Fr. Mike’s Favorite Topics

Fr. Mike’s Favorite Topics

Welcome!

I am excited to make available for you a variety of topics to enhance your spiritual life.  When I headed our programs to the young men and women religious in Africa, the following topics were found to be the most important and influential in their religious lives!  Some of these topics include:  Scripture, History of the Eucharist, History of the Church, Mariology and Spirituality.  As I continued my ministry at Gov Island, Ohio, on Indian Lake at our retreat center, I also found that the lay people were also interested in these topics and more.  I make these above topics and more available to you at this site in short part or chapters for your convenience.  You can either read them below or down-load them to your computer to read at your convenience.  I have also added my Sunday Homily for each week (and current the ones at least for the last two or three weeks).

ENJOY!

 

TID-BITS on the EucharistDid you know that ‘Rubrics‘ is Latin for red?  The directions for the priest on how to say and even move his hands at Mass are written in red along with other information in the SACRAMENTARY, which is the book the Celebrant uses at Mass.

TID-BITS on Prayer: Did you know that Meditative Prayer is mainly with the mind and Contemplative Prayer is mainly with the heart?  Unfortunately, there are several words used that can mean Contemplative Prayer; for example, Affective Prayer, Prayer of the Quiet, etc., even Meditation.

TID-BITS on the Church: Did you know that the Eucharist was fist in Aramaic in the early Church and then quickly switched to Greek as the Apostles moved beyond the confines of Israel to Greek speaking lands.  The Jews only spoke or read Hebrew in the synagogue.  The Gospels except for Matthew were all initially written first in Greek, since that was the universal language of the Roman Empire, but especially among the Roman elite.  Matthew’s Gospel was probably first written in Aramaic then translated into Greek.  Eventually the Gospels were translated into Latin as the Roman Empire spread throughout the known world.  Latin did not take over the Eucharist until after Saint Jerome translated the New Testament into Common Latin or Vulgate at the request of Pope Damasus.  Even then, the ‘Lord have mercy‘ (Kyrie eleison) remained in the Greek (not Latin) until Vatican II in 1965 when all translations were then in the vernacular (mother tongue) of the people.

 


PRAYER – PART FIVE

 Again, let’s us have a brief review so far what I have written.  We began with Prayer as Public and Private, with Public Prayer as Liturgy, ‘Work of the People,” as our right through Baptism.

Then we talked about Private or Personal Prayer, where one goes to their Prayer Space and Meditates on some particular subject from Scriptures, Points of Faith, the Creed or the Our Father, etc.  This type of prayer is one that Saint Aquinas would be comfortable with and others of the same disposition.  Or one can use the Prayer of Affections with the same particulars mentioned above, and be attentive to how one’s emotions reacts to certain passages or beliefs, etc.  This Prayer of the Heart would be a favorite way of Saint Ignatius, even in his Thirty Day Retreat.

Whatever method is used above, both should lead us to a place of Quiet in our prayer, made popular by both Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross!  Usually called Contemplation, this quiet prayer allows God to speak to us in the silence.  If this prayer is begun and finished on its own without previously meditating or using the prayer of Affection, then the one would begin with simple breathing exercises to calm down and focus attention using a centering word or phrase.  Formally, this type of prayer is called Centering Prayer, since that is simply what one does, centering all throughout prayer on the Word or Phrase.  The Phrase can even be taken from the day’s Gospel!  This type of prayer has been made popular by the Trappist monk, Thomas Keating.

Hopefully, our daily prayer life will lead us to a deeper peace that we can tap into during times of trouble, difficulties, sorrow, disappointments, and even in the midst of a pandemic!  This is a peace that the world cannot give, only Christ, who offers this peace in the Eucharist.  Another effect of prayer, especially Contemplative Prayer, is letting go and letting God!  This prayer helps us to let go and move beyond the small things like hurt and disappointment.  Over time it will help us to accept the bigger hurts in life and eventually let them go too, like betrayal and sorrow.

Prayer will also open us up to the bigger picture of life, move us beyond ourselves so that we start looking from the inside out, and rather see life as looking from the outside in.  It will slowly deepen our relationship with God, becoming more intentional and personal.  This is the water that will quench our thirst.  It is at this point that prayer now opens up to all we do and move and have our being.  Life becomes a dance with God and not just during prayer time!

God calls us each day to move into this dance with all we do.  We become more intentional, as with Zen, the practice of focusing all our attention into to the NOW!  If God is the “I am who am,” then God is the God of the Present, not the past or the future, and we will find God in our present moments!  That is why our Centering Prayer attempts to bring us into the present by not reflecting on the past or future, but the NOW.  Notice how time almost stops when one is waiting?

My series of articles on “The Spirituality of  Bird Watching” takes one specific activity that slowly brings one along to a point in the present were such an activity becomes a prayer, Bird Watching!  It is more than just watching birds at your backyard feeder!  One is brought into the world of birds to the point that a person becomes one with BIRDS.  Even though it is important, Bird Watching goes beyond even conservation and protection of Bird Sanctuaries.  Imagine if we apply this method to God, would we try to become more like God?  Certainly it would move us beyond preserving Jesus in the tabernacle!  Even the Orthodox Churches believe the whole process of Christianity is the Divinization of the person.

Now apply this Zen-Centering-like Prayer to other activities in life such as Cooking.  After all, one could say that our God is a little like a ‘Gastro-intestinal’ God, when Jesus tells us in several places that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a Banquet or a Wedding Feast!

In the next article I will talk about a few hindrances to prayer and what to do about them.

PRAYER 5

PRAYER 4

PRAYER 3

PRAYER 2

PRAYER 1

2-PERPETUAL VIRGINITY

Motherhood and virginity are inseparable in Mary.  From the Apostles’ Creed onwards the Church confesses her faith in Jesus Christ “born of the Virgin Mary”.

-We place Mary’s virginity in the wider context of the communion of God with his creatures.

-In Mary’s virginity we contemplate the creature’s openness to God’s word and grace, our total dependence on him and the fullness of response

Virginity in the History of Religions

In many cultures virginity has religious significance.  It is not merely a physical condition of young men or women who have not yet had sexual relations, but expresses a purity which makes them more suitable for special religious functions.  It implies self-control which is vital for spiritual growth.

Christian Meaning of Virginity

Virginity has no place in the Old Testament.  Virginity was equivalent with sterility.

In the NT, the meaning of virginity emerging is foreshadowed by the mysterious economy of sterile woman whom God makes fertile.

-If in the prophetic literature Israel is called “virgin”, it is not meant as a title of glory but as an expression of the total dependence and reliance on Yahweh.

-Thus the meaning of virginity in the OT is a state of helplessness and total dependence on God.

-In the Jesus himself speaks of those who remain unmarried for the sake of the kingdom (Mt 19:12) and of the possible conflicts between family ties and discipleship.  In the NT virginity means the orientation of the whole person to this ultimate goal beyond the natural bonds of family.

-Virgins here mean not unmarried people, but those who have not been seduced by idolatry symbolized by adultery.  In the text, virgins are those who follow the Lamb faithfully.

*For the original (and longer) article, see below “VIRGINITY OF MARY”

(Please avail yourself to the following topics through these connections.)

VIRGINITY OF MARY

Marian Devotion

Mary Mother of God

Introduction

Feasts of Mary

MARY AND THE SCRIPTURES

MARY IN OLD TESTAMENT

MARY IN THE GOSPELS

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON

Prophet Ezekiel

PART ONE

 “Good morning, uncle!  How did you sleep last night?” asked Buziah.

“The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God!” answered Ezekiel.

Buziah was stunned.  It was not the answer he was looking for.  “Maybe it was something you ate?” he tried again.

“You of all people, nephew, should not be surprised,” he countered.  “After all, we have been settled here for several years now and living quite comfortably while Jerusalem is ready for the slaughter.”

“We are only doing what Jeremiah advised,” Buziah said.

At that moment Hazakiel approached, “Buzi, did you hear any more news about Jerusalem?” he asked.

“No, Hazak,” he turned to his friend.  “I was just commenting with my uncle on how well things have gone here at Tel-abib.”

“I was hoping that you had news from your friend Hilkiah from Jerusalem,” Hazakiel looked to Ezekiel with hope.

Ezekiel looked at Hazakiel with interest, “Hilkiah?  That’s Jeremiah’s nephew.”

“My uncle had a dream last night,” Buziah said with awe.

“Buzi, my nephew,” he said looking at the both of them, “I saw Yahweh enthroned within the Holy of Holies of the Temple.  The wings of the guardian cherubim stretched out protectively over the throne-seat made of sapphire!”

“Father, Ezekiel,” Hazakiel with eyes wide asked, “the Temple of Jerusalem?”

“Yes, Hazak, and this crystal platform carried by the winged cherubs were leaving Jerusalem and heading this way to the exiles here in Babylon!”

“Uncle,” Buziah exclaimed, “Yahweh is leaving Jerusalem?”

“The holy God, whom Israel had worshipped in the Temple at Jerusalem, is coming to the people in exile!” Ezekiel revealed.  “The Lord God told me to speak to this nation of rebels, a people impudent and stubborn and who were in revolt against his sovereignty from the very first.”

“But father Ezekiel,” Hazak implored, “Will not the Lord God save Jerusalem as before?”

“This is the message I am to bring to his people in exile,” Ezekiel said, “whether they listen or not, they will know that a prophet is among them.”

Buziah and Hazak were both stunned, not knowing what to say.

“And then the hand of Yahweh, holding a scroll, stretched out to me and said, “Eat, son of man.  So, I ate the scroll, and it was sweet as honey.”

                                                       

Ezekiel was among the ten thousand elite of Jerusalem who were deported to Babylon in 598, some twelve years before Jerusalem’s final fall and destruction.  That makes him a contemporary of Jeremiah.  It was not in Jerusalem, however, that he received his prophetic call, but on the banks of the Chebar in Babylon.  There he began a mission among his fellow deportees strikingly similar in certain respects to that of Jeremiah.

The book of Ezekiel is made up almost entirely of prophetic first-person reports and nothing else!  The prophet’s own house, it seems, became the place where his oracles were shared with whomever came to listen.  He was among those in Jerusalem who were taken captive and brough to Babylon during the exile of King Jehoiachin.  At the time of this prophetic call this was the fifth year of this captivity.  This means that only five years earlier Ezekiel had been among all the nobles and all the notables of Jerusalem, or more specifically, among the priestly elite of that city.

As background to Ezekiel’s visions, where he sees the glory of Yahweh departing from the temple and being revealed to him in the skies over Babylon, one needs to pay special attention to the priestly concept of “glory” (havod).  As the priestly circles in Jerusalem understood it, not just Yahweh’s name dwelt in the temple but Yahweh’s glory, a divine radiance or essence.

Only when we have begun to realize how deeply rooted Ezekiel was in the priestly traditions of Jerusalem can we begin to appreciate what it must have meant for him to be uprooted from the temple there and taken a thousand miles away to the banks of the Chebar on the outskirts of Babylon.

That Ezekiel knew of Jeremiah is worth remembering as we turn to Ezekiel’s vivid account of his prophetic call.  Note the reference here to visions from God.  What he is attempting to describe for us in this text is not something he actually saw, although an all too real thunderstorm may have been a factor.  The four living creatures he saw in this vision are described from below upward, with their wings bearing aloft a cosmic dome representing the sky, upon which there was the form of a sapphire throne and seated on it one having the appearance of a human being.  In other words, in this awe-inspiring vision he was made aware of the presence of that very same divine reality that he as priest had believed was uniquely present at the temple in Jerusalem.

At this point, he was told to eat something Yahweh was giving him, and upon looking to see what it was, he saw a hand reaching down form the sky with a scroll that when unrolled was observed to be written all over with lamentation, dirges, and cries of grief.  It was implied that this scroll contains the message that he, Ezekiel, must now bring to the people.

It will be remembered that in Jehoiakim’s fifth year Jeremiah had had just such a scroll read at this temple, and that on that occasion this scroll was callously cut to pieces and burned.  It is not hard to imagine that Ezekiel, at the time himself a member of the Jerusalem temple hierarchy, would have been present on these occasions and perhaps even participated in the persecution of this prophet.

Ezekiel like Paul underwent a traumatic conversion and joined the ranks of those who now believed that Jerusalem was not indestructible after all.

VIRGINITY OF MARY BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON

My Recent Homilies

15th Sunday OT

Amos 7:12-15/ Mark 6:7-13

 It is generally recognized that Amos was the first of the Israelite prophets whose words were assembled in a scroll, (that was their form of a book back then), although three others, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah were his near contemporaries.

He was a herdsman and dresser of sycamores.  In Hebrew, herdsman means ‘sheep-master’ and refers to owners and managers of a special kind of dwarfed sheep famous for its wool.  He may have been one of the more substantial men of his region.  He also lived in a strategically located fortified walled village that had strong ties to Jerusalem administratively and defensively.  A series of these fortified cities were built by Solomon.

Amos, the prophet, had a series of visions.  One vision was a military invasion that would soon sweep through the land.  In another vision Israel was likened to a basket of rotting fruit, ripe for destruction.  But seldom was a prophet so out of step with his times.  Not since the days of king David had Israel been as powerful or prosperous as right then.  From archaeological evidence of the north-Galilean city of Hazor there was an earthquake which Amos mentions and that dates him to the year 760 BC, in the middle years of the long and exceptionally prosperous reigns of these kings of Israel and Judah.

Amos asked why Yahweh was allowing this to happen.  Because there was no justice nor uprightness at the gate, where the elders usually held court.  Also, the elite were confident that Yahweh was with them and that Yahweh, being who he is, would one day act to bring them as a people to a position of unprecedented preeminence over all others.  But Amos called this complacent theology.  He also abhorred the practices in the Northern Temple at Bethel against the solemn assemblies and its transparency because it distracts from doing what is really important, like letting justice flow like water and uprightness like a never-failing stream.  In other words, their Liturgy was great but their Social Justice stunk!

Because Amos was from the Kingdom of Judah in the South, he was sent to the Kingdom of Israel in the North to prophesy by Yahweh, but they told him to shut-up and go back to the south where you belong and preach there!

In today’s gospel, Jesus sends us out, like his disciples, to preach the gospel through our good actions and words – to our families and friends and to our workplaces.  We are also expected to speak out in his behalf when we see injustice against our neighbor.  And there will be people who will tell us to shut-up, maybe even to go back where we came from.

After the elections in Kenya there was violence when I lived there at the time.  The horrible news began to filter back through reputable witnesses of killings and revenge.  One of our brothers came back with news from his home that the local catechist of his parish was killed simply because he was from another tribe.  At the funeral, the Priest begged the people to remain calm and not seek vengeance.  At one point he finally gave up.  He removed his shoes and shook off the dust and got back in his car and left, refusing to continue with the burial.  It is a wonder that they did not kill him.

How do we walk the fine balance between the commitments to our faith and to our country?  It isn’t easy, and without a serious prayer life and strong faith community one can almost predict where a person’s commitment will be when political lines start to be drawn.  The disciples in today’s gospel were at the beginning of their first successful mission to the people of God.  Today, the challenges to our faith are more subtle and difficult to discern let alone how to act.  None-the-less, we are asked to go forward with the Lord and do the best we can.

We know what happened to the Northern Kingdom of Israel when it fell to Assyria in 721 BC, they disappeared but some were scattered, called the Diaspora.  We know what happened to the Southern Kingdom of Judah when it fell to the Babylonians in 857 BC, they disappeared, and some were scattered.  We know what happened to Israel when it fell to the Romans in 64 AD, they were scattered.  We do know Christianity survived and even spread, especially through the many examples of the witnesses who gave their lives for their faith.

We are blessed with a diverse and welcoming SFdS Faith Community where people come to worship not because it is the local parish but because they choose to come here from many zip codes to be part of this community.  May the Lord continue to bless us and help us on our paths as we support each other during the good times and bad.  May we allow ourselves to be sent by the Lord to whoever and wherever he chooses and may our Social Justice Programs thrive!!!

15th Sunday OT

14th Sun OT 2021

Sunday 27 June 2021

12th Sunday OT 2021

11th Sunday Ordinary Time

Body and Blood of Christ 2021