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]

Generous Awareness

It is clear in the familiar passage from Matthew 25 that the difference between the blessed and the chastened is a matter of awareness. The awareness that distinguishes them is not an awareness of the Lord’s presence, for neither group was aware of on the one hand serving the Lord and on the other failing to serve the Lord. Rather the differing awareness was that of recognizing and responding to the need of other human persons. To read today’s passage in the context of the entirety of Matthew 25 is to recognize that the whole chapter is a reflection on[read more]

Be Attentive

What does a more intentional heeding of God’s voice require of us? As T. S. Eliot writes in Ash Wednesday, we must first ask that God “teach us to sit still.” There have been times in life when being and sitting still have seemed much easier to me. If, as we read yesterday from 2 Corinthians, that “now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6: 2), then my current restlessness, my difficulties in being and sitting still are the truth to be confronted this lent. It is one thing to heed God’s voice when[read more]

Return To Me

On this Ash Wednesday, we are at first summoned by the words of Joel to “return to me with your whole heart.” When I was a boy, my mother would on every Ash Wednesday repeat the words of one of her colleagues at work. “Oh, this is the day that all the Catholics come to work with dirty faces.” Unless the word “return” strikes us to the core of our being, all today is is the one on which we walk around with dirty faces.[read more]

Giving and Joy

For us it is very possible to read the words of Sirach today and to think that they are enjoining us to make sure to smile when we are making a contribution and to willfully make ourselves learn to enjoy giving away our possessions. It seems like a recognition of the experience that by nature we give begrudgingly, and so we must develop the habit of being joyful as we do so. Jesus, on the other hand, seems to say that when we are really giving away all we have and are, we experience the true joy of receiving so[read more]

Sadness and Grace

What makes us, human beings, so restless and anxious? Albert Camus says that we are constantly seeing refuge “in love, and work, and communal life.” From what are we seeking that refuge? The basic philosophical and psychological answer to this question is that we are evading the awareness of our deaths. The gospel answer, while not at all contradicting this, adds that in doing so we are also avoiding our own lives. Remember the young man asks Jesus “Good master, what may I do in order that I may inherit the life of the Age?” And Jesus responds, after telling[read more]

Friendship and Fear of the Lord

In today’s reading from Sirach we hear both inducements toward and warnings about relationships. We are told that we all have many acquaintances in life, but very few confidants. We are also told to test our friendships. At first glance, this may seem a bit harsh and even somewhat cynical to us. Yet, the truth is that in every relationship that has the possibility of deepening, we are always consciously or unconsciously testing the other. Sirach tells us not to be too ready to trust another because what is deepest in us is so vulnerable. Thus, we tend, in a[read more]

Wisdom and the Common Project

It is somewhat striking that in our time we speak so little, and even think so little, of an aspiration to become wise. For much of humanity’s history, cultures and societies would so desire to identify the wise persons among them and to seek their guidance. These would become revered by their society because of a sense that they knew something about the true significance and purpose of human life and, perhaps, could communicate this wisdom to others. Our society, on the other hand, reveres the wealthy and the powerful. If we look at who is given recognition and memorialization[read more]