The Word of God

Do You Remember?

Reflection on Mass Reading for April 30, 2020

Edgar Dale was a nineteenth-century American educator who developed the “Cone of Experience” by which he made the following amazing assertions: we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we discuss with others, 80% of what we personally experience, and a whopping 95% of what we teach others. There is probably some of this that would ignite debate or conversation to any varying degree of agreement but for our purposes today, let us consider the scene that was presented to us in the First Reading today: “’Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’” When it comes to our own approach and use and love of the Scriptures, it seems that our reading or listening to the beautiful Word of God is deeply enriched and expanded only when we share the wealth that we have discovered with others who also want to know Christ.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Today, during this great Easter Season, we are passionately called upon to reflect on what difference it makes in our lives that we believe that Jesus has risen from the dead, defeated all the powers of darkness and hatred in this world, and saved us a place in Heaven. Something reasonably must be different in the way we approach life and one of the more profound ways that is accomplished is how we share our faith. Take a chance today and share with someone who Jesus is for you and what great things He has done for you. Then let’s see how much you remember.

“If Easter says anything to us today, it says this: You can put truth in a grave but it won’t stay there.” Clarence W. Hall

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What’s In Your Easter Basket?

Reflection on Mass Reading for April 28, 2020

“As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and when he said this, he fell asleep.” The blood of the martyrdom/witness of St. Stephen brings a considerable amount of sobriety to the joy of the Easter Season but it is so necessary. The gift of Easter has everything to do with where we hope to end our earthly pilgrimage because of the great gift of the Resurrection. We want to go to Heaven after a good and solid life of witness to the real joy and meaning of this great time. We want to have enough happiness and peace in our hearts to say at the end of it all, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’” The Resurrection of Christ also brings forth the spiritual nourishment we need to make it to Heaven and find our way in this life by imitating the hope that is ours of and for a much better life. He is the Bread of Life that feeds and takes care of all our needs. Thus we could say that in our Spiritual Easter basket this year we will find forgiveness, hope, strength, and courage to face whatever is there waiting for us ahead.

“The very first Easter taught us this: that life never ends and love never dies. It is the only time of year when it is safe to put all your eggs in one basket.” Kate McGahan

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Put On Some Clothes

Reflection on Mass Reading for April 25, 2020

“Beloved: Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another.” Clearly, the quote that opens our Reflections today is not about fashion or style. Many of us do not have many options as to the clothing we wear to work or school so perhaps we could open our discussion into the world of dreams to find the deeper meaning and application of this wonderful phrase. The clothes we appear to be wearing in our dreams often represent a particular side of ourselves that we choose to show the world. Some would refer to this as our outer personality or “Persona.” If we were to consider these applications, the question we could ask ourselves is simply “what am I showing the world today with my words and actions?” The Reading from St. Peter gives the following suggestions for a happy, spiritually fulfilled life: 1. “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” 2. “Be sober and vigilant.” 3. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” We could then summarize this trifecta of holy, healthy and happy living this way: Practice humility, be attentive, bring peace.

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” The Gospel builds on the elements of our God-given personality which daily we wish to share with others, especially in our own families, ministries, coworkers and fellow students by carefully presenting us with a spiritual strategy: Rely on the positive nature within you, speak softly and slowly avoiding harsh criticism and gossip and attempt to be a catalyst for change and healing especially through the words we choose to use and yes, not to use. The fruit of this kind of living can be redacted into the Responsorial Psalm which we have been gifted today as well: “For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Truly, if we remain in Him throughout the day, our lives will be song of thanks, our smile a reminder of heaven, and our presence and demeanor like a brand new wardrobe waiting for the greatest invitation to an eternal celebration.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” Benjamin Disraeli

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Healthy Gratitude

Reflection on Mass Reading for April 24, 2020

“One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.” When we realize all that we have been through these past few months, how can we not see the great blessings in each and every day? What kind of power or force are we blindly following to make a day, an hour or even a single minute blessed or cursed? “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” Doubt and pessimism in all its forms are useless and truly squander time and energy. The Pharisee Gamaliel made a very poignant observation that could help our understanding of this: “For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them.” What makes today blessed, fortunate, and awesome has nothing to do with some outside uncontrollable force over which we have no power, but on one simple fact: Jesus died for us sinners and now we have a shot at eternal life.

“Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.” We have all been blessed by the complete and selfless act of self-sacrifice that Jesus accomplished on the cross. By His blood, we have been washed and made clean and we can and should avail ourselves of all the promised blessings every single day we are alive. Shallow people believe in luck; strong people believe in cause and effect; blessed, healthy and happy people believe in Jesus.

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

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The Virus, the Victims and the Victory

corona virus cells image on green background

With numbing regularity we have witnessed the complete and utter validation of the truth that adversity and problems do not create character. They reveal it. Like any personal crisis, the world-wide pandemic, now infamously known as COVID-19, is chock-full of life lessons dovetailed by the rich and cleansing Season of Lent that hopefully will never be forgotten, especially in our lifetime going forward. Let us take a look at a few.

Clearly, the timing of all this is certainly providential and substantiated by the Scriptures which we allow into our daily diet of news and catastrophic updates. “Thus says the LORD: Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt.” (Hosea 14:1) When we stop and think about it for a while, Lent has been consumed with remembering the most important things in life and realizing how at times our guilt and fear can be so paralyzing. That is why we sacrificed (gave up) mundane things which we really do not need so that we can focus on the things in this world that we truly need. This is supported by the underlying meaning from the eighty-sixth Psalm: “Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted and revering your name. I will praise you with all my heart, glorify your name forever, Lord my God.” 

Remembering the most important things in life is perhaps at the top tier of must-do items on the proverbial “bucket list.” All of what we have experienced and lived must form the fabric of the wisdom and the philosophy of life as we move into the future, which is all in the mind of God who cares and loves us with an everlasting and even reckless, overwhelming love. During this awesome Season of Lent accompanied with the constant drumming of COVID-19 news ad nauseum, we are called and pulled toward memory and freedom. Guilt and anxiety and worry hurt the soul at first but if it motivates us to change and reform our lives according to Christ, then we will, in fact, remember how it is that we can find our way to Heaven by following the Lord God with every fiber of our being. In turn, we are compelled to pass that on to those we love, especially our children. May we remember the name of the one who has saved us!

Unfortunately, the pandemic of fear which, according to many, is worse than the viral infection itself, has produced victims and victimizers in this amazing viral Lenten season. Everywhere from price-gougers, to hoarders and thieves, over-zealous pontificators who railed against everyone who spent time outside and did not measure up to their own standards of quarantine, to those who are ready to cry conspiracy on every corner, we certainly have been served the entire gambit at play. This has been compounded in daily wear and tear on the soul with the worries about losing one’s job, retirement, elderly relatives and friends fueled by the daily, if not hourly, dose of bad news at the laptop or on the phone. How are we to address all of this and still stay sane?

A man once wrote to his teenage son: “God is the reason why even in pain, I smile, in confusion I understand, in betrayal I trust and in fear I continue to fight.” These are not just words if they are put into practice and lived as best as possible. Long after this particular Lenten Season and after the current health crisis is over, we must remember that our children, students, and friends will not follow our advice—they will indeed follow and remember our example. “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34)

It’s times like these, facing great uncertainties, that it’s clear that we don’t realize our own strength until we come face-to-face with our greatest weakness. You see, courage isn’t having the strength and stamina to keep going, but rather it’s more like going forward even when we think we’ve got nothing left. This is exactly what Jesus taught us, among many other things, such as the truth that there is nothing so terrible or panic-driven that we cannot make some good out of it. Every problem has within it the seeds of opportunity to practice virtuous living. It should also be clear by now that the self-serving, egocentric lifestyle is truly the enemy. Pride tends to create vicious souls and dangerous behavior: “For pride is spiritual cancer as it eats up the very possibility of love and common sense.” (C. S. Lewis) With so many of us homebound for a time, perhaps we could all agree that mindfulness and stillness is the key that unlocks the truth that we can speed up by slowing down. Now has been the time to learn how to pray intensely, focus, and find that deep personal happiness that no one can remove,  to see life clearly, free from the frenetic and melodramatic life scripts shoved down our throats by so many who seemingly love to upset the most number of people as possible.

Easter is a glorious time to remember the one who defeated death and darkness forever and has forever freed us from being a victim of panic and fear. By the time this piece is published and hopefully read by you, our faithful readers, we will be in the throes of the Easter Season and hopefully entering a whole new way of believing, acting and living our lives. We can begin by making conscious and firm resolutions to forgive everyone who may have disjointed us during this time, from leaders who either did too much or too little, too quickly or too late, to the people who locked up the toilet paper or turned social distancing into social rudeness. This is the time to renew our time-honored aspirations for a happy life and to make commitments to overcome the forces within and outside of us that keep us from achieving our dreams. Let this historic Lenten Season bring us to an entirely wonderful Easter existence and move forward with renewed hope and energy to be ready for anything.

Keep your faith close and your fear, well, at least six feet away!

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