Monday, July 30, 2012

Homily from Father Francis Maple

In a T.V. commercial, an announcer asked a woman, "What is the worst four-letter word your child uses. That, of course, brings all kinds of obscenities to mind, but then the woman surprises us with her answer.   She asserts that the worst four-letter word her child can use is "can't". Then she cites some, "I can't read.  I can't spell.  I can't do maths."   
"Can't" is one of the worst four-letter words a person can use. The child who says, "I can't do maths" really can't do maths and he will not be able to do maths so long as that word dominates his thinking.  To convince oneself that something is impossible has the practical effect of rendering it impossible. That is true, not only for children but also for you and me. Before we can accomplish any task, we must at least have some hope that it can be done. 
That truth is played out in today's Gospel reading. Jesus and His disciples were in a rural place with more than five thousand people.  After a while, food became an issue. People began to get hungry. Jesus felt obliged to feed them. He was, after all, the reason they were there. So He took upon Himself the role of host. It was His job to provide the meal and He tried to share that responsibility with His disciples. He asked Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these to eat?" Philip was no help at all. In so many words he said, “It's impossible. We might as well give up before we ever start." Andrew did a little better. Somehow he had found a boy with a small lunch. He told Jesus of his find and then said, "But what good is that little among so many?" 
Both of these disciples started with a presumption of despair. They stood before a task that needed to be done and concluded that it was impossible. It was useless even to try because they could not do it.  All of us are faced with tasks like that - things that must be done but seem impossible. It may be something as personal as losing weight or overcoming a bad habit. We have tried before and are convinced that we can't do it. Or it may be something social, like ending war or eliminating racism. These evils have always been there and we have little hope of doing anything about them. What are we to do when a task seems impossible? 
One thing we might do is realistically face the fact that some things are impossible. For example, we cannot feed a crowd of five thousand with one small lunch, but Jesus can. Our reading leaves room to suppose that He did. But we can't, and no amount of faith will change that reality. The New Testament credits Jesus with doing many things that we can't do. He opened blind eyes. We can't do that. He straightened twisted limbs. We can't do that. He unstopped deaf ears. We can't do that. The word "impossible" is part of our vocabulary for good reason.  There are some things we cannot do, no matter how hard we try or how much faith we have. 
If it is painful to admit that about ourselves, remember that the same thing was true of Jesus. He wasn’t able to do all that He wanted to do.  Some things were impossible, even for Him. He could not get along with everybody. Jesus had some enemies who hounded Him to the day of His death. Try as He might, He could not win their friendship. They were determined not to get along with Him. There was nothing He could do about it. He tried to win the trust and loyalty of Judas, but His best efforts were to no avail. Even Jesus had to deal with failure. Some things seem impossible for the simple reason that they are impossible. 
We need to be careful, however, in the application of that idea. Properly used, it is wisdom. Wrongfully used, it can become a lame excuse for laziness. Some things only seem impossible. In reality, they are only waiting to be done. I can remember when space travel was thought to be impossible, but a young Russian cosmonaut named Uri Gagarin proved that idea false. Space travel was just waiting for a pioneer who had the daring to try what others called impossible. In a sense, Jesus was that kind of pioneer. When the task seemed impossible, He dared to try what others said couldnever be done. His only resource, so far as we know, was five barley loaves and a couple of dried fish. Obviously, it was not nearly enough, but it was all He had, so He started with that and it turned out that everyone had enough to eat with twelve baskets left over. The Gospel writer does not explain how that happened. Most people assume that Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and fish. That may be what happened. The reading does not say that, but it does leave open the possibility. The main point is that a task that seemed impossible got done. It was not impossible after all. 
Could that be true of the challenges we face today? Is peace possible?  Can wars cease? We are told it is impossible. Wise voices say that wars are inevitable. They have always been and will always be, but one pioneer, with five barley loaves and a couple of dried fish, might prove that idea to be false. Can the races learn to live together in harmony?  Of course not, say the cynical doubters. There is a natural antipathy between the races and there always will be, but one little boy, with five barley cakes and a couple of fish, might prove that ancient bit of wisdom to be false. 
Some tasks seem impossible because they are. If you are waiting for me to develop into a world-class opera star, forget it. It's impossible, but some tasks seem impossible because no one has had the faith and courage to give it a chance. There are a lot of things in this world that ought to be done, and for a person of faith, to say that a thing ought to be is to say that it can be. Will you be one of those who have the faith and courage to give it a try?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Quick Bytes #32: Life or Death Poll

If you could go back in time would you rather witness our Lord's birth or death?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Our Lives Are About Relationships

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." Matthew 12:49-50

Shortly after I had become a lector at my local parish I volunteered to read on the Monday evening masses during  Lent. I thought that I would add this little offering to my list of “things I would do for God” during these 40 days. Little did I know that in reality, He was going to do something  great for for me.

 When that first Monday rolled around, I found myself a bit nervous, and I was watching the priest carefully after the opening prayers and such, so that I would walk up to the pulpit at the right time  when he took his seat.

As I stood up, I noticed a tall elderly woman, about eighty years old, in the first row.  She had the thickest head of blond curls I had ever seen, and she was motioning me with her arm, as if to say, “come on and hurry up”!
Apparently, she thought I needed some direction.

During the reading, I couldn’t help but notice that she was watching me intently. And when I walked back to my seat she smiled at me and nodded her head, as if in approval.

When the mass ended and those present started to leave, she walked up to me and introduced herself. Her name, she told me, was Dorothy; her friends called her Dottie. She too, was a lector at the parish and had been a former school teacher there as well, for twelve years.

Proudly she told me that she went back to finish her college degree at the age of 55, after her husband had left her. I must have given her a look of surprise when she said this to me because she quickly added, “those were the best years of my life”…

We became instant friends. She told me she loved her grandchildren, bingo, romance novels, and the TV show “The Bachelor”…. She was truly a character!

It was about 4 or 5 months later that we finally got the opportunity to lector together at the 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning mass.

It would be the only time we ever read together.

Not long after that, on a Saturday, I got a call from one of the parishioners. Dottie had been playing bingo at a near by church the night before and had suffered a stroke .An ambulance had been called immediately and she was rushed to the hospital.

I grabbed my purse and jumped into my car, and drove down to the hospital as quickly as I could.

When I arrived, she was lying in bed with IV tubes in her arms and was hooked up to heart monitor hooked.  Her daughter was there too; the poor girl  looked completely frazzled.

The stroke had affected Dottie’s speech. Communication was very difficult. She desperately wanted to say something to me, but she couldn't. I told that everything was fine, that she didn’t need to speak. We could just enjoy our time there together.

With that, she seemed to relax and we spent the remainder of the time quietly being together. For me it was a gifted moment.

As the time came for me to leave, I kissed her on the forehead and said goodbye. "Get some rest" I said. " I'll be  be back in a couple of days."

Her eyes followed me to the door and she smiled at me. It was the most beautiful smile I had ever been given.

A couple days later, unexpected complications set in. After receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, Dottie passed away in the hospital. Her daughter and grandchildren were by her side….God had motioned for her to come up and join Him in heaven....There is no doubt that she is up there praying for all the people that had become her brothers, sister, mother.Yes,indeed,  she is praying for everyone that had become her family.

Our lives are about relationships. And, every day presents us with an opportunity to act with love and compassion to our brothers and sister.

God brings people in and out of our lives at different times and for different reasons. Every human person has something to share with us. Every person is gift.

And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”Matthew 12: 49-50

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quick Bytes #31: Beautiful Day

Thank you, Lord for this beautiful day.

Help me to do something good for you.

To make you proud.

To show you I love you.

To justify you giving it to me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rash Judgment

Other bloggers often inspire me to write related posts at my blog, full of thoughts I've been chewing on for some time but haven't gotten around to sending into the ether. This week I was pondering a post by Msgr. Charles Pope, examining the whys and wherefores behind a particularly obnoxious behavior just about everybody, including me, falls into. Thanks to Victor's prompting I will again shamelessly link to a spin-off post at my blog - Rash Judgment.

Thank you, Victor.  And to Mary, the prayer by Eusebius, May I Be No One's Enemy that you brought us in your recent post here is perfect for us rash judgers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

May I Be No One's Enemy....

The prayer featured this month in Living With Christ is attributed to Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263-339).  It certainly sounds very much as though it could have been written today.

"May I be no one's enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides.

May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good.

May I wish for all people's happiness and envy none.

May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me.

May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent.

May I, to the extent of my power, give all needful help to my friends and to all who are in want.

May I be able, by gentle and healing words, to soften the pain of those in grief.

May I respect myself, May I always tame that which rages within me.

May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things they have done, but know good people and follow their footsteps."

I think that there are so many lines of this prayer that touch me and call me to consider my actions.  The one that speaks to me the loudest is--"know good people and follow in their footsteps."  For me that is the key, to follow the footsteps of those good people who have walked before me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Called By God

O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul I adore you.
Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me.
Tell me what I ought to do,
 then command me to do it.
I promise to be submissive in all that You ask of me,
And to accept all that You permit to happen to me; only show me what is Your will. 

If you have ever been an expectant parent, you have, no doubt, spent countless hours thumbing through baby name books, searching for the perfect name for your child. This name will say something unique about your child. For example, my son Michael is named after his father. His father was named after his Italian grandmother, Michelina, meaning “who is like God”, as with Michael the Archangel, warrior of Heaven, defender and protector. I think this name suits both my men.

In the Jewish culture, a person’s name is chosen to represent the essence and character of the person.1 When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary (or “Miriam,” as she was called in Hebrew), he called her “full of grace”. The state of her soul was pure. She was preserved from the stain of original sin. She was full of love, and humble obedience to God, caring for all that was entrusted to her.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word” Lk 1:38

Her “yes” proclaimed in humble submission to the will of the Father, allowed redemptive grace to enter the world and alter the destiny of mankind.2
Just as Mary was called by God to carry Christ in her womb, so are you and I called to carry Him “in the womb of our heart” and to bear Him to others given our particular state in life. For me, I believe that I am called to bear Him to my husband, my children and grandchildren. I am to bear Him to my neighbors at home and at work through means of kindness, silent prayer for their families and hospitality. Maybe you are thinking of your own call right now.

Everyday, you and I have a choice to say “yes” to God’s call for us, just like Mary did. Every single day is a new beginning; we can make a difference. And, if we do say “yes”, we can be assured that we will be empower with His Holy Spirit, making us channels of grace for the life of God to enter the world.3

Friday, July 13, 2012

Encompassed by His Love

Sometimes in life we have to go through really hard times.  Sometimes it's consequences for sins committed (which can take years to play out) and sometimes it's for no apparent reason.  Often we may be tempted to whine and complain about it.  Other times we seem to be able to suck it up and bear it.  So what is God doing to us, visiting calamities on us and surrounding us with misery to the point we want to find a hole, crawl in, and pull the entrance in after us? 

In today's meditation by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. in Divine Intimacy he writes:
 In all the circumstances of our life, even the saddest and mot painful, we are always encompassed by His love.  God's love can will nothing but good; even when He leads us by the harsh, rough road of suffering, He is infallibly willing our good.
God "makes us die and makes us live.... He scourges us and He saves us" (cf. 1 Sm. 2:6; Tb. 13:2), always because of His love.  Thus it is not rare that He strikes hardest those whom He loves most, for as the Holy Spirit says, "...acceptable men [are tried] in the furnace of humiliation" (Sir. 2:5).

St. Teresa of Jesus says: This suffering "is what the Father gave to Him whom He loved most of all [Jesus].... These, then are His gifts in the world.  He gives them in proportion to the love He bears us.  He gives more to those He loves most and less to those He loves least" (Way 32).
 In one of her books St. Teresa recounted a particularly grueling journey on which many things went wrong, the weather was terrible, etc.  She said something like, "Lord, if this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder you have so few of them."

I liked this quote because it showed her humanness and sense of humor in the midst of adversity. Most of all, hard times are an invitation to trust in God and submit to His will, to take the cotton out of our ears and listen to Him.  He is in charge and He is polishing us up for heaven, even if we can't see the reasons why we are suffering.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Quick Opinion Poll

Ok ... a quick opinion poll now.

How many people make the sign of the Cross before meals?

How about when you're in public, like in a restaurant?

How many people make the sign of the Cross when passing a church?

How many women wear a veil when in church?

Now read this wonderful post from Sue.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

When I was a little girl my dad told me and my brothers and sisters that he abhorred nothing more than lying.  Of course this statement came about because we had tried to lie about something unsuccessfully.  That lesson has stuck with me all my life.

Yesterday I wrote a post about God's simplicity and how duplicity is at odds with God.  Mary333 suggested I also put it here.  Rather than double post, which Google frowns upon, let me ask you to read more here about Divine Simplicity and Truth..

God bless all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Prayer, Instant, Just Add a Touch of Holy Spirit

Recently, I heard a woman sigh that she really needed some short prayers.  The 5 or 3 minute variety in many of the books that are popular today were just too long for her.  She lost her attention before she got to the end. I assumed she knew of some traditional prayers that would be short.  It doesn't take long to pray a Hail, Mary or an Our Father.

I felt at first slightly judgemental and dismissive of this woman, I am sorry to say.  It seemed to me that her priorities were all wrong if she didn't want to place God first in her life because she wanted short prayers.  I felt that we had nothing in common.  But, the still small voice in my head said, "At least she wants to pray...."

I told her I would help her out. I am engaged in writing a prayer book, just for her, of some very short little prayers.  When the thought came to me to make the offer to do this, I realized that I was just the one to do it.  Although I wish I could say that I spent hours every day deep in uninterrupted prayer, really most often I have a hundred small conversations with Jesus throughout the day.  Most days I try for more than that, a rosary here, daily Mass there, but, in truth, a great deal of my prayer life besides reading Scripture and daily commentaries is little short prayers of praise and joy, intercessions for people, and pleas for help and rejoicing when help comes.

I rejoice that the Holy Spirit picked me to write a little book of short prayers for this woman.  I will not judge her and instead I will call her a friend of mine, because she wants to pray to God just as I do.  In that expression of a desire to pray is a longing for God.  After she gets the ball rolling on her prayer life, who knows where it will take her?

***But if she goes on to become a great saint in the Church someday, I hope I get a tiny footnote on her page***
by Mary at Hope Echoes

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Extraordinary Ordinary Things of Life

Today we welcome back Sue Elvis as our guest writer. Please visit her HERE.
I am at Thomas’ wake. I have his memory box on my knee and I take out a few photos and pass them to a friend.

“He was a chubby baby!” she exclaims.

I reply, “He wasn’t really. Those photos were taken at the funeral home. He looked different at the hospital.”

I think about this. I remember how much I longed to see Thomas once more at the funeral home before his burial. He was in his coffin at the far end of the room and I hurried towards him. And then suddenly I stopped. He didn’t look like my baby. In some way he’d changed since I’d left him at the hospital. He didn’t look as I remembered. Tears rolled down my face and I wondered, “Did they get the babies muddled up? Is this really Thomas?”

My friend’s voice interrupts my thoughts. She is asking me another question and I open my mouth to reply. My lips move but the words won’t form. I try again, and again I fail to say anything. I have lost control of my speech.

My friend notices my difficulties and hurriedly says, ‘You don’t have to say anything. It’s OK.”

But it’s not OK at all. I want to tell her about my son but I can’t. I don’t want her to move off and leave me alone. But she thinks she is upsetting me. She pats me on the shoulder and hurries away. And I am helpless.

Yes, I remember the day I lost control of my speech. But it wasn’t just the ability to form words that I’d lost. I’d lost control of my whole life.

Life can go on the same, day in and day out. It is known and comfortable and we feel secure. We think we are in control. Yes, we have problems to deal with but we cope. And then one day we wake up and life has changed forever and we know there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

I am very aware of how life can change so quickly. I travel through my comfortable days where I am seemingly in control and I wonder how long it will last. What plans has God got for me? Will He allow my world to be turned upside down again? Will I once again sink into that pit of suffering?

I remember going to town a few days after Thomas died. As I walked through the shopping centre, I noticed two happy young women. As I passed them, I wondered how they could continue to laugh and chat together about nothing of real importance. Didn’t the air around them turn cold as I walked by? Couldn’t they see I was no ordinary woman but one gripped by the arms of grief? I wondered why their lives were so normal and happy. How could they enjoy the trivial things of life?

The trivial things of life? It is strange how unimportant some things seem when we are grieving. What if my world fell apart today? Would I continue my normal routine? Would I be interested in the little things of life? No, I don’t think I would.

I think of the possibility of more suffering and my heart skips a beat. A feeling of dread and fear overcomes me that threatens to spoil the present moment. And then I tell myself not to be silly. I say: Trust. Live life to the full and don’t look ahead.  Be thankful for the joys of today. Don’t let thoughts of possible pain-to-come spoil the present. The future is God’s concern, not mine. My job is to concentrate on the little things of life.

So I get involved in the little things of life. I think about what I am going to wear for the day. I stand under the shower and enjoy the tingling of the hot water upon my skin. I spend time with God: I pray and read. I hang washing on the line and feel the warmth of the sun. Later I challenge my body to a long run. Afterwards I sit at the lunch table and devour my sandwich as I answer the girls’ eager question: “How far did you run today, Mum?” We work; we share books; we chat; we laugh; we write; we discuss what we shall cook for dinner. Then Andy arrives home. We hug. I pour a glass of wine and we exchange news. Eventually our ordinary day comes to an end.

My children arrive one by one to say goodnight. I think about how much I love my family. I love them so much it hurts and the present moment threatens to be spoilt by the question, “What if…?” But I don’t let it. I really have no cause to worry.

I think about Thomas’ death when I lost control over every aspect of my life, even my speech.  I was sure my life was over. But here I am full of joy, surrounded by love and loving… I still have no control over my life. I don’t even want control any more. Yes, I am aware that God could allow any sort of sorrow and suffering to touch me. But I also know He will always be there to bring me through it. For hasn’t He already done that before?

So I live in the present moment and I enjoy the ordinary things of life which I suddenly realise aren’t so ordinary after all. Ordinary becomes powerfully extraordinary when combined with love.

So as each child comes to say goodnight, I enfold her within my arms and I hug… I hug tightly, my eyes closed, my heart overflowing with love. This is today. This is what is important. This is an extraordinary ordinary moment.