Monday, October 25, 2010


LUKE 18: 9-14 OCTOBER 24, 2010

My big sister Maureen used to like to braid her hair from time to time. To do this, she had to lift up her arms and put her hands behind her head to braid her hair. While she was doing this, I would come up and tickle her. She would say, "Terry, you are going to burn." She did not like to be tickled. That is why I did it. Recently, I suggested to the girls at our local Catholic elementary school, that they come to the school mass with their hair braided. On the morning of the mass many of them did so. The gospel was about prayer.

There are three things that are needed to braid hair and pray. You need to take time, you need to make an effort, and you may need help. The Apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They asked for help. To pray you need to take some time that you would have devoted to something else, such as sleep. Prayer takes some effort. The tax collector in the gospel took time out to go to the temple. He made the effort to pray. He sought help from God. His prayer was short. Jesus told his disciples to keep their prayers short, not like some religious leaders of his day. Notice the Pharisee has a longer prayer, if you can call it that, than the tax collector.

With a short prayer, you can weave prayer through your day, much like you weave your hair when you braid it. You can say a short prayer in the grocery store, while at your desk, in your car, when exercising. Our spiritual life then is "braided" through our day.

Some of the girls at the school mass did not braid their hair. One possible reason is that did not want to or did not care. Sometimes we just don't want to pray, or we don't care. It happens. Another reason, is that some girls might have forgotten to braid their hair. Sometimes we forget to pray. I get up in the morning and intend to say my priest prayers, but get distracted by the dog or something else. Before I know it, I forgot to do my prayers and the day is well along. Maybe my sister is right, and I will burn! I don't think so. God seems to love sinners who repent, and people who forget to pray or get into contrary moods. What is your short prayer for today?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sometimes I am like the child who is told repeatedly to clean their room, but just ignores or postpones the task. Then when they actually do clean the room, they expect some special favor for their simply doing what they are supposed to do as a member of the family. There are things I am supposed to do as a priest, part of my job, that I put off. Then when I actually do my obligation, I think that I should get some special favor from God or someone else, as a reward.
I like the phrase from Luke 17: 10, "We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do." Cleaning your room does not make money for anyone. It is unprofitable from that perspective. But it is an obligation in many a family. We belong to the family of God. We are children of God from or baptism. Being children of God carries some obligations. Fulfilling the will of God is a reward in itself. No?
Why do many people like to read about movie or music stars, or sports heroes, but don't care much to read the bible? The key is experience that touches us deeply enough to want us to read more or know more. A person goes to a movie or rock concert and has a very moving experience of the central person in the event, the movie star or singer(s). In a superficial way, they fall in love with this make believe event. They want to soak up all they can from the media about their favorite stars.
The Gospels are about Jesus. If you don't have a deep experience of Jesus in your life, a personal, moving experience, than Jesus becomes a person some talks about, but not in any way that you can relate. A lot of people know about Jesus. But they have never experienced his unconditional love and acceptance of them in their messy lives. Telling someone that if they don't believe in Jesus than they will burn, certainly won't make anyone want to rush to the bible to embrace the story of this very real person. A movie is only a fantasy, but if our hearts are aching to be loved, and can find it nowhere else, the fantasy is what we will embrace.
In Luke 17: 5, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus says that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed they could get a mulberry bush to uproot itself and be replanted in the sea. What is this faith? I don't think it is a series of creedal beliefs. Many people believe the Creed of their faith. It is a series of dogmas and principles. But it is a faith that does not move much of anything. It is not very effective in the world.
The faith of which Jesus speaks is the faith of a relationship. It is the faith in God that goes deep into our heart. It comes from an encounter with God, usually in silence, stillness and solitude. This is the faith that will so move us, that we will be able to do quite extraordinary things in this world, imaged by the moving of a bush.
I have met many a person who went to expensive Catholic elementary schools, who received sacraments and memorized the creed, but as soon as their confirmation was done, they were gone from participation in worship services or any active participation in a local parish. They had faith but it was not such that it touched their hearts deeply enough. It was not a relationship with God, one on one. Our dogmas, liturgies, scriptures explain and amplify the experience of God in our lives. But without the experience, the rest cannot hold us. The church can make Christ present in the Eucharist, but the liturgy cannot make us experience that presence. Without that experience you may have faith in real presence, but it will not be such that you hunger for the Eucharist.
In Galatians 1: 15-16, Paul says that God had a plan for him from the time Paul was in the womb. If so, then this would be a pretty good reason to allow a fetus to be born. It brings up a second question for me. I, who was birthed, lived, and grew up, does God have a plan for me from the time I was in the womb? If so, have I discovered this plan? And if I have discovered it, am I living it out?
God's plan may unfold, and shift over a lifetime. Many a person I read about in history, had very active lives in the world, but then found a call to deeper solitude and gave up their productive work to join a monastery or become a solitary. As improved medicine and health allows us to live longer, we may need to keep assessing the path we are on at any one time.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lost Sheep

Luke 15: 1-10 Maybe the sheep called "lost" did not feel it fit into the herd mentality. Maybe it was not so concerned about security and safety, but rather wanted to go off and explore. I believe that the shepherd saw great value in having this sheep. The shepherd found the sheep but did not kill it or break its leg to keep it from running away again. The shepherd wanted to celebrate having found the sheep.
Being lost is a designation that is often given by the herd to one who is no longer around. I wonder if the sheep who had gone off would have seem itself as"lost"? Trying to live outside the box can be risky business, but maybe more risky for the herd than for the seeker, who at times is called "lost" by those who want to remain in the status quo. I wonder if Jesus was thought to be "lost" by other religious leaders and congregations? He said, "The kingdom is in your midst," but then you still have to search for it. When you search, that is when you are the Good Shepherd.

Lazarus the parishioner

In Luke 16:19-31, poor Lazarus sits at the door of the rich man, waiting to be fed some scraps. Lazarus reminds me of parishioners who come hungry for the word and get fed nothing. Their needs are ignored by a preacher who rants on about some issue that does not satisfy the emptiness of soul. The preacher is as self-serving and self-imploded as is the rich man in the gospel.