Prayer and Breaking Through

Today’s readings, as we spiritually await the coming of God into our lives and world, may give us pause. The messenger of God, who announces to the barren wife of Manoa and to childless Zechariah the great gift of a longed-for child, comes to them as “fearsome” or “terrible.” In the case of Zechariah the immediate effect of this visitation is that he is struck mute, unable to speak. He is quite literally unable to communicate in speech the experience of God’s messenger he has undergone.[read more]

Getting Beyond Ourselves

Matthew’s infancy narrative uniquely features the figure of Joseph at its center. So little is revealed about him, and yet, as we approach the end of Advent and the coming of Christmas, he challenges us to awaken to the Divine presence, activity, and call in our own lives. No matter what our intentions each year, the final days before Christmas inevitably have about them a sense of the hectic and compressed. There never seems to be enough time to do all that must be done in preparation for the coming celebration. So caught do we become in the stress of[read more]

Living Formatively

Given his audience, Matthew begins his gospel by asserting the credentials of Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. This is not unlike the practice throughout antiquity of introducing a god through his or her lineage. The later gospel of John will begin with Jesus’ Divine lineage, but for Matthew it is vital to establish that Jesus is indeed the longed for and promised Messiah. For us, however, the lineage of Jesus is a reminder of the Divine and human interaction through which the Kingdom of God is revealed. It includes men and women of every stripe and experience. Their lives,[read more]

Overcoming Disconnection

Reading today in Matthew of yet another lack of communication between the chief priests and the elders and Jesus is a reminder of how difficult true communication and connection is for us. The longer we live out our experience of life the more we savor the moments of true communication and communion and the more we suffer so often when we remain at a distance and disconnected from others, even those we most desire to know and be known by.[read more]

Rest For Our Souls

At the parish where I attend Sunday liturgy, there is a custom of a member of the parish giving a brief personal reflection after communion during Advent. Last Sunday the woman who is often the leader of song at the Saturday evening mass spoke. She has a very good and strong voice, and there is a joy and vibrancy in her singing that is unmistakable. She began her reflection with a question she is often asked which is why do you seem so joyful as you sing. She mentioned that this is due in part to her basically joyful disposition[read more]

Saving Our Souls

Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the patron of my congregation. Our Founder, Theodore James Ryken told us that “The name of this insatiable laborer for souls will indicate with one word what is intended for the congregation.” Now I have to admit that there are very few ways I am able to identify with St. Francis Xavier. Perhaps if at the age of 17, when I was making the decision to join the congregation, I had known these words of Ryken I would have sought out an order or congregation more suited to my personality and temperament.[read more]

Awareness and Judgment

On this first weekday of Advent, we pray that when the Lord comes and knocks, we shall be found “watchful in prayer.” To be in prayer is to be awake and watchful in a way far more truly and distinctively human than the way we are present to life much of the time. In today’s gospel Jesus exclaims to his disciples that in no person in Israel has he found the faith that the centurion manifests. For what Jesus experiences among his own people is what he well may experience among his church today when he comes. He may find[read more]

Faith and Disappointment

The last week of the Church year has, for much of my life, been my least favorite time, liturgically speaking. There is a relentlessness to the themes of catastrophe, destruction, violence, and death. There is the constant reminder, as we hear in the gospel today, that “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6). The reminders of the limits of humanity’s potency and effectiveness have always easily evoked my personal psychic sense of and fears of futility. One of the hardest but truest spiritual directives[read more]

Giving All We Have To Live On

It is easy to read the story of the poor widow’s offering as a moral lesson, and so to some degree it is. Yet, it is also much more than that. It is a description both of the very nature of God and of the nature and quality of our participation in God’s life and creation. In context it is surrounded by Jesus’ description of the miserly and constrained consciousness of the Pharisees on one side and his description of the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end times on the other.[read more]