Palm Sunday is here and once again we hear the familiar story of The Passion retold; we will hear it again on Friday. Today we also hear of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with cries of “Hosanna! Hosanna!” It won’t be long Continue reading
Today’s post comes to us from guest blogger and first time contributor to our blog, Susan Francesconi of The Good Disciple. We welcome her with great joy!
March 4, 2016: Friday of The Third Week Of Lent
It happens every year about this time, give or take a couple of weeks. Of course, I am talking about the midpoint of Lent, but I’m also talking about the change of seasons. Lent, like spring, is a time of conversion, of reawakening, of planting new seeds, of grace-filled turnings, returnings, and reconciliations.
Around the fourth week of our Lenten practice, new spiritual growth emerges like tender buds urged on by shortened nights. We carefully push back the winter mulch and beckon the sun’s warming rays.
This morning as I walked my dog, a neighbor who I pass every day remarked: “you look happy this morning.” He was right; I know I had joy written all over my face. The birds seemed to chant, Come out! Come out! Squirrels giddily complied, springing crazily from tree to tree, dropping to the ground, and diving in and out of unraked leaves. I spied a family of eight wild turkeys jauntily making their way up a neighbor’s drive. Upon my return I searched the back of my garden for surprises, something I do every morning now. Two days ago I noticed a few snowdrops pushing through the mulch; today I saw hundreds waving their happy little heads in the breeze.
On days like this, when Continue reading
“Why haven’t you written something on your blog about Pope Francis and Donald Trump? As the Catholic blogger for the Times Union, don’t you have a responsibility to write about these things?” The question arrived in the form of an email from an acquaintance and took me by surprise.
As it happens, I am not the only Catholic blogger on the Religion/Beliefs corner of the TU blog platform. My friend, former grad school classmate Walter Ayers is present in that space as well. And I do not bear any responsibility to do anything. It goes like this – the paper asked if I would blog on their platform four years ago and I agreed. If I stop blogging, the newspaper police burst through my door and drag me before my “blog boss” Michael Huber, who is the Interactive Audience Manager for the paper. In fact, I have so few obligations, I keep this platform up, my “home” space, and the newspaper blog is a mirror.
That reply to my acquaintance generated another question. “Don’t you care about what is happening?” Oh I do, trust me – I Continue reading
Today’s Gospel, in which we hear Luke’s Transfiguration, says many important things – as do all of the Gospels. Remember, a word is never wasted in Scripture! But for today, I want to focus on this one point.
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
Lately, I am pretty certain that we are not listening, and I am as guilty as anyone. As a big proponent of social media in both my personal and ministerial lives, I am often out there. Trust me, I do try to be charitable – emphasis, try. I can think of one person I seriously offended recently, and that was completely unintentional. I can only imagine others who may not have spoken up.
Yesterday was an ugly free for all out in the Twitterverse. Now Facebook is one thing, and while it can get Continue reading
This being Thursday means #tbt in social media world. If you are unfamiliar, that hashtag stands for “Throwback Thursday.” Last Thursday included a #tbt, so maybe I will do this for all of Lent, but no promises. It is not just the lazyblogging of reposting old content, but a means to connect the past and the present at the blog, meaning the papal installation and the papal visit to Mexico.
Almost three years ago, on March 19, 2013, Pope Francis was installed to the Chair of Peter. What did we know back then? I don’t know about you, but I was already onto the fact that this was a most dangerous man – and I was very happy about it. I still am. At the same time, and here is our Lenten challenge, I remain deeply uncomfortable and divided.
Uncomfortable? Divided? Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy! I’m uncomfortable and divided because cheering him on from my suburban corner of the world reminds me that I am too comfortable and afflicted. Cheering Pope Francis on is one thing. Living the Gospel? That’s another. How I love to think about it, how rarely I actually live it.
During Pope Francis’ journey to Mexico this week, he had the chance to dive deep into issues that divide our nation and our world. I’ve used the word divided more than once, and I will point out that my own image of Satan is that of “diabolos” or divider. Immigration, economic justice, forgiveness and transformation of prisoners, and the slavery of consumerism are all part of the pope’s message. Which is because this is Jesus’ message. All very tasty from the pew or from your sofa, not so much when any of us look at our lives.
Well, that was a much longer rant than I intended for an intro, and it breaks every rule of good blogging, but so be it. First up – a video from the Papal Visit, from the New York Times:
And for our #tbt, the text of my 2013 post, “A Dangerous Man, Part Two.” If we thought the pope was going to be a game changer back then, we couldn’t have imagined what we’ve seen today. I’m pretty certain that Jesus would be way more challenging!
So, are you still reeling from all the papal news of the past few days? My head continues to spin. I keep thinking, “What the what?” Nothing prepared me for what we are now seeing and living, which reminds me of something that I often say, but do not live very well… “There is no accounting for the Holy Spirit!”
The other day, I wrote about how dangerous Pope Francis might be. As we are told in the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 8:
“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
That is certainly an understatement! And how the Spirit is alive in our new pope, who clearly has not followed any pre-existing script. As a result, I continue to find him someone who is potentially dangerous. And I love that. As Jesus Christ showed us a long time ago, and as Jesus Christ continues to show us today, nothing is more dangerous than… love.
Now before you go off shaking your head, considering this a seemingly insipid thought, please bear with me as I say few more things. Any of us who are Catholic, or any other kind of Christian, cannot really profess our faith without the knowledge. Can we?
I can’t speak for others, but I am deeply moved by how Pope Francis is present to us. He has showed himself, thus far, to be a man who wants to be of the people, one to serve the poor. And we are all poor. I have no doubt his concerns focus on those who suffer from material poverty, but I also have no doubt that his concerns also focus on those of us who suffer from many other forms of poverty. Like poverty of the heart, small-mindedness, division, and acrimony. Sounds like a typical day for me… *sigh*
When he moved through the crowds at the installation today, he freely reached out and touched people! And I also loved that this is the first time (this is HUGE news unto itself) a Greek Orthodox Patriarch has attended a papal installation since 1054. Yes, that was the date of the East-West Schism. Bartholomew I, who leads the Christians of the Orthodox Church was present. As if that was not enough, then this happened…
Δεν μπορούσα να το πιστέψω, το Ευαγγέλιο ψαλλόταν στα ελληνικά! Χάρη στον Θεό!
I mean, the Gospel was chanted in Greek! Thanks be to God! (Greek was the language of most of the New Testament Scriptures in their original form, not Latin.) It also seems noteworthy to me, that a woman proclaimed the Epistle; I’m not sure that has happened before at a papal mass, but I could be wrong. And the liturgy of the day, St. Joseph’s Day, was celebrated, which I think is great. Joseph was also importantly highlighted in the homily. All of this is so exciting to me, and I find myself turning to many Scriptures as these moments and days go by.
My love for the Gospel is great, and I could point to many stories and parables that touch my heart deeply, but for today, I will focus on two stories that point to how dangerous Jesus was, and how Pope Francis follows suit.
The first is from Luke 19, the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was the tax collector, a most hated man, who was short in stature and long on corruption. My friend Maria L. Evans and I have both imagined Danny DeVito playing him in a movie! This height challenged hustler is up in a tree watching Jesus. The story goes like this:
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
Needless to say, Jesus appears to be a disappointment to others who have followed him, because he reaches out to the worst guy in town and wants to stay with him.”
The other story is possibly my most favorite; the woman at the well, from John 4:4. Perhaps one of my favorite moments in this story is when the Samaritan woman admonishes Jesus for asking her for something to drink.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)
That piece of Scripture flashed into my mind as I watched this potentially dangerous scene unfold on the news yesterday.What is so dangerous about this? I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek as I say what I do, but I do have several thoughts about it all.
First of all, Cardinal Bergoglio and President Kirchner have a history together; one that is not necessarily a smooth one. Yet, he welcomed her, and they literally shared an Argentine tradition, una yerba mate.
Drinking yerba mate is very ritualistic and it involves everyone sharing from the same cup. Perhaps you see where I am headed. This is good eucharistic theology, if you ask me. And thus, the pope, like Jesus before him, becomes a very dangerous man, by doing this so publicly, so openly, so freely, and so early in his pontificate.
Me… I really like it. That Pope Francis did this. Mate? I love the ritual, but I can’t stand the drink itself! Now, there is a statement that could use a little theological unpacking, but I won’t go there today!
It makes me think of how fussy we can be, especially when at mass, not taking the cup, the Blood of Christ, which is equal in value and meaning, to the host, the Body of Christ. We are afraid of germs. What about the mate drinkers? They share germs. Are we afraid of germs? Are we afraid of one another? Are we afraid of Christ?
I think that this new pope may have some lessons for us along all of these lines. Lessons from a dangerous man, about someone who was really dangerous to many, but who is the savior of us all – Jesus Christ, our Lord.
With that, I leave you to ponder the dangerous power of love at work in the world.
It was a great pleasure to read and review the latest book from Joe Paprocki, A Church on the Move, 52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion. Today we have a short Q&A with him, one that I hope you will enjoy.
Joe, if you are unfamiliar , is the “catechist’s catechist.” An expert in catechesis and ministry, Joe is also one of the most down to earth, humble people you will ever meet. His passion for the Church is steady and clear, he is a great evangelist in that way. Joe offers insights to us via his blog, The Catechist’s Journey, as well as through books and articles authored by him. Learn more about Joe and his work at this page. Not a catechist? Not a problem! Joe offers Continue reading
For many people the Catholic Church is something that they left behind, like a most beloved possession, cast aside when it had worn down or lost its usefulness. It perhaps became moribund, inflexible, or just more burden or gift. There are many who left, there are many who stayed, there are many who join, yet we are not there yet. Pope Francis has been a tremendous source of inspiration, but as with any organization, what happens at the top is not always in sync with those in the trenches – even if that is the desire from both ends!
Got some ideas about how to change that? If you don’t – or even if you do, prolific Catholic author Joe Paprocki has some and they are worth sharing! He offers us his vision in “A Church on the Move, 52 Ways to Get Mission and Mercy in Motion.” (176 pp, $15.95)
If you have ever read any of Joe’s books you will know that he has considerable gifts as an author, and that he writes in a manner that is both accessible and compelling. This book is no exception to that, and in fact, it takes his style up more than a few notches if you ask me.
This book communicates the author’s belief that we are Continue reading
“As the Russian Patriarch and the Pope huddle right now inside Havana airport, I keep thinking of the old Yiddish proverb: ‘Two mountains can’t come together, but two people [mensches] can. – A barg mit a barg kumt zikh nit tsunoyf, ober a mentsh mit a mentshn yo.’ – Meaning: There is always a way for people to find common ground.” My friend Dina Tsoar, on Facebook today
Today I woke up very early and I immediately went to my phone to read more about the unprecedented meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis that took place in Havana yesterday. While this seems a blip in the news to most of the world, this is incredibly significant. I suppose if you are reading this blog, you will be inclined to agree, but I’m astounded by seeing more photos of Pope Francis in a sombrero on social media, than with Patriarch Kirill!
The full text of their joint declaration, an almost unimaginable thing, can be found at this link. Their prayers and pleas for unity, peace, justice, and more are quite moving and are worth the time it will take to read the declaration. It is astounding and a cause for joy! Remember that Jesus came so that as Jesus said: “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
As it happens, I wrote the daily reflection in Give Us This Day today. Now these assignments can come up to a year in advance, so I it was done some time ago, and who knew that this moment would be in the news. When I wrote it, my entire focus was on Continue reading
(What a privilege it is to welcome today’s guest blogger Margaret Felice,
with a reflection on today’s readings.)
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
Yikes. Do you ever hear a reading that shakes you up, that has you hesitant when it is time to respond “Thanks be to God”? That’s how I often feel when I hear readings that dwell on the wickedness of humanity.
That’s not to say that I don’t think such wickedness exists. I see it ever day, in large and small ways. I recognize it in my own heart, and try to respond with charity when I recognize it in the hearts of others. I just feel more comfortable attempting to draw out the positive rather than squashing the negative.
But this is our scripture. As with all the correction that comes to us from God, it’s not Continue reading
(Today’s post is a little bit of #tbt, also known as Throwback Thursday, or a day of looking back at something from the past. I have posted it before, although so long ago I forget when! It is a good reminder on our second day of Lent. May we all pray for one another.)
We all know where the pathways of our desert journey are leading, and annually many of us set out again, in search of change and transformation. The road ahead is difficult, but we press on, over and over again, following Jesus. Stepping into the wilderness, we proceed into a place that appears barren and lacking hope. Each day carries us into the wilds, the challenges, the struggles. Tempted again and again, we make our way to the Cross. There can be no resurrection without a crucifixion. And what sense would a crucifixion make if there were no resurrection? These questions stay with us, but for now, early in the pilgrimage, we place one foot before the other, praying for our souls and our very being to be at last made more whole in Christ.
This is the road ahead. Let us go forth, praying for one another.