Christmas. Not yet.

So, here we go . . . the mad dash to Christmas. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of people (perhaps you were there yourself) waiting in line in the middle of the night to begin shopping.

Added to the frenzy this year was the dismantling of the firewall around Thanksgiving. This holiday has traditionally been most pristine in observing family traditions — the parade, visits to grandparents, football, the table, the turkey, the prayer (“okay everybody say what you’re thankful for.”)

Not anymore. It’s just like any other day now. “Stores are open for your shopping convenience. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping. Have that turkey, then join us for our huge holiday savings!”

One poor fellow was quoted in the paper, “I know it’s Thanksgiving but I have to buy my kids some stuff.”


There’s a remedy for this. It’s called Advent. The next two weeks will finish our time of waiting, reflecting, praying. These final days provide a time for our hearts to soften and a freshness to life restored. It is a time of expectation, like people’s happy buzz in the theatre before the curtain goes up. Please, please don’t go rushing about trying to create television’s version of “happy holidays”. So many of us are sick of Christmas by the time it arrives. How sad.

So how do you celebrate “waiting”? What rituals accompany “expectation”? One way is by experiencing what we call “less”. Or another way to express it . . . “without”. Here are some suggestions to help these final days of Advent waiting.

  • Avoid the “Christmas Specials” on television. The ones that have Santa and huge happy endings with everyone singing and clapping. It’s not Christmas yet.
  • Avoid listening to the popular carols (Jingle Bells, We wish you a Merry C, Joy to the World, Silent Night, etc.). Christ hasn’t come yet. Handel’s Messiah is great Advent music.
  • “Small”, “Quiet”, “Slow” are good. (Big, Loud, and Fast tends to get us tense and anxious.)
  • Red and gold throughout the house says Christmas . . try silver, blue and purple during Advent. (I sound like Martha Stewart!!)
  • “Secrets” are great ways to prepare for the Christ Child. Do something really nice for someone. Do it in such a way that they will never discover you were the one who did it!
  • Lower your expectations. This will NOT be. .”the best Christmas ever!” It will be good and Holy in just the way God wants it to be for you . . . if you practice the Advent spirit.
  • Teach the children/grandchildren to appreciate the small and humble way God chose to come to us. Find some small little task to do with a child to “get ready” for the Feast. (Come light a candle in church and say a prayer).
  • Sadness often comes at Advent. Eventually, we are reminded of some loss we have suffered. Let any Advent sadness we have be for someone else not for ourselves. There is always someone who suffers more than you. Pray for them in the midst of your sadness.
  • You are your best gift to others. You can bring a new freshness to your affection for people. Let yourself be renewed by the wonderful quiet and smallness of Advent.

Go slow. God bless you

Fr. Tim


merciful

“We constantly need to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends upon it.”

(Pope Francis, MV.2)

More Information


Pope Francis ANNOUNCES A YEAR OF MERCY.

pf

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis formally presented his official proclamation of the 2015-2016 extraordinary jubilee or Holy Year of Mercy this evening before celebrating vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis said in the document that he wants the year, which will begin Dec. 8, to be a time for Catholics to contemplate just how merciful God has been to them and to understand better how they are called to be merciful to others in turn.

Mercy, the pope wrote, is “the beating heart of the Gospel.” “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God,” he wrote. “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.” Nothing in the church’s preaching or witness, he said, can be lacking in me.

Here is the Vatican’s translation of the prepared text of the pope’s brief homily this evening at first vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19), continues to resound in us all. Peace remains the desire of so many people who suffer unprecedented violence of discrimination and death simply because they bear the name “Christian.”

Our prayer is all the more intense and becomes a cry for help to the Father, who is rich in mercy, that he may sustain the faith of our many brothers and sisters who are in pain. At the same time, we ask for the grace of the conversion of our own hearts so as to move from indifference to compassion.

Many question in their hearts: Why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. This is not the time to be distracted; on the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential. This is a time for the church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy (cf. Jn 20:21-23).

For this reason, the Holy Year must keep alive the desire to know how to welcome the numerous signs of the tenderness which God offers to the whole world and, above all, to those who suffer, who are alone and abandoned, without hope of being pardoned or feeling the Father’s love. A Holy Year to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we were lost. A Jubilee to receive the warmth of his love when he bears us upon his shoulders and brings us back to the Father’s house. A year in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may be-come witnesses to mercy.

Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.

May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and, may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ.


Stay tuned. There will be much more news about the Year of Mercy here at Holy Trinity in the coming weeks.

God Bless you.

Fr. Tim


The Family Meal

I’ve said many times that creating a family and raising children is the toughest job in the world. Parents are heroes. One of the things that makes family life such a challenge is the culture we live in. Its values and goals so often conflict with the life experiences we want our children to have.

Most parents want the “best” for their family. But, what is the best? Current social norms encourage families to “go for it all”. Sports, social media, cell phones, video games, internet browsing, and cable TV are all part of the fabric of young family life.

Each in themselves can be harmless and at best, recreational and restorative. But, as in all things, “too much” causes dysfunction and the breakdown of the peaceful flow of human relationships.

Just last week the newspaper reported that teens were spending more time on the computer and cell phones than in daily sleep! A local college chaplain told me the biggest challenge he had in helping his young students was to get them to put down their iPads and talk to each other!

In all the chatter of social media we are losing something precious . . . the fun and satisfaction of talking and relating with each other. Strong measures to correct this are needed and it will, at times, take courage and wisdom to deal with the resistance.

One step you can take is the family meal (especially on Sunday). Does your family have dinner together? Maybe not every night given people’s crazy schedules – – – but more times than not during the week, families should sit at table to eat and share stories about the day or upcoming events.

It’s not that any one hilarious story or deeply meaningful comment will happen; that’s not the point. What’s happening is the wider event — we’re caring for each other. We’re learning about our lives together. The dinner table is where we show each other “I’ve got your back”, “we are a family”.

Think back. I bet you could tell five really good stories about your dinner table growing up. Funny stories, stories of tears and melt downs, stories of deep sharing. Parents, it’s up to you to show your children how important dinner together is. You’re there to create memories.

So . . . . . . cell phones, video games, and iPads, all have their proper place, just not at the dinner table.


My Dinner Table Story ……

We had a dog named “Penny”, a copper colored weiner dog. This dog had free run of the back yard and, as dogs do, Penny would leave her “droppings” everywhere. As we headed out to play, mom would remind us to “watch where we stepped” Well, guess who didn’t? No sooner had we finished Grace before dinner, when the odor told everyone someone had “stepped in it”.

“Check your shoes,” dad would say. Yes, it was me. No shouting or finger pointing . . . just go clean off your shoes or even better take them off. Returning to the table, the offense, having been removed, we all could enjoy our dinner.

I’ve told Fr. John this is the perfect image of Purgatory (you can’t sit at the Banquet of Heaven with “you know what” on your shoes). Clean ’em off’ and you’re welcome at the table. He’s not buying it.

God loves you very much.

Fr. Tim


Thanksgiving

Lord, we thank you
for the goodness of our people
and for the spirit of justice
that fills this nation.
We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the
land and the challenge of the cities.

We thank you for our work and our rest,
for one another, and for our homes.
We thank you, Lord:
accept our thanksgiving on this day.
We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.


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GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD

At no point in human history have so many people been so well fed. Western civilization and what are called “first world” countries have, for the most part, sufficient food and sometimes even excess.

Yet social scientists tell us two out of three people on this earth live with hunger pangs every day. Humankind has for all its history been hungry. Food literally was seen to come from God. The seed went into the ground and then God did His miracle and wheat or corn or potato came out.

That’s why Jesus instructed his disciples to trust God to provide the necessities of life and to be more concerned with how “God’s Plan for the Human Race” was turning out. (“Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you.”). So when the first Christians prayed God to “give us this day our daily bread” they meant just that.

Nowadays however, at least in America, daily bread is everywhere. Some of us leave more on our plate at meal’s end than many in other parts of the world have eaten all day. But for all our technologi-cal advances, experts who had hoped to see world hunger stamped out by 2050 are no longer so optimistic.

So what’s the point? Here’s two. First, God seems to have so constructed things that to end world hunger people and nations are going to have to learn how to share. (By the way, this is one of our responsibilities here at Holy Trinity – – -to ensure we carry out the Lord’s instruction to feed the hungry.)

Secondly, it seems that the more food is in abundance, the less grateful we are. Is it any less a blessing to get our kids a Happy Meal at McDonald’s drive-thru than to harvest a meager crop by the sweat of your brow? In the end- – -it all comes from God.

I do hope you take time before you eat to remember that your life, and the food set before you to nourish that life, are all a gift from God. Take time to say “thank you”. It may sound like a small thing, (it is) but it puts into practice something very important- – – -the realization that we come from God and we owe God everything we have.

Mealtime is a teachable moment for children. Pause for a moment before eating. Give thanks for the food you are about to eat. Ask that it strengthen each of us to do what we can to help others. Lastly, you might ask God to help people around the world who are hungry tonight.

With this kind of gratitude then we might just be moved to do something for those who have so very little.

Blessings to you and the family.

Fr. Tim


Thanksgiving

Lord, we thank you
for the goodness of our people
and for the spirit of justice
that fills this nation.
We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the
land and the challenge of the cities.

We thank you for our work and our rest,
for one another, and for our homes.
We thank you, Lord:
accept our thanksgiving on this day.
We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.


cma2015topper


Love Your Enemies . . . What?!!

**We ran this article a year ago, a work in progress**

No where, ever, will you find this command in the rules for any nation, any organization, any religion . . . but for Christianity. These words were spoken by Our Lord Himself, not to living saints who hung on His every word, but to his disciples, rough fishermen, common people whose lives were already hard enough. He speaks to you and me.

Think for a moment . . . do you have any enemies? I mean real enemies, someone who wants bad things to happen to you – someone who tries to hurt you?

If you lived in Israel or Palestine, you could answer “yes”. For the Jew it would be “the Palestinians”, for the Palestinian, it would be “the Jews”. For the Serbians, it’s the Croats (and vice-versa). And on it goes; Huttus vs. Tutsis, Christians vs. Moslems, and here in America, we could say at times, even Democrats and Republicans.

How about you? Do you have any enemies? I’m hard pressed to answer “yes” to that. I have people who don’t like me or don’t trust me (and me toward them); perhaps they are a rival, but I can’t say I know anyone who is my enemy.

Does this clear us from the Lord’s command? I don’t think so. In the same way Jesus expanded the other commandments of the Torah – – – from shall not kill to shall not grow angry, from shall not commit adultery to shall not even look lustfully – – – so now my “enemy” becomes someone who doesn’t necessarily “hate” me, but rather someone who “stands in my way”.

My enemy becomes someone who thinks differently than I. It is someone who makes me afraid, someone who, yes, doesn’t like me, or someone who hurt me, and by golly, I’m not going to forget that.

And what do we do with this new “expanded” version of enemy? We avoid that person. We gather people around us who feel the same way about that person.

You can see how this natural response to an opposing force begins to divide the human family. Fear, retaliation, mistrust become the atmosphere between families, co-workers, political parties, cultures, religions, and nations.

How can this situation, given human nature, ever change? Or, do we even want it to change? (Isn’t it easier to keep my enemies my enemy?!)

No. Jesus, if we choose to listen to him, says, “love your enemy.”

But HOW? (Please know I’m trying to do these myself, and many of you are much better at this than I am).

Thoughts to help me love my enemy:

  • To love doesn’t mean to feel “sweet”
    toward my
    enemy. Bottom line, it means to want what is good for them, “that they be well”.
  • Who knows what hurtful events have marked their lives. Perhaps their response to me is really just them trying not to be hurt again.
  • Inside every human being is someone who (because we are made in God’s image) wants to love and be loved – every one of us. So, my “enemy” is like me!
  • How would I wish to be treated by this person? Do that for them.
  • In the end, God is bigger than my feelings and fears. If He commands it, then He will help me do it.
  • It’s going to hurt. It’s part of the cross we carry for the love of Christ.
  • No one really wants to have or be . . . an enemy.
  • In the end, my enemy is my brother, my sister.

God help us all with these things. Jesus wants us to love like Him and His Father everyone.

A blessed week to you

Fr. Tim


A Wee Small Whisper . . .

We live in a world where a thousand voices are vying for our attention. Media spends millions of dollars finding ways to get us to part with our dollars.

Throbbing bass lines are the background for hearing about a new car model. Adorable little puppies get us to consider the right carpeting. Explosions galore announce the new video game. Political candidates are eager for you to see them as louder (i.e. stronger) than their opponents. Even the weather report is hyped to become drama. How many “storms of the century” have we had lately? We end up wanting all our learning to have this quick and noisy “sound byte” to it.

That’s not how God communicates with us. Elijah the prophet stood on the mountain and asked the Lord to speak to him (1 Kings 19:12). First there came a mighty wind . . . but God was not in the wind. Then an earthquake . . . nothing. Then fire, still no voice of God. Finally, standing on the mountain came “a still small whisper.” It was the Lord.

Why doesn’t God shout at us to get our attention? Sometimes He will if things get critical; something like, “You’re under arrest”, Or “You’re drunk”, Or “Stop it you’re hurting me!” can have the voice of God in it!

But most times God’s voice is subtle, like a whisper. He’s a loving Father. Love is best communicated this way so as not to cause fear or to violate one’s freedom.


Some ways to help hear God’s whisper to you:

  • Quiet your world. Noise, particularly endless human speech, fatigues one’s ability to LISTEN. Turn off the TV or radio or ipad when not purposely using it.
  • Create a place in your home to meet God. Perhaps a chair with a window and a crucifix nearby (You do have a crucifix in your home, don’t you? If not get one.)
  • Ask God to send the Holy Spirit to open your heart to hear His word to you.
  • Have something of your own thought to sprinkle the silence with. Something short and simple . . . “Jesus I love you.” “Lord be with me.” “Speak Lord, help me to listen.” Or just the name “Jesus”.
  • Just sit. It’s like waiting for a bus (remember that?!). Your mind will wander of course; don’t be bothered by that. Use your little phrase to bring you back to waiting for Him.
  • Don’t think something dramatic will happen . . . remember God is subtle, not loud. We’re looking for a thought or a memory or a hope to “pop up”. If nothing pops up, that’s perfectly fine. You’ve had a few moments to “just sit with God”. Over time you will find these few moments much more refreshing than checking phone messages.
  • Have this “sit” every day or at least as often as you can. 5 minutes, you can do this!
  • Keep at it. God will speak to you. And over time you will know it. That’s a promise from Jesus. (read Jn. 14: 15-21)

I was on a silent retreat two years ago. Each night I’d visit the darkened chapel to say good night to Jesus. I had been sitting there for some minutes without a single pious thought when the idea “popped” into my head that Mary, his mother, was keeping the same vigil I was.

Tired and a little frustrated I said, “Your son is pretty quiet tonight”. Then it happened . . . (I could never have created this myself). The thought “came to me” where I saw Mary smile and turn slightly toward me, “Don’t worry,” she seemed to say, “He knows you’re here.”

If you had been there would you have heard these words in the chapel? Of course not. It was a little interior grace God gave me to let me know that I was not alone. In faith He was there with me and so was Mary.

Mary’s been my chapel partner ever since – quietly keeping watch with me.

Bless you. Happy sitting.

Fr. Tim


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Your Path. Gotta look for it.

This Sunday begins what the American bishops call “Vocation Awareness Week”. Throughout these days we will pray at mass and teach in class rooms the vision our faith presents to us about “vocation”.

Vocation? What is that? It’s your purpose; it’s the task God gives to your life to make this a better world. It’s something the world will never experience without YOU! A fellow named Frederick Buechner put it this way: a vocation is “the place God calls you to, where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger . . . meet.”

In other words your vocation is focused on the hunger of the world – not yourself – but for this world that God so loves. “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things (happiness) will be given unto you.” (Mt. 6;33) So what is your “deep gladness”?

Is it children and family? Then have some! Love them, teach them, show them the way.

Is it teaching? Then learn all you need to know about it. Then give it joyfully to those who don’t know what you know. Open their world.

Is it helping others? Comforting? Healing? Playing? Protecting? Laughing? Performing? Listening? (When you do these things you feel joy and meaning, right?) So now bring them to those who stumble, who weep, who are sick, who want to belong, who are in danger, who are sad, who need inspiration, who need someone to hear them.

Notice . . . your vocation makes this a better world and this looking toward others becomes your happiness. God wants this for you and equips you with your particular gifts to advance God’s Kingdom.

So how do I find my deep happiness? First of all — believe it’s out there with your name on it. It really is. You are in this world for a reason. Now Jesus says, search for it, hunger for it. “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.” Mt. 7:7

One of the depressing things for me when I got out of college was the feeling that it made absolutely no difference what I did with my life. No one was watching, no one cared . . . just do SOMETHING! Life is moving on!

Of course we all need to support ourselves in this world, so “a job” is essential. But what is the purpose of a job? Isn’t it to give us the freedom to do what brings us happiness?

Initially for me, I thought it was teaching and someday marriage. Later on I learned God had something else in mind for me. I discovered the personal love of Christ for me. Over time it became clear that my “deepest happiness” was helping people come to discover His love in their lives too. So priesthood eventually was shown to be my path for life.


If you are still looking for your path . . . don’t worry. God will show it to you. There is no time limit to discovering our vocation. But we must ask and seek His promptings.

A few tips on seeking one’s vocation:

  • Listen to what trusted friends and family tell you about yourself and your gifts. Ask them what they think you bring to the party.
  • Be aware of what moves you profoundly. What brings tears of joy? What did someone (a teacher, parent, friend) do for you that touched you deeply? Might God be using this to teach you to give back in a similar way?
  • All vocations have to do with loving . . . God and others.
  • Don’t think God has some dreadful burden He wants you to carry for your vocation. Life has it’s crosses, some very heavy; but underneath the trials there is Joy.
  • Pray. Ask God – every day – to show you your happiness. Watch for moments of joy. What path in life might consistently bring you to this?
  • Don’t be overly moved (highs or lows) by life’s events. They pass and everyday life continues. But these moments leave their message to us.
  • Peace. Jesus continuously tells us to be at peace. This calm, steady and happy state of being tell us we’re heading in the right direction.

Trust God and Peace be with you.

Fr. Tim


cma2015topper


Eros. When the moon hits your eye . . .

Remember that song? Dean Martin? “When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, THAT’S Amore!” They don’t write them like that anymore.

It tries to describe that moment when a man and woman suddenly behold the beauty of each other and experience that wonderful thing we call “falling in love”. Other familiar phrases happen here. Words like, “She just knocked me out.” Or, “When I saw him, I just melted.”

The Greeks had a word for this powerful reaction to an-other person. They called it “Eros”. It’s one of three words they had for “love”. The others are “Philos” (brotherly/sisterly love/ the love of truth) and “Agape” (self-sacrificing love).

You might see in the word Eros the word “erotic”, and here’s where things can get a little complicated. You see Eros is a good thing. It is given to us by God to open our eyes and hearts to appreciate the beauty of another person in both body and soul. It’s what Adam felt when he first beheld Eve. “At last!” he said. (Gen. 1). Something “erotic”, in the best sense, pertains to those attributes that delight the senses of the lovers and increase sexual desire.

But, as usual, we’ve found a way to mess things up. Our fallen human nature has taken the God given delight in another’s physical presence and turned it around. What was meant to be the entre’ to physical love between spouses (an admiring of the other, prompting the gift of ourselves to them) now becomes the temptation to “take” their beauty for ones own pleasure. We call this use of Eros for selfish gain, lust. The tendency toward lust is a state theologians call “concupiscence”.

Lust has an interesting power. Theologians refer to its “fascinating” or “hypnotizing” effects. Playboy built an empire on this tendency (especially in men). So intense is the sexual pleasure that it has the ability (unless checked) to suspend reasonable thought.

And here’s the crux of the matter. Human sexuality has a duel purpose: children and spousal love and friendship. The fundamental disorder of lust is that it separates sexual pleasure from the full purpose of sexual activity. It breaks the bonds that ties it to “meaningful sex” and pleasure becomes the sole purpose for the activity.

So there’s a big tussle going on. Reason says, “Look, this sex thing is only going to work if it has some rules attached to keep it focused on its purpose.” Unchecked Eros says, “Oh please, get real! Just look at him/her! I’m melting! What could possibly be wrong with this?” If it feels so good, what could be wrong?


So which will win? Right, Reason or Lust? In our fallen nature . . . lust usually wins. It overpowers our best intentions. Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, God’s will is felt to be burdensome and interferes with our sexual desires which are now separated from God’s wisdom for us. We become alienated from the Lover God created us to be.

This is where Jesus comes to save us. “God is love” scripture tell us. (1 John) Jesus is the love of God in human flesh. In him, as in no other human, there is the perfect union of Eros and Agape.

Did Jesus have Eros? You bet he did! He had a lover’s passion for human beings. His tenderness with sinners, his parables of the Good Shepherd leaving the 99 to search for the lost one, the father who searches day and night for his Prodigal son, the woman’s search for the Lost coin . . . all tell us of a love that is moved by Christ’s sharing in our human nature. God loves us with human love (Eros) perfectly united to selfless love (Agape) in Christ Jesus.

All this is forever etched in our hearts in the passion of the Cross of Christ. “In this God proves his love for us .” (Rm. 5:8)
So when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, re-member . . . our new life is to “love one another as Christ has loved us.” (Jn. 13:34)

Fr. Tim


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Sex. What a great idea!

I can’t think of another topic which with just that one word – – sex – – stops everyone in their tracks. Social science tells us a young man thinks about sex every ninety seconds (women, pretty often too). I mean that’s more than they think about the Bills!! What’s the big deal?

I think it has something to do with the fact that we are sexual by our nature. It’s in our pores. It defines who we are. Saying something as simple as, “He’s a good man” or “She’s a wonderful woman” is talking sex. You are a man or a woman. But for rare permutations that’s how people come.

And that’s how it’s supposed to be because it was God who made them male and female, in the divine image he created them. And then he said, “be fertile and multiply.” (Gen. 1) I think the sexless angels are jealous of us.

From the beginning, sex is God’s idea (Yay God!). So why did he do that? The short answer is . . . to make us happy.

Happy for two reasons. 1. It unites a man and woman (hopefully husband and wife) in a thrilling physical embrace of love. Love, as physical passion, has the power to touch and soften the soul. 2. This embrace carries with it the power to create another human being. A child. This brings family and that lifelong communion among parents and children.

All this sex stuff is geared to make us happy. It makes us happy because it can turn us into Lovers and being a Lover is how we image God who is love. Simple eh?

No. We mess it up. And the number one culprit that messes up God’s plan for sex is . . . . selfishness. Selfishness is the opposite of love. Love seeks always to give; selfishness seeks always to take.

Genesis had it right when it tells us that to separate ourselves from the dominion of God, to manipulate our human interactions with no regard for God’s will and purpose for us is a recipe for alienation. Alienation from God and people. (Adam and Eve hid from God and covered themselves to avoid the now prying eyes of their spouse.)

Think of the ocean of sadness that the selfish use of sex has caused humankind. Betrayal, addiction, abuse . . . the list is long and heartbreaking. And what is the remedy to such societal ills proposed by our culture? “Respect yourself. Respect others. And use a condom.”

Friends, unless we see ourselves as living under God’s dominion, God who made us, who loves us, and calls us his children, we will get lost. Lost as in “Who am I? What is my life supposed to be?” Things like sex appeal, passion, orgasm . . . all that draw men and women together, are not by themselves powerful enough to tell us who we are. Our meaning as human beings comes from God. The old Baltimore Catechism said it wonderfully: Why did God make me? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world. And to be happy with Him in the next.

So how does all this “God made sex and tells us how to use it” guide our actions with each other? It’s called living chastely. It includes a love of one’s virginity (imagine that!). It includes moments of self-control so that God’s purpose for sex is protected.

It is not a life of prudery or fear of sex. Living chastely is a joyful discipline that proves a lovers’ “true heart”.
You are a child of God.

Fr. Tim

PS. Next week we’ll look at “Eros”. It’s a good thing!


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The Examen . . . Call to Mind.

I’d like to suggest to you a little practice that you can do every day to bring a clarity and understanding of the deeper spiritual realities of your life.

It’s called the Examen. It was invented some 400 years ago by St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order of priests and brothers. He developed it to help the Jesuit novices grow in their conscious union with God during the day.

It’s really quite simple (we’ll get to how you do it in a minute). It requires only the ability to remember the events of your day, but to do it in partnership with God. Picture God sitting beside you as you recall various encounters with people, any strong thoughts or feelings that happened to you during the day.

Why do this? Isn’t it just daydreaming? Wasting time? No!! Something happens. Instead of experiencing your day as one random meeting or conversation after another – – – signifying nothing. The Examen wraps a blanket of “God’s Purpose” around all these moments. It unifies our day whereby we can see how we have cooperated with God’s grace or how we may have ignored or turned away from God’s plan.

Here in brief form are the steps to the Examen. Find a quiet place, a comfortable chair, take a deep breath to relax and begin. (Remember the Holy Spirit will come with little “promptings” opening your eyes to see what God wants you to see.)

1. Call to mind that you are in the presence of God.
(@30 seconds)

God made you. He has brought you to this moment. The air you breathe – – God made that. Your lungs that breathe that air – – God made those too. God loves you and wants you to see what he sees about your life.

2. Review your day from rising to the present moment.
(Steps 2,3,4 can be done in 5 or 6 minutes.)

Consider conversations you’ve had with people (people close to you and those who just happened by).

Consider thoughts you’ve had (good or bad) that come to mind as you are sitting. (Why do you think you remembered that thought?)

3. Pay attention to feelings.

Strong reactions to conversations (positive or negative) tell us something is going on here. Why the emotion? What is it telling you? Don’t force the feelings; they’ll come back to you as it pleases the Spirit. Generally there is a little realization of, “hey, that really . . . touched me, bothered me, delighted me, etc. . . .”

4. Choose one feature of the day (one conversation, one feeling).

Make that your prayer/conversation with the Lord. For example: my examen a few days ago reminded me of some intense negative feelings I’d had while talking to someone at dinner. She was expressing her opinion about something to which I disagreed. My feelings were ones set on defeating her opinion and replacing mine as the better one. I wanted to win.

The Spirit asked me to look at my reactions. Tim, why are you so combative? Why do you have to win the discussion all the time? My prayer then became, “Well Lord, I’ve done it again! I can’t just listen and try to understand another person. I have to be the one who’s right all the time. Help me learn to listen. Help me to accept people where they are. Help me to wait for You to show me what is the “helpful” word.”

5. Look toward tomorrow.
(1 minute)

Tell God what is next in your life. What feelings come with those expectations (joy, worry, hopeful, thankful, anxious). Ask God for the grace to be “Open to the moment”. Ask for God’s help as best you can put it into words.

Tell the Lord your thanks and love for Him.

The Examen will help you find the Hand of God present in your life. Don’t be compulsive, but try to do this once a day
(best times are around noon or in the evening.)

Good remembering!!

Fr. Tim


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