Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Dance of Life

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Jn 5: 17-30), my Lord invites me to enter into the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  The way to do this is through faith, and the wonderful reward is the gift of Love that is eternal life.

    At the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus has just healed a man who had been suffering for 38 years of his life.  Our compassionate Lord had decided not to let this man wait for another day to find relief, even if this day happened to be the sabbath.  And so:

 Jesus answered the Jews: “My father is at work until now, so I am at work.”  For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because He not only broke the sabbath but He also called God His own father, making Himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for what He does, the Son will do also.  For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything that He Himself does, and He will show Him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed.For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever He wishes.”

    And our Lord goes on to say: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” Jesus goes on to talk about the resurrection of the dead and the final Judgement, of which both He and the Father are to be the authors.

    One of the things that the Lord says calls out to me:  “For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He gave the Son the possession of life in Himself.”

This is Divine Life that Jesus is talking about. God is alive with it!

    In his book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict XVI explains how the Gospel of John uses the Greek word “zoe” to name this supernatural “fullness of life,” different from “bios,” which is our biological life. Pope Benedict writes:  “Eternal life(zoe) is not – as the the modern reader might immediately assume – life after death in contrast to this present life, which is transient and not eternal. ‘Eternal life’ is life itself, real life, which can be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death. This is the point: to seize  ‘life’ here and now, real life that can no longer be destroyed by anything or anyone.”   The disciple of Jesus “lives beyond the mere fact of existing, he has found the REAL life that everyone is seeking…..life itself, full and, hence, indestructible life.” (Part II, p. 82)

    Wow, this is how I want to live! But how? Providing this life for us is the “work” that Jesus shares with His Father, all week long, even in the sabbath.  How is it given to us? Is it like the water we need to live? Jesus tells the Samaritan woman,,”The water I shall give will become [in you] like a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Is it like His Breath, the wind, the Spirit that renews the face of the earth,  that gave life to Adam and Eve? Like his last, dying breath, saving all of us?  This life(zoe) given to us freely, seems to be God Himself: the Holy Spirit.

    Richard Rohr offers the image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, giving of themselves fully to each other, in constant unity, relationship, and movement in a circular dance, to which we are invited, all of us. In my prayer, I imagine this Holy Dance, not as a flat circle,but as a sideways figure-eight: infinity, eternity, eternal life.

    How could I try to become part of this dance? First, by believing in Jesus, the Inviter…..In today’s Gospel He says, “Whoever hears my word and believes  in the One who sent Me has eternal life.”  Then by knowing(recognizing). In His High-Priestly prayer Jesus says, “This is Eternal Life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  Then, by loving.  Pope Benedict goes on to say,”It is clear that the recognition of Him who is Himself Love leads in turn to love, with all that it gives and all that it demands.”

    Every sensation of joyful or painful love that I have felt in my life, for my parents, wife, son, grandchildren, friends, strangers, the beauty of creation, of art…..it all comes from that Circle of Eternal Love…..This is the source and end of the best possible life that I can live, and surrender to, and invite others to, with every act of self-giving. So come, come dance with us! This feast is forever.

Orlando Hernandez

Living Law

 

    In today’s Gospel (Mt 5:17-19) our Lord speaks to His disciples and to the crowds ( to all of us !) on the beautiful site of the Mount of the Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. After presenting to them the revolutionary concept of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10), and of our calling to be shining examples of goodness to the world (Mt 5:13-16), He goes on to tell us:

    ” Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches other to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. “

    Our Lord seems to say to me that the greatest contribution which a citizen of the Kingdom can make is to do as much good as possible. To love others. The Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments are certainly great guides for how to bring goodness to humanity. This is what the Kingdom on Earth is about.

    Our Lord fulfills and fuses these two sets of precepts and statutes by showing in the next verses and chapters how we are called to love of others, compassion, tolerance, self-giving, self-control, self-knowledge, honesty, forgiveness, prayer, spiritual poverty, and confidence in God. These components form the substance of the solid rock foundation on which each of us can build our relationship with Him.

    I believe that the great majority of humanity really yearns to live by these rules. We want peace, security, love, respect between us and our neighbors. The society that prospers most is the one that comes closest to living by these rules. World literature is filled with heroes who strive to live like this in order to find happiness. And yet we are so flawed. There is so much disrespect, hate, and violence in our world.

    I am certainly guilty of breaking many of these commandments. I am certainly one of the least in the Kingdom of heaven. I could fall into hopelessness and despair if it were not for the supernatural presence of Jesus in my life. Through His gift of prayer He has given me faith, love and hope to go on trying everyday, to trust, even in the darkest of days, in the power of His plan. For my part, in my hobbled, imperfect way, I promise Him, along with millions of brothers and sisters, to strive to ” obey and teach these commandments “, empowered by His live-giving Grace, ” until heaven and earth pass away “.

Orlando Hernández

Friday Thoughts: Angels

Jan Gossaert Agony in the Garden detail..

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:

‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship

and him alone shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

—Matthew 4:8-11


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Angels.

What if we could see them?

They exist. They don’t have bodies. They are purely spiritual beings.

What if we focused on them?

What if we focused on them helping God’s people?

Perhaps then we’d better see?

Perhaps then we’d realize how conscious God is of our frailty?

Perhaps then we’d have more compassion toward those whom we are tempted to criticize and condemn?

Perhaps then we’d be more like God’s holy angels— “ministering to” and “strengthening” those whose turn it is to undergo great strain?


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Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

—Luke 22:39-46


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—Howard Hain

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Jan_Gossaert_-_Agony_in_the_Garden_-_WGA9761

Jan Gossaert, “Agony in the Garden”, ca. 1510 

 

Want to be Great?

                                                                      

    In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 20: 17-18), our Lord makes His third prediction of His coming Passion and Resurrection.

    The sons of Zebedee and their mother seem to miss the gravity of what Jesus has said– the sacrifice and suffering that is to come in order that the Kingdom of God be established. They expect a kingdom of earthly power, and they would like positions of honor and influence in the royal palace– a throne up on the dais,  or perhaps a seat at the Cabinet table.

    The other ten disciples hear about this and complain: “Hey, what about us? “. They also think in terms of power and prestige. Our Lord corrects them:

    ” You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. “

    Day after day I come to realize more and more that membership in this Kingdom is about sacrifice, service, and humility. This is not a kingdom for lords or  “insiders ” ; it is a kingdom of serfs and outsiders.

  Some folks in our prayer group, which meets twice a week at the Passionist Monastery, tell me that I am ” leader “. When I find myself thinking that I actually am a leader, I start to stress about the meetings, lose my connection with God, get in a bad mood, and think of controlling others. When the Lord helps me realize that I am just another servant of the True Leader, when I let go and I am filled with humility and awe at the love and holiness of the suffering people in this group, it is only then that I begin to rejoice in the Grace that falls upon all of us as the prayer meeting takes on an organic life of its own  that makes the moment holy.

    When I lived in Florida, I belonged to a laymens’ group similar to Cursillo. Twice a year, under the auspices of the parish, more than fifty of us would put together a three day retreat of evangelization for men in search of God. The jobs of the coordinators, the organizers, the fund-raisers, and the presenters were vital to the retreats. But just as important were the jobs of  the cooks, table servers, furniture arrangers, and the clean-up crew.

    At one of the retreats there was a retreatant who had quit the priesthood and was looking for a way back to God. He was touched by the talks, the activities, and the witnesses that were humbly presented by us. But on the last day, when he was going to the bathroom, he ran into a young team member who was cleaning the toilets. As he worked, the smiling young man was singing religious songs with great abandonment and joy. The retreatant is once again a priest, and he attests that this encounter was the moment that sealed the deal for him. He felt the irresistible call of Jesus once again and his life was changed. This priest comes back every year to one of the retreats and serves in the clean-up crew.

    Richard Rohr quotes Catherine La Cugna :  ” God’s power comes through powerlessness and humility. The Christian God is much more properly called

all-vulnerable than almighty, which we should have suspected and intuited by the shocking metaphor ‘ Lamb of God ‘  found throughout the New Testament…..

If God is all-vulnerable, then perhaps God stands in solidarity with all pain and suffering in the Universe, allowing us to be participants in our own healing. This does not make sense to the logical mind but to the awakened soul it somehow does. “

Orlando M. Hernández

Morning Thoughts: How About Today?


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Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

—2 Corinthians 6:2


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“How about today?”

“How about right now?”

“Now is good.”

“Yes, now is a very good time, indeed.”

“Great, let’s do it.”

“Here, sit here.”

“So…how are you?”

———

Ministry is saying yes and ministry is saying no. Ministry is saying I don’t want to, but God does, so I shall.

Obedience is a place. Not a verb. It is a state. Not an action. Obedience is a chair, indifferent to my personal ambitions, but resting on God’s.

God’s will is the only true act. And the only time we act truly is when we are fulfilling His Divine Good Pleasure.

———

Yesterday only has meaning in terms of finding God’s blessings.

Today is significant only if lived with the assumption that God has already filled it with blessings that simply need to be discovered.

Tomorrow…well, tomorrow is pretty much the same as yesterday and the same as today…just much, much better…infinitely better in fact…and it lasts for ever.

———

“No, I’m fine…all yours…take your time, I’m free all day…now go on, you were telling me about your mother…”

———

Ministry is crucifixion. It is happening now. It began yesterday. Tomorrow remains to be seen.

In the meantime—no matter what we sense or smell, no matter what we taste or see, no matter what we hear or feel—no matter the day of the week—Sunday will arrive.

And then, resurrection minsters to us.

———

Lord Jesus, help me be like You. Help me pour myself out.

Help me endure the wood of the tree. Help me see the joy that lies ahead. Help me embrace the joy already within. Help me believe the kingdom is truly at hand. Help me, Lord Jesus, help me know it is You in me and I in You. Help me, help me, help me, Lord Jesus…have mercy on me. I thank You because I know You do. Simply because You say.

You are Mercy. You forgive. You heal. You bring peace. You are Innocence. You are the tiny infant. The child running free. The teenager filled with dreams. The young man boldly going west. You are middle-aged and getting tired. You are old and broken down. You are dying on a wooden bed. You are lowered into a weeping mother’s arms. You are put to rest. You enter living hell. You set captives free. You rise. You speak. You break fast. You open the scriptures. You float above. You promise to return. You serve us again and again in the mystery of bread and wine. You feed us relentlessly with Your own Body and Blood.

Help me, Lord Jesus, be more like You. Help me pour myself out.

Amen.


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Up From The Ashes

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I saw a ladder extended high up into the sky.

It seemed to reach into heaven.

Were angels ascending and descending?

Perhaps.

Firefighters can be seen as angels, that’s for sure.

“The church is on fire.” That was the reality. The flames that consume wood and air have now been extinguished. Our parish has been pushed into the street. Most of the material damage was done to the steeple. It is pretty much gone. The bells collapsing inward. The large copper cross crashing onto Central Avenue. The roof too suffered. A large hole, allowing direct sunlight, presides directly above the altar.

The tabernacle and the statues are perfectly intact.

In other words, Jesus’ real presence and His Communion of Saints are alive and well.

No Resurrection without Crucifixion. No Easter Sunday without Good Friday.

The last service before the fire was The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—Friday after Ash Wednesday—the first Friday of Lent. The Mass was preceded by the Stations of the Cross. It was led by the women of The Sacred Heart Society.

The best poetry, the most romantic images, the most apropos settings are constructed by God Himself. Like good, basic, simple, yet shockingly profound haiku poetry—God’s work always contains three lines: One of Faith, One of Hope, One of Love.

Faith: There is a God. He is our father. He is good. All He does is good. He is ultimately in control. Nothing happens without His active or passive permission. He brings all to good. All back to Himself. His promises are good as gold. Better. Much. His promises are eternal. He promises everlasting peace. He promises joy beyond comprehension.

Hope: Jesus is with us every step of the way. Everything that happens to us can become an event that teaches us, instructs us, encourages us, and helps us become more like Him. It can propel us deeper into His presence. And Jesus is already victorious. He died for us, for you and for me, personally. He defeated death. Completely. And He has perfectly shown the way through. For Jesus not only makes His Father’s promises possible, He fulfills them. He not only provides salvation but also all the help and assistance we will ever need to reach salvation, our eternal home. All will be ok.

Love: The Holy Spirit—the Love of the Father for the Son, the Love of the Son for the Father—is awesome. Period. And there is nothing that can stop God from loving us, each and every one of us, as individual and greatly prized children. Love. Love. Love. Say it out loud. Breathe it. It is the breath of life. With Faith and Hope we can freely Love. With Love we can continually Believe and Hope.

But He never says it will be easy, this pilgrimage on earth. But He says it is worth it.

Suffering is not a choice. We will experience suffering. No one gets out alive. The only real question then is this: How will we receive suffering, and how will we handle it?

There is only one acceptable answer: In Union With Jesus.

If we suffer in union with Jesus, then our suffering is His suffering. And Jesus’ suffering is fruitful, always. It redeems. It brings to life. It resurrects.

How then can we do it?

The answer is always the same: Grace

We must cooperate with God’s grace. And that cooperation begins with posture, with how we position ourselves. And the posture needed is prayer. In His Holy Name. We need to ask Jesus for what He will not deny: To participate in His salvation of the world.

To participate in His life, His death, and His resurrection:

Lord, grant me the grace to endure all suffering in perfect union with You. Grant me the patience and strength and courage to accept and carry my cross daily. The grace to not desire that the circumstances be immediately changed, nor the desire that I be removed from the struggle—but instead the grace of walking with You, Lord Jesus, through the suffering—praising You constantly—thanking You continually for the privilege of no longer being a mere bystander, but now instead an active participant in Your great work of salvation—filled the entire time with Faith, with Hope, and with Love—knowing that great work, heavenly work, tremendous good is being done. Whether it is seen or unseen. And also please grant, my Lord and my God, the grace of always giving all honor and praise to You and You alone. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.”

Amen.


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—Howard Hain

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