Saturday, February 17, 2024

Obstacles


 

After a recent snow storm with wind gusts of 60 mph, I walked the trails in our forest and found that a huge tree had broken hallway up its trunk and fell across the trail, blocking the path forward. Yes, there are obstacles that we stumble upon in life, but when it comes to a down tree, I have learned to ask for help.

 

What are some of the obstacles you are facing at this time. My next door neighbor food stamp card wasn’t working, coworkers were adjusting after the traumatic accidental death of one of their workers. I had received a phone call from Florida asking for help to transport their spouse back home for cancer treatment. Sadly, this morning I drove to the home of this a man’s step son to inform him that his stepdad had died this morning in hospice.

 

Yes, there is much suffering in our lives, but I have learned to call on good friends to help cut up the branches of that down tree so that we can move forward again along the trail. Lent invites us to reconnect with our friend Jesus. You might ask does God really need our friendship?

 

My answer is definitely yes!  Like that down tree, I could have tried on my own to cut up the limbs, but fearful the trunk might break away and cause an injury. Rather, my good friend and arborist John knows where to cut the limbs safely. So together we carefully removed the branches and opened the trail again. 

 

 


 

I am grateful for all my mentors. Friends who come to be with us in silence in times of sorrow. Friends who come to share the joys in our life. Friends who wisely share their experience to keep us safe out of harms way. Jesus created his children so that He could be there for us in our sorrow and joys, in sickness and health, in moments we despair or exhausted from all the stresses in our life.

 

I have one obstacle that I have struggled with for five years. My goal for my farm that we call “Reviresco” a Latin word meaning. “to be green again” is to create a community to serve adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. My vision is to develop an agricultural-style community that offers an inclusive environment to learn, work, live and grow.

 

I regret to share that I have contacted various agencies, colleges, and foundations to make this vision for the land into a perpetual learning center.  Their response is an invitation to donate at the end life and funds would support their programs.

 

I am searching for a friend, or friends, or an agency, school or foundation willing to accept the challenge to help recreate Reviresco into a learning center for those

with physically, intellectual, and emotional challenges who would appreciate visiting along the banks of a stream, watching a waterfall or glancing up at an owl in the trees.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, and I ask all who come to this blog to forward this reflection to your friends, neighbors and colleagues. I welcome a helping hand with this obstacle that continues to block the trail and help bring the beauty of this parkland into the lives of those who would appreciate the opportunity to come to Reviresco and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

Free free to call or email if you or someone would like to help.

Fr. Matt 585-520-86750 or email: drmattkawiak@gmail.com

                                 

                                                               REVIRESCO

 


 

 

 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Art & Faith: Ash Wednesday

 

Carl Spitzweg’s “Ash Wednesday” invites us into the Lenten season with a spirit of introspective piety. We meet a downcast carnival clown, seated in the corner of a cell, his head bent, arms crossed, and face in shadows. A clown normally represents revelry, satire, excess, exuberance, letting go of convention, and laughing at life. But here, seated somber in a cell, he offers none of that. Instead, he sits in a nearly empty stone room, the color of ash and arid desert, with only a pitcher of water as provision. Leaving the revelry of Mardi Gras, this clown now dwells in the simplicity of the Lenten season.

The Gospel for Ash Wednesday finds remarkable expression in the figure of this clown. From head to toe, the clown is a figure who is made for attracting attention—his antics and costume say “Look at me!” In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us to be less concerned with how others may see us. In this light, the clown is not just a symbol of Mardi Gras exuberance, but also of the “look at me” culture that Jesus warns against. Here, the isolation is the attention-hog clown’s genuine moment of conversion—the moment of discovering his inner room where he may pray to God in secret.

Spitzweg’s clown is central, but the image’s background tells the rest of the story. The clown is bathed in light from an upper window, a subtle sign that his prison cell is perhaps instead a place of retreat, repentance, and conversion. In contrast to this upper light is a dark archway, the entrance to the cell. The composition of the clown, the window, and the archway forms a narrative triangle. The dark archway, directly across from the clown, shows us where he has come from. The window above lets in the light, and the rays point the way upward and invite the clown toward fullness, possibility, and hope. This time for him is a crossroads, a change of direction from darkness to light, just as the season of Lent can be for us.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that this season of Lent we make time to discern and reflect on how God invites us to use His gifts to bring comfort and peace to all the outcasts and children of God in our world.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

God Loves the Outcasts

 



Leprosy is mentioned in both the first reading and in the Gospel. Implicit in both of these is the theme of suffering. The following is a list of paradoxes about suffering. See if they make sense to you. 

 

Suffering is NOT God's desire for us, nor a gift from God. The paradox is that suffering occurs in the process of this thing we call life.
Suffering is NOT given in order to teach us something. The paradox is that we can learn from suffering, and grow.
Suffering is NOT given to punish us. The paradox is that suffering sometimes comes as the result of poor choices we make.
Suffering is NOT given to teach others something. The paradox is that through suffering we can learn about faith, character, endurance, hope as well as weakness, struggle, humility.
Suffering does NOT occur because one's faith is weak. The paradox is that our faith may be strengthened by the journey through suffering.
God does NOT DEPEND on human suffering to achieve divine purposes. The paradox is that, sometimes, God's purposes are fulfilled through suffering.
Suffering is NOT always to be avoided at all costs. The paradox is that people sometimes choose suffering.
Suffering can sometimes destroy us. The paradox is that it can add meaning to our lives. 

 

Many things in life humble us and the man in today's Gospel reading clearly knew the importance of prayer. His body language is moving as he approached Jesus on his knees. Like countless pilgrims in Fatima who approach the Shrine on their knees and in smaller ways when we adopt the posture of kneeling during Mass. Maybe remembering in our minds' eye when we were that little boy or girl saying our night-time prayers kneeling beside our bed. He models prayer by asking "if you want to, you can cure me." We know the rest...he stretched out his hand and in that unheard of gesture to a man bearing the mark of leprosy- taught us something. To ask big questions for one thing. 

 

Who are our outcasts? Who do we not fully welcome into our community? Where do we push away those to whom Jesus might well fasten himself, cling to? Who do we need to fully restore to community?

Whenever we discriminate with any supposed moral superiority against different human groups (vagabonds, prostitutes, drug addicts, people with AIDS, immigrants, LGBT...) or we exclude ANYONE from living with us, denying them our acceptance, we are seriously distancing ourselves from Jesus. There is enough suffering in life- don’t add to it. 

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we are open, patient and understanding that labels are the true cause of much suffering in the world. Like Jesus may our arms and hearts be open in need of His acceptance and love.

 

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Whatever It Takes

 


 

In today's gospel we see Jesus involving himself in the ordinary lives of people. He was at Peter's house where he healed Peter's mother-in-law. As a result of his presence among the people, the whole surrounding neighborhood brought their sick and ill so that Jesus could heal. That is why Jesus came: To be a human like us, to live and share our daily lives, to do whatever it takes to bring the Spirit of healing into our lives. 

 

Jesus performed miracles in his life. But the pastoral worker, or any Christian, need not perform miracles. It is enough just to be there and listen. 

 

In the past two weeks, I had been deployed to provide comfort and healing to factory workers whose coworker died in an industrial accident. Two young coworkers who witnessed the accident were suffering normal trauma symptoms after the incident. They shared praised for their mentor who was intelligent in his job and had a wonderful sense of humor. After listening to their pain and giving them the tools to cope with this difficult memory, they both plan to return to work today. Most reassuring after they attended the funeral Mass, they hung up his holy card with the picture of their mentor on their refrigerator door as a reminder of his gift to each of them. Sometimes the best thing we can do is listen. Jesus did a lot of it in his ministry. 

 

A motivational speaker once said there are two kinds of people in this world: those who say "whatever" and those who say, "Whatever it takes." And he's right! Some people live their lives with the motto of a petulant teenager on their lips, "Whatever." Have you ever asked a young person to do something that you think is important and have them shrug their shoulders and respond, "Whatever?" Some people are like that with regard to their faith. In fact, let's turn this into a responsive reading. I'm going to make some statements. After each statement I want you to answer with a shrug, "Whatever." Say it with a loud sigh. "Whatever." O.K. Jesus said to love your neighbor. "Whatever." Jesus said there is more rejoicing over one sinner who is found than the ninety-nine that stayed within the fold. "Whatever." Jesus said that when you have done it to the least of these. "Whatever." 

 

Now, let's change our response from whatever to "Whatever it takes." OK, let's try it. Jesus said to love your neighbor. "Whatever it takes." Jesus said there is more rejoicing over one sinner who is found than the ninety-nine that stayed within the safety of the fold. "Whatever it takes." Jesus said that when you have done it to the least of these. "Whatever it takes." Are you and I, like St. Paul, willing to do whatever it takes to win the world to Christ? 

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, like Jesus, Paul was willing to go the limit, to do whatever it takes to win souls. In today's glimpse of a life in the day of Jesus, we can see that Jesus was too. He did not glory in hanging around where he had performed miracles, but he went on, with the aid of his life of prayer to the Father to guide him, and he spread the Gospel. We are called to do the same.

 


Friday, January 26, 2024

Satan and the Devil

 


Let’s be honest, today the devil is either naively ignored as some dark superstition from the past, or is falsely attended to, as some underworld force that can throw little girls into mustard-spitting convulsions, as in the infamous movie, The Exorcist. Indeed, most people today do not even believe in the devil, either as a person or a force. What is to be said about the devil?

 

The kingdom Jesus preaches is about coming together 

 

The gospels name the forces of hell in two ways: sometimes they speak of the devil (diabolus) and at other times of satan (satanus). Are the terms synonymous? Not exactly: Diabolus means to divide, to tear apart; whereas satanus, most curiously, means almost the opposite, it connotes a frenzied, sick, group-think that accuses somebody or something. In essence what the gospels tell us is that the powers of hell, satan and the devil, work in two ways: sometimes they work as the devil by dividing us from God, each other, and from what is best within us. Sometimes they work in just the opposite way, as satan. Here they unite us to each other but through the grip of mob-hysteria, envy-induced hype, and the kind of sick unity that makes for gang-rapes and crucifixions and excommunications.

 

And at the root of both lies the same thing, envy. It is no accident that, among the ten commandments, only envy has two inscriptions against it. Jealousy is the devil’s tool and Satan’s weapon. Through envy, the devil works at dividing us from each other. From envy we get the kind of paranoia, jealousy, sense of being wronged, and bitterness that divides families, communities, churches, and whole nations. The devil tears us apart. Satan, using the same weapon, works differently. As Satan, envy unites us so as to put us into the frenzied, mad pitch of the lynch mob, the crowd hell-bent on crucifixion. Satan uses envy to pit the crowd against an outsider. 

 

In Jesus we see the opposite. The first word out of his mouth (“metanoia”) is a word uttered against the power of the devil: be un-paranoid, do not let envy and suspicion divide you from each other, God, and what is the best inside yourself! Everything else Jesus says and does is intended precisely to lead us beyond division, bias, segregation, and being apart from each other. The kingdom he preaches is about coming together (the opposite of the devil).

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that our hearts are not writhing in a paranoia and a jealousy that tears us apart from each other, and crowds writhing in a sick energy that wants, in God’s name, to spill some blood. Rather, bring us together as a family, a church, a nation that seeks a spirit to be compassionate, generous, humble and kind.

 

Monday, January 15, 2024

Crazy Act of Love

First winter storm in Buffalo had the Buffalo Bills postpone their playoff game. In my neck of the woods, outside my windows, East Bethany looked liked this.

                            


One week later, Southtowns in Buffalo got six feet of snow while our farm received three foot. However, our outdoor feral kitty Mittens disappeared. Susan made kitty igloos insulated from the cold and provided food and water.

 

But Mittens decided to look for better shelter. About 500 feet from the kitty igloos is an abandoned shed where he likes to hangout.


The only one problem. It’s 500 feet from our house and there was three feet of snow deep blocking his path back to the food and water.

 

This is where ”kitty love” or shall we say a “crazy act of love” comes to save the day. I get out the snow shovel and start digging a path from the kitty igloos to Mitten’s winter storm shed.

 
 
You may want to ask yourself when was the last time you went outside the box and did something really special for someone.
 

 Perhaps, you bought a boatload of food and took it to the local shelter. Or, maybe you visited a friend or relative in a nursing home to let them know that they were still on your radar. If you got a story, forward a text or email and I like to hear it.


 It was one shovel at a time, snow was heavy and deep but I knew Mitten’s needed a path so he could find his way back to the kitty igloos and grab some food and water.

I wonder how many times in your lifetime you have gone out of your way to really show your love and that you care. God everyday gives you a breath and have we offered our thanks. Mitten’s I’m sure is hiding inside his winter shed, but the path leads him back to food and water.

 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who busted their hump for 20 minutes to let someone know that you really love and care for them. If no one noticed your sweat and tears, then let me offer my thanks for your unconditional love.

When you do good deeds, don't try to show off. If you do, you won't get a reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the poor, don't blow a loud horn. That's what show-offs do in the synagogues and on the street corners, because they are always looking for praise. I can assure you that they already have their reward. When you give to the poor, don't let anyone know about it. Then your gift will be given in secret. Your Father knows what is done in secret and will reward you.” Matthew 6: 1-3.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Hear God Say "I Love You":


 

What exactly does that mean, to pray affectively? You must try to pray so that, in your prayer, you open yourself in such a way that sometime —perhaps not today, but sometime— you are able to hear God say to you: ‘I love you!’ These words, addressed to you by God, are the most important words you will ever hear because, before you hear them, nothing is ever completely right with you, but, after you hear them, something will be right in your life at a very deep level.

These are simple words, but they capture what we ultimately try to do when we “lift mind and heart to God” in prayer.

 

In the end, prayer's essence, is simply this: we need to open ourselves to God in such a way that we are capable of hearing God say to us, individually, “I love you!”

 

This might sound pious and sentimental. It's anything but that. Don't be put off by simplicity. The deeper something is the simpler it will be. That's why we have trouble understanding the deep things, be they of science or the heart.

 

Anyone can understand what's complex, but we have trouble grasping the principle of relativity, the concept of being, the concept of love, and things about the nature of the God, for exactly the opposite reason. They're too simple. The simpler something is, the harder it is to wrap our minds around it and the more we need to make it complex in order to understand it. That's true too of prayer. It's so simple that we rarely lay bare its essence. It has ever been thus, it would seem.

On the morning of the resurrection. Mary Magdala goes looking for him, carrying spices with which to embalm his dead body. Jesus meets her, alive and in no need of embalming, but she doesn't recognize him. Bewildered but sincere, she asks Jesus where she might find Jesus (something, I suspect, we do often enough in prayer). Jesus, for his part, repeats for her the question he opened the gospel with: “What are you looking for?”

 

With deep affection, he pronounces her name: “Mary”. In doing that, he tells her what she and everyone else are forever looking for, God's voice, one-to-one, speaking unconditional love, gently saying your name. In the end, that's what we are all looking for and most need. It's what gives us substance, identity, and justification beyond our own efforts to make ourselves lovable, worthwhile, and immortal. We need to hear God, affectionately, one-to-one, pronounce our names: “Cheryl” “Julia!” “Kern!” ‘Ted!” “Steve” “Brad!” Nothing will heal us more of restlessness, bitterness, and insecurity than to hear God say: “I love you,” 

 

Lord I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we say the same thing to God: “I love you!” In all long-term, affectionate relationships the partners have to occasionally prompt each other to hear expressions of affection and reassurance. Prayer is not meant to change God but us. True. And nothing changes us as much for the good as to hear someone say that he or she loves us, especially if that someone is God.