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Showing posts from February, 2012

Wednesday, the Eighth Day of Lent: Clothed in Justice

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Our Gospel today recalls Jesus challenging a crowd who had gathered around him:

This generation is an evil generation;  it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,  so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 
What is this "sign of Jonah"? Well, in the first reading, we are told: Jonah is given a message by the Lord. Upon his arrival to the great city of Nineveh, he delivers the message given to him, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." 
Imagine how daunting this must have seemed. Jonah is summoned to deliver a message to a bustling metropolis. The text does not say so, but I suspect something like this crossed his mind, "What the Hell am I supposed to do? I am one guy and this place is damn big. How am I going to get any traction here? Where do I start? Why would anyone listen to me???" 
Nevertheless, listen the Ninevites did. They repented of their wickedness and no l…

Tuesday, the Seventh Day of Lent

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I love paging through how-to books. Even if I have no inclination toward motorcycle repair, or turning my own rotors, or knitting a scarf, I do enjoy paging through books or watching television shows that explore how things get made or done. Of course, I'm something of a foodie and I love to watch FoodTV as apparently complicated dishes are broken down into manageable steps. 
Today's Gospel provides the ultimate how-to with regard to prayer. There are very many books written on praying, books that teach us how to breathe, to center ourselves, to purge our thoughts, to imagine Jesus, to find our interior castle, etc.. These are all, to be sure, very good things. Yet, in today's Gospel, Jesus gives us a totally different kind of how-to:
This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses,  as we forgive those who trespass aga…

Monday, the Sixth Day of Lent

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Love consists in sharing what one has and what one is  with those one loves.
Love ought to show itself in deeds more than in words. ~St. Ignatius of Loyola
Today's Gospel is Jesus' famous discourse on the Sheep and the Goats. The scene is familiar: at the final judgement, the King will come and separate the gathered assembly based, not on one's sense of righteousness or religious profession but, rather, on the deeds that shows forth the fruits of faith. 
The sheep, finding themselves heirs to the Kingdom, will ask the king, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?" The response is simple, picked up and lived out by countless saints: "...whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it to me."
There is a television show I have caught glimpses of called Undercover Boss. The show follows an executive or owner of a company as she conceals her identity and assumes some sort of entry-level position. The cland…

The First Sunday of Lent

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It is the case that, in literature and pop culture, many of our heroes must go off "into the desert" before embracing their destiny as the hero. In the latest re-boot of the Batman franchise, Bruce Wayne wanders the earth, unsure of who he is, before he discovers within him the Batman. Even when he has embraced his identity, his retreat, or inner sanctum, is a cave underneath his stately manor. Superman has his own "Fortress of Solitude" where is communes with his father, Jor-El.  In Disney's "The Lion King" does not Simba go off into the desert for many years following the death of Mufasa?

The role of the hero is never simple and linear. The heroic path is seldom clear, for many are the inner depths in need of plumbing. The hustle-and-bustle of daily life so easily distract, tear at, and get in the way of this exploration that it is almost inevitable that the hero, to claim the mantle of hero, must seek solitude. Every hero must, at some point, go in…

The Fourth Day of Lent

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Our first reading continues from yesterday, taking the following words from Isaiah:

Thus says the Lord: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land.
As I hinted at yesterday, I do think that Lent is a time for purging, or un-cluttering, our lives to make space for God's grace. The inbox of our heart is so easily cluttered with the SPAM of the world - offers, ads, enticements - none of which holds the key to the lasting happiness we so desperately long for. We need to sort out just which offers bear God's authentic self-offer and focus on those -- leave SPAM for the junkmail folder. 
In today's reading, we see this two-fold movement of accepting God's invitation to friendship. There is a movement to clear…

The Third Day of Lent

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The relationship between Church and State has, to be sure, thrust into the forefront of national discourse these recent weeks. As I mentioned earlier, I am sympathetic to the bishops' stance. Yet, on another level, these conversations leave me irritated and angry. Why? Because, as a nation, it seems we want more to talk about Christianity rather than actually living it out. 


Much talk this week has surrounded what we will "give up" for Lent, what it is that we will fast from. Today's reading from Isaiah, particularly for those of us who believe Lent to be a religiously-sanctioned opportunity to lose weight and calling the 'diet' a fast, should give us pause.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;  Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;  Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
O…

The Second Day of Lent

Have you ever stopped to think how crazy the Christian faith is? I own an iPhone, a computer, I have ready use of a car, I can travel with relative ease...and I believe that a convicted felon, publicly and brutally executed by the Romans 2,000 years ago, is the Christ of God. It sounds insane, at least to my ears, and almost too-good-to-be-true.

Many in our culture would rather something more akin to G.I Jesus than to the Messiah we do have. We want Jesus to sweep in, demolish the Romans (then) or to come in and lay waste to our foes today. What we have as a vision of the Christ is the Crucified-yet-Risen One who brings not an AKA-47 but, rather, a message of Peace. Jesus' ways are not our ways; the God revealed by the Christ is very much unlike us as well.

On this, the second day of Lent, our Gospel reminds us of how counter-cultural Jesus really is. "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Seriously? I spend a…

Blogging Through Lent: Ash Wednesday

I haven't decided if I'm going to invite some of my students, as I did last year, to contribute reflections to my blog. As much as I enjoyed doing it, and loved hearing from them, it is a lot of work to collect and edit their submissions. If I can find a way to manage it, though, I'll invite them to participate.

Ash Wednesday is, perhaps, my least favorite liturgy. I have something of a texture aversion - popsicle sticks and tongue depressors make me gag - and the consistency of the ashes sort of reminds me of dry wood. Naturally, I'm going to help with the distribution of ashes so I'll get to dip my thumb into the ashes many times and I mark the sign of the cross on my students' foreheads as I remind them to, "Repent and believe in the Gospel."

Sixteen years ago this month, I started in a Weight-Watchers program. I remember being sixteen and really nervous that first night: I'm a naturally self-conscious person and I was afraid that people would …

Winter Break!

I must say that one of the perks of being a teacher is the planned winter-break. I'll be heading up to Mackinac Island today with a group of friends/colleagues and we will be giving a retreat to the residents of the Island.
It was on this retreat, just a year ago, I began to write about the Control-F Generation. I find times like this to be great for gathering my thoughts and having some time to do some writing. With any luck, I'll manage to post while I am up there and finish a longer piece I have been working on for publication elsewhere. 

Missing the Point?

Generally, I am pretty quiet about politics given that (1) it is incendiary and (2) the issues are generally too intricate and complicated for me to do justice in a blog post someone will read.

Today, however, an editorial in Time Magazine written by Tim Padgett caught my eye. Entitled "Birth Control Debate: Why Catholic Bishops Have Lost Their Grip on U.S. Politics - and Their Flock," Padgett's piece seems, to my mind, to miss the entire point of the Bishops' stand against the HHSC mandate that religiously-affiliated institutions had to provide contraception to its employees. The Obama Administration has granted concessions that have been accepted by Catholic Charities and the Catholic Healthcare Association. These concessions, however, have not appeased the bishops.

So let me say this very quickly (I have to teach in 8 minutes). I think we get this whole affair wrong and view it in a distorted manner if it is viewed as a debate about contraception. Journalists love…

Love Dissolves Hierarchy

Yesterday afternoon, the small group of students who are preparing for full incorporation into the Roman Catholic Church met again in my classroom for our weekly meeting. This week our topic was "The Teachings of Jesus" and we turned, once again, to Father Robert Barron's fantastic Catholicism video series. For anyone interested either in learning about the Catholic faith, or deepening one's own experience of the faith, I suggest this series strongly.

There is a scene when Father Barron is discussing the dynamism behind Mother Theresa of Calcutta's work. Asked once by a Dominican priest what animated her ministry, she asked him to spread out his hand and she touched a finger as she uttered each of five words: "You Did It To Me." These words echoed deep within my heart as I watched the video and have been haunting me since then.

Father Herbert McCabe writes that "Christian love implies equality." It is different from simply being nice, or being…

Has Irish Dancing Lost its Luster?

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Nearly a decade ago, when I was a grad student at John Carroll University, I supplemented my meager graduate stipend by playing the accordion at Irish dancing competitions all over the country. Indeed, I made a rather comfortable living off of Irish music - I was able to travel the nation, eat in great restaurants, hang out with people who shared a common interest, play the music I loved, and support the music and culture that was so dear to my heart.

One morning, a person from a feis called my parents' home, looking for me. I had left the house and my mother gave the caller my work number. The administrative assistant answered the call and took the message, promising that I would return the call when I arrived at the office.

Not long after the message was taken, I stepped in and began to check my mail. Out of the blue, I heard, "You know, Ryan, you've got a lot of nerve." Puzzled, I looked up from the mail and said, "Pardon me?" She continued, "I know …