Sharing #4

God continues to surprise me with insights into life.

Last week, one of our priests died. He was 92 yrs. old and had been in our infirmary for several years. I did not know him in his active years. But this was going to be my first funeral of a Confrere here in Germantown. Therefore, it was going to be a first experience of something. Little did I know what was waiting for me.

The day of the wake, I went into the wake room (I had been near-by for something else). Fr. Bill’s body was in the open coffin, dressed in Mass vestments as is the custom, As I approached the coffin, I realized that I was the only one in the room. But as I looked at Father’s body, a powerful — and I mean powerful — thought went through my mind, my heart, my whole self. What I was looking at was just a shell! I was standing there looking at a shell! I never thought of a corpse that way. I’m sure this has been expressed in various ways, even in Scripture, but it hit me at that moment like cold water in the face. And it was a beautifully pleasant thought. How good God is to allow us to express his Love for others through our bodies: our voices, our hands, our arms. Our bodies really are God’s instruments. And the time comes when these instruments of God’s Love stop but the person continues. But what if that person, while alive, did not open his or her life to God’s Love? The intensity with which God’s love is offered to others depends on the intensity of the relationship of the person with God. To reflect on this makes me shudder. But I know God’s help is there.

I know there are better ways to express all this. I’d like others to share their experiences and thoughts. After all, this is supposed to be a blog, a place where thoughts are shared. So, I invite whoever reads this to share.

Sharing #3

FYI: This past week, I’ve spent much time taking care of a bad cold. Using the computer was far from my mind and energies. I’m feeling much better now (although it was 35 degrees outside this morning) and I want very much to share with you the following before I forget it. I doubt I will, though. JK

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Last Sunday, the Gospel story of Bartimaeus was proclaimed in all our churches. A blind man receives his sight! Another miracle story! Been there, heard that. For me, it was different this year and I’d like to share why.

A few days before the weekend, a priest mentioned at lunch a book written by Oliver Sacks entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales. Catchy title, don’t you think? But it refers to a man who was blind all his life and, through some medical procedure, received his sight.

For him, everything, now, was new — even things we normally take for granted. For instance, he had to be taught what was red, or yellow, etc. He had to learn that the “thing” before his eyes was a bicycle or roller skates or a sidewalk, etc. Everything that he had heard people talking about over the years, he had to learn or be taught. ALL WAS NEW. Think about that. This man even mistook his wife’s hair for a hat — never having seen either his wife or a hat in his life. ALL WAS NEW. How much more RADICAL a change could a person experience?

Back to the Gospel. Was this it just relating a miracle — another miracle — of Jesus? Was it a “same old, same old” proclamation? I don’t think so because of what happens afterwards. Before checking the Gospel out, ask yourself what you would do if you suddenly received your sight the way Bartimaeus did? (Don’t forget to invite me to all those parties!)

But, what did Bartimaeus do? BARTIMAEUS FOLLOWS JESUS TO JERUSALEM! He can now see deeper than even the disciples could see. (Check the verses before the Bartimaeus account).

I realized that to really follow Jesus, I was being called to see things differently.

I have to look around and see my own little world as well as the world in which I live with this new vision. I am being called to see everything and everyone as Jesus sees them. I have to become blind to flags, nationalities, religious practices, languages, political affiliations, that is, whatever can separate peoples. I am being called by my faith in Jesus to see all men & women, as my brothers & sisters, created in God’s image & likeness, and see them responding to God’s love in their lives the best way that they can.

And when my brothers & sisters are in pain, I am being called to see myself in solidarity with them, trying to share and understand their struggles and injustices and respond, if I can.

But SIN enters this world. This new vision allows me, also, to see sin in its many manifestations — not personal but social sin. And my lack of response to social sin situations accuses me. It is a burden to feel solidarity with those who do not have enough to eat or who are oppressed by governments. It makes my blood boil when I see corrupt governments and what that does to my brothers and sisters. To know that the State punishes by taking a life!

It is difficult to face so many situations of social sin. But then, I look at Bartimaeus. He followed Jesus to Jerusalem, the place of his death. Though not in the Gospel, I like to think that he was at the foot of the cross seeing something that very few, at that moment, saw. Somehow, in the midst of unexplainable pain, he saw God’s Presence

In short, I feel I have to make the request of Bartimaeus my daily prayer request:“Master, that I may see”.

SHARING #2

I’d like to share some thoughts about my prayer this morning. (My book on St. Vincent “disappeared” over the weekend). I’m using Stephen Binz’s Threshold Bible Study on the Eucharist.

When Yahweh saved His people in Egypt, He “gifted” them with the “how” they would be saved — He told them to put the blood of the sacrificial lamb on their doorposts. A ceremony was born at Yahweh’s initiative for the benefit of His People. We’re familiar with this account. At the Last Supper, through His Son, He once again “gifted” us by radically changing the Paschal meal — this is my Body, this is my Blood, enabling me to unite myself with the paschal sacrifice of Jesus by becoming one with Him in the Eucharist. I pondered how my reaction to this HAS to be one of gratitude and thanks, or better said, EUCHARIST (eucharistein).

My thoughts wandered a bit. I looked around the chapel. We were 15 priests and I was the youngest. My Novice Master was there, my Church History prof, my first superior in Panama, one of our original missioners in China, a man who, because of the sex abuse situation, cannot celebrate any sacraments in public, my French professor, a priest who seems to be constantly angry, etc. There were walkers and canes for several of them. But I thought of how I have to be thankful for all of them, especially as I celebrated the Eucharist with them just a few minutes later.

I also thought of one of my confreres with whom I’m having some difficulty. I found myself quickly leaving a room when he would enter. I would look for another table rather than sit with him. I told God that that situation has to change and that I would try to sit with him at table the next chance I would get. After Mass, I went into the dining room. As I went to my chair, he sat down across the table from me. My original thought was this: God, why do you have to answer prayers so fast?

That’s when I realized that I am called to live out Eucharist, not just to celebrate it. How often I myself would say “Do this — Live this — in memory of me” and at that moment, I was doing just that. It was difficult & hard to carry on a conversation but thinking about what Eucharist really means, I was enabled to do it.

SHARING #1

Yesterday, Brian & Jackie McGee visited with me here in Philadelphia. I really enjoyed talking with them as well as sharing lunch with them here at St. Vincent’s Seminary. I took advantage of Brian’s presence to reconnect with this blog and I hope I don’t forget Username & Password again. So, here goes my first sharing with anyone reads this. I believe “sharing” is the operative word for a blog, at least for this blog it is.

For prayer, I’m using a book called “Fifteen Days with St. Vincent de Paul” which I find very helpful and inspiring. This morning, I read a phrase that has stayed with me for the past few hours and, at least for me, needs more reflexion in the spirit of prayer. And so I share it with you.

The theme of the chapter was how St. Vincent found his true self through union with God and with neighbor. The author began with this question or something like this: What is my attitude towards the poor with whom I share a town or city?

I guess I never thought that I SHARED a town or city with anyone. When I usually think of SHARING, it’s mainly with people whom I know personally and, most likely, can call by name. When I SHARE, it is usually something that I can touch or see or experience: a meal, a car ride, a movie, etc. But, is it not true that I can touch and see and experience — and even smell! — a town or city? And am I not sharing that “space” with all who live there, rich and poor alike? And should I not be concerned when some of those with whom I SHARE this space are lacking necessary things to be able to enjoy this space as I enjoy it?

This thought has to change my way of seeing the reality that surrounds me. I have to be concerned for the water that my fellow town/city dwellers drink or the schools where their children study. I guess I could stay in my own “little world / town / city” and say: “I don’t have any children so that’s not my concern”. But, as usual, the Word of God challenges me. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus, in responding to the question “Who is my neighbor” asks: “Who WAS neighbor … Go and do likewise”.

I find this insight into “SHARING” a town / city not only widens my notion of Christian love but also disturbs me and challenges me. What about you?