that final vow, that ultimate consummation of the marriage.

I can see that destination. So as I travel to that wedding, why would I want to “stop and smell the roses” – there’s a gigantic room full of roses waiting at the destination! Why would I want “live in the moment” of the journey, when I know – I KNOW – that my real moment begins when the journey is over.

“You will come to a time when you believe everything is finished … That will be the beginning.” (Louis L’Amour)

And why would I ever stop and roll in the mud along the way, and risk embarrassing my bride by arriving to her beauty and preparations for me like some soiled bum. I don’t want her to be embarrassed by me. And so I’ll try to stay clean along the way, and maybe even try on a tux to see what it feels like. And besides getting myself ready, of course I’ll want to invite my friends to my wedding. And if they need some help, I’ll pay for some of their travels – I may buy them some new clothes, some bridesmaids gowns. I’ll want them there with me, celebrating with me. I don’t want them left out for any reason I can do something about.

That’s how I want to live my journey, my life. That’s why.

And that’s why with some of these writings I hope that you will be less anxious about your life. You’ll see and focus on the party we’re going to. If you don’t understand how great the party will be, ask me. And if you’re worried about getting lost, travel along with me. And in your getting ready and in your travels, you will find Joy in this life – and you’ll want to bring along some of your own friends, too. That’s ok, there’s lots of room at the mansion where we’ll meet.

And if your friends need some help with the basics along the way, just let me know. My bride has a huge dowry, and she’s given me some in advance. You need help, let me know. I’ll buy!

Well, let’s get going. I look forward to seeing you guys there.

Don’t get lost along the way!!