Posts tagged: joy

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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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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Joy to the World

By , December 19, 2013 5:59 am

Most Roman Catholics are thrilled when they hear parish choirs explode at the Christmas Midnight Mass with the hymn “Joy To The World.” Yes, the message is one of great and wonderful joy. We are weak and frail human beings but the infinite God who created us, sustains us and has redeemed us, loves us with an infinite love despite those weaknesses and frailty.

Given what I have just said, I find Pope Francis’ new “exhortation” to everyone in the Church to be yet another cause for joy. When we talk about the proclamation of the Gospel, what we are doing is simply telling those with whom we are sharing life and ultimately the whole world about the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem and what that birth means to the rest of us.

Pope Francis begins this important document with his expression of joy, a joy which must be shared with our brothers and sisters. His opening sentence is:

“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born new.”
Then the pope goes on to challenge us to live joyful lives and to bring the joy of Christ to this battered planet.

How can we put all of these ideas about joy together with the pain and suffering that is present in so many of our lives? I think it is important to realize that joy and pain are not mutually exclusive. Pain is here and now. We have joy in our hearts and minds when we grasp the awesome reality that God is in charge, that all of our problems are passing problems and in a short period of time we will begin a life of infinite happiness.
Joy to the world indeed!

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The Gift of Memory

By , November 26, 2013 5:31 am

While most of us are hurrying around to get ready for the great feast of thanksgiving, I would like to raise a few points for your consideration that really call for serious, in depth gratitude. I’ll mention two today- the gift of memory and the gift of imagination.

Think about it. Did you see your husband or son or daughter come home from Iraq or Afganistan? You were at the airport, and you saw him several hundred yards away. What an explosive, joyful experience! You had it then, but if you direct your memory toward that event, you can relive it again. Memory enables us to reach back to all that is beautiful and enjoyable, and in a very real sense, relive it. Recreate it. Celebrate it! What a gift!

Memory, of course, can have its down side. We have all experienced pain and no one wants to “recreate” pain. but the downside of memory is minor compared to this gift’s ability to extend joy and pleasure in our lives.

Another comparable gift, and I’ll refer to it later on, is the gift of imagination. Our brain and our mind work together in harmony, giving us the power to look into the future, and to plan on what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and project the ramifications of this awesome faculty.

Lets take both gifts together. You’re seated at the Thanksgiving table, and without moving from your chair, you can go back to the time when your first grandchild was born beautiful and healthy. At the same time, you can look into the future, and prepare for it so that as the events unfold in your life, you can handle it as effectively as possible. These two gifts together give us a capacity for living that extraordinarily expands the moment. The moment is awesomely important, but it has meaning only in the context of yesterday and tomorrow.

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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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The Joy of Saying I’m Sorry!

By , October 7, 2013 5:35 am

Photo: Grimes

Recently, I have been touching on the seven gifts given to the Church by our Divine Lord. We collectively call them the sacraments. They are specific points where the power of Jesus reaches us and draw us to himself and thus into intimate union with our Heavenly Father.

I have already talked about baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist and Holy Orders. I would like to say a few brief words about a truly wonderful gift that in post-Vatican II terminology is referred as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We also call it the Sacrament of Penance and folks on the street just call it “confession.”

Reconciliation, however, is a much better term because it actually tells us what is accomplished through this spiritual act of humility. In baptism, we were made the brothers and sisters of Jesus of Nazareth. With confirmation, we make a commitment to walk faithfully in our Lord’s footsteps. With the Eucharist, we draw the necessary spiritual sustenance day by day as we walk with our divine guide. That is really wonderful.

BUT – we occasionally make mistakes.

When I say “mistakes” I am, of course, referring to the failure that we term as a sin. We instinctively know right from wrong. For most of us our conscience is a very good barometer of how to evaluate right from wrong. God has given us free will and we are all capable of misusing it. When we misuse free will and deliberately do things that are offensive to God’s directions, we are guilty of sin and, depending on the gravity of the sin to a certain extent we separate ourselves for our Lord’s presence and love.
But not to worry. Our Lord told the apostles on the night of the Resurrection, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiveness. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” Thus was launched this great Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Let me approach it from a very human perspective that we have all experienced. Have you ever had a really bitter fight in the family? Have you ever been very hurt and struck back with anger and vengeance? We sometimes attack the people around us very hard but we are usually conscious of the fact that most of the pain is on our side and in our hearts. We have damaged our friendship. Then, for one reason or another, either because we have a better insight or these people are so generous that they approach us, we look up, see that we have done wrong, reach out, embrace our friend and say with absolute sincerity, “I’m sorry. I am very sorry.”

You have experienced that and wasn’t it a wonderful feeling? Separation and anger inflicts suffering. Humility and forgiveness bring joy. What a wonderful thing it is to know that no matter what we do that is wrong, no matter what sin or failure of which we are guilty, our Lord INSTANTLY forgives us when we say we are sorry!
Let’s approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation with greater appreciation.

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Flashback Friday- Bulletin Bemusement

By , October 4, 2013 5:10 am

Church bulletins provide a wonderful source of humor as the very human secretaries slip up in their typing…and these are good enough to recycle from a few years ago, so let’s enjoy them again today! By the way, if you have some of these from your own church, feel free to share with the rest of us by adding them to the comment section below.

Don’t let worry kill you off- let the Church help.

For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

This evening at 7pm, there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Please bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands!

The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the church would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

Potluck supper Sunday at 5pm. Prayer and medication to follow.

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Enter the Gentiles!

By , May 4, 2013 4:04 am

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 5th
Joy and happiness of the Easter season continues with the Church’s liturgy and each Sunday that joy is reflected in the three scriptural excerpts that are placed before us. If we mediate on this reality, we should have a great sense of unity with our fellow Christians because these texts are being read simultaneously all over the world. Not only are we united East and West but we are dramatically united in terms of today and yesterday. I am referring to the fact that each week we get a scene from Acts of Apostles and if we look carefully at the texts, we will see something that is very important and something that is very much with us today.
And on this Sunday we view from 2,000 years later a dramatic and important new insight that the apostles gain after being guided by the Holy Spirit. Up until this point, every member of this tiny community of faith has been Jewish and comes straight out of the rich Jewish tradition. In today’s reading, we see the leaders of the Church realizing that faith in Jesus Christ is for all people. Peter is the leader in grasping this all important reality. When he meets Cornelius, a Roman military officer, he instructs him in the message of Jesus and while that was happening the Holy Spirit descended upon all those who were listening.
They were all GENTILES and Peter asks and implicitly answers an awesome question. What can stop these people who have received the Holy Spirit from being baptized with water? And so they were. A new missionary thrust of the Church was underway.

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Beautiful Things Come Together

By , April 6, 2013 4:10 am

April 7th, Second Sunday of Easter

Who could not like spring? Every season of the year has its advantages but I think that most of us recognize that summer has too much heat, in the fall the leaves do just that, and wintertime can be bitterly cold, but, oh, dear spring! The temperature is perfect. We see little explosions of life in every direction. School children know that vacation is not too far away.
Of course, for Christians it gets even better because we will be continuing to celebrate the great feast of the Resurrection for several more weeks. In his resurrection, Jesus, our Lord, overcomes death. An explosion of fresh greenery all around us is a reminder of that and down the road will be our own triumph over death because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, happy, happy season.
Let’s try hard to hold on to the exuberant joy that naturally comes with this time in the year. If you are short on money in early April, you may still be short on money on the first of June but don’t be depressed by it. If you are trying to delay seeing the dentist, make the appointment, get it behind you and thank God that we have such great medical resources. Let’s be happy with our family and friends, let’s be happy with nature, let’s be happy with the Church and let’s even be happy ourselves.
Happy Easter continues on.
I guess I got carried away. The scripture texts for today are extraordinarily meaningful but the power of spring overcame me!

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Appreciating God’s Gifts

By , January 10, 2013 4:48 am

The joy of Christmas is behind us and a new year is at our front door. There is something delightful about both days. Christmas reminds us in a very vivid way of the fact that God loves each one of us individually, personally, completely, infinitely and New Year’s Day naturally provides us for an opportunity to both look back and to look ahead. We can’t handle our future successfully unless we at least occasionally evaluate the strengths and weaknesses that we have displayed in our own recent past.
We all know that New Year’s resolutions tend to be a joke. Many of us lists all the little inconsistencies and foibles in our own lives about which we are conscious and we decide that we are going to do a little bit better – less complaining, less chocolate candy, more thoughtfulness with our spouse, etc., etc. Many have the good will and the discipline to actually make a measurable improvement in this or that weakness, but many of them are completely forgotten by February 1st.
I am of the opinion that instead of making a list of self-improvements that have to run in the face of firmly established bad habits, that we should use the great gift of our minds to stop and think about the good things in our lives, the blessings that we experience, the gifts that God has given us. We are all conscious of the fact that we have blessings and strengths but we tend to be a little bit more conscious of negative things. I regret that this is a fact but it is. Maybe we can alter it a little bit.
Today, I want to think about a special gift that God has given nearly every one of us and that is the gift of the human voice. Do you ever think about it? Our minds explore the universe, carry us back for thousands of years and open up the future. These are all exciting things but if you don’t have the opportunity to share them with someone else, the joy is lessened considerably. The gift that God has given us in order to enable us to share them is the human voice. Yes, there are other means of communication – writing, hand signals, waving flags, etc., etc. – but the human voice is the prime method of communication for the great majority of us and what a gift it is.
God spreads his gifts out. Not everybody is Luciano Pavarotti. Not all of us have the melodious, beautiful voices such as that of Richard Burton. It is a gift to be used and to be used in consideration of other people.
I have often said that our individual voices are like a bag of golf balls. There is a putter, there is a driver and there are three, five and seven irons to help us get up on the green and into that little hole. Great golfers know exactly which club to use and that makes the difference between winning and losing. Some people, however, may not be all that good in selecting the proper voice. Have you ever been in a nice restaurant when that man two tables over wants you to know about his failed estate deal? Do you know people who have a tendency to whisper everything forgetting that you are wearing a hearing aid for a reason? Let’s stop and think about our voice. When we want to display anger, when we want to calm a child who has just fallen and hurt his knee, when we want to console someone who has just lost a spouse and when you want to tell a business associate that this is your final offer – each one of these requires different tones and a different exercise of the gift of the voice. The main thing, however, is to appreciate it. It is a gift from God. Most of us have it. Let’s thank him for it and use it thoughtfully.

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