Monday, May 24, 2010

Exercising our core

LUKE 24: 46-53


We have to exercise our core. What is that? Until a few months ago, I did not know either. I run. I put one leg in front of the other and run. Simple. What more is there to know? I found out that I am ignorant. Running is a skill that requires the "entire" body work together, or else. I used to exercise my upper body with weight machines and my lower body with running and eliptical machines, or bikes. Then I found out about the core, the middle part of the body that is made up of the tummy, lower back rib area and lower abdomen. Those parts I apparently ignored.

A runner ignores the core to their own peril. Why? How? When I run, I will get tired. When I tire, my upper body starts to lean forward in a more pronounced way. This takes up the space that my knees had as they lifted when I was running fresh. My knees cannot lift so easily because my upper body is getting in the way. My hips are shifting to the back of my body and this is no good for running. I have to get my upper body to straighten up more. How? Exercise my weak core muscles. They are the muscles that will make me stand up straighter when I walk and run.

I started doing core exercises. They were very difficult and painful. I could not do very many at first. I was finding muscles I did not know I even had. Now I am able to get my upper body out of the way when I tire, so my knees meet less resistance as they lift. I run better, more efficiently.

Jesus has to get out of the way if he wants his disciples to do all he wants them to do. As long as Jesus is around, in the flesh, the disciples will follow him, and watch. At best, they will worship his Risen Body. They will be onlookers. He wants more from them. When Jesus ascends into heaven the disciples are able to do is stand around and look up at the sky. The Spirit they will soon receive will be like the core of the body. The Spirit will be present but can easily be ignored. They will have to work with the Spirit to do what Jesus has commanded of them, to preach and live the gospel, to become Church.

At first it will be painful to begin to become all that Jesus meant for his followers to be. It is a bit like beginning to get the core of the body into shape. We always have the core, but we can ignore it, and fail to run to our full potential. We always have the Spirit, from our Baptism, but we can ignore it and never reach our full potential as human beings made in God's image and likeness.

We exercise our Spiritual Core in worship, private prayer, and Scripture reflection. When we are more advanced in our Spiritual Fitness, we will do kind deeds with a loving heart, regardless of people's response. We will act in a loving manner and leave the results up to God.


JOHN 20: 19-23 PENTECOST 2010

Fr. Bill and Fr. Miljenko, two priests with whom I live, when I am in Boulder, are useless. Now the parishioners at their parish are shocked to hear me say this. They know these priests as zealous and caring and active in ministry. But I live with them. Fr. Bill and Fr. Miljenko do not take out the trash. They do not put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, but just leave them in the sink. They do not empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher and put them away. If they want a clean cup from the dishwasher, they simply open the washer full of clean dishes, take the cup they want and close up the washer again. They do not walk the dog.

Now who does all these things? Me! Cinderella. These men are like the two wicked stepsisters. They are the goats on Jesus' left in the final judgment who will get there just due and I am the good sheep who will get eternal happiness for all my good deeds. But there is something wrong here with all my good deeds. While I am doing good deeds, I am at the same time grumbling, murmuring, feeling self pity and whining to myself. I make wonderful tuna fish, filled with chopped up onions, celery, radishes, and carrots. One day, I was finishing up the preparation when Fr. Bill came in and asked if I would share. I wanted to say, "NO, you are useless!" I said, "yes", but with a "no" in my heart. I am doing good deeds but I am not growing in my spiritual life. I am like a person who is trying to swim against the current. I am not moving spiritually, though I am very active.

When I was a little boy, I was rather useless around the house. I would do the chores I had to do, but nothing more. My Mom did so many things around the house that I could have helped share in the work. She did kindnesses, but she did them with love. Each of her kindnesses were like a drop of water falling up the stone of my heart. In time I would change, a little. Now I am helpful around the house, but not yet with love in my heart.

The Pentecost readings help me to see a different view. In Acts 2: 1-11 all the disciples receive the Spirit. Each disciple is unique and is given different talents by the Spirit. It is the same Spirit, but different individuals. In this way we are not all the same in the Church, nor should we expect every other person to act just the way we do. In the second reading, 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13, Paul points out that all of us together make up the one church. Gifts and persons complement one another. Each of us is the Christ presence to one another. I am supposed to see Christ in people who are different from me.

If I were to open the refrigerator and see all the tuna gone and the empty, dirty bowl in the sink, I could say, "Oh, I fed Christ." I would to be more like the readings challenge me to be. Instead, I usually say, "Christ, who ate my tuna fish?" Fr. Bill and Fr. Miljenko have gifts different from me. They may be more tolerant, and patient than I am. I am more gifted as a homemaker, a person who tidies up messes. Together we make a community called Church.

In the final reading from John 20: 19-23, when Jesus breathes the Spirit upon the disciples, he gives them a specific command. Forgive one another. Jesus knows his disciples. They are each unique individuals. They will have to accept the differences in one another. All together these disciples will become Church. To do this, become Church, each one will have to forgive one another, and at times forgive themselves for being too demanding that every one be and act alike. People are made in God's image and not in my image. I wonder if Christ ate my tuna fish? I'm hungry.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Peace of the Spirit vs Peace of the World

JOHN 14: 23-29

My running coach has a problem. Wherever he leads our running group in a workout, we all follow him. We do what he tells us and follow the monthly printout of our workouts each day. But our coach is presently injured and cannot lead us in the workouts and sometimes he is not there. When this happens, the group begins to debate what workout, if any, to do, even though we have the daily training schedule mailed in advance. Without the coach we all seem to get scattered in our training and thinking. Suddenly it is too cold or too wet to do the workout. Some runners won't even bother to show up!

Jesus has the same problem with his followers, the disciples. As long as he is with them and in their face, they seem to follow him and their mistakes are minimal. But now Jesus is going away. He won't be there in the flesh to direct and lead them. He says the Holy Spirit will remind them of what they are supposed to do and lead them. That is a problem. The Holy Spirit competes with our desire to do what we want. Sometimes I want the world's peace, "peace and quiet." Leave me alone to do what I want. But the Holy Spirit calls me to be of service and enjoy a deeper, more lasting peace.

One evening I walked into a convert class. I was not there to teach. I just wanted to say hello to a friend of mine who had broken her foot, and then I would leave before the class got going. As I was leaving, I heard the coordinator say that the topic was vocation and discernment, and that the priest who was supposed to lead the class could not come. My body was trying to leave as I heard this. I just wanted to go home and read my book, and be left alone in peace. But something else in me was pulling me back into the room to be of some service. That is the Holy Spirit at work. The coordinator asked if I could talk about my vocation and discernment. I agreed. I sat down with the group and did not go home to my book. At the end of the class, I felt the peace that Jesus said he was leaving with us.

There will always be this tug between the world's peace and the Holy Spirit's peace. I suspect that Moms deal with this tug and pull all the time. They take care of the family at the same time that there is a pull to be left alone in "peace and quiet."

My mother taught me what true and lasting peace is. When I was growing up, Mom asked me to do some house chores while she went out on some errands. She left. She was not there to ensure I did what she asked. So I went for the world's peace. I sat down and put on the television to watch my cartoons. When Mom came home and found out I had done nothing, the world's peace went out the window! A little bit of effort on my part to obey would have given me a more lasting peace. I think Mom and the Holy Spirit worked together.

We don't have Jesus in front of us telling us what to do. Our spiritual struggle is to sort out the world's peace, which is often selfish and self-centered, from the peace offered by Jesus which is more service oriented toward others. The world's peace is attractive but has no depth. Jesus' peace can be less attractive at first, but has more depth to it. But I suspect that if we try and follow the Spirit, then we will be fulfilling the commandment Jesus gave which is to love as he loved.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Did you ever see a woman in a stylish dress or a man in a nice suit and tie or tuxedo and say, "Wow you look terrific!"? They look terrific because they have learned how to fit into their clothes. I don't mean fit in terms of size. I mean fit in terms of being comfortable in the outfit. When I look at someone who gets married right out of college, the bride/bridesmaids don't really look like they "fit" into their dresses, and the guys look more than awkward in their tuxedos. Nobody seems to move very well in their clothes. In college people simply wear jeans and tee shirts, and jogging shoes.

I think that learning to wear clothes is just part of the growing up process. When I was ordained a priest, I did not feel comfortable in my priest vestments or black suit. Suddenly, I am ordained, but it takes time to grow into the "priesthood" and clothes are a metaphor for that. When I worked in the business world, I never felt comfortable in a suit and tie. My Dad did. He belonged in the business world. He was comfortable there. I was not.

Some people simply do not see themselves in the world of glamour or dress up or business wear. They tend toward clothes in which they feel comfortable. Our comfort clothes will tell us something about who we are and who we are not. To "dress up" for me would be to get out of my comfort zone. I do it when it is appropriate for the occasion, but I feel like I am an actor in a play. When my Dad "dressed up", he was at home in his clothes.

I think that prayer comes in various styles. Some people are at home in "getting all dressed up" and we call this high liturgy. It has lots of pomp and circumstance. In those settings I feel like an actor in a play. I am more comfortable in my monastery where we wear jeans and flannel shirts most of the day, and our liturgies are very simple. I prefer prayer settings of silence and solitude. I don't need to so much to stare at the tabernacle, as to close my eyes and look at no image at all. In this prayer setting we even use terminology such as, "Strip yourself of ego," and "Become naked before God." When you are glamorous, everybody notices you. In contemplative prayer you become anonymous. You disappear into the Divine. It is my style.