Saturday, August 31, 2019

Thoughts on talents

MATTHEW 25:14-30

Friends, today’s Gospel gives us the challenging parable of the talents. A man goes on a journey, but before leaving he entrusts his money to three of his servants. To one he gives five talents; to a second, two; and to a third, one.

The first man trades with the five talents. The second does the same, and both receive a rich return on their investment. The third man cautiously buries his talent. When the owner returns, he praises the first two servants and gives them greater responsibilities, but the third man he upbraids.

Jesus loved to use examples drawn from the world of business. And he especially liked this dynamic of investment as a model of the spiritual life. The reason is clear, and I’ve said it to you often. God exists in gift form. Therefore, if you want his life in you, you have to learn to give it away. Think of the talents as everything that we’ve received from God—life, breath, being, powers. Because they come from God, they are meant to become gifts. If you cling to them, in the manner of the third servant, they don’t grow; in fact, they wither away.

Bishop Robert Barron

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Thoughts on mysticism

Mysticism, Not Moralism

Mysticism, Not MoralismGod always entices you through love. You were probably taught that God would love you if and when you changed. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But, because most common religion has not been at the mystical level, you’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves you when you change (moralism). It puts it all back on you, which is the opposite of being saved. Moralism leads you back to navel-gazing and you can never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a total gift.
—from the book Yes, and...: Daily Meditations by Richard Rohr, OFM

Monday, August 19, 2019

Thoughts on poverty

Poverty is a Quality of the Heart
Poverty is the quality of the heart that makes us relate to life, not as a property to be defended but as a gift to be shared. Poverty is the constant willingness to say good-bye to yesterday and move forward to new, unknown experiences. Poverty is the inner understanding that the hours, days, weeks, and years do not belong to us but are the gentle reminders of our call to give, not only love and work, but life itself, to those who follow us and will take our place. He or she who cares is invited to be poor, to strip himself or herself from the illusions of ownership, and to create some room for the person looking for a place to rest. The paradox of care is that poverty makes a good host. When our hands, heads, and hearts are filled with worries, concerns, and preoccupations, there can hardly be any place left for the stranger to feel at home.

Henri Nouwen

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Thoughts on gifts

Receiving the Gifts of Others

A gift only becomes a gift when it is received; and nothing we have to give—wealth, talents, competence, or just beauty— will ever be recognized as true gifts until someone is open to accept them. This all suggests that if we want others to grow— that is, to discover their potential and capacities, to experience that they have something to live and work for—we should first of all be able to recognize their gifts and be willing to receive them. For we only become fully human when we are received and accepted.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thoughts on the Assumption of Mary

The Story of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” The pope proclaimed this dogma only after a broad consultation of bishops, theologians and laity. There were few dissenting voices. What the pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Catholic Church.
We find homilies on the Assumption going back to the sixth century. In following centuries, the Eastern Churches held steadily to the doctrine, but some authors in the West were hesitant. However by the 13th century there was universal agreement. The feast was celebrated under various names—Commemoration, Dormition, Passing, Assumption—from at least the fifth or sixth century. Today it is celebrated as a solemnity.
Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Nevertheless, Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil. Many see this woman as God’s people. Since Mary best embodies the people of both Old and New Testaments, her Assumption can be seen as an exemplification of the woman’s victory.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Since Mary is closely associated with all the mysteries of Jesus’ life, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to believe in Mary’s share in his glorification. So close was she to Jesus on earth, she must be with him body and soul in heaven.


In the light of the Assumption of Mary, it is easy to pray her Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) with new meaning. In her glory she proclaims the greatness of the Lord and finds joy in God her savior. God has done marvels to her and she leads others to recognize God’s holiness. She is the lowly handmaid who deeply reverenced her God and has been raised to the heights. From her position of strength she will help the lowly and the poor find justice on earth, and she will challenge the rich and powerful to distrust wealth and power as a source of happiness.

For more on the Assumption of Mary, click here!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Thoughts on failure

Learn to Fail Well

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
If you want to be a successful painter, you will at first fail on numerous canvases. And if you want to be a successful mathematician, you will at first fail in solving the equations. If you want to be a successful writer, your manuscripts will be rejected endlessly until one of them isn’t. But there will never come a point when you stop failing, because that’s what creativity is about. What works can only be known against the backdrop of what doesn’t—and if you’re too afraid to ever risk establishing that backdrop, personally and professionally, then you’ll never know what success is like. In the Hebrew Bible, we have the beautiful images in Jeremiah, for example, in the potter’s house where he comes to understand that even as Israel screws everything up over and over again, God—like a potter with clay in hand—is patient and allows the remodeling to take place, allows us to try again, to become the beautiful creation intended from the beginning. If we cannot live because we fear failure, then we cannot be good Christians because it is a faith predicated on being often diametrically opposed to worldly success. If you want to be successful, you need to learn to fail well.
—from the book God Is Not Fair, and Other Reasons for Gratitude by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Thoughts on compassion

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
Henri Nouwen

Friday, August 9, 2019

Thoughts on the cross

Matthew 16:24-28

Friends, in our Gospel for today Jesus outlines the cost of becoming his disciple: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." We have a very antiseptic view of the cross, for we have seen it for so long as a religious symbol.

But for the first nine centuries or so of the Christian dispensation, artists didn’t depict the cross, for it was just too brutal. Say what you want about the violence in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ—it probably came as close as any work of art to showing the reality of a Roman crucifixion.

But here’s the point: we are meant to see on that cross not simply a violent display, but rather our own ugliness. What brought Jesus to the cross? Stupidity, anger, mistrust, institutional injustice, betrayal of friends, denial, unspeakable cruelty, scapegoating, and fear. In other words, all of our dysfunction is revealed on that cross. In the light of the cross, no one can say the popular philosophy of our times, "I’m okay, and you’re okay." This is why we speak of the cross as God’s judgment on the world.

Bishop Robert Barron

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Thoughts on mass shootings

Don't be afraid

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

When you look at the world and your little place in it, it's easy to feel small and insignificant. Especially in light of the recent shootings of innocent, random people that make us feel so helpless. The result of this is to be afraid - to be overcome by worry and the terror that most of these attacks are trying to create. 

In view of this, we need to remember not only who we are, but whose we are. Jesus would say to us, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." 

What is Jesus saying here? First, He is telling us not to be afraid. The enemy loves to tie us up in fear. It not only renders us ineffective for any kind of ministry, it destroys our message. Who is going to believe us if we say God's in control - trust in God - but we are just as afraid as the next guy? 

And then Jesus tells us why we don't have to be afraid. We may feel little; we may look little; we may even feel helpless, but we are none of these things. He even calls us "little flock," but then He reveals something in direct contrast to that - He tells us that the Father has given us the kingdom. The kingdom of God is the possession of little people. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like you and me. Suddenly we are not little anymore. We are not insignificant. We are not only a part of the kingdom of God - we own it. No matter how small you may be, that's a pretty big deal. 

And besides not being afraid, we represent the kingdom of God in the way we respond to these situations that make us feel small. We respond as people of the kingdom - we return hate with love; when forced to go a mile, we go the extra mile; we are peacemakers instead of makers of war; we offer mercy instead of revenge, pardon instead of punishment; we love our enemies, we pray for the shooters; we are clearly cut from a different cloth, and these opportunities give us a chance to show what the kingdom of God really is like. 

Have no fear little ones; you have a job to do, and a different way of life to represent. And the Father is pleased to give you the kingdom so that you can do this. Now walk in it and let Jesus manifest its values in you.
John Fischer

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Thoughts on fruitfulness

We Are Called To Be Fruitful
You have to be really aware of the difference between fruitfulness and success because the world is always talking to you about your success. Society keeps asking you: “Show me your trophies. Show me, how many books have you written? Show me, how many games did you win? Show me, how much money did you make? Show me. . . .” And there is nothing wrong with any of that. I am saying that finally that’s not the question. The question is: “Are you going to bear fruit?” And the amazing thing is that our fruitfulness comes out of our vulnerability and not just out of our power. Actually it comes out of our powerlessness. If the ground wants to be fruitful, you have to break it open a little bit. The hard ground cannot bear fruit; it has to be raked open. And the mystery is that our illness and our weakness and our many ways of dying are often the ways that we get in touch with our vulnerabilities. You and I have to trust that they will allow us to be more fruitful if lived faithfully. Precisely where we are weakest and often most broken and most needy, precisely there can be the ground of our fruitfulness. That is the vision that means that death can indeed be the final healing—because it becomes the way to be so vulnerable that we can bear fruit in a whole new way. Like trees that die and become fuel, and like leaves that die and become fertilizer, in nature something new comes out from death all the time. So you have to realize that you are part of that beautiful process, that your death is not the end but in fact it is the source of your fruitfulness beyond you in new generations, in new centuries.
Henri Nouwen

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Thoughts on contemplation

Is Your Prayer Lopsided?

Contemplation and Prayer
Contemplation requires a radical shift in thinking: Deep contemplative prayer is not so much learning how to contemplate God by some method or practice, as it is becoming aware that it is God who is contemplating us. Repeat this statement to yourself again and again: Deep contemplative prayer is not so much learning how to contemplate God by some method or practice, as it is becoming aware that it is God who is contemplating us. Prayer is too often viewed from a lopsided perspective, as something we must do, an obligation to fulfill or an effort on our part to reach out and try to contact a God “out there somewhere.” But this is not prayer because there is no relationship, no intimacy of heart and spirit with this kind of separation. Thus one definition of prayer might be: Prayer is God praying in us. The God who lives in you and me prays in you and me. This frees us and is so right because it allows God to be God.
—from the book In the Footsteps of Francis and Clare by Roch Niemier, OFM

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Thoughts on John the Baptist

Matthew 14:1-12

Friends, today’s Gospel tells of the death of John the Baptist. Herod had arrested John, from whom Jesus had sought baptism, and put him to death. The arrest and death of John the Baptist were signals for Jesus.

Immediately after the arrest, Jesus withdraws to Galilee and commences his own ministry of preaching and healing. Are these two events just coincidentally related? Hardly. Jesus read the arrest of John as a kind of signal that he was to begin.

We must remember that Jesus, like any Jew of his time, would have read the world through the lens of the Sacred Scriptures. They were the interpretive framework for everything. It was a commonplace of the prophets and the Psalms and parts of the Torah that the era of the Messiah would be preceded by a time of tribulation, when the opponents of God would rise up to counter God’s purposes.

Jesus saw this in the arrest of John. This great national figure, this prophet to Israel, was arrested and eventually killed by the enemies of God—and he took it as a signal that his own Messianic work should begin.

Bishop Robert Barron