Friday, December 23, 2011

Oh Come, Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel

By their nature the “Word” and “Light” and the realities they evoke lend themselves as apt symbols of the truth about Jesus and of What God is doing in Jesus in cooperation with the Spirit. The Trinitarian God is wholly part and parcel of this divine self-revelation and outreach to us.

This divine revelation is at the heart of our coming Christmas celebration. In the Christmas mystery we proclaim that Jesus is the divine revelatory presence of God among us and for us. St. John tells us that Jesus, as the Word of God, brings all things into being as the Light of God in this world. St. John further says that in Jesus and in the daily witness of those who live in his Holy Spirit, the darkness of this world is pushed back, step by step, moment by moment in a challenging exercise of religious and spiritual patience until at last, the full saving power of God dries the final tears and heals the wounds we so regularly cause each other in a world that lost its way within the life and time of Adam and Eve.

Jesus is the Light of the world--he shows us our true selves, he previews our collective destiny, he is the on-going answer to our most selfless and generous and loving prayers.

Come, let us gather together this Christmas Day and this Christmas Season to celebrate God’s coming among us as one of us in Jesus—whose total reality is spelled out in his divinely given name: Emanuel, “God with us,.”’
Father Ron Cioffi

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord


 One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

Glory to God in the highest...Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let it be done according to your word

The  Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 is as much about the beginning as in the word was made flesh, as it is about our journey and our “beginning, “ and was dwelt among us.
Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” is a tribute to Mary’s “yes” to God’s will. Pieta means "faithfulness" in Italian. Mary is the young woman who with all her heart wanted only the will of God, who said her “yes” but did not understand all that it would involve. But she trusted God; trusted that He loved her; trusted His wisdom and his ways, even when she did not understand.

When we see our Christian lives in the perspective of the gospels, faithfulness to God’s will is the only real crown of successPieta   (John Powell, SJ. The Christian Vision, The Truth That Sets Us Free)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: 
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Faith Vs. Belief

On Wednesday we discussed that John bears witness to the Light so that "all might have faith through Him." John makes the distinction between waiting, watching and witnessing. Witnessing or testifying makes us active participants in being present to, with and in the Light. We discussed that faith as used in the Greek translation, is a verb and "believe" was substituted in the English translation.  This is unfortunate since the biblical concept of "faith" is not the same as "believe."  Faith is "radical trust," an orientation of one's entire being.  "Believe" involves intellectual assent--(like putting a check mark beside every phrase of the Apostles' Creed, then faxing it to heaven.)  The author of the fourth gospel could care less about "intellectual assent." 
He's not into head games.  He's after our commitment.
Bob

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within. ~Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

In our Gospel reading for Wednesday, John is challenging us to testify to the Light of the World. Beyond waiting for His coming, we are called to witness the Light of the World by our reflecting His Light. We ask how?  
For some, John's gospel can become a sign which prompts the recognition of Jesus as living Lord. For others, it may be reading the words of a saint, receiving an act of kindness, seeing a person in need,  experiencing an odd coincidence, seeing the beauty of art, music, or nature. Even a tragic event in one's life can become a miracle or sign which leads to the recognition of the Divine Presence.” Campion P. Gavaler, OSB, The Sunday Sermon h.ttp://www.jknirp.com/sunday.htm

Regards,
Bob

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe" (Mitch Albom)

While George was falling into the abyss, his community of friends and loved ones were supporting him through prayer and by coming to his aid.  (In fact, the movie opens with their voices deep in prayer for him.)

Last night we asked and discussed the following:

Was George's human flaw, characterized by his constantly forsaking his plans to keep the bank and community afloat, a form of arrogance and self-indulgence? Did he wait until it was almost too late to realize that he could not do it alone?

Did he confuse willful pride with self reliance? 

On the other hand, maybe George was a “prayerful person;” maybe he was a better listener than talker? Maybe his “moral compass” was formed to recognize the needs of others and “intuitively” respond to those needs?   I want to live again...please God, let me live again

We invite your comments/reflections.

Regards,
Bob

Monday, November 28, 2011

"You Can't White Knuckle Life Alone"

Although we will be viewing and discussing the last of the four installments of It's A Wonderful Life, the Gospel assigned for the Second Sunday in Advent is from  Mark 1:1-8.

Our readings in the weeks leading up to Advent focused on our need for preparedness and vigilence. In keeping with those readings and discussions, this last module of our movie raises some interesting questions about George Bailey. For all of his "goodness," was his self-reliance really a form of arrogance? Did he ever learn to lean on others for support as he attempted to solve the problems of the town on his own? Was he a man of faith? I look  forward to viewing the movie and discussing these with you all tomorrow night.

Regards,
Bob

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011


…You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake"

Hi All,
Matthew's reminder for vigilance and preparedness continues as Mark (Mark 13:24-37) implores us to keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come.
For me, this reading's impact is more fully appreciated  by reflecting back on last Sunday's Gospel, Matthew 25:31-46. Who is the master? How will we know him?  Matthew answers:
Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'
Look forward to seeing you all next Wednesday, 11/30/11.
Happy Thanksgiving,
Bob

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If I were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?

In Matthew 25: 31-46 we are called to serve Christ by serving the poorest among us. Last night our understanding of this Gospel was enhanced by discussing it as part of a “continuum,” which began with Jesus teaching that “On these two (great) commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-46); the need to be prepared (Matthew 25:1-13), and to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and take risks (Matthew 25: 14-30) if we are to serve God.
A line from Mitch Albom’s book Have a Little Faith which the Men’s Group is currently reading, “...you can’t see Jesus from the sidewalk,” reminds us that we know God through Jesus and we know Jesus through each other.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world,  so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.  St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Readings for Wednesday Evening 11/16/11

Hi All,
Our Gospel readings for tomorrow night are from Matthew 25:31-46. This is the reading for the last Sunday after Pentecost and "Christ the King."
Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.
Regards,
Bob

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our will or His

...but how do we know?
John Powell suggests that God has in our regard, a general and a specific will. The general suggests to live our lives in a loving way to glorify God by using all our gifts to the full, while the specific, is a call to do something which is very definite.

“There have been quite a few times when I have felt the winds of God’s grace in the sails of my small boat. Sometimes these graces have moved me in pleasant and sunlit directions. At other times the requested acts of love were born in the darkness of struggle and suffering. There have been springtimes and there have been long cold winters of struggle for survival. God has come to me at times with the purest kindness, at times with the most affirming encouragement, and at other times with bold frightening challenges. I think that all of us have to watch and pray, to be ready to say “yes” when God’s language is concrete and his request is specific-“yes” in the sunlit springtimes and “yes’ in the darkness of winter nights.”
(John Powell, S.J., The Christian Vision, The Truth That Sets Us Free, p147)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This is What I Get for Praying!

Last night we saw George Bailey's world come apart. Faced with financial diaster, prison and disgrace, he does eventually pray for God's help. Our spirited discussion raised questions that characterized George as diametrically opposed to one another.
Some believed that while he was a good person, he was not a spirtual man and that he used his being a "vicitm" of circumstance to promote his image as the town's hero, and  not unlike the foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, he was not prepared for his "day of reckoning."
Others believed that, to the contrary, George's life of self-sacrifice was in keeping with the "second" of the Two Greatest Commandments, and despite his not appearing to be a particularly relgious man, he was in fact spritual. In some ways, not unlke Jesus, this ordinary man had an extraordinary life.
What do you think?

The question was raised is it possible to love your neighbor as yourself and not love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, in other words, can the two commandments exist on their own individually.What do you think?
Regards,
Bob

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"If You're Up There Show Me The Way"

Our Gospel (Matthew 25:14-30) readings for Wednesday 11/9/11can be found on the Lecionary page attached http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Pentecost/AProp28_RCL.html.

However, in the interest of time we agreed to limit our discussion in order to view and discuss the 3rd module of "It's a Wonderful Life." That said the third servant's desire to play it safe and not take risks are an interesting segue to this Jesus Goes to the Movies segment:
To whom or what do we turn when we think we are at the "end of our rope?" By now George know that his hopes and dreams will never be realized. Don't ask him in these scenes if it's a wonderful life.

Regards,
Bob

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What are we waiting for and where do we get the oil?

The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, reminds us to be prepared and to be vigilant. However, as we discussed last night, perhaps the greatest lesson for us was not that the “foolish virgins” fell asleep, but that they squandered their most precious resource, the “light” (of the Holy Spirit). Peter Woods (The Listening Hermit) tells us that “The worst mistake I could possibly make is to forget that the Kingdom of Heaven is right here and now, and that the light from the flickering lamp of faith is all that is required for us to watch and wait.” Those who recognize the Bridegroom, keep enough oil in their lamps by keeping the Two Greatest Commandments and living in the spirit of the Beatitudes. 

Is there a discipleship/stewardship message here?
Is there an Advent message here?

Preach the Gospel always... If necessary, use words. (St. Francis of Assisi)

Regards,

Bob

Monday, October 31, 2011

Readings for this Wednesday 11/2/11

The readings for this Wednesday are Matthew 25:1-13 and are located in Proper 27 RCL.
Regards,
Bob

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is it a Wonderful Life?

On Wednesday we discussed events in George's life that altered his plans forever. The scene with Potter and the board is illustrative. How and why he responded to these events were perhaps as much a part of his "moral compass" as a potential flaw in his character...what do you think?
Regards,
Bob

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How do we know we are following God's Will?

Great session last night. George Bailey is about as good a guy as anyone could hope to be. We agree he had a good moral compass, represented by his father, Peter and Peter's allegiance to the savings and loan and his "shabby little office." Yet, we asked, should George not have followed his dreams of travel, college and career? Didn't he fulfil his "virtual" contract with his brother and his family? Would it have been wrong for him to say "hey, it's my turn?"
This prompted a discussion of the two greatest commandments and we wondered how do we know that when we put our neighbors' needs before ours are we always doing it for the right reasons? (In last night's Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus warns us about those people who talk a good line, and use their "power"  to cite their will as God's Law. Does this apply to George? What about some of the other characters?
We also asked a question that we will ask for the rest of our lives: How do we know we are following God's Will? The best answer I heard last night was that if we truly believe that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and all our soul and all our mind we are doing OK. The key here is "intention." Check out 
  Loving God With All Our Parts. Look forward to your comments. Thank you
Bob

Monday, October 24, 2011

Readings for 10-26-11

Hi All,
The Gospel reading for this Wednesday evening is  Matthew 23: 1-12. As we discussed last week, we will read the assigned Gospel and "quickly" move on to the 2nd module of our movie, It's a Wonderful Life. I know it's easier said than done...Jesus' message, as he continues to set the record straight is compelling:
"And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father-- the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."

Look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday.
Regards,
Bob

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reflection on Baptism discussion last night

We discussed that we are baptized at birth in God and are cloaked in His forgiveness:

"…babies can do absolutely nothing to earn accept or believe in forgiveness; the church in baptizing them, simply declares that they have it. We are not forgiven, therefore, because we made ourselves forgivable or even because we had faith; we are forgiven solely because there is a Forgiver. And our one baptism for the forgiveness of sins remains the lifelong sacrament, the premier sign of that fact." (Capon, The Parables of Grace p140)

It's a Wonderful Life

Great discussion last night. Here's a pivotal scene that depicts how circumstance alters life's plan.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday Night 10-19-11

Look forward to seeing you all tonight. We will be reading Matthew 22:34-46. It will be hard to limit our time, given the great Just Do It message in Matthew's Gospel, since we will also try to view the second module of "It's a Wonderful Life."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

welcome to the first entry

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

Friday, October 7, 2011

Prayer of Thomas Merton

As we begin this journey, let's call to mind the words of Thomas Merton.