Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Have Done What Is Mine to Do,May Christ Teach You What is Yours to Do.

  Our friary community has just finished a retreat presented by Ray Bucher, OFM.  The theme of the retreat was the spirituality of aging.  Interestingly enough I had to pass up the last day of the retreat to have a colonoscopy.  I have had several.

   As well as offering me some valuable insights on aging the time has afforded me the opportunity to refocus the aim of my life and ministry.

    Ray, our retreat director, cited, among others, a work by Sr. Joan Chtister, OSB, The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully.  I won't be using this entry to offer a workshop on that subject, but I have begun to read the book and one line that jumped out to me is this "Life after sixty-five is not a pathology. It is  whole new look at what life can be at this stage".

   Those words express what I have been feeling lately. So, what can life be for me?  In spite of what I consider to be minor health issues for my age I am living a dream, preaching the Word of God and living in a wonderful Franciscan community. At the same time there has been an unease in me lately, an unease about the condition of our world, our country and our Church. You can guess the reasons why. Unfortunately my presence on social media has drawn me off course a bit.  Last week a very good friend of mine visited our friary for a few days.  She pointed out that I was getting of course, swallowed up in the anger of the present moment.  I resisted her advice at first but upon reflection realized that my role, my purpose, at this time in my life and ministry, is not to try and correct all the evils of the world, though I must walk the fine line of being aware of them, but rather in the midst of them to remind people of the basic message of Jesus" love and his commandment to love one another. This is what I do well.

   This does not mean that I will back off of my basically Catholic and Christian vision of respect for life at every stage, respect for the unborn, those already born, people of every race and tongue and faith, etc., but at this stage I see my calling as stepping a bit outside of the political realm and simply reminding people of Jesus message to love our neighbor, whoever and whatever that neighbor may be, not just the neighbor next door, but all people.
   For most of my life in active ministry I have served in poor or working class areas, as well as serving the poor in Bolivia.  In recent years I have traveled to Honduras and El Salvador and seen first hand the effects of poverty and government oppression that people  there experience. The solution of the problems experienced by the poor is beyond me.  What I can do is A:  Invite everyone to share Christ's love in any way possible.  B. Be aware of the suffering of so many.  C.  Do what I can to help the poor.
   Over two years ago I came across Unbound, a Catholic organization our of Kansas City, that invites people to sponsor children and need elders in 18 different poor countries. They are helping over 300,000 people at the present time, not just offering a handout, but a hand up and empowereing them towards a better life.I visit parishes for them and invite people to sponsor.  Perhaps you, my reader,will consider becoming a sponsor. Go to

   I am still preaching 12-15 parish missions a year, preaching the basic Gospel message of love and mercy.  What a wonderful life I have at this stage. I pray that it continues.  When more diminishment comes it will be in God's hands.

   Finally, fear not growing older. Welcome what is next as  new stage of life. And do keep in mind the title of this blog entry which are the final words of St. Francis to the first friars. "I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what you are to do."

Monday, January 7, 2019

We Three Kings--A Revelation

   Yesterday we in the Western Church (Roman Catholic and Protestant) observed the Feast of the Epiphany (Greek for Manifestation or revelation) and heard the story of the visit of the magi to Bethlehem.  The Orthodox Church celebrated Epiphany as the Baptism of Jesus, which we in the West will celebrate this coming Sunday.  In addition the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana (recalled in 2 weeks) was noted in the early Church as an Epiphany Feast because there Jesus is revealed as Son of God.

   All three of these events have profound meaning but to me the account of the visit of the Magi is rich and filled with meaning.  It has also inspired several spinoff stories such as Ahmal and the Night Visitors which I took the time to view last night.  I highly recommend it.

    Did this event really happen?  I like to think that it did in spite of the fact that there have been many embellishments.  Matthew's Gospel 2:1 simply tells us that magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem asking the whereabouts of the newborn king. Notice that it does not say that they were kings, nor does it say there were 3. It was most likely easy to designate 3 as the number because there were 3 gifts--gold,frankincense and myrh.Early Church writers tell us that the gold was for Jesus as a king, the frankincense was to worship him as God and the myrh was for his burial.  Also as early Christians who were still practicing Jews hear the Scriptures read in the synagogues they heard, for example, from the prophet Isaiah, "All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord." (Is 60)  Psalm 72:10 says "May the kings of Tarshish and the Isles bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Sela offer gifts."

   In any event the meaning of the event is that Christ is revealed as Messiah not only for Israel but for all  peoples.  For me this does no mean a triumphalist imposing of Christianity on all bur rather is a call to realize that God loves all and in Christ draws all to himself.  Also I see the star as the light that draws all to Christ who is the Light of the world and who chooses to dwell in us that we may be light.
Finally in the 3 gifts, indeed symbolic but most importantly sign of generosity.  This account is what inspired the practice of Christmas gifts (which in many countries waits until January 6, but most importantly it should inspire us to be generous with the gifts that God has given us. The above mentioned story of Ahmal certainly points us in that direction.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly