Monthly Archives: August 2017

Morning Thoughts: Up and Away

by Howard Hain

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“In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

—Luke 14:33


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Butterflies fly.

They sail beautifully and somewhat clumsily at the same time.

It’s as if even their own weight is almost too much to carry.

Hard to imagine them bringing anything else along for the ride.

Paper-thin wings—watercolored and air-dried—the rain keeps them tucked away, hidden, out of sight.

Even little drops of morning dew keep them from flight.

But the hour will come.

Just wait and see.

Still. Quiet. Like an upright leaf.

They position their wings just right.

The sun to burn away all unwanted drops.

———

Have you dew-covered wings?

Does the dew of life weigh you down?

Do you want what’s unwanted to be burned away?

Have you tried pointing your wings toward the sun?

Or do you really not want to float above?


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“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.”

—Galatians 5:13


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Remembering Lawrence

We remember Lawrence the deacon on August 19. He’s a favorite of mine whom I followed through the many churches and works of art in Rome that witness his influence on the Roman church. Some years ago I worked with others to produce a video on Lawrence. (See above.)

Lawrence reminds us that the Poor are the Treasures of the Church. I’m wondering if a good bit of Pope Francis’ present popularity comes from his strong commitment to the poor. He’s reminding the church-and the world too–how important the poor are   to Jesus and those who follow him.

Augustine in a sermon on Lawrence says that you don’t have to be in charge of a major relief effort to be like Lawrence, however. Each of us, treasuring the poor in our own way, follow Jesus.

“The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes –  not only the roses of martyrs but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to look down on their calling.”

We’ all grow in the garden of the Lord. That’s a nice way of saying we’re all have something to give. Who are the poor we  treasure?

Why Read the Old Testament?

Some people complain about the selections from the Old Testament we’re reading at weekday Mass these past few weeks. Too long, they say, they don’t tell us anything. They’d rather hear what Jesus is saying and doing.

Why do we read from the Old Testament? Reading from the Old Testament is a lot like reading from the New York Times or the Daily News, or following David Muir on ABC each evening. You’re not going to hear much about Jesus there either. The media gives us the news of the day as it happens and, especially these days, it’s not encouraging.

Not much encouraging news in our Old Testament reading today from the Book of Numbers either. (Numbers 13-14) Giants are out there blocking the way to the promised land. Israel’s scouts face giants as they reconnoiter the world ahead. There’s no way ahead.

Our media tells us the same: giants are blocking our way– North Korea, the Middle East, storms from climate change, political giants who seem to get in the way of a world of justice and peace. And we don’t have answers what to do.

But the Old Testament tells us more than the media. It’s salvation history. More than the story of the Jews, the Old Testament is the story of the human race and all creation on a journey, from the beginning of time to its end. Human sinfulness, tragedies and delays are there, but the story begins and ends in hope. God is there.

That makes the Old Testament stories so different from the stories the media serves up everyday. God is there from the beginning. That’s the way our selection today from the Book of Numbers begins: “The LORD said to Moses [in the desert of Paran,]‘Send men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan,
which I am giving the children of Israel.’” And God is there as his people experience the consequences of their foolishness and lack of faith.

The columnist David Brooks in the Times yesterday said he has to think less about Donald Trump or he’s going to go crazy. He needs to think more about the deeper shifts taking place in society, he says.

I wonder if thinking about the deeper shifts is enough to stop you from going crazy these days. We need hope from another source. That’s where the Old Testament and the rest of the scriptures comes in. Some prefer calling it the “First Testament.” It testifies that the first thing to keep in mind about time is that God is there, from beginning to the end. God is our Savior.

Friday Thoughts: Just The Facts

by Howard Hain

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All human beings are creations of God.

God loves all His creation.

He wills the best for each and every part of it.

His will is the best.

You are one of His creations.

So is the person you hate.

So is the person you dislike tremendously.

So is the person who annoys you to death.

God loves us all.

God offers us forgiveness for being so unkind to His other creations.

He loves us so much He gives us the freedom to choose the wrong path.

He loves us so much He sent His Only Begotten Son to show us the right way.

Jesus loves us so much He sent the Holy Spirit to strengthen and accompany us.

God smiles.

All three persons smile.

They are One God.

God’s love is all powerful and infinitely kind.

God’s gift of freedom is a gift He intends for us to use.

God desires for us to choose to become like Him.


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Passion Pearls

by Orlando Hernandez

This Wednesday’s Gospel ( Mt 13: 44-46 ) again presents the parables of The Treasure in the Field and  The Pearl of Great Price. I am especially haunted by that mysterious pearl. Our Lord says:

“ Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. “

I recognize the shining presence of that treasure, that fine pearl within my heart. It is Him! It is His gift of Himself. But I am also attracted to the interpretation that says that God is the merchant who buys the pearl. The pearl is you, and me, and all humanity, bought for a “ great price “, gained by the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, now lovingly held in the Father’s hand.

A pearl is actually the product of suffering and death. Maybe you remember from grade school science the story of the oyster. A grain of sand or a little rock gets inside the shell.  It irritates and torments the delicate animal inside. The animal responds by covering the painful thing with a substance called nacre, and slowly forms a little pearl. But the more the pearl grows the more it hurts the poor oyster, so it keeps on coating it with more and more of this substance, in turn causing it more suffering. The only relief happens when the oyster is caught and cut open. It loses its life, and here is this beautiful, wonderful pearl… the result of so much pain. This is a sort of Passion story and reminds me of what He has done for me. His suffering and death has given birth to our new shining selves. Thank you Beloved!

Here is another story. Perhaps you know it. It is based on a meditation by C. S. Lewis. He writes : “ In the Christian story God descends to reascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.”

In Lewis’s story the King of Kings stands at the edge of an abyss looking down at the troubled seas below. He discards His Divine robes, stands there naked with open arms and jumps into death, and dives into the roiling waves, “ then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to color and light, His lungs almost bursting, till suddenly He breaks surface again, holding in His hand the dripping precious thing that He went down to recover.”

In my prayer, this precious thing is that costly pearl, so beloved by Him, humanity, or even a lovely blue-white sphere, our world, saved and restored by His Love.  May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our minds!

Orlando Hernandez

Morning Thoughts: Over Easy

by Howard Hain

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A run-of-the-mill bakery.

A hand truck full of eggs.

A handful of women from Latin America.

Neither load is fragile.

A woman’s strength may appear as a delicate shell, and if poorly handled she too may break.

But strength is not a matter of not breaking.

It’s a matter of showing up, chipped, broken, sometimes even shattered.

It’s a matter of overcoming.

Of producing.

Of providing.

Of letting go.

One buttered roll at a time.

Preparing the day “café con leche” by “café con leche”.

The eggs slowly disappear.

The ladies change names.

Mary, the Mother of God, remains.

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“Holy Mother, pierce me through, in my heart each wound renew, of my Savior crucified.”

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It’s a matter of believing. Of dreaming. Of seeing what can’t be seen. Of loving who can’t be loved.

It’s a matter of hope that never ends, of hope that sustains the very faith from which it came.

It’s a matter of saying “yes” to each and every hour—for someone must be present to serve God’s promise of daily bread.

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She who stands closest to the foot of the cross most resembles the man being crucified. She must embody Compassion, she still hears His breath, expanding and contracting deep within. Suffering is not be feared. Being without the source of all consolation and peace is just too terrifying.

The “fear of the Lord” keeps us within the grasp of Jesus’ hand.

It “is the beginning of wisdom.” Mary is there to begin. She remains till the end.

Wisdom begets Wisdom.

And she most often looks like a little unpresuming lady working behind a busy breakfast counter.

She is a lady nonetheless.

She is the mother of all I hope for.

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“Pray for us, O holy Mother of God; that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

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