Thursday, January 26, 2023

Saturated with Love

 


Last Sunday, I had the privilege of returning to my former parish at Holy Family and the gospel was about the beatitudes. You remember them. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted, blessed are the meek, blessed are the those who hunger for righteousness, blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy, blessed are the pure of heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted

 

If you ask me which one is the most important. I say it’s the merciful. If you look at the life of Jesus, I would say it is saturated with mercy. Remember when the kids came to Jesus and he says don’t lead one of these astray or else. No one wanted the kids around.  Jesus had a tender heart where he tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard and the people are outraged where everybody gets paid the same thing and God says you’re going to begrudge me my generosity, you’re going to tell me how to dispense my Mercy. Or when the blind and lame come to him in the temple and he heals them or when the prostitutes and tax collectors get into the kingdom of God before the unrepentant because Jesus has Mercy for All. Or when the sheep and the goats are separated in the great judgment based on who shows Mercy to those who are naked and those who are poor. Jesus was a man saturated with Mercy in everything he did and said.

 

My hunch is in the Beatitudes He’s calling us to be just like him. Not talking about being some kind of superhero, not talking about being the bishop or prime bishop, about being a scholar or a missionary, simply talking about being a Christian, one holy moment at a time.

 

God has shown you great Mercy by all means please share it because Lord knows the world  could use a little Mercy right now.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who have been wounded by their neighbors, relatives and friends. Give us the graced of humility to show Mercy to anyone who has hurt us. Give us the grace to let go of our anger and resentment and be saturated with Mercy because the world needs a little Mercy right now. 

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

No Ordinary Day

 


When did you experience a day when nothing would be the same again?  One of those milestone moments in your life.   A thing that you can point to as something that definitively altered things for you, your experience, and your routine.  Maybe you thinking back to the first day of school or graduation days.  When you started your first job.  Moved to a new town.  As ordinary, routine as life can be, where days, weeks, months, and years can fly by that seem lost in our memories – there are those days that forever stand out in our hearts and minds, the days when everything changed:  the day you met your future spouse, a wedding day, the day you had a child – my ordination day.

Today, a patient shared that he was celebrating his third month anniversary of sobriety. a life-changing day for him. Well, truth be told, that he has been marking every single day since his quit day back in November that started on his birthday. The day when he became sober.

I am – so proud of him.  It is an incredibly courageous thing and sadly is something that’s more counter-cultural than ever to commit to sobriety.  25 years ago there was a greater push for people to wake up to the harmful effects of alcohol – now we have so-called government leaders gleefully legalizing even more dangerous substances like marijuana…  That helps contribute to all kinds of influences that enable and encourage reckless behavior and is causing higher rates of addiction, to the point that some can’t even imagine going sober for a week.  But this man and countless others bear witness to the possibility of breaking these addictive cycles, the positive shifts and transformations of life it has brought to them that they can all trace to a particular day when their lives changed.

Every year we hear from one of the Gospel writers about how Jesus called his first disciples.  More than likely these men had some encounters and heard Jesus preach a few times before this incident.  Yet there’s something definitive about this particular day where He calls them.  Jesus had just preached saying “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  And then somewhat simply says a few words that invite them to follow Him – and they drop everything and do just that.

This becomes a day where they left behind their livelihoods – leaving their nets.   A day where their lives were completely re-ordered and re-prioritized – leaving their families.  They could have had no idea what each day that followed would look like, the challenges, the trials, and how radical this decisive moment would be.  But they heard His voice, saw His face, and knew they didn’t want to let this opportunity pass them by and become a day they regretted.

How we can, like the disciples, accept the invitation to follow Jesus.  Follow Him by committing to prayer.  Follow Him through my selflessness and sacrificial offerings to others, especially those in need.  Follow Him by letting go of the anger, and the pain and offering forgiveness.  Follow Him, striving to do all those things, knowing that they’re hard, knowing we’re not perfect but that He keeps calling and inviting us to get up, to keep pursuing and striving and trying.  And finding in the process, when we do, that no day will ever be the same.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we accept His invitation to be his disciples. Give us the grace and strength to keep pursuing, to keep striving, to keep trying to be the best disciple that He knows we can be.

 

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Patience of a Saint

 

Yes, our medical system is seriously “broke.” Not in losing money, although corporate management would disagree but in getting services. For example, this morning I called my neighbor’s primary office to see if they ordered and faxed a referral last week for a nurse home visit and to start physical therapy. Our neighbor had slipped out of her bed to the floor and could not pick herself up.

 

Thank God, her cell phone was within reach and she called her sister for help who then contacted my spouse and the two ladies got Maggie off the floor and cleaned up her mess.

 

Back to the doctor’s office who reported they had faxed the order for a PT visit, but when I called the home care office if they received the referral and “sure enough:” no orders were received for PT for our neighbor. Now what happened?

 

I contacted the physician’s office and they verified they had fax the order but when I checked their fax number it was not correct. They had a different fax number to forward doctor orders. So “kindly” I asked to resend the request for PT to the correct fax number given to me by the triage nurse. And yes, I will call back later in the day to verify that home care got their orders. Whew! Now that was easy. You got to be kidding.

 

I have the humble privilege of being deployed over twenty times to help folks in Buffalo after the once in a generation blizzard. I have heard their heroic stories saving lives and then sometimes their sorrows that loved ones did not survive. Yes, as we start this new year, we will face many difficulties, but once again the God we pray to wants you to know this morning that your prayers are important and heard and will be answered. Just a little patience and keep on “pedaling” meaning persevere and never lose hope.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends coping with our “broken” medical system. Sometimes we wait for hours for an answer from customer service or have to call multiple times before the appointment is made. Give us strength, courage and hope.

 

 

Saturday, December 31, 2022

God Moment Movement

 


A once in a generation blizzard slammed into Buffalo, New York that sadly left many people without electricity in the cold and worse a few people were unable to get home and died. Despite the efforts of our heroic first responders, the blinding snow storm prevented finding people stranded in the storm to save their lives. I had been deployed to help utility workers who found the dead in their cars while repairing the down power lines to restore electricity to homes.

 

Then again there are many stories like Jay who recused people in the storm. He found an empty school that he broke into and brought the stranded survivors inside out of the cold. These survivors bunked on the floor and cooked cafeteria food until they were able to leave the school in safety leaving a note of thanks.

 

For 72 hours, I looked outside the windows of our farm and watched the 60 mile per hour plus winds toss the trees like twigs. Then on Christmas Day, while I was Zooming Mass from my study, we got over a foot of snow dumped on the farm. Not the 70 plus inches at the Buffalo airport, but at the end of the storm we had a new landmark, a large locust tree had been uprooted and it was lying over the driveway hung up on the trees. Thank God there were no electrical wires down or caught up in this tree, but this poised a danger for anyone driving to our home and the tree needed to be brought down. But who was I going to call for help?

 

John was my guardian angel. A retired teacher and expert forester, he checked out the location of the tree and call backed that he had a friend in Elma who cuts trees. My forester feared that we would not be able to save the serviceberry tree at the end of the driveway located near the 40 foot tall locust. He then introduced me to Patrick, whose truck had the sign printed “Timbercat.”  He was the expert.  He started to cut the locust from the bottom, a section at a time, so that the tree stood straight and did not roll to the side. John and Patrick huddled together to share their ideas how to fell the tree without damaging the serviceberry. I offered my two cents, and to my surprise they agreed it made sense to pull in the opposite direction to keep the giant locust from falling on the fragile serviceberry. 

 

 

At one point, John shared that Patrick was a widower after his wife had died a few years ago in her forties to a rare form of cancer. As Patrick was preparing to lasso the tree with his rope and tie down to his truck, I shared my sympathy and prayers. Patrick appreciated the support and shared a message he received from his uncle. His uncle told him that what helps us get through the difficult moments of life are the positive connections you make. That was a God moment. In his moment of agony with the lost of his beloved spouse, he was told that he was not alone and he had friends who would be there for him. 

 

 

2022 has had its share of pain and tragedies, Buffalo with its TOPS shootings, the blizzard of a generation that left many families grieving, and now I met a tree cutter who shared his lost but came to my rescue to make our land safe. In 2023, think about this. When was the last time you praised God for anything? In 2023, let our focus be on praising God for all those moments we have taken for granted. 

 

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we learn to stay in the moment and ponder where God is calling you to be and do in 2023. By the way, the serviceberry tree still stands tall with no damage. Patrick did a great job in falling the tree away from the serviceberry. Now our driveway is safe, our serviceberry will grow for generations. “Praise God’ for all His goodness.”

 


 

 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Lifeline Doesn't Work With Metal Roofs

 

I ordered Lifeline for Maggie, my next door neighbor, after her recent fall.  We found her alive on the kitchen floor. A true miracle after lying on the floor for several days. Taken to the hospital, diagnosed with low sodium, she was later transferred to a rehab center and discharged back home. It seemed a practical idea to order Lifeline to call for help if she fell again.

 

I read the instructions and plugged the unit into the wall and waited until a voice announced “we received your message, please wait.” So we wait a minute, then five, another five. What gives? If someone fell, I would assume they would get a response immediately. I call customer service and told that ‘their lines are busy.”

 

Seems odd that if you fell you would expect an immediate response. The customer service agent asked: “ Are there any bars showing on the back of the unit.” This is the signal that the unit is connected to the cell towers. After a few minutes, two green bars appear. The agent says that’s good but makes the comment the signal is weak, trying plugging the unit near a window. Once again, I find an outlet near a window, point the unit north out the window and no “green bars.” The agent suggests try another window, this time the unit is facing East and after a few minutes two green bars show up. Now the chaos begins.

 

While I am on my cell phone with customer service, I am getting calls from the Bethany fire chief, at the same time my wife calls to say that she got a call from 911 that there is an emergency and the ambulance is being deployed. WHAT’S GOING ON!!!

 

The agent has no clue, but I contact 911 to say we are only testing the Lifeline unit and there is no emergency. The ambulance is called back, but there is a knock at the front door and it is a volunteer fireman responding to the emergency call. We assure the young man that Maggie is fine, but the Lifeline unit is “sick.”

 

I shared what happened with the Lifeline agent and they have “no clue” what happened and suggested to wait five minutes and she would call for a reset on the unit. Then she asked, “does the house have a metal roof?” Why yes. Maggie’s roof was leaking 10 years ago, she had no money, and I found an agricultural grant to replace her leaking roof with a 50 year metal roof. The agent reports, “ATT signals do not work in a house with a metal roof.” Does she have a land line and the answer is no. She uses cell service to save money. The solution, send the unit back to Lifeline for a refund.

 

It's good to know that when you need God, your prayers will be answered despite whatever material you have on your roof, even a metal roof.

 

Lord,. I pray for all my Sonshine Friends to keep them safe. If they can’t use Lifeline where they live, I pray they have good neighbors to check on them to make sure they are safe. Maggie’s sister promised to call her daily to check and she has my number to call anytime for an emergency. However, if you know a solution, please contact me.

 

 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Chrsitmas Card Delayed

 

Instead of fretting about what to get for your relatives and friends, I took on a different strategy. I put a blank white envelop inside the Christmas tree and the message I wrote to my wife Susan was this. In her name, I made donations to Volunteers4Animals where she volunteers and another donation to the Domincan nuns in Girard, Illinois who relocated from Elmira, New York. I asked the sisters to mail Christmas cards to all my Sonshine friends designed by one of their creative, artistic sisters. However, I received the following letters yesterday.

 

Dominican Nuns

Monastery of Mary the Queen

15635 Greenridge Road

Girard, IL 62640-7030

 

Dear Friends,

As we worked toward the big move of all our belongs to Girard, IL, it seemed reasonable that we could set up Sr. Grace’s equipment quite quickly once we arrived. She has been taking orders and filling them promptly before we moved and it seemed that she could just continue that efficiency once we arrived. And that is why we sent out this flyer.

But things did not work out as we had planned. Sister Mary Grace had a bad fall and has several fractures. She is bedridden at this time but we know that she will improve and with time and again be able to produce the cards as ordered.

But now it is obvious that she cannot accomplish the task of filling your order before Christmas. As soon as she is up and around again she will make the cards that you have ordered and we will get them to you as soon as we can. We have kept careful records so we can just hold your order until we are up and running again.

We are grateful for your response to this flyer and feel badly that our plans fell through. But we do intend to serve you better in the future. As soon as possible we will train another Sister to produce the cards that Sr. M. Grace paints. And this will facilitate the process. Please know that we do keep you and your intentions in our prayers.

Gratefully yours in Jesus and Mary, Sister Anna Marie,

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Choose Your Battles Wisely

 

We don’t use the word meek too often nowadays. The only time I heard this word when I was growing up—other than in the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the meek”)—was in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy introduces herself to Oz, the great and powerful, as “Dorothy, the small and meek.” Naturally, I grew up thinking that to be meek was to be the opposite of powerful: weak and powerless.

 

In Scripture, meekness is not weakness and has no affinity for cowards. Rather, it is a quiet strength acquired through self-discipline. If meekness were an NHL hockey player, it would receive the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy—an award bestowed upon the player who combines sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct with excellence in the game. Among NHL greats who have won this trophy are Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Delvecchio, and Mike Bossy—and if you know anything about any of those players, you wouldn’t dare call them weak. However, they did indeed embody the scriptural characteristic of meekness in their approach to the game. They could take a hit, even a dirty one, and just keep on playing the game instead of retaliating and ending up in the penalty box along with the goon that roughed them up in the first place.

 

Unfortunately, since Jesus is described in the Gospels (Matthew 21:5) as being meek, we often wrongly see him characterized in art as looking weak. Not just weak, he too often looks like a wimp. But Jesus was certainly no wimp. As a carpenter, he would be the equivalent of a modern-day construction worker, hard hat and all. When he called himself the Good Shepherd, we need to recall that a shepherd was the equivalent of a cowboy. Jesus stood toe-to-toe with the most powerful men in society and never backed down. Even as he faced the abuse and taunts of his executioners, he did not cower, nor did he strike back. Rather, he absorbed their most ferocious blows, patiently trusting that God had something greater planned for him.

 

Smart hockey players will tell you that the best way to give payback for a cheap hit is to score a goal and win the game rather than respond with a cheap shot of your own. This type of meekness—disciplined, harnessed strength—allows one to strive for something greater instead of settling for a petty response. One who remains meek is able to see and think clearly and, as a result, is able to reach for higher things. Meekness is at the heart of the saying, “Choose your battles wisely.” Because of Emmanuel—God-with-us—we are able to absorb the blows that life and those in our lives send our way, knowing that we have a greater weapon and a greater goal in life.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who should be awarded the

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. Give them the strength to absorb the blows of life filled with the meekness that allows them to trust that Gods has great plans for their faith and courage.