As Members of the Church

Yesterday I experienced one of those exceptional and, in a good way, disturbing moments in life. A very good friend said to me: “As a religious community in the Church, you guys don’t have the right to just say who you are on your own. You have a responsibility to us, and you need to dialogue with us who we need you to be.”[read more]

Sadness and Joy

As, in a liturgical and scriptural sense, we move inexorably toward the mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are drawn into the profound paradox of human experience that it is only in ceasing to flee from suffering and sadness that we come to recognize and realize the joy that is beyond telling. We know from psychoanalysis that it is the nature of our unconscious to crave and seek pleasure and to avoid pain. Yet, as pleasure and joy are not at all the same thing, to live unconsciously, as the Pharisees do, is to never know[read more]

Is Forgiveness Possible?

This lent is becoming a most challenging one for me. I have known, at one level, for a very long time that at the very heart of the Christian faith and form tradition is the call to forgiveness. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As I’ve often noted, the great scholar of religion Houston Smith has pointed out that the 3 great monotheistic religious traditions highlight a unique aspect of the call to follow the One God “unreservedly,” as we hear in the reading from Daniel today. The Jewish tradition focuses obedience; the Islamic[read more]

Grace and Responsibility

Some days ago, a friend shared with me a lecture that Jacques Barzun had given in 1969 entitled “Present Day Thoughts on the Quality of Life.” It had just recently been rediscovered and was published this month in “The American Scholar." In it he speaks of, for all their questionable tendencies, the valid critique of western culture that inhered in the revolutionary movements of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Given the secular and rational-functional reductionism of our culture, we have come to identify usefulness with human value. And if this was true in 1969, it is even more true[read more]

Rooted in God

As one who came of age in the Church immediately following the Second Vatican Council with its proper restoration of the meaning of the Incarnation for our humanity, I have always found the foundational spiritual teaching of today’s reading from Jeremiah a difficult one to comprehend fully and truly appreciate. “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings. . . .” Yet, if I hear the entire sentence which qualifies the “curse” as applying to one who trusts human beings solely, then I can begin to recognize its truth in my own experience.[read more]

Envious Comparison

A couple of days before my father died, I was helping him eat his lunch. I cut the meat that was on his tray, and, in a contorted attempt to communicate my respect and appreciation for him, I said to him that I could not do this the way he could. His response was one that truly put me in my place: “I’m no better than anyone else.”[read more]

The Helper Is The Help

Adrian van Kaam says that every human person we encounter is an appeal to us. He describes that appeal as, “Please be with me and for me.” Van Kaam is saying that whatever we “think” we are asking for, we are always, at a deeper level, making this appeal for the presence of the other with us.[read more]

Becoming Who We Are

Jonah has been called “the reluctant prophet.” He also had to be one of the most amazed. He was only one day through his call to repentance to the people of Nineveh, when all, from the king on down, recognize and turn from their evil and violent ways and fast and pray in repentance. Jonah, as we know, is deeply upset with the Lord’s readiness to forgive, we can only assume because the prophet himself had clearly not repented of and forsaken his own violence.[read more]

Participating in the Eternal Silence

One of the most meaningful and beautiful of scriptural images for me is the one we read in Isaiah today. As the rain and snow come down from heaven and give life to the earth, so shall God’s word. The word of God creates what it speaks. God speaks his word so that his will may be done on earth as in heaven. By God’s choice that word is designed to reach its fruition on earth, thus achieving the end for which God sends it, in and through us.[read more]