Mar 25, 2017

Fourth Week of Lent

The trouble with headlines is that a headline is not in itself "the story"! A headline does not capture the event. The headline is just an attention grabber: "Man born blind can now see!", "Miracle worker does it again!", "Drama unfolds at the temple", "Renegade Rabbi mocks Religious Leaders", "Eyesight Restored to Blind Man denied healthcare by Pharisees".

It's not even a complete summary of an event. If we wanted to understand a story we would have to see it from every angle, from every perspective - we would have enter into the mind, heart and soul of every individual present, from the main characters involved, every witness present, every passerby, even everyone on the sidelines. And then added to that, our limitations of memory, the coloring of conjecture and the stain of prejudice. Everyone can tell a story from their own individual perspective.

But even if we could throw everyone's "10 cents" into a crockpot or program it into a 3D printer, would it recreate the event that actually occurred? Could we participate once again in the actual drama that unfolded yesterday, last week, ten years ago, two thousand years ago?

Or would we, once again, have to rely on bits and pieces of text messages, a quick photograph that captures just one millisecond frozen in time and then try, like a CSI investigator, to recreate the event? Even if we could, it might take hundreds of thousands of painstaking hours threading everything together just to "simulate" the outwards appearances of a few minutes that passed by on its way to God Know Where!

My point here, is not to necessarily, to lead you down a philosophical rabbit hole into a matrix. (If you would like to venture that direction, read Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry). Instead, after listening to the Gospel proclaimed today, I wish to highlight only the first line of the Gospel, "As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth".

Before everyone else started jumping to conclusions about this nameless individual, putting labels on him, pushing him into a corner, writing him off, or putting him on a stand or pedestal, Our Lord, as He was passing by, saw him first.

I would happily conclude the reading of this long portion of Scripture with only this first opening line.  That, in itself, is the story - that is the event - He was passing by, no doubt with hundreds of people coming at Him from every perspective, every angle, every direction - passing by on the road, in the middle of the greyhound bus station, in the busy church piazza, in the shopping mall, at the street corner, in the crowded classroom, in the throngs of people coming and going - as He was passing by, in this event, Christ saw the blind man first. No one else did. He did. The eyes of God saw what no one else did.

Not only does Christ know what He sees, He knows who He sees. He knows his name, his address, his family, his upbringing, he knows his whole family, his parents, his doctors, his friends, his suffering, his hopes, his joys and his hardships. Christ sees through it all to the soul, the anguish of broken relationships, the fear of being left alone in the dark, the hungry faith that cries out to heaven in hope of a better tomorrow.  That's the event that the eyes of God sees what no one else did. There is a line from the First Reading that captures it all, "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." 

We, on the other hand, often just jump to conclusions, play to the crowd, debate about who's right and who's wrong, organize discussion and action groups and committees, write long articles for and against, and preach lengthy sermons (sorry!)

We are the proud, rising up against the proud when we are all blind beggars sweeping the road, living in our own darkness.

But the Good News, (but maybe it is bad news for some who are so entrenched in a world of black and white) is that Christ can see in the dark as well as in the light. Christ can even see every color that is invisible to us - He can see you and me in all our God-given dignity, beauty and loveliness.

So what must we do to see what Christ see, so that we can enter into the event of salvation? Christ told the blind beggar, He told you and me, to wash our eyes. How can we do that, and with what? 

Water is the most humble element of God's creation, and the most powerful. The Sacrament of Confession renews the purity of the humble water of our baptism that, too often, we have allowed to become turkey and dark. The Sacrament of Confession cleanses the water, washes the lens of our soul, so that we can clearly see with all the power and clarity of the eyes of Christ. Only when we can see anew, only then can we offer this cleansing grace to a world often trapped in the maze of darkness and chaos.

So what is our soul's prayer? I want to see Christ face to face and see with His eyes. I want to see what He alone can see, the restoration of a new heaven and a new earth.  (cf. Dante's Paradiso 30:88-94)

Mar 19, 2017

Third Week of Lent

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist the priest or deacon will mix a little bit of water into the wine. Water points to humanity's great thirst.  Wine, in itself, can remind us of the joy and richness of the divine life. When God became man, He entered into the thirst of humanity. He come to us as Christ, the Savior of the World who offers to quench the thirst of very human being who longs for the fullness of life. 

Whereas the Church’s liturgy will speak this mystery in signs and symbols, the Holy Scriptures, especially the Gospel, will likewise do so with words and stories. But signs, symbols, words and stories themselves thirst to fleshed out in real life. 

Jesus shares in our exhaustion from the long journeys we often find ourselves on. That He might refresh us as we tire easily down our own long road through life (cf. Mat 11:28) Christ comes to the well parched with our thirst, yet speaking of Himself as the only one who can satisfy our deepest longing (c.f. CCC 2652).

Who is this woman at the well? It is all those who find themselves wounded by sin and scarred by the sins of others. She represents all of us, but especially when we find ourselves vulnerable, the weak and desperate, regardless of how strong or in command of our surroundings we might think we are.

But, in order to provide the right environment for an encounter with you and me, sometimes, like what He does in the incident we read in the Gospel today, Christ sends His "official" disciples away on an errand. Maybe, they think it is a very important mission, but our Lord maybe simply doesn't want them around right now. They might be too much of a distraction in this point of contact He is wants to make with the stranger at the well. 

That should be a good hint for us. Sometimes disciples have the worst bedside manners and can turn people away from Christ. We are hardly good ambassadors for the Lord when we are overbearing, or coldly judgmental. Yes, Christ is patient with us too when we are like this. Sometimes, when we become a bit too zealous or annoying, He might say to me, "Why don't you go a little walk!" and sends us off on an errand, that we think is very important. Maybe it serves our Lord so that we are simply out of His way!

This allows Christ the Good Shepherd is be able to reach out to this wounded and frightened lamb patiently and with gentleness. For, in this instance, that is what is called for.

In her dialogue with Christ, the Good Shepherd is not afraid or embarrassed to point out her sins. He want to heal, not punish. But He doesn't try to embarrass her or back her into a corner.  She, like all of us, is gently challenged to look at our sins face to face. In this moment of encounter with Christ we are slowly cleansed and washed clean of our sinful past only as we linger longer and longer in conversation with Christ.  The deeper and deeper we allow ourselves to waste time with Christ, like the woman at the well, we not only recognize Him as a holy prophet, but also the Messiah. 

Where does this conversation lead us to? That Jesus Christ is the savior of the whole world - we are given a glimpse of a new heaven and a new earth that awaits us all. That is the gift of liberation, joy and hope - that's the wine what our humanity longs for.

The Gospel demonstrates that Our Lord continuously and constantly invites us into a dialogue that never ends, one we would never tire of - we thirst for God, He thirst for us. This dialogue between water and wine is, of course, called prayer. "Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ!" It is not our gift to God, but it is His gift to us.

(CCC 2560)

Who begins this dialogue? Christ initiates it, not you or me. It is He who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. God thirsts so that we may thirst for Him (Cf. St. Augustine, De diversis quaestionibus octoginta tribus 64, 4: PL 40, 56).

The long journey of Lent will bring us through desserts and plains. It will eventually lead us to a hill, the hill of Calvary. Lifted high on that Cross Our Lord calls out once again, "I thirst". But even if we have only stagnant water, or even if our wine has turned into vinegar - if that is all we have to offer - He will take it, and transform it into a well-spring leading up to eternal life. Lord Give me this water always!

Mar 16, 2017

St. Patrick

St. Patrick and a Land That Defined Him

I am no authority on the life of St. Patrick. His story is told and retold by various works and by many references, not least his own telling account of his life preserved for us in his famous Confession. However, the local land I grew up on, its fields, valleys and glens, along with a distinctive climate characterized by “four seasons in one day,” bear a particular claim to the shaping and moulding of Patrick’s heart and soul. 

Probably one of the last of a diaspora of Irish-born priests who would find themselves in distant California, I was born in 1966 in the town of Antrim, Northern Ireland. From its outskirts, Slemish Mountain is clearly visible on the horizon. It rises like a hardened blister from a green but desolate landscape. It was there, as countless generations of locals attest, the young Patrick spent his teenage years of captivity herding livestock. From the mountain's peak, on a clear day, he would have gazed upon a carpet of fertile green fields and woodlands spread out in every direction. And on the northern horizon, beyond the sea, he could catch the faint line of a distant Scottish coastland, a reminder that he was very far from home. 

Born in the late fourth century, it is well worth remembering that St. Patrick was not a native of Ireland. At the age of 15, then a nominal Christian, the son of what we call today a permanent deacon, he was abducted from his father’s villa in Roman Britain by Irish human traffickers who subjected him to servitude across the sea in Ireland. As a teenage homesick prisoner condemned to forced labor, Patrick had no family, no friends nor mentors to guide him through the difficult years of adolescence. For six years, practically alone and exposed to the damp and windswept surroundings, he had little choice but commune with nature with all its changing moods and temperaments.

However, Patrick’s profound personal sense of isolation also helped awaken him to the nostalgic peace and beauty of his own childhood Christian faith, which had, until now, remained dormant. Cooperating with gentle grace, the teenager was remarkably able to avoid despair and disillusionment. His six years of forced exile from his family and homeland, had matured him in mind, body and soul. To that end, when he was 21 years old, Patrick was able to escape his captors and find his way back home to Roman Britain. He was no longer a boy. He was now a man, and no doubt, a very changed man.  

Although his captivity in Antrim provoked his soul and awakened his spirit, Patrick’s spirituality and understanding of God was not the result of a lonely boy’s conversation with nature nor from a fertile and creative imagination born from boredom. Instead, he had been forcefully immersed in a new haunting language uniquely indigenous to the people, the land and its volatile elements – something that even after his return to the security and comfort of Roman Britain, he could never manage to shake off, not even in his dreams. God had spoken to Patrick in a foreign and mysterious dialect and the young man would come to instinctively understand his life’s vocation. The Church recognized his calling and after ordaining him, sent Patrick back to the land of his early imprisonment – as the first missionary bishop since the days of the apostles themselves. He would be a communicator of the Gospel of Christ to a place considered in its day at the furthest corner of the world.

Upon returning to Ireland, the newly ordained Patrick did not see nor understand his mission as the imposition of a new religion upon the Celtic tribes. Rather, infused by his love of the Scriptures, and reflecting on the life of Christ, instead of an anger or lingering resentment from his past imprisonment, he learnt first to forgive his past enemies. With a soul purified by prayer and nourished by the sacraments, Patrick’s message of the Gospel of Christ, instead announced a revolutionary hope and freedom from the captivity of fear.

What was the reason for his amazing success in bringing Christianity to the Irish? It might be said that it was his sincere honesty. Patrick’s written Confession reveals a truly humble man who processed an incredible self-knowledge, not only of the grace of God in his life but also of his own unworthiness tainted by the memories of past sins. His whole life was an open book but his vocation, as with his ministry, was always in response to a greater mystery always bigger than himself. It was therefore no surprise he was listened to, respected and even feared. Never forgetting the conditions and abuse he endured as a young captive, Patrick’s influence now as a bishop throughout the whole island put a final end to the practice of slavery. He replaced it, no doubt, with planting throughout the land the first seeds of a culture of Irish hospitality.

Patrick would also face fierce opposition and intense jealousy not only by the people he served, but also by brother priests and bishops across the Irish Sea. He admits in his Confession that he grew weary many times of his mission, and was even tempted to despair. But for the persistent grace of God, he continued to persevere, prayed constantly and worked relentlessly for the salvation of the Irish.

A straightforward but gifted communicator, Patrick explained and taught the Christian faith in a language the indigenous people could understand, using the elements of nature itself to explain the hidden mysteries of the true God of the universe. Yet despite the pain of exile he always felt, in 30 years, Patrick transformed a whole civilization of people. Within one generation, all of the Irish – from kings to peasants – accepted the Christian and Catholic faith and were baptized into the Church. Only one other nation in the history of Christianity would witness a mass conversion of its indigenous people without any force or coercion – Mexico, but only after the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Like St. Patrick, La Virgen Morena spoke to the locals in a language they understood, using imagery from a culture likewise rich in natural elements describing the heavens pouring out over all creation to find a home in the midst of a neglected people of the land.

It therefore bears reflection that when Pope Francis makes his first
visit to Ireland, he will find he has much in common with St. Patrick of old. Both are bishops forced by circumstances beyond their control to minister to a flock far from their native homes. Both have reached out, with God’s grace, to those who live at the peripheries of the world. They both share a common Gospel message proclaiming freedom to those enslaved by the powerful. But let us especially not forget both Francis and Patrick's commitment to go green! The gift of creation and the voice of nature are jointly recognized by these two remarkable bishops as sacred elements of God’s first spoken language common to us all. I, therefore, have little doubt that when the pope arrives for the first time as a missionary apostle to Ireland, like the shepherd Patrick who came before him with the lingering smell of the sheep, Francis too will become an honorary Irishman, a man for all seasons!

Mar 11, 2017

Second Week of Lent

One of the great attributes we cherish as individuals, as a community and even as a nation, is we are goal orientated. We have priorities we want to meet, obligations we want to ensure we fulfill and goals we would like to see accomplished. It might be as simple as graduating from high school or college, getting married and beginning a family, securing a job, paying off a debt or looking forward to retirement. For others, the goal of recovering from an illness, making sure the children are looked after, or even just losing a few pounds and staying healthy is a noble goal to aim towards.  

However, we can often get frustrated or tempted to despair when we encounter letdowns, obstacles or when that place we are trying to reach in life, like an ever moving rainbow, keeps slipping away from us - we sometimes are frustrated that goals are sometimes unreachable. It can seem at times daunting, even exhausting!

Whereas we have built freeways and roads that shot straight through hills and mountains in an attempt to avoid reaching our destination without delay, for Our Lord and His disciples of His day, hills and mountains were not obstacles. They were landmarks to guide one's journey. I can identify at least four of special significance in the New Testament.

At the every outset of His ministry, when the parishioners of His hometown Nazareth, with rage and anger dragged Our Blessed Lord up a hill to throw him to the dogs, He simply stepped to the side, changed direction and moved on. He would not allow Himself to pushed off the edge. He walk calmly down and continued His journey.

In today's Gospel we find Him on the top of Mount Tabor. From there something extraordinary takes place. He reveals the most beautiful glory of God shining through Him. His disciples are filled with joy and praise. But He told them afterwards, to get on their feet! We have still miles ahead of us to go.

Soon, He would allow Himself to be taken to the top of the hill of Calvary, to be brutally crucified to death, while those who consented, badmouthed and ridiculed Him. He took all their anger upon Himself, and redirected it to His heavenly Father asking Him to forgive them.

And after His resurrection from the dead, He would climb the Mount of Olives and wait for His disciples to join him there. From its summit, Our Lord would step into the realm of heaven where He now presently continues to offer Himself to His Father on all of our behalf. The disciples who were frozen in astonishment, were admonished by angels to stop gawking into the sky, but get themselves back down to work, God's work!

We have a tendency to pick our own hilltop to build a fortress to hide in. At times we target a hill or mountain for demolition because it's too much in the way.

Instead Lent turns these particular "points" in life into stepping stones, allowing us to accompany Christ along the way. With Him we pass over the the hill of discontent (Nazareth), the hill of beauty beyond imagination (Mount Tabor), the hill of bloodshed and violence (Calvary), to the hill overlooking the city where the doorway to heaven can be found (Mount of Olives).

But a word of warning! If you try to stay on just one, expect to be either left there alone, escorted away, or told to move on.

The message Christ seems to be sharing with us in only our second week of Lent, there are four more weeks to Easter) is to keep on moving, keep going forward, don't become complacent, or even disappointed even if our goals seem to be jumping around like that uncatchable rainbow we see everyone else passing through, but can't seem to do so ourselves!

Remember, the mountains or hills we come to in our lives are not necessarily obstacles to life or lookout posts to safely observe the world from. They are only one in a series of stepping stones that beckon us to keep moving towards the goal of entering through the gates of heaven. During this second week of Lent, even though we may have begun with all earnestness and resolve, pace yourselves. Don't get out of breath. Instead, save your last breath for that most holy day and hour when it can be offered to our heavenly Father in thanksgiving for allowing Christ to journey every step of the way with you.

May Mary, the Mother of all the mysteries of the rosary, be our guide along the way.

Los mismos que estuvieron en el monte de la transfiguración estarán con el Señor cuando su rostro estuvo en el huerto de los Olivos, pero esta vez el rostro del Señor se veía «transfigurado por el dolor».

 Más tarde los Apóstoles aprenderían la lección: lo importante es acompañar siempre al Señor. Y lo difícil es hacerlo cuando hay dificultades. Por eso, para que no nos vengamos abajo en los momentos duros, a veces nuestro Dios nos regala situaciones dulces. Si se va con el Señor, da igual dónde vayamos. Porque, aunque tengamos dificultades, somos felices siemper.

Mar 4, 2017

First Week of Lent


Defining Terms of Engagement

Grace:  the power of God working through our body to reshape the contours of our thoughts, words and actions, guiding us towards total harmony with His life. We have the freedom to cooperate with or to resist this divine power. (Christ was full of grace by His very nature. Mary was full of grace by God's generosity).

Sacrament: God's Word created the world. We can therefore see, touch, feel and embrace it's goodness. A sacrament is an outward, visible sign chosen particularly by Christ to communicate God's life and grace during our journey towards heaven.

So, let’s see how grace and sacraments are infused together -

God's life and grace is born in the waters of Baptism,
is sealed with oil by Confirmation,
restored by a contrite heart in Confession,
strengthened by the healing oil upon those who are ill.
kept alive by the nourishment of the Mass,
bears holy fruit through the sacrament of matrimony.
communicated through the lives of those ordained as priests and deacons.

The Sacrament of Confession
(also called Reconciliation and Penance)

And now we come to what we easily view as the "elephant in the room", the sacrament of confession!  

The question often asked, “Will God not forgive me my sins if I'm just sorry and tell Him in my heart I am sorry? If I want Him to, then He has to! He can't say He can't. He won't say He won't. So he will. Right?

But that is like saying, "God, forgive me on my own terms. And to make sure that you do, I will even quote you Scripture that backs up my expectation that You will forgive me."

As we discovered by listening to the Gospel today, even the devil, who knows every chapter and verse in the Bible, carefully quoted Scripture verses to justify his own beliefs in order to get Jesus to do his bidding. That's the devil's tactic which unfortunately can influence everyone who is tempted to go it alone or even start their own religious denomination. Let's not play that game!

So again, "Will God forgive me my sins if I'm just sorry and tell Him in my heart I am sorry?" Do I need the Sacrament of Confession?

All I can tell you is what Jesus Himself said and did during a particular event after
He offered His life on the cross and rose from the dead. It is this event, rather than picking and choosing my own salad bar of Scripture verses, that was translated into the daily life of the Church for two thousand years and what we today call the Sacrament of Confession.  

After His resurrection from the dead, Christ gathered the apostles He had carefully pre-selected. He breathed the Holy Spirit into them, telling them "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them."

Christ gave His apostles the authority and permission to assure a sinner, in His Name (not in their own name), that their sins be declared officially and irrevocably forgiven by God. The apostles didn't then go round tapping unsuspecting people on the shoulder and telling them, to their surprise, "You know what? In the name of Jesus, whether you know who He is or not, your sins, whatever they are, they are  all now forgiven. Shazam!! Have a nice day!"

Instead, it's the other way around. If I myself am sorry that I have sinned against God in my thoughts, words or actions - secretly, personally or publicly- out of my love for God, even my fear of hell, I will want to "seek" forgiveness. But most importantly, in order to live with myself, I will seek also the assurance that my sin is truly forgiven.

I have no grounds to presuming God's forgiveness or wishing it into reality unless I know in my mind, in my heart and in my actions, that it has in fact happened (period).  

In my heart of hearts I want to hear, I want to own, I want to embrace that divine declaration of forgiveness that Jesus Himself gave to His apostles, to assure me a repentant sinner, that my sin is forgiven. For the sake of the sanity of my soul I want to hear those words, "I absolve you from your sins", spoken authoritatively in the Spirit of Jesus, be it in English, Spanish, Latin or Greek!

Oh, then you might say, “But, you don't need a ritual or a formal declaration for this”. Really? So, it's okay, for example, to live with my partner and do everything a true husband and wife do without an official declaration that I am indeed married? Or that I don't ever have to say to someone the ritual words of  "I love you", or the ritual of holding hands, giving a birthday card, a gift, a hug - that instead, it's only the thought that counts?

More times than not, that's just an excuse do things on our own terms without holding ourselves accountable. We therefore make it up as we go along.

For this reason Christ Himself, our Savior, knowing that we need the strength of His grace throughout our lives, instituted the visible sacraments - to save us from trying to save ourselves on our own terms. It's not just the thought that counts. It's also the action, the event. Our heart might be in the right place, but so must our head, our hands, our feet and - our whole body!

So let's look at the event of the Sacrament of Confession where the repentant sinner (that's you and me) can be truly assured of the forgiveness of our sins by one who has the authority of an apostle to make this declaration in the Spirit of the merciful Savior.

It begins with an Examination of Conscience:  A courageous, humble and unhurried reflection on my thoughts, words and actions in the light of God's truth. (I’ve written a guide at the end of this entry)

What actually is Sin: Thoughts, words or actions that damage or contradict the life of God in whose image and likeness we are made. Every sin, no matter how secret, throws our relationship with God, with ourselves, others and the world, off balance.

We use the word “Contrition”, rather than just being sorry. In the pure light of God's love and truth, contrition is the sorrow one experiences, the regret one has and the owning of responsibility of intentional thoughts, words and deeds that have been sinful.

Confessing one's sins begins with the humble and formal acknowledgement to God, through the healing agency of the Church of intentional sinful thoughts, words and deeds.

Receiving absolution: The personal assurance of God, communicated by Christ through His priesthood, that our sins have been completely forgiven by God. And my soul can be at peace!

Does it stop there, that’s it? No. Whereas God is now interested in our future, we often can’t always forget the sins we committed in the past. Their memory can sometimes haunt us in the present.  

That’s why we do Penance: It can help make right the consequences my past sins have had in my own life and in the lives of others. A penance can be initiated by purposeful prayer and deeds with the intention of trying to restore, in some measure, the harmony we had affected by our past sins.

An Overview of Entering the Sacrament of Confession

Confession is not an automatic car wash. At best, it's more like talking to your car’s mechanic. The mechanic is your Examination of Conscience (given below).

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of timely preparation for Confession. Don't leave it to the last minute and you’re breaking out into a cold sweat! Every night get into the habit of reviewing your day, thanking God for particular blessings that happened and asking forgiveness for sins of word, thought or deed.

Learn by heart a formal Prayer of Contrition and say it every night before closing your eyes. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses in particular circumstances of the day can help us avoid the occasions to sin again when facing similar circumstances in the future.

Remember to breathe!

Do and say the following when you enter the Sacrament.

A. Begin by blessing yourself out loud, "In the Name of the Father, etc."

B. Say, "Bless me Father for I have sinned.  It has been (so many weeks, months, years) since my last confession. And these are my sins"

C. Simply confess the sins, particularly grave sins.

Keep it simple

Confessing one's serious sins in Confession, is relatively simple. For example: "For the sin of X, two times". For the sin of Y, once. For the sin of Z, five times." You don't necessarily need to go into all the details or circumstances- you have already done that with God in your preparation. The priest doesn't need to know the whole story. If he needs clarification, he always knows to ask.

Be careful about using the word "because" after confessing a particular sin. It can be easy to blame someone or something else for our own actions. Allow others to confess their own sins. You confess only yours!

Also, do not try to make yourself look good or even appear "humble" at the expense of someone else, regardless of their failings. It is easy to fall into the sin of pride. In other words, never bad mouth anyone in confession regardless of how bad they are or you think they are. Don't use confession to settle scores or to get things off your chest!

Confess actual sins, not disappointments, tendencies or struggles. There is a big difference between confessing sins and expressing personal disappointment at not keeping up to our own personal standards or expectations. Sin is "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law." (CCC 1849). Keep that in mind.

Want some examples? The sin of pride, the sin of avarice (greed), the sin of envy,  the sin of wrath (destructive anger), the sin of lust, the sin of gluttony, and the sin of sloth (not using wholeheartedly your own particular God-given talents and abilities).

After confessing your sins, the priest might give some words of simple advice and ask you to say your Prayer of Contrition, during which he usually begins his Prayer of Absolution - the essential part of which is when he says "I absolve you from your sins, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." You respond "Amen".

The priest will ask you to accept a penance, usually it be an act of devotion or a particular deed.


Finally, pray for all your priests. Regardless who they are, God saves your soul through them. Remember that priests go to confession too. They have good days and bad days like you. So, be grateful that you only have to put up with one priest. Be mindful he has to put up with everyone! But God's grace triumphs despite us all.  

Thank God for that.



in preparation for Confession and for continual self knowledge and discipline
(can be simplified as needed)

Did I receive Holy Communion or other sacraments while ignoring my need to be repentant of my sins and seek the assurance of the forgiveness of God? 

Did I seriously seek to doubt my faith, or put myself in danger of losing it by viewing media hostile to my Christian faith or put myself under the influence of others who oppose the Church and her teachings? Did I engage in superstitious activities such as palm reading, fortune telling, horoscopes, trying to bribe God?

Did I utter the saving name of Jesus Christ without thought? Did I curse or take a false oath? Did I use impure language?

Did I miss Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation through my own fault, without any serious reason? Did I accept penance willing, especially on the days when the whole Church does so?

Did I disobey my parents or lawful superiors in important matters?

Was I selfish in how I treated others, especially my spouse, my brothers and sisters, my relatives, or my friends? Did I hatefully, quarrel with anyone, or desire revenge? Did I refuse to forgive? I've I been instrumental in the physical or psychological injury of another? Did I get drunk or take illicit drugs? Did I consent to, advise, or actively take part in an abortion?

Did I intentionally seek to look at indecent pictures, go to pornographic websites or seek to be entertained by immoral movies or works? Did I engage in impure jokes or conversations? Did I 
intentionally entertain impure thoughts or feelings, either secretly or with others? Did I take contraceptive pills fearing motherhood or the gift of children, or use other unnatural means in order to prevent conception, not trusting in God's grace?

Did I steal or damage another's property or income? How much? Have I made reparation for the damages done? Have I been honest in my business relations?

Did I tell lies? Did I sin by slander? By detraction - telling unknown grave faults of others without necessity? Did I judge others rashly in serious matters? Have I tried to make restitution for any damage of reputation that I have caused?

(If you remember other serious sins besides those indi­cated here, include them also in your Confession.)

Mar 1, 2017

The Night of Ashes

The Evening Meditation

We are all held up in the church tonight waiting for ashes.
There are no saints among us at this hour. Only sinners.
We are living together, we share a common earth, breathe the same air.

If you are in the military, law enforcement, the workforce,
in school, part of a family, drive a car, cross a street,
live next door to someone or pay taxes,
our individual lives, our thoughts and our habits,
affect other people, whether we know it or not.

But never underestimate the good you do
and the goodness that is in your life
that can gently lift you up towards the heavens.

But never take the Good for granted.
If you do, it can easily flip over and begin to turn in on itself -
it can slowly descend, it can lose its buoyancy
and begin to drag you down,
and when it does - we grasp.

We try to cling onto anything we hope will keep us from sinking.
We start thinking only of ourselves, our reputation, our own security -
trying to fly without wings.
That’s our experience of sin -
S. I . N. Sinking Into Nothingness.

But remember, you are made in the image and the likeness of God -
not a god of war, nor a god of bubbles and cotton candy.
You are made in the image of the God of heaven,
the God of beauty and nobility,
the God of tenderness and warmth,
the God of your deepest desire for union and love that no one.
Nothing in this whole world can step in to replace your God-given dignity.

When I allow myself to sink into nothingness,
nothing will give me a power to lift me up to the heights of heaven.
I will quickly become bored with this and with that, with him and with her.
The gods of this world, whether they be those around me,
images or fantasies, secret or powerful, cannot keep their promises.

We browse through the pantheon of earthly gods,
“What shrine will I visit next, who’s next, where to this time?”
But underneath it all,
one by one the gods of this world ultimately die and crumble.
And that’s what scares us -
that I have sunk into a living grave.
I have become use to eating dirt and breathing dust and ashes.  
Will anyone save me?

Of course, the preacher will say “Jesus saves you”. And that is true.
But too often I hear that message like an infomercial.
I’m out of shape, I’m always tired, I’m bored, I’m too busy.
So I’ll immediately call that 1 800 number
or click the “buy now” button.
It’s a quick  prayer for my body, my stamina, my mind and my looks
to be transformed
into that of a Greek or Viking god or goddess.
But did you not know that they had, among themselves,
the reputation of jealousy, revenge, stubbornness, pettiness and deception!
Fake Good News!

So where do I begin if I am slipping around in the mud
or sinking slowly in the soft clay of this world
or “up to here” in it?
I’m a sinner. But I want to touch the heavens.
I’m tired and I want to be free.
I keep on falling and I want to get to higher ground.

We begin our journey up and out of our entanglements,
not with a dream, fad, or quick fix or answer.
We begin where we are now,
where we find ourselves here and now.
We begin in the ashes of this world.
In the dirt, the clay, once again.

But rather than letting it define us,
with a spittle of grace, we will redefine it.
We will attempt to mold and shape it
into a moral and spiritual compass -
into the shape of a cross.
It will remind us that Jesus Christ,
who though He was without any sin,
is not afraid to get his hands dirty
reaching out to me and to you.

We will accept the sign of the cross
not in our hearts our soul,
but for now, simply on our foreheads.

It is not war paint, nor a fashion statement.
It is as if to say, I have a lot of thinking to do right now -
about my life, by sins, my fears -
but I must swallow my pride and seek to know
what the Cross of Jesus Christ is about -
how it can lead me up and out from my sins.
I have to think this out.
I have to make better choices and decisions
if I am going to live the high life
intended for me by heavenly Father.

But this will take time, will take planning,
choosing wisely the right tools,
the right team, good friends and mentors to inspire
and give encouragement along the way.

But useless it will be without the power of God
to reshape our thoughts, words and actions,
To guide us upward and onward along the road He has pathed.

We will be constantly tested and tempted along the way.
We can opt in or opt out.
We can cooperate or resist God’s gentle but powerful guidance.
So we stop, evaluate and retreat now and them to catch our breath,
admit our failings, take guidance and receive encouragement.
That’s why, I will get ready to make my Confession -
To hear the assurance, again and again of the power of God’s love
in His forgiveness of sins.

But not so fast you say! You not ready? You always are.
For now, a simple battle plan,
then later - some rules of engagement,
afterwards - the battle for the hilltop.
And on the 40th day, the final victory.

As we pass through the gates of Lent,
let’s get to advance on common ground, a level playing field -
we are all sinners packed tight inside a church like captive audience
waiting for our ransom to be paid.

But secretly the muddy cross of Jesus Christ
is making its way through the crowd to save us.
It will need some washing clean to shine again,
a truly deep cleansing
to shine again and point me home.

Inside Water

Ritual And Reality...   When we talk about the baptism of the Lord, what immediately comes to mind is a church baptism – typically ...