Anniversary of Death: Albert John Raab, 1920-2000

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Today is the 19th anniversary of Dad’s death. This poem is from an experience of visiting the graves of Mom and Dad last June. 

 

The Clearing

I drove a rental car into the familiar cemetery

Rain and memory gently smearing the windshield

 

The curved maple that shaded the graves of

Mom and Dad had been cut down

Even the stump pulled from the dark Indiana soil

 

That old tree like an adopted sibling

Protected them from bitter winds and summer drought

Bending toward their memory with each visit

Revealing spring buds and a sparrow’s birth

 

The branches stood my stead

That sheltered my parents

As I become my past

The roots deep and sure

 

An unexpected emptiness in the clearing filled me

Sawdust illusions swept away

Leaving this child’s vulnerability on spring grass

Still a son of genuine loss

And love under raindrops

 

 

 

 

World AIDS Day 2019

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CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON WORLD AIDS DAY 2019

This article was published in Ministry and Liturgy Magazine, November 2014. I have published several articles on my experiences.  This story is a lead-in to exploring the gospels in Ordinary Time.

I ministered among people suffering with HIV/AIDS for twenty years in the various cities in which I lived. On this World AIDS Day, I remember with pain and joy the families whom I met along the way. 

 

Ministering Beyond the Threshold

I ministered among people with HIV/AIDS for most of the first twenty years of my priesthood. My religious community never assigned me to such a ministry. I just happened to live at a point in history where I could not avoid being involved with people facing such a horrific illness. As I look back to those years, I would never have dreamed when I was ordained that a disease would become one of the major influences of my early priesthood.

I began sifting through people’s complications of HIV/AIDS in Colorado Springs, Colorado around 1985, and I have mentioned some of those experiences through the years in this column. I got involved because the director of the county health department was a parishioner. I gave him permission to put my name on a list of clergy who were willing to offer spiritual guidance. At that time, that list was very short.

I remember a young man who came to my office for the first time. He stood at my office door and said, “I have tried to speak to three other priests. Would you at least listen to me?” I still hold on to that question as one of the most formative questions of my priesthood.

There was much fear at the beginning of a disease that no one understood. One of the fears that brought me into the circle of care was that many religious people would not enter a hospital room to comfort a person who was sick. Clergy would stand outside the door of the patient’s room and just yell toward the person in bed.

I thought that if I promised to listen to a young man in my office, then I should also listen in a hospital room. I broke the barrier of the threshold many times. I cannot believe now how groundbreaking that gesture was at the time.

I was young and ignorant of the complications people faced from a diagnosis. However, I could struggle with the grief, the loss and the fear of dying. I learned quickly the gut-wrenching reality of people dying who were of my generation. I learned to listen for the first time in my life. I stood silently along bedsides with prayer in my soul, healing oil on my fingers and with much fear in my own heart.

I refer to this story again as I reflect on the gospels for the Second Week of Ordinary Time through the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time. I listen to these texts again with great amazement. I am struck how connected disease is to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth. I find the connection startling and yet consoling.

Jesus asks his disciples and even every person in our day, “What are you looking for?” He then calls his disciples from their place of work as fisherman. Jesus tells them that he will make them fishers of men. He is saying that people will be our priority.

Immediately after Jesus calls his disciples, he encounters an unclean spirit. I am so intrigued that the unclean spirit is the one to name Jesus for who his is, “The Holy One of God.” This new teaching of authority radically identifies Jesus with the most marginalized people of his day. The people around Jesus were astonished.

Jesus is teaching us that weakness, vulnerability, and powerlessness will be our greatest teachers. In fact grief, fear and pain will begin to open us up to faith. In our suffering, we will find God.

Jesus continues by entering the house to see Simon’s mother-in-law. He reaches out his hand to her. This intimate encounter teaches us still how to live our ministry in the world. We need this personal touch, this intimate encounter to bring to people who are ill and marginalized, the love and healing of Christ Jesus. Jesus goes on to cure all the sick, the demonic and those whom people were forbidden to touch.

A leper then kneels in front of Jesus. “If you wish, you can make me clean.” I see before my eyes, the young man who came to the threshold of my office door. Jesus is moved with pity, “I do will it. Be made clean.” It was the leper who spread the word of who Jesus was and what he could do. The person filled with physical poison revealed to healthy people the miracles and presence of Christ Jesus.

People flocked to Jesus. Friends even brought friends to him by opening up a roof to lower the sick before the person of Jesus. Everyone knew what Jesus could do because the people who were sick were the teachers. Jesus even forgave sinners. Jesus still says, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”

I learned so much about the healing power of Christ walking through the threshold of those hospital rooms. This is the risk for us all today as well, to bring our ministry and the Eucharist itself to the many rooms where people live in fear, doubt, isolation and pain. Jesus invites us to enter the threshold of suffering and to discover his love for every person in need.

 

 

 

First Sunday of Advent 2019: Prayers of the Faithful

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First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2019

Let us pray for Pope Francis, Bishop Sheridan, and all church leaders, and all the baptized in this Advent season. May our new liturgical year bring hope to those in despair and light to those in darkness.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to stay awake and work diligently for the dignity of all human life. May our efforts support the birth of children and respect for all families, both rich and poor.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to stay awake in order to live the gospel in our world. May the teachings of Jesus lead us well beyond our own concerns and into our world to offer food, clothing, and housing to the least among us.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to stay awake to support the ill members of our community, our children with addiction or depression, and our elders who live with worry and fear, and those who live with constant body and emotional pain.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to stay awake for peace. May we beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and not train for war again.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our beloved dead and for all people who have taught us how to love here on earth. In this Mass we remember…

We pray to the Lord.

 

 

First Sunday of Advent 2019: “Stay Awake”

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“Stay Awake” Painting by Ronald Raab, CSC 2016

First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2019

Dear Followers of the Messiah,

I recently ran across this quote from Emily Dickinson, “Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.” This sentiment brings us into the meaning of Advent. We all wait for the dawn in the many ways. We face darkness such as illness, job loss, depression or when we anticipate our empty nest. Advent rouses courage within us to continue searching, to continue the ways in which we long for healing, relationship, and meaning within our lives and world. The dawn will come with hope and love.

I love Advent. This is my favorite season. However, Advent usually gets lost in busyness. We live in frantic times, struggling to make our way. We shop for items that will eventually sit in the back of a closet or get tossed by MLK day. We sit in front of computers becoming lonelier as the years go by. We hesitate to make our voices heard because we are not sure who will pay attention to them. We draw deeper and broader lines in the sand when it comes to how religion is performed or how politics is inserted in our daily lives. Advent usually gets relegated to four candles and some dry greens in a church sanctuary. We need desperately to open a new door to the season of Advent.

Advent is a season of vigilance. Within Advent, the entire Christian life is revealed if we have the courage to interpret the scriptures and the liturgies and face the Light. Christianity means something if we take time to work our way through our disappointments and disillusions. Potential is abundant if we are willing to take a journey into this profound four-week season before Christmas.

Advent is a season of paradox. At first glance, we may think it is a time to prepare only for Christmas. However, the Church does not wait for a baby, since the birth of Christ took place centuries ago. The real message of Christmas is that we wait for the Second Coming of Christ Jesus. We also wait to recognize Christ Jesus within our own hearts and lives today. Today’s gospel, Matthew 24: 37-44 offers such an instruction. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Let us seize the prophets in Advent and wake up to grace, love and peace for our world.

Advent is a season of genuine hope. We stay awake to recognize Christ’s presence among us. Unraveling our doubt, sinfulness, insecurities, ill health and cynicism are places in which we can discover the beauty and real presence of Jesus. It takes a lifetime for such prayer and awareness. We need God in so many ways. Advent is the place where new doors can open and a new vision of faith can be lived.

Advent is a season of heartfelt growth. As we wait for the Messiah within our lives, we also may discover Christ’s real love for people in our world. If we take Advent in our hearts, then barriers and obstacles may be removed toward how we view one another. We may see as Jesus sees. We may broaden our views of immigrants, of our enemies, of our family differences, and even how we view people who do not fit in our plans or vision. In Advent we take the Incarnation seriously. Jesus was born in our human condition and in him all people are loved and cherished.

I hope you will join us for Advent Vespers at 5:00pm at Sacred Heart on the four Sundays of Advent, December 1, 8, 15, and 22. Our title is, “Advent Motherhood and Other Miracles.”

Also, next Sunday December 8 is usually the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day. Since it falls on Sunday, the Church celebrates it on Monday December 9. It is not a holy day of obligation. Mass is at 8:00am.

Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.” Peace in these Advent days of waiting and longing,

Fr. Ron

 

 

Feast of Saint Andrew 2019

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Saint Andrew 2018

This image of Saint Andrew was first published in AIM Magazine, World Library, Chicago, Illinois, 2018.

Saint Andrew died on the cross, tilted into an X. He is the patron of rope makers, he left his net to follow Christ. He is illuminated by the story of Christ Jesus. His eyes fell upon the Master. His life reveals to us the story of Jesus within the gospels. The sea was his home but that was nothing compared to the eternal shore of heaven. The lily reveals his glory with God and his hope for us who remain on earth.

Saint Andrew, Pray for us.

Luke 21: 29-33 Prayer and Drawing

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The Fig Tree: Ronald Raab, CSC 2015

Gospel   Lk 21:29-33

Jesus told his disciples a parable.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”

 

 

Jesus,

Help me treasure your lasting Word,

Those insights that will never fail within me,

Those sentences that spark hope in dark winter,

Those pages of love that give direction when I am lost.

 

Inspire me to pay attention to your voice where

Words sustain me and fold over me when I am cold,

The tender reminders that I may bloom even

When I feel most alone.

Amen

 

 

(Prayer text: Ronald Raab, CSC)

Thanksgiving Day 2019

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Thanksgiving 2019, Finger Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC November 2019

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”
Let us pray,

God of abundance and joy,

You sent Jesus, your Son to show us,

Mercy is without end.

He stepped over cultural boundaries to seek the lost.

He removed barriers to reveal healing.

He touched the forbidden.

He spoke to the silenced.

He lifted up the condemned.

He befriended the lonely.

He reached out to the shunned.

He healed skin, soul and social fabric.

Thanksgiving is only in His presence.

Today, we gather as stranger and believer,

To taste you in Word and Sacrament,

To feast in our nation,

Upon the love you give your people.

We savor your Son’s name.

Amen

 

 

(Prayer text: Ronald Raab,CSC)

 

Christ the King 2019: Homily

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“Christ the King” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2015

 

My Dear Followers of the Christ,

 We celebrate today, the King.

 Everything on earth will find its completion in Christ Jesus, our King.

 Take this into your hearts: Every moment of our unfaithful lives will be healed in Him.

 In the end, everything is going to be okay.

 This feast reflects the Paschal Mystery. Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection are our ultimate home. The King is the summation of our faith on earth.

We belong in Him.

We belong in Him. 

 We may struggle with our human definition of, “king.”

 However, this King is not about power and privilege.

 As we focus on this gospel today, this king is unlike any other king we have seen on earth.

 This feast comes from Jesus hanging on the cross.

 He could have saved himself just like he overrode the temptations of evil in the desert before his public ministry. So why didn’t he?

 He could have allowed his own freedom just like he raised Lazarus from the dead.

He could have healed himself as he healed the leper or cured Simon’s mother-in-law or released the stranger from a demon. So why didn’t he?

 Rather he took us with him to his death. For the place of the Kingdom is within every human heart.

 We die with him so we may discover his mercy in his Resurrection. His Kingdom is born in the empty tomb.

 We celebrate a king who entered our frailty, our dishonesty, and every aspect of our disturbingly human lives.

 For this king desires love for every human being on earth and every soul of heaven.

 As we overhear this intimate conversation between a thief and Jesus, we also desire along with this thief, to be forgiven. We too, voice our powerlessness into Jesus’ ear.

 “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

 And Jesus replies, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

 Imagine this encounter, this voice of love that overwhelms the thief in his last-minute confession. Only the gospel of Luke shares this treasure because he desires to have nothing stand in the way of our relationship with Jesus.

 I don’t know about you, but I want a share in this intimate encounter. I want to find my life and place in his promise and in his Kingdom.

 His kingdom is not a cartoon fairytale where we all have what we need.

 His kingdom is not a room at the Ritz or life smothered in extravagance and greed.

 His kingdom is not made of silver wishes and gold promises.

 His kingdom is not a pot of riches promised to us for being good.

 His Kingdom is not an all-you-can eat buffet.

 His kingdom is not hidden behind gated communities, safety-deposit boxes or storage units.

 His kingdom is not vast vistas of land. It is not having the last word. It does not come with military power.

 The Kingdom we all seek is to stand on this holy earth and realize that we belong.

We belong to Him.

 We are not alone no matter what.

 My sisters and brothers,

We don’t have to wait for a deathbed confession to be invited into the Kingdom of God.

 As we process this day down the aisle to receive the Real Presence of Christ Jesus, we have his ear. He humbles himself so we may be loved and forgiven.

 The Real Presence of Christ in our Eucharist on this last Sunday of the Church year feeds us in ways in which we least expect.

We don’t need to save ourselves.

We don’t have to worry about the power of evil overriding Him.

We are not undeserving.

We don’t prove ourselves in faith.

We don’t earn Jesus’ love.

 

The King simply offers us himself.

On this notion, we have built a Church.

 

Christ our King invites us into the Kingdom here on earth,

where the lost shall be found,

where the grieving will rejoice,

where the poor shall be rich and inherit the land,

and the hopeless will find purpose and joy.

 

This Kingdom is for the prostitute and the scholar,

The mentally ill man and the hotel housekeeper,

The butcher and the security guard at Wall Mart,

The bully and our maiden aunt,

And for those who wait for their final breath.

 

This Kingdom builds bridges and not walls.

This Kingdom open doors and welcomes the stranger.

This Kingdom welcomes the lost and embraces the sinner.

This Kingdom knows no foreigner, for skin color and language are all the same.

This Kingdom is built from a heart to heart encounter of love.

 

 This Kingdom is revealed in the place we least expect, in the human heart.

 This Kingdom is revealed in the place we least expect, in the human heart.

 

 Our eavesdropping on this holy exchange between two dying men unites us all in faith.

 On this last Sunday of our liturgical year, we might have expected a gospel that is triumphant and otherworldly to celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. Instead, we ponder the last-chance confession of a dying man to get right with Jesus. We listen attentively with bruised egos and deep humility.

 I don’t know about you, but I want to be among those who lean into the voice of Christ Jesus.

 “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

 “Amen I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise.”

 

 

 

 

Christ the King 2019: Prayers of the Faithful

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Christ the King: Painting by Ronald Raab, CSC 2017

November 24, 2019

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Let us pray that all life will gather in the name of Christ Jesus. May all hatred, violence and uncertainty be gathered into the peace of God’s Kingdom.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray that injustice and insecurity will reveal the love of Christ Jesus. May every nation and land find the riches of faith.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray that gratitude will prevail as we close our liturgical year. May every believer rest in the assurance of God’s Kingdom and may peace flourish in every human heart.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people suffering mental illness and those who live with every bodily addiction and those who wait for genuine faith. May hope be born in every heart.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for the dignity of family life and honesty among those we love. May faith not be just an obligation but be made real for all of our relationships.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our loved ones in God’s Kingdom. May we remember in hope all whom we have loved on earth.

We pray to the Lord.

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe 2019: Bulletin Column and Painting

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“Christ the King” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2018

 

November 25, 2019

Reflection based on today’s gospel, Luke 23:35-43

 

 Soldiers and rulers sneered at you

You heard them in sacred rhyme

 

They yelled at you to save yourself

You felt in your heart the Father’s complex will

 

Filthy guards offered you wine on a sponge

You drank from the depth of human suffering

 

They pounded a sign above you regarding you as king

Your heart pounded for us as your tribe

 

Criminals at your side in the last minute saying to save yourself

You listened as always to the sinner’s mouth

 

Criminals understood your innocence

You lived the will of the Father until death

 

From the beaten-down heart of the criminal flowed a request

You will remember him in your Kingdom

 

From the bloody cross with flesh torn from bone

You promised paradise to the one who repented

 

We gaze upon the throne where blood gushed from your side

And now we drink of the sacrament of your blood

 

We gaze upon the throne and then look to the floor in shame

And now we cannot believe your love is for us

 

We gaze upon the throne knowing your complete sacrifice

And now we are ashamed of our pettiness

 

We gaze upon the throne where your bleeding body was stripped

And now we adore your Body and Blood

 

We gaze upon the throne where thorns tore your head

And now we see you as our King with eternal crown

 

We gaze upon the throne where your dead body hung

And now we know we are your body on earth

 

We gaze upon the throne along with Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows,

And now we stand among those who suffer

 

We gaze upon the throne with spikes in your hands and feet

And now we touch your glorious and redeemed wounds

 

We gaze upon the throne where death is the last word

And now we speak that all suffering is complete in you

 

We gaze upon the throne viewing your closed eyes in death

And now we wait your radiant face in the Heavenly Kingdom

 

 

Peace to you on this great feast of Christ the King,

Fr. Ron