Saturday, February 22, 2014

DON'T CRUSH 
ANOTHER'S DREAM! 

Poem for February 22, 2014
Continuing Black History Month


DREAM DEFERRED

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?


© Langston Hughes

Friday, February 21, 2014

TALK IS CHEAP


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 6th Friday in Ordinary Time  is, “Talk Is Cheap!”

We have heard that message all our lives - and we’ve said that all our lives.

How many times have we heard dozens of people describe someone else: “He talks a good talk - but he’ll never do anything about it.”

How many times have we said the following - in loud - silently - inside our brain: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard you say that before.”

Then we add our own little twists of the message - like, “The proof is in the pudding.”  The proof is in the emptied dish washer.  The proof is the garbage taken out. The proof is in the cleaned garage and the washed car for the other.

It’s a theme in the folk wisdom of every culture.

I didn’t have time this morning to look up Aesop’s Fables and see if he has a fable with this as the moral of the story: “Talk is cheap!” - but probably.

TODAY’S FIRST READING

We have - as they say - the heart of James’ message in today’s first reading.

James says: “We say to another. ‘Best of luck. Stay warm. Hope you get something to eat.’ Then we do nothing.”

He’s saying: “If that’s our song and dance - and we say or think we have faith - we’re kidding ourselves.”

Faith is footwork. Faith is time consuming. Faith costs. Faith calls for action - service.

We’re aware of kids saying, “I was just about to do it,” but they never do,  do it.

So that’s James’ bottom line: “Faith without works is dead.”

Mouth without follow up - is hot air.


 TODAY’S GOSPEL

Isn’t that what Jesus is saying in today’s gospel?

His message is giving: Giving one’s life. I like it when we use the word “time” - giving one’s time - bummer.

I don’t know about you - sometimes the phone drives me crazy - because it usually means - someone wants me - and that means time and many times I tell myself, “I just don’t have time.”

Well, what else does Jesus mean but that - when he said in today’s gospel,

“Whoever wishes to come after me
must deny themselves
take up their cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one 
to gain the whole world
and forfeit their life?
What could one give in exchange for their life?”


Jesus says that 100 different ways.  

For example, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the 3 who bypassed the man who needed help on the road, had their reasons in their mind - why they couldn’t help the man who was beaten up. 

So another word for gospel is inconvenience.

CONCLUSION

So we come to Mass to hear the secret of life. It’s dying to self. It’s giving one’s body, one’s blood, to others. It’s saying to everyone - Here I am take me - and then letting people take our time and presence.

Or as Mother Teresa told her nuns, “Let the people eat you up.”


Or as Nike says it, “Just do it.”
FAMILY

Poem for Today - February 21, 2014
Continuing Black History Month


THE IDEA OF ANCESTRY


Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews.They stare
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk.I know
their dark eyes, they know mine.I know their style,
they know mine. I am all of them, they are all of me;
they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.

I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins.I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).

I have the same name as 1 grandfather, 3 cousins, 3 nephews,
and 1 uncle. The uncle disappeared when he was 15, just took
off and caught a freight (they say).He's discussed each year
when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in
the clan, he is an empty space. My father's mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everbody's birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him. There is no
place in her Bible for "whereabouts unknown." 


© Etheridge Knight

Thursday, February 20, 2014

HERE AND HEREAFTER

poem for today - February 20, 2014
Continuing Black History Month


An Old Jamaican Woman
Thinks About the Hereafter

What would I do forever in a big place, who
have lived all my life in a small island?
The same parish holds the cottage I was born in, all
my family, and the cool churchyard.
                                                       I have looked
up at the stars from my front verandah and have been afraid
of their pathless distances. I have never flown
in the loud aircraft nor have I seen palaces,
so I would prefer not to be taken up high nor
rewarded with a large mansion.
                                                        I would like
to remain half drowsing through an evening light
watching bamboo trees sway and ruffle
          for a valley-wind,
to remember old times but not to live them again;
occasionally to have a good meal with no milk
nor honey for I don’t like them, and now and then
          to walk
by the grey sea-beach with two old dogs and watch
men bring up their boars from the water.
                                                          For all this,
for my hope of heaven, I am willing to forgive my debtors
and to love my neighbour ...
                                      although the wretch throws 
stones at my white rooster and makes too much noise 
in her damn backyard.

                                                © A. L. Hendriks


A. L. Hendriks: ‘An Old Jamaican Woman thinks about the Hereafter’ from On This Mountain and Other Poems (Deutsch). Reprinted by permission of the author.

Picture found on line.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON'S 
CREATION ACCOUNT 

 Poem for Today - February 19, 2014
Continuing Black History Month


"The Creation"

          And God stepped out on space,
          And he looked around and said:
          I'm lonely -
          I'll make me a world.

          And far as the eye of God could see 5
          Darkness covered everything,
          Blacker than a hundred midnights
          Down in a cypress swamp.

           Then God smiled,
          And the light broke, 10
          And the darkness rolled up on one side,
          And the light stood shining on the other,
          And God said: That's good!

          Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
          And God rolled the light around in his hands 15
          Until he made the sun;
          And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
          And the light that was left from making the sun
          God gathered it up in a shining ball
          And flung it against the darkness, 20
          Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
          Then down between
          The darkness and the light
          He hurled the world;
           And God said: That's good! 25

           The God himself stepped down -
           And the sun was on his right hand,
          And the moon was on his left;
          The stars were clustered about his head,
          And the earth was under his feet. 30
          And God walked, and where he trod
          His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
          And bulged the mountains up.

          Then he stopped and looked and saw
          That the earth was hot and barren. 35
          So God stepped over to the edge of the world
          And he spat out the seven seas -
          He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed -
          He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled -
          And the waters above the earth came down, 40
          The cooling waters came down.

          Then the green grass sprouted,
          And the little red flowers blossomed,
          The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
          And the oak spread out his arms, 45
          The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
          And the rivers ran down to the sea;
          And God smiled again,
           And the rainbow appeared,
          And curled itself around his shoulder. 50

          The God raised his arm and he waved his hand
          Over the sea and over the land,
          And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
          And quicker than God could drop his hand,
          Fishes and fowls 55
           And beasts and birds
          Swam the rivers and the seas,
          Roamed the forests and the woods,
          And split the air with their wings.
          And God said: That's good! 60

          Then God walked around,
          And God looked around
          On all that he had made.
          He looked at his sun,
          And he looked at his moon, 65
          And he looked at his little stars;
          He looked on his world
          With all its living things,
          And God said: I'm lonely still.

          Then God sat down - 70
          On the side of a hill where he could think;
          By a deep, wide river he sat down;
          With his head in his hands,
          God thought and thought,
          Till he thought: I'll make me a man! 75

          Up from the bed of the river
          God scooped the clay;
          And by the bank of the river
          He kneeled him down;
          And there the great God Almighty 80
          Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
          Who flung the stars to the most far corner 
                            of the night,
          Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
          This Great God,
          Like a mammy bending over her baby, 85
          Kneeled down in the dust
          Toiling over a lump of clay
          Till he shaped it in his own image;

          Then into it he blew the breath of life,
          And man became a living soul. 90
          Amen. Amen.

(from God's Trombones, 1927)
© James Weldon Johnson
From The Heath Anthology
 of American Literature,
Volume Two, Second

Edition, 1053-1055.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

THE  I  DON’T  GET IT  PRAYER 


INTRODUCTION

The title of my homily for this 6th Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “The I Don’t Get It Prayer.”

Sometimes it takes courage to say to God or to others - but especially for starters to ourselves: “I don’t get it.”

And I think it’s a good prayer: “I don’t get it God. I just don’t get it.”

Hey, sometimes it takes courage to say, “I don’t get it.” when we’re  in a group and everyone is laughing at a joke that someone just told - but we don’t get it.

We don’t want to look or sound stupid in a group or in a relationship, but to say, “I don’t get it” contains the message: “I would like to get it. I want to know what you’re saying or doing.”

I think it’s a compliment when someone says to me after Mass, “Your homily…. I didn’t get it.”  It tells me that I’m not a growler - or someone to be feared. I get that. And it’s a challenge to try to be clearer.

TODAY’S GOSPEL

Today’s gospel - Mark 8: 14-21 - ends with Jesus asking a question to his disciples in the boat, “Do you still not understand?”

They don’t get it.

Sometimes it takes time to get it.

Sometimes it takes a life time to get it.

Sometimes it takes the cross to get it.

Sometimes it takes a lot of living to understand life - to get it.

Sometimes it takes a life time of receiving communion to get the bread - the giving of his body and blood to us - and we in turn to give our body and blood to each other - when we are in holy communion - or trying to be - with each other.

Jesus’ disciples had seen Jesus feed the 5000 as well as the 4000 - but here they are worried about their stomachs and food - because they only have 1 loaf with them on the boat.

They don’t get it. They don’t get who’s in the boat with them - Jesus the bread giver and the bread winner.

For starters Jesus is saying, “I don’t get it - that you don’t get it.”

Well, I get it that.  I’ve noticed it’s not understanding is an ongoing theme we often hear about as we listen to the gospels. 

Mark is getting at that message here - but the Gospel of John is THE  gospel that really brings out what Isaiah said, what the prophets said, and what Jesus says in today’s gospel: “People have ears that don’t hear, eyes that don’t see, and hearts that are not open for new life.”

We’re slow learners.

So the prayer: “The I don’t get it prayer.”

FIRST READING - FROM JAMES

Today’s first reading from James 1: 12-18 talks about how stupid we can become. We just don’t get it.  We set ourselves up for problems by walking right into temptations. At some point we need to get it - those moments that are set ups for anger or gossip or what have you. We dance with the devil and set ourselves up for trouble.  

Then when we get overwhelmed with problems and sins, we become stupid again and again and we then ask, “How come I keep falling into sin?”  Or “How come God places temptations in front of me.”

We’re saying, “I don’t get it God - how life works.”

And if it’s a prayer, we might hear God say in return: “Hey - you gotta do some work!”

CONCLUSION

Mark in his gospel story today might be saying: “Life is like a boat ride across the waters - and Jesus is in the boat. You’re not alone. Get it? Don’t forget to get with him.”

In this homily I’m saying: “When we say, ‘I don’t get it to God or to others - but especially to ourselves, that’s a good time for “The I don’t Get It Prayer.”




DON'T FORGET 
TO SAY, "THANK YOU!"

Poem for Today - February 18, 2014 
Continuing Black History Month



FLORIDA ROAD WORKERS

I‘m makin’ a road
For the cars to fly by on
Makin’ a road
Through the palmetto thicket
For light and civilization
To travel on.

l’m makin’ a road
For the rich to sweep over
In their big cars
And Ieave me staudin’ here.

Sure,
A road helps everybody!
Rich folks ride --
And I get to see ‘em ride.

I ain’t never seen nobody
Ride so fine before.
Hey, Buddy, Look!
l’m makin’ a road!

                                      - Langston Hughes  ©


Florida Road Workers” by Langston Hughes: from The Panther and the Lash by Langston Hughes. Copyright 1967 by Arna Bontems and George Houston Bass. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Painting on top: Walter Durac Barnett

Monday, February 17, 2014

RIVERS

Poem for Today - February 17, 2014
Continuing Black History Month


THE NEGRO SPEAKS  OF RIVERS 


I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the worId
and oIder than the flow of
       human bIood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi 
              when Abe Lincoln went
down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom 
              turn all golden in the sunset.

                                      - Langston Hughes  ©


The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by by Langston Hughes: Copyright 1926 by Alred A. Knopf. Inc., and renewed 1954 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted from Selected Poems by Langston Hughes, by permission of the publisher.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Archbishop Lori's Homily Text 
Commitment Weekend 
February 15-16, 2014 


Dear Friends,

I’m happy to have this opportunity, as your Archbishop, to visit with you today.  One of my great joys in my service here in Baltimore is personally visiting the wonderful and vibrant parishes that make up our Archdiocese. I’m in the process of making my way around to all of our parishes.  So if I’ve been to your parish, of if I’m still on my way, I’m coming soon - to a parish near you.

You know, these days are especially inspiring days to be Catholic. It seems that every day, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is opening minds and hearts to the Gospel, opening the world's eyes to the compassion which is lived out by our Church. This has moved Catholics around the world to become more in touch with their relationship with Christ and the Church, reinvigorating our faithful and bringing back many who had been away.

When he was installed as Pope on Saint Joseph's Day, last March, in Vatican City, the Holy Father called on all of us to 'Be Protectors of God's Gifts.' He said that the vocation of being a "protector" ... means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, and those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents." The Holy Father continued, "It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors, "he said, "of God's Gifts!"

Certainly, this is a call to stewardship - examples of which are found countless times in the Gospels - stewardship of our community, our family and our faith. For this reason, we have chosen "Be Protectors of God's Gifts" as the theme for the Archbishop's Annual Appeal this year.

This is most fitting, as the focus of the Appeal is stewardship - a very responsible and loving way of caring for God's Gifts that have been entrusted to us: defending them from harm ... helping them to grow ... and making them better so they can be handed on to the next generation.

The Archbishop's Annual Appeal helps us protect, foster, and sustain the essential services and ministries of the Archdiocese of Baltimore so that we can proclaim the Gospel, celebrate the Sacraments, and extend the love, mercy, and charity of Jesus Christ in the world.

I'm happy to have this opportunity, as your Archbishop, to visit with you today. One of my great joys in my service here in Baltimore is personally visiting the wonderful and vibrant parishes that make up our Archdiocese. I'm in the process of making my way around to all of our parishes. So if I've been to your parish, or if I'm still on my way, I'm coming soon - to a parish near you!

The Appeal allows us to share our good works and spread the Good News of God's love throughout our Archdiocese, from its westernmost reaches Garrett and Allegheny County, to Tyndall, to Harford County, to Annapolis, to Clarksville, to Frederick, and to Baltimore City itself.

The Appeal helps us sustain the essential mission of the Church - to evangelize, to teach the faith, to ensure that there's a strong sacramental life in the Archdiocese ... to keep our schools strong ... to carry on a vibrant program of nurturing and forming priestly vocations ... to supporting our retired priests, and to extending a helping hand through our charitable outreach to the less fortunate members of our community.
         
In other words, the Appeal touches all the cylinders of the engine that is the Archdiocese of Baltimore, helping them to fire properly and keep everything running smoothly. The generosity of those who give to the Appeal in many ways transforms lives, bringing hope to those who have none, bringing comfort to those for whom day-to-day life is a struggle, and, most importantly, bringing God into the lives of those who have lost their spiritual way, guiding them to the path that leads to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, I'd also like everyone to regard the Appeal as a call for each one of us, in our own lives and vocations, to "Be Protectors of God's Gifts." Parents protect God's Gifts by providing an example to their children of living lives of faith and virtue.

Parishioners are called to active involvement in the life of their parishes, and doing all they can to help see that every member of your spiritual community becomes more in touch with God's love. And for all of us, protecting God's Gifts is a matter of prayer, as we ask God's blessing, and the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints, as we go about the work of the Lord.

A moment ago, I mentioned that the inaugural homily of Pope Francis was delivered on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. The Holy Father describes how St. Joseph was, in many ways, the ultimate-protector of God's Gifts, safeguarding Mary, Jesus and the Church. Saint Joseph, the Pope said, was "constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God's presence and receptive to God's plans, and not simply to his own ... Joseph is a "protector" because he is able to hear God's voice and be guided by His will ... " The pope continued, "in him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to "God's call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!"

I ask that you reflect with me on these words from our Holy Father, Pope Francis. I am confident they will inspire you, as they inspire me, and encourage us together to take on this role of "Protector." Ours is the privilege, and the responsibility, of preserving our Catholic faith and assuring that our children, and their children, will encounter Christ and His love through it, just as we have. I confidently ask your generosity, and your participation in this year's Archbishop's Annual Appeal. Let us all join together in being "Protector of God's Gifts."

Thank you, dear friends, and may God bless us, and keep us always in His love!


JESUS 
I’M TRYING TO GET 
WHAT YOU’RE SAYING HERE 

[With the Archbishop’s talk about the Annual Appeal on audio tape, I didn’t have to preach this 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.  However, I still wanted to ponder today’s readings - especially today’s gospel from Matthew 5:17-37. It’s part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. So here’s a quick - first draft - poetic type reflection - on today’s gospel. I suggest you read Jesus words in today's part of the Sermon on the Mount  as they appear in English in Matthew. Better provide a warning:  "If you read what follows,  you’ll see that I’m still not sure of what Jesus is getting at."]

Jesus, today you begin by saying, "Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets." 

Okay, laws are important - even the tiny ones. Hey, I don’t want hair in my dessert or an eye lash in my soup. I get that.

But what I don’t get is your wanting me to be righteous - even more righteous than the scribes and the Pharisees. I thought you went after those boys for not getting a better vision of the kingdom of heaven - in the here and now. They were straining to see too many gnats and missing the camels. They were seeing life with blurred vision - a polite way of saying: “Don’t you get it? You’re being blind boys! You're being blind guides.”

Jesus I noticed in the English translation we use that you talk about laws and you talk about commandments. Are you or Matthew trying to make a distinction here?  By laws do you mean the laws about washing the outside of cups and dishes,  kettles and pots - while not looking within the vessel? "Hello scribes and Pharisees! Check within.” [Cf. Matthew 23]  By commandments do you mean the big stuff - like not  killing - like honoring your father and your mother?  I’m not sure if you’re making  that distinction here?

I think I get your insight into anger and name calling - when it comes to how we deal with one another. I get that.  We might not be killing each other - but we are killing each other when we get fired up and we ignite within our hearts and our homes a hell of a situation - with these things we hold against each other. We come to church - we appear before the altar - but we come with a burning garbage dump within - like Gehenna - which was the name of the city dump in Jerusalem - where everyone dumped and burned their junk. I hear you  saying loud and clear: take care of first things first - otherwise you'll be living with a divided heart.

So I get that one. If we don’t reach for reconciliation out there with our sisters and brothers  - we’re not going to have it when we’re in worship in here before your altar - with our sisters and brothers. So we better settle differences with each other - because the differences now are pennies compared to the dollar cost to come.

I also think I get your adultery and lust stuff. It sounds to me like the same as your anger and yelling at each other message. Go within! 

Next, I get your metaphors about plucking out one’s eyes or cutting off one’s hands. However, Jesus, this doesn’t sound  like you're being meek and gentle of heart. I just hope people don’t take you literally - like one of your disciples whacking off the ear of the servant of the high priest when you got arrested. [Matthew 26:51] Ouch! Obviously, people with sexual addictions better make some drastic cuts - if they don’t want to be consumed with porn or multiple toxic relationships problems.

And marriages need a lot of work - a lot of self-dying - a lot of communication - a lot of give and take - if they are going to work. I get that you want couples to experience the marriage banquet that a good marriage can be.  

And obviously deadly divorces can be just that: deadly for two people as well as kids. And yes some marriages are mistakes - I still don’t know how to put your words “unless the marriage is unlawful” - as our English text puts it - into a scenario that fits so many complex scenarios - all those various ones married couples can get themselves knotted up in.

And lastly, I get a bit of what your words about swearing mean.  I hear that modern Americans don’t know how to swear like you heard people in your day swear. They pointed to the sky - or down to earth at the ground - or towards Jerusalem. They seemed to swear on anything and everything to prove they were telling the truth and nothing but the truth. 

Wait, come to think about it,  we’ve all heard people tell us they are swearing on their mother’s grave or a stack of Bibles. So I guess you are screaming for simplicity. Instead of a lot of swearing, simply give each other a clear “Yes!” when we mean “Yes” and a definitive, “No!” when we mean "No!"



That’s all for now Jesus. 

However, I’m still trying to get to what you’re saying here. Speak Lord, I’m trying to listen. Amen.



OOOOOOOOOO

Painting on Top: Sermon on the Mount by Fra Angelico
FIRST CONFESSION 
AND COMMUNION 


Poem for Today - February 16, 2014




FIRST CONFESSION

Blood thudded in my ears. I scuffed,
          Steps stubborn, to the tell tale booth
Beyond whose curtained portal coughed
          The robed repositor of truth.

The slat shot back. The universe
          Bowed down his cratered dome to hear
Enumerated my each curse,
          The sip snitched from my old man’s beer,

My sloth pride envy lechery,
          The dime held hack from Peter’s Pence
With which I’d bribed my girl to pee
          That I might spy her instruments.

Hovering scale-pans when I’d done
          Settled their balance slow as silt
While in the restless dark I burned
          Bright as a brimstone in my guilt

Until as one feeds birds he doled
          Seven Our Fathers and a Hail
Which I to double-scrub my soul
          Intoned twice at the altar rail

Where Sunday in seraphic light
          I knelt, as full of grace as most,
And  stuck my tongue out at the priest:
          A fresh roost for the Holy Ghost.


- X. J. Kennedy
(Doubleday & Company, Inc. 
for “First Confession,” 
© 1951 by X. J. Kennedy -- 
found on page 159 
in New Coasts & Strange Harbors
discovering Poems, 
selected by Helen Hill 
and Agnes Perkins, 
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, NY, 1974)
Photograph by Georges Jansoon, 
September 16, 2006,
Confessional Boxes in 
Cathedral of Santiago
de Compastela, Spain