Indeed something special does spring upon us this time of year beyond the warmer weather and life sprouting from a dormant earth. Here I wish to echo the sentiments of C.S. Lewis in a 1950 essay titled “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?” We are asked with increased purpose and intent to believe the improbable, if not impossible, that death has been conquered, and a new way of being springs forth in the resurrection of Jesus.
If we confine ourselves within our usual rules, Jesus tends to remain a great moral teacher, a healer, a challenger of conventional wisdom, and a social prophet. But Jesus did not just proclaim a new vision, way of being, social paradigm, or alternative truth, he claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” John 14:6. No one else talked like this. Either Jesus was and is the Son of God, as he alluded to plenty and proclaimed directly a few times, or he was a pure lunatic and spewed out lies. Jesus never intended it to be a choice; there is no happy middle ground, although way too often the provocative nature of Jesus is abandoned in favor of a Jesus that is watered down and domesticated to appeal to our social and scientific sensibilities.
We cannot hold back the coming of summer, and after this past winter, why would we. I suggest each of us take this month to ask ourselves in what ways we are holding back on embracing Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. In not holding back, something larger and more profound may increasingly transform our life, that Emmanuel feeling, that God is with us. And we should not stop there, because this growth in understanding leads us to believe that God is in us, we are Jesus’ body now on earth, the Spirit indwells within each of us, and that we are the chosen and beloved of God.
Dn Mick Humbert
It's always been striking to me that in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that the first place that Jesus goes to after his baptism in the Jordan River was to the desert. Since we are in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle on Sundays we will be hearing a lot from the Gospel according to St. Luke. The First Sunday of Lent for 2019 draws from the third Gospel of the New Testament and states it quite succinctly, “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1).
Our Lord and Savior went from the cool waters of the Jordan River, where he had heard the words of his Heavenly Father, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22) to the hot and dry desert where he would be tempted by the voice of the Father of Lies. At the Jordan River Jesus was surrounded by his cousin John the Baptist and the crowds who were seeking to be baptized. In the desert he was alone for forty days with the scorching sand, the driving winds, and the devil seeking a way to cause him to sin. Jesus was tempted to make his own daily bread, to be self-reliant, and to commit the egregious error of idolatry. Drawing upon passages from Sacred Scripture the Living Word Incarnate, that is to say Jesus himself, was able to reject the lies of those temptations and speak to the Truth. He stood firm in the reality that he indeed was, is, and always shall be the Beloved Son of his Heavenly Father.
As Catholic Christians we are entering into this holy time of prayer, penance, and purification. Like Jesus we are entering into the proverbial desert of the Lenten Season. Over the course of the next forty plus days we shall be tested and tried and tempted in varying ways. When faced with great difficulties and the lies of the Evil One we can always return to the example of Christ. He is the source of “living water” (John 4:10) and the Holy One who can truly satisfy our hunger and thirst. We will be hungry and thirsty throughout the desert days of Lent in a literal sense and in a spiritual sense. Like Jesus we will face temptations that could lead us to emptiness and hopelessness. However, with the Grace that comes from Jesus we can affirm our identity as a beloved son or a beloved daughter of our Heavenly Father.
We can reject those lies that will come our way to rely solely on ourselves or to seek trifles when the Lord wants to share with us the riches of His Mercy. A beautiful prayer to keep us on track throughout the desert days of Lent is the same one that Jesus taught his disciples (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). Within the “Our Father” we declare that we are not really alone in the desert but we have a Father in Heaven who wants to help us with our “daily bread” and to give us the strength to “forgive others who trespass against us.” He will “lead us not into temptation” but will provide us with the way to “deliver us from [the Evil One].” Through our daily moments of self-denial and confident acts of faith in God we shall make it through the dryness of the desert to reach the joyous celebrations of the Easter Season. May Jesus bless you with his peace and send forth the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Fr James Peterson
In thinking of this time of year, while anticipating upcoming Cursillo weekends, an article from OUTLOOK magazine from January 2016 crossed my path which I offer to you in adapted form.
Ordinariness oozes from the pores of Winter.
After weeks of feasting and celebrating in December, and the chill at times of January settled in, the body screams for us to cease. Short days and dark nights, like black holes, inhale shreds of energy and optimism that could buoy soul and body. Outside, winter pushes cold hard against the fertility of the land and it rests.
Perhaps we should as well.
Winter personifies rest - a season of imperative dormancy. In His infinite wisdom and grace, God built rest into the weekly cycle, modeling the consummate balance of work and rest, then offering an imperative designed to regenerate and refresh; the Sabbath Day to be kept holy for rest and prayer (see Ex. 20:8).
Several thousand years later, Jesus perpetuated His Father’s injunction.
We think of Jesus healing, teaching, and being pushed upon from many different directions. While true, Jesus also would send people away or disappear without warning giving no excuse or explanation, and retreat to a place of rest. He did not wait until everyone was cured, nor did he ask permission. He left no one ‘on call,’ or even let his disciples know where he was going. Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm - that of a quiet place and prayer.
Do we sense and obey such a rhythm? Do we, with open hands and hearts, welcome the winter darkness as an invitation to slow down, reflect, and rest?
Dn Mick Humbert
On Sunday, October 28th, I preached on the healing of Bartimaeus from his blindness (Mark 10:46-52). The week before, as I prepared my homily, it became obvious to me that the date I was going to preach was not a coincidence. In 2005, October 28 was on a Friday. Not just any Friday, but the Friday of a Cursillo Men’s Weekend (271). This was my Cursillo weekend.
In 2005, I, like Bartimaeus, was blind. Blind to God’s presence in my life. Blind to the sin in my life. Blind to God’s great love and mercy. Unlike Bartimaeus, I did not know that Jesus was coming my way that very day. Thursday evening when Bill had dropped me off at St. Therese in Deep Haven, I thought this was probably going to be a good weekend. Denise, my wife, wanted to do this retreat. So, I was also doing this for her. God, though, is a God of surprises. Only He knew the surprise that was needed to break through my spiritual blindness.
That Friday afternoon, Jesus showed up in a classroom at St Therese in the form a bag of letters. As I began to read each letter, He broke through my blindness. People that I did not know had been praying for me. Many had been doing acts of self-sacrifice for me. These were not random acts of kindness. These were intentional acts of sacrifice. These were true acts of love, an act seeking the good of another. They were doing this for me. Why? This was the surprise that was necessary to open my heart that had grown hard, cold, and stoney. As I continued to read letter after letter, it became hard to read through the tears. I don’t remember how many tissues I went through that afternoon. It could easily been the whole box. That afternoon, Jesus broke through my blindness and I experienced for the first time the great love that Father had for me. A love that I had not earned and that I definitely, did not deserve. A love freely and lavishly given by a God that I did not know.
Jesus had broken through my blindness to his love, but I was also deaf to his mercy. He needed to heal that as well. Later that evening, I decided, after over 15 years, to go the sacrament of reconciliation. Everyone else was going, I guessed I could go as well. I went into the confessional facing Father Marty. I told Father that I had not been to confession in a long time. I knew that I sinned but that I could confess my sins to God. Father then said those words that broke through my deafness to God’s mercy, “Have you forgiven yourself? Have you really accepted God’s mercy and forgiveness?” These words cut to my heart. The answer was that I had not accepted God’s mercy. Father and I had a long talk
that evening in the confessional. I remember hearing those words that I had not heard in a very long time and that, maybe for the first time, I believed, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Conversion and transformation of my heart began that day, October 28th, 2005 and continues to this day. God is very good. He wants to break through our blindness to the Father’s great love and shatter our deafness to his mercy. So, go to confession on a regular and frequent basis. You and I always need more and deeper healing and Jesus wants to do this for us. Also, continue to make intentional acts of sacrifice for others a habit in your life. Your intentional act of sacrifice for someone in your life may be just the tool Jesus will use to break through that persons blindness to God’s infinite love and mercy. There are many Bartimaeus’ in the world today.
“Belatedly I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly have I loved you. You were with me, but I was not with you. These things kept me far from you, even though they were not at all, unless they were in you. You called and cried aloud, and forced open my deafness. You gleamed and shined, and chased away my blindness. You breathed fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for you. I tasted, and now I hungerand thirst. You touched me, and I burned with love for your peace.” -St Augustine
Dn Patrick Hirl
Smack dab in the middle of Advent, nearing the darkest time of the year, in the weekend gospel it will be proclaimed, “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:3). Amidst the darkness, and behind closed doors, will the light shine enough to draw us out?
I have gone fishing in Canada for 47 years to the same location; starting with my dad when I was 14 years old. Thiry-five years ago, my dad and a buddy had tipped a canoe while fishing below some rapids, four portages away from main camp. They each lost their large tackle box and a couple of fishing rods & reels.
Later that summer, four of us were up fishing again, including my dad, a co-worker, my wife, and me. Since Rita and I had come back from our honeymoon to Hawaii that past winter where I had done a bit of scuba diving, I suggested that we haul scuba equipment up, and I would dive and look for the fishing gear.
A mile from camp and four portages away where a thunderstorm was brewing at the main camp (my wife and co-worker were in camp holding onto the tents); I was tethered to a rope and in the water wearing scuba equipment. I went down fast the first time with a basic scuba light. To my surprise, it was over 20 ft. of water, and also pitch black due to the high mineral content in the water. Down a second, third, and fourth time I went. Even with the light, I could not see more than 2 feet in front of me. The angle of the bottom, when I got closer to shore, was the only clue I had of what direction I was going. Eventually, I did find my dad’s large tackle box and one rod & reel. The last time I went down, the rope that I was tethered to came loose. Not tethered any longer to life back on the surface, my dad told me upon surfacing, “as long as I could see your bubbles, I knew you were still alive.”
This time of year reminds me that the holidays are not joyous for everyone. Due to personal or family losses, it can be a dark time of year in the private rooms of our mind; being untethered from any normalcy as others seem to be so joyous and merry. I have my own private darkness, when direction can be a challenge, with over 30+ years of struggle with a chronic back disability, SADD, and Bipolar II mental illness. I pray now, every year at this time, that the darkness and whispering that accompanies grief & loss, pain, anxiety, and depression become understood more, empathized with more, and funded more, so the multitude of individuals who struggle and suffer from them are more warmly embraced by love, care, and acceptance. Seemingly untethered from any normalcy, to those who find it difficult to go towards the light, the call of light, the call of Jesus, is to be light to those in darkness.
If one looks at the 7 Sacraments of the Catholic Church you will see startling similarities to the realities found in everyday life. Baptism with the birth of a child. Eucharist with the family meal around a table. Reconciliation the healing that occurs when someone acknowledges they have said or done something hurtful towards another person. Anointing of the sick when we care for a sick person. Marriage when we see the love exchanged between wife and husband. Confirmation when an individual decides to act in a more mature manner and when they make faith their own decision. And Holy Orders when we see an individual live a life of commitment helping others in a dedicated fashion. We also include the whole person as sacraments try to have multiple senses engaged with each celebration. So the use of touch, taste, hearing and seeing in each Sacrament. Even smell is engaged when we use many of the things found in church celebrations of these sacraments.
The theme that runs through the Sacraments is the total engage-ment of the person in their encounter with God. That is what every retreat attempts to do, engage the whole person. This can all be done on the surface. In which case the effects of the sacrament are minimal. But the more we engage ourselves in the celebration of these moments, in the home and at church, the more we are transformed by our reception of these holy moments.
It is my experience that the more often we participate in the Sacraments the deeper we plunge into the spiritual dimensions. The more we prepare for the reception of them the more we are changed. Recall your own experience with the family meal, for example. The smells of things cooking spread throughout the entire house. The time preparing for these meals the more the family member’s value what is cooked and the deeper our relationship with all of the members of our family who sit down. Science has discovered that the more a family sits down to a meal as a family the less likely the children will engage in risky activities. They feel loved, needed and heard so they are more comfortable sharing themselves with their family. That is what happens to all of us as we receive the Sacraments. The family that eats together, prays together, works and plays together the stronger the bond becomes.
I encourage you to take your family experiences and reflect upon them. As you examine them more carefully I believe you will see a lot more being passed along than you originally thought. Children learn to share with family when sharing is encouraged around the table. Conversation, not texting in shorthand, will help them succeed in adulthood. What to share with the appropriate people? How to word my statements so others comprehend what I am expressing but doing so in a manner that tells my story without saying too much? How to listen attentively? The family learns to value each member as individu-als with a unique perspective.
It is a wonderful experience for me to see toddlers come to grips with a younger sibling. They can become great “helpers” and learn how to share toys with the younger child. They move from “mine” to “ours”, which is the reality in the world.
Finally, celebrate these holy moments in your family. Make a big deal about these things and they will become important in the lives of your children. Make a big deal about getting to come to church as opposed to having to come, and children will take on a different perspective. If you think about it, if I realized that every week I get to sit down to a private family meal with Jesus, how would that change my perspective on the level of intimacy with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? Jesus is hosting a party this week and you are the special invited guest. In this, and every Sacrament, you are invited into the immensely personal meeting with Christ. Take advantage of it, and let your family take advantage of this special invitation also. You will discover a lot more God moments in your life.
Fr Mike Sullivan
At the time of this writing, our country is between the memory and honoring of those who passed on 9/11 and the potential devastation being caused byHurricane Florence. Both have and/or will remind us not only of loss, but of the best in us when we put economic, racial, political, social, and religious differences aside for the common assistance and good of humanity. We should indeed remember those who were lost, and be grateful for the agape-type love that such moments reveal to us.
As you read this, most have now returned to their routines, potentially including ways of not seeing life in such a precious way or needing the agape-type of love all deserve as children of God. How true the comment of Jesus in Matthew 26: 11 “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Perhaps Jesus was echoing his knowledge of Hebrew Scripture; Deuteronomy 15:11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
Here I wish to challenge all of us not to be myopic thinking of just economic poverty. I can think of equally or more harmful poverties beyond economics. For instance, there are the poverties of hatred, jealousy, entitlement, abuse of power, racism (and a whole host of other –isms), pride, cynicism, and sarcasm. Indeed “poverty” of all types will be with us always, but we have the opportunity, the choice, to have Jesus’ agape-type love with us always through the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of God can guide us in one of the premiere challenges and mysteries within life; will we rise above our most base human instincts and reach deep within to the great “I am,” and thus allow the divine spark within us to shine. At any time, I wish and pray that a crisis or tragedy is not the only thing that seems to motivate us to realize and actualize the best that we have to offer each other.
In Jesus’ name…
For Christ, With Christ,
In Christ and Like Christ.
One of the treasures of our Catholic faith are the numerous writings from shepherds of our past that are relatively easy to locate. Several online resources are available to re-discover these treasures. www. Catholic.org, FranciscanMedia.org, Usccb.org, catholicnewsagency.com, newadvent.org, catholicculture. org, catholicsaints.info, as well as many others. Most of the words that follow are taken from a homily by Saint Peter Chrysologus that is printed in the Breviary. He was a bishop in Ravenna, Italy. He was born around 380 and died around 450.
“If you pray, fast; if you fast; show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.
Fasting is the soul of prayer and mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. When you fast see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. When you fast, if your mercy is thin, your harvest will be thin. When you fast what you pour out in mercy overflows in your barns.
If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. Fasting bears no fruit, unless it is watered by mercy. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is mockery. Therefore do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others. “
Let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf…
This threefold approach to the spiritual life is Trinitarian as well as foundational in our understanding of the three- legged stool, of Piety, Study and Action in Cursillo. I must admit, when it comes to my own self-reflection, I am stronger with prayer, not so much with fasting, my orientation to fasting has been primarily around the season of Lent. My action with mercy has mostly been around the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. So, the invitation from St. Peter Chrysologus is to strengthen our prayer life by always including fasting and mercy. Prayer, coupled with fasting and mercy, may be our strongest intercessory. As we continue to face challenges within Cursillo, The Church and Our Country we might better heed the words of this great shepherd.
Tim Helmeke, Retired Deacon
How appropriate were the words consecrated, venera-ble, noble, and honorable in the time of Jesus. To be thought of as blessed and chosen by God, or the gods of the time, was a pinnacle of achievement and worthy of accolades. At the time of Jesus’ death, none of those words would have been applied to Him by those respon-sible for His death. But in light of the resurrection and in time, they all became descriptives of an early move-ment called “The Way,” that believed Jesus to be the chosen one, the Messiah, the Christ. Jesus became known as the savior, redeemer, and reconciler of a world that had lost its way.
The world of that time, and you may say the same for now, has seemingly lost its way. In that time, those de-scriptive words were the root meaning of the word “August,” one of the two months including July named after two Roman emperors, Augustus and Julius Caesar respectively. My suggestion, in small and large ways, is that we refocus our efforts on that which is most divine, most holy, most loving; namely the guidance of the holy spirit afforded us through the model of sacrificial love that Jesus offered to us all.
It seems at times like these that we are bombarded from all sides by public viewpoints, whether social, cultural or political, claiming that their argument is specially chosen and blessed to be the truth and nothing but the truth. The truth, we believe as Christians, starts first with Jesus, the consecrated one to be venerated with honor and nobility.
I wish to echo into today, a part of Jesus’ exchange with Pilate from the 18th chapter of gospel of John:
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
In closing, I wish we all take more time to listen (piety), to find “the way” (study), and bring alive more fully (action), the truth in Jesus that sets us free.
Every July 4th we pause to give thanks for our freedom, a freedom that was given to us through sacrifices of others who loved liberty more than life. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They gave you and me a free and independent America, at a great cost to themselves! Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, and we shouldn’t.
And as we celebrate our freedom and independence on July 4th as Americans, as Catholics we also have reason to celebrate and reflect on the freedom that we share as children of God. We celebrate the freedom given to us by God and restored to us by Christ.
For all that afflicts our culture today – ceaseless demands, unreal expectations, rare appreciation, you and I are uncommonly blessed. Not only have we been freed from sin, we have been freed for a role in the divine dream for the freedom of God’s people. Day after day we are privileged to proclaim boldly and to shape slowly God’s vision of justice; a community where everyone sees Christ in one another.
Senator Lieberman was once quoted while commenting on Independence Day, “…there is no better way to celebrate the anniversary of America’s Independence than to remember what moved a determined band of patriots to lay down all for liberty, and then promise never to forget.
And we must promise never to forget what moved Jesus to lay down his life so that we could be free: Free from the power of evil, free to worship without fear, free to love as Jesus loves. As Christians, we must teach the next generation about our faith so that they are not in danger of losing theirs. One generation is all it takes to either lose or pass on the faith. Think about that? One generation! We must pass on to our children and our grandchildren the power of the living Gospel, what Paul called, “…the power of God for salvation.”
That power comes to us through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ as we remember the past – his passion, his death and his resurrection – that is operative in the present, in the Eucharist, and gives us hope for the future where we will sit at the banquet feast in the New Kingdom of God.
It is through the imitation of the Eucharist, Christ’s love for us, that we will make this world a better place for all to live, to experience our dream as a Country and as a people, “…that all are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” understood as: The integrity of all life, from the womb to the tomb, with an understanding that Liberty is not just freedom from oppression, but also freedom to make this a better world for all, especially for our children and grandchildren. That is our pursuit of happiness and “true happiness” can be found only in the pursuit of God. May God bless us! May God bless America!
Fr Al Backman
Welcome 4th Day!