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“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!  My daughter is suffering terribly…”  Jesus did not answer a word.  So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  The woman came and knelt before him.  “Lord, help me!” she said.  He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”  Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.”  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” – Matthew 15: 22-28 (NIV)

Mature religious people, that is, those who develop an actual inner life of prayer and outer life of service, tend to notice and imitate the “three steps forward” quotes in the Bible. First they change their life stance–and then they can be entrusted with the Bible. For all others who will not change their life position, the Bible is mere information and ammunition. It would be better if they did not read it! Only converted people, who are in union with both the pain of the world and the love of God, are prepared to read the Bible–with the right pair of eyes and the appropriate bias–which is from the side of powerlessness and suffering instead of the side of power and control. This is foundational and essential conversion, and it is the biblical characters themselves that first reveal this pattern, which then becomes obvious as you look around the world that we live in. The Greek word ineffectively translated as “repentance” in the Bible quite literally means “to change your mind” (metanoia), which is what this season of Lent is supposed to be about. It is not about giving up candy! You can give up all the candy you want and still be trapped in the old mind. You can give up no candy at all, but still allow yourself a total “revolution of the mind” (Ephesians 4:23). That is what Lent is about.

From Richard Rohr, Gospel Call for Compassionate Action

“Obeying God is nothing like obeying a politician or a president or a king. Such people are flawed and sinful and sometimes have to be opposed. But God isn’t like that. God is love right through; he wants only what is for our good.

Another important point: politicians and presidents and kings put out policies that we can readily understand, but God is essentially mysterious. We cannot, even in principle, fully understand what God is up to, what his purposes are. His commands – which will always be for our good – are nevertheless often opaque to us. And this is precisely why we have to obey, listen, and abide – even when that obedience seems the height of folly.”

from “Obeying God” by Father Robert Barron

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else’s business.” But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let’s not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.

For further reflection …

Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.”  The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth?… Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” – Exodus 4: 10-13 (NIV)

emphasis mine

Women Writers of the Triad's photo.

Living Lent Attentively and Gently
– By Henri J.M. Nouwen

Lent is the most important time of the year to nurture our inner life. It is the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us. Life is a continuing process of the death of the old and the familiar, and being reborn again into a new hope, a new trust, and a new love. The death and resurrection of Jesus therefore is not just an historical event that took place a long time ago, but an inner event that takes place in our heart when we are willing to be attentive to it.

Lent offers a beautiful opportunity to discover the mystery of Christ within us. It is a gentle but also demanding time. It is a time of solitude but also community, it is a time of listening to the voice within, but also a time of paying attention to other people’s needs. It is a time to continuously make the passage to new inner life as well as to life with those around us.

When we live Lent attentively and gently, then Easter can truly be a celebration during which the full proclamation of the risen Christ will reverberate into the deepest place of our being.

**

Saint Of the Day

Chair of St. Peter

Lived: | Feast Day: Sunday, February 22, 2015

This feast commemorates Christ’s choosing Peter to sit in his place as the servant-authority of the whole Church (see June 29).After the “lost weekend” of pain, doubt and self-torment, Peter hears the Good News. Angels at the tomb say to Magdalene, “The Lord has risen! Go, tell his disciples and Peter.” John relates that when he and Peter ran to the tomb, the younger outraced the older, then waited for him. Peter entered, saw the wrappings on the ground, the headpiece rolled up in a place by itself. John saw and believed. But he adds a reminder: “…[T]hey did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). They went home. There the slowly exploding, impossible idea became reality. Jesus appeared to them as they waited fearfully behind locked doors. “Peace be with you,” he said (John 20:21b), and they rejoiced.

The Pentecost event completed Peter’s experience of the risen Christ. “…[T]hey were all filled with the holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4a) and began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.

Only then can Peter fulfill the task Jesus had given him: “… [O]nce you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). He at once becomes the spokesman for the Twelve about their experience of the Holy Spirit—before the civil authorities who wished to quash their preaching, before the council of Jerusalem, for the community in the problem of Ananias and Sapphira. He is the first to preach the Good News to the Gentiles. The healing power of Jesus in him is well attested: the raising of Tabitha from the dead, the cure of the crippled beggar. People carry the sick into the streets so that when Peter passed his shadow might fall on them.

Even a saint experiences difficulty in Christian living. When Peter stopped eating with Gentile converts because he did not want to wound the sensibilities of Jewish Christians, Paul says, “…I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong…. [T]hey were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel…” (Galatians 2:11b, 14a).

At the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). What Jesus said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God. On Vatican Hill, in Rome, during the reign of Nero, Peter did glorify his Lord with a martyr’s death, probably in the company of many Christians.

Second-century Christians built a small memorial over his burial spot. In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine built a basilica, which was replaced in the 16th century.

Comment:
Like the committee chair, this chair refers to the occupant, not the furniture. Its first occupant stumbled a bit, denying Jesus three times and hesitating to welcome gentiles into the new Church. Some of its later occupants have also stumbled a bit, sometimes even failed scandalously. As individuals, we may sometimes think a particular pope has let us down. Still, the office endures as a sign of the long tradition we cherish and as a focus for the universal Church.
Quote:
Peter described our Christian calling in the opening of his First Letter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3a).

First Reading:  Isaiah 58: 1-9a

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

**

Gospel: Matthew 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”

**

Prayer

“Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ, teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to His promptings in the depths of our conscience and to His manifestations in the events of history.”

from Seven Saints for Seven Virtues

Lent Day 1 – Back to Basics

by Fr. Robert Barron

 At the beginning of baseball season, the coach has to bring his players back to basics. He has to remind them of the three-point stance, the mechanics of throwing, the timing of a swing, the importance of keeping your eye on the ball, etc. It doesn’t matter how great of a season a player had the year before. He has to begin spring training with the basics because before he can do spectacular things in a sport, he must make sure he is doing the simple and elemental things well.The same is true in the spiritual life. Lent is a time to get tuned up, to get back to basics, to remember the fundamentals. This is why the Church asks us to look at the beginning of the book of Genesis, the story of the creation and the fall.

We’ve heard it often; it’s probably emblazoned in our minds—but we need to hear it again: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” On Ash Wednesday, we hear echoes of this in the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Today we are reminded that our lives come from God. Our very existence comes from God. We are owed nothing. We have nothing coming to us. Every breath we take is a reminder of our dependency upon God; every beat of our heart is a reminder that God is the Lord.

As we begin our Lenten journey, let us take a few minutes to reflect on the reality that without God we are nothing and to give thanks that God loved us into being.

**

A Lenten Prayer

– from Henri Nouwen’s The Road to Daybreak

The Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me. Amen.

**

My newest poem, “A Candidate’s Prayer,’ at Caholic365.com.

Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Lived: (d. 869; d. 884) | Feast Day: Saturday, February 14, 2015

Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples.After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post.

A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task.

Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then.

That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit.

Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release.

Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated.

Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church.

Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict).

Comment:
Holiness means reacting to human life with God’s love: human life as it is, crisscrossed with the political and the cultural, the beautiful and the ugly, the selfish and the saintly. For Cyril and Methodius much of their daily cross had to do with the language of the liturgy. They are not saints because they got the liturgy into Slavonic, but because they did so with the courage and humility of Christ.
Quote:
“Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community. Rather she respects and fosters the spiritual adornments and gifts of the various races and peoples…. Provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is maintained, the revision of liturgical books should allow for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, religions, and peoples, especially in mission lands” (Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 37, 38).

 

emphasis mine

“Joy is in my heart. This joy is not ephemeral. I possess it forever. Like the springtime rose, it smiles at me every day. My joy is to love suffering. My joy is he Holy Will of Jesus, my only love, so I live without any fear.”

–St. Thérèse of Lisieux
-from Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity by Elizabeth A. Dreyer; foreword by Joan Chittister

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