Five years ago today, Pope John Paul II returned home to his Father’s house. When he died, it was like everyone lost a dear friend, a confidant, a teacher. As we remember him on this Good Friday, here are a few lines from a meditation he wrote, found in his book of poetry entitled “Roman Triptych.”
The End is as invisible as the Beginning.
The universe came forth from the Word,
and returns to the Word.
In the very center of the Sistine Chapel, the artist
depicts this invisible End
in the visible drama of the Judgement-
This invisible End has become visible as
the height of transparency:
Omnia nuda et aperta ante oculos Eius!
(All is laid bare and revealed before his eyes)
Matthew’s words are here transfigured in the painter’s vision:
“Come, you blessed… depart from me, you accursed…”
And so the generations pass-
naked they come into the world and naked they return
to the earth from which they were formed.
“From dust you came, and to dust you shall return”;
This image of Christ washing the feet of His Disciples is from a series of frescos painted by Giotto and found in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. I have been blessed to have seen the originals more than once, and they are precious and powerful, and the story about how they survived World War Two is miraculous. They are, however, not the main story today.
Tonight, the Church commemorates the Institution of the Priesthood and of the Eucharist. As I was praying this morning, it was hard not to be drawn into the turmoil surrounding both at this time in our history. Without a doubt, these are difficult days, but hope is not lost, the story will not end this way. Something comes after Good Friday!
Without going into a lengthy discourse, I think the answer to the present problems lies in the words of Christ spoken right after He washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:15). Jesus says “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Could the answer to so many of our present problems be connected to the way we have lived out this model Christ gave to us? I think so. We would not find ourselves in such a mess, whether it be our country, our Church, or even our personal lives, if each and every one of us were living lives that faithfully mirror the life of Jesus.
The Lord knew at the Last Supper that the story would not end there. It couldn’t. More had to be done, because He knew we would not live up to the model He laid out that night. We’ll save that part of the story for tomorrow and Saturday.
Last April, I attended a daily Mass at my parish. In our pastor’s homily that morning, he said something that I wrote down as soon as I got home. He said, “whenever something is crazy in your life, go to the Eucharist.” I was struck by the simplicity of the message, and I think it has important relevance today.
It seems to me that there is much to be angry about right now in our world. However, instead of turning up the volume, the hostility, the downright hatred, we should turn to the Eucharist for our answers. Make a Holy Hour for our country, our President, our elected officials. Make a Holy Hour for those who have been abused. Make a Holy Hour for those who did the abusing. Make a Holy Hour for those who have harmed us in any way, and for those we have harmed.
Christ told us He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. He has the answers and the means to solve all our problems. It is Love.
We celebrate these Holy Days because of His great Love. This is the model He left us. It is the solution to all our problems, past, present and future.
May God bless all our priests, and may they faithfully follow the Way of the Master, our Great High Priest.
“When something is crazy in your life, go to the Eucharist.” Amen
In Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10), we hear the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. He’s a short man,and he wants to see Jesus but can’t see over the crowd. So he climbs a tree to get a better look.
Jesus sees him, calls him down, and says “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay in your house.”
Now, as I was pondering this passage, I got to thinking. What would I do if Jesus invited himself to my house? What would He find there? What would I wish to hide from His sight (a lot)? Would my house be clean (no)? Would it really matter to Jesus (no)?
Jesus was being pretty bold by saying he “must” stay in Zacchaeus’ house. Why the “must”? I think the answer lies in a later line, which reads, “today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost.” Even though He knew Zacchaeus’ background, He sought him out to spend some time with him. He does the same to us.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus would come to someone like Zacchaeus. He comes to everybody, ready and willing to “save what was lost.” My friends, in these days it isn’t too difficult to realize just how lost we really are. Spend just two minutes looking watching the news, and you know. Take an honest look at your life and all its complexity, and you know.
During these last couple of days of Lent, spend some time reflecting on this passage from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus wants to come to your house. He’s there to seek you out, to offer salvation over and over again. Open the door and let Him in. It will set the stage for a life-changing Easter.
When I got up this morning to let the dog out, I opened the back door and felt the first warm, gentle rain of the season. Spring usually comes a bit earlier here in Maryland, but we’re coming off of a long, snowy winter, the likes of which had never been seen in these parts.
As all good gardeners do, I started thinking about spring when the first bulb catalogues start rolling in around September. I had wanted to order the bulbs pictured here, “Katherine Hodgkin” dwarf iris, for the past couple of years, but they were always sold out before I got around to ordering. This past fall, I was on top of my game, got my order in early, and received fifty little bulbs. I kept about twenty five, and gave the others to a good friend who had just moved into a new house. Bulbs are meant to be shared! We plant these ugly little things with the hope of things to come, only seeing their future beauty in our minds eye. But plant we do, dreaming and digging.
These gems, named for a woman I will never meet, came up early, right behind the snowdrops (Galanthus),which were planted by the former owner of my house. They are beautiful, tiny, and a wonderful harbinger of things to come. Somewhere, I hope Ms. Hodgkin is smiling at the sight.
Sadly, the blooms lasted only a few days and are now gone, already storing energy for next year. The cool thing is that other performers in this symphony being played in my garden quickly took their places. Building upon the snowdrops and dwarf iris, next came the forsynthia and narcicis, the lenten rose. All these leading to a future crescendo of tulips, flowering quince, dogwoods and trout lily. It’s like the tension that builds from Palm Sunday to the Easter Vigil, a slow unfolding of the Mystery. We know what will come next, but there’s an excitement in the waiting.
Holy Week is meant to be a time for thinking about our lives and how they intersect with the One who knows our name, who gave up everything and calls us to a better Way. Are we living the life we are called to? Can we trust like Him, no matter where it leads?
Holy Week is also a great time for taking an assessment of your garden, looking for signs of life and clearing out anything that didn’t make it through the winter. Its a time for mulching, fertilizing, pruning, and dreaming about blooming roses, oriental lilies, and an abundant vegetable patch with lots of tomatoes.
Encouraged by this hope of things to come, I went to a couple of garden centers and stocked up on a wide range of seeds. I also picked up some basil, thyme, parsley, already growing in little pots. I can’t wait to cook with them, but for now, they have to sit it out in my greenhouse until its a bit warmer.
I also purchased a Passion Vine with the name “Immaculata.” How could any Catholic pass up a plant with a name like that? The place where I purchased this plant is sadly closing after over seventy five years of business. Not many people are supporting the local, independent garden centers any more. But they are the place to turn for advice, special and unusual plants, and a chance to hep the little guy. If there is one in your area, please support them!
These days of Holy Week are all about remembering and trusting. Death will never win out. Resurrection is right around the corner. I can feel it when I go to Church, and I can see it in my garden. We don’t have to wait long now…
And so it begins again. Holy Week is here, starting today with Palm Sunday. Yesterday, we had our annual RCIA retreat for all those coming into the Church at the Easter Vigil.
How blessed we are to be able to journey alongside these people seeking God. I wish sometimes that our group was smaller, that I could get to know each person more deeply, but the Lord keeps bringing large groups of people seeking to be Catholic to our doors.
As we sat together yesterday, it was so great to hear some of their conversion stories, how God has touched them profoundly through the RCIA process, and how they intend to live out this new faith of theirs.
This Holy Week, I hope that we can all take time, personally and communally, to reflect on the mysteries the Church rolls out for us. Where do we fit into the story?
Do we follow Christ’s example from the Holy Thursday Liturgy, or are we more often like someone from the angry crowd shouting “crucify him?” To me, one of the chief joys of our faith is that conversion doesn’t happen just once. Conversion is ongoing, and every day is a chance to re-commit, go deeper, and seek his mercy and love.
Let’s pray that this Holy Week is a time of reflection, quiet, and conversion.
This morning, I was let to pray the Suscipe, written by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
I raced home from the gym last night to catch Jamie Oliver’s new show “Food Revolution.” I missed the first thirty minutes or so, but overall, I was pretty disappointed.
Oliver had travelled to Huntington, West Virginia, a place with the unfortunate honor of being the “most unhealthy town in America.” As I watched the show, I quickly realized that just about any town I’ve been to int he last couple of years could be up for consideration the next time around.
Anyway, my overall feeling is that the show places too much responsibility for poor nutrition on the school system. Kids don’t know what a tomato looks like, blame the school. Kids don’t know how to use a knife and fork, blame the lunch ladies. Kids choose pizza over chicken? On that one, I blame Jamie. If kids are unhealthy, the first place to look is home, and I wish that’s where Jaime would have turned to first.
I really like Jaime’s idea of having cooking classes in a downtown storefront that he’s rented. Teach parents how to cook simple, good tasting, and inexpensive meals, and I think a lot of people will move away from our fast food culture. It’s been my experience that many folks are just overwhelmed, and fall to the pressure of quick, easy, and cheap. We also fall to multi million dollar ad campaigns targeted at people just like the residents of Huntington.
As I was watching the show last night, I flipped through Oliver’s newest book, also titled “Food Revolution.” Great title, great concept. But poorly executed, and not really helping people out the their unhealthy lifestyles and encouraging them to eat healthier food. Eight of the twelve veggie recipes included butter or heavy cream. A lot of the recipes call for the frying of ingredients. Not much better than heading to Mc Donald’s or Denny’s.
I like Jaime Oliver, but if the remainder of the episodes are anything like the first, his revolution will fail to help us out of a desperate situation.
I’ve just come back from a trip to Chicago. It was a time to renew friendships, meet some new people, and learn about all the ways Loyola Press is helping people grow in their faith. Thanks to everyone for making it a meaningful trip.
One of the exercises we did involved taking a butterfly cutout and embellishing it with words and decoration in order to tell a story. It was an interesting task, and I couldn’t wait to share the meaning behind the message I was trying to convey. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and couldn’t fully explain (at least I didn’t have enough time).
So, here’s my story: Sometime in May last year, I was sitting on my patio praying. It was late morning, the sun was warm, a gorgeous day. Unfortunately, I was down in the dumps, trying to get my life back on track, and had to make some big changes. Change is always hard, isn’t it?
So, as I as sitting there with my coffee, I saw a monarch butterfly go shooting past. It caught my attention, and I was mesmerized as it flew through the air, darting, weaving, back and forth. I’d never seen a butterfly do this before, and I thought it might have been poisoned somehow, maybe landing on a leaf that had been sprayed with pesticide.
As it flew, side to side, up and down, fast and slow, it suddenly came to me. This must be its first flight! Shortly before I witnessed this inaugural journey into the sky, it was in a cocoon. How difficult is it to make this change? What did the Lord want to say to me in giving me this experience?
As I continued to watch, I was almost moved to tears. I had never seen anything like it, and it truly was a gift. And I know God was speaking to me through it. I believe He wanted to tell me that it was time for a new beginning for me. A radical transformation was in order. It would be hard, painful, but also exhilarating. And it would lead to places I previously could not have gone.
Most big changes are going to be hard. But I think God is there, standing on the sidelines, cheering us on, calling us to a new Way, a new Life. I continue to be struck by the experience I had that late spring morning. I could never had predicted the transformation the Lord began in me that day, which still continues even now. What do you think God wants to transform in you?
Last week, I was giving tours of our church to a bunch of second graders. Joining them were several special needs children. One girl is severely handicapped, and she can be a bit disruptive, especially if you’re a second grader 🙂
Well, I love working with special needs kids. It’s a blessing for me, and although I don’t have any training in this area, I seem to get by pretty well. It’s that way with Madison. She likes me, and I think she knows I like her. She smiles at me, and I know I am communicating with her. She puts my hands in hers and she and I clap together.
The tour had it’s ups and downs, and when it was all over, one of our volunteers came up to me and said that it was clear Madison loved me. At that minute, I remembered a line from one of Henri Nouwen’s books. He was writing about his own experience of working with people with special needs. He said that at a certain point, the relationship changes. “The God in him/her recognizes the God in me.” And so it is with Madison and I. In her own special and unique way, she sees God in me. I see a joy in her that I can only long for, and I know that she is the beloved daughter of God. She is blessed!