The Good News

Welcome to The Good News Blogspot! The Good News is real and alive in my own life. Jesus has fulfilled in my life His promise of fuller and more abundant life (John 15), a quality of life I could not have created for myself. I invite you to share experiences with me so we can all grow into the life He offers us all.

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Catholic by call, Jesuit by nature, a preacher/spiritual conversation partner by choice. Learning about getting older, learning to live in the present moment, one day at a time. Learning to let go and laugh.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Favorite Sacrament

If you had to choose a favorite sacrament, which one would you choose?

In presiding at any sacrament the priest invokes God’s presence on behalf of a person or group of people. God responds because the ministerial priesthood is an authority, a gift of the Spirit, given by God to a human being for just this purpose. (All the faithful, including ministerial priests, share in the Royal Priesthood of Christ (I Peter 2:9), but explaining that must await another post.)

God invoked in this way brings healing, restoration, and rejuvenation because God’s Trinitarian presence is the presence of love: Christ present in the power of the Holy Spirit revealing the Father as love. Those who are wounded, suffering, discouraged, or abandoned feel this love as affirmation, freedom, and new hope. Christ’s Real Presence in the sacraments renews and refreshes us in ways we cannot image, much less achieve for ourselves.

What I love about the sacraments is this power to recreate, and my favorite sacraments are those in which I can see this recreation occur before my very eyes.

I heard the confession of a young man once who had matters worth confessing. But he hadn’t been to confession in a long time, and he had to struggle to reveal his story. We talked for 45 minutes, I asking questions to help him explore what he wanted to express.

By the time we finished, he had started to look bewildered and amazed. As he left my community’s residence and went down the walk, his gait made him look almost tipsy. He kept looking all around him as if in wonderment, as if his life had changed so suddenly – and for the better – that he couldn’t grasp this new reality.

Why? I expect that he was experiencing his life without the burden he had brought to the sacrament. In place of the burden, he was now feeling a new-found lightness of being that contrasted so sharply with his troubled life only 45 minutes earlier. Where there was darkness and misunderstanding, there was now light and clarity of understanding.

So, is Reconciliation my favorite sacrament? Well, yes – and no. It is surely a wonderful reality in our lives, Christ present, lifting our burdens and giving us freedom and joy. What could be better? Nothing – except perhaps that the other wonderful sacraments also bring freedom and lightness, as we give ourselves over to the Lord’s love.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"But Mass is so boring!" Part 1

This post is the first in a series of five, which follow immediately. These posts recognize that some people find the Mass boring, irrelevant, or pointless. So, if you feel this way, please keep reading.

The Mass – The Most Holy Eucharist of the Roman Catholic Church - isn’t a spectator sport. You’ve got to make it your own.

Or, more precisely, if Christ is really present in the Mass – which He is, since that is what the Real Presence is - then you have to be really present too!

How can you to do that?

Just listen to the Penitential Rite, which begins each Mass just after the priest’s greeting:

“Lord Jesus, you healed the sick. Lord, have mercy!
Lord Jesus, you forgave sinners. Christ, have mercy!
Lord Jesus, you give us yourself to heal us and bring us strength.
Lord, have mercy!”

Is any part of you sick – your body, your thoughts, your habits?
Are you plagued by worry, by angry thoughts?
Do you use the internet to view pornography? Do you drink too much?

Do you need strength and courage to face the challenges that confront you?
Do you have problems with your supervisor at work, with your children, with money?

If so (and we all do), hold these realities vividly in mind, and then say, “Lord, have mercy!” as a cry for help: “Lord, have mercy on me! These problems are too great for me to bear alone!”

“Lord, have mercy!” is your cry for help – and your statement of faith.

“Lord Jesus, you raise the dead to life in the Spirit. Lord, have mercy!
Lord Jesus, you bring pardon and peace to the sinner. Christ, have mercy!
Lord Jesus, you bring light to those in darkness. Lord, have mercy!”

Is any part of you dead because you haven’t been loved or cared for?
Are you wandering in darkness, not knowing how to cope with problems in your life?

Feel these feelings deeply, and say, “Christ, have mercy! Have mercy on me and help me find a way to feel alive again so I can love and be loved. Help me find my way! I feel so lost and alone!”

The Mass is in part about asking for Jesus’s help with the things in our lives we can’t control. We ask Him because He holds ultimate power over all creation. We ask Him in faith because He has promised us His help in love.

"But Mass is so boring!" Part 2

So, in the Penitential Rite we ask Him for help with parts of our lives beyond our control.

Then, we sing the Gloria – “…We worship you. We give you thanks. We praise you for your glory…”

Meaning, “Thank you, Lord, for what you have done for me, especially those things I can’t do or couldn’t do for myself!”

Do you ever count your blessings? Blessings are those realities that we enjoy but haven’t provided for ourselves because we can’t.

Little blessings, especially when life seems grim: a sunny day, bright flowers, a good laugh, a delightful memory suddenly recalled, an inspiring song popping into our heads.

Medium-sized blessings, especially when life seems grim: a wind storm that does no damage to the house, a “coincidental” meeting that leads to a new job, your child wins the trophy, an unexpected bonus or raise in pay, you and your spouse find time for a weekend away together.

Large, family-sized blessings, especially when life seems grim: a clean bill of health despite recent aches and pains and family history of illness, your son or daughter gets into the college of their choice, your house sells in the first week on the market, so now you can retire on schedule.

When you sing, “We worship you!! We give you thanks!! We praise you for your glory!!” be sure you put in the exclamation marks! Hold in your mind’s eye those special blessings. Let your gratitude and excitement for those blessings inflame your praise.

“The Lord inhabits the praise of His people,” the psalm says. The Lord will engage you in a whole new way as you thank Him for what He has done for you as the Mass begins.

"But Mass is so boring!" Part 3

So, we’ve told the Lord that we’re lost, in trouble and need His help – “Lord, have mercy!”

We’ve thanked Him for our blessings – “We worship you! We give you thanks! We praise you for your glory!”

Now that we have done these things, we can find Christ present to us as the word – the Word – is proclaimed.

The readings from the Old Testament, especially the prophets, and the New Testament Letters, encourage us, exhort us, remind us of the Lord’s promises to His people.

On Sunday, January 21, 2007, the Third Sunday of Year C, Nehemiah the Prophet speaks to the people of Israel: “…Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep…Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared. For today is holy to our Lord…for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.”

Rejoicing! We just rejoiced as we sang the Gloria. “The Lord inhabits the praises of his people,” and rejoicing in the Lord must be – will be – our source of strength. Try praising, thanking the Lord in a more enthusiastic way – help someone “who had nothing prepared” - and watch for Him to act in a new way in your life.

The second reading, from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit…You then are the body of Christ. Every one of you is a member of it.” Do you feel alone, unappreciated, pushed out, abandoned? This word tells you that you belong to God, to the Lord, to His Blessed Mother, to all of us gathered here. Rejoice that this is true, and feel the truth start to work in new ways in your life.

The Gospel, from St Luke: Jesus quotes Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me…he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners.” And so he does – when we ask His help, which we did in the Penitential Rite – and when we thank Him for what He has done, which we did in the Gloria.

Remember: there is a word in these words for you. The Word inhabits these words and speaks them to you, to your heart – just what you need to hear, when you need to hear it. But, of course, you must be listening. Catch the word as it flies by. Let your ears, your mind, and your heart be fertile to receive and nourish the word that the Word speaks to you in this Mass.

"But Mass is so boring!" Part 4

When the priest speaks the words of consecration, Christ becomes Really Present in the bread and wine as the bread and wine are transformed – transubstantiated – into His Body and Blood.

Then the priest asks us to remind ourselves why we are doing this: “Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith.” And we respond,

“Dying your destroyed our death, rising you restored our life,…”

Jesus’s Death and Resurrection have destroyed our death, and so we have the hope and assurance of rising into new life as we breathe our last on this earth.

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection have also destroyed our deaths – plural. And so we have the hope and assurance of rising into a new part of our lives on this earth as we confront and work through the psychological, emotional, social and economic deaths of this life.

As parents realize that their child has Downs Syndrome and wonder how they will cope, they have the assurance that Christ will lead them through this challenge.

As people realize that they are alcoholic or otherwise addicted, they have the assurance that Christ will be with them as they struggle to face this challenge.

As people speak out against wrongdoing or injustice and are treated unjustly themselves, they have the assurance that Christ walks with them in this unjust treatment.

In all such cases the challenge, the injustice never have ultimate power over us, because Christ has destroyed the power of the challenge, of the injustice to hurt us ultimately.

“By your cross and resurrection, you have set us free! You are the Savior of the world!”

He frees us from worry about ultimate ends. He makes a way out of no-way.

So, in the Mass when the priest says, “Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith,” say – proclaim! – the mystery of your faith, recognizing that this mystery – Christ destroying death and restoring life – is at work in your life. Invite the Lord into partnership in your own life, and put the mystery of His Death and Resurrection to work in the concrete reality of your life.

"But Mass is so boring!" Part 5

“Lord, I am unworthy to receive you…”

This isn’t S&M. This is the frank admission of what is really true in our lives: that the difficulties, challenges, and trials we face – the ones for which we cried out “Lord, have mercy!” – are greater than we can resolve on our own. We are also admitting that our choices and habits that exclude the Lord can bring us no hope.

Remember: we cried out, “Lord, have mercy!” because we can’t face and overcome certain realities in our lives without outside help – and specifically without God’s help. This is a statement of reality and of faith!

More than that, we are admitting that often enough we act as though we can solve these problems ourselves, or we try to solve them without turning to God. This can only lead to failure. So, recognizing these futile attempts and the magnitude of the problems we face, we admit that “Lord, I am unworthy to receive you…”

“…but only say the word, and I shall be healed!” We affirm that his Real Presence will heal us and give us hope. We need to be healed of worry, of doubt in His existence and love for us, of fear of failure and defeat, of the hurts of the past that grow like weeds in our hearts and clog our present. As we ask in faith – as individual human beings living in a concrete reality in this time and place – the Lord engages yet more deeply with us.

You may ask: will I feel this healing? Will I see these changes in my life? Yes, but, remember, this isn’t magic. It isn’t the Lord waving a wand. It is the power of love being reborn in the depths of our being. It is the rebirth of hope, courage, and the will to live. It will grow over time as we nurture this new growth by returning repeatedly to the Eucharist – to the Lord in the Eucharist.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christ is Born Today!

On Christmas Day Jesus is born - again. But where, exactly, is he born?
Inside us - in the midst of our grief, our regrets, our hurts, our anger – in all those places where we long for relief, respite, and new life.

Grief, hurt, and anger can harden into cynicism and bitterness. A wounded heart without hope becomes a heart of stone. Jesus invites us to hope again. Jesus loved those who hated him. That Jesus - born in us where we are in pain – can help soften hardness, heal hurt, dissolve cynicism. We celebrate his calendar birth on December 25. We allow his birth in us on Christmas Day – and on any day – when we allow our hope to be rekindled. This hope leads us to love again and to be loved again, despite failed loves. Emerging hope and renewed desire mark Jesus’ presence, a presence like no other, one that not only encourages but heals. His presence invites and makes possible.

A few days ago I visited Lake George in northern New York State, the most beautiful place in all creation, only 15 miles north of the cemetery where Hawleys back to 1825, including my parents, are buried. The lake has enriched generations of Hawleys, and no visit to the lake is complete without a visit to the cemetery. On the day I visited, the sun shone brilliantly, the lake sparkled, the evergreens shone, the chilly temperature making everything the more vibrant. Such beauty everywhere I looked! Such Beauty, God’s Beauty touching me and filling me!

While still at the lake, I gathered pine branches and later placed them on the graves of the Hawleys who had loved the lake. I felt a special peacefulness – God’s peace – as I stood among the family gravestones and the pine branches from the lake.

These experiences of Beauty and Peace are modes of Jesus being born again in me. No small thing, since the generation ahead of me wasn’t the easiest to live with. Visiting the cemetery, even visiting the lake, brings back memories I would rather forget. So, the invitation, the urging, the empowering to love again, despite the past, represents a new beginning, a new joy in my life.

God’s greatest inspiration that afternoon was to carry one pine branch back to Boston, and the next day I placed it on my mother’s parents’ grave in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

So, within 36 hours I had spent time with both sides of my family and, I hope, had helped them feel joined to one another by the evergreen branches from the lake. God’s inspiration arose from Jesus reborn in me in the Christmas season, rekindling the possibility of my loving my family in a new way despite the past.

The Feast of the Holy Family, December 31, 2006