God: Co-weaver of our Life

A talent that comes so naturally to a child but one that sometimes fades as we get older is the ability to be surprised or delighted. I’m dangerously close to that.

But something happened awhile back at a vocation conference I was attending. Talking about how we find God’s way and plan for our life, a young priest presented an image that surprised and delighted us. He gave us a picture of how life gets pieced together in partnership with God.

He used this image. See what you think.

Picture you’re weaving a cloth with various shuttles and yarns attached to them. The cloth is suspended over your head much like an umbrella. The garment you’re weaving is of course “your life”.

You view your cloth from the bottom and see several openings which could receive your shuttle. So seeing the pattern you’ve already begun, you choose an opening that seems to best add to your cloth. You push the shuttle through and wait for its return.

Meanwhile God is there above to receive your choice. He takes his time in returning the shuttle. He’s partnering with you as co-weaver! Finally He drops the shuttle back down to you but not exactly where you thought He would. It’s “over there”.

“Oh,” we think. “That changes things. Now what? Where do I send my shuttle back to Him?”

And up and down the shuttle of life goes. Each time we make the best judgment we can about life’s choices . . . Is this the person I should marry? Do I work or stay home with the children?

Do I apply for the new opening at work? Where do we send the children to school? What should I say about recent developments in the family? How do I handle this new problem? Etc.

Get the picture? It’s really a nice meditation on the partnership God has with us in guiding us through our lives.

Two points seem critical to me in this process.

1. When we ponder where to send up our choices (the shuttle) there needs to be some sort of prayer. “Oh Lord please guide me, enlighten me. Show me where to send this choice in life. I give it to you. Help me.” Then act with the confidence that God will indeed help your choices. He loves you!

2. When God drops the shuttle back down to you, no mat- ter how unexpected its placement— trust that it is God’s answer to your prayer. The events of our life that follow our prayerful action is what we call God’s Providence (His loving grace given to us His children) Trust that He has heard you and has answered your prayers.

Case in point: We prayed for months that God would guide the selection of our president and government officials in the recent election. When I went to the poll that day I pushed the shuttle through (to continue the analogy) for a different candidate. What came back to me (and to you!) was Donald Trump as our next president.

Following the points mentioned above, I now regard President Trump as God’s will for America at this present time. (Remember, I said God is Co-weaver. “We the people” are the other partner.)

My responsibility as a citizen is to support him wherever I can and speak up when government policies violate matters of social justice.

Bless you. Happy Easter.

Fr. Tim

PS. God is waiting for your next prayer as together you weave the pattern of your life. Make your garment breathtaking!


Dear Friends,

Today is the day God shows us the final plan for all creation. It is simply this: Love wins. God’s love became visible in Jesus, “the human heart of God.” His heart (like a sacrificial lamb) let in the sin of the world.

Jesus took the things of human sinfulness with him to the cross. And embracing them as if they were his own darkness (“He became sin for us.” 2 Cor. 5:21. He felt the abandonment of the human condition, “My God why have you abandoned me?” Mk 15:34), he carried them to the tomb with him and together they died.

Today Jesus is resurrected. In a sense God the Father starts all over again. He reaches down and breaths on the dead Jesus (like he did for Adam). The breath of God is love. Sin and death stay dead, Jesus is raised up to the Resurrection.

Lastly, God wants you to have this life. It comes through faith (also God’s gift!). You have this gift or you wouldn’t be here today.

May God bless you and your loved ones this day. May we begin to live lives of gratitude for the gift of life both here on earth and in the Kingdom yet to come.

Pray for peace. A blessed Easter.

Fr. Tim


Far From Home.

It can be scary. I remember my father in his early 80’s arriving home two hours late for dinner. Mom was sick with worry. Dad arrived white as a ghost, almost trembling.

“WHERE have you been?!” “I was lost.” Dad said. He’d had a mild stroke while driving the car. A city that he knew like the back of his hand suddenly lost all recognition. “Where am I?” Nothing looked familiar. He could have been in Buenos Aires for all he knew.

Slowly the confusion passed. Buildings and street signs started to communicate where he was and finally he’d found his way home! There’s a sicky feeling that happens when we’re lost. “I’m far from home and I’m feeling like a stranger to myself.”

So what’s the point? Jesus has a soft spot for people who have lost their way, wandered off to some place of darkness or despair. The religious leaders insisted that these people be shunned until they found their way back. “When I see you in church each Sunday . . that will prove you’ve come to your senses and your life is now righteous.”

Jesus says “No. These are the ones I’ve come for.” He searches the highways and byways for us. Like a parent looking for their wandering child, Christ seeks out those who are lost. He sends people of faith to reach out.

What does this search look like? Dinner. Conversation. Wine. Laughter. Stories. Friendship. Not church. Not yet.

Does this speak about our children and grandchildren who have seemingly walked away from the faith? Will Christ find my lost child? Yes. But probably not the way you would imagine.

Something new has to happen. Something beautiful. Something that on the surface has nothing to do with “Church”, or priests, or going to mass and confession.

Sometimes we have to meet Christ on the street or in the pub, or a movie, or a conversation with your closest friends. It brings an experience that reminds us of a “home” we have always longed for, a moment that touches us with its beauty, power and humanity.

Like Sleeping Beauty, a person is touched by a goodness and truth that reminds them of their true home. It’s called love. And this love comes from Christ. And all who abide in this love are children of God.

Parents. Grandparents. You have this love in you. Be confident of it. Give it to your young ones lavishly, humorously, gently . . . then, when you are alone . . . beg Jesus to add the church thing!

Remember he’s out on the heath looking for them. He’s the Good Shepherd. This Holy Week our shepherd will lay down his life for all of us . . . we’re all lost in some way. Please join us for the Holy Triduum beginning Thursday evening and continuing Good Friday (3pm), Holy Saturday (8pm), and culminating with the great Feast of Easter Sunday.

God is looking for you. Let yourself be found.

Fr. Tim


When We Hate.

It’s scary sometimes how deeply we can feel anger or resentment toward someone or some situation. I’m not talking about being “annoyed” or “frustrated”, something you wish were different but “hey, we’ll deal with it.”

No this goes deeper. It surprises us with how hot it gets us; our reactions can be so strong that we say or do something that has devastating effects, sometimes for years.

Try this one out – – did this ever happen in your family? It did mine. I was a teenager (I’m guessing 13 or 14 yrs. old). I can’t even remember the issue now (some minor “no” to something I wanted to do); but I remember the flash of intense anger I felt and the words I spoke to my
mother.

“I hate you!” I said. “I wish I had a different mother!” (I’m feeling the shame of those words as I type this). My mother of course, being the adult and knowing her son could be a spiteful boy, walked away from this awful moment (perhaps to cry).

I look back on this incident 50 yrs. ago and wonder how my parents didn’t put me up for sale! How can anger be so strong? How does it completely overwhelm our reason and better instincts? I don’t know. It just does. It may go back millennia to the fury we needed to survive in the hostile environment of the animal wilderness.

What I do know is . . . it is NOT God’s will that we act that way. For “when someone strikes you on the cheek be prepared to turn the other one to him as well.” Mt. 5:39


This is exactly what my mother did. And in doing this selfless act of parenting she saved her son. Years later I would recall that moment to her and how her sad but silent walking away showed how much she loved me.

I tell this story because I know some families who have allowed words (thoughtlessly spoken) to become a giant chasm between parent and child or brothers or sisters. For some it has been years since family members have spoken to each other. As I say, it’s frightening how one moment of heated exchange can cost a lifelong friendship or worse, a brother or sister or parent.


This same toxic anger is afflicting our political conversation. Both sides are infected, Democrats and Republicans. Each sees the opposing side as not just wrong or “misguided”, but they are seen rather as the enemy whose heart is wicked and whose intentions are cruel.

So long as we see our opponents as lacking character or moral goodness there is little hope we can work to solve our common problems.

New effort must be constantly put forth to repair or renewtattered relationships – – – no matter how many times it takes. This is hard work and requires a basic trust in our
neighbor’s goodness.

Where do we get the will to start again with that “stupid Democrat” or “blind Republican” or “foul mouthed child”? It comes in knowing that, despite present appearances (!), this is a Child of God. Christ shed his blood for them and for me.

So as scripture tells us, we now have peace through the blood of Christ. “With his own body (Christ) broke down the wall that kept them enemies.” Eph. 2:14. In other words he died for us all.

If he refuses no one his redeeming love, can we? Lord help us to turn the other cheek. It is your beloved child who strikes us.

God bless your 5th week in the Lenten desert.

Fr. Tim


The Big Picture

Our basketball gym in high school had a balcony at one end behind the basket. From there you could look down and see the whole court.

During practice the coach would diagram a new play and explain the pattern each player was to run to create the shot. Needless to say we would get lost in all the switches and picks. One player, losing their part of the play, would mess up everybody else. “Again!! Run it again!”, coach would yell.

Blowing it for about the third time the coach would yell, “Horan get up there. Get the big picture.” These were orders to climb up to the balcony and look down on the court. You could see the whole play and what part each player was to accomplish. Coming back down you kept the image of what you’d just seen and the play finally made sense!


It makes you wish we had a place we could go to get the big picture for our life. But you and I know it doesn’t work that way. There are all kinds of things that happen that “change the play”. Things like: 70 mph winds that knock your power out for three days, you throw your back out and can’t lift your baby, the company is over budget and your job has to go, getting out of debt seems impossible, the relatives are driving us crazy. Etc.

Life can be a bumpy ride. Is there anything that doesn’t move and change? Something that re- mains constant in times of trouble? Is there a North Star that beckons to me and tells me where I’m headed in my life?

There is of course, but it’s hidden among a bunch of counterfeit destinations. You know those. The perfect: job, house, car, neighborhood, school, wardrobe, friends, vacation etc. Or maybe it’s in finishing your life’s bucket list. (So you’ve climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro, been to the Masters, and seen the pyramids . . . . now what?).

Friends, we’re not the first people to ask that question. The rich young man in the Gospel (Mt. 19:16-25) asked the same question . . . “What must I do to get where I’m supposed to be?”. Jesus’ answer was simple, “keep the commandments”. If we need further explanation . . . “love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

And where does that get us? The Kingdom of God. The rest is all filler; what we do while we’re loving God and neighbor.

It’s not that complicated – – – if you get the “Big Picture”.

Our home is with God. Let’s start today to claim it with the way we live.

Bless your Lenten days.

Fr. Tim


Do You Want to Fast this Lent?

(In the Words of Pope Francis)

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
  • Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
  • Fast from worries and have trust in God.
  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
  • Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Faith comes from hearing.

If you’re going duck hunting and you want to get the flock to come your way, you’ll have to use a “duck call”. If you want to call a buck in the forest, you rattle some antlers. If you want to get a baby’s attention, you’ll use soft round tones and say their name.

These different attempts at communication are shaped by the recipient’s ability to receive the message. St. Thomas Aquinas captured this nugget of human truth six hundred years ago when he said, “Nothing occurs in the intellect (you can’t know anything) if it doesn’t come first through the senses.” Animals respond to biofeedback (heat, cold, hunger, sound). Humans respond to these same things, but also having intellect they come to know things through sound—- think words.

This pre-condition for knowing has profound effects on our relationship with God. How can we hear the “Voice of God” who is pure infinite spirit? If you are an angel (pure “spirit person”) you have no body, no ears. There is no need to hear. Angels know things by “seeing” with their mind. In that sense they don’t have to learn; they get things immediately when their spirit “beholds” some- thing. They know God immediately.

As for humans, God has made us in such a way that what we can know must first come to us through our mode of receiving. Unless we see, hear, touch, taste or smell some- thing, we can’t know anything about it.

So how then does God communicate to us? He does so by obeying the laws of learning we humans were given to know things. He comes to us through our human senses; primarily through seeing and hearing.

Abraham experienced a “vision” of God in which he and his wife Sarah “heard” of a promised child in their old age. What did he do? He believed.

Moses had a “vision” of God at the Burning Bush. He “heard” God say his name – “I Am”. And what did Moses do? He believed. (How you describe their seeing and hearing is a mystery – – no burning bush has ever spoken to me!)

In each case there was given this strange ability to “believe” that God was addressing them. The giver of this gift is God’s Holy Spirit. And from that point on, whatever happened contains “God’s plan”. Theologians call it “Salvation History” and it includes the events of human history interpreted with eyes and ears now open to what was heard through Faith . . . the bible.


St. Paul makes this literal connection between hearing and faith in the Letter to the Romans (10:14ff).

“But how can they call on him (God) in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him if they have not heard? And how will they hear without someone to preach? . . . Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the word of Christ.”

And in Hebrews 1:1,2: “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets (Abraham, Moses and Isaiah etc.). In these last days, he spoke to us through a son, through whom he created all things.”

Of this Son, John the Apostle writes: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes . . . and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life made visible to us . . . What we have seen and heard we now proclaim to you.” 1Jn. 1:1

And what is this word that God speaks? It is the “Word made flesh”, Jesus of Nazareth.


God continues to speak the word of Jesus in the scriptures, the teaching of the church, and the voice of God that is our conscience urging us to “do good and avoid evil”, and lastly God’s word comes at times from the Ho- ly Spirit speaking through the people around us. This is God calling out to us.

Lord give us the ears to hear.

Fr. Tim


Lent. Let’s Roll!!

Back in high school if you were trying out for one of the varsity sports there was this thing called “two a days”. Generally it consisted of four hours of grueling practice, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. It was meant to see who really wanted to play. Fainter hearts would soon find other interests. We hated “two a days.”

That’s kind of how we look at Lent isn’t it – – – six weeks of getting in spiritual shape. Feelings of dread get stirred. “No chocolate! No whiskey! No TV! No whining! No fun for six weeks. Oh dear. Spencer Tracy, in God is My Co-Pilot, reaches over and smacks me . . . “get a hold of yourself! This is a good thing.”

This is not a very helpful way to begin! It’s important that we start this journey in the right frame of mind. I like to look at it as getting back to some ba- sics in life. Things like balance, temperance, accountability, moderation, and focus, can re-order our personal lives so we begin to see what really matters.

Most importantly, renewed kindness, generosity, devotion and prayer can, by God’s grace, increase our desire to live for God. We get reminded that our time on this earth is God’s gift, a gift to be lived in loving God and our neighbor.

And why is this clean-up necessary? Because we let things go. A spiritual sloth weighs us down and dulls our senses. We let our appetites for all kinds of things get too big and we know it. Deep down a little voice tells us, “you’re getting sloppy/careless/ greedy/selfish/snobby, etc.”

And most of all, lukewarm to God. We don’t mean for these things to happen, they just do. Like dust on your coffee table.


We’ll look closer at the Lenten practice of fasting in the weeks ahead. For now it’s sufficient to know the purpose of fasting is to free us from ourselves.

Denying ourselves some legitimate pleasure, letting ourselves become “hungry” rather than satisfying a particular appetite; these things quiet the inner voice that always wants “more”. We’ve come to pamper that voice over the year; the result being a certain slavery to whatever appeals in the moment.

Now the good news is it eventually becomes a joyful discipline. We rediscover some wonderful things we had forgotten about; things like a calmer spirit, a clearer vision of life’s “essentials”, a better understanding of how to use the things of this world properly, without excess or hoarding or waste.

But most essential in the Lenten fast is that it opens us to God and then to our neighbor. Freed from the spoiled child in us, the Lord gives us a quicker eye to see the needs of those around us.

So let’s start slow. Take some time in prayer. Ask God to show you “one thing” that needs to go (at least for a while). Make a conscious offering of it to God. (Eg. “Lord, with your grace, help me to let go of ……..”)

God will show you. One thing, not too big. Make it a gift to God. Watch what he does with it!!

Lord be with us on this journey.

Fr. Tim


At Home with Yourself.

W. B. Yeats called it the ever “widening gyre” *. The image was of a falcon and the falconer who calls the bird to its roost. The bird has flown to a distance it can no longer see or hear its master. “The falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.” The poem refers to the forces of history or culture that take a person and a civilization away from their true self.

Something like this happens in every age of history, its effects appear in our culture today and our young people are most severely affected. We’re losing a sense of our center, our true selves, and what is most disconcerting – – we don’t sense the loss. The forces that separate falcon from falconer are many and complex. To keep it simple we can point to an imbalance of the “inner world” and the “external world”.

The inner world refers to that realization a person has of himself. His center. His likes and dislikes, personality, characteristics and values. We experience it better that we can talk about it. It’s our soul, our center. Who we are. It’s the “me” that turns when I hear my name called.

The “outer world” of course is that environment outside ourselves; events, persons, circumstances in which we act and are acted upon. Some have called it “the daily grind”.

Between these two poles, the center in me and the world out there, my human life happens. I go out of myself to encounter the world and the people it brings. Then I return to the inner world and the conversation begins. “What was that? Why did that happen? Did I do the right thing?” etc.

These two poles of life, the going out and the returning “home”, need to be in balance. What happens to us in the world needs guidance and judgement from within. What happens within is activated and called out by the world around us.

The problem is the world and its pressing issues, the unending chatter of social media, news and entertainment, is overwhelming the “inner person.” There’s no home in ourselves to return to. We are in turmoil. Things fall apart.

In those rare moments when television or internet are turned off, we can grow restless or slightly embarrassed to be “alone with ourselves”.

The sudden quiet catches us off guard and in the silence a weird feeling of being a stranger to ourselves comes over us.

To meet ourselves in such a moment can even frighten us. “Who is this person? It’s ME!!” Oh dear. Me. “What am I going to do with me?”

And so we check our email, text someone, see what’s on TV, phone somebody . . . anything to avoid being with myself.

This estrangement from ourselves has sad consequences for our relationship with God. How can we hear the voice of God if we can’t hear the voice of our own conscience. (that inner voice urging us to “do this.” Or “don’t do that” Or “good job!” Or “shame on you.”)

Remember Jesus telling us “when you talk to God (pray) go to your room. Close the door. And pray to your Father in secret.” Mt. 6:5,6? Why in secret? Because the way God chooses to speak to you is as a friend. And friends give each other their full attention. A friend speaks personally to you like no other, many times quietly, just be- tween the two of you.

In the quiet, over time, we return to ourselves and begin to hear things in our heart once again. I remember one year on retreat at a monastery walking down a country path. Suddenly it happened . . . I heard the wind blowing through the trees. I mean I HEARD THE WIND. I heard it because I was LISTENING.

Later on, if you continue to listen, you can hear the things your heart has wanted to tell God. “Lord, it’s me. I just want to tell you . . .” Many times it’s just being aware of your feeling and giving them to God “who sees.”

So how to end this? Get quiet. Put down the iPhone. Come home to yourself. Re-acquaint yourself to what you’re feeling, thinking, loving, fearing. Then. . . turn to Him. Speak anything (anything!) you want to get off your chest, be grateful for, need help with.

He is there. “Your Father who hears in secret. . . knows what you need.” Mt. 6:8.

That is a promise from Christ. Trust Him.

Fr. Tim

W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming


Prayer for Lent

As we look ahead to our Lenten journey, may our fasting be a hunger for justice and our alms an offering of peace. May our prayers be the reflection of peace and also of humble and grateful hearts. We ask the Holy Spirit to accompany us on this journey of encounter as we spend these 40 days reflecting on what is means to live in solidarity as one global human family. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father forever and ever. Amen


What is a Refugee?

Holy Trinity Parish has been a strong support to the refugee ministry that happens at Mary’s Place on Lexington Avenue in the city. What follows is a Q & A published by Mary’s Place which I think is well researched and even handed. I hope you find it helpful. Holy Trinity will continue to support the works of Mary’s Place.

Fr. Tim

Things we should all know about Refugees in Rochester.

As you know, Mary’s Place, a ministry of the Cathedral Community, has been serving refugees in northwest Rochester since 2009. The recent suspension of U.S. refugee admissions for at least several months, has caused anxiety in the refugee community and deep concern among our parishioners.

Below we have answered some of the most frequent questions about the refugee situation and Mary’s Place, located in the former Holy Rosary Church on 414 Lexington Avenue.

What is the difference between an immigrant and a refugee?

An immigrant is any person living permanently in a foreign country. In recent years approximately 1 million authorized immigrants have entered the United States annually. Authorized immigrants arrive with Visas and have or acquire “green cards,” which prove they have the right to live and work here as permanent residents.

An undocumented immigrant arrives without a visa or official permission to reside here. Estimates put the number of undocumented immigrants at about 11 million nationwide, but that number has stabilized in recent years.

Refugees are people driven from their home countries by war, persecution and violence. Their status must be certified by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, which determines that they would face persecution, even death, if returned to their home countries. There are no “illegal” refugees here; they are resettled with the support and assistance of the United States Government.

How many refugees are settled in Rochester every year, and where do they come from?

In recent years, between 700 and 750 refugees have come to Rochester annually, but that total spiked to nearly 1,200 in 2016. (Since 1980, more than 15,000 refugees have been settled in Rochester.) Rochester’s newest refugees have come from Burma, Nepal, Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Syria and several other countries.

Do refugees represent a terrorist threat?

No. Since 9/11, 800,000 refugees have been admitted to the United States. Sources differ slightly, but agree that just two to five refugees have been charged with attempting to provide support for a terrorist organization. None have been charged with carrying out a terrorist act.
How are refugees vetted before they come to the United States?

After a lengthy investigation by the United Nations to determine refugee status, those designated for resettlement in the United States, are interviewed multiple times and cross-checked against numerous data bases and watch lists by the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense and the FBI. This already “extreme vetting” practice takes 18 to 24 months and has clearly been effective in denying admission to refugees who might pose a threat.

Does the U.S., as President Trump says, give preference to Muslim refugees over Christians?

Absolutely not. In 2016, 46 percent of incoming refugees were Muslim, while 44 percent were Christians – a small difference. But, last year was the first since 2006, according to the Pew Research Center, when Muslims outnumbered Christians among refugees.