Tuesday, January 22, 2013

50 million lives lost

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the day abortion became legal in our country. The church is asked that it be a "Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children."

I am encouraged by today's first reading:
We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness
for the fulfillment of hope until the end,
so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who,
through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.

Also by the great St. of our time Blessed Mother Theresa. I offer you these quotes from her for reflection:

"America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts -- a child -- as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters"

And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign." (Mother Theresa -- "Notable and Quotable," Wall Street Journal, 2/25/94, p. A14)

"But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child - a direct killing of the innocent child - murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even his life to love us. So the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love - that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion. "

"Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!"

February 1997 - National Prayer Breakfast in Washington attended by the President and the First Lady. "What is taking place in America," she said, "is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another."
"Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants."

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Listen to my lecture on Contemplative Prayer

This was the last lecture I gave at St. Clarence to the "Gentle Women"  The topic is "Contemplative Prayer: Rest with God."  It covers Contemplating God through Word, Icon and Nature. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fr. Tifft grave marker

Today I spent the day in prayer "Desert Day" and stopped to pray at Fr. Tifft's grave. The earth has settled and the grass is growing... Seems like he's been gone forever, but it was only this past summer. I offered mass for him as well. Blessed to have him as my rector.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Homily for Epiphany, the Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey

You may or may not know that the Author of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series was a devout Catholic (even one of his sons became a Catholic Priest).  He was so Catholic that his faith poured out into his life’s work – The Lord of the Rings.  The Hobbit is the Prequel to the Series.

As I watched the film which begins with all of these great kings coming to do homage kneeling before the great King Under the Mountain I realized that the 3 Kings came to do homage to Christ.  These Magi who came from the East bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh prostrated themselves when they found the infant Jesus in the home with his Mother Mary.  

For those not familiar with “The Hobbit” I’ll just set the scene:

The film begins in "The Shire" where we meet Bilbo Baggins in his comfortable, cozy, warm hobbit hole.  “The Shire” is this peaceful cozy town out in the country.  He can relax, smoke his pipe, sit in his chair by the fire, read write and he is very comfortable.  

Then there is the introduction of Gandalf who is this mysterious figure.  Gandalf is this huge, tall wizard with a long white beard, face and body.  He immediately seems wise, trustworthy and friendly. 

Gandalf begins by saying "I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure."  

Immediately Bilbo Baggins begins to resist... no, not me, I'm not the adventure type... "I can't go just running off into the blue, I'm a Baggins, of Bag End."

As Gandalf presses him to accept the Adventure of  a Lifetime,  Bilbo Baggins replies:  "I just need to sit quietly for a moment."  And Gandalf immediately cuts him off: "You've been sitting quietly for far too long!"  

It is with this that Bilbo Baggins realizes that just maybe he does need to go on this adventure, maybe he has been sitting quietly for too long, and maybe he will never be the same.  How does this statement affect you?  Have you been sitting quietly for far too long in your faith? 

13 Dwarves show up to his house, make themselves at home and prepare for the great adventure.  After a very warm comical dinner it is clear how uncomfortable Bilbo Baggins is with this entire idea... he's very protective of his house, it's cleanliness, the dishes and doilies handed down to him from his mother...

And Gandalf says to him:  "When did doilies and your mother's dishes become so important to you?"

Bilbo Baggins begins to ask what is required of him... Thorin says: "Loyalty, honor, a willing heart, I can ask no more of that."  Gandalf assures "You'll have a tale or two when you come back."  Baggins asks tepidly "You can promise that I come back."  Gandalf replies very solemnly "No.  And if you do, you will never be the same."

Today as we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany we hear the story of the three kings, the Magi who came from the east following the star to find the Christ.

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”

They would encounter the great King Herod who is so hungry for power that he was willing to murder anyone that got in his way, even if it was a child... even if it meant killing all the male children in Bethlehem under two years old.  

I did some research on this and found out just how many children there were... I'd always thought it was thousands, but after my pilgrimage I realized that Bethlehem is a small town.  Scripture Scholar Ray Brown (Who is the go to guy for serious Catholic Scripture Scholars) offers the following: “Despite the obviously storytelling atmosphere, those interested in establishing the historicity of the event have calculated how many children there would have been in a village like Bethlehem and its surroundings. Because of the high infant morality rate, we are told that if the total population was one thousand, with an annual birthrate of thirty, the male children under two years of age would scarcely have numbered more than twenty.” (The Birth of the Messiah, page 204-05.)

I find this very interesting for us today because we’ve recently experienced a trajedgy like this in our country.  Can you think of how many children were killed in the Newtown Shootings?  20.  We know what the loss of 20 children can do to a community, it has even affected our entire nation. 

Well-wishers from around the country showed up [Christmas] morning to hang ornaments on memorial Christmas trees, while police officers from around Connecticut took extra shifts to give local police a day off.

A steady stream of residents, some in pajamas, relit candles that had been extinguished in an overnight snowstorm. Others dropped off toys and fought back tears at a huge sidewalk memorial filled with stuffed animals, poems, flowers, posters and cards.

In the morning, resident Joanne Brunetti watched over 26 candles that had been lit at midnight in honor of those slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She and her husband, Bill, signed up for a three-hour shift and erected a tent to ensure that the flames never went out throughout the day.

"You have to do something and you don't know what to do, you know? You really feel very helpless in this situation," she said. "My thought is if we were all this nice to each other all the time maybe things like this wouldn't happen."

At a town hall memorial, Faith Leonard waved to people driving by and handed out Christmas cookies and children's gifts. She had driven from Arizona, at almost the other end of the country, to volunteer on Christmas morning alone.

"I guess my thought was if I could be here helping out, maybe one person would be able to spend more time with their family or grieve in the way they needed to," Leonard said.

Many residents attended Christmas Eve services and spent Tuesday morning at home with their families. Others attended church services in search of a new beginning.

At St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which eight of the child victims of the massacre attended, the pastor told parishioners that "today is the day we begin everything all over again."

Recalling the events of Dec. 14, the Rev. Robert Weiss said: "The moment the first responder broke through the doors, we knew good always overcomes evil."

"We know Christmas in a way we never ever thought we would know it," Weiss said. "We need a little Christmas and we've been given it."  (The Associated Press).

The truth is we all "Need a little Christmas."  

 In this world, none of us are ever safe, we no longer live in “The Shire”. The Garden of Eden is a place that we can’t return to.  We truly don’t have a home on this earth. 

As Biblo Baggins goes off on his epic adventure, and the wise men find Christ and return by a different way, the same is true for us.  If we enter this adventure with Christ the light will overcome the darkness, we will never be the same, and we to will have a tale or two to tell when we do come back  

There is a moment in the film when Bilbo Baggins is given his sword.  He says meekly:  “
I have... I have never used a sword in my life.   Gandalf looks down at him very serenely and says “And I hope you never have to. But if you do, remember this: true courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”

The group of Dwarves then asks Gandalf:  “Why the Hafling?”  Gandalf explains that many believe "it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay... small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? That's because I am afraid and it gives me courage.

When Bilbo later decides to remain on the journey he explains to the dwarves who have lost their home and their kingdom:  "I know you doubt me, I know you always have, and you're right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my arm chair, and my garden. See, that's where I belong; that's home, and that's why I came cause you don't have one.. a home. It was taken from you, but I will help you take it back if I can."

Jesus has come to be our savior so that we too can return home.  We all desire this home where we can be safe, we can be secure, we can be held and we can be together forever.  This home is in heaven with the father.  This home is one of Light and warmth and love.  This home became possible when God took on human flesh as a tiny infant, and was found by these wise men, who followed that bright and shining star, and took off on the epic adventure to find the Christ.  

On this Feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate that the light has overcome the darkness.  We do have a savior.  Jesus is Mighty God, Prince of Peace, and Lord of Lords. 

As was proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah:
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
"I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure." 

Will you accept the invitation?