Monday, April 26, 2010

Good Shepherd Sunday

JOHN 10: 27-30 APRIL 25, 2010

It is so nice for the shepherd to have sheep that listen to his voice and respond to his commands right away. I wish I had a dog that paid me such focused attention. But all I have is Jabba, and she is a dog who pays attention to my voice when it suits her. When she wants a walk she is very attentive to me. She will put her paws on my leg and bark for a walk. When I put the leash on her and we go outside, she almost immediately stops to sniff something. I say, "Let's go Jabba. Don't you want to walk?" In fact I have things to do other than walk Jabba. But she ignores me. If I pull on the least, she pulls in the opposite direction. Eventually, she looks up at me as if to say, "Oh, are you still here?"

I have come to realize that my attention to God is about what Jabba's attention is to me. In the morning, when I wake up, I tell God that I will be attentive to God and to please walk with me through the day. Then I go about my business, sniffing at this or that project, and forget about God. Now and again in the day I might recall, "Oh, God, you are still here." Then I promptly go back to whatever I was otherwise doing or thinking. I have ADD spirituality, a very short attention span for matters of the Spirit.

I wish I were more like the sheep in the Gospel, who are always attentive to the shepherd, but I am not. I am just an imperfect human being. So what is the Good News for me? The Good News is that God never abandons me even if I ignore the Presence. I have Jabba on a leash. I will not abandon her. I will not release the leash and let her go off to get hit by a car. Jabba will someday die and she might get sick. These are things I cannot change, but I will not abandon her otherwise.

God will not abandon me, though I will die and will get sick from time to time. God's Presence is not a reward for my being attentive. It is rather God's unconditional love that is always available for me to enjoy. Parish churches are good shepherds. If you only occasionally attend worship services, the church does not go away. It is going to be open and available to you whenever you decide to go there.

Regardless of my response to Divine Love, God's response to me is always, "I love you." I hope someday to better attend to God's love, than Jabba attends to me on our walks.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

God is One with us

In John 6: 44-51, Jesus says that "No one can come to me unless the Father...draw him/her." This means that the experience of union with God is a Gift. Our spiritual practice of centering or mantra prayer, can make us more receptive to the experience of union, but it cannot control God. A person can be suddenly enlightened, without any practice at all.
It also says in this passage of Scripture, "They shall all be taught by God." There is no intermediary teacher for the experience of God. Teachers can inform us about doctrine, which are "about God" but not God in God's immediate Self. Teachers can show us a practice of letting go of thoughts and images of God, but they cannot control God.
God is already One with us, but we just don't know it in an experiential way.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Upcoming Schedule


Monday, April 19 - 12:10 pm - Sacred Heart of Jesus

SATURDAY, May 1 - 5:30 pm - Lyons (Meets in Methodist Church @ 4th & Main)

SUNDAY, May 2 - 7:00 am, 8:30 am, 10:30 am Spirit of Christ, 7400 W. 80th Ave., Arvada

SATURDAY, May 8 - 5:30 pm - Lyons

SATURDAY, May 15 - 5:30 pm - Lyons

SATURDAY, May 22 - 5:30 pm - Lyons

SATURDAY, May 29 - 5:30 pm - Lyons


Thursday, May 13 - 7-9 pm - St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 14th & Aurora St.

Until the beginning of the 13th Century there was little written by or about women on the subject of spirituality. With various changes in European society, women were better able to come to public notice with experiences of their prayer life. Some of these women were referred to as Beguines. They wrote in the vernacular for the laity, rather than in Latin for monks. They believed that all people could experience a deep presence of God without having to enter a monastery or a cloister. God could be found anywhere.

In this workshop, he will concentrate on one of these Beguines, Mechthild of Magdeburg. She wrote in a style with God as the author who is revealing the Gospel to women. Like Julian of Norwich, she had numerous visions or showings. Though a poet, she felt that all speech about God must end in silence. For her, the true desert is the everyday life. She had both consolation and darkness in her prayer life.

Refreshments will be provided along with opportunity for silent Centering Prayer. Suggested donation: $10. For more information, call Barbara Hayden at 303-494-2845.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Third Sunday of Easter

JOHN 21: 1-19

APRIL 18, 2010

My mother never cared much for my beard. She did not say it, but I knew that she preferred me clean shaven. So on a recent trip to Vero Beach, Florida, where they once lived and died, I shaved my beard, took the shavings to a pond near where they had lived and tossed the shavings into the pond. It was a present to my Mom.

Had she asked me, "Terry, do you love me more than your beard?" I would have answered her much like Peter answered Jesus. "Mom, you know that I love you," I would have said. But that was not the question. My Mom, if she had ever asked me this question would have been trying to bring me to a decision: the beard or Mom, what is my choice. My answer would have been trying to have it both ways, and not change a thing.

Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than all these fish that Peter caught. While they were all having breakfast, Jesus could see that Peter was eyeing all those fish sitting on the beach, losing their freshness and market value. It is all well and good that Jesus is risen, but Peter is first a fisherman. He wants to love Jesus and change nothing about his own life, so Peter says, "Yes Lord, you know that I love you." He does not direct his answer to the question of choice. He wants fish and Jesus. This is our spiritual struggle. What priority does Christ hold in our life? This can be a lifelong struggle.

The Good News is that Jesus does not wait for Peter to make a choice in favor of Jesus. Peter is invited to ministry even while he struggles with this spiritual question. We do not have to be perfect for God to invite us to be a witness to the Good News of God's love and salvation. Sheep and lambs do not eat fish. Peter will not have to be a fisherman in the future to take up the invitation of Jesus. But even if he does continue to fish will he love and keep Jesus in mind even when the net is empty, and the tasks and projects of life seem to go nowhere?

God may invite us to do something new, but for most of us the invitation is to put God into the middle of our daily lives, especially when we seem to come up empty in whatever we do. How we respond to things not going our way is a tremendous witness to others who hunger for a God of love, and acceptance, who is with us in darkness and light.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A May presentation in Boulder


Mechthild of Magdeburg

Her primary image of God is Flowing. She wrote in a style with God as the author who is revealing the Gospel to women. Like Julian of Norwich, she had numerous visions or showings. Though a poet, she felt that all speech about God must end in silence. For her, the true desert is the everyday life. She had both consolation and darkness in her prayer life.

Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP

Thursday evening, May 13

7 to 9 PM

St. Thomas Aquinas Church

14th and Aurora Street


Sponsored by Contemplative Outreach of Boulder. $10 donation. Refreshments will be provided along with opportunity for Silent Centering Prayer. For more information contact Barbara Hayden at 303-494-2845

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Real Presence

LUKE 24: 1-12


When we are very young, parents and teachers try to pass on the faith to us. They give us information in the form of catechism answers, even if we are not asking questions. We might also enter into church pageants and events along with going to mass and receiving sacraments. But at some point, the facts and experience we have must come up against new information and events. For a time we will struggle and wrestle with new information. But in this time of friction between what we were told as children and what we are learning as teens and young adults, God seems to act. The rubbing of different ideas gives God's fire a chance to truly ignite a faith that will now be ours and not just that of our parents/teachers.

In the gospel for today, the women have some facts. Jesus is dead and buried. They saw this. They don't believe anything beyond this. Then they receive unexpected and new information. The stone is rolled back and Jesus is not in the tomb. Old information and new information rub against one another. The women are "puzzled' or "lost" as to what to make of this. They stand in the shrine of a tomb where Jesus was buried. The Spirit's fire ignites when things look pretty dark. Two men are seen in dazzling garments. Fear overcomes us when something of the Holy intrudes powerfully into our lives.

The men ask them why they are hanging around the shine among the dead? The two men remind the women of what Jesus told them. Memory is jogged about past information, but now it takes on a new meaning. The women are having a religious experience of faith. Now they are energized to go and tell someone what they have experienced. When our faith is only that of our parents we are not much interested in telling anyone anything about it. The women go and tell the disciples who don't believe them. It is not important that anyone respond to shared faith. It is only important that it be shared. The results are up to God. The men are not ready for new information. They are stuck.

If we are open to new teaching, information, experience, then we too will make faith our own in feeling and practice. Here is an example. We believe that the Eucharist is the precious body and blood and Jesus. We are told this and given training on how to reverence the host when we receive or have a devotion to the Eucharist. We spend lots of time cleaning out cups and bowls after communion so that no crumb or drop is lost.

But there is another teaching that is more muted. We are the precious body and blood of Christ. When the community gathers together for worship, Christ is in our midst, in each of us and all of us together. The gathered community is a primary presence of Christ before any mass consecration takes place. This idea, a teaching of Vatican II, caught fire in 1570 when Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth. She got upset and decided to enforce the closing down of churches and worship for Catholics in England. There were no more tabernacles and no more public masses of consecration. There was no precious body and blood of Jesus to be found except in secret masses.

The people gradually began to see, in their private devotions, such as the rosary, that they were the tabernacles of God and that they were the sacred presence of Christ. Rome approved of this. What can happen if this teaching takes route in you? If you begin to see first yourself and then others as the precious body and blood of Christ, you might begin to treat people with more reverence, kindness and tenderness. I have seen when some people go to mass a lot and receive communion a lot and show great respect for the communion they receive, but then go out into the world and act in a selfish and unkind manner. They prefer to sit in shrines/churches, and say their private prayers, rather than to be Christ in the world. We are not meant to spend all our time inhabiting shrines, holy places. The two men in the gospel told the women this. We are shrines and temples of God's presence, and so are the persons we encounter in our daily life. Until we get this we are not going to be much good news for anyone.

Why do I always hear that we want more Catholics to come back to Church? They all came back on Easter Sunday and we had no space for them and their cars. The experience of the "special day" Catholic in a worship service is often one of an endless search for parking, and no place to sit. Sometimes we have a second mass in a gym. it is all kind of "gym looking" with the bleacher seats to boot. No wonder they don't hurry back!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Practicing Kindness

I walk our dog, Jabba, even when I don't feel like doing it. She has the backyard, all fenced in, so walks are not a necessity. I do it as a kindness. I need to practice acts of kindness when I am immersed in my "important" agenda, or when I just don't feel like being nice. It gets me out of myself and changes me little by little. Jesus did kindnesses when he was on the cross in all that pain. "Father forgive them," he said. I doubt it changed anyone's behavior around him. A prayer for people who are being nasty to us is an act of kindness. It can get us away from revenge, anger and hate.
Jesus welcomed into the kingdom the fellow hanging on a cross next to him. He could have ignored the guy, being himself in so much agony. Jesus was concerned about the community he was leaving behind. He said to his mother, "Behold your son," and to the apostle, "Behold your mother." Jesus wanted to make sure people took care of one another.
Maybe my cross is to be kind when I don't feel like it, when life is agonizing, or I am just in a temper. Thank you Jabba, for giving me a chance each day to practice kindness.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Homily for Holy Thursday John 13: 1-15

Some people tell me that they are looking for a church community, when in fact they may be looking for a sect or a cult. A sect is a group of people who are all alike, at least in their thinking, views and opinions. They may even look alike and have the same economic and social background. For some, this kind of group is comfortable because it does not stretch or challenge their thinking and way of life.

A church community is not made up of like-minded people. A church is made up of lots of differences that are brought together in community by Grace, by sacrament, by God. This makes sense if we are to become mature Christians. We need our thoughts, beliefs and opinions to be challenge. This happens in a community that respects one another and does not judge one another. Left to ourselves, or in the company only of people who agree with us, our opinions and views too often will come from prejudice, fear, anxiety or sheer isolation from people different than ourselves.

Being at Sacred Heart has been a great blessing for me because you are so conservative and pious. I am a religious order priest, a Paulist. We are a very liberal order, who pushes the envelope of what we think Vatican II is all about. Politically, I suspect that most of us are Liberals. Paulist parishes tend to attract liberal thinking people. I would be surrounded by priests and people who give me comfort in my opinions. I don't have to defend what I think, or ponder my decisions and opinions.

At Sacred Heart, I get to meet a whole group of people that challenge my way of life and thinking. I get a chance to expand my horizons, to see other points of view. It allows me to deepen my own thinking, learn some new things. This is for the good. Now I may disagree with someone about their decision, but because we are a Christian community held together by grace, I can disagree and say so, but I don't say to the other person, "You are wrong." This would be a judgment of that person. To call someone wrong is to say that their decision or opinion was made with dark motives or hidden evil agenda. Sometimes we say we are defending against 'relativism" when in fact we are simply judging others with a false pride that says, "I am better than they are." Rather, two of us can look at a situation and come to different conclusions and different solutions and actions. We disagree, and we say so, but we are not disagreeable. If you want everyone to agree with you, then you want to belong to a sect or a cult not a church.

Jesus did not have very much in common with his Apostles. He was not a fisherman, like four of them. He was not a tax collector. He was not a political Messiah. One of them, Judas, did not agree with Jesus, so he tried to get rid of him. He made a judgment that Jesus was wrong, and this justified what Judas tried to do. Judas left the community. Peter also disagreed with what Jesus was doing when Jesus washed feet. Peter had a different opinion. But he listened to Jesus and changed his mind at least somewhat.

Jesus did not form a community where everyone agreed. Thomas did not think Jesus was alive after being buried, no matter what the others said, but he stayed with the community. Some of the disciples wanted to be more important than others, at Jesus' left and right when the judgment came. Differences are what make up a community because it challenges us to turn to the Eucharist if we are to hang together. Sacraments are where we agree. The grace of shared Body and Blood of Jesus is what really unites us at the core. Tonight we celebrate the miracle of this food becoming God and we, with all of our differences, becoming one community in Christ.