Sunday, March 27, 2016

Just So You Know ...

There are some things which are so important in life that we need to jot them down, so we don’t ever forget.  With that thought in mind, I note this important fact for myself and in case any of the handful of people who would read this blog should ever visit my home.
I create and give the neighbor children Easter baskets each year.  There is usually some age-appropriate book about Easter, along with the usual pile of various candies and chocolate eggs, all wrapped with a bow.  Oh, and there’s always a few Milkbones for the dogs --- can’t forget them either.  This year I included a large pink bunny in Tyler and Riley’s basket.
There was a knock on the door, and then the doorbell was rung.  As I rushed to see who was there, I thought it had been a delivery man, since I saw no one through the glass as I approached.  But when I opened the door and looked down, there were Tyler and Riley.  They wanted to thank me for the Easter basket and candy.  “I like the marshmallows!”  I asked if the dog liked his bones --- “They’re gone,” they said.  I then asked them to please save a piece of their candies for mom and dad.  “Dad already ate his,” said Tyler. 
And then they had turned to go, when Riley turned back to me and smiling said:  “Just so you know, the bunny’s name is Hop-Hop.”
Just so you know … 

Hope you have a very blessed Easter season.
            - - - - - - - - - -
Oh, one other thing to note, I guess.  At mass this morning, before the gospel, the entire church proclaimed the praises of Alleluia.  The loud enthusiasm of the crowd echoed throughout the church, and the noise had not yet quieted down when there was heard one further sound of praise.  It was the voice of a small child, which said loudly and clearly:  “Yaaaayyyyyy!”

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lenten Meditations

I just finished watching the third of my three annual Lenten movies, Saving Private Ryan.  I guess the timing is right, on this Holy Saturday evening.  I watched the other two movies, I am David and The Passion, with friends earlier this Holy Week.
As the years pass, I appreciate the beauty of these movies more and more deeply.  They are movies of life and death --- much, much, much death.  They are movies depicting the many hardships of life, the horrible decision we must sometimes make, and even sometimes, who we must die for.  And yet despite this focus on the hardships of life, at the end of each movie is tears, yet they are tears of happiness, for a life well lived. 
None of the movies does much in the way of showing of what our culture defines as happiness in life; I guess that’s because we focus so much on that definition of happiness that we don’t need any reminders.  No, we need movies such as these to remind us of the value of the difficulties of life, and how each life is important.  And we need to see how in each movie someone is willingly giving up their life for another.  Life, something so important, yet we see someone willing to give it up for another.
I thank God for His sacrifice, which helps me make sense out of these movies, and of my life.  Each of the movies shows that one life is only important if it affects other lives, and by itself each life is only someone alone.  We exist not for ourselves and our happiness, but to make the world and other lives better.  We exist to make a difference.
Why does it take so many years to come to that realization?
I look forward to my Easter.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Beginnings and Endings, and Beginnings

Today is a most unusual day.  It is Good Friday, the day of Christ’s death.  It is also March 25th, the day which marks 9 months before Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day.  This is the day of the Annunciation of the angel to Mary that a Child would be conceived in her, and He would save the world.  And then immediately upon her assent:

The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

That was the beginning, but mostly today we remember the end, when He said these words:

It is finished.

We often dwell on endings, especially endings of life.  Even when it results in a good thing, like Jesus’ saving of the world by His death, or the conclusion of a friend’s long painful journey, still, the endings of death bring us sadness.  It’s hard to get beyond death’s reality and finality.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”  As followers of Christ, that must be our mixed feelings of death, or any reluctant parting for that matter, we must consider it a sweet sorrow, because we know it is not the end.

Today, we also celebrate an ending in Mary’s life, although it is an ending we often don’t consider, but it is, for her, a radical one.  Mary had committed her body to God, and promised to remain a virgin all her life.  But then an angel came and told her that it seemed God wanted something different for her.  You shall conceive in your womb and bear a son.  Being an unmarried virgin, Mary didn’t understand, and so she humbly asked:  How can this be?  And she heard in reply:  With God nothing is impossible. And with that she stopped asking questions and accepted her destiny, which was to become a radical change from the life she had planned.

And that’s a key point, about this “ending” in Mary’s life.  It was not according to her plans.  When we lose a loved one, it is not according to our plans either.  We want our life, our plans, and our loving relationships to go on, and everything to remain just as it is --- the way we want it.  But life doesn’t go on without inevitable changes to our plans being thrust upon us.  Mary heard that change in her life was the will of God.  An angel told her so, and she accepted it ---- without sorrow.

Why are we so stubborn as to think that God must speak clearly to us too, to explain things directly to us, as His messenger did to Mary?  Why do we think that WE are so important that OUR endings must make sense to us, must be explained?

Well, the strange thing is that we ARE that important.  Don’t forget the other parting we CELEBRATE, in sorrow, today:  Jesus’ death on the cross.  We celebrate that He loved us that much, that he thought us that important, to die for us, and set in motion a much different life for us than we could ever have imagined.

I prayed the first decade of the Joyful Mysteries this morning, The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary which we celebrate today, and I read these meditation words:  “This is what I’d have you do: listen for My Will, and resolve to do it.  No matter how hard.”

That was the call made to Mary that we celebrate this day, and it is the call to all of us.  It is the prayer we must pray, the commitment we must make.  And like Jesus did on the cross, and Mary did in the quiet of her room, we must make that commitment out of love.  We must accept the changes in our life, even ones we didn’t plan, trusting they are part of His plan.

No one’s life is without change.  Every life is a series of beginnings and endings, and beginnings again.  Sorrow is acceptable at endings, but we must look forward in love to the new beginnings, until we reach the one beginning from which will be no end.  It is there, waiting for us.

He died loving us that we might have such a beginning.  Don’t be sad.  There is an Easter coming, a resurrection awaits us all.  All sorrows will someday end in joy. 

So:  Listen for My Will, and resolve to do it.  No matter how hard.  In love, accept new beginnings, and accept sad endings.  Those are the lessons to ponder this day.

And trust in Him.  Always.

Lord, I believe that You have a plan for my life, that You
have a task in Your Kingdom reserved just for me.  Your
plan and Your task are far better than any other I might
choose:  they will glorify You, fulfill the desires of my heart,
and save those souls who are depending on my generous response.

Lord, grand me the light I need to see the next step in that plan;
grant me the generosity I need to set aside my plans in favor
of Yours; and grant me the strength I need to put my hands to
Your plough and never turn back.  You know me better than I
know myself, so You know that I am sinful and weak.  All
the more reason that I need Your grace to uphold the good
desires You have planted in my heart, O Lord!

-- from The Better Part, P48

Monday, March 21, 2016

Another Terrible Day

After mass yesterday morning I joined a friend for a Sunday brunch.

As I pulled up to the front of the restaurant a young man strode over to me and asked my name, so he could provide the restaurant’s valet parking service.  I told him, and as I got out of my car he asked: “And how’s your day today?”  And I answered:  “Terrible.”

He looked stunned for a moment, and then responded: “Well, I hope it gets better.”  I stopped and looked at him, and then gave him my simple philosophy:  “I expect today to get better, but things aren’t really bad.  I always view things today relative to tomorrow, and I know tomorrow’s ALWAYS going to be better than today.  Therefore when someone asks me how my day is, relatively speaking, today is terrible ---- compared to tomorrow.”  The young man didn’t seem to miss a beat:  “I got it,” he said with a smile.  And I forgot all about the exchange as I went to meet my friend.

Everyone needs a good friend, and I am blessed to have one.  Our brunch and discussion was most enjoyable, as was the food we ate.  It was a wonderful way to begin Palm Sunday.

As I left the restaurant I reached into my pocket for the valet parking ticket and turned to the 4 waiting young men.  “I’ll get this,” said one, and I remembered that he was the one who had first greeted me upon my arrival.  He fetched my car and parked it in front of me, and then as he and I exchanged places in the driver’s seat, he commented: “I understand your optimism about the future, but I often find myself trying to understand the past, and sometimes that seems difficult.” 

It took me a second to connect his comments with mine of two hours earlier --- he obviously had thought a bit about my words.  “Well, certainly we need to understand the past, to learn its lessons.  That plus a little faith,” I said, pointing to the rosary hanging from my car mirror, “is what enables me to count on a better future.”  He smiled and held out his hand, which I shook.  “Thank you,” he said with a smile,

“Have a better day.”

Some people don’t understand my comments about my day being “terrible,” and some don’t like my explanation.  And some just ignore it as meaningless words.  But, I guess, once in a great while some people think about the things we say and do, even casually, and perhaps it makes their day a little brighter.

            - - - - - - - - - -

As I was saying my morning prayers this morning I heard someone speak from the podium on the altar: “I just got a text message,” she said.  “Father said he forgot to set his alarm this morning, so we will have a short communion service instead of mass.”  Hmmmm.

When I said that tomorrow was ALWAYS going to be better, I didn’t mean that it would be perfect.     : - )

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Senior Moments

We’ve all had senior moments.  I think I had my first when I was about 15.  I needed something from the basement, and went down the stairs.  As I walked down my teen mind was thinking about a thousand matters all of which seemed important at that moment.  So when I reached the bottom of the steps naturally I turned and reached for …. What?  During my distractions walking down the steps I had forgotten what it was I went into the basement for in the first place.  And so I stood there a moment, trying to remember --- and couldn’t. 
All I could do was laugh at the silliness of the event:  a “senior moment” and trudge back up the stairs.
And now I am a senior. 
This morning, my many-years-a-Saturday-morning-breakfast friend sat down, as he commented on the weather outside.  We talked about our events of the past week; mine a variety of interesting visits and new readings and even some spiritual matters, and his, a variety of the same things he told me about last week.  He commented on the weather.  We talked about sports events and agreed the waitress was being a bit slow today with refilling our coffee cups.  
And he commented about the weather.
I noticed that my friend’s discussion topics had been getting much narrower of late, almost from the day he retired and sold his business.  It seemed some of the life had gone out of him, but no matter, he would always be a good friend.  He commented on the weather once again, and mentioned that he had missed his daily walk one day recently, because he had a test done at the hospital.  He seemed very concerned at missing his walk; I asked what kind of test he took.  “It was an MRI,” he explained.  They think I might have Alzheimer’s,” he said.  “They got me on some pills now.  A couple of weeks ago I lost a chunk of memory.  They don’t know if I’ll get it back or not,” he said.
I almost asked him what memories he had lost. 
It was a senior moment.
It wasn’t funny.