Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 6/22

I was more than happy yesterday, Lord,
to welcome the equinox, the first day of summer,
the longest day of the year -
but then I realized that beginning today
the days get shorter - only incrementally,
but shorter nonetheless...

If I were a house plant, Lord,
the little care card in the pot would read:
"Enjoys direct sunlight!"

So the thought of shorter daylight
isn't a happy thought at all...

Maybe I need to remember
that beginning last December
the days have been lengthening - incrementally,
but getting longer every day nonetheless...

Time moves so slowly, Lord,
and time moves so quickly -
and much of the time I'm not sure
if it's moving fast or slow!

Like so many things in life, Lord,
the change in sunlight is gradual,
hardly noticeable, until I look back
and see how much has changed,
how much is changing
and how quickly -and- how slowly
come the changes in my life...

Help me not worry about the day's length
on just the second day of summer, Lord!

Help me take this summer
just one day at a time,
each warm, bright, gorgeous summer day
a gift from you...

So thank you, Lord,
for the gift of yet another summer
and for plenty of direct sunlight
shining down upon us
with the light and warmth and joy
that only you can give...



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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 6/21

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In my part of the world, school's out and kids are beginning their summer vacation. I remember childhood summers that seemed to have no horizon: a time and place as close to heaven as any young heart might ever dream.  A child’s summer joy comes as a gift from God: a taste of timelessness, a promise of perpetual play, a season of sun and unending fun. Only God might offer such a gift!  But where have those childhood summers gone? Have we lost our hope in summer's promise? If we don't believe in summer, how will we believe in heaven where summer's joy must surely never end, where summer's timeless stillness calms with peace all other seasons' grief?

Let’s pause and pray…

Come summer with me, Lord,

come summer deep down in my soul…   
Restore my faith in summer’s time, 
in rest, in joy, in play, in you...
Summer in my heart, Lord, 
and dwell there as if the summertime would never end, 
as if all time were a child’s time, 
eternal time, 
when school is always out and joy is ever in...

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul…  
In these long-awaited days, Lord, 
slow me down and give me time for nothing to do
but to be with you 
and to know again that you're with me.   
Help me put the brakes 
to my merry-go-round-go-nowhere pace... 
Slow me down… 
Let any summer doldrums lull, calm and call me 
to a place of peace, of prayer, of meeting you again 
-- like bumping into an old friend, 
on the streets of my vacation...

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul…  
Help me relax, Lord, 
and find a peaceful place 
where I can meet you face to face.   
Remind me of the times you took your own rest, Lord: 
leaving the city and crowds behind, 
going out into the desert, up the mountain, 
across to the opposite shore 
and off by yourself or with just a few friends
to pray...

Come summer with me, Lord,

come summer deep down in my soul…   
Slow me down, Lord, 
and let the busyness that runs me 
and the work that runs me down 
settle to a pace that lets me be
just be with you in a friendly quiet shade
where my heart speaks to yours 
and yours to mine, where in the silence
I can hear your voice, your word...

Come summer with me, Lord,
come summer deep down in my soul…      
Even if my summer time is crowded with work and things to do, 
even if vacation time is short or not at all in sight, 
even if responsibilities burden as the summer's heat - even then...  
Come summer with me, Lord, 
come summer deep down in my soul each day:
as the sun comes up at morning,
as the stars shine bright by moon light,
as soft rains fall upon me - 
come summer with me, Lord, 
come summer with me 
deep down in my soul...

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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 6/19

Here's something I've learned over the years, Lord:
One Size Does NOT Fit All!

We come in so many shapes and sizes:
sometimes because there's such variety
in the people you created
(and that's awesome!)
and sometimes because of what we've done
with what you gave us to work with
(not always so awesome!)

We're all just so different:
that's true in clothing
and it's true in so many other ways, too, Lord.

You didn't give us human beings
a OSFA personality...

You didn't give us OSFA gifts and talents...

You didn't give us a OSFA intelligence
or imagination...

You didn't give us a OSFA place of birth
or family of origin, or set of childhood experiences,
or economic, social and educational opportunity...

You didn't give us a OSFA temperament, or insight,
or wisdom, or intuition...

We come in all physical shapes and forms, Lord,
and our inner workings vary just as much as
our height, weight, color and facial features...

The soul of everyone of us mirrors you, our Creator,
but each individual soul reflects you
in ways as unique as our fingerprints...

And yet you offer us, Lord
(each and every one of us)
you offer us a OSFA merciful love
large enough and deep enough to hold in its embrace
the whole history of the human race
(past, present and yet to come);
you offer us a OSFA merciful love
that tailors itself perfectly to each of us
with an intimacy beyond our deepest desires...

Forgive me, Lord,
when I have OSFA expectations of others
and especially when I'm tempted to believe and act
as if other people should fit themselves to me
and my finite understanding and expectations...

Teach me to love as you love, Lord,
with a love that stretches and expands to welcome,
to accommodate and to include others
by honoring the infinite ways
in which all your creatures mirror you, our Creator,
whose love is great enough, broad enough
and deep enough to hold in your heart
all the sons and daughters you call your own,
brothers and sisters to me
in Christ
whose Cross and heart are of a size divine,
one size
that fits us all...


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Monday Morning Offering: 6/18

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

As you know, Lord,
I'm writing this on Sunday night,
sitting on my porch by some candle light
with a mild breeze brushing my bare arms
as your Spirit brushes my soul...

But the peace of the moment is burdened
by the rancor, anger and division
kindled by the daily news
and the plight of those who have no porch or home
where they might shelter and find rest...

The issues are neither as easy as
some would make them out to be
nor so complex
that they couldn't be resolved
without causing further hurt and harm...

I offer you this sad story, Lord,
and pray for your wisdom
to help those on all sides
work to find a way, a middle way,
respectful of the most vulnerable
and respectful of the laws and rights
of everyone involved...

I lift up our shameful name calling,
our hatred of people we've never met,
our prejudice in favor of our own stances,
our failure to listen to your word,
and our rush to judgment on issues
about which we might know next to nothing...

Give us your counsel, your wisdom, your insight, Lord...

Give us the strength we need
to stand firm for what we believe...

Give us a compassion for the truly poor
and an empathy to override our selfishness and greed...

Give us the will to act with courage
when we hear the cry of the poor...

Give us a respect for just laws, statutes that protect
both those whose tables overflow with feasting
and those who ask that we make room at ours
for them, their children and their needs...

Give us hearts fashioned after your heart, Lord:
hearts neither slow nor unafraid
to empty themselves out for those in need,
hearts ready to name the truth,
to stand by those who ask a share
of all we have...

Give us hearts ready to open wide 
to receive those with no place to go,
no home to call their own,
no food to give their children,
no strength to bear their burdens
and little hope beyond the welcome
we might, in your name, offer...

Lord, I'm offering you the mess we're in,
begging for you to pardon our sins
and to heal and mend anything and everything
that keeps us apart,
that keeps us from welcoming you
when you come knocking on our door
seeking a place in our hearts
and in our neighborhoods,
all brothers and sisters in your name...

Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil
and graciously grant peace in our days
that by the help of your mercy,  
we may be always free from sin 
and safe from all distress, 
as we await the blessed hope 
and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ
who knocks on our doors
and on the doors of our hearts...

Make us just and generous,
compassionate and challenging
and faithful and fair
in all that we do... 

Receive our morning offering, Lord,
and open us to any and all the gifts
you might leave on our hearts' door steps
and at the borders of our nation's land...


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Homily for June 17

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Homily for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


When I was younger, much, much younger, I was taught
to live  according to the Ten Commandments, the words of Jesus
and the teachings of the Church
- LEST I sin and end up in hell.

Are you familiar with the concept of “teaching to the test?”
It’s a term for any method of education
whose curriculum is heavily focused on preparing students
to pass a standardized test.

Analogous to “teaching to the test”
is an approach to faith that might be called “living to the test,”
the test being God’s judgment of me at the end of my life.
Or, as Saint Paul put it in his letter to the Corinthians and to us:
Therefore, we aspire to please the LORD…
for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ
so that each of us might receive recompense,
according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil.

Just as “teaching to the test” might suggest
that the purpose of education is passing an exam,
so “living to the test” suggests
that the purpose of leading a Christian life
is escaping eternal punishment.

And while there’s some validity in both,
neither one tells us the whole story.
The purpose of education
is something far greater than passing an exam
and the purpose of living according to the law of Christ and his Church
is more than getting into heaven.

True education prepares a student
to be a more fully developed human being
long after any exam is taken.
True education teaches not only content
but just as importantly teaches the student how to learn.

Analogously, the goal of the Christian life
is to help us human beings live and more fully participate
in God’s loving plan for his people
long before we appear at the pearly gates,
waiting for St. Peter to post our final grades.
True faith teaches the believer not only how to die
but more importantly - how to live!

Nowadays, one doesn’t hear much about hell, or the threat of hell,
and many tend to think that somehow,
just about everybody goes to heaven
regardless of the far-ranging degrees of accountability and success    
we experience in living or failing to live as God desires.

As is so often the case, this isn’t so much matter of either/or
but much more a matter of both/and.
It’s altogether both helpful and valuable
on the one hand, to keep in mind that one day
God will judge my life as worthy or unworthy
of the place he has prepared for me in heaven.
AND, on the other hand, to live each day as its own,
simply striving to love God and my neighbor
because such love is what God asks of me
and is good for the welfare of the human family
and my own well-being.
God’s commandments, the gospel of Jesus and Church teaching
are not intended as a series of hoops through which we jump
[on our way to the judgment seat of Jesus
but rather are meant to help you and me be and become always more
the persons God created us to be.

• As children, we often obey our parents out of fear of being punished
but as we grow and mature,
we observe and meet societal expectations and standards
out of a love and respect for others and for God.

• We don’t obey the law simply to avoid being arrested -
we keep the law because it establishes good order for our society -
even if there are times when fear of arrest
keeps us from pressing too heavily on the gas pedal. 

• A marriage doesn’t develop and flourish based on fear of divorce,
but rather on the love that spouses mutually promise and share -
although there may be times of temptation when it’s precisely fear
that keeps a partner faithful to his or her vows.   

So it is with God and us.
A life lived according to the rules - out of fear of hell -
]is not the life God envisions for us.
Rather, the life God desires for us
]is a life shared with him and with others - in love.
It’s possible that we might go through life keeping all the rules
]and yet never meeting, never experiencing the person of Jesus.
If keeping the rules doesn’t lead us to a deeper relationship
of trust, love and intimacy with God - something is critically missing.
Although here, too, there may be times when fear of God’s judgment
may keep us from sin and living apart from his love and grace. 

We all need always to keep in mind that we’re called to lead holy lives
for the sake of holiness
- and by holy lives I mean lives generous
in goodness… truth… mercy… prayer… kindness…
peace… justice… healing… and compassion.

And we need to keep in mind that it’s on just these points
that one day we’ll stand before the judgment seat of Christ,
hoping to pass our “final exam”
and, in God’s mercy, be welcomed to life that has no end,
a life with no end to its joy and peace.

Simple thoughts like these,
thoughts about how we live, day by day, in God’s love,
in preparation for being judged
simple thoughts like these should be in our minds and hearts
as we consider complex issues,
issues like immigration policy and reform:
how we meet and welcome our neighbor
at our nation’s borders.

And thoughts like these, day by day, should just as keenly inform
how we meet and welcome the neighbor who lives
in our own homes, in our own families, in our neighborhoods,
in our town, in our parish, at work and at school.

We need to consider what it means to lead a holy life, day by day,
because it’s on this evidence
that our lives will be reviewed and judged by Jesus.

Jesus uses a beautiful image in today’s gospel
to help us measure ourselves and our lives of faith:
the image of planting seeds.

We can’t wait until the “final exam” of the harvest at the end of our lives
to see if we have been faithful farmers.
Our fidelity begins with the seeds we sow every day
and how we nurture them.

Alden Solovy is friend of mine in the blogosphere.
He’s not a Christian, he’s a Jew, and he writes, beautifully,
from the perspective of  his Jewish faith.
Let me close by sharing with you
a fine poem Alden wrote about planting seeds.

Planting Seeds

Every act is a seed:
Every laugh, every smile.
Every song, every dance.
Every outstretched arm
And every open heart.
A seed of holiness. 
A seed of redemption. 
A seed of grace.

Every act is a seed:
Every frown, every angry word.
Every dislike, every disdain.
Every closed fist,
And every hardened heart.
A seed of loneliness.
A seed of isolation.
A seed of despair.

How many seeds have I planted, God of Old,
Seeds that hurt, Seeds that heal?
How many seeds have I yet to plant,
Seeds that hurt, Seeds that heal?

Ancient One,
grant me the discernment
And the skill
To plant seeds of wonder and awe
In my life and the world.

Let me be a source of wholeness,
Let me be a source of thanksgiving,
So that my life yields
A garden of blessings
In service to Your Holy Name.

- ©Alden Solovy at ToBendLight.com


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