He Answers All Our Needs

In today’s responsorial psalm we sing:

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Today’s Gospel relates to us an event that in one way exhorts us to trust in the Lord to give us what we truly need. To give absolute trust to the God who loves us better than we love ourselves.

But sometimes it is just very hard to appreciate what that means in real life.  As creatures we very often need examples to reinforce us in our journey.  Blessed John Paul the Great realized this and hastened the raising of these examples to the altar of sainthood.  He gave us modern examples of living a life centered in Christ. His hope was that by these official examples we could find those around us who, though not recognized publicly, were living that life as well; and they could help us become like them.

Last night at a picnic I met a man in his late 70s; a devout Catholic with a crusty vocabulary. The party was at his son’s house and all around us friends and former workers of his son were celebrating their first time to get together in years.  They were reminiscing, kidding around and talking about the future just like anyone does at these types of things – but at its core it was about the here and now – the joy of the moment.

Well, at this table on the other side of the deck, with the sounds of this get-together drifting in, this man told me about his life. He started by telling me that his wife had died about a year ago from alzheimer’s, and it sounded like it was a prolonged battle. I was amazed at the tenderness that he showed in relating his time during her illness – love-absolute I thought.  And it was obvious that though the loss of his wife pained him – the joy of their life together far outweighed that pain.

Then he explained to me how he met his wife; and how, when during their dating, they had discussed how many kids they wanted – both wanted a dozen.  It seems they both liked the movie ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ – “The Warren Cliff version” he said (which was made in 1950).  He told me that their first child had died right after birth.  He explained that he told his wife that maybe God didn’t intend for them to have children, at least yet.  They discussed their other dreams of a new house and new car and agreed that if God wanted them to have children that maybe later they would.  He went on to tell me about the 14 pregnancies and yes the 12 beautiful children they raised.  He talked about some of the struggles and successes that they had during their life.  He told me about his job through the eyes of his family.  His whole life revolved around his wife and his children and it seemed to me that it was his joy to bring them as good a life as he could; after all they brought him joy.  Towards the end of telling his story he leaned towards me and with a knowing smile he said “you know recently we finally got to see the slab poured and the completion of our first new home, and we finally got our first new car – God didn’t forget us ever.  I couldn’t have had a better life”

One of the communion antiphons for today goes like this:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and never forget all his benefits”

Last night I met a man who did just that.

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Wake up America!

Well, if there was any doubt about whether our constitutionally protected freedoms are being attacked – this week should remove it. Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, in an interview with the Baptist Press voiced his belief in ‘the biblical definition of the family unit’.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise; Chick-fil-A has always held to traditional family and Christian values, they are closed on Sunday to allow families to be together on the Lord’s Day.  They have always promoted Christian values in their training and management methods.  They contribute to organizations that promote family values against those groups who support and lobby for contrary values, including gay-marriage.

That groups roared against his comments doesn’t surprise me, in fact it is their right.  That is what America is about – we come together and offer our opinions in the national discourse.  But what is shocking are the comments by Rahm Immanuel, mayor of Chicago and Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino.   Mayor Thomas Menino has publically stated that such businesses, that discriminate, should not be given a business license!  Where is the discrimination, except for his small minded, anti-democratic thoughts?  Every American has the right to voice his opinion.  Christians have the right to offer their beliefs to the public discourse.  Mr. Cathy’s comments were about his support for traditional marriage and families. He didn’t say he was going to refuse services, or jobs for that matter, to those that believed otherwise! 

Rahm Immanuel responded to Dan Cathy by saying: “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”  So, it seems that what Rahm thinks so does the rest of Chicago.  He should look around ‘his city’ and see that it is filled with different people who hold dear different values, including a lot of traditional family valued Christians. 

These are more examples of the elite ‘intelligentsia’ trying to force their opinions as the only acceptable way to live and stomp on those who think otherwise; the powerful few trying to dominate the rest of us.

Wake up America!

Let men and women of good character stand up and defend the right of every American to voice their beliefs without the fear of coercion.  As I applaud Dan Cathy and his stance on family I also defend the right of the others to protest against him and me.  BUT, I will never accept elected government officials threatening citizens when they don’t like what is being said or believed!

A Place and Time Set Apart

Today’s Gospel highlights an important aspect, indeed crucial aspect of our faith; our need to communicate with God.

The Gospel reading highlights the importance of setting aside a place, a time, for prayer.  Throughout the all of the Gospels we see Jesus taking time from His ministry, His daily activity, to go apart and communicate with His Father.  He found a special place to pray – away from the daily grind.  He teaches us that it is very important to find the time for our personal relationship with the Father.  He shows that, if possible, it is important to set aside a special place to do this in.  Our daily routine has a way to make what we do mundane & ordinary; and prayer is anything but that.  We need a place and time to recharge ourselves with God; a place to reflect, catch our breath so to speak, and listen to the quiet urgings of His Holy Spirit.” Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  It is crucial for our own personal journey to follow Christ’s lead in this type of prayer.  It is imperative that we push aside the technological white noise that keeps us from listening to what is important – to allow ourselves the chance for meditation and contemplation. If we don’t – we run the very great risk of having our faith become a cultural affectation instead of a life-direction.

What is learned about personal prayer in this Gospel pertains as well to the Holy Mass, which is, after all, the ultimate prayer.  The Gospel relates to us what happens right after the apostles came back from being sent out in twos to the villages. “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.”  They come together as one to report to their leader, and each other, how they ministered to the people and how they witnessed to God’s proclamation of the Kingdom.  From Christ they find that they need to come together in a special place, set aside, away from the hustle and bustle of their times.  In this way they can recharge themselves, as a group, and then go out again to minister to the world.  As with private prayer, our need for uniqueness in the corporate prayer of the Holy Mass is important.  That is why Holy Mother Church takes great care in making the churches, where is celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the most special action in all humanity, the action where heaven and earth join together with Christ in His sacrifice to His and our Father, not ordinary but special.  She takes us from the normal and sets us within the extraordinary, the sacred – so that we can center ourselves toward God and be in communion with the one who loves us, and each other.  Taken away from the normal, we are more attentive to God’s message, and His healing – we are focused on the Truth.  And then, as with the apostles, we can go back into the ‘normal’ strengthened and energized to do the same to those we meet – to be the herald of the message – to lead those who don’t know to knowledge- instilling in them the desire to come and see.  “People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.” the Gospel tells us.  Those we meet will see by our actions what Christ’s message is all about and they we see us leave for that special place, that special time that is set aside and they will follow – but only, only if we have allowed ourselves that same luxury of time with God that deepens our knowledge and love of He who is knowledge and Love.

ad multos annos!

(The 14th Sunday in Ordinary time marks the anniversary of the St Dominic Sunday Vespers – this year it marks the 6th anniversary.)

For our group, this six anniversary of our Sunday Vespers marks both the passing of time as well as a reminder of our participation in the eternal.

We have met for almost 316 Sundays to worship our Lord in this Liturgy of the Hours. Along with the universal church we have answered Jesus’ who commanded us to “pray at all times and not lose heart.(Lk 18:1) By our prayer together we strengthen our faith life, affirm our brothers and sisters and we sanctify the day as we (and I am quoting the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours) “extend the praise and thanksgiving, the memorial of the mysteries of salvation, the petitions and the foretaste of heavenly glory that are present in the Eucharistic mystery, ‘the center and high point in the whole life or the Christian community.’” Together we have celebrated the liturgical year six times over – we have honored martyrs, venerated Mary and other saints, and have delved deeply into the life of Holy Mother Church – which is the life of Christ.  We have allowed our lives to be united more intimately with Our Lord and with each other.

With this action of prayer we are participating in the eternal.  Like those who came before us and those who will come after us our prayers are met by the Holy Spirit who “helps us in our weakness” and “intercedes for us with longings too deep for words”.  By our actions we are assured that our Lord comes among us as He promised in Matthew 18:30 “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst. With this eternal promise to everyone – He binds us all together in a communion of love. By participating in Sunday Vespers, we (again from the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours) “unite ourselves with that hymn of praise sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven”.  We become one with the eternal family of God’s people.  Though we can’t physically see them we are surrounded by the heavenly hosts as we all face the throne in adoration and praise.

They say you judge messages and actions by their ‘fruits’; and the ‘fruits’ of this Sunday Vesper group shows that God approves. If we look back we can see that our group has become family, we have participated with each other in our lives. Together we have celebrated our joys, strengthened each other in our weaknesses, and stood by each other in trying times.    But it is a family with a mission, God’s word proclaimed to the world.  Though we are the least of His servants we are important none-the-less; and as his servants we live out Christ’s ministry today. But the readings today remind us we are not welcomed by many.  Many will listen, few will absorb, and many will reject; but whether they hear and understand or reject the message, God’s message is powerful and active and it will succeed.  Let’s take strength from the Letter to the Hebrews 4:12 where we are told that “the word of God is living and active.  It cuts more keenly than a two-edged sword.”  We succeed when we are heard – regardless.

So as our seventh year starts we go forward into the world and witness to our Lord and His plan, and we come back here to Church, to the Mass, to our Vesper Group and we gather as family to do what family does best – what we have been doing – growing in the Love of the Lord and each other and participating in God’s eternal plan.

Happy anniversary to everyone in our Vespers family, both here and not here – ad multos annos!

 

God bless this great American journey!

On this great day, Independence Day, the Fourth of July 2012 I look back 237 years ago and praise God for those great men who changed the course of the world; those men who understood that the dignity of mankind wasn’t determined by mankind but by God almighty.  They appreciated that humanity was given a divine spark that was the true ‘value’ of each of us.  They confidently proclaimed this with words that shook the world:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”(Declaration of Independence)

And as I sit and look at what is happening in this great country today I am both sadden and steeled in my resolve.  It saddens me that our leaders have thrown away this great ideal. They have allowed greed and political games-man-ship to color their ideologies to the point where this great democratic experiment is now in danger of devolving to the rule by the powerful.  It saddens me that my fellow citizens have allowed this to happen, we have become fatted lambs that just want to be led by the nose to happiness and have forgotten that these truths are something that need to worked for and defended.

But my resolve has been steeled by the response of many in this country to the current erosion of our rights.  Our bishops along with other religious and secular leaders have said enough is enough.  They have announced to this sleeping population that our founding fathers had well thought out reasons for the protections they gave us.  The next line in the Declaration of Independence is:  “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” The government doesn’t lead us because they are the government; we give them the responsibility to lead us!  No matter what they want to do – it is by our will that they are allowed to do it.

In these days of attacks on the Bill of Rights we owe it to those who wrote it and brought it to life to protect these cherished unalienable rights that they fought a revolution for.  May God almighty, the author of these unalienable rights that our founding fathers announced to world, protect us and strengthen our resolve to protect this great democratic experiment – the United States of America!