Monday, September 29, 2014

Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 9/30

Image source

To the best of my knowledge,
I'm not in charge of the world today...

I'm only responsible for: 
   living this day in God's presence,
   loving my neighbor as much as myself
   and respecting creation's beauty...

I figure that's more than enough, Lord,
to keep me busy
for the next 24 hours...

So, make me faithful, Lord,
to just the work that's mine,
   no more, no less
than just the work that's mine...

And that will be quite enough
- thank you -
that will be quite enough...



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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Monday Morning Offering: 9/29

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

Got a few requests, Lord...

   Could you just slow things down a little
   in the week ahead?

   Could you fill in the potholes
   and smooth out the bumps in my road?

   Could you make things in my life
   much less complicated and a whole lot simpler?

   Could you let up on the heavy stuff
   and throw me a couple right down Broadway?

   Could you give me the time I need
   to actually get a few things done?

   Could you give me a chance to slow down
   and catch my breath?

   Could you help me be better
   at sorting out the big things from the small stuff?
   Could you take a few things off
   my already very full plate?

   Could you put a temporary hold
   on my in-box?

   Overall, could you just chill
   and cut me some slack?

And if all this ask asking too much, Lord,
then how about this?

   Could you help me manage my time better,
   see things in perspective,
   make more time to rest,
   sit with you in prayer
   and not take myself so damn seriously?
Thanks, Lord, for whatever you can do -
   especially on that last one!

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A little Snickers Bar theology

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Some years back I offered you my “Snickers Bar Theology”
which I was taught not in the seminary
but at my mother’s kitchen table.

These scriptures on God’s fairness bring it to mind again.
When my sister and I were children and it came to sharing a treat,
like a Snickers bar, my mother would say,
 “OK – one of you gets to cut the Snicker bar in half
and the other one gets to choose first between the two pieces.”

You can imagine the caution, the care, the precision with which
one of us cut that candy bar in two, being oh-so-careful that
neither piece come out the slightest bit larger than the other.

When I was the one cutting the candy bar
I wanted to make sure of two things:
1) that I get my fair share
2) and that my sister didn’t get so much as a speck more
than her fair share.

Unfortunately, experiences like this
can shape our life-long notions of fairness.

(And let’s not miss the fact that fairness [as understood here]
is first and foremost protective of self-interest,
carefully guarding against the possibility that someone else
should ever have a share greater than mine.)

We easily carry this notion of fairness into other realms of life:
to school; to our workplace; and to the marketplace.
A Snickers bar philosophy of fair sharing can end up shaping:
our views on the economy;  our politics on immigration;
and personal relationships in our marriages and families.

In the first scripture today God asked if it were he who’s unfair – or us.
And the discomforting answer to that question is:  it’s us!

If God dealt with me
the way I dealt with my sister and that Snickers bar,
I’d be in deep trouble.

But God’s fairness is not self-protective, it doesn’t measure tit-for-tat,
it’s not jealous of what others have or might receive,
and it is certainly not miserly.

Rather, God’s “fairness” is self-emptying;
it forgives our selfishness and offers us more than we deserve;
God’s fairness is generous beyond any weight or measure.

God’s fairness is characterized by: a mercy we have no right to expect;
a mercy we cannot earn; a mercy we are freely given;
by a mercy we’re expected to share with one another,
especially when the other stands before us
poor, defenseless and in need,
which is just how we all stand before God.

God calls us to a “fairness” that offers the other:
more than an equal share;
more than the other deserves;
more than the other might merit.

Being fair with others as God is fair with us
demands much more than simply dividing things down the middle,
even if, in many instances, that would be a giant step forward.

To return to my childhood illustration,
had my sister and I imitated God’s fairness in sharing that Snickers:
I would have cut the two pieces unevenly,
offering my sister the opportunity to choose a larger share
and she, having first dibs, would have chosen the smaller piece,
leaving the larger one for me.
I know! 
Something inside us is silently screaming, “But that’s not fair!”
(And no – my sister and I never did it that way.)

But I propose this to you this morning to help us see
how God is “fair” with us in his generous and forgiving mercy.
And that’s what the Lord asks of us in our dealings with one another:
to go beyond the inclination to protect self-interest
and to put the other first, ahead of ourselves.

Or as St. Paul wrote to us in the second scripture:
In compassion and mercy… do nothing out of selfishness…
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each of you looking out not for your own interests
but also for those of others.

God’s fairness in dealing with us is as more an affair of the heart
than it is an accounting of our deeds.

The first son in the gospel parable today
totally dissed his father, flipped him off -
but then had a change of heart and did what was asked of him.

The other son said the right thing with his lips -
but his heart wasn’t in it and he failed doing his father’s will.

If we want to know how God is “fair” in dealing with us,
we have only to look to the Cross
to see that Jesus, the Son who always did his Father’s will,
gave away everything for us who, in our willfulness,
deserved nothing at all.

We pray in the shadow of Christ who gave us all he had to give.

And even now does Jesus, this morning, continue to give of himself
as he is broken and poured out, divided and emptied for us
in the gift of the bread and wine of the Eucharist,
keeping nothing for himself but giving all for us.

May the generous share of Christ’s love which is ours in this sacrament
move us to be more than fair and generously merciful
in loving one another as we have been loved.


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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 9/28

What a shame it would be, Lord,
   if my problems and my burdens
      kept me from seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, 
       finding and enjoying
   the simple joys and blessings 
      you'll offer me today...

Though this day may have its troubles, Lord, 
    its trials and its pain,
let nothing keep me from your side,
   your presence and your grace...

Let nothing keep me from the peace
   that waits for me today... 



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Friday, September 26, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 9/27

Lord, some folks need your help
   to make it through to this year's end...

Others seek your guidance
   to survive the next few weeks...

Some folks look for backup
   just to get to Monday morning... 

Still others pray for grace
   to persevere for one more hour...

Help us, Lord, to carry on
   through months and weeks and days...

Help us learn to take our lives
   just one day at a time,
   one hour at a time,
   one minute at a time...

Lord, give us faith and trust in you
   to keep it in today... 


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 9/26

Photo by John McGinty: Both Sides Now

Lord, help me find a quiet spot,
   a place of silent grace
where I can clear my troubled thoughts
   and you can soothe my soul...

Help me find a place to sit
   alone with you,
a place free of distractions,
   save for nature's beauty...

Help me find a place
   for us to meet,
where I can open up my heart
   and speak to you in prayer...

Lord, help me find the place
   where you already wait
for me to come and find the peace
   that only you can give...



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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Christian Pauses for Prayer on Rosh Hashana

Image source

How's a Christian to pray on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year?

Well, we all know the New Year's routine: 
   looking back on the old year
   and making resolutions for the new year...

Feel like nothing's changing in your life? 

Just the same old same old?

This video (only 2 minutes) offers some Rosh Hoshana wisdom to nourish people of any faith.

So, especially if you think nothing's changing in your life,
pause here today to reflect and to pray...


   help me patient with myself...

Help me be patient with how I'm growing,
   how I'm changing and how long it takes...

Help me know the roots I'm putting down 
   even if I don't yet see the growth above ground...

Water me with your grace, Lord,
    to help me grow as you would have me grow...

And when the time comes for me to grow like the bamboo,
   give me the courage I'll need to reach for the heavens...



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Happy New Year! Rosh Hashana begins at sundown


A blast of the shofar calls the people to Rosh Hashana


A traditional greeting for Rosh Hashana:

A good and sweet year to you,
may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

Our Jewish neighbors and friends will begin their celebration of Rosh Hashana at sundown today, Wednesday, September 24.  The celebration will conclude at sundown on Friday of this week.  (The 10 days starting with Rosh Hashana and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are kept as the Days of Awe.)

For background on this celebration of the Jewish New Year, take a look at Judaism 101.

For beautiful prayers for Rosh Hashana, go to my friend Alden Solovy's page, To Bend Light.

Rosh Hashana FAQs:

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Word for the Weekend: SEPTEMBER 28

Image from the San Francisco Sentinel

God's ways are not fair!

If that's what you think or if you've ever thought that,  the Lord responds to your complaint in this weekend's first reading from scripture. And then in the gospel, Jesus adds another illustration of how God weighs things in the balance of justice.

Take a look at all three of this Sunday's scriptures and some commentary on them and see if you agree...

Got kids? What's their take on fairness and justice?  How will they react and respond when they hear what Jesus says in the gospel this Sunday?  Here are some hints for helping young ones prepare to hear the Lord's Word at Mass this weekend.


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 9/24

What have I been putting off?

   Something I need to do?
   Someone I need to speak to?
   A task I've left undone?
   A mistake I need to correct?
   An apology I need to offer?
   A debt I need to repay?

Well, today's the day!

And don't forget...



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