First Sunday of Advent: Cover art and column

Dec. 3, 2017 Bulletin Cover

“Waiting for the Light” Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Messiah,

Why does Advent begin with such a challenging call from Mark’s gospel, “Be watchful! Be Alert!” We begin with a call to cultivate a deep desire for God. This desire today will help us celebrate Christmas, the Incarnation of God. This desire for God is richly traditional and ever new.

Take a look around our world today. We face so many issues that divide us, both within the Church and in the world around us. We discover our call and challenge to watch and wake up from the very issues that need our attention. God calls us into union and communion. This means that nothing within our lives is separate from God. God wants us to raise a fuss about how we live with disunity and hardness of heart.

We take seriously the value of all human life because God surrendered to us. Jesus was born in humbleness and insecurity. Image that. The All-Knowing, All-Powerful God, the God of All the Universe, broke open the heavens to manifest love upon the earth, being born along the margins of his culture. It is our challenge then to make sure we support the dignity of all human beings no matter their culture, where they have immigrated from or what language their children speak. We support with the basics of life, food, shelter, love and mercy, because those are the very things that Jesus did not have when he came among us!

In the sacred liturgy, we start the story of Jesus all over again. This means we start with the longing of the people of Israel for the Messiah. We start with the longing of our own hearts. Let me say that there are three aspects of this longing. We place ourselves in the PAST because of the history of salvation, being united with the longing of our ancestors. We also long for the FUTURE because we await the final return of Jesus Christ in the end of time. We also long for the PRESENT moment in which God changes our hearts and the hearts of the people of the world. This last longing or waiting for God is the most difficult. It is not easy for us to take a step back from our prejudice, our political views and our obsessive nature about always being correct, and confront the reality of our humble nature and to place our lives in God alone. This is the role of our individual prayer and our communal prayer. Our lives are waiting and longing for the Mystery of God manifest in our decisions, choices and family lives.

We need to be a watchful people. That means we need to have one eye on the world’s poverty, injustice and dissatisfaction, turmoil and hopelessness and one eye open waiting for God to come to us and change our hearts and satisfy our needs. Advent begins the deep longing within our hearts for the conversion of our lives and of the Church. Advent does not begin with just sentiment and nostalgia, but a new awareness of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Blessings in these Advent days,

Fr. Ron

A Question based on today’s gospel from Christ, Our King: “Am I expecting too much?”

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“Christ the King” A drip painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2017

A poem as question from Christ the King: “Am I expecting too much?”

Am I expecting too much that you would step into the unknown and search for me not in palaces and places of your own building up but in the way I call you into letting go and go down into a place where you can finally see other people for who they truly are across tables sharing watery oatmeal and old coffee or even at a countertop where you speak on the phone to another human being behind glass where he is wearing orange or even a place where a stranger who has crossed a desert of chemotherapy or on the hard soil of grief from the tragedy of losing a daughter who was traveling home for the holidays in a car wreck whose mouth is so dry that words of thanks can hardly make it through his parched lips but just needs a glass of water from you because there is so much standing in the way but if you listen really closely words will flow from the bottom of the glass and connect you in ways you can’t even imagine because love is a lot like water it can flow from your heart if you just share it and others will drink it up or perhaps if you share your winter coat with a mother who survived the shelter three months after the flood and she is finally going home and has spent her money on clothing for her children but she is cold not because her children do not love and respect her after her husband ran off with someone else but because she is just too loving to use the money to put a coat over her own broad and daring shoulders or perhaps can you offer your heart into the real place of hospitality and welcome to the foster family down the block where you have heard but never have experienced that the reason the children were there in the first place was because their birth parents were heroin addicts and the mother was only fifteen because she left her parents when she was just reaching puberty because she was abused and pushed into a closet with no door knob on the inside accept that she finally reached out one day to someone who came to the door of the house and who reached out to her like a new handle of hope and so you must know that there are stories behind the stories and more stories and your hospitality can create a new story if somehow you let go of your pride and ambition and there will be sheep and goats in the end but the one thing that will last is the love I have for you all so don’t be surprised that the least among you just might teach you that I am truly the Christ and that all things will be one in me when finally I take your breath away and in the end I will be your King and master of love for all your hardness and discouragement and even your joy and hope will live and that you will finally find a home in me and that maybe all the things I promise you in the end you will finally understand that the end begins today?

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Art and Column.

Nov. 26 Bulletin Cover

“Christ the King” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2017

Dear Followers of Christ the King,

Today marks the conclusion of our liturgical year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. This feast draws us into the reality that all things will be one in Christ Jesus in the end. All things will be in Christ Jesus. All things, including violence and racism, including doubt and hopelessness, including greed and substance abuse will all be healed and loved in Christ the King.

The Solemnity of Christ the King means a great deal to me. I cling to the notion that all things will be healed, loved and forgiven in the end. As a priest and pastoral minister, I hold on to this for dear life. The gospel today helps us understand the real meaning of the Solemnity.

Matthew 25:31-46 is one of the most important salvation texts in the gospels. Our salvation rests in giving a thirsty person a drink and a naked man some clothing. Our hope for heaven means that we visited the prisoner and cared for people who are ill. Being at the right hand of the Father begins with us on earth claiming our responsibility for feeding people food and sitting with strangers with an attentive ear and a heart full of hope.

If you read only one gospel text this year, read this one at its conclusion. Our salvation begins with us doing simple things for others. Salvation is not passing an exam on the Catechism or based on attendance records from Mass. Even confession is not on this list to get into heaven.

What is on the list to enter salvation is that we care for people. What a surprise. Salvation is not only a personal experience but also a communal reality. We find our way to Jesus’ face because we showed up to the real human faces of people in need. We showed up to help others without judgment, condemnation or ridicule. We showed up to relieve people of their burdens because we are already one in Christ Jesus.

So as we end our liturgical year and begin a new year next week on the First Sunday of Advent, let’s remind ourselves that salvation rests on our conscience to befriend the least among us, not the powerful and the glitzy, but the worn out, the tired and the smelly. Salvation comes in ways in which we least expect. Tell everyone you know that all will be well in Christ Jesus, King of the Universe.

Some thoughts for the week:

Take some time and reflect on what it means for Christ to come in glory…

Reflect on what it means to see Jesus Christ in the fragile and ill…

Talk with your family about the fact that salvation comes from befriending the marginalized…

Pray for the broken, lost and uncertain as we celebrate Christ the King…

Find your way to the face of Jesus, the King of the Universe in your prayer this week…

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

On the Margins: Matthew 25: 31-46

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Sunday November 26, 2017

LISTEN NOW: CLICK HERE

Gospel MT 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

One Billion Stories: “Made With My Own Bare Hands”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO

Geoffrey and Anna Keating are parishioners at Sacred Heart. Geoffrey is building our new pews, altar furnishings, outside doors and more. His story is compelling, having given up an academic career to work with his hands. Anna is a writer and her words about beauty and art inspire me. I hope you will view this five minute video and enjoy the story of Anna and Geoffrey Keating.

When the Sun Shines on the Crystal Again

We remember our dead in the month of November. Twenty-five years ago today, my mentor died whom I mention in this article from 2008. 

Originally published in Ministry and Liturgy Magazine, September 2008

The autumn sun burns most deeply into my room. Every year the hours of daylight shorten but the rays of sunlight lengthen to stretch beyond the windowsill to the crystal vase on my bookshelf. My mother passed down the crystal heirloom to me when my grandmother died. The first arms of this light bring back fond memories of my grandmother and now my parents as well. I see my past more clearly every year when the crystal seduces the sun.

The soft light so often surprises me because I always forget it will appear again.  When I finally settle into the memories, the late autumn light also brings the darkness of my loneliness and the reminder of the rapid pace of my adult life.

I first noticed the friendship of the sun and the crystal when my spiritual mentor, Richard, told me he had AIDS. He sat at the piano bathed in this light and for the first time could not play Mozart because of his dizziness. This light cracked open a new experience for me of delicate conversations with a dear friend who was dismantling his relationships, discovering a soulful and physical dying. The devastating news wore in me a new place of vulnerability and fear.

A year after sitting at the silent piano, he died. I preached his funeral in autumn after sunset. The roles of friendship reversed that final year. I mentored Richard through extreme physical suffering and letting go of all life. Now every year, I begin to fear the earthly change of cold air, shorter days, and the autumn memories of all the dead. I frolic in reminiscences like a lost child in a pile of fallen leaves. I feel the cold regrets and pray through the emptiness.

This autumn ritual catches me off guard. Yet, my body senses every year the deep experiences of all the loss in my life. No one autumn contains all my fear. No one crystal vase receives every regret or memory. Grief lives within the confines of our earthly life forever. The human heart calls for this flow of ritual, the current of memories, and the natural course of sorrow to find healing.

Every parish community in autumn must prepare people to feel their grief and connect their memories to faith. There is no way around death. We must find new ways to ritualize what is most common, the fear of loss. We must sort out ways to help people ritualize within in their own families and circles of friends the grief that keeps us numb to new ways of relating to people.

Death keeps every community honest. However, we must risk telling the truth about life. Naming real issues and celebrating loss breaks through much of the narcissism and pretense that strangles most communities of faith. This truth cuts into our natural instincts of thinking that money, power, education and fear create community.

These are the days to create this awareness of loss. Gather grief counselors, professional spiritual directors and liturgists from your assembly to facilitate discussions for parish staffs and liturgy committees on death and grieving. When we build a network of openness and honesty about what is most important, a new vital energy emerges to help people deal with sudden grief, sustained depression and the release of anger.

Create forums where the Gospels ignite genuine discussions in preparation for homilies during the months ending the liturgical year. Connect elderly people in the parish and school parents by creating opportunities to pray in silence for the dead. Instruct school age children to write follow-up letters to grieving families a month after losing a loved one in death. Suggest that volunteering among the poor is a way for every family member to memorialize a loved one. Create an opportunity in the church lobby for parishioners to write down not only names of the dead but how they grieve them at home and with family members. Organize discussions and name rituals for home reminders that grief needs to be ritualized within everyday experiences.

Ritualizing our grief comes in the everyday awareness of living life. Members of our communities need the assurance that they are not alone in the simple ways grief becomes articulated and lived. We need to live an honest life to lovingly grieve other people’s death. I wait for this autumn, when I will be reminded of those I love in death, when the sun shines on the crystal again.

Saint Andre of Montreal and Blessed Solanus of Detroit, Pray for us!

Yesterday, November 18, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan, a humble Capuchin priest, Solanus Casey was Beatified in the Roman Catholic Church. His very humble ministry, faith and presence resembles our very own Saint Andre Bessette, CSC from Montreal.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, CSB, of Salt and Light media in Canada, writes about both men today on his blog. I ask all of you to pray for the intercession of both men on this World Day of the Poor, initiated by Pope Francis. We are all called into such service, love and tenderness with our brothers and sisters.

CLICK HERE: Opening the Doors of Tenderness: The Lessons of Solanus and Andre

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Blessed Solanus Casey of Detroit

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Saint Andre Bessette of Montreal 

Click here: To learn more about the World Day of Pray for the Poor

 

On the Margins: Matthew 25: 14-30

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 19, 2017

LISTEN NOW: CLICK HERE

Gospel MT 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: My Cover Art and Column

Nov. 19th Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in Jesus, the Master,

Today’s gospel, Matthew 25:14-30, invites us to be caretakers of faith and of the world. We hold within our hearts the love of God that is entrusted to us. We are responsible to be grateful and good caretakers of our earth, our resources, our relationships and the dignity of each and every human being. We seek the words of the master, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The word, “Eucharist,” means “Thanksgiving.” Our gratitude and thankfulness becomes a rich and rewarding prayer each week at Mass. As we reflect on the gift of how God entrusts life to us, we enter into the mystery of becoming a grateful people.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving as a nation. This is not just a holiday for us as Christians; this is a way of life. To act with gratitude and gratefulness is an essential action of each and every follower of Jesus.

This has been an overwhelming year for many people in our country with multiple hurricanes, mass shootings, numerous floods, out of control fires, children shooting children and civil unrest on many levels. Yet, in the midst of such chaos, we are challenged to be open to God’s love and care and to find within our hearts a moment of gratitude and thanksgiving. Our prayer of gratitude must begin within our own lives.

Thanksgiving is not just sharing a turkey sandwich but an act of consciousness toward God and one another and our selves. Thanksgiving helps us realize that we do not live on our own; we do not act single heartedly. We are not self-reliant. Our lives are interdependent on the gifts, talents and actions of all people. To become a people of gratitude means that we realize that the collective wisdom of our nation must include the care for all people including the poor, the immigrant, women, people of various ethnic backgrounds and religions, and people who are much different from our selves.

Thanksgiving for us as a nation means that we celebrate diversity and all people in the love of God. I want to thank all of you who worship in our three churches, who behold the mystery of God in your own lives. This year, I am especially grateful for all the people who are making the renovations at Sacred Heart possible. Thank you for your financial resources, your energy and interests and your concerns for our future.

I am also grateful for the ways folks in our three communities offer their resources to serve people in need, for all the second collections, the preparing of food for our Lord’s Dinner and the stocking of our Food Pantry to feed hundreds of people in our area. For all the ways in which you put love into action, I am deeply grateful.

Thank you all for your faith and living that faith in real life.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron