Monthly Archives: February 2020

20200226 Ash WednesdayA

Lent is a time of choices.  We usually think about what we are going to give up for Lent.  We usually give up chocolate, sweets, alcohol or some other pleasure.  We ask others “What are you giving up for Lent?”  It is a time for preparation to remind us of the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus’ death.  He loved so much that he died for our sins; each and everyone of us. 

God made us in his image, so we have the ability to make choices.  We can decide to let Jesus into our hearts or to reject him and shut him out of our lives. 

There is a painting of Jesus standing at the door, knocking to be let into our hearts.  The is no doorknob so we are the ones that need to open the door so Jesus can enter.  The message is that we must open the door to Jesus, he will not force his way into our lives. 

I believe that even though the door is locked from the inside due to bitterness of hurtful actions by others or the depths of despair in our lives, Jesus can still provide a ray of Hope in our hearts.  Hope that there is something better in the future.  Hope that this is not the end.  When we hit rock bottom and think it can’t get worse, God’s grace can provide a glimmer of hope in our darkest night. 

I came upon this song by chance and have played it many times since then. 

Eric Clapton wrote the song Holy Mother in the depths of despair.  He explained on Facebook the inspiration to write this song.  “In the ’80s, I was out on the road in a massive downward spiral with drink and drugs.  I saw Purple Rain in a cinema in Canada. I had no idea who he was.  It was like a bolt of lightning!  In the middle of my depression, and the dreadful state of the music culture at that time it gave me hope.  He was like a light in the darkness.  I went back to my hotel and, surrounded by empty beer cans, wrote Holy Mother.” 

In his book “Clapton” he says “It was like a moment of clarity when I saw the absolute squalidness of my life at that moment.  I began to write a song called “Holy Mother,” in which I asked for help from a divine source, a female that I couldn’t even begin to identify. I still love that song, because I recognize that it came from deep in my heart as a sincere cry for help.” 

Eric was raised in the Church of England so he would have known about our Blessed Mother even if he couldn’t put a name or face with the female divine source he referred to in the song. 

In moments of despair, our hearts still yearn for God.  That desperate need for something to hope in lets Jesus enter. 

So many people are hurting.  Maybe from the death of a loved one, from the hurt of harsh words or bullying, from our own self doubt or feeling inferior to others.  Yes, Lent is a time of self-sacrifice to remind us of the suffering of our Lord for us.  It is a time to ponder the hurt within those around us and within our own lives. 

Lent is also be a time to choose good, to help others.  In addition to our normal ‘giving up’ for Lent, let us also take action to share God’s love with others. 

One way we could take action is to pray a Rosary for those who are lost in despair.  Someone who is contemplating suicide or so lost within that they have nowhere to turn.  Let us ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for us with her son for them and for us that we will be a beacon of hope to others in their darkest night. 

Let us also pray that we will never contribute to someone’s despair because of the way we live, because our actions are mean and hateful, because we were too busy doing good works for outward show and praise like the Pharisees that we failed to notice a person silently suffering in the pain of depression and despair. 

Jesus not only suffered for us, but he rose from the dead to give us new life.  His resurrection gives us hope that we can rejoice with him in heaven for all eternity.  Through his death and resurrection, we begin to live a different life; one that serves God sincerely from our hearts and brings God’s love and hope to others. 

As we pray a rosary during Lent for those who are suffering from depression and despair, we should include our own pain and hurt. 

Let’s pray to our Blessed Mother together for her intercession especially during this Lenten Season:
Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. 

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20200216 Ordinary 6 A

Jesus was brilliant.  We don’t normally think about Jesus in that manner, but he brought more explanation and depth to the Law.  He studied with a Rabbi as a child.  He was in the Temple learning from the Doctors when his parents finally found him after three very stressful days.  And his Heavenly Father gave him Wisdom and understanding of the Scriptures and people’s tendencies. 

Today’s readings take us deeper into relationships, relationships with God and relationships with others and the purpose behind our actions. 

The opening words in the First Reading address our relationship with God.  “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; …”  It continues “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.  The eyes of God are on those who fear him; he understands man’s every deed.”  We have the option to choose life or death. 

Jesus continues this theme in the Gospel.  He said that he did not come to abolish the law.  The rules are there for a reason; to help us follow God.  Then, Jesus takes it further: it is what is in our hearts.  Our intent is more important than just keeping the law for public acceptance or appearance. 

Jesus continues to give examples of how we sin based on the intent in our thoughts even without committing the act.  This seems harsh!  It is not what we think of when we think of sin.  Jesus was pointing out that our intent is good or evil as the First Reading tells us.  That intent is only known to us, within our hearts and minds, and to God. 

Jesus drives the point home when he said “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Everyone knew that the scribes and Pharisees strictly followed the Law to the nth letter of it.  But everyone also knew that they did it for a public display seeking approval of how good they were because of how they observed the Law.  Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees for their pious observance of the law without a contrite heart. 

Once again, Jesus takes it one step further when he said “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” 

This may seem a little strange to us today but in Jesus’ time, a person brought a gift to the railing in the Temple, to hand to the priest to offer on the altar as an offering to God.  We too bring a gift to the altar when we come to receive him in the Eucharist.  We bring the gift of our contrite heart seeking forgiveness and grace through his Body and Blood. 

John Pilch writes “Jesus forbids anger and insults that could escalate to murder.  For Jesus, squelching the feud even takes precedence over Temple worship!”  Maybe our anger doesn’t escalate to physical murder, but have we murdered a person’s reputation? 

Notice that in this case, Jesus didn’t say if You have anything against your neighbor but if your neighbor has anything against you.  Is our neighbor’s hard feelings because of something we did to them?  

Or is it because they don’t like the color of our hair, our skin, our culture, our religion or some other reason.  Jesus didn’t make any distinction about why, he said that if we know that someone has something against us, we should make it right.  We should not let hard feelings fester and boil over into an argument or a fight. 

Family members and one-time close friends don’t talk to each other over issues and arguments that have caused hurt and pain that will not be easy to heal.  Political positions have dissolved friendships and split families.  I am appalled by what some Catholics post on social media.  It is harsh and unchristian.  What we post and re-post on Facebook and other social media reveals what is in our heart.  I have a friend who has never posted an unkind word on social media – so it can be done. 

We do have a choice: The First Reading tells us that we have Life and Death; Good and Evil before us.  Jesus said that it is not just our actions that result in Life or Death for us but the intent of our heart.  Which will we choose?  It is a crucial question because we will receive what we choose. 

To help us choose Life and Good, we must spend time in prayer.  This is what will help us change the intent of our hearts.  An additional five minutes of prayer a day will draw us closer to God.  Only God can change our hearts and make us more loving and kind with others. 

When a coworker says or does something that really irritates us this week, will we be angry and hateful towards them?  Will that anger only be in our thoughts or will it be reflected in our actions?  Jesus said that it is the same; the intent of the heart (hatred) causes the act or the thought. 

When the person passes us on the road to cut us off to make a turn, how will we react?  Will we be angry?  Will we curse at them?  Or will we pray a prayer that God will keep them safe and prevent them for hurting others? 

When we think something on social media is wrong or bad or just disagrees with how we believe, will we write a hateful post or pray a prayer for ourselves and the other person? 

We have Life and Death, Good and Evil before us.  Which will be given to us? 

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