Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reach out and touch someone


“Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who has touched my clothes?’” Some of you may know that this is not the first time I have lived in here in the North End. I lived at St. Christopher’s back in the mid-1990s when I was a seminary student here in the city. Back then, we all traveled back and forth to school at St. John’s Seminary on the T. And each day as I walked the 10 minutes it took to get to the T station at Government Center, I would pass by any number of homeless men and women – some looking for a handout, others not looking for anything at all. I remember at the time feeling somewhat self-righteous thinking that I would not give them a handout because they would probably just use it to fuel an addiction to alcohol or drugs or some other unseemly purpose. I thought to myself, “I will pray for them, that will be enough.”

And then, caught up in my righteousness, I encountered a particular story of St. Francis. In his day, leprosy was a disease that society had to struggle with. Those who had contracted leprosy were exiled outside of the city walls because of a fear of contagion. Lepers lived on whatever scraps people would throw to them. Society in general treated them as something less than human and their existence was one of misery simply waiting to die. St. Francis initially felt much the same way as the rest of his culture – he was disgusted by lepers and could not even approach them. One of the singular moments in the conversion of St. Francis, though, was one day he was riding his horse outside of the city. He came upon a colony of lepers. In this moment, St. Francis was able to get down off of his horse, approach one of the lepers and embrace him. In that moment the man disappeared from sight. St. Francis, in his last will and testament would write about that encounter. He said, “When I was in sin it seemed to me very bitter to see lepers, and the Lord Himself led me among them, and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, that which had previously seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of body and soul.” Francis was able to see that leper, not as only a leper, but as a brother in Christ, who happened to have leprosy, as someone worthy of the love of God, and no less worthy of the love of Francis.

When I read that story, I immediately saw my own situation with the homeless who I walked by every day and I decided to make a change. No, I wouldn’t give them money, but I could bring sandwiches, cold drinks in the hot weather, coffee in the cold weather – and most importantly, look them in the eye, shake their hands, ask their names, touch them with the love of Christ. These subsequent moments were encounters that had a huge impact on me, on my faith life, and hopefully on the men and women I talked with, encountered and touched.

These encounters came to mind as I was reflecting on today’s Gospel and that simple question of Jesus, “Who touched my clothes?” We see in our passage today, Jesus healing people – He heals the woman who suffered from hemorrhaging and He raises back to life the daughter of Jairus. Jesus touches them – literally and spiritually – and miracles happen. Touching, like hugging, expresses love and acceptance of the other person in ways that words cannot. Touching is a two-way street; it affects both the person touched and the person touching.

Societies, like the Judaism of Jesus’ time, regulated touching by making rules regarding who and what could or could not be touched. It was believed that touching the wrong persons and things would defile you and render you unclean. According to ancient Jewish ritual law, the woman suffering from hemorrhage was in a state of impurity and any person who touched her or anything that had come in contact with her was instantly rendered impure. Today’s Gospel, therefore, is not simply a story of Jesus’ power to heal the sick and raise the dead. It is also a story of Jesus giving and restoring life by doing exactly what he was not supposed to do, namely, touching and letting Himself be touched by those whom the Law had declared unclean and untouchable.

But, when we look more closely at the story we see two kinds of touching happening: the touch of the crowd pressing Jesus which produces nothing and the woman’s touch which produces miracles. What is the difference between these two? The difference lies in the degree of expectant faith with which the touching is made.

Maybe you’ve heard this joke: What is the difference between people who pray in church and those who pray in casinos? The ones in the casinos are serious! Well, the hemorrhaging woman was really serious and expecting something to happen when she approached to touch the clothes of Jesus – and she was miraculously healed.

We live in a world that is so caught up in its individualism, that we almost never reach out to one another. But, there are many people in our world today who need the hands of the Christian community – as a group, and as individuals – to reach out and touch their lives. There are many people who - in our own hearts - we have placed beyond the length of our arms, out of reach, out of sight, out of mind; who we’ve made untouchable. Jesus calls us to reach out to Him, and then in turn to reach out to those who need Him and who need us.

Our Gospel poses a question for each of us today: If Jesus were passing by here and you had a chance to touch His clothes, would you touch Him with curiosity or with the faith that you were going to be transformed and made whole? Would you touch Him at all?

My friends, the reality is that Jesus is here today and you have a chance to touch Him – but, not just His clothes, we can touch His very body. This is what we are all privileged to do in the Eucharist. When you approach the altar, you will have the opportunity to cradle your God and your Lord in your hands, to consume Him and welcome Him into your body and more deeply into your life.

I invite all of us to reach out and touch Jesus today in this Eucharist and always. Touch Jesus and let Him touch you – and invite the miracle that is His presence into your heart and your lives. Let us pray with a renewed seriousness before receiving Jesus in the today, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” And when we go forth from this Church, let us be the presence of Jesus reaching out and touching and healing those in need in our families, in our community, and in our world.

May the Lord give you peace.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Shack: Evil

Another good quote on the nature of evil in the world from "The Shack":

Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) turned toward Mack; at least that was the impression. "Mackenzie, evil is a word we use to describe the absence of Good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absence of Light or death to describe the absence of Life. Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence. I am Light and I am Good. I am Love and there is no darkness in me. Light and Good actually exist. So, removing yourself from me will plunge you into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from me, you can only draw upon yourself. That is death because you have separated yourself from me: Life."

"Mackenzie, Jesus didn't hold on to any rights; he willingly became a servant and lives out of his relationship to Papa. He gave up everything, so that by his dependent life he opened a door that would allow you to live free enough to give up your rights."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Year for the Priest

“Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is”.

(June 16, 2009)

Pope Benedict explains why he created Year for Priests

Pope Benedict explains why he created Year for Priests

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Christian One-liners

Christian One liners

Don't let your worries get the best of you;
Remember, Moses started out as a basket case.


Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited
Until you try to sit in their pews.

Many folks want to serve God,
But only as advisers.

It is easier to preach ten sermons
Than it is to live one.

The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose,
But mosquitoes come close.

When you get to your wit's end,
You'll find God lives there.

People are funny; they want the front of the bus,
Middle of the road, And back of the church.

Opportunity may knock once,
But temptation bangs on the front door forever.

Quit griping about your church;
If it was perfect, you couldn't belong.

If a church wants a better pastor,
It only needs to pray for the one it has.

We're called to be witnesses,
not lawyers or Judges..

God Himself doesn't propose to judge a man until he is dead.
So why should you?

Some minds are like concrete
Thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

Peace starts with a smile.

I don't know why some people change churches;
What difference does it make which one you stay home from?

A lot of church members singing 'Standing on the Promises'
Are just sitting on the premises.

Be ye fishers of men.
You catch 'em - He'll clean 'em.

Stop, Drop, and Roll won't work in Hell.


Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous..

Don't put a question mark where God put a period.

Don't wait for 6 strong men to take you to church.

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

God doesn't call the qualified,
He qualifies the called.

God grades on the cross,
not the curve.

God loves everyone,
But probably prefers 'fruits of the spirit' over 'religious nuts!'

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

He who angers you, controls you!

If God is your Co-pilot, swap seats!

Prayer: Don't give God instructions,
just report for duty!

The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.

The Will of God never takes you to where
the Grace of God will not protect you.

We don't change the message,
The message changes us..

You can tell how big a person is
By what it takes to discourage him.

The best mathematical equation I have ever seen:
1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.

Wichita 'miracle' causes Vatican to send investigator

Wichita 'miracle' causes Vatican to send investigator

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From "The Shack"

I am currently reading the popular book The Shack. About half way through. Not sure yet if I would recommend it, but it certainly has got me thinking. Here's a passage that I think is fascinating to think about in regards to Jesus. The main character Mack is talking to God the Father in this passage (who appears as a large black woman), called "Papa" about the nature of Jesus.

Mack said, "You're talking about Jesus, right? Is this going to be a let's-try-to-understand-the-Trinity sort of thing?"

She chuckled, "Sort of, but this isn't sunday School. This is a flying lesson. Mackenzie, as you might imagine, there are some advantages to being God. By nature I am completely unlimited, without bounds. I have always known fullness. I live in a state of perpetual satisfaction as my normal state of existence," she said, quite pleased. "Just one of the perks of Me being Me...We created you to share in that. But then Adam chose to go it on his own, as we knew he would, and everything got messed up. But instead of scrapping the whole Creation we rolled up our sleeves and entered into the middle of the mess - that's what we have done in Jesus."

"When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood. It would be like this bird, whose nature it is to fly, choosing only to walk and remain grounded. He doesn't stop being the bird, but it does alter his experience of life signifcantly."

"Although he is by nature fully God, Jesus is fully human and lives as such. While never losing the innate ability to fly, he chooses moment-by-moment to remain grounded. That is why his name is Immanuel, God with us, or God with you, to be more precise."

Mack asked, "But what about all the miracles? The healings? Raising people from the dead? Doesn't that prove that Jesus was God - you know, more than human?"

"No, it proves that Jesus is truly human."


"Mackenzie, I can fly, but humans can't. Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost - the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence."

"So, when he healed the blind?"

"He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone."

That came as a chock to Mack's religious system.

"Only as he rested in his relationship with me, and in our communion - our co-union - could he express my heart and will itno any given circumstance. So, when you look at Jesus and it appears that he's flying, he really is...flying. But what you are actually seeing is me; my life in him. That's how he lives and acts as a true human, how every human is designed to live - out of my life."

"A bird's not defined by being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image."

Pray the Rosary Today!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bishops call for immigration reform

The US Bishops are meeting this week in San Antonio, TX. The following (much overdue) statement was their first act of business. Go team!


JUNE 18, 2009

On behalf of the United States Catholic Bishops, gathered in San Antonio, Texas, at our annual spring meeting, I would ask President Barack Obama and congressional leaders of both parties to work together to fashion and enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the end of the year.

It has been clear for years that the United States immigration system requires repair and that reform legislation should not be delayed.

We urge respect and observance of all just laws, and we do not approve or encourage the illegal entry of anyone into our country. From a humanitarian perspective, however, our fellow human beings, who migrate to support their families, continue to suffer at the hands of immigration policies that separate them from family members and drive them into remote parts of the American desert, sometimes to their deaths. This suffering should not continue.

Now is the time to address this pressing humanitarian issue which affects so many lives and undermines basic human dignity. Our society should no longer tolerate a status quo that perpetuates a permanent underclass of persons and benefits from their labor without offering them legal protections. As a moral matter, we must resolve the legal status of those who are here without proper documentation so that they can fully contribute their talents to our nation’s economic, social and spiritual well being.

Only through comprehensive reform can we restore the rule of law to our nation’s immigration system.

We urge President Obama and congressional leaders to meet as soon as possible to discuss and draft comprehensive immigration reform legislation, with the goal of making it law by the end of 2009. The Catholic bishops of our country stand ready to assist in this effort.

Forgiveness is the heart

Jesus said to his disciples:"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,who think that they will be heard because of their many words.Do not be like them.Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This is how you are to pray:

'Our Father who art in heaven,hallowed be thy name,thy Kingdom come,thy will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread;and forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us;and lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.'
"If you forgive others their transgressions,your heavenly Father will forgive you.But if you do not forgive others,neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

Today’s passage from Matthew actually fits right into the middle of the passage we had yesterday – Jesus’ reminder not to perform righteous deeds so that others will see them. Yesterday’s passage was all about what we shouldn’t do – and the heart of it was that we shouldn’t put on a show merely for others to see.

Today brings back the verses that were skipped yesterday, the ones that tell us not merely what we are not to do, but more positively what we are to do – we are to pray; and in that command, Jesus gives us what is today perhaps the most prayed words in Christendom – the Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer.

We talk about this prayer a lot – naturally. We talk about the relational nature of referring to God so lovingly as Father; the meaning of the Kingdom; the submission to God’s will; His goodness to us in providing for our needs “give us this day”; and so on. But, we all know that there is one part of this prayer that is harder than all the rest – “forgive us as we forgive others.”

We can so often be a people who struggle with forgiveness choosing to treasure our grudges and our wounds instead – sometimes for years, even decades. But, forgiveness is the heart. It is the heart of this prayer. Forgiveness is the heart of our faith. Forgiveness is the heart of Francis and it is of necessity the heart of our fraternity – the very center of our life together as brothers. If we want our fraternities to flourish, to grow, to be places of prayer and love – they must have forgiveness at the core. In fact, this might just be the Franciscan “key” or “style” that we talk about – living as brothers who radically forgive.

I think Francis enlightens this point best in his Letter to A Minister where he writes to an unknown Provincial Minister who was having difficulty with the brothers and who desired to retire to a hermitage rather than continue in such a demanding ministry. Now, I’m certain that none of you can relate to the experience of that unknown Provincial Minister…but, this letter is for you. Indulge me as I share an extended quote. Our Holy Father wrote to that Provincial:

“I speak to you, as I can, concerning the state of your soul. You should accept as a grace all those things which deter you from loving the Lord God and whoever has become an impediment to you, whether they are brothers or others, even if they lay hands on you.

And you should desire that things be this way and not otherwise. And let this be an expression of true obedience to the Lord God and to me, for I know full well that this is true obedience. And love those who do these things to you. And do not expect anything different from them, unless it is something which the Lord shall have given to you. And love them in this and do not wish that they be better Christians. And let this be more valuable to you than a hermitage.

And by this I wish to know if you love the Lord God and me, his servant and yours if you have acted in this manner: that is, there should not be any brother in the world who has sinned, however much he may have possibly sinned, who, after he has looked into your eyes, would go away without having received your mercy, if he is looking for mercy. And if he were not to seek mercy, you should ask him if he wants mercy. And if he should sin thereafter a thousand times before your very eyes, love him more than me so that you may draw him back to the Lord. Always be merciful to brothers such as these. And announce this to the guardians, as you can, that on your part you are resolved to act in this way.”

Francis even added, “Keep this writing with you until the Chapter of Pentecost that it may be better observed, when you will be there with your brothers.”

Francis knew what Jesus knew – forgiveness is liberating. It can free us from anger; it can free us from the need to change others; it can free us from the dissatisfaction with the way things are and free us to be open to the presence of God even in the midst of difficulty.

Forgiveness is joyful. Forgiveness is the freedom to be the person that God has created each of us to be – an image and a likeness of the unconditional love that God has for each of us, unimpeded by the faults and failing of ourselves and of one another.

Jesus says, “Do not be like them,” who do not forgive, instead “forgive as you are forgiven.” This, my brothers, is the heart of who we are as Christians and as followers of Il Poverello. This is the greatest freedom we can live. This is the Kingdom we have waited for.

And so let us pledge at this Chapter of Pentecost to keep this forgiveness in our hearts so that each of us may live it better in our lives together as brothers.

May the Lord give you peace.

(My homily today during Mass at the General Chapter)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

History at Fenway Park

TONIGHT at Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox will set a remarkable record - 500 consecutive sold-out games.

Only three other professional teams in sports history have achieved more, and they were all NBA teams who play shorter seasons in smaller venues.

So it is time to give credit where credit is due, particularly when it wasn’t so long ago that a lot of people in this town were upset that the Red Sox were being sold to “out-of-towners.’’

The truth is that had it not been for the ownership group of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino, and the remarkable team they put together both on the field and in the front office, it is highly unlikely that Boston would be celebrating this achievement tonight.

In fact, today you would be hard pressed to find anyone willing to say that selling the Sox to the Henry, Werner, and Lucchino group was a bad idea.

Those sold-out games are no accident. Recruiting a top-notch manager, putting together a first-class ball club, and building a superb farm system have had a lot to do with it. Two world championships in three years can do wonders for a fan base that suffered for a long, long time. I know. I attended my first Red Sox game in 1938 at the age of 4 1/2, and Lefty Grove was pitching!

But the new Red Sox owners did two other things that I believe have had a lot to do with those capacity crowds at Fenway.

First, they had the good sense to reexamine fundamentally the previous owners’ decision to tear down Fenway and replace it with a phony version of the real thing. There weren’t a lot of us at the time who opposed that decision except for a courageous band of fans who called themselves the Save Fenway group. Massachusetts, which to its credit had never put a dime of the taxpayers’ money into a professional sports team, committed both itself and the City of Boston to hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies for the proposed new ballpark.

Fortunately, the new ownership group understood what many native Bostonians did not - that we had a jewel of a ballpark that, with some tender loving care, could both expand the number of seats and preserve its special history and atmosphere in a way that almost no other major ballpark has been able to do. The results have been spectacular. The cost is a fraction of what the new ballpark would have entailed, and the experience of watching a ballgame at Fenway is as good as anyone could possibly enjoy.

Secondly, they have turned the Red Sox into one of our best and most important civic institutions. Since 2002, the Red Sox Foundation has contributed more than $30 million to important charitable causes in and around Boston. The Jimmy Fund has always been a Red Sox favorite, but the Red Sox Scholars program, the Dimock Community Health Center in Roxbury, and athletic programs for children in Greater Boston have all benefited from an expanded notion of what the Red Sox mean to this community.

Nobody can tell us at this point in the season whether the Sox will be hoisting another world championship banner at Fenway in October. But we know that we are already on track to another exciting season, and that thanks to a bunch of out-of-towners, the Red Sox have set the standard for civic and community engagement for the nation’s professional sports teams.
Michael Dukakis is the former three-term governor of Massachusetts and now a professor at Northeastern University.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"This is my Body"


In the 13th Century, an Augustinian nun, Sr. Juliana of Liège in Belgium had a vision in which a glistening full moon appeared to her. The moon was perfect except for a dark spot which a voice told her represented the absence of a feast dedicated to the Eucharist. Juliana had tremendous devotion to the Eucharist and so she worked tirelessly for the Church to establish a feast. This led to today’s feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for the Body of Christ) first introduced into the church calendar in 1264.

This was a time in history when devotion to the Eucharist and respect for the Body of Christ was very low. All of the rules that we know today about reserving the Eucharist in tabernacles, genuflecting when entering and leaving a church, and treating the Eucharist with respect come from this era. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 had passed several rules on respect for the dignity of the Eucharist. So bad was the situation, St. Francis of Assisi, who also lived at this time, instructed all his friars to go about the world carrying ciboria so that when the found the Eucharist not properly reserved, they could give it a place of reservation and honor.

This continues to be an important feast in our own day because we too live in an era where there is a growing loss of respect for the dignity of the Eucharist among Catholics. We see it every week in simple ways as many people no longer seem to genuflect when they enter the church, the all-too-casual way people come forward to receive the Body and Blood; and perhaps most profoundly in the way that too many Catholics today don’t seem to think there’s any special reason to go to Mass each week, as though God has somehow eliminated the Commandment to “Keep Holy the Sabbath.” A study that was published just before Pope Benedict’s visit last month showed that only 31% of American Catholics attend Mass each week; and only 31% of American Catholics attend Mass each week; and43% of U.S. Catholics think that the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is only a symbol.

We seem to have a lack of understanding regarding the Eucharist today and a feast like this affords us the opportunity to give God collective thanks for Christ's abiding presence with us which is made visible in the Eucharist. It is also an opportunity for us to seek a better understanding of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, since the Eucharist is a sacrament of life. It is crucial to understand the Eucharist properly. As St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “All who eat and drink in an unworthy manner, without discerning the Lord's body eat and drink judgment against themselves.”

If we want to understand the Eucharist we need to ask why Jesus gave us this sacrament in the first place. Scripture gives us some answers. Scripture tells us that there are two main reasons Jesus gave us this sacrament. First, Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time. In the Eucharist He provides a visible, tangible means of Him being present to us in a real physical way and of us being present to Him. In the Eucharist, we can literally reach out and touch our God. As Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

Secondly, Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it to the full. In the Eucharist He provides a visible means of communicating this life to us so that we can be fully alive both in this world and in the next. As Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”

The Jews that Jesus addressed gathered to ask Him for more ordinary bread. Jesus promised to give them the sacramental bread and wine instead. But in their worldly frame of mind they could not understand or appreciate the sacrament. They disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus reaffirmed that “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” They ended up distancing themselves from the Eucharist because they could not comprehend Jesus’ live-giving language in their world of materialism.

The same problem that these early would-be followers of Jesus had is still with us today. If we approach the Eucharist with a materialistic mentality, if we approach the Eucharist scientifically, trying to see flesh or blood under a microscope, we fail to understand and so lose the benefits of such a wonderful gift of God's love. The Eucharist is true food and drink but at the same time it is very different from every other food and drink. The great difference lies in these words of Christ which St. Augustine heard in prayer, “You will not change me into yourself as you would food of your flesh; but you will be changed into me.”

When we regularly eat, that food becomes energy for our bodies, but when we eat this bread and drink this cup, the food of the Eucharist transforms us into the body of Christ. We become what we receive. We receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist so that we may become the Body of Christ in the world. “You will not change me into yourself…you will be changed into me!”

Why then do so many people who receive the Eucharist never experience this radical transformation? Well, there is a story of a team of Russians and Americans who were on an expedition. One of their staple foods was Russian black bread. It was tasty but hard on the teeth. During one meal an American bit into a piece and chipped a tooth. He threw the bread overboard and growled: “Lousy Communist bread.” The Russian countered: “Is not lousy communist bread. Is rotten capitalist tooth.” My friends, if we do not experience the transforming power of the Eucharist it is probably not on account of a faulty Eucharist but perhaps on account of a closed faith, a closed heart, a perspective that blocks God from changing us.

God does not force transformation on us, He invites us into it. You are today, and at every Eucharist, invited into the transformation. Open the eyes of your heart, open your soul, to let Jesus, really, truly, physically present today in this Eucharist, change you, shape you, mold you to more closely resemble the same Lord we receive. As the words to one of my favorite songs say, “Take my heart and form it, Take my mind transform it, Take my will conform it to Yours.”

Let us today approach the Eucharist with a convicted faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and we shall experience God's saving power and transforming love. Jesus invites us today, “If you will allow it, you will be changed into me.”

May God give you peace!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Wizard of Oz - Over The Rainbow

Always a favorite!

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


“God in Three Persons; Blessed Trinity.” Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – the mystery of God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in one God. It is perhaps one of the most challenging mysteries of the faith from an intellectual perspective. How can three things be one? St. Patrick famously tried to explain this using the image of the shamrock – three leaves, yet one shamrock. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the Trinity, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself…The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to people.” Does that clear things up for you? Probably not. And yet, I think we can come to a better understanding of the Trinity in our lives – spiritually and practically; if not intellectually.

We all remember what we did at the beginning of Mass today. It is the same thing we do at the beginning of every Mass. We did this. [make the sign of the cross] Now, from my perspective, I can tell you, you didn’t all do it as exacting or as symmetrically as I just did. Some of you gave a little squiggle; a finger might have touched your forehead, maybe brushed touched your chest and completely missed the shoulders. It is a gesture that we do often more as a reflex that a conscious movement. But whether you made the sign of the cross with precision or just instinctively waived your hand in the air about the head and chest, it was a gesture that pointed to today’s feast. When we are conscious of what we are doing in that act, it is a simple act of faith in the complexity of God who is revealed to us in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

I say “revealed to us” because we wouldn’t have a clue about the Trinity if Jesus didn’t tell us about it. Jesus talked about His Father in Heaven, about Himself as the Son of God, about going back to Heaven and sending to us the Holy Spirit. This is what the Catechism means when it says, “The whole history of salvation is identical with…the way…God…reveals Himself to people.” The Trinity is a mystery revealed by God, but that doesn’t mean it is mystifying. It is a mystery of God that God wants us to be drawn deeply into.

So, let’s think about the sign of the cross and how it can draw us deeply into this mystery. First we touch our forehead and say, “In the Name of the Father…” When I hear those words, I think of the beauty of the trees, and flowers and plant life coming into bloom this time of year; I recall beautiful red sunsets at the beach as the setting sun shimmers on the water; the grandeur of the great Berkshire Mountains; the feel of the warm breeze in Spring; I think of all the beautiful children who received First Communion last month; the giggling and crying babies baptized; the pride and happiness on the faces of their parents. I think of all these things because God the Father is the Creator of a beautiful world – something we should always be aware of and should always cause us to marvel at His nature! I leave my finger on my forehead because I, too, am part of that incredible creation. And, I’m reminded not only of a Creator but of Someone so totally in love with us that He sent His only Son to draw us back into His embrace. This same Father we speak of as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”

Next we move to our chest, to the place where the heart resides and say, “and of the Son.” Here I think of the love the Son of God showed us when He multiplied the loaves for the hungry, when He reached across social and racial barriers to the Samaritans, when He made room at His table for outcasts and sinners, when He chased the scavengers away from woman caught in adultery hungry for her blood, when He gave the ultimate and agonizing proof of His love for us on the Calvary cross. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”

And then we move to our shoulders and say, “and of the Holy Spirit.” We recall the Holy Spirit who gives so widely of Himself that it takes the full span of the shoulders to remind us of that – left and right, from one side of the world to the other. And I think of God’s desire to be intimate with all of us; to have the freedom of the wind; to be your friend and my friend, to be in your heart and my heart; to be in New Milford or New York, in Los Angeles or Baghdad, in Jerusalem, Rome, Tokyo and every corner of this world – all at the same time. I think of the Holy Spirit as a power in my life – the power in my life – as a great force for good and holiness, as one to turn to when decisions are to be made, as one who consoles me when I make my mistakes. To console is to be with a person who is alone. With the Holy Spirit around, no one is ever alone. God in His Holy Spirit is always with us. What we span in blessing, the Holy Spirit strengthens in life so that we may better shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.

And, so we come to the end of the blessing – the joining of hands and the concluding, “Amen.” And we remind ourselves that the word “amen” is an expression of agreement, in itself an act of faith in all that has gone before; a “so be it,” an “I believe.” And so I renew my faith. I believe in you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

My brothers and sisters, on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity; this celebration of God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity; may all the signs of the cross we ever make be nothing less than a grateful acceptance of God’s love and a willingness on our part to share it with others. May the hands we join in faith be generous in giving and free to help others. May the shared life of the Trinity and the wide sweep of the blessing be reflected in our lives too. This is the lived, real meaning of the Most Holy Trinity in our lives.

And may God bless us all in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

American Friar elected Vicar General of the Order

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Michael Perry, OFM, (Sacred Heart Province, St. Louis, MO) was elected Vicar General of the Order yesterday!! Very exciting! For more click here:

Changing the impossible

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