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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Walk with Jesus during Holy Week

Today I have posted a series of reflections on Jesus' Passion and Death based on the Gospel of John, from the raising of Lazarus through Jesus' death on the cross: please visit Living Christ's Eucharist in Our Daily Lives. I hope these reflections will help you enter more deeply into Holy Week and thereby into the mystery of the Eucharist.

Please visit as well Did God Find You Today?, a series of quite brief posts, one-screen full at most, with my own experiences of God finding us in our lives.

This is Late, But It's Important

I attended a seminar this past week on Catholics in the Blogosphere. It was conceived and hosted by Fr Dan Joyce, SJ, a Jesuit friend from 12 years ago when we were both new Jesuits studying philosophy at Loyola/Chicago, now working at
St Joseph's University/Philadelphia. The seminar hosted significant people in the world of Catholic blogging: Amy Wellborn of Open Book, Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia, Grant Gallicho of dotCommonweal, and, as moderator, Bill McGarvey of The latter has posted a video of the conference: Ecclesia Virtualis: Catholics in the Blogosphere.

So this seminar let me meet other Catholic bloggers – and what bloggers! Very knowledgeable, experienced, creative, enthusiastic – and very encouraging of me and of all of us who feel the desire to tell our Catholic and Christian stories.

Spending not more than an evening in their company, I’ve come away feeling a new commitment and a new creativity. Best of all, I feel as though a part of my life has opened up to see more broadly, in a more inspired way, in a way that brings me a new joy, a new hope, and a new opportunity.

What really happened is that the Lord met me in Philadelphia and shared his divine life with me in a way that gives me new life. And so now I share that with you.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why Be Religious? - Part 1 of a Lenten Reflection

We all have a choice to make:

-- either I will choose to believe that I am the master of my destiny and can create a successful and happy life through my own efforts;
-- or, I will recognize that I cannot be the master of my own destiny because human life is unpredictable and beyond my complete control.

We must choose. Not to choose is to choose.

Our culture believes that “religion” or “God” is no more than a lifestyle choice, like deciding to be a vegetarian or a carnivore. And there are no consequences to the choice, since “God” doesn’t exist in any real sense. Since affluence, education, and science permit a certain control over one’s life, the affluent can create for themselves the illusion that they control the events of their lives. To turn away from God and rely on self is serious Sin.

But affluence and science could not prevent Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Education, social and economic status, and physical goodlooks cannot prevent the onset of cancer, the suddenness of car accidents, the drying up of professional opportunities in mid-career, the unpredictability of what one’s children do and become. We cannot give ourselves hope and well being in the face of suffering.

Catholicism asserts that the Triune God exists “out there” in Creation and “in here” in my experience and in the experience of the believing community. The mystical experience of Catholic saints, confirmed by many ordinary believers (I am one), demonstrates that God works in our lives on our behalf: “…God works and labors for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth…” (Spiritual Exercises, 236).

We come to believe because we see God act in our lives. I had chosen to live without God in my early adult life, and that choice ended in frustration and confusion as I approached 40. What had seemed like control proved to be an illusion. As I turned 40, then 41, God revealed himself to me in my experience in the person of Jesus Christ. My acceptance of God’s self-revelation has given me a life of meaning and value that I could not have created for myself.

Religion offers no lucky charm that averts all disaster. But God gives comfort in the face of grief, strength in the face of opposition and injustice, and meaning in the midst of suffering. I can come to recognize that God, who created me in love, has invited me into relationship through which I have hope of what Jesus calls “fuller and more abundant life” (John 10:10).

The Lenten season invites us to enter into this reality in a new and deeper way, to avoid the Sin of false self-reliance, self-satisfaction and self-congratulation and to enter into relationship with the Lord who is our only hope and strength.

Why Be Religious? - Part 2 of a Lenten Reflection

Human beings like to think that we're in charge. Yet, life experiences teaches us that this is not so. Our pets may love us, and we love them. But their care for us ceases at death, as far as we know. Only God can care for us in both this life and the next, and so far only God has offered.

The Lenten season invites us to realize this reality in a new and deeper way. Jesus' Passion, Death, and Resurrection provide us care and compassion in this life and companionship into the next.

(Monument, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

God is dead.

(signed) Nietzsche

Nietzsche is dead.

(signed) God

Why Be Religious? - Part 3 of a Lenten Reflection

Jesus was tempted in the desert – to reject God and rely on himself. But he recognized the reality that he, like all human beings, is dependent on God, and so he resisted these temptations and avoided serious Sin (Matthew 4:1ff):

-- turn the stones into bread, said Satan: in other words, depend on yourself, reject any idea of dependence on God.

-- rule the whole earth, said Satan: in other words, believe that exercising control over one’s life, over other people and things in this world creates a successful and happy life. Depending on God is foolish and unnecessary.

-- throw yourself off the parapet of the Temple, said Satan: in other words, make God take care of you so that you can maintain the lifestyle you have chosen.

Relying on our own efforts alone, seeking control over our lives, and insisting God ensure our choice of lifestyle appeal to the human hope for self-assertion and affirmation. But they are temptations to deny what is real, namely, that only God can be the source and sustainer of our lives. And to turn away from God in favor of a false self-reliance is serious Sin.

It is no accident that in Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus begins his public ministry with his baptism, which is his confirmation by the Father, and the temptations. The Feast of the Baptism always closes the Christmas Season, and the temptations are always the Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent.

Our only way to live fully and successfully is to hear the Father’s confirmation of us and to resist temptations to rely on ourselves rather than on God. "Turn away from sin," the priest says on Ash Wednesday, marking our foreheads with ashes. False self-reliance and self-sufficiency are serious Sin. Only God is God. "Remember you are dust and to dust you will return."

Being “religious,” being a believer, holding the Triune God at the center of our lives is the only way to a fullness of life we cannot create for ourselves.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Good Sister and the Jesuit

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

Thank you so much for your wonderful post Reverse Lent. But I want to disagree.

You cite a portion of the list from the diocesan paper:

“Fast from emphasis on differences;
Fast from pessimism;
Fast from complaining
Fast from negatives
Fast from bitterness”

Then you comment,

“Aren't these all just ways to describe the same thing? Suck it up. Walk it off.”

Yes, these are all the same thing. They are the temptations of the wounded soul still tainted with self-centered ego.

We need to fast from these temptations. More importantly, we need to be healed of these wounds and to reorient ourselves away from a focus on our wounded selves to a focus on the Lord, who was wounded for us so that we could be healed. This focus on the Lord and his wounding is precisely the work of Lent, as you note. But if we just “suck it up,” we won’t be forgiven and healed, and we won’t be able to shift our focus from ourselves to the Lord.

Our fasting, healing and reorientation need to take two forms:

First, when I suffer innocently from other people’s sinfulness, I am already suffering as Jesus suffered. I suffer innocently when people oppose my attempts to speak the truth, to stand against injustice, to proclaim the Word – all the things Jesus did. My own innocent suffering allows me to identify with Jesus in his suffering.

So, my Lenten task is not to “suck it up” and trudge on, trying to be brave in the face of my wounds. My Lenten task is to ask him in my daily prayer and in the Eucharist to grant me the grace to endure this suffering for his sake, for the sake of the building of His Kingdom. And my Lenten task is to avoid the temptations of pessimism, complaining, and so on, and to transform this suffering into love for him, thus healing me.

Second, my own sinfulness and the ego-taints in my soul are products of thwarted ego: my plans don’t work out, so I complain; my idealism is wounded, so I become pessimistic. My sinfulness, the ego-taints of my soul, and my thwarted ego need forgiveness and healing. Neither will happen by my sucking “it” up, as you propose, where “it” is the personal sinfulness that has thwarted and wounded my ego.

My Lenten task is to give over daily to the Lord my own sinfulness and the ego-taints of my soul and ask for his forgiveness, healing, and love. St Ignatius of Loyola provides us the words in the most powerful prayer I have experienced, except perhaps for the Rosary:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will, all I have and possess. You have given all to me. Now I return it. Dispose of it wholly according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace. They’re enough for me.

So, thank you, Sister, for your energetic and humorous post. May the Lord’s richest blessings be yours, now and forever.