This weekend, we honor our mothers. These women are too often the unsung heroes of our communities. Whether they have careers outside the home or their career is the home, they provide the backbone of the formation of our children. Of course, we know that motherhood begins with conception, and from that first moment, the bond between mother and child is formed. For the first 9 months, and perhaps for some time after birth, the mother and child are inseparable. As the child grows and matures, it is more often than not the mother who comforts and nourishes the children. Their role might too easily be taken for granted, overlooked, or even minimized. With that understanding, we as children need to show respect to our mothers more than just one day (and equal for our fathers). Perhaps, this Mother’s Day, we take special note of the hidden ways our mothers have given of themselves, and pledge our love and respect at a deeper level. As a Catholic, however, I cannot help but take this inclination to honor mothers a little further. Not only do we honor mothers this weekend, but we also honor the Blessed Mother Mary this month of May. After all, the first mention of Mary in the scriptures is the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel reveals God’s plan to her, the plan to be the mother of His Son. God the Father chose her, really created her, for this moment. We next hear of Mary taking Jesus in her womb to visit Elizabeth, whose own unborn son recognizes his unborn Savior. These two mothers rejoice in their good fortune: one to be a mother in her old age, her shamed barrenness lifted; the other, the mother of the hope of all for salvation. They rejoice in their mutual maternity. Two millennia later, Mary remains a mother who seeks to introduce her Divine Son to all. We do not worship her, but we do honor her for her role in salvation. We ask her aid, not as a God, but as a mother who had such an intimate union with the Incarnate Word of God, so intimate that she gave Him flesh, clothed Him, feed Him, comforted Him. As a mother, she did so much of our Savior and Lord. To disregard her role in God’s plan is to minimize her Son. Put positively, to honor Mary is to honor her Son, and to understand her role is to worship God! Even Jesus, as a Jew, honored and obeyed her! Mary longs, like a good mother, to help us understand her Son, to know Him and to love Him. All of us, Catholic or Protestant, have recourse to her as a mother who is willing to come to our aid. Like Elizabeth, let us cry out “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me!”
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Despite the difficult weather patterns we have experienced, Spring is here. I love seeing the lawns green up, and even the yellow of the dandelions and daffodils provide a much-needed contrast to the white and gray hues of winter. The trees bud forth in glorious array, and the birds are chirpily building their nests and laying eggs. Even the children, not so long ago bundled-up to avoid the dread cold now are running free and un-encumbered.
What is not to love about Spring? Nothing, except my now distant memories of dreadful consigned service to household tasks called “Spring-cleaning”. As children, my brother and sisters and I were assigned our tasks to washing walls and floors, cleaning drawers and carpets, and in general to throw out all that was no longer useful or needed. It was so nice outside, but now we were trapped inside, not by necessity caused by the weather, but the results – dirt. Knowing now what I did not then, I might have asked why we were continuing a outdated tradition started when walls would get soot-covered by a winter’s worth of burning coal. I might have suggested to do the dreaded tasks on the inevitable rainy day. In obedience, I simply did it.
Looking back, now I see the wisdom in my mother’s tradition, all the same. Without spring-cleaning, we collect too much stuff, to the point that many have storage units that could fill-in for dumpsters. We hold on to things we do not need, all just because. Spring-cleaning helps sever those ties, and in the end frees us.
The same is true in the spiritual life. As we go through life, we collect pains and hurts, grievances, grudges, and gripes. They accumulate like the soot and clutter, little by little, until we just get accustomed to them. Regularly setting a time to address them is good for us, and how good it is when we truly do so. When we take the time to do so, even if it takes us out of the cheer of the outside world, we find that our interior world - our spirit and souls - experience a true peace and tranquility that comes only from God.
As Catholics, we have a great means of “spring-cleaning” in the sacrament of Reconciliation, but all Christians have access to the forgiveness of Christ. Invite Him in – ask the Holy Spirit to come and clean our heart and mind, and then to occupy it and not allow anything else to fill it (Mt. 12:43f). After all, Jesus Christ is raised from the dead to set us free. He gives us life, and life more abundantly, that we may live in the newness of life that this great season of Spring only begins to emulate. I am so thankful to my mother for teaching me the value of spring-cleaning.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Lent is a season to reflect and ponder the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. The liturgical destination of our Lenten journey is the Sacred Triduum, when we celebrate the giving of the Eucharist, the Cross, and the Resurrection. It is tempting to ignore Good Friday, to view it as something simply ‘gotten’ through or around. Easter Sunday is easy to celebrate with joy. The gift of love that Christ leaves in the Eucharist as well as the model of charity in the washing of feet is happy. But it is Good Friday that ties these days and themes together and gives them their power to change our lives. Good Friday is difficult because we do not like the Cross or always understand what it truly means. We try to avoid it because it symbolizes suffering, sacrifice, and pain. Ultimately, Lent is about remembering that there can be no resurrection without the Cross.
It is the Cross that marks our lives on this earth. We are marked with the Cross at our baptisms; and this is renewed with each Sign of the Cross. Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily. This is not an optional activity for a few followers, nor one that is a one-time deal, or when convenient, or on a limited schedule. Every disciple has cross, and it is part and parcel with following Jesus.
The cross is not light, in discussing or in fact. Crucifixion was cruel, slow, and methodical. People could be dying on the cross in excruciating (literally from the cross) pain for days. As one of our Eucharistic Prefaces (Preface III of Ordinary time) states, the Father “fashioned the remedy out of mortality itself”. When Jesus embraces and dies on the cross, He takes upon Himself the entire burden of the world’s sins. By His innocence and obedience, He puts sin and death to death. The Church Fathers and countless saints spoke of the cross and resurrection in terms of the re-creation story. Adam and Eve, by their disobediently taking of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, cause sin to enter the world. In the Crucifixion, Jesus stretches out His hands not to take but to give. He is revealed as the New Adam, the Blessed Mother Mary as the New Eve who stands beside her Son. This makes the Cross the Tree of Life. How Jesus dies is not just incidental, a matter of convenience, simply chosen because crucifixion was the current tool of capital punishment by the Roman government. It was God the Father’s plan, His ultimate choice, from before all time. He intended that the wood of the Cross be the means of our salvation.
Jesus willingly gave His life, so that we could see how ugly our sins are to the Father by our looking at Jesus on the Cross. In the cross, he fulfills the promise of the Eucharist, the most blessed fruit of Tree of Life, which brings us eternal life in the Resurrection. But we must ponder our sins and allow them to be put to death, along with our own. We cannot go around the cross – we must go through it.
Instead of avoiding the Cross this Lent, we are to take up our cross and follow. He will put our sins to death. We submit ourselves in obedience to Him, and are to receive often and well of the fruit of Tree of Life: Jesus, the Eucharist. By doing so, we return to the Garden for which we were created, where we will walk with the Lord for the rest of eternity.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Christmastime is Here. But I always get That Christmas Feeling reminding me that Christmas is so much more than a Sleigh Ride Over the River and Through the Woods. It involves more than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. We Deck the Halls with The Holly and the Ivy, Mistletoe and Holly, Pine Cones and Holly Berries, but we prepare our hearts for more. Do You Hear What I Hear? Ding Dong! Merrily On High, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, but they were more than Silver Bells, Silver and Gold Jingle Bells. No, the Carol of the Bells declares much more. As we celebrate Christmas, we are taken back to The First Noel, when, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear on that Silent Night. Away in a Manger, in a Little Town of Bethlehem, In royal David’s City, the world first celebrated the Birthday of a King. Oh Holy Night, When A Child Is Born, willingly saying “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” A Savior is Born! Mary’s Boy Child! Sweet Little Jesus Boy! But What Child is This, that While Shepherds Watched, Angels, From the Realms of Glory come to earth to witness this event. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, declaring In excelsis Gloria. Still, Still, Still. It was A Baby Like You and me, only the Son of God, Eternal Savior. Christ is Born in Bethlehem, who is the Greatest Gift of All. The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way, they declared to Mary, Dear Mother of Jesus, “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The Friendly Beasts, the Little Drummer Boy, and, eventually following the Star of the East, Three Kings of Orient Are all that are present to see this sight. One has to ask of the rest of the world, Do they Know It’s Christmas? Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, O Come Little Children, let us like Good King Wenceslas come Rejoice, The Lord is King. Rejoice, Rejoice All Believers, not just Angels and Shepherds! Joy to the World, Christ is born. Rejoice and be Glad, Rejoice and be Merry. Christmas day is The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year, but it is so much more than a day – it is The Holiday Season that lasts the full The 12 Days of Christmas and all year through. So, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and ask you to remember that when we sing The Christmas Song, we Sing of God, the Greatest Good. Sing We Noel this Christmas. So Go, Tell It on the Mountain, Up On the Rooftop and everywhere else. Sing the Carol, Raise Your Voices! Come On, Ring Those Bells, ring them until the Jingle Bell Rock. Ring Merrily! Bells will be ringing, and yes, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, too, With Bells On. So God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and women. Sleep Well, Little Children. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. And Let There Be Peace On Earth, peace made possible by Jesus. This is What Christmas Means To Me. (Hidden among these rambling thoughts are the titles of at least 80 Christmas carols and tunes. Have a Merry Christmas.)
Friday, December 23, 2016
Merry Christmas! I hope that this season is one of peace and joy for all. Christmas is a season - it only begins on December 25. The Twelve days of Christmas, of carol fame, begins - not ends - on Christmas day. Indeed, the twelve days ends on the feast of the Epiphany, we we remember three events in which Christ is revealed to the world (the arrival of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, and the first miracle at the wedding at Cana). Different cultures have different endings of the season culturally, for example marks is through February 2 (the feast of the Presentation), while others end with the official end of the liturgical season on the Baptism of the Lord, this year January 9. There is something profoundly human (and humane) about this. We prepare for Christmas with another season, Advent, to prepare our hearts to celebrate His birth, but also for His glorious return in the Second Coming. In the Church, we need that time to prepare. While not as intense as Lent, it is a season in the Catholic and Orthodox churches marked by prayer and penance (and even fasting by some). But after such preparations, we also need to to celebrate, and do so for more than one day! Why all this preparation and celebration? Because Christmas is so much more than celebrate a birthday, thought true it is that in part. The Church recalls that Christ was born, but also that He will come again, and when better than when we celebrate His first birth. For a deeper understanding of the meaning of His birth, we need look no further that to some of the carols that we sing during this season. Hark the Herald Angels Sing tells us "God and sinners reconciled”. Silent Night proclaims “the dawn of redeeming grace.” The First Noel reminds us that with His [Christ’s] blood mankind hath bought.” Indeed every Christmas hymn (the religious ones, anyway) tell us the story of the Birth and the reason behind it. Clearly, this is no mere child, but is a Divine Being with a heavenly purpose. Being the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (the persons of the the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit in the one Being of God), Jesus took flesh (the Incarnation) in the womb of Mary, and He was born in a humble stable. While some might quibble about the date, the fact is that He was born, and we celebrate that fact. God became Man, became one of us, so that He would lead us to Himself. He was born that He might offer His life to the Father to redeem us. This is the core of the Christian faith, which begins with Christ’s Incarnation and Birth. He came to die on the Cross to bring the Father’s grace and loving presence to us. With that noble purpose, we need much more than one day. So sing long and well those glorious songs of Christmas and share the joy of our salvation with all.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
On Wednesday, we commemorate All Souls' Day, remembering all who have died. It would be most appropriate to visit a cemetery if possible, to offer a prayer for our dearly departed, and to pray for them. We do not have certainty of their current state - heaven united with God, condemnation because of their rejection of Him, or in the state of purification (Purgatory) where they are purged from the attachments to sin, having been forgive of them already. Because of this, this day offers us the reminder to pray for them.
But these days are also a gentle reminder to us to remember and prepare for our own death. As an epitaph on a grave stone puts it, "Remember me as you pass by, As you are now, so once was I, As I am now, so you must be, Prepare for death and follow me." Put more succinctly: Remember death - Momento mori.