Posts tagged: God

The Importance of Water; The Symbolism of Water

By , March 22, 2014 4:49 am

Image: Grimes

March 23rd, Third Sunday of Lent

If you live in the Southwestern part of the United States, you seldom see an issue of the local newspaper that does not have a story in the first section about water. California is not panicking but it is very, very concerned. Here in Central Texas many of us report to each other on the levels of the Highland Lakes. After all, that is OUR water.

Water is one of the most crucial aspects of life on this planet. We can get by with limited clothing, pathetic roofing and live without food for several weeks. But water is essential to our wellbeing and it manifests that fact within a couple of hours without it. That is one of the reasons that in our history, especially Judeo-Christian history, that water appears in story after story. Moses is plucked from the river. Moses leads God’s people through walls of water. Jesus begins his public life by being baptized in the Jordan River. The Church will use water for its fundamental sacramental thrust, namely baptism, which carries us through the waters of salvation to being brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

It is such a beautiful symbol. Are your hands filthy? Water will change them. In today’s first reading, we see that wonderful story of Jesus and the lady at the well. I know this is going too long but I can’t control myself. What a story of history, faith and God’s revelation of Himself. It was to that woman who challenged his ability to produce water without a bucket that:

Everyone who drinks this water
will be thirsty again
but whoever drinks the water that I give him
will never be thirsty again.
No, the water I give him
shall become a fountain within him
leaping up to provide eternal life.

What a proclamation! Thinking like this is one of the reasons that Lent is really so joyful. Every reader of this text today should remember that each of us has a fountain of water within us that is providing eternal life. What a joy. Thanks be to God.

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Adam and Jesus

By , March 8, 2014 4:01 am

March 9th, First Sunday of Lent
It started last Wednesday where those of us who went to Church on that day, were marked by and reminded that life on this planet is limited, very limited. Today’s readings go beyond symbols and confront us with profound ideas about reality, about our relationship with God and the reality of temptation and sin. In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he reminds us that sin entered into the human story at the very beginning where Adam turned away and severed the relationship with his loving Creator.

Sinfulness has marked the human story from the very beginning. It was a depressing story, except for a thin line of hope that, through the prophets, Yahweh had promised that a Savior would come. Just as through Adam’s sin we were all damaged, when that Savior arrived the damage would be undone, redemption would be achieved.

Today’s text frames Adam and Jesus together each producing awesome results – Adam’s sinfulness and Jesus’ redemption. The Church calls upon us to meditate on this reality and to embrace it. The Church encourages us to look at the fact that when divinity stepped into the human story and dealt with us through a very real human nature, that Jesus was one with us, not in sinfulness, but in experiencing temptations. Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for the beginning of his public life. Time after time, he is tempted to commit the sin of pride but he pushes temptation to do evil aside and confronts with the devil a steadfast commitment and faithfulness to Yahweh.

“You should do homage to your Lord, your God and him alone should you adore.”

The text says that when the devil left, the angels came and waited upon him. We are invited to do the same thing during the next six weeks.

Lent is here, let us utilize this spiritual gift.

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What A Gift – What a Goal

By , February 15, 2014 5:02 am

February 16th, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My readers may be getting tired of my many references to the fact that the Sunday readings are a catechetical process. Think of it. All the Catholics of the world who are attending Mass on Sunday are sitting in the same Scripture class and the teacher is no one other than the Holy Spirit.

Each Sunday, the three readings or excerpts from the sacred texts form a collage with a special message. Sometimes the message is very clear. Sometimes you really have to reach for it. Today, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, is very clear but I must admit that you do have to reach for it.

The class carries us back to Sirach, two centuries before the birth of Jesus, and Sirach tells us that we need to live our lives according to God’s wisdom. In other words, we must make judgments that will keep us on life’s right path and protect ourselves from disaster.

St. Paul picks up the same theme while writing to the Church in Corinth and he talks in a very interesting way that God’s wisdom is “mysterious, a hidden wisdom.” However, if we live by God’s wisdom, we will have a marvelous reward because Paul reminds us that “eye has not seen nor ear heard….what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Sit and think that over quietly. Wow! How wonderful!

Matthew’s Gospel ties in as usual with the first reading and is all about good judgment – how we ought to live with each other fairly, generously and in keeping with the Commandments.

The message of today’s liturgy all ties together that we must use the two great gifts that God has given us – our intellect giving us the power to use our will, our decision making capability. All sin is is the deliberate misuse of those two awesome gifts. We must direct our mind towards God and with our will choose those things which draw us to God.

Onward towards the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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An Interesting Time…

By , February 10, 2014 5:17 am

You don’t really have to be too bright to notice them! They are all around you and they pop up more frequently. Today I am referring to telltale signs of no longer being a kid. Many times I feel like a kid. Regretfully, sometimes people tell me that I act like a kid. However, I am clearly aware of the fact that I am not a kid! Being very close to my 84th birthday, one sarcastic priest told me, “John, you are not 84. You are six years from 90.”

Some of the signs are obvious. I can’t lift the same weights that I used to be able to handle easily. I can’t walk very far. I don’t require as much nourishment in this chapter of my life and if I don’t abide by the fact that it is not required, I find that I have to have alterations on my pants. These are all signs but for me, they are all happy signs.
As I see the 90’s on the horizon, I see so many advantages that I have to say I consider this chapter, for me at least, to be a very happy chapter. Here are some of the reasons.

I have said goodbye to many of my friends but those who are still traveling with me are much more appreciated and I thank God for them. I want to take advantage of any opportunity to visit with them, to celebrate our lives, to look back with laughter and to look ahead with confidence. I don’t think that I have any close friends who are atheists, although there is one guy who is on the fence. He is just waiting to see all the answers up there in the sky.

Big problems that I used to face, crises that I struggled through, serious mistakes that I made, all seem to be more clearly in focus. I got through them and when I think about them I cannot help but smile. Was I really that serious? Was I really that worried?

I am very blessed as far as health is concerned. I consider myself rather healthy, being burdened only by sleep apnea, arrhythmia, certain Irish skin problems, congestive heart failure, arthritis in both knees (I’ve got new hips!), and early glaucoma. As I am compiling this list, I am thinking about putting baldness on it but I don’t think it fits into the same category.

All and all, I consider it a happy time. God has blessed me by allowing me to grow up in a small but loving family in Houston, with a very interesting life, a sea of wonderful friends and a faith that makes me very confident of what happens after the next step.

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Neighbors in Need

By , February 8, 2014 5:52 am

February 9th, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I frequently refer to the three Scripture readings that the Church presents to us each Sunday as forming a mosaic or a collage, which should tie together and unfold before us a very special message that we ought to study, meditate upon and practice in the week that is before us. Today’s readings are a perfect example of this and the message is that Almighty God expects us to do good things and to be especially sensitive to our neighbors who are in need.

Sometimes we followers of Jesus think that the essence of a good life is avoiding sin. That is important, but God expects much more of us than that. Listen to the message presented in the first reading on this Sunday. Read it in the context that Isaiah is preaching to the people in a terrible time of oppression and poverty. Even with this circumstance, Isaiah challenges God’s people when he proclaims:

Thus says the Lord
Share your bread with the hungry
Shelter the oppressed and homeless
Clothe the naked when you see them
Do not turn your back on your own

Wow! Isn’t it true that sometime we do not see people who are hungry, homeless and naked? Modern American cities are designed to get you through the slums on fast freeways and out to the comfortable world of suburbia. However, the Church never stops calling us to be concerned about those in need, and this wonderful new Pope Francis is making that the main thrust of his pontificate. Just look at these words that appear earlier in his exhortation to the whole world about the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shall not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

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Oppressive Child Labor Declines

By , December 20, 2013 5:13 am

When we think of Christmas morning, we naturally think of the joyful experiences that most of the children in our country enjoy. They are so excited. They are so happy. Santa has been there and they see exciting gifts all around them.
I hate to throw cold water on our pleasant thoughts this special week, but for at least a few moments let’s think about the fact that the International Labor Organization, located in Geneva, has documentation showing that there are 168 million child laborers worldwide. This includes more than 80 million who are trapped in the worst forms of child labor – forced into slavery, trafficked into the sex industry, exploited in the drug trade, or working in dangerous mines and as farm laborers. The ILO estimates that more than 20,000 children are killed at work worldwide every year.

Because it is Christmas, I want to put this in a much more positive perspective. Because of international concern, there are almost 78 million fewer children in 2012 than there were in 2000. Concerned forces in Asia and the Pacific region have worked hard to bring about this decline in child labor among 5 to 17 year olds. Finally, the number of children in hazardous work has declined by more than half.

Thanks be to God. Let’s pray that before too many more Christmases have passed that this scourge on the human family will have been eliminated.

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Cause for Optimism

By , December 14, 2013 5:37 am

December 15, 3rd Sunday of Advent

I don’t think that I am the laziest man in the world, but like most human beings I am often tempted to take a shortcut. The temptation is hovering over me right now and why should I resist when there is such a great reason to plagiarize without getting sued. Thus I will hit on Isaiah.

In the first reading that you will hear tomorrow morning, the voice of Isaiah will come flashing across the thousands of years and it is a voice of joy and optimism. Let’s listen to him as he provides a beautiful prayer and frame of reference to the approaching celebration of the birth of Jesus.

“Strengthen the hands that are feeble
Make firm the knees that are weak
Say to those whose hearts are frightened
Be strong fear not
Here is your God
He comes with vindication
Then will the eyes of the blind be open
The ears of the deaf be cleared
Then will the lame leap like a stage
And the tongue of the dumb will sing”

Now that is a program!
Be ready. It is very close.

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Table Talk

By , November 27, 2013 5:44 am

I’m sorry you didn’t hear her. Actually, I didn’t either…I love my sister-in-law very much, but the in-laws are all so loud, and my hearing is certainly weakening.

I love the joy of Thanksgiving, but I must confront the fact that virtually every large family gathering across the country provides the potential of disappointment, hurt feelings and even conflict. Perhaps it’s true that your brother-in-law has not paid you back that $200, and it’s certainly true that “Maureen” talks too loudly, but this is THANKSGIVING! All those small, petty irritations that nevertheless cause discomfort at the table, can be certainly be handled next week. Or, if you are really in a good mood, think about bringing it up again on January 2nd. We don’t want to mess up Christmas either!

Let’s enjoy Thanksgiving in a spirit of love and grace, and remember to extend those warm feelings to our families.

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The Gift of Gifts

By , November 25, 2013 5:15 am

I think that many thoughtful people prepare for the feast of Thanksgiving by developing in a relaxed manner, the awesome number of things about which they are thankful. This is the great meaning of this feast day. It is a reminder to all of us- one and all- not to take the good and beautiful things in our lives for granted. Over the next few days, I would like to briefly remind myself and possibly you as well about some aspects of our lives that are deserving of a profound gratitude.

Today I would like to mention the SENSES. Yesterday I visited awhile with an old friend who is blind. He was not alone. He was with a wife that passionately loves him, and an extraordinary dog who really protects him in every possible way. That visit caused me to think of the fact that I tend to take the gift of VISION for granted. I look out and see trees, blue sky, fall seasonal flowers, and babies in bassinets. With the gift of sight, I am able to reach outside myself and encompass the world. What a gift! What an awesome, wonderful gift!

I’ll try not to take it for granted.

When I open my eyes in the morning, I am immediately conscious that God has given me another day. It will have its problems, and there may be some pain, but I am still here, and I find that all-together grand! Thank you, God!

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Thanksgiving Requires Pain and Suffering

By , November 22, 2013 5:07 am

Everybody is getting ready for one of the most popular holidays of the year- the great American feast of offering thanks to the God we love and worship. The pictures in the store are delightful, although I’ve never a seen a turkey that looks exactly like everyone else seems to be enjoying. I love turkey! But why do they always have to serve carrots? Everyone is in a good mood. Families are gathered joyfully. Collectively, we do indeed thank God for all of His gifts.

Nevertheless, I want to come at this great day from a different direction. Yes, we are thankful, but those who are most thankful and who’s hearts are filled with joy are those who are putting suffering, pain, trevail behind them. Perhaps you heard the doctor say, “I think are you full remission!” or your lawyer say, “we have won the case- your DNA has set you free”; or your wife exclaims, “the company just called and said they need you- come back on Monday,” and with that sentence comes closure to 3 or 4 years of unemployment.

Those are the people for whom thanksgiving is extradinarily real, explosive and joyful. The sky was dark, the road was rough, and sometimes adequate support is not present.

I hope that YOU are in a joyful and thankful mood. I also hope that you are not coming out of a dark chapter. Whatever the case, I wish you a joyful and blessed celebration for the feast of Thanksgiving.

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