Friday, June 5, 2020

How do we understand the Trinity? (Fr. Ron Rolheiser)

   How do we understand the Trinity?  We don’t!  God, by definition, is ineffable, beyond conceptualization, beyond imagination, beyond language.  The Christian belief that God is a trinity helps underscore how rich the mystery of God is and how our experience of God is always richer than our concepts and language about God.

--Fr. Ron Rolheiser,      
Facebook, January 27, 2020        

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Sunday Gospel Reflection, June 7, 2020: The God of love and peace will be with you...

Do you know how much God wants a relationship with you?

  God has always wanted nothing more than a close, intimate relationship with humankind.  When, in the Book of Exodus, Moses descends with the tablets of the covenant written by God, only to find that the people have begun to worship a golden calf, it is not surprising that he erupts in anger, throwing down the tablets and and burning the calf.  But Moses then returns to the mountain, where God restates his covenant with the people:  The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity. It is a covenant that will know further iterations throughout salvation history. Much later, in the Book of Daniel, when Azariah (whom we also know as Abednego) prays to God from within the fiery furnace, Blessed is your holy and glorious name, he is confident in his cohort’s strong relationship with the Lord, the God of our fathers, who is willing to look into the depths upon God’s people.  Azariah knows that God delivers those who are faithful; he is confident that God will come to their aid, and celebrates the relationship that is theirs.

  But it is only when God sends his only Son, Jesus, into the world that all past covenants are fulfilled once and for all. John's Gospel tells us that God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus, first in the Incarnation, then as a sacrifice on the cross, that the world might be saved by him; Jesus, in turn, opens up access for us to his Father, thus cementing the relationship God has long sought in the possibility of our perfect union with him, nothing short of eternal life. The cement of that relationship is the love between the Father and the Son, which takes the form of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. In his second letter to the Corinthian community, Paul wishes upon them the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – where grace is our experience of the Lord, love is his gift, and fellowship draws us together into relationship with them all.  Embracing that grace, love, and fellowship, the Corinthians can greet one another with a holy kiss, living in peace and rejoicing in their renewed and most intimate relationship with the Lord and with each other.  It is nothing short of this relationship that the God of love and peace seeks with us as well, that he might receive us forever as his own.  Will you say yes?

This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source:

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Inexpressible groanings (Colton Biro, SJ)

If only my words were
poised, precise, perfect ballerina.
If only they could pirouette on a point,
Holding a pose, arresting rapt attention,
Meaning twirling out past paradox of The Ineffable,
convincing the very orbit of the Son to stop and listen,
to nothing more significant – than me.

If only my words were quick, sharp, exact,
halting in the air for emphasis and recognition.
All of which calm, careful, and controlled,
All of which holding the attention of the Heavens,
interrupting an unceasing song of seraphim and cherubim.
If only my words were anything
but garbled, goofy, grating,
and less akin to rodeo clowns than en pointe figurines.
But they are bumbling and boisterous,
dancing dunces,
threading a thin, thimble-like thought
that the gait of my racing heart
could avoid running into either
lines of bull – or truth too true.
Which means my words, in effect,
avoid bearing my very heart, directly to You.
If only the words, with a gentle extension
and a faint flourish, could entwine:
                        my desires – Your Will.
                        my loneliness – Your presence.
                        my pain – the Resurrection.
                        my disquiet – Your Peace.
Completing a grand jeté,
coupling cacaphonous
concepts midair – and mid-heart.
And yet,
my words
don’t dance
or sing
at all.

So, I don’t speak.
My words don’t waltz, so much as whimper.
And my seat here in the pew feels too quiet
in the muffled silence of the sanctuary.
Maybe, Lord, You have the words
I can perfectly perform,
to cry anything but Abba.
Which for now,
is the only word I pray,
while paralyzed in the repeating echoes
of my pointless pirouetting.

--Colton Biro, SJ, The Spirit’s Whispers

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The wounds of our world (Fr. Patrick Michaels)

       So much is unconscious in our lives.  So much is beneath the surface of our awareness and so much needs our scrutiny, our eyes to open, our awareness to expand.

   [In this weekend’s readings,] the disciples are hiding. Their fear has driven them into locked rooms, and they are comfortable being there. But the Lord knows that that is not where they belong and that is not where they will be able to proclaim the good news. [Then the driving wind of Pentecost] enters the building, disrupting the peace and quiet of their captivity, their self-inflicted captivity.  Tongues as of flame part and descend upon each one of them, an external manifestation of something internal that is happening.  Their fear is being burned away.  Their perceived need to hide is burning to a crisp.  And their ability to speak in words that people will understand begins to come forth from them. This is no illness; this is a healing.

  Then they are outside and they are proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, and everybody understands in their own tongue.  Every one of these peoples that hears the Word of God proclaimed to them carries their own prejudices, carries their own closed mind.  They have their own definitions by which they live, their own definitions by which they judge the world, their own definitions even if they are not conscious of them -- they exist for them, and yet the Word of the Lord reaches through and touches them at the core of their being.  The descent of the Holy Spirit is not to be denied, is not an event that can be ignored – it is a necessary event for all humankind.

   Jesus breathes on his disciples to bring forth from them a new life. A life that isn’t defined by the boundaries of their past, that isn’t defined by the prejudice that has marked them and held them back.  He breathes into them a life that is defined by his love alone.  Paul refers to it as a Spirit who gives gifts, gives us capacities that do not originate within us.  Kindness and love are not of our own invention; they are gifts from God.  Justice is not something that we can just write [into] laws and think that, somehow, we have made it happen.  George Floyd knows that. Ahmaud Arbery knows that. So many other people know that.  We can talk a good game. We can write laws that claim to create justice, but justice is a gift that comes from outside of us, and it is meant for service, for the benefit of all people, all people no matter their race or color, no matter how their history has brought them to this place, no matter how they have grown up, no matter what has taken place in their lives.  The Spirit of God, this gift of love that God has placed in each one of us, that he awakens with the Spirit, is a gift for all of us, is a gift for us to be community, to be a source of life in our world.  And it is God’s working.  Every gift we have is meant to raise everyone up so that all can be equal participants in a Body, a Body saved by the sacrifice of one man.  God is not with us when his gifts do not serve mankind, when they do not make our world a better place, when we use them only to feather our own nest, only to make ourselves comfortable, only to make ourselves feel secure.  God didn’t give us his gifts for our security’s sake.  He gives us the gifts that love might win over the world.

  The wounds of our world are open and festering.  Maggots eat away as quickly as they can and yet cannot eat away the contagion from within.  We can stand in condemnation for the actions of people who have reached their limit.  We can stand in judgment over people whose lives are a shambles, whose hope for justice is all but destroyed.  Or we can look to the gifts that the Holy Spirit awakens in us and we can allow them to direct our lives, our choices.  We can allow them to define our world, and the way and which we live in it.

  This pandemic is a tragedy, but not nearly the tragedy that it is awakening us to.  A tragedy that exists without our knowing it, an illness buried deep within our psyches, deep within our definitions.  The death and resurrection of Jesus redefined us once and continues to try and redefine us even now.  As the Spirit fills us, may we accept the wounds that are ours so that the Spirit might burn them away, so that the Spirit might transform our lives and therefore our society and our world…. so that justice will not just be a word that we have contained in laws but something we live for each other’s sake… so that we do not spend our time and energy decrying other people’s injustice, but look to heal the injustice that dwells in each of us, so that the love of God may touch every heart, may be understood in every language, and may find room in every life.

Excerpts from Fr. Patrick Michael’s 
Pentecost homily, May 31, 2020
(A recording of this Mass is on our Facebook page.)

Image source 1: Celos, mural in protest against the death of George Floyd, downtown Los Angeles, May 30, 2020,
Image source 2:  Karel Teissig, Black Jesus

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Spirit of God prays in us (Henri Nouwen)

  The Jesus Prayer, or any other prayer form, is meant to be a help to gently empty our minds from all that is not God, and offer all the room to him and him alone.  But that is not all.  Our prayer becomes a prayer of the heart when we have localized in the center of our inner being the empty space in which our God-filled mind can descend and vanish, and where the distinctions between thinking and feeling, knowing and experience, ideas and emotions are transcended, and where God can become our host.  The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21), Jesus said.  The prayer of the heart takes these words seriously.  When we empty our minds from all thoughts and our hearts from all experiences, we can prepare in the center of our innermost being the home for God who wants to dwell in us.  Then we can say with St. Paul, I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20).  Then we can affirm Luther’s words, Grace is the experience of being delivered from experience. And then we can realize that it is not we who pray, but the Spirit of God who prays in us.
--Henri Nouwen      

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Bathed in the fire of the Spirit (Deb Organ)

  It was amazing! Fire and wind brought a word that came from beyond the fear, beyond the gaps that separated those ancient people.  Many of them could listen to one another for the first time.

  Peter and the other followers of the Risen Jesus could not hide from that wind and the fire.  It came to them, and it moved them to be and do something they could never have imagined.

  Fast forward to right now.  Today is Pentecost.  Together we can gather in the sure and certain expectation of being permeated by the Spirit’s wind and fire that come from beyond our fears, divisions and wounds.  This is truly amazing! […]

  Feel the wind in your hair as you move and live in our divided society, open to vision a new way forward that fosters life for everyone.  Bathed in the fire of the Spirit, we know that we are capable of talking with and listening to one another.  The same ancient fire that went in a column before the Israelites as they wandered in the desert rests on your head as you look again at the person with whom you are the most at odds. […]

  Today is Pentecost.  The ever-new presence of God surrounding us, in the very context of our fear and hiding, is given still and again to us today and challenges us to remember.

  The power of the Spirit of the resurrected Christ has not diminished.  The immense love that God showers in abundance in wind and flame has not changed, and the capacity of God to speak a word from beyond but right into our complicated and frightening reality remains real and true.

  Today is Pentecost.  Feel the wind in your hair.

--Deb Organ, Catholic Women Preach

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Holy Spirit, a person, a relationship, a spirit (Fr. Ron Rolheiser)

   Scripture assures us that the Holy Spirit is not a generic force, or a one-size-fits-all, but a person, a relationship, a spirit that has particular manifestations and gives itself to each of us uniquely so that the understanding and strength we receive are geared to help us in our own particular struggles.
--Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, Facebook         

Image source: 13th-century Pentecost capital depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary and the disciples, Coimbra, Portugal,