Posts tagged: life

Jesus Loves His Friends

By , April 5, 2014 4:48 am

April 6th, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Oh, today’s Gospel! This is one of my favorite texts in the entire bible whether you are talking about Old or New Testaments. Today’s Gospel excerpt is drawn from the 11th chapter of St. John’s Gospel and for me it is wonderfully meaningful. The whole thrust of this Gospel is John, communicating to the first generation of the life of the Church, his memory what Jesus revealed about himself.

Sometimes our Lord communicated with words and other times just extraordinary actions. Today I am making reference to what I consider a wonderful extraordinary aspect of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the fact that he was a MAN.
Members of the Christian community always recognize that Jesus is God dealing with us through a human nature. We know that. We believe that. But can we get our arms around it? Can our limited brains really grasp the awesome reality that within this Jewish carpenter from Nazareth the Godhead dwelt?

Well, today’s text really helps us to go in that direction. You know the story so well. Jesus goes to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus but on arriving, he is told that Lazarus died several days before. The text says that he was “troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions” and then listen to this, he began to WEEP!

Did we all catch that? Jesus of Nazareth is weeping. This Divine Presence is torn by emotions, saddened and filled with a sense of loss. Can we really grasp that? I think the principle underlying the scene is that Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Jesus liked him. Jesus was crushed on learning of Lazarus’ death. I like to transfer that concept to the rest of us. Yes, we are followers of Jesus, yes, we believe in him, but do we really see him as our friend? What a gift.

If we live a good life and if we do the things I just mentioned, we are his friends. Would your acquaintances be impressed if you were at a meeting and they announced that the president of the United States has called for you and has asked you to return the call? Would it seem important to you if it were only the governor or the mayor? My friends, if we are living a good life, we are the friends of Jesus. There is nothing better than that.

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The Sad Story of Philip Seymour Hoffman

By , February 14, 2014 5:04 am

Every one of us who follows the media with some consistency knows that Philip Seymour Hoffman died a tragic death. A wealthy, Academy Award-winning man of great talent, he had many years to live. His life was cut short not by an assassin’s bullet or a destructive form of cancer, but by his own choice to begin to utilize the awesomely destructive drug that we call heroin.

I really have nothing to say about this. The media has rolled over all of us with far more details than we would really care to read or watch. I do think, however, that such an unnecessary, tragic, highly publicized death would grab the attention of many people and help them to realize that drugs in general, and heroin in particular, are not toys to be played with but explosives that when self-detonated destroy not just the life of the user but that person’s beloved family and friends.

There are international aspects of the drug crisis that are undermining so much of the life in this country. Cartels in Mexico have developed an industry in securing and delivering dangerous drugs for the ever expanding market north of the Rio Grande. A new complication is the fact that for various reasons there is a surge in heroin production in Afghanistan, and it is much cheaper and more easily secured than was the case in the recent past.

For decades, our government has wrung its hands in frustration while spending billions of dollars in opposition to this evil, and continues to face and admit to the reality of defeat. We are not overcoming the drug trade in our nation. It is threatening to overcome us.

And what is the role of the Church in all of this? While the Church cannot compete with the resources of the U.S. government, it certainly has the moral power that could make a difference in thousands of individual families, and hopefully through those families reach a large portion of an American society that feeds itself on drugs due to selfishness, loneliness, meaninglessness. The Church has the answer to these needs but the Church, like the government, is proving itself to be woefully ineffective.

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Stumps Can Be Important

By , December 7, 2013 5:35 am

December 8th, Second Sunday of Advent

Every one of us has seen tree stumps in the ground many times. When we do, we ought to stop and think about the symbolism contained in a stump. At first, it looks very grim. Prior growth, foliage and life itself seems to have been cut away. A number of times in my life I have driven through areas where large forests of wonderful trees were being harvested for timber. It is a grim sight but do not be discouraged. We have learned to compensate for that by immediately moving into reforestation.

The importance of this idea comes before our eyes on this Second Sunday of Advent. Isaiah has been looking around and seeing the terrible destruction that has befallen Israel. The ordinary thoughtful person would not see much chance for hope or optimism. But Isaiah does. He looks into the future and sees a TREE STUMP! Guided by Yahweh Isaiah promises his people that

“a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and
from his roots a bud will blossom.”

What a beautiful sentence. Isaiah is not devastated, he is not hopeless. He sees the stump but he also sees the shoot, the sign of new life and he tells us the wonderful things that will flow from this shoot because this shoot is a person, the awaited Messiah.

“The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of counsel and strength…
he will judge the poor with justice
and decide a right for the lands afflicted.”

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Heavens Above! The Canonization Process

By , August 27, 2013 5:31 am

What does it mean when the Roman Catholic Church declares one of its deceased members to be a saint? The Church has no direct knowledge about specific individuals in life after death. While Michelangelo painted many famous people into hell on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his brilliant artistry is, however, not an act of the Church.
On the other hand, however, the Church has throughout its history spotlighted certain men and women who have displayed extraordinary holiness, moral goodness and faithful commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Church does this through a formal process, it will declare this or that person to be especially worthy of imitation and call that person a saint.
In the first thousand years, the process was very informal and came about simply by the continued veneration and respect of the faithful. When that veneration spread far and wide and perdured for decades, the people themselves gave the title “saint “ and it has held on lo these many centuries.
Gradually, however, the Church in Rome wanted a more formal and objective process and it established a special Congregation in the Vatican to receive from churches across the world the suggestion that this or that person, known to be extraordinarily holy, ought to be considered for sainthood. Rules and processes were set up and individuals would be appointed to collect information, more accurately to investigate that person’s life. Slowly the custom developed that a miracle or two must be observed in answer to petitions to the one being studied. This would strengthen the belief that the person was actually sharing the beatific vision. Regretfully, this process requires work and expense and this is the sad reason why we have so many priests and nuns declared saints and so few, comparatively speaking, lay people. Religious orders, would of course feel very blessed in having one of their members canonized and when they identify a possible candidate from among their members they are in a position to advance the process more easily. Mr. Slavinski, who lives down the street from you and who you know to be an awesomely holy person, is not in a position to do that.
I wonder if we should go back to the earlier system. In a sense it has already returned because most of us consider John XXIII and Mother Teresa saints. Who is to say that we are wrong?
While you were reading this blog, countless numbers of holy people have by-passed the system and have gone straight to their destiny; eternal union with God.

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Papal Social Teaching Expands As The World Changes

By , May 14, 2013 4:31 am

Industrial Revolution

The purpose of the Church is to reach out and draw all of its members to communion with God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church does this by presenting age after age the message of Jesus and also joins us with Jesus through our sacramental life. In carrying out this mission, it tries to convey to the entire world a message based on truth and love, a message that has tremendous implications for justice and fairness. These virtues are affected by the economic system present at any given moment.
For most of the last 2,000 years virtually the entire world’s economy was based on agriculture. That changed with the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century bringing tremendous change to human life, including a vast increase in wealth and prosperity. But not everyone shared equally in these new developments. In the late 19th century, Pope Leo XIII saw that the Industrial Revolution and its later developments were inflicting tremendous pain and suffering on the poor workers in the urban centers of Europe and North America. He wrote his famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum which laid out a structure of responsibilities reminding employers of their responsibilities to be fair and just with their workers, and that those workers had the right to organize in order to defend their economic interests. In those days, that economy was mostly one of shops and small plants where workers and employers were often in face to face situations.
By the 1930’s, the world of the small plant by an individual or family gave way as nationwide industries developed and thus Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno which built on the work of Leo XIII and dealt now with problems related to nation-wide economies.
After World War II with the decolonization of the people of Africa, the possibility of a one world economy expanded tremendously and as a result in 1963 that magnificent pope John XXIII wrote a document that had tremendous impact in the Church and on the world entitled Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth. It dealt with this new worldwide economy many years before any of us were routinely referring to the reality of an integrated world economy. The document came out in 1963 and made a powerful impression on Church leaders all over world. Fifty years have passed since the encyclicals issued and in the next couple of days I will give you my opinion of the affect that it has had in this painful and agonizing half century.

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Happy Mother’s Day (the Celebration Continues)

By , May 13, 2013 4:21 am

Bene Grimes with her granddaughters

What did you do for her? What did you give to her? A better question is, are each of us conscious of what she has given to us and done for us? I am, of course, referring to that wonderful celebration that took place yesterday in the majority of homes in our country, when children and grandchildren and extended families turned our thoughts and attentions to our mothers. The answer to the first two questions are not too important, but that we have a clear and complete understanding of the second part makes all the difference in the world. She has given us LIFE. Just a four letter word, isn’t it? But it means everything.
Every aspect of your existence is completely meaningless if separated from the fact that you, a distinct individual, have been given the gift of life by that all important woman.
Most of us have received blessings beyond measure as we have lived out our years, but nothing compares to that single blessing: our being, our existence, our presence, our future happiness- all are wrapped up in that gift!
What did she give to us? Well, it has changed over the years. She had an awesome presence in our childhood. She was there when we were most vulnerable, and she guided us through those incredible early chapters of human development. The three year old afraid of the barking dog. The five year old who ultimately walked alone into a strange and threatening world called kindergarten. The exuberance and tension that marked all our lives as we entered puberty. Finally, she did what a wonderful mother has to do ultimately, she let us go! Those of us who are adults have been on our own for awhile. If we had any degree of developing a full, good and generous life, we can thank HER- our mother!
It’s may seem obvious that I have been speaking about our natural mothers, but we have also been so blessed to have within our midst countless mothers who emptied themselves with love for adopted children that they have raised.
May God bless your mother and all mothers across the planet. Happy Mothers Day!

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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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When It’s Over, It’s Not Over

By , August 17, 2012 4:12 am

I’m 82 years old, or as a rather insensitive friend said to me last week, “not right, John, you are actually only 8 years from 90″. That mathematical switch went through me like a knife. I thought it over and realized that while the math was identical, the emotional response varied somewhat.

I wonder if it’s because I am in the ninth decade that I am suddenly becoming aware that people I have known for so long have a tendency to move on ahead of me. It certainly is food for thought…and I’m thinking!

I have been molded and formed by the Roman Catholic faith, and although it has many rough edges, it is extraordinarily optimistic. Catholicism has always held that human nature is essentially good, but weak. Martin Luther, on the other hand (who has a moderate amount of influence in the Christian story) always taught that human nature was essentially corrupt, and only faith in Jesus Christ could overcome the evil that was innate in the human condition. These thoughts pass through my mind as I find myself journeying from funeral to funeral. Funerals are profoundly important. They bring together people who have not seen each other in years. They create an atmosphere that calls for reconciliation. Tears flow. But laughter abounds!

All of this is even more true for people who are Irish. “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustained him through temporary periods of joy” (W.B. Yeats).

If I said that I enjoyed funerals, I would be misunderstood, because they are usually connected with sadness. But, if a person is committed to the Christian faith, that sadness should be seen as a short term, immediate reality, and beyond the pain is a vestibule opening into eternal life & eternal joy.
There is so much real tragedy, so much agonizingly unnecessary suffering in the world, that we Christians should give an example of hope, optimism and joy when someone we love escapes into eternal life.

Does that mean we are not to cry, not to shed tears when we experience the agonizing loss of a loved one? Not at all. But with the eyes of faith, look beyond that casket. See through that tombstone. See the purpose for which each one of us came into being, which is now being fulfilled.

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Standing Up for Freedom

By , July 1, 2011 5:23 am

Any objective observer of the human condition can easily see that there is a tremendous amount of corruption in the lives of many individuals and in the structures that human beings have developed over the centuries. In view of this fact, it is a temptation for some to be completely cynical about the human condition. They think that corruption and dishonesty are the natural state of things and there is little hope for America’s dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, I am more optimistic than that.

Being a priest for 55 years has given me wonderfully good opportunities to see human goodness on all sides. Problems develop, injustice appears, pain is rampant and in each one of those situations first individuals and then groups will come forward, in expense of their own time and resources, and endeavor to correct the evil that is present. One of those wonderful organizations is Amnesty International. Last month, Amnesty International celebrated 50 years of heroic service to people unjustly imprisoned or oppressed. It is an awesome story of vision, courage and sacrifice.

Amnesty International is now fairly well organized in virtually every country except the few where it is not free to exist. I am happy to see that the United States has an excellent organization headed by Larry Cox, the Executive Director of AIUSA.

AI is constantly on the watch for situations where groups or individuals are imprisoned or placed under house arrest for not towing the company line in a dictatorial country. When such a situation is identified, Amnesty International goes to work and endeavors to develop support all over the world to spotlight the injustice of this particular government’s actions. Dictatorships, both right and left wing, are oddly sensitive to bad publicity and very frequently pressure from the volunteers scattered across the globe to spotlight a particular act of injustice brings a restoration of freedom – not always but many times.

Those who work in Amnesty International do it quietly without fanfare or recompense. They are concerned about human freedom and would like those striking words of the Declaration of Independence that we celebrated the other day to be made available to everyone giving all of the earth the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There is an excellent animated film commemorating AI’s 50th anniversary and it can be secured by contacting Everyone who is concerned about human liberty should be either a member of or a supporter of Amnesty International.

Let’s hear it for freedom!

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After the Funeral

By , January 11, 2011 3:49 pm

Yesterday I mentioned that people who find themselves embarrassed in discussions following a death should NOT be. Everything that needs to be conveyed can be handled by a hug, a kiss, or a simple expression of sorrow. But, time marches on. When we see our friends following a recent death, there is no need to be fearful of engaging in a simple, relaxed conversation about the lost friend or relative.

That person is dead. That is the simple reality, and the person in mourning already finds him or herself in the process of moving on. To discuss the good qualities of the deceased, to verbally celebrate that much-loved life is relaxing and encouraging for everyone involved.

Two things mix well in dealing with death: laughter and tears, and they are not contradictory. If you work at this, you will see that your friend may very well be laughing and crying simultaneously, and both reflect an element of reality. Neither is to be shunned.

It is regrettable, that while we are all joyful with the birth of a healthy child, we find it difficult to celebrate or discuss a friend’s journey into eternal life, which we hold as unending joy. Birth and death: the bookends of our life on this planet, live together and should not be feared.

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