Thursday, July 16, 2020

Slow Me Down, Lord!

Slow me down, Lord!
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting on my mind. Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time. Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Teach me the art of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pet a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.  Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and the tortoise, that I may know that the race is not always to the swift,  that there is more to life than increasing its speed.

Slow me down, Lord,
and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life's enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny. That I may find you, my God.

Cardinal Cushing

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Contemplative Prayer

We are meant to bring ourselves, with all our complexities and weaknesses, into God’s full light every day.  In the great prayer traditions, one particular form of prayer, contemplative prayer, is singled out as being most helpful in doing this.

We pray in this way by wordlessly bringing ourselves into God’s presence in a way that we hide nothing of ourselves. Perhaps a description of how this kind of prayer differs from other kinds of prayer might best serve us here.

Normal, meditative types of prayer essentially work this way: You set off to pray, find a quiet place, sit or kneel down, make a conscious act to center yourself in prayer, focus on an inspiring text or thought, begin to meditate on those words, try to hear what is being said inside you, articulate the challenge or insight that is making itself heard there, and then connect this all to your relationship to God, through gratitude, love, praise, or petition. In this kind of prayer, your focus is on an inspiring word or insight, the response this creates in you, and your own response to God in the light of that.

Contemplative prayer, by way of contrast, is prayer without words or images. It works this way: You set off to pray, find a quiet place, sit or kneel, and make a conscious act to simply place yourself before God. Then you simply stay there, naked and unprotected by any words, images, conversations, rationalizations, or even by any holy feelings about Jesus, his Mother, some saint, some icon, or inspirational idea.

Contemplative prayer brings you into God’s presence without protection, with no possibility of hiding anything. The silence and absence of prayerful conversation is what leaves you naked and exposed, like a plant sitting in the sun, silently drinking in its rays.

Each day, we should set aside some time to put ourselves into God’s presence without words and without images, where, naked, stripped of everything, silent, exposed, hiding nothing, completely vulnerable, we simply sit, full face, before God’s judgment and mercy.​

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Joy

Thirteenth Century priest Thomas Aquinas once said, “No one can live without joy.” But many people do live joyless lives. And the reason is often simply because they don’t know how to be happy. They are so intent on the three Ps – power, prosperity and prestige – that they miss out on simple joy.

French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson pioneered modern photography as an art form during the early decades of the 20th Century. He was a master of candid photography and something of a genius at spotting and photographing apparent contradictions: pictures that left mysteries unexplained.

One of his famous photographs was shot in a poor section of Seville, Spain in 1933. The picture depicts a run-down alley surrounded by decaying walls, strewn with rubble and riddled with bullet holes dotting gray walls. The setting alone evokes feelings of sadness and despair.

But then...the contradiction. Within the grim alley children are playing. They wear dirty and tattered clothes, as one might expect in such a setting, but like playing children everywhere, they laugh with carefree joy. In the foreground, a tiny boy on crutches hobbles away from two other boys, his face lit up with a broad grin. One boy is laughing so hard he has to hold his side. Others lean on the cracked walls, beaming with delight.

It is easy to spot the contrast – and the point. Joy amid the rubble of life. Laughter among life’s ruins.

We cannot avoid pain, however hard we try. But we can avoid joy. We cannot escape hardship and trouble, but we can miss out on much of life's peace and laughter.

If you feel as if you could use more joy, here are a few tips:

• Do something today just for the fun of it.

• Decide to fill your thoughts with less anxiety and more peace.

• Laugh a little more. A little more heartily and a little more often.

• Practice a hopeful attitude.

• Love as much as you can. Love people. Love experiences. Love ideas. Love beauty. In short -- love life.

You may occasionally find yourself amid life’s rubble. But strangely - even there you can discover joy.   It’s one of the beautiful contradictions of life​.

Monday, July 13, 2020

I Choose

It’s quiet. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.

In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice.

Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.

I choose love.
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I choose joy.
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical… the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I choose peace.
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I choose patience.
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite Him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I choose kindness.
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I choose goodness.
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I choose faithfulness.
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.

I choose gentleness.
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I choose self-control.
I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23​


Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sharing the Experience

Stairs, Stone, Gradually, Stone StairwayThree men are walking along and talking – The conversation is along the lines of “I’ll be happy when…”

Suddenly a wise man walks nearby and hears the conversation. He says, “Excuse me, friends, but I can show you how to be happy forever if you’ll follow me.”

The 3 men agree to go with him. After walking a while, they come to a wall about 10 feet tall. It has a ladder leading all the way to the top.

“Climb this ladder and go over the top of the wall. You can have whatever you want on the other side – money, jobs, fancy cars, large luxurious homes, and whatever you ask for. I promise you will be happy forever. The only condition is that once you go over the wall, you cannot return.”

The first man climbs the wall and looks over. He turns back and says, ‘This is fantastic.” and goes over the wall.

The second man climbs the ladder and also looks back to describe what he sees. Then he climbs to the top of the ladder and continues over the wall.

They both appeared to be immensely happy and eagerly exploring their new world.

The third man climbs the wall and looks over. He is also amazed by what he sees. Then he slowly climbs back down the ladder and begins to walk away.

The wise man stops him and says, “I’ve never seen anyone climb back down the ladder. Where are you going?”  The third man says, “I am going to bring my family and my friends.”

The moral of the story is found in Christ ... his greatest desire was to share this wonderful experience with others!

Friday, July 10, 2020

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

For the next three Sundays we will hear several different parables from the 13th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel.  Today we have the Parable of the Sower; next Sunday we have the Parable of the Man Sowing Good Seed and the Parable of the Mustard Seed. And on July 26 we will hear Jesus presenting the Kingdom of Heaven as a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great price and a fisherman’s net.

Perhaps the most important section in today’s Gospel is the answer Jesus gives to the disciples’ question, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus responds with a quotation from Isaiah, “because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” At this point in his ministry Jesus has been rejected by the Pharisees. They have thrown him out of the synagogues (refusing to see, hear, or understand) and are plotting to kill him (Matthew 12).

So, Jesus takes his message about the Kingdom of God to the people in the streets, the fields, beaches, town squares, in their homes, anywhere they will listen. He wants to make sure they understand his message so he tells them stories using common and concrete examples from their daily lives: farming, fishing, shopping, cooking and relationships.  And he compares these everyday activities to his message of truth – The Kingdom of God is here, now and available to you.  For the disciples who had the opportunity to see and hear Jesus and all others (including us) who take the time to hear and understand what Jesus is telling us, we receive a blessing: “blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”   

God of the heavens,
God of the earth,
all creation awaits your gift of new life.
Prepare our hearts to receive the word of your Son,
so that we may hear it and understand it,
and bear fruit a hundredfold.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
AMEN.