Monday Morning Offering: 10/21

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Good morning, good God!

Something's different in the sunlight, Lord,
these cool October days...

Old Sol, up in the heavens, assumes his autumn angle,
his eye on branches, beauty brushed,
on leaves alive in light no summer's green could ever match...

The light comes from above, I know,
but still I'd swear these leaves are somehow
- glowing from within...

In my reverie these trees
(still warm with sun soaked up from August skies)
pray a psalm of golden-bronzes, orange-reds
and dappled, purpled russets...

Walking down a forest path
the season's glow surrounds me
while evergreens in groves stand tall,
a backdrop for October's amber shades...

Your light's above and all around,
from every angle shining bright,
in summer, winter, fall and spring,
and yet, your light's within me, Lord,
to warm my soul from inside-out,
from deep within my heart of hearts...

I offer then, this morning, Lord,
a hymn of thanks for light aglow
in leaves upon the branch:
I offer you a psalm of praise
for beauty all around
and for your gracious light within...



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Homily for October 20

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Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Have you ever wondered what God does 
with all the prayers offered up for sports teams 
- especially at the end of a season
when titles and trophies are on the line?

Does anyone really believe that God chooses to have a hand
in deciding who wins the World Series?
That God might take a side and give an edge
to either the Nationals or the Astros?

(At least in 2019 God is spared the doubleheader
of a presidential election following the Series!)

People ask me all the time to pray for them,
to join them in their prayer for themselves,
for members of their families, for their friends
and for particular needs.

And I do, indeed, pray for them.
I lift them up in prayer to God,
joining my prayers to theirs.

In that sense,
I suppose I'm a bit like Aaron or Hur in today's first reading  
where they serve as support for Moses
as he holds his staff in his hands,
his hands aloft in prayer to God...

And I know that many of you pray for others, too,
lifting up in prayer the ones you love,
the ones whose own arms of prayer may have grown weary.

And sometimes there comes a healing, a recovery, a reconciliation,
a job, a decision or a turn of events
just as we'd been praying for...

But sometimes, 
in spite of Jesus saying the answer will come speedily
(that’s on his time, not ours)
sometimes the answer to our prayer seems not to come at all
or it isn't the answer we wanted,
or it's so long in coming that we begin to think it never will.

And then we may be temped to think that God hasn’t heard us,
or has forgotten us, or is simply ignoring our prayer.
When that happens, some people give up on prayer -
and some even give up on God
or they give up hope of God reaching out to help them...

But my experience as a priest tells me that most folks don’t give up.
Most of you don’t give up on prayer.
Most people continue to believe and to pray,
most people persevere in prayer,
seeking God’s help again the next time they're in need
whether their last prayer was answered as they hoped - or not.

Are we foolish in seeking again the help of God
who so often seems - not to help?

No. We’re not foolish.

We’ve come to realize, to understand, to accept
that when we turn to God in prayer
- especially when our needs are most acute -
that the greatest benefit of prayer is the assurance
that we have a place to turn to, 
someone to go to,
especially when it seems there’s no place to turn
and no one to help us.

When we were children, we lifted our arms to adults
to fix our broken toys, 
to put a band-aid on a skinned knee
and to mend our  broken hearts and shattered dreams.

There were times when mom or dad, or others,
did indeed fix what was broken -
but sometimes they couldn't.
But that didn’t keep us from going back to them 
again and again and again
with the next broken toy needed fixing
or newly bruised feelings needed understanding
and consolation and comfort...

We kept going back to them because we knew
that even if our parents couldn’t fix what was broken,
they’d be there for us, and hold us,
and comfort us and grieve with us
whatever the brokenness might be
- even in times when they couldn't make things better
and especially in times when we already knew that...

And so it is with God and us.

I don’t know why God,
who could do anything and everything -
so often doesn't.

I do know that we need to remember
that the purpose of prayer,
the purpose of all prayer,
is not to get what we want or even what we need,
much less to move or change God's mind -
but rather, the primary purpose of prayer
is to draw us into a closer relationship
with the One to whom we turn in prayer,
to God...

We often hear parents say how they wish they could take away
their children’s hurt and brokenness and make it their own.
Jesus says –and did – the very same thing.
The Lord is no stranger to our brokenness and our pain
and, on the cross, he took all of our hurt on his shoulders
- and made it his own.

And in his moment of most acute need 
he cried out to God - who seemed to be abandoning him -
and no answer came, 
no answer beyond the inscrutable silence of God...

At least no answer came until after Christ abandoned himself,
abandoned himself to his Father’s will 
- and into his Father’s arms.

The greater the need, the more painful the brokenness
and the more fervently we pray for the Lord’s help
the more we need to trust
that the one answer that will always come, without fail,
is God’s voice saying, like a loving mother, like a loving father,
“I’m here…  I won’t leave you...   I’m with you… always...”

God might not always answer our prayers as we'd like
but without fail he will be there with us and for us
to see us through our times of need.

The best gift prayer has to offer us
is not so much the granting of our desire
as it is the opportunity to grow in our relationship with God
not because God will always fix things for us,
but because he faithfully walks with us in our brokenness.

For whom are you praying today? 
For what are you praying today?
Be sure that the Lord hears your prayer loud and clear -
and that he understands your needs and wants
even better than you understand them yourself.

And, like Aaron and Hur, all your brothers and sisters here today
want to support your arms, lifted in prayer
and they look to you to lift their arms, too,
for we all, from time to time, grow weary in prayer
and need one another's help.

We're about to break the bread which the Lord will make his body,
broken for us that we might remember and know
that he is here…  that he is with us…
that he will not abandon us…

May Christ broken once for us on the Cross
and broken again for us here in the bread of this altar
may Christ heal the brokenness we bring to his table today
and draw us deeper into his love.


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 10/20

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Today's Pause for Prayer is a video by Louie Schwartzberg whose images bring to sight a prayerful reflection by Brother David Steindl-Rasrt, OSB.

This Prayer post is longer than most, running nearly 6 minutes - but I promise you'll be glad and grateful you gave 6 minutes to the audio and visual beauty offered here.

If you're interested, here's an even longer version with an introduction by Louie Schwartzberg that's well worth the extra time.


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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 10/19

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In a small pond, a frog, squatting on a lily pad,
listened attentively as an angel described 
the glories of heaven...

At the end of the discourse
the frog asked
"Is it something like mud?"
- Anonymous

It's a very wise frog, indeed, Lord,
who finds heaven in the mud...

And how about me?

Where do I find a taste of heaven's joy,
right where I am, Lord,
here in the mud
of my daily life?

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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 10/18

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today I want to pray for all the beautiful people in my life
and you know better than I, Lord,
how many they are!

They've shared with me their suffering and defeats,
their struggles and losses
- and how they've found their way
(or are trying to find their way)
out of the depths of their difficulties...

All this has worn on them, Lord,
but has only served to make them more beautiful,
possessed of an appreciation for,
a sensitivity towards
and an understanding of
filling them
with compassion, gentleness
and deep loving concern for others...

Beautiful people don't just "happen," Lord,
they are made beautiful by all they have
carried, endured and suffered...

I pray for all these beautiful people, Lord:
help them see the beauty that is theirs,
a beauty they're often blind to,
and be their guide as they make their way
out of the depths of their difficulties
to the beauty of the peace that is yours
in you...



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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 10/17

My friend, Marilyn Mudry, posts 3 personal "gratitudes"on her FaceBook page every day.  These posts never fail to prompt me to reflect on what I'm grateful for in my own life.  Marilyn's post a few days ago has stayed with me and I share it with you as today's Pause for Prayer...


- That I am not a Syrian Kurd,
fleeing with my husband, our children, our grandchildren,
fleeing our world of community
because promises were not kept...

- That I am not an Uighur, one of millions,
illegally held in prison camps
because of my beliefs...

- That I am not an a abused child
in this world of predators...

Some days
as skies glow in the lavender of sunset;
as we hold our grandsons in our arms,
gently rocking and cooing,
food surrounding,
beauty abounding and safety embracing -
some days my heart breaks...

My heart breaks in gratitude
for the 'luck of the draw'
that this piece, this sliver of Earth,
holds me...

And, my heart breaks for those
who raise their arms to GOD and cry,
"Help me! Please, please, please, help me!"


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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 10/15

An old friend texted me, Lord,
someone I hadn't seen in quite a while:
busy lives, competing schedules
and a change in geography
left us out of touch, drifting apart...

Then out of the blue comes an invitation
and plans were swiftly made: dinner last night
and great conversation for catching up,
reconnecting, reclaiming good memories,
restoring the ties that bind and bond...

It was a shot in the arm, Lord,
a breath of fresh air,
a reason to be joyful,
a gift freely given,
a break, a boon and a blessing...

I needed that, Lord,
and I'm mighty grateful to you
because I have no doubt that all good gifts
come from your hand and from your heart
all blessings flow...



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Monday Morning Offering: 10/14

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

Today, Lord, I offer you my thanks and praise

- for all the inscrutable ways you work in my life,

        day by day, week after week, year after year...  

- and for all the ways your Spirit meddles in my affairs,

        prodding, pushing and nudging me
             to go where you would lead me...

- and for all the inside-out, upside-down ways 

        you provide, plan and plot
             to get my attention, to win my affection...

- and for all the crazy and confounding things that mess me up

        that I might learn a thing or two or more
             along my twisting, turning bumpy path...

- and for all the grace and gifts you shower on me,

        especially those I waste or miss
             or totally ignore...

- and for all the ways you love me: freely, faithfully, and fully:

       forgiving me, no strings attached,
            with mercy that won't quit...

For all of this and so much more

        receive my morning offering, Lord,
              accept my gift of thanks and praise...



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Homily for October 13

Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Welcome to the first week of a message series we're calling
So, what does it mean to be grateful? Here’s a way to understand it: 
a thankful appreciation for what you receive - tangible or intangible:
things we can touch and things we can’t,
like love, empathy, or emotional support.
Challenging myself to name the things I'm most grateful for,
I came up with these three:
- the family I grew up in, especially the love of my parents
- the call to serve as a minister of the gospel
- and the love of God of so many people in my life.
What might be the three things you're most grateful for in your life?

Being grateful means first noticing the good things in our lives
AND recognizing that the source of this goodness
lies somewhere outside of, beyond ourselves. 
Others are contributing to the goodness we experience
and, we hope, we're contributing to theirs.
Sometimes we might make the mistake
of comparing our gratitude with others.

Comfortably grateful ourselves
we might wonder why friends or colleagues, our spouse or our kids
aren't as grateful for what they have
- and for what I've given them - as I am -
while all the while
they might be thinking exactly the same about us!           
It’s not easy to challenge our own assumptions
about how grateful we really are,
but doing so might really make a difference in our lives.
Being grateful and becoming aware of feelings of gratitude
is just the beginning: the next step is just as important.

When you were a child, do you remember being asked,
after receiving a gift, "Now, what do you say?"
Why were we asked that question -
and why do we ask it of children in our care today?
It’s good manners, of course, a social convention -
but is there something more?
Or, have you ever given a gift to someone for a wedding or graduation
- and never received a thank you? 
How did that make you feel?   
Unappreciated? Unrecognized? Forgotten?

You’re reasonably sure the recipient of your gift is feeling grateful
- and you didn’t give the gift just to get a thank you note -
but you'd definitely feel better if your gift were acknowledged. 
Otherwise, it seems that there’s something missing,
the process is incomplete.
We're not satisfied by presuming someone's gratitude,
- we want it to be shared with us.
It's a very human need to be acknowledged and appreciated.

When someone says, "Thank you!"
it’s good for both the giver and the recipient

Gratitude is so important in our lives.
Studies show there’s no more effective way
to increase happiness and well-being than by practicing gratitude.

Gratitude helps us: 
Feel more positive emotions
Block toxic emotions (envy, resentment, regret)
Relish good experiences
Improve mental and spiritual health
Deal with adversity
Build stronger relationships
Focus on what we have, not what we lack

Well, it’s so good for us, why aren't we more grateful
and more expressive of our gratitude? 
Why do we often find ourselves focusing
not on what we have - but on what we don't have?

In this series, we’ll explore how grateful living can transform:
us, our families, our parish  --  and even far beyond that. 
It won't come as any surprise to us that Jesus thinks that gratitude is:
something important, something that needs to be expressed
and something God wants to help us grow into.
In Luke’s Gospel today
we find Jesus on a journey to Jerusalem.
“As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him…” Luke: 17:12

In our own day, leprosy can be rather easily cured, but in Jesus' day
it was something critically serious and very much feared.
Leprosy is a painful, disfiguring disease
including blisters, rashes and ulcers on the skin.
First century people didn't yet understand contagious disease
but they were put off by leprosy's physical symptoms
AND they interpreted the signs of leprosy,
especially open, oozing sores, as a sign of being morally unclean.
And the morally unclean were expelled from the community -
shunned, even by their own families, not welcomed
- indeed, left to die, alone and as outcasts.
Life, as these ten lepers in the story knew it - was over.

The Gospel tells us that the lepers
 “stood at a distance” from Jesus.
This was out of fear and respect:
it would be considered rude and dangerous
for the "unclean" to approach healthy people.
But they had heard of Jesus’ healing power
and were desperate for a chance to get their lives back.

They had nothing to lose, so:
“They raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!’”
Jesus sees them, and knows their suffering. He responds: 
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
What’s that about? 
In Jesus’ time, people claiming to be healed of disease
were required to have a priest confirm their healing
before they could be allowed back into
and resume their place in their family and community.
So Jesus told the ten lepers to go and present themselves to the priests.
The ten didn't ask any questions, they just did what Jesus told them to do.
The story goes on:
"As they were going, they were cleansed of their leprosy.”
Now, when the 10 realized they were healed,
one of them immediately turned back and found Jesus, and
“...glorifying God in a loud voice,
he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.”
Now you might be thinking the same thing as Jesus was thinking: 
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"

As surprising as it was
that only 1 out of 10 who were healed returned to give thanks,
it was even more surprising
that the one who did return was a Samaritan,
a people who were hated by the Jews.
In Jesus’ time and culture, there were very clear ideas about
who was a friend and who was an enemy,
who was in and who was out
and Samaritans were definitely enemies,
they were definitely out!
These tendencies and prejudices in society
haven't changed much over the past 2,000 years.

Jesus though, in his infinite love for all people,
sees the good in this man, his faith in God,
and recognizes his desire to express his gratitude
for the gift of healing he received.
Jesus says to this one grateful man:
"Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."
So the healing, the gift given, is not only physical
- it's interior as well.

Do you think the other 9 were un-grateful or grateful?
Do you think the other nine who were healed
at least felt grateful?
Of course they did!
They were healed and were getting their lives back--
family, friends, jobs -
they would no longer be outcasts,
they could be welcomed back into their families and community.
They just didn’t make it a priority to return and express their gratitude
to the one who had given everything back to them.

Can we identify with this?
Are we sometimes so immersed in our lives,
even in our feeling grateful
that expressing our gratitude takes a back seat?
No matter how old we grow,
there are times when we still need someone to prompt us,
"Now, what do you say?"

We know that giving thanks is important
--  what keeps us from doing it?
We’re too busy.  We're lazy.  We're careless.
We forget.  “It’s not my style.”         
Oh, my parents know I'm grateful!
My spouse knows I'm grateful!
My friends know I'm grateful!  -  I don't have to say it.
And how about this one:
God already knows what’s in my heart, what I'm feeling -
what's the point of saying “thank you”      
when God already knows I feel grateful?
One writer put it this way:
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing
it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

But if we're honest, we know that expressing gratitude
is an integral part of the giving and receiving dynamic.
Gratitude completes the circle of generosity, of goodness, of giving.

Expressing our thanks helps us recognize, realize and remember
that we ARE grateful - which makes us happy all over again!
And gratitude, expressed, brings joy to the one who gave us the gift:
the giver takes joy in the joy we've received.
Gratitude expressed is definitely a win/win deal!

It’s not enough to feel gratitude,
our gratitude needs to be expressed and shared.
During this series we’ll be getting really practical
and work on building up a toolkit
for how to express gratitude to God - and others.

So, here’s a challenge for this week:
Ask yourself honestly:
am I the one grateful person who stops everything
to give voice to my gratitude?
Or am I among the nine who may feel grateful
but that I often, maybe more often that I’d like to admit,
fails to express it? 
Reflect, this week, on your gratitude quotient, your "GQ."
Which is winning out in your life--
complaint and indifference  -- or gratitude? 

Here’s another way to look at it:
if each of your thoughts were a "tweet"
needing a hashtag to classify it,
would most of your thoughts or words in a given day
end with:  #complaint                      
or #grateful?
What’s trending in your life right now? 

What difference might more gratitude in our lives make for us?
One of the many rewards for choosing to be more grateful
is becoming more aware
of some people whom we might be taking for granted.
This can revitalize and enhance our relationships
and bring family and friends closer together. 

Recognizing, with gratitude, how much we already have
can help us see our lives with new eyes
and put the brakes on our always wanting more,
and thus easing some of the stress and worry that comes
from too much focus on accumulating more and more.

Living gratefully can help us loosen our grip on  -- what’s “mine,”
and inspire us to share what we have more freely with others.
Generosity invites God in,
because giving is the essence of who God is

That one leper’s experience of healing and expressing his thanks
was only the beginning of his new life,
and I'm confident it included the joy and peace of mind
that living gratefully provides.

Being grateful is the starting point.
We begin to recognize the many ways God is generous to us in our lives,
and how God has been there all along. 



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