Nov 28, 2020

Advent Adirondack 1


Adirondack Meditation Workout

for the

First Week of Advent 2020


The following exercise is based on the ancient Christian practice of Lectio Divina. At the center is a short reading from the Bible.  


By first opening the mind to our own memories and life experiences, we can touch the Scriptures, allowing God’s Word to respond in a way we can personally appreciate. 


This approach respects the fact that when we enter into dialogue with God we do so with our mind, body and soul already affected by the world we live in and the experiences we already have. 


Like a “power nap”, ideally one should mark out at least 20 minutes and find a place where you know you will not be disturbed. At best, this exercise could be printed out or if on a smartphone screen, consider engaging the airplane mode for the duration of the meditation. 



Recall and Notice


When you are ready to begin, first be conscious of your breathing and your body.  This is an invitation to the Holy Spirit, the breath of God Who dwells in your body, His Temple. 


When ready, follow these pointers. 


What are some of your memories of staying up late at night alone or, during the day, having to wait a long time for someone to arrive? 

Have you ever had to stay in a place without access to your phone or WiFi?

Is there anything in your immediate surroundings you can notice, as if for the first time, sights and/or sounds?


(Don’t go to the next section yet. Spend a good 5 minutes at least, pondering the above questions. Only when you sense calmness, gently move to the next step.)


Slowly Read 


“Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! 

You do not know when the time will come. 

    It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 

    Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 

    May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 

What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

(From the Gospel of Mark 13:33–37)





Read the text again, this time a little slower. Notice particular words, actions, objects. Take your time and perhaps repeat the reading again, allowing other words, actions or objects to catch your attention. 


(When you sense the passage has become “fresh” in your mind,  gently move to the next step.)


Review


The following is not a quiz nor a search for the correct answer. Each statement can instead beckon a different response. Take each one of them, pondering the suggestion allowing it to attach or be let go. 


How does the master’s servant watch and work at the same time?  


1. Each servant is assigned a unique responsibility. 2. The servant is always multitasking. 3. The servant keeps to their own role. 4. The servant can rest when their work is done. 5. The servant keeps looking for more things to do.  6. The servant begins with the hardest tasks first.  7. The servant begins with light tasks and slowly builds up strength.  8. The servant races against the clock. 9 The servant shouldn’t be disturbed or surprised while at work.  10. The servant is deserving of their rest. 


  1. Return to these pointers a few times, now seeing yourself as the servant, noticing how greater or lesser each point is reflected in your own everyday life. 


  2. Returning to the points again, this time pondering how Christ’s life and ministry was the actual servant is reflected in each also in the above statements.



After reflecting on you and Christ as waiting servants, 

consider this prayer. 


Jesus, my Lord, friend and savior. We are both servants, to each other and to others. You are tasked with saving my life. I am tasked with a unique pathway to meet you on. I am always in your sight within the complexities of every day. You will never overwhelm me with too much, so when I feel the burdens of the hour, remind me to step outside the storm and look for you. Remind me that together we are both strong to accomplish the tasks at hand and that you hold the balance between time and eternity. Allow me to catch glimpses of you here and there, assurances that you are present even in the mess or the mundane. Assuring me of my lasting value to you, grant me calmness and a gentle peace whether I work, rest or pray. 


The Lord's Prayer - say it slowly and carefully. 


Our Father, Who art in heaven,

Hallowed be Thy Name.

Thy Kingdom come.

Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.”


Finally, take note of your breathing, your body and how your spirit is now. Remind yourself not to forget this present moment. 

You can return and enter this to this same meditation again, with a fresher insight of one’s soul. Like any physical exercise, it will mean a commitment to a regular time and place, even repeating the same exercise to slowly build up a discipline of loving God with your mind, heart, body and soul. 


Nov 26, 2020

Thanksgiving




Dear friends, many of you may remark that today’s public holiday of thanksgiving is unprecedented under the cloud of civic restrictions of movement, on the freedom of assembly and who you can share thanksgiving day with, or where. Many might even note the contradiction that the early pilgrims to whom we traditionally model the family gathering around the table, came together to share a common meal in thanksgiving that they were in a land that did not dictate how or where to worship God or how the family structure would be secured. Everything seems to be now turned on its head. Or maybe not. 

For too long, we have been exposed to a virus of media throughout the decades presenting to us a picture perfect thanksgiving day. One can think of pictures of old fashioned puritans gathered around the table with their heads bowed in prayer. Maybe the iconic renderings of artist Norman Rockwell of an old fashioned stereo typical American family of the 1950’s could come to mind. Perhaps even a Charlie Brown thanksgiving, even a Bart Simpson or South Park episode. Regardless, a quick image search on the internet often depicts photos of happy, cheerful gatherings, with a perfectly positioned pecking order of food and drink carefully arranged a festive table. 


Now, I don't mean to rain on your parade. I am sure some of us have experienced a little bit of the ideal. But for the most part, and for most people, how we are expected to celebrate Thanksgiving day this year, has already been the real life experience of many, many people in years past. And now we all share that common table with them - far from home, far from family, far from loved ones, far from the ideal. 


For those who have been able to navigate through all the complexities and nuances of restrictions and mandates to gather your loved ones into one household together, know that you are entertaining very risky behavior. I’m not, in this instant, talking about the topic of the virus. I’m talking now about the likely topic of your conversations - how real is the pandemic, who won the election, when can we get back into the church for Mass, why do I have to wear a mask in between bites of turkey breast? In short, too often, hosting a traditional Thanksgiving day meal with family and friends comes with the risk of tension, it always does, be it because of political, religious or family complexities, the pandemic comes as leftovers. 


So, if you feel a little out of sorts this thanksgiving day, know that you share that sense of being out of place with countless others, who have not only been displaced, or lonely or even fed up, this year in particular, but every year, even every day in general. Sometimes, looking to an ideal world, an ideal family, an ideal church, even an ideal God, risks terrible disappointment and what that can provoke when our own standards are not met. 


But at our table, we do not set the menu, nor do we dictate the conversation. It is a beggar’s banquet. What is placed upon the plate and in the cup is simple bread and wine.  Our conversation is with God to whom we call out from the distance to the heights, as the leper’s in the Gospel did, “Lord have pity on us”. And because the Lord does hear our prayers, not only are we blessed, but our menu has been changed- from bread and wine, to the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ Himself - the medicine of true health, our protection against sin and even death itself. That’s what's on the table. Not an ideal, but the truth. 


All ten leper’s were blessed. Nine of them galloped back to their homes and families and into the battlefield to take on the world with their newfound freedom. Only one stopped, had a good look at himself and went the other way. And in a quiet moment, without family or friends, returned to the Lord to give thanks. In the same way, let us not look out at the world too much. Let’s take a good look at ourselves first, and recall how God has already blessed us in so many ways we should never take for granted. 


The Lord be with you…. Lift up your hearts… Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. 

Nov 21, 2020

No Slave to Any Earthly King

 


Since last December, Sunday after Sunday we have been retracing Christ’s life, death and resurrection in a way that has allowed us to journey together, step by step through the historical events of our salvation. It all comes together this Sunday, culminating in our acknowledgment of Christ as King of heaven and earth. 

His title is not honorary. He does not sit passively on a throne looking down on His subjects. Nor do we stand, sit or kneel in His presence as mere attendants. As He has participated in all our battles and struggles, all our achievements and successes, whether we realize it or not, Christ constantly invites us to participate in all of His. By doing so, we have His assurance that our individual lives have eternal value and meaning - that we too are destined for glory. 

It may not seem like that on a given day. Our lives can sometimes become absorbed with responding to the needs and the demands of others, too ordered and scheduled even to the point of exhaustion. Christ’s life was no different. But He would often tell us to come away with Him to a quiet place, alone with Him and away from the crowds. 


Likewise our lives can sometimes be too isolated, quiet and even uneventful.  Christ’s life was no different. But He would often tell us to actively join Him on the road, responding with strength and patience to the needs of friends, the stranger and the passerby. 


(For those in the military, think of it this way. Christ began as a private and through his years of service became a Chief Warrant Officer. By his death and resurrection from the grave He becomes our general. In his ascension into heaven to seat at the right hand of the Father, He is our commander and chief. He is the humble Shepherd who becomes the King, never losing that common touch and the smell of the sheep about him. I say sheep, not goats. The sheep lend themselves to his voice and commands. Goats are too hard headed, and will chew up anything in their path.)


Our lives can never just be one way or another if we live with Christ. Yes, He is the King in all His Glory, but also the Shepherd in all His gentleness. He is the Lion in all His strength, but also the Lamb in all His tenderness. His Kingdom is not defined by territory. It is defined by the reach of His embrace. He rules, not by might, but by example. 

And if we are to follow Him and bear the name Christian, then we can not pick and choose which “portrait of Christ” we like better - for fear we might only recognize Him on our own terms of engagement. Instead, our King of glory comes to us disguised. He hides the reality of His Eternal Presence to us behind a resemblance of humble bread as we reverently approach Him through the doorway of the Mass. He waits for us to join Him in quiet company, alone in our thoughts when all is still. And He tests the availability of our daily presence to Him through our response to the challenges of the day, with friends and strangers through whose eyes He gazes upon us as each day unfolds.


Regardless of the challenges we all face everyday, don’t get locked in to just one way of seeing Christ. Never be afraid of allowing Him to be both a king and a servant to you, the one who challenges as well as comforts, a friend and a stranger, a father to you as well as a brother. May you also take on these qualities, not to sometime arrive at the best version of yourself. Instead, to rejoice that from that very first unique moment of your conception you have been and are made in the image and likeness of God and destined to reign with Him over all creation. Wow! To be a King hidden in the crowd. To be a man hidden in glory.


Solemnity of Christ the King 2020 



Nov 15, 2020

The Weight of Glory

 


The Gospel passage for this Sunday weekend recalls the famous Parable of the Talents, as told by the Evangelist, Matthew (25: 14-30). The “talent” mentioned in the story was actually a unit of valuable Roman currency. If you owned one, you would be very well off. If you had a few, you were set for life.


When we first hear this story, we naturally assume it has to do with money. This is understandable, because, as we live now, our finances or lack of them, are very much part of our lives, our stability and security. Unlike most of those who heard this parable for the first time when Christ told it, most of us have come to depend more and more on our own personal financial resources, rather than the support of our extended family. I would often (half-jokingly) suggest to newlyweds that they be open to having many children, if only for the reason that they are a good investment in the future. If ever social security, retirement benefits or pension plans go south, our children should be always ready to step in. 

Of course the parable, as Christ preached it, is most definitely not about money. It has much more to do with weight. The heavier the Roman talent, the greater it’s worth. What comes to mind is the expression we might use describing someone as “worth their height in gold”. 


Back to Christ’s parable of the talent. Each one of us has been carefully molded and shaped by God, unique in our individuality, our particular gifts and talents. Regardless if you are spiritually (even physically) a featherweight, lightweight, middle or heavyweight, each one of us belongs to a particular class at certain times. God entrusts to each of us particular weights of gold. He knows what we can handle, what we can lift, what we can do with the talents He gives us. He gives us all the necessary opportunities and strength to master our talents, to invest in them so that when we stand before Him on that final day, both God and I will delight together in the great gains we have made. 

But this is not some sort of selfish investment in our own potential and abilities. The weight of glory does not belong to us.  It belongs to God. Our talents never really belonged to us from the beginning. God invested them in us to see them bear fruit. 

It is therefore a tragedy when, as Christ notes in His parable, someone buries their talent, hides it from everyone, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of jealousy or even because we don’t know what to do with it. That is why we need good friends, good mentors, teachers and pastors to help us rediscover the hidden strength that lies within and untapped. 


God shared with the Blessed virgin His own weight of glory- His Son. She did not keep Him for herself or hide Him from the world, but instead courageously, with faith and love, offered Him to the whole world. Our Heavenly Father as likewise shared His Son with us, through the sacraments. We dare not keep Him buried in our thoughts and empty gestures, but with gratitude and thanksgiving, allow Him to work through us unleashing His power to save through the gifts that are at work through us. 

Nov 7, 2020

Energy Reserve

 

The first public prayer made on the people’s behalf at this Sunday’s Mass asks God to keep us safe - not just spiritually, but also mentally and physically. Only then can we freely pursue what really matters to God, not in the short term, but also in the long term. That is why, we must ask God to help us discern each step we take from here.


Almighty and merciful God,

graciously keep from us all adversity,

so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,

we may pursue in freedom of heart

the things that are yours.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, (one) God, for ever and ever.


Entering into the short days and the longer nights of darkness fast approaching, we are reminded that even in the dead of night, Christ will enter and reach out His hand to us to grasp our hand, even from the sleep of death itself.  (1 Thess 4:13ff) 


That is why Christ in the Gospel (Matthew 25:1-13) echoing the advice from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us of the importance of always being prepared, being prudent not to exhaust the light of our faith, but instead to think ahead, not burn up all the oil in our lamps too quickly. We may need to keep some in reserve for future days when we truly will need it. Our light should always be a pleasing sight, always ready to welcome Christ. 


Nov 6, 2020

Forecasting Results


It’s climate change, but not as we know it!  By this, I’m not referring to weather patterns. Our attention has naturally been focused on the change of climate in our political, church and civil environment and how it affects us, our families and our Church community. 

Suffice to say, weaved into our national consciousness, there has often been a relentless temptation to try to accurately predict outcomes, to want to see instant results or spontaneous anger at not getting what we believe is true and justly deserved. We might willingly sacrifice four minutes of our time, even four hours. The greater challenge for some is four days, four months or even four years.


During times like this, I think of the medieval politics involved in the elections of medieval popes between candidates rival families. There was at one time even an instance of a Roman mob locking up all the cardinal electors in a room and not letting them out until they elected a pope. The Church once had three men each claiming at the same time to be the legitimate pope and Europe was politically and religiously divided for many years until it was resolved. Even as late as 1903, when a certain Cardinal Rampolla began to slowly gain all the votes necessary to be elected pope, a Polish cardinal elector announced an legal veto on behalf of the Austrian-Hungarian Emperor. Another man was elected instead, and the first peasant pope since the Middle Ages, St. Pius X. 


Of course, although times and circumstances change, human nature and all its base impulses change little. God is the God of history. The fact that He entered into our human history and knows first hand of our complexities, sinfulness and struggles should assure us that our Heavenly Father sent His Son to us in order to win - to win us the gift of salvation and eternal life in the kingdom of God. That has always been and will continue to be our prize if we remain faithful in our Christian faith and work despite the storms and ever changing climate of the landscape we find ourselves in. God works through it, even despite it. Christ will win, with or without us. 


You will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.” James 1:2-4

Nov 2, 2020

Our Faithful Departed -

 All Souls


We remember those who have died. Even now, we make them present in our minds. If we have loved them in life, they are to us not ghosts or spirits. We remember them in the context of a relationship. This occurs when we perhaps look at photographs, when we go down memory lane, when we relive in our mind events, celebrations, a conversation, even having an argument or something we can never forget. 

This is what eulogies attempt to do. Remember when…..? Sometimes we share with others a memory. Sometimes two or three may share particular experiences from different perspectives. We see our loved one with the fresh eyes of another. And there are memories that are, for us a deeply unique, secret in a way that only you can appreciate.  Sometimes our best memories are awakened when we are alone and reminiscing of days past. 

But where are they now? Are they in heaven? Do they live in our hearts? Are they simply no longer here? 

Suffice to say, those who have died, they now rest in peace. And resting in peace is something that we all do after a long day’s work. We all deserve our rest at sometime in our lives. 

Each one of us, after the sun has set and our own work is over, we too will rest from all our labors, rest from all our anxieties, our worries – rest from the work of daily life and living.

And for those who have now taken their final rest, what we call death,. Our prayer for them is that they are at peace, enjoying their rest until that great day at some unknown time, when the Son of the eternal day will dawn upon us all. And when that day comes, all who have died in Christ and lived for him will not be afraid to awaken and with sleepy eyes behold our creator and our judge.

So what is our prayer for our faithful departed, our loved ones who have died? Even though we may remember our sins, our Christian hope gives us confidence that we should never be afraid of God our Savior, not to be afraid of the judge of heaven and earth. He is the good shepherd who comes to lead his flock through the valley of darkness to the green pastures of everlasting life. Together let us follow him. 

So until that final day comes, may we and our departed family, friends and loved ones always rest in peace and hold on to that hope we have in Christ of eternal life. 

Advent Adirondack 1

Adirondack Meditation Workout for the First Week of Advent 2020 The following exercise is based on the ancient Christian practice of Lectio ...