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July 31, 2016

For me, it's books. I just cannot get enough. Not only are there new ones that I always want to read, but I want to acquire my own copies. And I never let them go. You never know when you are going to want to reread or consult them again. And so I need more and more bookshelves. But, where is the boundary between legitimate need for books (or whatever we are tempted to accumulate) for ministry and pleasure, and greedy acquisition?

July 24, 2016

The Lord's Prayer is much more than just a prayer that we say; it is also meant to be a prayer that we live. Cyprian of Carthage, a third century bishop and martyr wrote, "My dear friends, the Lord's Prayer contains many great mysteries of our faith. In these few words there is great spiritual strength, for this summary of divine teaching contains all of our prayers and petitions." In the twentieth century, Pope Benedict XVI observed, "The meaning of the Our Father goes much further than the mere provision of a prayer text. It aims to form our being, to train us in the inner attitude of Jesus." When we pray the Lord's Prayer we enter into the world of Jesus and into the depths of his relationships with God and with others. We begin to view life, God, others and ourselves through his eyes. Praying these words with attention entails a training in vision.

July 17, 2016

Our readings this week seem to offer a bit of a contradiction. On the one hand the first reading from Genesis seems to say that entertaining guests is a good thing, a spiritual practice. As the Letter to the Hebrews comments referring to this passage: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it" (13:2). As the famous line from St. Benedict's rule reads: "venit hospes, venit Christus" -- "when a guest comes, Christ comes."

July 10, 2016

The words of Pope Francis, addressed to Europe, in accepting the Charlemagne Prize, ring true of America as well: "What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom? ..... What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld and even sacrificed their lives for the dignity of their brothers and sisters?" In the Pope's mind, another Europe is emerging; and it seems that another America is emerging as well.

July 3, 2016

In accompanying groups visiting Israel, one of the sites we visit is the Church of Dominus Flevit, that is, "The Lord Wept" on the Mount of Olives. It's a lovely place, looking out on the Golden Gate of the Old City. The Gospel that is recalled there is this: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not."

June 26, 2016

On my tenth birthday my father gave me a plaque with a poem on it by Robert Frost, called "The Road Not Taken." You may have heard this poem before; it starts, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." The poet tells of coming across two paths while walking and having to decide which one to take. (It's a poem; the paths are clearly a metaphor.) It's a tough choice: both paths look exactly the same from where the poet is standing, both are equally worn ("the passing their / Had worn them really about the same"), and it is impossible to see where either path leads. At the time, the speaker can discern no reason to choose one path over the other. There are no guides or signposts, no indication that one path is preferable to the other. But the poet does have to choose one of them, which means not choosing the other one. The poems ends famously, "I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence: / Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference."

June 15, 2016
The human spirit longs to be free. People want to chart their own course -- to be in control of their own destiny. The people who lived in the land that Jesus called home were not free. Except for about one hundred years of Jewish rule, the territory of the two former Israelite kingdoms was governed by foreign military powers since the eighth century B.C. Jesus lived his entire life under Roman occupation and he died by order of the Roman prefect of Palestine. Some people of Jesus' day were looking for a "new David" to end the Roman occupation, making it possible for them to determine their own future.
June 12, 2016
As perhaps the best-known prayer in the world, the 'Our Father' is a remarkable testimony to our faith. Despite its gender specific language that troubles so many, it is prayed by hundreds of millions of people every day. In it we acknowledge our family relationship with God, God's universal supremacy, and our total dependence on divine providence. We pray that God's plan of salvation be accomplished in and through us, and that we will be able to withstand the temptations that assail us. While some of the needs mentioned in the prayer may not immediately touch every life at all times, the prayer contains one petition that does: "Forgive us our trespasses." Whether or not we have updated the language to say 'sins,' the meaning is the same. We are all sinners and we all need forgiveness.
June 5, 2016
Each of our scripture readings today presents a dramatic story of prophecy. The biblical prophet is a person who has been grasped by God's word so completely that his or her whole life becomes its transforming manifestation. Yet even within biblical traditions, prophets are not all the same. These three stories give us quite different portraits of how a prophet works. Examining them closely can help us to reflect on different ways that being "grasped by the word of God" might look like in our own, more ordinary lives.
May 29, 2016

As those to be baptized are splashed by or are plunged into water three times, we hear named the God who is Holy Trinity, the Three-in-One. But this naming is not about math. Nor is it about a desiccated doctrine that does not matter in everyday life. Trinity is about the reality of right relationships, not just among the "Persons" of Father, Son, and Spirit, but of God's relationship with us and our relationship with God, each other, and all of God's creation. These relationships are wrapped up in the doctrine of what theologian Catherine Mowry LaCugna called, "The Practical Trinity," [The Christian Century, (June 15-22, 1992): 268-272.] We know this Triune God in our very concrete, practical lives, in our everyday experience of being part of creation that was loved into being and continues to be sustained in that love.