Sunday, January 28, 2018

Intervention. Intuition. Intensity (2018-01-28, Sunday-04)

January 28, 2018 –  4th, (Year B)

●● Deuteronomy 18:15-20 ●● Psalm 95 ●● 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ●● Mark 1:21-28 ●●

[__01__]   What we read in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 1 is an an encounter of Jesus, our Savior, with a man who needs a Savior, a man possessed by an evil spirit.

          Immediately, to our contemporary brains,  informed intellects, and Hollywood-influenced personae, this may seem a tall tale or a trailer to a movie that our parents did not let us see [as teenagers, youth, children.]  Few of us have witnessed a person completely taken over – possessed – by an evil spirit.

          Yet, what Jesus is protecting this man from – and trying to protect us from and remind us…that evil is not planted and growing in our hearts, at least not permanently. The world is not divided into good people and evil people, with the latter trying to take revenge on us.

          Rather, any of us can be tempted – drawn in – by a struggle or by the temptation to do something wrong, something which is contrary to goodness, to good sense, to the way in which God made us.

[__02__]   What our Savior offers the people of His day, he also offers to us in the sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation, of Holy Communion, of Baptism, all the sacraments.

          That is, Jesus’ presence is experienced as an INTERVENTION … INTUITION … INTENSITY …

[__03__]     First – Jesus arrivers, intervenes. He may not intervene in the exact way in which he intervenes miraculously – with the exorcism of the possessed man of the Gospel.  He may intervene in more subtle ways. Nevertheless, he is arriving each day. 

          Do we recognize him?

          Sometimes, we only recognize our own desires.

          It is, for example, paradoxical that we could, at times, manifest indifference or laziness – toward a person or toward a project – when perhaps when perhaps we have not even really tried.  Our desire may be for immediate satisfaction.

          Do we accept “interventions” that help us along the way? This come from God, and also via relationships with other.

          Several years ago, in school, I recall that I was on my way to very poor academic performance. And, at the time, a friend – whom I admired and trusted – suggested that I go and see the professor for extra help, for tutoring.

          While this was totally logical – even obvious -- I can honestly say that I would never have taken this step this unless someone had suggested this. I was ready to throw in the towel after a few weeks.

          This was not the first time or last time someone that I needed this push. When we pray, meditate, we are asking not only for a favor – to INTERCEDE ..but also for God to INTERVENE and help us to take action.     

          Teachers intervene, parents intervene, friends intervene, doctors and nurses intervene, grown children intervene for their parents, spouses intervene, and God intervenes not only to give us answers but to help us face the questions.

          Jesus offers INTERVENTION.

 [__04__]     INTUITION. Jesus also offers his disciples, then and now, INTUITION.

          What we read in the Gospel is that the evil spirit recognizes – knows about the Messiah, stating: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!  (Mark 1:24)

          The evil spirit has an intuition – knowledge – of Jesus.

However, we are called to remember that the intuition of Jesus is greater than any other. And, he shares this intuition with us. Do we not have INTUITION, a quick a ready insight that we not only have to use when someone is trying to sell us something or scam us… ?

          INTUITION is also something we use to judge whether we can be kind even to the person who may be unkind to us, if we can return a blessing (as St. Paul says) even when we feel insulted or rejected. (Romans 12:14)

          There is Christian intuition.

        In my school study example, I seem to recall the tutoring did not only inform me of what I did not know but also to take responsibility for what I already knew.

          Both INTERVENTION and INTUITION  are good news for us.

[__05__]  INTENSITY.

          Jesus also offers us, as his followers, INTENSITY, a discipline to follow.

          And, when I say INTENSITY, I do not mean Level 14 on the elliptical machine at the gym or 95 mph on I-95.

          Intensity is not the same as TENSION, ANXIETY, or STRESS.

          Tom Brady and the New England Patriots know this, as do their Philadelphia Eagle opponents. They are not necessarily tense about playing in the Super Bowl.      

          In order to gain INTENSITY and FOCUS, we gather together, to pray, we come before God in silence also.

          We may repeat ourselves – and repetition is part of our lives of repentance and forgiveness, as we admit our need for God for his love, his healing, his intensity so that we can rest and be healed in his presence, through his body and blood and his care for our body and soul. [__fin__]

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Nothing But Net (2018-01-21, Sunday-03)

January 21, 2018 –  3rd  Sunday, (Year B)

●● Jonah 3:1-5, 10 ●● Psalm 25 ●● 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 ●● Mark 1:14-20 ●●

[__01__]   In this Gospel, Jesus is calling his disciples and speaking to them about the net, and putting down their nets. They are fishermen.
          Perhaps, you have not been involved – on fishing boats on a lake or ocean – setting up a fishing net. But, there is a certain type of net or network with which we concern ourselves.
          That is, the communications network – or net / internet – in our homes and places of business becomes an important topic of conversation.
          For example, there are many devices and routers and cables. We place them strategically for optimal transmission and reception. Download speeds, upload speeds, et cetera, et cetera.
          And, then with this net we have to decide where we can display (or hide) the blinking devices. Do you want that thing in the living room? Outside your room? On top of the refrigerator.
          What is going to help us communicate and get the signal within the building/house, to each other and to others?
          Where is the net?
          How do we set up the net?
[__02__]    Jesus is speaking about a new net for his disciples, not a net for fishing, but a new net or network a connection among themselves as disciples and a network to new people to whom they are called to preach.
          Jesus also interrupts them at their regular place of work, of business.
          Sometimes, an interruption to us to see people – even loved ones – out of context.
          Consider those times when your parents – or a younger sibling – or a family member – appeared in your life or in the middle of your day unexpectedly.
          Maybe, your mother showed up at school when you were not expecting her, or a sibling showed up when you were hanging out with your friends.
          This is a network disruption but also a reminder of our connection to others.

[__03__]     Jesus interrupts Peter, Andrew, James and John at their place of work.
          He also interrupts us at our place of work if we are open to his presence.
          He might be speaking to us through a person across the desk from us, across the garage, kitchen, laboratory, classroom, through a person who desires our friendship, a person who desires our forgiveness.
          Forgiveness – whether we are asking for forgiveness or trying to forgive someone else – is often (always?) an interruption of our regularly programmed activity, and disruption in the network.

[__04__]     Jesus is setting up a network and present to us in our network of relationships.
          Sometimes, he arrives at what we think are inconvenient times, asking us to put aside our nets and to follow him, each day.
[__05__]  He is also asking us to do this with prohibitions in our lives, to things that we are called to say NO to.
          When we encounter a limit, a boundary in our lives, we are called to consider where is the YES, the Good News even in what I might experience as a prohibition.
          This past Friday, there was the March for Life, national Pro-Life event in Washington DC which is often – rationally or legally – associated only with something that we cannot do or should not do.
          Our Catholic ethic and spirit is reminding us not only about the NO, but also about the YES. That we are saying YES to life starting at conception and the nurturing of life at all stages.
          An analogy – is the ideal of marriage, the sacrament of matrimony. Consider that when a man and woman get married, each one is saying YES to the other person’s happiness and to their salvation.
          That is, the other person’s happiness is equally important to my own happiness.  Now, of course, we do not live this perfectly – 100% - every single day. However, it is our ideal, isn’t it?
And, is it not our hope that the other person thinks that my happiness is as is important to his own or her own? 
          That’s a pro-life ethic, to put the other person first. And, to say life is to be nurtured – at all stages – means that we are putting the other person’s life is equally important as my own life.

[__06__]   Yes, God appears – Christ appears – sometimes out of context and at times that we are not expecting, asking us to put aside our nets, to follow him.
          Coming to Mass on Sunday morning is a time to put aside our nets but we also remember that God comes to us at all times and places, even when we are not in church. And, sometimes to say NO to something so that we can say YES to his presence and yes to faith, hope and love in our lives.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

"What are you looking for?" (2018-01-14)

January 14, 2018 –  2nd, (Year B)

●● 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19 ●● Psalm 40 ●● 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20  ●● John 1:35-42 ●●

[__01__]  At the beginning of this year of 2018, in chapter 1 of the Gospel of John, a question is introduced, by Jesus our Savior, to interested parties, inquiring minds and disciples: “what are you looking for?”  (John 1:38)
          Direct, simple, and a logical place to start. “What are you looking for?
[__02__] Responding to this question on a search engine – or SIRI, Google, we receive ►choices,  ► maps ►directions  ► reviews by customers. ► emoji, stars … et cetera, et cetera.
          With such electronic guidance, we can gather information – sometimes an overwhelming amount of information – before making a decision.
[__03__]  In the Book of Samuel, we read about a beginning, an initiation.  This book is – partly – the autobiography of Samuel. How did he come to be a prophet?
          Recently, I read this definition of an autobiography, by the Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz. Of course, he would define this with a legal metaphor, as an attorney.  Professor Dershowitz writes that an autobiographer’s task is similar to that of a witness on the witness stand:  tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
[__04__] God – as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is asking us to tell the truth. And, Samuel at this moment admits that he does not know – but wants to know – who is calling him.        
Samuel – the first of all the prophets to the kings of Israel is young at the time prophet  -- he knows not why or by whom he is being awoken in the middle of the night.
          So, he goes to his mentor, Eli. Samuel thinks Eli is messaging him or alerting him.
[__05__] What are you looking for ? I can think of instances where – in a moment of perplexity or uncertainty – I have sought out the answer or the approval of someone.
          Sometimes, we even do this with our loved ones, our parents, a spouse, a relative.
          What am I looking for? Sometimes, it is your approval … regardless of what the truth of “right” course of action might be.
[__06__]  What are you looking for?  What Samuel seeks, first, is Eli’s direction, guidance. And, truly we often start – or have to start  - with the direction or guidance of a teacher, of a colleague, of a friend, of “my mother” … “my mother.”
          Samuel starts with his mentor. But, he does not end there.
Eli is sending him to God.
          And, we are called to do the same – to bring before God what we think is important, to be in conversation and relationship with Him each day.
[__07__]  Several years ago, I traveled to Los Angeles to visit my brother. I was not staying at the Hotel California but at their home. I was trying to enjoy myself, enjoy them, while also respecting their family schedule. We did not spend every waking moment together. I had a rental car.
          One afternoon, I returned home to tell them that I went for a walk near the Angeles National Forest, where I had been, what I had seen. And, while relating this, I was asked, “You will really do anything to get away from, won’t you?”
[__08__] What are you looking for? Jesus is asking us to tell the truth.
          I think my brother and his family were  also asking for the truth … but in this situation I do what many of us do when we are trying to avoid …I smiled. That was honest, sort of.  I was concerned that my answer might  be recorded for quality purposes.
          Obviously they were looking for me to spend time with them. God is also seeking – and searching for you and for me, not only to gather data on our whereabouts, but to know our hearts. And, he asks us to visit, to come and see.
[__09__] What are you looking for?
          If we are looking for God, then we are also looking for love, for God is love.
          John the Baptist teaches us that true love – in  the terms of Jesus – is a gift, a gift to be shared, it involves sacrifice, and may invite us to change our ways.
          Was this what I was looking for ? Perhaps, it was not my first search criteria…what I first typed into the phone.
          John the Baptist reminds us to put this love first, to behold the Lamb of God, WHO we are looking for.   [__fin__]

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Epiphany & The Eclipse (2018-01-07)

7 January 2018,  EPIPHANY / THREE KINGS

●● Isaiah 60:1-6  ●● Psalm 72  ●●  Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6  ●● + Matthew 2:1-12 ●● 

[_01_]     On this feast of the Epiphany of the 3 Kings, we read about the Magi – or the 3 Kings – coming from the East. And, they are following a star.
          They have left their own country and comfort zone to follow and see the child, Jesus, in Bethlehem.

[_02__]     Last year, there was big news about following – seeking – something – in the sky, in the heavens. Astronomically. Scientifically.
          On August 21, 2017, we had the solar eclipse. Many people went out to see something in the sky. They even went to follow a path – the so-called “path of totality” or path of total darkness.
It was visible from west coast / Oregon to east coast / South Carolina.
Why did we go out to see that – to see that solar eclipse?

 [_03_]      The ECLIPSE invited many individuals – scientists and non-scientists- to see things in the darkness that we cannot see in the bright light.
          In other words, when the moon passes in front of the sun – creating a shadow – we get a certain view that we cannot get when the sun is shining 100% exposed at us.
          Why did the Magi come to Bethlehem?

[_03.01_]            They come to get a view of the light – the light of God that is not otherwise visible.
          God appears in the light and appears as a small child to us.
          Isn’t it true that children bring us joy and information and revelation about ourselves and about God’s love for us?
          Children demonstrate to us the existence of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.  Of unconditionally loving another person.
          Children appreciate this unconditional love.
          Also, children give unconditional love in a way that we, sometimes, forget how to do.
          This is the star, the star of God’s love coming to us.

[_03.02_]     Children demonstrate to us the importance of forgiveness.
          Children also demonstrate a divine quality that we – as adults – find difficulty. That is – forgiving and forgetting. Or, forgiving and letting go.
          A child cannot only be forgiving but also can, in their way, forget what happened.
          In this regard, children resemble God because God is able to forgives our sins and forgets our sins as well.

[_03.03_]      So, children in their slightly small stature – and situation – represent the greatness, the power, the vastness of God’s love to us.
          They represent to us God in slow motion, we could say.
          And, the eclipse was a similar phenomenon for the NASA scientists and every physicist and person who went to see the darkness on August 21, 2017.
          They went out to see the SUN in slow motion, the brightness of the SUN in a way that is not otherwise visible.
          And, it does not happen very often.
          (The ECLIPSE was big news because such an event is not usually visible in North America or the U.S.– the next such eclipse is April 8, 2024. Save the date.)
          And, the eclipse requires that we have special vision, special eye-protection, glasses.
          Remember you and I could look up at the eclipse with any glasses or ordinary UVA / UVB sunglasses.
          It helped if you were a welder or a construction worker. They had the glasses already.
          But, you needed special glasses. And, remember there were people on August 17, 18, 19, 20 of last year running around …paying high prices for the glasses at the last minute.
It helped then if you were prepared, ahead of time …with the vision. The Magi – the 3 Kings, 3 Wise Men were prepared ahead of time with this special vision.
This special vision is not on their heads but in their hearts, a desire within to discover God – in the person of a child.
And, we are called to see and discover in Jesus as the newborn Messiah – and as it is manifested to us in the children in our lives.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Making Peace (2018-01-01, Solemnity of Mary Mother of God)

1 January 2018,  Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

●● Numbers 6:22-27  ●● Psalm 67  ●●  Galatians 4:4-7  ●● + Luke 2:16-21 ●● 

Title:  Peace and  Presence

[_01_]     We read from the Book of Numbers this blessing:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Numbers 6:24-26)
A blessing of peace.
What is the definition of peace?
Peace could be the absence of conflict.
Peace – however – is not really an ABSENCE or a LACK ..but a PRESENCE.
It is the presence of Christ whom we celebrate.
And, it is our own presence in and through Christ according to his word.

Peace is a presence.
Practically, PEACE could be the PRESENCE of this hymnal – with the reading from Numbers -- (my own – right here) so that I did not have to memorize all of Numbers 6:24-26.
On a practical level – at Port Authority or Penn Station – we have peace when we have information.  If we know, for example, our train or bus is late, we are more peaceful / tranquil if we know how late or for what reason.

[_02_]      However, Jesus wishes to raise the bar – raise the standard for us – to remind us that peace is something we can have as a stable, permanent gift in our lives.  And that peace is not simply the absence of conflict or the status quo. Peace can exist even with change and conflict.
          In the Beatitudes, our Lord teaches – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  (Matthew 5:__)
          We are called to make peace, not simply to keep peace.

[_03_]        And, I’d like to make this connection between the works of mercy and peace. That is, being present– and living – the works of mercy bring peace.
          Materially, we see this in the charitable giving.  Feeding the hungry, we make peace.  Visiting the sick, we make peace. Giving to someone in need, we make peace physically, materially. This is our “present” and “presence” and “gift.”
[_04_]      In a spiritual sense, we are also called to be peacemakers.
          The spiritual works of mercy call us to give and to receive wisdom and knowledge.
          Isn’t it true, in a fundamental way, that we promote peace by sharing knowledge.
          On an interpersonal level, the same is true.  We promote peace when we disclose and share ourselves with others.  That is we are present to the other. This does not mean we have to share every detail of our background, but that we share and instruct others with some generosity.
          We do this very naturally and easily in the early stages of a relationship, especially in a falling-in-love type of relationship. We tell the other person about ourselves and this promotes peace and reassurance. And, we want to be present to the other. Whatever faults or failings there are between 2 people are compensated by their desire to be present – and to know – the other.
          Sometimes, however, as time goes on we assume there is nothing more to learn or we become indifferent and it is much more difficult to resolve conflicts. We are less “present”.
          We may even think it is normal to live in a state of quasi-armed resistance against certain people – even loved ones.  

          Another practical example – or the contrary case.   A friend of mine told me how he used to work – early in his career – and how this caused frustration.  In fact, he was not fully present.
          In fact, he came to work every day, worked diligently, but he generally did not keep his boss well informed about his progress.
          When he would go to meet his boss, he would not make it easy for the boss to gain information.
          So, his boss said to him frequently at meetings– you know, working with you is like playing “Where’s Waldo?” You remember “Where’s Waldo?”
          “The objective of each Where's Waldo? book is simple enough: comb through the crowds of people to find Waldo, who's always decked out in his trademark red and white striped sweater and glasses.
          And, rather than this young man telling his boss straight-up what was happening, he forced his boss to “find” Waldo or fish for the information.
          Sometimes, we play Where’s Waldo? by our partial presence to each other.

[_05_]     Consider the example of our Blessed Mother on this Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
          Certainly, she has much joy, but also much to be concerned about. So much is unsettled and uncertain.
          Yet, amid this , she is able to be present to her son, to her husband …and even to the visiting shepherds whom she does not really  know.

          Mary – in her conversation with the angel at the Annunciation even found herself in some conflict.
          “How can this be…?”

 [_07_] In other words, Mary – and later Jesus -- gives us an example of PEACEMAKING in the middle of conflict.
          Mary gives us an example of the simple question which is sometimes the hardest one to formulate.
          Simplicity – in our dialogue and conversation and question - followed by silence helps to promote peace.
          So, that we can be a blessing of peace, so that we can go in peace.