Thursday, August 30, 2012

The word that has been planted in you...

How close is the Lord to us?  Our readings this week suggest that, if we allow his Word to enter in, God is as close as our own heart.

When Moses brings the Ten Commandments down the mountain, God’s statutes are literally set in stone, and their physical nature suggests a permanent reality.  In fact, though, the true permanence of God’s law comes from it being written on our lives, by our lives -- it’s about how we choose to live in the day-to-day that demonstrates how we are living our relationship with God.  The Ten Commandments were the Israelites’ best guide to relationship, and they are ours; they are God’s Word, a Word God plants – with love – in our hearts.  And our best chance at being in right relationship with God is our attention to his Word.

By Jesus’ time (see this Sunday's Gospel), the Law has become an enormous set of 631 rules to follow, and the Pharisees and scribes are so obsessed with the tiny nuances of the laws they have multiplied that they have lost sight of that key fact:  that it’s all about relationship.  Somewhere along the line, 621 extra rules were added. Did they come from God?  No!  Somewhere along the line, men have decided that they know better than God.  But in their obsession with the letter of (their own) law, with their own (humanly constructed sense of) perfection, Jesus tells them, they have closed their hearts to God, and have forgotten the original Word of God planted in them.  And the result is chaos:  evil thoughts, blasphemy, arrogance and more. 

The Letter of James brings us full circle:  All good giving and every perfect gift is from above.  If the Word has been planted in us, if God dwells in our hearts, then all that we do is a response, from the very depth of our being, to that Love that is in us.  We are to be doers of the word because, as the psalm tells us, One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord. 

God dwells in us by means of the Word planted in our hearts; we live in the presence of God when we do justice.   What more perfect gift could there be than right relationship?  But it’s up to us to open to it… 

This reflection is based on notes from Fr. Pat's Thursday night Scripture Class.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ten Ways to Love

Ten Ways to Love

LISTEN without interrupting.  (Proverbs 18:13)
SPEAK without accusing.  (James 1:19)
GIVE without sparing.  (Proverbs:  21:26)
PRAY without ceasing.  (Colossians 1:9)
ANSWER without arguing.  (Proverbs 17:14)
SHARE without pretending.  (Ephesians 4:15)
ENJOY without complaining.  (Philippians 2:14)
TRUST without wavering.  (1 Corinthians 13:7)
FORGIVE without punishing.  (Colossians 3:13)
PROMISE without forgetting.  (Proverbs 13:12)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Narnia author C. S. Lewis on Love

Narnia author C. S. Lewis on Love

Having trouble with this past Sunday’s reading from Ephesians?  The one about 'being subordinate,' instructing husbands and wives on proper conduct toward each other?  Perhaps this quote from Chronicles of Narnia author C. S. Lewis can offer a bit of perspective:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

Remember that St. Paul first says, Be subordinate to one another out of reverence to Christ.  And he’s really talking about love.  In essence, St. Paul is suggesting that, if we can love one another, serve one another (irrespective of gender), if we can be refuge for one another, offer everything for other, if we can be other-centered in all we do, then we are living the love that God offers us.  We are living, that is to say, in true relationship with God.

We fear the notion of subordination as a form of vulnerability.  But love always makes us vulnerable, always implies other-centeredness.  And Jesus is the ultimate example of vulnerability and subordination – yet he loves us, and took our sins with him to the Cross.  What more perfect love is there?

Text source:  The Four Loves

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jesus is Not Your Grandma! August 26th: Sunday Gospel Reflection)

Jesus is not your grandma. 

Sometimes we have an image of Jesus that is far too similar to a kind grandma: Jesus is sweet and nice. Jesus loves us. Jesus will forgive us if we do something wrong because He is kind and loving.

Jesus is radically different than a kind grandma, Jesus is God; the same God that created the world, the same God who breathed life into us, the same God that holds us in existence out of love for us, the same God who came down to the earth as a fragile baby and who suffered horrible torture and death so that He might sacrifice Himself for our sins, something we didn’t deserve and something He didn’t have to do.

Jesus was far too substantial and radical to only be nice or grandmotherly. Jesus cannot even be interpreted as a prophet like some non-Christian religions believe. Because of what Jesus said and what He did He is either a liar, a lunatic or the Son of God (as He said).  When our image of Jesus is more than an image of a kind grandma it requires us (finally allows us) to make a choice to believe in this God or to choose to worship something else.  

In today’s 1st reading and Gospel the people of God are told that they needed to make a decision to either choose God or to walk away. Jesus, as we have heard in the Gospel readings this past month from John chapter 6 is trying to break open his disciples’ minds to see a deeper reality than they have ever understood about who Jesus is by telling them that He is the Bread of Life. When some of his followers do not understand and are uncomfortable with how Jesus is challenging them they respond saying: this saying is hard; who can accept it. What is Jesus’ response? Instead of backing down or telling them that he is only using an analogy Jesus instead watches with sadness as some of his disciples walk away and return to their former life.

Why does He not call them back? Being a follower of Jesus requires making a choice that involves faith, a new and deeper way of seeing. Jesus does not force this prescription on His followers but offers Himself as the path to the fullness of life. As many disciples were leaving He then turned to His inner circle, the 12 Apostles, and asks them: Do you also want to leave? With great faith and trust in Jesus Peter responds, Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

We are called to have faith like Peter, to place ourselves in submission to Jesus (submission means under the mission of, and has nothing to do with control). When we allow ourselves to be under the mission of Jesus we allow Him to be God for us, to open us daily to a new way of seeing and being in this world.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
-Do I believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God?
-How does that belief affect my life?
-When I encounter doubt to faith what is my response?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To whom shall we go?

Once you have encountered the love of God, where can you go?

This Sunday’s Gospel is the last in a series of five texts taken from Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, whose centerpiece is the Bread of Life discourse, a discourse that some of Jesus’ disciples (if you’ll pardon the pun) found rather hard to swallow, because they are only hearing Jesus at the most literal level.  Even when he points them to the patent yet powerful intangibility of his message – The words I have spoken are spirit and life – many people remain fixed on the tangible, shocked by Jesus’ suggestion that he is the Bread of Life, registering bread only as a physical substance to be consumed, nothing more.

Who stays?  Well, the Twelve, it seems, and Peter, for sure.  When Jesus asks, Do you also want to leave?, Peter responds with an extraordinary expression of faith:  Master, to whom shall we go?  Peter has made the leap to appreciation of the intangible that so many other disciples were unable to make.  He accepts the Bread of Life for what it is:  the eternal, infinite love of God for all humanity.  And once he has done so, there is, so to speak, no escape, nowhere else to go; his old life is no longer open to him as an option.

Jesus came to cause our hearts to open, so God’s love could live there.  It’s about becoming.  It’s not about arriving – but rather, the journey there.  And the only way to go is with Jesus, the Way.

This reflection is based on Fr. Pat's Thursday night Scripture class.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ministry on Death Row: This is my body

Fr. George Williams, S.J., the Catholic chaplain at San Quentin, writes, This is my body which will be given up for you.  These words were spoken at the last meal of a man about to be condemned by the state and executed.  It’s strange how the words of the Gospel take on a different resonance on Death Row.”

For the complete story of his service to the prisoners of San Quentin, go to:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mount Carmel Photo Contest!

Win some money, practice photography, find beauty!

Check out our Mount Carmel Photo Contest! Click here for details! 

  • Categories include Middle School, High School and Adults. 
  • Submissions are due soon so act this week! 
  • Finalists will be on display for a final vote at the Mill Valley Block Party on September 7th
  • Even if photography isn't your thing, give it a shot! 
  • Forward this to your friends we are making a push to get as many entries as possible!

Being Given

Fore more information and reflections by Henri Nouwen visit

Monday, August 20, 2012

Taste and See

Taste and See

In her song “Taste and See,” Kansas City singer-songwriter Misty Edwards echoes this past Sunday's Psalm 34, giving voice to our need to come together to worship, to share in Communion with God and with one another, and to give thanks and praise in community:

Taste and see that the Lord is good
Taste and see that the Lord is good to me

You’ve turned my mourning into dancing
Put off my rags and clothed me with gladness
I will rise and I will praise You
I’ll sing and not be silent

Oh Lord, my God, I will give thanks to You forever
Oh Lord, my God, I will give thanks to You

Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 19th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

John 6:51-58

In today’s reading from the Gospel of John Chapter 6 we hear Jesus continue to speak about this bread come down from heaven that will satisfy people for eternity and how Jesus Himself is that bread. The crowds who are following Jesus after he multiplied the loaves and fishes do not understand what Jesus is teaching them. In these seven verses of chapter six Jesus speaks as explicit and straightforward as possible to the point of tired redundancy:  

-unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
-whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,
-my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
-whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

Jesus was trying to make clear what was so unbelievable and difficult for His followers to understand. It is one thing to say ‘the bread that I multiple is true food’ or ‘my teachings are like bread that will give you eternal life’, but the Christian message given to us by Jesus is not so much about what Jesus says or even does as much as who Jesus is. Unlike any other religion Christianity is rooted in a Person, the Person of Jesus. We do not simply listen to His ‘path’, ‘message’ or ‘dharma’ but we imitate Him and are called to take Jesus into every part of ourselves, to consume Him. 

This is what we do in our 7 Sacraments: we immerse people in water at Baptism like Jesus told us to (‘baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’) that they might be fully immersed into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We break bread together and receive the Body and Blood of Christ each Sunday, as Jesus told us to, when at the Last Supper He gave His Disciples a ritual to share bread and wine to make Him present.

Toward the end of John 6 many followers of Jesus say that this teaching is too difficult to believe so they walk away. Jesus never chases them down or waters down His message, He offers the Truth of who He is and we have to decide how to respond. In today’s 1st reading and 2nd reading we are offered one way to respond; with Wisdom. God gives us Wisdom through the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. When we encounter doubts or teachings that are too hard for us to believe or to understand we should seek Wisdom by responding to questions or doubts with what St. Anselm called “Faith seeking Understanding”. It is good to question beliefs about our Faith and Church but that questioning should never cut us off from that Church, like the people who walked away from Jesus, but should be a part of our journeying deeper into relationship with the person of Jesus.

-How do I respond to doubts in my faith or in the Church?

Photo Credit 1, 2

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The bread that I will give...

Flesh + Blood  = Life. 

This is what Jesus tells the people, anyway, and they aren’t too happy about the equation.  In this week’s continuation of the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus is still trying to move the crowds beyond the tangible – eating flesh – to the intangible, where Jesus’ sacrifice for us allows us, through Eucharist, to enter into shared life, to live in relationship with God in the here and now, to know God’s depth and to live in and from that depth.  Wow.  Each time we receive Holy Communion, each time we take Jesus into ourselves, we enter into that lived presence, and deepen our awareness of it.  Every single time.  This is truly shared life:  we share our lifeblood with God, while Jesus shares his body and blood with us, so that together, we live in the sharing of both the brokenness and the grace of existence. 

The Book of Proverbs invites us, Come, eat of my food, drink of the wine I have mixed.  Taste and see the goodness of the Lord, says this week’s Psalm.  Be filled with the Spirit and, with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, sing and play to the Lord in your hearts, Saint Paul exhorts the Ephesians.  Aren’t these all beautiful reasons to come to Mass?  But the most important one of all is that it is at Mass, first and foremost, that we receive the gift that is Jesus and celebrate all that we share – with God and with one another.  Eucharist feeds us in ways we can only begin to imagine. 

Flesh + Blood = Life.

This reflection is based on notes from Fr. Pat's Scripture class.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Love the Sisters!

Check out this greast article by Cardinal Dolan of NYC titled Love and Gratitude for the Sisters!

Dolan (who has a PhD in History of the Catholic Church in the USA from my Alma Mater offers an insightful historical perspective into the heroic love that Religious Women in this country have had and continue to have in our lives and the life of the Church.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Strength for the Journey

In this past Sunday’s first reading, Elijah comes to a broom tree (image below) and sits down beneath it.  He’s at the end of his rope.  He’s a prophet, but nobody’s listening – even after he demonstrates that God is working through him when he brings rain to Mount Carmel.

Now, in the desert, it’s not like Elijah has much of a choice.  The whole point of a desert is that it generally lacks the kind of shade-bearing vegetation we see, say, in Muir Woods.  And in fact, a broom tree isn’t really a tree but a bush, which is to say that it doesn’t give a whole lot of shade.  Not much to offer, is it?  Yet the broom tree itself is an important lesson to Elijah.  It survives on little.  When the rains do come (which is seldom), the broom tree is brought to life.  Thereafter, it has staying power and determination, and fights nature trying to stay alive when everything is so dry.  It is hardy and tenacious – more determined than Elijah himself to stay alive.  And it is just enough.  Elijah rests in its shade, eats, and is strengthened for his journey of forty days and forty nights.

Where do you find strength for the journey?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 12th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

In today’s Gospel Jesus says ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven’. What does it mean that Jesus is our food? The quick Catholic answer is, of course, that Jesus gives Himself to us in the Eucharist. But why is the Eucharist important, why is Jesus present there in a different way than in the sunset or in the embrace of friends?

Bread is an important symbol and human reality. When the Jews were slaves, Moses had them celebrate Passover with bread that didn’t have time to rise because they had to flee slavery the next day; God frees us from slavery and death. When the Jews were freed and wandering in the desert toward the Promised Land that God had set out for them they grew hungry and grumbled against God preferring slavery to freedom because at least in slavery they had regular meals. God sent down manna that came from the sky that they found covering the ground like dew-fall; God nourishes us in our time of need.

In today’s Gospel and in the larger text that we read from (John chapter 6) Jesus makes a radical claim not just that we should eat bread but that He is the living bread come down from heaven and that they bread he gives will make no one be hungry again and will allow people to live forever. What is this special meal? It is the flesh and blood of Jesus as He tells us later in chapter 6: my flesh is true food, my blood is true drink.

In the Jewish tradition on the Sabbath day the Jews would go to the temple to sacrifice an animal as atonement for their sins as a peace offering to God. The person would donate some of the meat to the temple, burn some as an offering to God and then take some home to eat so that they become one with the sacrificial offering. What Jesus references in John 6 is this regular Jewish practice that finds its fulfillment for us as Christians at the Last Supper and the Cross. 

At the Last Supper, celebrated on the feast of Passover, Jesus gathers to celebrate the Passover meal but instead of sacrificing a lamb he took bread and wine and said these peculiar words: take and eat; this is my body...take and drink this is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’. Jesus Himself is the lamb to be sacrificed. After dinner Jesus went out to the garden to pray, was arrested and the next day was forced to carry a cross and was crucified for us. This is where the Passover meal ends.

After Jesus died and rose from the dead his disciples gathered each Sunday, the day Jesus rose, to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the new covenant relationship that they had with God in Jesus. They broke the bread and drank of the wine to share in the meal that Jesus gave them to make his sacrificial love present to them, to do what Jesus told them to do. This is what the Eucharist continues to do 2000 years later, continuing the tradition that Jesus set out for us to remain close to Him and to cleanse us from our sins.

Photo Credits 1 (Marc Chagall, A Wheatfield on a Summer's Afternoon) and 2

Friday, August 10, 2012

Our Catholic Neighbors: Voices of San Quentin Catholics

In March 2012, George Williams, S.J., initiated a series of Catholic theology, spirituality and history classes for the men of San Quentin State Prison in California. Read Kerry Weber's article on the program: Listen to a podcast about prison ministry with Kathryn Getek Soltis:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Strengthened by that food...

As human beings, we like to define things.  We put them in little boxes and label them the way we think they should be labeled.  This works sometimes; sometimes it doesn’t.  One particular entity that resists definition – by definition – is God.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ friends and neighbors have a hard time accepting the idea that he is, as he says, the bread come down from heaven.  They think they know him well enough; they’ve put him in their own little box; they’ve erected barriers that separate them from Jesus/God.  Jesus’ challenge to the Jewish community is an invitation to grow, to let God speak to them and control their lives.  It’s about faith, about believing in that bread of life, Jesus himself, his flesh given for the life of the world, food that will strengthen them on their journey to eternal life.  Talk about thinking outside of the box!

In our reading from the first Book of Kings, Elijah has a related problem.  He’s worn out; he thinks it’s time for his life to end.  He’s put himself in box, defined his own existence too narrowly.  But God sends an angel to make Elijah remember that he has to open himself to the unknown, to God-who-resists-definition… and to accept the gift God sends.  The hearth cake and jug of water are there to remind Elijah of his relationship with God, and to strengthen him for the journey.  Elijah is entering the unknown, but he goes forth with assurance, sustained by faith in God.

How do we open ourselves to God? St. Paul has a suggestion:  we can start by removing all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling from our lives, along with all malice, for these are some of the barriers that separate us from God.  In kindness and compassion, we are called to live in love, imitators of Jesus, who offers the entirety of his life for our sake.  And living as Jesus lived gives us strength for the journey, too… the journey to God.

(This reflection is based on notes from Fr. Pat's Scripture Class.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Olympic coach writes about prayer

Alberto Salazar 30 years ago, now an Olympic coach

In the early 1980s, the man to watch in long-distance track was running legend Alberto Salazar, who won three consecutive New York City Marathons.  Now, Salazar is not only coaching Olympic hopefuls like Mo Farah & Galen Rupp (who won the gold & silver medals for the 10000m run in London this past week), but also writing about his faith life.  His new book, 14 Minutes, tells the story of his Catholic upbringing and details the way that his faith has upheld him through every part of his life, when running and when (almost) dying.  You can read a review of it here!

Monday, August 6, 2012



"Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry."

Text Source:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

Photo:  17th c. stained glass window in the cloister of St. Etienne-du-Mont, Paris, France.  The upper portion depicts the story of the people receiving manna in the desert, while the lower part includes Jesus, the Bread of Life, presenting the Host to the faithful.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why Men Have Trouble With Intimacy...but what about Faith?

Photo and link from
A recent article entitled: Why Men Have Trouble With Intimacy proposes that real intimacy, unlike sex or hanging out, requires a vulnerability the man code prohibits. 

I wonder, do you think this this true? And if so, how do you think this affects men's relationship with God, especially a God we call Jesus and Father?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sunday Gospel Reflection: August 5th 2012

(John 6:24-35)

God feeds us with eternal food that makes us free

In the First Reading this Sunday we hear the story about Moses and the Israelites, how, after Moses freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt they wandered in the desert toward the land that God had promised to them. When they were hungry in the desert many complained to Moses and wished they were back in slavery where at least they had regular meals to eat. That night God sent quail for them to eat and the next morning bread poured like rain from the sky to feed them. God met their needs out of love for them. Though slavery is often more convenient it is less human, less what God created us for; as God’s people we are made for freedom.

As a parallel story, in today’s Gospel the crowds follow Jesus after the multiplication of the loaves to feed 5,000 people. They followed Jesus because he fed them. Jesus saw they were hungry and provided for their needs. Jesus promised them and promises to us that he will give us the bread of God…which comes down from heaven and gives life for the world. Jesus himself is that bread; He is our food. This is a radical Christian idea that we are nourished and fulfilled when we eat the bread of life, when we take into ourselves the person of Jesus, not just an idea or ‘path’ that he shows to us. Jesus is not just a model or a prophet with a good idea, He is very different than Muhammad, Buddha, Kahlil Gibran or Eckhart Tolle. Jesus is God and we are God’s beloved sons and daughters and through Jesus, the Son of God, we are co-heirs to divine life as Jesus’ sisters and brothers. Our response as Christians is to claim that identity and to life in a manner worthy of the call you have received. Jesus continues to feed us when we come to him in prayer and in the Eucharist as we receive and become the Body of Christ. In Jesus alone we become truly free, for as Augustine said, you have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
-What am I a slave to that distances me from God? Negative behaviors, addictions, technology, work, wealth, popularity, etc.?
-What help do I need to break out of slavery and allow God to fill and heal me? More time in prayer, discipline, a community of accountability and support, counseling, etc.?
-When do I find time regular for God to nourish/feed me?
-Do I believe that Jesus feeds me in the Eucharist and that He desires to be with me?

Photo Credit 1, 2

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Prayer for Frustrated Catholics

James Martin, S.J., offers a prayer for Catholics disappointed by the negativity and division that seem to plague the church today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Man ate the bread of angels...

What feeds you?  What gives you life?

In our day-to-day existence, we turn to food several times through the day – it keeps us going, gives us energy, supplies the nutrients we need to move forward.  But is it the only kind of sustenance we need? 

When Jesus feeds the 5000 with the loaves and fishes, the crowds think that’s pretty cool.  And of course they keep showing up, hoping for another free meal.  But in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is trying to get them refocused:  it’s not the tangible (edible) food that is important, but the intangible Love of God.  And what is the expression of that Love?  The very person of Jesus:  I am the Bread of Life…

Like the Israelites who wandered in the desert with Moses and Aaron, the Jews of Jesus’ time fail to see that their opportunity for relationship with God is far more important than what goes into their bellies.  But God, who loved us into existence, uses the tangible to bring us back to the intangible – first, the manna in the desert (Exodus), then, the Bread of Life (John) that is Jesus.  All God asks is that we pay attention to the care God lavishes upon us, and that we tell the world:  We will declare … the glorious deeds of the Lord and his strength and the wonders that he wrought (Psalm 78). 

God feeds us every day with His Love,
if only we are open to receiving it.

(This reflection is based on notes from Fr. Pat's Thursday night Scripture class.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

49ers Head Coach Describes Joy of Peru Mission Work

Check out this great article from Catholic News Agency about 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's service to the poor in Peru through his Catholic parish in Menlo Park, CA!