Saturday, March 30, 2019

Thoughts on religion

The entire point of religion is to make us humble before God and to open us to the path of love. Everything else is more or less a footnote. Liturgy, prayer, the precepts of the Church, the Commandments, sacraments, sacramentals—all of it—are finally meant to conform us to the way of love. When they instead turn us away from that path, they have been undermined.

Both St. Paul and the Gospel writers—as well as Jesus himself, of course—are intensely aware of this danger. This is precisely why Paul speaks of the dangers of the law. He knew that people often use the law as a weapon of aggression: since I know what is right and wrong in some detail, then I am uniquely positioned to point out your flaws. And when I point out your flaws, I elevate myself. In short, the law, which is a gift from God, has been co-opted for the purposes of the ego.

Reflect: How can pride stand in the way of love? Why does true humility encourage love? 

Bishop Robert Barron


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Thoughts on bearing fruit

What a marvelous parable in the Gospel reading today! A man goes into the vineyard, he goes into that same vineyard for three years to look at the same fig tree, and it's bearing no fruit. He tells the gardener, “Cut it down. Get rid of this tree. It's not doing us any good.” And the gardener says, “Hey, let's give it one more shot. Let me pay it some attention; let me fertilize it; let me be sure it has water; let me take care of it. Let's see what happens, and if it's still not bearing any fruit, then you cut it down. What do you say?”
I suspect that there are people who look at you and look at me and say, “You know what? He or she—they’re just not getting it done when it comes to that faith thing. He tries to help a friend every now and then; she tries to be generous. He tries to pray and listen; she tries to be patient—but they just don't seem to make much progress. They're not bearing much fruit.”
But God looks at you and me and says, “Hey, I'm gonna give you another chance. Yeah, there’s still coming a day when I'm gonna cut down the fruitless trees, but I believe in you. I know you've got it in you to bear fruit because I put it there in the first place—the seeds of faith, the fruit of greatness are right there inside of you, so I'm gonna tend to you again. I'm gonna pay special attention to you and take care of you. I'm gonna help you bear fruit—I'm gonna help you find your greatness. Now is your time.”
That's because Jesus wants more for your life than you even want for yourself. When Jesus sees you not bearing fruit or headed in the wrong direction, he asks you, he invites you to stop and turn around—because that's what repent is. That's what repent means. It means a hundred-and-eighty-degree complete turnaround, a total new direction. Stop going one way—not make just a little course correction, but stop, and go the opposite way as fast as you can. That's what repent is.
Where do you need to turn around? What part of your life do you need to start a new direction in? Because now is your time to bear fruit. Your time is now.

Allen Hunt

Friday, March 22, 2019

Thoughts on fruits of the spirit

Grafted like branches into the Vine (who is Jesus), you and I are meant to bear fruit. Adopted into God's family, our subsequent fruitfulness that is meant to feed the needs of others is not an extra plus, but a strict necessity.
Jesus compares us to a fig tree in this Sunday's Gospel. If we are not fruitful towards others, even after extra cultivating by the Lord, we will be cut down, for we are not fulfilling our purpose. 

What are these fruits that Jesus is speaking about? They are twofold. First, they are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, meaning the Holy Spirit must be evident and active in our souls. Galatians chapter 5 lists these fruits, in order, as: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the signs or fruits that the Holy Spirit is clearly operating within us. Our fig tree will stand.

The other fruits Jesus is speaking about are Godly works. Being grafted into Jesus' body by the gift of faith warmly received, I begin to walk in all the good works God has prepared for me beforehand (Ephesians 2). Living within these works of the Holy Spirit, my tree will stand.
How is Jesus calling me today to surrender my life more completely to the Holy Spirit, to let him be the Lord of my life in all things, and not only occasionally? Radical surrender to his Holy Spirit is not only what Jesus is asking of us, but more than that, requiring of us in order for our tree to remain.

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

More thoughts on silence

In our noisy, cluttered world, we need silence. Silence heals, refreshes, energizes, inspires, sharpens, clarifies. It simplifies. It is the medium of truth. And it is the font of the pure single Word that both perfectly communicates it and leads back to it. If we consciously turn off the TV or close the computer, restrain unnecessary speech, avoid out smartphones, look people lovingly in the eye, we are enhancing the same direct work of silence that we return to meeting in our meditation. And we are making the world a more silent and awakened place.
—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Thoughts on Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick’s Story

Legends about Patrick abound; but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: He was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided the life of God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ.
Details of his life are uncertain. Current research places his dates of birth and death a little later than earlier accounts. Patrick may have been born in Dunbarton, Scotland, Cumberland, England, or in northern Wales. He called himself both a Roman and a Briton. At 16, he and a large number of his father’s slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold.
After six years Patrick escaped, probably to France, and later returned to Britain at the age of 22. His captivity had meant spiritual conversion. He may have studied at Lerins, off the French coast; he spent years at Auxerre, France, and was consecrated bishop at the age of 43. His great desire was to proclaim the good news to the Irish.
In a dream vision it seemed “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland. Despite opposition from those who felt his education had been defective, he was sent to carry out the task. He went to the west and north–where the faith had never been preached–obtained the protection of local kings, and made numerous converts.
Because of the island’s pagan background, Patrick was emphatic in encouraging widows to remain chaste and young women to consecrate their virginity to Christ. He ordained many priests, divided the country into dioceses, held Church councils, founded several monasteries and continually urged his people to greater holiness in Christ.
He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission. In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.
Patrick was a man of action, with little inclination toward learning. He had a rock-like belief in his vocation, in the cause he had espoused. One of the few certainly authentic writings is his Confessio, above all an act of homage to God for having called Patrick, unworthy sinner, to the apostolate.
There is hope rather than irony in the fact that his burial place is said to be in County Down in Northern Ireland, long the scene of strife and violence.


What distinguishes Patrick is the durability of his efforts. When one considers the state of Ireland when he began his mission work, the vast extent of his labors, and how the seeds he planted continued to grow and flourish, one can only admire the kind of man Patrick must have been. The holiness of a person is known only by the fruits of his or her work.

Saint Patrick is the Patron Saint of:


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Friday, March 15, 2019

Thoughts on the poor

How often do we ignore the poor around us? At the very least, take time to see them. Smile. Make eye contact. Set aside some amount of cash each week to give to people you see on the street. If you don’t want to give money, keep snacks or personal care items in your car. Don’t just feel guilty today—take action!
Let this prayer guide our steps:
Let us ask the Lord for the grace
to always see the Lazarus who knocks
at our heart and for the grace to go outside
of ourselves with generosity,
with an attitude of mercy,
so that God’s mercy can enter our heart.
—from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Thoughts on faith

Faith is precisely no-thing. It is nothing you can prove to be right, or use to get anywhere else. If you want something to believe in  (which is where we all must start!), you had best be a totem and taboo Christian, with clear ground, identity, and boundaries. But that is not yet faith! That is merely securing the foundations for your personal diving board.
Faith is the leap into the water, now with the lived experience that there is One who can and will catch you—and lead you where you need to go! Religion, in some sense, is a necessary first half of life phenomenon. Faith is much more possible in the second half of life, not necessarily chronologically but always spiritually. As the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wisely said, “Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward.” Jonah knew what God was doing, and how God does it, and how right God is—only after emerging from the belly of the whale. He has no message whatsoever to give until he has first endured the journey, the darkness, the spitting up on the right shore—all in spite of his best efforts to avoid these very things. Jonah indeed is our Judeo-Christian symbol of transformation. Jesus had found the Jonah story inspiring, no doubt, because it described almost perfectly what was happening to him!

Richard Rohr

Monday, March 11, 2019

Thoughts on patience

The mother of expectation is patience. The French author Simone Weil writes in her notebooks: “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.” Without patience our expectation degenerates into wishful thinking. Patience comes from the word patior, which means “to suffer.” The first thing that Jesus promises is suffering: “I tell you . . . you will be weeping and wailing . . . and you will be sorrowful.” But he calls these birth pains. And so, what seems a hindrance becomes a way; what seems an obstacle becomes a door; what seems a misfit becomes a cornerstone. Jesus changes our history from a random series of sad incidents and accidents into a constant opportunity for a change of heart. To wait patiently, therefore, means to allow our weeping and wailing to become the purifying preparation by which we are made ready to receive the joy that is promised to us.

Henri Nouwen


Sunday, March 10, 2019

More thoughts on Lent

Living Lent Attentively and Gently
Lent is the most important time of the year to nurture our inner life. It is the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us. Life is a continuing process of the death of the old and the familiar, and being reborn again into a new hope, a new trust, and a new love. The death and resurrection of Jesus therefore is not just an historical event that took place a long time ago, but an inner event that takes place in our heart when we are willing to be attentive to it.

Lent offers a beautiful opportunity to discover the mystery of Christ within us. It is a gentle but also demanding time. It is a time of solitude but also community, it is a time of listening to the voice within, but also a time of paying attention to other people's needs. It is a time to continuously make the passage to new inner life as well as to life with those around us.
When we live Lent attentively and gently, then Easter can truly be a celebration during which the full proclamation of the risen Christ will reverberate into the deepest place of our being.
Henri Nouwen

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Thoughts on Lent

We start Lent with a story that reminds us of our choices: Jesus is being put to the test. Imagine the desert into which he went: immense stretches of barren land. No trees, no running water, at best a cave or two in which to hide from the worst of the sun’s heat. This is an environment in which people die—and quickly.

But Jesus wasn’t just in an inhospitable environment: he was fasting, an incredibly lengthy and painful fast. As we begin Lent, it’s natural that our thoughts also turn to fasting. It’s a necessary spiritual practice (Jesus didn’t say “if you fast,” he said, “when you fast”) that’s gone largely out of style. And while for many people missing one meal seems a significant hardship, it’s also not enough to learn about hunger, to feel real hunger. Part of the practice of fasting is what we learn from it, from the emptiness inside, from the ache: it sharpens our senses and helps us focus.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Thoughts on Ash Wednesday

A reflection for Ash Wednesday
By Henri Nouwen

How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death?

Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess.... I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again.


Henri Nouwen, A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee (Orbis)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Thoughts on joy

Where Do You Find Joy?

Where Do You Find Joy? | Image: Pixabay
Joy is something that gives us life. It is something that gets us out of bed in the morning. It is a lasting sense of positive meaning, something that not only survives the hard times but carries us through them. If that is the way we feel about something—or maybe more importantly, if we do not feel this way about something—we cannot ignore it in our discernment. God, I truly believe, does not call us to a life of misery and despair. And how could he? If what we are seeking is to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ, a life in which we seek to be in perfect union with the source of joy itself, the presence or absence of joy in our lives is a tremendous indication of how close we are to our right calling.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Thoughts on children

Mark 10:13-16

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus declares that the kingdom of God belongs to children. “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

How so? Well, children are like stars or flowers or animals, things that are what they are, unambiguously, uncomplicatedly. They are in accord with God’s deepest intentions for them. The challenge of the spiritual life is to realize what God wants us to be—to find out what is in line with the deepest grain of our being—and thereby come to the same simplicity and directness in our existence.

Let me put this another way: children haven’t yet learned how to look at themselves. Why can a child immerse himself so eagerly and thoroughly in what he is doing? Because he can lose himself; because he is not looking at himself, conscious of the reactions, expectations, and approval of those around him. The best moments in life are when we lose ourselves in the world and just are as God wants us to be.

Bishop Robert Barron