Monday, January 25, 2016

Body Language (2016-01-24)

SUNDAY 24 JANUARY 2016, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

 •Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 • Psalm 19 • 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 • Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21 •

[__01__]     Years ago, I was about 10 years old at the time, I recall that my family and I went to see my father’s brother – my uncle play – in a football game for his team in the Bronx.

We had to wait for some time at the end of game for him to appear and come over to us. I recall that we were standing about 100 yards away, waiting for him.  I thought that we would have to wait for him to be very close to us so that we could see his face or uniform up close, a name or number.

However, from a distance my father observed that he could recognize my uncle by his walk, by his gait, by the way he was walking.

As a young person, this made a big impression on me that a person could be recognized – and clearly identified – by one’s posture or walk.

We could not see his face, we could not hear his voice. We could not see his uniform. But a distance, we could see him walking.

Body language.

[__02__]      Have you and I not experienced – or identified – a person by his or footsteps on the staircase. We know the person by his or body language, even if the person were out of sight.

[__03__]     I reflect on this theme, based on the 2nd reading, from the 12th chapter of the 1st letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Paul writes, communicates, with the language and images of the human person, of you and of me.

Now the body is not a single part, but many.  If a foot should say,  “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,”  it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?   If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

[__04__]     St. Paul writes in this way so that there may be no division in the body. Well, naturally and scientifically, we do not want division or pain or illness, whether in the head or the toe, the hand or the foot.

If one member (one part of the body) were to suffer, then all the members would suffer with it.

Doctors, nurses, technicians and the many professionals go to school, receive training, so that they can interpret our body language and bring healing and maintain health.

Certainly, any one of these professionals – any one of these doctors might interrupt us or correct us if we try to self-diagnose or to understand one part of the body without reference to the whole organism, organic structure, anatomy and physiology.

Where there is a person, there is also an indivisible structure. By the way, we would also say that this indivisibility, this indissolubility is not only PHYSICAL. Rather, we say that we also believe in  connection between our SOULS and our BODIES. This is because we believe God created and gave both to us.

[__04.01__]     I saw once saw a cartoon in a magazine [The New Yorker] in which a window washer climbs through the open glass into the empty office of a physician/doctor.  You can see the diplomas, medical school, residency and others, hanging on the wall. The doctor is out. The phone is ringing. There is no voice mail. The window washer, trying to be helpful, picks up the ringing phone and says, “Take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning.”

So, he can speak the body language but he does not really know what he is saying. He has not seen the patient. By the way, he’s not a doctor.

 [*** P A U S E ***]

[__05__]    For my father to recognize his brother at a distance – by posture or by his walk – he of course had fulfilled the prerequisite of seeing him up close for many years. He knew him well.

[__06__]    PRAYER. PETITIONS.

When I come before God with a particular petition, I often focus on one particular part, one particular need. Perhaps you do the same.

We do the same with the doctor. Hey, doc, my arm is bothering me. To the dentist or oral surgeon, my tooth hurt. Soon, we are being asked more general questions about our diet, our sleep patterns, our blood pressure, stress.

We had hoped this would be solved in a 15-minute appointment or in 6-8 weeks of treatment and recovery. And I can be back in action before snow the melts.

What is true of the body may be true of the spirit.

[__07__]   We ask God for help with a difficult person or a difficult decision. However, the Lord does not simply want us to change or solve this relationship or this person.

God wants us to change ourselves …and perhaps, our whole outlook.

The Lord also believes that we can do this.

Through the language of this body and blood in the Holy Eucharist, we are told that he wants to nourish us and unite us to himself.

Through the body language of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, he comes to heal us not only of one sin but all of our sins so that we can walk with him.

And, in this sacrament of the confession of our sins, we realize that he has mercy on us because he sees us and has seen us – as no one else has – that he knows our hearts – for God looks into the heart.

He also knows what we need before we ask.

And he sees us from a distance and hopes that we would draw closer to him each day.  [__fin__]

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Royal Weddings (2016-01-17)

"Royal Weddings", 2nd Sunday of Year C,  January 17, 2016

Title: “Royal Weddings”

[__01__]     Everyone enjoys a good wedding reception, whether at Cana or the Wilshire Grand …. Cana or the Pleasantdale Chateau.

And, at the best  wedding receptions, we feel not only comfortable to be among friends but joyful to be illuminated by the spotlight and flashbulbs of the day.   In this regard, even the quote-unquote “simplest” wedding is a moment of both joy and luxury.

In this regard, every wedding is a ROYAL WEDDING, because every nuptial and every Sacrament of Matrimony in the Church unites both the bride and the groom with Jesus Christ, King.

 [__02__]     As they form a new union, they are also sharing in the royalty, the royal identity of the  Gospel.

Alert the media.

With or without a carriage and horses, every wedding is a royal wedding, one which unites the  bride and bridegroom, their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers in one ROYAL FAMILY.

[__03__]    Thus, no wedding, certainly not a royal wedding should run out  of wine or run out of  anything.

The shortage of  wine, however, is particularly perilous because this drought of Chardonnay/Cabernet signals an end to the toasts, to the meal.

What impression would this  leave upon the guests?

[__04__]    Once upon  a time.... I attended my college roommate’s wedding in New York, an affair which certainly broke all the rules for how to control costs.

In fact, a different wine was served with every course.

The soup had a vintage; the salad had its own vintage; the entrée; the dessert .

Did they save the best until last?

I was not enough of a connoisseur to discern the gradations up or down in the nose, the body, the legs or the other personifying terms that wine critics use as though the wine could speak for itself or jump off the table.

However, based on the New York address of the hotel, the band, this was an affair with a high price tag. Certainly, the bride and groom attempted to give their very best – and their parents’ very best savings – in the  cuisine and  atmosphere enjoyed by the guests.

Royalty and royal weddings make impressions, years later.  That wedding was in 1995.

Every wedding is a royal  wedding.

[__04.01__]     This wedding at Cana is a royal wedding because of the gift bestowed upon the guests. The best wine was saved until the last,  until the end.

And, knowing ourselves  that this wine represents the sacrifice of
Christ’s body and blood, the end of his earthly life and the beginning of eternal life, we also see that  Christ also saved the best for  last. 

[__05__]   Is this not the message of the Gospel of  Matrimony, of devotion, of dedication to one’s spouse, to one’s family?

Every wedding – however imperfect – is a royal  wedding for the bride and groom are united in Jesus Christ the King.

Every family is a royal family, for we are also united to God the Father of the King, His Son and to his Advocate for us, the Holy Spirit.

In this regard, by professing our faith, living our faith, we are called to sacrifice, to be  Temples and Palaces of the Holy Spirit and also to be ambassadors of God’s mercy.

In this regard, we are in his dwelling place always. And, as we read in  Psalm 84, “one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)

[__06__]   Every family is a royal family, and as we see in Buckingham Palace and
…. As we see  in  London or  Tokyo, one can always marry into a  royal family…but we cannot marry out.

By the sacramental life of the Church,  we remain part of God’s wedding celebration.

[__07__]   Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar/retreat for pastors in Baltimore, January 4th through  the  8th at St. Mary’s Seminary in  Baltimore.

This program was designed for priests and pastors to learn about the role we play not only in the visibility of administration but also in the identity of our leadership. This invites us also to faith and confidence in  God.

We also have to walk by faith and not by sight, as St. Paul writes. (2 Corinthians 5:7).

One impression made upon me was the reminder of ROYALTY.

That is, all  of  us are part of the  royal family of faith. In the traditional teaching of the Church, we say this because  we are the  Body of Christ and because Jesus comes to as PRIEST, as PROPHET, and as KING.

Does this mean that I am your  king?  Did I miss something  in my years  of study at  the seminary? Or …in my first assignment here with Monsignor Joe Petrillo, did he mention this?

What does it  mean to be a KING and to imitate Christ as a Catholic?

Coincidentally, the speaker in this particular session was Father Paul  Holmes who also grew up in our parish of Lourdes and was ordained a priest in 1981 at this altar.

What Father Paul Holmes was  trying to communicate  was that ROYALTY, KINGSHIP is not about
·        Possession
·        Power
·        Palaces
·        Taxation
·        Horse-drawn carriages

What a king and royal person and Christian and priest and religious sister or brother can do is carry out God’s mercy.

Kings are asked to be merciful, are they not?   To be  a king, to imitate Christ, is to be merciful.

Mercy does not mean that we always tell everyone what they want to hear or give everyone what they want to experience.

Kings do not worry about popularity.

Mercy does not mean that we have all the answers immediately.

Kings are asked to see the big picture.

However, kings are asked to recognize that there may be a need… a genuine need.

The couple at Cana had  no wine. Their volume was at ZERO milliliters, ounces, gallons. “They have no wine.”   Mercy means, at times, that we strive to create something  out of nothing.

To forgive  another  person who has  hurt us… we create something by our love out of nothing.

To admit our fault our sins in humility and to grow and be reconciled, we permit the Holy Spirit to create something  out of our brokenness.

Jesus  our Savior creates wine from water, wine from nothing.

And, we  - as members of his royal  family – are we not also called to forgive, to be generous, to admit our faults and frailty and receive what  he has poured out – his Body and Blood in Holy Communion.   This is what kings do. What we can do. We save the best for last, the best wine until now. 

“Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,and his disciples began to believe in him.”   (John 2:11)       [__fin__]

Baptism of the Lord (2016-01-10)

[__01__]   In the Gospel of this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jesus our Savior goes to the Jordan River to be baptized. And, we are invited to accept this sacrament, this sacramental encounter with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as well.

Baptism is the beginning of our relationship with Christ. In a very traditional ritual sense, one’s whole person – one’s whole body – is submerged, immersed, plunged in water, baptized in the water.

However, what we see more commonly is water is poured over one’s head or forehead. And, isn’t it true that when our heads are covered in water somehow rained on, or immersed, then we also feel submerged. We perceive the immersion.

Baptism is immersion.

[__02__]    Jesus our Savior teaches us by immersion, not only in the water but away from the  water.

He wants us to be immersed – committed – as his disciples, saying,

“Take up your cross and follow me.”

This is the Good News of immersion.

When the 12-year old youth and boy Jesus says to Mary and Joseph in the Temple, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house, about my Father’s business?”, Jesus was speaking about the Good News of immersion, immersion in God’s word at the Temple

  [__03__]   When John the Baptist says,

I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16 ??)

…John the Baptist is instructing us that the holy water of Jesus is a deeper immersion.

Yes, the water of John’s baptism also effected the forgivness of sins. Don’t get me wrong, the forgivness of sins and God’s mercy is central to our faith. Pope Francis himself emphasizes this by declaring 2015-2016 to be a Year of Mercy.

[__04__]    However, to understand the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism, we want to go beyond the surface of the water?

We want to below the surface of the water. This, at times, seems dangerous.

After all, what do we learn in our first lessons at the water, in a river, at a lake, at the ocean or in the backyard?

We learned to keep our heads above water or not to spend too much time underwater. We also heed and hear the whistle of the lifeguard – or grown-up  - telling us to stay in the shallow water. Don’t go out too far.

These are the first lessons.

And, if I dare make this comparison of “water level” and “swimming lessons” and the religious significance, these are also the first lessons of the Baptism of John.

That is, being baptized by John, we enter the water, but we do not stay there too long. Is the water to be trusted? Not so much. There could be a dangerous riptide or current.

Even the disciples of our Savior were only starting to understand that they were called not simply to survive above the water.

[__05__]      Was this not, e.g., the experience of Peter the Apostle?

Peter sees Jesus walk on the water and enthusiastically wants to do /try the same.

But, a few moments later, when he took his eyes off of Christ, he was drowning in the waves. He probably knew how to swim – he was fisherman – but the water was too deep and waves too high in that place and that time.  To survive, Peter had to be pulled from the water.

[__06__]    The Baptism of Christ teaches us not only about survival above the waves  - whether surfing or treading water – but also about our call to be submerged / immersed in God’s grace.

In baptism – and in all the sacraments – we believe that we are encouraged by experiences of death and resurrection.

Or, by immersion in the water and then rising again.

To accept Christ in Baptism, in Holy Eucharist, in Confirmation, we are also submerged in his death.  We die with Christ.

Have we not, at times, stood up for a principle, done the right thing under difficult circumstances, or perhaps simply avoided doing what was convenient or easy?

To do so, and to recognize God’s call, we are also immersed … and immersed so that we can learn his language, his ways and hear the words of the Holy Spirit, the words that Jesus is God’s beloved son and that he comes to save us from our sins that we can die and rise with him each day.

Epiphany (2016-01-03)

Epiphany 3 January 2016

[__01__]   Can an object which is far away help us to locate something in the here and the now?

The Good News of the   Gospel journey of the 3 Kings, the Magi is that YES … an object which is far away help us to locate something in the here and the now.

[__02__]   The Star of Bethlehem is far away, the star is distant. In the measurement of planet, solar systems, galaxies, we would imagine the star is billions and billions of miles – light years – away. The distances are vast, much greater than those on earth.

Yet, we use these faraway objects for perspective and navigation here on earth.
The moon is over 200,000 miles away but is a necessary reference point and illumination. When the sky is clear, we can really see where we are at night.
And, of course, before there were rockets and rocket scientists, and Google-Earth, the only G.P.S. we had was a star or a constellation, or a planet.

A star, though very far away, helps us locate something or someone in the here and the now.

 [__03__]  Saint Leo the Great, in a sermon about the Epiphany writes that the star – the Star of David, the Star of Bethlehem -  is a servant to us and to the Magi, to the 3 Kings.

[__04__]    Some stars – whether in the movies of Hollywood or the endzones of MetLife Stadium or the court of Madison Square Garden – want only to show themselves. Such stars wish to boat, to brag to call attention.

This star – the Star of David, the Star of Bethlehem – wants to put Jesus Christ first on stage, in the center.

[__05__]     This star attracts other celebrities, dignitaries, diplomats. The appearance and consultation fo the Magi, the 3 Kings, who also  appear at Bethlehem without bodyguards and cameras …or bodyguards with body cameras.

They appear as humble servants themselves. What we remember better than their names are the gifts they leave behind – the gold, frankincense, myrrh.

The 3 Kings are stars in their own right, yet they put the spotlight on our Savior by their gifts.
[__06__]    Can an object which is far away help us locate something in the here and the now?

In practical ways, we believe and practice this.

For example, we may observe that the intelligence or capabilities of our children – of our loved ones may be far away..may require years to unfold and develop.

On the other hand, we may also care for a loved one with whom does not have same communication or cognition skills as before.

In both cases, we love and speak to our children – our loved ones…. In full sentences, in words they may not be able to repeat yet.

We speak to them, bringing them our gifts.

[__07__]    The star of Bethlehem reminds  us to turn our attention forward, because our calling is to show Christ to others and to find him always ahead of  us.

The star reminds us that he Lord does show himself to us in natura ways, by natural means, by visible means.

We may not, in fact, see him on a screen or in a dream … or in a star, comet, or the sky.

Nevertheless, we are made aware of God’s wisdom whenever we turn off the GPS of our own interpretations to see the truth of a situation.

[__08__] This is true whether the situation is one of prosperity/happiness or difficulty / sorrow.

In both cases, we may imagine that what has happened is entirely our responsibility, or our doing.

But, in a time of success or prosperity, we are called to follow this star – this light of Christ – to consider how your success – my success – can be a gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh to our Savior. 

[__09__]   And, in a time of sorrow, difficulty, even failure, we are called to remember that the Lord does not leave us alone, though he may wish to meet us in peace and quiet – when we are alone – and so that he can speak to us and remind us that there are stars, lights, we have not yet discovered in the universe.

There are plans which God has not yet made known to us but will make known for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, stars which God is still revealing so that we can draw closer to him in the here and the now, in the present moment.  [__fin__]

Intervention / Solemnity Mary Mother of God (2016-01-01)

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

1 January 2016

[__01__]   Intervention and intercession are important, from our mothers.
On this Solemnity or Mary, the Mother of God, we recall that Mary is our intercessor before our Savior and before God.

For this reason, we are called to pray the Hail Mary, to pray the Rosary, to reflect on the mysteries of the Rosary and the life of Christ, to recall that our mother, our Blessed Mother is also praying to protect us, just as our own mothers are.

Our own mothers and grandmothers protect us both by what they say and what they do not say.  An important message of the Gospel today is the Good News of pondering, of reflection, of meditation.

[__02__]  In our family, one of my grandmothers is recalled very clearly for her interventions and her intercessions. She behaved in a way that many of us would consider completely natural.

That is, you know where you stood with Frances. And, while my grandmother loved all of us, her grandchildren, she was also one to dare to let her opinions be heard by – and be trickled down to  - the younger generation.

Frances (… we are not talking about Pope Francis …) but she also dared to speak her mind.   And, she even dared to speak her mind about the behavior – the lack of behavior – of her grandchildren.

This one is going to be trouble!    I was told that there were certain grandchildren – though they may have been first-round draft picks – she did not want them on her team.   That is, she did not want to babysit them for an extended period of time.

I believe I made the cut.

[__03__]  Mothers have a sense, an intuition about their families, about their children and, often, mothers have an intuition about children in other families.
It was, of course, risky for my grandmother  - God rest her soul – to express this opinion.   It was not always welcome.

It is a high bar, a high standard, for us to know exactly when to speak and when to be silent in this regard.

[__04__]   Have I also not failed – been at fault – when I have said something …when I could have remained quiet?

[__05__]   The Blessed Virgin Mary possesses the beautiful virtue of archiving, preserving … spiritually …what is important about the Holy Family, about Jesus and Joseph.

Mary is doing this in the following way, as we read in Luke, Chapter 2:

  • ·        Receiving visitors

  • ·        Hearing what people – the shepherds, angels …townspeople of Bethlehem have to say about Jesus

  • ·        She not only hears but remembers – saves – what people say.
  • ·        Mary keeps all these words.   
  • Mary ponders them in her heart

[__06__]   Mary, as our Blessed Mother, was reflecting, praying, pondering the current events of Bethlehem, and the events that preceded and followed.
Mary was keeping these things, pondering them in her heart.

[__07__]   Mary was also trusting …surrendering.  In this way, “surrender” was not a retreat from an enemy or adversary ..but a willingness to let the actions of another either complement her actions…or, in some cases, …. Just do the work.

“Mary ponders these words in her heart.”

To be a mother, father, caregiver, grandparent, guardian, this calls us to this same trust, surrender and to – ALERTNESS, REFLECTION, PRAYER.

To be a mother, father, caregiver, grandparent, guardian, this calls us to consider that we do not have to – nor do we wish to – publish everything – or react to everything – we may hear.

Rather, ponder, pray.  Keep these things in your heart.

[__08__]  Not every project – or every success – depends completely on me.

The coach, the teacher, the priest, the parent, the religious brother or sister… we are all supposed to know this.

Sometimes, it takes a while. St Augustine wrote in The Confessions,  “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient ever new.”  […repeat…]

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient ever new.” 

In this autobiography, Augustine is expressing something I would like to write in my own autobiography but I often delete it, misspell it or write it in an exceedingly small font…

That is …”Late have I loved you… late ..only lately have I realized that I do not control the universe.”   

That I do not control what other people say, think, feel.

And, that even as a parent – you are responsible for nurturing, protecting, sheltering, feeding, clothing. Nevertheless, pondering and praying are also important.

Jesus was the Savior of the World, with his own identity even before Mary’s intervention or intercession.

Our children learn things – or come to realizations – and successes and failures – also through God’s power, not our own oversight or imposition.

We ponder these things in our heart.

[__09__]  Then, we speak.

My grandmother is also remembered for her shrewdness and her interest in the best possible deal and her avoidance of being cheated. She would also intervene for others.

In the early 1970’s when my parents were buying their first house in New Jersey, moving here from the Bronx, my grandmother came along for the ride and after seeing the house, told the real estate … “can’t you give these kinds a deal… can’t you cut the price.”

Well, my parents did buy the house. I’m not aware that there was any reduction in the sale price or interest rate on the loan.

Yet, my grandmother was the one daring to speak up …having pondered – I suppose – the square footage, the property size, the quality of the neighborhood and her own hopes for her family.
She also realized that she could not make it happen herself… but she could not make an appeal for someone else.

[__10__]   Mary , our Blessed Mother, also makes an appeal for someone else…yes, she makes an appeal for us before God.

And, she makes an appeal by allowing God to act, not simply by accepting responsibilities to be performed but also by acknowledging that it is not her word – or words – that matter.

Rather, it is God’s word being published – and saved – and pondered – that we too are saved by the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem.   [__fin__]