The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

URGENT: Jesus is coming

When the “holiday season” kicks off each year—which used to happen around late November, although it now seems to be much earlier—much of the world makes a mad dash toward December 25. Along with ordinary tasks, the days are filled with decorating, buying, celebrating, buying, fretting, buying, baking, buying—in search of some nostalgic, yet vague sense of hope that, all too often, fails to satisfy and is kicked to the curb on Dec. 26.

By contrast, Christians (in theory, at least) profess this period as Advent (from the Latin term adventus, or coming).

Whose coming do we await? In faith, hope, and love, we await the coming of Christ—God among us—who comes to save humanity from the state that it has itself rendered. Jesus has come once to take on our humanity and redeem it. He will come again to fulfill God’s promise and take all things to himself. And he is coming now, at this very moment—whatever season it is. Eternity will emerge from how we respond daily to God’s eternal presence in the mystical Body of Christ.

Eternity will be what each of us makes of today.

While it’s fine to engage in a little holiday cheer when the time comes, we do well to remember that Advent calls for a joyful anticipation of the Kingdom of God—yesterday, today, and forever. We must recall that the celebration of Christmas (which actually begins Dec. 25 and runs for many days thereafter) evokes that mystical event when God became man in the person of Jesus, whose name in Hebrew means “God saves.” That should indeed bring us great joy—but not the fleeting, superficial, artificial joy so often peddled in the month of December. It is a daily joy tempered by the reality of the crucifixion, a wonderful paradox that gives rise to rejoicing with the psalmist: Lord, “there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered” (130:4).

Advent and Christmas, then, are solemn occasions steeped in true, everlasting joy as we await throughout all our days the full coming of the Kingdom of God. As author Alice Camille points out in her booklet Waiting for God: The Grace of Advent, there is more to it than a cute baby in a manger. It’s serious business. Advent, she says, is a state of spiritual emergency.

Advent involves a different type of urgency than the festal fretting that so often surrounds us before Christmas even begins. We are reminded of this throughout the year at each Mass after the Lord’s Prayer, when the priest says, “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.

From the Abbey Press book

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Communion prayer

Lord Jesus,
You are
and peace.

You are the
and the

Help me
to become
who I
in you.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Back in 1908 ...

The first Model T is introduced by Henry Ford.

Construction of the Titanic begins in Belfast, Ireland.

The IV Olympic Games are held in London and women compete for the first time. Among the 24 sports: tug of war, rugby and polo.

William Howard Taft defeats William Jennings Bryan for the U.S. presidency.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, two longtime bank robbers, are reported killed in Bolivia.

The following notable people are born: baseball announcer Red Barber, actor Rex Harrison, author Louis L'Amour, actor Buddy Ebsen, actress Bette Davis, journalist Edward R. Murrow, actor James Stewart, author Ian Fleming, comedian Milton Berle, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson.

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz is published by Frank L. Baum

U.S. unemployment: 8 percent

U.S. population: 88.7 million

Cost of a first-class stamp: 2 cents

Eggs: 14 cents a dozen

U.S. flag: 45 stars

Population of Las Vegas: 30

Average wage (not minimum): 22 cents per hour

U.S. homes with a telephone: 8 percent

U.S. homes with a bathtub: 14 percent

And in the world of baseball, the statistical leaders were:

Batting average
Ty Cobb, Detroit .324 in American League
Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh .354 in National League

Home runs
Sam Crawford, Detroit 7 in AL
Tim Jordan, Brooklyn 12 in NL

Ed Walsh, White Sox 269 in AL
Christy Mathewson N.Y. Giants 259 in NL

World Series champion

Chicago Cubs – who did not win again for another 108 years—until last night’s exciting 10-inning, 8-7 victory in Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians.

(The image at the top of this post was the official Chicago Cubs logo in 1908.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Joy of the souls in purgatory

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.”

There is no joy save that in paradise to be compared with the joy of the souls in purgatory. As the rust of sin is consumed, the soul is more and more open to God's love. Just as a covered object left out in the sun cannot be penetrated by the sun's rays, in the same way, once the covering of the soul is removed, the soul opens itself fully to the rays of the sun.

Having become one with God's will, these souls, to the extent that he grants it to them, see into God. Joy in God, oneness with him, is the end of these souls, an instinct implanted in them at their creation.

All that I have said is as nothing compared to what I feel within, the witnessed correspondence of love between God and the soul; for when God sees the soul pure as it was in its origins, he tugs at it with a glance, draws it and binds it to himself with a fiery love.

God so transforms the soul in himself that it knows nothing other than God. He will not cease until he has brought the soul to perfection. That is why the soul seeks to cast off any and all impediments, so that it can be lifted up to God; and such impediments are the cause of the suffering of the souls in purgatory. Not that the souls dwell on their suffering; they dwell, rather, on the resistance they feel in themselves against the will of God, against his intense and pure love bent on nothing but drawing them up to him.

And I see rays of lightning darting from that divine love to the creature, so intense and fiery as to annihilate not the body alone but, were it possible, the soul. The soul becomes like gold that becomes purer as it is fired, all dross being cast out.

The last stage of love is that which does it work without human doing. If humans were to be aware of the many hidden flaws in them, they would despair. These flaws are burned away in the last stage of love. God then shows the soul its weakness, so that the soul may see the workings of God.

If we are to become perfect, change must be brought about in us and without us; that is, change is to be the work not of human beings but of God. This, the last stage of love, is the pure and intense love of God alone.

The overwhelming love of God gives the soul a joy beyond words. In purgatory great joy and great suffering do not exclude one another.

St. Catherine of Genoa
Purgation and Purgatory

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lover of souls

Meditation on the Mass readings
for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Jesus was passing through Jericho. The tax collector Zacchaeus, we are told in Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10), wants to see him, but is prevented by his stature. Luke presents this as a physical limitation, but one wonders if his “spiritual stature” also was lacking in some way—or if his deficient “stature” as perceived by his fellow citizens prompted them to exclude him. After all, the text states that “he was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not.” Perhaps it was a little of both—he was wealthy and a chief tax collector, attributes which imply greed, deceit, and the scorn that would have been directed his way as a result.

Whatever the case may be, Zacchaeus had genuine desire in his heart to see the Lord. So he did the only thing he could—he climbed a tree! The scene is an amusing one. When Jesus approaches, he looks up at Zacchaeus in the tree above him and says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” And so the stature-challenged man (in whatever sense that applies) “hurried down and was happy to welcome him,” Luke says.

Jesus literally invites himself to the home of Zacchaeus. Isn’t it surprising that Jesus would do this? After all, the two did not know one another, and surely there were plenty of more “upstanding” citizens in the surrounding crowd with whom Jesus could have stayed. Besides, Luke makes it clear that Jesus had every intention of passing through Jericho without stopping. But he does stop, and he tells Zacchaeus to come down from the sycamore tree because “I must stay at your house today.” He hadn’t even been asked!

Overwhelmed with joy, Zacchaeus—although loathed as the wealthy tax collector and “outsider” that he was—receives Jesus into his home (or was it his heart?). Meanwhile, Luke reports, “all who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” In self-righteous horror, Jericho’s more respectable citizenry is shocked—and likely more than a little jealous! But as Jesus declares earlier in Luke’s Gospel, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (5:32), and also at the closing of this particular passage in Luke: “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (19:10).

With the foot of Jesus in the door, so to speak, Zacchaeus is moved to repent and atone for his sins, and so Jesus tells him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

It does not take much for God’s mercy to enter into our lives. All that is necessary is a small opening—often arriving in surprising ways and at unexpected times—and a willing reception. God will do the rest. God is good, and all that he has created is good, as the Book of Wisdom reminds us: The Lord “is merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent. For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it ... You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, who love the living” (11:23-24, 26).

So he pursues any who have gone astray “little by little” (cf. Wisdom 12:2) and slips into any opening he finds. Why? Because you have been fashioned by the Lord and lover of souls.

Whatever your spiritual stature may be—real or perceived—ask yourself: Where might God be inviting himself into my life?

--Adapted from Grace in theWilderness
by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.
© 2013, Abbey Press Publications

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What do you knead?

“To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?
It is like yeast that a woman took
and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”
Luke 13:20-21

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Do we need God?

Meditation on the Mass readings
for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Some of the descriptive words employed by Scripture’s inspired authors in certain passages are telling in regard to humanity’s never-ending struggles. For example, Sirach (35:12-22) speaks of the poor, the oppressed, orphan, and widow. St. Paul is imprisoned and knows that “the time of my departure has come” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18). He also is lonely—“All deserted me,” he says. Meanwhile, in Luke’s Gospel, the self-righteous Pharisee’s prayer derides those whom he perceives as thieves, rogues, and adulterers (18:9-14).

Where do we see ourselves here in relation to God? In one way or another, and at one time or another, these terms describe many of us.

Whatever the case may be, the key to our approach to God lies not in perceived perfection, but in true humility. Our hope comes in the most unlikely of persons: in the passage from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus points to the tax collector, considered at that time to be the most despicable of all human beings. There, in the corner of the Temple, he humbly acknowledges who he is and asks for God’s merciful assistance. The tax collector—though far from perfect—recognizes his need for God, and so is justified in God’s sight.

The self-righteous Pharisee, on the other hand, has done many commendable things, but takes credit for them all himself. He doesn’t really need anyone, including God, in his mind. And so, Jesus says that it is the lowly tax collector (a sinner!), and not the haughty Pharisee (who did everything right!), whose prayer is heard. As Sirach points out, “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds.”

A truly humble person, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing said, “stands in the truth with a knowledge and appreciation for himself as he really is.” When we display that kind of transparency and honestly acknowledge our utter dependence on God, as the tax collector does, the Lord stands by us and gives us strength—and the “crown of righteousness” awaits us no matter who we are. 

Thanks be to God.
--Adapted from Grace in the Wilderness
by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.
© 2013, Abbey Press Publications