Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Mystically-Driven Life

"Mysticism isn't extraordinary, paranormal, or weird, 
but an important, ordinary experience given to us all."  

Eldad and Medad were moved by the spirit, as was the man casting out demons in Jesus' name.  

To learn more about what makes up our mystical center, read Fr. Ron Rolheiser's article on the mystically-driven life by clicking here.

(Fr. Rolheiser's columns appear frequently in Catholic San Francisco.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 30th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

Divided self (by Sergio Albiac)

Sunday Gospel Reflection (Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48)
In today’s Gospel Jesus’ disciples question Him about a stranger who had been performing mighty works and miracles in Jesus’ name, even though he was not one of the disciples. The disciples assumed that since he was not part of their group that he should not be allowed to heal people in Jesus’ name. Jesus disagrees, telling them that whoever is not against us is for us. Jesus teaches the disciples to be more open to others who might not be in their group and to celebrate the good that people are doing, instead of focusing on what is unknown or what might separate them.

Jesus then takes this message a step further, teaching his disciples to seek unity instead of division within their own hearts and minds. We are divided selves, both saints and sinners but are called to unity and wholeness, not division within ourselves. Soren Kierkegaard once said that a saint is a person who wills the one thing, a person who is single-minded and dedicated. Oftentimes being single-minded and dedicated (like in sports or academics) means making sacrifices (one sport over another or studying over Facebook); the same is true about being single-minded and dedicated to God.

God didn’t just make a part of us, He created all of us. He doesn’t just know some things about us, He knows our thoughts, desires, fears and can count the number of hairs on our head. We are most happy and whole when we put God first in our lives and are dedicated to being fully alive as God has made us to be by serving others and using our gifts (like sports and academics). This, like anything worth doing, takes hard work and practice, it requires the support of parents and a community to help you out; this is what it means to be Church, to walk together as a community supporting one another in love.  

This Week
-Think about a person who you view or prefer to see as an outsider and get to know him/her better, celebrating what is good about the person!
-Think about your own life and something that is a struggle for you. This week practice working on that struggle with dedication and prayer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The spirit came to rest upon them...

We are all called to mystical union with God.  But how do we live that?

Consider this Sunday's story of Moses, who's at the end of his rope.  Just prior to this week’s reading from the Book of Numbers, the Israelistes are making demands Moses can’t seem to meet, and Moses makes a simple request:  please do me the favor of killing me at once (Nm 11:15).  But this is not in God’s plan; instead, he sends Moses helpers in the form of seventy elders called to prophesy with him.  God sends the spirit upon them – even on two, Eldad and Medad, who have not congregated with the group at the Ark of the Covenant.  Swept up by what appears to be a mystical, ecstatic experience, Eldad and Medad prophesy to those around them, graced by God and eager to share their joy with those around them. Joshua objects, but Moses is thrilled:  Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!

Similarly, in this week’s Gospel, an unidentified follower of Jesus is driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  John is distressed and wants to stop him; Jesus, however, sees this man as an ally, someone who has been drawn closer to God, through Christ, who is living the relationship and experiencing the steadfast love of God, which enables him to share that steadfast love with neighbor.  Like Eldad and Medad, he is experiencing the joy of which the psalmist speaks, responding to Christ in his life by allowing God to work through him to drive out demons. 

We are all called to mystical union with God, but we have to actively choose it, and choosing it means living for God before all else.  If we do so, we can make a palpable difference in this world, and our actions will give witness to our own transformation by the Spirit. Remember, the spirit came to rest on them…  And when the Spirit comes to rest upon us, we, too, will be ecstatic with joy!  

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

TED Video: The Paradox of Choice

Check out this great and thoughtful video called "The Paradox of Choice"! How does this paradox of choice affect your life? What does this paradox teach us about "freedom"?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kindness Boomerang

Because kindness keeps the world afloat ~ 
and each act of kindness engenders another.

All my life I been waitin' for
I been prayin' for, for the people to say

That we don't want to fight no more

There'll be no more wars
And our children will play, one day...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 23rd 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

Mark 9:30-37
In today’s Gospel we hear a story of Jesus teaching his disciples something very simple yet confusing; we become first by being last, we win by losing, we gain by giving away. Jesus explains to His disciples that he will one day have to suffer and die but that by losing his life and dying on a cross that all people gain access to heaven, eternal life with God.   

In the Gospel Jesus’ disciples aren’t getting the message, instead they are arguing about which one of them is the most important, the greatest of the disciples. Jesus disagrees and continues to teach them, telling his disciples that if anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. Jesus’ message seems contradictory. We have learned and practice regularly in America that to be first you have to beat out other people and fight to get ahead.
Jesus introduces a sort of Christian math where we gain by giving away, we win by losing. This contradiction is fully revealed to us when Jesus died on the cross for us a real sign of contradiction. Jesus showed that He was most powerful and that He was the loving King of the World when he allowed Himself to be arrested, beat up and killed on a cross. When Jesus lost his life by dying for us, each of us gained access to eternal life. Jesus died for our sins so that we might be forgiven and made whole when we unite ourselves to Jesus. He showed his power and strength through gentility and sacrificial love.

As followers of Jesus we unite ourselves to Jesus by imitating Him and making His sacrificial love present in the world today through our own lives. When we are other-centered instead of self-centered, putting the needs and desires of others before our own needs and wants, we show the love of Jesus to the world. We are not weak when we let others gain something, rather, we show true strength, by imitating Jesus as we serve others. Jesus shows us that true strength, success, and power are found in serving others, not being served. As Mother Theresa said, we are not called to be successful but faithful. True success for Christians, comes from how faithfully we follow Jesus not by what title we have, how much stuff we have, or how many friends we have.

This Week
Keep track of how many times you put someone else and their needs/wants first instead of yours

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Those who cultivate peace...

How can humans establish peace and justice on earth? Or, as the New Testament author James asks, Where do the wars, and where do the conflicts among you, come from?

The Letter of James, which we hear from this Sunday, was written to address that very question in the context of the Christian diaspora, Jewish Christian churches located in Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere, where the people were apparently not getting along.  James identifies the source of all peace, which is righteousness, or right relationship with God.  So… how does that work, exactly? 

Well, according to James, the wisdom from above, that is, God, invites us into a relationship that is pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, and full of mercy.  But the human tendency is to veer toward disorder, and so we allow ourselves to go the route of jealousy and selfish ambition and envy and worse, behaviors that ultimately lead to discord.

However, James tells us, there is a way back to God:  You do not possess [peace] because you do not ask.  In other words, the first route back to God lies in prayer.  When we pray, we are responding with our whole being to God’s invitation to relationship.  We need to pray not just for those we love, but for those in particular with whom we don’t see eye-to-eye.  We need to pray that our hearts and minds be opened.  We need to pray with purity of intention, and to listen to what God has to say back to us, also a part of the dialogue that is prayer. 

So, if we sow peace, and cultivate it well, we will reap peace, and learn to live in harmony with our fellow humans.  And it all starts with our relationship with God.  It all starts with prayer.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Amazing Grace

Perhaps no song in the history of American Christianity resonates so profoundly as the spiritual Amazing Grace, which teaches us about the power of God's grace to save us, heal us, transform us, and, ultimately, to lead us home.  If there is suffering -- as this song, a product of an early American slave community intimately acquainted with suffering, teaches us -- there is also hope, first, because God is always there with us, on the journey, no matter what trials and tribulations we encounter, but more importantly, because God is there at the end of the journey, ready to welcome us into heaven.

In the video above, Wintley Phipps, founder of the U.S. Dream Academy, offers a bit of the remarkable  history of this foundational hymn, along with a powerful rendition at Carnegie Hall.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 16th 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

Mark 8:27-35

As we begin a new school year we often think about first impressions and making friends. We all want to be popular at some level and want to fit in or be cool; this is not a bad thing as long as we don’t change who we are to try to fit in. In today’s Gospel Jesus asks his disciples about his popularity and identity, he asks them what people say about him, who they think He is. Many people believed that Jesus was a prophet just like all of the other prophets in the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, etc.), some thought that he was the re-incarnation of Ezekiel himself!

In today’s Gospel Jesus then asked his disciples, his friends who do you say that I am? Peter, with great faith and open to the Holy Spirit within Him says to Jesus in reply, you are the Christ (which means ‘the anointed one’). Peter knew, through faith, that Jesus was the One who God had sent into the world to transform the world, Peter knew that Jesus was the Son of God, different from even the best prophets in the Old Testament.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus is not just a nice man with a beard that loves us like a grandparent or a statue but that Jesus is God, that Jesus is alive in Heaven! The same Jesus who spoke 2,000 years ago is speaking to us today inviting us to come closer to Him and to be open to loving Him. Through our Baptism we were marked forever as a follower of Jesus and were set apart by God to continue the mission of Jesus in our world today, to bring about the transformation of the world in radical, self-sacrificing love.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
-What do people in our community believe about Jesus?
-What do I believe about Jesus? Answer the question: I believe that Jesus is…
-How does my relationship with Jesus affect my daily life?

Photo Credit 1, 2

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Lord God is my help...

What can the suffering Jesus endured tell us about the place of suffering in our own lives?

In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, including not just rejection but death itself.  Peter – who has just stunningly identified Jesus as the Christ or Messiah – responds badly to the idea that Jesus must suffer.  According to the Jewish tradition, the Messiah was to be a triumphant King who would restore the independence of Israel.  Where’s the place for suffering in that scenario?  But Jesus needs everyone to hear that salvation is only possible through the Cross.

But Jesus is not the only one who suffers:  we all, as human beings, know suffering of one kind or another; suffering is part of the human condition.  This week’s first reading from Isaiah helps us to see how we, like Jesus, might accept the suffering that is a part of life, and move forward:  with confidence that, no matter what life brings, we can sustain any kind of abuse so long as we know God is with us:  The Lord GOD is my help, therefore, I am not disgraced.  I have set my face like flint.  Jesus too knows that, on the Cross, he will not be alone as he suffers; God will be with him, and Love will sustain him into the resurrection.  We, too, are called to find a place within the pain of life, indeed, within all that life offers—whatever cross we might take up—where we can remember confidently that God is with us, so that when we call upon the name of the Lord (Psalm), we know that we will be heard.  For suffering is one context in which God’s Love is powerfully and eloquently revealed through amazing grace.

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Parable of Ground Zero

Fr. James Martin, S.J. writes about his experience in New York City on September 11, 2001 and thereafter, in a piece entitled "The Parable of Ground Zero."  Click on the title to read his story.

Photo source

Monday, September 10, 2012

Healing Begins

Healing Begins

"In a world that’s still trembling in the wake of the fall, our hearts are desperate for hope.  
They’re hungry for freedom.
  They’re longing for redemption.
  And here’s the good news.  
In Christ, we have all three."  (Tenth Avenue North)  

So you thought you had to keep this up

All the work that you do
So we think that you're good
And you can't believe it's not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let 'em fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We're here now

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2012 Mill Valley Block Party Pictures!

Sunday Gospel Reflection: September 9th 2012

Two reflections from today’s Gospel about Jesus healing the deaf man:

1. Jesus comes to heal us. In today’s Gospel Jesus brings wholeness to the man by restoring his hearing. We too carry within ourselves parts of ourselves that are not whole or things that we are deaf to. Jesus shows that He is stronger than human frailty and that He came into the world to transform the world and to make all things new. What are our insecurities that we carry with us? Have we asked Jesus to bring healing to our brokenness? While most of us are able to physically hear, what voices are we deaf to in our world?  Have we asked Jesus to open our ears to hear those in need?

2. Growing closer to God affects our bodies and souls. Jesus could easily have opened the man’s ears with a blink of an eye but instead he put his finger in the man’s ear, spit on his hand and touched his saliva to the man’s tongue, and then looked up to heaven and said ‘be opened’. Why all the work and germs? Jesus becoming incarnate (in flesh) and creating us as human beings reveals to us that our path to heaven and wholeness is not to discard our human experience but to direct it to God so that the physical enhances our spiritual lives and vise versa. This requires building good physical and spiritual habits and practicing discipline. In our Faith we practice these habits when we baptize with water, anoint with pungent oils, and process in lines to receive Jesus’ presence in bread and wine. We use physical things to reveal to us the deeper spiritual realities of life. Problems develop in life when we separate the physical and spiritual or only focus on one over the other.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened...

How many barriers exist that endanger our relationship with God?

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus heals a deaf man who had a speech impediment, restoring him to full community by enabling him to hear words spoken by those around him and to respond in kind.  Yet this man is healed not simply because he is brought to Jesus, but, more importantly, because Jesus touches him, entering intimately into his life, his existence, to operate change.  Jesus is fulfilling the Messianic predictions of the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf shall hear…) and Psalm 146 (The Lord gives sight to the blind), and as a result, this man can now take down whatever barriers might stand in the way of his relationship with God.

Today, the Messiah is already in our midst – can we, too, hear him?  Our challenge is to embrace the salvation Jesus offers in the lives we live by generating forgiveness, opening ourselves to one another, entering into one another's lives, growing in understanding, and walking side by side with all, man with gold rings and poor person alike (James).  Thanks to Jesus’ death and rising, we know God loves us.  Isn’t it now our responsibility to make that beautiful knowledge known by living the salvation that is in us, to proclaim it as witnesses to Christ’s power in our lives?

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cathedral of Christ the Light

This week, America Magazine features a beautifully illustrated article on the amazing Cathedral of Christ the Light, in Oakland.  To read the article, click here.  Be sure to check out the wonderful slide show at the end of the article as well!

Monday, September 3, 2012

May the Lord be in my mind...

May the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart!

Before he reads the Gospel at Mass, Fr. Pat says a silent prayer as he crosses himself three times with his thumb, once on his forehead, once on his lips, and once over his heart.  You may see other people around the church doing the same.  Do you know what that’s all about?

Well, along with the triple Sign of the Cross, a prayer is said:  “May the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart, that worthily I might proclaim his Good News.” This prayer is based on Isaiah, chapter 6, when the seraphim touches Isaiah’s lips with an ember to purify him, so that he might fulfill his mission as prophet.  For the priest who is about to read the Gospel, then, it is the expression of a desire for purification before proclaiming the Word of God.  Although it is not required for the assembly, the prayer serves as a reminder that our own mission is to profess Christ crucified with open hearts, minds and mouths.  For our part, this is the moment when we should dispose ourselves to listen well, so we can then go forth and fulfill our mission.  Ite, missa est!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September 2nd, 2012: Sunday Gospel Reflection

(Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

In today’s Gospel we hear religious leaders chastising Jesus that He and his disciples do not always follow the Jewish laws and traditions (i.e. not performing the correct washing of hands before and after meals, etc.). Does Jesus think all laws are useless? In today’s Gospel Jesus is not being antinomian; He is not promoting getting rid of laws and traditions but helping us to understand the deeper meaning and value behind them.

 Laws and traditions exist to provide us a pathway to what is good, to our human flourishing that we might have life and have it to the full. Laws and traditions are like the side barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge. Imagine yourself driving on the Golden Gate Bridge with no sides where the road ends in a sheer drop to the ocean. Like the barriers, laws and traditions do not get in the way of our freedom, they keep us safe and properly oriented because breaking them, (driving off the bridge) does not make us more free or alive (quite the opposite actually!). Yet when we drive we should not try to drive right next to the barrier as though driving along the barrier bumping into them from time to time is the goal. Similarly we should not live for the letter of the law alone without understanding the deeper spirit and meaning the law has for our lives. Laws and traditions are living breathing things; they live in us. The word tradition should be understood as a verb as we play a role in traditioning the love of Jesus through history as members of Christ’s body, the Church.

 So how then should we live as people and as a Church? St. Paul in today’s Second Reading provides a clear path: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

When we follow the message of Jesus to stay close to the poor: physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually we are traditioning the love of Jesus in our world today and transforming ourselves into an icon of Christ in the world. Imitating Christ is that having life to the full for this is what God created us for. Following rules and traditions can help us to get there.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
-What laws and traditions do I want to understand more?
-What laws and traditions are difficult to follow that I could work?

Photo Credit 1, 2