Wednesday of Holy Week 2018: Carrying Within, the Dark and Light

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“Heart of Hope” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

Wednesday of Holy Week 2018: Carrying Within, the Dark and Light

Today’s gospel, Matthew 26:14-25, reveals much of our human condition. Judas betrays Jesus with a few silver coins. This betrayal brings Jesus closer to his cross and death. This moment for Judas is raw and exposing, even carving him a place in history with this one act toward his friend Jesus.

In our human condition, sin settles into us with a sure fit. We stumble over ourselves with words of hurt toward other people and viewing others only in light of blame and jealously. Even our betrayal of love and connection becomes a story that we tell ourselves over the real story of how love itself brings us to friendship and harmony. So often in our lives hatred and bitterness are the things we remember and hold on to rather than the real connections of love, hope and fidelity.

Our sin against others is real. Yet, the real story of Jesus’ involvement with our hearts is that we also make a home for his love to settle into our hearts. How easy it is for us to forget this truth. Love changes us only when we invite Jesus into our lives to change the stories we tell ourselves about our darkness and lies.

As we move toward the Triduum, we bring with us the stories of our lives into the great story of Jesus’ passion and death, his resurrection. We bring everything to him, leaving nothing astray. We offer the darkness within our hearts, the stories we carry of our loneliness and pain. We offer again to him, the times we have severed such love because of our ego, our sin, our heartaches, our loneliness and especially our fear.

Jesus heals every aspect of our lives, every single aspect. All we need is to cooperate with his fidelity toward us. He will melt away all the betrayal within our hearts, all the hopelessness we carry about the future, all the pain that colors our hearts dark and dreary.

Jesus becomes for us the full measure of reconciliation in the Easter event.

 

Questions to consider:

How have you severed relationships that used to provide life and hope for you?

Have you betrayed people in the past?

How have others betrayed you?

Are you willing to change your story about these friendships today?

Can you bring healing to them with Jesus’ help?

What is the sin that you hold on to in your life?

Can you allow Jesus’ forgiveness to become greater than your sin?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday of Holy Week 2018: Carrying Within, the Dark and Light

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“Heart of Hope” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

 

Tuesday of Holy Week 2018: Carrying Within, the Dark and Light

In today’s gospel, John 13: 21-33: 36-38, we listen to Jesus tell his disciples that Judas will betray him and Peter will deny him. Also in the scene John, the Beloved Disciple, rests his head on Jesus’ chest during the meal.

We all hold within our human hearts the duality of betrayal and love. We experience both with people we love. We have betrayed our loved ones. We have experienced such betrayal from someone we love. Our hearts have an amazing capacity to love and hate.

In this Holy Week, we all are invited to examine our human hearts to sift through the sin, the doubt, the denial, the rage, the anger, the injustice as well as our ability to love. Holy Week invites us into the truth, the truth that we may not always want to admit.

As we ponder the gift of the gospel today, I invite you to consider your divided heart as a place of radical love and unbelievable denial. We all hold this tension of being human. In this place, God beckons us into new and amazing life. The great healer of our souls waits for us with abundant grace and mercy.

Many people wish to cover up such divisions. We hold tightly to the rigidity of our denial and never want to admit that our hearts have the capacity to hold such turmoil. We tend to justify our negative thoughts against a thoughtless boss. We hold revenge toward to a spouse or an adult child. We may think that a negative choice of a child reflects on our lives and we hold anger. Jesus invites us to explore what we carry within, the dark and the light.

Today, this day within Holy Week is worth the effort and time to examine the multiple layers of our attitudes, our approaches to others, and our verbal blame to others, our misfortunes, and our inability to accept responsibility for our actions. Our hearts are restless in this week until we realize that only Jesus offers us the truth, wisdom and love that we are looking for in our lives.

Questions to consider:

How have you betrayed people you love?

How have others betrayed you?

Are you willing to find forgiveness within your own heart?

What relationships or images within today’s gospel speak to you?

For what denials in your life do you need Jesus’ forgiveness?

How can you hold within your heart the tension of love and denial?

How does Jesus begin to set you free from such tensions and insecurities?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday of Holy Week: Carrying Within, the Dark and Light

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“Heart of Hope” Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

Monday of Holy Week 2018: Carrying Within, the Dark and Light

 John 12:1-11 offers us a scene of surrender and tenderness as Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard. Mary dries his feet with her hair.

This image is so multi-layered with meaning. Judas, who will betray Jesus, baulks at such an action because Judas surrenders to money and greed and not to the person of Jesus. Money wins for him. Jesus says that her action of anointing is leading us all to his burial. This image also leads us to Jesus’ action of washing feet on the night before he died.

This action of Mary, the tenderness of anointing feet with expensive oil, is ultimately a gift of sheer surrender to the gift of who Jesus is not only for her but also for us all these centuries later. She shows us how to surrender our lives to such a mystery, how to allow love to show us the way to Jesus. Mary helps us know whom Jesus is and how to give our lives to his passion, death and resurrection.

Surrendering to Jesus is a life-long journey. We so prefer to live feeling we are in complete control of our lives, to know that our answers are correct, our lives are safe and that we live knowing we are at the center of the world. Surrendering to the mystery of faith invites us into a life of deep prayer, of profound letting go of the image of ourselves we cling to. Surrendering to God, to the mystery of love, offers us a home in the mercy and love only God has for us.

Many people in recovery from any addiction understand this surrender. Entering into powerlessness is very countercultural. We are educated to live enclosed within our own egos, our own interpretation of life and to live under the false power of our own self-sufficiency. To live a genuine life of service, of love of neighbor and learning to walk in the shoes of people who suffer requires of us surrender to the love and life God has for us. Surrender to God invites us into unity and not separation, to love not hate, to communion and not self-sufficiency.

This gospel story invites us into the story of real love in this Holy Week. Mary’s action helps us know that we are on the journey to offering our complete lives to Christ Jesus. This story of Jesus is not a story that is separate from our own lives. We must live the same surrender that Jesus lived out in the core of our faith, dying to our selves and living in the bountiful grace and beauty of Jesus’ redeeming love.

Questions to consider:

What does surrender to God mean to you?

How have you experienced such a mystery in your prayer and life?

What do you resist in this Holy Week? What are you being asked to let go of?

Who is Jesus for you?

The first reading today challenges us to realize God liberates us from the slavery of our selves. How do you pray with this text today? How can you realize who this God is for you and in the liberation of your own heart?

Isaiah says:

I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

 

 

 

Holy Week 2018: Carrying Within, the Dark and Light

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“The Heart of Hope” Painting: Ronald Patrick Raab, CSC

Holy Week 2018: Carrying within, the dark and light

 

Palm Sunday: The Passion Narrative, Mark 14:1-15:47.

 The human heart carries passion and integrity. It is also a stalwart of violence and hatred. We carry within our lives, especially our hearts, the vitality of faith and the assurance of Christ’s presence to change the world. Our hearts within Holy Week carry the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

Faith cannot be contained in the intellect alone. Faith, the surety of conversion and love, rests in the human heart. We cannot love without our heartfelt experiences, our emotions and feelings. We cannot listen to the gospel within Holy Week and rest in its full meaning without feeling in our own bodies the betrayal and the hope of the people within the story.

We carry within our bodies our betrayal of Jesus.

Reading the passion narrative of Mark, we realize that those followers of Jesus who loved him also betrayed him. It is as if our human natures hold in tension such mysteries. We love and we betray. Peter denied Jesus. Judas betrayed him. The other disciples left him alone in the end. Unfortunately, our path to faith holds these two dimensions in tension. We love God and betray God all in one breath.

We betray God when we do not seek the value and dignity of our brothers and sisters, when our pride seems greater than offering concern to other people. When we are faced with people who have less than we do, they seem to be a threat to us because we fear the same loss. Sometimes our fear overreaches our love.

This weekend we witness across the country our young people speaking out from their experiences of gun violence, mental illness and hatred. We listen to this generation whose greatest fear is being shot in school. We listen to the fear within our own bodies that causes us to separate people, the good and the bad, those on one side and those on the other. We listen to people who challenge our rights and struggle to get our attention about real human concern. We listen to how we have betrayed our young people for we carry such enormous emotion within our lives from their fear and death. We listen to understand, to not only our own bodies and fearful hearts but to a new generation of people who are living with such violence. We lift up this new generation into the mystery of the cross of Jesus. We are challenged to feel the pain of the world beginning with our own children.

We carry within our bodies the hope that will set us free.

The reason we enter into Holy Week one more time is that our suffering will also come to new life in faith. I must believe this. I hold on to such a notion for the sake of our brothers and sisters who live in great need and pain and conflict.

Faith is far more than an intellectual pursuit. Faith challenges us to become converted in love that is inclusive, forgiving and merciful. We are called to become what we believe, the living mystery of Jesus no matter how difficult life can become.

We all long for such freedom, both earthly and eternal. The path to the cross opens us up to feel how Jesus sacrificed for our lives. This week we shall sit with our internal pain, our fragile and broken hearts and discover something more than our own lives. Hope must come from within. No other people can offer us such a beautiful and life giving experience. We cannot purchase hope or ask for a cup of hope from a neighbor. We are called this week to sit with Christ Jesus and listen attentively to his death and his resurrection to find a deep and vital hope within our own bodies for the welfare of our world.

Questions to consider:

How do you experience this Passion Narrative within your own life?

After reading this gospel, what rises up within your heart? What phrase captures your imagination?

How does your heart respond to such a story? What is Jesus asking of you as we enter into Holy Week?

To what does your heart cling in this gospel or within this Holy Week?

How do you feel betrayal and hope within your heart and life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday: Bulletin art and column

March 25, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus Christ,

Welcome to Holy Week, the essential celebrations of our liturgical year. In these liturgies, we pray the journey of the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I explain here the images from my cover of today’s bulletin:

Coins: Judas betrayed Jesus with a few coins. Judas was persuaded to hand over Jesus to the authorities. These coins become an image of our own betrayal as well. They signify how we live unable to surrender to Christ. Our pride, self-sufficiency and our lack of integrity are at the core of our Holy Week journey. We are led beyond ourselves this week. These coins also represent our almsgiving during this Lenten season. Our Rice Bowls are donated on Holy Thursday during the Mass.

Holy Oils: The Chrism Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday of Holy Week at the Cathedral. Bishop Sheridan and all of the clergy will bless the oils. The oils are essential for the mission of the Church. The Sacred Chrism (SC) is used for adults and children who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil and all through the year. Chrism is also used for the sacrament of Confirmation and Holy Orders. The aroma of chrism will linger long into the year. The Oil of Catechumens (OS) is used for those who will be joining our Church. The Oil of the Sick (OI) is used for the healing of the sick and to prepare the ill for their home in heaven.

The Holy Cross: Christ Jesus sacrificed his very life. His death opens our lives to the Kingdom of Heaven. All suffering is lifted up in Christ. We also kiss the wood of salvation on Good Friday, the path to love and mercy, to forgiveness and ultimate peace. The cross is our only hope as seen in the sunrise behind the cross as we all wait for eternal life.

The Key: This week is the key to faith, to Jesus’ life within the Universal Church and each of us. This key also represents the key to Sacred Heart Church as our long awaited journey of restoration will come to its completion in the Easter Season.

The Body and Blood of Christ and the Heart of Christ: The Eucharist was given to the disciples on Holy Thursday. Every time we offer such a miracle, we remember Jesus. His life and Real Presence remains among us. His heart bears our pain. We humbly approach the Eucharist with sincere longing and faith. Jesus feeds us to sustain the mission of faith and the Church.

The Word of God: The gospel is true food for us. When the gospel is proclaimed, the grace of God opens our hearts to hear the vital story of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. The gospel was written after the Resurrection of Jesus and is still being written from our own faith in the world today.

The Pitcher and Bowl: On Holy Thursday, the Church washes feet. This is not just a reenactment of the gospel, but a sure call for each of us to live the gospel of mercy in all we do and all we hope to become. We learn to serve others from this Holy Week. We learn to bend down to touch the suffering of all people and to serve well beyond our expertise, well beyond our selfishness and pride.

The Palms: We begin Holy Week blessing palms and proclaiming the Passion of Jesus Christ. These palms invite us into real praise and thanksgiving in Christ Jesus leading us to Christ’s Resurrection.

Blessings in this Holy Week,

Fr. Ron

On the Margins: John 12: 20-33 (Last Episode)

My dear believers in the Christ,

This is my last episode of On the Margins. Now in my thirteenth year with Mater Dei Radio, I am retiring this program. I am deeply grateful for Dina Marie Hale who invited me to reflect on the gospels of Advent in 2005. Those four weeks led into these years of radio ministry. I am also grateful for your emails, letters and comments over the years. Blessings to you all.

“Please know of my prayer for you until next time we meet On the Margins.”

Fr. Ron Raab, CSC

 

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

 

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Fifth Sunday of Lent: March 18, 2018

Gospel

JN 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered and said,
“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself.”
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

The Fifth Sunday of Lent: My cover art and column

March 18, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Image of Saint Joseph: Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC  Originally published in AIM Magazine from World Library, Chicago, Illinois, Spring 2018

 

 

Dear Believers in Christ Jesus,

In today’s gospel, John 12:20-33, some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” This searching for Jesus caught my attention in this passage. During this Lenten season, our souls also long to see Jesus. We are all caught up in the search through our prayer, our fasting, and our alms giving.

I invite you to rest in the phrase, “We would like to see Jesus.” This request is not just a pious inquiry but a deep longing to be free of the sin, self-centeredness, and darkness of our own journey. To set our eyes on the Beloved, to search diligently for the face of the Christ, is to find for our own lives the mercy, hope and satisfaction we all long for on this side of the grave.

The gospel then challenges us to explore how to search for Jesus. We must learn from a grain of wheat. If we let go our burdens, our securities and surrender to God, we shall learn to live in great abundance. Jesus’ love is not skimpy or shallow. It is not for a precious few or timid about who can receive such compassion. We are the ones who lose sight of our desires to discover a life worth living, to discover a hope that is well beyond our own imagining. In these Lenten days, our sight is on the person of Christ. When shall you see Jesus?

We shall see Jesus…

…when we finally have the courage to speak from our hearts in prayer.

…when we learn we cannot control life or satisfy our own needs.

…when we quiet our inner life and offer our heartache to him.

…when we die like a grain of wheat and believe we shall grow in love.

…when Lent becomes an inner search for integrity and peace

…when we live His pattern of dying to self and rising in Him.

…when we admit our failures and entrust our life to God.

…when hope is not a theory but also a lived prayer in our daily lives. …

…when we have the courage to listen and not just utter formulas for prayer.

…when we reach out into the suffering of other people.

…when our hearts are broken open because of the misery of others. …

…when we come to the conclusion that we are all one in Christ.

…when we worship in community and not just pray for our own lives.

…when we die to our selfishness and learn to grow in unity and compassion.

…when tenderness replaces hatred.

…when the beauty of life draws us into the Divine.

…when His courage within us compels us to live our truth. …

…when we encounter the face of the stranger, the refugee and the child in faith.

Peace in this Lenten journey,

Fr. Ron

Retreat Week: A poem and pictures from Holy Cross House

I preached a Lenten retreat at Holy Cross House last week. Three of my former pastors now live in our health care facility. Here are pictures of two of them, Fr. Bill and Fr. Clem. Also, below is a poem from my experiences last week. 

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Fr. Bill Neidhart, CSC and I served at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Burbank, California

 

 

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Fr. LeRoy Clementich, CSC and I served at Sacred Heart Church (Tri-Community) in 1984.

 

Retreat Week

 A tiny American tree sparrow outside my window

Perched in a thick shrub

Protected its wings from the heavy snow

During the wintry week

 

On the inside of Holy Cross House

The elderly men in wheelchairs or leaning on canes

Built a fort of hope

Struggled to pray with stiff fingers

 

We endeared ourselves to the Cross of Jesus

Postponing despair for another day

 

We prayed into Mary’s sorrows from our earthly experience

Whittling new insights from strokes or bitterness

 

We told family stories and laughed at jokes one more time

Opening up a memory album

Even celebrating our first saint

Andre Bessette

Meeting him at the door of our fragile hearts

Where healing miracles still live

 

We built a fire on the altar where bread and wine

Sparked the Real Presence of Jesus and

The priests held up their hands to warm themselves

 

Against the clipped-wing regrets–

Moving into this common home

From various countries

 

In these wintery and blustery days

Just before an eternal spring

 

 

– Ronald Raab, CSC

 

 

 

 

On the Margins: John 3:14-21

Fr_Ron_and_KBVM_reading[1]

On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2018

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Gospel  JN 3:14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

 

The Fourth Sunday of Lent: My bulletin cover art and column

March 11, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC 2018

 

Dear Believers in the Christ,

In today’s gospel, John 3:14-21, “Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

This passage invites us more deeply into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. In these Lenten days, we explore the meaning of Jesus’ cross within our own lives. We learn to surrender our sin to the Father; we learn that our redemption lies in the merciful presence of Jesus who was lifted high on the cross so that we may live more fully in God’s Kingdom.

We live the cross every day. Through our body pain, our divorces, our job loss, our depression, our fear, and our efforts that seldom are recognized, we lift up our human nature to be transformed and redeemed in faith. Here we find the gift of surrender, the path to Jesus’ love and mercy. Living such faith is hard to come by because we seldom want to give up our opinions about what we think is correct. We seldom want to find our path toward humility. We are trained to always have the answers and to be on the defensive among the problems of the world.

Faith calls us into something more. Faith in Jesus Christ allows us to live in the heartfelt, merciful presence of love. Discovering this life is at arms length for most of us. Living the mission of the cross means that we discard our protective layer of hardness, superiority and our human authority, and surrender to the presence of Jesus. People who struggle from any addiction understand that their lives need God. People who have faced tragedy and loss know the emptiness only God can fill. People who have battled disease understand the meaning of the cross.

The religious community to which I belong, the Congregation of Holy Cross, views the cross at the center of our lives. In the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the guiding documents of our religious life, we read:

114. Jesus entered into the pain and death that sin inflicts. He accepted the torment but gave us joy in return. We whom He has sent to minister amid the same sin and pain must know that we too shall find the cross and the hope it promises. The face of every human being who suffers is for us the face of Jesus who mounted the cross to take the sting out of death. Ours must be the same cross and the same hope.

115. To struggle for justice and meet only stubbornness, to try to rally those who have despaired, to stand by the side of misery we cannot relieve, to preach the Lord to those who have little faith or do not wish to hear of him … our ministry will hint to us of Jesus’ suffering for us.

Blessings to you on the journey,

Fr. Ron