Monthly Archives: February 2017

Morning Thoughts: The Sound of Life


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Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

—Genesis 2:7


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What is it this moment holds? Not last night, not later today. This moment. What does it hold?

Friendship.

Hello my friend. Good morning.

It is cold. Outside. In here though, it’s quite comfortable.

Just you and me.

Just me and you.

Shall we talk or just sit a while?

Ha, that reminds me of being in the chapel, early in the morning.

No one speaking but such a beautiful sound.

An old man, a holy priest, breathing quite loud.

But it wasn’t just air passing to and fro.

It was the sound of “spirit and truth.

———

Community is the beautiful sound of other people breathing.

———

May God truly bless your day. May we both appreciate what He has given. And may we forgive each other our petty crimes. For you, my friend, in many ways, here and now, in earthen clay, are all I got. For without you—my neighbor, my brother, my wife, my boss, my employee, my business partner, my competitor, my foe—I won’t glimpse the face of Christ. And that I so badly need to do. He is after all, all we truly got. My face and yours will dry up and wrinkle, His remains the same. His love never gets old. May we hear each other breathe, with compassion and mercy, knowing that so much we take in causes mold. But it’s also in that very sound—the mysterious sound of breath—that can seemingly annoy us to death—that we witness daily the Word become flesh, again and again, to and fro, the entire universe, expand and contract.

We hear the One who sits on the throne.

We hear Him reconciling the world to Himself.


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Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…

—John 20:21-22


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: A Happy Statement

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What state are we meant to be?

To be happy. No matter the circumstances. No matter the facts. No matter the evidence you see.

But shouldn’t we try to change unfavorable circumstances? Help beautify ugly facts? And want to witness genuine good being done?

Yes. Good desires, are all three. And, still, happy is the state you should be.

But are there not times we cry, we grieve, we fight? Times for righteous anger? Times, if you will, to flip the tables of hypocrisy?

Yes. Seasons such as these, yes, they do come and go. Happy is the state you should be.

But surely then, being happy too is also a phase, one that must come and go?

That I hope not. For happy is hope. And hope is always. Always happy. Knowing that somehow, someway, it’s all gonna be ok. That’s the state of hope. And happy is such a state. A state that is meant to be. A state to move into. And to stay. Not just for visits. A permanent lease. A place within. A home. From within which all seasons are observed. A duck blind. From which all God’s creation is closely, and quietly, and calmly glorified.

A place of patience. And of great expectation.

A place of simplicity. And of bare bones.

A place of abundance. And of hearty bread and good wine.

A place set apart.

A place setting for two, or perhaps for three or four…

A place for more. And a place of much less.

Surely, then, you speak of a different type of “happy”—a different type of “happy” than that known to the world? You simply speak of a place I do not know!

I speak. And what I speak comes to be. I speak Joy. I speak Peace. I speak Love. I speak Mercy. I speak Grace. I speak Kingdom. I speak now. Put out your arm. Look at your hand. Is that distance far? Shorten it still by placing your palm upon your heart. Now say, “Thy kingdom come.” I say it’s that close. I say the kingdom is at hand. I say it resides within. I say it is not of this world.

You are not of this world.

You are of ME.

And I AM.

And I say happy.

Live in the place I meant for you to be.

Perpetually.

A place for all seasons, of all times, beyond all phases.

Now go!

Happy is a state meant to be.


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—Howard Hain

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Revelation

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel ( MT 16: 13-18 ) Jesus asks His disciples:

            ” ‘ Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘ Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Then Simon Peter said in reply,’ You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. ‘  Jesus said to him in reply,’Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.'”

    Over the last week I have allowed myself to be angered and distressed by the news on TV. Out of so many things, what I found most disturbing was the underreported story that the Congress is quietly crafting nearly 100 “riders” that take away or degrade all types of environmental laws, from energy conservation, to the Endangered Species Act, to the protection of the oceans, rivers , lakes, groundwater, and air. There seems to be no way to stop these new laws from being enacted.

    I feel helpless. I even feel embarrassed to ask my Lord Jesus, in prayer, “Why?” . In the darkness I feel Him asking me, ” Who do you say that I am? Am I just a nice priest or prophet to be remembered and venerated? Do you believe that I am the Son of the Living God? Don’t you trust that I am the Savior of the world? Do you have faith that I AM in charge? Don’t you know how much I love my creation?”

    His soothing presence reminds me that only by loving can I begin to do anything about these problems. So I surrender myself, in hope and confidence, to His Will. Like Peter, I confess His kingship. I will be His instrument. He will show me the way.

    And I am not alone. I am part of a great community of love, His Church, where I meet so many good people who want to do good for this world. We also have Peter’s successor, Pope Francis. He is a compassionate man, a rock of righteousness, a strong voice in our world, strong enough to reach the ears of the powerful. His message advocates for the poor, the oppressed, the dispossessed, and also reminds us of our urgent need to protect God’s Creation.

    So, Beloved Heavenly Father, never mind my thoughts and the thoughts of men. You have given me confidence in You, and I thank You for Your Revelation: Christ lives, and loves, and cares for us . We are not floundering alone in a wild, threatening sea. We are standing on firm rock.

Orlando Hernández

Morning Thoughts: Taste and See

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“What does it taste like?”

This is the main question I hear from eight-year-olds who are about to make their First Holy Communion.

At first, I confess, I saw it as quite cute, “childlike” if you will— their little focus on the very obvious—the actual physical experience of eating something—something they have never eaten before.

But once again, the “teacher’ plays the fool. No, not “plays” the fool, in this case the “teacher” is actually the fool.

Grownups can be so busy moving on to the “real” point that they often miss the healthiest part of the meal.

And we think it’s the children who are obsessed with sweets?

———

Of course, I was not the one to correct my own error. The only true teacher, Jesus, and the only true guide, The Holy Spirit, once again came to the rescue.

———

It was about 8:20 on an ordinary weekday morning. I had just left the pew and got in line to receive Communion. And as I walked toward the altar I found myself quietly asking: “What does it taste like?”

There I was, a full-fledged adult, a “mature” believer, in line with all the eight-year olds of the world—though with one great exception—I was probably the only one who lacked sincerity.

Not that I didn’t really wonder what it tastes like. I did. But my “bigness” wouldn’t leave good enough alone. I quickly translated the simple into the complex: “What does it taste like?” became “What is heaven like?”

Not a bad question, of course. But not the one being asked. Once again, I was rushing right to dessert. But not so the eight-year-old. No, the eight-year-old is much more straightforward, sincere, genuine, and ironically, no nonsense. He and she are much more down-to-earth, which in this case, strangely enough, brings them much closer to heaven.

Their question is simply what it seems. They have no hidden pomposity dressed up as profundity. They are simply asking a quite simple question.

“What does it taste like?”

And if there’s any need for more elaboration concerning such a straightforward question, it should only make their point simpler, not more complex. For example, I guess in order to help us adults see more clearly what they mean, perhaps it’s safe to say that the eight-year-old is literally asking: “What does this thing that I am about to put in my mouth, that you tell me is the real, actual body of Jesus Christ, a man who died almost two-thousand years ago, really taste like?”

Good question.

And to allow the eight-year-old in me to answer, I say, it kind of tastes like cardboard.

Good answer.

It’s dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

Kind of what you’d expect, at best, from something two-thousand-years-old.

Kind of what mankind has tasted on a daily basis since the beginning of time, since the time Adam and Eve were sent forth from the garden to work for their daily bread.

Life can be like cardboard.

It can be dry, bland, you might even say, stale.

It can even be what we come to expect.

At least for us adults, for those of us who only take things at face value.

For, you see, the child in his or her utterly face-value question reveals his or her astounding trust and playfulness within the much deeper mystery of what truly exists but cannot be seen. For there is another question, one that eight-year-olds don’t ask nearly as often when it comes to First Holy Communion.

They hardly ever ask: “How can that be?”

They move right past the “how” to get to the “taste and see.

———

No matter the age, what brings sincerity is faith, and what increases faith is sincerity.

Therefore all questions safely asked from under the umbrella of faith are not questions casting doubt.

No, they are genuine gestures of childlike wonder, that simply ask in one way or another:

“What is this faithful reality going to be like for me?”


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“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

—Psalm 34:9


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: A Call to Praise God


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Come, let us sing to the Lord

and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us.

—Psalm 95:1


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Come,

Me? Am I included? Can I come as well? But you are God? Am I really allowed to join the celebration?

But Your Word simply says “Come”. It’s an open invitation, right? An open call; no qualifications, no applications, no background checks, no letters of introduction required?

It seems pretty clear. So I guess I shall. I shall come along. After all, I’ve followed crowds all my life, perhaps it’s time to follow the “great cloud of witnesses”—Your patriarchs and Your prophets, Your holy angels and Your holy saints. I will come along then. Forgive me though, Lord, for not being properly dressed. But if I were to first run home to change, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Plus, I might then miss the entire affair.

No, I’ll come now, just as I am—no more excuses, no more procrastination—for the procession is well under way.

…let us sing to the Lord…

But…forgive me, Lord…there I go again, once more I begin a thought with such an ugly conjunction. “But”…I am so unprepared. Sing? Me? In Public? With my voice? You know well the noise I make. But then again, I cannot deny it, when I am alone, You know Lord that I love to sing. I truly do. All kinds of melodies, all kinds of hymns. I even compose. And chanting, that too I do. In fact, to be really honest, I don’t think I’m half bad. Come to think of it, I’m actually pretty good. Relatively speaking, of course. Put it this way, within my little “monastic cell”, within the confines of my “inner room”—with the “door” well “shut”—I not only “sing”, but “dance”.

Perhaps it’s time to take the show on the road?

…and shout with joy…

Yes. With this one there are no “ifs, ands, or buts.” That I can do. I can shout. I can “shout with joy”. “You are fantastic! Truly!! I love You!!!” And the more I say it, the more joy I feel. So shout? Shout with joy? Yes, that I will do. I do it now. Right now. Even if it wakes my neighbors. Maybe precisely because it might wake my neighbors. I shout. I shout. I shout. “JOY!” “JOY!” “JOY!” And as I do, I remember. A sweet memory. A joyful memory. A memory that makes a small smile grow larger and eventually into a laugh, an out-loud laugh, even while sitting all by myself. And yet, that’s just the point, “with joy” we are never alone. For a memory—a memory transformed by hope—brings resurrection and divine significance to even the smallest details of our life. “The memory of the just will be blessed.” Bringing the Kingdom to life, but not only in our here and now, for the Holy Spirit also breathes life into our past.

The specific memory I now recall—the one currently “at hand” and recreating “earth as it is in heaven”—involves a classmate I knew many years ago in elementary school. Her name was Joy.

I don’t remember shouting with Joy, but I do clearly recall that she was the prettiest girl in class.

…to the Rock who saves us.

I blame you. You blame me. We both blame Adam. He blames Eve. She blames Satan. He doesn’t care about anything, all he wants is for us not to blame ourselves. For if we don’t “repent” how can we possibly “believe in the gospel”? And that’s the beginning of the end of not buying the “good news”. For the Kingdom begins when we realize we need to be saved from ourselves. And without that self knowledge, without the realization that we cannot anchor ourselves to ourselves, we drift falsely self-assured in utter chaos, “without form and shape, with darkness over the abyss.”  In other words, for you and for me, and for all who “cast the first stone”, “the kingdom of God” is no longer “at hand.”

Lucky for us, some stones miss their target. Some even fall right as they fall into place. For “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus, rejected by the builders of earthly kingdoms, fell asleep on the wood of the cross. He slept the sleep of death, dead to all the world, while His soul was still awake, truly awake to all those “saved in hope.” For “the hope of the just brings them joy.”

Jesus is then “the Rock”—“the Rock” who was laid within the “rock-hewn tomb”.

He is the “cornerstone” and the entire “temple”—the stone “temple” totally torn “down” (“not one stone…left upon another”) and completely raised up “in three days”.

He is “the living stone” toward whom we “shout with joy”.

Jesus is truly “the Rock who saves us.”

And even if we reject His plea to be “also, like living stones”, failing to let ourselves “be built into a spiritual house”, there will still be praise. For His glory won’t be denied:

As Jesus Himself replied: “I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!”


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Come, let us sing to the Lord

and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us.

—Psalm 95:1


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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: Like Unto Thine

February 14th

My Lord, my God, my Love,

Where can I begin?

Just this week alone, how much you have given…

A chance to help someone pursue good, a chance to help someone turn from darkness, a chance to help someone enter further into Your church, a chance to help someone see hope for his entire family, a chance to help someone re-encounter the little girl she once was, a chance to help someone see the magnificence of marriage, a chance to help someone regain her composure within the day-to-day grind, a chance to help a young someone meet You in Your gift of the Eucharist, a chance to help someone realize he is an instrument of Your peace…

That someone being helped is someone else, and that someone is also me.

Your gifts, my good, good Lord, send forth ripples of grace, covering those we serve for Your sake, covering ourselves, and covering so many others, so many who are so far beyond the limits of what we can see.

You are real. You exist today, right now. You will never be outdone in love or in generosity.

How could I ever say enough?

Give me Lord the chance to help someone praise You for all eternity.

Increase Your love in me.

Increase my love of souls.

And when, O Lord, this trek, this adventure, this stroll, comes to an end, may I please, good, good Lord, be with You?

May I truly rest with You, as I begin to do now—within arm’s reach—Your Kingdom, Your Promise, Your Joy, Your Peace.

It is all too much.

It makes me wonder why…why I…why anyone…would ever desire to sell an eternal soul in order to purchase a fleeting here and now—when all that could ever truly be desired is offered through the tiniest of tastes and the smallest of sips—Your Body and Blood, cloaked within the appearance of daily bread and table wine.

Thank You, Lord.

From my heart to Yours:

“O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.”

O Jesus, this day, be my Valentine.


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: “Prophesy!”

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Gerard van Honthorst, “Saint Peter Being Freed from Prison”, 1616-18


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“What further need have we of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as deserving to die.

Some began to spit on him.

They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!”

And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard…

—Mark 14:63-66


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I don’t want to hear myself.

I want to hear from You.

My thoughts, my concerns, my feelings, bore me terribly.

I think You are silent but I know it isn’t true.

The moon is so very full this night and so are You.

The coffee I sip is bitter.

Your Word hangs on every tree.

If only Lord we could see.

Drama. Tragedy. Puppet show. Divine Comedy.

Me, me, me, look at me!

But it is You raised up high.

For all to see.

Forgive us, Father, for we still haven’t a clue.


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The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”

With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.

Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.”

Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.”

Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

—Mark 15:26-32


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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: A Grain of Salt

 

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Winslow Homer, “Snap the Whip”, 1872, (The Met)

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Lord, I don’t want to be witty, or smart, or cute.

I don’t want to be clever, or interesting, or different.

I don’t want to be important.

One of a kind.

I don’t want to want to be anything.

You were.

You are.

You will be.

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

———

A few days ago my daughter was eating a piece of toast for breakfast. It was a nice piece of toast, I prepared it my myself. Golden brown. A good amount of very good olive oil, from a little can my sister-in-law gifted us after a trip to Portugal. And I cracked some sea salt. Beautiful little crystals atop virgin oil upon a bed of grain and wheat, all held aloft by a bit of yeast.

She was eating away. Then I heard a shriek. It seems a little stink bug landed on the edge of her plate. Well, that was the end of breakfast.

Like a little dinosaur. I’m pretty sure they’re harmless. Apparently, they’re not from the United States. It seems they’ve recently made their way over from China. They’re immigrants, if you will. Or perhaps ‘missionaries’ is a better way to put it, at least from the stink bug’s perspective.

They’ve got a job after all, like the rest of us. I doubt they complain though. I also doubt that the first little guy to make his way across the great ocean to arrive at our shores had any idea he was discovering a whole new world. The Christopher Columbus of stink bugs. But there’s no statue. No holiday. No day off. No big sale at Macy’s honoring his (or her) accomplishment.

Nonetheless, his relative was in my home the other day and landed on my daughter’s plate, leaving me wondering if she had eaten enough, and also somewhat worried she wouldn’t have enough energy to make it through the first half of the day.

She did. The day went on. The bug was removed. As far as my daughter’s relationship with stink bugs specifically or with insects in general, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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I don’t know why that little bug is on my mind. I guess I admire him. His obedience.

God created that little bug, both his kind and him individually. I am therefore to love him:

Love God in all His creation. Love all of God’s creation for His sake.

In love with a bug.

Hey, who knows?

———

I’m having fun. Life is wonderful. If only we could all just play. All day. No homework. No tests. No goals of earning admittance.

I laugh. I smile. I think again. My little girl. All children. It’s amazing what they say. What the Holy Spirit speaks through living innocence:

“I want to fall into the Sun…and go deep, deep, deep…and the clouds will tickle me…”

———

When parents speak of the little things they’re children say, I imagine most listeners take it with a grain of salt.

But parents know what they’ve heard, spoken or not.

Surely God knows.

After all, He’s a parent too.

And he wants us to play.

Stink bugs and all.


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11140

From the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Snap the Whip

Artist: Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine) Date: 1872
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“In the years after America’s brutal Civil War (1861-65), children—as embodiments of innocence and the promise of America’s future—became a popular artistic subject. Snap the Whip, one of Homer’s most beloved works, evoked nostalgia for the nation’s agrarian past as the population shifted to cities, and the little red schoolhouse faded from memory. Released from their lessons, the exuberant bare-footed boys engage in a spirited game of snap the whip, which required teamwork, strength, and calculation—all important skills for a reuniting country…”

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