Thursday, February 19, 2015

Give/Pray/Fast (Ash Wednesday 2015-02-18)

[__01__]   Is it not an aspect, a characteristic of youthfulness, an aspect or characteristic of being “cool”, and also a strategy of being competitive, that we would be able to conceal our true intentions, our true motives?

It is part of the Good News today that our GIVING, our PRAYING, and our FASTING …. May be concealed may be hidden.

It is good news to be hidden.

[__02__]   Jesus is not asking us to be nonchalant or indifferent in our Lenten practices of these 40 days, but rather to be calm, collected and, if possible, a bit concealed about our true motives.

In charitable giving, he says, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing. (cf., Matthew 6:3) While we use this expression to criticize, for example, a scenario of mismanagement or disorganization, the Lord is asking us to consider that – during Lent – not everything needs to be revealed. It is good news to be hidden.
[__03__]  Our Savior’s message is not only about the sacrifices and the efforts of these 40 days of Lent but also of the importance of doing these things with a spirit of calm and of tranquility.

[__04__]     In the first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul about the importance of detachment to material things, of using these things as though we are not using them.  (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:31).

Or of having as though we do not have or possess anything.

In this regard, we can manifest – or demonstrate – a spirit of calm and tranquility. It is good news to be hidden.

[__05__]   I think we are familiar with this practice – this way of acting – in other aspects of our lives.

For example, in school – or at work – we want to achieve but we may also be inclined not to reveal to our classmates how hard we are working.

We study as though we are not studying.  And, it is – in a way – good news to be hidden. It is the tranquil way, the peaceful way… and we may end up appearing “cooler” and more collected to others.

It is good news to be hidden.

[__06__] In sports, a coach or a team does not want the other team to know the strategy, the plan.   It is also true that a team would try to conceal – from the other team – if they were in disarray or difficulty … They want to work but do not necessarily need to advertise how hard they are working.

The great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, taught his guards and forwards that they should work hard but not make it look too difficult ..his famous saying was “run, but don’t hurry”.   UCLA was wildly successful with this strategy.

It is good news to be in hiding – or Jesus says in the Gospel about prayer … to go to our Father in secret. (cf. Matthew 6:6)

[__07__]  So, there are ways in which we live and compete and in which we do not reveal everything we are doing.

In this Gospel of Ash Wednesday, we are called to use even the spiritual gifts of God as though we were not using them.

It is good news to be hidden, to pray as though we are not praying, to fast as though we are not fasting, to give charitably as though we are not giving.


We could recall the importance of integrating prayer into our lives at the very times we are busiest or distracted.

Consider a prayer at least once in the morning or the early part of the day, to put God’s prayer into our calendar, our agenda, our to-do list not so that we appear to be praying but that we are praying constantly (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16?)  and putting our agenda before God.

Also at night, when we feel tired, when we are either anxious or relieved at the day’s events, to make this a prayer and examination of our lives as well.


We could remember that there are sacrifices we can make in our speech, our words, in conversation …

We can make sacrifices (fasts) by what we say and do not say.

Perhaps, no one will notice.

It is good news to be hidden.


In this, we are called simply to be open to the next opportunity to endeavor to be kind, charitable to those who cannot repay us, to those may observe the effect of what we are doing but may not recognize you or me as the cause.

It is good news to be hidden.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Touching/Healing (2015-02-15)

Sunday February 15, 2015, 6th Sunday Ordinary Time

[__01__]   In this Gospel selection from Mark Chapter 1, we read that Jesus stretched out his hand, to touch and to heal a man afflicted with disease, with leprosy.

We observe then the intentional extension, and touch of our Savior, toward a person otherwise abandoned in his illness.

What can we take away from this healing miracle and from the call to imitate our Lord?

[__02__]   First, such a manual touch of the hands requires precision, practice, dexterity.

We know this from our own lives ….

There is a dexterity, technique in Jesus’ movement toward this leper, this person suffering from leprosy.

We observe in this, and in other instances, that Jesus moves confidently – comfortably – toward the person otherwise abandoned, toward the sick.

Of course, he does this as he Son of God, with special grace. But we can also go and do likewise (cf. Luke 10:37, Good Samaritan) with repetitions of our own, with practice.  This may take time.

Doesn’t it require some repetition, some practice for a father or mother with his or her first child? 

Or for a nurse or doctor with his or her first patient?  For teachers with their first students?

Each of us practices in order to gain dexterity, technique in chosen work or professions or vocations, in order to gain freedom of movement.

Technique, dexterity come from practice.

The mastery of a musical instrument requires the same repetition.

So does our growth in virtue, in compassion.

To imitate our Lord in this miracle, we are called to practice with our hands with our movement, to grow in virtue.

[__03__]  Secondly, in this miracle, there is also physical strength, the extension of the hands of our Savior across a boundary, across the border.
This is not an international border but an inter-personal border.
Jesuit Father Edward Mally wrote that this miracle demonstrates Jesus’ ability to save those even excluded from Israel, those excluded from Judaism by the commandments and laws handed down through Moses.
Persons suffering from leprosy were regarded as outcasts. They were outside the border.
Jesus extended his hands across this border.
Are we not also called to do something about helping the marginalized, the unpopular classmate or teammate?
Are we not also called to obedience and to respect even to a teacher in school whom we don’t like?
Can we not go beyond – across the border of customary respect and toward the law of love and compassion?

[__04__]    In this and other miracles, Jesus operates in way that we might call in the terms of Apple / LG  / Samsung…. And mobile phones… as “hands free.”

What is the benefit of being hands free for you, for me… or for Jesus in the Gospel?  

When you and I talk on our phones using, say, “speaker phone” or “Bluetooth” devices, we do so because we are, in some way, not only speaking from the heart but also trying to be visually aware and present of everything around us.

Yes, I’m trying to put a positive spin on hands-free technology…. Nevertheless, it requires care and discipline in order to use it … in order to speak and also to see visually everything around you.

Jesus, in the Gospel, is handsfree, acknowledging the ENVIRONMENT and the SOCIETY in which he lives.

He is acknowledging that a person often needs to be healed in order for him to be touched or to gain connections with others.

In our own fear and concerns over diseases contagious or infectious, we might refrain from touch toward someone who is sick. 

We desire that the person would be healed before we would touch him or her. 

In his own free hand and handsfree way…Jesus is acknowledging that this is the way people act…but but also going beyond the customary and the familiar and reaching out to the leper anyway.

[__05__]  Speaking and acting handsfree, Jesus is also completely aware of his environment, his society, completely aware that he is being observed, being watched.

And, he gives us an example to follow. In his example, he reminds us that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and healing.

Thus, if we were hurt or wounded by someone else’s sin or brokenness or selfishness, we are called to pray that we can remain in contact, that we can experience forgiveness, healing. We are called to risk the touch and the contact first, and pray that the Lord himself will do the healing in our lives, personally and individually and in our relationships with others.   [__fin__]  

Out of the Way (2015-02-08)

Feb. 8, 2015
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time and observation of Our Lady of Lourdes Feast
[Job 7:1-4, 6-7 / Psalm 147 / 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 / Mark 1:29-39  ]

Title:  Out of the Way

[__01__]  Should I go out of my way?    This is a question we would ask ourselves about the extra effort required in certain projects, certain journeys, a question about the effort required for a particular result or destination.

 Should I go out of my way?

[__02__]  I ask this question because we, as a parish, anticipate and observe the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11th)

 In a cave of Massabielle (a mile outside of town), and sever hundred miles from city of Paris, Bernadette Soubirous – whom we know as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes – as a 14 year old peasant girl encountered the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 11, 1858.

She was out for her regular work of gathering firewood, an appropriate task in a cold February.

While on her route, Bernadette went a bit out of the way to encounter this vision described by Bernadette as a “beautiful lady”.

This vision continued in 18 apparitions. Bernadette asked about the identity of the lady and was told – and repeated the words in her own dialect –

__Que soy L’Immaculado concepciou, I am the Immaculate Conception  ___

Which is rendered/translated in French  and inscribed in our Mosaic of Lourdes above our altar as …”Je suis L’immaculee concepcion”.

I am the Immaculate Conception.

[__03__] When the report of this vision and these words were made to the local authorities –including the priest/bishop, this report – from a simple and relatively uneducated peasant girl – was met with skepticism.

However, what later gave – and still gives – credibility to the appearance was the out of the way nature of the appearance.

Out of the way….

Bernadette had not the benefit of education, yet she knew this terminology of the  immaculate conception.

 God makes himself known not only uptown but also downtown and out of town.  In the case of Bernadette, this was over 500 miles from the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris to the Notre Dame de Lourdes.

[__04__]    From this series of apparitions came widespread attention to both Lourdes and the water as a place of healing and miracles and to Bernadette herself.

Bernadette, while steadfast in her faith and belief in the apparitions, also sought no attention, no publicity. She did not want to meet the crowds.

Similar to the spirit of our Savior in the Gospel this Sunday, Bernadette was withdrawing by herself in a deserted place to pray (Mark, 1:35)

And, this withdrawal gave her peace and intimacy with God.  

[__05__]  Bernadette’s attitude after the apparitions was also met with some skepticism.  Why would she remain out of the way?

[[   Disliking the attention she was attracting, Bernadette went to the hospice school run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers where she finally learned to read and write. Although she considered joining the Carmelites, her health precluded her entering any of the strict contemplative orders.

On 29 July 1866, with 42 other candidates, she took the religious habit of a postulant and joined the Sisters of Charity at their motherhouse at Nevers.

The Mother Superior at the time gave her the name Marie-Bernarde in  honor of her godmother who was named "Bernarde".  ]] [1]

The Lourdes water was now “mainstream” … but  Bernadette herself did not seek to be a household name.  

[__06__]   Bernadette reminded her Lourdes community then – and our Lourdes community now – that our value before God is not defined by our activity or productivity.

Even being frail, marginalized, we can love God with all of our heart, mind and strength and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

We can serve God from a time of illness, or frailty, by endeavoring to be patient, to be lighthearted, even to be comply with the instructions of our caregivers, our doctors, nurses who might not always have the time or the answers we desire.

[__07__]  This Sunday, we also read the Good News that Jesus visited Simon’s mother-in-law, privately, out of the way, and healed her at home.

The evidence of this healing was that she rose immediately and served them.

Jesuit Father Edward Mally [S.J.] wrote that this detail suggests the completeness of her cure and the service expected of  those who have been saved by Christ.[3]

 It also reminds us that our SERVICE would not necessarily gain for us a title or reward. As Jesus later told James and John – who also privately witnessed this out-of-the-way miracle – “whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.”  (Mark 10:43)

[__08__] This feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes reminds us to pray for those who are sick, who are suffering, those who are in any fashion “out of the way” …and to reach out to them, to adapt ourselves to their needs.

St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, observed that adaptation was necessary in his own service, to adjust the GPS coordinates of his ministry, both geographically and spiritually. 

Paul writes, “I have become all things to all”…. Or “all things to all mean”(1 Corinthians 9:22).

And, isn’t it true that in your care – or my care – of a sick (ill) relative, spouse, child, mother or father, friend, we are also called to be all things … to wear many lab coats or uniforms or hats at times, to be ..

  • Teacher
  • Friend
  • Counselor
  • “Parent”… especially the case when an adult child takes care of his or her parent.
 In other words, we are also called to go out of our way, and in our own sorrows and difficulties … and solitude

And to welcome the Lord and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary whenever and wherever they arrive.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.



[3] Jerome Biblical Commentary on Mark 1:29-39.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rest & Quiet in God's Presence (2015-02-01)

Sunday February 1, 2015
4th Sunday Ordinary Time

[__01__]    This Sunday, in the Gospel episode  in the synagogue, our Savior meets a man for whom REST and QUIET are absent, non-existent.

We read that there is a man possessed by an unclean, impure spirit.  A man whose life is out of control. The man himself has no power over the evil spirit.

And, we might – ALSO / in a sense / – admit that there exist evil spirits or idols over which we could be powerless.

(  In such a case, REST and QUIET in God’s presence can have a greater value than our own activity…. Or at least REST and QUIET in God’s presence, in cooperation with God’s activity and our efforts… )

[__02__]  The choice between what is “good” and what is “evil” may involve more than a consideration of what we see on the surface…

For example, while many of us –– might hope for (dream of) greater wealth …or at least a COMFORT granted by such wealth, this COMFORT could also be an idol that we worship.

In this regard, a person of simple means (without wealth) – even impoverished – might possess a personal freedom and contentment than a rich person. 

We read in the Book of Proverbs:

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”  (Proverbs 28:6)

Also…    “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”  (Proverbs 22:1)

For a very wealthy person could lose his or freedom in the activity – in the action – of accumulation.  Comfort is now the golden calf, all the silver and gold is melted into it.

Then, this idol become one’s faith and hope and love instead of God.

Thus, “wealth” itself is not bad. Even St. Paul wrote that it is … “the love of money which is the root of all evil….”,(1 Timothy 6:10) with emphasis on this love/attachment to material things.

[__03__]   Or, while some of us might dream of high – or higher – grades in school, in academics, is it not possible that that the HONOR and ACCLAIM associated with superior performance could also be an idol.

The trophy at every championship … is not revered, held tenderly, embraced… even kissed.

We could lose ourselves – perhaps lose our soul – in the activity.

And, in our pursuit of ACCLAIM or HONOR as an idol.

[__04__]     I just use these as examples.

Of course, by our regular prayer and thanksgiving to God, we can avoid such extremes, such excess, the sins of such pride.

[__05__]  And, in Psalm 95 and in the Gospel today, we are cautioned about the “weather conditions” and “spiritual conditions symptoms” that can lead to such idols, such unclean spirits in our lives.

[__05.01-Psalm 95__

Our psalm today reminds us of rest and quiet in God’s presence also

We might recall that Psalm 95 was composed as a remembrance of the Hebrew people’s long and difficult journey through the desert, their journey of many years from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Upon reaching the Promised Land…then, they could rest …of course, they also rested along the way. But, at times, they were a people of unrest, anxiety, spiritually and physically.  And, at times, they were not very quiet.

This also happens to us in our journeys and projects.

In fact, the Hebrew people manifested some fear of the dark and of quiet. Recall that once Moses had climbed – ascended – Mount Sinai and remained there for 40 days, they could not bear the silence, the absence of their leader.

We read in Exodus …. “when the people became anxious of Moses’ delay in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “come make us a god who will be our leader, as for the man Moses, who has brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.””


QUIET. Of the possessed man, we might understand that he lacked this quiet.

The evil spirit, the idol, in your life and my life does not favor quiet time.

C.S. Lewis reflected that the devil, the evil spirit, favors noise and spurns the quiet. And, isn’t it sometimes, true that we are pressured by peers or vulnerable to temptation when we are in the surround sound of activity or messaging or messages.

Jesus urged, first, to the evil spirit …. “Quiet” …or “Be quiet” when they had tried to speak to him, when they call his name.

[__06__]    In Psalm 95, the Hebrew people are also invited to bow down, to kneel before the Lord, to quiet, this brings peace.

Quiet is a beginning but not an end.

Jesus also asks for REST rather than tension.

Our muscles and bodies need this, so do our souls and minds.

We read in the Gospel also that the man was in physical convulsions

We are also called to rest, to stillness before God, as we read in Psalm 95, “harden not your heart”.

This is also a message about attentiveness, listening, peace and quiet, rest, so that we can welcome the Lord into our lives.    [__fin__]