Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday in Advent

Pope Francis calls today, The Sunday of Joy./ We pray not to be simply happy, but joyful,/ springing from an awareness of the unfailing love of God/ present to us even in times of sadness and stress./ We pray to the Lord.

The nation has been infected by an emboldened negativity,/ fear-mongering,/ fake news and partisanship./ As we prepare for Christmas/ we pray to discover a new Christ-center/ that heals and restores./  We pray to the Lord.

The Syriac Christians of Iraq and Syria are suffering terribly at the hands of distorted Islamists./ In their pain they feel abandoned by the world./We pray for them/ and for the repentance of evil-doers and madmen./ We pray to the Lord.

Preparing for Christmas/ we pray for the world's children./ For the salvation of child-workers and child-soldiers,/ for those caught in sex-exploitation and war zones./ For the children left behind/ and those failed by adults./ We pray to the Lord.

Many thousands in our country live in shelters,/ cars,/ subways,/tents/ or on the street./ We pray for a national awakening/ that will no longer accept this as normal./ We pray to the Lord.

For the sick and the weak to experience gifts of hope./ We pray too for those whose sickness is racism,/ resentment,/ anger and greed./ And for our own continual conversion in the Holy Spirit./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who have died by war,/ hunger,/ disaster,/ accident or neglect./ We pray for mourners,/ especially those who suffer the loss of children./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jesus' High Ideals

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler ~ Heinrich Hofmann 1889

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and, kneeling before him, asked, 'Good Master, what must I do to win eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: "Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honor your father and mother."'
'But Master,' he replied, 'I have kept all these since I was a boy.' Jesus looked straight at him; his heart warmed to him, and he said, 'One thing you lack; go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, follow me.' At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart; for he was a man of great wealth. Mark 10:17-27

Notice that Jesus is "starting out on a journey" - he's on the road; he's in motion. I would suggest that these few words indicate what true religion is: an inner, spiritual movement. Now, Jesus is on the road, moving within you, within me. 

St Mark calls the fellow who ran up to Jesus a stranger. St. Matthew calls him, young. St Luke calls him a ruler.  If he is a stranger to Jesus because they have never met, still, we see that Jesus knows him already. That he was young suggests he has a lot to learn. Don't we all? That he was a ruler suggests he not only possesses money and wealth, but also power. 

We also understand that he was religious: not only does he know the commandments but he tells Jesus that he follows them. Jesus presses on. Oh, if religious people (including the clergy) only knew how often the instruction of Jesus is directed at them, instead of thinking his words are intended for someone else.

And as Jesus held up the ideal of marriage (no divorce) and the ideal of children (dependence, trust, vulnerability) in chapter 9, so here he holds up the ideal of owning nothing. We've forgotten that our nature is essentially spiritual, and so we remain unaware of the West's first sin which is consumerism: owning, buying, saving, stock-piling, exploiting, possessing. 

I said in a Sunday sermon once that there are many Christians who are more familiar with their bank books and stock portfolios than with their bibles. Quick: other than Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) name the favorite psalm you know by heart. But I digress.

I don't know how possible it is for Christians to live, "Go sell everything you have and give to the poor and come follow me." Chesterton says St. Francis of Assisi came closest to it. But I'd venture most of us could live closer to that ideal than we might imagine. I know a young Franciscan priest who has a number of times walked the 121 miles from Assisi to Florence (and back!) - carrying only a toothbrush, a change of underwear and some holy cards to give to people who extend to him any kindness along the way. And while no one is saying, "You have to do that too!" we probably could be more creative with this Jesus instruction than we are. 

The Greeks say, The fish stinks from the head. Maybe a suggestion the clergy could be the first to tryout Jesus' own nothing command. We notice too that this Gospel fellow, so hung up on his stuff, is the only person who ever goes away from Jesus sad.  Is Jesus proposing a remedy for us whose national suicide and addiction statistics are so sad and troubling?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jesus Christ, the Apple-tree

I recently discovered this photograph of an apple that looks as if it has been hand-painted. I was taught as a boy that God is all-knowing and all powerful. I like to add: God is all-imagination.

I'm thinking of the carol we might hear now that we've stepped into December: Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree. The poem verses may have been intended as a carol, though it seems to have been around a good while before appearing in church hymnals. And though the lyrics make no reference to Christ's birth (Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds) somehow it has found its way into the repertoire of more familiar Christmas carols. 

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil
here I will sit and rest awhile
I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

An apple is spherical, like a little globe. And for the delight apples give us, they are images of total joy, joy even to laughter. Doesn't the world need laughter: kind laughter, the laughter of delight? Joy to the World is another carol we'll be hearing and singing. And if joy for the world is an angel-task, it's all the more a human one. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Catholics were known to be the world's joy-restorers. We've got our work cut out for us, a work that needs to begin in-house. Pope Francis has said as much in speaking recently to the seventeen new cardinals in Rome.

"How many situations of uncertainty and suffering are sown by this growing animosity between peoples, between us! Yes, between us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings. The virus of polarization and animosity permeates our way of thinking, feeling and acting. We are not immune to this and we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the church..."

In heraldry (the symbols of flags and coats of arms) apples are symbols of rejuvenation and fullness of life.
 Rejuvenation comes from the Latin words re = again and juvenis = young. Imagine that - Catholics as the ones who rejuvenate or help the world to feel young and alive again! Jesus said:  "I have come that they may have life - life in all its fullness." John 10:10 

Oh Jesus, make us young again, 
young at heart,
for all the world, Jesus!
Fill us with delight,
and awe and wonder
before everything that is beautiful,
 good and true. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Intercessions ~ Second Sunday in Advent

John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea
Matthew 3:1

Meeting John the Baptist in the Gospel today,/ we pray to be more brave as Christians:/ voices crying out in the wilderness of the world's argument and even violent disunity./ We pray to the Lord.

Approaching the winter solstice,/ the time of the greatest darkness,/ we pray to grow in our consciousness of the inner darkness which causes us confusion,/ fear,/ depression and loneliness./ We pray not to despair/ or submit to cynicism./ We pray to the Lord.

Thursday is the Feast of Mary's Conception./ We ask for our lives to be blessed/ as from our own conception/ we have also been created and called to be God's servants./ We pray to the Lord. 

Hundreds of people have been recently elected to public office in our country./ We pray for them to be deeply human persons who seek the good of all,/ and to be steadfast where they are tempted to corruption and power abuse./ We pray to the Lord.

At the start of December we pray for all who celebrate birthdays,/ anniversaries and other days of remembrance,/ asking for the blessings of good health,/ peace and safety./ We pray to the Lord.

As the winter-time approaches/ we pray for those who are homeless,/ friendless and needy./ Grant us generous and aware hearts in the holiday time./ We pray to the Lord.

For the sick and anyone living in chronic pain./ For those who give themselves to the care of the sick/ and for those who in their weakness are left untended./ And we pray too for those who have died./ We pray to the Lord.