Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sing a New Song

In the days after Easter our readings during the liturgy speak of the growth of the church as well as the source of its growth, the Risen Christ, who abides with us in signs and mysteries.

The church’s growth is never easy;  Stephen’s persecution, described in the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that.

But we have “Bread from heaven,” better than the heavenly manna. This bread  keeps you alive forever.

“Sing to the Lord a new song; his praise is in the assembly of the saints.” We’ve been given a new song to sing each day, Augustine says in his commentary.

“A song is a thing of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love.” To sing we’ve been  given the gift of love, a new convenant,  a new promise of a kingdom.

“You have heard the words: Sing to the Lord a new song. Now you want  to know what praises to sing. The answer is: His praise is in the assembly of the saints. If you desire to praise him, then live what you express. Live good lives, and you yourselves will be his praise. Singers become the song.”

Earth Day and Solar Panels

Saturday evening,  April 21, after the 5 PM Mass, the Parish of St. Mary’s in Colts Neck, NJ, dedicated an array of solar panels that will cut their use of energy in the parish complex by 90%.  It’s the first parish in the Trenton Diocese to do it, and one hopes an incentive to others. Congratulations to Fr. Tom Triggs and his lively environmental committee.








I offered these thoughts at two Sunday Masses the next morning:

“Bread from heaven.” How frequently Jesus uses earthly things to speak of the things of heaven. “I am the vine,” “I am the light,” “I am living water.” He calls himself the “son” of the “Father.”

Jesus takes things we know: birds of the air, flowers of the field, seed scattered in the earth, to point to things unknown. The created world reveals secrets of a world beyond here.

Shouldn’t we reverence creation then? If we follow Jesus we will. Yet, as we watch our natural world being plundered, its air and waters polluted, its environment sacrificed for human convenience and pleasure, we know our attitude toward our natural world must change. Human-centered and human-concerned, we lack respect for the non- human.

In the Book of Genesis, human beings are said to be made in the image of God and are given an important relationship to the rest of creation. We’re caretakers of creation; we don’t own it; we care for it for awhile. We have a responsibility for it; it has rights of its own, and we have to use all our ingenuity in its care.

Our understanding of God and Jesus Christ, his Son, also suffers from lack of respect for creation. Taking bread, taking wine, Jesus gave thanks; they’re creation’s ambassadors, instruments of a divine exchange. They enlarge our relationship to God by reminding us that God’s plan includes creation as well as our human family and it embraces even the simplest creative things.

Placing bread and wine on precious plates and in precious cups, we carry them to the altar in church and they bring Jesus to us. Can we begin to learn a greater respect for creation here?

Patricia Tryon

My last blog entry was “A community of believers.” You’re blessed belonging to one.

Patricia Tryon died April 14 on the Saturday within the Octave of Easter. She was part of the believing community I’ve belonged to these past years. May God bring her a believer’s reward..

“That should be on the internet,” Patricia said on the phone the first time I spoke to her, as she inquired about a book almost 17 year ago.

“I don’t know anything about the internet,” I replied.

“I’ll do it for you and tell you about it, ” she said.

And so began “Bread on the Waters,” (  a website “to feed the web-surfer’s spirit” launched in November, 1996, that’s attracted millions since. She opened new worlds for many of us. My own work in the new media began with her.

The phone-call was the start of a long collaboration between this brilliant, faith-filled woman and me and others. We enjoyed her friendship and were welcomed into her world of family and friends, first in Portland, Oregon, and then in Longmont, Colorado.

Patricia’s  “community of believers”– not bound in the usual way to  one place– stretched over continents. It was connected by phone calls, email, Facebook, and occasional visits. It involved websites and splendid visual art and book lists and sparkling intellectual discussions and an abundance of human kindnesses. Patricia was an enlightening presence in it. “Ask Patricia,” we would say,  about all kinds of things, and she usually had an answer. Like all communities of believers, this one was held together by faith.

Her wisdom, advice and achievements we’ll remember, but I’ll remember something else about Patricia– her deep longing for God.

What does “longing for God” mean? We sense it more than describe it, I think, but the psalms give it a voice.  “Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, O God.”  It’s a longing for that tremendous Mystery that gave us the sun and the other stars. It’s expressed in a longing for beauty, for truth, for things that matter, and no darkness or suffering can stop it.

“Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me. Hope in God. I will praise him still, my Savior and my God.” That longing is tested, and Patricia surely experienced the testing in a soul cast down, groaning. Still, she hoped in God, her Savior, praising him still.

Writing in her blog at the start of this year, Patricia said, “ I have decided my word will be “hope”.

St Paul writes about hope in his letter to the Romans (ch 5):

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’

And again, in chapter 15 he writes:

‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’”

On the Saturday after Easter, her Savior called; her longing ended and her hope was to be fulfilled. I’m unable to get to her funeral, but like many of her Passionist friends throughout the world I celebrated Mass for her. We extend our condolences to her husband Chuck and daughter Alys on their loss.

I’ll also be listening these days to some of the great Baptist hymns she loved so much.

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,

till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

and exchange it some day for a crown.”

Hope does not disappoint, Patricia.

Signs of the Risen Christ

At Easter we see the Risen Christ in sacraments, especially Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. St. John Chrysostom, following the Gospel of John, says that these are signs already revealed on Calvary. Jesus is dead when the soldier pierces his side; he is still on the cross. From his wounds the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are given to his church.

Water comes forth and then the blood, Chrysostom says, “because first comes baptism and then the mysteries (the Eucharist).” With his spear, the soldier pierced the temple wall, the saint goes on, “but I am the one who finds the treasure and gets the wealth.” (cf. John 2,19)

From the sacraments the church is formed, the saint continues. Like Adam, who was cast into a deep sleep to form Eve, Christ dies the sleep of death and from his side the church is taken. “From his side Christ formed the church just as he formed Eve from the side of Adam.” (Baptismal Homilies, 3,16-18)

In an early baptismal homily preached in the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem which the Emperor Constantine constructed atop of the remains of Calvary and the newly discovered tomb of Jesus, Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem (+387), says: “… you descended three times into the water and ascended, showing the symbol of the three days of Christ’s burial… How kind and loving! Christ received nails in his hands and feet, while I without pain and trials receive freely a gift of salvation because I share in his suffering.”

At Easter we recall our baptism and the Eucharist. Sacraments are real signs that bring us into the mystery of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. We meet the Risen Christ in them.

Reality has Come

“Reality has come,” Melito, bishop of Sardis in the 2nd century, says in a homily for Easter. “The type has passed away… The lamb gives place to God, the sheep gives place to a man, and the man is Christ, who fills the whole of creation.

“The sacrifice of the lamb, the celebration of the Passover, and the prescriptions of the Law have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Under the old Law, and still more under the new dispensation, everything pointed toward him.

“Both the Law and the Word came forth from Zion and Jerusalem, but now the Law has given place to the Word, the old to the new. The commandment has become grace, the type a reality. The lamb has become a Son, the sheep a man, and man, God.

“The Lord, though he was God, became man. He suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud… I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men and women from their graves… I am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men and women up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.

“Come, then, all nations, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you. I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light. I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.”


The Cenacle in Ronkonoma

Blessed days for me. I’m at the Cenacle in Ronkonkoma, Long Island, a beautiful, new retreat house built by the Sisters of the Cenacle. They’ve created a wonderful space for retreats, nestled in some wetlands on Long Island.

The windows in their chapel telling the story of creation and redemption were just completed before the Holy Week Retreat. A visual delight.

Take a look at the slideshow. A thing of beauty, and a unique gift to God. Congratulations.

Good Friday

We solemnly celebrate the death and Resurrection of our Lord on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, using the simplest of signs.

On Holy Thursday Jesus knelt before his disciples and washed their feet. At table he gave them in bread and wine his own body and blood as signs of his love for them and for all humanity.

On Good Friday we take another symbol, the cross, a powerful sign of death, which first struck fear into the hearts of Jesus’ disciples, but then as they recalled the Lord’s journey from the garden to Calvary, as they saw the empty tomb, as they were taught by the Risen Jesus himself, they began to see that God can conquer even death itself.

On this day, we read the memories of John, the Lord’s disciple, who followed him from the Sea of Galilee, to Jerusalem, its temple and its feasts, to Calvary where he stood with the women and watched the Lord die. Like the others, he recoiled before it all, but then saw signs of victory even in the garden, in the judgment hall, before Pilate, and finally in the cross itself.

On this darkest of days, Christ’s victory is proclaimed in John’s Gospel.

“ Go into my opened side,

Opened by the spear,

Go within and there abide

For my love is here” (St. Paul of the Cross, Letter, September 5, 1740).

One Room, an Everywhere

“Love makes one little room an everywhere.”

That was so when Jesus entered the supper room in Jerusalem to eat with his disciples on the night before he died. A dark fate awaited him as powerful forces readied to take his life. His disciples, “his own who were in the world,” were arguing among themselves as they took their places at table. What would he do?

Understandably he might respond with disappointment, like the servant whom the prophet Isaiah described, “I toiled in vain; and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength” (Is 49).

Jesus, however, took bread and gave it to his disciples. “Take this,” he said, “this is my body.” He took the cup and gave it to them. “This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many.”

That night, without wariness or regret, he gave himself to his Father and to his disciples. As our Savior and Redeemer he gave himself unhesitatingly for the life of the world. In the supper room a love was tested and a love was displayed that reached everywhere.

Spy Wednesday

Matthew 26,14-25

Gospels offer little information about the twelve disciples of Jesus. Peter is best known among them, since Jesus gave him a special role and also lived in his house in Capernaum. Then, there’s Judas.

Matthew’s Gospel gives more information about him than any other New Testament source and so it’s read on “Spy Wednesday,” the day in Holy Week that recalls Judas’ offer to the rulers to hand Jesus over for thirty pieces of silver.

“Surely it is not I?” the disciples say one after the other when Jesus announces someone will betray him. And we say so too, as we watch Judas being pointed out. With Peter also we say we will not deny him.

But the readings for these days caution us that there’s a communion of sinners as well as a communion of saints. We’re also sinful disciples. We are never far from the disciples who once sat at table with Jesus. We come as sinners to the Easter Triduum, which begins the evening of Holy Thursday and ends on Easter Sunday. God shows great mercy; we hope for the forgiveness and new life that Jesus gave his disciples who left him the night before he died.

Meal at Bethany

John 12, 1-11

John’s Gospel read today calls us to a meal honoring Jesus in Bethany following the Resurrection of Lazarus. It’s the last meal before the Passover supper. The gift of life that Jesus gives his friend leads to a sentence of death.

Faithful Martha serves the meal; Lazarus newly alive, is at the table. But the one drawing most of our attention is Mary, their sister who, sensing what’s coming, kneels before Jesus to anoint his feet with precious oil and dry them with her hair. “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”

The precious oil is an effusive sign of her love and gratitude; it also anoints Jesus for his burial. Only in passing does the Gospel mention that evil is in play here. Judas, “the one who would betray him,” complains that the anointing is a waste, but his voice is silenced. Believers are honoring the one they love.

How fitting that Holy Week begins with this Gospel when, like Mary, we kneel and pour out the precious oil of our love upon him who pours out his precious life for us.