Dec 26, 2020

Mask on, mask off?



The Gospel (Luke 2:22, 39–40)


When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.           



The Homily


I must admit, during these past months, seeing some images of Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph wearing masks over their mouths, does at first glance, seem awkward if not a little disturbing. Maybe it’s the same initial reaction that one might have had seeing all the fully naked bodies of Michelangelo’s freshly painted Last Judgement scene in the Sistine chapel. It didn’t take long for another artist to come along and paint in clothing or add bits of cloth here and there to cover up....well, you know what?


Do we need to see the Holy Family depicted wearing masks?  When we all rise from the dead on the last day, will we be taking a suitcase of clothing with us or will we be happy to simply appear before God in all our own unashamed glory? 


The Gospel for today’s feast day of the Holy Family offers us a good reflection to meditate on. According to Jewish Law, not only the first-born son of every family was to be presented to God in the Temple, but the mother also, after giving birth, had to be purified.  Did Mary need purification?


No. She was always pure. And even though she gave birth, she remained a virgin, pure and immaculate. Nevertheless, Mary, out of obedience to the Law of God, in a spirit of humility, would have followed the practice of every new Jewish mother. She did not wish to stand out in the crowd or put herself above any other mother, even though she was perfectly entitled. Although she remained free from any virus of sin and immune from any contamination from the effects of fallen humanity, she joined the line of women before and after her. If religious law required her to cover her face, to keep a social distance from others, Mary did so in humble obedience. She expected no special treatment before the world, even though God had blessed her beyond all others.  


Maybe, that’s a lesson for us too.  Even though, through baptism and every time we go to confession we can emerge purified from all our sins, let us never be tempted to expect worldly recognition or a title of saint before our name!  Even though one may think themselves immune from the infection of sin or beyond the expectations and requirements of certain religious practices Mary teaches us this by her example of humility and sacrifice to submitting to religious laws, expectations and practices of her day. She wasn’t an actor going through all the motions. She was loyal, obedient, gentle and lovingly unassuming in everything she did. 


And of course, Joseph is a saint because of his obedience to God’s instructions to take Mary as his wife and to carry out the prescribed expectations of Jewish law regarding the Christ child who, as God with us, didn’t need to be told what to do. But was humble in doing so. 


Between them, Joseph and Mary kept the secret child wrapped up in their embrace, the Son of God, hidden from the world until the time would be right to reveal Him to the public. But in the meantime, the Holy Family kept their halos undercover!


Let us ask our Mary Most Pure, and the obedient and faithful Joseph to help us to seek humility in mind, body and soul so that we can be more and more Christlike in our thoughts, our prayers and our actions.  This will allow us, with God’s grace, to be a gentle light that cleanses the darkness of fear and despair which can often overshadow our lives. And when the time is right, to fully reveal Christ in all his glory to a world in need of God’s own divine healing.

Dec 25, 2020

Freed From Darkness

 


To all Christian people gathered, to the family of the Catholic Church from every walk of life, to visitors from near and far, to believers and to wanderers and to those who look to this place as their home church and community of faith, Christmas blessings and peace to us all. 


Human labor may have built our church buildings, human hands may have fashioned its doors, human creativity may have painted icons and imagery, human resourcefulness may have harnessed fire and electricity, human laws may conduct our lives, but our God is the God of the great outdoors, the creator of the stars at night and the earth in all its beauty. 


In all of creation, in the immensity of all the wonders of nature and the complexity of the universe, only one thing bears upon it the image and likeness of the eternal God - the human being, humanity. From the first instant of conception, invisible to the naked eye, a human being comes into existence made in the image and likeness of God. 


After nine months of darkness, being formed, molded and shaped, within the mother’s womb, responding to the filtered sounds of the outside world the baby emerges and meets the world for the first time. But the child is vulnerable, in need of instant care, love and attention.  It takes a family, friends and even trusted strangers to help in this sacred task of guiding someone after 9 months of being inside, in darkness, to the light of a new day to begin living outside the womb.


We have all been there. But even now, after the past 9 months we are getting ready to, in a manner of speaking, to be “born again”. We are past due and it will be a long labor, as we try to get up on our feet again and it will take family, friends and trusted strangers to help us, for we are still vulnerable and weak. 


But what can inspire us, who can inspire us? The God of all creation, the God of the great outdoors, not only entered physically into our history 2000 years ago, but allowed himself in all humility to accept the confinement, the restrictions, dare I say the lockdown, to stay in place for 9 months in the darkness of the womb of the Virgin Mary. 


And when born into this, his own world was born weak and vulnerable, exposed to the elements, susceptible to the political, economic and cultural conditions of his day. We have been there, we are there, but God has accompanied us every step, because He has been there also, Himself. Because of that first Christmas that followed his own 9 months of vulnerable confinement, in the womb of Blessed Mary, God lovingly anticipated every move, every challenge, every step forward that we must make. 


How do we go forward. How do we emerge from 9 months of confinement?  We follow the Christ child, we learn from Him, we hold Him, we allow Him to slowly grow in our lives so that the child of Bethlehem will emerge in our lives, no longer a baby, weak and vulnerable, but a strong, powerful and fully mature, Man of God, God fully embodied in our humanity accompanying us through every aspect of life, with all its joys, challenges, sufferings and leading us, even through the darkness of death itself to the promise of immortality. 


Do not keep God in the darkness. Do not keep Him a baby. Learn from Him, obey His commands, love Him, follow Him, even to His Cross and offer your life to Him in exchange for His. Do so, and our captivity, in whatever shape it takes, will soon be over. 


Merry Christmas. 



Dec 19, 2020

God in His Tent


As we approach the Christmas festivities, (and I say festivities, for there are twelve days of Christmas, not  one) we begin our final approach to the upcoming Holy season. 

Let’s put it into context from what we are experiencing now being here outside in the piazza. 

The first reading from the Old Testament shows us the city of Jerusalem and King David inside his palace. He feels very secure of himself. All his campaigning is over, his battles are won, he has appointed all his government posts, brought his own advisors, and staff, and security detail. He can now relax, put up his feet, entertain his supporters, clap his hands and food is delivered to him. He doesn’t even have to go outside. He can go for a walk around his ramparts, bathe in his outdoor pool, stroll through the palace gardens and from his balcony, wave to all the cheering crowds. 


But from his white limestone palace, where does he go to pray in his new city?  Not to a temple or synagogue. Instead, he goes to a tent set up across town. There, under the shades held up with poles, he finds a makeshift altar and the arc of the covenant - that sacred place where the God of heaven dwells on earth. 


David reflects on his own comfort house and palace, where all his creature comforts are catered to. He has a panic attack, embarrassed by all he has built around him for his own security and pleasure and then to see all the priests and people worshiping God outside exposed to the cold and night and the harsh sun during the day with minimal shelter. Out of a sense of guilt, he feels compelled to do something about it. But God says no. God tells David, in so many ways, I don’t need your pity. I don’t need your bricks and cement. I can stand on my own two feet. 


Dear friends, that is what our preparation for Christmas is all about this year in particular. We might feel the need for a church building to worship in. We might feel the injustice of being able to gather here indoors, be it inside our homes, inside a store or workplaces, and then arrive here forced to pray outside in a tent. King David felt the same. If I can live in a house, then God should be able too as well.


The problem here is that David was telling God what was best for God . Should God live according to our standards or is it the other way round?


Although King David’s intention to build a temple for God is commendable, he is reminded through the prophet Nathan not to rely on a temple made by human hands. A temple made from bricks and cement will be destructible. God's Presence, the prophet announces, will instead be enfleshed in a future descendant of King David.


And when the fullness of time would come, as recounted in the Gospel, the creative God is seen working on his own design for a temple to dwell in - building within the womb of the Virgin Mary, using her cells and DNA as the building blocks, the new bricks and cement forming the new body and blood of a unique individual that through every instance of his existence and development in her womb, a tiny developing temple of the living God, was being built to endure forever. That, of course, is Jesus Christ, the great outdoors man, who feeds us, not with creature comforts, but with His very body and blood. 


Through Holy Communion, even if only once a year, or even through the desire of Spiritual Communion from the depths of our heart, and even by the mere fact of our baptism, we share in the nature of the God underneath the Tent, the God made flesh and blood, born to face the elements of heat and cold, light and darkness, life, death and resurrection from the dead.


So, as we prepare for the Christmas season, we may grow frustrated like King David that God is met in the great outdoors. But is that not how he was born in Bethlehem just over two thousand years ago. He’s used to it. We’re not. But with His grace and following His lead, we can also be toughened up to make the necessary sacrifices for our own salvation and the salvation of the world inside or outside.

Dec 18, 2020

Meditation for Advent and Christmastide

 The Adirondack Meditation Workout

for the

Fourth 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. 


Remembering: Have you ever watched a Christmas play, maybe put on by children? What is the typical reaction of parents and teachers during the performance? Have you ever seen a child being born? What was it like or how do you imagine the reaction of those in the room, from parents, doctors and nurses? How prepared do you think everyone is at that moment?



Read: Luke 2: 1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived


Reflect : God could have simply revealed His power and His presence instantly and brought the whole world to a standstill. Instead, the God and architect of the universe became embodied (what we call the “incarnation”) in a vulnerable baby boy and was born in a makeshift animal shelter outside of an obscure village.

Review : From the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph’s perspective how did the birth of Jesus in these circumstances prepare them? 1. They learned quickly the realities of life 2. They had to “grow up” and learn how to cope. 3. They trusted that God would always protect them. 4. That hardship and sacrifices are always the best teachers.

Respond : From your own perspective when you find yourself thrown into unpredictable circumstances do you 1. Find yourself overwhelmed? 2. Wait out the storm? 3. Try to figure your way out? 4. Ask for help? 5. Go with the flow hoping it can only get better? 6. Take it slow and steady, stopping and starting anew as it unfolds?

After reflecting on your divine placement in the plan of God,

consider this prayer. 


Heavenly Father,
You formed me in your own image
and entrusted the whole world to my care,
so that in serving you alone, the Creator,
I might have influence over all your works.
And when through disobedience I had severed friendship with you,
you did not abandon me to despair.
For you came to us by a small child so I might seek and find you and through your Son, to look forward to salvation.
He shared our human nature
in all things but sin.
To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation,
to prisoners, freedom,
and to the sorrowful of heart, joy.
To accomplish your plan,
he gave himself up to death,
and, rising from the dead,
he destroyed death and restored life.
And that I might live no longer for myself
but for him who died and rose again for us,
he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father,
as the first fruits for those who believe,
so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world,
he might sanctify all of creation to its perfection. 
Father, may I receive that same Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. 
Amen


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.


Dec 12, 2020

Hope



The theme of joy is very much echoed throughout the Church in her liturgy this Sunday. The Introit at the beginning of Mass tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always”. In the Opening Prayer we asked God that we might “attain the joys of so great a salvation”. The first reading tells us to “shout for joy”, while the Psalm adds its voice that we “Cry out with joy and gladness”.


In this world, in the midst of darkness and long nights, the effects of the pandemic that cause so much suffering, hardship and anxiety, our Christian faith dares, to light another candle, and as we do so, we dare curse the darkness. 

We do so, not because of vaccines or because of changes or challenges in politics or even the hope that one day our lives will get back to normal. There will always be battles, conflicts, uncertainties and upsets waiting for us tomorrow, next year, be they spiritual, economic, political or personal. 

For the Christian, our personal and community life should always and everywhere be rooted in hope in God’s good purpose for humanity, in His good purpose for you and me. His will is that we should always take delight that, regardless of where or how we find ourselves, if we hope in Him and have faith in His power to save us, we will not see a better day. We will live to see an eternal day, a new world, where the energy of God’s enduring light will give new definition to our lives and all of creation. 

But for now, the reality check. It is cold, there are long shadows, there is much fear, anxiety around us. There is also much arrogance and apathy as well. These are the dark places where we are often tempted to hide. There are dream worlds places we are often tempted to run away to. There are the behaviors of distraction that we are tempted to get locked in our temptation to compromise between light and darkness. To do so, living this way always inevitably leads to living the shadows, flirting with light and darkness, being caught in the tension and tug of war between hope and despair. That’s the breeding ground of sin and despair. 

As we try to look forward to Christmas and a New Year out here in the cold and darkness, exposed to the elements and restricted by behavior patterns that are not naturally conducive to building up trust and hope, stand with the Virgin Mary and make very own her words, her song that we used as our psalm today - make it your everyday prayer particularly every evening, and especially when you find yourself in a dark place, or when you wonder what today is or was all about and when uncertain what tomorrow holds. 

Mary sang this song, prayed these words, even though her world had been turned upside down and she knew in her heart of hearts she would face challenges, testing, suffering and sacrifices. In the midst of all the uncertainties this is her song, make it yours:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.


(Luke 1:46ff)


Light and darkness are not compatible.  Light always conquers darkness. Faith and doubt cannot be welded together. Faith casts away doubt. Goodness and evil cannot be married to each other. The virtue of goodness always triumphs over the deception of darkness. Love and hatred cannot both be embraced - only rejoicing in God’s loving plan, is eternal. Everything else is passing. 

Dec 11, 2020

Advent Adirondack 3



The Adirondack Meditation Workout

for the

Third 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. 


We naturally have expectations regarding the people around us. For each person, we expect them to speak, behave, react or respond with that in mind. After all, for the most part, our relationships are practical. Some of us have roles that must be fulfilled at particular times. The role of a boss, an employee, an educator, a student, a supervisor, a worker, a caregiver, a dependent, a spouse, a parent, a student, a relative, a neighbor, a friend, a mentor, a room mate, a grandparent... The list goes on and on. 


Reflect on the various roles you fill by the responsibilities you practically have. Which ones in particular do you give attention to? How well and how often do you engage in them. Are there any roles that others expect you to fulfill that you’d prefer they didn’t, or roles you find yourself forced but your heart isn’t fully invested? How do you respond to too many expectations at once, high expectations or low? Exhausted, disappointed, energized, at peace, afraid, frustrated, angry, uninterested, or maybe distracted? 


(Don’t go to the next section yet. Spend at least 7 minutes, pondering the above questions. Only when you sense contentment with your own feedback, gently move to the next step.)


Slowly Read 

John 1:19–28

And this is the testimony of John. When the [Jewish leaders] from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” 

He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.



Reflect: Regardless of circumstances, God has brought each and every person into existence at a particular and historic time, within a particular family, culture and context. You would not exist had not God a reason for you to do so. Although God’s ultimate reason for my existence is to be with Him eternally, in the meantime I am given a portion of time and the help of His Spirit to discover the eventual path that leads me to Him. Although God does not force us along the way, He will use every event we encounter to help point us in the true Direction.


Review: From St. John the Baptist’s perspective, how might he have discerned his unique vocation from God? 1. He actually heard the voice of God 2. By living wild in the desert, following a strict routine he was able to pray without distraction 3. His unique family and relatives gave him an advantage. 4. He found out the hard way.


Respond: From your own perspective when would be a good time to meet Christ face-to-face? 1. I’m ready right now. 2. When I have fulfilled all my family duties and obligations. 3. After I have completed penance for past sins. 4. When I least expect it. 5. When I sense I have no more purpose. 6. I don’t tend to think about it too much


After reflecting on your divine placement in the plan of God,

consider this prayer. 


Heavenly Father,

Even before time began and the universe existed, you had claimed me as your own. Before I was secretly fashioned in my mother’s womb, even before my birth, you had purposely set me apart for a unique mission in this world. 

Even my soul, in it’s depths, praises you for I am wonderfully made and my body too searches for you, reaches out to you, aches for you. 

Never let me be afraid of allowing your gentle presence to guide and protect me, for my whole life is present to you, nothing is hidden. Guide me towards a stronger faith, not only by listening to the words of Christ but also when entering into Holy Communion with him, through whom you brought everything that exists into being. 

May Joseph and Mary, who cradled the Son of God in their arms, assure me that He accompanies me, shepherds me, encourages me, holds me and can save me if I trust in your divine plan and purpose for my life. I praise you for your wonders and I thank you for the gift of life. 


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.


Dec 5, 2020

Indoor Prepping




In our preparation for Christmas, with all the attention being given to the placement of holiday lights outside our homes, it’s what is going on inside is where our attention should also focus. During these days of lockdown, we have been spending a lot of time inside. 

So think of it like this. On the outside, we navigate the world through social distancing. Externally, we wear a mask. When we reach out to others, we also reach out to a hand sanitizer. 


As important as this public behavior is, our preparation for Christmas must always begin interiorally. Behind the walls of our body, we house a mind and a soul, often hidden from the outside. 


St. John the Baptist is given to us as an interior designer! We bring him in as a consultant to help us make an inner sanctuary ready to host Christ when he arrives to enter into our home. 


What does John say when he inspects our interior mind and heart? Pointing to this and that, he might say, “this has to go. And, you need to take this down and throw this out. While you are at it, you need to rip this out too. This has to change. You have to update this, replace this and redesign this. You need new wallpaper and a fresh lick of paint, you need better lighting and this here has to be brought up to code. Oh, and here’s how much it will cost!!” 


It’s easier to judge our society and the state of our nation and the intentions of our elected bodies than it is to assess the state of the union between our own body and soul.


Maybe, we can be outwardly distracted by the public description of John the Baptist, living in the desert, clothed in animal skins, living on locusts and wild honey. But if we allow the eyes of our soul to see through walls, St. John the Baptist becomes strangely symbolic of what humanity will be restored back to, with the advent of Christ: a simplicity of living in harmony with God’s creation rather than fighting or exploiting it. Not being a slave to fashions, social and news media, to the mirror, comfort food or flat screens. Despite its name a Zoom meeting doesn't zoom you around anywhere. The only authentic live stream is a river flowing with water. This is why, despite all the fears, restrictions, anger and sickness, constantly examine, and re-examine your interior life, the way you think, how you pray and communicate. 


Repentance is not simply the exterior act of going to confession. It begins with an examination of conscience - in other words “how are you being conscious”. Don’t allow yourself to be plugged in to a socket and allow media messengers to form your inner mind.  Instead, without fear, enter into a desert, a quiet place and there, not afraid of silence, hear the constant message of the heavenly messenger and do not be afraid to acknowledge our hidden sins, to repent of them. Instead of wanting to return to the old normal way of life we were so used to, prime yourself for a fresh beginning, in whatever shape it might take - new way of thinking about our relationship with God and the world around us. 


If we make use of this time, almost like a spiritual retreat to reflect on the inner workings of our mind and soul, we will not be afraid to grasp onto Christ’s outstretched hand and strong arm, to pull us out of our captivity when we are ready. That’s the Good News. It’s not only worth waiting for, but it’s worth prepping for. 

Dec 3, 2020

Advent Adirondack 4, 3,2,1



The Adirondack Meditation Workout

for the

Fourth 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. 


Remembering: Have you ever watched a Christmas play, maybe put on by children? What is the typical reaction of parents and teachers during the performance? Have you ever seen a child being born? What was it like or how do you imagine the reaction of those in the room, from parents, doctors and nurses? How prepared do you think everyone is at that moment?



Read: Luke 2: 1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived


Reflect : God could have simply revealed His power and His presence instantly and brought the whole world to a standstill. Instead, the God and architect of the universe became embodied (what we call the “incarnation”) in a vulnerable baby boy and was born in a makeshift animal shelter outside of an obscure village.

Review : From the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph’s perspective how did the birth of Jesus in these circumstances prepare them? 1. They learned quickly the realities of life 2. They had to “grow up” and learn how to cope. 3. They trusted that God would always protect them. 4. That hardship and sacrifices are always the best teachers.

Respond : From your own perspective when you find yourself thrown into unpredictable circumstances do you 1. Find yourself overwhelmed? 2. Wait out the storm? 3. Try to figure your way out? 4. Ask for help? 5. Go with the flow hoping it can only get better? 6. Take it slow and steady, stopping and starting anew as it unfolds?

After reflecting on your divine placement in the plan of God,

consider this prayer. 


Heavenly Father,
You formed me in your own image
and entrusted the whole world to my care,
so that in serving you alone, the Creator,
I might have influence over all your works.
And when through disobedience I had severed friendship with you,
you did not abandon me to despair.
For you came to us by a small child so I might seek and find you and through your Son, to look forward to salvation.
He shared our human nature
in all things but sin.
To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation,
to prisoners, freedom,
and to the sorrowful of heart, joy.
To accomplish your plan,
he gave himself up to death,
and, rising from the dead,
he destroyed death and restored life.
And that I might live no longer for myself
but for him who died and rose again for us,
he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father,
as the first fruits for those who believe,
so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world,
he might sanctify all of creation to its perfection. 
Father, may I receive that same Holy Spirit, through Christ our Lord. 
Amen


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.











The Adirondack Meditation Workout

for the

Third 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. 


We naturally have expectations regarding the people around us. For each person, we expect them to speak, behave, react or respond with that in mind. After all, for the most part, our relationships are practical. Some of us have roles that must be fulfilled at particular times. The role of a boss, an employee, an educator, a student, a supervisor, a worker, a caregiver, a dependent, a spouse, a parent, a student, a relative, a neighbor, a friend, a mentor, a room mate, a grandparent... The list goes on and on. 


Reflect on the various roles you fill by the responsibilities you practically have. Which ones in particular do you give attention to? How well and how often do you engage in them. Are there any roles that others expect you to fulfill that you’d prefer they didn’t, or roles you find yourself forced but your heart isn’t fully invested? How do you respond to too many expectations at once, high expectations or low? Exhausted, disappointed, energized, at peace, afraid, frustrated, angry, uninterested, or maybe distracted? 


(Don’t go to the next section yet. Spend at least 7 minutes, pondering the above questions. Only when you sense contentment with your own feedback, gently move to the next step.)


Slowly Read 

John 1:19–28

And this is the testimony of John. When the [Jewish leaders] from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” 

He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.



Reflect: Regardless of circumstances, God has brought each and every person into existence at a particular and historic time, within a particular family, culture and context. You would not exist had not God a reason for you to do so. Although God’s ultimate reason for my existence is to be with Him eternally, in the meantime I am given a portion of time and the help of His Spirit to discover the eventual path that leads me to Him. Although God does not force us along the way, He will use every event we encounter to help point us in the true Direction.


Review: From St. John the Baptist’s perspective, how might he have discerned his unique vocation from God? 1. He actually heard the voice of God 2. By living wild in the desert, following a strict routine he was able to pray without distraction 3. His unique family and relatives gave him an advantage. 4. He found out the hard way.


Respond: From your own perspective when would be a good time to meet Christ face-to-face? 1. I’m ready right now. 2. When I have fulfilled all my family duties and obligations. 3. After I have completed penance for past sins. 4. When I least expect it. 5. When I sense I have no more purpose. 6. I don’t tend to think about it too much


After reflecting on your divine placement in the plan of God,

consider this prayer. 


Heavenly Father,

Even before time began and the universe existed, you had claimed me as your own. Before I was secretly fashioned in my mother’s womb, even before my birth, you had purposely set me apart for a unique mission in this world. 

Even my soul, in it’s depths, praises you for I am wonderfully made and my body too searches for you, reaches out to you, aches for you. 

Never let me be afraid of allowing your gentle presence to guide and protect me, for my whole life is present to you, nothing is hidden. Guide me towards a stronger faith, not only by listening to the words of Christ but also when entering into Holy Communion with him, through whom you brought everything that exists into being. 

May Joseph and Mary, who cradled the Son of God in their arms, assure me that He accompanies me, shepherds me, encourages me, holds me and can save me if I trust in your divine plan and purpose for my life. I praise you for your wonders and I thank you for the gift of life. 


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.









Adirondack Meditation Workout

for the

Second 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. 


Most of us have spent time waiting in either an airport terminal or a DMV office. Who catches your eye in particular - those in a hurry, killing time, needing assistance, business people, young, seniors, officials, the well groomed or the disheveled? What’s it like to be in a crowd of all the above - I’m pretty patient, anxious, entertained, annoyed, calm, frustrated? In this scenario, would you do more talking, listening, watching or provide your focus of attention with something you brought?


Now, you are traveling on the road, do you prefer the short cut through the town or the freeway even if it is a bit longer? Do you follow the directions given by your GPS devise? How is your natural sense of direction in unfamiliar places? Would you likely ask for, listen to, ignore advise? What catches your attention traveling through a city, along a freeway, or in the open country? What would you say are the different characteristics between someone who lives in a downtown area and someone from the suburbs or rural countryside?


(Don’t go to the next section yet. Spend at least 7 minutes, pondering the above questions. Only when you sense contentment with your own feedback, gently move to the next step.)


Slowly Read 


(The word “baptism” here is not the sacrament as we understand it today. The word literally means “immersion”)


As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

 he will prepare your way.

A voice of one crying out in the desert:

 “Prepare the way of the Lord,

 make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the straps of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”. 


(From the Gospel of Mark 1:1–8)




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


(When you sense the passage has become “more defined” 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 do certain individuals in the crowd react to John’s message?  


1. I notice some people in the crowd are disturbed about the message to repent. 2. I notice that some people in the crowd are there for just the drama. 3. I notice that some people in the crowd are genuinely remorseful for their sins. 4. I notice that some people in the crowd are reluctant to admit any blame in front of others. 5. I notice that some people in the crowd are grateful for the opportunity to finally have a burden lifted. 6. I notice that some people in the crowd are too set by their own standards to respond to this message. 7. I notice that some people in the crowd are easily distracted by those around them. 8. I notice that some people in the crowd are asking God’s messenger for help. 9. I notice that some people in the crowd are more interested in other people’s sins than their own. 10. I notice how some people in the crowd are genuinely relieved to experience a new start.


  1. Return to these pointers a few times, but now replacing “some people in the crowd are” with “I am be” noticing how greater or lesser each point is reflected in your own everyday life. 


  2. Returning to the points again, this time pondering how prepared you might be for the Messenger and his message to introduce you to Christ who can see right into your soul.



After reflecting on your response to the Messenger 

and your readiness to meet Christ, consider this prayer. 


Heavenly Father,

You continually reach out towards me through the voices and example of countless individuals, saints and sinners, from the past, present around me or yet to be encountered. They enter into my presence through words, sights and sounds around me. You prepare me through them to be continually to be immersed in your presence, to experience your patience, tenderness and peace. May all your messengers, both visible and invisible, guide me towards Jesus your Son, allowing me to acknowledge personally my sins and not to be afraid of your love and the path you have carved out for me. With your help, may I become more and more reluctant to steer my own path by my own standards or expectations, regardless of how low or lofty they might be. Mentor me, through the living Presence of Christ embodied in the Eucharist, the peace of his presence in Confession, the inspired words of Scripture and through the influence you afford me through your messengers, friends and strangers I meet along the way. May my course through this life always move me in the direction of always looking forward to seeing you literally, one day, face to face, through Jesus Christ your Son. 

Amen


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. 




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. 









You can’t teach sins away!

St. John the Baptist had attracted many people by his message of repentance and the need for conversion in preparation for the arrival of Ch...