Posts Tagged ‘#Secular Franciscan’

Pass the Salt …. Please!

July 8, 2017

In the United States, Independence Day, which is a national holiday, fell on a Tuesday. As it turns out, I also received a Jury Summons for Monday. Now, for those who are not from the United States, or who might not be familiar, I will explain at least on a surface level, the Jury Summons.

In the United States, if you are accused of a crime, you have the right to a trial by a group of citizens who are called to sit through the trial proceedings, and are given some instructions on the law that has been supposedly broken, and then that group of people decide the guilt or innocence of the person or group that is on trial.

It is part of our duty as citizens, when called upon to serve. We receive a letter from the court (Summons) to show up on a day and time, to see if we will be selected to serve as a person ( juror) in the group that determines the guilt or innocence during the trial.

Needless to say, it is something you are required to do as a citizen, unless there is some compelling reason why you can not serve. Among some, there are jokes about how to get out of doing this type of service. In some cases it is blatantly obvious who is trying to get out of the service, but did not want to get in trouble for not showing up. I see this service as part of a moral obligation to not only
help provide morally correct justice for the parties involved, but also, because this is part of our duty,” to render unto Caesar, that which belongs to Caesar”.

I have received five such calls to service. In that time, I have never been selected to sit in on a trial. By and large, the day ends up with me being sent home after spending a rather long day sitting in a room with approximately 100 other citizens from all walks of life.

The courthouse where I reported for duty is, interestingly not far from a church that is there to serve the downtown area. Since I was let go a bit early, I thought to myself, this is a perfect opportunity to go to Mass that would be starting shortly..

I have worked near the downtown area previously and enjoyed the opportunity to attend a noontime Holy Mass. So I hastened to the church where I arrived shortly before the 2nd Reading. I have to confess that I honestly do not remember what the second reading or the Gospel was (hanging my head).

I can tell you something that stuck with me about the Homily. First, I have to tell you though, the Holy Mass was being con-celebrated by two Franciscan friars, and admittedly it did my heart good to see friars since I do not get that opportunity often as of late.

Anyway, the thing that stuck in my head was a story that the homilist was telling about his days as a novice, and how it was that one of the Novice Masters was a former Trappist Monk. One day while they were sitting there at a meal, the Novice Master explained that in his former life, they were not to speak even at meals, and so they had to sign for the salt if that was what they wanted.. As time went on , and they got to know the individual monk, they just knew that is was needed and it would be passed to them.

This calls to mind 2 different passages. The first, being Genesis 4: 9 and the second is Luke 11:5 .
In Genesis 4:9 is the telling of the story and Cain and Able, ”
Then the LORD asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Here we are reminded , in fact, that we are held to account for what happens to our brothers and sisters in this life. Much like the Trappist monk, we as Franciscans who live and work in the world , and even for those who are not Franciscans, we are called to strive to learn and understand the needs of our brothers and sisters, who are not in the same place as we are, but who have the same basic needs that we do, and to work to provide the basic needs of our brothers and sisters. Even so, that they do not have to ask us. We as we progress in faith, will, like the monks, begin to understand and through insight, be able to know what those are, and to work towards being the conduit of the graces that we have received.

The second reading is from Luke 11:5-8 ”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him, and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. ”

The story behind this story is that Christ is teaching the disciples about prayer and the importance in persistence in prayer. There is another facet here, however, as it relates to this story.

The man who is in need is going to his friend, his brother, and asking for not only food, to provide to his guest, but is seeking mercy from his brother. Jesus never says if the man got up to provide the requested bread or not. What is clear however, is that just as the monk who is asking for the salt for his meal, the man in the parable who is asking for bread, has a need. We as brothers and sisters, have the capacity to share our graces, our blessings, our very selves with our brothers and sisters.

At the end of days, when we stand before the Throne of the Almighty, and He asks that same question to us “Where is your brother ?” We will have nothing there to answer, except … ” see I have brought him with me…”

May God give you the gift His peace !

Advent …It’s Here !

December 2, 2016

Advent…. It’s here.

“And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;

the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light;

let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,* not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” ( Romans 13:11)

This is the very beginning of the season of Advent. Advent means to come. It comes from the Latin Ad ( to ) Venire (come). It is applied to the church calendar as the season prior to Christmas. It is set aside for us as a period, not unlike Lent, as a time of preparation, a spiritual house cleaning if you will.

Not unlike Lent it has been a time of fasting and praying. In fact there was a period of time when there was a 40 day fast that was just like Lent. ( without the fish frys). If we look at the time of Lent and the time of Advent as mirrors of each other, both have certain characteristics that are very similar in tone and purpose.

Both serve the purpose of preparing our hearts as a birthplace for Christ to reign, a channel through which God may share the blessings of Heaven with and through us. Prior to His arrival however we have a little preparation to do.

As a child the time previous to the holiday season, there was a certain amount of that ” spring cleaning” that my mother would always have my brother and I to do. There was silver to polish, vacuuming, scrubbing and There was a brass table to polish and well as the candlesticks that stood on either side of the fireplace. Dusting the furniture and all of that came after taking care of the animals we had. ( which in itself was an 8 hour job).

Yes, the preparations were something that we as kids did not look forward to in the least, as we would rather have been exploring the forest that we lived in, or the just relaxing around the house. On the other hand, once all the work was done, and night had fallen, there was a cool nip in the air, and we would turn off the lights in the livingroom, and light a fire in the fireplace. The house took on that certain feeling of “Hearth and Home”. When the holidays came, and we were able to entertain guests, and share our home with friends and family there was a certain comfort, a certain joy to be able to serve them and make them feel at home.

The same thing applies to our spiritual lives. Paul is telling us to use Advent as a time to remove from our hearts the spiritual “baggage”. that we need to throw off. Those things that belong to the dark, and not to the light. Those things that we have been holding onto, that do not aid us in our spiritual journeys, those things that hold us back from serving Christ, or keep us from being the conduit of the blessings, or keep us from helping someone else from seeing Christ because of our actions.

So let us work on throwing off those works, those deeds, and put in some of the work in those areas of our lives to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. Throw out those pains, and grudges, lets fix those broken relationships. Let’s be the one who extends the olive branch, and extends the hands. Let us be the Christ in the season, and really live the life of faith we profess.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Touching the Hem of His Garment…

November 19, 2016
She Touched the Hem of His Garment... (Matthew 9:20)

I have been spending time this week  thinking about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus's garment who had been suffering from bleeding for years without relief.  

The woman is not named, however, we can assume she was well enough known that they knew how long she had been suffering from her ailment. 

How many of our brothers and sisters that we know suffer ? Do we know people who live near us, or even in some remote corners of the world who suffer.  Some suffer and do so for long periods of time in the silence and isolation that comes from not wishing to be a burden to others.

Do we know others who are hungry in your town .
in a nearby place. ?   How do we feel ?  What does it mean to you ?  To us ?  To the Community ?  

What about the elderly ?  Those who are alone in their homes ?  Do they suffer for long years because  they have limited incomes, because their bodies are not as strong, or resilient. 
They suffer because they have lost someone possibly their spouse, they suffer loneliness.


There are brothers and sisters who suffer in our midst and we never know.... we never see... we never ask... 

In this story there is no mention of others who went to help her, no mention that anyone reached out to Jesus to tell Him of her suffering.  

All we really know from the story is that she was suffering, she traveled a great distance to get to Jesus, and had faith to know that if she touched the hem of his garment that she might be healed. 


This story should give us eyes to see those who might be suffering in our midst. It should give us not only a voice in prayer to those who suffer but also put flesh to the words, through works of corporal mercy, to motivate us to action in love.  

The story should also give us hope and inspiration!    This poor suffering soul, garnered the strength, maybe in the a last effort to try to receive a healing putting monumental effort into her faith.  In an complete act of her will, in a total surrender to God's will for her she gathered her strength and pushed on through the journey... through the crowds.. through the hardships to seek Jesus.   

Possibly, like some of us, there might have been moments or two, where the earthly realities were a challenge not only to our physical lives, but our faith lives as well.  Maybe like you, she had fear of approaching Jesus that he might gaze at her, or reject her, or maybe she had fear that he would look at her and know what sins she carried.    

Do you have these kinds of fears ?  Do you stay away because you fear others... or because you maybe even fear God ?  Do you no want to approach God because you feel unworthy, or ashamed ?    Take the example of the woman in this story.  In our faith lives we all fail !   We all have struggles.  Even the greatest of the saints had challenges.   They all sinned ... We all have the challenge of sin in our lives.

Jesus was aware of what had happened, as soon as it happened He healed the woman.  Interestingly, as soon as it happened the story says He called out to ask who it was.  Now, have you ever wondered why he called out ?     This was Jesus, He already knew who it was, and what happened. So why did he bother asking, and calling out ? 

Jesus called out to the woman, just as He calls out to us today.  He called out because He wanted the woman to complete her own journey.  She confessed her illness, she came to Him and told him of the healing she needed, and she needed Him, just as we do. 

So in your challenges in your faith life, in your struggles you face day to day, in the deep reaches of your hearts, be like this woman and push all of your will through to the heart of Jesus.  He will be there  for you too, He will heal you too.... He loves you too !

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted for the Sake of Righteousness…

November 12, 2016

 

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness ” ( Matthew 5:10)

So, before we dig in too deep, you need to understand what it is that righteousness means in Matthew’s Gospel. In this case, it means you are acting in accordance with Gods law, or in his will. It means that in your heart, your making efforts to conform your own will, to that of the Heavenly Father, and then, you are working to form your daily actions, your choices, your actions to work to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Well, this is a good thing, BUT, it does not stop there. Jesus, gave us the model of life and also gave us not only in word but in action the way that we are to handle the persecution we encounter in our daily lives.

We saw how it was that Jesus, true God and true man, suffered through His humanity. He was born into poverty. He was born a refugee. He experiences all of the challenges, and issues that man had to offer. He tried to live a virtuous life, and still He suffered His humanity.

We can see through the Gospels, how it is that He showed love, how He gave everything He had to give. You can read the stories of His compassion for others. How it is He tried to teach everyone.

If a normal human were born today, and tried to live a moral life, they would be considered a good person and loved by those who know them well enough.

Jesus, showed us not only how to live but how to suffer for the sake of righteousness. Jesus was insulted, and scorned by the society He lived in. He did not return their insults… their hatred,

Jesus was spat upon, and beaten. He did not return their actions with pain He could have inflicted.

Jesus stripped , beaten, imprisoned, and treated like a criminal, crucified, and buried in a grave not made for Him. In a human existence even His earthly death and burial was a suffering of extremes.

We are challenged , as Jesus was challenged. Why ? Because we live with other people. We carry the stain of original sin, we suffer from our own human failings. Guess what ? They do too.

My mother used to say ” Life is a matter of perspectives…”. She was quite correct in our dealings with others. What you believe to be “right” or “correct,” might not be what your brother or sister thinks is right or correct. Their priorities are not yours and yours are not theirs. In fact what you see or read or hear may mean one thing to you, but something totally different to a younger, or older person.

Think about how you hear the Word, when scripture is read , and how it means one thing now, but a few years later, something totally different gets revealed to you. Life has a way of teaching us different things at different stages, and in different circumstances that we encounter.

We may suffer for the understandings of others, for their perspectives. The important thing is that we do not inflict suffering on others, who’s understanding is different than our own. Instead, Jesus gives us a plan of action. Jesus taught…. we should teach. Jesus bore the sufferings of others … we should carry that burden. We should not be afraid of suffering for righteousness because when we do, and we do so in the loving example of Jesus, then this indeed is a grace from God.

We are human, and we fail. They are human, and they fail. I am human, and I fail.

For those who try to live a good and moral life, who try to live a holy life in conformity with God’s will, it becomes painfully evident of where we fail. Maybe you loose your temper, or a curse slips, or you find some place in your heart that harbors a grudge, or hatred, or malice.

The fact that you recognize that sin for what it is. The fact that you see that there is a place for you to work on your soul, your humanity, is not only cause for reconciliation, but a sign that you can thank God for the fact that your conscience is formed well enough to recognize your own failings, and a desire to change, and the first step on the road to bearing sufferings for the sake of righteousness.

May God give you the gift of His peace !

 

Blessed are the Clean of Heart…

October 29, 2016

“Blessed are the clean of heart,

for they will see God. ” (Matthew 5: 8)

 

The Beatitudes are primarily a lesson for the church on how, not unlike the 10 commandments, we should live out our time on this Earth and consider to a larger extent the actions that are either laid down before us, or those which have already passed, or where we might have failed to be the best examples of Christ to others that we should be.

To a certain degree we have no real appreciable difference in our day, of the types of challeneges that they had in biblical times. Sure, the situation surrounding the challenges have changed, but we still have the same type of issues.

We need to live, we need food and water. We have relationships with others. We are married, single, and celibate. We are employers, and employees, business people, governors, or govern-ees if you will. We have Celebrations and pains, people live and people die. There is good and evil in the world. In the end it all comes down to how it is that you live your life…the choices that you make.

 

In this portion of the beatitudes, we are told that the clean or pure of heart will see God. How is it then, that we have clean hearts particularly with all the challenges we face on a daily basis.

In part, the answer lies in the Psalms. In Psalm 73 is some of the clues.

” But, as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;

my steps had nearly slipped,

3 Because I was envious of the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For they suffer no pain;

their bodies are healthy and sleek.

5 They are free of the burdens of life;

they are not afflicted like others.

6 Thus pride adorns them as a necklace;

violence clothes them as a robe.

7 Out of such blindness comes sin;

evil thoughts flood their hearts.

8 They scoff and spout their malice;

from on high they utter threats.

9 They set their mouths against the heavens,

their tongues roam the earth.

10 So my people turn to them

and drink deeply of their words.

11 They say, “Does God really know?”

“Does the Most High have any knowledge?”

12 Such, then, are the wicked,

always carefree, increasing their wealth. ”

 

Take careful note that one of the lessons here in this Psalm is that in the very

beginning Asaph, who is the origin of this Psalm, writes, that he is first noting the struggle that he has within. Much like each of us who try to walk the path of

faith we are challenged, and we fall, and we stumble..

What’s more, he then proceeds to share with us all the places he stumbled.. and you can also see in his writing the struggle he feels as he works through these challenges knowing in his heart that he needs to be free of these feelings.

Which of us does not struggle this way ?… In verse 10 where he says ,

” and my people drink of their words”. Look around the world today and see

where the people are who are lost, who “drink” the words of the world that spurn

the world forward moving through the sin of abortion, euthanasia, drugs, violence, and ever other imaginable evil that plagues us.

These were the challenges even before Christ came into the world and yet here we are thousands of years later, and we still have not learned these simple lessons.

We have not advanced in pushing these sins out of our lives. So the question remains.

It is in the struggles, and in the challenges, that is the furnace, where the metal of our souls are tempered and formed into souls worthy of the name.

Ad Majorem Gloria Dei !

May God give you the gift of His peace !

Blessed are the Merciful…

October 22, 2016

:Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy. ” (Matthew 5:7)

This is the year that we have had a year for the celebration of mercy, as it was lead from Pope Francis.

We are coming to the close of the Year of Mercy, and so what have we learned ? What have we put into practice ? How has this year caused us to reflect on how we practice mercy, and what have we done to use this practice to enhance our spiritual lives or the lives of our brothers and sisters ?

In the book of James, we find James giving some instructions about how we are to treat each other.

In this chapter, we find James giving us specifically the example of how it is that we treat the poor. how it is that if we spend time looking at the rich who are brought into the church, and invited to sit in places of prominence, but the poor we tell them to stand in the back, or in some other out of the way place. We are given examples of how we offend the dignity of the human person, and the other children of God by our actions, even unto the very house of God.

“The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. the corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God ” ( CCC # 2447 )

The church teaches us these characteristics of what mercy is, Jesus throughout the scripture shows us examples of how this mercy is to be carried out. How have we internalized these works ?

In our daily lives, do we try to teach (Instruct) others in areas where we are knowledgeable ? Do we console those who are feeling down, or separated or in pain ? Are we forgiving of others ? Can we manage to have patience, and bear with others who wrong us unjustly ?

In many churches throughout the world, parishes have created a “Door of Mercy” through which everyone passes through, and there was a big “to do” made about the door and a liturgical blessing and celebration etc. What difference has it made for us ? Do we pass by the door, making a mental note of the fact that, “this is the door of mercy” and then thoughts drift off to the next thing. Maybe you pass by the door and it no longer makes you take pause to mark its existence at all because its been there all year… It is no longer “new” to us so we just accept that its there. Possibly, this is what has happened to our practice of mercy as well.

“In its various forms – material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness and death – human misery is the obvious sign of the inherited condition of frailty and need for salvation in which man finds himself as a consequence of original sin” ( CCC # 2448 )

In the world today we have these effects. These effects which we carry out in our daily lives, as a matter of course. These effects, these acts of both commission and omission, where we see the poverty, we see the injustice, we see the oppression of our brothers and sisters, and possibly, just like that Door of Mercy, that we pass by, we have seen it, we know its there, but we have become so accustomed to it that we no longer take note of it. .

The Church tells us that these human conditions have their origin in original sin, but we has human beings have perpetuated this condition as a matter of free will. This is why we are given then the Physical and Corporal Works of Mercy, in order to counter the effects of these evils in the world.

Saint James reminds us :

“So speak and so act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom.

For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

(James 2:12-13)

In our practice of mercy, it is most important to remember that we too are poor, and in great need of the Fathers mercy, as we have all sinned, and therefore, we need forgiveness, and mercy of the Father, and from our brothers and sisters. Knowing this to be true, we should be foremost in these acts, to soften our hearts, to love, as we have been loved.

May God give you the gift of His peace……. and mercy