Sunday, October 27, 2013

We Are Both Grand And Petty

It's interesting to note that the word "Gospel" means "good news," not "good advice." The gospels are not so much a spiritual and moral theology book that tell us what we should be doing, but are more an account of what God has already done for us, is still doing for us, and the wonderful dignity that this bestows on us.

Of course the idea is that since we are gifted in this way our actions should reflect that dignity rather than what's less lofty and more petty inside us. Morality is not a command, it's an invitation; not a threat, but a reminder of who we truly are. We become taller and less petty when we remember what kind of family we ultimately come from.

In essence, we all have two souls, two hearts, and two minds. Inside of each of us there's a soul, heart, and mind that's petty, that's been hurt, that wants vengeance, that wants to protect itself, that's frightened of what's different, that's prone to gossip, that's racist, that perennially feels cheated. Seen in a certain light, all of us are as small in stature .

But there's also a tall, big-hearted person inside each of us, someone who wants to warmly embrace the whole world, beyond personal hurt, selfishness, race, creed, and politics.

We are always both, grand and petty. The world isn't divided up between big-hearted and small-minded people. Rather our days are divided up between those moments when we are big-hearted, generous, warm, hospitable, unafraid, wanting to embrace everyone and those moments when we are petty, selfish, over-aware of the unfairness of life, frightened, and seeking only to protect ourselves and our own safety and interests.

We are both tall and short at the same time and either of these can manifest itself from minute to minute. But, as we all know, we are most truly ourselves when what's tall in us takes over and gives back to the world what the short, petty person wrongly takes.

God prays for us as we reflect: “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:9)

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are big-hearted, generous, warm and hospitable. May we embrace each moment with your love and compassion for all your people.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Wish I Was Like Him


Just returned from Holy Family’s Third Annual Spaghetti Dinner. The nicest feedback I received was from a gentleman with his walker who came up to share that he was grateful that his son comes to church. This father shared that he attends another Catholic church in a nearby town, but he has heard so many good things about he spirit of Holy Family.

Frankly, I wish that I was more like this man. For despite his physical limitations, he shared a unique quality of the Christian spirit and that is humility.

Let me help you look through the lens of faith and realize that humility does not mean that we are no better than anyone else. It is humanly impossible not to compare ourselves to others. We all like to make comparisons, that we are better at what we do, that we are more holy or that our church is more friendly. But the roots of humility do not lie in where we stand, above or below, others in terms of our moral behavior.

When we think about being humble, and sincerely believe ourselves to be no better than anyone else in this world, we need to look at our “sweet spot,” at the depth of our heart, where one sees that, like everyone else in this world, we are vulnerable, alone, fearful, naked, self-centered, inadequate, helpless, just as much in need of God and others as absolutely every other person on this earth, and, thus, no better than anyone else.

Nobody gives themselves life, or gives themselves salvation. We are all equally inadequate and helpless here. Our vulnerability levels us all and the key to genuine humility lies in recognizing that. Indeed, the more morally and psychologically sensitive we are, the more likely we are to recognize our neediness and our solidarity in weakness with everyone else.

When we make the claim that we are no better than anyone else and that we stand in need of God's mercy just as much as every sinner on earth, we are not faking humility, but we are not making moral comparisons with our neighbors or other religions.

The invitation to humility is a clear: Become like a little child. Take the lowest place. Never consider yourself better than anyone else. Know that you need God's mercy as much as the greatest sinner on earth. However we don't come to this by comparing ourselves to others, but by recognizing how utterly naked we all stand outside of God's mercy.

God prays for us as we reflect: “My child, perform your tasks with humility; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.” (Sirach 3:17.)

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who go about their ordinary lives with much grace and kindness. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monks Secrets About Prayer

Why is it so difficult to pray regularly?

Some reasons are obvious: over-busyness, tiredness and too many demands on our time, constant distraction, laziness, worship services that bore us, and methods of prayer that leave us flat and inattentive.

But there is another reason too, suggested by monks and mystics. The problem we have in sustaining prayer, they say, is often grounded in the false notion that prayer needs to be interesting, exciting, intense, and full of energy all the time. But that is impossible, nothing is meant to be exciting all the time, including prayer and church services, and nobody has the energy to always be alert, attentive, intense, and actively engaged all the time.
When I am on the altar leading the community in prayer, it’s not show time but rather, a moment to put everyone in the presence of a loving Lord.

Prayer is meant to respect the natural rhythms of our energy. Praying is like eating and, as we know from experience, you don't always want a banquet. If you tried to have a banquet every day, you would soon find coming to the table burdensome and would look for every excuse to escape, to sneak off for a quick sandwich by yourself.

Eating has a natural rhythm: banquets and quick snacks, rich meals and simple sandwiches, high times with fine linen and low times with paper napkins, meals which take a whole evening and meals which you eat on the run. And the two depend upon each other: You can only have high season if you mostly have ordinary time. Healthy eating habits respect our natural rhythms: our time, energy, tiredness, the season, the hour, our boredom, our taste.

Prayer should be the same, but this isn't generally respected. Too often we are left with this impression: All prayer should be high celebration, upbeat, with high energy. The more variety the better. Longer is better than shorter. Time and tiredness should never be a consideration. During prayer, nobody should ever look at a wristwatch. People at a prayer service need not be told how long the service will last. The solution to boredom and lack of energy is more variety and imagination.

No wonder we often lack the energy to pray, and want to avoid church services.

Monks have secrets worth knowing. They know that, if you pray regularly, boredom and lack of energy will soon begin to wear you down. The answer then is not so much new prayer forms and more variety, but rhythm, routine, and established ritual. For monks, the key to sustaining a daily life of prayer is not so much variety, novelty, and the call for higher energy, but rather a reliance on the expected, the familiar, the repetitious, the ritual, the clearly defined. What's needed is a uncomplicated, practical prayer form which gives you a clear expectancy and does not demand of you an energy that you cannot muster on a given day.

It is no accident, I suspect, that more people used to attend daily church services when these were shorter, simpler, less demanding in terms of energy expenditure, and gave people attending a clear expectation as to how long they would last. The same holds true for other prayers, the office of the church and basically all common prayer. What clear, simple, and brief rituals provide is precisely prayer that depends upon something beyond our own energy.

Some people complain about the rituals of the church. What they don’t under stand is that the rituals can carry us, our tiredness, our lack of energy, our inattentiveness, our indifference, and even our occasional distaste. They keep us praying even when we are too tired to muster up our own energy.

Sometimes, I think, we are working too hard to make the Mass more entertaining and are not letting the rituals themselves work hard enough

That's true too for prayer. We think that good intention and energy will sustain our rituals of prayer, but they can't. Rather our rituals of prayer can sustain our good will and our energy.

God prays for us as we reflect: “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.” (Psalm 66:20).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who grow tired and busy and unable to pray. Help them relax and sense your presence in a heart open to receive your gentle comfort and peace.

Sunday, October 06, 2013


On my drive into work each morning, I pray the rosary for all my friends. It can be a challenged when the beads get knotted up and a tangled mess. I am waiting for someone to invent a rosary that does not “‘get tangled.” That’s like asking God for a life that doesn’t have any snags in it.

You have a choice when your life begins to ensnare you with lots of demands. Option one. Blame God. Option two. Fix your own problems but worry that it’s not good enough. Option three. Practice “self compassion.”

I prefer that you learn to practice this ancient tradition of letting go and repeat the following mantra “good enough is good enough.”

I read that people are wired and caught up in judging themselves. Of course there is scriptural basis for this concern. A parishioner share that he liked this past week’s homily when I walked down the aisle and get close to the people. Most folks don’t sit too close to the front in this church. He agreed with the teaching that a sign of holiness is gratitude. But he wanted to reconcile the bible teaching about a judgment day separating goats and sheep. Which side of the aisle do you think you will wind up on?

Scientists suggest that it’s in our DNA to look at something to say it could be better and then work on this trait as a goal. This way of thinking could be a good step toward self-improvement. But it can become negative feedback in that we start to look at every moment and say: ‘I could have done a better job.” The toxic voice in our head finds us lacking. I do not think God wants us to put so much effort into worrying about judgment day. When asked by his disciples to increase their faith Jesus reminds them that their faith is a gift. We can better focus our attention on living our life in gratitude for the gifts we have received from God and share them with others.

The prayer when we meditate on as we pray the rosary beads is to break the cycle of negativity so we can choose to be purposely compassionate toward ourselves.

We say the rosary in honor of Mary who had to be a special mom nurturing her son. It was her example that taught Jesus to be a compassionate young man. She must have had something special called the “the will to do one thing.” The one thing every saint knows is to live a life of gratitude. Mary possessed that special quality “to will the one thing” because look how her son turned out.

God watches over us as we pray: “Yet He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; often He restrained His anger, and did not stir up all His wrath.” (Psalm 78:38).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who find their lives tangled and in a mess. As they pray the rosary, may each bead release them from toxic worries and may their life be filled with self-compassion.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Climb Aboard

I was on my way to select some pumpkins when an 18,000-ton truck pulls into the dump area for harvested corn and my friend Denny jumps out of the cab and says, “Get in.” He wanted this city-boy to experience what’s its like to go out into the corn field and drive log side the ‘chopper.” Now when I shared this experience with family, they thought I was invited to sit on a Harley motorcycle. This was better! I was traveling down the county road with Chad who was taking me into the field to harvest the corn.

The driver in this truck has to be fearless and watchful. Once in the field, you are looking for a behemoth of a machine known by farmers as the “chopper.” This machine has massive forks that slide between the corn stalks and pulls them into a center shoot that chops the corn at the rate of a thousand RPMs.

Chad’s experienced showed as he maneuvers his truck along side the chopper and carefully make sure his truck is under the device that tosses the chopped remains of the corn into the bed of his truck. Unlike the spoiled farmers out west with hundreds of flat acres, we are going up and down hills where it’s possible to get stuck in the mud. Chad follows along side the chopper for we have to keep up with this behemoth that races up and down the rows of corn.

It’s one thing to know how to drive a truck, but then you have to learn to drive up and down the hills of the field and then learn how to stay close to the chopper to catch all the stalks that are being crushed by this mean machine.

God’s invites us into his cab. He then takes us for a ride that has many twists and turns; there is some pain, some sadness, a few joys and even surprises. We need to be watchful and keep up where the Lord takes us.

I was told that not many people want to be drivers in the field during harvest. Just like not many people want to come inside church to learn what it means to travel with Jesus in this life.

Let me share that at one point I was told to get out of the truck and climb onboard the chopper. That ride in the chopper through the fields was awesome. So too, our journey with God is awesome if we remain watchful and ready to climb onboard.

Is God calling you today to serve in some way to bring his love and comfort to others?

God speaks to our hearts:“I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.”(Isaiah 42:16).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshne Friends who accept Your invitation to climb onboard into your cab and journey with You down the road that leads to eternity life. May we be brave enough to follow You on our journey in life.