Monthly Archives: March 2017

Friday Thoughts: Angels

Jan Gossaert Agony in the Garden detail..

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:

‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship

and him alone shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

—Matthew 4:8-11


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Angels.

What if we could see them?

They exist. They don’t have bodies. They are purely spiritual beings.

What if we focused on them?

What if we focused on them helping God’s people?

Perhaps then we’d better see?

Perhaps then we’d realize how conscious God is of our frailty?

Perhaps then we’d have more compassion toward those whom we are tempted to criticize and condemn?

Perhaps then we’d be more like God’s holy angels— “ministering to” and “strengthening” those whose turn it is to undergo great strain?


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Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

—Luke 22:39-46


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—Howard Hain

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Jan_Gossaert_-_Agony_in_the_Garden_-_WGA9761

Jan Gossaert, “Agony in the Garden”, ca. 1510 

 

Want to be Great?

                                                                      

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 20: 17-18), our Lord makes His third prediction of His coming Passion and Resurrection.

    The sons of Zebedee and their mother seem to miss the gravity of what Jesus has said– the sacrifice and suffering that is to come in order that the Kingdom of God be established. They expect a kingdom of earthly power, and they would like positions of honor and influence in the royal palace– a throne up on the dais,  or perhaps a seat at the Cabinet table.

    The other ten disciples hear about this and complain: “Hey, what about us? “. They also think in terms of power and prestige. Our Lord corrects them:

    ” You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. “

    Day after day I come to realize more and more that membership in this Kingdom is about sacrifice, service, and humility. This is not a kingdom for lords or  “insiders ” ; it is a kingdom of serfs and outsiders.

  Some folks in our prayer group, which meets twice a week at the Passionist Monastery, tell me that I am ” leader “. When I find myself thinking that I actually am a leader, I start to stress about the meetings, lose my connection with God, get in a bad mood, and think of controlling others. When the Lord helps me realize that I am just another servant of the True Leader, when I let go and I am filled with humility and awe at the love and holiness of the suffering people in this group, it is only then that I begin to rejoice in the Grace that falls upon all of us as the prayer meeting takes on an organic life of its own  that makes the moment holy.

    When I lived in Florida, I belonged to a laymens’ group similar to Cursillo. Twice a year, under the auspices of the parish, more than fifty of us would put together a three day retreat of evangelization for men in search of God. The jobs of the coordinators, the organizers, the fund-raisers, and the presenters were vital to the retreats. But just as important were the jobs of  the cooks, table servers, furniture arrangers, and the clean-up crew.

    At one of the retreats there was a retreatant who had quit the priesthood and was looking for a way back to God. He was touched by the talks, the activities, and the witnesses that were humbly presented by us. But on the last day, when he was going to the bathroom, he ran into a young team member who was cleaning the toilets. As he worked, the smiling young man was singing religious songs with great abandonment and joy. The retreatant is once again a priest, and he attests that this encounter was the moment that sealed the deal for him. He felt the irresistible call of Jesus once again and his life was changed. This priest comes back every year to one of the retreats and serves in the clean-up crew.

    Richard Rohr quotes Catherine La Cugna :  ” God’s power comes through powerlessness and humility. The Christian God is much more properly called

all-vulnerable than almighty, which we should have suspected and intuited by the shocking metaphor ‘ Lamb of God ‘  found throughout the New Testament…..

If God is all-vulnerable, then perhaps God stands in solidarity with all pain and suffering in the Universe, allowing us to be participants in our own healing. This does not make sense to the logical mind but to the awakened soul it somehow does. “

Orlando M. Hernández

Morning Thoughts: How About Today?


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Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

—2 Corinthians 6:2


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“How about today?”

“How about right now?”

“Now is good.”

“Yes, now is a very good time, indeed.”

“Great, let’s do it.”

“Here, sit here.”

“So…how are you?”

———

Ministry is saying yes and ministry is saying no. Ministry is saying I don’t want to, but God does, so I shall.

Obedience is a place. Not a verb. It is a state. Not an action. Obedience is a chair, indifferent to my personal ambitions, but resting on God’s.

God’s will is the only true act. And the only time we act truly is when we are fulfilling His Divine Good Pleasure.

———

Yesterday only has meaning in terms of finding God’s blessings.

Today is significant only if lived with the assumption that God has already filled it with blessings that simply need to be discovered.

Tomorrow…well, tomorrow is pretty much the same as yesterday and the same as today…just much, much better…infinitely better in fact…and it lasts for ever.

———

“No, I’m fine…all yours…take your time, I’m free all day…now go on, you were telling me about your mother…”

———

Ministry is crucifixion. It is happening now. It began yesterday. Tomorrow remains to be seen.

In the meantime—no matter what we sense or smell, no matter what we taste or see, no matter what we hear or feel—no matter the day of the week—Sunday will arrive.

And then, resurrection minsters to us.

———

Lord Jesus, help me be like You. Help me pour myself out.

Help me endure the wood of the tree. Help me see the joy that lies ahead. Help me embrace the joy already within. Help me believe the kingdom is truly at hand. Help me, Lord Jesus, help me know it is You in me and I in You. Help me, help me, help me, Lord Jesus…have mercy on me. I thank You because I know You do. Simply because You say.

You are Mercy. You forgive. You heal. You bring peace. You are Innocence. You are the tiny infant. The child running free. The teenager filled with dreams. The young man boldly going west. You are middle-aged and getting tired. You are old and broken down. You are dying on a wooden bed. You are lowered into a weeping mother’s arms. You are put to rest. You enter living hell. You set captives free. You rise. You speak. You break fast. You open the scriptures. You float above. You promise to return. You serve us again and again in the mystery of bread and wine. You feed us relentlessly with Your own Body and Blood.

Help me, Lord Jesus, be more like You. Help me pour myself out.

Amen.


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Up From The Ashes

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I saw a ladder extended high up into the sky.

It seemed to reach into heaven.

Were angels ascending and descending?

Perhaps.

Firefighters can be seen as angels, that’s for sure.

“The church is on fire.” That was the reality. The flames that consume wood and air have now been extinguished. Our parish has been pushed into the street. Most of the material damage was done to the steeple. It is pretty much gone. The bells collapsing inward. The large copper cross crashing onto Central Avenue. The roof too suffered. A large hole, allowing direct sunlight, presides directly above the altar.

The tabernacle and the statues are perfectly intact.

In other words, Jesus’ real presence and His Communion of Saints are alive and well.

No Resurrection without Crucifixion. No Easter Sunday without Good Friday.

The last service before the fire was The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—Friday after Ash Wednesday—the first Friday of Lent. The Mass was preceded by the Stations of the Cross. It was led by the women of The Sacred Heart Society.

The best poetry, the most romantic images, the most apropos settings are constructed by God Himself. Like good, basic, simple, yet shockingly profound haiku poetry—God’s work always contains three lines: One of Faith, One of Hope, One of Love.

Faith: There is a God. He is our father. He is good. All He does is good. He is ultimately in control. Nothing happens without His active or passive permission. He brings all to good. All back to Himself. His promises are good as gold. Better. Much. His promises are eternal. He promises everlasting peace. He promises joy beyond comprehension.

Hope: Jesus is with us every step of the way. Everything that happens to us can become an event that teaches us, instructs us, encourages us, and helps us become more like Him. It can propel us deeper into His presence. And Jesus is already victorious. He died for us, for you and for me, personally. He defeated death. Completely. And He has perfectly shown the way through. For Jesus not only makes His Father’s promises possible, He fulfills them. He not only provides salvation but also all the help and assistance we will ever need to reach salvation, our eternal home. All will be ok.

Love: The Holy Spirit—the Love of the Father for the Son, the Love of the Son for the Father—is awesome. Period. And there is nothing that can stop God from loving us, each and every one of us, as individual and greatly prized children. Love. Love. Love. Say it out loud. Breathe it. It is the breath of life. With Faith and Hope we can freely Love. With Love we can continually Believe and Hope.

But He never says it will be easy, this pilgrimage on earth. But He says it is worth it.

Suffering is not a choice. We will experience suffering. No one gets out alive. The only real question then is this: How will we receive suffering, and how will we handle it?

There is only one acceptable answer: In Union With Jesus.

If we suffer in union with Jesus, then our suffering is His suffering. And Jesus’ suffering is fruitful, always. It redeems. It brings to life. It resurrects.

How then can we do it?

The answer is always the same: Grace

We must cooperate with God’s grace. And that cooperation begins with posture, with how we position ourselves. And the posture needed is prayer. In His Holy Name. We need to ask Jesus for what He will not deny: To participate in His salvation of the world.

To participate in His life, His death, and His resurrection:

Lord, grant me the grace to endure all suffering in perfect union with You. Grant me the patience and strength and courage to accept and carry my cross daily. The grace to not desire that the circumstances be immediately changed, nor the desire that I be removed from the struggle—but instead the grace of walking with You, Lord Jesus, through the suffering—praising You constantly—thanking You continually for the privilege of no longer being a mere bystander, but now instead an active participant in Your great work of salvation—filled the entire time with Faith, with Hope, and with Love—knowing that great work, heavenly work, tremendous good is being done. Whether it is seen or unseen. And also please grant, my Lord and my God, the grace of always giving all honor and praise to You and You alone. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.”

Amen.


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—Howard Hain

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You Want a Sign

 

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 11: 29-32) our Lord says :

    ” This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”

    Our Lord seems so frustrated and annoyed with the people of His time ( and I’m sure with us too!) . Like them we want easy fixes to so many sufferings, complications, and problems that plague our personal lives and our society. ” God, please manifest Your great power and heal our world!”

    Our Lord seems to imply that the solutions begin with our changes of heart, where, like the people of Nineveh, we listen to God’s word, repent, and become servants of God’s will which is always our welfare and happiness.

    But we want a ” great sign” to startle us out of our stupor. Our Lord seems to say that His own death and resurrection is that sign.

    Only 2 weeks ago we remembered the anniversary of the passing of my wonderful friend, Fr Owen Lally,CP, the leader of our prayer group. His spirit still lives in us. Our group still stands strong. Through Fr Owen’s guidance we always strove to be ” the sign of Jonah”. Fr Owen wrote:

    ” Our Resurrection with the Lord is the sign of Jonah. Our old self transformed by grace into our true self IS our resurrection. Our entire life’s journey has as it’s goal the renewal of the old man of sin into the new man of grace in Christ. Individually this is wonderful to see, but to bring several brothers and sisters into unity is the true icon of the risen Lord.

    Mutual Indwelling is the result of becoming human together. The sign of Jonah was the survival of our Lord’s being in the belly of the earth. We are in the belly of the whale by our baptism and deep immersion into the water. Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. ‘ Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name I am there.’ ‘ This is the Sign by which all shall know that I have come forth from God, that you love one another.’ The primary way to make new Christians and to get vocations is to love one another and become one in community.”

    The Passionist Community has graciously allowed our Prayer Group (Fr Owen’s Prayer Group) to meet on Sundays, after mass, at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, NY. Sometimes when I walk into that Monastery Chapel in the middle of our prayer meeting, I am struck by the awesome power of 30 to 40 people, who have given themselves fully to song and praise, to love and support for one another.  In this place the Spirit of the Risen Jesus is alive in all His Glory, a sign to the world that Love is supreme, that there is hope, that our Lord reigns!  In a way we feel like God’s prophets. We are compelled to walk through our own Nineveh and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom!

Orlando M. Hernández

Morning Thoughts: Word by Word

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As we walk along and lean more and more on God and less and less on human consolation we discover we are never alone.

When we truly give thanks to God for the human consolation that comes our way we discover just how many angels and saints God has placed along the path.

Everyone and everything is originally from God.

He is the only true creator at the beginning and at the end of the day.

If we love only Him we love everyone and everything.

Evil is the denial of such undeniable truth.

Evil is the denial of God’s supreme creativity.

Evil is the absence of good.

And shadows and darkness need spaces and voids in order to exist.

Jesus came to cast providential light.

For as the sun rises toward “straight above” the length of negativity surely disappears.

And at perfect high noon darkness does not stand a chance.

For Jesus was raised up upon the crisscrossed tree of life.

Good squelching evil for all the world to see.

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The foot of that Cross still remains.

The closer we get the brighter the day.

Spaces and voids fill with pure light.

Absence disappears.

Evil is cast into hell.

For what God creates He intends for good.

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Will we then live good lives?

Will we allow our absences to be filled with genuine goodness?

Will we speak life?

Will we help build the kingdom?

Let us do so.

One stone at a time.

One flickering light at a time.

One Eucharistic encounter at a time.

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Let us live “on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

For when we do,

Stones become bread,

Water becomes wine,

And bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.

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Lord Jesus, cover us with Your Blood.

Let us hug the foot of Your Cross.

Let us adore Your feet nailed to the trunk of the tree.

Let us get so close that not even a speck of darkness can get in between.

Let us truly ask this in Your Holy and Perfect Name.

Amen.


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—Howard Hain

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