Saturday, February 4, 2012

EXCEPTIONAL RACE 
EXCEPTIONAL COLOR

February  4, 2012

Quote for Today - Fourth Day of Black History Month

"Please stop using the word 'Negro' .... We are the only human beings in the world with fifty-seven varieties of complexions who are classed together as a single racial unit.  Therefore, we are really colored people, and that is the only name in the English language which accurately describes us."

Mary Church Terrell [1863-1954], letter to the editor, Washington Post, May 14, 1949

In Wikipedia she is described as "one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree."  She was quite a woman. Check out her biography in Wikipedia.

Friday, February 3, 2012

INCLUSIVE

February  3,  2012

Quote for Today - Third Day in Black History Month

"Senator, I am one of them.  You do not seem to understand who I am. I am a black woman,  the daughter of a dining car worker ... If my life has any meaning at all,  it is that those who start out as outcasts can wind up as being part of the system."

Patricia Roberts Harris [1924-1985]. The above was her reply on January 24, 1977 to Senator Willam Proxmire when asked   if she would be able to defend the interests of the poor.

Picture on top: Patricia Roberts Harris

Thursday, February 2, 2012



BLOOD  DROPS

February  2,  2012

Quote for Today - Second Day of Black History Month

"Negro blood is sure powerful - because just one drop of black blood makes a colored man.  One drop - you are a Negro! ...  Black is powerful."

Langston Hughes [1902-1967] Simple Takes a Wife [1953]

Some background for who is considered a Negro. It was called the "one drop rule".  "Every person having one-eight or more of African or Negro blood." Florida State Constitution, 1927; "Any person who has in his or her veins any Negro blood whatever." Arkansas State Constitution, Acts, 1941

Statue on top:  Langston Hughes as a boy delivering the Saturday Evening Post in one hand and one hand a book by W.E.B. Du Bois.  "James Patti created this statue of Hughes in connection with the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. The statue was made using a twelve-piece mold coated with three layers of polyester resin mixed with bronze powder. It was then filled with a mixture of polyester resin, silicate sand, and marble dust."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WOMAN! 
OH CHRIST!

February  1,  2012

Quote for Today- First Day of Black History Month

"That ... man ... says women can't have as much rights as man, cause Christ wasn't a woman.  Where did your Christ come from? ... From God and a woman.  Man had nothing do with him."

Sojourner Truth [Isabella Van Wagener] c. 1797 - 1883, Speech at Woman's Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio [1851]

Sculpture of Sourjourner Truth, Battle Creek, Michigan. She was born in Harmonia, Michigan, just west of Battle Creek.

Welcome to Black History Month

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


FAMILY PROBLEMS

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 4th Tuesday in Ordinary time is, “Family Problems.”

Today’s first reading talks about Absalom who is very much part of the family problems of David: struggles, step children fighting step children, rivalries and today’s gospel talks about health problems - which happen in almost every family.

At times I’ve quoted something I heard one my nieces saying, “Every office, every work place, has someone who is not our cup of tea - to put it politely.”

Could we say, would we say, should we say, every family has some sandpaper situations and sandpaper people who rub each other the wrong way?

Could we listen to anyone talk about their family - without hearing about family health problems as well?

FIRST READING

The first reading tells the story of Absalom - the handsome son of David - the one with the great wavy hair. In yesterday’s first reading, we heard about him going after his father. Today we hear about his death on a mule - going under a large tree. His hair gets caught in the branches and the mule takes off. He’s screaming for help.

Joab - one of David’s key protectors - sees and senses an opportunity. He moves in with three pikes and thrusts them into Absalom’s chest - aiming at his heart - and killing him.

David falls apart when the news comes to him that Absalom has been killed. It’s a victory and a defeat. It’s a Good News-Bad News joke that David doesn’t see as a joke. David has lost his son - whom he had mixed emotions about.

Absalom was a strong character - wanting to overthrow his father and become king.

Earlier on Absalom waited at least two years to kill Abnon - a half brother in revenge family members who raped his sister Tamar. If your nobility, it’s hard to keep the family secrets in the closet.

William Faulkner’s novel, perhaps his best novel, is entitled, Absalom, Absalom. He writes about Tom Sutpen’s family - with its incest and its disasters, its struggles and its problems. Faulkner does what many great writers do: he takes a tragedy from the past, whether it’s in the Bible or in Shakespeare, and tells the story as it hits one family. Leonard Bernstein took Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet - a love story - as well as a tragedy that hits two families - and retells it as a musical in the setting in New York as the West Side Story.

TODAY’S GOSPEL

Today’s gospel tells the story about two women, one a young girl who is close to death - whose father comes to Jesus for help; the other a middle aged woman who has major health bleeding problems and she comes to Jesus for help.

If you’re family, expect family issues as well as health problems. And in the two stories in today’s gospel, Jesus heals these two women.

CONCLUSION

I don’t know how to conclude this homily. It’s so easy to state problems, but what’s the solution? That’s the tricky part of the story.

A first step is to tell the story.

I would assume that prayer is going to God and telling the story - saying, “Here’s what’s happening. I need help.”

I would assume that going to see a counselor or a therapist or a priest or deacon and saying the same 6 words, “Here’s the story. I need help.”

The title of my homily is, “Family Problems.”

I said the first step is to tell the story to someone: God and others. To be heard by God and others can help.

The second step is to ask for help or to be helpful and a healing presence to another.

The 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, steps are the hard work and the struggle to make things work better - to get insights - and further steps towards healing and recovery. If it takes hundreds of mistakes or bad habits - or whatever - to get us into a problem, it often takes a lot of steps for recovery.

Communication, learning, effort, all take time.

Today - January 31st - is the feast day of St. John Bosco. He certainly learned how much presence and hard work - and personnel it takes to get and keep young people on the right path.

++++++++++

Drawing on top: The Death of Absalom by Gustave Dore [1832-1883]
POWER!
O  WOOD  THAT!


Quote for Today January 31,  2012

"He proclaimed that to gain the whole world was nothing if the soul was injured, and yet he remained kind and sympathetic to every living thing. That is the most astonishing and the greatest fact about him?"

Adolf von Harnack, What Is Christianity?, [1901]

Picture above: The upper body of Christ - part of the famous wooden crucifix of  Filippo Brunelleschi [1377-1446] in Santa Maria Novella in Florence - dated to about 1410-1415

Questions and Comments:

What do you consider the greatest thing about Jesus?

When I hear Catholics wanting the Church, the Pope, the bishops, a pastor, a priest, to speak out against something or someone - I want to say, "Spend an hour underneath a crucifix and then come back and tell me if on second thought, you think differently."

Think of the powerful of the earth - on the cross - bleeding - beaten - humiliated - naked. What would they say from the cross?

What's your take on power and humility?

Picture someone who is gay and they feel like they are on a cross. They feel they have been crucified by comments - down through the years. Talk to that person about your takes and questions on homosexuality. Talk to each other.

Picture someone who made it big - got a big job - or appointment - or position - experienced the power of money or position or what have you - and then they fell from grace. They were wounded - perhaps because they had too much power - they haven't put it together. They were bishops, politicians, big car, big restaurant, great looks, successful speakers - and it went to their head - and they were wounded, injured as Von Harnack put it, and they hit bottom. Like Saul who became Paul, they groveled, questioned, and recovered - and ended up becoming "kind and sympathetic" - towards all living things and people around them.

Picture someone who has had an abortion - and they have been crucifying themselves for years - because of what they did.  Picture a priest who has stood under their cross - heard their story - all the intricacies and complexities - and  heard them say, "Father forgive me for I didn't know what I was doing." Then picture that same priest having someone point a finger at him and say, "Why don't you speak about abortion from the pulpit? You never do."  Then picture that priest trying to picture the  person who said that on a cross and trying to figure out what happened to them - their complexities - their intricacies - why they  are saying what they are saying, etc. etc. etc. Then picture that priest on the cross of life - thanking Jesus from his cross for teaching him about injured souls - including his own - teaching him the power of kindness and sympathy - and hearing Jesus saying from the cross, "Today you are with me in Paradise!"

Imagine 10 experiences that could have gotten Adolf von Harnack to make the statement that I typed up for a quote for this day.


Monday, January 30, 2012

ANGER MANAGEMENT


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily is, “Anger Management.”

That’s a modern term - a term we didn’t hear about till recent years.

You hear it mentioned on TV talk shows. You might have seen the Anger Management movie - with Jack Nicholson in it. You might have noticed an article about it in a magazine at a doctor or dentist office waiting room.

TODAY’S READINGS

Today’s readings for this Fourth Monday in Ordinary Time trigger the thought to take a look at anger and how I handle upset.

In the first reading - 2 Samuel 15: 13-14, 30; 16: 5-13 - we have this intriguing story that happened to David. His son, Absalom, wants to kill David. In the meanwhile a man named Shimei spots David walking along - head covered - and barefoot - and starts throwing stones and dirt at him - as well as cursing David in anger.

One of David’s chief officers, Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, says to David the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king. Let me go over and lop off his head?”

And David says, “What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?” Then he adds, “Hey, if my own son is out there planning and trying to kill me, how much more should this guy be throwing stones and cursing me. Maybe the Lord is behind all this and I’ll get a benefit from it.”

And in today’s gospel, - Mark 5: 1-20 - we have this long story about the time Jesus arrives in Gerasene territory and the Geresene people are furious at Jesus. He sent this big flock of pigs stampeding and then running over a cliff to their death. He did that to drive a Legion of Unclean Spirits out of this strange sick man whom nobody could control.

Those two stories triggered this question of anger management for me.

ANGER QUESTIONNAIRE

Here’s a first draft questionnaire on anger and anger management.

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst, how do you rate yourself as being an angry person? _________________

2) What bugs you the most? _______________

3) Put a circle around any of the following buttons that when pushed - get you angry: the way people drive up your back end; drivers who don’t use their turn signal; people not picking up after themselves in your house; nobody empties or fills the dish washer; noise by neighbors; waiters; waitresses; Salespeople; phone calls during supper by political groups; politics; priests; bishops; the way people dress.

4) Whom do you know as having an anger problem? _____________

5) When you get angry, put a circle around a yes or a no: do you scream or blurt it out your anger (Yes) ___ (No) ____ ? Do you hold it in Yes) ___ (No) ____? Do you throw things Yes) ___ (No) ____ ?

6) When was the last time you really got angry? ____________

7) Do you talk back to your TV Yes) ___ (No) ____ ? Do you have any particular TV program that gets you mad? _______ Why do you watch it? _________________

8) What have you heard that you do that really annoys other people? _____________________________________________.

9) Describe an experience where you really “lost it” and you found out you totally misread the situation? _______________________.

10) How about your parents. Looking at patience and anger, compare yourself to them. __________________________

ANGER MANAGEMENT

I noticed in a few books and articles, advice from experts on how to improve on how you can manage anger better.

Some tell people to pause before speaking, yelling, or dealing with anger or an angry person. “Breathe!”

Some tell people to stand up and walk away before doing anything else.

Some suggest having a slogan or a mantra that works for you and to say it slowly when feeling the emotion of anger. For example: “Take it easy. Take it easy. Take it easy.” “Calm down.” “Calm down.” “Calm down.”

When talking to another who gets us angry, talk in the first person. Use the pronoun, “I” and not “You.” For example, “I’m finding myself getting angry when I come into the kitchen and the sink is filled with dishes - and it seems the expectation is that it’s my job to get all these dishes into the dish washer.” Those who suggest this “I” more than “you” say this works better. For example, “You are all a bunch of lazy slobs around here.”

Some suggest to try to repeat to someone who is angry with us what you hear them saying. Can you try to grasp the other’s viewpoint?

I noticed the suggestion: listen to what you’re saying. Do you tend to use the words, “Never” or “Always”. Can you move towards saying, “Sometimes”.

Can you laugh at yourself?

Can you notice how other people don’t get upset at all - at least outwardly at what you’re hot headed about? What does that tell you?

I love the example I once heard in a talk by James Gill, the Jesuit psychiatrist. Some say if you go angry at long lines and become stressed out to do the following. You’re coming to the check out counter at a store. There are 5 lines. Take the longest line. Then when you’re almost next, get off the line and go to the back of the line or another line. Or you’re heading for the toll booth while driving. If you don’t have EZ pass - once more pick the longest line. If you’re going to be parking at the Mall, pick a parking place that is the furthest from the entrance. When I first heard that, I thought it was strange, but I’ve been doing this for years and it works.

CONCLUSION

The title of my homily is, “Anger Management.”

There are right and wrong things to get angry about.

There are better or worse ways of expressing one’s anger.

Remember Plato’s words, “ The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”

Remember David’s works, “Keep moving and don’t lop off people’s heads.”

Check out this You Tube

CHRIST 
AND  SELF  KNOWLEDGE 




Quote for today  January 30,  2012

"Either Jesus was and knew that He was, what He proclaimed Himself to be, or else he was a pitiable visionary."

Leonce de Grandmaison [1868-1927], Jesus Christ, 1930

Ikon top - 1266 - 1266 In Greek Macedon

Sunday, January 29, 2012

“WHAT HAVE YOU 
TO DO WITH US, 
JESUS OF NAZARETH?”

INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily is a question from today’s gospel, “What Have You To Do With Us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

Jesus comes to the town of Capernaum - where he spent some time. On a Sabbath Jesus enters the synagogue in town and taught the people. He begins like us - as a baby. He works in a carpenter shop. He becomes a wandering rabbi - a great teacher. He taught with authority - not as one of their scribes. He is hunted and hounded. He is arrested and killed on a cross. He rises from the dead - as Savior and Redeemer. Jesus is Lord!

Today’s gospel goes on, “In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?’” Then this character - filled with demons - asks, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the holy one of God.”

THREE QUESTIONS

Here are three questions,

1) Do we know what Jesus wants to do with us?

2) Do we have to be aware of our demons, know our addictions, problems, sins, before we know down deep who Jesus is?

3) What are we missing?

1) DO WE KNOW WHAT JESUS WANTS TO DO WITH US?

My first question is: We’re here in Church again this Sabbath. Do we know why God sent his Son to earth - to our world - when he did?

Do we know why Jesus came to Israel and then to us - to our inner synagogue - inner space, inner place - to be sitting at our beach at the dawn of each day - telling us where to put our nets - to get the catch of each day - and why he wants to walk with us in the cool of our evenings.

Do we realize that Jesus was sent by the Father in the fullness of time to be in communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Have we moved from the thought and the feeling that God does not want to destroy us - but to restore us - not to take the fun out of life - but to help us celebrate the joy of life.

Some people's perception of God seems to be that God is the cancer giver or the car crasher.

Receiving communion is very important for us. Do we realize Jesus wants to be in communion with us even more. Then we will know that we really want to be with God.  We know Jesus is our center, our redeemer, our help, our God, our meaning.

In January of 2000 I got a great deal. An old priest always wanted to get to Israel - but he was hesitant - so our Provincial asked him if he wanted another one of our guys to go with him. Our provincial called me and asked if I wanted to go to Israel with Leo, one of our guys - whom I had been stationed with in the 1970’s and early 80’s. You can help carry Leo’s bags. I said, “Great!” and so I ended up on a retreat - a pilgrimage to Israel - with about 20 priests. I thought it was going to be just a tour - and a vacation. It ended up being a wonderful spiritual experience.

A Franciscan priest, Father Stephen Doyle, lead the retreat/ pilgrimage. Every spot we got to began with a reading of a New Testament scene that took place in that place. Then there were some prayers - and then some quiet. If it was the first place in the morning, we would begin with Mass together in that place.

So the Lake of Galilee, the possible mountain of the Transfiguration, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the place of the Sermon on the Mount, Jerusalem, the Garden, the Upper Room, the Wall, still stand out as wonderful memories - especially when the gospel reading at Mass was at a place where I once visited.

A good surprise was our bus ride to Capernaum - the setting for today’s gospel. It was on Friday January 14, 2000 - according to my journal. We got out of the bus - just outside of the metal fenced in place called Capernaum. The first place we walked to was the synagogue. It was about 5 minutes from the bus and the metal fence that is now part  of the town. The 20 of us went into the synagogue. It had no roof - but it had walls - and stone benches on either side. Father Stephen Doyle mentioned that this was a synagogue from around the 2nd century A.D. Then he said that scholars conjecture that this synagogue was built on top of the one mentioned in today’s gospel. Then he read a text - a story from the gospels - about something that happened in Capernaum. Then he gave us an hour to just sit there in the synagogue - to think, to pray, to reflect that Jesus was here - somewhere.

The text he read might have been today’s gospel story. I sat there on one of those big solid benches - made  of stone looking down into the open center of the synagogue.

As at the Lake of Galilee I kept feeling amazement that I was in one of the very places where Jesus visited and prayed and sang. I certainly became more and more aware of Jesus a bit more by being there in that synagogue.

Then after an hour we walked to a church where they think Peter’s mother-in-law lived.

Once more the first question was, “Do I know what Jesus wants to do to and for me?” Being in Israel certainly helped.

2)  DO DEMONS AND PROBLEMS HELP?

My second question is: Do we have to sin, do we have to realize that we have our own demons, do we have to know our addictions and problems, before we know down deep whom Jesus is?

The man in today’s gospel with the demons knows whom Jesus is: the holy one of God.

Is Mark pulling our strings - challenging us - that the people in Jesus time who were with Jesus didn’t know who he was? Then surprise, this oddball, this man with demons does know.

For the Jews, at times inner problems were called demons. For the Greeks and Romans inner problems at times were called, “Evil spirits.”

Today they might be called mental problems, addictions, sin, depressions, complexes, or struggles, etc.

How many people who have dropped out of religion - out of our church - come back because of a death or a problem - or a sickness - an addiction or a struggle?

Is that what Mark is getting at here in this gospel?

In A.A., Alcohol’s Anonymous, the first step is to admit I’m powerless or I’m overpowered by alcohol - and I can’t recover on my own. And the second step is that God - Jesus - a Higher Power - than self is the one who can help me.

How many people get down on their knees when they or their spouse or their kid or kids are sick or have a problem?

Is that why this man in today’s gospel is in the synagogue in the first place? Perhaps he simply wants help.


3) WHAT ARE WE MISSING?

My third question is, "What are we missing?"

As we were getting in our bus just outside Capernaum, Father Stephen Doyle our tour guide and retreat master pointed out a whitewashed church with a bright red room off in the distance. It’s the Greek Orthodox church of St. John the Theologian.



Then he added that the church was built in 1931. Then before the bus started up, he told us to notice the big mounds and lumps of earth surrounding the white church with the red roof. He concluded, “It’s only the year 2000. Who knows what they are going to find down there in years to come?”

One of my fantasies - as well as a fantasy for a lot of people - is to be in on an archaeological dig. I know they off such an experience as a possible vacation - in places like Turkey or Egypt, Africa or Palestine.

Some people will do just that - but many people do their digging inside their own brain - in their own hidden spots - in their inner synagogue.

I can still see that white church with a strong red colored roof - surrounded by mounds of earth. What’s under those mounds of earth? I get that same feeling when I go to the library - or go on vacation - or when I'm reflective while driving - or when I just sit in a quiet church - or when I'm in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament  - or after I really start praying during Mass  - but for me it's after preaching and usually after the Creed.

I’ve done my digs into Dante and Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton, Herman Melville in Moby Dick and Nathaniel Hawthorne in some of his short stories, Flannery O’Connor and the poems of Mary Oliver, in the writings of Robert Coles and Robert Fulghum, and on and on and on.

Just yesterday I read an interesting comment that some people learn all their learning’s from hearsay. They hear what others say and they bring that inside of them. I got that because one of my life memories is being on a Metro North train going from Poughkeepsie New York to Grand Central Station, New York City. I had a book in hand - and also a spiral note book - ready to jot down the page of something that might hit me. Just in the 4 seats behind me were 4 women in two seats - facing each other. You could do that with the seats. Our section of our car was quiet except for these 4 gals - and they were recalling and remembering their time at Hunter College, New York City - 25 years earlier. As they talked I jotted down their questions and their comments. “What ever happened to what’s her name?” “Oh she married a podiatrist - but they broke up. I heard she was in Phoenix now with a shoe designer.” And on and on and on.

CONCLUSION

How do we learn what life is all about? How do we learn about God and ourselves? We can talk to each other. We can listen to each other. We arrive at God in a tragedy. We can spend time in a synagogue or a church on the Sabbath and say and pray, ““What Have You To Do With Us, Jesus of Nazareth?”

And surprise. There will be answers.”
JESUS  CHRIST!



Quote for Today - January 29,  2012


"Christ is God or He is the world's greatest liar and impostor."

Dorothy Day, From Union Square to Rome, 1938

Questions:

When some slams the car door on their hand and they scream, "Jesus Christ!" what's underneath that?

When a father yells at his oldest daughter, "Christ Almighty! Wake up will you!" - what's underneath that?