Archive | December, 2015

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


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