Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time: Luke 18:35-43, Reflection and Art. Healing of the Blind Man.

With my eyes closed before morning prayer in our chapel, I easily name the people gathering without seeing them. From these past few months, I recognize the shuffle of one man approaching his chair and the labored breathing of another. Without sight, I name a man by his walk, his cough, his voice, his cane, and even how he opens his prayer book.

The blind man knew more than people suspected. He felt others within him. He knew them, not be sight, but by their humanity, their love, their fearlessness. The blind man knew Jesus in this way.

He knew Jesus enough to shout out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”

Jesus responded, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man responded, “Please, let me see!”

This holy encounter does not end with the restored sight of a blind man. This encounter continues in our blind hearts and lives. Jesus’ question is for every person.

With our eyes closed in prayer, may we see Jesus within us. May we know him by his gentle mercy upon our lives. May we be awakened to him by his approach to our closed minds, by his smell and his compassion walking to us. May we fully understand his desire to call us out of every blindness of body and soul.

So, what do you want Jesus to do for you this day?

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, November 13, 2022, Prayers of the Faithful, Luke 21:5-19

Sunday November 13, 2022

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

For wise perseverance. May selfishness not rule our thoughts and actions. May apathy not override our talents.

We pray to the Lord.

For families overcome with burden. May we persevere in speaking love when we are bashful of its name.

We pray to the Lord.

For elders in dark loneliness. May we not pull the blinds on people’s talents. May the gifts of each generation shine with hope.

We pray to the Lord.

For people surviving poverty. May the struggling survive on the food of our empathy. May the Eucharist feed perseverance for all people.

We pray to the Lord.

For the exhausted. May we extend beyond cynicism to support the weary, the lost, and the grieving.

We pray to the Lord.

For people stripped of security. May we nail down our support to shelter people when natural disasters strike. May our perseverance shine like the sun.

We pray to the Lord.

For endless prayerfulness. May our grief-stricken hearts center on God’s Kingdom. May our hands forever be folded in faith and our hearts always laid bare.

We pray to the Lord.

For endless prayer for our dead. May souls that struggled on earth now know heaven’s delight. May we pray unceasingly.

We pray to the Lord.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, November 6, 2022, Prayers of the Faithful, Luke 20: 27-38

For the fragile hearts of people who do not feel they belong among those they love. For wives who cry in the night and for children who feel lost in daylight and for husbands who question their decisions in life all day long.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who have lived through the difficult decisions of divorce. For children left in the wake of hurts and arguments. For unconnected families unstable about the future, uncertain about financial survival and distraught about how to love.

We pray to the Lord.

For the quest in our lives to make God first. May we not flatter ourselves about how we pray or the human techniques of accessing divine love. For people who search for something more in their uneasy relationships on earth.

We pray to the Lord.

For our loved ones who have died and their journey to heaven. May the obstacles of earthly relationships open a new door to God’s healing delight for all whom we have loved. May goodness abound in grief, may gentleness lead our hearts in loss.

We pray to the Lord.

For people who cannot bear their bodily pain on earth. May people surviving long-term illness and disease come to know the saving and healing hand of Jesus Christ. May we all learn to surrender to such love on earth.

We pray to the Lord.

For our November memories of our loved ones who have died. For the souls of relatives, strangers, and those who have died quietly on our streets. May every soul rejoice in home with God. May every soul that suffered on earth find peace in heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

All Souls’ Day 2022: Reflection on Matthew 5: 1-12

November carries extra weight this year. It rests heavier in my heart on day two. All Souls’ Day sings a haunting tune. This year, I remember my only brother who died in September. This year, I am still walking away from a parish community where I was at home for nine years. I also lost a job after a week. Now, I wait for something new, still listening to God to lead me beyond loss.

November connects us with our ancestors whom we follow in love. All Souls’ Day invites us to journey deeper into our human connections and not to be afraid of our past or our future. We listen carefully within our heart to find the rhythm and heartbeat of being alive in God.

November reveals the opposite of what we think is true. The Beatitudes call us to live humbly and not to exhort false power over people. Jesus calls us to mourn with faith, that in letting go, all heaven will be ours. Peacemaking will provide rich soil to plant our hearts in communion with other people. The poor in spirit, the meek, and the merciful will overflow with goodness and richness.

November teaches us that the end is the beginning. We learn to let go on earth, so one day we may enter the mystery that is ours in heaven. In the end, all will be healed, forgiven, and embraced. In the end, we shall be fully ourselves, fully aware, fully loving, in the place designated for us in Jesus Christ. This is forever our home.

CLICK here to learn more about All Souls’ Day from Franciscan Media.

Ministry and Liturgy Magazine: “In the name of death”, REBLOG from 2015

My column, “Bridgework” for August, 2015 in Ministry and Liturgy Magazine. I reblog this article to help us prepare for All Saints and All Souls this week.

In the name of death

In my first year as pastor in my present assignment, our parish community celebrated fifty funerals. I remember one funeral where only four people were present and yet the power of our ritual spoke so beautifully even among the empty pews. At another funeral, the sister of the deceased came to the parish carrying the cremated remains of her brother in a cardboard box. I slid my key along the masking tape of the box thinking that there was a container inside holding the ashes. I pried open the cardboard box and discovered the ashes were contained in a clear plastic bag.

At one rather large funeral, a son told the story of his father’s hands tucking him in bed as a child. As an adult, the son held his father’s hand while he was on his deathbed. The years in between the son’s childhood and the father’s death were cold and distant. The unnamed emotions between the child and the father seemed to hover over the congregation that day.

I also celebrated a funeral of a man who shot himself in his home. For many decades he faced the emotional patterns of highs and lows. He tried desperately to hide this pattern from the public. However, the emotional tide of depression overcame him and finally took his life.

People jammed into the church to honor him. Nearly another two hundred people waited outside. I tried my best to name the issues, the darkness he faced and our hope in Christ Jesus for all of us who remain. I kept coming back to the phrase in my own mind that there is no depression in the face of Jesus. The depression was not his fault. The suicide was not his fault. We cannot blame anyone who has a disease that sweeps us off the earth. Staring now into the face of Jesus, there is no depression for this man who left behind his mother, wife and children.

These human stories help form our faith. Each of these funeral liturgies teaches me that this grand mystery of death cannot be denied. Death is real and we must celebrate each person’s death with honesty and integrity. We must have the courage to tell the truth at funerals and share the honest stories at wake services. Death is not hidden among the flower arrangements nor can we pretend it does not exist by ignoring the details of the story so not to embarrass the living.

As so many families drift away from the rituals of the Church, the name “death” is also getting a facelift. People prefer to ignore the name of death altogether. “A celebration of life” has replaced the funeral. Funeral homes have removed the name, “chapel” from their signage. These interior spaces are just called “gathering” rooms. So many families just do not want anything that names the reality of death or the traditional rituals that surround the end of life.

The Solemnity of All Saints and The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed or All Souls becomes an opportunity to help form our parish communities to face death. As Christians, we believe that death leads us to the face of God. We are called to acknowledge the truth of death because it leads to our eternal home. Those who believed in God on earth now teach us how to live in our passing world in faith and even joy. Our saints of the past are key to helping people in our communities tell the truth about death. These liturgies help us all believe that our loved ones are still in communion with us even in eternal life.

As parish leaders and liturgists, we are challenged to bring the reality of death back into the experience of our worshipping communities. We can welcome our parishioners to parish funerals, using our Facebook page, websites or other forms of social media and invite families to pray for the deceased during family dinners and other times of prayer. We are called to welcome families of the deceased even if they do not belong to the parish. We need to break down the notion that funerals are private events in our churches.

Isolating the community from our celebrations of death is never healthy for our children and families. Celebrating a funeral is an opportunity to involve our children in creating notes or cards of sympathy for bereaved families. Prayer becomes the opportunity for each member of the parish to connect with the reality of death. If we do not bring our communities into the reality of death, our denial becomes more devastating to families and communities than death itself.

The beauty of all fifty funerals we celebrated in my first year at the parish is that each human story of death teaches me how to live. I surrender each day to the reality of life instead of focusing on how I think life should be. Death helps me believe that grace guides each human life here on earth and I am filled with gratitude. The real name of death lives in our lives as believers in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C: Reflection on Luke 19:1-10

Sunday October 30, 2022

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zacchaeus was small in stature and short-sighted in his wealth. He realized his puny perspective on life in his career as a tax collector. He felt a new flirtation in his heart, a desire to see Jesus.

In his resourcefulness, he climbed a tree. He eavesdropped on Jesus. He straddled the limb. He camouflaged from Jesus, the crowd, and himself.

Instead, Jesus’ eyes rested upon him. The branches could not hide the encounter. His past did not distort Jesus’ view of him. Jesus desired to go to his house.

The public grumbled. Zacchaeus’ heart sang. He was overcome by Jesus’ desire to enter his home and his heart. He desired to expand his wealth by giving it away. His restitution made him tall and free.

Jesus isn’t finished with us. He sees us no matter from where we hide. Jesus invites us to dinner. He desires us. He wants us to expand our hearts, not only in what we own, no matter the things that burden us. Jesus desires us, to encounter us.

The tree of our freedom is his cross. He is our only hope this day and tomorrow. Jesus seeks us and saves what is lost.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Luke 18:9-14, Reflection, Art, Tax Collector

CLICK HERE to read the Sunday Scriptures

Based on Luke 18:9-14: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

I wait for you. Sometimes, I approach you weighed down, carrying inner burdens, like rocks in my pocket. Sometimes, my head is bowed not because I can’t emotionally face you, but because I can’t face myself. Pride comes heavy in me.

I fill myself with myself. Looking good is my measure. I stand apart from others. I block my own vision. I speak only ill of them. Others’ dishonesty, greed, adultery make me look good. I am in reality bowed down by such ills.

Humility must become food. I do not know my left from my right. I look back pulling a thread of despair. I look ahead with eyes foggy with only myself. Humility nourishes me when nothing else shows me how to live. Look me in the eyes. Humility is on my plate.

O God, in your mercy, receive my sinfulness and my confusion about what has been and what will be. I see myself more clearly in your loving light. Remove the stones of my ills, my temper, my inability to face the truth. Empty my heart and my pockets.  In your mercy, help me lift my head to see your loving face.

Amen

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2022, Luke 18:1-8 Cycle C, Reflection

Read today’s scriptures here.

Pray always. Without drowsiness or questions. Weary not. A poor widow lifts her prayer from the dust. From emptiness she knows how to depend on God.

She wept on the privileged ground of the judge. She pierced his bloated conscience. Her truth crushed his unwillingness to listen to her.

Prayer without ceasing finds God. God’s chosen rise from poverty. Their fame rises from dry mouth and grit under their nails. Justice is born from her tears in darkness and authentic cries in daylight.

Pray always. The widow knows and teaches. She is still nameless. Her identity speaks volumes to us.  We are filled up. We know our blistered egos. We must empty if we are to pray. Faith on the earth will fill the ears of the Son of Man. Hope will win in our day. Our persistent prayers fall into the lap of God who lifts us from the ground of our dusty despair. Faith on earth will flourish in red delight.

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Reflection on Luke 17:11-19

Sunday October 9, 2022

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 17:11-19

Leprous skin was untouchable. The wounds contagious and visible. The person invisible and isolated. The skin wounds became soul deep. The person became the disease.

Jesus touches the leper. He steps into the isolation. He heals the soul’s wounds. Jesus touches the person with love that unites and heals.

Gratitude healed the leper. Gratefulness on his lip’s changed his life and healed the wounds of his soul. Gratitude brought the leper back into communion with family and community. Gratefulness birth’s faith, hope and love.

Jesus teaches us that only he can touch what is untouchable within us. His grace is more than skin deep. He challenges us to be grateful every day. We come to him wounded and he sends us forth living in the mystery of gratefulness and faith.

“Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”