March 3rd, Third Sunday of Lent
All three of today’s scripture texts touch on the idea of suffering, human suffering, a subject that nearly everyone knows a great deal about because life on this planet is difficult. Every one of us has our faults and our weaknesses and, of course, God who created us knows all about them. Despite our weaknesses and sinfulness, we always have to remind ourselves that God still loves us. He loves us despite those weaknesses. Or maybe he loves us because of them?
One of the purposes of the holy season of Lent is to cause us to meditate on our failures and faults and to use our intelligence, our will, our faith, our determination to improve our life and, in so improving it, to deepen and strengthen our relationship with God.
We are almost in the middle of Lent. Let’s endeavor to ask ourselves honestly are we taking it seriously? Am I making any progress? Are our good intentions disappearing with the ashes that marked us at the beginning of Lent?
During this holy season, our minds should be on two tracks. One is efforts at our own spiritual renewal and the other in joyful appreciation of the beauty of spring. This beautiful weather is a symbolic reminder of the brightness and joy that comes from our awareness of God’s love for us.
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I am old enough to have seen a lot of natural disasters occur in the United States and across the world. At a time that pain and suffering are generated humans suffer terribly and it is a sad and tragic situation. The greater the tragedy the more the sadness. SANDY and its aftermath is beyond comprehension in terms of its suffering. The storm itself was horrible but the next day we began to realize that thousands and thousands of people were trapped in high rise apartments with no electricity. That meant no heat, no cooking, no elevators. It usually meant non-functioning toilet facilities, to say nothing of the danger of those darkened stairways, and immediately began several days of frightening, cold isolation in the dark.
As I write this, we do not yet know what the death toll will be from these terrible circumstances. We do know that the mayors and governors are making extraordinary efforts to deal with the issues. The immediate problem is to get food, clothing and shelter to all those who are suffering. It is a tremendous task but we are well underway. Down the road, we will not be able to avoid the consequences of the extraordinary economic destructiveness. People living in San Bernadino will pay a price for SANDY. We don’t know what that price is yet but the bill will come!
SANDY is a tragic, agonizing disaster for the North East and for the whole country. I would not be so silly as to make much mention of the fact that at least some minimum of good will come from it. However, as an optimist I would like to mention a couple of benefits. They are nothing in terms of the total damage but ought at least to be taken into consideration in our downward spiral.
The immediate efforts at recovery to SANDY’S devastation is a tremendous tribute to the organizational ability of the American economic and political system. What was done immediately and will be done in the immediate future is astonishing and we can thank God that we have the capacity to do this.
The spirit of service, love, cooperation and unity that marked the area of the country that took the hardest hit was a magnificent tribute to the American values that we all share. A corollary response is also being generated around the rest of the country and maybe even the world. Finally, because we are busy little imitators of the beavers and the ants, rebuilding is already underway. When that rebuilding is complete, the North Eastern United States will be a finer area in which to live and work than it was before SANDY came ashore on October 29th.
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Forgiveness is one of the countless gifts given by God to the human condition. Life is difficult. Mistakes are made. Errors committed. Sinfulness happens. And much of this happens at home, with our families and the ones we love the most.
Forgiveness is the gift that allows us to get past these hurdles.
Let’s keep it simple, and If we want advice in this area, take it from Jesus, who said “Forgive, forgive, forgive.”
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Dementia can mean many things, but mainly refers to loss of memory. Do you ever think about the fact that you never hear kids in their twenties complaining about their memory? The reason is easy- their’s works! But get around a group of people in their later decades, and you’ll find a non-stop bemoaning of memory loss, or at least memory weakening. The difference between the two groups is that as long as this gift is working, we take it for granted. Once it ceases to work perfectly, we immediately begin to pay the price.
Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you said Wednesday…
And most of all, where are the car keys?
Memory is an awesome gift that enables us to function day by day with minimum tension and fewer mistakes.
Let’s try to remember to thank God for it, and pray for those suffering from memory loss as well as all those who care for them!
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The world always has and always will be a troubled place but many of us sometimes tend to see our own particular age and place as the worst of all possible situations. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” We almost always describe ones own situation in that manner. While we must be honest and forthright about the burdens and problems that face us, we also must take advantage of every cause of optimism and hope. I now see a very important cause of hope and optimism; namely, the world’s international response to the problem of human trafficking. Several times in the past I have mentioned in my blog the agonizing reality of human trafficking. One of my titles was even “Human Trafficking on IH-35” and I was delighted to see that so many people were shocked and temporarily in a spirit of disbelief.
What gives me great hope and enthusiasm is the fact that there is a growing awareness all across the planet of the horror, cruelty and destructiveness of human trafficking. It takes many forms but most of it involves forceful enslavement of young girls from poorer countries to be used as prostitutes in other countries where they are so far from home that they simply don’t have a way to escape.
A few weeks ago, there was a major conference in Rome pulled together by Bishop Patrick Lynch, Chair of the Office of Migration Policy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales along with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace led by Cardinal Peter Turkson. In preparing for the conference, Church leaders worked closely with Human Exploitation and Organized Crime Command of Scotland Yard. They did a great job of generating interest, concern and follow-up work in other countries. Countries of origin of human trafficking, including Thailand, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Nepal, Vietnam, China and the Czech Republic, are also developing programs and much needed responses.
This is a horrible situation and the whole world needs to confront it. I am glad to see Church organizations and governmental organizations working hand in hand in order to achieve the necessary results.
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As we go through life observing the world around us, we see many things that are destructive. Dams break and flood valleys. Cancer attacks our vital organs and calls us early to Judgment. Speeding automobiles spew out death, especially on long holiday weekends. Pain and suffering are all around us. However, none of these terrible things can generate the pain, the suffering, and the destruction as does human hatred- this frequently present aberration in the human psyche where one person or a group of persons or an entire nation develops tremendous dislike, antipathy and hatred for other persons or groups.
Psychiatrists have studied for years trying to figure this sad reality out but it is all really fairly simple. Most of us are uncomfortable with people or things that are different and when we are confronted by those differences we sometimes seem to react with fear. Since we can’t admit to ourselves that we are frightened, then sometimes we kick in another response which is hatred.
Would that all too vigilant, self-appointed night watchman have shot that young black teenager on his way home from the convenience store if he did not already have hatred in his heart for people who are different? I don’t know but God does. The American officer who shot men, women and children in that Afghan village – could it have possibly have happened at home in his own neighborhood? I doubt it. I am not judging the poor man. That is God’s chore. However, I do think that an enormous amount of damage is generated day-by-day, year in and year out, by people who allow hatred to develop in their hearts for different groups of people.
We are called to be loving people. We are called to respond to God’s love and we respond to God’s love best by manifesting it ourselves in our dealings with those around us. Let’s pray today that we can continue the never-ending task of lessening hatred within our ranks.
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When I was a kid in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, the nations frequently interfered with one another but it was usually on the basis of attack and invasion – Russia into Finland, Germany into Poland, Italy into Ethiopia, Japan into China and then finally the whole world was engulfed in what was truly a WORLD war. That was a terrible scene and while aggression frequently rolled over borders, as powerful nations abused weaker neighbors, no government that I knew of ever got involved in the internal problems of another country if they did not have to. Of the examples mentioned above, at the time of the invasions other nations remained neutral. While they might have criticized or condemned the attackers, they would never consider joining the fray in order to help an oppressed people.
Today is a better world! While nations were tragically slow on Rwanda, move they finally did. The United States and the U.N. stepped in dramatically in Bosnia when Serbia was attempting a modern form of ethnic cleansing. Recently, the whole world witnessed the fact that heroic revolutionaries in Libya received dramatic help from the outside world and thus toppled the tyrannical world under which the people had suffered for 40 years.
Now it is Syria! The Syrian people are suffering terribly by a government that is brutally murdering them. While citizens have the moral support of the rest of the world, the agonizing question goes on: will the outside world act to end this slaughter? I think they will because the mindset has changed across the planet and we realize that safe, developed nations don’t have the luxury of watching their neighbors being slaughtered by unjust and cruel governments.
The world is a long way from being “fixed” but we are certainly moving in the right direction.
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Image from http://365thingsaustin.com
After 56 years in the priesthood, I have seen and experienced many bad and evil things, a great deal of pain and suffering and, yes, serious sinfulness. Nevertheless, I continue to be a strong optimist and have a great deal of confidence in the innate goodness of most people. Just look at the response of the American people to international tragedies. Look at the response within our parishes when this or that problem presents itself. The initial responses are universally generous, sacrificial and make a dramatic difference in lessening the suffering that is confronted in one or another concrete situation. But how long can we maintain it?
I think that there is a tendency among us that once we have been asked to help with this or that program, need, charity, or undertaking we feel that we have properly responded and then go on to think about other things. Several times over the last two years, I have used this space to remind people about the continued suffering in Haiti. When something horrible happens the media covers it immediately and effectively, and the generous response I mention above occurs, but life moves on and gradually these horrors recede from our consciousness.
There is no evil in our forgetting the problems of yesterday. It is simply regrettable. I think we should work hard to maintain sustained assistance to difficult situations if they are not ultimately taken care of and provided for.
Let me take advantage of this opportunity to mention to you once again the Capital Area Food Bank. We know that there is hunger in the South Sudan and that there are really difficult problems in food distribution in Northern Mexico. However, we need also to be conscious of the fact that there are real serious food problems in Austin, Texas.
None of us can respond adequately to the needs that are before us but our society has gradually developed programs and organizations in which by contributing a little bit of ourselves and our resources we can make a dramatic difference. For this, I would like to mention Meals on Wheels. It is a wonderful organization that day-by-day feeds thousands of sick and elderly people who are in desperate need, not only of food but of the encouragement that comes from somebody coming to their front door, bringing warm food and, equally important, placing their arm around them and letting them know that they are remembered and loved.
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How burdensome is the too common human failure of “carrying a grudge”? This load can drag you down as nothing else. Grudges typically flow from a single source that many of us experience. We have been hurt. Sometimes, when we are hurt, we tend to put the worst possible movitation on the person who generated that hurt.
The fact is that most of these little social mishaps are accidental or unintentional. Even if we know a person intended the slight, it’s usually not an important thing to us except that our overly sensitive ego reacts and our pride is hurt.
So what? Mistakes are made, left and right. Some generated by us; some by friends; and yes, some by enemies. Will it matter tomorrow? CHOOSE NOT TO LET IT MATTER.
Don’t let those grudges pull you down!
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“At three in the morning, he came walking towards them on the lake…and they were terrified.” Today’s Gospel is all about faith and trust, extraordinarily important virtues and when practiced with commitment, shore up our spiritual lives in our journey towards eternity with great power and strength.
The apostles saw Jesus coming towards them walking on the water and, as was so often the case prior to the Resurrection, they sadly mishandled the situation. They should have rejoiced, been confident and explosively happy at the sight. Instead, they were terrified! They lacked both faith and trust, although Peter will partially undo the damage later on in the narrative.
This scene is not just a beautiful, symbolic story of 2,000 years ago. Jesus is still walking towards us. He is still reaching out to us and challenging us to get out of the boat and to walk with him. When a note arrives from an old friend who is suffering difficulty and pain, that can very well be an invitation from Jesus to do like he did and to lessen the pain around him. Day after day, we see opportunities for little acts of kindness – to touch a person here with encouraging words, a warm embrazo, patient listening. The opportunities are just countless and when we respond properly and in faith, we are touching others or, more accurately, Jesus is touching them through us.
Stick with Jesus and you won’t sink.
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