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Archive for June, 2012

Mr. Excitement

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog (I’m making the dangerous and ego-imperiling assumption that some of you have actually read my material and returned to do so again. Maybe it was the penance at your last confession. Who knows?), I lead the most exciting life in the world. From liking to go to bed when it is still light out to eating oatmeal almost every day for breakfast, my life clearly manifests this claim. And so what am I doing for vacation this summer? I’m going to my mom’s house and sitting on the porch. Maybe for hours at a time. Maybe for the entire vacation. I know, you are sensing the excitement right through cyberspace.

Now before you mock me too heartily, let’s first of all sing the praises of front porches in general. Let it be told that they are a wonderful thing. And from the vantage point on my particular porch, I can see mountains, trees, birds, bike riders, clouds, countless passing cars, and even a furry, hopping, happy bunny. People pay big bucks at the resorts for a view like that, you know. Ah, just writing about it makes me long to be there now. Exciting, heh?

Admittedly, I make mockery an easy exercise, but I really do like being on that front porch. For when I am there, I don’t have to do, I just have to be. And there is much to be said for just being.

You and I live ridiculously busy and horribly stressful lives. Yet a lot of the busy and a lot of the stress is self-inflicted. We take on too much – witness the high school sophomore taking 2 sciences, playing 3 sports, juggling 4 competing friends, and catching barely 5 hours of sleep. We expect too much – from our parents, friends, teachers, classmates, teammates, and especially, ourselves. We complain too much – about assignments, practices, responsibilities, relationships, romances, bad tasting tacos, and God’s failure to run the Universe in a manner which meets our approval. And yet, when it comes to stepping aside from all this – and simply being – we hesitate. But the front porch is calling.

I’m pretty sure that God would be pleased with us if we cut back on our doing and added some more being. Even when his apostles were running all over Galilee doing great things and saving souls and preaching the word – even then – Jesus invited them to “come away by yourself to a deserted place and rest a while (Mk 6:31).” Should not you and I do the same? Believe me, I’m not promoting laziness here. Indeed, we should be and need to be busy about the Lord’s work. But appropriate rest actually assists us in doing Christ’s bidding. For when we rest, not only are we refreshed, but we are quieted too, and our hearts become more aware of God’s presence and more able to distinguish his voice. In other words, we need some time on the porch.

Continue to enjoy your summer and be assured that you are in my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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In case anyone has forgotten, we are all sinners and badly in need of God’s mercy. If we sow our wild oats, we harvest a crop of self-destruction and pain, and we need God’s mercy. If we strike out against others with angry words and spiteful actions, God’s mercy alone can bring reconciliation and healing. If we brazenly wave a clenched fist toward heaven and our Creator, we most definitely need the mercy of our Savior. And – thank you, Jesus – the Lord never fails to bestow that mercy in abundance.

I find it wonderfully interesting that both the need for mercy and the offer of mercy are found in the “secret prayers” of the Mass. The “secret prayers” are the words whispered by the priest in a low, normally inaudible voice. One after the other, those prayers beseech the mercy of God.

The very first “secret prayer” is uttered before the Gospel is proclaimed: “Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel.” Notice what the priest is in effect saying, “I am a sinner, unworthy to speak these sacred words, but you, Oh Lord, make me clean with your mercy.” The next “secret prayer” is uttered immediately upon completion of the Gospel reading, and is again a plea for mercy: “Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away.”

The next set of “secret prayers” come back-to-back between the priest’s preparation of the chalice and the washing of his hands. “With humble spirit and contrite heart,” whispers the priest, “may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.” And then, as the water is poured upon his hands, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Notice that in those prayers the priest is admitting his own sinfulness and need for mercy, but he is also interceding for God’s mercy on the behalf of all.

Finally, in preparation for Holy Communion, the priest begs once again for forgiveness and healing. “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”

The remembrance of our sinfulness should never be far from our thoughts, but even more should we recall the bountiful mercy of God. Please, as the summer grows ever warmer and more wonderful, may you and I keep both our sins and God’s forgiveness readily in mind. No more than a month should pass without reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Every Sunday at Mass is a chance to lay our faults upon the altar of Christ. And every day is an opportunity, in the secret of our hearts, to whisper in sincerity: “It’s me, God, a sinner, but I trust in your mercy and love.”

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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Flaming Meteorites

While praying the other day, I was drawn to this passage from St. Luke’s Gospel: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life (21:34).” Sure, we know that carousing and drunken behavior are both self-destructive and sinful, and we can choose not to do those things. That part of the verse seems pretty straight forward. But the “anxieties of daily life” part is a lot more disconcerting. We have no way of choosing – or avoiding – the majority of events which daily cause us unrest. We cannot, for example, control the heavy traffic on the highway or the phone call bringing bad news. And yet the Lord is telling us in this scripture not to allow those things to weigh down our hearts. How exactly do we do that?

If you are now expecting me to answer that question with definitive certainty, I’m afraid you will be sorely disappointed. For like many of us – maybe most of us – my heart too becomes drowsy and unsettled when anxieties weigh upon it. But pondering this together, maybe there are some possible remedies we can consider:

1) First of all, especially if we are a Type A, alpha wolf, hands-on-everything, control freak – and you know who you are – it might not be a bad idea to simply remind ourselves that we indeed are not really in control. The deficiencies of other drivers on the road, we can’t control that. The health or sickness of those we love, we cannot control that either. The metaphorical flaming meteorites that drop suddenly out of the sky and into our laps, no control over those whatsoever. We may be applying for the position of “General Manager of the Universe,” and we may actually believe that we are qualified to fill that position, but the fact is, there are many things beyond our control.

2) So once we’ve established our utter helplessness in the face of metaphorical flaming meteorites, the next step is to turn our eyes to God. Yep, we may not be in control, but God is. And if he permits some texting teen to crash into our SUV, or if he allows our 98-year old Aunt Sally to give up the ghost on the day we’re supposed to leave for Jamaica, or if he gives his blessing to a new and difficult assignment from our boss, even though we’d rather not – we really do have to trust that he knows what he’s doing. He loves us, you know, and he truly does make good out of the most undesired and demanding events.

3) What next to do when that flaming meteorite crashes unexpectedly and unwanted into our lap? Pray. Then pray some more. Then pray again. God knows we are weak and he knows we struggle with self-doubt and uncertainty. So when the foundation of our life is knocked a little off kilter – as it is most days – he knows that we need help. And he wants to give help. Somewhere in scripture it says that if we place our cares on God, he will care for us. Let’s take him at his word and do just that.

4) Finally, maybe there is a room in our dealings with God for a little more thanksgiving. Now, I don’t mean here that we should break out the turkey and cranberry sauce, but that we should actually spend more time sincerely saying, “Thank you,” to the God of the Universe. Thankfulness is a remedy for anxiety. Offering thanks turns us away from self-pity and toward the light of Christ. Saying thank you, even to God, even for heavy crosses, is a way of saying, “I believe.”

Chances are, maybe within the next 5 minutes, a flaming meteorite will coming crashing into my lap or yours. But may it not destroy the peace of our hearts. God lives in our hearts, and he alone is the peace we so ardently seek.

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, was just a young student when his beloved Poland was overrun by Nazi armies in the autumn of 1939. Six years of brutal occupation were to follow. During those years, Wojtyla was to experience many horrors: the reality of the Holocaust, the illness and eventual death of his father, and the near destruction of Polish culture and society. He would also come to understand that he was being called by God to the mystery of priesthood. While some Poles emerged from the darkness of occupation with spirits that were too damaged to ever freely love again, Karol Wojtyla emerged as a man convinced that love, and love alone, could defeat evil and restore human dignity. Instrumental in moving Wojtyla to that realization was a mystic by the name of Jan Tyranowski. Not only did Tyranowski introduce Wojtyla to St. John of the Cross and the world of Carmelite spirituality, but he helped the young Wojtyla to see that the evil of the Nazis would necessarily consume itself, while love was the path to real and lasting peace among peoples. This is a lesson we do well to remember.

Our contemporary society is often a cold and heartless place. Wars rage between nations and ideologies, but wars also rage between families, friends, and colleagues. Human cruelty remains, while the conscious realization of God’s presence wanes. Individualism and materialism tend to dominate the brighter angels of self-giving, justice, and  compassion. Too many people feel unloved and unwanted. Too many lives are judged to be unimportant and irrelevant.

But love conquers all these ills.

In the short term, it can be emotionally satisfying to respond to injury with revenge, to answer hatred with more intense odium, and to strike out against our enemies with venomous words and violent actions. As fallen human beings, we are capable of all these things. But evil necessarily consumes itself, and when we practice evil, it consumes us. Love, on the other hand, though the more arduous path, gives life.

Jesus Christ was subjected to the full horror of human cruelty: unjustly imprisoned, frightfully tortured, spit upon, mocked, and condemned. In response, he loved his tormentors. And when you and I, by our sin, share in the hammering of nails into the flesh of Jesus, he responds by loving us too. Nowhere is this love of Christ for you and I more manifest than at the altar and in the Blessed Sacrament. Though he is often alone and unwanted in the tabernacle, though his Real Presence is sadly ignored or blasphemed, Christ continues to stay with us, and he offers his unconditional love to all who approach his Body and his Blood.

When is the last time you paid a visit to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? He is there, you know, thirsting for your love, longing for your presence. When you and I recognize the evil within us, when we know that we have brought pain into this world because of our sins, we may be inclined to run away from Christ. But for the love of God, let’s run to Christ. Love conquers all, remember, including the fear, darkness, and doubt that lives within our very own hearts. God is love. Let him bestow that love and conquer all evil.

Be assured of my prayers,

Fr. Steve

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