Archive for the ‘Sunday Readings’ category

SEXAGESIMA SENSATIONS

February 24, 2019

All kinds of “sensations”  on this Sexagesima Sunday.

First of a mild remorse because I have missed so many “dates” on the liturgical calendar.  ( It’s that calendar that propels us through the year, on towards a deeper understanding of God — and our souls, and our own soul’s  destiny.)   I’ve written about them all in past years,  but that doesn’t take care of the present.

So we are in the third Sunday of that set of Sundays which gently prepare us for the more sober time of  Lent.   (Lent should not take us by surprise – )   Septuagesima,  Sexagesima,  Quinquagesima;   “seven,”  “six,” and “five,” Sundays before Easter.

So, remorse,  I let you down.

Next ‘sensation”  is one of pain. Lots of pain.  I do NOT have back trouble, and I have little comprehension of those who go around with groans, and sighs, cries,  grimaces and crippled  movements because of their back pain.

I comprehend now.  I hurt my back on Friday while lying on Son’s couch.    I am pet-sitting for him,  the pets were off to their own nap times,  and I turned on local late afternoon news – and promptly fell asleep, which is odd, because I don’t sleep in the daytime very often.

I woke up to the sensation of being stared at.  Intense staring!

Staring 380

I have no idea why they were watching me like that, but even after I opened my eyes, said “Hi, guys,”   the staring continued.  I grabbed my nearby camera and attempted to get up –   and their eyes got bigger.  (Maybe I said something then as the pain struck.)

Though it subsided somewhat on the next day,  on the next day when I as at Son’s house again,  I reached into the pantry for something and hurt that place again,  even more.   Wow.

(What can a  couch  do  to a nice, strong lady?)

Well, that’s all I can say about that.   Except I’m glad I live alone so no one witnesses my “groans, and sighs and cries and grimaces.”      I’ll get better quickly.  After all,  I do NOT have back trouble.

 

wind

Third sensation of this Sexagesima day:   Overwhelming forces of Nature going on outside my house today.    The winds are literally roaring through the trees,  howling around objects, and whistling through the sides of  windows that are apparently not sealed shut.   Outside,  the tall trees around my house are swaying,  each dancing their own dance according to their size and strength and their place inside the wind gusts.  52 m.p.h.  gusts right now, but the weather service promises even  stronger gusts later today.

It’s fun,  but there is that sensation of being “under siege.”   It’s supposed to continue until 7:00 A.M.  tomorrow,  by which time we will probably have the sensation of Silence – our power will be out.

(Storms of winter, followed in less than a month by Spring.   Storms of this life,  followed very soon by the next life,   hopefully of  eternal Spring for us.)

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Sensations all around us, all the time; physical and mental and spiritual sensations,  should we but choose to listen.

I’ll atone for my previous negligence by writing a little about the Sexagesima Readings all  this week,  but I want to start with the Epistle Reading,  epistle being “letter,”  and this epistle being written by St. Paul,  recounting the many “sensations” he willingly endured for the sake of getting the message out there. *

He writes  —  and yet just reading it doesn’t do him justice.  We need someone to explain and to reveal the depths of what Paul is saying to us,  so I’ll turn to St. John Chrysostom —

He (St. Paul)  endured shipwreck,  so that he might stay the shipwreck of the world.  (Yes, we are a shipwrecked world,  going under, being destroyed — that’s how God sees us.)

He says: “A day and a night he passed in the deep  (the deep waters of the Mediterranean,  having been literally shipwrecked himself),  so that he might draw up the world from the deep of error.

He was in weariness that he might refresh the weary  (and strengthen us along the way).

He endured smiting  that he might heal those who have been smitten by the devil (and yet, sometimes the “blows” of the devil seem so easy, so attractive . .  .Paul writes so that we would want to be healed.)

He passed his time in prison so that he might lead forth into the Light those that have been in the darkness of prison.

He was beaten with rods, so that he might bring them under the “rod and staff” of Christ (“thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me, Psalms  22 {23} ) .

He was in the wilderness, so that he might take them out of their wilderness (the person who is apart from God).

He endured hunger and thirst, so that he might deliver them from a more grievous hunger.

He experienced “nakedness” so that he might clothe their unseemliness with the robe of Christ.

He was set upon by mobs so that he could extricate them from the besetment of fiends.

He burned so that he might quench the burning darts of the devil.

He experienced constant journeyings so that he  might stop our wanderings and  show the way that leads to heaven for us

 

That was St. Paul,  recounting all the trials he willingly endured in this life, to get the message out to us.

“He who has ears to hear let him hear…”  Jesus said.

Humans are body-and-soul creatures,  all sensations go together and communicate back and forth between the physical and the spiritual realms.   We stand in the middle, belonging to  both.

There is a kind of “life” and “death” in both realms, and it’s the soberness of Lent that allows us to contemplate these two things more fully.

No matter what happened to St. Paul, and the other Apostles, and to many, many of those early Christians,  they understood what really mattered;  and that is the life of our own soul, that must be fed and nourished and worked for.

“Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling,”  St. Paul also says.

 

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Found in the Bible in the book of II Corinthians,  chapters 11 and 12);  that is Paul’s second letter to the Christians of Corinth.

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SNOW FOR DINNER and UPS AND DOWNS

January 28, 2019

(Human emotions are so weird – and uncontrollable,  at least when  they come up unexpectedly.   Like an ambush.)

This is about snowstorms,  funks,  and a thought from our Sunday Sermon.

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bear talking to you

 

First your scent.  Then stalking.  Then the sudden ambush.

 

(Things in life do that to you.)

A restaurant in Austria last week   (“Snow for Dinner”):

snow for dinner

In case you haven’t been following European news in the past couple months,  they’re having a terrible winter  over there;  extreme weather, especially lots of snowfall!  There have been frequent avalanches there,  some deadly, as well as here in the US;  a bad one in New Mexico and another in Utah, in the same suburb of Salt Lake city where I stayed one winter.  Our hosts took us up  a harrowing  snow-covered winding road to one of the ski mountains —  something about a “bird, forgot which one —  and that’s where they had an avalanche this year.

Well, we’re going to get a big  snowstorm tonight and all day tomorrow.   “Hurray!”  I say.  And just in time to raise my spirits.

It started with a visit from Son a few days ago,  enjoying his conversation;  he has interesting things to say –enjoy feeding him;   and he’s really good at lighting up the fireplace.   And then we watched a movie together.

About a bear.       A bear attack.

bear trees a man

That’s not from the movie, but it’s a very scary picture to me.  The movie was about two people hiking in  the woods (why do people DO that?)  up in Canada, and they were stalked (successfully)   by a big bear.

The movie was well done,  based on a true story  and,  as Son remarked,  “intense.”   I enjoyed it, but of course it brought me back to the moments when a bear started to stalk my Mom, Dad, and me deep in the forest in the Far  Far North.

Stalking,  then chasing,  making  lunges through the bushes.

bear brown snarl 350

Not a time that you’d forget.

Unfortunately,  for some reason that also brought back lots of “feelings”  from that period in my  life.  It was a long period of time,  very, very long,  and all the sadness and bleakness of those years  came out and  “attacked” — unexpectedly.

And that started one of those Deep Blue Funks that I get from time to time.

funk

I don’t know what Garfield should have been doing,  but I couldn’t post for a few days. . .

No big deal.  We all have  old emotions hanging over our heads,  stalking us.

funk blue moon

You wouldn’t believe how much sadness a person can contain – usually hidden from the rest of us.    I know this.   And I can easily imagine  the sadness and “aloneness”  that overshadows other people.

funk moon

I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and wrote;  and that helped,  to get feelings out of me and down on paper.   But what ended this Funk altogether were some good words in our Sunday sermon based upon readings from Romans 7.     Be present for the other person.  Be “instant in prayer”  — always ready for a reason to pray and then personally “present”  to God when you do pray.    Being fully present for the person you’re talking to.  

Good advice for all  of us, of course;  good thoughts to meditate on . . .   but what if someone actually practiced that on you!   Someone did!     Friendly chitchat after Mass,  and then a friend made a personal comment on my boots (of all things!)  and that she liked the color and how they matched my clothes!  Since I’m usually unaware of how I dress, I took notice that this was a genuine compliment.    Well, I took notice.   Of everything around me, then.

And I remembered the sermon, in which we were admonished to be fully present and attentive to the people around us.    And —  then . . .  I remember my Mom during some of our blizzards when I was a child around the age of that bear chase we had.    My Mom made our days of being snowed in a happy time of togetherness and mutually enjoyable activities –  reading to each other;  knitting side by side;  and  baking!  Above all,  the baking of treats.    I wrote about this a few posts ago,  but it came back to me again.

Now, our coming  snowstorm reminds me of someone being fully present for me.     A sense of not being alone all the time.    My Mom.  My friend today.   My Son for me.

And now my turn, for others.

That’s what a good sermon does,  makes you think and try to  become a better person in some way.

And that’s what a good snowstorm does,   reminds you of happy times.

And keeps the bear away.

 

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS

April 2, 2017

(Jesus,  confrontational and blunt,  bearer of bad news. )

“Red sky in morning,  sailors take warning”  —

Sunrise 380

There aren’t too many sunrises in my “circadian rhythm” –   but I caught one recently!    And sure enough, we had about three days of rain following this beautiful sky.

It was Passion Sunday today,  a name for this particular Sunday that’s been recognized for centuries as the one in which we begin the steep,  inevitable slide downward into the days of the Crucifixion.      We carefully reread and then meditate on the events in those last couple of weeks before the death of Christ.   There’s lots there for our minds to confront.

None of His friends knew that some very bad times were coming, though.    In fact,  Jesus thought it weird that mankind can read the signs in the sky,  like red skies in mornings,  but we can’t read the Signs of the Times.  So  His last conversations were particularly blunt and to-the-point.

No time left for a kinder, gentler religion of luv and mercy for everyone, everywhere,  no matter what they’re doing and no matter what they believe in.

The Reading Appointed for Passion  Sunday:

phar n rulers

Speaking to the local rulers and religious leaders of His day,  Jesus told them right out that if they were of God –  if, as they thought they were —  then they would understand His words and believe Him,  but since they reject Him,  they are not of God but of God’s enemy,  the Devil.

You’re, a liar,  they said.      No, you are the liars,  He said.

No backing down from the truth.

We’re sons of Abraham, they said.

pharisee angry

But,  He said,   Abraham  saw My day,  he saw Me come to earth, and he rejoiced to see Me. 

You can’t claim   that Abraham ever saw You!    You’re just nothing but a young, inexperienced nobody.

But —  before Abraham ever was  —     I AM. 

That was the statement that did it.    Jesus is right-out, plainly, clearly, bluntly stating that  He and God,  (who had revealed Himself with the name I AM)   are one and the same.

Take it or leave it.

Believe it or don’t. 

pharisees

They didn’t believe it –  and they didn’t get Him that time.   Yet.   (“They took up stones, therefore, to cast at Him;  but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”)

But some of them  and their children lived to see the destruction of that beautiful, sturdy temple they were in.   It took them unawares.

The Signs of the Times:  Judgment comes  upon all unbelievers.

Pretty blunt.

SEXAGESIMA: ENEMIES WILL COME

February 20, 2017

( I felt safe this morning, in a dangerous world. )

I went to church this morning,  and didn’t even give a thought to my safety:

purg-1

Christendom had always seems so big and  strong.   I’d like to take my safety for granted,  but I know time is running out for us.

I  kept in my mind this morning that some Christians were not so safe going to their church services a couple Sundays ago.

uganda-attackers

Right in the middle of their services,  angry men surrounded the church building,  burst in through the doors,  locked the doors so no one could escape,  and then proceeded to beat and rape the men and women inside.

Because they were Christians.

(Our Rulers who are creating and then using chaos and confusion,  are moving the enemies of Christianity into Christian  (formerly Christian)  nations.     Now why would they want to bring in our  enemies? )   

we-are-death-for-you-2-jpg

Christians have always had enemies.    The Christian world has always had enemies.

It’s “Sexagesima Sunday”  today,  the second of three Sundays that get us ready for the season of Lent.    These three Sundays are a thoughtful reminder of how serious this world is, how necessary Good Friday and Easter were, and that happiness in this world  is incidental,  but not our goal.

One of the Readings attached to this Sunday is a sort of short  autobiography that St. Paul gives us, concerning the enemies he faced.       This great man,  this Apostle to the Gentiles  —    What all did he face?

Here is a portion of what we heard today,  from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:     He did his work as a Christian missionary   ” in many more labours, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. [24] Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. [25] Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea.    [26] In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren. [27] In labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness . . .”

Ahhh,  the life of a serious Christian!     Most likely none of us will ever have to go through that much in order to fulfill our mission on earth,  but it does remind us that Jesus said if we want to be followers of Him,   we have to be like Him and to take up our cross too  . . .  and then we can follow him.

lent-our-crosses

Christ first.      Then us.

He faced enemies and opposition from this present world system –  and so will those who love Him and follow Him.

It’s sobering to list all the enemies there are,  both external and internal.    Safety is an illusion,  a temporary illusion,  but we have each other for friendship,  encouragement,  and prayer for such as those in Uganda,  facing such enemies as in the photo above.

 

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER SUNDAY – NOT UNALLOYED

September 6, 2016

Morning Glory

Well, I pointed out a couple posts ago why September is such a beautiful month for me,  and my birthday month too,   so on this past Sunday I wanted to worship God in the most beautiful church I knew of in this area.         Here’s an old aerial view.   You can see it is built as churches are,  in the form of a cross.

jackson-shape-of-cross

It is dedicated to the one who always guides us to  her Son, just as the North Star guides sailors safely to shore,  no mater what they’ve been through!    Many a sailor has appealed to the guidance of Mary Star of the Sea in the midst of storms and dangers!  We become safe only in the arms of God.

jackson-mary-as-bluew-star

There,  above the altar,  is a picture of her,  showing us where the altar is,   beckoning us  to come to the altar, to where her Son and our Savior offers Himself up for us.   The Mass is all about voluntarily joining in, in a human way,  with the offering up of Himself to the Father, to take care of our sin issue.     Nice  to have a “Beautiful Lady”  pointing the way.

Below and behind the altar are the Apostles,  teaching us the Way.

jackson-12-apostles

When your mind wanders . . .  (“the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”) . . . it’s nice to have these Apostles reminding us of Who this is all about.     We have the teachings of some of these apostles;  that’s a help.

The dome,  the paintings, the carvings,  the colors are all beautiful;   lofty, raising our minds “aloft.”

For you who are not Christian,  that’s the point of all that beauty we strive for:  to point our way  up  to the Heavens.    Whatever is in the next world is far more beautiful and glorious than we can even imagine.

We are humans;  it works;   beauty points upward.

But my happiness at being there on Sunday was not unalloyed.       That is,  I was acutely mindful of Sundays elsewhere in the world.

This church was destroyed last week:

sunday-place

The Muslims hate Catholics and have stated so in the past two issues of their glossy,  well-made monthly magazine called Dabiq.   There they lay out their plans for us.

Here, in the Far North in the United States I can’t DO anything about this,  just pray and  pray more earnestly.      I can pray for people who are chained and imprisoned on this Sunday.

chr-on-sunday

I can pray for those who have been chained because of their Christian faith:

chr-chained

They are being prevented from seeing any “beautiful place of worship.”

I’m  not yet fearful  because I am a Christian:

christian-hit

 

My priests can still lead me in worship and do what Christ has told them to do:

jackson-at-altar

But if we don’t vote correctly this Fall,  if we don’t pay attention,  if we are ignorant of what’s going on in Europe  right now  (first Europe, then America) . . .

. . .    if we remain ignorant and indifferent:

and-so-it-begins-375

. . . then I will be writing about different kind of experiences,  here,  on Sundays.

“Complacent”  means you are pretty much enjoying the way things are going.

“Unalloyed”  means you’re blissfully and ignorantly happy, without troubling thoughts.

“Alloyed”  means “mixed;    your happy thoughts are mixed with sobering reality.

I am not  unalloyed.”

bar-cross-in-middle

The Reading appointed for this Sunday,  for many centuries, is from the third chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, from which our priest explained that “we ask God for many things all the time,” but “He is ready and able to give  us far more good things than we can even imagine.”

So our praying matters!

From the Introit:      “Bow down Thy ear to me, O Lord, and hear me;    for I am needy and poor.”

OBEYING THE COMMAND

August 28, 2016

laksup

A few posts ago I wrote about Hiawatha’s father,    who, after staging a great challenge for his son,   told his son to go back to his home,   go back to the living earth  and “cleanse”  the earth of the evil things that prevent a good life for us humans.

Mudjekeewis  told Hiawatha:

I have put you to this trial
So to know and prove your courage;
 Now receive the prize of valor:
Go back to your home and people.
Live among them, toil among them,
Cleanse the Earth from all that harms it . . .

 “Cleanse the earth from all that harms it . .  .”

reading   It’s been an interesting coincidence that recent Sunday Readings given to Christians for the past many centuries have told us to do this same thing!      Perhaps the source is the same:  God is God and there is only One and He doesn’t change,  so it makes sense that wise men have similar messages to give us.

So what are these things we’re supposed to cleanse our earth from if we are properly led by the (Great)  Spirit?

They’re listed in our Readings,  from the Bible,  last week:   Galatians 5:    But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.    Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury,  Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,    Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.

This week’s Readings explains this further,  and then says:  “But let every man prove his own works….”     This is a manly command.

We want a better world?  Then we need to make a better Self.    And that list in Galatians shows us the things we need to get rid of in our own lives and in our own surroundings.

Obey the Command.    It’s a good one.

GITCHE MANITO: ONE OF TWO WORLDS

August 21, 2016

Sometimes when I hear an idea,  it strikes deep inside me like a heavy gong –  and then comes an explosion of ideas – like fireworks going off every which way .

And as the “fireworks”  settle down they sort themselves out into something resembling a beautiful Bach harpsichord concerto.

Harpsi

A beautiful experience.   I had a friend once who built harpsichords . . .     —   but   I need to rein in some of those fireworks.

Har Music

I’m trying to  capture some of my thoughts and bring them to a point – or  at least some kind of whole, like a conductor’s score, bringing together the many voices into one theme around which many thoughts rotate.

Our brains do work like this.   we just need to take the time to let our thoughts “rattle around” against each other, like the finale in a fireworks show, and then wait until we can catch echoes of the concerto – or sometimes,   the fugue!

The Two Worlds:    One world offers us Time and the development of a concert.    In the other world,  we stuff too many things into Time,  and what develops is dis-concert-ing

So, today is Sunday:

Har mass in

I didn’t go there!  But after the Ancient and Time-Tested  Prayers,  the Readings,  the Sermon, and the (re)presentation of the One Sacrifice,  it felt like I had been there – and I was filled with . . .   lively thoughts,  from what I had heard and seen.

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added unto you. . . ,”   we heard today.     Ancient  time-tested words of wisdom from our Master.     We have two worlds presented to us:   a world in which God is first,  and we seek Him  in His Kingdom;  and a world in which we seek all kinds of “these other things.”

Actually, as  a historian  (non-professional!)  I can tell you:  Thus has it ever been so.  The two worlds.     In our computer age, surely we can understand bits and bytes,  ones and zeroes . . .

har bits

. . . .  yes or no,  this world or that world.

Oh, we have Time to stumble around a bit,  but in the end even our stumbling  evidences  a choice of one world or the other.    Even in the pre-Christian religions men understood the choice that has been given us.

Remember the movie Apocalypto?    Gentle, peaceful dwellers of the jungles of Central America, living at ease and in harmony with their surroundings.    Then come the violent “Mayans,”   a sophisticated, advanced culture which had descended over time into a stratified caste society of the humans who were  powerful, wealthy Rulers;  the humans who were obedient workers;  and the humans who were slated for bloody and horrific sacrifice,  in order, the Rulers thought,  to keep their society powerful.     They sought the things of a world that was other than the Creator’s world.

(I’ve just purchased, in order to re-read,  Columbus’s Log Book, with an added journal from one of the sailors in a later voyage who was one of the hundreds captured by these Mayans.  He tells his harrowing tale of being in a line of captives advancing towards the place of sacrifice . . .  It is the stuff of nightmares.)

Well, there you have it.  Again:  two worlds.

And so this morning I remembered my vacation to Hiawatha’s land of  Gitche Gumme:

Har GG

(My priest would be quite surprised if he knew he had flung me into Gitche Gumme this morning…)

In Hiawatha’s land the two worlds manifest themselves.   Gitche Manito, our Father, in pre-Christian thought, looks down upon His human creations:

Gitche Manito, the Mighty,
The Creator of the nations,
Looked upon them with compassion,
With paternal love and pity;
Looked upon their wrath and wrangling,
But as quarrels among children,
But as feuds and fights of children!

Over them He stretched His right hand
To subdue their stubborn natures,
To allay their thirst and fever .  . .

Har G Manito in clouds

But Man can resist the paternal hand of his Creator.    And he does, quite easily and quite often.       So we must choose the Creator’s world, one at a time, one by one, each setting his mind on our Creator’s world and not on “all these things” of this world which causes our “thirst and fevers.”

Sometimes a brave young man responds to the good teachings of Gitche Manito,  even if he doesn’t at first know what the source is.    It is the search for Truth that brings rewards:  “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”

The seeking starts with serious and sober attention to becoming skilled and educated:

Out of childhood into manhood
Now had grown my Hiawatha,
Skilled in all the craft of hunters
Learned in all the lore of old men,
In all youthful sports and pastimes,
In all manly arts and labors.

With all this training Hiawatha still sought after Truth.    He wanted the truth from his father, Mudjekeewis,  now dead,   now dwelling in the land of the West-Wind,  among all the old fathers,  who now had Truth.

Har hia

Although warned not to go  on such a quest,  Hiawatha set off and “traveled”  far past many  known boundaries, poetically and beautifully told by the pen of H.W. Longfellow.   Then at last “Filled with joy was Mudjekeewis when he looked on Hiawatha.”

 

But it is not an easy time for Hiawatha,  this seeker of the Creator’s Truth, and he’s put to many dangerous tests and learns many disappointing, dismaying,  terrible, tragic Truths and is eventually brought to the point of attempting to kill this “father” of his.

(Oh – back to  Bach’s harpsichord  for a moment:   the dramatic, discordant movements of a concerto speak to the truth of the Theme also.)

How deadly and dramatic is our life’s fighting for the Truth!!   All nature depends upon mankind’s search for Truth in the Kingdom of God.

Here is a fight worth witnessing!

Then began the deadly conflict
Hand to hand among the mountains.
From his eyry screamed the eagle,
The Keneu, the great war-eagle
Sat upon the crags around them,
Wheeling, flapped his wings above them.

 

The Bible, also poetically,  says that the whole Earth is groaning and in travail,  waiting for the Kingdom of God:  (Romans 8:22)

Till the Earth shook with the tumult
And confusion of the battle,
And the air was full of shoutings,
And the thunder of the mountains . .  ..

Well, that’s Longfellow again,  but he’s saying the same thing as the Bible.

At last Hiawatha prevails!   He is about to strike the death-blow when Mudjekeewis calls out:

Hold!  at length cries Mudjekeewis.
Hold my son, my Hiawatha!
‘Tis impossible to kill me,
For you cannot kill the immortal.

I have put you to this trial
So to know and prove your courage;
 Now receive the prize of valor:
Go back to your home and people.
Live among them, toil among them,
Cleanse the Earth from all that harms it . . .

With courage and perseverance,  Hiawatha has prevailed  in his life-and-death quest for Truth.     He sought the Other World,  he has seen the Other World,  and he has received his command to “cleanse”  the Earth.

I hope, I wish,  I want us in our times to be as brave and manly as Hiawatha was in his times,   because there are still two worlds;   two worlds to choose and to develop.    “Seek first the Kingdom of God . . .”   then – but only then –  all the other “good things”   will come to you.   It’s an orientation of primacy:  bits and bytes,  this or that,   God’s things or “the other things.”

In the quietness and stillness inside our church today,   there I was,  watching the mighty battle of Hiawatha while the harpsichord  played a Bach concerto in my ears . . . .

 

 

What If He Asked YOU ?

March 6, 2016

Not quite completely over my computer repair ordeal — but I’m “recovering.”

And just in time for the FOURTH Sunday in Lent —  and a thought about poor Philip – one of Jesus’ close friends who managed to both ask a “bad”  question and give a “bad”  answer.

(Ever give an answer that you wish you could retract as soon as you realize how inadequate it was?)

Today we read about his “bad”  answer:

FEEDING the 5

The question Jesus was asking of Philip is:   “There are thousands of hungry people out there.  How can we feed them?”

Philip,  ever practical, ever concrete, replied:  “Feed them?!   200 days worth of wages would provide only a little bite for each person!”

(And who carries around that much money?)

St. John,  the narrator of this event, tells us that Jesus asked Philip that question just to test him, to get him to reveal how he was thinking —  to stretch his mind a bit, as well as ours.

Well, they had to get food from somewhere;  the people were about to faint from hunger – and there was an important object lesson coming.   They had an offer!

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The “offer”  was:   “Here is a little boy with five loaves and two fish but we know that’s  not enough.”

(What we can give to God is pitifully small;   it is His divine condescension to add His supernatural power to make our efforts “good enough.”     And that just happens to be my lunch after church today:  fish and bread.) 

We know what Jesus did next in this story.   He took the small amount of food, raised it up to heaven, and blessed it.    I don’t understand everything about what a “blessing” like this means,  but we know that the blessed food which Jesus intended to use proved to be adequate and more than adequate for feeding the 5,000 or so people on that hillside.

philip

It’s not recorded what  Philip had to say about this,  but the event is a goldmine for lessons that Jesus,  Our Lord,  would want us to know.   Among them:

1 . . . Jesus knows and cares about each hungry individual person.   (True?    Do you know that to be true for you?)

2 . . . The people had been “following” Him.    What did they mean by following Him?  What did they want?   What did they expect?  What were they really hungry for?   In this life, when we “follow”  Jesus,  we are following,  but having not yet arrived.    Close,  closer, closest of all . . .   but a loving union —  that desire will be fulfilled completely only after we die — if indeed that is what we want.

3 . . . There is the crowd.  It takes all kinds to make a crowd, even a crowd of followers.  Some follow more or less intently;  more or less quickly;  more or less from out of their own desire.  Some just “follow the crowd.”      With less quickness,  less attention,  less  intensity,  less focus, less effort —  less anything,  you lose ground and the distance between you and your Creator increases — and then you are walking on dangerous ground.

. . . . Then let me skip all the other more minor lessons –  what Jesus had in mind is that He will be food  indeed,  bread indeed,  Manna,  for countless thousands and millions:

He gives His Body the night before His crucifixion, which means  (evening and next daytime are a day,  so this was part of giving His life for us :

this is jesis giving first

And it continues down through the centuries,  feeding millions,  unchanged in understanding . . .

(Today,  March 6, 2016) –

this is at the mass

Even a child can understand:

this is a child

So, remember Philip’s answer?

Jesus wanted to teach what God taught people under the Old Covenant:  “Man does not live by bread alone.”

This crowd,  this humanity amassed before Jesus,  was not hungry merely for bread.      They are hungry for communion and union with their Creator,  the Son of God,  the Word,  the Messiah.

Nothing complicated.  “A little child shall lead them.”

The simple, needy child in all of us,  can know more than what Philip seemed to know.

 

So,   what if Jesus had asked YOU how we were going to feed all those people?   We know now why Philip’s  answer was “bad”  or at least it showed a lower level of understanding;   and so did his “bad”  question:

“Lord,  show us the Father.”

The answer:    “Oh, my goodness, Philip.  Have you been with Me so long and yet you do not know that he who has seen Me has seen the Father?!”

Heaven comes down to Earth;  God comes down to His own people — and does not leave them,  not ever.   He leaves 12 baskets of more food;   12 apostles to found the Church that will be His living Body;

this is jesus giving

and He leaves  the Church to continue to distribute our Food.

 

.

Sundays ARE Different

July 20, 2015

“Remember the sabbath day,  to keep it Holy.”
There is such a thing as a “holy place”  where God meets man and man meets God.    

This Cathedral in Toledo, Spain  is an architectural representation of a holy place.

There is a Holy Place Toledo cathedral

You should be able to see seven steps up to the altar in the middle there at the back wall.    The steps represent the upward steps that Moses took to meet God, when God came down to the mountain to teach the Law and the Sacrifice.

At the top of the steps,is an altar,  and  there is the holy  meeting place between God and man, and something supernatural happens.

Something supernatural is going on here

The Son of God comes.  And because the Son of God   is   Eternal God,  then we, in our time,  can enter into that One Act of Sacrifice that made peace between God and man.

So we see that Offering, elevated upward towards Heaven  —

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Heaven is where our Creator is.  Although it is always and ever our duty as creatures to worship and adore our Creator,  in our  spiritually darkened world this beautiful, solemn ceremony (of worship and adoration) has powerful enemies.

Locally, we cannot worship like this in our own cathedral.   Shadows are rising.

Instead,  we must enter that door and go downwards into the dark basement-like place.

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The representation of an angel affirms to our minds that Heaven watches down on us.  Our ceremony is beautiful and holy even though our surroundings aren’t!
Our spiritually darkened world is going to get very much worse very soon.

Crossraguel Abbey  Ayrshre Scotland

But, see.     The Son of God eternally offers Himself to God in the Elevation.  That beautiful, solemn ceremony will still go on.

It may not be in a beautiful cathedral like the one in Toledo.  It may not even take place in a basement.    It might have to be in some ruins, like above.    Or catacombs, for a while.

But those who want to can still adore and worship their Creator by participating in that one Sacrifice offered up to Him.  Wherever this takes place,  the beautiful solemn Mass of all Ages,  wherever,  it will be a Holy Place.

Until Judgment comes and Creation is supernaturally restored, and those who have adored their Creator will be safe forever.

Malachi 1:11 –   For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.

SELF PRUNING

May 3, 2015

pruningThis is a familiar Reading that many Christians heard in their churches today, those liberals, evangelicals, and new-Catholics who share a common schedule of Readings.  It’s the teaching of Jesus that He is the True vine, and we are the branches, and so long as we remain “attached: to the main vine,  and so long as we allow Him to prune us as He sees necessary,  we will be healthy and safe and live on with Him for ever.

It’s a good teaching, helpful in many ways to illustrate the true and inseparable relationship we have with Christ.    He is the Source and Sustainer of Life itself.

It’s ironic, then,  that at least in the new version of the Church that so much “self-pruning”  is going on.   It’s not done with pruning shears, but with words and actions:     This teaching?  Nope.  Snip!  We don’t believe that anymore.   Snip!  We must conform our teachings to the Times.    Snip!   Polls show that people won’t go for that anymore.      Snip!   We don’t have to do that anymore.   Snip!     We won’t do that anymore!    Snip!   Jesus said it, but that was then;   this is a new,  most special generation who finally knows what He really meant.       And society won’t like it if we still teach that.   Snip!

pruning mess All that’s left is garbage.    These are branches without any more life in them.     They’ve been detached from the True Vine.  When you hear Church leaders talking like communist revolutionary leaders of South America,  you might remember those dead branches.  When you hear the pope of the new-Catholic church promoting the one world globalists’ greatest money transfer scheme called “climate change,”   you may see another dead branch.    When you hear politicians who are members of the new-Catholic church acclaiming new definitions of marriage,  female,   male,    baby,   tolerance . . .   more dead branches.

In this century,  we are told we should not discern what are live and what  are dead branches.   It’s all the same.   After all,  we must not “judge.”

I can see some piles of dead branches across my creek.  They are nice places to play for the rabbits and the squirrels and the muskrats . . .  and other rodents.

In this deadly-serious century,  with the potential  for global catastrophe,   it’s best to  attach yourself to the One who doesn’t change,  and then let Him do the pruning.

Taking the shears in your own hands is  hazardous to your spiritual  health.

QUASIMODO SUNDAY AND THOMAS

April 12, 2015

Today is  Quasimodo Sunday. *   The Lesson is:    Things don’t have to be complicated — unless you cherish your doubts and want to remain there, in your doubts.

“As newborn babes,  (Quasimodo geniti),  desire the rational/sincere/without false complexity . . .  milk  . . . ”  of the Word of God, which is so new to you “newbies” in the Christian Faith.

The disciples of Jesus were “new” to the Christian faith, so to speak.  It had “just happened” !

Uppper RoomThomas wasn’t there on Easter with the rest of the disciples who were surprised by the entrance of their Risen Lord into the Room where they were meeting, in secret, still hiding from authorities.  He appeared there among them.   But Thomas wasn’t there.

But one week later,   on the eighth day after that Appearance,   (an Octave of days) —  the disciples were again gathered in that “Upper Room” and this time Thomas was with them,  still rather disbelieving what his friends were telling them.

thomas in white

(The reasons for our doubts are complicated.   Well,  Thomas didn’t see Jesus,  so how can he know for sure. . . ?    And  Thomas had just  been through a traumatic past week,  knowing that his Rabbi,  Master, and Lord,  had just been crucified.   A person sometimes gets used to bad circumstances and the finality of a death.   There is almost a sense of “safety”  in wallowing in sadness and uncertainty.    No more changes! **)

Thomas can believe that Jesus was their superior,  their Lord,  he almost believed Jesus was the Son of God, with almighty power over life and death;  but,  no. . .    If that were true, too much would have to follow.  Too much would have to change in Thomas’s life.   Forget it.   “My friends, we were all disciples together,  but I don’t believe what you’re telling me.”   “Unless I see what you tell me you saw,  unless I see the scars and holes from the nails and from the lance — no,   I won’t believe just because you’re telling me.”

And then the Risen Jesus appeared to them again, in that locked Room.

thomas Again Jesus bids them “Peace.”    And, as though He had been overhearing Thomas’s  previous words,  he immediately said to Thomas:  “Here.  Put your fingers here in my  hands and put your hand here,   into my side.”

“Feel the nail holes,  reach into the large hole in my side. ”

And don’t be unbelieving.   This is not a rebuke to Thomas,  but a loving condescension.    You are having trouble believing?  You want physical proof?   Here  you are.      Don’t remain in your doubts.

Thomas’s response?     Now he knows,   Jesus is not just their Beloved Master,  their Lord,  but as Thomas said:  “My Lord and my God.

It was a good answer.     Then Jesus turned to the future:   Blessed are those who don’t have the opportunity you have,  yet still move on into belief.     Well, that would be us,  today.

We can’t have the experience of touching the Resurrected flesh of  Jesus,  but we don’t have to be weighted down and held back by our doubts either.  “Put your hand into my side.”   Not just “take a look.”    Go into.    We can pause and let our minds go deeper into this story;  we can let go of our doubts and reservations.      Just simply,  like newborn babes,   receive the “milk.”   And be “Blessed,”  as He said.

Bar Cross in middle

Sundays are often named for the first word or two in the Introit – that first short prayer which calls out to Christians, uniting them for that day in a common thought.    So the Introit starts with the word “Quasimodo” and is defined as above:  “In the manner of…”

**    “Safety” in clinging to sorrow:  Be gentle with your friends who are experiencing bad times and doubts.    It takes time to get used to the possibility of Good News.   It takes time to receive encouragement.   That’s human nature.    That’s the lesson of St. Thomas.

PALM SUNDAY TIME AND NO MORE TIME

March 29, 2015

This will be a different kind of Palm Sunday story.   I had a brush with physical weakness today,  which made me think of time,  the use of our time, and time running out.

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Just like the best known image of the Palm Sunday event seems obscured through the palm branches,  my  Palm Sunday was obscured by a curtain of amazing physical weakness.

Palm thru donkey

I wasn’t sick with a sickness,  but my body was more than half asleep,  it was numb and vibrating at the same time,   my eyes burned,  and I was suffering from very low blood sugar, alternatively feeling faint and feeling nauseated.

Kneeling, sitting, or walking,  whatever was close to my hands,  I clung onto for dear life,  hoping not to attract attention by whapping down onto the floor.

The words of the Gospel that were read to us, the words of the prayers and of the sermon all seemed far away and rather muted  —  but here’s what occurred to me:   I knew the story well enough so that I could dimly follow along and reaffirm my choice to accept my King — but it might not have been that way if I hadn’t learned the story well, when I could, when I was feeling okay.

The event (of Palm Sunday)  happened almost two thousand years ago, and  I’m sure there were many in Jerusalem then who were totally unaware of what was going on.

And there were those who chose to be indifferent;  that is,  uncaring or even hostile to  “all that noise”  coming from that crowd over there.

Palm  Branch
But there were those who went close to the event, the ones that threw palm leaves or olive branches or even their own outer cloaks down on the ground so that the King could ride over a royal pathway.   They expressed whole-hearted enthusiasm for what this Man could be.

Make no mistake!   That Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey   (an ass)   meant one thing to the people of Jerusalem:   This man Jesus was entering Jerusalem just as the great King Solomon once entered,  also riding on a donkey,  cheered by the crowds and received by them as their King.

It was His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Triumphal?    Yes.   And no.   Yes,  He entered Jerusalem, received that day as  King.    But no,  not yet fully has the world realized he is King, that at His name “every knee shall bend, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is King.”

That time is coming.

Meanwhile,  we are given time to choose our response.  Oblivious?   Indifferent?   Hostile?     Welcoming and cheering?    Joyous, hopeful, accepting  . . . ?

The crowds in Jerusalem had a chance that day to choose where they stand with respect to Jesus.   And every successive year of remembrance of this event gives us all another chance to choose where we stand . . .  until our years run out . . .  until our time runs out.

coming

Until we have physical difficulties and our senses our clouded and there will be no more opportunity for us to wonder about the coming of the King — and its implications for our everlasting soul.

Rejoice!    on Palm Sunday,  while we can.

WELCOMING ME HOME

February 23, 2015

If you lived where I do,  you’d know what a welcome sight this is!

SAMSUNGThis is the front wall of my garage, and I park my car up against that woodpile.

(A huge, grateful thanks to Son for all his work!   I know it was hard work, but it looks almost like a work of art.)

A few weeks ago I wrote that our Weatherman wasn’t being too generous with his “Fahrenheits” –  we were experiencing a severe cold spell of single digit temperatures.  Well, two or three “cold spells” later,  our Weatherman is now subtracting Fahrenheits from us.     That is, I woke up this morning to   -12 F —  not wind chill,  just the temperature.     Twelve.  Degrees.  Below.  Zero.

I know we’re not the only ones in America with the extreme cold, and we live here in the Far North – no complaints from me.

And it’s the season of Lent;  does one dare to complain about a  lack of creature comfort?

I’ve been dealing with some personal challenges,  mostly involving identity theft.  With Hubbie gone now,  I don’t have his steady optimism to strengthen me.    I don’t have his manly confidence to absorb into the place inside me that tells me things might be, ultimately, okay.     But I’m learning how to deal with this, and with some pressure off, I can focus on the season.

So, I came home from my class this afternoon, opened the garage door, and saw that welcoming sight:  all that firewood waiting for me.  A little optimism for the evening hours.     Supper;  Lenten devotions;   social duties;  Lenten reading.     I am a “product”  of Gustav Vasa.    King Gustav I Vasa.     His actions long ago molded the world I was born into.   On that basis, I chose my Lenten reading for this year.

Not too long a  post tonight.    Just wanted to check in and say:  No matter how bad, how complicated, how uncomfortable your life can become,  it will lessen,  it might pass,  you will cope,  with the strength of your loved ones around you —  and be upheld by the God who made you — although I think you have to call out to Him first.

He that dwelleth in the aid of the most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob

He shall say to the Lord: Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust.

. . .he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.

He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.

I wasn’t smart enough to think of those verses from the Psalms by myself,   but  I was reminded of them on Sunday.      The short prayers given for the First Sunday in Lent came from the Psalms and seemed to talk directly to the prayers I had been sending up.      Sending up frantically, I might add.   Here is one of the short prayers for this Sunday:

The Lord will overshadow thee with His shoulders, and under His wings thou shalt trust: His truth shall compass thee with a shield.

I can’t have Hubbie’s arms around me,  I know God’s arms are stronger,   but “under His wings”  is where I had been needing to be these past weeks.   I was very affected by that little prayer.   How could I be needing and asking . . .  and then the response is forced into my attention right during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!

And that brings me back to King Gustav — a man of legends;  a man of great violence and cruelty;  a charismatic young man;   a man who is the “father” of modern,  independent Sweden       —  Oh, here he is:

Gustav Vasa

—  A man who manipulated the world around him to increase his power and to increase Sweden’s economic influence in Europe;  a man who “saved”  Sweden.

A man who took away the Faith from my ancestors,   not by a stroke of his pen,  but by his sword — many swords.

Which brings me back to my Lenten reading, which I promise to present in my next posting, even though it’s not about this king and even though it’s a very manly book, and I’m very much not.

 

Firewood Art:

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SUCH A MOMENTOUS ACT

January 11, 2015

 We’re still within the Octave of Epiphany, a season which is always humbling, seeking such a Momentous Act.   
Such a momentous act, on behalf of the whole world

Such a momentous act, prophesied for so long

Such a momentous act   . . . coming  with signs
And so the scientists throughout the centuries, knowing there would some day be a momentous, cosmic event that affects all humans,  searched for those signs.

Now, we know the heavenly bodies of light were given for marking the seasons and times and signs of the times.

Night sky

The “pictures”  that the bodies of light made, the stars and the planets,  told the story of creation and of the history of mankind, and they keep turning and changing and telling more and more of our story.

Call this astronomy.   Call it astrology,  but do not think of the debased hopes of those who use astrology for their own selfish purposes.    In no way should we look to the stars for fortune-telling or to honor the non-human (imaginary) entities.

The ancient scientist-astronomer-astrologers looked to the stars for knowledge of everything, past, present, and future.

Zodiac pictures

And then at last, the “men from the East”   saw a sign in the sky, and comparing notes and texts and ancient prophecies, concluded that this is indeed the sign indicating that momentous act the world has been waiting for.

stylized star

In certain regions of the world they are called magi.  And they are “kings”  because their studies had made them capable of more than the average understanding, and their knowledge had made them trustworthy to rule over a few others around them.

magi and herod

They followed the star all the way to Jerusalem.    Not mere travelers.  Not mere merchants.   Not mere scholars.  They were kings, and they walked right into King Herod’s court, and inquired of him, king to king.   Such a momentous act as the Star portended would be known by the king of the area where the star led them.

He is an important ruler of the people.    Surely he would know!
Surely?

MAKING AMERICA GREAT – 3 (“WHO ARE YOU?”)

December 14, 2014

writing lady

I’m not sure if my writing skills are equal to the thoughts in my head,  so since I really care about the topic  — restoring, if possible, the strength (greatness)  of a nation (specifically America since I’m an American) —  I thought I’d clarify my first two points before I add a third.

1.  Duty.  

 SAMSUNG     The posting about the Thank You Note written by a four-year-old was meant to illustrate that the citizens of a great nation must first know their public and private duties and also feel responsible for carrying out those duties, no matter how tedious or difficult,  how trivial or momentous.   (Since the four-year-old is part of my family,  I’ve since found out that his Mommy and Daddy didn’t ” make” him write the note.  Rather,  he saw his Mommy and Daddy writing thank you notes,  and he really, really wanted one of his own to write on.      He didn’t want to be left out of what he understood to be an important task.   He’s not a baby!)

2.  Compassion.

chimney boy with bag    The posting about the little chimney sweeps, and the poem by Blake, was meant to locate empathy and compassion and pity inside the reader — if any.     Read the poem;  do you feel compassion?
We consider men great if they have contributed to the welfare and advancement of society, and the same is true for nations.   Generous nations are admired and looked to for aid.  Strong-peaceful nations are admired and looked to for help.    The laws of good nations are looked to for example.   But –  first! –  the majority of the citizens of that nation must  be compassionate and generous — and then act on their compassion.

As Jesus said,  “What good does it do if you come across someone who is hungry,and you say to him, oh, that’s too bad;  go get something to eat!  but you give him no food?   Or if you see someone cold, and you say to him Be warm!  but you dont’ give him a coat?”

Know the good inside of you,  and then be ready to act on it.    On your own.   A great nation is made up of good people.

Honesty.

3.  I think this naturally leads to a  third essential quality for citizens of a great nation:  being honest with oneself — and, of course, with others.

All over Christendom,  we heard Readings today in which John the Baptist was confronted with that one important question:  “Who are you?”    (You’ve got a public image.  You’ve got a lot of rumors running around you.   But who are you,  really?)

John the Baptist
Each of us is made with individual, unique characteristics, so you are you and I am I.    However, in this age we experience the constant bombardment of information,   entertainment,  music all the time,  words all the time.  While constant background noise has deleterious physiological and psychological effects, the real danger is that we succumb to the resultant “mass identity.”   A right way and wrong way to think and feel.  Check what the polls are saying.    Check what the majority thinks.    And don’t make an idiot of yourself by disagreeing.

Group-think will destroy honesty, as well as integrity and clear thinking.

The Majority Opinion  — or what people can be convinced is the Majority Opinion — has led to the demise of many good societies.   Be honest with yourself,  and you’ll be able to recognize propaganda.   Be honest with yourself, and you’ll be able to recognize the agenda behind certain Political Correctness. . .
. . . And then oppose the damaging, foreign agendas.

. . . And then honestly  see what’s making this nation weak and restore the goodness.

Alexis de Tocqueville:   “America is great because America is good.”      (1831)

 

ADVENT – GOOD-BYE TO THE ELEMENTS

December 7, 2014

Clip Advent 2

The Second Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation.   Two candles burned today and throughout the week.

Tradition is nice.   It forms the foundation on which we build our activities.    It structures and makes sense out of our days.

It’s traditional to have Readings that go along with each Sunday.   Some of you may have heard the word “elements”  in your Readings today.

Elements.   Remember when we studied the elements in our high school science?

Periodic Table

“Element  –    a substance which contains only one kind of atom.”     And there was a Periodic Table to sort out all the atoms.

Have you seen that T shirt motto?  “Never trust an atom;  they make up everything!”   There are atoms in everything and everything is made up of atoms.  They are the elements that make up everything we see, including ourselves.

So.    We hear today in the Advent Readings that this world won’t last forever.   Something Big is coming:    But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;   in  which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. ”  (II Peter 3:10)

These are the words of Peter,  St. Peter,   the leader of the Apostles of Jesus.     He is reminding us that one day all the elements will “go away”  with a Big Bang!     He goes on to ask us,  seeing that this is true,   that this “Big Bang” is coming,  what kind of people ought we to be?

What kind of people should we be and how should we prepare ourselves for that  coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat”?     (II Peter 3:12)

That’s not meant to be metaphorical.  All those elements in the Periodic Table will be burnt up — because this world is in rebellion against God and most of the humans who live here do not care to even  think about their own Creator.      It’s a spoiled, ruined, wasted world, and it is marked for Judgment.

Of course, this world has a Savior who says “Behold, I make all things new.”   A new Heaven and a new Earth.   But that’s for then.    We live now,  with these elements –  these elements that are  ripe for judgment  —  and doomed.

All we can do now is Prepare.    As St. Peter asked:  Seeing that these things will come to pass,  what manner of men ought we to be?

. . .  ex mandato Dei. . . .     We have no other chance.

  

THE ISSUES OF THE WEEK: 19th Sunday, Post Pentecost

October 20, 2014

For many more than a thousand years back,  Christians have heard on this particular Sunday these words:  “Salus populi ego sum….”   ” I am the salvation of the people.”

It’s the reassuring voice of God spoken to people in whatever generation, whatever century they have lived in.    Every generation has its issues to worry about, and on this first day of the week,  I know that the succeeding days of  this week will present us with “issues” and “worries” too.     Christians must juggle the command in Romans 13 with the information given to us in Revelation 13.     Do we pray for our rulers (Romans 13)?  Or do we fear them and prepare for their  coming assault on us (Revelation 13)?

One thing is certain:  Although we know that there is One True Holy God who is our only hope, our only salvation,  he is not a magician who will keep all tribulation away from us.   He does not offer us an easy remedy:

take two tablets

But I guess that cartoon doesn’t  really depict an “easy remedy.”     It carries a truth:   Western Civilization was built upon Judeo-Christian principles, of which the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandments are its perennial and eternal moral guidelines.

Maybe that cartoon is saying the same thing we heard in the Introit prayer today:    “Salus populi ego sum –  I am the salvation of the people…..in whatever tribulation they shall cry to me, I will hear them and I will be their Lord forever.

“….in whatever tribulation….”         All those various news threads we fussed about last week:   containing ebola,  the EV D-68 killing and paralyzing our children,   Isis amok,   Christians killed for going to church, a 17-year-old young man crucified this week,  radiation levels higher than humanity has ever experienced before,  world economy on its last legs -last weeks?-last days?,   approaching war,   and the Church itself trying to  devour its own teachings  . . .   All these and other  dangers we face are our tribulations this time, this generation, this century.

Looking to God and His guidelines is a way of acknowledging Him and calling on Him  and looking to Him for our Help.

And in  calling out to  God,   (in whatever tribulation they shall cry to me)  we are assured that past generations  were heard and made it through their trials and continued on.

Until now.

A PAUSE (13th SUNDAY P.P.)

September 8, 2014

Too much is swirling around in my life right now, so I needed to take a break.  I don’t want to  write too much, though I fear I will.

Karlskirche Austria

I took my break here today  (in a way);  Karlskirche, somewhere in Austria.  It was built for all of us, for everyone in the whole world.  That’s what “universal” means – for everyone.  You can enter freely, sit in the back, if you want,  let other people do their own “thing” in there too, while you enjoy the beauty and experience the immense space that quiets your mind and enlarges your own personal perspective.
So I didn’t exactly go to Austria today.   Not exactly.   I went down some steps into a “basement”   where the air was stuffy,  the carpeting was old, and the chairs were of the “folding”  variety.     But in the front, front and center,  the altar was beautiful, as beautiful as we could make it, because our attention would be focused on the exact same thing as that beautiful Austrian cathedral, front and center.

water  I went to my familiar place today and knelt while others were coming in and kneeling too.  I composed my mind.  I read a familiar Psalm,  Psalm 62 * and treasured these words:   “O God, thou art my God;  earnestly  I seek Thee;  my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh longs for Thee like a dry and parched land without water. . . .”

 

Then everyone had come and things began, and soft male voices rose gently in song,  prayers at the altar began,  and then the Asperges  for us –   cool water, fresh air comes our way,  but more than just a refreshment,  a spiritual presence, a spiritual cleansing;  not just “water” but water joined with Intention:  God’s intention to cleanse,  our intention to receive his cleansing.

“My soul thirsts for thee…like a dry and parched land….”    Things change with the cleansing Asperges, things change and become sharper and crisper, cleaner and brighter,  and as we continue, everyone there — on their knees, sometimes standing,  sometimes sitting —   is one in the same intention.

We were reminded today of the Ten Lepers who were cleansed  (healed)  by Jesus, when they sought Him (earnestly I seek Thee)  and He agreed:  they needed healing,  and He did heal them.    And then, as the familiar story goes,  they left to go find their priests who would declare them ritually clean.  But one came back.    That one had experienced the cleansing and was so full of gratitude that he came back to express his thanks to Jesus, the Great Physician.

Today,  amidst the sights and sounds, the young torch bearers walking in so solemnly, the incense,  the singing,  the bells, the intense silence,   the Elevation . .  .   I closed my eyes and saw that cathedral in Austria and felt myself become part of the universal Church, trying my best to give adequate thanks in the most beautiful way I could think of.

Those lepers of long ago, healed,  would return to their busy lives with all the cares and joys of living humans,  but first,  one of them  returned to give thanks.

Deo gratias.

 
*   (or Psalm 63 in the Jewish numbering used by Protestants)

 

 

 

 

 

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES: DETROIT FLOODS OVER

August 17, 2014

There used to be a popular television game show called Truth or Consequences.  If a contestant was caught telling an “untruth,”  there would be consequences for him, usually funny ones.    The show “worked” because society understood that consequences are real, not just a product of an “unjust society.”

After all my travels, I came home to quite a lively news cycle:  wars and unrest, plagues, and natural disasters all over.

 flood

There was an unusual amount of rain dumped on various locations as a storm front crossed several states.   When it came over Detroit, the heavy rains produced up to six inches of rain in a very short time, flooding all major roads and interstates that went through Detroit, because the drainage system was old and overwhelmed. 

At least that’s what we were told at first.

As the days went on, a very small follow-up was reported.  Yes, it was a lot of rain in a short time.   Yes,  the drains were overwhelmed.   But the root cause of the flooding turned out to be plain old-fashioned human sin.

 steal

Sin, as in Thou Shalt Not Steal and people steal anyway.    These sinners,  these thieves, are called “scrappers” because they steal metal out of things we need, like street lights,  power lines,  transformers,  air conditioners — and in this case,  out of the pumping stations that would have cleared the water from Detroit streets and avoided much of the flood damage.

Sure, we have laws against stealing.  Sometimes the thieves are caught.  Sometimes they are even prosecuted and occasionally punished.   But laws will not stop the thieving because taking something that isn’t yours – or even wanting to do it and planning how to do it (Thou Shalt Not Covet) –  is not a matter of law, it’s a matter of the character of a man’s soul.

Civil law will not protect society (or us who live in society). 

I thought about this during the sermon this morning.  

jesus

The sermon was about the familiar story of the man who was telling God how good he had been and  how he had avoided doing bad things;  he knew how to be a pretty good person.   Jesus, who was there watching this, also pointed out that there was another man, over there in the corner, who seemed aware of his shortcomings and who kept beating his breast and saying quietly:  “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Somehow the first man had lost sight of the reality of sin, but the second man understood it very well.

The sermon proceeded on to humility.   It takes a humble man to confront his shortcomings, and to acknowledge his sins and faults before God.   It would take a humble society, person by person, to acknowledge that sin is at the root of our difficulties.

The truth is, if we don’t address this root cause,  there will be consequences to pay.   The whole “game” was set up this way by the Game Master.   There is no other “game.”

 

 

SOME TREES ARE GOING TO BE BURNED

July 27, 2014

The Church teaches a robust, manly Faith that requires courage and honesty and clear thinking.   In the Readings *  appointed for this 7th Sunday (after Pentecost) there is a helpful image that points to a clear conclusion.

burning brush

When a tree becomes unproductive, or doesn’t live up to its intended purpose,  it’s taken down, the branches are collected into a pile, and when the time is right,   we burn the bad trees.   The Readings appointed for us today tell us about good and bad trees.

Surprisingly to modern ears, the One who told us “God is Love”  is the same One who teaches us today that “Every tree that bringeth not forth  good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.”    We being the different kinds of trees, of course.

We’re like trees that produce fruit.  If we live and breathe and move around, we can’t help but produce fruit.   Good fruit is good fruit.   Bad fruit is bad fruit.    There is Good (and bad).  There is Right (and wrong).    Black is not white,  and this is not that.

In the mental, moral, and spiritual confusion of today, it’s easy to throw up our hands and say, Oh well, “God is love,” and He knows me and He’ll find some Good Fruit in me somewhere, in the end, in the Day of Burning.

But then, at the end of our Readings, we read more:  The One who said “God is Love,” and who said “Come unto Me,”  also says today “Not everyone who says about me Lord, Lord…will enter the kingdom of Heaven . . . ”       So just acknowledging that God exists,  just acknowledging that Jesus is the only way to Him, still isn’t  enough because there’s still that problem of “fruits” that our lives are producing.

Plenty of trees, all producing their own quality of fruit.

plenty of trees

The Epistle Reading tells us clearly that when we sink our roots into the mental, moral, and spiritual confusion of the culture around us, our fruit will be bad fruit.

On the other hand,  a life lived in Christ, within Christ,  and for Him, as His servants and friends, will yield the good fruit that leads to life everlasting.

We live;  we make fruit.

Courage, honesty, and clear thinking will help us decide where to place our roots.

 

*  The Gospel today is Matthew 7:15-21  and the Epistle is Romans 6:19-23