Fr. Mike’s Favorite Topics

Fr. Mike’s Page

Welcome!

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you will enjoy the variety of topics to enhance your spiritual life.  You can either read them below or down-load them and read at your leisure.  I have also added my Sunday Homily for those interested.

CURRENT TOPICS: Prodigal Sons series: “Fourteen: Jesus of Nazareth” (5 July) and Eucharist series: “Sundays” (22nd Sunday OT).

NEW: “DANCING WITH GOD THROUGH THE ARTS” (19 July)

ENJOY!


My Recent Homilies


26th Sunday OT – Luke 16:19-31

Lazarus and the Rich Man

The rich man in our parable from Luke about the correct use of wealth, is traditionally called Dives.  The poor man at his gate was called Lazarus.  Dives behaved like the wealthy folk in Amos; he was probably not even aware of the presence of Lazarus.  He may have thought his wealth was a sign of God’s favor as we read in Deuteronomy 28:2f, “When you harken to the voice of the Lord, your God, all these blessings will come upon you and overwhelm you.”  And if Dives knew his scripture well, he would consider the dogs that licked Lazarus’ wounds a sign of God’s anger with Lazarus, as we read in first book of Kings 21:19, “The Lord says: In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs shall lick up your blood, too.’”

After his death, Dives learnt the truth.  He now saw Lazarus clearly and discovered that he was a child of Abraham.  Though his own life had ended with a proper burial, he found himself separated from God.  Abraham told him that he could do nothing to cross the chasm; it was too late.  They had filed to recognize Christ in the hungry and the naked.  Their opportunity was past.  They and Dives had had their reward already.

So far, the parable resembles traditional stories known from Egypt about the reversal of fortune in the next life.  The final part belongs exclusively to the gospel.  Dives asked that his brothers be warned lest they incur the same fate.  He is given his answer: the warning is contained in the prophets, such as the teaching of Amos we heard this week and last, as well in the Psalm of today.  He pleads with Abraham that this teaching is not enough; somebody must go back from the dead.  Luke’s reader knows that Christ has gone back from the dead.  His life and resurrection have confirmed the teaching of the Prophets and the Psalms.  Thus, Luke warns all the Dives who ignore the Lazarus in their own communities.

In Give Us This Day, St. John Chrysostom, writes, “It is worthwhile enquiring why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s arms, and not in the company of some other righteous person.  The reason is that Abraham was meant to reproach the rich man for his own inhospitality.  Abraham used to pursue even passers-by and drag them into his home, whereas the rich man disregarded someone lying in his own doorway.”  St. John quotes from the letter to the Hebrews, “Remember to welcome strangers into your homes, for some by doing so have entertained angels without knowing it.”

When was the last time you invited someone into your home as a guest?  Was it a stranger?  If it was, did you invite the stranger person back?  In today’s society we have a great fear of the stranger.  We begin to teach our children at a very early age to avoid strangers at all costs!  Especially, do not accept candy from strangers, but even more, don’t accept a ride.  Even conversations with the stranger should be limited and only when one of the parents are present.

The chances of meeting someone like Lazarus on the sidewalk, let alone, in one’s own driveway is quite rare.  When I was in Africa, the stranger was no longer strange but a common occurrence.  The problem was how to discern who in the long line outside one’s door really had a legitimate problem?  When trying to run a formation program where we trained young brothers as teachers for our schools that we ran in the slums, we had to do a balancing act of making sure we had enough money to run the school and set an example to the young men practicing charity to those who found their way to our door.  We kept list of religious charities in the area where we could send the strangers, like the food pantries, the clinics, the orphanages, elderly care, etc.

One time I asked a young brother how his day went.  He said it went well and that he really enjoyed working with the students at the slum in Nairobi.  I asked him what his students were like?  He said they were very eager to learn and that if I didn’t beat them, they would say that I didn’t love them.  “And what did you say to that?” I asked surprised at their request for beatings.  He said, “I told them that is not the Marianists way.  One doesn’t need to be beaten to show love.”  I was quite pleased with his statement.  He looked hungry, so I asked him if he had eaten lunch today.  “No,” he said almost unconcerned, “I gave my lunch money away to a student.”  I was stunned and asked him, “Doesn’t the school feed them in the morning before school?”  “They do,” he said, “but some might not have anything to eat in the evening.  Several of us give them our lunch money.”  I told him, “You just showed your students how much you loved them by giving them your lunch money.  That is truly the Marianist way!”

He said that he knew in the evening there would be a hot meal for me in community, but he couldn’t eat his lunch knowing that many of his students would go hungry tonight.”

I told him, “We are not supposed to feed the world.  We can only help those around us in this life.  But when our love grows to include others, like your students, sometimes it is better to go hungry and let your love for them feed you and you will always be satisfied even though you will be hungry.  My mother taught me that, and she never starved to death.”

As Christians, we are only expected to help those around us.

 

26th Sunday OT 2022

24th Sunday OT 2022

22nd Sunday OT 2022

THE EUCHARIST


Celebrating the Eucharist during the 6th and 7th centuries:

PAPAL MASS

ROMAN LITURGY  In this form, which was finally established by Gregory the Great and his immediate successors and was thereafter known as “Gregorian,” the Roman Liturgy made its home first in England and then under Pippin and Charlemagne in the Franco-German world.  Here it came into contact with the remains of the ancient Gallican Liturgy as well as with an older roman version, which was ascribed to Pope Gelasius and had crossed the Alps at some earlier date.  Out of the conflict between these three traditions: the Roman-Gelasian, the Roman-Gregorian, and the Gallican, there came into being a mixed version of all three, which became domiciled at Rome around 1,ooo AD or shortly afterwards.

PATER NOSTER (Lord’s Prayer)  The need to give the Lord’s Prayer a suitably dignified place in the Liturgy of the Mass caused Gregory the Great to put it immediately at the end of the Canon, since up till then it had fulfilled the function of a prayer of preparation for communion, and had therefore come just before the communion, together with the sentence which introduced it and the prayer which followed it, that is the Embolism.

AGNUS DEI (Lamb of God)  Added by Pope Sergius I, who came from a Syrian family living in Sicily, and who arranged that the faithful should sing the Agnus Dei during the Fraction Rite.

LITURGICAL CALENDAR  The history of the Liturgical Year begins with the Early Church, probably with the simple fact of the primitive Christian community’s making the day of the Resurrection, the Day of the Lord.  Possibly the opinion that the return of the Lord, the Parousia, would happen on this day incited them to mark out Sunday as a special day.  The Christian Sunday was not made a Day of Rest until the Emperor Constantine made it so in the year 321.  The Sabbath gradually fell into oblivion in those communities which were not governed by Jewish Christians.  The Resurrection had immediately acquired a pre-eminent position in the minds of Christian communities, it was inevitable that hey should transfer the Passover Celebrations to a Sunday, and together with this begin to cut loose from the Jewish Paschal Feast.  In the West, this had been already completed in the second half of the second century.  In the East the process took rather longer and led, in the so-called Paschal Controversy, to serious divisions between the conservative and progressive wings of the Church.  The Paschal Controversy was really about how to determine the Easter Day, either by setting a fixed date or to calculate it as the Jews calculated Passover.

(To Be Continued)

DANCING WITH GOD THROUGH THE ARTS

Part Four – BEAUTY in the Eyes of the Philosophers

“Beauty itself is inextricably linked to Truth itself, Justice itself, Goodness itself, and Love itself, which is perhaps the most fundamental insight.  Inasmuch as all of these transcendentals, which are attributes of God, and they are absolutely simple, and they must be unique, and therefore the same reality,” R.J. Spitzer, SJ.

Albert the Great suggested that there are three characteristics that give rise to the aesthetic emotions: perfection of a particular form (essence), harmonious resonance, and a shining forth (luster of splendor) pointing beyond itself.

The First characteristic refers to what we enjoy in natural objects coming to perfection, which could have a wide range of meaning.  Johannes Lotz mentions that generally “…it is a delight to see” as in art or architecture.  Individual form brought to perfection is intrinsically beautiful!  Of course, the opposite evokes no emotion at the least, but revulsion at worse.

The Second characteristic of beauty is harmonious resonance, and Lotz uses music to express this with two notes in harmony, whereas the two notes are unrecognized in their isolation.  He says this holds true when applied to the visual arts, and again, architecture, poetry, etc.  He also points out that there is more to harmony than evoking of deeper delight, repose, reveling and enjoyment.  In their complexity, as in a Beethoven symphony, or in poetry, architecture, they point to a kind of ecstasy, or a “mysetrium tremendum.”

The Third characteristic of beauty is a shining forth, splendor, and luster, which refers to access of perfection in form and harmony.  As suggested above, complex, grand, and sustained beauties point beyond their complementary unified forms to unity, perfection, and sublimity itself.  RJ Spitzer uses music to point this out:

When one hears Mozart’s Requiem, one recognizes and then reposes and revels in more than music brought to its perfection, more than the human emotions evoked by the harmonies and melodies.  One enjoys the more perfect manifestation of unity, and then reposes and revels in it, feeling a deep and abiding sense of exaltation and glory.

When the Requiem is performed within a magnificent church with magnificent art, and the music, art and architecture are unified as a whole, one feels drawn into a perfection bigger than all the forms combined.  One is drawn into the perfection of complex unification to which one appends the name Glorious or magnificent.

He mentions that the positive effect is that humanity continues to strive for perfect beauty in the arts, in literature, and in music.  It is the drive to not only create but to even create a better piece, composition, or writing.  And of course, this striving has left a legacy of architecture and art, music and drama, and every form of high culture.  It also drives our mathematicians to find the Holy Grail of math, the Unified Theory of Everything.

The negative effect is that we not only grow bored but keep always looking for something better, the more perfect.  We are always dissatisfied with even the most beautiful objects of our experience but on the other hand we are able to perceive that perfect beauty without imperfection or limit is beyond us in this life.

That is why Plato was convinced of the divine character of Beauty itself and believed that human beings not only had a desire for it, but also had the capacity to behold it and be fulfilled through it.  He also believed that this required proper instruction, hence art or music appreciation, so that the beginner would not get sidetracked by the base or lower orders of beauty.  He also intimated that the achievement of beholding absolute Beauty betokens immortality and points to human transcendentality (of a soul).

With this background we can begin to connect that Beauty is God’s invitation for us to dance with him, in order that we might begin to grow deeper in our awareness of God around us and beyond us and in us through the appreciation of the created world.  God invites us as creator to participate in creation through the arts!

We will look at two other aspects of this dancing with God.  First, we will talk about Art Galleries and Music Halls and then look at some famous people and saints that danced with God.

DANCING WITH GOD THROUGH THE ARTS Pt 4

DANCING WITH GOD THROUGH THE ARTS Pt3

DANCING WITH GOD THROUGH THE ARTS Pt 2

DANCING WITH GOD Pt1

DANCING WITH GOD