Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rainbow Sign

Rainbow over our Monastery
1st Sunday of Lent Year B
Gen. 9:8-15
Mk. 1:12-15

Our Holy Mother St. Clare legislated in her Rule that the Sisters should keep silence continually, but that they may always say what is necessary in a low tone of voice.  This point in our Rule is very faithfully kept whenever a rainbow appears on Mt. St. Francis, the site of our monastery.  Well, perhaps the part about the low tone of voice is a bit neglected…but anyway, every Sister considers this event a time when it is necessary to speak.  For everyone must see the phenomenon, everyone must share the glorious experience of witnessing the sign of God’s covenant with creation.  So the word goes around the cloister and soon each Sister has stationed herself in what she considers to be the best window or the best spot in the courtyard or gardens.  Usually a rainbow appears in the afternoon after a storm, when the setting sun is able to send a last, slanting ray beneath the hem of cloud cover to shine on the mist of evaporating rain in the eastern sky.  We point, we exclaim and we gaze at the wonder until the last color fades and then we return to our prayer or work renewed in the beauty of God’s ways.

The rainbow is the sign of the covenant, formed when the light shines in the darkness through the countless prisms of airborne water droplets. In today’s gospel, Jesus, the Light of the World, shines in the darkness of Satan’s temptations.  He is the sign of the new covenant, the many colored bow bent by the Father’s hand to send an arrow of love and praise from earth even to the heights of heaven.  And in the storms of life, may we too, lift our tears of sorrow upon the breath of the Holy Spirit so that we may see the rainbow formed by Christ’s light shining in our darkness.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dramatic Descent

7th Sun. Ordinary Time
Mk 2:1-12

Sometimes I wish that I could make a movie based on the Gospel of St. Mark.  Just think how wonderfully dramatic the scenes would be:  Jesus asleep in the apostles’ boat while the storm rages: Jesus expels the demons and the pigs go rushing down the hillside and are drowned; or the scene in today’s Gospel.  I can see it all in my mind:  there Jesus is in Peter’s house, preaching to a standing room only crowd.  Four men carrying their paralyzed friend try desperately to muscle their way through to Jesus and are defeated by the sheer press and obstinacy of the people.  So they hoist themselves on to the roof along with the invalid (a superhuman feat in itself!), estimate where Jesus is below and then proceed to tear apart the tiles.  As the debris falls down and the noise disturbs the sermon, Peter looks up to see his house being destroyed.  He jumps up shouting, “Hey, what are you guys doing?” Jesus tells him to sit down, they can repair the roof later.  Then comes down the paralytic on his mat in a most incredible descent, precariously held by ropes held by his faithful friends.  Seeing their faith, Jesus works His wonders on both body and soul.

But even more dramatic than the physical event happening was the spiritual drama taking place.  Our modern translators have done us a disservice here.  They tell us that Jesus said, “Child, your sins are forgiven” (past tense), but the Greek actually says, “your sins are being forgiven” (present tense).  The heroic, active faith of the paralytic’s friends have set in motion the mercy of God which at that moment is reaching out to heal first the paralysis of this man’s soul before attending to his motionless limbs.  Evidently, Jesus saw the movement of the man’s heart accepting the grace of forgiveness which his lips could not express.  The Lord could then perform the outward miracle which would be the sign of the man’s new inner freedom.

What a consoling story this is for us who know so many people paralyzed by sin, so many relationships frozen by animosity!  In prayer we can lay them all at the feet of Jesus, who, seeing our faith will begin the process of reconciliation for our loved ones who suffer and yet are unable to help themselves or go to Him on their own.  By our love and faith we can bring them into the radiance of Divine Mercy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Healing Touch

6th Sun. Ordinary Time Year B
Mk. 1:40-45
Healing is on my mind since Saturday's feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The miraculous waters at her shrine have been the limpid source of healing graces for countless ailing bodies and suffering souls. In order for the Church to declare a purported miraculous cure to be authentic, it must take place immediately and completely. I remember hearing the story of a cynical physician observing the blessing of the sick at Lourdes . One woman obviously had a large tumor on her abdomen. When the Blessed Sacrament was carried in the monstrance to this woman, the sheet covering her seemed to deflate as the tumor shrank away. Needless to say, the doctor who came a cynic left Lourdes a believer!
Similarly, in Sunday's Gospel, Jesus stretches out His hand, touches a leper and immediately the leprosy disappears from the man’s body. But miracles are rare events. It is God’s more usual way to grant the healing of disease by means of medical remedies, and these often are far from being immediately effective. How frustratingly slow is the recovery from surgery or even the common cold! And it is worse when we consider emotional and psychological illnesses which can take years to become even manageable and sometimes are not completely healed until the next life. Why does Jesus not have pity on us as He did on the lepers and cripples of His day? Perhaps it is that these afflictions are meant to be the Divine Physician’s bitter medicine given to us for the healing of the deepest and most serious of our diseases: the spiritual wound in our heart left by original sin. This wound is the radical turning away from God, the compulsion to make ourselves a god. Our first parents chose their own pleasure contrary to God’s will and so died a spiritual death. Left to ourselves, we tend irresistibly to do the same. But when by God’s grace we accept suffering for love of Him, then begins the healing of that primordial wound. Or perhaps it is our suffering that brings us close to Jesus and keeps us near Him. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. Let us allow the Lord to lay His healing hand upon us for as long as He likes. His presence will turn all our sorrows into joy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Dangers of Success

5th Sun. Ordinary Time
1Cor. 9, 16-23
Mk. 1, 29-39

In today’s 2nd reading, St. Paul boasts that he derives no profit from his preaching of the Gospel besides that of doing God’s will.  In this he was simply following the advice of Jesus to His apostles, “Freely you have received, freely give…”  Jesus, Himself, gives us His own example of how to avoid the subtle temptation to make the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven a personal ego trip.  He rose early in the morning, went to a place of solitude and prayed.  At this point in St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is experiencing tremendous success in His mission.  All day He is healing diseases, driving out demons, preaching to huge crowds who marvel at His words.  But by night He prays.  More than His body yearns for rest does His spirit yearn to rest in the bosom of His Father.  Jesus does not want to appropriate to Himself the acclaim of the crowds, but desires to work only for the glory of the One who sent Him.  Alone with His Father, He gives all to Him.  And when the disciples find Jesus, He tells them He must go to other villages rather than bask in the glory of the town that had already accepted Him.

In our own day we have seen to our dismay what happens to those who seek to profit from their proclamation of the Gospel.  But before we judge them, let us examine our own consciences.  When we do good, do we do it for God’s sake or so that we will have the esteem of others?  How do we feel when our good works are not noticed or taken for granted?  The only way we can keep our hearts pure is by constantly turning them heavenward in prayer.  Everything we have is a gift given us from above which is meant to be used for the benefit of others and the glory of God.  The reward we are to seek is a greater conformity of our selves to the One we serve and a greater share in His life.  If we do this, we will be a source of blessing to all we meet and an open channel of grace for the world.