Fifth Week of Lent Reflection – 2017

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’  Martha said to him, ‘I I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day’  Jesus told her,

‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and in me will never die.’

I think that in many ways, the above statement by Jesus is among the most powerful in Saint John’s Gospel.  It is indeed, the “Good News” that a suffering, weary world is waiting for, yearning for.

I feel, however, that these words give more than hope for eternal life, after death.  For those of us weighed down by the life’s heavy burdens; we will rise!  For those of us threatened by persecution and discrimination; we will rise!  For those of us who are in depression and despair; we will rise!  By the love and power of Christ; we will rise!


2017 – A New Year

2017-new-yearSo the year 2016 is past, the year 2017 has begun.  The world, our country has been afflicted by violence whether by state sponsored or terrorist sponsored attacks.  Many times the violence has been random.  The call of “Peace on Earth; Goodwill to all!” seems to ring hollow during this holiday season.

Our country has been through the most raucous presidential election season, since the early days of the Republic!  And it has revealed that there are deep divisions in our nation.  The concept of civil discourse and debate seems to have flown out of the window.  And we have elected a person as President that many do not respect; that others are a little concerned about his style of governance; and what it portends for the next four years

While engaged in Morning Prayer, I came across this verse from Psalm 42 “Why are you downcast my soul; why do you groan within me?  Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.”  This will be verse I think will become my new mantra for this coming year.

On New Year’s Eve, I joined my wife at a worshipping community she goes to; and participated in a Burning Bowl ceremony.  We were invited to write down on a slip of flash paper, something negative we wanted God’s help in taking away from us.  We then placed the slips in a bowl that had a small fire; which consumed the petitions.  It was very moving.

The year of 2016 has been a year of some changes for me personally.  I finally found employment at a South Shore company; starting in January, 2016.  So I will be entering my second year of employment, and it has been good.  The commute is long, two hours to and back; using commuter train and subway.  I am always telling people that at least someone else is doing the driving.

In September of this year, I will be entering my fifth year as an ordained Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.  I cannot believe that much time has passed.  I have been assigned to three Beverly, MA, parishes; where most of my work has been liturgical, assisting at 5 of Masses celebrated in two of three parishes.  It seems a lot; but I have experienced spiritual aid, that helps me perform my sacred duties well.  The Deacon has several ways of service he offers to the Church; a service of Worship, service of the Word, and a service of Charity.  I am still reflecting and discerning what that means in my daily life.  What role should daily prayer, daily reading, and meditating of Scripture should have.  I am not where I think I should be.  Maybe, this New Year, I will find some guidance; and perhaps some improvement.

A New Year begins, a year of fear, a year of anxiety, but also a year of hope, a year of change, and a year of trust in the Lord.

Yearar

Exultation of the Holy Cross

On August 14th, throughout most the Christian world, churches commemorated the finding of the True Cross.  It was found under the leadership of St. Helen, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, during her pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Miracles confirmed it’s authenticity; it’s wood was divided between the Churches in Jerusalem, Rome, and  Constantinople.

Those Romans who had been around during the old Empire, would have shake their heads; seeing a symbol of punishment and death, become a symbol of life and hope.

We all have our own crosses, that we have to bear, that we have to live with.  Jesus Christ calls on us to take up our crosses daily and follow him.  When we open ourselves to his Spirit; we discover that we are not only following him, but he is walking with us.  He is there, helping us bear the burden, helping us, giving us hope.

 

Terror Strikes Again!

pray for parisMy wife and I do not turn on the TV much during the day.  When I do, I am usually watching TV reruns, until it is time for the evening news.  So yesterday, I was shocked when I saw the breaking news on WCVB TV, Channel 5, about the terrorist attacks throughout the city of Paris, France.

I know the scientific research is out there explaining it, but I still cannot understand why a human person can inflict so much pain, so much suffering, on another person.  How individuals can turn the great religions of humanity, faiths that teach peace, tolerance, charity, and mercy; and use them as the reason for slaughtering so many innocent men, women, children, and themselves!

In the face of so much evil, so much suffering, so much death; you cannot blame someone losing their faith in a merciful God.  As bad as things are in the world, as much as I may, at times, give in to despair; I cannot abandon my faith in God, nor my love for my Creator.  The Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the path to true peace.  God the Son, came into the world, so that by his death and Resurrection, we are freed from the fear of suffering and death.  That does not mean that we will not encounter suffering.  That does not mean we will not continue to experience death, of loved ones, and our own.  But God has shown us that there is a sunrise to defeat the darkness, that life, transformed and glorified, does exist.  That there is hope.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.  They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace.” (Wisdom 3: 1-3)

Praying Before the San Damiano Cross

Most High, Glorious God,

Enlighten the darkness of my heart,

And give me true faith, certain hope,

And perfect charity, sense, and knowledge,

Lord, that I may carry out

Your holy and true command.

(Prayer before the San Damiano Cross – Saint Francis of Assisi)

Francis and San Damiano CrossOnce a month, I go into Boston, MA, for a meeting with my spiritual director; who is a Franciscan friar at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch St.  I was crossing that street, on my way for my July session, when I ran into two of my former co-workers.  We exchanged pleasantries; I learned that the company was still having a rough time of it.  We said our goodbyes, and I entered the Shrine.  Now this all took place on July 7th, I was entering the seventh month of unemployment.  I have been sending electronic job applications, three to six of them on a weekly basis.  To date, I have had two telephone interviews, each lasting, on average, about fifteen minutes.  I have been to several job fairs, left resumes with prospective employers; never heard anything back.  Life is getting a little “interesting.”

Usually, when I enter the first floor chapel of the Shrine, I go to the left side, where the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament.  That day I went to the right side of the chapel, where in the sanctuary is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, praying before a large representation of the San Damiano cross.  The original cross was in the Assisian chapel of San Damiano, where a young Francis went to pray.  The origins of the cross are shrouded in mystery, but it is made in the Byzantine icon style.  Praying before the cross, Francis heard the voice of Jesus speaking from the cross: “Francis, rebuild my church!”  The rest, as they say, is history!

I seated myself before the large replica of the San Damiano cross, and began to pray, saying over and over the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  I was focused on the face of the Crucified Jesus.  I was drawn to the eyes, which are unique.  I cannot describe the experience, only to say that at that moment, I was in a different space.  The anxieties, the concerns, the worries, suddenly disappeared from my consciousness, if only for a moment in time.  A light dispelled the darkness that was in my heart.

Many of us, perhaps most of us, when times get tough, will pray to God for some kind of miracle that will solve all of our problems.  Usually we are hoping the Lord will influence the interviewer, or we will win the Lottery!  And miracles can happen, will happen, and does happen!  But what we can really hope; what we need to be aware of is that we are never alone.  We may be carrying a burden, but we do not carry it alone.  Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, and follow him.  The One who carried his cross to Calvary, knows our suffering, knows what pains, and fears weigh us down.  He is walking with us, encouraging us onward.  His Spirit is within us, filling us with peace, with hope.  We need only to keep our hearts; our souls open to that light.  And hear Jesus assure us, that over that dark hill of Calvary, a new dawn does await us!

State of My Year!

“Answer when I call, my saving God.2015 calendar

In my troubles, you cleared a way;

Show me favor, hear my prayer.

Know that the Lord works wonders for the faithful;

the Lord hears when I call out.

Tremble and do not sin;

upon your beds ponder in silence.

Offer fitting sacrifice

And trust in the Lord.

Many say, ‘May we see better times!

Lord, show us the light of your face!’

But you have given my heart more joy

than they have when grain and wine abound.

In peace I shall both lie down and sleep

For you alone, Lord, make me secure.”

(Psalm 4: 2, 4-9)

WordPress.com has a blog that offers a “Daily Prompt,” to help bloggers come up with ideas for a post.  The one for May 19th, 2015, was “State of Your Year.”  I am responding to it today.

What is the “State of My Year?”  One could say it has been a mixed year so far, full of ups and downs.  In January, I was laid off from my job.  And I have found that the world of job searching, has changed a lot since I was last laid off from a position, over twenty years ago.  Before, it was printing up a stack of resumes, getting a pile of envelopes, rolls of stamps, and mailing those resumes to potential employers, with a well crafted cover letter.  Now, everything is online, job boards, recruiting agencies, even the company’s human resource department, it is all online.  You are either uploading your resume to an application website, or e-mailing it as an attachment.  There is rarely a telephone number, let alone the name of a person you can call to follow-up with.  I applied online dozens of times over the past four and a half months.  No takers yet; a least a few companies sent response e-mails.  Now my previous employer provided me with a very generous severance package, but that will soon be coming to an end.  Things may be getting a little tight soon.  Am I worried?  Yes, I am.  Am I in despair?  No, I am not!

The reason why is reflected in the above Pslam, I trust in the love of my God, and His care for me, and my loved ones.  It does not mean that I expect some miracle (though that would be very nice.)  But I know that in my experience of the Father’s presence in my life, I am not alone.  I know that whatever the burden I may be carrying, Jesus is helping me the load.  That no matter how dark or stormy it may get, the Holy Spirit is within me, bringing light, bringing hope, and bringing peace.  And I know that through others, God is helping through this difficult time.

One of the highlights of this year came at the Easter Vigil, where I assisted as one of the Deacons.  The church was almost pitch black, when the Pastor lit the fire, and lighted the Easter Candle.  As my fellow Deacon and I process down the main aisle, the flame was shared with the congregation, each person lighting their candle.  The church had hundreds points of light, which dispelled the darkness.  I was given the role of chanting a great Easter hymn, “The Exsultet!”  I had practiced singing this hymn, with varying degrees of success.  But now, in that pulpit, as looked out into the church, I began to chant: “Exult, let them exult, the host of heaven…Be glad, let earth be glad as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King,…knowing an end to gloom and darkness.”

The Easter story, the Easter season speaks of hope, speaks of the love of God, which dispels all anxiety, all fear, and all darkness.  Soon Christians will celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came in tongues of flame, into the hearts of the disciples in Jerusalem, and into our hearts today.

I do not know what the rest of this year will bring, but I know we will get through it okay.

State of Your Year

Keep On Moving On!

Job Search Continues

“I wait patiently for God to save me;

I depend on him alone.

He alone protects and saves me;

he is my defender and I shall never be defeated.

Trust in God at all times,

my people.

Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge.”

(Psalm 62: 1-2, 8)

I have posted several times about my layoff, and the aftermath.  I have written about the struggles with unemployment assistance, the uncertainty of the job search situation, and the depression that can come with the experience.  I do not want to give the impression that everything in my life is doom and gloom.  I am not alone in dealing with this new chapter in my life; there is my wife, who has supported me, and when needed, has given me a much needed kick in the ass.  There have been family members, from both sides, who have provided help and support in so many ways.  There are some members of my parishes, and parish staff, who always inquire on how I am doing, and encourage me onward!  My brother deacons continue to be very supportive; some have been an informal networking group for me.

I continue to discover, through the Career Place, and through the Web, new ways to job search; how to get my name and resume out there.  At the Career Place, whether in a workshop, or a seminar, you come to realize that you are not the only one going through this.  The thing I have to do now is to get my butt in gear.  To not just sit and rot, but to get going, to greet each day as an opportunity; not just in job searching, but in those activities that also feed my mind, body, and soul.  My job searching will continue to take priority, but also my need to just get out, walk around, get some decent exercise, and enjoy God’s Creation, especially as Spring is really beginning to dawn.  This blogging, this writing, is an outlet for my creative and reflective juices.  Also taking up the drawing pencil and paintbrush is also another approach I need to look at, and make some time for.

Finally, I need to take care of my soul, to make time for prayer.  And not just liturgical prayer, as important as it is, but also for deep personal prayer.  I need to entire that type of prayer, which opens me to experience God’s Presence in my life, to experience God’s love and care for me, as I am traveling this new road in my life.  In God, I will find my refuge during the tough times; in God, I will recognize the joy and love that is out there in the world.  So I am just going “keep on shuffling!”