Saturday, January 28, 2012

To End Where We Began: Fourth Week in “Ordinary Time”: January 29 – February 4, 2012

This is the last week of reflections in the booklet “Our Father... in Heaven” — that presents through the “first phrase” of the Lord’s Prayer the “first phase” of our growth into the “perfection of love” for God and all he created. The first phase is awareness of the mystery of our graced relationship with God as true children of the Father, sharing in God’s own divine life through identification with his Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit to let Jesus act with us, in us and through us in everything we do. Practical suggestion: use the WIT prayer.

Next week we begin the second booklet: reflections on how the Mass readings contribute to the “second phase” of our spiritual growth, to which we are called by the “second phrase” of the Our Father: “Hallowed be thy Name!”

Appropriately, this week’s readings sound a final, crashing chord of awareness.

Sunday invites us to be aware that God calls us to “go to the source” for enlightenment on how to live as divine. Reading Scripture keeps us aware of how to live as children of the Father.

Monday explains how the “absence of God” in times of “dryness” makes us aware that love is choice, not feeling, and keeps us aware that we need God’s constant empowerment to keep making the choice to love God.

Tuesday shows us how what we choose to be aware of sways our choices and subjects us to or delivers us from our culture’s “spin.”

Wednesday focuses on the “ignored temptation” that our religious formation did not make us sufficiently aware of: desire for power.

Thursday, Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, shows us how our expectations can make encounter with Jesus lifegiving or destructive for us. The readings — and the event they relate — call us to cultivate conscious awareness of what we hope for, what we fear, what we have set our hearts on.

Friday pinpoints what should be the core of our awareness: the mystery of our identification with Jesus the Son that gives us our relationship with God as Father, brought to awareness through the indwelling enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday tells us that all the bishops and priests in the world cannot “build a house” where Catholics can find God unless the laity do their part. For example, by expressing enthusiastically at Mass their awareness of the Good News of the mystery of their being as sharers in the life and mission of Jesus, Son of God.

Next week we take up the theme of discipleship, which is simply commitment to learning (as “students”) the “ breadth and length and height and depth” of the Name we pray will be “hallowed.” Then we will know the love Christ has for the Father, “that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God” — and fill the world with it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

To be Aware of What We Share: Third Week in "Ordinary Time": January 22-28, 2012


This week’s readings all invite us to awareness, which is the first and foundational phase of growth into the fullness of life and love.

We need to actively cultivate awareness of the whole mystery that has been revealed to us, the mystery that we are living, the mystery we need to see in others.

For example, the readings this week invite us to be aware of:

• the greatest power on earth, which is good example. Think about it; and how the Holy Spirit empowers us to give it in Christian witness.

• the peace that is ours in obeying God alone, and humans only in the measure that, in doing it, we can see we are surrendering in love to God.

• the way experience impels to expression and reaches completeness only in our expression of what is within us.

• the core mystery of our Christian life: “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” This is the awareness everything else grows out of and feeds into.

• the mystery of Christ growing to “full stature” in us, and that helping this happen is the first commitment of our Baptism and should be our main preoccupation in life.

• ministry as bringing Christ to fullness in others, which is Christian love of neighbor and the “second greatest” Commandment.

• the Gift in the gifts God is giving us. Praise and thanksgiving make us aware that through all he is offering us the Gift of being like God.

• the mystery of others: seeing the “whole picture” of what they are when we are tempted to reduce them to nothing but the sin we see in them.

• the mystery of the Church: seeing the saints as well as the sinners; being aware of the sinful Church as the beloved Bride of Christ being purified for the “marriage feast of the Lamb.”

• the mystery of God’s steadfast love, explained in part by the fact God sees in others what we don’t see. Only God can read their hearts.

• the attitude of our own heart: the real self that we discover in the act of confessing sin as sin. We cannot look down on anything unless something within us has risen above it — that is, been raised by the gift of God’s sharing and our acceptance of his own ideals.

• the love and care we know God has for us when we call out to him in danger.

These are just examples of the awareness we are called to by this week’s readings. Use them to ‘prime the pump” and expand into the awareness Paul prayed we would grow into:


I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Truth is Perspective: Second Week in “Ordinary Time”: January 15-21, 2012

This week’s readings are all about perspective — seeing ourselves, the meaning of our “names,” our good actions and bad, our relationships, our goals and desires in perspective. Perspective both clarifies and blinds us to the truth.

Up close, when it’s fourth and goal, the last twenty seconds of a tied game seem so important people won’t even answer their cell phones. Even teenagers stop texting. But if we “zoom out” to see this moment in the context of our whole life, or of the history of the world, it has no significance at all. Perspective.

An eighteen-wheeler seems massive on the freeway. Caught in hurricane winds, it is tossed about like a feather. Perspective.

Highschool trophies mean little in college. Our greatest successes and failures lose importance with time. But there is a strange exception: a moment of love — given or refused — is forever a memory that affects us. We always feel good or bad about it. What does this tell us?

Seen in perspective, all that counts in this life (or after) are our relationships. Our relationships define the meaning of our “name” (because we are in the image of God, and, theology tells us, the three Persons of the Trinity are defined by their relationships). What are our achievements except results, or causes, of relationship with others? What value does anything have, isolated from relationship with other people or God?

Think about it. This leads us to say the only true value in life is love. Love gives value to everything else. A no-brainer, since all life is from God, and in God, Life is Love. But we tend to forget it. Because we lose perspective.

Jesus taught us to see everything in the perspective of relationship. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone takes your coat, give your cloak as well; if anyone forces you to go one mile, go two.” In other words, don’t let hurt feelings, or concern for property or time block perspective. Value relationship with the other more than any of these.

We sin because we fail to see ourselves and God in perspective. Or to see others in perspective as being in relationship with God. We give priority to what, in the perspective of life and death, time and eternity, are minor issues. We neglect the “one thing” necessary (look it up: Mark 10:21; Luke 10:42) because we lose perspective.

Fear of the Lord and Wisdom are perspective. Awareness of our graced identity is perspective. We commit to discipleship, dedicate ourselves to mission, surrender to God’s will, and abandon ourselves to the work of the Kingdom when we see things in perspective.

To lose perspective is to lose the meaning, the value and the fulfillment of life. To lose perspective is to lose our souls.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

“Light of the World ”: First Week in “Ordinary Time”: January 8-14, 2012

Week after the Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord

In the authentic version of Titus 2:1-3, that we misquote in the Rite of Communion, what we are looking forward to and waiting for is the “blessed hope and the manifestation (epiphaniam) of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” It is the preview and promise of this in the “manifestation” of Jesus to the Gentiles that we celebrate on Sunday, the Feast of the Epiphany.

The Magi were led to Jesus by a star. But what the readings are saying is that we are all called to be stars: not movie stars, rock stars or football stars, but stars like the one in the Gospel: stars that lead others to Jesus. This is our vocation and mission from God. But to fulfill it, we have to keep ourselves aware of the light that is within us.

In celebrating the Baptism of Jesus we celebrate the mystery of our own Baptism and the “essence of our redemption,” which is that we have become Christ. We are (in his words, not ours) the light of the world. We need to keep ourselves so aware of this that we will let his light in us shine out — be an epiphany, a “manifestation” of God’s light and life in us — in every word we speak, every choice we make, every action we perform.

Jesus was never bored or boring. And no Christian who is aware of the gift of his light and life should ever be bored either, or boring to others. We have within us the excitement of the world. If that is not obvious to ourselves and others, we are failing to keep aware of and to share the Good News. It is time to change that. What is stopping you?

The truth is, we are anointed by God, solemnly anointed in Baptism, to be prophets: people with a message to deliver. Nothing is stopping us but our failure to recognize the truth of what we are and to express it in our lifestyle. Again: it is time to change that.

The Second Vatican Council proclaimed that “every Catholic must aim at Christian perfection.” And not only that, the Council called on all Catholics to “undertake with vigor” the task of renewing and reforming the “pilgrim” and imperfect Church.” We are obliged to.

We were all sacramentally anointed by God to be prophets, priests and stewards of the kingship of Christ. As we begin Ordinary Time, the readings invite us to keep ourselves aware of the extraordinary dignity and duties inherent in this anointing.

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