Reach Out and Touch Someone

jesus Cleanses the Leper

Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
1st Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Mark 1:40-45

In the Scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see again passages that emphasizes the role of Jesus as healer. We saw in last Sunday’s readings, that his reputation as a healer spread so fast, that the whole town of Capernaum crowded around St. Peter’s home, many seeking a cure, others wishing to witness a miracle. Realizing that he could be trapped in Capernaum by the crowd, he leaves the town early the next morning; before anyone else is awake to stop him. He goes to a deserted place for prayer, but his disciples are still able to find him. He tells them that his purpose is to bring the Good News to all the Galilee. But even in that deserted place, Jesus encounters someone in need of healing, a leper. Now leprosy was among the most dreaded diseases of ancient times, seen as highly contagious. In the first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, we see the ritual one had to go through if he or she was suspected of leprosy. The leper was driven from the community, living in solitary suffering. That person would eventually either die alone, or in company of fellow lepers. Jesus wishes to heal the leper before him, so he does what would be considered madness by his companions, he touches him. The miracle happens, the person is made clean, made whole. Jesus instructs him to just go and show himself to the temple priest and be brought back into the community. Of course, this does not happen, the cured man proclaims to all what has happened to him, and who did it, and Jesus must change his approach to the people.

 

However, I would like to offer another interpretation of this Scripture. It has to do with the fact that because of this disfiguring disease, this person was separated from the people of Israel. He was lost, destined to be alone in deserted places. Now, consider that “leprosy” can come in many forms; like poverty, like addiction, homelessness, mental disabilities. One can be considered a societal “leper;” if one is an immigrant or refugee, with different languages, different customs, different beliefs. They feel separated from the wider community, ostracized, discriminated against. And here is Jesus Christ, who is telling us, by his example, to reach out and touch them; reach out and embrace them; reach out and bring them back into the wider community of our cities and towns, our states and nation. This is the mission, the calling of the Christian community. This is the work of our Church, to heal and bring back those who are wounded, lost and alone.

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Prayer For The Rough Patches

We all have had rough patches during our lives.  These are the times when our life situations can seem to be difficult, chaotic, and uncertain.  We question why things did not turn out as we hoped; and what the future holds.  I have rediscovered a prayer written by the Trappist monk, and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton.  He included this prayer in his 1958 book, “Thoughts in Solitude.”  I discovered it on a prayer card, issued by a society dedicated to promoting his writings.  I would pray it at times, then forget about it, find it, and forget about it, again.  It does seem to pop up in my sight or consciousness during those times when I need it.  I offer it below for any of you who might need it:

Merton 0218

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will, does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Sharing A Franciscan Friar’s Reflection On The Global Community

Secular Franciscan OrderThe following link is to a blog post written by Father Thomas O’Shea, OFM.  He is a friar of Holy Name Province, OFM.  For a while, he was stationed at Saint Anthony Shrine, in downtown Boston.  One of his duties was to be a Spiritual Assistant to my Secular Franciscan fraternity, where he contributed to our newsletter on a monthly basis.  He continues write for the Provincial web site:

https:///hnp.org/ringwood-friar-discusses-year-trauma-global-community/

Happy Birthday, Father Louis

MertonWednesday, January 31st, was the birthday of a Trappist monk and mystic, Father Louis, who was born in 1915.  Most of the world will know him as Thomas Merton.  Born to a New Zealander father and an American mother; he would eventually take up residence in the United States.  While attending college in New York, he had a conversion experience, that would eventually lead him to the Abbey of Gethsemane, in Kentucky.  In 1947, he became a professed member of the Trappist community; he was ordained a priest on May 26, 1949.  The year before, 1948, he published his autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain,”  which became the most popular book in American Catholic literature.

To be honest, I have never read the book; to the best of my recollection, my earliest encounter with his writings was either his history of the Trappist order, “The Waters of Siloe,” or one of his journals, “The Sign of Jonas.”  Since then I have acquired a good size collection of his books.  He had a talent for the making what it means to be a contemplative understandable; and more importantly, achievable by us ordinary folks.  His writings continue to inspire me to at least try to deepen my prayer life.  Some attempts have been more successful than others.

There have dry periods; sometimes very long dry periods.  But when I pick up one of his books and read, I get inspired again, and try once more to live contemplatively in my daily life.  And I am not alone, hundreds, if not thousands of individuals, both Christian and non-Christian, have taken up the journey, with Merton as our guide.

My Review of The Life of Meaning for Goodreads

Abernathy bookFor many years, one of my Sunday morning pleasures was to watch PBS’s Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. The program was hosted by former NBC Correspondent, Bob Abernathy, and dealt with issues of religion and ethics in the world. Sadly, after many years, the show was cancelled.

Before the program ended, Mr. Abernathy, along with author William Bole, produced the book, “The Life of Meaning.” It is a collection of, what I would call essays, based of numerous interviews. It covers topics of faith, belief, and life. Many of the chapters have inspired me; and caused me think long and hard on the role of religion in my life, and the life of the world.

 

 

 

Christmas – 2017

Christmas Eve SBC 2017

 

Christmas time has come around once more for all Christians, for all Catholics. The Church has put away it’s purple colored vestments and liturgical decorations. The Advent wreath has been taken down. In their place, the chapel sanctuary, where I worship, is strewn with red and white poinsettias, a Christmas tree, with white lights. A manger scene with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, has been set up in front of the altar.

 
The chapel quickly fills for our 4:00PM Vigil Mass, and soon it is standing room only. Our guitar choral group leads us in song, we join in singing the old Christmas favorites. We have a guest priest as our celebrant this night, and the sacred liturgy begins. We hear the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken; telling of ancient Israel’s future vindication, and rebirth. Then we hear the Good News from St. Matthew, proclaimed by our celebrant:

 

“18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
19
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
20
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
24
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
25
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. “ (Matt. 1: 18-25)

 
After hearing how Christ Jesus, though he was Son of God, willingly came into this world as a child, to begin the work of salvation; we are soon witness to another miracle. Christ is made present to us in the form of bread and wine, transformed into his Body and Blood. It was my privilege and honor to help distribute Holy Communion to those who approach. I feel something in my heart, as I hold up each host for the communicant to see, and say with conviction: “The Body of Christ.” And then place the host in the hands of the person, or on their tongue.

 
There the final prayers, and the blessing of the priest; we then sing joyful Christmas songs; celebrating the sacred event that happened in Bethlehem; the sacred moment we just experienced, and leave with the hope of Jesus’ promised return, when a new heaven and a new earth will come to be.

All peace and joy be yours this Christmas day, and God’s blessings on you for the coming year.

Pax et Bonum!

 

Thanksgiving Day – 2017

Thanksgiving_grace_1942I am on Cape Cod this Thanksgiving Day, with my wife, her mother and some of her siblings, nephews and nieces.  After a wet drive from the South Shore the night before, this day has been sunny, clear, crisp and cool. In the morning we went to the local Catholic church, and attended a Thanksgiving Mass.  My wife, Peg’s father passed away in October, so after Mass, we visited his grave.

As I write this, various members of the family have bringing their donations for this Thanksgiving tableevening’s dinner.  Food is being prepared, table cloths spread out, and the table has been set.  With all this activity, I have begun to reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving Day.  Some trace it roots to the English Reformation, during the time when the Puritans had strong influence over the Church of England.  Holy days were done away with; to be replaced by Days of Fasting during times of national tragedies, or stress, and Days of Thanksgiving for good harvests and national victories.  The Pilgrims brought these practices with them to New England.  Various colonies and then states would proclaim days of Thanksgiving.  Abraham Lincoln would issue a presidential proclamation, establishing Thanksgiving as a holiday throughout all the states.

Thanksgiving Day was meant to be a time of both feasting, and prayer.  But as with Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving has fallen prey to commercial interests.  Stores, car dealerships, you name it, sponsor special “Thanksgiving sales,” using the images of Pilgrims, Indians, pumpkins and turkeys to promote their wares.  Groups of people have a different approach to the day.  The Massachusetts town of Plymouth has a community parade celebrating the day; Native Americans hold a Day of Mourning.

May it be time to try to bring back the spiritual aspect of Thanksgiving?  Whether you are a Christian or not; a believer or not; we all need to have time reflect on what good has happened in our lives this past year, if only to counter the negative experiences we may have had.  As a believer, this day makes me aware that all Creation is gift; that our lives are gift; gifts from a loving God.  Sometimes, circumstances may lead us to doubt that, but life is a gift, and God still cares for us, in wondrous and mysterious ways.  And I am grateful for that.

As I walk around and see the woods and fields in autumn; when I look up into the evening sky, studded with stars, I am moved to thank God for the awesome beauty I am seeing.  I close with a prayer from the writings of St. Francis of Assisi.  Not exactly a Thanksgiving prayer, but I think it is appropriate for the day:

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

(Canticle of the Sun)

Happy Thanksgiving!