Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Assumption Dogma

On this date in 1950 my big sister Maureen said, " Well, the Feast of the Assumption is when a lot of Catholics punch their ticket to hell."  I was seven years old at the time and did not understand her.  Not understanding Maureen was typical, as long as I obeyed.  She had been in Catholic school for four years, so I figured she was a theologian by then.  She looked at my blank face and said, "OK, dummy, let me explain."  She continued, "The dogma of Mary being assumed body and soul into heaven has just been proclaimed by the infallible pope.  Today is the first time that we celebrate this feast as a Holy Day of Obligation.  That means you must go to mass or burn.  Did you see how empty the church was yesterday, August 15?"  In fact the church had few people in it.  Maureen was not finished as she added, "It is no excuse that it is summer and people aren't thinking about church or this new feast.  They will still burn if they get hit by a trolley before they confess."  So spoke Maureen the oracle.  It was for me my first experience with this new Holy Day and the actual event of the pope speaking infallibly.  I have spent my life since that day, trying to remember to go to church in the middle of a weekday in the summer, and to understand what the Assumption is all about.  But I think that my big sis probably mellowed as she got older because some of the people she loved did indeed miss a few Assumption masses.  Though the pope may be infallible, I did not think he was very smart to make a Holy Day in the middle of the summer when there was no school.  I liked holy days when school was in session because then you got a day off from school.  This was not a good reason to like holy days.  It is not very pious, so I may have earned some time in purgatory.  Maureen thought there were many other reasons as well for her little brother to burn.  If you missed mass yesterday, avoid trolleys.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Balance

I find that something good can at times get in the way of something better.  I like to run.  It is a good thing for my type of body.  But if I run too much, then two things happen.  One, running gets in the way of prayer, which is exercise for my interior self. Two, I get injured, and then I cannot run at all.  I go into rehab.  So, in order to run and pray, I try to keep moderation in both.  Moderation keeps me from running too much.  I never seem to have moderation problems with prayer.  I seem, at my best, to pray in moderation.  I am not for three hours a day meditation.  I try to keep daily, good things, with no one good thing taking over my life.  Notice that no one ever demands that I run or pray.  It has to come from within.  The demands of life seem to come from others.  So don't wait for other people to demand that you do good things for yourself.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Homily Walk On Water

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 14: 22-33
August 13, 2017

            Jesus tells his disciples to go to the other side of the lake in their boat.  The other side symbolizes going from the flesh and blood, limited, human, earthly side of ourselves, over to the spiritual, transcendent, side beyond space and time.  To go from one side to the other one must go through the storms of transition.  The storm is the doubt that there is anything else but the mundane, daily routine, or there is the fear of entering into another dimension in which we do not have control.  But there is a natural attraction for the transcendent.  We came from it before conception and we return to it, hopefully, enlightened, beyond the door of death. 

            The disciples begin the crossing.  The storms come up and they are having a tough time of it.  The spiritual journey can seem daunting at times.  It can seem like more than our frail and limited bodies and brains can handle and comprehend.  But God goes with us, and at some point will reveal in an unexpected and new way, the Presence.  This is Jesus walking on the water.  Fear grips the disciples, but Peter dares to get out of the boat.  This symbolizes one who senses that there is a deeper dimension to us, the “walk on water” dimension that will bring us to union with God, deeper than thoughts, images, worship and dogma.  Peter is assured that he can do it.  He is invited to enter into the new dimension.  His spirit is capable.  All he needs is confidence and trust. 

            He walks on water. Then he allows himself to become attached to his fears of the storm that comes with all crossing into the numinous.  “Save me,” is the shout of all of us when we feel life drowning us.  We feel powerless, and indeed, succumbing to our fears, we are powerless.  When Jesus gets into the boat, the disciples calm down with the calming of the storm.  They feel safe, as do many people who go to church.  They worship and proclaim faith as a dogma.  “You are the Son of God,” they say.  Many believers would prefer the safety of church ritual, and dogma, rather than the journey into the stormy 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

$$$

 St. Nonna married.  She and her husband became saints.  He became a priest and then a bishop, married the whole time.  They had three children, one of whom married and had children.  St. Nonna then became a deacon.  These married people had no problem being married, doing a good job and became saints.  Notice that marriage did not seem to get in the way of everyone doing a creditable job such that they became saints as well.  St. Nonna, the wife, became a deacon.  Save that for another day.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Mezzanine

You have heard me talk about purgatory in blogs.  It is not such a bad place if you think of it as the "mezzanine."  In a theater I like to sit in the mezzanine.  It is not necessarily the best seat in the house, which might be orchestra center near stage where you can see the actors and their facial expressions.  You have to pay a lot to get there.  Big sacrifice.  On the other hand, the mezzanine is not the balcony, which does not cost so much, but is far away and hard to see faces and maybe even hear the words of the actor speaking.  So I like the in-between mezzanine that is not too expensive and you get enough for me.  I am not in heaven nor am I in hell.  So, given the amount of myself I am willing to give up for the sake of being a better person, I guess I am a purgatory guy.  I will do something to be good, but not a whole lot.  I will never be a saint, but I hope to at least not be a really miserable person to myself and others.  Had my big sister, Maureen, been nicer to me, spent more of herself to attend to me, the prince, she would be in orchestra center section of eternity.  Her admirers? Balcony people.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Envy

There are times when we look to someone with admiration, and then there are times when we simply envy a person, and don't like them so much.  What makes the difference?  The difference is, "do they diminish me?"  I can admire someone who writes a novel that I really enjoyed.  But I am not going to write a novel, nor do I see m self as a novelist in waiting.  Their novel does not diminish me in my own eyes.  On the other hand, I might have certain fantasies about myself that I think are real possibilities.  When someone else accomplishes what I have not yet done, I get envious and don't like them so much.  I might even resent the person.  For instance, I might think that I should have a bigger parish to pastor than I have, and resent someone who has such a parish.  I am envious of them.  This is the envy as in one of the seven deadly sins.  I have the fantasy that I am someone who I am not, a big parish pastor.  I have since dropped that fantasy.  I am a small time blogger.  I no longer envy big parish pastors.  I was never meant to be one.  I have too many character defects for that.  Envy diminishes with discovery of truth, and maybe a little maturity.  Maureen said I was always slow.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Maureen And Latin

One day, my big sister Maureen said, "I am going to learn Latin when I go to high school next year."  "Why?" I asked.  "I thought only priests had to know Latin."  "Think of it this way, dummy.  When the church prays the mass, it is in Latin.  I figure that Latin is the language God understands.  Maybe God will listen to me and answer some of my prayers if I say them in Latin."  I thought about this for a moment and then asked, "Doesn't God answer your English prayers?"  With a sigh, she said, "So far, no.  I asked God to make you clean up your part of the bedroom, and keep your part of the closet neater, but so far, no dice."  I pondered this a bit in silence.  Then I thought out loud, "Protestants don't have mass and don't pray in Latin, do they?"  "No," she answered.  "That is why God does not listen to them.  Very few Catholics speak Latin, so God can focus on these few and not get over loaded with requests. So I am going to study Latin."  I don't think Maureen studied Latin in her high school.  But I took her advice and studied Latin in high school and college.  Then the Catholic Church dropped Latin in the mass and we all began to pray in English.  I guess this allowed God to cut back on work if God only understands Latin.  God has been around a long time and probably needed a break.  I pray in English now and ask God to get Maureen out of purgatory.  If Maureen is right about the Latin, then maybe she is still there.  What is the Latin for "purgatory."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Walking With Maureen

One day I was walking with my big sister, Maureen, and I asked her, "Maureen, why do you have such a long face when you walk with me?"  She sighed, and answered, "Because you are a mess of a boy and someday, I will have to marry one of your kind."  "What mess, am I?" I queried.  "Well, for one, you pick your noose.  And you put on clothes that don't match.  You cannot put a straight part into your hair, and you only brush your teeth when I tell you," she replied, exasperated.  "Do you think maybe I will get better when I grow up?" I asked, hopefully.  "Probably not," she retorted.  "But since you will grow up to be good looking like daddy, some girl will be fooled, as we all are, and marry you, much to her misfortune."  Maureen was not finished.  "So why not become a priest?  They don't get married.  You can keep all your bad habits.  Plus you only wear black, so you won't have to worry about color coordination."  "Don't I have to be holy to be a priest?" I asked.  "That does not seem to be in evidence in our parish, so don't worry about it.  You say mass with your back to the people so you can pick your noose and no one will notice.  I would never go to communion to you though."  "But Jesus would remove all germs on the host," I countered.  "Jesus removes sins, not germs," Maureen corrected me.  Years later, at my ordination, Maureen received Holy Communion from me.  She had a smile on her face.  Later, I asked her if she was smiling because I had gotten over bad habits.  "No," she said.  "I smiled because you spared some woman from marrying you.  And I brought handy wipes."  Then she broke out into a big, hearty laugh.  Now you know why my big sister had to go to purgatory.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Pliers

Meditation is like pliers.  It loosens my hold on my thinking.  Thinking can be held by prejudices, judgments, fears, resentments and so on.  All these attachments to my thinking need to be dislodged or loosened up, and eventually removed.  Pliers are used to loosen things that are too tightly bound.  Meditation is my spiritual pliers.  Deep meditation dislodges me from the focus on my thoughts.  I rest for some moments detached from thoughts.  This allows for something else to move into a more central place in my mind.  I begin to get some insight, a different way of seeing the world around me, a greater openness to diversity in my world.  So if you want to be reminded to meditate on a daily basis, put a pair of pliers next to your bed or coffee cup.  And remember this blog.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Donut Spirituality

Homily Notes
Fr. Terry Ryan, CSP
Matthew 17: 1-9
August 6, 2017
Transfiguration

                                      One day when I was about 5 years old, my big sister, Maureen, said to me, “Terry, our relationship reminds me of a donut.”  Since she was my first theologian and moral ethicist, I requested some explanation.  “Why do you say that?” I asked.   She explained, “I am like the part of the donut that is sweet and everyone wants me.  You are the hole in the middle.  You are nothing.”  I thought for a moment, and then said, “But a donut cannot be a donut without the hole in the middle.”  “Yes,” Maureen answered, “This is true.  So your purpose in life, so far, is to be nothing.”  “Will I ever be something?” I asked.  She thought for a moment and then gave me hope.  “Yes, when you receive First Holy Communion you will be something.”  A few years later when I received my First Holy Communion, I was probably the only one at the communion rail who was thinking of donuts!

                                      Because Maureen was mean to me, as in the above situation, she is most likely in purgatory.  But she did have a good point that I discovered as the years went on.  We all have donut days in our donut spirituality.  Some days we feel like nothing.  No one cares about me.  My prayer life is a mess.  God has abandoned me.  My life is in ruins.  And so on.  It is those days when we are living focused on the middle of the donut.  It is the empty hole and we feel just like that.  But the hole is part of the donut, just as we are part of God, the outside sweetness of divine light.  The donut is not a donut without the hole.  We are part of God with our empty feeling moments.  God is never away from us.  The Light is always part of us. 


                                      Though we look and feel quite ordinary, we are always quite divine as Children of God in Jesus Christ.  Jesus became human and people could not see his Light, his transfigured brilliance.  We miss that same brilliance in ourselves and in others when we get into our dark moments.  Yet we are transfigured persons looking in the wrong place.  Sometimes, when I go to receive communion I still think of donuts, but also of receiving Sweet Jesus.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Light Bends

If you see the total eclipse of the sun, you will see stars.  They are not where you see them.  Say what?  Well, when the light from the star passes the sun on the way to your eye, the gravity of the sun bends the light.  As a result the star is not where you "see" it.  It is the General Theory of Relativity as Albert Einstein puts it.  Now how about Terry Ryan's general theory of judgment.  You judge a person by what you see, but what you see may not be completely accurate.  What you see is distorted by things you don't see.  You cannot see gravity.  A person might do an action that you see and experience.  You don't know their motives, or the pain they might be undergoing, or other "hidden" circumstances.  A person steals.  They are bad.  Sinners. Too lazy to work, and so on, in your judgment.  But they may be starving, unemployable, desperate to feed others in their care.  I have met any number of people who think alcoholics are weak-willed, selfish, uncaring people.  Such judgment does not know addiction.  We judge people for being too much for God or not enough for God and so on.  Since we do not really walk in amy shoes but our own, maybe it is best to not get caught in the Terry Ryan theory of judgment, in case I am right.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Triple Check

On the latest airplanes there are three computers for when the pilot cannot see anything, as in a landing.  The three computers all have to agree or else the calculations are done all over again.  They are all checking data to see that they agree on the landing.  Think about this in your own life.  Do you act compulsively and later say, "What was I thinking?"  Do you bother to ask anyone else if what you are considering is a good idea or step to take?  Many people have spiritual directors, sponsors, good friends along the journey of life with whom they check things out before making a decision.  If you have been burnt a few times by total self-reliance, you might want to consider adding someone(s) to your decision process.  Many people pick the wrong spouse.  They think they know, when all their friends are advising otherwise.  Asking for a second opinion is one thing.  Then you have to listen with an open and sane mind.  Or crash.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fit Spiritual Condition

Whenever we tend to take our fit spiritual condition for granted, we tend to slaken off.  We got to this good place because we disciplined ourselves to practice such things as meditation and examination of conscience on a daily basis.  So now we may do some good activities, helpful to others, improving the world, but these take the place of our spritual practice.  We skip it for a day or two.  No meditation.  Nada.  We don't actually plan to skip the practice.  We simply get so involved in other things that we forget.  We pure of heart now need some humility.  Our lives begin to spiral downward.  We feel scattered, frazzled, and out of sorts.  So we decide to meditate to get that fit conditon back.  But it does not come back right away.  Scar tissue from wounds of neglect.  The moral?  You cannot easily retrieve what is poorly guarded.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Called To Serve

When I was in the 8th grade I was elected President of our class.  I had only been in the school one year, so I thought this was a big deal, and I was a big deal.  I liked the title.  Then one day, the incorrigible Catholic boys in the classroom were so bad that the teacher left the room in tears and went to her office.  The girls in the class looked at me and said, "We elected you President.  Go and do something about this."  Yuke!  I don't want to do anything about this mess.  You see, I liked the ego boosting title, but when it came to being of some service in a difficult situation, I did not want that part of the job.  So be careful when someone gives you a title or you get elected to something.  It means a call to service.  Selfish, whiny people ought not take on these titles or jobs.  I have found it so.

Audio Talks

For those of you who listen to podcast type stuff when walking, exercising or whatever, you can now hear a couple of my talks on contemplative prayer. It is on soundcloud/frterrysspiritualstuff.  Note I am keeping the "spiritual stuff" logo as this is a way for me to remember where is what.  Happy listening. You might go to soundcloud.com and then find me that way.  What do I know.  I just do the talking.  And now someone wants to publish all my Maureen stories in a book.  So I have to find out where they are all located.  Two new ones are coming up in the not so distant future for you Maureen groupies.  I think she ends up in purgatory both times.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fantasy Solution

Some of us find that working at recovering a spiritually fulfilling life is so hard that we tend to go into fantasy.  Fantasy is where we are super people, doing all kinds of wonderful things, naturally, with heroic effort.  We are wonderful, powerful, maybe beautiful, all without doing anything.  Our behavior changes instantly, in our minds and imaginations.  Such people, me included, need to be with others who can recall us to reality, not my reality, but the really real.  With the support of others, a community, I find that reality is not so bad that I need to escape to fantasy.  With others, I find that I am better than I think I am.  Alone, I tend to think I am worse, I guess, because that is when I escape to the unreal world of super person.  I am never very loving when there because I find it a bother to be helpful.  It interrupts my fantasy life.  Someone out there tell me that I am not abnormally crazy, but rather Normally Crazy.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The List Of Faults

A lot of us try to keep a list our our faults or character defects/shortcomings as a way to keep track of how we are doing on a daily basis.  I have my list but find that this "cataloguing" is very hard to remember.  I can review it at night, but it seems I don't access it when I need it during the day.  So what I try to do is focus on one thing: being loving in service to others, and making time for meditation.  If I am kind and loving in action, it does not matter what negative "catalogue" thoughts come into my mind.  I can ignore them if I am focused on that one thing: being loving and helpful.  The mediation time is to make sure that I don't over help and burn out.  At night, in my review of my day, I find that I have been less selfish, whiny, resentful and judgmental.  My heart is changed more by action than analysis.  It works for me.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monastery Rule

In the monastery where I spend the summer, the monks live by the "Rule of St. Benedict."  What is it  about his rule that can apply to all of us.  He believed in moderation over against rigorous asceticism  and self-denial punishing the body.  He focused not on the externals, but on the internals, not the flesh/body, but the will.  He focused on you not being the center of the universe which in his rule came from obedience and learning to live with one another in community.  How would this help you?  Well, don't get into a spiritual practice that beats yourself up.  This is really one more ego trip.  The spiritual gym needs moderation, but a regular visit to prayer.  You don't need to sit in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Pray regularly, in a way that appeals to you.  Then take time to be with others and see how you can develop a non-judgmental attitude, become accepting, less self-focused, more giving and less demanding.  But again, don't overdo all this either.  The spiritual practice is not living the extraordinary life, but rather living the ordinary with gratitude and gentleness with yourself and others.  "Daily" is the key word here.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Potluck Day

I like this one.  Think of each day as a "Potluck Day."  Say what?  Well, when you go to a potluck you are supposed to bring something good and tasty for others.  You add to the occasion by more than your physical presence.  That is what makes a potluck successful.  All takers and no givers is a disaster.  So what will you bring to today, that is good for others and more than your physical presence?  Especially if your physical presence is a bit low energy or crabby, you can still bring something to nourish others.  Crab salad?  In a potluck day attitude, you come into contact with another person or persons, and ask about themselves, how they are doing, rather than use their presence to unload the misery of your own perceived suffering.  I listen much better to a person's whining if they bring me a cappuccino.  I do not listen so good if it is lima beans, though I am learning to enjoy them when they are soaked in butter.  Enough about me.  How is your day?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Aries

More "Wonder Woman."  Continuing from yesterday, Aries is winning in the mano a mana fight with Diana, Wonder Woman.  He takes a breathier and asks her why she is trying to destroy him? Duh!  But then he gives evil's side to the situation.  He says to her that he does not cause people to do all this violence in WWI.  He simply shows them or makes available to them, what they can be capable of.  But he does not force them.  They can "choose" for themselves.  He has a point.  All of us have character defects or faults or negative feelings from time to time.  We can fell angry, jealous, gluttonous, fearful, greedy, lustful, too prideful, and so on.  If we have a transforming spiritual practice, such as meditation, twelve step program, we will be aware of these feelings, but will have the power to not let their energy control our actions or responses to the world around us.  We will feel jealous or fearful, but simply note it, and disengage from its energy.  In WWI Christians were killing Christians.  Lots of people going to church and believing in creeds, but this does not go deep enough. Lots of church membership, but not much discipleship.  Love is especially difficult when there is so much negative energy around us.  Christians call it the cross.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wonder Woman

In the hit movie, "Wonder Woman" the climatic struggle between the force of evil, the god Aries and Diana, the Wonder Woman, Diana seems to be getting the worst of it.  She has placed her fighting powers against all the evil soldiers in the battles of WWI, in order to get to Aries, who she has come to destroy and return peace to the world.  Violence against violence.  She has won up until this point, but as she looks up to the sky from under a pile of heavy rubble that has pinned her down, with Aries hovering over her, she sees a plane being flown by Steve Trevor, the American spy who has led her from her safe island home of women to the fight of WWI.  Trevor loves her, but knows that to win this fight, he must sacrifice himself.  He does.  With that self-sacrifice Aries is blown away.  The fighting of soldier against soldier stops.  Diana realizes, as she says, a bit later in another post war scene, that only love will defeat evil.  All her fighting powers would not do it.  Now, will there be a sequel?  Is evil permanently eradicated?  I think not.  Diana sends an email message in the final scene to Bruce Wayne...BATMAN.  Aries lurks.  Keep loving.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Reality Change

There was a time when I did not accept situations as they are.  I was not into acceptance.  Reality had to change.  A healthy way to do this, in my case, was to go for a good run.  When I finished, I felt better.  The outside situation was the same but it did not bother me so much. I had changed me in a healthy way. This is sanity.  Somethings we simply cannot change the outsides.  But I had an unhealthy, insane way of changing reality.  I would have a drink of alcohol.  Well, maybe a few more drinks.  Reality changed for me.  The outside world did not bother me.  Actually, nothing bothered me at some point in this solution.  The insanity is that I had only changed myself for the worse, with my alcohol consumption, while the outside world stayed the same.  I thought that I was fine. The next day, the outsides and insides were not so good.  So you have to ask yourself, if you are having trouble with acceptance of things you cannot change, what will be your response?  I now like to do something good for myself, or maybe even do something good for someone else.  Now there is a thought!  I find a piece of chocolate, and even shared, is very healthy sometimes.  I don't seem to have too many good runs in me anymore.  But even a bad run beats a headache.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Atmospheric Refraction

When I have a reunion with my two living sisters in Florida, they will go to the ocean to watch the sunrise.  I don't go.  They won't see the sun rise.  When they think they are seeing the sun rise over the ocean, the real sun is still below the horizon.  Florida has a lot of moisture in the air.  This phenomenon is called, "Atmospheric Refraction."  My sisters don't know this.  The went to brand X colleges.  I went to Fordham.  They come home and tell me what a wonderful sunrise they saw.  I don't want to burst their bubble, so I say nothing.  Even though what they saw was not the real sun, it was their experience that counted.  They will have a better day because they had their "sunrise experience."  When people tell me they saw something or believe in something that they think is positive, I don't challenge facts.  I don't get into debates.  I look for how their experience changes their life for the better.  If someone says they have experienced a Higher Power I look to see if their lives have changed for the better.  I don't question the existence of Higher Power.  I meet people who say they believe in God or experience God, but their lives are mean, nasty, greedy, selfish and heartless, or parts thereof. In my mind they experienced a god of illusion.  If the experience changed you for the better, then what you saw is "real" enough for me.   Except atmospheric refraction.  But why burst my sisters' bubble.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Last To Know

Many of us are the last ones to know about both a good and bad part of ourselves.  Take a genius.  To the genius, things have always come more easily to them than other people.  So they don't make a big deal about their successes in whatever they do that shows genius.  Everyone else sees it first and tells them.  Will the genius eventually apply themselves to what they do well and become a good for the world?  Maybe.  I knew one genius, way smarter than me.  But he did not apply his talents.  I think he committed suicide.  He died young.  Genius is not the panacea for suffering.  On the other hand we are often the last to know or accept a bad aspect of ourselves.  Take the alcoholic.  Everyone seems to know it but the alcoholic. This is the way they always drink. It is their normal. They are the last ones in their circle to admit to alcoholism.  Will they get better? Perhaps.  Or maybe suicide for them too.  So what I try to do each day, since I don't want to be among the clueless, is early in the day, look at the good qualities people tell me I have and ask how I am going to use them in service to those around me.  Then I look at the bad habits and defects in my character and ask how I am not going to let them get in the way of the good.  I do this in prayer...I need power beyond my own.  When people give me a compliment I try not to contradict them.  They have just given me a gift, a second pair of eyes and heart to see myself.  When they tell me I am whining...well, what do they know!😇😇

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quick To Judge

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 13: 24-32
AUGUST 23, 2017
            I sometimes wonder if my big sister, Maureen, is in purgatory or not.  Why? Well, I figured she was pretty bossy with her little brother.  But today’s gospel says don’t be so quick to judge.  Our judgment of another person is our opinion.  It generally is based upon what we think is good/bad.  No one would ever plant a mustard seed in a field of grain or fruit trees.  That seed will only amount to a bush, a large obtrusive and rather ugly bush that takes up space.  That is one opinion.  The birds have another opinion.  They choose to dwell there and not in the seemingly big, and beautiful fruit trees. 
            The type of weed that is planted in the field looks at first just like the wheat.  So don’t be too quick to judge.  Leave things be and see how it all works out.  That is God’s job.  What is the point of all this?  Think of the communities you prefer for your own worship, dwelling, or comfort zone.  Is it a group of people very similar to how you see yourself?  Many worship communities seem to migrate to people of similar likeness.  If someone dissimilar tries to enter or join, people tend to shun or ignore the newcomer, and thereby make a judgment.  Some people would prefer a smaller, “purer” community, while Jesus seems to hang out with all kinds of people who are judged to be the “wrong crowd” by some religious authorities. 
            The Kingdom of God is made up of all kinds of people and we need to be more broadly welcoming, and inviting.  Broaden our horizons.

            And if you yourself sometimes feel that you are an odd type, and don’t fit in, remember that is just your opinion.  God might very well have a different opinion.  Allow yourself, as you are, to do a kind act today for someone else.  I have found differences tend to fade with kindness. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Little Can Be A Lot

Sometimes you do a little something for someone, but think it is not much.  Well, that depends on their perspective.  What if they have nothing?  If you give a dollar to someone on the street, what if it is the only dollar they get?  But lets broaden this.  You give someone a hello and say something positive about them or their appearance or accomplishments.  You may think it was just a passing remark, a mere moment in your time.  But what if you are the only one who notices them in a positive manner, or any manner, that day?  You might give someone a hug, and it might be the only hug they get, period.  At times I try to do something nice for someone, a cup of coffee, for no other reason then to do it.  It might change their day.  So don't belittle yourself for the "little" you do.  Do a little and it might be a lot in the eyes of another.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Maureen

Today would be my sister Maureen's birthday.  She died in 2004.  I miss her still.  I do hope that she is out of purgatory by now.  Her fans, who are legend, no accounting for taste, believe that she never went there, but went straight to God's eternal hug.  I have no direct revelation as to her whereabouts, but hope for the best, given that one should pay for being a bossy big sister.  Her four children think that she is a saint, but that is because by the time they came along, Maureen had reformed, though my two sisters say it was because she no longer had to put up with me.  I was the only saint among my siblings, and they cannot abide by that.  Saints suffer.  Anyhow, say a prayer for her if she is still in the fires, or one for me if you think she is in heaven.  I might need prayers, even of sinners like my readers, in case I am, as some say, delusional.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Outreach

There are at least two organizations that were founded, not primarily for membership, but for those who don't belong.  One was the Christian Church and the other is AA.  After 2000 years, the Christian church, now churches, is not primarily for those who don't belong. 
It went from disciples to membership, at least for the person in the pew.  In most of these churches, the membership has become people who are pretty much the same within that church.  Ethnicity, language, culture, and custom seem to form any one church.  Not much mixing and not much outreach by the members for "outsiders."  The original followers were supposed to be well, "followers."  Go out and proclaim the good news to those who have not heard and could use it.  Start with the "lost sheep," those who felt abandoned, ignored, the poor as well as the educated.  History had a lot to do with changing all this over 2000 years.  Now AA is less than 100 years old and is still focused on its primary purpose, to carry the message to those who are still suffering, outside the fold.  What will the future hold?  We must be careful, lest history repeat itself.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Flicker

I heard a wonderful analogy to spiritual growth: a power outage.  In a power outage you are in the dark.  No power.  By yourself, at this moment you can do nothing but wait, hope, pray, and maybe grumble and whine.  But you cannot make the power come back on.  Then there is a flicker of light.  Hope. There is help out there.  Then full power comes on, and you are in the light.  Why did the power go out?  Lack of maintenance.  Now in the spiritual journey, you take light for granted, and so you don't worry about maintenance.  You spiritual center is the power grid.  In time, with no maintenance of a spiritual condition, no prayer, meditation, diet, exercise, right living, the grid goes bust and you suddenly find yourself in the dark, the bottom of darkness.  Help!  You cannot find the self-power to bring back the light.  You are not the power.  You wait.  You make promises to whatever, to reform, change, do something differently,  so that this won't happen again.  Then the flicker.  This is the first faint stage of recovery from the darkness.  Waiting is better than bad living.  Then the light comes back on.  It came from a power not your own.  If your promises to change hold up, then you begin to do maintenance on the grid, so that you stay in the light.  All recovering alcoholics know this.  Live badly, maintenance free.  Darkness: the bottom.  Powerlessness. A flicker of hope from somewhere as you are introduced to the Program of Recovery.  Then the light.  Daily maintenance is the ongoing journey.  The next time you are stuck in a New York Subway, or waiting for one that does not come, may this be a reminder: daily maintenance of your spiritual condition.  using the darkness never seems to bring back the light.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Being Alone

To paraphrase Matthew Kelly, you can make a lot of bad relationships because of your fear of being alone.  When I first moved to Chicago, as a single guy, I knew no one.  I was alone.  It never occurred to me that I could go to a museum and treat myself to art.  No, I went to a bar.  There I would meet  a woman, who my first instinct said was not for me.  But I killed that instinct with a drink, and thus a budding, but "never should have been" relationship would begin.  There were a few of these.  My best women relationships in Chicago were with women I never met in bars nor at work.  The fear of being alone was what drove me to places and people that were not fulfilling for my deepest needs.  But that fear seemed to block out at times healthier and more stimulating activities, places and events.  You might want to go through your list of people in your life and ask if they are there because of this aloneness fear or are they there for more positive reasons.  I hope that my blog does not get the cut.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Homily

HOMILY NOTES
FR. TERRY RYAN, CSP
MATTHEW 13: 1-9
JULY 16, 2017

            When a seed falls into the ground, what happens?  It might depend on the ground, the soil.  In Jesus’ day, lots of the land used for planting was somewhat rocky.  When the farmer tilled the soil before seeding it, the weeds were plowed under and became fertilizer.  There were no herbicides.  So the seeds fell upon rocks, thorns, and such in the planting.  So?

            So, think of yourself as the soil.  The seed is God.  God opens up to us, as a seed broken open, to embrace us in a loving hug.  We are invited to open up, accept this love in spite of the weeds, thorns, and rockiness of our personality, our shortcomings and imperfections.  God is ready to love us as we are, not as we think we should be.  Do you not have days that are “thorny,” when you seem to choke God ‘s love, and anyone else’s by your bad behavior, selfishness, whining, fear, resentments, and anger?  God will still open to you.  Jesus says that the sower sows seeds everywhere, not just on the “perfect” soil. 

            In chemistry, there is something called a compound substance.  It means that things, substances, that are different, come together and be what they are through each other.  God wants to be moved by our love.  God expresses more of Godness when we openly surrender to this love, this spiritual hug and hug back with love.  Love is meant to change people.  This is the purpose of the divine hug, the unconditional love of God and our response.  God created the world to express God’s self more fully, in nature, stars, and so forth.  But it seems that we humans are the part of creation that can love God most fully, and therefore allow God to become most self-expressive.
                       

            When we love this way, we may begin to see “others” not so much in their faults, but in their oneness with us, all one soil.  This is the vision that allows for a hundred-fold harvest.  I hope for a hug today.