Monthly Archives: August 2017

Friday Thoughts: The Height Of Stars

by Howard Hain

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My constant companion.

My acting partner, my motivational coach.

Sometimes I forget you’re there.

Such lack of gratitude, such empty graciousness.

But you remind me, lest I forget.

There you are once again.

Right beside me.

Center stage.

All the world to see.

Hard to imagine you any other way.

My constant companion.

My antagonist. My adversary.

Middle of the night, just you and me.

Another standoff. Another scene.

Good or bad, there’s always drama.

One day we’ll part ways I suppose.

But for today, this hour, you continue to goad.

Pestering and probing.

A reaction, any, is what you want.

Like a needle in my hay stack

Pricking my limbs.

Especially my heart.

Weakness.

That’s who you are.

You play your role.

Upstaging the stronger, more noble parts of man.

Clever, cunning, looking for the upper hand.

Curtain up or curtain down.

You’re a character for sure.

Smile or frown.

Jester or clown.

Your disguise is basically the same.

Some sort of wise man, a plot all your own.

But you, Sir Weakness, you are important.

Like tragedy.

Like divine comedy.

You give good measure.

You give the chorus something to say.

And despite your best intentions.

You help establish strength.

You remind people the height of stars.

Without you, my dear Weakness, no hero could ever be.


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Joshua

Our Old Testament readings for the next few days tell the story of Joshua, the successor of Moses. We think of him as a man of battles and wars, leading the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan and their possession of the Promised Land. “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down.”

We expect him as a warrior to be concerned with preparing troops for battle, getting weapons ready, strategizing for the battle, but Joshua begins his campaign by reminding the people what’s more important before all that: “Remember who you are.”

Gathering the Israelites before the Jordan River, Joshua orders the priests to bring before them the ark of the covenant, God’s pledge that they are his people, bring the jar of manna that reminds them that God sustains them. They are God’s people, not insignificant slaves. They’re God’s children, cared for, with rights and privileges and promises.

Only by remembering who they are will they be able to cross the Jordan and break down the walls of Jericho and take possession of the land.

Remember who you are.

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.