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Dear Reader

I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ ,

Right now, there are babies laughing and crying in our world, and there are parents listening for those wordless cries and understanding them. After a few days or weeks of listening intently, caring for the newborn, simply being with the baby, parents learn to distinguish between the cry that means "I'm hungry -- feed me NOW!" and the one that says, "Pick me up and hold me; I need to know I'm safe and warm." Parents learn to tell the difference between the cry that means the baby is simply bored and restless and fretful and the cry that means they're in real pain. And parents learn -- and sometimes learn to dread -- the sound of a baby with a diaper in serious need of changing! Later on, after parents have mastered the rudiments of crying language, the baby begins to laugh -- and parents soon learn to know just what is causing the baby's mirth, as well as what causes the cries. This is a language without words, but a language nonetheless!
 
"Long ago, God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son," says the letter to the Hebrews. God speaks to us through the Son, a son born into this world like any of us, a son who is entrusted to parents and to the world like any of us born into the world, a son who cries and laughs like any other newborn.
 
Jesus enters the world like each one of us, dependent upon others for survival. He is vulnerable to hunger and thirst, to cold and stress, to infection and accident and mishap. In fact, if not for the protective love of his parents, Herod's armies would have found him after his birth and killed him. "The Word became flesh and lived among us," says the Gospel of John. In fact, the divine Word became a child, newborn, fragile, and vulnerable, and as dependent as we all are upon the love of others for survival.
 
In the birth of Jesus, God and the plan for salvation is revealed-- and it turns out to depend on human beings! This God, who is all-powerful, who could simply destroy the world and start over again, will not. This God, who could demand our obedience, does not. This God loves us so much that He  uses His power to make us -- fragile, willful human beings -- His  partners in our own salvation. God sends His  Son, born as an infant who is dependent upon Mary and Joseph for his very survival. God sends His Son to be cared for, protected, listened to -- by us. Mary and Joseph are entrusted with this precious baby's life, and through his laughs and cries, they begin a lifetime relationship with Jesus.
 
It goes against all our worldly logic to imagine God as dependent upon us, human beings -- or anything else, for that matter. Isn't it supposed to be the very definition of God that God is all- powerful, needs nobody else, is totally self-sufficient? How could God depend on us? But how else do we explain this child given to the world? The gospels don't claim any special, extraordinary power for the infant Jesus: he gives no blessing from the crèche, performs no miracles, does not speak words the world can understand. He is simply a baby like any other baby, who cries and is dependent upon others to be fed and cared for and held and loved -- dependent upon others for his very life.
 
Yet, the Gospel continues: "We have beheld his glory..." The glory in the infant Jesus is that he is the Word, the message brought from God to humanity through his birth into our world. The glory in Jesus is God's love for the created world, a love so great that God Himself would experience life in the world through the Begotten Son. The glory is being invited to share in God's hope for us. The glory is sharing the work of creation with God, so that God's hope for us might become a reality in our world, and God's kingdom may come in our lives.
 
Mary and Joseph accepted God's hope by accepting the responsibility of being earthly parents for baby sent from God. They held him and cared for him, listened to his cries, and learned to understand what was in his mind and his heart. They cared for this child and raised him in love. They gave the child a home, and found new life in their relationship with Jesus.
 
The glory of God lives among us; the story of Christmas is told and retold day after day as God invites us to share in the kingdom he has prepared for us through His son. The story of Christmas is the story of how God's Kingdom enters our lives. We tell the story not only in words, but in the language that is beyond words: by how we live. In our baptismal promises we covenant to "proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ." And our "example," how we live is part of telling the story.
 
We are called to tell the story all the time, but it is most urgent not in times of comfort and power, but in times of need; not in moments of glory, but rather in calls for help. And we can experience Christmas around the year as we learn to hear and understand the cries of children and adults who live in need, who ask for help.
 
The world associates Christmas with children, and not just because of the birth of the baby Jesus. I think one reason we associate Christmas with children is that children are quick to identify what they want and ask for it -- sometimes loudly and insistently! And children are just as quick to show their joy when they get what they need, and their dismay when they don't get what they asked for specially.
 
Both the world and the church associate Christmas with the poor and the outcast -- and not just because the story tells us of the traveling family forced to bed down in a stable. People who are poor and outcast openly display their needs -- they haven't the means to hide them. We can tell what they need, because we see so clearly what they don't have.
 
The truth is that all of us have things we want desperately, though we may conceal our deepest desires under gruff exteriors or the mask of self-sufficiency. We all have things we need, but are so afraid to show our neediness, to show the ways we feel lonely or left out -- outcast. Many of us have lived with this self- sufficient face so long that we can't even recognize our own needs, or learn to ask, as children do, for what we want.
 
Christmas is a story about all of us receiving that which we most want and need: love -- deep, strong, unconditional love. The gift at Christmas isn't just the gift of a baby to Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the Wise Men. It isn't just a story about Joseph and Mary being entrusted by God with the awesome responsibility of caring for God's son. The Christmas story is about how God so loved -- and loves -- us that he asks us to be partners in loving the world.
 
God asks us, like Joseph and Mary, to learn to hear and understand the cries of infants and children, of people in need. We are called to listen and learn to understand the unspoken cries of all who need to be cared for: children, families, older people, people who are sick and poor and needy -- and each other. And once we listen and understand, learn to distinguish among the cries, we are called to respond in love.
 
The Gospel proclaims that "The Word became flesh and lived among us." Mary and Joseph made a loving home for the Word, for Jesus. Will we? Will we invite the person of Jesus into our lives? Will we care for that presence, listen to him crying, love him as our brother?
 
He is in our world now, today, and will be tomorrow, and in the New Year and beyond. He is with us even in the middle of summer, when Christmas day seems forever away. And you can hear him: He will be in the laughter and cries of children; he will be in the cries of families who have been broken apart by poverty and despair and violence; he will be in the cries of the elderly who are alone and frightened; he will be in our own cries of pain; he will be in the laughter of people coming together in love.
 
The Word became flesh and lives among us. May each day be Christmas, and may we tell the story by our lives each day: the story of how we cared for the presence of Christ entrusted to us, by caring for each other and for ourselves, as we listen to the cries and laughter, and love as we have been loved.
 
May Christmas not be identified only with the children, or the poor, or the outcast, but with all of us, as we risk ourselves to love and be loved, even as God does in this blessed Son, born to bring us love in the world this day and always.
 
May God bless you to keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year.  

Yours in Christ,

Bishop Sue Provost



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Get Behind Me Satan??


IN LAST WEEK'S GOSPEL, we saw the disciples riding high. They had, through Peter, acknowledged that Jesus, their teacher and friend, was no less than the long-awaited Messiah-King of Israel.

"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." It must have been a really exciting moment for them. This, in turn, brought from Jesus a commission of the highest responsibility to Peter and his fellow disciples. Through Jesus, they were to be given the authority of God himself within their future communities. Peter himself is spoken of as a rock, firm and unshakeable, on which the ekklesia, the Church community, will be built.

It is hard to imagine that this was not a moment of particular joy and satisfaction for the disciples. They now were thinking that Jesus, in line with Jewish expectations, would be a glorious and powerful king. And they, of course, as his followers and companions would have a special share in the glory and privileges that went with it. (Later, would not two of them go so far as to ask, rather cheekily and behind their brothers' backs, for special places in the Kingdom, to sit on the right and left of Jesus?)

A shock
 However, the euphoria was not to last very long. Very soon after this, "Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day." This, undoubtedly, comes as a terrible shock. This was not at all part of the scenario for the coming of the Messiah! What is worse, the agents of Jesus' humiliation and death will not be some hostile outsiders (like the pagan and barbaric Romans) but the leaders and most distinguished people of their own community. The elders, chief priests and scribes were the people who formed the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews in Palestine.

Furthermore, it would happen in Jerusalem, the holy city, the site of the Temple where God dwelt among his people. It might be remembered, however, that Jerusalem was the city where prophets died. ("O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!' – Jesus' words to the Pharisees [Matthew 23:37].) The disciples must have felt very disturbed and confused indeed.

A protest
 So, it is not surprising that at this point, Peter, still flush with his newly-acquired status, takes Jesus to one side, speaking to him almost on equal terms. "Heaven preserve you, Lord! This must not happen to you." How can this happen to the Messiah-King of Israel? The angry reaction of Jesus must have come as somewhat unexpected, to say the least. Turning to face Peter, Jesus says: "Get behind me, Satan!" These are strong words for someone who just now was being given leadership of the community Jesus would leave behind. It is not to be understood that Peter is literally a demon but the disciple's words are understood as a real temptation to Jesus to turn away from the path he is to follow. Unwittingly and with the best of intentions, Peter is doing the devil's work – trying to steer Jesus away from the path laid out for him by his Father. How often have we been such a temptation or stumbling block to others? Perhaps more often than we care to think.

"You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God's way but that of a human being." Peter is seen as an obstacle, a scandal (skandalon, skandalon), a stone in one's path which causes one to stumble. Ironically, the 'rock' which Jesus just now had said would be the foundation of his 'church' is now seen as an obstacle to Jesus' work and mission!


The mind of Christ
 Jesus is angry for, though his disciples may have acknowledged that he is the Messiah, they clearly have no idea whatever what kind of Messiah-King Jesus is going to be. They are, as he says, thinking in purely human terms and have not yet got "the mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5).

They shall have to change completely their ideas about what the Messiah is going to be like. He will not be a great political and military leader who will sweep away all of Israel's enemies. Even after the resurrection they were still thinking in those terms. "We had hoped that he was the one that would redeem Israel", said the two fellows on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:21), not realizing the irony of their words. "When will you restore the kingdom of Israel?" the disciples asked Jesus as he prepared to leave them at the Ascension.

Yes, Jesus will be a King, but he will be a King of love, a King who will rule by serving. Because he loves and serves them, he will, if necessary, be prepared to die for them, for this is the greatest love that a person can show for his friends. This is not to say that Jesus wants to die on the cross but he is totally prepared to suffer and die, if the service of love demands it – and it will. Ultimately, the disciples will see that the death of Jesus was the source of his greatest glory and power. "When I am lifted up from the earth [on the cross and into glory], I will draw everyone to me" (John 12:32).

Walking with Jesus
 Today's Gospel goes further than just asking us to understand why the glory of Jesus our King and Lord was to be found through suffering and the shameful death of the Cross. There is a further call for us to walk the same road with Jesus. "If anyone (not just the heroic martyr or the saint) wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me." Jesus is asking each one of us to dedicate our lives in totally loving and serving others even if, at times, this involves misunderstanding, ridicule, pain and even death itself.

 It would be altogether wrong to think that Jesus is asking us to lead miserable lives to be good Christians, although one gets the impression that some people interpret the passage in that way. To follow Jesus fully, we must be able to see life as he sees it, we must have that "mind of Christ".

When we have the mind of Christ then we can only see our lives in terms of loving and serving others and not in the pursuit of purely self-centered or even family-centered ambition. When we have the mind of Christ, the whole direction of our life changes. Our whole concept of happiness changes. Jesus is calling us not to a life of sacrifice and suffering but rather to a life of total love and freedom. The person who can go to jail for his beliefs is freer and usually a lot happier than the one who is tied to the pursuit of material things, social position, pleasure and the fear of pain.

"Renouncing oneself" is not a suppression of one's personality. It is rather to let go of oneself so that one can really find oneself.

This is what today's readings are saying, namely, that Jesus is calling us to where true success and happiness are. Maybe when we walk the way of Jesus there will be people who criticize us, think we are stupid and even attack us. Yet those who have chosen the way of Jesus again and again confirm that their lives are full of freedom, happiness and peace. Isn't that what we all would like to experience?

 

 

 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

And If



And if you leave early in the morning, sweet Jesus, because of my betrayals, infidelities, please leave behind the chalice of your love that I can fill it up with tears.
 
And if you leave at midday, sweet Jesus, please leave behind your grace, let hope fill up my past.
 
And if you leave at night, sweet Jesus, please look back and see the pain of my heart and its repentant tears.
 

Monday, July 31, 2017

My Father


In sweet remembrance, I see my father lifting me up, as a child, in the air with his strong arms in the morning sun to feel his eyes and soul with the joy of me being I see him trembling of anxiety, running from doctor to doctor when I was sick. I see him kneeling before the holy icon, joining his callused hands, teaching us to pray, to worship. I see him arriving home in weekends his ransack full of bread, battling the voracious tentacles of famine and death. I see him rejoicing at the wedding feasts of his children. I see him being welcomed by God, smiling, and happily congratulating him for his paternity.


The Ultimate Thirst


O, let me live in poverty, in misery, but give me my freedom, my liberty.
O, let me live in torment, anxiety, but give me my freedom, my liberty.
O, let me live in derision, in mockery, in cruelty, but give me my freedom, my liberty.
O, let me labor, suffer, weep, my end to see, fulfilling my human destiny, but give me my freedom, my liberty.
O, let me love and worship my God, the holy trinity, in freedom, in liberty.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What does Jesus look like?

26You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-20)
     So, what does Jesus look like?  Although even though from the Scriptures we know that he walked the earth as a man, we do not have a picture of what he looked like.  Most of the pictures I have seen depict him as a white male with long brown hair and blue eyes.  He was probably not white, did not have very long hair, and did not have blue eyes.  In the part of the world he lived in, people did not look like that. 
     What he looked like was really not important.  Who he was and how he treated people was what has stayed with us for over two thousand years.  Being that he is God, he can look anyway he wants to.  We cannot limit Jesus to a specific image.
     In today's world, he could be black man, an Indian, an Anglo, or (should I say it) he could look like a woman.  If Jesus is truly in all of us, he can very easily look like one of us.  Jesus is in all of the people we encounter on a daily basis, both male and female, and in every color of this beautiful world, we live in.  That is why we can say that the "Kingdom of God is at hand."  We are Jesus, we are the kingdom.  We just have not figured that out yet. 
     Many things happen to us as we live in the world.  These things may color our perception of who we are and how we relate to other people and the world.  Sometimes these things are not good, we lose sight of our significance, our talents, our need for one another, and we forget that Jesus is right there with us and in us.  We may not see Jesus with us, but he is there.  He is in that person who offers us a kind word when we are down.  He is in the person who puts their arm around us and comforts us when we need it.  He is in all of the people in whom we share both good times and bad times.  He is in us, as we are there to love others. 
    Therefore, what does Jesus look like?  Does it really matter?  I think it matters more what he does within us.  Looks are temporary, we all change.  Just look at your baby pictures as compared to how you look now.  What does not change is that we are Jesus to one another.  That may seem like a big responsibility, but it really is what we are called to do and to be. 
So, what does Jesus look like?  He looks like you and me, "for we have clothed ourselves in Christ". 






Thursday, June 15, 2017

David’s Star


Through the mist of times you emerge in the splendor of your youth
 
 with your strong hands, you still rupture lions' jaws and smash their steel deadly fangs,
 
you still vanquish savage, rapacious wolves; with the power of your mind and word, 
 
with your resilience, you still demolish the goliaths of the world,
 
 brilliant, magnificent, David's star, I look at you with joy, with love, with hope from near, from afar.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Light Never Dies


The exhilaration Mary Anne had felt a week ago when she had been called and had been told she would be able to go home was now a thing of the past. The twelve years she had spent in prison for a crime she had not committed had left their mark on her. She was happy that finally the truth had come to light; that was definitely a most liberating feeling. He aunt's sister, on her death bed, confessed that out of hate, she had poured the poison in the bottle. The police had found only Mary Anne's finger prints on the bottle and had decided that she also had the motive since her aunt, in her will, would have left everything to Mary Anne. It was true that sometimes, being young and reckless, she had behaved roughly with her aunt. But she had never thought of hurting her or coveted her possessions. She wanted to make her way in life, besides that, she deeply loved her aunt for raising her after her parents had died in an accident. She had been so good to her. Mary Anne came home to find no one waiting for her and her aunt's sister had lost everything. Mary Anne had nowhere to go. She went to the shelter and with the little money she had, she managed to get food and some clothing. It was Saturday night now and she found no place at the shelter, so she had to find elsewhere to sleep that night. But nobody wanted her. They all knew her from the television, from the mass media who had run a special on her. Whenever she went to look for work, they looked at her with disgust. If she went to a motel, they told her there was no vacancy. Soon she had realized that there is no place for her in this world, that there was no hope left for her. As she was wondering on the street, she heard voices of people singing songs. Mary Anne recognized the songs from a long time ago. She approached the source of the sound, and she saw that there was a church. There were people there processing around the church with lit candles, singing songs of resurrection. It was the Easter vigil.  As she was standing by, a child approached her, gave her a candle, grabbed her hand, and smiling said "come, sing with us." Mary Anne walked with the group of people, carrying the light, singing a song of resurrection that she had learned when she was a child. She realized then that there was still light in this messy world. The light of eternity was still shining down on this world, the light of God never died. Thus, there was yet hope for her. Everything can be taken away from the human being, even his body, his life, but not the light of God. Christ is Risen.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Words

Listen to the silver bell, congenital traveler through valleys,
through mists and know this well,
Your words can hurt, your words can kill, your words can build, your words can heal.
The shaking child, the wounded heart, when you encounter on your path, earthly traveler,
beware, the words you say to them can be a sentence of hopeful life, or
cruel death.




Edelweis

It had been four years since I was on dialysis. In spite of many encouraging voices, I knew that I was getting slowly but surely to the end of my earthly voyage. I began to prepare even more intensely for that final moment by reciting rosary, the stations of the cross, psalms, by reflecting on passages from scripture. The metaphysical revolt began, little by little, to be replaced by an obedient acceptance to divine will, which didn't mean that I experienced also moments of terror, of the approach of death, particularly by night.
                One day, I heard the phone ringing, I picked it up and I heard the voice of a young lady telling me that she is E. and that we met very briefly at the diocesan conference for youth and that she wants to donate one of her kidneys. I must say, I was at least for a few minutes perplexed, speechless then I said decidedly, no. I thought that it wouldn't be right for me to selfishly put at risk a young person's life. Within the next few days, my doctor told me that there were available two kidneys of a three-year-old child that had died in an accident. With tears in my eyes, I said again no. How could I accept the organs of a child? They would always remind me about the cruelty of the order of human existence that claims so brutally young lives.  
                I had almost forgotten about the young lady's phone call until one day, I heard the phone again, ringing and at the other end, it was her voice. She told me that she had done all the pre-transplant bloodwork and there was positive compatibility. On the day of the transplant surgery, her entire family was there, including her elderly mother, encouraging her, encouraging me. The transplant was successful and E. became for me from that moment on the living proof of God's existence, and loving, provident care for his children. Whenever I was sick afterward, and I had to go to hospital she called me and assured me, even when doctors were in doubt, that everything would be alright, my kidney would continue to function. "St. E.", as I called her, had a lot of divine favor. I don't know if there are many people like E. in the world, "Laying down their life for others" but I know that all the people who do that are beautiful, unperishable flowers on earth.
                                                                                                Eternal gratitude.!