God

POETRY: Calcutta To Cannon Beach, by Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I have His darkness—I have His pain—I have the terrible longing for God. (Mother Teresa) That at times this future saint could not sense her Lord while sweating words with pen read as a revelation to me, disclosed that she was human, too. God’s omnipresence still too far—boils, sores, and scars too near, so faith meant treading the waters of theology’s raw mystery, their paradox: belief is doubt that we can know with certainty. And so I cup the ocean with my hands, though fingers leak, dry, then crack. Yet for a moment, I can clutch the ocean with my makeshift bowl, taste the salt my everyday eyes cannot [...]

SAINTS: Teresa Of Calcutta — Longing For God With Our Whole Being, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Hosea 14:2-10; Psalm 8:6c-11ab, 14, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Mark 12:28b-34 No list of Lenten saints would be complete without Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  I was fortunate enough to see her in person in June 1981.  I didn’t get to meet her personally but felt blessed just to be in her presence. Little did we know that this saintly woman had, for many years, walked a path of inner darkness.  Several years ago, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, promoting her cause for sainthood, edited a book called Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light.  He recalled the years she endured dark nights of the soul, despite her great love for God and certainty that God had called her to special work with the poor. Father Kolodiejchuk says that, [...]

POETRY: And A Good Friday Was Had By All, by Bruce Dawe

You men there, keep those women back and God Almighty he laid down on the crossed timber and Old Silenus my offsider looked at me as if to say nice work for soldiers, your mind’s not your own once you sign that dotted line Ave Caesar and all that malarkey Imperator Rex well this Nazarene didn’t make it any easier really—not like the ones who kick up a fuss so you can do your block and take it out on them Silenus held the spikes steady and I let fly with the sledge-hammer, not looking on the downswing trying hard not to hear over the women’s wailing the bones give way the iron shocking the dumb wood. Orders is orders, I said after it was over nothing personal you understand—we had a drill-sergeant once thought he was [...]

SAINTS: Patrick — The Struggle Against Evil, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Jeremiah 7:23-28; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Luke 11:14-23 The popular book, The Rite, which was later made into a movie, tells the story of a young priest who learns how to fight against the very real manifestation of the devil’s power.  Through prayer and the power of God mediated through the church’s ritual of exorcism, people throughout the centuries have been delivered from the grip of evil. Today’s Gospel, from Luke, gives one of many episodes in the story of Jesus where he drives out a devil and brings relief to a person who has been possessed.  In the process, Jesus describes the intensity of the struggle against evil.  It was a struggle Saint Patrick knew well.  As the “apostle to [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 6 — Veronica Wipes The Face Of Jesus, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience The story of Veronica, whose act of compassion left the wounded face of Jesus imprinted on the veil with which she wiped his bleeding face, is a mixture of tradition, legend, and devotions that developed over the centuries from one end of Europe to another. There is no ascertainable historical accuracy attached to any of the tellings, let alone to any of the “veils” themselves, but there is a great deal of spiritual truth to be recognized here.  The truth is that nothing we do for the suffering other ever goes unnoticed or unnoted.  The kindness we bring to great moments of pain and grief marks us and lasts forever not only in the heart of the person whose pain we assuage but in our [...]

JESUS: To Love In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

It follows logically from the foregoing that if we live Christ’s life we love with Christ’s love.  His life is all love; his spirit is all love.  It is not so much that his love “rubs off” on us but that it actually animates us and “informs” our every activity.  We breathe his spirit, and since his spirit is love we love with his love.  Our love such as it is, is nothing without grace, nothing without his spirit.  We have not invented what love there is in us; we cannot fashion charity as we can fashion a rose garden or an omelette.  The most we can do is direct it from him within us to him outside us.  Our love for others, provided it is in charity and not in worldly desire, is the response of [...]

SAINTS: Francis de Sales — From Lawyer To Spiritual Guide, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9; Psalm 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20; Matthew 5:17-19 When we think of Moses, we often think of the Ten Commandments, the laws that God gave to Israel.  Today’s First Reading offers an address by Moses to the people, in which he encourages them to observe the Law and thus witness to the nations of the greatness of their God. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the “new Moses,” as he teaches the Torah, the Law of Moses, in the Sermon on the Mount but expands it in light of the kingdom.  Jesus offers ways in which the Law is to be enfleshed in love and mercy, even beyond what Moses taught. Saint Francis de Sales was marked by his family for a legal career, following [...]

LENT: Flaw, by Joe Hoover

From: The Jesuit Post If you have ever thrown an elbow or slid cleats high. If you have ever snapped back or punched first. If you have ever quietly stolen inconsequential things, small pieces of candy from a store, a magazine from a waiting room. If you have wiped your mouth on a dishtowel and hung it back up. If you have argued from authority. If you don’t wash your hands, not much. If you decided somewhere along the way – without even realizing it – that you would not have a relationship with the plaintive, pith-helmeted mail carrier.  Instead you two would walk by each other day after day like creatures from a sad divorce eons ago who had forgotten they ever knew each other. If you fail to give waitstaff irresistible small [...]

POETRY: Catechism, by Brett Foster

What sort of belief would you say is yours? Porous. Calibrated to the times. The week. In what ways has superflux affected you? Too much esteem. Tuned finely to the body’s work. What do you fear has not been delivered? The disease of courage. Will it be required? No questions, please. Can you see yourself tested? I have never suffered for anything. In how many dimensions is your faith? One thin one, at least. [Aside] Was that a trick question? What is the single thing that sustains you? Abiding hope that being here’s made good. Care to clarify? Care to offer last words? I offer essentially nothing, but [...]

SAINTS: Alphonsus Liguori — Gentle Moral Teacher, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Daniel 3:25, 34-43; Psalm 25:4bc-5ab, 6, 7bc, 8-9; Matthew 18:21-35 In today’s gospel, Peter asks Jesus a question: How often should we forgive a brother who offends us?  Peter suggests that perhaps seven times would be a generous offer.  Scripture scholar Father Raymond Brown notes that, at this point, we who know Jesus’s answer are inclined to criticize Peter.  How stingy!  We know Jesus is going to respond with a whopping seventy-seven times, suggesting forgiveness without limit. But, Brown comments, who among us, realistically, might squeeze out a second, or, just maybe, a third act of forgiveness?  After that, wouldn’t we say, Enough!?  At that point, Brown says, Peter is looking [...]

LENT: Keeping Watch, by Philip Berrigan

From: Disciples and Dissidents May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!” (Mark 13:36-37) I am pondering the passage at Mark 13:36, and my thoughts return to the winter of 1943, to a nineteen-year-old draftee at Camp Gordon, now Fort Gordon, Georgia.  The old Springfield rifle is heavy, the Georgia winters are damp and cold and dark and – Lord, Gawd! – I’ve gotta walk guard for four hours. And do I ever watch!  I watch for the officer of the guard.  If he hears a weak challenge (Halt!  Who goes there?) or finds me forgetful of the password (Geronimo) or hiding or smoking, it’s weekend KP for a month.  The minutes and hours drag agonizingly by.  I’m [...]

JESUS: To Live In Christ, by Hubert van Zeller

To live in Christ is, in the widest sense, to live in a state of grace.  It is a gift but a gift which God does not deny to anyone.  What we are more particularly considering in these pages is the development of the gift.  All are invited to develop the life of Christ in the soul, and those who set themselves to do so are actively and progressively on the way to identification: identification with the divine person so far as is possible in this life, leading to the fullest identification to be enjoyed eternally in Heaven.  Christ incorporates us into his life at baptism, offers his life to us in countless ways as we mature in our religious formation, and finally crowns us with the grace of divine union. Though baptism and religious [...]

SAINTS: Damien Joseph de Veuster of Molokai — A Mission Among The Lepers, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints 2 Kings 5:1-15a; Psalm 42:2-3, 43:3-4; Luke 4:24-30 Leprosy is a disease that gets a lot of attention in the Bible.  Jesus, who himself healed lepers, cites the story of the cure of the Syrian leper, Naaman, in today’s gospel, as he challenges his hometown audience with the rejection of prophets in their native place, while foreigners like Naaman receive God’s favor. In modern times leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is treatable, but at the time of Saint Damien of Molokai it was still feared.  Those suffering from the disease were kept as far as possible from others, as on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, on a remote, inaccessible peninsula.  It was there that the Belgian missionary Damien came, [...]

ART: Window Five — Third Sunday In Lent, by Michael Sullivan

From: Windows Into the Light Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer) God, my soul both awaits and celebrates your presence.  At times I drive you away, replacing your love for me with objects of my own desire.  On other days, I welcome you  with wild abandon, preparing a feast for all to enjoy.  Help me to find the places between, the places where I can be [...]

SAINTS: Moses — Knowing We Are God’s People, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8; John 4:5-42 The character of Moses is forever burned into the consciousness of a generation of moviegoers by Charlton Heston’s portrayal of him in The Ten Commandments.  Moses strides through the film, leading his people out of Egypt, stretching his staff over a divided Red Sea, and bringing the tablets of the Law down from his encounter with God on the mountain. We hear about many different dimensions of Moses in Lenten readings drawn from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.  In describing the ritual for offering first fruits from the harvest of the Promised Land, Moses says that the people must describe themselves thusly: A wandering Aramean was my [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 5 — Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience The fifth station confronts a rigidly stratified world with the great crossover moments of life.  What are we supposed to do when we find ourselves face to face with something no one wants to get involved in but what we also know must be done?  It’s more common a problem than we like to think. You and I, for instance, come to realize that two children in our block are living with their homeless mother in a car.  What do we do: Forget about it and hope some agency will come along and deal with the problem?  Call the police?  Find a tiny efficiency apartment and pay the rent for a year?  Join an organization that concentrates on finding shelter for homeless people?  Obviously it [...]

SAINTS: Augustine — The Grace Of Conversion, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Micah 7:14-15; Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s gospel personifies the mercy of God.  Many commentators and homilists suggest the story is mistitled and think it should be called, The Father Who Couldn’t Forget.  The father, who is spurned by a selfish, insensitive son who squanders his share of the family fortune, suffers not only personal shame but public embarrassment as his close-knit community watches him wait daily for his son’s return. The story of Saint Augustine is, in part, the story of a mother who couldn’t forget. A talented and scholarly young man, Augustine immersed himself in all the shallow pursuits of his pagan society.  [...]

POETRY: The Ballad Of Mary’s Son, by Langston Hughes

It was in the Spring The Passover had come. There was feasting in the streets and joy. But an awful thing Happened in the Spring— Men who knew not what they did Killed Mary’s Boy. And the Son of God was He— Sent to bring the whole world joy. There were some who could not hear, And some were filled with fear— So they built a cross For Mary’s [...]

SAINTS: The Patriarch Joseph — A Story Of A Dreamer, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a; ; Psalm 105:16-21; Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 Two Biblical characters are the subject of Broadway musicals by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and both are featured in today’s readings.  They are Joseph, the son of Israel (Jacob) in Genesis, and Jesus, the “superstar” of Matthew’s gospel!  Webber seized on the detail of Joseph’s coat (here simply a “long tunic”) as the launch point for one musical.  But there’s much in the Joseph story to entertain. Joseph the dreamer is the victim of violence at the hands of his jealous brothers.  He goes on to have interesting adventures in Egypt and rises to become Pharaoh’s adviser in a time [...]

SACRIFICE: The Burden Abraham Bore

The title may have the name, Abraham, in it, but this ultimately is about Jesus Christ.  And the characteristics that make up the concept of his sacrifice when he went to his death. People claim, too loudly sometimes, that Jesus died FOR US!  Without any real explanation of how that dying-for-us concept really works. The first part of this series focused on Jesus’s plea for mercy for those who accused him falsely.  By doing this two things happened: (1) Jesus came down off the cross, turned and faced God, and plead for us to be forgiven.  To do this, Jesus used his authority as the son of God to intercede for us.  To be honest, though, God is the one who can choose to forgive us or not.  Mercy is a choice that the one in [...]

SAINTS: André Bessette — The Doorkeeper Saint, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1:1-4, 6; Luke: 16:19-31 Jesus tells the parable of a rich man who lived in luxury, failing to notice the beggar named Lazarus at his front door.  Only too late – after death – does the rich man take notice of the poor man who had daily suffered on his doorstep. The French Canadian saint André Bessette would not have been blind to a beggar on his doorstep.  After twenty-five years of struggle with sickness and poverty, and having tried various trades, including working in a New England factory during the Civil War, he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal in 1872.  Weak health had delayed his profession, and he was assigned the job of doorkeeper.  He joked much later [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 4 — Jesus Meets His Mother, by Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience This fourth station is a life lesson far beyond either the dull or dour particulars of life.  This station is about the place of love in life. It is one thing to have zest enough for the future; it is valiant to recognize reality and to embrace it with spirit.  But it is something else entirely to find ourselves alone in the midst of the painful but defining moments of life – birth, death, castigation, humiliation, failure, and rejection.  With love we can do anything, even the clouded parts of life, so tenebrous but at the same time so necessary, so commonplace.  But without love, we can only die long before death takes us. Even in the Stations of the Cross we find this comment on human need [...]

POETRY: My Prayers Must Meet A Brazen Heaven, by Gerard Manley Hopkins

My prayers must meet a brazen heaven And fail and scatter all away. Unclean and seeming unforgiven My prayers I scarcely call to pray. I cannot buoy my heart above; Above I cannot entrance win. I reckon precedents of love, But feel the long success of sin. My heaven is brass and iron my earth: Yea, iron is mingled with my clay, So harden’d is it in this dearth Which praying fails to do away. Nor tears, nor tears this clay uncouth Could mould, if any tears there were. A warfare of my lips in truth, Battling with God, is now my [...]

SAINTS: James And John — From Arrogance To Witness, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Jeremiah 18:18-20; Psalm 31:5-6; Matthew 20:17-28 To read today’s gospel, one would think that Jesus’s apostles could have really used a public-relations advisor!  The story of the mother of James and John, requesting places for her sons at Jesus’s right and left hands in his kingdom, does not reflect well on these followers of the Lord.  What makes it worse, Jesus has just predicted his passion and death.  Were they even listening? At least, the arrogant request gives Jesus the opportunity to challenge James and John to share in his sufferings.  He goes on to urge his followers not to imitate the gentile rulers and their hangers-on.  Instead, they are to seek to serve if they want to rank [...]

LENT: Final Sanity, by Phyllis Tickle

From: Wisdom in the Waiting: Spring’s Sacred Days The forty penitential weekdays and six Sundays that follow Mardi Gras and precede Easter are the days of greatest calm in the church’s year.  Since by long centuries of custom the date of Easter is annually determined from the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21, the intertwining of physical and spiritual seasons is virtually inevitable.  The resulting union of deep winter and holy preparation makes reflection, even penitence, a natural activity. One night years ago, toward the end of winter, there was a storm, a cold front shifting suddenly and dropping onto us with ferocity and winds that bent down the pine trees along the fence line.  Sometime after I [...]

POETRY: I Have Stood At The Center Of The World, by Catherine McNiel

I have stood at the center of the world The primordial Tree, the innocent Beginning I have been rejected there, exiled So I wander Homeless, yet seeking Home Marked, yet seeking I have traveled so far in my wanderings That I have changed, the distance became a chasm And yet I have stayed so closely tied Lingering near with hope for Healing Longing I stand in the place of Anger and Accusation Watching the last box of bitterness carried out the door Alone now with the vast emptiness in its place There’s nothing left to do but this endless Wandering and lingering I have forgiven But you have forgotten Even a child casts her own shadow The past has built itself into my body and soul And there it is: The bruised and fallen apple is its [...]

SAINTS: Thérèse Of The Child Jesus — Service In Humility, by Greg Friedman

From: Lent With The Saints Isaiah 1:10, 16-20;  Psalm 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21, 23; Matthew 23:1-12 Priests get asked occasionally – usually by folks of a fundamentalist Christian bent – about today’s gospel text, in which Jesus tells us we should not use the title father for anyone on Earth – only for our Father in Heaven.  Leaving aside the question of what they might call their own dads, they are missing the point of Jesus’s words, which come at the end of the passage: The greatest among you must be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. We are not to use titles but rather serve in humility.  A saint who embodied that ideal bore the religious name [...]

LENT: The Royal Road, by Thomas à Kempis

From: The Imitation of Christ There will always be many who love Christ’s Heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross.  Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity.  He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting.  Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him.  Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion.  Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross. Many love Christ as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless him as long as they receive some comfort from him.  But if Jesus hides himself and leaves them for a while, they either start complaining or [...]

POETRY: The Road To Damascus: 6, by Tania Runyan

I have sinned, I said. I want eternal life, I said. That was the moment. I wanted nothing but God. I wanted a cheeseburger. I wanted nothing at all. Finally, I wanted it all settled. I folded by hands and spoke To the carpet. I folded my hands and spoke to the Lord. I woke up and felt no different. I woke up and my life came to an [...]