Fragments from the Word: First Sunday of Advent 2018 (audio reflection on Luke’s gospel)

Last Easter, my radio show came to a conclusion. Now, I want to occasionally offer an audio reflection called, “Fragments from the Word”. This is a title that I used several years ago. This three-minute reflection invites us into the message of the Sunday gospel or some phrase or passage of the liturgy. Today’s reflection is from Luke’s gospel. Hope you enjoy.

 

Fragments from the Word: Click here for an audio reflection for the First Sunday of Advent.

Gospel LK 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

 

 

First Sunday of Advent: My cover art and column for December 2, 2018

FULL bulletin here

Dec. 2, 2018 Bulletin Cover

 

Dear Believers in the Messiah,

Advent stirs up our desire for God. Advent does not begin with sentimental notions of chocolate covered Christianity or gingerbread prayers. Notice that our Sunday gospels would not make the cut for glittered greeting cards or catchy holiday songs. These gospels are hardly romantic. Instead, Advent compels our wakefulness to a world that is hurting and in need of love, tenderness and redemption. Advent becomes a profound and deep hope that everything in our world will be brought back to what is good, caring and wise. Advent is meant to get us on our feet and keep us moving until every aspect of our human condition is made whole.

We begin the Christian story all over again in this First Sunday of Advent. We wait for the coming of the Messiah. We long for a worldview that cultivates hopefulness for people on earth. Amazingly, the gospel in this New Year of Grace does not start off with a quaint or sentimental notion of Christmas. In fact, it is just the opposite.

Advent takes us by the shoulders and shakes us out of complacency. These four weeks, just as an alarm clock, wake us to the Messiah’s coming. Luke 21:25-28, 34-36, which is read today, takes us to the extreme of letting go of everything to which we cling, including our addictions, our apathy and our hatred. Our hearts are challenged to stay awake beyond our own ego. We have become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life. The world is longing for something new, including our lives that have centered on dividing people, the accusations of our slander and the sleepiness of our moral complacency.

Our vigilance to stay awake in Advent takes many forms. We are to become vulnerable for God. So much of what we do in our world does not work, especially when it is based on power, authority and unkindness. When we look at so much of how the world works, it is truly based on fear.

The season of Advent is meant to humble us once again. This humility is not a human put-down, but is meant for us to finally realize that God is God and we are not. We stand gazing at the stars in the darkness of Advent. We bend down to raise up the ill and those tied down with failure and hopelessness. We extend our hearts to people who shelter themselves in tears and fear during the nighttime.

Advent cultivates our desire for the richness of God’s love and mercy. Without us coming to realize that we need God and God’s people, Christmas will only be a time of tinsel and self-reliance. Advent’s four-week preparation to the celebration of Christ’s birth is dramatic and grace-filled. However, we realize that we do not wait in our day for this child to be born. We wait instead for us to be amazed at God’s breakthrough in our heartache and in our broken Church to bring us the glory and love of Christ Jesus today.

Advent Peace,

Fr. Ron

Christ the King: Prayers of the Faithful

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Sunday November 25, 2018

Let us pray to seek gospel love for people surviving prejudice, isolation and hatred in our world and within our Church. That we may live the message of Christ the King, that all things shall find their home in love.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for leaders and bishops within our Church, that they may continue with courage to end cover-ups and let go of false power concerning the crimes committed on our children.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for those who weep at their loss from the California fires, for those who hold their heads down in wonder about loved ones killed this week. For people still trying to claim their lives from hurricanes, storms and violence.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for the dignity of family life, for those united in hardship as well as harmony that families may thrive in faith and kindness reflective of Christ Jesus.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray that we may bare truth in our speech and actions and that we may work for justice on this earth as it reflects the beauty and bounty of heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people who have buried a loved one this week, that all life and death may be in union with Christ our King.

We pray to the Lord.

 

The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe: Cover art and column

Nov. 25, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Christ,

Today is the last Sunday of our liturgical year. The title of today, “The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe” seems imposing if not completely overwhelming. For most people in our society to use the name king or anything similar seems a bit much. Yet, for the last Sunday of our year, this title of Christ Jesus is just the beginning. This King will lead us into a new land well beyond the grave.

I love the notion of Christ the King. I like it because it names the rhythm of our year, that in the end everything is going to be all right. Imagine, that Jesus is the King of not only our personal piety, but in the end, the one who will shepherd all people to his side.

He becomes the King of not only wayward folks but of all the issues in life that seem unredeemable. He is King over all people, including those drugged out by cocaine and heroin. He is shepherd and King to all people who on this side of the grave cannot help themselves or who cannot afford housing. He is the dominant one over those with throat cancer who will finally sing his praise. He is the one who welcomes everyone around the table in the Kingdom, especially those who have never felt welcomed at their family table. Jesus is the kind-one who will bring all who have been abused into new and vital healing relationships. He will bring home the ones who fret and worry, those who are too stubborn to believe on earth and those who cannot wait to get out of prison. Jesus the King is the servant for all people.

I am excited again to read in the Mass texts from Revelation, “Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the people of the earth will lament him. Amen.” I am refreshed that those who come to our Food Pantry will be full of love and food with his help and our work. I know that those who live in nursing homes will be able to get out of bed and look at the clouds and leap for joy at his coming. I understand with my full heart that our lost relatives will get a call from him on the last day and invite us all into reconciliation.

I know this title of Jesus seems rather imposing and certainly seems “churchy.” Yet if we examine closely the liturgical year and how we praise God, how we worship and how the community is formed by the structure and grace of the year, our hearts should skip a beat and we should dance in Old Colorado City at the thought of him coming in the high-top clouds.

The amazing thing is that as soon as we celebrate The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe this week, we will start the story all over again at the beginning of Advent. Then we shall sing at the top of our lungs that the child we wait for at Christmas will eventually become King over everything that is broken in our human hearts. The One we worship is amazing, the great King.

Peace to you,

Fr. Ron

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover art and column

Nov. 18, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus,

Today’s first reading from Daniel says, “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” As we come closer now to the conclusion of our liturgical year, we hear more about the end times and how we are to act as we wait for our redemption. We also listen attentively to what awaits us beyond the earth, in our afterlife.

The phrase about the wise catches my attention. I have been thinking about what it means to be wise in these past few months. Maybe because I celebrated another birthday a couple of weeks ago, or maybe because God is trying to get my attention about how to live and how to form some new priorities in my soul now that I am a bit older. Whatever the reason, I think it is a good idea to reflect on wisdom no matter our age or vocation.

Wisdom is hard to come by. Being wise is neither a personal attribute nor easily defined by an individual. I know wisdom when I hear it. I can see wisdom like a bright splendor when I come across a person who beholds such a mystery. I can hear wisdom in scripture and poetry. I can see wisdom in a painting or on a mural as street art. I can feel it vibrate my soul when I hear from a weathered priest speaking about his experience and what is most real. I can capture it for a fleeting moment on the wings of a poem in our poetry class at the parish. Wisdom is something, however, I wish I could capture and take home and drink tea with it. I wish it was a person, vitally young, so I could live with it for a long time. Wisdom comes as vibrant color or from the dry mouth of dying person. Wisdom can be seen on Tuesdays at a café or on Sundays as an elderly man reads this text from Daniel.

I would love to dine with wisdom, but I wonder if wisdom pays the bills? I would like to have wisdom in my writing, but I swear that it seldom exists on my computer. In this world of Twitter and fast-pace communications, I wonder if wisdom has left the building. I also wonder if wisdom would be noticed if it sat in front of us, since for sure we would be texting our opinions and our self-righteousness to someone whom we think should change and see the value of our opinion.

What is wisdom for? I hold on to the belief that wisdom is of God. Wisdom forms our ability to sort through all the obstacles of life to find its beauty, its love and its miracles. I know somewhere underneath all of our childish ways a kernel of wisdom waits to whisper in our ear that God’s love is really for us and that love is more than we can ever imagine.

Peace on Earth,

Fr. Ron

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover art and column

Nov. 11, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of the Christ,

I know it is never easy to trust God. I say this from years of experience of prayer, but also the many years of being in the public eye as a priest. Trusting God with the little I have to offer the Church and the world is a lifelong project. This all begins with my own relationship with Christ Jesus and my willingness to extend my life beyond my own self-sufficiency.

Today’s gospel, Mark 12:38-44, shows us all that faith is real for those who have little. A poor widow opens her generous hand even though she has little to offer. For her, the amount she gives is huge. She gives from her poverty, not her wealth. This is key to the gospel and to our own formation of faith and service.

Sometimes we can be pretty stingy. We want to make sure that what we give is going to the proper place or what we give is really going to make a difference. This gospel uses money as an image, but really it doesn’t have anything to do with money. The gospel calls us to give our very lives for the benefit of others. We can’t hold back or think twice. On many occasions we are called into events and relationships that require us to offer everything.

These past few months have shown us our capability in responding to people in need from across the country. We did not hesitate to help those whose homes were devastated by fire, floods and storms. We continue to respond with such care and concern. The gospel calls us to give everything we own back to God. This requires of us a great deal of prayer and reflection. This also requires of us a new and profound sense of gratitude. I want to believe that the widow in today’s gospel is the mother of gratitude. From her prayer and reflection, she decided to offer those coins to the treasury. From exploring the depth of her heart, she realizes the beauty of gratitude and extending beyond the confines of her selfishness and old patterns of self-protection.

We listen to this gospel in the last weeks of the liturgical year. This has great significance to us as believers. We listen with a new intent to live our lives in a selfless love on this side of the grave in order to prepare our hearts for heaven. This woman stands as a model to give our lives, our past regrets, our futures, our mistakes and misgivings all back to God. I love her. I want what she has. I want to live a life of faith and of giving even when I know it is so difficult to live.

The widow gave from her poverty. We give back to God from the poverty of our sin, our heartaches and our despair. We give with open hearts and open hands that model her willingness to be changed. Imagine how others, as well as the Church, could be changed by our willingness to give and be grateful.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time: My Cover art and column

Nov. 4, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Christ,

Reading Mark 12:25B-34 today reminds me of Tina Turner. “What’s love got to do with it?” This question must have come from one of the scribes and those whose life were given to keeping the law. There is such a leap from being a strict rule keeper to a new awareness of love. What does love really have to do with anything about Jesus’ presence, especially his death and resurrection?

Jesus reminds the people of his day that his action of self-giving is a new form of commandment. Our hearts, minds, souls must be centered on this action of Jesus. Jesus is the relationship that brings us peace, forgiveness and mercy. There is no other relationship that will bring us such life and mercy here on earth as well as our eternal reward. We follow a relationship, not a law.

Jesus also tells us that we are to live that love in the world. Love has to do with God and with people. Love is the ointment that heals our harsh words. Love sands off the rough edges of our actions that destroy other people’s reputations. Love is the center in which we bring our hardened hearts and controlling actions.

Love still is a mystery in our day. I don’t mean infatuation or romantic love. I mean the love out of which God created us. We find it so much easier to find our thoughts and actions in a negative herd mentality. We pick up our torches with others who prefer to destroy others than to offer reconciliation. On some days, it is easier to join voices of despair and revenge than it is to hear the subtle voice of hope and love from God. On other days the words of put-downs and slander become like barbed wire resting on our lips. Those words are never formed from love. On many days, it is easier to live in our protected egos, than to offer our lives to God’s love.

Today’s gospel reveals the center of faith and action. This gospel is the glue that binds love from our hearts to those most in need. This love is not flimsy or whimsical. This love is brought into the world by grace itself. This love is the key to our vocations, the way we live out our baptism and our profession of faith. This is the foundation of our lives and the Christian community. Love also costs us plenty. It demands of us a new heart and a new view of the world.

When it comes to God’s love, there are two important things. First, Jesus invites us to be loved by God. You read it correctly. I did not say that we are to love God. We are to learn to be loved by God. This is a real kicker. This takes a lifetime. This costs us our very lives of self-protection and self-sufficiency. Then we are to love others in the same way. This is what love has to do with it.

Peace,

Fr. Ron

 

Mark 10:46-52: Finger Painting and Poem. Bartimaeus, the blind beggar.

man blind 26 may 2

“Bartimaeus, Blind Beggar” Finger Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC 2016

“Bartimaeus, I am blind too,

So what if you grasped my hand and guided my heart

And led me to the place of your healing along the dirt path,

Since I desire to experience what you saw

When light entered your eyes,

To live your miracle in my own darkness,

The eyes of Jesus looking through me,

To hear his voice flow through my body,

To feel his rough hand wiping the sweat from my brow,

To smell his warm words covering my face as he prays new life in me,

To capture the eternal hope for my loneliness,

Not just for me

But for the deep wounds of our people,

So what if I could really see

The suffering of those around me along the road and

The injustices that ravage so many on the journey,

Those who sell their bodies along the roadside,

Those who walk for hundreds of miles for some food

Those who struggle to breastfeed their children in the hot sun,

Those who travel miles in plastic shoes to find permanent housing,

Those who sit on street corners communicating with cardboard signs,

Those who stride toward healthcare and possible education

And what if I could answer the question Jesus asked you,

‘What do you want me to do for you?’

And what if I could muster the courage from deep within

To form words on my lips welling up from my empty soul

To finally give my own life voice on behalf of those who suffer the most

To feel within my throat the fluttering hope

Of love compelling words out of me

And allowing my answer to be born in light,

‘Master I want to see’?”

 

(Text: Ronald Raab, CSC)