In the epic novel The Lord of the Rings, the elves of Lothlorien admit that they are losing their forest lands. But they battle on. The describe their struggle as “fighting the long defeat.” This is source of the comment made by Paul Farmer, who recently passed away. Farmer fought a “losing battle” for health care for the poor. In Tracy Kidder’s biography of Farmer called Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer says, “I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing… I actually think sometimes we may win… So, you fight the long defeat.” Continue reading
Even in these times, when like Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog, we emerge from our pandemic shells, if you are attentive, you begin to notice the tidal changes in daily life. As you adjust to the new normal, now is a good time to consider things. Maybe some of the basics. For example, what am I grateful for in my life? And then consider if you have given any demonstrable witness to that gratitude. Maybe, “I am grateful for my family” is on the list, but have you expressed it to them? Continue reading
There was a young friar who sought to live simply and a contemplative life. His Guardian gave him permission to live in his own lean-to down by the river. For the first week the friar was ecstatic – his prayer life blossomed and he really felt he had taken a major step on his journey to God. At the end of the week, the young friar washed his one habit and put it out to dry. The next morning he was dismayed to find that some rats had torn his habit to shreds. So he covered himself as best he could, went to a nearby village and begged for another. A week later, after washing, the rats destroyed that habit as well. So, the young friar got a cat – and presto – rat problem solved. Continue reading
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mark 6:7-8) This is the verse that comes just before the Markan version of the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father. Depending o the translation one is viewing you will read references to “babbling” in prayer, vain repetitions, empty phrases, needless words – all referring to the pattern of prayer used by the pagans of Jesus’ time. Continue reading
When people think of St. Francis of Assisi and prayer, what most likely comes to mind is “The Peace Prayer of St. Francis,” with the memorable line: “Make me an instrument of peace…” It is a moving and noteworthy prayer, certainly in the Franciscan tradition, perhaps inspired by St. Francis, but it dates to 1912 and was first published as a poem in the French spiritual magazine, La Clochette. Later, during World War I, it appeared on the back of a holy card bearing an image of St. Francis and the association of the two became cemented in our minds. Continue reading
In the Confieitor, we hold up the things we have done and what we have failed to do. The first reading for today’s Mass is certainly a list of what St. Paul has done for the sake of the Gospel. He has traveled, worked, suffered, been prosecuted, imprisoned, witnessed, held nothing back, did not back down, and took every opportunity to proclaim the Good News. I have no doubt, if asked, that St. Paul could have easily listed what, in his mind, he had failed to do. Continue reading
When last seen Jonah had just hit bottom, swallowed alive. Up to this point, despite lots of opportunities, Jonah had not prayed, even when commanded by the ship’s captain in the midst of the raging tempest at sea – even as all the crew around him offered prayers to a pantheon of gods. But now it is different. He is alone, his choices and their consequences have “consumed” him, and … and what?
1:15 Then they took Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea’s raging abated. 16 Struck with great fear of the LORD, the men offered sacrifice and made vows to him. 2:1 But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah; and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Interestingly, many modern translations position Jonah 2:1 as Jonah 1:17, including it with the previous chapter where it makes more sense from a literary point of view. It is good to be reminded that chapters/verses were assigned by Robert Estienne in 1551 for the New Testament and 1571 for the Hebrew Scriptures for his print editions and so chapter/verse is not sacrosanct. But if you read other Bibles and commentaries and are wondering why the verses are “off” by a single digit…now you know.
Early in the morning of January 7th, at the conclusion of the congressional joint session that affirmed the electoral college results, the Senate chaplain, Barry C. Black (a Seventh-day Adventist minister and retired Navy rear admiral), closed the session with prayer
Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.
These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom’s price.
Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.
You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.
Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.
Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name. Amen.
In Monday’s gospel, Jesus invites people to follow him – Simon, Andrew, James and John accept and follow. In Tuesday’s gospel, those with Jesus are described as “followers.” In today’s gospel, they “pursue” him. A more literal translation would be they “hunted him down.” Not exactly following.