Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homily

It must have driven the devil nuts to have Jesus reject his oh so appealing temptations and then to behold the real miracle that Jesus performed during those long 40 days fasting in the wilderness, i.e., the miracle of Jesus’ inner transformation: His identity and mission remained intact; His trust in God confirmed; His purpose restored and grace was received so that our lives may be fulfilled.

In today’s Gospel, after Jesus is baptized by John but before His public ministry of teaching, healing, and touching lives, Jesus is driven by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness. He opens himself to confront whatever his journey there may present.

Where else but the Bible’s hi-drama setting of the desert could Jesus have such a momentous encounter with the Holy Spirit and the devil, with wild animals and angels?

There, after 40 days, Jesus is challenged on the deepest levels of His being and self-understanding - - his identity as the Son of God. Would He continue to hear the Holy Spirit’s call or fall for the devil’s appeals to use his powers for all the wrong reasons?

In the Mystery of His Desert experience Jesus shows us how our desert times can lead us to a place of renewed life and direction: of discovery, and fresh experience of God, AND of ourselves. Spiritual wildernesses, like physical ones, are almost always places of transformation – skimpy on comfort, but heavy on emptiness, on testings of inner resources, and on seeking and finding the strength for what may lie ahead.

And so led by the Spirit we come to St. Alfonsus to retreat from the everyday. We come to open our hearts and minds and invite God to speak to us, to deepen our understanding of ourselves, our identity as daughters of God, and to strengthen our Faith.

Facing up to one’s temptations and exposing the times we’ve thrown in the towel takes radical honesty and guts. Like Jesus, the breathtaking stories that the women so generously shared with us this Journey weekend occurred at the spiritual crossroads of their lives. They reveal the many agonizing ways of being tempted to fulfill basic human and survival needs, stories of women who forgot their worth and very identities as daughters of God.

For them and for us, these so-called demons are the sum total of all negative events, betrayals, losses, and harm inflicted and internalized which gather force and momentum until they tempt us to resolve them in illusory ways that restore nothing.

These stories give us insight into the brokenness that can threaten us. Even though our brokenness may differ from theirs – at some point this weekend we may have perceived how many are the ways we’re tempted to be self-serving; how immense our need for approval; how insidious the ways we undermine ourselves; and how in stormy or empty times we cry out ‘prove that you are God’, only to lose faith in Him and despair when he seems to be absent, but in reality HE is not!

The good-news, courageous women of this weekend show us how they had to survive until a compassionate hand of a ministering angel/friend or a Parish like Presentation reached out to them; how with the Help of the Holy Spirit they began to transform their wildernesses into sacred landscapes of spiritual resource. As they began to experience God’s hand in their daily lives, their identities as daughters of God were restored and their hands began to reach out to others.

The stories of these women’s lives confirm that spiritual growth is often about healing our inner image. They help us to see God in the most intimate moments of life. These are the moments that shine like a light in the darkness in which we see more clearly, hear loudly, and feel more deeply that God is with us on our journey. These are moments in our seasons of becoming whole when we awaken to our True Selves in God.

During his life Jesus, like us, will come to be tested many more times. He too is growing in Consciousness. But he continues everywhere and all the time going about His Father’s business, which is living and working for us, to narrow the gap - - both perceptual and real - - between the Divine and the human, thereby fulfilling God’s agenda to plant the Holy Spirit deep inside us.

In Breaking the Bread at the Last Supper and inviting us to drink from His Cup, Jesus promises his Everlasting love and gives His very Life to us to become the New Covenant of Love which covers us all.

The ministering Jesus gives us renewed life and strength: He seals our identity and affirms our true worth as women and daughters of God. He guides us in discerning how best to become the face and hands of Christ for others, and to realize in today’s Gospel that “this is the time of fulfillment.”

So let us all take a Deep Breath in the Holy Spirit’s Light that will help us live knowing we are the Beloved of God and growing ever-more aware of God’s Presence within us and in all of Creation.

In the words of R. Rohr. “Each and every creature is a unique word of God, with its own message, its own metaphor, its own energetic style, its own way of showing forth goodness, beauty, and participation in the Great Mystery. Each creature and each woman has its own glow and its own unique glory.”

Written and beautifully delivered by Elena 2-22-15 at Women’s Journey Retreat.

Permission granted to post her homily by Elena and the Journey committee.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Souls aboard

I was watching a movie where an airplane pilot told the air traffic control tower, "there are 100 souls aboard.”

Recently a US Airways plane landed without its nose gear down. The pilot flew by the air tower asking if the nose gear was down and informed them about the 56 souls aboard.

Our planet earth has 7 billion souls aboard!

 What does the word soul bring to mind?

I think about the divine. I do not think about gender, marital status, age, race or religion.

The word soul has a neutralizing effect.

What if we used the word soul to describe everything involving humans and animals?
How could that change the way we live and interact?

I think it would;
+ Eliminate all judgment.
+ Increase compassion.
+ Reduce violence.
+ Increase justice.

Soul is our spiritual state. It is who we were before entering this earthly boundary and who we will return to being when we leave this earthly boundary.

Soul is freedom and inspiration (in spirit).

What if our corporations thought of their employees as souls instead of assets?
How would policies and the way we conduct business change?

What if our religious organizations saw souls instead of gender?
I could be ordained a priest and serve as I am called to serve while remaining in the faith I was born into.

What if we taught our children that they are souls having a human experience instead of humans with souls? We would see less bullying and more loving.

Soul becomes primary instead of secondary.
Soul shows us we are all the same. Our human experiences are what is different.

What if while driving in my car I think of the others in their cars as souls?
I reduce my road rage if I think of the person who is flipping their middle finger at me as a soul who has forgotten that they are a soul because they are so caught up in the boundaries of being human, the boundaries of time and space.

What if I think of the person serving me in the supermarket or a restaurant as a soul?
How would that change the impatient feeling that stirs within me when I don’t get what I want as fast as I want it? Or have to wait on line longer than I have time for?

Would operating as a soul who interacts with other souls change my stress to peace? Would I smile more and grimace less? 


The soul application and its ripple effect for change is endless!

Give it a try!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Train of events

The term used is chain of events yet the experiences I had over the past week felt more like a train moving and morphing than a static linking. 

The train's engine started on Christmas day.

I received a Christmas gift from my son of a framed picture of my mom that I took for a photography class 30 years ago.

She died three years ago and seeing the picture released memories and tears. She is remembered by my family who are alive now and may become a distance remembrance for the generations of our family to come. Maybe this photograph will help to preserve her in our family history.

I returned to work this past Monday to read an email announcing the death of a colleague, Amy. She was 51 years old and died on Christmas Eve. She left behind her husband and 17 year old daughter. Amy and I had conversations over the years about life and it's challenges. And writing this is not something I ever imagined. She had 25 years with our company and at the age of 55 she could have retired with a pension and medical benefits. I hope our company grandfather's her time in some way so her husband and daughter can receive those benefits. I hope she is not forgotten too quickly within the corporate walls. 

Last night I was watching the movie 'Conspiracy' about the assassination of President Lincoln. This took place in 1865, 149 years ago. No one from that time is alive today. And only those who gave something of historic value are remembered in our media of movies, pictures, books and magazines.

These events left me wondering about life's meaning. Why bother when all will be forgotten?

I prayed for some inspiration about my wondering. I asked to receive some insight at the Women's Insightful Hour meeting held on Tuesday afternoon. 

The topic of our Insightful meeting was the Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent Keith. All but two of these commandments were used by Mother Theresa as a prayer foundation. And many people attribute them to her.   

This morning just before woke up the scripture Isaiah 55 come into my mind. I google it and the title is "an invitation to an abundant life. The full verse is written below.

My summation of this train of events is our life has meaning and purpose in our day to day living. It may not be the stuff that makes it to the general population's memory through our media. It will, however, be a part of those we interact with each and every day. Just like my mom and Amy. 

We have the profound privilege to create love, joy and peace in every moment starting with ourselves and then with others, family and strangers. We have God's support of abundance in our creation process.

And in creating love, joy and peace in these moments we create an eternal memory that we will experience when we leave our earthly boundary.  As Isaiah tells us, "This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever."

+++++++++++

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

+++++++++++

This morning I woke and Isaiah 55 came into my mind.
An invitation to an abundant life.
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
 
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
 
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
 
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
 
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
 
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
 
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
 
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
 
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it,
 
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
 
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Big Bang Theory

The big bang theory is an attempt to explain how our universe began.

+++++++++++
From The Big Bang theory website:
According to the standard theory, our universe sprang into existence as "singularity" around 13.7 billion years ago. What is a "singularity" and where does it come from? Well, to be honest, we don't know for sure. Singularities are zones which defy our current understanding of physics. They are thought to exist at the core of "black holes." Black holes are areas of intense gravitational pressure. The pressure is thought to be so intense that finite matter is actually squished into infinite density (a mathematical concept which truly boggles the mind). These zones of infinite density are called "singularities." Our universe is thought to have begun as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense, something - a singularity. Where did it come from? We don't know. Why did it appear? We don't know. - See more at: http://www.big-bang-theory.

+++++++++++

At the end of the article there is a link called "does God exist."

Science does not know. There is uncertainty in the above explanation.

Faith does know. Faith takes us beyond reason, beyond science. 

I believe that everything holds a piece of the expanding singularity, the beginning and the end. 
This is why I do not stay the same. 

I age, grow physically and in wisdom. I evolve and expand because this is the essence of the source, the singularity, from which I came. 

I am one tiny spec of the whole. The whole being God. Something from nothing? Yes. Designed in evolving perfection? Yes.

Ann Lamott calls God, Howard.

Some call God, Universe.

I call God, Love. And Love is beautiful, caring, merciful, forgiving and forgetful. Longing to be in relationship with me every moment of every day.  

It is so hard to imagine all of this from the facts I know or from the reasoning of my mind.



Yet, with faith Love becomes truth.

Faith takes me beyond reason.





Friday, October 24, 2014

Howard be thy name

Author Anne Lamott has a new book coming out called SMALL VICTORIES: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. 

I was thinking about Anne's book as I drove to work this morning and wondering whether I would buy the paper or electronic version.  And then my thoughts recalled reading that Anne calls God Howard. And that thought brought me to think about a dog we adopted named Howard. And I thought his story was a story of Grace and writing it would honor him 

In honor of Anne's upcoming book and the dog named Howard, here is a Grace story.

My son had been bugging me to get a new dog. Our yellow Lab, Zoe which is Greek for life,  had died several years ago and I was not interested in going through the loss of a beloved pet ever again.

I kept telling my son "no" to his constant inquiry and got some respite from his questioning when my husband and I visited his brother in North Carolina. It turned out that they had a Cockapoo named Mollie. I stayed away from Mollie as best as I could while we were there but she kept sitting by me. By day two she was sitting on the couch with me. And I enjoyed it. It reminded me of how wonderful it is to be unconditionally loved by these amazing creatures.

After we arrived home from the trip I searched for a dog to adopt from nearby shelters until I found Howard. Howard's description said he was a Cockapoo which is what I wanted because Mollie had such a nice temperment. I showed my family and asked if they wanted to go see him. They said yes and off we went to visit Howard.


We liked Howard from the start. He was black with a spot of white on his chest. He was small which made him easy for me to handle. After some discussion, we filled out the adoption papers and left to wait for a call in a couple of days.

We were so excited when the shelter called to say we could adopt Howard. We picked him up that day.

We were all in the living room and Howard seemed perfect until he attacked my son. It was shocking. I thought it might be because Howard was nervous and needed to get comfortable with us. But the attacks continued. So I hired a trainer and began training Howard. He wasn't getting any better. My sons said there was something wrong with Howard. So I brought in another trainer to evaluate him. It turned out that he was a red zone dog which meant he needed a lot of rehabilitation and training. And if we were to keep him the trainer would have to train us too so that Howard would not go back to this red zone state.

The trainer also offered to get us a perfect dog for our family if we chose to return Howard. What a decision!  I wanted to rescue a dog to do something good, to save a life and now was faced with returning him. Oh the heartbreak!!!

We decided to return Howard because we did not have the means to help him.
After a week of grieving I called the trainer and told her we were interested in the dog she offered.

Several months later the trainer gave us a dog, Dash a 14 pound Maltese. His family could not care for him and wanted him to go to a loving home. We were the lucky home! 




Dash came into our lives on a Friday in December 2012. He was so excited to be with us! I loved him from the moment I saw him.

The next day after Dash arrived the trainer asked me how it went with him. And I said it went really well. He calmed my anxiety and I slept great! I asked if it was possible to bring him to people in hospitals and she introduced me to Dog Therapy. 

Several months later Dash and I were certified as a Dog therapy team and have been visiting people ever since! 

Yes Anne, God's name is Howard and he works in the most mysterious and marvelous ways.




As I wrote this post a friend posted this link to her Facebook page.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blessed

I became a Eucharistic minister and I feel blessed.

My day started rather strangely. I was putting a sock on my foot and my foot looked like my mother’s foot, not mine. My mom died three years ago. There was a point before she died that she could not take care of her feet. When I visited her, I soaked her feet in warm water, dried them, clipped her nails and then massaged her feet and calves with lotion. I enjoyed this intimate time with her. Seeing her foot reminded me of this time and gave me a sense of her presence.



I thought of Jesus and how he washed the disciple’s feet. Those were some dirty feet! Back then people wore sandals and walked dusty roads. I realized, through the experience I had with my mother, that his act of love may have stayed with the disciples after his death and they may have felt his presence when they remembered this intimate time with him.





My day continued as any other day. I got to work and handled a multiple of topics at a pace that is at times inhumane. And then I stopped to get some lunch. As I waited at the salad station (the chef was making berry salad with goat cheese, YUM!) I saw a rose and the word victory on the refrigerator against the back wall.

One day as I cared for my mom I asked her if a rose could be our symbol. She touched my cheek and said, "everything will be alright." The word victory is what Jesus accomplished through his sacrifice on the cross, victory over death. He told his disciples that he would send his spirit as his symbol and guidance.

I thought of both my mom and Jesus as I waited for my turn to order a delicious salad and the words of a song, “the words I would say” by Sidewalk Prophets, a friend introduced me to came to mind,
“Be strong in the Lord and
never give up hope.
You're gonna do great things
I already know
God's got his hand on you."

Tears were welled in my eyes as the chef asked, “how would you like your salad?”

I took my salad to a conference room where I ate it and studied for a test on the Synoptic Gospels.
I am nervous about taking this test because it has been over ten years since I was in school. I hope my brain provides the answers when I need them! By the way, the salad was absolutely delicious!

I completed my day and then drove to the church for the Eucharistic minister training. I knew a few people and we chatted as we waited for the training to begin. Fr. Bob welcomed us and Fr. Benny trained us. The Catholic Tradition is so fascinating, rich and deep. We practiced what we learned and went home!

Reflection on the day’s experiences left me feeling blessed, like I crossed a divine threshold.


It is a feeling I hope to project each time I say “the body of Christ or the blood of Christ.” Amen.