Exodus 2016, Part 2

26 Jan

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Afraid of the Light? Afraid to move? Locked in a cocoon?

As mentioned in my January 21 blog, there are tremendous problems facing believers in contemporary times. Among the things we, too often, only bemoan are these:

  • People “domesticating” God—making God in their own image;
  • Thinking what we want is what we need;
  • Government and secular pressures trying to lock faith up inside church and temple walls;
  • Denial of marriage as being between one man and one woman;
  • The growing hedonism in today’s world;
  • And the hesitation, or refusal, of believers to leave their comfortable little cocoons to witness the love and glory of God.

It’s so very easy to leave church on Sunday all “giddy with grace” and little, if any, resolve to make things better.

However, we have dedicated lay people, committed clergy and religious who work tirelessly to form parishioners in the ways of our Lord.

Great strides are taken toward the Christian formation of each person and the entire parish community. Attention is given to worship, aid to the poor and homeless, and outreach to the non-practicing Catholic and to the unchurched.

All this requires tireless commitment to prayer, planning and execution of the plans.

However, as we diligently strive for success in these good efforts, there is a danger. Working hard in ministry, we can begin to lose sight of the cohesion of all ministries. The unity and growth of the community can be compromised. Also, ministers may experience “spiritual fatigue”—as they feel isolated from others, overworked and “put upon.”

But, this danger can be avoided.

“With simplicity of heart, I have joyfully offered everything to you my God.”[i]

With “simplicity of heart,” truly trusting God, each one of us can grow in faith and begin to influence the people we meet every day.

You may want to consider the following suggstions.

  • Live your faith. Enter fully into the Eucharistic celebration.
  • Daily remind yourself that God’s Word brings joy and light into boredom and darkness.
  • Embrace God’s word in Scripture. Let it take root in the depths of your being. God’s Word is always new.
  • Frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Pray constantly. Offer everything you do as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God.
  • Love one another deeply. Each day, pray for those with whom you work and minister. Soon others will more easily see the strength of faith-based love.
  • Remember that faith is a gift. To grow in faith, you must surrender to our Lord.

If we so live, we will not become locked in a faith-cocoon, but we will be eager, ready and able to reach out to others. Then, people will be attracted to the Lord and his Church.

 

 

 

[i] Antiphon, The Liturgy of the Hours, Book I, pg. 808

 

 

 

 

 

OOPS!

23 Jan

My last blog, Jan. 21, was “Part 2: Exodus 2016.”

It was actually the first of two blogs on our contemporary call to move forward.

Apparently, I was a bit befuddled. But I have since corrected the error.

My next blog, in just a few days, will actually be the second part.

Deacon Henry

 

 

Exodus 2016

21 Jan

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I remember that great scene from “The Bible” in which Moses (Charleston Heston) led God’s people through the Red Sea with water standing in walls to the right and left. He and all the Israelites crossed on dry land.

Once everyone had crossed over safely and Pharaoh’s army was in pursuit, the Lord had Moses stretch his hand and staff over the sea and the waters poured down destroying the enemy.

Of course, the Exodus is more than a dramatic event from the long distant past.

God is offering us our own Exodus today, in 2016.

From what or whom do we need to be delivered? Some suggestions:

  • The widespread “domestication” of God; making God in one’s own image—God becoming a quasi-reality of little or no importance; denial of the reality of sin and a cold shoulder to God’s wonderful mercy and forgiveness; the prideful sense of total independence from God and Church.
  • Deep-rooted materialism which leads us to focus on ourselves and to confuse “wants” with “needs.”
  • The not-so-subtle efforts in government and mass media to shackle faith within the walls of home and church; the obvious effort to silence believers while allowing unbelievers full voice to push their “non-God” rhetoric.
  • The growing moral corruption in society that (a) embraces lying as acceptable, even clever, to achieve one’s own will, and (b) confuses capitalism with amassing wealth as an end in itself.
  • Denial of marriage as a God-given and lifelong union of a man and a woman who become one flesh for the growth of their love for each other—and for the procreation of children.
  • Hedonism which transforms sex into a plaything for adults still too immature to recognize both its dignity and purpose.
  • The cancerous growth of a certain cocoon-like faith that isolates each believer from the whole Body of Christ.
  • Indifference toward the Lord’s call to live the Gospel and to share it with all the people in one’s life.

These factors are clear signs of three things: first, a certain denial of God and a disdain for people of faith; second, a shallow level of belief fostered by inadequate religious instruction, broken homes and/or ineffective preaching and weak religious formation—notably in the home; a spiritual narcissism which locks faith communities into self-satisfaction over what great things they are now doing.

So, what does all this mean? How do we achieve Exodus 2016?

More on January 27.

It Pays to Pray

9 Jan

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I am grateful to so many of you who have, over the years, shared faith with me, inspired me and, yes, listened to me.

I had such a great Christmas, which lasts from December 25 through January 10, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the last day of the Christmas season.

I thank God for The Liturgy of the Hours—the Breviary, as most people call the set of books which ordained and consecrated persons promise to pray every day of their lives. Many lay people pray the Hours as well.

Our Church has wisely preserved for our benefit the writings of so many saints.

 A case in point.

St. Peter Chrysologus (A.D. 406-450) was a dynamic preacher. On Monday after the Feast of the Epiphany, he offers the following:

“Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: Heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body. As they look, they believe and do not question as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.

“So the Gentiles, who were the last, become the first: the faith of the Magi is the first fruits of the belief of the Gentiles.”

This is a great insight and inspiration for all of us. The one phrase that has sent me back to this quote time and again is this: “one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body.”[i]

May I be among the last to say, “A blessed Christmas to all.”

It pays to pray. I already anticipate Christmas 2016.

 

[i] The Liturgy of the Hours, Book I, pg. 578.

Me? A Pharisee?

21 Dec

 

Reaching Up

Come on, Lord, you can’t mean me?

But, apparently, he did.

Why am I thinking about Pharisees just before the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord?

Just bear with me.

It happened one morning as I intently reflected on Jesus in Gethsemane. He was suffering great anguish as he faced a night of abuse and condemnation and the horrible death that awaited him the next day, the day we call Good Friday.

My attention was focused on his prayer to his Father: “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Recently, two good friends gave a Divine Will prayer to Peg and me. It helps me realize that I can’t obey and totally love God unless I “fuse” my will to his Divine Will. As Jesus did, I must want what God wants for every moment of my life.

I have a free will. I can choose to be one with him or to step away. But, if I am to follow Christ, I cannot stop short of total union with my God.

Too often, I have shoved my quest for a good, holy and moral life into separate little files, focusing on what not to do: one for inappropriate language, one for gluttony, and still a different one for envy and so on.

To live a fully human life, I must unite my will to his Divine Will—and do so every minute of every day. And when I fail him, I must rush to “re-fuse” my will to his.

Is that not the goal of a true response to his call for oneness with us?

 So, what about Christmas?

The Babe of Bethlehem is a gentle invitation into the warmth, gentleness and innocence of God. The crucified and dying Jesus is the ultimate exclamation of God’s love for all of us and his desire for us to be one with him both here and hereafter.

Let us have a whole and holy Christmas.

 

Oh, to Live Aright!

10 Dec

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I tend to divide life’s experiences, good and not so good, and file them away in separate folders.

That’s a handicap to spiritual growth.

A pilgrimage or journey is one continuous movement from its beginning to its end, incapable of being categorized into separate and unrelated experiences. It is all one.

But, what of the bad memories, bad deeds, failures and sadness? How do they fit into a continuum toward happiness and glory?

Sometimes on a journey, you get a flat tire, run out of gas or maybe just sprain your ankle at a rest area.

None of these end the journey. You fix the flat, find a way to get gas, or limp along on that sore ankle—and continue on the journey.

The “bad things” should remind us of Pope Francis’ call to a year of mercy. God is indeed merciful.

During the celebrations of the Advent and Christmas seasons, the Babe of Bethlehem is such a joy-filled wonder. But that Babe grows up to be the Suffering Servant, the Just One wickedly condemned to death. He was condemned for your sake and mine—to save us from ourselves and the enemy of peace, justice, hope and love.

We might do well to see our past mistakes as ill-advised detours from the chosen path we have decided to take—and accept the sufferings we endure as sacrifices of thanksgiving for God’s great love and mercy.

Regarding God’s mercy, there are two extremes we must avoid:

  1. The error of some people who claim “once saved, always saved,” while they ignore the need for ongoing conversion. St. Paul reminds us “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
  2. The other error is to believe that you have sinned so greatly that God cannot forgive you, or that your guilt remains after confessing your sins and receiving God’s merciful forgiveness.

Dear Lord, help us to avoid extremes. Help us to fuse our will to your divine will so we will know what you want us to know, think what you want us to think, say what you want us to say, and do what you want us to do.

 

A Truly Great Cruise

5 Dec

Photo by Ray Hosler

The Caribbean Sea—how vast it is.

Be it midnight, early morning, late evening on the balcony of our stateroom— how calming, merely to sit and reflect, and be present to our God. There, when all is quiet save the whispers and rushing of the wind and the gentle sloshing of the sea, you can “hear” God calling you into the depths of intimacy, even fellowship.

We were aboard the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Serenade of the Seas—all eighty-three of us, mostly from our own St Mary Magdalen Parish, Diocese of Orlando.

It was our 14th Cruise Retreat.

For me, it was a great retreat.  I experienced a renewal of energy, hope and commitment. We considered the challenges posed in today’s world. The active and energetic participation of our retreatants demonstrated deep, joyful faith and trust in God.

It was totally refreshing and inspiring. People shared precious moments in their lives. For example, one woman movingly spoke of her near-death experience. Her story touched us deeply.

But as in all true faith-gatherings, there was much laughter. Another woman kept us in stiches telling us how she and other ladies “confiscated” a Port Authority golf cart to make it back to the ship.

Four years earlier, at the end of our tenth retreat cruise, I had quite sincerely proclaimed, “This is my last cruise retreat.” Yet, I subsequently booked four more retreats.

The folks had a lot of fun teasing me about this retreat being my “Fourth Last Retreat Cruise”—especially when they learned that I had already booked our “Fifth Last Cruise Retreat,” number fifteen for all of us seafarers.

That seven-night cruise retreat is scheduled for October 2, 2016, departing from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.—with the first stop in Cozumel, Mexico; the second, in Labadee (RCCL’s private port in Haiti); and finally, in Falmouth, Jamaica. We will be aboard RCCL’s fabulous Allure of the Seas.

Conditions in the world can cause people to experience discouragement, sluggishness of spirit and in worse cases, depression and despair.

Committed Christians are moved to address these issues with a view to helping people rediscover hope through a renewal of faith in God.

At the suggestion of one gentleman, we are going to delve a bit into what makes us truly effective Catholic disciples. One source is Matthew Kelly’s “Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.”

However, as we consider how we respond to the Lord’s call the “make disciples of all nations,” we will draw deeply from the Scriptures, the teachings of our Church and the experience of all retreatants.

And, dear readers, it will be a wide-open retreat, with everyone addressing the subjects at hand.

To join us in the 2016 cruise retreat, you may contact me or go directly to AnnetteTravels@aol.com

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