Tag Archives: Lent

The Dance of Life

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Jn 5: 17-30), my Lord invites me to enter into the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  The way to do this is through faith, and the wonderful reward is the gift of Love that is eternal life.

    At the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus has just healed a man who had been suffering for 38 years of his life.  Our compassionate Lord had decided not to let this man wait for another day to find relief, even if this day happened to be the sabbath.  And so:

 Jesus answered the Jews: “My father is at work until now, so I am at work.”  For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because He not only broke the sabbath but He also called God His own father, making Himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for what He does, the Son will do also.  For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything that He Himself does, and He will show Him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed.For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever He wishes.”

    And our Lord goes on to say: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” Jesus goes on to talk about the resurrection of the dead and the final Judgement, of which both He and the Father are to be the authors.

    One of the things that the Lord says calls out to me:  “For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He gave the Son the possession of life in Himself.”

This is Divine Life that Jesus is talking about. God is alive with it!

    In his book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict XVI explains how the Gospel of John uses the Greek word “zoe” to name this supernatural “fullness of life,” different from “bios,” which is our biological life. Pope Benedict writes:  “Eternal life(zoe) is not – as the the modern reader might immediately assume – life after death in contrast to this present life, which is transient and not eternal. ‘Eternal life’ is life itself, real life, which can be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death. This is the point: to seize  ‘life’ here and now, real life that can no longer be destroyed by anything or anyone.”   The disciple of Jesus “lives beyond the mere fact of existing, he has found the REAL life that everyone is seeking…..life itself, full and, hence, indestructible life.” (Part II, p. 82)

    Wow, this is how I want to live! But how? Providing this life for us is the “work” that Jesus shares with His Father, all week long, even in the sabbath.  How is it given to us? Is it like the water we need to live? Jesus tells the Samaritan woman,,”The water I shall give will become [in you] like a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Is it like His Breath, the wind, the Spirit that renews the face of the earth,  that gave life to Adam and Eve? Like his last, dying breath, saving all of us?  This life(zoe) given to us freely, seems to be God Himself: the Holy Spirit.

    Richard Rohr offers the image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, giving of themselves fully to each other, in constant unity, relationship, and movement in a circular dance, to which we are invited, all of us. In my prayer, I imagine this Holy Dance, not as a flat circle,but as a sideways figure-eight: infinity, eternity, eternal life.

    How could I try to become part of this dance? First, by believing in Jesus, the Inviter…..In today’s Gospel He says, “Whoever hears my word and believes  in the One who sent Me has eternal life.”  Then by knowing(recognizing). In His High-Priestly prayer Jesus says, “This is Eternal Life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  Then, by loving.  Pope Benedict goes on to say,”It is clear that the recognition of Him who is Himself Love leads in turn to love, with all that it gives and all that it demands.”

    Every sensation of joyful or painful love that I have felt in my life, for my parents, wife, son, grandchildren, friends, strangers, the beauty of creation, of art…..it all comes from that Circle of Eternal Love…..This is the source and end of the best possible life that I can live, and surrender to, and invite others to, with every act of self-giving. So come, come dance with us! This feast is forever.

Orlando Hernandez

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 

 

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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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.

———

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.

———

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.

———

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.

———

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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Thursday, 2nd Week of Lent

Lent 1
Readings
The rich man In Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is so absorbed in himself and his “good” life that he sees nothing else, not the poor man at his door nor his own inevitable death. Other parts of scripture, like Psalm 49, point to the same blindness: “In his riches, man lacks wisdom; he is like the beasts that are destroyed.”

The warning is not just for the rich, however. The same psalm calls for “people both high and low, rich and poor alike” to listen. A small store of talents and gifts can be just as absorbing and make us just as shortsighted as a great store of riches. The parable is not just a warning to the rich. We can be absorbed in a small room. Whether we have much or little, we have to see the poor at our gate.

We also have to see a life beyond this one as our destiny; what we do and how we live here will count there. There will be a judgment.

But Jesus‘ parable offers another reminder. God has given us a sign in his resurrection from the dead that we have been called to share in his risen life. A great gift has been given. Like the sign of Jonah, some will not believe it, but Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, places this joyful mystery before us again.

May God give us grace to believe in it.

 

Lord, I see only so far, I live for the day

my vision is all on what’s before me,

Give me eyes to seek your kingdom

and desires to have it come.