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Lazarus, come out!


I invite you, while considering the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, to reflect on this image. And meditate on how Christ (1) is inviting each of us to healing; (2) can raise us each from our little deaths; and (3) wants to enlist us in bringing others to His healing love.



The Gospel According To Carl (Heinrich Bloch)

This Lent I was introduced to the beautiful art of Carl Heinrich Bloch.  He was influenced by Rembrandt. “The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.” Enjoy!

“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”


“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Mary and Elizabeth

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


Second Sunday of Lent: the Transfiguration

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Spring is supposed to be here in three days.  I don’t know if this was one of the darkest winters in history, but it sure has been one of the coldest on record!  We might have even set some records for snowfall.  The snow is beautiful when it first comes down, covering the earth in a pure blanket of white.  But after months of cold, when the snow has turned to a dirty, slushy and crusty consistency, it’s easy to get sick of it all.  When I was in college, we called February the Dark Ages.  By this time each year, we were sick of the cold, the dark, and the overcast skies.


Make Haste: The Visitation

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

Haste.  Praying the Scriptural Rosary for the Joyful Mysteries, that word caught my ear.  I never noticed it before.  In the past, when I meditated on the second Joyful Mystery, I tried to picture Mary making her way to her elder cousin.  But when I paid closer attention, my ear snagged on that word:  Haste.

When I pray the Rosary, I try to focus on one or more images related to each Mystery.  Like with the Wedding Feast at Cana, I can picture Mary telling the others, “do whatever he tells you.”  And I try to take guidance from this wisdom:  obey her son, Jesus.

With the Visitation, I would usually focus my mind’s eye on John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb.  What joy he must have felt in the presence of the Lord!

But now, with this new realization–haste–I added a new image:  Mary, making haste to her cousin, Elizabeth.  I wonder: what was her hurry?

I think a big reason for her haste has to do with our social nature.  I think Mary had at least three motives for making haste.  She wanted to share her news with her elder cousin–she (Mary) was pregnant!  She wanted to seek her elder cousin’s wisdom as Mary began this new chapter as a mother.  After all, Mary was still very young and she probably still had a lot to learn about the whole process.  She probably was nervous.  And finally, she wanted to help Elizabeth through her pregnancy.  Elizabeth was “advanced in years“–pregnancy at her age would be difficult.

And so, when I imagine Mary’s hasty journey, I see in her rush her desire to share with Elizabeth three things:  their shared joy at each pregnancy, Elizabeth’s wisdom that she acquired through years, and Mary’s love that she acquired through grace.  And so, as I pray the Joyful Mysteries, I hope I am motivated, as Mary, to make haste in my efforts to share joy, wisdom and love with others.

As I finished writing this post, I learned of the passing of my pastor, Monsignor William H. Easton.  I only was in his parish (the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan) for a little over a year, and yet I learned how blessed we have been to have such a wonderful shepherd as Monsignor Easton.  I know we will miss him, but I can see Mary making haste to welcome him to her Son’s kingdom.

Eternal rest grant unto Monsignor Easton, o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Monsignor Easton

Francis and Freddie. And Ziggy.

Browsing Facebook, I came across this great rendition of “Under Pressure ” (thanks, Buggy).  Awesome isolated vocals by Freddie Mercury and David Bowie!  It’s one of those songs that I love to sing along with, loudly and with feeling.  And while some recycling of its parts (through sampling and other techniques) may have tarnished the song a  little, it still remains a favorite.

I have to admit I didn’t really know all the lyrics.  I would make up words for the parts that I didn’t understand, or loudly mutter nonsensical syllables.  But with these isolated vocals I listened more closely.  This exchange caught my ear:

“Why can’t we give love that one more chance?”

“Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves”

And it hit me:  this is what Pope Francis is challenging us to understand, to accept and then to live.  Love is messy.  Love is chaotic.  Love is painful and risky.  Because love calls us to come out of ourselves and reach out to others.  It especially calls us to reach out to “the people on the edge of the night.”

In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis makes this pitch.  He calls on us to “take on the “smell of the sheep” so that “the sheep are willing to hear [our voices].”  He prefers “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets”, out on the edge of the night.  And he reminds us that “the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction.”

While we might be “tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length”, Pope Francis tells us that “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others”, to “enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness.”

He wants us to love, and by loving, to change the way of caring about ourselves and begin caring for the people on the edge of the night.  Who are these people?

Pope Francis tells us:

“But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, ‘those who cannot repay you’ (Lk 14:14).”

We must become, as Christ, “close to the poor and the outcast”, to care for “society’s most neglected members.”

Pope Francis describes some of these “most neglected members”:  the “homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others.”

In calling us to love, he asks us, “Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour?”

I think Freddie and Ziggy might answer it this way:  they are the people on the edge of the night.

Jesus is the Lamb

It’s easy for me to anticipate Christmas and the birth of Jesus in forgetfulness of His sacrifice that we celebrate every Sunday.  It’s also more difficult to remember our call to mortification, let alone to accept the little sufferings I might face or the little acts of selflessness I am challenged to offer.  As I remember the coming celebration of Jesus’ birth in anticipation, I try to remind myself of St. John of Cross as he encourages us:

To endeavor always to incline oneself,

  • …  not to that which is easier, but to that which is more difficult;
  • …  not to that which is tasty, but to that which is more bitter;
  • …  not to that which is more pleasing, but to that which is less pleasing;
  • …  not to that which gives rest, but to that which demands effort;
  • …  not to that which is a consolation, but to that which is a source of sorrow;
  • …  not to that which is more, but to that which is less;
  • …  not to the lofty and precious, but to the lowly and despicable;
  • …  not to that which is to be something, but to that which is to be nothing;
  • …  not to be seeking the best in temporal things, but the worst,
  • …  and to desire to enter in all nakedness and emptiness and poverty through Christ in whatever there is in the world.

And while I try to endeavor as St. John suggests, it helps to seek the humility of Christ as well with the Litany of Humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

  • …  From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
  • …  From the desire of being loved…
  • …  From the desire of being extolled …
  • …  From the desire of being honored …
  • …  From the desire of being praised …
  • …  From the desire of being preferred to others…
  • …  From the desire of being consulted …
  • …  From the desire of being approved …
  • …  From the fear of being humiliated …
  • …  From the fear of being despised…
  • …  From the fear of suffering rebukes …
  • …  From the fear of being calumniated …
  • …  From the fear of being forgotten …
  • …  From the fear of being ridiculed …
  • …  From the fear of being wronged …
  • …  From the fear of being suspected …
  • …  That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
  • …  That others may be esteemed more than I …
  • …  That, in the opinion of the world,
  • …  others may increase and I may decrease …
  • …  That others may be chosen and I set aside …
  • …  That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
  • …  That others may be preferred to me in everything…
  • …  That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

In this way, I think I can better appreciate and celebrate Christmas, the arrival of the Suffering Servant who came to set us free.

Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice in the Desert!

Today is Gaudete Sunday, which means Rejoice!  If you have an advent wreath, you’ll notice that while the other three Sundays of Advent have purple candles, today’s candle is rose pink.  This is the color of joy!  Of Rejoicing!

EC09 4

Today’s first reading tells why we should rejoice.  We begin in the desert.  I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the desert of Southern California in July 2009.  As the picture reflects, it is barren.  The plant life is sparse and looks nearly dead.  And the desert is full of hazards.  Be carefully lifting anything.  There might be a snake hiding underneath!  Or black widows!

When I was there, it got up to 119°! It was HOT with no shade.  But I understand that, on the very rare times when it does rain, the desert just explodes with blossoms!  Like here!

Judean Desert in bloom

This is the promise of the first reading from Isaiah:

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.

Today, you may feel like you’re in a desert.  Like everything around you is dying and the sun itself is beating down on you, draining you of energy.  Rejoice!  God promises better!  This desert will bloom with abundant flowers!

When I was in the desert of California, I learned of one of its denizens, the desert tortoise.  The desert tortoise is a protected species.  We had to be sure to stay on the marked roads and not drive into the desert for fear of driving over one of their burrows and killing them or destroying their nests.  In fact, if we saw one on the road, we were to leave it alone.  I am told that if you sneak up on one and startle it, the desert tortoise will evacuate its bladder.  This is a deadly condition for the tortoise because they recycle their urine.  They go months or years between drinks of water.  Because of this, they have to conserve what fluids they have.

This is an example of how the life in the desert has adapted to the harsh environment.

Although most of us do not live in a desert, many of us experience a spiritual dryness.  Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta describes the spiritual desert she experienced throughout her life.  These were times when Mother Theresa didn’t feel God’s presence.  She couldn’t sense Him.  And I know that there are times when I sometimes don’t feel the fruits of praying, when it doesn’t seem to pay off.

What did Mother Theresa do in those times?  She continued to pray.  She continued to love.  She continued to serve.  She persevered.

This desert often appears in my personal life and my relationship.  Sometimes I don’t feel like being nice to people who snap at me.  I don’t feel the spiritual strength to smile, or help.

Mother Theresa had a wonderful saying that addresses those times when you might not feel the presence of God, when you might not feel like being nice, or helpful.  It goes like this:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

So when you find yourself in a spiritual desert, think of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta.  If you don’t feel like praying, just do it.

Also, remember the desert tortoise, who stores its water because it never knows when it will take its next drink.  Like the tortoise, store up memories of when God’s love was obvious to you, when things went well, when you recognized your blessings.

And finally, remember God’s promise.  While your soul may feel dry as the parched desert, God promises that it will “bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.”

Think pink.  Think rejoice!

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