Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Day and Service for the Greater Glory of God

"Use me, God.  Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do,
and use it for a purpose greater than myself."
+Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Serving others changes a person's heart.  Belonging to something bigger fulfills a profound human need.  Giving one's very self to others is the path to finding one's true self, as the Lord himself has revealed.

Rather than just another Monday holiday to stay home from work and school, our nation's annual recognition of Martin Luther King Day has morphed into a national day of service.  It has become an opportunity to put partisan politics on hold. It is also an opportunity to transcend, at least for a day, the real racism which continues to haunt our nation.

Not a day OFF, but a day ON :)

As a fitting tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this national day of service has the potential to transform our perspective on life.  When I serve:
  • I remember that my life is not all about me and that I'm not the center of the universe.
  • I grow to understand that authentic self-esteem comes from giving myself to others.
  • I experience Jesus Christ, mysteriously present, and slowly realize that He alone can "break the chains of hate."

Of course, if does not spring from the right motivations, service can become just another self-soothing experience.  The temptation to feed the ego by doing good deeds can become part of an enslaving cycle of "self-affirmation."  The key Christian insight is that we serve others not because it makes us feel good (though sometimes it does), but because it is a concrete response to God's will in our daily lives: discerning a real need and acting accordingly, at the right time and in the right way.

Living with and for others foreshadows the eternal glory for which God has created the human person. After all, this is how Jesus described his own mission:

"The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many"
(Mt 20:28).

Finally, in honor of Martin Luther King's solidarity with those who are most oppressed and most vulnerable, let's hold in prayer the hundreds of thousands who will journey to Washington, D.C. for the 45th annual March for Life.  This contemporary civil rights movement promotes justice for vulnerable unborn children and mothers who represent every race and ethnicity.  It is a fitting extension of Dr. King's non-violent vision of social change.

Check out 9 Days for Life

Monday, January 8, 2018

A Faith of Fresh Starts

The liturgical leap from the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord invites us to connect the dots spiritually and theologically.  What connections should we discern in the leap from the Magi visiting the Holy Family in Bethlehem to the Jesus presenting himself to John at the Jordan?

As many commentators have noted, the "dwelt among us" of the majestic Prologue to John's Gospel literally means that the Lord has "pitched his tent" with us.  The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity has come to us in finite form:  Love in the flesh; the Merciful Face of the Father; the Beloved Son, with whom the Father is well pleased.

The Magi recognized that the coming of Jesus means that the innate human search for meaning and purpose--the quest for ultimate reality--has been turned inside-out.  The God whom we seek "out there" has joined us on the journey, "right here."  In Jesus, God continues to draw near to us in all of our weakness and frailty and disorientation.

John the Baptist also has eyes to see and ears to hear the arrival of this spiritual revolution.  Like the Magi, he has emptied himself of self and opened himself to the mystery of God-for-us.  Personal conversion of heart cracks the door which allows the Holy Spirit to sweep the house clean. 

This is the epiphany--the eye-opening illumination, the awakening to a mighty manifestation--that we all need to behold.  This ongoing mystery of the Lord's Incarnation is meant for each of us personally.  It is a revelation of the personal transformation which Christ is working under each of our roofs, wherever we are currently pitching our tents.

Both the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord remind us that God knows we all need a fresh start, and he comes to deliver a new beginning for each and for all.  Now and forever.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Hail and Blessed be the Hour and the Moment...

A Traditional Prayer to Obtain Favors

Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment
in which the Son of God
was born of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.

In that hour vouchsafe, O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of his Blessed Mother.


Monday, December 18, 2017

"Do Not Be Afraid"?!

As the Nativity of our Lord approaches, God continues to send his holy angels with the exhortation, "Do not be afraid!"

In response to the part of us that might be tempted to imagine God as a legalistic judge who is trying to catch us being bad, we need to hear the reminder, "Do not be afraid!"  The Christ child waits for us to draw close to the manger in Bethlehem so that he can reach out and grab hold of our finger with his perfect little hand.

In response to the part of us that might think God just wants us to try to be a nice person (if and when we can), we need to hear the reassurance, "Do not be afraid!"  Mary and Joseph prove that the path of holiness is possible for anyone who is ready with a humble "yes" to the Presence among us, moment-by-moment and day-by-day.

In response to the part of us that might imagine God as somewhere "out there," indifferent to our worries and sufferings, we need to hear the invitation: "Do not be afraid!"  The Nativity scene calls us to lay our burdens before the Child in swaddling clothes, since he knows that we come not with gold, frankincense or myrrh, but only with our "issues."

In response to the part of us that might whisper we are not worthy to live in friendship with God, we need to hear the rebuke, "Do not be afraid!"  After all, Jesus is born to die not because we are already perfect but because the gift of his grace makes us absolutely perfectible.

In response to the part of us consumed by compulsive coping mechanisms and craven by disordered consumption, the God who IS simply smiles:  In the pre-verbal Word made flesh, whom Mary and Joseph carry forward into history, we encounter the reason for our hope; we then head out to share the conviction with all those we meet--"Do not be afraid!"

Monday, December 11, 2017

Guadalupe and Gaudete: An Advent Ode

Virgen de Guadalupe

God's merciful plan envisioned from eternity
longs to join heaven and earth in Her maternity.

Ancient people chosen in God's holy covenant,
salvation from slavery for a faithful remnant.

Then a singular grace precedes Paschal Mystery:
an Immaculate Heart transforms human history.

Beloved Daughter of the Father, Spouse of the Spirit,
Mother of the Son whispers Love so all can hear it.

Down the centuries God's kingdom continues to come,
until December roses cause distant hearts to hum.

Blessed Virgin identifies and sides with the least;
on behalf of all peoples, She slays the ancient beast.

United in spirit under Her motherly cloak,
siblings without borders break division's weary yoke.

Peace and healing come through Her dear Child, God's holy Word,
Multilingual voices sing praise with "Joy to the World"!